Sunday, 29 September 2013

Gone bonxers

Nobody has found the yellow browed warbler yet which must be lurking somewhere on site - but what had these coots found?
Picked up by Martin on the first of no doubt many winter vigils on the D res gull roost was this great skua or 'Bonxie' upsetting the peace and much to the disgust of the mute swans - always interesting to see the obvious innate behaviour stimulated in species which have likely never met as individuals:
Distant record shots - worthwhile as its around 10 years since the last:
If anyone can read the ring number feel free:
It exited the reservoir by 17:55 but was replaced by 4 mediterranean gulls, with 4 little gulls earlier, 16 pintail and around 600 freshly arrived wigeon today.  4 siskins another sign of Autumn in the lagoon alders with many goldcrests and other small birds in D woodlands.

Thanks to Steve Hines for this great shot of the North Marsh kingfishers:
There are still reports of otters about on site; apparently running past 3 people on the main path round O res in the middle of Saturday.  Thanks to Steve too for this one of common darter:
Doug Fairweather turned up this site first today - a rhopalid bug Corizus hyoscyami:
It overwinters as an adult - all the details on British bugs here.  Hopefully well out the way of Cliff in his element:
You may have noted a few burnt reed beds around the reserve of late - we do this to burn out the organic materials that build up in the base of the reeds; enriching and raising the soils allowing brambles and hawthorns to establish.  Any saplings are killed off like this hawthorn:
All the reed rhizomes and orchids are nicely tucked away in the soil beneath and will return next spring free of their competitive neighbours (even the sneezewort!)

As ever the forecast looks cracking looking to peak on Wednesday when strong Easterly winds will hit a band of heavy rain approaching from the west prompting any passage migrants to drop in.  Hopefully bonxie and little stint won't be the only vagrants this week...

Friday, 27 September 2013

A quick stint

Undoubted highlight of the week was on the evening of Wednesday the 25th - a little stint on South Marsh West which had later moved to Watton NR.  No sign the next morning - but the first since the D res was drained in 2007.  Up to four snipe and a greenshank on the South Marsh East amongst the new scrapes which now have some water in:
Two dunlin yesterday on South Marsh West and a green sandpiper this evening.  A red crested pochard dropped in on the 21st on D res - as always origins debatable.  That said the easterly winds of late and particularly forecast suggest much excitement in coming days - any chance of an inland yellow browed warbler? 

In the meantime a smattering of the regulars - mash harriers, hobbys, marsh tit and med gulls; not to mention the stalwart kingfishers.  Many thanks to Oliver Wright for these cracking pictures from last weekend:
There have still been reports of otter around - though not as showy as last week.  That said many of you will have seen the pumps currently transferring water into the river Hull creating a fountain of spray on the bank side.  Animals playing is always something open to debate; but two engineers from the Water Works checking the pumps a couple of days ago found both otters frolicking in the spray from the pipes!  One thing which again we didn't want to find swimming is foxes - this time taken by Bruce Pillinger:
We've already got the electric fencing for the terns next year...

Martin Hodges got an excellent count last Saturday of 38 pintail on Watton NR.  Tony McLean who is often to be found on the reserve has just given a heart felt posting on his site which is well worth a read - again all we can hope is that the Reserve finds a conscientious new owner.

Still a few migrant hawkers about:
But most eyes will be on migrant birdlife in coming days...

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Happy Birthday!

Not just to Tophill Low Nature Reserve (which is 20 years old as a Nature Reserve next month) - but to this little fella - a male belted galloway born around 6am this morning; and we reckon the first to be born at Tophill Low since 1956 when the pastoral farm disappeared to make way for the water works:
Checked over by Edward and Nicola he's been deemed in fine fettle.  If any of you missed it Nicola and Edward were 'Farm of the Week' in the Yorkshire Post on Saturday; you can read the article here
Freshly raised water levels in the Hempholme Meadow and South Marsh East have been pulling in a few snipe (unlike Spurn there's no cats in these areas...), with a green sandpiper on today there has been a thin smattering of dunlin and common sandpipers too.  Autumn is truly here - the annual autumn recurrence of transient jays in the D woodlands is a sign (2 on the 12th), and these swallows were amassing for the off at Hempholme:
There have been hundreds of swallows, house martins and sand martins over the reservoirs again heading south.  One of which was taken by the hobby which is still very active over the reserve - a brief glimpse at Hempholme this evening:
The main show stealers this week have been the otters - up to three seen regularly in daylight at the moment on North Marsh - pictures on the Facebook page and some nice ones here by Chris Cone:
Yesterday it was apparently harvesting frogs (4 at a time) and possibly taking them back to a natal holt behind the hide.  Supporting cast as ever the kingfishers - thanks to Bruce Pillinger for this one:
More on Trevor Allsopp's Flickr page here.  It appears the barn owls have fledged from North Scrub with 3 seen flying in D woods yesterday.  Much of the annuals are now setting seed on South Marsh as the water rise; I can now see previous Warden Peter Izzard's objection to nodding bur marigold! - wire brush required:
Caterpillar sp. working its way through - to be identified when the nights draw in more:
There are still three places left on the bridge camera workshop event on Saturdayrunning from 10:00 – 16:00 Join wildlife photographer Maurice Gordon for hints and tips on how to get the best out of your technique and digital post processing techniques.  Book in advance. Price £15 per person - camera necessary!

You can even ring up the reserve on 01377 270690 as we have a working phone line again now after three weeks - a real red letter day all round!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Watton Nature Reserve

Some of you may have seen recently advertised for sale Watton Nature Reserve - next door to Tophill Low (for details of the advert see here).  Whilst we are in no way connected to the sale of Watton Nature Reserve we've had many queries both by concerned members, locals and prospective purchasers so to answer a few from our perspective;
  • Watton Nature Reserve has never been owned or run by Yorkshire Water - in spite of its proximity for which many have attributed it so.
  • If you want to view the site please do so responsibly with due regard to wildlife, observers and local land owners.  Contrary to details the site is best viewed by parking at Wilfholme Landing and walking north along the public footpath on the west bank of Beverley and Barmston Drain and viewing from the public hide (we've had folk wandering around the reserve and leaving gates with neighbouring stock open).
  • We've heard various interesting interpretations of a nature reserve by prospective purchasers so read on to learn more of the site and its inhabitants.
Reserve history and facts
Watton Nature Reserve was formerly part of the neighbouring Easingwold Farm until it was purchased in around 1990 by the then National Rivers Authority to provide aggregates for the river Hull Flood defences.  Previous to this it was known as Easingwold Plantation and reportedly the last breeding site for red-backed shrike in Yorkshire - alas all signs long gone.  The site does flood on a regular basis - this being last winter:
And this the current EA access track:
The site was declared a Nature Reserve which continued under the newly created Environment Agency and much work has been done in partnership with Hull Valley Wildlife Group, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Tophill Low Volunteers over the last 22 years including the demolition of the former hide ready for the new Gilleard Bros hide:
The erection of the sand martin colony:


And the installation of tern rafts:

In addition to a large amount of work on habitat management with the kind help of local farmers co-ordinated by volunteers and water level management.  This work has attracted a number of breeding species like common terns Tony McLean:
Little ringed plover (schedule one protected under the Wildlife and Countryside act 1981) Erich Hediger:
Barn owl (schedule one protected at all times) Tony McLean:
Kingfishers close by (again schedule one at all times) Tony McLean:
With European Protected Species and Schedule 5 otter (Protected at all times including disturbance or damage to a place used for shelter or protection (TM)
With water vole and great crested newt (same protection).

The site too has hosted a number of rarities in its time notably stone curlew, white stork, temminck's stint, avocets and often holds wintering bittern and a roost of little egrets:
The site's signature species is the small number of smew which overwinter annually making it one of the north of England's most reliable locations for the bird of which only 112 overwintered in the UK in recent WeBS publications:
The area has been monitored for the last 10 years as part of the British Trust for Ornithology's Wetland Bird Survey by volunteers and as such has is pending designation as a Local Wildlife Site by East Riding Council which carries various planning implications.

The site is overlooked by a Yorkshire Water hide with around 10,000 visits per annum.  We note that the sales agreement states that shooting and fishing rights are to be retained which is reassuring for its conservation. 
The sale of the reserve is on behalf of the Environment Agency as part of a wider sell off of surplus assets (So please direct any enquiries there or with the selling agents)

As the site is on the open market it is unclear who the eventual recipient will be.  As has been suggested in the brochure the site does have development potential - in my personal opinion for selective thinning of the shelterbelt, well timed constructive grazing management and upkeep of viewing facilities for the variety of wildlife it hosts (if you need any inspiration simply look at Tony McLean's site here).

For other uses please consider that it is an overlooked public site so unsympathetic management with respect to its protected species, designations and restrictions would be unlikely missed. That said many will be glad to assist a new owner keen to build on the success of a very special place for East Yorkshire's wildlife as part of the river Hull corridor of excellent wetland habitats.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Letting the cat' out the crate

Lots of comings and goings at the moment.  Outward bound were around 100 house martins and 50 each of sand and swallows this evening - along with a couple of common sandpipers:
Looking resplendent in some of the first rain for weeks the winds and hard ground have not been so favourable for waders.  The 7th saw a smattering of birds with green sandpiper on South Marsh West, and a ruff and 3 snipe on Watton Nature Reserve, and a couple of green sandpipers yesterday. 

Perhaps the rarest bird of the week was found by Martin Hodges on D res on Sunday - kittiwake! A couple of years or so since the last they seldom stray inland.  Ploughed fields are attracting good numbers of gulls into the roost now with 6 mediterranean gulls on Sunday the 8th too - one of the highest counts ever.  This nearly put a very brief visit by a lone black tern on Saturday the 7th into the shade.  All the details on Martin's and Erich's blogs.

New arrivals though however are the belted Galloway cattle of Nicola and Edward Duggleby from down the road at Beswick - that said these have freshly arrived from Skipton.  The two calves are reportedly the offspring of Countryfile's Adam Henson's former bull:
Very much 21st century cattle you can now like them on facebook here or even follow them on twitter @BeswickBelties

Talking of celebrities some of you may have caught a sterling performance on TV last night! The main drive of late has been to continue the establishment of the Greater Water Parsnip along the river Hull Berm - another 50 plants going in here with the great help of Brian Mallison and the volunteers here:
Sorting hay out:
And managing reed beds through burning:
Hopefully no castaways this time...
The gents working last week did come across some smart beasts however - notably this impressive water stick insect (not a measurer as I incorrectly noted last time) in hunting mode Roy V:
And Pete Drury
Still a good few butterflies about - Brimstone by Roy L:
The black necked grebe was last reported on the 3rd of September - thanks to Roy L for these:
With a couple of early goldeneyes which have been about for a while already:
Kingfishers are flavour of the moment Roy L - (more pictures on Dave's page here):
Narrowly avoiding at least two hobbies about - Jan Ellis:
Also by Jan a skulking rail on N Marsh:
And if you are really lucky - daytime otters by Jan on North Marsh at 1:40pm on a Saturday afternoon:
Little egrets on Hempholme Meadow - Roy V:
And a hatching of young grass snakes in the last few days:
It's been a terrible year for barn owls though.  Reports from back in May suggested that very few had survived the long winter - many succumbing to starvation like this bird the volunteers found on Watton NR in March:
We've now had the ringing report back and this bird was originally rung as a chick at Hempholme back in summer 2008 - so nearly 5 years is a respectable innings.  Thankfully we did have our one pair still surviving - and Robin and Dennis from the Wolds Barn Owl Group popped down to ring the chicks the other week; a bank vole left uneaten on the porch is a good sign of well fed chicks:
Investigating the box:
Robin ringing one of 5 chicks; an excellent tally given the terrible year "this practically doubles our total for this area" was the quote used.  Hopefully they'll replenish numbers for the future.
Volunteer Terry with one of the chicks; the few other pairs nesting in the region are all laying very late - in many cases the chicks are unlikely to fledge before October so it does not bode well for a cold winter: