Saturday, 31 December 2011

Year end

Thanks to HVWG and Martin for todays updates:

2 bittern showing at Watton NR with a red-head smew and a roosting long-eared owl - in addition to the one Tom Lowe had yesterday hunting Struncheonhill at the northern end of the complex - it would seem that long-eared's are as prevalent as short-eared's around the reserve but more difficult to find.

Two short eared owls were again at Struncheonhill with a ring-tailed hen harrier on the go around D res.

The last sighting of the green-winged teal was on the 29th and the greenland-white front on the 28th - so still a chance for Jan 1st.

2011 draws to a close with a final 1st winter mediterranean gull on D res roost.

Over all we've had an excellent year at the reserve with some great birds from the purple heron onwards, and some great conservation works with the new Hempholme Meadows project and sand martin colony. Big thanks to all the volunteer teams and individuals that have helped out in umpteen ways over the year.

Hopefully 2012 will be equally good...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Birding off the Christmas dinners

Big thanks to both HVWG and John H for their updates from yesterday at Tophill:

Female type goosander flew south over car park and 12 pintail flew west there.

Green-winged teal, smew, male pintail and two black-tailed godwit were on Watton NR along with c800 greylag geese and 70 (visible) white-fronts. At dusk 34 white-fronts flew toward WNR from a Field E of D res outlet (where earlier they could not be viewed because they were too close to the River Hull bank) therefore logged 104 min. 60 Curlews were also E of River.

Shooting disturbed the south end of the complex sending many extra ducks onto D res, including the green winged teal and for its only view today the garganey.

Three short-eared owl were about at Hempholme and ring-tailed hen harrier was logged ranging river bank to North Marsh at 15.00 – check out Rory’s updated blog for more owl pics here.

A 1st winter mediterranean gull flew onto D res for a while; translocating to O res prior to dusk. A female pintail was also on D res.

The tally of great-crested grebe was two. One per Res!

Another reminder; please remember the Jan 1st year listing event is cancelled – the reserve is still open and we’ll be hoping to get some kind of count – the new events programme should appear in early Spring.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Photo'ing out of the box

Thanks to HVWG for the boxing day updates:

Green winged teal still present on Watton NR with the red head smew, 2 black tailed godwit and approx 50 white fronted geese. Another new species for the moment was a female garganey courtesy of John.

James has some more shots of the green winged teal on his blog here

At least 1 short eared owl was on the wing at Hempholme, and on d res the roost returned 11,000 common and 6,000 black headed gulls with 670 great black backed and 275 herring - but no white wingers - though the two little egrets made their daily commute back from work at Hempholme home to Watton at dusk.

And lastly Tony escaped the Christmas fever and got a great present as a result - check out the Flickr stream for the pics.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Not even for a stirring mouse…

The night before Christmas at Hempholme remains not the best place if you’re a rodent. The short-eared owls have continued their erratic displays in the area and yielded some great views as here for David Ware. And who can forget the barn owls too? A pair gave great shows for Tony and Rory viewable on the Flickr Group here.

At the same time though we have had another glimpse of our long-eared too – apparently giving great displays along the concrete road on Thursday. Just further to the west of Struncheonhill on Tuesday Tom Lowe also had more nice raptors in the form of a female merlin, peregrine and juv hen harrier.

The green-winged teal has continued to show on Watton ‘til reportedly today, where the white-front flock with the greenland bird and this smew courtesy of Tom reside:

Thanks to Tom for also sending this video grab (below) of the glaucous gull which has given a spectacular performance; showing every night until Thursday, when it was replaced by a reported caspian gull – if anyone has more info on the bird that would be great. Thanks to Martin for the update which showed no sign of either on this evenings roost:

Merry Christmas to all…

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas greenery

Highlight of the last weekend has been a green-winged teal on Watton NR found on Sunday and still present this afternoon – thanks to HVWG for this shot:

Obviously the main thing you're looking for is that vertical stripe on the flank -for more info on the subtleties of picking this out from a standard eurasian teal see here. As far as I am aware finder credit goes to Lee Johnson – well done.

The other highlight has been the glaucous gull, which after wowing us turning up twice in a month has now shown every night up to this evening on D res – thanks to HVWG for the pic:

(correctly identified as ‘the big white blob immediately behind the great black backed gull in the centre of the shot). Martin too has more from Sunday here.

A lone lesser black-backed gull was also in on Sunday – but is set against a general downturn in numbers of black-headed gulls over the last few days.

If we can be rude enough to dismiss them as ‘the usual,’ the short-eared owls have still been showing at Hempholme – generally two daily up to and including today. Likewise the seemingly sedentary eurasian white-fronted goose flock are still present (between 60-90 daily) along with their greenland pal.

A step down again and ‘just’ the red-head smew has been seen on Watton as usual; where Tony McLean got this unusal perspective:

and in the scheme of things a brambling with 4 siskin in the car park and lagoons area barley credit a mention.

Obviously a great range for your new years day year list; however – please note that due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to cancel the Warden led walk that day. The reserve will be open as normal, and likely our team will be on hand to point people in the right direction – apologies.

As an alternative if you do fancy starting the year in a good way though, then why not offer your skills to benefit the BTO:

Volunteers Wanted
The BBS is the most important annual survey the BTO undertakes and we need volunteers who are prepared to survey a square over a number of years so they can really get a feel about changing local bird populations and contribute to our knowledge of the national picture too.

Could you spare 2 mornings in April and May every year?
Can you identify birds by sight and sound?
Are you prepared to travel to a location?
Are you prepared to commit to doing the survey work?

If yes:
There will be Free BBS Training Days on:

Thursday 26th January at Waters Edge, Barton on Humber
Saturday 28th January at Top Hill Low

The training will be very practical, based on doing rather than listening and last from 10.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.

If you have any questions or to book a place email
Note Places are limited and will be initially open to new BBS surveyors only

Finally – at last we can show you some of Tony Simpson’s results from long hours in North Marsh; whether this is a good idea on the fox’s part is debatable – as messing about on ice for anyone is a stupid idea…

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Santa Glauc’s pays a visit

Our present this evening courtesy of Martin was this glaucous gull – likely a different bird from last weeks:

From the other side of Europe was a mediterranean gull last night – pictures on Martin’s site here.

Elsewhere over the last couple of days were the first brambling to be mixed in with the car park flock, hopefully keeping out the way of this sparrowhawk claiming another victim from the feeders:

A record tumbling 118 eurasian white fronts were present on Decoy Fields yesterday along with the greenland bird still present today, with two little egrets around Hempholme. The short eared owls were also on the go again today – 2 being seen around D res.
Again visit the Flickr page where there are some of the latest pictures on view such as Tony’s great pic here.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Polar conditions

More a reference to the birding than the weather; first freeze on South Marsh East:

The cold weather has resulted in a trip to the extreme north or south for the wildlife at present. On the southern end of the reserve at Watton NR most of the geese and wildfowl have accumulated:

Trying to pick out the white-fronts is a challenge when sleeping or hidden from view:

But we have had the greenland bird reported yesterday again. Also reliably present is the red-head smew – will we see any more this winter?:

Curlew are always around the reserve:

And they can be seen from South Marsh West on Baswick Carr (along with Beverley Minster) now some of the big riverbank willows have gone as part of the Environment Agency tree management works. The screen around the marshes will remain, but most of the trees on the berm are being removed:

The work is being undertaken to prevent wash out behind the trees when in spate, stop root damage to the flood defences and reduce debris travelling downstream. The work is also advantageous for the reserve as it removes many of the big predator perches that have developed next to our breeding areas - and opens a line of site for migratory waders onto the marshes.

Apart from the wildlife centre feeders already supplying the sparrowhawk again, you then need to travel north for the other views. These two barn owls were preparing for a less snowy night’s hunting this evening:

As ever though it is short-eared owls which are flavour of the month – this is one of Tony McLean’s excellent recent shots which at last fully do these magnificent birds justice:

But more can be seen on the Flickr group here, and undoubtedly on his website soon here.

Michael Flowers too has been getting some great images here – and I am sure David Ware will follow on his blog.

Thanks to Brian Spence too for this picture of a choppy sunset on D res:

If you are looking to escape the family then we are open every day through Christmas – normal admission and opening times apply.

The next event on the calendar is the year listing day on the 1st of Jan. For all you keen listers – or just to walk off the night before – we will be doing two walks at 10am and 1pm to try and log as many bird species around site as possible in the day. With the variety of species about we should stand a good chance against 61 species 2011, 74 in 2010, and 69 in 2009.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Winter wonderland

The winter specialities kept on snowing today; the first being a male and female pair of hen harriers quartering the fields over Easingwold Farm at 09:30 courtesy of Les and Margaret. This was followed by around 20 siskin in the car park with a mixed finch flock of up to a 100 birds on the tarmac.

By this time Jeff had already upped the white-front flock to 103 birds, 1 being the greenland bird. As ever smew was present on Watton NR all day.

It now looks like we may be keeping the wildlife centre building limping on into Spring at least – therefore we have decided to re-instate the bird feeders now we know we won’t be removing them mid winter. It took all of around 30mins for the birds to find them – including a robin with a ring – one to try and read this winter. Meanwhile Cliff and the team have prepped the woodcock meadow ready for trying to re-find them. All it needs now is me to clean the windows and we’re away…

The mammal safari turned up a bank vole in the longworth traps, along with the usual fox and deer tracks. Otter evidence is never hard to find – as exampled by this mound of spraints at Hempholme:

The biggest rarity though was this – which, whilst it may look like it has been chewed up and spat out by a fox (well, actually it had…)is actually the most uncommon mammal on the reserve sighting-for-sighting; water shrew. There have only been 2 other recorded live sightings in my four years at Tophill:

They are specialist swimmers and very adept at diving for aquatic insects. This was found on the north marsh bank – close to where the last two records have come from. To see the foxes in action visit Tony McLean’s latest blog entry here.

Later the day saw 3 short-eared owls again at Hempholme.

As dusk fell we managed this nice grey wagtail on D res wall – courtesy of HVWG:

2 pintail and 1 goosander came into roost, and the day nicely capped off with a glaucous gull – the second this year – found and photographed here by HVWG:

(the bird is the nearest in the picture - identifiable by its snow-white tail and wings and mucky grey neck)

All in all a good way to spend an otherwise miserable day…

Saturday, 10 December 2011

ever expanding owls...

A quick update just to whet folks appetites again; I undertook some construction work on the sluice at Hempholme meadows this afternoon and was therefore present to monitor owl activity. Prior to 14:15 there was no activity at all on the northern site with a succession of failed observers coming and going.

However regular Paul connected with – as suspected – three short-eared owls showing well from then onwards. Martin then arrived and with more pairs of eyes we could ascertain there were at least 4 short-eared owls present. Whilst none came particularly close to our observation point I could at least better my own shots as below:

Note the second bird top right here:

They are constantly on the move in and out of Struncheonhill shooting estate so there could easily be more. In addition we caught a brief glimpse of a smaller bird which had good potential for hunting long-eared. Also about were at least three barn owls too.

As promised follow the link here for a map of the location; the arrow shows the approximate epicentre of owl activity. Note the public footpaths marked in green and please stick to them. The area of woodland and scrapes the owls are hunting is in a private shooting estate (and a great example of how shooting when managed correctly can benefit conservation) – but there is a pleasant walk all around the perimeter which negates any need for anyone to enter the interior (from which people will and have been escorted off by the owners).

Also at this end of the reserve were two green sandpipers on the river Hull, and our greenland white-front and 69 eurasian’s successfully evaded the Watton Carr shoots, being present at dusk on D res.

If the rain moves through early enough for some daylight and it remains calm hopefully the owls should perform again tomorrow late on. A forecast windy week will likely force them into the grass again subsequently.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Short days and high ISO’s

We may not have quite the volume spectacle of Worlaby Carrs (if you are not familiar see here); but East Yorkshire’s owls put on an excellent show this afternoon, whilst showing one of my Yorkshire Water colleagues our Hempholme project - and clearly sensing my lack of camera - they decided to fly around us around 30 feet away, and seemed entirely comfortable co-existing with a pair of barn owls also present.
Whilst I would happily take credit for our habitat management at Hempholme, in reality, it is probably a better advert for Higher Level Stewardship Schemes. The wet grassland at Standingholme entered last year by local farming concern JSR’s clearly supports a huge prey abundance to support four hunting owls and a kestrel simultaneously.

A return with the camera last thing revealed the owls but a lack of light – records here:

In addition I left two owls hunting Struncheonhill ponds, only to find another on D res near the gantry. Either an owl had flown very fast down the drain – or more likely there are at least three now present in the area – we’re catching up with the South Bank slowly! In fairness though they are ‘fair-weather owls’ – they do not show in high wind or rain – the calmness of this afternoon was great for them.

Folk are starting to return more pictures though – check out Mike Randall’s page for some great shots here.

Also about was the kestrel consuming small rodent:

The last couple of days are still returning the greenland white-fronted goose with at least 50 eurasian white fronts – art shot here:

For much better of all the assembled geese see Dave Ware’s blog here. A white goose in amongst prompted a look yesterday – but was just a farmyard goose. Never-the-less thanks to AWbirder for this guide bill profiles in ross’ hybrids – which may prove useful again one day.

Red-head smew still on watton, where a peregrine was sat on the deck yesterday.

A final word of note: Be careful on the access road to Tophill – with the first proper freezes it can be dodgy as it is un-gritted – and a light shower at dusk this evening will make it very treacherous tomorrow.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Gassed guzzlers

The main highlight on the reserve remains the greenland white fronted goose – still present yesterday – and very likely today – but in all these winds the geese including the partially hidden white-front flock were keeping in the lee of the EA borrow pits hide. Perhaps a good excuse to visit if you’ve never been? – the easiest access is to park up at Wilfholme landing and walk up the west bank of Beverley and Barmston Drain. They are a bit flighty now as a gas gun has unsurprisingly appeared in Decoy Fields – a fair deal given the number of greylags present. HVWG sent these pics of it earlier in the week:

It is currently in the accompaniment of up to 74 eurasian white-fronts:

We also have a finder to credit – well done to Mark Breaks who was the first to log the bird and put it out on Friday – he also got the best photo yet of it at that time too:

Unfortunately he didn’t see the bonaparte’s gull…

Also around are these pink-footed geese courtesy of HVWG:

As was this picture of the continued whooper swan presence – getting seen off by the local mute swan here:

There have been up to 13 whooper swans on D res on Sunday. Another photo being on Martin’s blog here, and on James’s site here.

The best of the rest includes:
Red-head smew – daily on Watton
Grey wagtail – frequent around site in last 5 days
What must be a migrant flock of chaffinch in the car park – between 40 and 90 logged
Pintail on D res on Saturday.
Short eared owl – Saturday / Sunday – north site
Wintering green sandpiper – flying down the river on Sunday
A ringtail hen harrier at Hempholme on Sunday
An excellent 900 great black backed gulls roosting on O res on Sunday
Egyptian goose – Standingholme ponds – Saturday and Monday
Goosander – 2 females on D res – Monday
Peregrine on the approach road on Monday
Willow tit – Tuesday - woodland feeders
Barn owls – two present yesterday on north scrub – for photo see Rory’s latest Flickr entries here.
And likewise a sneak peak on Tony’s page for a cracking redwing picture – at last something is starting to eat all those berries still around!.
Also check out Brian Spence’s Flickr page – if only for his excellent gull roost pics here.

Thanks too to David Marritt for this great picture. Speaking to the regulars it transpires our kingfishers are actively targeted by the sparrowhawks – with repeated ‘range finding’ practices on the perches. Maybe it’s time for their winter quarters…

A final call too for the mammal safari on Sunday - book in adavance 01377 270690. Looking at the tracks in the snow can be great fun!...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Greenland white-front pics

Big thanks to Martin for these pictures of the flavirostris race - or greenland white-fronted goose present both on D res and Decoy Fields this afternoon (the winter wheat fields to the west if you are not familiar with the name):

These birds can sometimes be 'a bit dodgy' as we've come to expect with our geese visits so far this winter - but this one does look very good for a gen. article - it being the bird much darker than its neighbours, with an equally nice big orange bill and the very bold belly streaking:

For more photo's check out Martin's site here.

As for the finder - read Martin's blog as it says it all; it appears our 'phantom' may have struck again...

...maybe they'll submit a report for that bonaparte's one day...

Regardless of that, well done whomever found it - and to Tim for re-finding it. As I am aware this may well be a new Tophill ssp. tick.

If you are viewing tomorrow on the fields please be considerate, as they can be flighty (and you can't see the belly bands as well when they've all fled onto D res!)