Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The year terns

Southerly winds have blown in the birds in a big way - but to start with there are still a few wintry species to experience.  Ivan Nethercoate picked up a rarity this winter - short eared owl hunting Wilfholme Carrs on Saturday the 29th with Martin Hodges observing two there a day later.  A ring tail hen harrier was present over Hempholme Meadows on the 25th.  the curlew flock is still present in numbers of up to 70 on Watton NR with numbers of fieldfare.  A female scaup has been a fixture on the reservoirs all week and was still present today and had been joined by three common scoters on the 1st.  Leaving too were 280+ golden plover heading north on the 22nd.  The kestrels seem to tantalise us annually before leaving to breed elsewhere - Cameron Thomson:
Passing through has been this drake pintail here trying to impress a lady by Mal Jones - still about:
Also through have been the first of the little gull passage - 3 on the 1st.  Sand martins have been a fixture with a daily 20 or so over the res and hitting a peak of 50+ today.  A med gull was present on the 28th.  There's been a movement of pied wagtails with up to 9 seen including a continental white on the 1st and a number of skylarks and meadow pipits.

New arrivals have come thick and fast chiffchaffs like this one by Andy Marshall hit a peak counted by Brain Beilby of 14 across site:
March 31st appears to have been perhaps the most important day of the spring migration with Les and Margaret Bardwell bagged the first little ringed plover of the year in the morning, and Lee Johnson the first swallow later that afternoon along with the first blackcap on North Scrub.  Brian Beilby found the first willow warbler of the year in South Scrub on the evening.

And very notable was the common tern picked out by Wendy Wright today on D res - As I can determine at the moment this is the earliest ever record at Tophill - beating my own set in 2011 on the 8th of April (here) by a substantial 6 days! It would appear according to birdguides that this is the most northerly common tern to date. 

Barn owls have been active - pictures by Cameron Thomson
And Cameron snapped these too; otter on North Marsh again for this lucky enough (showed Thursday to Saturday consecutively)
Old news now; but great to see has been a lot of breeding activity from water voles on North Marsh.  Similar latrines up at Hempholme appear to show a thriving population (with a lack of mink)
Readying other habitat too have been the RSPB wildlife explorers - building the snake refugia for this breeding season:
Not long now will be sedge and reed warbler along with whitethroat and house martin.  To see some of the above the reserve walk will be on as ever on Saturday the 5th at 10am - free with standard admission.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Sand storm arrives

A drought of blog postings in the last couple of weeks.  Things have been manic of late trying to undertake the last few winter jobs before all the migrants arrive.  We've been doing a lot of prep work ready for the new facilities proposed in a year or two; basically improving the woodlands by removing a lot of the rank sycamore saplings which are blocking all light to the forest floor and replanting them with around 300 native understorey species to provide better food and nesting resources.  That's not to say the sycamore was wasted as it now forms the 'great wall of Tophill' a magnificent 200m long habitat pile that is already home to wrens, robins and a large flock of chaffinches today:

We've also been finishing off the new bat roost to replace the former wildlife centre which was home to around 300 soprano and common pipistrelle bats - this will be there new permanent residence and hopefully a great asset to the reserve:
We've also been sorting all the end of year and membership side of things - and one very large job has been compiling all of the records people have diligently submitted in the HVWG hut over 2013 to form an annual report.  This perk has been sent to all 13/14 members who've provided an accurate e-mail address - if you've not received yours then check your spam filter and if not there feel free to send me an e-mail at with your membership number and I'll happily send a copy on.

This brings up membership too - all current cards expire on the 31st of March and we now have the new ones in - to renew drop by the Warden's base or post off one of the forms downloadable above and post it off.  As ever we searched those pictures submitted to the tophillpics e-mail to find a few candidates that would work as a new card.  Trying to separate one of many exceptional harrier, otter or kingfisher proved impossible so we chose the following; banded demoiselle by Maurice Dowson - a major rarity at Tophill Low and an exceptional pic on this basis:

Brown long-eared bat by Andy Nunn; a quirky subject:

Great white egret by Martin Lonsdale - a nice view of Hempholme Meadow in full bloom:

Osprey by Darren Smith - perhaps more regular this year with luck?

Red necked grebe by Roy Lyon - A smart bird:

We took all these and anonymously put them to the vote amongst the team back at the Yorkshire Water HQ - and the winning entry was...  Reed warbler by Tony Simpson - an excellently sharp picture amongst the reeds which forms the basis of the 2014/15 card:

Tony wins a years permit.  If you fancy a crack we'll revert to the original format this year of all entries in by Dec 31st 2014 and must have been taken at Tophill Low in 2014.  This time send me your single best at years end and again we'll put them to the vote; we'll put some reminders out nearer the time

So on to wildlife news.  As predicted the warm snap did indeed bring in the first chiffchaffs; the first on the 8th with the familiar call now numerous around the woods.  Bill Eggleton bagged the first advance party single sand martin over North Marsh on the 14th; no more were seen until today when a party of 15 were over D res.  Grass snake made a first appearance on the 9th along with brimstone and small tortoiseshell butterflies.  Mediterranean gulls as per the norm have been seen on most watches with an increasing presence of lesser black backed gulls returning to breeding grounds and Lee Johnson found a female scaup this evening on the roost.  A bittern was again present on South Marsh West last week - thanks to Steve Brimble for this shot:

And a taste of winter still here - white fronted goose again on Hempholme Meadow by Dave Ruffles this afternoon:
Hidden from view on the same were 11 snipe flushed by Ben as he set the mink trap last Friday: a nice compliment to up to 6 lapwing seen displaying and holding territory over the meadow at present.  Perhaps show of the moment is on the road between Sleights and Angram Farms; c.30 yellowhammers this morning and 9 yesterday - a great show.  7 buzzards were logged on the 9th by Martin Hodges and the presence of Marsh Harriers again interested gives us hope for the year with a couple of red kite were again seen in the area on the 7th.  Barn owls active on North Scrub by John Coish:
Recorded too have been water rail, up to 69 curlew -  Steve Brimble and John Coish:
And John Coish:

Little egrets Steve Brimble:
Pintail on South Marsh East, peregrine, kingfisher, marsh tit and willow tit.  A cracking sequence of pictures here by Roy Lyon of one of the two pairs of displaying great crested grebes on D res:
Exquisite indeed compared to John Coish's relatively dowdy little grebe on South Lagoon:

And just to annoy all those who have put fruitless hours in at North Marsh; otter by Karen Williams:
And Steve Brimble:
So next on the scene? Expect blackcap, swallow and little ringed plover in the next few days.