Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Predator(s)

Yesterday was a wash out all round but a trip to the marshes to get rid of some of the acumulated rain water revealed the perpetrator of our recent crime against rarities - this sparrowhawk - in all likelyhood the same which killed our pectoral sandpiper was again up to no good:

The black splodge below right is a juvenille moorhen narrowly escaping the same fate by jumping into the water:

A visit to the trail camera revealed another fearsome predator - not a bhutanese tiger - but of the areas feral american mink:

We actively catch these guys due to their massive damage to water vole populations. Put simply the only reason we have water vole is because we do this - despite it being an unpleasant job. We do this using the GCT mink rafts supplied by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust - but the camera has also proved very useful - as the mink had not left any evidence in the clay sampling bed despite it being only a few metres away. The camera also caught a browsing roe deer. In case you take pity on it here is a much sweeter water vole pic from Michael Flowers:

Other birds of the day included a rather dark grey heron:

22 curlew roosting

And maybe one of the last hobby you'll see this year:

I missed the osprey which overflew North Marsh at 13:45 where the kingfishers were doing their usual act, but saw a buzzard in the semi-dark access road on the way out.

The moth trap turned up a total of 3 moths last night - a little different from the 5 hour sessions of a month ago! This lunar underwing being the highlight of two species:

Doug has also identified a micro moth I managed to catch in the centre here a few weeks back:

It is Indian meal moth - an international pest of stored grains - no doubt living on the sun-flower hearts for more info look here.

A brief delve into the world of fungi uncovered these monsters - giant puffball below:

And the prince - a whopping 33cm in diameter!

Finally my fungi ID two posts ago was predictably wrong - we believe it is actually false saffron milk cap - as per here

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Pec'd to death

A slight upturn in the weather has done wonders for the birds again in the last 24 hours. Yesterday we got the shout that 11 black tern were on the O reservoir. They had flown by later that day, but had been replaced by 14 pintail which had moved in to replace them on D.

Also about yesterday were the marsh harrier, two common buzzards and a number of curlew and lapwing.

Earlier in the week regular photographer Vince Cowell popped in and got these great shots of a kingfisher levitating a stickleback and a swimming grass snake in North Marsh - for more visit his site:

This morning saw the return of two black terns to D res which showed well for several observers including Michael Flowers class - no doubt pictures to follow on his blog tonight.

However a gentleman kindly popped in to the centre to say the always nice to hear "you've got an interesting bird on your marshes" - which turned out to be a trans-atlantic pectoral sandpiper. This is the first bird since 2007 and will likely be one of the best to visit the reserve this year. Elated we put the news out on Birdguides and amongst the regulars, and Michael and a number of others were lucky enough to observe it.

Unfortunately when I arrived camera in hand at South Marsh East I met two of the regulars who informed me a sparrowhawk had attacked - the pectoral was with a green sandpiper as the hawk passed overhead. In the melee it is unclear exactly what happened, but the hawk appeared to leave carrying a wader whilst the green sandpiper certainly escaped onto the river - it would appear highly likely that this was the end of the juvenille pectoral sandpipers trip to the UK. A subsequent search failed to find it.

I will hopefully have photos from others to follow - as I was literally two minutes too late!

Pictures of both the black tern and pectoral sandpiper courtesy of HVWG 20:00hrs:

The rest of the day saw two cream crowned marsh harriers, kingfisher and black tern sightings but little to replace the sandpiper. Hopefully the North Easterlies will bring something anew in...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Signs of winter continue with the first skanes of geese flying south over the reserve earlier in the week:

The reserve has been a little quieter bird wise of late with westerlies and inclement weather benefitting neither waders or raptors. However the last few days saw a return to form with two new birds for the challenge being picked up. A great find last night was wheatear on the D reservoir wall, and the golden plover actually landed on South Marsh East last night to roost, along with two ruff and a late little ringed plover before being disturbed by a heron:

This morning the marshes were teeming with around 300 lapwing and a dozen curlew, but as is often the case I did not get time to look in detail, and a return at the end of the day saw only a lone snipe:

It seems timing is everything when it comes to the marshes at present, along with the lone pintail, present but elusive on the reserve. Raptors however did put an appearance in, with 7 common buzzard on Saturday, hobby and osprey on Sunday, and these two common buzzards frolicking this morning above the wildlife centre.

The gull roost is again starting to build - this young greater black backed gull was on D reservoir wall - one of 40+ currently on site. Early Autumn is always a peak for them as they arrive from Scandinavian breeding grounds - as proved by the deceased individual found last year with a leg ring from Lista in Southern Norway where it was rung as a chick.

Black headed gulls were also present - and they can be seen making for the reserve even when driving into Driffield at 6pm.

This fine fungi was near the North Marsh path - possibly Russula cyanoxantha - Charcoal Burner?, but I'll reserve judgement til I have had chance to look in detail and consult the fungi list! It's not on Martin's blog yet so that makes life harder! - too busy watching whales!

Remember there are still places available for the fungi walk next month led by an expert (not me!)
However the kingfishers are usually present whatever the weather - here is the result of a couple of minutes in North Marsh:

Along with a blue tit amongst a 25 strong long tailed tit group:

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Autumn Gold

Unfortunately no amur falcon yet - but in the meantime a few more migrants have been arriving for winter. A flock of golden plover passed the O reservoir on Friday - only a hundred strong but no doubt more are to follow:

No sign of the redwing and fieldfare reported on the coast yet though. At least the swallows and martins are still present and the return of a grey wagtail livened things up, but the strong westerlies of recent days havn't done much for the passage of waders or raptors. A lone dunlin was on Watton NR yesterday, with a smattering of curlew being the best. Peregrine was again reported on saturday, with another two hobby - but views such as this sparrowhawk were the best I saw:

However Tony McLean managed better of both the buzzard and marsh harrier on his blog - as well as yet another quality kingfisher pic...

Contributor Alan Walkington sent us this picture of 'one of a number' of cormorants now at the reserve drying his wings out on North Marsh - thanks Alan:

Once the wind eased today Michael Flowers class got good views of the faithful kingfishers along with a common buzzard and marsh harrier - pics on the blog

Dragonfly photography was fruitful - as the wind was too high for them - so this migrant hawker and ruddy darter were both obliging:

Fungi have been coming into fruit across the site - check out Martin's blog for the first of many updates this autumn. If you wish to know more why not join our fungi walk on the 17th of October - booking in advance is necessary but there are still places available - 01377 270690.

Equally if you want to beat the winter blues why not help out with practical work on the reserve this Sunday at 10am - concreting and tree chopping for all...

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Amurther good raptor day

Excellent news reported today on the British Ornithologists Union blog (see here) was that of the acceptance of the amur falcon present almost 2 years ago to the day.

For those that are unaware the BOU and the British Birds Rarities Committee are the 'regulator' of birding who assess reports of new additions and rarities and carefully evaluate evidence to determine whether a record is substantiated or not. Whilst all the evidence heavily pointed towards this species laterly, it is unfortunate that it was only identified 4 days after it left - meaning it didn't get the attention and thousands of photos to pour over it deserved. However we are delighted that the limited information available has been sufficient to confirm it as a new UK species - a massive honour for the reserve. The bird had already merited a new illustration in the back of the 2010 Collins bird guide earlier this year.

The star bird is pictured below courtesy of HVWG:

Whilst we await its return on the 14th of September (some hope!) we have had a continuing delight of further raptor movement - the usual story that there are not enough people birding on a weekday applies - as much has been missed, but the warm days have seen 4 buzzards over the car park on tuesday, with reports of hobby several times a day - two of which were mobbing a peregrine falcon over O res today (hobby top right):

Whilst distant its always nice to see one in photographic range:

A small stoop:

And proof of the birds huge power is it's ability to fly up as steeply as it dives (picture unaltered):

A marsh harrier over Watton NR today was one of several reported too:

If you want to see hobby's then I recommend North Marsh and North Scrub with much activity here. Regular photographer Vince Cowell managed this great shot of one eating a dragonfly here (for more of his work follow the link:

Stop to look for Kingfishers on the way like Michael Flowers birdwatching class did on Tuesday - see the report here. Tony was also at the marsh last night getting more roe deer shots here. The greylag goose flock continues to grow in size - shown causing a temporary eclipse of the sun here:

Another hightlight of the season are the roving flocks of tits around the reserve - usually a noisy gang of twenty or so long-tailed tits supported by goldcrests, coal tits and even the odd willow warbler - all below:

Michael had treecreepers in one group too - but keep your eyes peeled as anything can turn up with them.

Wader-wise we have had two greenshank and two common sandpipers around the reserve over the last couple of days, with three snipe on South Marsh East yesterday and up to a dozen curlew over at a time.

Finally another reason to always open the hide shutters carefully was this pipistrelle (presumably) roosting under one!:

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Visible migration

Gibraltar, Eilat and Tophill Low, some of Europe's premier raptor watch points...or at least today! On a day when I should have had my eyes to the sky instead of at a desk, Doug and Martin were enjoying the sun counting the large movement of raptors over Tophill, no doubt the full report will appear on martin's blog but their haul included between 10:30 and 16:00:
2 honey buzzards
25 common buzzards
3 marsh harriers
And 4 hobby
On the monthly reserve walk this morning we managed a common buzzard and one male marsh harrier pictured below:

Whilst another female marsh harrier reportedly gave fine views on Watton in the afternoon. Sparrowhawks were active, attempting to catch kingfishers both at North Marsh and at Watton NR - fortunately failing.

Best bird of the walk was a first for the year; curlew sandpiper on South Marsh East, pictured below (honestly!):

A ruff again turned up in the evening and stayed to roost below:

Snipe are virtually resident, even whilst I strimmed the islands to open the area up - it was apparently to the liking of a ringed plover which arrived soon after yesterday night. Snipe have also been showing well on North Marsh. Green sandpiper and greenshank were both on the marshes too, with common sandpiper on the O res wall. O res still provides marvellous great crested grebe photo opportunities as there were 14 today - often close to the screen. The individual below demonstrated what happens when you eat a stickleback in reverse!:

Another treecreeper was at South Marsh West yesterday:

My prediction below also was justified - no sooner had the greylags banded together when an egyptian goose tagged on to them yesterday at Watton NR. I didn't get a pic so have stuck the last one on I photographed below right - you can tell its not at Watton because of the croc. bottom left: