Monday, 13 February 2017

Mr Grey

It may have been 50 shades of white on the reservoir in the last week but it was grey that caused excitement today - Maurice Dowson:
Maurice and Roy Vincent picked up this site rarity great grey shrike today in hawthorns at the top of the D reservoir and managed a few great record shots when it took a brief flight north before heading south over the res and out of sight - Roy:
A fine site tick for many of our latter-day listers.  The last was in 2003 - again on Barmston Drain and the last truly visible one in 1993 down at Watton again on the drain.  This bird is the 6th since about 1970 so perhaps decreasing in sighting frequency.  If the current trend continues there'll be another in about 40 years!.  Despite a whole site search it couldn't be found today - here's hoping it'll turn up again in the next few days. Maurice:
So this fine bird had just about won out on the mono colour stakes putting the legions of glaucous gulls into the shade.  Glaucous gulls have continued with yet another bird present last night making around 10 birds - nearly as many as have been seen all time.  But a long overdue Iceland gull in the fading light was a welcome addition to the year list.  As ever for a fuller write up of all the gull action visit Martin's blog.  Long-tailed duck showing well by him here:
Goldeneyes have been getting amorous in the frozen weather - Brian Colley:
And in addition to a female goosander and three pintail on Watton has been a second smew - redhead of course!- Francis Bell:
And Roy Lyon:
Regardless of the winter wonders shelduck are building up rapidly.  Freshly returned from Germany they peaked at 14 on Wednesday on South Marsh East.  We're still sorting a few of the islands in coming days ready for the breeding season so please excuse a little disturbance on these in the next couple of weeks - Brian Colley:
30 blackbirds at Hempholme on Sunday - Brian:
And elsewhere brambling, siskin, redpoll and willow tit all on the feeders. 
Finally a note on timescales for the new hide - currently we're looking at mid March for opening the paths as there is still considerable tree work we're waiting on contractors to complete before we can do so.  In the meantime we'll be rounding up those whom have expressed an interest in helping out with the new viewing gallery.  We're looking for enthusiastic and friendly volunteers to show people wildlife on the reservoirs, feeders and remote cameras.  Tea included!  If you're interested let me know as we'll be talking volunteers through this new opportunity soon.   Thanks to those whom have already contacted me - I'll be in touch soon...
Otherwise spring beckons - 4 weeks til the first little-ringed plover and chiffchaff!

Monday, 6 February 2017

The beige brigade

Things seem to be going from strength to strength on the reserve into February.  Perhaps most notable has been the ramp up in gull numbers in the last month, and particularly glaucous gulls in the strongest ever presence in the roost with 6 possibly 7 so far - the highest figure we can find reference to.  Martin Hodges:
Caspian gulls have also put in a performance, but mediterranean gulls have finally materialised in good numbers.  A strange year as there were practically no records prior to the new year, and now they all seem to be arriving in a glut - up to six present on some nights.  For more info and pictures such as below check out Martin's page:
Geese also have come good latterly with the highlight being 6 tundra bean geese on the 4th - Martin:
Present amongst a wider flock of 32 Russian white fronted geese amongst the greylags - still present today:

It's been great to have the smew back again regularly on Watton NR - Brian Colley:
And Mal Jones:
Goosander has been present on a few occasions at Watton, and the, or a long tailed duck was back on D reservoir on the 5th after an absence.  Moving up the scale of piscivores was this great crested grebe consuming a pike by Darren Smith:
But topped by this cormorant achieving the impossible - Brian Colley:
And at the top of the tree the otter still showing well on North Marsh - Brian:
Roe deer developing new antlers ready for their spring rut - Tony Robinson:
Some great footage of both these and other Tophill wildlife on the trail cameras - compiled by Hull Uni student Nadine Grey:

Kingfisher by Mal Jones:
Many thanks to Roy and Maurice who volunteered for more volunteering on North Marsh this week - prepping the otter holt channel and replacing perches for the 2017 season...
Work still continuing on the new hide and associated paths - volunteers working busily on the new platform:
With this character observing proceedings:
Likely a horse leech from a quick inspection.
However the northern end of the site is a good place to be:
Not just the barn owls - but perhaps up to three short eared owls have been seen in recent days - great to have them back:
And Roy Vincent:
Otherwise a few bits of passerine interest - brambling around the new building feeders, lesser redpoll in the woods and siskins in the car park. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

An otter education

Two weeks into the new year and site list wise the tally continues:
79. Collared dove subsequently picked up
80. Little owl appeared on Hallytreeholme Farm in more clement weather
81. Red kite pottered over the car park on the 10th
82. The red head smew reappeared at Watton NR on the 11th
83. Along with the long tailed duck back on its familiar haunt in front of the new hide (still there today).  Both these birds are thought to feed on the river and come back to the reservoirs to roost or refuge - much like the velvet scoter this time last year.
84. Goosander on the 12th

But it perhaps the gull roost on the D reservoir which has finally come good.  After a slow start this autumn things have finally come picked up and the northerly gales, storm surges, thundersnows etc, have at least pushed us in some specialities:

85. Roy Erich and Martin picked up this glaucous gull on the 5th (write up on Erich's page here) - Photo Martin Lonsdale:
Another glaucous gull arrived on the 12th picked up by Martin Hodges.  But in between on the 8th had been caspian gull as filmed by Martin Hodges - no doubt video to feature on his blog shortly. 

A cetti's warbler was calling on the 12th and the first shelduck has arrived back on the D reservoir taking us to 88 species so far.

From the 1st of January Roy Lyon has provided some pictures of the corn bunting flock at Easingwold which has been seen again since - 5 birds:
Along with the healthy numbers of reed buntings
And the WTW song thrush
But breaching from beneath the ice have been the main attraction for the last couple of weeks - Francis Bell:

No longer are field signs like a few fish scales the only way to find them:
North Marsh has been giving great views of otters for the likes of Steve Brimble:
Darren Smith:
And further pictures on Africa Gomez's page here.  Indeed they are so regular we suggest a real coup would be to try and photo the near ermine stoat running over the ice there this morning. 

Hopefully the otters will appreciate our final finishing flurries - we've done some more sealing of the new reception hide pond to bring the level up to its full potential:
And with this successfully completed, as ever with the help of the volunteers, we've tweaked a few other bits - namely the dyke at the back of the pond (A kind of mini north marsh for folk to enjoy on the new walk):
The little ringed plover island in front of South Marsh hide had been lost to vegetation and was too high when built 3 years ago.  This has been graded out with more wader edges for close in pictures:
 Already attracting the attentions of redshank within the day:
A subtle but important tweak to the bog oak in 'sandpiper bay';  Its been shunted up a bit so is now in clear view - as it was a favourite perch for kingfishers and sandpipers last year but just obscured behind the brow - now its perfectly aligned for cameras along with some more bog oak to compliment:
There are a few tweaks for Hempholme hide too for better photo ops to be finished shortly.  Lots of fine tuning which has been happily ticked off so we don't have to return with a digger in the near future anywhere.  One of the most crucial has been the clearance of a channel to north lagoon from the inlet sluice.  The complexities of lagoon management are enormous so really these pictures are for former Warden Peter Izzard whom can fully appreciate the beauty of a silt covered sluice...
Suffice to say it should improve both the wildlife and the operational capability of the lagoons going forward.  A great feat too given the 5t digger was working where I immediately sank to my thighs:
Finally as part of the on-going reception hide project we have a post going for a self employed Education Guide.  We have run school visits for many years to the reserve but with myself as guide rather than a dedicated 'educator.'
Yorkshire Water have a number of educational centres across the region and with the new improved facilities we intend to at last offer a key stage planned visit to reserve with a dedicated Education Guide.  It'll be a capped number of one day a week in term time (24 days a year) so should have little impact on the reserve and visitors, whilst offering water and environmentally themed education to local schools.  Closing date is the 20th January.  
For full details please visit the Yorkshire Water careers page here.  For any questions about the role please contact