Thursday, 19 December 2013

Icey but no winter yet...

Perhaps finishing off the year with a final flourish was another new species for it - 2nd winter Iceland gull on the D reservoir on the 14th of December found by Martin as ever - all the details listed here.  Mediterranean gulls were recorded on the 14th and 15th too.  We wouldn't say no to an ivory though like the one currently residing in its personal fishmongers store at Patrington Haven - all the details on the Yorkshire Birders page.  Perhaps the work of our peregrine may tempt one down:
We knew there had been a victim on the basis of the immense melee over the northern end of the reserve last Thursday.  Turns out this black headed gull found on the mammal safari in Hempholme Meadow was the unfortunate. 

Otherwise regrettably we're still waiting for winter to come in earnest in the form of smew and bittern.  A few woodcock can occasionally be encountered around the reserve, and the female scaup was still present over the weekend, with otter, marsh and willow tit, water rails in South Marsh West, and up to six redshank (one nearly taken out by the sparrowhawk on Saturday which is regularly hunting the area perhaps having had several hearty meals of jack snipe in recent weeks from there) and up to four little egret seen. 

We have managed one new tick though; the first grazers to return to South Scrub for 60 years in the form of two belted and one white Galloway cattle gratefully on loan again from Edward and Nicola at Beswick Hall Farms:
They are there to try and prevent the onward march of hawthorn scrub by winter grazing the habitat prior to growing season and seem to be doing a great job tucking into rank areas already.  They're a hardy breed and can cope well with the conditions - not to say they don't have some luxuries - in case you wondered what became of the car park bathtub! - thanks to the volunteers and the Bishop Burton team for rigging up the water supply:
One of our volunteers taking good care of them - some would say very good (knowing the contents of his chest freezer...):
Barn owl seems to be permanently mounted in the corner of Watton NR at the moment and this buzzard was upsetting the teal last week:
Otherwise we're making the most of the lull to get those all important maintenance jobs done - Ben getting stuck in to digging out the sump pond:
Work on the otter holt continues apace with tree cutting all but complete and just plenty of filthy digging to do to finish. 

Remember the reserve is open every day 9am to 6pm in case you want to escape the relatives or burn off those calories, and as ever we'll be holding the 'year listing' event on the 1st of January; trying to get the maximum bird list together for a day - usually 60-70 species. We'll have two guided walks going out at 10am and 1:30pm - free with standard admission.

Otherwise have a great festive season and thanks for following developments on the reserve over the last year - the highlight which must have been these guys for 2013 (Tony McLean pic):

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Cracking on

We've been pretty lucky at Tophill given the terrible scenes at many of the Humber Reserve's in recent days - check out Tim's Birding blog and Dave Tucker's blog for some of the effects on Spurn.  Whilst tidal the river Hull next to us is so low at present the lowering of the flood barrier saw no surge of Humber water or back up of water.  That's not to say we got off scott free; the winds of Thursday were very strong with colossal waves breaking over the D res wall (some great pictures on Erich's blog).  A few trees were damaged in the woodlands including this poplar whose top blew out and had to felled as it perilously hung over the path:
Its days are far from over however.  The stumps left make the habitat needed for nesting willow tits, the large bough we have left will house some interesting fungi in the years to come and the brash home to wrens.  The gaps we'll refill with some nice understorey species in future.  The wind saw off the last autumn colour (Brian Colley):
Blue tit on the feeders - Roy Vincent:
It's always a hope we get something interesting in off the back of strong winds and the 'Viking gull' - or herring x glaucous gull found by Martin Hodges caused some interest on Thursday evening.  A couple of mediterranean gulls were present last night.  Perhaps the highlight bird of the last week has been the female scaup which has been quite confiding on D res including today - pictures by Karen Williams:
Goldeneye numbers have climbed ten fold since last week but we're still looking for the smew.  Otherwise willow tit, marsh tit, brambling, up to 200 linnet, 60 curlew, water rails and a couple of kestrels have all been regular (Karen Williams):
Mute Swan fly over (Brian):
Meanwhile work continues apace on the otter holt project - Thanks to Roy Vincent for the photo log.  End of work on day one:
Pollarding bankside willows:
And delivering the pipes:
We then received our visit by Building Control; Otter came for a progress inspection prior to last Sunday's start:
And the mother and cub were seen three times yesterday morning:
Footings going in ready for the walls - the build is better than most houses!:
If you want to join us to track the otters down then why not join us on next Sunday's mammal safari event.  We'll be looking for tracks and trails of otters, deer and looking at how to use trail cameras amongst other hints and tips.  Book in advance on 01377 270690.