Sunday, 31 March 2013

O'd redneck

We thought it may be but a one day wonder, but the red necked grebe was finally located on O reservoir by Graham Slack at lunchtime - still present at 18:00 at least - always close to the walls:
Elsewhere 6 goosander on D, lesser redpoll on the road near the lagoons, 40 golden plover over Hempholme, 2 redshank on South Marsh East, and a welcome return of the woodcock at the wildlife centre soaking up some rays:

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Red neck's and cannibals

Red-necked grebe was the find of the day - found by Doug and Martin this evening on the D res roost:
First in a few years (they're generally more of a sea going grebe on migration).  Not the greatest of pics but hopefully it'll stay around for tomorrow:
Thanks to Roy Vincent for these shots of the goosanders also still present yesterday:
We reckon it's now close season on the gull roost, freshly ploughed fields encouraging a few in, but unfortunately not a vintage year like last year. Thanks to Roy for these of the roost:
Pete Drury sent these of the common gull presumably killed by a peregrine (the falcon kills in a mid air strike and follows it to ground; but if it falls on water then it cannot claim it for fear of becoming waterlogged and drowning) - this great black backed gull swooped in for an easy meal in the form of its cousin:
Roy stopped in the hide and snapped this second common gull carcass floating past - which we can only assume was a repeat of the first incident? The peregrine was again seen over Watton today:
Andy Marshall meanwhile staked out North Marsh and got these flight shots of the five little egrets flying to roost - presumably on Watton at dusk:
Roy snapped this redwing too with a tasty morsel:
We flushed a jack snipe from Hempholme meadow yesterday also, and there is seemingly a big movement of pied wagtails on at the moment too.

Tony McLean meanwhile has been trying out a new toy with great results - photos on Flickr here.  I can't help but think this otter looks familiar to one photographed by Roy Vincent on North Marsh last year - as that too was apparently blind in its right eye?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

A ray of sunshine

A near tropical 4degC today along with a few bursts of sun saw the skylarks back on the wing and buzzard up.  The cream crown marsh harrier made a foray up the river next to Hempholme Meadow - perhaps the same seen by Tony McLean at Watton last week:
The gull roost had a final flourish in the strong Easterlies.  Martin Hodges picked out this nice full plumaged mediterranean gull on Sunday - one of two:
Visit his page here for the full write up which includes little gull and several lesser black backed gulls now coming in.  We had a look tonight but it was a scene of carnage - seemingly the peregrine which has been hanging around all week had killed a common gull (two more carcasses in the week on D straight).  Unfortunately it's prize fell in the reservoir whereupon it was set about by a great black back gull - one of only two about which gorged itself (hopefully some piccies to follow soon).

The goosanders however were still about today - still a female and two makes - thanks to Leo for these:
Alan also has some pics on Flickr.  A nice Kestrel also by Leo on the wall:
4 little egrets still about on Hempholme today - thanks to Bruce Pillinger for this one flying past North Marsh on Thursday:
The week generally has been something of a pause however - we're still waiting on some southerly winds like everyone!

Barn owl still about by Darren Smith on Friday - though perhaps a bit glum (it was likely this birds partner which was found dead the day prior):
A bit of positive news however - otter picked up on the trail camera two days ago (after a weasel runs across picture)- so there's still one on the go at least! That said an american mink this morning was not as welcome:
Reminders too -

Reserve open meeting on Sunday at 2:30pm - all welcome to hear about the latest news and developments around the reserve.

The new permits are in! We can start doing immediate renewals from tomorrow at the centre.  Thanks to everyone who has renewed by post - Either feel free to pick up at the open meeting on Sunday - otherwise they'll all be posted out after the bank holiday.

A final reminder also - there'll be no reserve walk next weekend - next one the first Saturday in May.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Stone cold?

The last week as I am sure you won't need telling has been on the cold side.   Try explaining that to the first little ringed plover through last Saturday - or the first 5 sand martins seen on Sunday evening!  Sub-saharan Africa to snow can't be much fun.  At least they are on time this year - as opposed to last year when they arrived around six weeks late - hopefully the sand martin colony will see some success this year.  An icy plunge here too - the first great crested newt back in its breeding pond by Martin Lonsdale on Tuesday:
They seem to do ok and I have seen them under the ice sheet before around site.  Other sightings have inlcuded the daily little egrets on Hempholme Meadow - generally up to 5:
With grey heron sometimes dropping in to help:
The osprey put in some good sightings on Sunday; we've had a few doubting Thomas's suggesting this was to account (the fabled white buzzard o' Watton):
However the number and experience of observers who have seen it dispel this in my eyes.  The buzzard has caught a number of experienced birders (and me!) out over the years - but it is a different story in flight - and it was observed for ten minutes at Hempholme on Sunday after flying in from Wansford then continuing down river.  No further reports so we reckon it's gone on to Scotland - or frozen. 

A good number of lesser redpolls around the lagoons and still there today,as too have been the 2 male and 1 female goosander on D res.  Willow tit seen back in the woods - will they and marsh breed this year?  Peregrine causing mayhem over Hempholme last weekend chasing the lapwings.  My reactions weren't fast enough so this is as good as it got as it launched from the poplars near the Angus McBean hide:
Thanks to Chirs Ulliott for these of long tailed tits:
Mistle thrush:

And this weasel - a remarkably under-photographed mammal on the reserve:
Not such good news though on the wider mustelid front though - a couple from Driffield contacted us regarding a dead otter found next to the canal at Wansford last weekend.  Clearly an unfortunate road casualty (nb; the chainsaw was merely a handy scale in lieu of a ruler - and played no part in its downfall!):
The 6.4kg female otter was an unteresting opportunity to see these animals up close - the five toed paws that make all those prints:
We had hoped to send this otter off to Cardiff University for post mortem.  This link is well worth a look for a host of interesting data on the animals.  Unfortunately the team cannot be contacted at the moment and the EA locally don't recover carcasses; so turning up with a by now slightly rancid otter carcass at the post office may well have been ill received.  Therefore it has been laid to rest in the reserve.  Still useful infomration to be derived - including a possible proxy reserve tick (literally):
I think this is Ixodes hexagonus - a tick infesting the fur and not before logged.  We'll await the Cardiff team's verdict.  We have filled out the report forms that build up a picture of otter fatalities and hopefully lead to protection measures in future.  Perhaps grimmer news however is the word on the grapevine that 3 otters were found dead in an illegal specification Eel fyke net locally last week - unfortunately well within territorial range of North Marsh where the mother and two cubs delighted observers before Christmas. This happened down river at High Eske a couple of years back when Erich made a similar grim discovery.

Some have already speculated but we can only refer back to the informaton in this prior blog posting regarding the facts of the otter population on the river - and reassure that we have found fresh spraints on the reserve since - but for an animal with a large ten mile range for male or six for a female it is disturbing to lose four from the Hull Valley in a week.

Just to brighten the mood this barn owl was found dead next to the reserve yesterday.  We're still awaiting the ring return on the bird and the results of a post mortem.  The bird has clear trauma to the back of the head - but as has been suggested is similar to that of a stoat injury? It also has the heady air of fox to it too - so perhaps it has been caught out on the ground after becoming ill in recent weather conditions?
So fair play or foul conservation is still needed to protect these and all our species, as life would be pretty mediocre without them, so again big thanks to the many great people who give their time on a daily basis to help East Yorkshire's native wildlife.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Seven's a crowd

It's spring - allegedly!.  Despite what the thermometer may say the nest box team had the first osprey of 2013 on Tuesday - reportedly perched on one of the owl boxes at Hempholme Meadow.  Michael Flowers had the first chiffchaff of the year today - for more details on his recent visits check out his excellent blog as ever here.

Again the little egrets have been a highlight on Hempholme Meadow.  Fed up of driving past them I took the time at the end of today to try and get some pictures and was rewarded with a nice maxima of 7 birds:
All were feeding actively on what were observed as some small fish - but possibly a lot of odonata larvae? - the main method of feeding being to stir up the sediment with ones toes before striking; so presumably it's something dwelling in the mud that does not readily swim off:
Oystercatchers back too - two pairs on site:
Teal snuffling about:
And plenty of lapwings ready to take up residence:
Yesterday this cracking group of redwing were on show at the water works lawns - pics by Roy Vincent:
And a couple by the editor:
Roy also got these great pictures of a group of eight goosanders on D res on Sunday night:
We often see them come in to roost on the res in late winter - Martin too has some great shots along with some of the mediterranean gulls also present on Sunday on his blog.  The drake scaup was also present on Sunday too.  Yesterday however Roy got these startling pictures of the female goosander consuming a jack pike of similar proportions - payback for all those tufted duck chicks on South Marsh West last summer?:
The red head smew is still present on Watton NR - logged yesterday - not really a vintage winter for them.  Marsh tit was again picked up around the feeders yesterday.  Best of the rest was an otter running across Standingholme meadow in Tuesday's blizzard and meadow pipit and skylarks in surrounding fields.
On a separate note we're coming into renewals time for annual membership permits.  Prices for annual membership 2013-14 are slightly increased at £25 for adults and £17 for concessions (65 and over / registered disabled).  Please note day permit prices will also increase on the 1st of April to £3.30 for adults and £1.50 for concessions. 

All this will be on the visiting page above shortly - along with new renewal forms.  The new permits are still in print at present so we should be ready to take renewals at the end of the month.

For all the updates on the reserve and facility improvements why not pop along to the reserve open meeting on Sunday the 31st of March at 2.30pm - all welcome for a final visit to the old wildlife centre.  Work progresses on the new toilets and should be ready for late April.

So - on the subject of membership renewals, we ran the competition to submit a picture taken at the reserve to form the basis of the new permit.  We received the following entries - red legged partridge covey by John Hakes:
Running cub by Roy Vincent:
Otter cubs by Darren Smith:
Otter mum and cub by Steve Brimble:
All were anonymously voted for by the Yorkshire Water office team and there was a winner...
Well done to Michael Preston for Fieldfare and berries!  Michael's picture forms the basis of the 13/14 permit and he also wins a years membership. 

Thanks again to all who entered - we'll be running the same again for 14-15 - entries close on the 31st December so get snapping!