Sunday, 30 September 2012

Belt' up we're off

Undoubtedly the highlight of the first half of the week has been the bittern - thanks to Brian Spence for these outstanding shots:

There are more on Flickr but unfortunately the bird has failed to show since Wednesday as reported by Dave Ware.  It'll likely now be on the reserve til March - it's just finding it...

The usual stalwart though - kingfisher by John Hakes:

However a new species for the site list - and the biggest recorded since the reserve's creation.  Many thanks to local Farmers Edward and Nicola Duggleby for the loan of their belted galloway cattle to graze the new Hempholme Meadows habitat this autumn - here in the 'rhino pen':
The first livestock on Tophill Low since the 1950's:

Edward and his belties':

We should also give thanks to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust at this point - namely Caroline Comins, Jon Traill and Andy Gibson who kindly gave us advice on the infrastructure.  The belted galloway's are a native hardy breed whose thick coats and light weight suit them to wet ground and all weathers.  They also find a variety of vegetation palatable including so far reed mace, hogweed, rushes and willows which will keep the vegetation in check and hopefully invigorate the bird life through dung loving insects and poaching of scrape edges:

We'll be checking the stock daily until they disappear in December and there is a Warden number in the hide in case of emergency. 

Otherwise the week has been steady with hobby taking advantage of the last of the house martins over the res today, marsh harrier moving through, water rail on North Marsh, and a flock of 25 siskin around the car park.  Thanks to Dave Marritt for this great crested newt looking for a winter home:

The tenants of this amazing structure are already gone.  A spectacular bees nest found by Doug Fairweather:

Doug also got this reserve first - Araneus quadratus - an impressive arachnid near the Angus McBean hide:

This bronze shieldbug was a reserve second - found wandering on volunteer Jess - Pete Drury:

It's not an adult but a larval form or 'instar' of which it goes through several phases this one being the final - This mid phase instar was the site first photographed by Doug:

A devil's coach horse running along the path today:

Grey dagger moth caterpillar - Doug:

Also by Doug a site first - a parent bug - Elasmucha grisea again an instar of:

and the adult form:

And one really interesting species found this summer and subsequently investigated.  These growths on this piece of ryegrass are an ergot - Claviceps purpurea.  They are a fungal infection of the grass flowers which cause fruiting bodies in the form of black galls to grow and distribute spores (Doug Fairweather):

Ergot was historically and still is to an extent a hazard of wheats and other grasses and is often associated with wet summers after cold winters.  Eating these galls causes hallucinations, convulsions and even death.  The condition is known as 'St. Anthony's Fire' after the monks who cared for the victims who inadvertantly consumed the ergot with wheat.  Constriction of blood vessels is also an effect causing loss of limbs and gangrene, and ergot poisoning has been potentially linked through events in history including the Salem witch trials and the Norse Beowulf story.  The ancient Greeks also reportedly used ergot in the hallucenogenic drink kykeon and the elements were later synthesised into LSD by Albert Hofmann in 1938.  That said the pink colour here is not that of ergot:
;But that of another fungi which lives on the ergot - Gibberella gordonii.  So there you go; a fungi living on a fungi living on a grass! Thanks to Doug and Michael Jordan of the Association of British Fungal Groups for the ID on this one (which is reportedly quite uncommon).  Luckily this was on the south of the site and not in the new cattle enclosure!

Reserve walk this Saturday at 10am - and please note the updated detail on the Beverley Nats talk in the post below.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Frost bittern in September

Winter has arrived with a flourish in the last few days - in the form of this magnificent bittern which has been delighting (most) observers at North Marsh since the Wednesday the 19th.  A range of great photos - many on Flickr already but also here by Steve Brimble:

Claire Marshall:

And Dave Ruffles. 

We've had repeat viewings on Thursday the 20th, Saturday the 22nd (Dave Ware's photos here), and Sunday the 23rd with some movement observed between here and the river / Hempholme area.  Thanks also to Andrew Bulmer for his great pictures:

Including with water vole in the background which would have been likely down the hatch if it had swum much closer!:

Not to be outshone, the kingfisher was still very active and putting on its best side for the waiting photographers.  Thanks to Steve Brimble for these:

Chris Bell:

Brian Spence:

And the other highlight - marsh harriers still passing by Chris Bell on the 15th:
With more sightings on the 22nd and 19th like this one by Steve Brimble:

Elsewhere the trickle of gulls continues - yellow legged on the 18th, and mediterranean gulls - 2 on the 22nd and 23rd.  Waders are slowing up, just lone dunlin on the 19th and 23rd.  Meanwhile more winter migrants in the form of the first flock of siskin in D woods with further reports of marsh tit in addition to the usual willow tits.  A fair few common buzzards migrating through - thanks to Brian Spence for these two:

An excellent 12 pintail were present on Watton NR on Sunday and an unlikely vagrant was the return of a black swan to D res last week.  Photos of this and other nearby species on Erich's page.  Still a hobby around yesterday, but the grass snakes are now thinking of turning in - these skins deposited outside the new large refugia at Hempholme Meadows:

That said winter is only brief and some animals are already thinking of Spring - see Tony's page for the details. 

If you'd rather experience wildlife in the warmth why not go to Beverley Naturalists Society for a talk by Tim Melling on 'Wild West Canada' at 7:30pm on the 16th of October at St Mary's parish rooms opposite the Beverley Arms (please note: not near Beverley Minster as originally written here).  Admission adults £4, concessions £3 children over 10 only £2.50.

In addition next week sees the International Nature Tourism Conference at Bridlington Spa on the 3rd and 4th of October.  The event sees guided tours to Tophill Low and other East Yorkshire Wildlife hotspots on the Wednesday with Thursday featuring a day of seminars based on how to make the most of East Yorkshire's best natural resources to boost your business. 

The tours on day one are £12+vat pp with a choice of Tophill Low and North Cave, Flamborough Head and Bempton Cliffs, or Spurn and Hornsea Mere. 
The second day of conferences are £28+vat pp with a range of inspirational speakers from the UK and Europe. 

Contact Martin Batt on to book.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Wheateary weather

This week will likely have been the definitive change to winter.  Sunday saw two turtle doves fly south through the reserve, briefly stopping to drink in the new scrape at Hempholme Meadows - only the 3rd and 4th reports on site this year.  We can only hope they'll make it back from an increasingly perilous migration next year. 

Almost simultaneously the first pink-footed geese arrived on the north-westerly winds, around 90 in three separate waves.  Further wintry species included female goldeneye and 8 wigeon.  The black-necked grebe was around til at least Sunday (and may still be there amongst the swell) on D res, but these cormorants were easier to see - thanks to Roy Vincent for these:

This looks like a perch but interestingly we have had reports of a dead zander floating in the res which is not something we were aware we had.  Cormorants come into the UK in big numbers at this time of year after breeding across the North Sea to take advantage of milder weather and easy food in our heavily stocked fisheries - not to everyone's taste..

Great-crested grebes are a less frowned upon piscivore (RV):

Thanks and well done to Brian Spence for this shot of a sunset over D res which made the Calendar weather photo last week:
It's likely the reservoir walls themselves that have held most attractions this week.  Wheatear sightings on Friday and Sunday - and up to 24 yellow wagtails at a time.  Jeff Barker has some great photos on Flickr and thanks to Brian Spence for this fine individual:
Still a bit of sun still brings out the butterflies - thanks to Dave Ruffles for these common blues:

Check out Martin's blog too for seasonal moths, and a site well worth following is Paul Ashton's East Yorkshire Wildlife with a great round up of insect life here.  Plenty of dragonflies about have brought in the hobby too - have a look on Flickr for Alan Walkington's great pictures of them in action.  Kingfisher is always a stalwart though - thanks to Roy Vincent for this one on North Marsh:

Despite draining the marshes down the waders never materialised.  North-westerly winds don't make for great excitement with just the odd ruff, green sandpiper and common sandpiper sighted.  However a north-American visitor off the back of the Hurricane would be a fine thing so keep looking!  Work continues on transferring aggregates to the marsh edge, but the tunnel itself under the river is now complete - a digger arm here pulling the borer out the other end.  No Myton tunnel here!:

The best of the rest this week has included yellow-legged and mediterranean gulls on the reservoir roosts, over 800 martins migrating back, egyptian goose and 2 marsh harriers.

If you fancy embracing winter why not participate in the BTO's winter thrush survey? All the details are here.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Pulling the plug

Stand by for a potential wader influx onto South Marsh East.  As part of the river Hull tunneling project we're hoping to use much of the material to build some new wader spits and islands with the surplus.  The tunnel is currently approaching the river Hull flood defence underneath North Lagoon:

This was the drilling machine which is being pushed forward at a tiny rate by hydraulic rams with a train of concrete pipes behind pressed on by hydraulic rams at over 120 tonnes of pressure. 

We hope the coarse aggregate will provide a more stable substrate for invertebrates to live in than the 'soup' currently on the bed:

To help achieve this we need to drain the marshes down to get access.  This means lots of mud and hopefully lots of waders - but only briefly as we'll be sacrificing the later part of the wader passage for it; but for next year hopefully the avocets will be able to take advantage of some new habitat.

Bird of the week this week was found by Erich Hediger - black-necked grebe today on D reservoir (though a small bird on D res doesn't make for the best of photos):

Still waders about - 8 greenshank on South Marsh East yesterday:

A green sandpiper too today, black tailed godwit and spotted redshank on Sunday, with 10 snipe yesterday:
Ruff at Wilfholme landing:

with a common sandpiper:

And an aquatic horse:

A big influx of starlings - smothering a pylon on Leven Carr:

 And the lines at Wilfholme:

Lots of greylags still amassing too:

Though remarkably barnowl still feeding young on Watton NR - a late brood after the wet summer no doubt:

Thanks to Chris Ulliott for these pictures of the black headed gulls attempting to extract an oversize fish from the res:

A range of gulls now present (CU)

No wagtail spectacular yet on the fields (CU):

But there were a few yellow wagtails around Hempholme pump house this morning:
Along with a big influx of goldfnch:


And linnets:

And a chance for a shot of the normally retiring stock dove:

Other birds of the week have included egyptian goose daily, hobby on Saturday, 2 little gulls and marsh harrier on Monday and little egret today.