Report for February 2011.
Mercifully, no frost, ice or snow for this month but predictably, plenty of rain and gales. The period of very big spring tides arrived quietly with barely a ripple much to our relief. Regulars for the month were 3 shoveller (1 female) 1 pair of gadwall, 2 pairs of little grebes, 4 pairs of goldeneye with 1 first winter male juvenile for company. Good numbers of wigeon will be with us for another month or so but mainly visit the Merionnydd saltings and water margins. We now have 3 pairs of kites displaying beautifully. Herons most unusually, have been recorded carrying nest building materials eastwards in the general direction of Derwenlas. The good folk at RSPB Ynys Hir are not so pleased with this latest information!
In the meantime the winter mantle fades, the spring mantle draws near. The nesting season is upon us.
The skylarks are singing above the westward SSSI areas. The curlews with their wonderful spring song, are restless, flighting up and down the valley at any state of the tide. Oystercatchers are mating, as are the shelduck, goosanders, teal, mallard, shoveller and gadwall. The goldeneye and wigeon are paired up and it will not be long before they depart on migration.
On a detail, the 21 teal counted today only have 7 females amongst them, with frantic courting and pestering by the males. As part of our winter feeding station we have anything between 40+ and 60+ mallard who arrive to be fed every morning. By the 25th. February all the females from this group have adjourned to their new nest sites. Only 1 female turned up this morning to be rapidly chased off by gangs of randy bachelors!
On Sunday 27th. February the first formation of 20+ dunlin, weaving very fast, high and low, following the river eastwards. Soon to be followed by a second, slightly smaller group repeating the same behaviour and direction. Later, all returned westwards in a long strung out formation in very fast flight making contact calls all the while.
The big spring tides produce another crop of tide drowned sheep. This time fetched up by wind and wave action and thus marooned on various tide lines distributed along the westward saltings. Providing another winter feast for great black backed-gulls, then herring gulls, ravens, carrion crows and magpies, then buzzards in the pecking order. Last of all to take their turn are the patient kites.
March is nearly upon us, I look forward to welcoming the first sand martins; the first "chipping" snipe and a whole raft of returning migrants including the passerines and waders.
© Jim Marshall. February 27th. 2011.