Love Hambrook


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Four fields along the river Stour form the main habitat at Hambrook Marshes.  These are all quite wet, or even flooded, in winter, but become dry and hard in summer.  They are grazed by a herd of striking Highland cattle from about April to November each year.  Unlike sheep, which tend to nibble the vegetation down to a short sward, cattle create a much more uneven mosaic of grass heights, often leaving tussocks that birds can nest in.  Poaching, the process whereby bare, muddy ground is created due to cattle congregating in restricted areas, generates a new habitat, while the dung is another micro-habitat for insects that in turn become food for birds.  Grazing is also important in preventing scrub and trees from getting established.


The main species to look out for here are rooks, jackdaws (upper right), crows, magpies and wood pigeons in winter.  At times of flooding there may be quite large roosts of gulls – mainly black-headed (middle right) and herring gulls.  During the winter months the fields may also be used by species such as fieldfares, redwings and mistle thrushes.  Particularly in cold weather, snipe (lower right) and lapwing may be present in the damper patches, but are often tucked away amongst taller vegetation and very hard to see.  A few moorhens and mallard are present all year round, but their numbers increase in winter when there is more standing water.  Winter, when the fields become waterlogged, or even shallow-flooded, is the time to see the greatest range of birds, mostly in flocks.  The exceptional flooding of winter 2013-14 led to far more gulls than usual roosting and feeding in the shallow water, with a peak count of 478 in February.


                                                                                                    NUMBERS PRESENT


                                                                                            Winter                       Summer


                               Sparrowhawk                                        1                                  1

                               Black-headed gull                         Up to 450                           0

                               Herring gull                                    Up to 200                           0                    

                               Common gull                                    1-20                                 0

                               Mallard                                               5-80                                5-10


                               Moorhen                                           5-10                                 1-5

                               Lapwing                                              0-25                                0

                               Snipe                                                    1-50                               0

                               Wood pigeon                                      5-60                              1-20

                               Meadow pipit                                  Up to 24                           0


                               Fieldfare                                              0-60                               0

                               Redwing                                              0-75                                0

                               Mistle thrush                                      1-2                                  0

                               Stonechat                                            1-2                                 0

                               Starling                                           Up to 55                           Up to 75


                               Rook                                                    10-100                           0

                               Crow                                                      0-3                              0-4

                               Jackdaw                                               10-100                           0

                               Magpie                                                 Up to 26                      2-10




BFi=jackdaws BFi=blackheadedgull BFi=snipe bird intro