Monday, 18 May 2015

Cucking up some waders

Before reading this post why not tune into a cracking theme track by reserve member Matthew Newlove.  Matthew's been coming down to the reserve for the last year and rather than brandishing a camera has compiled this excellent recording of birdsong and wildlife around the reserve - a great way of experiencing a different angle on nature.  To listen click here.

Our winter works are finally at an end on the reserve;  We've undertaken many different projects since January but the major one had been to regenerate the southern marshes for wading birds.  Water again welled back into the marsh:
Last task was to build a shelduck nest before electrifying the islands:
Levels rose rapidly and the exposed mud and new edge habitats attracted a number of  wading birds to the area in a decent spring movement:
Greenshank SMW on the 25th, WNR 26th, SMW, 2nd, 2 on the 3rd.
8 whimbrel on the D res wall on the 25th, 3 on the 10th,
Common sandpiper on the wall on the 30th, 2 on the 2nd, 5 on the 3rd, and singles 12th, 15th,
Dunlin on the 3rd, 5th on SME, 14th Watton NR.
3 turnstone on the 3rd on SMW
Green sandpiper on the 5th on SME
Temminck's stint was around the southern reserve on the 8th:
Black tailed godwit on the 9th on SME
Wood sandpiper on the 9th with another whimbrel (pictures and write up on Martin Hodges site here)
Male ruff on the 15th.

Its now a case of steady away during breeding season before we start having a play with water levels some more as of June the 15th when autumn starts (sorry - 1st green sandpiper and its all over - so make the most of the next month!).  That said damselflies are now on the wing - large red - Brian Colley:
Common terns arrived back on the 23rd and hit a peak of 7 before dropping back to 3 pairs of breeders at present:
A couple of arctic terns sped north up Barmston Drain on the 8th, with a further 3 over D res on the 14th, and a straying med gull on the 5th and little gull on the 9th both on South Marsh East.

The favourable winds on the 23rd of April also saw cuckoos up at North Marsh and as ever we are pleased with annual return rates on cuckoos.  We surmise that the invertebrate life of the reserve's reed beds and a continued healthy population of warblers still yield productive grounds for the birds in spite of their upland and farmland declines.  Evidence suggests we still have at least 3 calling males on the reserve and Roy and Andy described a magical night on the 7th when North Marsh was alive with birds all over often immediately in front of the hide with multiples about.  Roy:
Andy:
The barn owl too was very active - Roy:
And Andy:
Steve Brimble captured the roe deer here too:
And red crested pochard have been showy around site - Darren Smith:
With little grebe:
And grey heron:
A lucky glimpse was this rare shot of a water rail in flight by Roy Vincent:
In terms of passerines yellow wagtails have been through in steady numbers though not the colossal passage of some years - Roy Lyon:
And Roy Vincent:
A big highlight on the 5th was a wood warbler which remained around the car park to the 6th - photos on twitter by David Aitken.  Cetti's are again very active - Jeff Baker:
Details of the second female on the ringing blog.  Elsewhere vocal blackcap - Brian Colley:
And smart reed buntings- Brian:
Osprey has been erratically present in recent days - here is the bird that left the nest platform by Jeff Barker:
A very welcome addition was two turtle dove on the 10th, and a nice bonus was a honey buzzard on the 13th found by Martin.  Safe to say plenty of swifts with 1272 through last week - but just two spotted flycatcher would be nice...

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Least we forget

As in the last posting the blog has suffered as we have done a lot of work elsewhere - unfortunately waiting in the inbox were what I had presumed were further scaup pictures of the winter birds which have seen immatures and hybrids in the mix.  Subsequent to publishing (I didn't actually look at gone midnight!) it transpires that all evidence suggests the recent bird purports to be a pukka North American lesser scaup - particularly so in Tony Simpson's latter shots.  The other not published on Sunday is included here:
Fair credit to Lee Johnson whom made the call.  Unfortunately as has been proven before at Tophill hindsight and good photographs are a fine thing; and equally there are heavy penalties for a wrong call so observers always have a fine line to walk.  Certainly all ID features stack up and if accepted this would be the first in Yorkshire since 2009.  The last confirmed sighting was the 14th;  It has not been logged since Monday when ID'd - but hopefully it hasn't gone far and everyone will get a second bite of the cherry...

A good couple of days on the reserve with a few little gulls through, red kite and marsh harrier about, the first common whitethroat on the 20th, 4 wheatear passing through on the 20th with two black tailed godwit on Watton NR - Francis Bell:

Perhaps a foreboding sign was an Iceland gull on the approach road fields that night - reminding us if colder to come. A tree pipit was a big rarity for the reserve on the 21st, and was joined by the first swift, lesser whitethroat, and greenshank on SME on Tuesday night. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Neck and neck

As ever the usual excuse of plenty going on at the reserve - but we have some update photos at least! A major project has been a total re-landscape of South Marsh East.  The original peat profiling of 1993 had eroded away so we have been undertaking an extension of the work we started in 2013 of the ferrying of coarse material and heavy clays from the edge of the marsh to create a series of erosion resistant spits and islets.  First step was a causeway across the marsh:
This helps break up the desolate western expanse and prevent erosion in future.  Not a common view from back to back hides!!:
We've now re-landscaped this area and created a variety of hollows and islands for breeding wildfowl and feeding waders.  We've also ferried out several tonnes of gravel for new tern islands.  Thursday's job is to get out there and strim the last of the willow and fence off and electrify the islands.  In the meantime the buzzard has been happily finding plenty in and amongst.
Obviously things are a bit arid out there at the moment - although the pools have brought in ruff, redshank, little ringed plover, little egret and dunlin.  We're just finishing off at the moment sorting the sluices like this replacement;
So we hope to have a filling of water in the next few days.  Hopefully this should be in time for the common terns returning - unfortunately / or fortunately too late for the black headed gulls (we told them to go to North Cave ;-) 

Other great works have included on Watton Nature Reserve - we're still pending a sale but are liaising with the EA in the interim to manage the habitat for this season.  Lukas cuts back Tony McLean's vista on the far side:
Pete gets to work on the tractor rotovating up the ground around the LRP beds.  The rough ground is attractive to an array of species and we reckon is a valuable asset to turtle dove as annual weeds emerge:
Cliff and the team clearing willow and hawthorn succession from the view lines and sand martin colony:
The Rob, Mike and Harry squaring up the tern raft moorings ready for action:
More of a write up on Erich's HVWG page; And whilst we were down there we got this cracking view of a ruff in full breeding plumage on one of the rafts:
Elsewhere another project has been a replacement osprey platform.  We've now had summering ospreys for several years so we figured we'd give them a helping hand; Our old nest platform was a bit hidden in the tree line so we've opted for something a bit more brash - literally!  Two telegraph poles sourced by our contractors Scurrah associates with new platform assembled on top of one and camera rig on the other:
Roy fits camera mounts:
Pete starts fitment of the nest eerie woven expertly by Roy:
Brian and Roy rig up camera electrics at the pole top:
Before decoration by Lukas:
Whole assembly lifted up and into position:
Followed by camera:
The completed installation - a few more electrics to bring into play to get going.  At the moment we're installing new cameras around the reserve ready for the new reception hide so the viewing experience is not there yet. 
Realistically it is far too late for breeding osprey this year (they need to be on eggs by the end of April).  Although that said we had an osprey arrive just three days later; One of our regulars seeing it fly from the area having 'if not come from the platform then the tree next door' - so it looks like it does the job. 

We've also done a lot of fencing work in the area, tree planting and scrub clearance - and everyone's involved - RSPB Wildlife Explorers get stuck into building a deluxe new grass snake refugia at East Pond:


So that's some of the work - now for the sightings;

Med gull plumaged up nicely by Roy Lyon:
Plenty of chiffchaffs now - Bruce Pillinger:
 Roy Lyon:
First little ringed plover arrived back on the 24th of March
Blackcap on the 28th
Sand Martin on the 28th
Common Scoter on the 29th
Willow Warbler on the 30th
Scaup present near daily (including the odd lesser-esque type hybrid) Roy Lyon:
And Tony Simspon:
Bearded tits tantalised us on the 5th and 6th with four birds present but seem to have moved on now
The first swallow was on the 6th
Red kite have been hanging about with several records from the 6th
The first house martin was on the 8th
Black tailed godwit moved through on the 10th
2 black necked grebe arrived on the 11th and are still present today.  Some cracking photos by Roy Lyon:
Tony Simpson
And video of them courting by Roy Vincent:
Alas not much breeding potential on D res - so we expect them to move through
The first yellow wagtail was on D wall on the 12th - Roy Lyon:
And was followed the next day by a blue headed continental race.
The 14th likewise saw a continental race white wagtail amongst the movement of pieds like this:
The 16th saw the first sedge warbler arrive on Watton NR
With the 17th seeing reed warbler on SMW and 4 whimbrel that afternoon on Watton
And today saw the first hobby of the year pursuing sand martins over Watton Nature Reserve.   We also had credible reports of two red-rumped swallows feeding over the river Hull this morning - unfortunately a thankless task relocating them.

Red crested pochard are still around the reserve - Roy Lyon:
And kingfisher very active - Matthew Binns:
Sparrowhawk eyeing up the feeders - Christine Watts:
Also loitering with intent are the usual favourites - both willow and marsh tit displaying in D woods, marsh harriers again around site, barn owls settling in - Bruce Pillinger:
A dark-breasted continental bird has also been around recently at Wilfholme Landing too.
And cetti's very vocal (great pics by Jeff on Flickr).  So all present and correct so far. 

Just woken up are the grass snakes - the seeming annual breeding event occurred last Thursday with mating snakes everywhere - thanks to Steve Hines for these from North Marsh:
And Bruce Pillinger:
Otter is still about on the reserve - the volunteers saw this dog eating eels on Watton last week - Andy Marshall:
All the updates on moths on Martin's page as ever.

So all good - perhaps unless you are a horse chestnut tree.  Doug Fairweather our resident fungi and insect brains found this on the flowering spikes of one of our trees on Saturday - yet to be identified is this a new curse alongside bleeding canker and leaf miner moth?