Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Spring has sprung?

Blue skies, temperatures in the 20’s and chiffchaffs singing – you’d think it was May! These two great spotted woodpeckers appeared to have the breeding season on their mind at North Marsh (pic from Mike Day):

Likewise Jeff got this pair of long-tailed tits against a blue sky on his Flickr page. Even more summery was this spotted flyctcatcher there this afternoon – two days off October! I usually bank on my last mid August!:
Congratulations to Rory who has managed an accolade in the RSPB’s Wildpix photo competition – details here.

Other than that a black tailed godwit was still on South Marsh East today. I forgot to post from Sunday the group of 56 golden plover which circled South Marsh East before flying on, and an interesting thread on the East Yorkshire Birding Forum shows the possible links between Tophill and Swinemoor, and the ringing team got the details of their sedge warbler return – not from far but an interesting observation on local migration routes none the less. The usual kingfisher was on North Marsh today along with plenty of grass snakes cooling off in the water and stacks of migrant hawkers.

This is brings us on to works in hand – we will be taking advantage of the weather and painting the North Marsh Hide and managing vegetation there tomorrow – so apologies in advance for the disturbance.

Likewise improvement works at Hempholme and South Marsh West continue foreseeably, with water treatment works improvements meaning disturbance to the lagoons tomorrow (29th). Next Thursday there may well be disturbance on Watton NR as we manipulate tern rafts.

Apologies for all the above – but the perils of working on a nature reserve dictate that we try and do all improvements outside of breeding season and before hibernation proper (and the apparent snows some folk keep telling me will come in October!)

Finally the fungi walk is now fully booked – so please do not turn up on the day hoping for a place.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Woodn’t be real wood they?

Well after all the westerly winds we finally managed a trans-atlantic vagrant…ish. Jeff Barker and Dave Ware managed to find 3 female and 1 male wood duck on Watton NR on Wednesday morning. Certainly they are a very common escape and feral breeder, but genuine vagrants have been known to reach the UK. The consensus is that ‘someone left the cage door open’ as there is no way of proving them any other way.

Other than that the curlew sandpipers, osprey and black necked grebe all seem to have gone on their way – the latter presumably completing its moult and heading on. This group of pintail are new arrivals however – Jeff finding 5 on D res on Sunday and Frank and Jack re-finding two of them today on North Lagoon:

A trickle of waders continues with green sandpiper on Friday, 3 ruff on Saturday (pictured:) and three black tailed godwit on Sunday.

A late reed warbler was still on South Marsh West on Friday, chiffchaff still singing and a blackcap was gorging itself on elderberries today. Again lots of fly over passerines including more siskin and redpoll – a few stopping to feed on the alder cones.

Little egret has made a return to site with Tony managing one at Watton pictured on his blog and still present today.

Marsh harrier, hobby and buzzard have all been drifting through. And the kestrels - likely brethren of this bird pictured on East Scrub, have been having a whale of a time catching rodents on the newly cleared Hempholme meadows.

Martin continues his gull vigils – turning up another 4 med gulls on Sunday, and this afternoon saw a lot of great black-backed gulls arriving.

On Sunday afternoon (the 2nd) between 1 and 3pm local mycologist Mervin Nethercoat will be leading our annual fungi walk to look for some of the 250+ species now recorded. The event is strictly book in advance on 01377 270690 and is well recommended - free with normal admission.

Saturday morning also sees the monthly reserve walk at 10am taking in the best of the current widlife sights.

The strong southerlies originating in Eastern Europe forecast this week should liven things up all round – so after a quiet September I expect the next few days will see a fall of interesting birds both at Tophill and at other local reserves.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Our friends in the North Marsh

This weekend saw the continued presence of wading birds on South Marsh East. Thursdays good weather predictably saw the final disappearance of the curlew sandpipers but the good showing of ruff continues with up to 11 on an evening and 5 present this afternoon:

Up to two greenshank, a water rail and a snipe have been present too:

This kestrel was hunting it today:

And strangely a black-headed gull decided it would have a go at this ‘hovering lark’ too in an obvious mimicry a few feet from the kestrel which it did to passable level:

This buzzard had a harder time though – why this individual deserved a battering from around a 100 black-heads when others pass with indifference is anyone's guess:

Meanwhile Martin recorded 5 marsh harriers through of at least 3 individuals – lending weight to our thoughts that the Hull Valley appears to be quite an important migratory route.

Thanks to Dave Croft of the East Yorkshire Chalk Rivers Trust (see link) who sent us these photos taken a few years ago of Tophill from altitude demonstrating just why it attracts migratory birds in an otherwise open landscape (note we do not advocate low level flight immediately over the Reserve for obvious reasons):

Flyovers have been a big story with golden plover, dunlin, redpoll, skylark, meadow pipit and even siskin all over as per Michael’s blog.

The D reservoir has seen the continuation of the black-necked grebe which has been in residence for around 6 weeks now. Martin recorded further good gulls with again yellow-legged and 4 mediterraneans over the weekend – as ever the illustrations on Jess’s blog.

But as usual it has been north marsh which has held most of the photographic opportunities. By all accounts Saturday was an excellent day in which most of the stalwarts came out to play – roe deer captured by Mike Day:

Fox pouncing on a vole sequence again by Mike:

And also courtesy of Alan Walkington at the same time!:

And a flyover common buzzard too:

Kingfisher from Mike:


Along with osprey (again) – seen virtually every other day since late July:


And ‘moth of the moment’ – red-underwing in the hide:

Tony McLean too also has more stunning photos on his blog along with excellent grass snake pics. Rory too has many helpful tips on his blog – which perhaps enabled him to get this outstanding pic of both a kingfisher and a grass snake together viewable on flickr here.

Whilst tree felling at Hempholme is complete work has yet to start on landscaping. In the meantime we are just starting constructing a new sand martin colony on South Marsh West. This structure will be of block construction and will hopefully look similar to these structures at the Lancs Wildlife Trust Brockholes NR (well occupied despite only being finished in late May):

And the successful Lincs Wildlife Trust Whisby quarry:

Thanks to both these Reserves for their guidance in the spec. The finished structure should be viewable at close quarters from the ‘L’ hide giving some excellent photographic ops when (hopefully!) occupied.

As such there will likely be a lot of disturbance around that area in coming weeks. However views from the back to back hides may be productive for species like water rail this week as we are currently dropping levels by a few inches to ease construction of foundations so keep your eye on these margins again like last year:

If all these dark nights are getting you down then do what this herald moth is about to and go to sleep all winter and emerge in Spring!:

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Well spotted

Yesterday saw a brief visit from this juv. spotted redshank to the seasonal ponds on Watton NR. Being as they only recently re-filled it moved on after an unsuccessful forage and flew off south, but a year first for site none the less:

As usual we have continued presence of the mixed waders on the marsh up to and including yesterday – Ian Traynor sent this one of two of the up to three curlew sandpipers present, along with a ruff:

We have had some spectacular counts of ruff for our site on an evening with John L recording 11 on Sunday and the two Pete’s 13 on Monday respectively. Extra points for anyone who can find a buff-breasted sandpiper with them! Meanwhile Dunlin, ringed plover and common sandpiper are all in attendance too. Check out Jess’s blog for her latest artwork. The best trans-Atlantic vagrant I could find yesterday was this ‘snow goose’ on Watton NR – though I think its origins may be slightly dubious!:

Beware too when looking for ‘funny geese’ of some the hybrids present like this barnacle x Canada which has been knocking around for some time:

Better though came courtesy of John H who recorded the first pink-footed goose mixed with the greylags on Watton yesterday. Monday also saw another black tern on D reservoir in the morning, with the black-necked grebe still present. The occasional yellow wagtail and wheatear are still being found on the access road – Jeff Barker pic here.

Gull wise we have recorded up to 26 lesser black backed gulls now with Martin recording a 2nd winter mediterranean gull on D again on Sunday. Osprey was seen by several on Saturday and hobby hawking dragonflies over North Marsh yesterday. And driving home yesterday night I had a late swift at Hutton Cranswick.

Kingfishers continue their show – please note due to personal circumstances I have had to cancel the advertised kingfisher event for the coming weekend However it is quite easy to self-guide your own walk – simply do what I was going to do and sit in North Marsh hide patiently! Tony has another tribute to them on his site here, and Ian Traynor sent this great pic across from the weekend:

Ian has more great pics on his Flickr stream here. A couple of insects – birch shieldbug ID courtesy of Doug:

Painted lady on South Marsh West:

And a less welcome harlequin ladybird in the car park:

The weekend also saw a few more migrants – Bill C reported montagu’s harrier down barmston drain on Saturday, and a merlin was seen over site Sunday.

Finally these pictures really needed a merlin of a different type in accompaniment – thanks to John Coish for these great formation pics of the white-buzzard memorial flight over Watton:

Friday, 9 September 2011

No yellow tails, just legs

After all the excitement of the yellow wagtail influx yesterday, 9am this morning saw 2 birds and a wheatear. A chat with the guys at Birdguides revealed that it was the same picture across the country – just odd birds here and there. Not much appeared to be moving passerine-wise with the ringing team recording a few more blackcaps and a couple of late sedge warblers – details here.

Once again we had the usual mix on the marshes – 3 curlew sands still present all day, 2-3 ruff, and later 2 black tailed godwit and a snipe. Likewise, the resident black-necked grebe was still on D res with kingfishers showing well again on North Marsh. Marsh harrier was reported twice, and another stalwart – the osprey - was upsetting the gull roost this evening before dropping down somewhere over north marsh – distant pic here:

The gulls yielded the most new interest today – a big influx of great black backed gulls on the approach road numbering around 80 birds. On D res both yellow legged gull and mediterranean gulls dropped in seen by Les and Margaret. There are also still good counts of lesser black-backed gulls too – this individual in decoy fields:

With this 3rd winter:

My efforts to find a sabine’s gull were fruitless! However these two common sandpipers were on D wall collecting flies:

Finally Rory snapped this pic of the kingfisher attempting to move its own perch! We have since helped it by ensuring all perches are now optimally placed for best photographic ops:

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The chatering masses

Again a trip first thing on the access road proved very fruitful. A proper count of yellow wagtails this morning revealed 52; but only a small portion of yesterday mornings count – which in hindsight I believe could have been closer to 200 if I had the time to count them properly. Certainly Rutland water has had a 250 yesterday, and Birdguides report a massive influx across the midlands and east coast – the possible theory being they are moving further north with climate change and farming practices – resulting in these new ‘passages’ not seen before. We see a lone citrine wagtail has been seen at Cley in North Norfolk – so maybe I’ll have a good look through them again tomorrow. Yellow wagtail this morning by Michael Flowers.

Anyway in amongst have been around 40 linnet, and this fine wheatear spotted by Jess and later photographed by Michael here. Visit his blog for the in depth review.

However I was pleased to find this whinchat – an uncommon tophill species on the roadside:

Again same story as yesterday – by midday yellow wagtails had dwindled to 20 and by 17:00 all that remained were five curlew.

We’ll see what tomorrow brings on the road, but around the site another productive day; black necked grebe still on D res. John Wilkinson had osprey over south at 10:30, also over but not stopping were two dunlin and three ringed plover reported by HVWG. The marshes still retain their three curlew sandpipers and late afternoon saw two ruff and a passing knot. Lesser whitethroat and willow warbler also seen.

Finally an ominous sign was the arrival of 5 early goldeneye – 3 females and two males – has anyone noticed a lot of hawthorn berries this year?...