Saturday, 24 March 2012


The warm days have heated up the site even enough for the first of the pool frogs to come out:

Thanks to James Harding-Morris for his input on what we generally term marsh frogs at Tophill. We have both marsh and pool at Tophill with the hybrid – the edible. If we had just edibles eventually the dominant marsh frog genes would win out and we would end up with just the ‘spotty’ marsh frogs. As it is there must be both as we see plenty of spots and stripes here. More plentiful at present though are the common toads – thanks to David Marritt for this one:

However we’re still substantially down on sand martins – we’ve since learnt that 3 were seen on Watton last Thursday – but that has been the sole passage so far. When compared to the blog last year we were regularly getting dozens of birds at this time. Our spotters in Portugal recently tell us conditions in Iberia are extremely dry with little vegetation growth or insects which is undoubtedly having an influence at the moment.

The only other migrants have been a trickle of lesser black backed gulls and plenty of chiffchaffs.

At the other end of the scale it appears as though the smew have disappeared leaving us with a bit of a void between winter and summer at present. But the short-eared owls are still filling it – one today. Some of the real stars are still the hen harriers though – thanks to Roy Vincent for this one over Hempholme Meadow mid-week:

Bitterns have also been impressive showing well in some cases – but never the same place twice! Hopefully pictures to follow in the next post.

There are still a range of geese – the two snow geese likely finding some appropriate company here!:

This little egret was giving the greylags a gasp inducing flypast on Watton (Roy Vincent):

Whereas this black-headed gull was putting them in their place (RV):

Oystercatchers are still showing promise (RV):

And there are plenty of calling reed bunting (RV):

And the treecreepers are also about (RV):

Warm days are also good for soaring buzzards:

Butterflies – comma, brimstone, small tortoiseshell all reported with peacock:

And bee-flies: for more see also Martin’s blog with the latest moths.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The call of Spring

There are various signs of spring but the definitive is always the call of the first chiffchaff on the reserve. This year Niels Jensen managed the first on site on Friday, with another five or more heard across the site by Saturday. Little-ringed plover also arrived back on Saturday – but still no sand martin! Osprey is another likely bet in coming days, but the water is already warming up as evidenced by the first grass snake taking a dip as in Claire Marshall’s Flickr picture and also Roy Vincents great pics from today:

Keeping out the way of these monsters under the hide was a bank vole seen by Alan – also on Flickr – and thanks to David Marritt for this picture of water vole in the drain near Struncheonhill:

The northern end of the site has still been giving the best views of the hen harriers; we have the same first winter male at present ‘grey’ as photographed by Mike Day earlier in the month and again by Keith Appleton here:

We have been collating the photos to pass on to the local raptor group – another is ‘rufous’ as photographed yesterday by Roy Vincent:

And is perhaps still not clear for sexing but could be a female given the hue?

This is in addition to at least one adult male this winter and 'ringtails' which could be these two above or more? – so like the short-eared owls it looks to have been a great winter for them too.

Roy has also been testing out the new hide at Hempholme and got these great snaps of bullfinch:

And treecreeper in the vicinity:

The rest of the week has seen a pair of crossbills earlier, continued glimpses of bittern at North Marsh, with the lesser redpoll still on the D woods feeders, two short-eared owls and two little egrets at Hempholme, two green sandpipers on the river, three snipe on South Marsh West with the two snow geese popping in and out, return of egyptian goose on North Lagoon, dunlin on Watton NR and occasional woodcock.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The beauty of a spring day

…was particularly evident in these two; both pine (left) and oak (right) beauties – the oak thought to be a reserve first:

Warm days have also seen the grass snakes on the slide again – thanks to Roy Vincent for these great pics from under North Marsh hide:

They havn’t been as showy this winter – but made up for it for Jeff Barker on Sunday morning also under North Marsh hide; bittern – seen again there this morning also:Bittern North Marsh Tophill Low.
However the main quandary of Sunday was winter ending as it began this season – with dodgy white geese! These two snow geese were first seen by Graham Slack on Sunday morning and were still about on Tuesday – pictures from HVWG:

Another from Tom Lowe:

And these great close ups by Roy Vincent:

As the pictures all show they are certainly snow geese – no confusion like the ross’s. Clean legs too – but unfortunately we can’t go much further with them. The genuine article has turned up in spring before – in 1980 a group of birds flew through southern England before being picked up in the Netherlands – one of them sporting a ring from Manitoba (thanks to Tom for the info). In this case leg rings would be of benefit – if they showed a western origin…

Thanks to John Coish for this tufted on North Lagoon:

And also HVWG for a spring chaffinch:


And the first of the spring toads now on the go:


And the pair of mute swan on SMW - one of which is long term resident '339' - in its 11th year now:

Elsewhere a big highlight has been two hen harriers seen by Tom over Struncheonhill – the one photographed by Mike a few weeks back and also a more rufous individual – both 1st winter males. Two short-eared owls were still on the wing today at Standingholme – more pictures on Martin’s blog along with great barn owl pics on Tony’s. Two green sandpipers and kingfisher on the river and 5 pied wagtails in Hempholme meadow, and 16 whoopers north of Tophill at Rotsea. This butterbur is just coming into bloom on Hempholme embankment:

We also got this welcome visitor in the wildlife centre entrance porch yesterday:

Finally –

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Friday, 9 March 2012

The magnificent seven

Four barn owls were hunting within 500m2 last night around the Struncheonhill area:

Along with the main stars – three short eared owls showing well around the area:

Thanks to Roy Vincent for this great picture too:

Roy also managed to capture some better images of Tuesday’s avocet too:

As did HVWG:

Roy also got these great shots of the roe deer causing a riot on Watton:

This black tailed godwit was feeding today:

The two red-head smew have been getting a bit fidgety often no longer on Watton but moving between Barmston Drain and the reservoirs too. This normally happens before they disappear in the first week of April. Kingfisher though has also been livening up the pits of late – see HVWG’s picture here:

Along with a pair of goosander – often roosting on the D reservoir by Roy:

With this pair of whooper swans by HVWG:

The gull roost is still turning up the odd Mediterranean gull – Martin finding one on Wednesday night:

The 1st winter male hen harrier was also present again over Hempholme on Thursday; no pictures but Roy more than made up for it with these buzzard pictures: