Monday, 31 December 2012

Year listing day

Just a quick reminder we have two guided walks going out tomorrow - the first at 10:00am and the second at 13:30 - in which we'll try and rack up as higher bird count as we can in the day - a perfect way to start off your 2013 year list!

To whet your appetite in the last week we've had:
Mediterranean gulls - peak 3 on the 26th
Pintail - peak 10 on the 26th,
Lesser redpoll - 25th
Waxwing - Christmas Day
Scaup - 1 on the 26th
Smew (red head) - 1 on the 29th
Marsh Harrier - 1 on the 29th
White fronted geese - 2 on the 30th
Pink footed goose - 1 on the 30th
Woodcock - wildlife centre
Peregrine - 1 on the 30th
Barn owl - 1 on the 31st
Kingfisher - 1 on the 31st

And otter daily if you're into mammal listing! - seen crossing the road near the lagoons at dusk tonight.  Access to the reserve is fine at present even though the floodwaters are at their highest yet on surrounding farmland - more pics to follow tomorrow.

Last call tonight for the 2013/14 membership card entry - details as per posts below...

Happy new years wildlife watching!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas up North

Despite the impending flood waters today was a great showing on the reserve particularly on North Marsh.  Here the otter mum and cub showed often through the day, kingfisher made a welcome return fishing again in front of the hide (probably returning to the old faithful in light of the floods).  Little egret flew past, coming from Hempholme Meadow where it had been feeding on the flooded ridges earlier.  To cap it all 8 waxwings briefly alighted there too. 

Elsewhere marsh harrier, common buzzard, peregrine falcon and sparrowhawk all reported on site.  Lesser redpoll, treecreeper and bullfinch in the woods, barn owl north scrub, 70 curlew on Watton NR.  6 pintail and a red-head smew on D res with 2 red-head goosander (Erich has some nice shots on his blog here as does Martin) to finish along with mediterranean gull on the roost; masses of gulls enjoying the invertebrates flushed out of Decoy fields:
On January the 1st we'll be holding a year listing event as most years - the objective being to see the maximum number of species in one day - a great way to start off your 2013 year list! We'll be undertaking two guided walks - one at 10:00 and another at 13:30 to try and surpass 72 recorded in 2009.  This is part of a series of events we'll be staging this year - details to come on the events page soon...

As ever though it would seem rude not to record the exceptional events - Watton Beck still overflowing onto the Carrs this morning:
Barmston Drain at the main entrance:
Further downstream looking over it towards Easingwold Farm:
And the rear of Watton NR:
The pits themselves - again breached:
South Marsh East - higher than its been at the end of the last 5 winters despite being drained down until 3 weeks ago:
The over top was still flowing at 10:00 this morning:
The river no different still hovering at 3.84 at the weir.  It would seem this is really the maximum height - any more and it just goes over the tops of the defences rather than travelling through the weir:
Still jets of water from the aqueduct retaining wall:
Standingholme at 10:00 in the wind - a field of white horses but not as one would expect:
And neighbouring Hempholme Meadow tonight:
Standingholme again at last light - still getting deeper:
And the over top - a consensus from the volunteer team being that it was flowing faster at 16:00:
Still a flood warning out on the EA site.  Hopefully a drier spell will give it chance to recover to an extent.

Merry Christmas and a Happy new year to all our readers! And an opportunity to say a big thank you to the team of volunteers and visitors that have contributed so much to the running and enjoyment of the reserve this year.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Sitting it out...

A miserable day, but a good opportunity to sit in the dry and take in the excellent views of our woodcocks at the wildlife centre:
The centre will be open tomorrow, then please contact us for opening hours over the Chistmas period.  The reserve itself is open daily and some of our keen Volunteer Wardens are even planning on spending Christmas Day on the reserve!  A couple of pintail on D res, meadow pipit on Hempholme, and otter again showing well for Bill Eggleton on North Marsh today.

A very early pale-brindled beauty was accompanied by a winter moth to finish of the 2012 trapping season - perhaps are target of 300 this year was a bit ambitious given the weather!.  However many thanks to Martin for taking the time to compile the moth list gradually being edited onto the page above - still under construction and pictures to accompany soon.  Picture courtesy of Doug Fairweather:
But many folk will be interested in the state of play with the river today.  In actual fact the river at Hempholme at 15:30 was relatively stable - a 'mere 3.8m' on the board - down 6cm from yesterday lunch time:
Further upstream the river was still overtopping - but 'only' as bad as 3 weeks ago:

To put this into perspective I spoke with Peter Izzard today whom many will know as the former Reserve Warden.  He has said this is the worst he has seen it on the river since 1964 when he started as a Water Scientist on the works.  Whilst the surrounding land was more inundated in 2007 - that time it was more the rapid accumulation of surface water on the lower catchment.  This time it is the background flow from the Wolds aquifer combined with the run off from saturated ground.  Whilst there is still a floodwarning for the Watton Carrs area, there is also now one in addition for Frodingham Beck too which is a tributary of the upper river which has risen rapidly in the last day.  As such its just a question of hoping the defences will last the onslaught they'll have to endure for at least another 3 months - the constant flow of water is gradually working at the structure, often tracking along mole runs and the like:
Water disappearing somewhere into it:
As such the drain is back up to nearly the level of three weeks ago.  Easingwold plantation back under water and Standingholme being enveloped:
Watton Carrs - a bit dark but a small flow over the bank at dusk continuing to inundate farmland.
 Not often you have to slow for a moorhen swimming over the road at the Monk's Barn:
Watton Beck under the A164 at the day's end - all heading into the river...

Friday, 21 December 2012

Looks like the Mayans weren't far wrong!

Even a relatively small amount of rain last night was enough to tip the balance on the river Hull which is already swollen by emerging spring water from the wolds aquifer - a supply which takes 3 months to permeate through; so a scenario likely to be repeated all winter. 

The first note of alarm came a few miles up the road from Tophill - this is Watton Beck near the free range chicken farm - water flowing over the top of the banks and flooding surrounding fields:
Beverley and Barmston drain has been rising through the day - up 4" in 2 hours earlier today - again flooding Standingholme Fields:
Hempholme after nearly drying out is again re-filling - the mucky brown water flowing in from Barmston Drain yet again:
There was a worrying trickle of water around Hempholme pump house and these fissures springing out of a retaining wall into Barmston Drain (the defences narrowest point) - they had subsided by 2pm so we presume that it was rain water pressure rather than river water?:
Further up the river was again overtopping the banks - seemingly worse than 3 weeks ago with an audible roar from a few hundred yards away:
With further gurglings and wellings at the base of the defence:
There is a flood warning again out for the area - details here.  We'll see how the situation fares in tomorrows rain - but it is looking a bit dicey as if the river cuts through the bank there will be little to stop it filling the area from Tophill to Watton Abbey...

On a brighter note - we have a smew! At long last it was picked up on Watton Nature Reserve by Gordon and Wendy Wright on Saturday (though Tony McLean had apparently glimpsed one earlier).  We've also had the bittern turn up on the WeBS count - Eric Clubley flushing one from the river bank near North Marsh. 

Another seasonal year tick that's always good value are the woodcock - found again on Sunday under the wildlife centre hedge - a very grainy shot here of one of two:

They can usually be found all winter here and we've even cleaned the wildlife centre window for one last time!  Other birds of the week have included mediterranean gull and lesser redpoll.

After all the excitement otter has also been seen again - sprainting outside North Marsh on Sunday, and covertly swimming past on Tuesday morning.  Thanks to Tony Simpson - the third man in the hide when Steve and Roy also got their cracking shots in the last post - so here is another excellent angle:
Tony also snapped this mole outside the hide the other week - something a bit different:
And finally thanks to Roy Vincent for this delightful footage of the otters on the ice - playing hide and seek:
Finally a few more days for entries in the 2013 membership card competition:
The rules are one per person and must have been taken at Tophill in the last year. Remember the image needs to work on a credit card size and entries in by the 31st of December. The winner gets a years membership - shortlisting by the reserve team and judging by vote in the YWS Land and Planning team - best of luck!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Wotta lotta otta

We said the otters had been showing well - and again the ante has been upped on the photography front.  Congratulations to Alan Wrightson who finally caught up with the otters - after we'd sat in fruitless otter watches in North Marsh a couple of years back - he managed to digiscope these pre-freeze images of mother and cub:
Following this Roy Vincent got these on Sunday - more excellent shots of swimming otters:
But again; joint crown now to Roy and Steve Brimble who were both present in the hide yesterday at 8:50 and 10:30am - first of all Roy's pictures:
And Steve's (for more of his photo's visit his site here).
All stunning shots and a more intimate view of mother and cub than we've had before.  The only concern is that it is a mother and cubs as opposed to cubs like Darren's.  Hopefully one is just tucked away somewhere. 

Given this flurry of success after having a quick look on D res tonight (no notable gulls) but 97 shoveler and 3 pintail on today, with Roy and Martin L logging a notable 9 meadow pipits on Hempholme Meadows, I called in to North Marsh.  Last time I tried to video otters it took around 45 hours for 10 seconds - this time it took 10 minutes.  Preceeded by several minutes of ice smashing around the margins this character appeared...