Saturday, 14 January 2017

An otter education

Two weeks into the new year and site list wise the tally continues:
79. Collared dove subsequently picked up
80. Little owl appeared on Hallytreeholme Farm in more clement weather
81. Red kite pottered over the car park on the 10th
82. The red head smew reappeared at Watton NR on the 11th
83. Along with the long tailed duck back on its familiar haunt in front of the new hide (still there today).  Both these birds are thought to feed on the river and come back to the reservoirs to roost or refuge - much like the velvet scoter this time last year.
84. Goosander on the 12th

But it perhaps the gull roost on the D reservoir which has finally come good.  After a slow start this autumn things have finally come picked up and the northerly gales, storm surges, thundersnows etc, have at least pushed us in some specialities:

85. Roy Erich and Martin picked up this glaucous gull on the 5th (write up on Erich's page here) - Photo Martin Lonsdale:
Another glaucous gull arrived on the 12th picked up by Martin Hodges.  But in between on the 8th had been caspian gull as filmed by Martin Hodges - no doubt video to feature on his blog shortly. 

A cetti's warbler was calling on the 12th and the first shelduck has arrived back on the D reservoir taking us to 88 species so far.

From the 1st of January Roy Lyon has provided some pictures of the corn bunting flock at Easingwold which has been seen again since - 5 birds:
Along with the healthy numbers of reed buntings
And the WTW song thrush
But breaching from beneath the ice have been the main attraction for the last couple of weeks - Francis Bell:

No longer are field signs like a few fish scales the only way to find them:
North Marsh has been giving great views of otters for the likes of Steve Brimble:
Darren Smith:
And further pictures on Africa Gomez's page here.  Indeed they are so regular we suggest a real coup would be to try and photo the near ermine stoat running over the ice there this morning. 

Hopefully the otters will appreciate our final finishing flurries - we've done some more sealing of the new reception hide pond to bring the level up to its full potential:
And with this successfully completed, as ever with the help of the volunteers, we've tweaked a few other bits - namely the dyke at the back of the pond (A kind of mini north marsh for folk to enjoy on the new walk):
The little ringed plover island in front of South Marsh hide had been lost to vegetation and was too high when built 3 years ago.  This has been graded out with more wader edges for close in pictures:
 Already attracting the attentions of redshank within the day:
A subtle but important tweak to the bog oak in 'sandpiper bay';  Its been shunted up a bit so is now in clear view - as it was a favourite perch for kingfishers and sandpipers last year but just obscured behind the brow - now its perfectly aligned for cameras along with some more bog oak to compliment:
There are a few tweaks for Hempholme hide too for better photo ops to be finished shortly.  Lots of fine tuning which has been happily ticked off so we don't have to return with a digger in the near future anywhere.  One of the most crucial has been the clearance of a channel to north lagoon from the inlet sluice.  The complexities of lagoon management are enormous so really these pictures are for former Warden Peter Izzard whom can fully appreciate the beauty of a silt covered sluice...
Suffice to say it should improve both the wildlife and the operational capability of the lagoons going forward.  A great feat too given the 5t digger was working where I immediately sank to my thighs:
Finally as part of the on-going reception hide project we have a post going for a self employed Education Guide.  We have run school visits for many years to the reserve but with myself as guide rather than a dedicated 'educator.'
Yorkshire Water have a number of educational centres across the region and with the new improved facilities we intend to at last offer a key stage planned visit to reserve with a dedicated Education Guide.  It'll be a capped number of one day a week in term time (24 days a year) so should have little impact on the reserve and visitors, whilst offering water and environmentally themed education to local schools.  Closing date is the 20th January.  
For full details please visit the Yorkshire Water careers page here.  For any questions about the role please contact

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Year listing 2017!

An excellent start to 2017 on the reserve.  As ever it was our annual year listing day where we aim to bag the most species possible on the 1st of the 1st.  Last year was a mediocre 66 and 2015 a record 73.

Starting at the road in this proved to be a crucial series of additions:

1. Feral pigeon on the wires of Angram Farm (the start of the Yorkshire Water access road)
2. Carrion crow
3. Blue tit (Christine Watts from yesterday pic)
4. Blackbird
5. Wood pigeon
6. Pheasant
7. House Sparrow (only place to reliably get on the site)
8. Tree Sparrow
9. Great tit
10. Chaffinch
11. Rook
12. Robin
13. Dunnock
14. Magpie
15. Brambling - a fine find that was at the farm at lunch time
16. A turn onto the access road proper revealed kestrel
17. Common buzzard
18. Great black backed gull
19. Common gull
20. Black headed gull
21. Herring gull
22. Jackdaw
23. The sunflower game cover crops of Easingwold Farm were a treasure trove with redwing
24. Fieldfare
25. Starling
26. Reed bunting
27. Yellowhammer
28. Greenfinch
29. Corn bunting - 5 of
30. Goldfinch
31. Grey Partridge
32. A fly over little egret
33. With peregrine falcon watching from the pylons
34. Barmston Drain held a moorhen
35. Arriving in the car park the very showy siskins were evident everywhere
36. Long tailed tit amongst the trees
37. Treecreeper with them
38. Wren around the toilets
39. Goldcrest in the larches
40. Starting off around the southern end of the site was shoveler on North Lagoon
41. The sometimes erratic two thrushes were picked up in the WTW compound with song
42. And mistle thrush
43. Heading straight to Watton were a few lapwings
44. And arriving there wildfowl built up with pochard
45. Gadwall
46. Mallard
47. Wigeon
48. Teal
49. Goldeneye
50. Tufted duck
51. Coot
52. Mute swan (Christine Watts from yesterday pic)
53. Cormorant
54. Little grebe
55. Redshank - being annoyed by
56. Sparrowhawk
57. A stroll back via the marshes revealed pintail on O reservoir
58. Great crested grebe
59. Pied wagtail (Christine Watts from yesterday pic)
60. Canada goose further down the river Hull (with a farmyard goose)
61. Bullfinch in south scrub
62. A break for lunch followed with a trip north around D res.  Greylag goose being the next
63. Amongst them a white fronted goose spiced things up but no sign of the pink foot
64. Coal tit was on the feeders
65. Great spotted woodpecker on some standing deadwood
66. Marsh tit on the feeders but no sign of willow
67. A walker on the river bank flushed a woodcock which circled the feeder pond and dropped into cover.
68. North Marsh had earlier shown water rail - along with some excellent views of otters through the day.
69. Kingfisher had also been here earlier and we found later on the river (Christine Watts from yesterday pic)
70. Leaving the woods and entering north hide a quick look yielded nothing new so about to set off to search the decoy fields for the rest of the greylag flock (Christine Watts from yesterday pic)
they instead came to us - and with them the pink footed goose (which noisily left to the NE straight after)
71. Leaving the hide a marsh harrier flew SE down the river Hull
72. Three grey herons were in Standingholme Meadow
73. A fruitless search of D res gull roost yielded nothing new though a lesser black backed gull had been seen earlier
74. A couple of lone observers reported in with late records of stock dove in O wood
75. Curlew coming into roost on Watton
76. Tawny owl in O wood
77. And finally one of the residents had willow tit on their feeders all day

So a cracking result - the finest year listing day yet beating the record by 4 species with nothing of great rarity required. 

As ever to critique the score:
No collared dove - again a Tophill rarity after a peak of 48 a few years ago.
No barn owl - poor weather all day.  Luckily the camera battery for the nest we had forgotten to turn off so couldn't be viewed remotely, saving ourselves a mire of debate on this topic (I had one driving out at Watton village but too far out for site)
No linnet, snipe (common or jack), grey wag, bittern, the smew, long tailed duck, great white egret and black necked grebe all hidden. No med gull (or other exotica), no goosander, little owl absent from Hallytreeholme which had been present on Wednesday.  So all in all plenty of room for manoeuvre in future...

Stop press!.. very late addition of barn owl on Starberry Bridge takes us to 78. 

In addition fox, roe deer, and otters x 2

Best of all we also undertook a fund raiser for Jean Thorpe who has helped us out with numerous injured animals over the years (details here).  The grand total being £87.45 - many thanks for everyone's generosity and help through the day.

Hopefully the start of many more for the year...