Early spring at Drakelow Nature Reserve

Sightings by Thomas Cockburn

DRAKELOW NATURE RESERVE W/E 24th February: With some extraordinary daytime temperatures for the time of year it was not surprising that some migration of birds was detected. Mention has already been made of a sighting of six male Stonechats in the previous blog and this was followed by a further record involving three males and two females on the 21st February. A report of 14 Meadow Pipits on the 20th may also have fallen into this category as this is a species that have become quite scarce at Drakelow in the last few years although a few do occasionally winter in the area. During a late visit on the 23rd several batches of Wigeon began to arrive in the Main Lagoon and the tally was eventually122 birds. However, they had gone by the following morning despite a thick fog blanketing the site until 1045hrs. At the same time as the Wigeon arrival some 80 Fieldfares gathered on the top of a Poplar tree making for an easy count but the 1000 or so Jackdaws, counted elsewhere on site, were roosting birds as opposed to migrants. A Cormorant roost count on the 23rd continued the downward trend in numbers with only 184 birds being logged. A female Long-tailed Duck was present on the 20th and was photographed as it made amorous advances towards a drake Tufted Duck. The Shoveler count on the 22nd finally broke the 100 as 101 birds were counted. In addition to the regular Snipe count of birds roosting on the Strip a party of 15 was seen to arrive and join them on the 22nd – again assigned as migrants. Amongst six Herring Gulls a third-winter Caspian Gull was identified on the 24th and three Common Gulls had been seen on the 20th. INSECTS: Despite the high temperatures the first butterfly of the years was not recorded until the 23rd when a Brimstone (male) was spotted as it flew across the site. On the same date a 7-spot Ladybird was seen crawling across a car windscreen. FLORA: The Snowdrop patch is now in full flower and, surprisingly, a Crocus was seen nearby, a plant that I have not seen before on the site but Daffodils were still only in bud. A patch of Coltsfoot was pointed out to me on the 23rd, immediately opposite the Education hide, which had clearly been in flower for some days – how could I have missed it? Thale Cress, a cabbage family species, was found during a search through a moss covered piece of ground and a Stinking Hellebore was seen nearby, a remnant of the power station days when many plants were introduced to the operational site. With thanks to AG, RW, KW, KS, AB, DH, MT and MJH.