Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Putting the stockings up

Low feeders and a relatively settled forecast saw a trip to Tophill again today. If you are planning on visiting the reserve take great care - remember the road is ungritted and unploughed so be prepared to escape rapidly if the weather starts to close! It took me 20 minutes to cover the 4 miles to the A164 tonight.

However it was all worth while - even though I didn't leave the office! This is the first time I can recall seeing a stock dove on any feeding station. The timid woodpigeon cousin never normally drops in, but was obviously forced to with the weather:

No sign of the woodcock - past experience suggests it dislikes the snow and may well have sought out the river bank where it can get it's beak in. However today saw the return of another stalwart - the water rail (not cut and pasted! - just against the snow!):

This individual was near but not under the feeders - perhaps just inspecting - but hopefully it will now grace us for the rest of winter. We had a resident rail for several winters but it did not show at all last year - presumably reaching the end of it's days. With a bit of luck this is the replacement.

That said, besides the arboreal rail of the last post this one was behaving oddly too - running a circuit around the middle of the exposed meadow - not skulky at all - maybe trying to keep warm! Here it is doing it's Captain Scott piece:

The next returnee was the brambling - these fine two individuals amongst dozens of chaffinches:

At least 3 different great spots' visited, including this fine male which would put a robin to shame for red:

The sparrowhawk made a couple of attacks and as the light went a female siskin was sat 3 feet from desk whilst on the phone!

If you fancy birding in heated comfort please ring on 01377 270690 to check the centre is open first, whilst the whole site is open as normal for the brave and foolhardy!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

May be gone some time...

Well it was forecast - but wasn't quite expecting this much! On Wednesday the great highlight was a female long-tailed duck on the D reservoir - congrats to Frank Murray for that one. I didn't get to see it, but here is a library pic from North Norfolk of the last one I saw (male) a couple of years back:

Also mid week the six female smew were doing the rounds, along with the first goosander for some time on O res. Kingfisher sightings have dried up a bit with the weather turning, but lone whooper swans and pink-feet have both been seen.

Braving the weather I decided to get out and top up the feeders etc. yesterday - around 6" of snow at home one the wolds!:

Whilst trying to negotiate one of the hills a skein of around 200 geese were flying south - didn't get a proper look or hear of them, but have a potential for barnacles or pink-feet?:

We often get asked about the conditions on the road to Tophill - here is the access road at 11.00am yesterday - so make up your own mind!:

The trip was worth while however - great opportunity to see some of the mammal tracks round site - this fox was active:

But its visit to the rabbit 'cavern' on O res - which many of you will be familiar with - was not worth while as obviously the rabbits had not left the warren for at least 3 days.

The otter appeared active - this trail on the river used that morning:

Likewise these 'bounds' in the SMW ice smack of otter too:

However there is yet another mink at large - fresh tracks in the raft - the 4th or 5th this autumn - but not the weather for trapping at present:

Inspecting the river revealed that is where all the activity is - whilst on the bank this mute swan was picturesque:

A group of wigeon flew in then off:

Likewise this snipe:

This time of year is great for seeing more secretive species with the marshes frozen:

It's always worth checking any margin for water rails - however I wasn't expecting to flush one from six foot up a goat willow as I walked past on SMW!:

Likewise another woodcock flew from the path through South Scrub - and predictably the Wildlife Centre woodcock is now easy to find - far right corner of the meadow between pegs 4 and 5:

Predictably one of the handful of other people 'committed' (the right word?!) besides me to turn out yesterday was Tony - who was rewarded with a great buzzard image no doubt on his site soon...

Updates today are that I could not get in because of the weather, with a couple of our more local team making it in before escaping home with the snow coming down heavily again at 11am. However please note that fear of impalement will not be accepted as an excuse for not purchasing a permit...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Smewing up

Heavy snow forescast...it said when I logged on tonight - but all good stuff - a north-easterly turn in the winds yesterday saw the much anticipated arrival of the smew - Tophill's signature winter bird. Whilst no drake yet, there is no complaining as we had five yesterday and a sixth today. This means we immediately keep our standings in the WeBS league tables (6 is our average figure, but we were down to a winter maxima of 4 last year). Apart from a brief foray over D res they are resident as usual at Watton NR:

Also there yesterday was a pintail, with another Med gull on the roost on D. A couple of pink feet have also been about, along with 63 gadwall on N Lagoon alone:

Otherwise the main action was on the feeders. The sparrowhawk has been causing upset for some time, but having an office which overlooks the feeders means I have developed a skill for predicting when it will attack!

So sandwich in one hand and camera in other I got goldfinch and great spot:

And then - too fast to get! Unfortunately a 'what might have been image':

And then some quite atmospheric - but ultimately too obscured images of it perched:

Oh well - if you fancy a go it seems very active at the moment - why sit in a cold and draughty hide when you can sit in one with central heating? (please ring if you intend to come during the week as the centre is not always open).

The attacks increased later in the afternoon as it appeared to become increasingly desperate to make a catch. Bad press as they get you can't help but feel sorry for it with the coming weather...

To warm things up Doug Fairweather has ent in these fine shots - not taken on the great barrier reef believe it or not! - Doug explains all...

Leocarpus fragilis was found growing on a Willow chip from one of the woodchip heaps on the river bank, It's a wonder in miniature, with each small structure measuring a mere 2mm high by 1mm wide:

There are also photo's of three other myxo's (already on the list) taken during this year, that may be of interest:
Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa:

Lycogala terrestre:

Mucilago crustacea:

Although there are several Myxomycetes on the Tophill Fungus list they aren't fungi at all, but belong to the kingdom Protozoa. They tend to be treated as fungi because they possess several characteristics associated with fungi.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Wax nearly on…wax off

Waxwings everywhere – if you live near a supermarket! It would appear that our huge crop of hawthorn berries are not to their liking yet. We have a massive numbers of fieldfare and redwing around the site, but only one fleeting glimpse of waxwings, which nearly landed at the top of the reserve before flying off south easterly. Also in the top lock area has been a regular little egret and two corn buntings yesterday.

Some more forthcoming winter visitors have been a group of up to 7 whooper swans freshly arrived and seen several times on the D reservoir. Howie Speight managed a fine photo viewable on Flickr. A small group of pink-footed geese has also been around the reserve – these five being on South Marsh East on Wednesday.

Also on the Res. at the moment are around 4 little grebes – here comparing itself with a great crested:

The black-tailed godwit has now gone, but there are still plenty of redshank and curlew, and there were two common sandpipers on D res wall last Sunday. Loads of water rails – not sure anyone has seen one but they can be heard in every reedbed on site. Also on the reservoir roost was a 1st winter mediterranean gull. It would seem that if you put the time in med’ gull is pretty much a cert at the moment.

This group of long-tailed tits and blue tits were hanging around north scrub.

Also on the scrub was this barn owl – it seems to have a penchant for sitting just outside its box at the moment so is readily visible.

Along with a roe deer:

To further the lot of owls around the reserve the nest box team has been adding to the tally of boxes around the site. One species present close to but not within the reserve is the little owl – so we have two new boxes for them:

Along with a new box for the resident kestrel:

And a new tawny box – one of many that have been renewed of late – thanks to Jim Evans for the work:

Possibly one of the final moth traps of the year returned a respectable 11 individuals of four species – winter moth:

December moth:

And ‘species of the trap’ – feathered thorn: