Thursday, 30 December 2010

A tangerine for Christmas

Nice news was a brief glimpse of a tangerine orange, male great spotted woodpecker at the centre feeders on Tuesday . Many of you may be familiar with the topillus subspecies from its forays in the media - but one has not been seen for 6 momths since an orange juv was seen in the car park. Whether this is the original or its offspring I cannot say, but at least they are still present. I managed one brief shot through the office window - colours as ever unaltered:

Good numbers of brambling remain on the feeders:

Along with the willow tit:

Siskin have been recorded in big numbers today - with one count of 40 and another of 20 elsewhere coming in. A big influx of goosander arrived at the reserve this morning too - with up to 8 on D reservoir, and being seen along the river and in flight over our bonfire. A lone pink-footed goose was also present on D.

Martin also managed the bittern working the river today, and Tony got some great results yet again from his Christmas and Boxing day vigils in North Marsh (Also check out his new-look page for some of his amazing pics from Hungary).

Whilst there is some open water appearing again on D res, O is still frozen - but at least these wigeon found some sanctuary from the Christmas shoots there:

On Watton carrs this redshank was enjoying new mud for the first time in a month (though the mist from the thaw had settled on the camera lens!):

Whilst on the pylons this peregrine made a brief stop before carrying on its business:

Both a great spotted woodpecker and a woodcock have been reported partially eaten today - but not sure for whom to attribute blame - certainly the female sparrowhawk was working the residential area gardens this morning, and the merlin is still at large too.

Tomorrow is the last day of the BTO challenge so any last unrecorded sp. would be welcome! Totals to be posted soon...

Remember new years day is the year listing event - walks at 10am and 1pm.

All the best for the new year, and may it be filled with interesting wildlife of all kinds...

Friday, 24 December 2010

Throwing on a yule log

What better way to stay warm than a good fire - in this case burning off the hawthown we have been pollarding in South Scrub:

Thanks to Pete and Cliff:

A skein of 30 small geese overflew - certainly not greylags but couldn't get more on them. The kestrel and common buzzard were also over the southern site, and the river held thousands of wildfowl:

A lone redshank and lapwing were among those on the bank. Barmston Drain is frozen completely:

Giving the fox opportunity to test out its skating skills!

The thin covering of snow had made tracking very easy also showing the otter had been about:

Also by the spraints too:

For some great piccies of the beast itself elsewhere check out the Hull Valley photo page here.

So merry Christmas to all of you who follow the blog and our reserve regulars! And in the current freezing conditions it's always heartening that the wildlife is a step ahead - as far as the foxes and tawny owls are concerned Spring is already here with loads of territorial activity starting...

Monday, 20 December 2010

Putting the crane in Cranswick

A trip to visit the contractors at the North of the site was worthwhile today - a 'grus' call like its latin namesake alerted me skywards to the third visit this year by common cranes to the site. Unfortunately they were obviously seeking out soft ground further eastwards - but managed to get a couple of record shots:

The horse chestnut avenue is now completely down, the rest of the work should follow next summer:

The reservoir is currently re-freezing after a brief thaw last week. This was on Thursday showing a few resolute gulls turning up for the roost:

That pic might also be the swansong for my 500mm lens which apparently has also not taken well to the freeze thaw condensation of the last month. So apologies if subsequent images are a little more distant. Hopefully it won't end up like these unfortunates on the ice the crows are clearing up!

The river again holds most of the wildfowl like this goldeneye:

The bittern was again seen and photographed by Martin Hodges here.

Also active is the fox with tracks everywhere, and a major commotion took place in the loft of the Wildlife Centre - tracing the squealing across the ceiling and outside a pair of stoats came barrelling out the ivy and ran off scrapping over the road - they're obviously happy in their heated penthouse suite.

The Centre has also seen the return of the willow tit - first seen by David Ware on Saturday:

Nice to know some of the family of five have survived from summer.

The blackbird was feeling considerably outnumbered by brambling today too! Around 7 are visible continuously:

And a nice goldfinch:

The kingfisher was today feeding in the Treatment Works ditch so was left in peace to hopefully make a successful catch. Likewise at least one barn owl is hanging on.

A few roe deer have been out finding food too:

Fieldfare are encountered regularly:

And I was hoping this kestrel might have been the merlin that's been about all week - obviously hoping to lamp some rodents!:

If you're thinking of visiting the Reserve, the road as of 4pm on Monday currently has around 1/2" of snow over it, but there is obviously lots of ice so take care - though the rewards are fruitful if you can get in...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Frost bittern

Excellent news is that the winter line up has been completed with the return of a wintering bittern - Tony McLean managed to get an excellent pic for his blog here - and also managed to bag the first record this season simultaneously. It may well have been here a while, but the lack of people is not conducive to records!

The river is where most of the action is, as with this group of mainly tufties on Thursday:

This was one of 3 little grebes near Hempholme Lock:

Further down river - suprisingly on the tidal section it was frozen bank to bank as with so many others in the region of late:

The mammal safari turned up plenty of tracks and trails (more animals than people!), whilst the snow had melted a little by the Sunday walk, Thursday saw these multiple otter slides on Barmston drain:

Along with well worn paths:

Tony and Martin also got good views of the fox on North Marsh, with Martin turning up some great birds on the small area of open water on D res - a ruddy shelduck and a pintail both being distilled into the small group - full write up here. Elsewhere 5 Brambling were on the feeders, siskin everywhere, jay at Standingholme, three goosander flew south down river, and woodcock were often in the open - like these two on Watton NR:

Meanwhile work has gone apace on the horse chestnut avenue with work approaching completion - this was on Thursday:

Terry the partridge in the last post was released successfully and was spotted under the centre feeders a few hours later:

Likewise these two borderline hedgehogs were given a square meal of cat food before going on their way:

Finally the cat also provided some food in the form of these two voles - which I decided to put to good use and supplement the barn owls given the problems they have at the moment (though things have improved a little with the thaw):

However unfortunately this dead bird was present in the entrance:

Before getting too sensationalist it is worth noting this bird from its state obviously died before the cold snap. The most likely candidate is that it's one of this years chicks which did not mature, however the ring on extraction does look quite worn and pitted, suggesting an older bird:

One of our ringers Jim is looking into it, and when we get round to cleaning out the box later on this winter we'll see what other horrors are in the somewhat squalid owl box...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

And a partridge in the spare room...

Still all iced up - 'O' res for a change - no open water at all here:

After the problems with the access road yesterday the Treatment Works arranged for the road to be cleared using Dobson's 360:

The depth of snow can be seen from the cut down to tarmac again:

This means that Tophill is accessible again by conventional car - although huge care is needed as the rest of the road from the A164 is still iced over:

The car park is still under 10" of snow:

Freezing fog descending on Watton Carrs at 3.37pm:

Birdwise I did not get out today, but 4 possibly 5 brambling were on the feeders. If you fancy a look the centre is closed tomorrow, but should be open all day Thursday to Sunday.

Unfortunately the wildlife is now starting to suffer. On my drive over the wolds yesterday morning I saw a tawny owl hunting the roadside in broad daylight, and our barn owls are hunting continuously. A look on the Ryedale Wildlife rehab blog shows that the casualties are starting to come in.

Equally I noticed many covey's of grey partridges searching for food on the fields of the access road. When I picked the other half up from work at a school she presented me with this red-legged partridge:

'Terry' as was christened by the kids who found it in the middle of the school playing fields. After attempting to inspect the bird and subsequently chasing it around the spare room it could obviously fly and run fine - but clearly suffering from starvation and cold. A quick chat with Jean Thorpe of RWR confirmed that she currently has 6 in a similar state.

We'll hang on to Terry and feed him up before releasing him at the reserve.

Looking forward to 'winter' (!) we have a few events coming up. The mammal safari is still scheduled to take place on Sunday and should be good if there is still snow about - book in advance on 01377 270690 - free with normal admission from 1-3pm.

The reserve will be open all of the Christmas period even though the wildlife centre may not.

On January the 1st we will be holding the year listing event again. Hopefully we will build on the '09 total of 69 species, and '10 total of 72. Starting from 9am with some informal walks and tally keeping.

Regular Maurice Gordon will also be starting up his Wildlife Photography courses again based from the wildlife centre starting on January the 10th - for full details see his blog.

Likewise Michael Flowers will be restarting his birding courses - details here.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Ice flows

A trip to Tophill today should have hopefully been straightforward with the ice compacted over the road and no snow threat. However an attempt to clear the road at midday had reduced it to light snow over pot-holed ice with no ability to pass other traffic – resulting in several vehicles and even the water works 4x4 being stuck. The trip to Angram Farm 2 miles away took 2 ½ hours - not much fun at -9! – as a result we cannot recommend any travel to the reserve at present. To quote the process engineer 'the worst it's been since 1963.' Probably the best bet is to stay at home and measure the icicles like martin!

The D res. is now about 99% frozen:

Only one tiny pool remains with a small number of wildfowl keeping it open:

The carrion crows meanwhile are picking over anything left on the ice:

At least 6 woodcock were present today – this one flying into the feeding station meadow:

Another brambling has joined the feeders:

Around 3 goldcrests were present including this male:

And the redwing are finishing off the last of the berries:

Again the harsh weather is driving more interesting birds onto the feeders - this female blackcap was snapped by Richard Sears in his garden on-site:

Regardless work at the reserve goes on:

Many of you will have read the plans regarding the conversion of Sgt Major Wood and the associated horse chestnuts to a new floodplain grazing marsh habitat. Unfortunately due to technicalities in the permissions process we had to postpone the poplar felling for this year – and wait until August next year (part of the problem with having so many protected species on the reserve is that we only have a very small window to undertake works in). Obviously the conversion of a woodland back to an open habitat needs special permission from the Forestry Commission – but we are satisfied it will be very much worth it. For full details see the conservation page at the top.

However the horse chestnut avenue which is now starting to show increasing damage from the bleeding canker and leaf minor moth, is due to be felled over the next couple of weeks. Likewise we will be doing some more minor works around the reserve along with an exciting new nest box project…