What to Look For in Spring
Harvest Mouse As the days get longer and the temperatures start to rise most animals naturally think of sex. If you’re not in the right place you could miss out! The further you’ve got to go, the earlier you’d better leave for your breeding grounds. Among our winter visitors, the golden eye is one of the earliest ducks to leave, in early March. Numbers of wigeon, pochard, teal and shoveller all decline steadily throughout April as they head off to their summer quarters.
On the other hand we start to welcome birds from the south as they start to look for breeding territories around the reservoir. Amongst the earliest to arrive are the chiffchaffs. These can be heard and seen in the woodland areas and in the willow margins. Over the water sand martins can frequently be spotted as they feast on the abundant insect life and replenish their energy levels after a long haul flight.

Most of the warblers arrive during April and the dawn chorus increases in intensity on an almost daily basis. Alton Water has become a favourite destination for organised dawn chorus events. These opportunities are promoted by the exceptionally large numbers of nightingales fighting for territory. If you’ve never heard this wonderful songster take time to walk between Larchwood hide and the ponds during a warm evening in early May. You’re sure not to be disappointed.
Some of the noisiest birds to arrive in April are the terns. They make a beeline for the rafts and may have to fight with the geese, oyster catchers and plovers for a suitable patch of shingle on which to lay their eggs.

Snow Drops
We are especially keen to spot barn owls as they also are looking for suitable breeding sites. We were lucky enough to have a successful pair raise three chicks in 2004 and we very much hope that they will once again find the nest boxes that we have erected a suitable site to raise a family.
May sees the arrivals of the last of the summer breeders and these individuals will have to get a move on as they usually are the first to disappear as soon as the weather gets a little bit chilly. Spotted flycatchers, turtle doves and swifts all fall into this category.