Wednesday, 23 February 2011

And our poll says less

A quiet spell on the reserve of late as Martin will testify on his blog. We are at that time of year when what may arrive for the winter is now here, so it is just waiting for the first migrants to appear to bring something new.

The reliable birds include up to 14 brambling on the feeders and the willow tit now back in D woods again. A pair of amorous treecreepers have been seen by several observers showing hope for breeding this year. All pictures below courtesy of HVWG:

This mistle thrush was establishing itself in the treatment works compound again - again hopefully another good breeding year:

The two red-head smew have been regular on Watton NR, and a nice returnee is the drake pintail which has been seen pretty much everywhere on site. Around 5 goosander regularly roost on D res, and there are plenty of goldeneye:

The teal are looking good and doing their best to impress:

And there are usually a bunch of redshank on South Marsh East:

Nice news is the return of oystercatchers again to the Marsh:

This tell-tale artillery piece betrays the lesser spotted Tony McLean:

To see what he got from the 'other side' click here - including some x-rated oystercatcher pics and a full review of the new Watton Hide!

Lincoln RSPB visited on Sunday - with the highlight for most being 5 lesser redpoll on the alder trees of the Lagoons. We have had reports of 80 siskin on Monday which make up the bulk of the flock.

'Spring-watch' continues - one of the best signals is the flowering of coltsfoot on the reservoir ditches. Les Bardwell has been keeping tabs on its emergence for 20 years; Prior to last winter the plant had been progressively flowering earlier until it got to the point where it was appearing 3 weeks earlier than in 1990 with a succession of mild winters. Last winter it returned to its March flowering date and this winter we are a mere 2 weeks early (Library pic):

Another signature of Spring was found by Bernie from InFocus optics on Sunday - the first herald moth of the year (Pic from last year):

The practical team are doing their best to get the site sorted before the migrants return and the vegetation starts growing. Here Pete is helping construct a new otter holt before the brambles cover it:

Other reserve news includes the completion of the underpinning and maintenance work on South Marsh West hide, with the team moving onto D res North hide next. The path to Watton hide is now repaired so the access is closed off the drain bank again now.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Odds on for Iceland

Chatting with Martin on Saturday we were debating whether there would be an iceland gull this winter. The statistics suggest not and Martin was willing to bet me a fiver there wouldn't be one - if only I was a betting man! The following night he found a 1st/2nd winter bird on the D res roost - all the details on his blog.

A visit after work tonight revealed no interesting gulls but around 30,000 common and black-headed's:

As usual the little egret made its commute southwards to Watton or High Eske. We now have light til around 17:40:

And a small group of goosander came in to roost - on this occasion 1 male and 3 females, but up to seven were seen over the weekend:

The first moth trap went out on Friday night - and the first moth of many hundreds to come - seven pale-brindled beauties:

A mammal tracking expedition with Cranswick Guides on Sunday turned up plenty of wildlife including a bank vole in the longworth traps and an otter spraint:

This song thrush was one of many now livening the site up again:

Other sightings for the last few days include two redhead smew on the southern site, common buzzards, peregrines, siskins, brambling and willow tit. David Ware managed a few of these during his Saturday visit. Tony McLean managed some nice shots of the teal on North Marsh.

We are doing a few jobs round the reserve before the birds return so apologies if there is any disturbance during your visit. Jobs this week include extending the path across the mud of North Scrub:

And repairing the supports of South Marsh West hide:

Finally little owls are getting ever closer since we put up the new boxes. Mike Johnson on Maurice Gordon's photography course managed to snap one near Angram Farm on the approach road here. This is closer than at Sleights Farm a year back - at this rate of expansion they may get to Tophill by the end of the century! But at least they clearly survived the bad weather.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Snakes awake...

We had thought that the dead grass snake we had found on Sunday was a one off, but Maurice Gordon sent through these photos of a 7" yearling he had found on O res path the same day - in full health. He subsequently moved it onto the grass so as not to get trodden on:

These were taken as part of Maurice's photo course - for details see here.

Hopefully the weather won't catch it out.

Other sightings in over the week included 6 common buzzards thermaling over D woods on tuesday. The two red head smew have been picked up fairly regularly on Watton NR. The willow tit was seen back at the centre along with all the brambling again today after a two week absence. Tawny owls have been very active as soon as the sun goes down.

Another sign of spring was the return of the first oystercatcher to south marsh east on Thursday. Doug and Martin have been driven to snails - but the first moth trap is going out tonight. On north marsh were some freshly nibbled reed stems - water voles out and about?:

Finally after saying I always miss the sparrowhawk in the last post - whilst tapping away on the computer today I heard all the alarm calls from the blackbirds, and it waited long enough for me to get the camera ready:

Also it was a different individual to Vince's from last week - sparrowhawks seem to be the photographers choice this month - Chris Cox too managed to snap one on D res wall here.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Wind problem

A wild and windy few days at the reserve - with D res looking more like the North Atlantic:

The result was a few trees down in D woods blocking off North Marsh Hide on Saturday - all sorted now with thanks to Cliff for his assistance and Alan Marshall with his camera:

The gull roost is still impressive if not by species then certainly by numbers:

It's well worth a look - we see many visitors disappear at 4pm, but there is quite a spectacle at 5pmish:

Up to six goosander return at around this time each night to roost on the reservoir too:

Along with plenty of nice goldeneye:

HVWG sent us this picture of the little egret commuting over the reservoir. According to the East Yorks Bird Forum one is regularly seen around Wansford - the same one?:

Also overhead was a group of lapwings:

Too fast to photograph - but present every evening at the moment is the peregrine. On Friday viewing with Martin it appeared to maybe use the gulls as a smokescreen before pursuing a group of woodpigeons.

Other sightings include 4 smew - 2 each on Watton and D res, and still plenty of bramblings as seen by Michael Flowers group.

Here's one for the insect enthusiasts - found amongst the hay cuttings when myself and Cliff were prepping the snake piles for this year. Presumably one of those larvae which live in plant stems over winter - measured around 15mm in length. Will have a look myself when I get chance - but suggestions welcome...

The first grass snake of the year found by Les and Margaret on the bank of O res. Unfortunately a bit past its best - much like the first one we found last year which we discovered in an otter spraint!:

Finally follow the link to Vince Cowell's site - the escalation in sparrowhawk photography continues - this being the image I have failed to get for the last 3 years but seen daily!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Arctic to Mediterranean in a week

From a northern European glaucous gull last Thursday we went to a southern European yellow-legged gull on Saturday. This Mediterranean cousin of our herring gull is a near annual visitor to the reserve and was picked up by Martin on Saturday and again by Neil on Sunday. Also present was a migratory lesser-black backed gull showing more signs of summer. No photo of the bird but the following from northern Greece a few years back shows the species:

Otherwise the pintail was showing well over the weekend on O reservoir and South Marsh East but no sign today:

1-2 red-head smew have been present most days, along with 3 goosander. The lone white-fronted goose has also been on D reservoir fairly regularly.

Thursday and Friday saw some more excellent views of the woodcock pair at the wildlife centre again as below:

There were some indications that three may have been present, but their peace and quiet was spoilt by this female sparrowhawk which killed and ate a female blackbird over the course of a couple of hours:

In the meantime the male sparrowhawk made repeated attacks before finally getting a yellowish finch sp:

Coupled to this one of the wildlife centre stoats also ran across the meadow giving good views below:

The trail camera has picked up an 80% ermine leaving the den, so hopefully there will be more footage to follow. A few people have been asking on where is best to see the stoats – but again the trail camera reveals they are very erratic with no ‘best time to see.’

The end result is the woodcock have moved off, but more likely because of the frost which sees them disappear into the deeper woods where the ground is softer. Likewise the willow tit has not been seen for a week – but was seen in D reservoir woods on Sunday – hopefully returning to its breeding site. The woodcock will likely return as the weather warms up again. Michael Flowers group managed some good views of the bird on Thursday along with the fox, and David Ware too managed some shots for his blog.

Otherwise 5 bullfinch were at the Southern site again today:

This black headed gull was hoping for an easy meal behind the goldeneye:

20 mute swans are present on the access road but no whoopers:

And this redshank was one of several on South Marsh East:

This Saturday will see the monthly reserve walk at 10am – hopefully taking in some of all the above. Normal admission applies, all are welcome.