Parts of the Marshes were flooded for much of the month, due to frequent and heavy rain, encouraging gulls to congregate in the fields at times; a group of about 145 black-headed gulls was seen. 

Two adventurous little grebes: photo by Simon Pettman

The river mostly stayed within its banks but stretches of the riverside path were under water at times. When it spread out onto the surrounding land, three little grebes were seen exploring the new area. These small, extremely shy diving birds tend to lurk under overhanging cover by the river bank, so it was quite a novelty to see them in the open. Flooding is bad news for diving birds however, as food is harder to find in muddy water. Our kingfisher is faced with the same problem hunting in the ditch running alongside the old railway embankment.

Little egret: photo by Dave Smith

Six fishing cormorants and four little egrets were spotted at Tonford Lake one morning. Tufted duck numbers have been disappointingly low, with just six on the most recent count, a far cry from the exceptional 48 last December. Snipe numbers have also been well below par, with just one seen on on December 28th, compared to flocks in the 40s and 50s last year.

The year ended in style with two probable otter sightings, one on Whitehall Road, and one on the Marshes by the Whitehall stream. Both views were very brief, but the descriptions certainly corresponded to that most aquatic of freshwater mammals. Given its spread across England in recent years, it seems certain that there will be more otter sightings on Hambrook Marshes in future.