Friday, 29 October 2010

Woody's return

Much earlier than expected our woodcock made its return on Sunday to the hedgerow at the back of the wildlife centre. For those that don’t know it (or more likely various individuals) have been sunning themselves under the hedge bottom for several winters now – giving excellent and seldom seen views of one of the best camouflaged birds out there. The picture below is from last year – no doubt more to come:

We have taken the opportunity to undertake some hedgerow management over the last couple of weeks – and also banged in these stakes which should make my life easier to show it to viewers – rather than ‘look behind that clump of grass…’

Also to make sightings easier we are gradually lowering south marsh west at the moment to expose a shallow shelf which proved very popular with water rails last year. There are at least two on the marsh at the moment - never seen but often heard squealing. The photo below shows the location from the O res hide:

And here from the back to back hides:

Please note however we will be undertaking some necessary management work here on Saturday 30th from 3pm and Sunday 31st for most of the day - so apologies in advance.

Sunday also saw the first and most welcome slavonian grebe on D reservoir – viewing conditions were very poor – so well done John Hirschfield for finding it! It may still be there for all we know – as even when you know there is a slav or black neck on the res. they can be impossible to find.

Other birds of the week have included various siskin around the car park, green sandpiper and fine drake pintail at Watton NR, hundreds of redwing, common sandpiper on south marsh east, and this rather dull black-tailed godwit (in comparison to those here two months ago):

At least the teal are taking on their plumage again rather than the scruffy brown of the autumn moult:

An unfortunate find was the discovery of these mink prints in one of the sampling beds – a mere 4 days after the last one was removed – so the dynasty is not quite out…

Better news came courtesy of Craig Ralston – Senior Reserve Manager at the Lower Derwent Valley NNR. If you remember a previous posting I had put up a shot with a request for info on ‘mute swan 339’

Craig gives the interesting low-down here –
‘It was ringed at the Lower Derwent Valley NNR to the south east of York, at Mebourne on the Pocklington Canal on 12/8/2001 as a cygnet by Natural England staff as part of our waterfowl ringing programme. Its one of 500 mute swans ringed in the valley and one of a handful which have appeared at Tophill over the years (but the first for some time). We have also had movements of shelduck, wigeon and an unfortunate ruddy duck from the LDV to Tophill so clearly (and unsurprisingly given the distance) a link between the sites’

- Thanks again Craig – nice to see how the wildlife travels around the various reserves in the region.

Remember it is the 'roost walk' on Sunday night at 4pm - drop in no booking necessary - to view the gull, greylag, corvid and possibly starling roosts...

Finally this little egret came into roost at Watton – before getting up to fly onto Barmston drain to feed at 17:45 the other night. Unfortunately ISO1600 and a 1/25th shutter speed doesn’t make for the sharpest image – but I’m sure it would look great on a wall in someone’s London pad!

Saturday, 23 October 2010


The redwing and fieldfare would suggest it - but the first brambling on the wildlife centre feeding station is confirmation - it is officially winter! This nice male was showing fom 2pm on the feeders:

Aside from this there seems to be a general build up lately of activity around the feeders with a lot of chaffinch present now. Great spotted woodpeckers are also coming back more frequently like this female:

Other than this a pair of pintail were on Watton yesterday, with the kingfishers showing at North Marsh, a grey wagtail on O reservoir wall, and a tawny calling from East Scrub.

Also here are some shots courtesy of Mervin and his fungi walk:
Pterula multifida:

Suillus grevellei

Suillus luteus

Lactarius deterrimus

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Fall of the mink dynasty

The kingsfishers have continued to delight following their autumnwatch stardom this week with four seperate birds reported yesterday at North Marsh. They have even managed to bring in visitors from the continent such is their celebrity power - read Tony's blog for full details.

Further to the 'white winged gull' on D res below - it has not been reported since, although an albino common gull has been reported at Hornsea Mere - thanks to Derrick at HVWG for the info.

The weeks biggest highlight was the discovery of a group of corn bunting at Hempholme Lock by Jeff Barker - hopefully we can pick them up in the reserve some time. Green sandpiper was on the river on Sunday too, with a redshank on South Marsh East today. Marsh harrier and peregrine have returned numerous sightings, with the sparrowhawks as big a pest as ever on the feeders. Tawny's have been fairly conspicuous around the reserve at the moment too - one being mobbed in the Norway spruces of the car park on several occasions. A drake pintail was was also on Watton during Monday.

This week has also seen the last few swallows departing - 2 being seen yesterday over South Scrub heading south - the very last?

The fungi walk was very successful - some of Mervyn's photos are to follow in the next post, but yesterday I snapped this shaggy inkcap:

And an unknown sp without further research:

Thanks to Doug for finding us some showy examples - last week he managed to snap this crab spider attempting to sneak up on a lime speck pug caterpillar:

The next event will be the roost walk on the 31st of October at 4pm - no booking required - to view the gull, corvid, geese, curlew and potentially starling roosts:

Some of you may have seen the various habitat works going on around the southern site. The back-to-back hides are now open and sport new disabled access plus two new dragonfly / newt ponds to develop over next year. Likewise two ponds which were disappearing on east scrub have been deepened to ensure they remain productive in future.

We have also been clearing much willow scrub from South Marsh West with thanks to the band of volunteers who have been assisting. This is to stop it turning into woodland and keep it as an open reed bed habitat - favouring the bittern which should hopefully arrive soon, along with many warbler species for next year. If you would like to help out we would be very appreciative - we meet every Sunday at 10am, and also some Wednesdays and Thursdays - ring for details on 01377 270690.

Clearing the scrub revealed the den of one of our most feared predators today - the mink. The mink in the film below has since been removed from site, but it is always handy to know their lair so we can prepare for the next one. The tunnel was littered with many duck feathers:

Also in the video is a stoat and a squirrel demonstrating it's vertical take off abilities!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Red letter days

I guess most of you who read this blog will have also seen autumnwatch - so well done Tony and commiserations to Jeff who didn't get on - but the winning photo was a fine achievement! The kingfishers have continued to show well since at North Marsh.

The wader movement appears to have slowed now with only a late common sandpiper to report today on D reservoir wall. However 4 common crane over-flew the car park heading east on Thursday. The red in Friday came courtesy of a Red Kite - picked up by Jeff Barker over the Northern site, and also the first flock of 60 redwing over the reserve. By today they were actively feeding in the hawthorns around D res. Once again office work prevented the search for interesting birds amongst the tit flocks, but having the camera ready to try and get the next sparrowhawk attack on the centre feeders did come in handy to get this wren through the window.

This mute swan has been hanging round South Marsh West all summer and sports a white on red leg tag '339' - I've had a quick search but can't turn up any specific info other than there was a programme in South Yorks which is likely where the tag came from - so any info would be appreciated.

Another shout of assistance will be with these caterpillars - in my opinion the most interesting find in the bat boxes today despite 30 being found! We were unsure what this was when cleaning a box - it looks like a car sponge - but on investigation these over-wintering caterpillars emerged - perhaps 30 or so being in the structure. The 'sponge' is actually silk - and is massively strong. We popped them back in a bird box to continue their winter undisturbed but suggestions are welcome:

More common residents were this noctule - of which one was found:

And this - one of many - nathusius's pipistrelle:

Yet another 'comments welcome' I discovered this white winged gull on D reservoir on Friday night amongst the approx 25,000 common and black headed gulls - it being fairly un-missable. An absence of any markings roused interest and hope of rarity - but the best we can come up with is a leucistic common gull. However the head and its 'buoyancy' in the water seem to give it an almost kittiwake appearance? Thanks to the HVWG boys and AWbirder for their assistance in trying to make something of it - once again any suggestions are welcome. Apologies for the grainyness - but it was nearly dark! Searches for the bird again on Saturday and Today failed to find it again.

Finally some of you may have seen the path to the back-to-back hides is out of action. We are currently replacing the rotten steps with an access ramp for wheel chair use - and creating two great new dragonfly ponds at the same time.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Kings of the screen

It seems our kingfishers are in demand - after the great news that Tony's image in the last posting is to be discussed on BBC Autumnwatch unsprung tomorrow, it transpires that regular contributor Jeff Barker has also been approached to feature this image he got on Sunday! Compliments to him too - I'd better check my inbox now in case Kate Humble's been e-mailing me too!

I guess it is this image that will be featured with Tony's as long as they get chance to fit them in on the live programme - we'll have to watch and see...

To see many more of the kingfisher and other shots from the reserve follow the flickr link on the right and type 'tophill low' into the search bar.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Kingfishers unsprung

Many of you will have seen the regular and stunning photos on this blog courtesy of Tony McLean and his long vigils in the North Marsh hide.

Great news is that Tony has been approached by BBC Autumnwatch who want to use the excellent shot below as part of a live discussion with kingfisher photography extraordinaire - cameraman Charlie Hamilton-James in their live 'unsprung' programme at 9.30 this Thursday on BBC2 - looking at and evaluating various kingfisher shots.

For more info have a look on Tony's blog here where he tells all.

Compliments to Tony for all his hard work and patience in getting the photos that attracted the producers - but also to our volunteers who helped install the artificial nest and perches that undoubtedly keep them ever present.

So make sure you tune in!

Little to report today - other than obviously the kingfishers continuing to delight people in North Marsh, and a sparrowhawk making several attacks on the centre feeders.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Snakes alive

The week this week has been good for fungi - is perhaps the best we can say. The few sunny days have seen most migrant birds streaming past high overhead, like a greenshank on Thursday and grey plover on saturday, with many curlew as below which have occasionally alighted.

The only stayer appears to have been an osprey - seen around site several times between Sunday and Thursday. The first true winter migrant was seen on Friday night in the form of the first pink-footed goose of the winter on D reservoir. Here the gull roost is well underway with around 25,000 common and black-headed gulls present. The barn owls have become more active in the day too - being rained off on a night - one was seen at North Marsh on the reserve walk yesterday and this indivdual was at the southern site earlier in the week:

Waders have been thin on the ground - presumably as there is so much choice with flooded fields and our marshes are struggling to lose the water. The best chance of interest has been the mixed tit flocks on site - usually a gang of long-tails as below - but the week has seen a huge fall of goldcrests on the site - nobody has found a firecrest or yellow-browed as yet - but keep trying!

The site is alive with fungi of all shapes and colours - this agaric sp. and shaggy inkcap being but two.

Once again - there a couple of places left on the October 17th fungi walk - book soon to avoid disappointment!

There are still plenty of snakes about as the weather is somewhat mild. This stumpy individual (lost it's tail tip) took me by suprise at dusk on a woodland path on thursday!

This smaller version was on one of the hay piles prior to Friday's showers:

Finally I have just totted up the BTO business bird challenge totals for the quarter - details on the page linked above.