Monday, 22 July 2013

The fab four...

First off my personal thanks to everyone who helped out on the excellent Summer of Wildlife event this weekend - the volunteers who put in hours of work preparing and delivering the event, the exhibitors who brought some excellent displays and the guides who all did a brilliant job interpreting the reserve's sightings. Thanks too to James Hogarth and the Radio Humberside team who presented live from the reserve 10am to 12pm on Saturday:
You can still tune in and listen on IPlayer to the show if you're so minded! Link here to listen to an array of Tophill stalwarts!

The main stars of the weekend were however the marsh harriers.  Flying with increasing confidence since last weekend we're certainly up to three youngsters and there is a high likelihood of a fourth chick still calling in the nest.  More stunning pictures from Tony Simpson:
Johnny Pang too with another rat:
As did Steve Brimble with rabbit:
Alan Walkington got this shot of one with an apparent cloudy eye? We'll hope it comes through:
The birds should be present for about another week and then will gradually drift further away as they hunt for themselves.  Darren Smith got this shot last week of hopefully the next breeder for the reserve - osprey heading down river a week last Friday:
If you've been lucky you may also have seen a family of water rails present on the reedbed island as well as the otter family also there - thanks to Tony Simpson for these early morning shots - as ever remember you need to be a member to be in outside of normal open hours of 9am - 6pm:
Thanks to Johnny too for these of Kingfisher:
Barn owls have seemingly hatched on North Scrub too - Steve:

Martin did a sterling job showing these moths off for the RSPB Wildlife Explorers and at the open day - Margaret Boyd:
Thanks to Steve Smith for this array - more pictures as ever on Martin's blog - Elephant hawk:
Peach blossom
And buff tip:
Emerald damselfly by Johnny:
Thanks to Andrew Jackson for these too of common frog - a Tophill rarity!
And marbled white:
Swallows looking autumnal by Karen Williams:
So what's coming up in the next couple of weeks?;
We've already seen a smattering of green sandpipers like these two on Hempholme taken by Karen:
This should be followed up by more waders like whimbrel we've already had - we just need some rain now to top us the marshes... Keep an eye out too for stork suspects - we've had three separate reports of a stork sp. in recent days...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Harrie up we're leaving

Again our marsh harriers seem to have jumped ahead of schedule.  We considered the birds hatched on the 14th of June on the basis of their activity patterns but it transpires it must have been nearer the 7th as they fledged precisely a week early.  Tony McLean bagged the first picture yesterday morning viewable on his blog.  By this morning one youngster was sat proud in the willows above the nest:
When mum brought some food in another flew up from the reeds so there are at least two in there:

We'd value any observations in the log as to the total number of young visible at any one time.  They are readily identifiable by their bronze heads or as 'Duracell batteries'!.  Hopefully some exciting viewing to come as they learn to fly; they'll be hanging around the nest for the next two weeks or so and will be giving some great food passes as the parents encourage them to catch prey in mid air.

However note that the harriers don't tend to perform so well in the heat of the midday sun - much like this grass snake who we found up a hawthorn bush oblivious to our presence and clearly trying to keep cool:

Again - check out our Summer of Wildlife page above for more details on the event this weekend and the latest updates:

Bat walk at Hempholme the other night similar to that we'll be running on Saturday with East Yorkshire Bat Group:

More good news was views of the little ringed plover chick - now barely distinguishable from the adults so it looks like one bird raised which is a success as that's the first in about three years.

Some of you may have noticed the hard work put in by our volunteers; we've been excavating scrapes, ditches and hollows into the drained down South Marsh East.  This is to attract passage waders such as greenshank, green sandpiper and better.  To do this we need water and whilst it may be far from raining we've been able to now drain the neighbouring South Marsh West by a few inches to top up the East - which we've been unable to do whilst the harriers have been nesting.  Keep an eye out for waders on both marshes soon...

This roe deer however was making the most of the abundant celery-leaved buttercup the other day:

Black-neck moth - one of our signature breeding moths of North Scrub on the go on Saturday:

Martin's had some more great insects over the weekend - humid nights yielding 818 moths of 134 different species trapped across two days this weekend.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A Wimbledon womble

At the last check on Sunday it would seem the little ringed plover chick is still surviving.  The marsh harriers are still doing well; we have two more harrier walks this coming weekend at 2pm - that said their performances last weekend were somewhat stilted by the heat.  Observers had reported on Sunday morning feed visits every fifteen minutes before 9am, and then nothing for three hours.

The kingfishers appear to be back on form again today after a blip last week - few sightings on North Marsh last week but many happy observers today.  Perhaps they were sulking because we'd removed the 'no fishing' sign having let it run its course.  Our volunteers have carefully cleared around the greater water parsnip and installed some new perches including a beautiful and specially selected semi-rotten moss covered post.  We made the mistake of installing sawn off branches the first year - selecting photogenic perches is now an art form exceeding that of the photography!

The main development of the week has been the steady trickle of northern waders heading south.  Common sandpiper and green sandpiper have been seen in singles on Hempholme and Watton NR like this individual by Tony McLean on Sunday:
He also snapped the highlight of autumn so far - wood sandpiper (left of the heron!):
A crossbill seen by Martin Hodges also added to the autumnal colours - part of an influx in recent days so keep listening out in the pines and spruces of the car park and D woodlands.

Insects therefore are the pick of the moment - like this longhorn beetle leptura quadrifasciata:
We also took advantage of a quiet Sunday afternoon during the Wimbledon match to survey Hempholme at its height.  Grypocoris stysi - a capsid beetle was another nice one on a flag iris: 

For better pictures of both this and other fine beetles check out Paul's and Martin's blogs which illustrate the wader potential the scrapes hold amply.  Both purple heron and little egret have been hiding out on here in recent times.  This sedge warbler was snapped by Martin Lonsdale - most are now on second broods now and the ringing team have updated their blog here:

Cetti's warbler went quiet as soon as its fame was announced - we take it that the young have fledged and the birds gone quiet - although brief bursts were heard on both South Scrub and Hempholme Meadow on Sunday morning.

You may also have seen our advertised open weekend on the 20th and 21st of July this year in partnership with the BBC Summer of Wildlife.  We're still closing down a few details of the event - but a page with the developing programme of events will be appearing above later tonight...