Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The king and the emperor

Autumn has started – it’s official. Nothing says it more than the first group of six passage black-tailed godwits on South Marsh East yesterday. Along with them have been a pair of green sandpiper Sunday, another yesterday on Watton, and a pair of redshank – one a youngster – there today. However, always present though are little gulls – it's fairly difficult not to pick up either a 1st or 2nd summer bird around the marshes or D res. at present:

HVWG sent us this nice array from South Marsh East last week:

On the gull front a 1st summer mediterranean gull was picked up over D res and on South Marsh East on Saturday afternoon. If you fancy your chances beyond this you could always try your luck with crossbills – you need to be right place right time, but sometimes it pays off like for Paul Ashton:

Paul also is area recorder for the British Dragonfly Society and runs the excellent East Riding Dragonfly atlas – so in this time of plenty please keep records of dragons and damsels and send them to his site. Our first emperor was seen on Sunday – see Martin’s blog for details again.

Best bird of the week has likely been a quail calling in the vicinity of South Marsh West (see Martin’s blog) – but don’t even think of trying to see that one!

Other highlight birds include the usual hobby, spotted flycatchers and common terns which now have 2 chicks each. Unfortunately both the little ringed plover and mute swan young have gone. Mink being largely absent at present points the finger at pike or more likely otters – you can’t have it all ways. Shark predation was equally feared – but Martin dispels this in his Saturday blog posting. Tony McLean has been pursuing barn owls too – more excellent pictures here, and Rory Selvey was hot on his heels with these great pics too.

Another of our young enthusiasts - William from the ringing team - heard two turtle doves calling in South Scrub for the first time this year on Sunday, and cuckoo was again seen on North Marsh on Friday. On the subject of ringing we thought it wise to clarify in light of recent rarities at the reserve this subject:

In discussions with the management committee and all involved it has been unanimously agreed that any rarity caught during the operation of the ringing site will be catalogued, photographed for records and then released. Anybody present at the time is welcome to observe. However we will NOT be conducting any form of staged release or photo ops. Viewers will subsequently have chance to observe from the paths as normal. We would like to make this clear and public at this juncture prior to it becoming any issue in future. As ever all recent updates on the blog.

Now for important note two – please ensure that when viewing any of the reserve’s wildlife you are doing so either safely from a hide or from one of the stone paths around site (or the only mown paths which are now the West side of O res and the North stretch of D res). Recently we have had a number of incidents of people leaving paths often for photo ops' and risking disturbance of breeding birds and other wildlife – and resulting in run-ins with our Wardening team. Please ensure you are being responsible around the reserve so as to avoid conflict and potentially prosecution. Remember many of Tophill’s favourite subjects such as barn owls, grass snakes and kingfishers are scheduled under the Wildlife and Countryside Act - so keep safe and stick to the way-marked routes – everything comes with patience…

Heavy stuff out the way here is an example of how it should be done:

Yes after a long wait the king lives on – at the favoured North Marsh perches as predicted in July (and on previous form will likely remain ‘til October). Martin Standley captured these outstanding pics on Saturday:

Along with the terns:

And reed warblers:

For more visit his site here. Subsequently I have lowered some of the vegetation in front of the perches (with the exception of three stands of the rare greater water parsnip – a good chance to see this too) and re-positioned the posts for maximum effect – taken up by Steve and Jessica Stokes who got more great shots too:

Finally the bin men left me a swift they had found last week. This was my first attempt to ‘fly’ a swift since reading about it as a child. Unfortunately much like a childhood glider it would only travel 50 feet before landing back on the grass so was clearly unwell. Michael Flowers’ group had the rare opportunity to witness it at close hand before I boxed it up with some flies swatted from the door ready to take home – pictures on his blog.

As I was about to set off it appeared quite restless in the box – so I got it out for one last attempt. Sensing the wind under its wings it lifted them before launching itself from my hand and flying across the car park into the woods. Not ideal swift habitat – did it fly out the other side? We’ll never know – but in any eventuality, a more fitting end for a swift than perishing in a cardboard box.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A little taste of summer

Little gulls have been the main story this week - pretty easy to find either on South Marsh East or D res. Michael Flowers popped in yesterday and managed to get them plus a few more seasonal favourites for his blog including the first marbled white of the year.

Hobby put in a brief appearance yesterday, but the biggest rarity was the reserve's possibly only fifth ever lime hawkmoth:

Picture courtesy of Martin - more on his blog. Rarer than any of our recent avian rarities! On setting up the moth trap the night before this attractive orb web spider Araniella cucurbitina (Thanks Doug!) was creeping about:

John Coish sent across these pictures of some of the North Marsh inhabitants - little grebe family usually outside the hide:

Sedge warbler:

Reed warbler:

And the marsh frogs of North Lagoon which have been assisting with renovation works:

Alan Walkington sent us a picture of one of the reserve barn owls - interestingly unringed so unlikely to be one of our original birds - movement from the bad winter?:

Likewise Tony McLean has also been working on another pair nearby - more pics on his Flickr stream. Once again just a reminder of Tony's display as part of Driffield Photographic Society's exhibition at the Triton Gallery, Sledmere starting tomorrow and running til Saturday (with the exception of Monday).

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Coming unsprung?

A quick update is that the phalarope could not be refound despite a thorough site search on Monday morning. There is certainly a movement of little gulls however with at least two being seen every day since Saturday on D res.

Tony McLean had the first autumn passage green sandpiper of the year on Watton NR on Monday evening:

And there has been plenty of activity from the barn owls feeding young. We can come clean and admit now that there are spotted flycatchers on the reserve - unfortunately their nest has failed despite keeping it from public attention. However this happened last year too and they did get a brood off in August. Their unfound nest is now suspected to be within the Water Treatment Works compound - protected by Infrared security cameras 24 hours a day so we feel happy. If you want to see them the weeping willow in the works near South Lagoon is a good start.

Also there is a steady rise in Kingfisher activity of late - hopefully they will perform again as per the last two years in coming days, and the first mute swan cygnets have appeared - 2 on SMW from number 339 and 6 on Watton NR.

Also Tophill regular Alan Walkington contacted us to say that his excellent picture of long-tailed tits may be featured on Springwatch unsprung tonight at 8.30 on BBC2 - look out for it possibly under Alan's user name of 'Gannetal'.

As Alan correctly notes 'Tophill Low photographers rule ok!'

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Phalarope pics

Thanks to HVWG for the following better phalarope pic:

Credit for finding goes to the Barwicks and it is believed to be the first record for Tophill since about 1986 (last grey was 2007).

Pyramidal orchid near the garage - only one on site yet:

Also included are some shots of the ongoing works to resecure North Lagoon hide.

Found during works was this specimen ramshorn snail:

Phalarope update

Developments since the morning are that the bird was moved on from South Marsh East at 12.32 by a tufted duck and went missing until being refound mid aft on D res.

On further viewing we can now confirm it is a female, with a distinct broad red neck band - but maybe not as showy as some.

At the time of writing there is no further sign after it took off into the rain and a crowd of 1000 swifts and was lost - but it has been doing this repeatedly all aft. The terrible weather may encourage it to stay overnight though - reserve open from first light tomorrow for all.

Other sightings today have included 6 1st and 2nd summer little gulls on the D res and a tawny owl on the approach road barn owl box - in the middle of a field in broad daylight!

Red-necked phalarope

As the title says - red necked phalarope currently showing on South Marsh East. From the distant views so far we are reasonably sure it is a male:

Other sightings today so far have included grey heron soaring over D, 2 common buzzard, cream crown marsh harrier on North Marsh, 2 crossbill in D woods and kingfisher on South Lagoon.

Best bird of yesterday was a reported little gull on D res.

Reserve open til dusk tonight for anyone who wants to try, and first light tomorrow. Normal Admission applies, please respect site rules and parking arrangements. Further details will follow as we get them.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The quiet time of year

Or so we are led to believe…thinking it was a good time to escape I recently popped to the Farne Islands on my annual hols hence no blog updates:

Unfortunately as usual Tophill’s wildlife had other ideas and a shout from reserve volunteer Andy Marshall told me about the pair of American Wigeon in my absence – something I would not have predicted in mid-June (photo by Andy:)

With everywhere else quiet the promise of the wigeon and the possibility of the re-found purple heron brought many folk in including the HVWG boys who got this shot too:

Along with amongst others Martin Standley and James Spencer.

Beyond this other interesting sightings of the week have included 3 garganey – 2 males and a female present until the 28th, hobby and marsh harrier on the 29th, cuckoo and barn owl all week, and turtle doves have shown an encouraging presence purring at South Scrub, flying over my head in the car park today before passing Derrick further up D res, and Richard Sears recording them at Watton railway crossing again. 8 shelduck chicks were counted on south marsh east today, with lots of black headed gull chicks and well grown oystercatchers.

Disturbingly 7 crossbills were seen around the car park – photo on the HVWG page here. Disturbing as crossbill movements which we get at this time annually are usually none and failed breeders – showing the breeding season is done for them – time to put the thermostat up again…

So making the most of the summer are the bee orchids now emerged:

Please be careful when looking for or photographing them – this fine specimen was taken from the tarmac road on O res.

All the hay meadows are now looking great like the wildlife centre ‘oxeye crop’:

However all is not as rosy as it looks as any fly would have discovered visiting this bloom and its residing crab spider:

Also on the insect front is the Agapanthia villosoviridescens a fine looking beast which can be found on many of the hogweed florets on the NW side of O res:

Martin Hodges who took the above is our greatest connoisseur of the various long horn species around site and throws down the gauntlet for folk to enjoy and potentially discover any different species. As ever further details on his blog, including the latest southern hawker records.

This common blue was also about and I saw my first meadow brown of the year today:

Again still grass snakes present for anyone who has been inspired by Springwatch:

Of greater interest though is a record of a slow worm seen disappearing into a hole on D res straight road on May 31st. If you were the observer please drop me a line so we can investigate it further, as there have certainly been no records in recent times for this species on the reserve and it is a welcome and notable addition.

On the topic of Springwatch some of you may have noted Tony McLean’s picture below of a mute swan in flight making it to number two spot for ‘action photos’ last Wednesday on Unsprung:

Well done Tony! If anyone wants to see more of Tony’s work there will be a display by Driffield Photographic Society between the 19th and 25th of June at the Triton Gallery, Sledmere – featuring an array of Tony’s best pics – well worth a visit and further info on Tony’s site here. Also worth a look is Tony’s great fox and crow pic here. I tried it today with a crow and dryad’s saddle – but the effect didn’t seem quite as dramatic…

Also chasing foxes has been Rory Selvey – who has more great pics on his blog here, with Jeff focusing upon butterflies mainly on Flickr.

Matthew Binns kindly sent across these great pics of another even bigger assemblage of long tailed tits:

And a fine looking reed warbler – North Marsh being the best place for them:

The grey heron has been trying to find some peace away from the gulls unsuccessfully:

The ringing team dropped in last week – updates here. And the East Yorkshire Bat Group popped in too – a brown long-eared in a box being a first (though seen often outside of a box).

Anyone who enjoys the unspoilt tranquillity of North Marsh may be interested to see these pics of its creation 20 years ago and the apparent devastation. I hope to put a few more of these archive pics on in coming weeks to soften the blow when we start work on Hempholme in mid August!

Those wanting to experience North Marsh in its current tranquil state is welcome on Saturday nights otter walk as there are still places available – strictly book in advance on 01377 270690 – free with normal admission. We will be quietly staking out the marsh til late and recent reports give us hope – but then we tried last year too and failed, though roe deer, marsh harrier, kingfisher, cuckoo, barn owl and water vole instead can’t be that bad!

Finally please remember in case you were thinking of popping in for the water vole event on Sunday that it is cancelled due to lack of voles / suitable hide.