Friday, 29 November 2013

A temporary holt

If you go up to North Marsh you may be in for a surprise...

If you popped through to the last reserve meeting you'll have heard the plans for a new otter holt on the Western shore. We've built a few holts over the years including the recycled plastic types:
And home brewed out of old pet carriers (and home to the female and two cubs this year):
Unfortunately the oldest holt on the site built by Peter Izzard 15 years ago from logs has finally rotted and subsided. We've had a good inspection of the structure with a remote camera and there are only rabbits to be found so we were happy we could work around it safe in the knowledge there were no breeding otters.

The plan is to construct a new permanent pipe and chamber holt here from recycled building materials.  We have a number of concrete blocks and a large metal cover which we plan to use as a chamber, along with these large gauge plastic pipes left over from the recent river Hull tunnelling project:
As these off cuts are open to vermin and the like they can no longer be used as water mains - therefore their future was chipping and recycling until we scavenged them.  There are even plans for insulation as seeing as we have some of that left too!  All the work is being carried out by the Tophill volunteers who have already been doing sterling work.

The principle of the structure is to provide a natal (breeding) holt that is reliably above winter floodwaters.  The displaced mother and cub seen in the floodwaters a year ago demonstrated that many waterside holts were lost to them - this one should always be a reliable refuge and one that needs no maintenance from us in future. The position is adjacent to the 90's holt on the Western side of the North Marsh - and the plan is to provide excellent views from the hide of 'dressed entrances' under photogenic tree stumps from which the otter will (hopefully!) emerge (photo Chris Bell).
Clearly this is going to create some disturbance for which we apologise - we've timed the works to wait until after kingfisher season.  Another unseen threat has been the creep of willows into the marsh; we've lost around 30feet of marsh all along this edge to largely sterile 'mangroving' where branches hit the water and start growing again leaving a dead understory.  We've already done a lot of work cutting willows from the marsh in the last two winters further up and it is adjacent to one of these spots where the second pair of harriers bred this year - so we know the work delivers results - in this case a much wider marsh with more reedbed and more opportunity for bittern and rails and putting some distance between the kingfishers and the sparrowhawks watching from the woods:
So expect a change of scene on North Marsh - it may look brutal this winter - but trust us we've done this before!:
From Sgt Major wood...

To Hempholme Meadow...

South Marsh East excavations...
To avocets (Alan Walkington) and little ringed plovers
D woodlands...

To the new pond to name but a few...
So bear with us and embrace the change!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

A 'fare wind doth blow

At last some whisperings that the season is changing and with it some of the bird life too.  Its undoubtedly been steady for the last month - but then reports everywhere else seem to be the same; Westerly winds have been somewhat sterile but a swing to the north has started to blow in the fieldfares since last Wednesday.  Thanks to Roy Lyon for all pictures:
Other seasonal arrivals have included more bramblings - a group feeding in the car park leaf litter on Sunday, with 9 woodcock flushed from around the reserve on Saturday.  Only 4 goldeneye on the D reservoir however would suggest we are still some way from a smew.  Dunlin seen by Michael Flowers over the res was an unseasonal find (details on his blog), whereas regular redshank and 43+ curlew around the southern reserve are typical of the time of year.  Roosting on the South Marsh West they are joined by thousands of jackdaws and rooks which communally roost in D woods at this time:
With the usual gull numbers on the D:
A small group of whooper swans keep dropping in but this female scaup is likely the best bird of the minute on the D - found by Roy and Erich and more info on his blog:
There were two cetti's warblers on the Southern Marshes today with a marsh harrier south and a late chiffchaff.  And the white buzzard continues to fox people! one of its less gaudy cousins here:
Talking of weird birds of prey we have had a sighting of a lanner/peregrine cross with falconry jesses at Hempholme a couple of weeks back - turns out it escaped on Beverley Westwood five weeks prior, and had been seen at Wawne and Leven Carrs in between.  If you see it let us know and we'll forward the info on to the owner.
Meanwhile the volunteer team and Bishop Burton Students have been preparing for more new arrivals - penning area on the southern site ready for the arrival of 3 Beswick Hall belted Galloway cattle in coming days:

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Rudding enthusiasts

The succession of westerly winds seem to have made for an unremarkable end to autumn with only limited numbers of geese and very few small birds present.  We just about scraped the stars together for the winter thrush walk over the weekend, but none were abundant like last years locust like experience in South Scrub.  It falls to the old faithful to be the stars of the week - thanks to Steve Hines for these of the otters in North Marsh:
Darren Smith also got these belters:
Rudd? - no doubt I'll be corrected if not!:
We'll be looking at tracks and field signs on the mammal safari event on the 15th of December - book in advance on 01377 270690 - more details on the events page.
Jack snipe on Watton with three commons on the 9th was nice by Dave Ware. 
Both Marsh and Willow tit have been seen in the D woods around the feeders.
Water rail on South Marsh West
Greens sandpiper on the 9th
3 Cetti's warblers on the South Marsh East (great write up on Steve's blog here) on the 9th.
2 Whoopers on Watton on the 13th and O res on the 17th
Marsh harrier on the 15th
100 brambling seen by Hull RSPB group on the 17th on Watton Carrs
12 linnets 17th
And a single drake pintail on the 17th on D and Watton.

Even if the bird life is steady there's always plenty to see if you look hard enough. Thanks to Doug Fairweather Ascobolus stercorarius - growing on rabbit droppings:
And a pin mould sp. growing on walnut shells:
Loads more great shots on Martin's site as ever here.

Friday, 8 November 2013

I don't want to go mum!

The belted Galloway cattle have now left for home (down the road at Beswick), with the calf born on the meadow the most reticent to leave having to be physically loaded into the trailer to join mum!:
We've been enclosing the south scrub over the last couple of weeks in an operation now virtually complete bar some fettling by the volunteers - so expect to see some new belties reappearing for some winter grazing in the next couple of weeks! Roy Lyon:
Fine fettling of the Hempholme Meadow tidying up and spraying off unwanted reedmace and poplar suckers the cattle hasn't got to dislodged 3 common and 1 jack snipe along with multiple water voles.  There was even a lonely common darter still on the wing on one of the scrapes today.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the last couple of weeks was on Tuesday last week when a short eared owl flew through Watton NR heading north mobbed by jackdaws.  There seems to be good numbers of voles about this year; but there haven't been many reports of shorties at migration points yet - so maybe this winter is good for lemmings?

Otherwise 17 whooper swans were a nice highlight on D res - thanks to Jeff Barker for these:
And Roy Vincent:
Unfortunately we heard via Wilfholme birder Ivan Nethercoate today that two had hit power cables just south of Watton NR - killing one adult and injuring a juvenile which is in veterinary care now - a great shame when they've made the long journey from Iceland.  Goldeneyes are arriving like this one by Mal Jones:
And a nice selection of wildfowl on Watton by Brian Colley.
Elsewhere up to three cetti's warblers have been calling on the southern site - indicating a presumed winter of activity to come.  Cream crown marsh harrier yesterday and an escaped falconry bird with jesses reportedly like a lanner falcon.  Goosander, water rail, pintail, little egret, marsh tit, willow tit and golden plover have all been on the scene too with a sizeable curlew roost in the pitch black this evening on South Marsh West.  Mediterranean gulls have been present in numbers of up to two on most roost watches which have seen some spectacular counts of late - thanks to Roy Lyon for these:
Otters continue to show occasionally - on North Marsh on Tuesday - check out Jeff's pic on Flickr.

And thanks to Andy Nunn for this brown long eared bat resting up in one of the hides last week:
We've also had two separate reports of UFO's at the reserve this week - Steve Hines captured this image of a 'green UFO' over D res:
And Brian Colley reports this 'alien message' on the steps of O res:
Debate is open as to whether this is life from another planet making contact?  Perhaps the local fox had the answer to this beautifully composed work on Hempholme Meadow complimenting initial composition by the belted galloways; we think it worthy of the 'turder prize' for modern art...
You'd pay a fortune in London to put that on your wall you know.