Click here for a checklist of the birds spotted on Fleet Pond between 1970 and 2016 as updated by William Legge
Late Autumn and Winter birding highlights
William Legge writes of sightings made at Fleet Pond.
With the Autumn migration largely over by the last week of November, bird activity at Fleet Pond settled down for the winter.
As is usual the weather had an impact. High pressure conditions sent overnight temperatures plummeting in late November, at either ends of December and in early January. Consequently, there were many days when the Pond was substantially frozen over. Rainfall was well below normal, in spite of a particularly severe depression in the third week of November, while a mild spell in mid-December enabled temperatures to reach the average for the period.
Wildfowl numbers swing
With the Pond frozen for days at a time, many of Reserve’s wildfowl and Grebes were forced to leave. As a result wildfowl numbers swung widely, but high counts during the period included 37 Teal on 30th November and 11 Tufted Duck on 15th December. Scarcer ducks included a flock of four Goosander (illustrated above) flying North over the Pond on 9th December, a male Pochard present on 18th December and a Wigeon on 1st January. Great Crested Grebes peaked at 19 on 23rd November but all had moved on by the end of November as a result of the freeze and the resultant lack of open water.
Redwing continued (illustrated above) to roost in good numbers through to the end of November with a count of 550 reported on the 25th. Most of the these birds seemed to have moved on by early December. Other notable winter roost counts included 56 Cormorants on 21st December, 200 Magpies at the end of December/early January and up to seven Little Egrets (illustrated below) in December. The latter is a comparatively recent phenomenon with this species’ expansion into the UK from southern Europe.
The best of the rest
While Little Egrets (illustrated above) have sporadically roosted at Fleet Pond in the recent past, the consistent use of the Reserve as a roost site, and the numbers involved, is a new and welcome development for this elegant bird. It was formerly widely persecuted for its attractive head plumes.
The best of the rest included the continuing presence of the adult Yellow-legged Gull (illustrated above) until late November (from early July). In December Winter high counts included 18 Snipe at Gelvert Marsh and an estimate of up to 150 Siskin, both below normal levels.
A Chiffchaff, (illustrated above ) a rare sight in winter, was logged on 18th December, while a Cetti’s Warbler was heard calling from the Lions’ View platform on 21st December. Perhaps it’s the returning wintering bird first seen in October 2014?
Finally, do look out for the secretive Water Rail (pictured above). The cold weather brings these birds out into the open in search of food from the Reserve’s reedbeds. Reports received included up to four seen near the Dipping Platform adjacent to the station car park in early January.
As we move into February, the Winter weather will likely dictate what scarcer birds may ‘drop into’ Fleet Pond, before the first signs of the Spring migration will be upon us in early March. Good birding!
William Legge and Contributing observers: Evelyn Auld, John Clark, and Graham Stephenson
Illustrations courtesy of the RSPB Bird Guide at www.rspb.org.uk
Water Rail photo courtesy of Evelyn Auld