Spring has been sweeping in with some ferocity over the last week or so and a batch of singing chiffchaffs at Marlingford last week sent me out around the village to see if they had arrived more locally. They are a few days ahead of last year and when I checked Wild about Hethersett they are a couple of weeks earlier than they were just a few years ago probably a sign of gradual global warming. They will be followed hopefully by their cousins and doppelgangers the willow warblers and as the following video highlights only the call will give them away to most of us.
I started with a count of the Great Melton heronry which was busy with at least a couple of nests with young calling and as I counted the parents did loops checking me out. As the quickly snatched shot below shows they are showing brooding patches on their bellies in flight that they will be using to keep young chicks warm and dry.
Whilst counting herons the local chiffchaffs soon started singing in the afternoon sun despite the chilling breeze. Having caught up with the locals I headed for my nearby WEBS site at Marlingford to see how the Spring was manifesting itself. The recent temperate days had encouraged the non native daffodils into full bloom, as they have around the village, and there was the occasional buzz of grateful bumblebees. The nearby trees were full of singing robins, great tits, chaffinch and they were accompanied by crowing pheasants and calling jackdaws and rooks.
Having drunk in the sights, sounds and smells of daffodil strewn borders I carried on towards my main goal the local lakes and it was good to see as well as the local birds the rabbit population is starting to bounce back from recent, disease caused, decimation.Whilst there were blackbirds and appropriately singing song thrush there was no sign of the winter thrushes that have kept them company recently. As I moved through the oak woodland I could hear the sounds of breeding Canada geese and Oyster catchers through the still skeletal trees.
Once I got to the lake the change in season since my last visit was obvious with the disappearance of my whistling companions the wigeon and reduced numbers of teal, tufted duck and coots. The ever present greylag and Egyptian geese were very obviously moving Noah style two by two paired for the spring and some were starting to settle on nesting sites. I had hoped to catch up with some passage waders perhaps a passing green sandpiper as recently heard passing overhead at the nearby UEA on night time migration but none were present. Instead I scanned the reed edges and standing next to the resident grey heron was a great white cousin.
The great white heron is still a relative rarity locally and usually a Winter only visitor so it will be interesting to see if he sticks around on a more permanent basis. What is not a local rarity were the great crested grebes that adorned the lake. Always nice to see but I counted three not two as usual and wondered if that might be a crowd. I was treated to some courtship display between a male and female and as I was enjoying the usual ballet the third bird, clearly a male strayed too close. The ballet quickly turned into a life and death struggle as the dominant male tried to drown his opponent. I and the female watched as the weaker male was held underwater until it looked as if he was dead. Fortunately grebes spend most of their lives fishing underwater and the weaker male made it away with his life but I guess he won’t be around for my next visit.
Great crested Grebe Credit: Hugobian Flickr via Compfight cc. After the drama I thought it might be time to lower my heartbeat and amble back through the woods. I was treated to calling nuthatch and then pairs of calling long-tailed tits, great tits and marsh tits. A tree creeper scurried about under still sunlit branches and a male linnet serenaded me as I completed my trek laying out the trailcam for collection next week. I leave you with a couple of mammals caught on camera from the last deployment withe the two videos giving some idea of scale of the two herbivores.
The last stag clearly sporting some unusual headwear