The first day of March is apparently supposed to mark the first day of spring. This may be the case for those who like to neatly categorise the passing days and months into an orderly manner. Nature, however, works to an entirely different beat and the first days of March were anything but spring-like. Indeed, although the days are lengthening apace and there are various signs of spring, there is still some way to go before better weather prevails.
Still, it is certainly a time for looking forward, arranging guided walks and drawing up the school education programme ready for those long warm summer days that are on the way. Winter work proceeded very well with a dry autumn and a cold dry spell in February. From the countryside manager’s point of view the most exciting time of the year is now fast approaching when the fruits of the past year’s labours will be seen.
Each winter the converted riverside pill boxes are checked for hibernating bats by licensed bat recorders. This check was carried out during February. There are ten converted boxes in the Stour Valley and five of these are between Brundon Mill and Ladies’ Island in Sudbury. Of the twenty five Daubentons and Natterer’s bats recorded, twenty three were found in the Sudbury pill boxes which suggests that hibernating bats have a definite preference for the Sudbury riverside.
In addition to the above long-term project a new scheme has been established to monitor the mute swans in Sudbury. Around a third of the swans at Brundon were recently ringed and as time goes on the collected data will provide details of where our swans come from, how old they are and how long they stay in one place. All the work is being carried out by trained, licensed and very experienced bird ringers.
Bird ringing was established long ago but metal rings can only be read by re-capturing the bird because the codes stamped into the metal do not show up very well. Mike Reed, the lead ringer, established the East Anglian Swan Study in 2010. In addition to the standard metal British Trust for Ornithology leg ring, each swan in the study will carry an orange plastic ring on the other leg. Ring codes are unique to the individual bird. Everyone will be able to see the codes on the colour rings and therefore be able to join in with what is essentially a citizen science project to learn more about our largest native bird.