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.