Friday, 2 August 2013

May and June at Upton Broad and Marshes

Nigel Robson, Volunteer Bird Recorder for NWT and Mark Crossfield, NWT assistant warden for Bure and Ant

During May and June the birdlife at NWT Upton Broad and Marshes was characterised by continuing spring passage and breeding.

A wheatear was noted on 4th May and lesser whitethroats on 4th and 6th. The last few golden plovers passed through in the first week, but whimbrel numbers remained high with 42 on 4th and the last being noted on 25th. At the river lagoons two wood sandpipers stayed from 5th until 10th, whilst ringed plovers (max. three on 11th), dunlins (max. 13 on 11th), greenshanks (max. two on several days) and common sandpipers (max. two on 25th) were the waders regularly seen on passage. A pair of little ringed plovers occupied the area and a pair of avocets visited occasionally. Meanwhile the lapwings, redshanks and oystercatchers were breeding in the suitably-wet grazing marshes.

Yellow wagtail, photo by Mark Crossfield
A drake garganey was seen on 5th and 13th. Shovelers, gadwalls, tufted ducks, pochards and a pair of teal were present as potential breeders. One pair of shelducks had eight small ducklings on 25th but these were not found subsequently. The usual few pairs of Egyptian geese were breeding and, perhaps less welcome, there were many greylags following last year’s influx.  Other breeding birds in the reserve included two pairs of yellow wagtails and single pairs of hobby and marsh harrier. A bittern booming just outside the reserve boundary on 5th may have been an un-mated male, but it was a hopeful indication that the reedbed within the reserve, currently being improved to attract bitterns in time for the 2014 breeding season, has a fair chance of early success.

Perhaps affected by the late spring, some passage continued into June. On 5th, a male red-backed shrike was found in the marshland bushes, and three ringed plovers and two common sandpipers were at the lagoons. The pair of avocets put in an appearance on 6th, along with two little gulls, by which time a redshank was seen to have chicks. A curlew was present on 17th and three green sandpipers on 24th.

In the fen carrs, one or more woodcocks roded overhead throughout the month at twilight, and a single Turtle Dove, rarely found in the reserve nowadays, was “purring” on 20th. From reeds just outside the reserve boundary a male bearded tit was calling on 30th, possibly indicating breeding. It is hoped that this species, like the bittern, will also benefit from the modifications to the reserve reedbed. Cuckoos could be heard throughout the month, and one on 23nd was seen to have a small tracking aerial attached. It had been tagged under the BTO cuckoo tagging project and would have been either “Nelson” or “Ken” as both were transmitting their presence in the area at the time. Two others cuckoos seen on 24th were not tagged.
Leucistic swift, photo by Mark Crossfield
Two abnormally-plumaged birds occurred and were photographed in flight by Mark Crossfield. A leucistic swift was overhead on 19th May, and an albinistic starling was amongst the flock on the marshes on 9th June.
Starling, photo by Mark Crossfield

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