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?...