Drakelow sightings by Thomas Cockburn

379 birds counted in just 2.5 hours this weekend

DRAKELOW NATURE RESERVE: W/E 10th February. A late visit was made on the 9th February to carry out a Cormorant count. Thanks to the co-operation of visitors the count was carried out successfully with 379 birds counted in over the period 1500hrs to 1730hrs. This constitutes the highest ever February count since roost counts were instigated some 20 years ago. The average for these February counts was 145 with the lowest number of 67 in 2000 and the best at 232 in 2018 with the latter count the first to break the 200. As in many of the previous high counts, over 100 birds arrived from the eastern quarter. Other species noted, during the Cormorant count, included a Great White Egret that arrived at dusk; two Greylags were on the Strip for most of the visit but just before dusk a skein of 40 passed over the observation hide. On the water the entertainment was provided by five Goldeneyes, nine Goosanders and 27 Shovelers with a few Teal avidly feeding at the edge of the Strip. On leaving the reserve a Woodcock was picked up in the headlights and I had the luxury of viewing the bird at very close quarters as it squatted amongst the roadside leaf-litter. I do believe that it is the first time I have seen the black, diagnostic, cross-bars on the head of a live bird. Sunday morning’s duck count by AG included the returning Hooded Merganser and a Shelduck but Mallards were in very short supply with only 13 being located as against 97 on the reserve and 67 associated with the river. Duck numbers, in general, have been low this winter and may be associated with much noise currently being experienced in the vicinity of the reserve that includes a pile-driver (operating most days north of the reserve), a gas-gun in operation to the SW of the reserve and periodic gunfire to the south. The wonder is that there are any birds at all. Thanks to KW, AG, RW, AB, DH, MJH and others with unreadable initials or names. NB: Notices (authorised by the TRUST) will be situated by the main hides closing the footpaths during the Cormorant census on the 16th February from three hours before sunset and remain in place until the completion of the National Wildfowl Count on the morning of the 17th February. THIS WILL NOT PREVENT VISITORS FROM VISITING THE TWO MAIN HIDES SITUATED NEAR THE CAR PARK.