Friday, 8 April 2016

Spring Arrivals

As the weather warms up and the  clocks go forwards we're all starting to see and hear the signs of spring around Wicken Fen. The flowering plants are just starting to peak out, braving some of the early morning frosts we've been having recently. Primroses are popping up in Gutter Bridge Wood, while celandines are appearing all over the paths at the Fen. the hedgerows are also coming into blossom as the hawthorn as their little white flowers come into bloom.

These early flowering plants are an important food source for many of the first pollinators that are also starting to appear. I saw my first butterfly of the year last Saturday, a Peacock out on Burwell Fen, and as I've been writing this blog a male Brimestone has fluttered past our office window. My first Bumblebee sighting beat the butterflies by a matter of days, again on Burwell Fen, but as I was driving a tractor at the time I couldn't watch it for long enough to identify the species.

The annual Ranger bird spotting competition has started, seeing who can spot the migrating bird species first. Carol already has Chiff Chaffs and Grasshopper Warblers under her belt, while Alan spotted the first Swallows this morning. I don't like this game, mostly because I'm no good at it, but it does get you thinking about looking up and listening out while out doing work around the fen. Sedge and Reed warblers have also been heard but the rules state that you have to see it to claim first spotted so we'll all be watching the ditches carefully over the next week.

We're also expecting the arrival of some cuckoos imminently. We have started to follow the BTO's tracked cuckoos on their website. It an exciting race to see which of the seven will make it to Britain first, two having taken the lead by crossing the Sahara first. I'm rooting for Stanley who appears to be the only one who spent anytime in East Anglia last year.

Our resident birds are also gearing up for spring. The bitterns can be heard booming from the reedbed, and the males will continue to boom until they find a mate for the summer. Snipe can also be heard drumming at the moment, a very weird wound when you first hear it, but one you'll never forget once you know what it is.

Not to be out done by the rest of the wildlife the Koniks and Highlands have also been getting in on the spring action. We've had three new foals in the last few weeks, all girls call Bela, Hinny and Merrylegs. Our foal naming theme for the year is horses from books, though some of them are slightly obscure! They have all been born into the same family group to experienced mums, Nanja, Kaluna and Yara.
Hinny and Bela with mums Kaluna and Nanja

Gale is the first cow to calf this year, and has had a little boy. He's her first bull calf, though she has had two little girls in the last two years. As cows tend to do, she is keeping him away from the herd until he's a little surer on his legs, but Apple and Raven, Gale's previous calves, have joined her. They make a lovely family picture on the fen looking after little bro while mum has a bite to eat.

We've called him Winfrid, after Sir Norman Winfrid Moore, who died at the end of last year. He was on the Wicken Fen committee for many years and was an incredibly valuable source of knowledge. He had a huge impact on the ecological science, most notably discovering the impact of DDT pesticides on food chains and top predators.
Baby Winfrid soon after birth
and with mum Gale the next day