Friday, 27 May 2011

Various vagrants…

Something of an exciting week for a ‘dull time of year.’ First up is a reported female red-footed falcon seen on the Southern Marshes this afternoon. We hasten to add this was seen by two observers whom apparently had good views for 2 minutes of the bird, and had also seen the amur falcon in 2008, but at this stage we class this as a ‘for info’ and would not advise twitching it until we can get any further confirmation.

Secondly the purple heron has been seen again this week, including two separate probable sightings today over the Southern site. There is a possibility that this is the same bird from April, but we would be quick to add that there have only been sightings of a lone bird. Jeff Cohen managed an excellent photograph on Sunday of it in flight viewable on Flickr here:

On a similar vein is the osprey hopefully something for future years, and Monday saw a pair of common cranes overshoot Watton NR.

Other news includes the drake garganey – still on Watton NR today – and the little grebes we heard chuckling around the site last month seem to all have young now – simply visit any marsh…

Lots of big snakes again – usually East Pond being the best place to see them and marsh harrier and hobby have been picked up around site.

Finally the strong winds of Monday did some more damage to the D woods, as such we have closed off part of it until we can get our contractors in to sort it out.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

The tiny trio

Something of a passage in the last few days despite the horrendous westerly winds. Friday morning saw a greenshank on Standingholme ponds, then drake garganey turned up on Watton in the afternoon and has remained there since - rather dodgy picture here:

The same night we also had a common sandpiper and 2 ruff picked up on watton too.

Yesterday we had a temminck's stint which was still present all of today - along with a dunlin and a little ringed plover. The size of the birds at this range did not make for a great photo however!:

Other interesting sightings include black tailed godwit on South Marsh East, turtle dove in South Scrub, and also a brief glimpse of purple heron again. Grass snakes have been everywhere again, cuckoo calling, and many tadpoles in South Marsh West. David Maritt kindly sent us these pictures of an osprey passing over the river Hull today also:

Martin managed 7 hairy dragonflies and a couple of red-eyed damselflies yesterday.

Finally thanks to Steve and Jessica Stokes who sent us this picture of a rabbit seen on the approach road by several - a young rabbit with no ears...or is it a squirrel with no tail?

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Having aluco in the boxes…

Part of the perks of being a reserve volunteer is the right to visit areas of the reserve off limits to visitors as part of management work. A big highlight for our nest box team is a sneak peak of the nest boxes as part of the long standing monitoring programme on the reserve. “Anyone home?” – anyone who has read Eric Hoskins (if not see here!) will be familiar with the necessity of a chainsaw hat when dealing with tawnys:

A fine pair of tawny owl chicks in this one:

And in another box one portly chick:

It is worth noting that tawny chicks regularly leave the box at this stage leading many people to find them on the ground as ‘orphans’; This is rarely the case – the adult tawny will be sat in a tree nearby keeping watch and feeding them up. It is a safer breeding strategy than having ‘all your chicks in one basket’ - so in most cases leave them well alone and the parent will look after them just fine.

However the best prize on site in one of the barn owl boxes - 3 day old chicks – the egg tooth still being visible on the nearest:

The winter was obviously very bad for barn owls, but the spring has been very kind – the long dry period clearly allowing the females to put on sufficient weight for a good brood. Whilst tiny they have the hopes of many pinned on them for trying to rebuild numbers after the last two bad winters. So hopefully the summer will be as kind for feeding them up too, and the winter will give them a break in their first year. In many ways they are lucky in that this year there are many unoccupied territories for them to move to – in normal years most young perish because they cannot find a good habitat of their own.

At this juncture it is worth noting that barn owls are a schedule one species protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it is an imprisonable offence to recklessly disturb them at the nest. Our nest box team and ringers are specially licenced by Natural England to monitor the chicks – as such please do not leave the paths or suffer the consequences!. For anyone wishing to see the barn owls in action safely we will be running our ‘See a…Barn owl’ event at 7pm on the 9th of July - booking in advance necessary on 01377 270690. Alternatively try visiting the reserve any time over the next couple of months the morning after a heavy nights rain – this will force the owls out hunting in daylight. Our next visit to the chicks will be the ringing in a few weeks time.

Meanwhile these great tits were confusing us with their mum…

However regular Alan Walkington sent us what I must say is, in my opinion, one of the greatest pics taken this year – simply brilliant!:

Another definite contender for the win a permit competition – we have an informal competition to win a 2012-13 permit for the best photograph we can use on next years membership cards. Rules are must be taken at Tophill from April this year and submitted to the tophillpics email. Entries close December.
Other nest news includes the sighting of 3 shelduck young yesterday on South Marsh East – excellent as they didn’t breed last year.

Again a great chance to thank the nest box team under Alan Williamson for their work in repairing and monitoring nest boxes for many years, Jim Evans for his work in constructing many fine new boxes, and our own practical volunteers and the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Future Jobs Fund Team, whom have clearly helped our owl attract a mate by managing the grassland habitat to its optimum over this winter.

John from the nest box team has also sent in these shots of the osprey from last week – just to confirm it isn’t that pesky buzzard!:

The snake walk on Sunday turned up 9 snakes and numerous great crested newts – everything from 10”:

…to 4 feet:

And all in between:

It would appear we missed the breeding frenzy of last week – John Wilkinson recording a staggering 23 together all at East Pond. Again please be considerate when trying to view or photograph the snakes – if you can observe them and leave without them moving you have achieved the zenith…

Bird wise things are steadying a bit with ‘that time of year’ approaching. Terns are now embedded on South Marsh East – but not as many as we would like – it will be interesting to compare with other sites as we have gone from 6 pairs last year plus a potential 9 young from two years ago - to two pairs and a site maxima of 7 so far. What’s happened on migration?

Attempting to answer some of these questions are the ringing team – all the details on the blog of the latest visit.

A weird sighting was 3 pink footed geese on Friday – they are not injured like the whooper swan which has unfortunately succumbed last week – but just seem to be very late stragglers. Lots of hobby and marsh harrier sightings though, turtle dove purring on site again, and 700 swift and 400 sand martins on D reservoir on Monday night. Oystercatcher still have their chicks – so all appears on track…

Plant wise the first marsh orchids are out, and lots of yellow rattle all coming through on the hay meadows. Martin has been chasing down more hairy dragonflies and thanks to him for sending across these pics:

As ever all the details on his blog here. Likewise Tony and Rory have again been in of late and have the pictures on their blogs. And Jeff has some great common blue pics on his Flicker page.

Maurice has a review of his one day wildlife photography course here – we hope to do something similar next year again.

Moth trapping revealed a muslin moth:

And shears - showing the pair of clippers on its back:

Within the last week Derrick has also recorded brown argus in South Scrub too.

Finally just a reminder to all members to please remember to sign in at the HVWG hut in the car park on arrival – by foot/bike/or car. Our evening wardens have rounded up a few folk of late out of hours - so please ensure you help them by doing this – thanks again.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Faded glory

The first few brand new common blue butterflies can now be seen around the reserve, but there are still some species from 2010 too – this rather past its prime peacock was in south scrub warming its aged wings:

In a similar vein – our hide checks reveal that the north lagoon hide is also suffering from old age too. The supports under the structure are now becoming too rotted to safely keep it open and probably wouldn’t stand another purple heron! It is closed as of yesterday – but plans are already afoot to underpin it again with new supports so it should be in operation again later in the summer.

As a result I reluctantly have to cancel the water vole event for June as this was the most reliable viewing area. The winter increase in mink activity has resulted in the apparent loss of voles from under North Marsh hide. We have had no mink in the reserve as we are aware, but unfortunately John Wilkinson spotted another ‘big male’ on Watton on Monday – one to look for. A much cheerier sighting was that of a Kingfisher on Barmston Drain – so hopefully they will be back post breeding.

Other species logged this week include osprey, barn owls, 3 cuckoo and 3 hobby at the north end. A spoonbill made a welcome visit last Sunday – buzzing several but unfortunately never landing. Meanwhile this greenshank has been gracing Watton most of the week:

This male gadwall was taking time out on a sunny D res, the first brood has been reported elsewhere:

The common terns are still settling in – a few on South Marsh East:

And this one trying the new Watton rafts:

Mute swan 339 was again on South Marsh West - and top marks to anyone who can read the ID ring on one of the black-headed gulls nesting on SMW alo:

Mike Randall was in here last week – getting some great yellow wagtails though this movement has subsided a bit now – most regular are the residents on the approach road

Plenty of damsels like this large red – as ever Martin’s blog for all the news.

Another reminder the snake walk is on tomorrow morning 9am – still places available on 01377 270690, with this skin found yesterday:

And a big snake at North Marsh too:

Also tomorrow (Sunday) is the Reserve update talk in the centre at 2pm for all who are interested.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Marshian invasion

Further to the continued interest in the marsh frogs of late it would appear they have decided to base themselves under North Lagoon hide at the moment – giving excellent photo ops for many. I managed to get the following short film of them this afternoon as a full choir:

David Ware was also in today and got some great pics of both the frogs and sedge warblers here.
Also at the same location is great damage to the emergent reeds from water voles - an excellent sign.

As for other bird news – the wood sand reported last week was apparently chased off immediately by one of the six little ringed plovers seen today. A cracking count was made of 27 yellow wagtails on D res wall this week and I forgot to post last time the whimbrel which also dropped in at Watton – another year first. More showy was a greenshank which was present on the pits too. Snipe has also been reported on the freshly cleared South Marsh West reed island – one to watch – as with the hobby which has been seen regularly in the last few days.

The monthly walk this morning took in the usual candidates – reed bunting:

Reed warbler: (Late edit - sorry this is clearly a willow warbler which snuck into a series of pics of a reed warbler I took - that's what you get when you write blogs at 11.30pm!)
Common whitethroat:

And an LRP doing its best to control the flies on the res. wall.:

Martin will no doubt have blog updates here – with new another potential new micro for site.

Other bugs and beasties found in the week include click beetle:

These we consider are nettle weevils Phyllobus pomaceus:

With the smaller Polydrusus sp.:

This is something the Tophill volunteers are delving into whilst the trees can’t be chopped down! So as we are on a steep learning curve we apologise for any mis-ID’s we will inevitably get – as with the last post where our scorpion fly was actually Ptychoptera contaminata – a form of crane fly – thanks to Doug on that one!

Finally we have the see a… grass snake event coming up this Sunday the 15th at 9am – book in advance as usual on 01377 270690 – a chance to go ‘off piste’ looking in some of the grasslands for them.

Also on Sunday will be the first of our new twice yearly open meetings at the wildlife centre – I will be giving a quick talk about the projects we are currently working on, with updates on Sgt Major wood, wildlife centres and all the rest for anyone who is interested – 2pm with teas and coffees – all welcome.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Wood sandpiper

Late news from tonight is that a wood sandpiper has been reported via birdguides. Not sure on the status as not reported when I left at 17:40 - details undoubtedly to follow in time...

Aquatic adventures

Highlights over the last weekend have included a drake garganey again on South Marsh East. An osprey called in on Friday afternoon – being chased off South Marsh East before appearing on Watton NR. Another hobby was sighted over the south end today, and at the northern end of the reserve we have had the first turtle dove of the year this morning.

Again more green sandpipers have been moving through, with commons on the walls. Earlier in the week John Leason discovered a blue-headed wagtail amongst the many yellows which have been moving through the site in recent days. The video here shows the general activity from last year:

No sooner had I invited the first swift for site than Pete Dove had already found the first pair that night, with an increasing flow ever since. By my reckoning the last one left is spotted flycatcher – hopefully they will make it back again this year – not always a certainty in recent times.

On the mustelid front a weasel was spotted moving its young about, and Rory proved you don’t need a BBC film crew on his site.

Tony too has returned from his holiday and back with the natives here.

The pond dipping activity turned up some impressive beasts. This is presumably a four spotted chaser exuviae from D woods pond:

Also I hope I am correct in saying this is the husk of one of the 305 large reds that Martin and Doug found on Saturday:

Martin has again been pushing records back – this time with variable damselfly. Have a look on his blog for the latest moth addition too. Other catches included mayfly nymphs:

A young newt:

A broad bodied chaser nymph waiting in the wings:

This damselfly nymph tucking into an unfortunate mosquito larvae:

An even more vicious looking diving beetle larvae:

And a pair of mating scorpion flies in the undergrowth:

David Ware was turning his camera towards some of the migrant warblers on Friday. The ringing team also managed a re-catch of a lesser whitethroat from last year today – a great start towards learning more about our trans-African species.

Further to the marsh frog interest of late Jeff Barker has some further pics on Flickr here, and Derrick Venus had kindly added further info on Marsh Frog in the Hull Valley onto the Hull Valley website.

Reserve walk this Saturday at 10am. Maurice’s photo class on Sunday – book in advance.