Thursday, 12 February 2015

Ice interlude

Winter seems to have come and gone as a brief interlude since the last posting;  A brief spell of snow gave the reserve some winter scenery for the first time in a couple of years:
Like the snow goose its provenance was limited - Frank Bell:
The northerly winds delivered upon them a respectable two Iceland gulls - separate birds on consecutive nights of the 30th and 31st found by Martin as per usual.  A med gull, yellow legged gull and lesser black backed gull have perhaps been more telling of this winter all present on the 25th.  North Marsh was inviting enough for this stoat snapped by Darren Smith galloping on the ice:
As the weather last week was so clement it seemed perfect for a dip; Mike gets stuck in below - only an inch of ice to get through to the warm mud beneath:
Many of you will have followed our otter holt build last year and to be fair we are still awaiting a first resident.  That said it is suspected mink had moved in whilst the camera was down in recent months - and we are at last seemingly on top of our mink infestation with credit to Chris who was ensuring the traps ran 7 days a week.  Hull University student Stefan Rooke's study with trail cameras appears to show no further activity after the 7th mink of autumn / winter and 8th in the last twelve months was caught two weeks ago - the worst run since Peter Izzard started trapping over 10 years ago.  Many have asked if the water vole population will have survived - and it certainly will have.  If they coped with mink running freely for many years they'll cope with a few individuals for a few weeks and are one of those species designed to explode again in numbers within a couple of generations.
  
Part of the issue with attracting otters has been that the access dyke dug at great effort by the team last year had silted back up again meaning any investigative otter would have to wade through two foot of silt.  To rectify this we have dammed one end of the dyke and then pumped out all the sludge.  We've then used sycamore withies to create bank protection and stop the mud slumping again - Rob and Harry weaving:
Hopefully otters like this one snapped by Steve Brimble the other day are not far off:
To undertake this we needed to lower North Marsh which coincided nicely with the need to flood Hempholme Meadow as part of its annual management to kill off dry land loving weeds.  This also forces many invertebrates to the soil surface which makes good feeding for wetland birds.  Untold numbers of snipe are in the meadow with the barn owl flushing multiples as it flew above the rushes looking for displaced field voles.   But perhaps the star bird here has been the water rail with five present today and yielding some good photo ops (on the facebook page). We've elevated the level again today so expect more rail activity over the weekend.  Little egret passes overhead by Roy Lyon:
Elsewhere the usual candidates are still about - drake scaup and red crested pochard on D reservoir - Brian Colley:
A nice drake pintail has been around on site and small numbers of curlew and redshank present on Watton.  But really its spring in the air with woodpeckers creating a cacophony around the car park at the moment.  For us its a race against time now trying to finish all the tree work before bird breeding season - generally reckoned to be circa March 15th when the first dunnock nests start appearing.  Here managing dyke-side willow pollards with the team last weekend:
So regardless of what the tail end of winters throws up - spring's well and truly here as far as we can see with both goldeneye and the red arrows in display - Brian Colley:

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Bittern by winter at last

For the first time in a couple of years now we've finally had something resembling winter - even if the birdlife doesn't quite reflect it.  So far the lack of cold winds haven't brought much in the way of promised winter migrants with just the one glimpse of smew back in autumn so far.  However we've finally managed to liberate a seasonal gull after a run of southern European species like little, yellow legged and Mediterranean - Roy Lyon:
Martin Hodges finally bagged a 1st winter glaucous gull on the D res roost tonight; as yet the only of winter.  This leucistic black headed gull from Roy Lyon otherwise had been the nearest to a white winger we have had:
Otherwise species like chiffchaff and green sandpiper were glimpsed in early January and snowdrops, great spotted woodpecker and goldeneye displaying suggesting that winter may have passed us by - Mal Jones:
The velvet scoter hung about until the 13th or so and it was discovered had been coming and going between the O reservoir and river Hull where it was presumably feeding.  Thanks to Roy for this shot - more of write up on Erich's blog:
Possibly the howling winds saw it on its way - Some spectacular waves captured by Darren Smith:
And Brian Colley:
A fixture continuing all month and including today has included the un-missable red crested pochard that shines like a beacon across the res - Brian Colley:
Roy Lyon:
Perhaps slightly less so visible has been the scaup which tends to melt amongst the tufties but is always there - Roy:
Likewise up to two drake pintail have always been present such as this by Frank Bell:
The subsequent freeze up saw many birds concentrated and pushed out by the cold:
Like water rail by Darren Smith:
A few waders in the open like the assembled curlew - Brian:
Redshank - Mal Jones:
But undoubted highlight has been bittern - check out the Flickr page for some excellent shots by Tony McLean and co.  And also Steve Routledge's site for the same plus an umcommon snap of merlin from the reserve too.  Otherwise it has been there more obvious cousins the Grey Heron - Steve Brimble:
And little egret - Steve:
Goldcrest in the woods by Brian Colley:
Barn owls typically suffer in bad weather - but hopefully its been short and sweet for them this year - Steve Brimble:
However not so good for this Tawny found by Doug Fairweather - one presumes this has been scavenged by the look of the opening:
Otherwise peregrine, marsh harrier, otter and perhaps the finest has been a ring-tailed hen harrier seen multiple times around the reserve - common buzzard here by Mal Jones:
We had some debate on whether to run the reserve walks again this year but there seems to have been a few enquiries so we will be running the walk on Saturday the 7th of February as before - free with standard admission.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Velvet bookend

Christmas day saw both the velvet scoter and red-breasted merganser seemingly disappear.  Thanks to Mal Jones for this of the latter showing well at the viewing screen:
The week following saw regular bittern sightings on Watton at dusk with goosander, red crested pochard, pintail, scaup, little gull, Mediterranean gull, yellow legged gull and a merlin on Watton Carrs on the 31st.

Today was the annual year listing event with great results;

The approach to the reserve saw
1. Woodpigeon
2. Carrion Crow
3. Kestrel
4. Jackdaw
5. Black headed gull
6. Curlew
7. Moorhen
8. Chaffinch
9. Blackbird
10. House sparrow
11. Feral pigeon
The start of the walk in the car park saw
12. Siskin
13. Pheasant
14. Herring gull
15. Blue tit
16. Long tailed tit
17. Wren
18. Great tit
19. Redwing
20. Robin
21. Cormorant
22. Dunnock
23. Great spotted woodpecker
Chatting with regular Ian Spalding he'd already recorded
24. Little egret
25. Tawny owl
26. Kingfisher - pics by Mal Jones:
Moving to the car park hide
27. Song thrush
28. Goldcrest
29. Coal tit
30. Shoveler - Steve Hines
31. Gadwall
32. Goldeneye - Mike Grantham:
33. Pochard
34. Coot
35. Wigeon
36. Tufted duck
37. Common gull
38. Teal
moving through the woods saw
39. Treecreeper
40. Sparrowhawk
41. Common buzzard
Rejoining the res at East Hide saw
42. Red crested pochard
43. Scaup
44. Mallard
45. Great Black Backed Gull
46. Greylag goose
The Hempholme and Struncheonhill area saw (in addition to snow goose we omitted to add to the list in the same way as the cockerel at Standingholme Farm)
47. Canada goose
48. Rook
49. Grey Heron
50. Goldfinch
51. Common snipe
52. Meadow pipit
53. Little grebe
54. Marsh harrier
A return to the woods saw
55. Marsh tit
56. Willow tit
At the car park meeting Roy and Derrick who'd been watching the res we added
57. Hen harrier (ring tail)
58. Bullfinch
59. Pied wagtail
60. Magpie
61. Barn owl
At the old centre was added
62. Tree sparrow
And reaching O res
63. Great crested grebe
64. Greenfinch
65. Pintail - pic by Steve Hines from earlier:
South Marsh West yielded a calling
66. Water rail
67. Goosander (back on D from Martin)
From the O res we were surprised and elated to get a brief view of
68. Velvet scoter - found by Tom Hughes on the walk which flew virtually as it was discovered - luckily Roy Vincent got these snaps:
69. Mediterranean gull was picked up by Martin on D
And reaching Watton gave a
70. Lapwing
71. Bittern - somehow picked out by Pete Thorne in the binos
72. Fieldfare
73. Starling

This represent the finest ever year listing tally by 3 sp. - even with some obvious omissions; mistle thrush, stock dove, partridges etc; And most notably collared dove which it appears may again become a tophill Rarity. 

Please note as a result there will be no reserve walk on Saturday

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Velvet for Christmas

Cracking find by Lee Johnson yesterday on the O reservoir yesterday and still about to at least 3pm today was this velvet scoter - the first for a good while (none in my tenure).  He managed this fine picture of it from the viewing screen:
Also brightening up proceedings and again an uncommon visitor to the reserve was a red breasted merganser on the res too.  An exciting couple of days on the water with 2 Mediterranean gull, little gull and red crested pochard on D too.  Female scaup had been present up to the 21st and there are plenty of goldeneye now in the throng of spring - Brian Colley:
Plenty of wildfowl on Watton:
Mallards amongst everything looking their best:
A certain highlight however have been bittern; they've yet to be seen elsewhere but appear to roost nightly at Watton Nature Reserve - two being seen on the 19th - Steve Hines captured these shots of one:

Perhaps surprising has been the lack of notable geese amongst the sedentary greylags this year - no white fronts or pink feet as yet - Brian Colley:
There's plenty on the passerine front too - Roy Vincent captured these of bullfinch:
Chaffinch:
Willow tit always popular:
 
Marsh tit:

Coal tit:
Blue tit:
Great tit:
And masses of thrushes such as blackbird:
Goldfinch by Darren Smith:

For anyone wishing to see all the above and more we'll be running the popular year listing event on January the 1st.  We aim to keep a running tally through the day of species found which can be into the 70's; Two walks will be running with one at 10am and another at 1pm to try and rack up as many species as possible - free with standard admission no booking necessary.

Common buzzards over the reserve - Roy Vincent:
And Brian Colley:
Kingfisher still showy on North Marsh by Bruce Pillinger:
And a nice winter speciality was this green sandpiper by Brian Colley - seen a couple of times of late both on Hempholme and South Marsh East:
Chiffchaff on the 6th was another token winter straggler.

A reminder too that we'll be looking through this years photos submitted to the blog or flickr for the new membership card - closing date 31st Dec.  Winner gets a years membership.   

Just a note to say thanks to everyone who has helped out on the reserve this year - many hours of great volunteer work helping out in conservation and survey work and visitor help have been given.  If blogging has been a bit Spartan of late it is because we've been doing a lot of planning and prep work for habitat work this winter - crowning work of which is a project to return North Lagoons back into operation; So some great things to look forward to in 2015. 

Last one an otter in North Marsh by Roy Vincent recently;