Saturday, 31 August 2013

Curling round to the west

The easterlies of last weekend brought in a final flourish in the form of 2 curlew sandpipers found by Erich Hediger on Tuesday night - pictures and write up here.  A yellow-legged gull brought some early flair to the gull roost on Monday afternoon and 15 little gulls were showy on the D reservoir on Tuesday with another today:
More pics on Dave's page here.  The best of the rest of the waders included:
Ruff - 1 on Monday the 26th on Watton NR
Little ringed plover - 1 on the 26th and 27th on South Marsh West
Common sand - 3 on the 26th D res / Watton, 2 SMW on the 27th,
Green sandpiper - 2 on Hempholme Meadow on the 27th
Dunlin - 2 on South Marsh West on the 27th
Greenshank - 1 on South Marsh West on the 27th

There's been a smattering since but a change to westerly winds immediately flushed most waders on and instead brought us migrating passerines presumably from within the UK with lots of willow warblers, whitethroats and blackcaps.  The main highlight being perhaps the only spotted flycatcher report of the year on the 28th at North Marsh - a continued sad decline for a species we had nesting on live cameras 4 years ago.  Another rarity too turned up in the form of the turtle dove n the southern site this morning.  Good to see both willow and marsh tit in D woods yesterday too.

Black necked grebe has been present every day on the D reservoir. North Marsh has again been the subject of Kingfishers - three individuals scrapping repeatedly in recent days - Alan Walkington has a picture of the hobby on Flickr which was today trying to exploit it but failed.  The other highlights were a pintail on Watton NR today and an osprey which flew south over O res before apparently turning up at Leconfield later in the morning.   Lots of butterflies in the week with clouded yellows still on the wing like this fine shot by Jeff Barker:
Tony Robinson sent us these of painted lady:
And gold spot:
A count by Martin and Karen recorded 720 butterflies across site on Monday and the year list for moths has now exceeded 350 for the year so far making it one of the best on record.  As ever all the updates including several firsts for site on his blog.

Reserve walk next Saturday at 10am, with (hopefully) the kingfisher walk next Sunday.  The event is book in advance - however we are currently experiencing problems with the phone at the reserve so please contact us via e-mail on to book a place.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Glorious mud

As we've said mud has been the thing to look at this week; and has not disappointed so far.  South Marsh West seems to be top dog at the moment, with a smattering on Watton. 
We've just dropped the level again in South Marsh West so that means more mud there tomorrow and fresh water in the dykes of South Marsh East so look out.  Don't forget Hempholme too as we had 10 greenshank up there this time last year.  So the tallies are;

Greenshank 1 on 19th, 3 on the 20th, 1 on the 21st, 22nd, 3 on the 23rd, 1 on the 24th and 2 today:
Green sandpiper 3 on the 18th, 1 on the 19th, 4 on the 20th, 3 on the 21st, 22nd, 1 on the 23rd, 6 on the 24th (9 by nightfall):
Whimbrel 3 on the 17th, 1 on the 24th, 2 on the 25th,
Common Sandpiper 1 on the 17th, 3 on the 18th, 1 on the 22nd, 23rd, 3 on the 24th, 7 on the 25th:
Ruff 1 on the 20th, 21st, 2 on the 23rd, 24th (Tony McLean):
Dunlin 2 on the 20th, 1 on the 21st, 22nd, 2 on the 23rd, 1 on the 24th, 4 on the 25th:
Snipe 2 on the 22nd
Little ringed plover 1 on the 21st - today:
Ringed plover 1 on the 23rd
Lapwing 2 on the 23rd
Black tailed godwit 1 on the 23rd, 25th
Sanderling 20 over on the 23rd
Curlew 5 on the 25th

Black necked grebes again on the 23rd - today, scaup reported on D res today, juv garganey on South Marsh West on the 24th, a peak of 21 little gulls on the 24th.  Osprey was last logged on the 17th when Darren Smith got these crackers - unfortunately the black inscription on the blue darvic ring is not quite legible as it flew over North Marsh:
Kingfishers are everywhere - most notably a second brood of summer on South Lagoon - thanks to Tony McLean for this one:
A few migrant passerines too - 5 yellow wags today, meadow pipit over.  The migrant that has been pleasing most however has been the clouded yellow butterfly - a veritable influx with 4 logged today around the reserve. 

Check out Martin's page for more waders and all the latest moth catches - after writing the year off in June it now seems like a vintage one.

So what to look for this week?  More mud and what it brings - stints, spotted redshank, wood sandpiper, jack snipe and maybe even a curlew sand are all on the cards if we continue an easterly air flow. 

Sunday, 18 August 2013


There's still a few flurries of activity around North Marsh and Hempholme from the second marsh harrier family.  To the best of our observations it appears two young have been reared on this nest.  As a suitable celebration of the harriers many thanks to reserve member David Bowen who has spent many hours compiling this excellent video of the birds - even capturing the food pass and a nice 'two fingers' to the herons that nearly saw them off back in June!:
A few final photos of the initial brood via Brian Colley here:
Now would seem a great time to demo the results of the prey log we had up in the hide.  Many thanks to all those who helped fill it out during the birds hatching to fledging period.  The chief purpose of the study was to build on what we had observed during the incubation period that prey items were not in conflict with game bird populations.  This is not to say we feel the birds under threat here - all young fledged and it is a great reflection on neighbouring landowners and shoots demonstrating an enlightened view especially given the range the birds travel and hunt and the bad press all raptors get from some quarters.

As a proviso please remember this data was compiled by multiple and not necessarily experienced observers and many unidentified items were simply unlogged.  But it does serve as an interesting introduction none the less.

So what did we find?  Pheasants and partridges have been reported as prey in some locations, and indeed a pheasant was reported brought in here.  But it is important to keep perspective in that this represents just over 1% of their observed diet.  Extrapolated to an average of 11 prey items per day as quoted by other studies this suggests up to 5 pheasants may have been taken during the entire nesting period.  So are the harriers bad for game birds here? We would suggest not - and that they are actually beneficial believe it or not.  In the same period 9 rats were observed brought in (extrapolated to 44 during nesting) and as substantial predators of eggs and nestlings the removal of 44 rats would we imagine reduce predation of ground nesting birds like pheasants and partridges.

The real losers were coots and moorhens with a likely 153 chicks taken from the surrounding wetlands, closely followed by 49 rabbits and 34 water voles during the season.  The completed chart shows the proportions here:
A few folk have asked if they'll return next year - that we don't know.  Successful birds do return to the same nest site; but this years circumstances were exceptional as poor weather had stunted oilseed rape and winter wheat they often nest in - so we can only hope:
Now another raptor - this time being a bit more controversial.  We've had a few photographs of great spotted woodpeckers harvesting insects from under the D res capping stones over the years - and it appears this female sparrowhawk had also made similar observations - thanks to Mal Jones and spotted by Mike Armitage:
More red in tooth and claw; stoat dispatching a rabbit in the car park last week - Roy L:
One burning question I am asked repeatedly is 'when are the belted galloway cattle returning?'.  I can confirm they certainly are and we are currently arranging their visit with Edward and Nicola Duggleby.  However last year they didn't come til late September and ran out of grazing after 6 weeks - so we're not in a rush.  We also hope to have the fencing around South Scrub completed by October too so as we can move the cattle straight from Hempholme to there in November.  At the moment the vegetation is so tall we would likely lose an elephant in the meadow! Our management is to mimic a traditional wet meadow with a summer hay cut and aftermath grazing - so contractors have been setting too where we've left off - to the indifference of the wildlife (Roy Vincent):
Grey heron and little egret (Roy V):
Along with greenshank:
Roy also snapped this green sandpiper on North Marsh:
South Marsh East has also been holding up to 5 snipe if you can find them - thanks to Roy L for this one:
They've been inhabiting the new drains we have excavated this summer amongst the tall vegetation:
The vegetation growth has been dramatic this summer in the drained marsh.  Originally we had toyed with the idea of draining the marsh for a while; but the willow growth has been prolific - with around 8 saplings every square foot.  If left it will turn to woodland - so we need to flood it again this winter and will be running it 'as normal' next year.  One problem is that the fox trench is silted beyond redemption - 'rare' nodding bur marigold (one of hundreds on the marsh this year) growing well on the fox proof barrier:
So we'll be toying with other protection measures on the gravel islands for next year. We've also been busy with the volunteers constructing new nesting islands in deeper water away from fox predation and will be doing as much as we can on the marsh before the rains come:
We also have a plan for keeping pike out the marsh so hopefully duck broods should be up for next year too.

So what else in amongst? Bird highlights have included;
Cetti's warbler on the 13th on SMW
Black necked grebes x 2 on O res until the 13th
Willow tit on the 10th
Osprey on the 9th, 15th, and 17th (showing well North Marsh hunting the river am)
Greenshank up to 2 daily between the 10th and15th
The first autumn ruff on the 11th with another on 13th and 14th
Green sandpiper daily
Whimbrel on the 14th
Little gull on the 13th by Mal:
And a leucistic pale billed herring gull by Tony McLean:
And great crested grebes building in numbers on the reservoirs like this juv by Maurice Dowson:
We've also been trialling a new method of wader counting; one that never sleeps or misses a shot - robobirder (or a trail camera on a scrape) a few snippets so far:
The biggest highlight though was caught by Maurice Dowson this morning though - banded demoiselle near the D res substation this morning.  Roughly the 13th for site and the first since 2006:
Some nice draggy's about now - common darter by Roy Vincent:
And by Maurice Dowson:
Southern hawker:
Some nice butterflies including a painted lady by Mal:
And thanks to Roy V for this of peacocks enjoying hemp agrimony:
Along with green veined white:
Some highlights from the pond dipping last week; water measurer:
And water scorpion:
And these fine beasts - a deceased male wood wasp or greater horntail:
And the alive female which is around 1.5" long!: