Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Velvet for Christmas

Cracking find by Lee Johnson yesterday on the O reservoir yesterday and still about to at least 3pm today was this velvet scoter - the first for a good while (none in my tenure).  He managed this fine picture of it from the viewing screen:
Also brightening up proceedings and again an uncommon visitor to the reserve was a red breasted merganser on the res too.  An exciting couple of days on the water with 2 Mediterranean gull, little gull and red crested pochard on D too.  Female scaup had been present up to the 21st and there are plenty of goldeneye now in the throng of spring - Brian Colley:
Plenty of wildfowl on Watton:
Mallards amongst everything looking their best:
A certain highlight however have been bittern; they've yet to be seen elsewhere but appear to roost nightly at Watton Nature Reserve - two being seen on the 19th - Steve Hines captured these shots of one:

Perhaps surprising has been the lack of notable geese amongst the sedentary greylags this year - no white fronts or pink feet as yet - Brian Colley:
There's plenty on the passerine front too - Roy Vincent captured these of bullfinch:
Willow tit always popular:
Marsh tit:

Coal tit:
Blue tit:
Great tit:
And masses of thrushes such as blackbird:
Goldfinch by Darren Smith:

For anyone wishing to see all the above and more we'll be running the popular year listing event on January the 1st.  We aim to keep a running tally through the day of species found which can be into the 70's; Two walks will be running with one at 10am and another at 1pm to try and rack up as many species as possible - free with standard admission no booking necessary.

Common buzzards over the reserve - Roy Vincent:
And Brian Colley:
Kingfisher still showy on North Marsh by Bruce Pillinger:
And a nice winter speciality was this green sandpiper by Brian Colley - seen a couple of times of late both on Hempholme and South Marsh East:
Chiffchaff on the 6th was another token winter straggler.

A reminder too that we'll be looking through this years photos submitted to the blog or flickr for the new membership card - closing date 31st Dec.  Winner gets a years membership.   

Just a note to say thanks to everyone who has helped out on the reserve this year - many hours of great volunteer work helping out in conservation and survey work and visitor help have been given.  If blogging has been a bit Spartan of late it is because we've been doing a lot of planning and prep work for habitat work this winter - crowning work of which is a project to return North Lagoons back into operation; So some great things to look forward to in 2015. 

Last one an otter in North Marsh by Roy Vincent recently;

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Grey to white

The grey phalarope was very confiding during its prolonged stay at the reserve; the third in its history - so a welcome tick for many.  Final shot by Roy Lyon:
Perhaps a signal for its departure on the 22nd was an obvious movement of other species - the biggest highlight of which was a drake smew that turned up that morning - the first male for at least 6 winters.  Unfortunately after being harassed by coots perhaps jealous of its exquisite plumage it then departed to High Eske by that afternoon.  The following day a number of goosander arrived in too and Roy also snapped this female scaup which has been one of four amongst the tufties for a while:
5 whoopers arrived on the 23rd but changing conditions have seen more easterlies.  Disappointingly no further showing of short eared owls yet; but it was into December before they really got going in 2011.  Perhaps this has brought in the big flocks we've seen of late - up to 1000 lapwing spending the bulk of time on the ploughed fields of decoy, and anyone wishing to see a murmuration of starlings would be well advised to sit in North Lagoon hide at dusk as there are numbers of circa 2000 starlings wheeling over the reedbeds at the moment.  A small fall of woodcock so far with snipe and green sandpiper flushed from Hempholme today.  A lot of rain saw the river swell up briefly to levels not seen since 2012 - though it has since dropped again:
You may have caught us on BBC Look North - unfortunately we're having a spate of mink sightings at the moment.  We generally reckon on 2-3 mink a year since 2003 odd when trapping began, but this autumn's seen a huge peak.  We were pleased to have caught 4 in September, but no sooner another was caught last weekend, but trail cameras have revealed potentially another 4 still on the loose around the reserve.  Perhaps we are the victims of our own success with water voles this season.  Mink raft readied for action:
We're looking to potentially install further mink rafts beyond the reserve in the Hull Valley this spring with funding from Yorkshire Water - much like the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust did in 2003.  The idea being it will hopefully reduce the pool of mink always waiting in the wings to come in.  If you have responsibility for a waterway in the upper reaches let us know and we may be able to help. 

Another exciting project - thanks to our architects Ginger Group who have put together this vision of the new reception hide:
We're still working hard to deliver it as soon as possible - but at the moment it all depends on at what point we can access internal funding - and match it against the SSSI season on the Res's - but certainly it is hoped within the next 18 months.  And just for anyone who has already commented the res never looks like the North Sea - well sometime it does!;
Amongst good numbers of gulls present on the res have been Med gulls on the 29th, two on the 30th, yellow legged gull tonight, and up to six little egrets roosting on Watton.  Great white egret on the 21st flying south was a nice fund too.  This leucistic black headed gull was snapped by Roy Lyon:
Otherwise mild weather until late has seen the kingfishers continue to grace us on North Marsh - Brian Colley:
And water rails are still ten a penny - thanks to Steve Brimble for these:
And Darren Smith - both on North Marsh:
Mute swan coming in to land by Brian - hopefully not that massacred by a fox which dispatched one on Sunday morning:
Lots of kestrels too - Steve Brimble:
And a smart yellowhammer by Steve too:
Roe deer on Hempholme by Brian Colley:
Reserve Walk on Saturday morning at 10am for anyone wishing to try and see some of the above.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Every cloud a grey lining

Whilst the weather may have been dull and murky of late there was plenty to celebrate in grey.  The nest box team found this grey phalarope on Tuesday; thanks to Roy Lyon for these shots.
It was assumed disappeared (but likely here all along as so miniscule) until relocated by Lee Johnson on Friday night (along with a 3rd Caspian gull of the year) and has shown on D res all weekend - thanks to Martin Hodges for these shots (more on his blog):
Generally sticking to the walls it seems particularly interested in a couple of gull carcasses.  Also of interest in recent days too has been up to four scaup last Sunday with one remaining today.  3 red crested pochard were still present on the 10th, with four whooper swans the latest through on the 6th, and a pintail visited O res last week.  A peak of 4 med gulls since the last posting on D res on the 2nd. 

Watton NR saw an uncommon visitor in the form of a knot on the 11th, and Michael Flowers and his group had the second brambling of the year on the 14th.  Otherwise perhaps most notable has been a huge influx of water rails recently - 8 on south marsh west last weekend, with a further 3 heard on North Marsh on Friday and at least two more on the lagoons.  Thanks to Bruce Pillinger for this shot:
A jack snipe was present on South Marsh West today.  Grey Heron has also been about as per this collection by Andy Marshall:
Steve Brimble captured these images of the ability of grey heron to turn its hand to anything which comes close enough - in this case an apparent short tailed vole:
Still on the go despite the last posting saying they were on the wain are the kingfishers - Andy Marshall:
Otter showed four separate times last Sunday - as usual best off on North Marsh - Steve Brimble:
And Maurice Dowson:
Unfortunately Maurice also snapped this shady character at Hempholme Lock - the 6th American mink of 2014 so the worst spate in some time:
Another more balanced predator - Sparrowhawk by Steve Brimble:
And Bruce Pillinger:
Hen harrier reported yesterday and merlin today at the northern site with two barn owl.  Goldcrest keeping out the way - Andy Marshall:
And finding that a difficulty; Albino / Leucistic pheasant by Steve Hines: