Friday, 29 June 2012

The wail of a quail

Highlight of this week has been a quail calling over the river from Hempholme Meadows.  Two birds were calling over each over on Tuesday and a single bird heard calling that night and yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately it never piped up long enough to get an audio grab but an example is here if you're not familiar with the call. 

We had a walk on Hempholme Meadow on Wednesday for the first time in two months and realised why it is called as such:
This plant is large flowered hemp nettle and was ID'd by Jen Hunt.  It is already on the Tophill List but the meadow is awash with it - another photo by Roy Vincent:
It was always hoped that we might uncover some relic plants of the old meadowland formerly present before the poplars.  And great news is that the new meadow is carpeted with this plant.  According to Eva Crackle's revered book 'The Flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire' (see here) this plant is associated with moist peat soils and was formerly widespread on the cornfields north of Hull.  The species is now classed as vulnerable as it has been hit badly by modern herbicides.  The seed though obviously lasts at least 50 years in the ground, and the meadow should be carpeted by the looks of it in two weeks time, which may be a one off spectacle as it thrives on disturbed soil.  Hopefully cattle hooves may encourage the odd plant up in future years too.  This skull cap was also nice:
We have the Yorkshire Naturalist's Union visiting next Saturday so we hope we may uncover some more gems.  (please note as a consequence we won't be running the normal monthly walk on this occasion).

Birdwise the meadow looks excellent with many wet hollows and pools for waders.  Hopefully the first green sandpiper of autumn on there on Wednesday bodes well for this passage.  Whimbrel and Curlew also seen on Tuesday.  Skylark are now feeding young on the meadow and we suspect these yellow wagtails are on there too:

We'll be hay cropping the meadow in mid to late July to prevent the thistles going to seed.  Another feature of the meadow is regular kingfishers now - we've put some experimental perches in - but we don't want to remove the spectacle on North Marsh.  Some great pictures coming back now if you're there at the right time - Roy Vincent:

Thanks to Mike Day for these great pictures of hobby from Tuesday too - apparently doing its best to catch the kingfishers but settling for a four spot chaser:

Four spot chaser in better circumstances by Roy Vincent:

Along with azure damselflies:

And large red:

Roy also captured these great shots of the otter at ten past nine the other evening:

Barn owls on Struncheonhill between the showers:

Maybe the last adult cuckoo of this year on Wednesday?:

A couple of the Tophill team made a late evening visit to Wilfholme landing earlier in the week and caught a brief glimpse of a 'falcon that wasn't a kestrel' leaving the wires.  So there is still potential for the red foot.

Michael Flower's birdwatching group turned up a couple of sightings in the week also - crossbills and peregrine; all the details here.
Unfortunately the western conifer seed bug it transpires wasn't quite a first for Yorkshire - as it turns out Doug had one a year prior (a county second - viewable on Martin's blog).  A first for Tophill is a good result at any rate!  A couple of weevils ID'd by Barry Warrington and photographed by Pete Drury - Cionus scrophulariae:

And Cionus alauda:

The avocets still have their four chicks:
Doing a grand job seeing off the carrion crows - "they don't like it up 'em you know...":