Friday, 26 August 2011

Every cloud has a black lining

Despite the terrible weather today – heavy cloud cover and rain often brings in good results. Regulars Ray and John yesterday managed to find a pair of black terns over the D res. Unfortunately no pics this time – the only I can find at the moment are from back in 2008 by Mike Randall here.

Another great result of the weather has been an influx of little gulls reported by John last night – 125 over D res. An excellent count which keeps our average on spec for the Wetland Bird Survey league tables.

Tonight saw neither – just a damp 350 swallows and a smattering of wagtails. Earlier in the week we saw a movement of yellows, along with a common tern passage – 8 last night over D res, including our two fledged chicks from South Marsh East. So as was hoped, that brings us up to 3 pairs fledging 6 young for 2011.

Black-necked grebe has still been seen most days this week and there have been a few more waders around too – up to three ruff present on South Marsh East / Watton NR, along with ringed plover, common sandpiper and upwards of 3 snipe daily. Snipe have been showing on North Marsh where regular contributor Mike Day got these great pics:

Likewise the ubiquitous kingfisher:

Tony too has been photographing them – pictures on his blog as ever. However as he tells us that he is running out of composition ops. it seems I’ll have to come up with something new…watch this space! Obviously Rory appreciates his assistance though – as per his kind words here.

Please note we may be undertaking some occasional management works on Thursdays or Sundays in coming weeks around North Marsh though. For one thing it needs painting as if the wasps continue chewing it at their present rate it will be a paper hide by next year!

Martin has a few more moth pics here – and also sent us these close-ups of one of the four spotted chaser nymphs found during last weekends pond dip during his valued assistance:

Finally thanks for ID help too from Richard K Broughton. You may remember Mike Day’s excellent ichneumon pic from two weeks back. Having looked at these we have found them very tricky in the past, but Richard used his contact Gavin Broad at the Natural History Musuem who has ID’d it as:

"Virgichneumon albilineatus, a nice big ichneumonid that attacks noctuid moth pupae. It’s seems to be very common.” So there you go – again thanks to both Richard and Gavin:

Friday, 19 August 2011

Scorched earth

Devastating as this may look we have been doing a lot of reed bed management on the South Marsh West island. The burning helps reduce the organic content and stops the island from ‘drying out’ through litter accumulation whilst controlling succession admirably – we checked for sedge warblers first!:

Here is the end result – a patch work of open ground, dense reed bed and wet hollows that should favour views of many secretive species such as water rail, snipe – and maybe even a spotted crake. Just visible is a channel we have dug next to the tall reeds to help draw them out – one to keep an eye on:

This week has seen few waders – only a green sandpiper yesterday on South Marsh East. We are putting together a study on wader use and invertebrate life in the marshes – so any observations you have on wader feeding (or if they are just resting) are welcome in the sightings book.

This kingfisher was conducting its own survey on aquatic life – here catching a newt in Mike Day’s excellent photos. I don’t know whether it checked if it was great-crested – I’m not sure whether a schedule one species can be charged with eating a schedule five?

Apparently Mike had three kingfishers today – which looked more like a territorial dispute than a happy family:

Vince Cowell too has more excellent shots on his website here.

Mike also had this fine southern hawker:

The sparrowhawk family are also still present in D woods:

These fine butterflies were on D res on Wednesday – Painted lady:

10+ common blues:

And several wall browns:

Likewise David Ware shared many of these views which are on his blog here.

Lots of people have also noted the recent invasion of hoverflies – Martin has some of the 31 species so far recorded at Tophill Low on his blog.

Other bird sightings include black-necked grebe – still present this afternoon. Ospreys over daily from Sunday to Wednesday. The newly fledged common tern chicks on South Marsh East and a young hobby over D res.

This marsh/pool frog was below North Lagoon hide – for more aquatic life we are running the pond dipping event this Sunday at 1pm and there are still places available – phone 01377 270690 to book:

Also worth noting are Michael Flowers Birdwatching Courses restarting in September with places still available to find out all the best locations to bird in East Yorkshire. All the details are on his site.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pulling the plug

August sees the height of the wader passage so to try and better our chances we have been draining down the southern marsh to expose plenty of new mud:

Likewise the work by volunteers to prepare the mud island on North Lagoon has managed a common sandpiper as a good start:

Still on the marshes are the late common terns however – this ringed individual on O Res. gantry appears to be just passing through:

The two chicks are still growing well:

But their parents still need to make sure the coast is clear – particularly with the sparrowhawks about:

In case you were wondering just what the chicks were hiding in we left Botanist in residence Alan Marshall on the island whilst we were strimming the others last week - his haul included:

Water mint Mentha aquatica
Skull cap Scutellaria galericulata
Gypsywort Lycopus europaeus
Broad leaved dock Rumex obtusifolius
Field forgetmenot Myosotis arvensis
Water forgetmenot Myosotis scorpioides
Great hairy willowherb Epilobium hirsutum
Nodding bur marigold Bidens cernua (pictured below)
Clustered dock Rumex conglomerates
Water bistort Persicaria amphibia
Groundsel Senecio vulgaris
Prickly sowthistle Sonchus asper
Water figwort Scrophularia auriculata
Redshank Persicaria maculosa
Good king henry Chenopodium bonus-henricus
Eared willow Salix aurita

Another possible tern predator is the fox – seen here stalking ducks on the North Marsh yesterday. Thanks to Steve Reed for the photo:

Likewise in the past we have seen that stoats can climb vertical brick walls, swim the marshes and now they have mastered the art of free flight as evidenced by Mike Day’s great pic from North Marsh here:

Likewise he got these great pics of a young curlew over the car park:

An ichneumon sp.:

And evidence of breeding wrens:

Further work has been continuing with the volunteers – cutting the reed-beds here

This work should make for good snipe habitat – which are about if you look carefully:

But on a bigger scale we have started the Hempholme Meadow project today – already a few of the poplars down:

Hopefully a lot of the existing historic flora community will flourish – like this meadowsweet:

Unfortunately not to stay are these alder buckthorns – however we will endeavour to try and transplant them using a digger:

Thanks to John Coish for this pic of the black-necked grebe which was still on D res on the 9th:

And still here at 4pm today:

Along with the grebe the main interest has been ospreys – seen daily since Sunday all moving South. Once again though beware of the white buzzard (now family) – often encountered near Angram Farm. Martin meanwhile has been making an early start this year on the D res gull roost – already picking uo a med gull on Saturday. The kestrels have dispersed – photographed again by Steve Reed:

Both Rory and Tony have been getting further great pictures of the kingfisher.

John Coish also got another great pic of the humming bird hawkmoth:

This willow beauty was in the visitor centre this morning:

And some rather grisly proof that otters predate marsh frogs (I assume the slug did not kill it!):

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Screamin’ sprawks

The main interest in recent days has been the sparrowhawk family who have been showing excellently in D woods – we managed these snaps on Thursday:

And Mike Day sent these excellent pics from earlier that week:

Unfortunately they have been attributed to fewer kingfisher sightings – but Tony managed one for his site recently. Rory too has been snapping the last of the barn owls here.

Other notable young raptors include the peregrine which has been seen often on the Carrs. An unnamed regular managed to hit a rabbit on the approach road, which two hours later was apparently being scavenged by the peregrine. Presumably it is a youngster that is struggling to catch a square meal. Again it was hunting the Carrs on the reserve walk this morning.

Thinking these blobs may have been something interesting I took a picture and discovered they are a pair of white buzzards – the similarity between them suggests they could be siblings – likely the offspring of the white buzzard which continues to throw people:

Another interesting fledgling was a juvenile cuckoo at Hempholme this afternoon – perhaps suggesting breeding. One would hope so with the three calling earlier in the summer.

On the subject of Hempholme, work is due to begin next week on its restoration to a grazing marsh – hopefully a really interesting new habitat. If it had been completed as intended for this year I would have hoped for a quail with the dozens reported of late. All details of the project are on the conservation page above. That said it did turn up an interesting record this week of green woodpecker – likely a post breeding dispersal as per the nuthatch. As an unashamed reminder of previous improvements have a look at this picture of the 1991 mud bath which is now tranquil south marsh west. Note the portaloo which is sited next to what are now some of the best dragonfly ponds on site!:

Likewise this is the construction of wildlife centre pond – dug out of the former playing field!:

Unfortunately the black-necked grebe has not been seen since Wednesday when David Ware managed this great pic:

For more see his blog here.

Other birds this week have included common sandpiper on D res wall, a couple of flyover dunlin on South Marsh, and a couple of little gull over D res on Thursday:

Linnet on the pump house:

And a line of autumnal looking swallows:

Meanwhile as usual more insects to go at – lesser swallow prominent in the trap:

Along with this sextant beetle Nicrophorus investigator:

And this similar sp. of Silphidae:

And whilst we were looking for grass snakes unsuccessfully on the walk we found this remarkable substitute – an elephant hawkmoth caterpillar on O res: