Click here for a checklist of the birds spotted on Fleet Pond between 1970 and 2016 as updated by William Legge
LATE AUTUMN & EARLY WINTER BIRDING HIGHLIGHTS 2018
William Legge writes of sightings made at Fleet Pond.
The year 2018 was rounded off with rather uneventful weather. On the whole, above average temperatures predominated. Conversely, there were several cold, frosty spells specifically in the third week of November, and on 14th December overnight temperatures dropped to a low of -6°C.
The shallow nature of Fleet Pond resulted in surface ice on the coldest mornings, with open water in short supply. This had the knock-on effect of reducing the Reserve’s wildfowl and grebe numbers. For example; Great Crested Grebe numbers peaked at 27 in early November, before a noticeable exodus after a particularly cold night on 21st November, when only 13 remained. Numbers didn’t really recover thereafter, and January’s high count has been a meagre 12 thus far. (Report up to mid-January.)
Save for a flurry of migrant wildfowl in early November, both the variety and numbers of ducks were disappointing. The best reports were of Wigeon (illustrated above); a single on 1st November and pair on 7th; a single male Shoveler on 2nd, 3rd and 14th of November and two females on 8th. The only Mandarin Duck reported in the period was a male on 17th November and the highest count of Teal was only eight on 9th December. Consequently, the appearance of a 1st winter male Goosander on 11th December was a welcome addition.
Scarcer gulls sighted included single Mediterranean Gull and Little Gull (both 1st winters) late on the afternoon of 8th November, and regular reports of our semi-resident adult Yellow-legged Gull up until 6th December, with two present on 7th November. Other notable wetland birds included at least 11 Water Rails in residence in early December, up to three Little Egrets, (pictured below, by Chris Marney) the latter occasionally roosting at the Pond, and 19 Snipe at Fugelmere Marsh on 28th December.
Wintering passerine highlights included two sightings of Firecrest (illustrated left) at the Gelvert Wood near Sandy Bay on 13th December, and in the Brookly Wood on 1st January. Undoubtedly overlooked, these small and delightful insectivores seek out ivy covered trees in winter. Theoretically, they should become a more common sight at the Reserve in mild winters and as their breeding population continues to expand across Southern England. Good numbers of Siskin (illustrated below) were present throughout December and into early January including a flock of 300 in alders at the Brookly Stream on 5th December. In contrast, the only Brambling reported were singles on 1st and 9th January. Evening roost counts at the Pond included 110 Redwing on 3rd December and 200 Magpie on 31st December.
Finally, a Peregrine was spotted hunting over Fugelmere on the morning of 9th January. Perhaps this is the returning individual that was widely seen hunting over the Reserve in the first few months of 2018, and if so, further sighting over the next few months should be expected. As winter progresses, the weather will dictate what scarcer birds may appear in the month ahead, and then before we know it, March will be upon us and the spring migration underway. Good birding!
Contributing observers: David Buckler, John Clark and Graham Stephenson
Egret photographed by Chris Marney