Saturday, 25 February 2012

Winter reprise

Winter isn’t quite done with us yet and still keen to show it can put on a spectacle – in this case in this cracking shot of one of the Hen Harriers that has been frequenting us all winter from North Marsh by Mike Day:

We reckon this is likely a 1st winter male on the basis of this photo – but have a look on this excellent site for further details on ageing and sexing hen harriers.

Also active have been Peregrine around site – hunting Teal over the lagoons with a Common Buzzard seen too. The two smew were on Watton again – looks like another all female winter. A few more pink-feet have been seen moving through site and another 6 Lesser Redpoll were on the cones again. Egyptian Goose, Woodcock, Pintail and Goosander also seen with Water Rail on South Lagoon. Most evenings are turning up Mediterranean Gulls like tonight with two – an adult and a 1st winter.

On the sunny side the Oystercatchers and Black-tailed Godwit are still about with Little Egret over and the kingfisher seemingly making a return to North Marsh to the delight of many. For all the latest moth news and including the array caught this morning check out Martin’s blog.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Startling image

Unfortunately despite plenty of folk looking today nobody managed to re-find the Black Redstart, but big thanks to John Hesslewood of the nest box team for this picture of the actual bird on Tuesday:

Whilst distant it offers no conjecture – a nice male Black Redstart. We still need to look out a date, but we think this is the first for about 20 years.

The usual candidates today – two red-head Smew and two Pintail on Watton NR, Buzzard over Hempholme, Kingfisher in the lock and an adult Mediterranean Gull on D.
Apologies to HVWG – the true figure for the year list is actually now 107 including the Black Redstart.

Not many to go then to match the all-time total; after a lot of digging and checking we are now satisfied we have a working Tophill all-time bird list (believe it or not we hadn’t been keeping one) – bringing the figure since 1959 to a grand total of 266 assuming the cattle egret is accepted. Thanks to Geoff Dobbs and all others who have helped – it is viewable on the page tabs above. Shortly we will also be adding further lists including botany, fungi, mammals to name but a few...

Part of our reason for this is for a bit of fun – it has always been a note of friendly ribbing between Tophill regulars as to whom has the biggest bird list. So with an official list it now means we can have an official league!

For the purpose of this list the definition of a Tophill sighting is any bird seen from within the Yorkshire Water land holding (in simple terms bounded by the river Hull to the east, Hempholme Pump house to the north, Beverley and Barmston Drain to the west and Wilfholme to the south), or from the Yorkshire Water access road (from the main gates to Angram Farm). You can count any bird seen when standing in this area be it on the ground in neighbouring fields or a flyover too – so by proxy any bird seen on Watton NR is OK too (from the YW hide). You can only count the numbered birds on the official Tophill list – escapes and un-confirmed birds can’t count.

So to start the ball rolling I am now happily top of the table (I fear not for long!). If you too want to feature then simply send in your total number – along with your newest species – to the email. The official ‘Life Listers League’ is now available for view – again on the tabs above.

This relies on a bit of honesty – but in some ways is self-policing as if we havn’t heard of you and you have the highest numbers on site questions will be asked! Have fun!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Off to a good start

Excellent news came courtesy of the nest box team yesterday; they had sighted a Black Redstart on the new Hempholme Meadows habitat – the first for at least 4 years – so a great endorsement, even though these birds are noted for their taste in post-industrial dereliction. In this case it landed on one of the fenceposts. Hopefully John is going to send us a pic of the bird but here is one (from Bishop Burton College carpark!) to give you the idea:

If scale of fenceposts is a factor in the birds they attract then the new cattle handling facility near the pumphouse should attract some big ones! Whilst it won’t likely see anger until August 2013 when it is intended for the first grazers to arrive, this does represent the final component of the habitat bar minor fettling - including a final stonepick before the vegetation obscures everything, and the planting of a mixed native hedge to screen off the approach to the new hide:

The area of Hempholme is still generally turning up some good birds. Thanks to Tom Lowe for updates including the female Hen Harrier still on the go which flushed out a Short-eared Owl. Kingfisher is still hunting the lock area with Oystercatchers often on the shooting ponds. A few Pink footed Geese landed across the river on Monday – but 670 went NW through the day. This afternoon a peregrine was again upsetting all the local corvids around the Pump House.

As usual the 1st winter Mediterranean Gull was on the D roost, and down at Watton were the two Smew and three Pintail, along with 3 Dunlin and a further two Oystercatchers on South Marsh East.

Thanks to HVWG for these great pics of the woodland specialities – Lesser Redpoll:

And the Willow Tits:

Thanks are also due to HVWG for keeping the site year list up to date; which with the Black Redstart brings us on to 103 for the year.

Unfortunately the wildlife centre feeders are to be temporarily closed again due to some more unwelcome diners...

Tom also got these great pictures of the Egyptian Goose – and reveals it actually only has one eye; it’s probably been flying round in circles all winter!:

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Thawts of Spring

A bit of a change over the last week – from the frozen reservoirs 8 days ago to the first butterfly – a Comma in the car park this afternoon. Monday at the other extreme saw the lone Brambling on the centre feeders in the snow:
But there are no reports of it since – hopefully this character had nothing to do with it:
This Egyptian Goose was on the river Hull at Wilfholme looking a bit miserable (HVWG):

Goosander on D res last Sunday (HVWG):

Pintail on the ice:

With ringed Herring Gull:

So with what is hopefully the last of the snow at least the near-ermine stoat got his value – Thanks to Tony Simpson for the pics:

The very next day we had the Oystercatchers arrive back which are now generally on South Marsh East though with a brief interest in Hempholme (HVWG):

…and the return of Canada Geese likely for breeding (HVWG):

This has been quickly followed by a succession of Dunlin through the reserve and 3 Black-tailed Godwit on Struncheonhill today and that ultimate sign of spring - the first Coltsfoot in flower on Friday. Also present have been Redshank on the Hempholme scrape and Green Sandpiper on the river (HVWG):

…with Grey Wagtail. There are further reports of Kingfishers back on North Marsh again too. Whilst quite a few Pink-footed Geese have been moving north a few winter specialities are still about; the two Smew, Short-eared Owls and Lesser Redpoll still seen today and plenty of Barn Owl activity suggesting no problems this time. A lone Mediterranean Gull was seen earlier in the week (HVWG):

But thoughts are now turning to summer from the gull roost – and this means moths. A total of 278 in 2011 means a push for 300 this year – the first two of three being Pale-brindled Beauty:

And the Satellite:

Meanwhile Rory has had a re-jig of his website – new link here

And if the ‘black beast’ of Tophill (see local media!) didn’t float your boat then Tony has some slightly more beastly examples here!

Finally one of our visitors had their car bumped last Sunday (the 12th) in the car park causing some damage – if anyone has any info on this please get in touch on the usual number.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tophill very low

If you braved the ice yesterday morning then you may have seen the spectacular hoar frost around the site. Apparently temperatures had reached -13 on Friday night festooning everything with spectacular ice crystals – access road:
The chain links had very nearly crystallised solid:
As was all vegetation:
hoar frost pine 11 02 12
hoar frost stems 11 02 12
hoar frost poplar 11 02 12
hoar frost pine 2 11 02 12
Making D woods look fairly magical:
D woods 11 02 12
Greylag geese searching for some unfrozen forage:
hoar frost geese 11 02 12
This is clearly the same for the great white egret seen on Wednesday – no further reports as yet – but since the last post we have satisfied ourselves it was certainly one, especially with the volume of other birds in the UK all moving about at the moment. Whether it stays is dependent upon if it can find somewhere to feed – as most of the reserve is solid as per North Scrub:
north scrub 12 02 12
north scrub 2 12 02 12
And D res is around 95% frozen with apparently one small patch on O:
D res frozen 11 02 12
The two smew were in this hole:
d res 11 02 12
But most birds – with around 650 coots were in the other bigger opening – where this great black backed gull was purloining a sumptuous morsel:
frozen d res 2 11 02 12

These carrion crows too seemed to be enjoying the pickings:
D res frozen 2 11 02 12
This has the result of all wildfowl being on the river Hull. The closure of the riverbank for the EA works at present is a huge blessing as it restricts disturbance during this important time:

river hull 11 02 12
A visit to the lock at Hempholme however revealed no less than 15 little grebe feeding within 100m each side of the weir:

Also present was a kingfisher and redshank on Thursday:

Yesterday John L also had 2 green sandpipers in the ditch near Blue Keld. Despite the conditions we made the most of the gap in the snow on Thursday to finish the path to the new hide at Hempholme Meadows:

If you too fancy re-enacting the life of one of Stalin’s political exiles then feel free to volunteer any Thursday or Sunday at 10am!

The hide was built by Sam Atkinson who is better known for recent works at North Cave Wetlands and we are very pleased with its value for spec:

We'll do a start to finish slide show on the development of the new Hempholme Meadows habitat once all the jobs are complete - and may hold a small opening do in May when it's greened over a bit...

Immediately after the snows returned for a fresh covering as this kestrel looked suitably miffed about:

However as ever this gives the opportunity for brilliant mammal tracking. A quick ten minutes in the new hide yesterday revealed hunting fox:
fox 11 02 12
fox 11 02 12 2
Which was also surveying this spectacular otter slide down the Hull bank which had appeared in the last 36 hours:
fox and otter slide 11 02 12
otter slide 11 02 12
otter slide 2 11 02 12
Nearby were the remains of a recent kill:

And this peregrine was barrelling down the river after upsetting the local rook population over Struncheonhill:

Tony Simpson has was in the old faithful on North Marsh on Wednesday though and got these great water rail pictures:

And likely the same fox from Hempholme:

Elsewhere brambling is still on the feeders and we are getting the odd woodcock sighting.