Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Shove' up a bit

Some excellent numbers of shoveler on site at the moment - 175 seen by Les and Margaret on Sunday.  The big wildfowl highlight though were two female scaup on D res - thanks to HVWG for this shot:

More write up on Erich's blog.  The other highlight which is something of a long stayer, white fronted goose on Watton NR (HVWG):
Hopefully there'll be another 169 like last year to follow.  Two pink feet were also with it amongst the greylags. The gull roost is still spectacular too - adult med gull again on D.  This was tonight's scene - some of over 150 great black backed gulls on the res:
Also present were around 150 lapwing which seemed very agitated and repeatedly flying close to the water surface - no peregrine seen - but certainly suspected.  The lapwing use the water as a deterrent to an attack as they know it wont risk making a kill so close to the surface.  A cream crown marsh harrier flew south across the res tonight with a male seen on Sunday, and a few buzzard sightings.

The woods have turned up more siskins, lesser redpoll, bullfinch and jay.  Here was Roy Vincent's possible last chiffchaff of the year from Thursday:

Though Graham Slack reported a blackcap - not necessarily a last of but possibly another Germanic invader.  Pied wagtail by Roy:

Roy also got some excellent pictures of some of the winter thrushes like these redwing:
 And blackbird:

It would seem that Roy is the man to follow at the moment with three otter sightings in as many days - including one running along the woodland ride from North Marsh this morning! All these sightings seem to be coming in at around 9am at the moment if you fancy trying to spot one on North marsh.  Alternatively the Robert Fuller Gallery is running an otter field signs walk at the reserve on Sunday - all the details are on their website.

And finally thanks to the persistence of Doug Fairweather the fungi list creeps ever closer to 300 for site; One is a Helvella sp. known collectively as Saddles.  Even though Helvella crispa (White Saddle) is classed as widespread and common it was still a great find DF:
Number two is a bracket found on a dead Larch. This required help from Michael Jordan. Ischnoderma benzoinum (Benzoin Bracket) is classed as rare in his book, other books say uncommon, but it is certainly not run of the mill:

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A last blast

Today's northerly winds possibly saw the final two chiffchaffs of the year in South Scrub, despite our best attempts to find better given the numbers of exciting warblers elsewhere.  Still, masses of goldcrests helped to make up. 

The two jays in D woods have continued to be a highlight - one nearly flying into visitor Ray Atkins today.  Thanks to Andrew Bulmer for these pictures of it in flight the other day:
For more pictures from Andrew have a look at his blog here.  Similarly Pete McKenzie reported barn owl nearly flying into the north marsh hide - presumably looking for snug winter quarters?  Water rail also squealing outside the hide and a buzzard on Hempholme pump house.  Andrew also snapped this male kestrel from North Marsh:

And photographed by Andrew and also by Bill Eggleton here was this rather bedraggled looking sparrowhawk on Saturday - presumably bathing?:
This marsh harrier was also about too (BE): 
There is plenty more to see around the woods too - thanks to Rachel Bulmer for these shots:
Great tit:

Great spotted woodpecker:

And still up to 56 cormorants reported on Watton NR:

Today the two little egrets also appeared on the pits.  Thanks to Doug Fairweather for the latest insect find from Hempholme Meadows - Sphaeridium scarabaeoides - enjoying the dung:

The cattle not as keen on Jess's offer of grass as some of Edward's cattle nuts they normally get! Pete Drury:
A new gall for the site list - Puccinia lagenophorae on Groundsel:
And a new fungi for site - Macrotyphula juncea (Slender Club) in south scrub:

And less welcome but now regular on site - harlequin ladybird:
The rest of the week has seen around 100 golden plover over today, with a single barnacle and two pink footed geese on D res.  Willow tit on the feeders and siskin in South Scrub.  The starling roost was reportedly showing again on Sunday night with around 3000 birds present and most notable of all an otter swimming about.  Some of you may have seen the brief TV article on the otters on Tuesday night - the main story centred around the use of our new trail camera.  After the inside out programme we've had a lot of people asking what the scenario is with the otters and if they are still about, so we thought we'd obtain some new footage - here for the first time with sound!:

In terms of the next thing; why not embrace winter? You never know what those northerlies will blow in - 102 great black backed gulls on O res with med gull and yellow legged gull on D over the weekend. 

As an intro to the world of winter gull watching here is a repeat of an article from last Autumn on the blog:

The Tophill Low gull roost
The main spectacle starts every evening around 3pm between September and March when a trickle of gulls start arriving from surrounding farmland, coasts and landfill sites in every direction:
After a brief wash in the reservoir they then congregate on the open farmland around the reserve to preen – Decoy fields next to D res are a favourite but it can move to the access road fields or East of the river on occasion:

Just before dusk we get ‘the big lift’ when all birds not already on the water for the night simultaneously arise in a great spectacle – turning the sky white…

…before dropping onto the sanctuary of the reservoir for the night:

And even when it’s frozen:

So here are the main players – common gull:

And black-headed gull:

Both these species make up the bulk of the roost – currently around 15,000 birds but this can swell to 40,000 in winter. According to WeBS league tables this puts us in the top 15 UK sites for black-heads and top 3 for commons. We also make the top 3 for our annual little gull passage – but this is a July/August phenomenon. However there are always other species mixed in – great black-backed gulls with their black uppers and pink legs are at their maximum now:

These birds are assumed to mostly come from Scandinavian breeding grounds – as evidenced by the ringing return from a deceased bird rung at Lista in southern Norway as a chick:

Lesser black-backed gulls are now sub-siding as most move south for winter – charcoal grey uppers and yellow legs:

We also get herring gulls too (pale grey / pink legs below) – with Scandinavian race fairly regular too:

Another infrequent (though seen this week) bird is the yellow-legged gull generally from Mediterranean regions – much like the pale herring gulls but with yellow legs like lesser-black-backed:

Kittiwakes occasionally drop in during summer, but mediterranean gulls are regular all winter – up to four mixed in recently. These demonstrate the similarity to black-headed gulls but note the erect stance, heavy set bill – and crucially white wings devoid of black markings bar a small leading edge (Martin Hodges):

Which brings us on to ‘white-wingers’; usually describing arctic species which we occasionally get on strong northerlies in mid winter – like this glaucous gull:

We have also had iceland gull this last winter (HVWG):
 – but beware of leucistic or albino birds like this tricky common gull:

This completes our line up to date excepting Terry Richardson’s franklin’s gull a few years ago – a trans-atlantic vagrant.  Caspian gull has also possibly been added to the list - but trying to prove the bird against eastern races of herring gull is very hard and it currently pends decision from the county recorders.

And obviously all this lot attracts the peregrine - primarily after black-headed's:

Leaving many 'angel-wings' everywhere on site:

Why not sit with a flask and a scope and see what you can find?... 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Mixed flocks of twits

The last few days at the reserve have seen a mass exodus of passerines moving south.  30 meadow pipits in a few minutes this morning over Hempholme.  However as usual at this time of year we advocate checking any mixed tit flocks, up to 30 goldcrests at a time have been logged and one regular reported at 'warbler with a yellow supercillium and twin wing bars' which certainly fits the bill for yellow-browed given the numbers elsewhere at them moment (but alas not long enough to confirm or photo).  Subsequent checks revealed some of the other flock contents though - chiffchaff - pic by Andrew Bulmer:

Along with plenty of the goldcrests:
Coal tits:
Blue tits:

And long-tailed tits amongst this years fine berry crop:

Which were also being enjoyed by a number of song thrushes:

Plenty of redwing (25) have also moved in the last few days - South Scrub being a great place for them.  The two jays have also been showing in D woods with more redpoll.  Up to 8 goldeneye have now arrived on D red, but no sign of the smew already reported down river at High Eske and Spurn.  Water rail on South Marsh West:

Also of note is Tony McLean's photo of an interesting aythya duck pm flickr which has some shades of scaup in it - possibly a hybrid?  A number of marsh harriers through too, and grey wagtails enlivening the the walls of the reservoirs.  Not to say summer has completely gone - two reports of swallow yesterday, and thanks to Andrew Bulmer for these of southern hawker:

And comma:

With one of the last grass snakes of the year too:
 Thanks to John Hakes too for this nice shot of huddled red legged partridges on the access road:

And also Doug Fairweather for these new finds from Hempholme Meadow - the delights of dung once again! - "cow pats that were growing a good number of the dung fungus, Copbrobia granulata. These discs only grow to 4mm at the most, usually 2mm or even less, the ones in the enclosed pic fall into the latter size. Well, insignificant they may be, but that's another new fungi for the site list.":
Also another new fungi species for site - Hemimycena lactea growing on old pine needles near East Pond:
And finally we continue to embrace the modern age! We've set up a new twitter account for the reserve and you can follow us on @tophilllow - we aim to use it to get news out on sightings to support the blog and facebook pages - but a live feed is on the top right of the blog which should make it even more current.  Alternatively why not sign up to twitter and join us as we are as new to it as you may be!