Thursday, 31 January 2013

February fill-dyke

The ice may have gone but there's a sense of deja vu - yet again the river Hull overtopping the flood defence north of Hempholme Lock:
Watton Beck was also overtopping on Sunday flooding the free range chicken farm again on the Carrs.  Barmston Drain is on the up and has flooded much of Easingwold Farm and the back of Watton NR too.  Suffice to say there is again a flood warning out on the upper Hull here

As if that's not enough we've also had winds to contend with - a 'North Sea' state on both reservoirs and a few trees uprooted in the woodlands. 

Birdwise the woodock at the Wildlife Centre has been erratic - present every other day - not always showing as well as this (one of two on Sunday):
The week has seen up to six drake pintail either on Watton NR, South Marsh East or D res.  The red-head smew was showing on Tuesday - but we reckon is commuting between here and the river a lot.  A pair of goosander on the D res on Sunday evening.  At least the high winds are pushing all the wildfowl close in to the car park hide.  Little egret passed North Marsh on Sunday, with water rail squealing regularly including this evening.  Willow tit on the woodland feeders.  Thanks to Chris Cox via Michael Flowers for these great shots of male kestrel (we've also had a suspected female merlin on the approach road - and keep an eye out for short eared owls - there's some not far away at the Trout Inn, Wansford):
And also of this fine goldeneye:

Now to a couple of events; the monthly reserve walk takes place this Saturday at 10am - all welcome and free with standard admission.  Join the Warden on a guided walk to try and catch up with some of the above.

We also have the 'Mammal Safari' event on Sunday afternoon.  Still plenty of places left - we'll be showing participants how to identify the tracks and field signs of many otters, foxes, deer and water voles - and demoing the trail cameras we use to view them.  We'll also be using some longworth traps to live catch some smaller critters - bank or field voles if we're lucky.  If you want to book a place ring us on 01377 270690.  Free with standard admission.

Friday, 25 January 2013

4 suits of swans

The last 8 days and we've managed every species of swan! In addition to last weeks bewick's thanks to Erich for this of the whoopers on Sunday:
Followed by black swan yesterday - taken by Brian Spence - and a long way from Australia!:
And that's with the steady mute swans:
I managed a count of 69 on Wednesday, but there are reports of 170 downriver at Pulfin Bog.  We've had respectable counts of most things as the ice has restricted numbers down; 170 gadwall on D res tonight, lots of goldeneye - thanks to Brian again:
Big numbers of wigeon - with these cracking 6 drake pintail on the res this afternoon:
And tufties - but still no sign of that ring-neck:
And we're not sure what the WeBS threshold is for carrion crows on a water body - but we think we've cracked it with 27 on D res tonight!:
The week has also seen snipe, woodcock daily (until today when people came to see them again!!), a male brambling - a major rarity this winter, siskins, little egret at Hempholme and Wilfholme, 5 white-fronted geese yesterday on O res, drake goosander on D and red head smew on Watton today.  Woodpeckers now drumming again:
On Sunday as per the events programme (above) we have a gull roost event - free with standard admission at 3pm.  A chance to experience the majesty of the winter gull roost on D res with some scopes on hand to help enjoy it.  Hopefully we'll have as many to choose from as tonight - 1170 herring gulls on D res with 280 great black backed gulls:
We always try and look for something a bit rarer - a heavy set argentatus race in amongst:
Hopes of a skua dashed - a poor oily common gull:
The event is no booking necessary - so long as the floods don't return!...

Late edit: Otter also seen yesterday on North Marsh (on Erich's blog - I forgot to check the mammal book tonight!).  Also Erich reports yellow-legged gull on the res tonight too.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Whoopie - the road was clear...

Despite forecasts of a big freeze, access to the reserve today was the best its been since Monday with something of a thaw in the last 24hrs.  Probably all an irrelevance now given the forecast for the next 24 hours...Andrew Bulmer sent us this shot of the snows at Hempholme on Saturday:
Anyway despite this 7 whooper swans dropped in on the ice hole in D res found by John and Erich (details on Erich's blog here), where a drake pintail spent the day.  A snipe was flushed from the muddy margins of Barmston Drain along with an all too fleeting glimpse of a probable green sandpiper.  Water Rail on Watton yesterday seen by Tony McLean who has some nice new shots on his blog too here.  Plenty of car park siskins, woodcock was in evidence both at the wildlife centre, and by Tony Simpson on North Marsh, along with the male marsh harrier again.  Andrew also sent us this great range of snowy wildlife from Friday - Barn owl no doubt feeling the pinch:
Long tailed tits too also scraping a living from the res walls:
Fox probably having a fine time scavenging on the other hand:
Feeders topped up bringing down plenty of blue tits:
Great spotted woodpecker:
And lesser redpoll a nice highlight in the lagoon alders:
Followed by their other fans...
Unfortunately no sign of the ring-necked duck reported down river earlier today - plenty of tufties again on the river but it would seem selfish to disturb them when there is so little open water at present.  Thanks to Ivan Nethercoat for this shot of some of the thousands of wildfowl down river at the moment:

Friday, 18 January 2013

Coot's last stand

A coot seemingly takes to the wing twice a year; once to fly to D res from their breeding ponds and then back again 6 months later.  As such they always hang on to the bitter last before leaving the reservoir - currently c.530 in the remaining pool on the res:
A lone female goldeneye:
Plenty of wigeon too - but clearly massive numbers on the river at the moment - this was a view down river from Hempholme today with big flights of tufties:
A male marsh harrier was harrying the occupants this morning and this pair of buzzards were putting on a brave face over the woods - dreaming of soaring on a summer thermal:
The meadow is an impressive sheet of ice:
This lapwing was clearly admiring the potential breeding habitat - just a foot of water and inch of ice to clear before April!:
Female reed bunting:
Elsewhere willow tit on the feeders and woodcock again on the centre meadow.  The suspicion of wild swans calling north of Hempholme Weir was confirmed by Brian Spence who snapped these 8 whoopers up river (pic from the facebook page):
Everyone seems to be on Facebook now - even the belted galloways of Edward and Nicola Duggleby that graced us this Autumn are whiling away their winter online - you can 'like' them here or even follow them on twitter @BeswickBelties !

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

From one tundra to another

Undoubted highlight of the day today was a pair of bewick's swans on D res:
Forlorn calls bouncing off the reservoir walls (seemingly to their confusion); It was worth a video to capture this uncommon sound on the site:
A little later additional birds could also be heard calling north east of Hempholme Weir - but trying to find the birds in a field of snow was a little hopeless!. 

Today's trip in was fine as long as taken very carefully - here was the access road at Easingwold.  Remember the roads from the A164 to Tophill aren't gritted so it like this all the way - but currently no risk of snow drifts at any rate!:
The cold night had frozen everything for the third year running at Tophill:
Again the coots keeping just a small area free of ice at the northern tip of the reservoir:
Great care needs to be taken not to disturb the birds so they do not waste precious energy in these hard times - masses of birds on the river Hull but we dare not look for fear of flushing them.  Carrion crow back to it's winter delicacies:
Not often you see a fieldfare perched on the reservoir!:
Of note were a close flying flock of 14 snipe wheeling around North Scrub.  A few days ago we struggled because the birds were spread far and wide over the flooded Hull Valley; whereas today it seems they were all condensed back to the river side again - much like this little egret at Hempholme Weir:
Barn owl was hunting in daylight today - and this kestrel was waiting patiently:
And a distant buzzard at Struncheonhill:
North Marsh - no otters on a brief glance - but keep an eye out for tracks in coming days:
North Scrub looking scenic:
A few gulls in the morning looked promising:
But hopes of an Arctic white winger were dashed with this measly showing at 16:45:
However - not sure where they've sprung from but the two woodcock have again returned to the Wildlife Centre meadow - showing beautifully number one:
Number two:
Well - they'd probably show better if you waited a while... And congratulations to Alan Walkington who had his picture of a roe deer featured on BBC Winterwatch last night: