Thursday, 27 January 2011

Cool bird on the cool breeze

Well done to the HVWG boys today for finding a glaucous gull on the wall of D reservoir at the roost tonight - All pics on the page courtesy of HVWG:

Once again a pair of woodock under the hedge at the rear of the wildlife centre:

And this fine sparrowhawk:

Other sightings included the brambling flock, a lesser redpoll on the lagoon alders, three to four common buzzards displaying over north end, and a red-head smew on O reservoir.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

A wooden experience

Visitors to the Reserve today managed to obtain excellent views of the Wildlife Centre woodcock. With Michael Flowers group in today I decided to have a quick scan using my special woodcock vision to see if they were in residence - and sure enough behind pegs 4 and 14 was one showing well in the sunlight:

After further viewing it became apparent there was a second bird present too - unfortunately not the greatest photos - but excellent views through the scope:

If you want to view the woodcock yourself the centre will be open every day til Sunday this week.

In addition were at least 10 brambling, willow tit, treecreeper and a quick visit by the sparrowhawk:

Unfortunately no smew or pintail present, but the little egret put in a late performance over D reservoir. The snowdrops are continuing their emergence:

Other news is the return of song thrushes - during the bad weather they were near absent in the reserve and wider area. A chat with one of our visitors revealed apparent reports of thousands of song thrushes in Pembrokeshire.

Further news on the barn owl front is that our nest box team have surveyed all our 6 boxes now - turning up only the one male alive we had been feeding. Whilst no further bodies have been found - parts of a second casualty have been brought in to the centre by visitors over the last week - like Martin has here. Heartening reports are of a sighting by Michael Flowers group of an individual near Sleights Farm last week, and the nest box team found a relatively fresh rat with talon wounds in the Watton boxes. For further grim barn owl news Robert Fuller's blog is well worth a look.

The Watton Hide is now up and completed - thanks to all those who have helped and volunteered in developing the project and preparing the site:

We are often asked how to get to it - there are three ways:
- From the reserve walk out the main gate and head South along the east bank of Beverley and Barmston Drain to Wilfholme before coming back up the west bank over Watton Beck.
- From the car park at Wilfholme landing cross Watton Beck and follow the west bank of the drain up.
- From Easingwold Farm on the Tophill approach road follow the public footpath across Watton Carrs and enter the NR via the new galvanised kissing gate.

Finally a new internet forum has been started up by Hull birder Robert Jaques with a view to discussing all aspects of East Yorkshire birding and wildlife. Have a look here - a link will be up top right too.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Not more ice!

The last few days saw a subtle return of frozen conditions to the Reserve - cool nights again froze all the marshes and lagoons - this coot was ice-breaking on North Lagoon:

As such the bittern has not been seen recently - presumably forced onto the river again. It remained until April last year - so there is plenty of time yet to embed itself in the marshes yet. Below is a reminder of Dave Ruffles excellent video from North Marsh last March to whet your appetite!:

However the little egret has been quite showy - commuting between Watton NR and Hempholme on Thursday. The feeding station is always predictably busy - brambling, siskin and willow tit in the same frame can't be bad!:

Thanks to Barry Warrington for the great spotted woodpecker pic below:

Siskin are prevalent in most of the alders, and just occasionally there are lesser redpoll mixed in.

The drake pintail is a fixture on O res at the moment:

Likewise the two redhead smew are seen daily. Today the 13 or 14 whoopers made a return - flying over the northern site at 11.30am - unfortunately they have left the access road at present. They have been replaced by some interesting geese - 1 white fronted and 2 barnacles both on D today.

Other small sightings included tawny's in the car park and on the access road, treecreeper at the centre, and at least 8 bullfinch on the southern site:

There are still a few winter moths about:

But spring is on the way - the snowdrops are nearly out, the woodpeckers are drumming, the scarlet elf cups are appearing, and the goldeneye are displaying:

Remember Maurice Gordon's wildlife photography class starts at the Reserve next this Sunday with places still available - visit his blog for details.

Also local birder Rob Young is starting up a new East Yorkshire Wildlife tour business and was visiting the reserve for venues today - see his site for further details.

Finally Gilleard brothers are due to install the shiny new EA hide at Watton NR tomorrow morning - which should offer some great views of smew - but unfortunately will fill the temporary void through which golden plover can be seen adjacent to Watton Beck at present!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Stoatal massacre

Various sightings for the week though the camera has not been out to record it! Martin managed a few pics, with one of the red-head smew of which two are now common place on the reservoirs and freshly thawed Watton NR, though as many as 6 were logged on Thursday. Have a look on his blog too and see if you can make head or tail of his strange gull...

HVWG sent us this fine roe pic from last Thursday:

Other sightings inlcude the usual multiple brambling, willow tit, woodock in D woods, goosander on the D reservoir and barn owl on North Scrub. Harrogate and District Nats managed to take in most of these birds in their visit today.

Best bird of the week was a waxwing within the Water Treatment Works compound - unfortunately too late for the BTO Challenge. Talking of which see the challenge page above for the final quarter's round up - 3 new species in 3 months is not too great!

A little egret has been observed a few times at Watton of late, nice to know it survived the ice, likewise a kingfisher sighting on North Lagoon today. A few water rails were squealing there at dusk too and the tawnys are starting to get more active.

Whilst I may not have had chance to get out with the camera the trail camera never sleeps!. Whilst checking the boiler I was scolded by a stoat from a cavity under the eaves of the Wildlife Centre! I have known of their presence for a while - but not where they were getting in. This attained the trail camera was duly set up.

A word of warning! If you are squeamish about predation of blue tits then look away as instructed on the video - As I always say - you'd pay a fortune to see this behaviour in Africa! Seriously though it will be interesting to see what prey items they are returning. The blue tit was brought in at 4:18am - presumably pulled from its roost somewhere:

Likewise Michael Flowers has also been visiting with his group recently and has some equally murderous photos here.

If you want to see the stoats then the centre is as good a spot as any - I would love to say they are present at a regular time, but their behaviour is stoatally erratic...

Monday, 10 January 2011

Unlucky for some...

But the 13 whooper swans on the approach road are always nice to see:

They have been coming and going between D reservoir and unfortunately the opposite side of Watton Beck from the chicken farm - 300yds away and 4 miles drive!:

Also seen this morning was the merlin perched on various buildings and posts. This kestrel was on the Treatment Works fence on Saturday morning however:

Two red-headed smew have been on D reservoir fairly regularly, along with a nice drake pintail on O res this morning. The odd goosander has also been on D like these two females:

The gulls seem to prefer the ice - this rapidly shrinking 'berg was hot property for the roost tonight. Despite Martin's best efforts we've yet to find an elusive 'white-winger' - bit good things come to those who wait (or freeze!):

Main highlight of the last two days has been views of bittern on the ground again for the first time this year on South Marsh West. In a thorough seal of approval for our work earlier in the autumn it has taken a liking to the freshly willow cleared reeds. Yesterday it was possibly stalking a snipe in the reed beds:

It is easy to forget that they eat a wide range of prey - including a rodent last March. Small wonder Martin reports everything getting out the way when it buzzed D res on Saturday! Pics courtesy of HVWG:

Then today it was out again - some more great pics from Graham Slack - if only someone hadn't put a post in the way!:

The feeders still have the brambling - again from HVWG:

There was a scare that the bird this sparrowhawk was eating may have been the willow tit - but it was seen again today!:

It must be said however that my picture above is not quite of the standard of Tony McLean's - follow the link for an impossibly sharp sparrowhawk flight shot!

Finally some of you may have noticed the lack of hide on Watton NR:

The Environment Agency and Hull Valley Wildlife Group are installing a replacement which is likely to be up by month end.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Year listing

The new year has got off to a good start - few can say not with the two common cranes on Monday again - thanks to John Leason. Likewise Martin got a small group of white-fronted geese - something we missed all last year. A group of whoopers also dropped in on the 1st - with around 13 on the carrs near the free range chicken farm, and up to four visiting D res through the day.

The grand total for the 1st was 61 species - a little down attributable to the iced up conditions. Other highlights also included the bittern over the river, goosander and water rail. Louise Glazzard visited on the 31st and 1st and got these great pics - nice to know we still have a kingfisher:

Redhead smew:

and pintail:

Likewise regular David Ware was also in on the 2nd and managed some more shots of the willow tit:

David has recently started his own blog - have a look here.

Brambling however are very easy to come by on the feeders - these two chaffinches were beginning to doubt their status as Britain's most common species:

The orange great spot also put in a brief appearance today too:

Most of the reserve is still frozen, but these coots were starting to find new weed resources under the receeding ice of D res:

You may have seen tonights Look North feature around barn owls. We consider ourselves lucky to have one bird given the reports coming in elsewhere. I know Derrick at Hull Valley has had many reports of dead barn owls, likewise Michael Flowers visited Robert Fuller's gallery today where the wolds barn owl group has found around 20 birds dead on the higher wolds. For information I am not catching shrews personally - these are provided by the cat and put to good use!

Unfortunately a few more casualties today:

This young great black backed gull was one of at least three dead round D res. The carrion crows apparently picking up more on the ice:

Can't comment on causes, but they are pretty mean looking birds so one would think would cope with the conditions and it is more likely disease.

On a lighter note a few folk have asked to see some of my Kenya photos from the summer. I will be conducting a talk for Beverley Naturalists at 7:30pm on Monday night (10th) on the subject at the Peter Harrison Rooms next to Beverley Minster. Admission is £1 with entry to the raffle. Equally I will be undertaking the same talk for Hornsea Bird Club on Friday the 21st at 7.30pm at Hornsea Library. Both clubs are friendly local groups who are well worth joining and supporting.