Saturday, 20 June 2015

Breeding ups and downs at Hilgay

Nick Carter, Conservation Officer (Fens)

Pochard with young, photo by Nick Carter
Two new bird species have been confirmed as breeding at Hilgay; great crested grebe and pochard. The former was first noted on the lagoon during the 2014/5 winter with up to six birds being noted in the spring. In early June one well-grown young was observed with its parents and later that month an active nest was observed. Small numbers of pochard were noted through the winter too. Then in mid-June a female pochard was noted with five very small ducklings, also in the lagoon. Pochard is a scarce breeding resident so this is a great record for the site. Both species have benefitted from the filling of the lagoon over the 2014/5 winter which has provided them with the deeper water these two diving species need. Several other duck species are also present: shelduck, mallard, teal, shoveler, gadwall and tufted duck but only mallard has produced young so far.

A thriving black-headed gull colony has also established in one of the rushy compartments. At least 200 birds are in the colony but it is not certain if they are all breeding and in mid-June at least nine young were seen swimming around the deep pools.

Wader productivity has not been good this year with lapwing, redshank, oystercatcher, avocet and little ringed plover attempting to breed but with few resultant offspring. The hoped for return of the sand martin colony to the sandy ditch sides which had been tidied up failed to materialise although a few birds were seen in the spring.

A record 19 little egrets were seen together in June, with probably other birds spread around the site. There is a small heronry close to the site but there is no evidence of any little egrets breeding there yet.

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