Friday, 22 March 2013

Stone cold?

The last week as I am sure you won't need telling has been on the cold side.   Try explaining that to the first little ringed plover through last Saturday - or the first 5 sand martins seen on Sunday evening!  Sub-saharan Africa to snow can't be much fun.  At least they are on time this year - as opposed to last year when they arrived around six weeks late - hopefully the sand martin colony will see some success this year.  An icy plunge here too - the first great crested newt back in its breeding pond by Martin Lonsdale on Tuesday:
They seem to do ok and I have seen them under the ice sheet before around site.  Other sightings have inlcuded the daily little egrets on Hempholme Meadow - generally up to 5:
With grey heron sometimes dropping in to help:
The osprey put in some good sightings on Sunday; we've had a few doubting Thomas's suggesting this was to account (the fabled white buzzard o' Watton):
However the number and experience of observers who have seen it dispel this in my eyes.  The buzzard has caught a number of experienced birders (and me!) out over the years - but it is a different story in flight - and it was observed for ten minutes at Hempholme on Sunday after flying in from Wansford then continuing down river.  No further reports so we reckon it's gone on to Scotland - or frozen. 

A good number of lesser redpolls around the lagoons and still there today,as too have been the 2 male and 1 female goosander on D res.  Willow tit seen back in the woods - will they and marsh breed this year?  Peregrine causing mayhem over Hempholme last weekend chasing the lapwings.  My reactions weren't fast enough so this is as good as it got as it launched from the poplars near the Angus McBean hide:
Thanks to Chirs Ulliott for these of long tailed tits:
Mistle thrush:

And this weasel - a remarkably under-photographed mammal on the reserve:
Not such good news though on the wider mustelid front though - a couple from Driffield contacted us regarding a dead otter found next to the canal at Wansford last weekend.  Clearly an unfortunate road casualty (nb; the chainsaw was merely a handy scale in lieu of a ruler - and played no part in its downfall!):
The 6.4kg female otter was an unteresting opportunity to see these animals up close - the five toed paws that make all those prints:
We had hoped to send this otter off to Cardiff University for post mortem.  This link is well worth a look for a host of interesting data on the animals.  Unfortunately the team cannot be contacted at the moment and the EA locally don't recover carcasses; so turning up with a by now slightly rancid otter carcass at the post office may well have been ill received.  Therefore it has been laid to rest in the reserve.  Still useful infomration to be derived - including a possible proxy reserve tick (literally):
I think this is Ixodes hexagonus - a tick infesting the fur and not before logged.  We'll await the Cardiff team's verdict.  We have filled out the report forms that build up a picture of otter fatalities and hopefully lead to protection measures in future.  Perhaps grimmer news however is the word on the grapevine that 3 otters were found dead in an illegal specification Eel fyke net locally last week - unfortunately well within territorial range of North Marsh where the mother and two cubs delighted observers before Christmas. This happened down river at High Eske a couple of years back when Erich made a similar grim discovery.

Some have already speculated but we can only refer back to the informaton in this prior blog posting regarding the facts of the otter population on the river - and reassure that we have found fresh spraints on the reserve since - but for an animal with a large ten mile range for male or six for a female it is disturbing to lose four from the Hull Valley in a week.

Just to brighten the mood this barn owl was found dead next to the reserve yesterday.  We're still awaiting the ring return on the bird and the results of a post mortem.  The bird has clear trauma to the back of the head - but as has been suggested is similar to that of a stoat injury? It also has the heady air of fox to it too - so perhaps it has been caught out on the ground after becoming ill in recent weather conditions?
So fair play or foul conservation is still needed to protect these and all our species, as life would be pretty mediocre without them, so again big thanks to the many great people who give their time on a daily basis to help East Yorkshire's native wildlife.