Sunday, 1 April 2012

Shrewd sand martins

We may have thought summer had arrived this week judging by the oil-seed rape fields on the way in:

And also the masses of food on the wing:

But perhaps the slow start to the martin migration shows they may know more than us given tonights weather forecast…

Hopefully not to be caught out by the snow have been the smattering of sand martins so far, along with these chiffchaffs (5 today) photographed by Roy Vincent on Friday:

David Ware also has more pictures on his blog here.

Tom Lowe bagged the first very early willow warbler on Tuesday on North Scrub, subsequently seen by several and joined by at least two more birds yesterday. Michael Flowers on Wednesday managed the first blackcap at South Lagoon and there are now good numbers across the reserve (photo by Michael):

Michael’s birdwatching courses start again soon and he has plenty of space on his Tuesday afternoon sessions – details here.

Just passing are the first spring waders – the weeks highlight in the form of spotted redshank on Tuesday on South Marsh East, photo by Tom Lowe:

At the same time was also this knot – courtesy of Roy Vincent:

And a black-tailed godwit in breeding plumage was present on Friday with little-ringed plovers (RV):

And the grass snakes are clearly indifferent – a breeding frenzy evident under north marsh hide on Tuesday (RV):

Roy also captured them swimming in the now warm water:

Much to the anger of the local coot which proceeded to attack it:

Canada’s here too:

With some loved up shoveler:

And plenty of butterflies reported including holly blue and this peacock:

For details on all the latest moth news check out Martin’s page. The foxes already have young by the looks of Tony’s blog too.
And this dog otter was on trail cam last week:

We have also had a couple of mink betrayed by their tracks in the rafts:

For good or bad these have since been removed which should help the water voles and ducklings this summer.

Marsh harrier was here to compliment the red kite seen over the car park on Tuesday. Hen harrier was still about yesterday along with the short-eared owl this afternoon at Hempholme. The season for them is nearly at an end – but please still remember that the field they hunt in is private – the public path runs only along the Struncheonhill perimeter ditch edge.

Big thanks to HVWG for sending on the photo of this colour ringed black headed gull on South Marsh East ‘2X18’ which he has since also researched up:

It transpires this bird was rung as a chick in the Thames valley in 2009 as part of the Berkshire Black Headed gull ringing project and subsequently turned up at Scalby Mills in Scarborough in 2010 before arriving at Tophill this year. If you wish to read more then you can read their 2011 report here.

Unfortunately though this great black backed gull has had a less successful year – photo by Chris Earl:

We found this on the island on South Marsh West where it is still present. In its semi-decomposed state we revealed the contents of its innards – a selection of plastic bags and cellophane which almost certainly caused its demise. No doubt a hazard of the job if you spend all winter scavenging on a land fill site.

Chris also captured this image of the bittern on South Marsh West too - unfortunately not too forthcoming since:

Well done to Maurice Dowson for this great picture of a tawny owl from D woods - one of the best to come out of the site yet:

Remember to stick to the paths though please – that’s where Maurice got this one with a bit of luck and fieldcraft.

Alan Marshall now has added another species to the plant list – oxslip near the lagoons. Apparently this is one and not the so called ‘false oxslip’ which is a hybrid cowslip x primrose:

Despite Roy's great Kingfisher photo (with ten spined stickleback) here;

The kingfishers are a bit erratic at present on North Marsh. Much of this has been attributed to the continued Environment Agency works in the area – but in reality this follows the same behaviour pattern of the last 3 years. They often disappear from North Marsh between December and June, reappearing with young in July; September in my opinion being best for sightings.

As advertised the work has been underway since November - but to refresh folk the reasons for the works are to remove the willows from the flat berm of the river bank along the river Hull. The trees were reckoned to be penetrating the flood banks causing slumping. When the river was in spate water was also flowing around the back of the trees rather than down the main channel – eroding the flood banks. Finally large limbs were finding their way down stream and becoming a hazard to shipping.

From a wildlife perspective we think the work is great. Whilst the willows were useful for conventional woodland species it should not be forgotten that they are growing on what was once reedbed along the river. With the trees gone we can now start trying to resuscitate the fragments left, which will increasingly hold reed and sedge warbler, cuckoo, marsh harrier and most excitingly of all give us enough reed bed for, maybe one day, breeding bittern:

Former Warden Peter Izzard and myself have been working with Shane and his team of diggers to maximise potential of this exciting new habitat. Now the tree work is done they are re-topping the flood banks with fill taken from the river berm. This has created a number of ‘fry refuges’ designed to improve the coarse fish stocks of the river – horse shoe coves in the banks. We have been advising on profiles for the pools with shallow edge profiles for waders, and terracing for reed establishment and bittern feeding habitat:

There are also a number of islands now that should be great for breeding wildfowl:

Along with a number of otter holts under advice from Jon Traill of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

The work will shortly be completed so we thank everyone for their patience in this 'short term pain for long term gain'. Subsequently we will be managing the habitat through managed burns of the reeds in future to keep it productive.

For more on this and all the reserve news, why not pop along to the reserve open meeting on Sunday April the 15th at 2:30pm. There’ll even be tea and biscuits!