Sunday, 11 December 2011

Winter wonderland

The winter specialities kept on snowing today; the first being a male and female pair of hen harriers quartering the fields over Easingwold Farm at 09:30 courtesy of Les and Margaret. This was followed by around 20 siskin in the car park with a mixed finch flock of up to a 100 birds on the tarmac.

By this time Jeff had already upped the white-front flock to 103 birds, 1 being the greenland bird. As ever smew was present on Watton NR all day.

It now looks like we may be keeping the wildlife centre building limping on into Spring at least – therefore we have decided to re-instate the bird feeders now we know we won’t be removing them mid winter. It took all of around 30mins for the birds to find them – including a robin with a ring – one to try and read this winter. Meanwhile Cliff and the team have prepped the woodcock meadow ready for trying to re-find them. All it needs now is me to clean the windows and we’re away…

The mammal safari turned up a bank vole in the longworth traps, along with the usual fox and deer tracks. Otter evidence is never hard to find – as exampled by this mound of spraints at Hempholme:

The biggest rarity though was this – which, whilst it may look like it has been chewed up and spat out by a fox (well, actually it had…)is actually the most uncommon mammal on the reserve sighting-for-sighting; water shrew. There have only been 2 other recorded live sightings in my four years at Tophill:

They are specialist swimmers and very adept at diving for aquatic insects. This was found on the north marsh bank – close to where the last two records have come from. To see the foxes in action visit Tony McLean’s latest blog entry here.

Later the day saw 3 short-eared owls again at Hempholme.

As dusk fell we managed this nice grey wagtail on D res wall – courtesy of HVWG:

2 pintail and 1 goosander came into roost, and the day nicely capped off with a glaucous gull – the second this year – found and photographed here by HVWG:

(the bird is the nearest in the picture - identifiable by its snow-white tail and wings and mucky grey neck)

All in all a good way to spend an otherwise miserable day…