Friday, 31 January 2014

A bit of 'ern easterly at last

What we've been waiting for all winter is a good blast of easterlies - perhaps its too late for the smew this year but it did apparently blow in this loofa on Wednesday:
Bittern on the North Marsh courtesy of Michael Flowers group - more excellent pictures on his blog here.  A few snowdrops gave some seasonal flair before the rain returned again today:
Not necessarily unwelcome its now rapidly refilling the southern marshes and drowning off all the cut stems of tens of thousands of willow saplings cut back by the many volunteers who've done excellent work readying it for this season - new islands and lots of rushes remain as cover and breeding habitat:
The water quality is very different this year being crystal clear and containing lots of daphnia and the like; a far cry from the anaerobic sludge of previous years.  These shoveler seemed to be revelling in it (thanks to Mal Jones):
A few gulls resting on their armoured island - wire and electric fencing to keep the foxes off this year:
Elsewhere we had three med gulls and two lesser black backed on Saturday, very active marsh tits in D woods, little egret on Hempholme Meadow today, marsh harrier yesterday, peregrine falcon a couple of times in the week and a pair of visible barn owls on North Scrub regularly seen (Mal Jones):
We've also been completing the otter holt this week - cabling is in for the new 'holt cam' which will give a live view inside the best holt on the river Hull (If not the region!).  We've had it up and running today under jury rig; we now need to tidy it for public viewing in the coming days.  The blue trug has now been removed from the entrance hole in the equivalent of 'ribbon cutting'.  Literally around 10 minutes later this female or cub otter swam up to the hide and caught a fish - so we don't think it'll be long at the lettings agent.  Apart from screwdrivers and wire crimpers the mobile was the only device which didn't really do the 30 second views justice:
Reserve walk tomorrow morning at 10am - all welcome with standard admission. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Lesser is more

Bird of the week has been the lingering lesser redpoll in D woodlands - thanks to Roy Lyon for these pictures:
The feeders have attracted an array of the smaller birds like marsh tit (with goldfinch):
Long tailed tits:

And one of several very audible great spotted woodpeckers around the site:

That's not to knock the white fronted goose on Hempholme Meadow which is 'generally' there but does go walkies occasionally like today:

There's also a barnacle goose on Watton NR at present with Mediterranean gull on the D res roost on Tuesday.  Barn owls have been active with up to three on North Scrub following heavy night rainfall (tomorrow morning would be worth a look)  A few more mammal highlights this week with roe deer eating charcoal from the North Marsh bonfire, water vole in South Marsh with water shrew.  But otter has been forthcoming the last couple of days on the North Marsh - there's some great pictures on Michael Flowers's blog covering his groups last couple of days of visits. 

Management wise we've now finished work on South Marsh East - after an awful lot of graft we've removed nearly all the willow saplings from last summer and the level is well up.  Shoveler, coot and and Mute Swan are holding territory and hopefully are the vanguard of a successful breeding year behind a curtain of electric fencing to keep the foxes off.

Attention now turns to finishing off jobs; north marsh otter holt camera installation, grass snakes heaps, tree cutting and planting and a bit of winter meadow cutting to see the winter out.

Look out too on the species lists above as Doug Fairweather and Martin Hodges have put a lot of effort into updating these and on coming evenings I will be updating the content.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The grasp of winter

...or something like it has been best represented in this white fronted goose present on Hempholme Meadow all week - here seeing off a pesky jackdaw by Brian Colley:
Good grazing on the now inundated meadow:

Other exotic geese have included a barnacle on Watton NR on the 12th by Nick Baker and 4 pink footed geese present all week.  Elsewhere a lesser redpoll in D woods today by Geoff Dobbs, a flyover goosander by Michael Flowers's group perhaps made some semblance of a winter setting.

The two scaup have still been present on the D reservoir, last logged on the 16th with a pintail.  Stalwarts the willow and marsh tits have been present on the feeders, with siskin and many drumming great spotted woodpeckers.  A med gull visited the roost on D tonight - visit Martin's blog for this and a great year update here.

Perhaps signs of spring in addition to emerging snow drops were 5 buzzards circling together and a pair of marsh harriers over south marsh west - hope again for this year?  Perhaps one resident of the southern marshes was hoping not.  We've been putting all efforts into the southern marshes as little ringed plovers will be returning in less than two months.  We've been removing untold thousands of willow saplings in recent weeks with the return of teal to the habitat.  Whilst doing so we uncovered this disused nest in the rushes;

Further investigation suggests this is a harvest mouse nest - the timing being perfect given that most vegetation grew in the marsh post bird breeding season - which is peak harvest mouse breeding time, and the insides are lined with chewed leaves rather than down:
Harvest mice have been sporadically recorded on the reserve more from the North Marsh area, but it is always nice to find fresh evidence of their presence. Water vole was also seen on the marsh today, an unfortunate mink sighting near north lagoon which needs to be dealt with, and otter on North Marsh on Thursday - details on Paul Ashton's blog.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Reaping for rewards

Bird of the week has been a white fronted goose which joined the seemingly resident canada on Hempholme Meadow which turned up on Sunday and was still there today.  A pink footed goose on Watton last Sunday too created a near wintry feel.  2 kingfishers made an unseasonal return to North Marsh where bullfinches have been quite active; thanks to Darren Smith for this one:
The D res has contained the female and 1st winter male scaup all week, and the roost has turned up mediterranean gulls most nights observed - 2 last Saturday, 4 on Sunday.  50 curlew are often to be found on Watton as per Brian Colley's pic here:
These mute swans were obviously disturbing something good:
Bob Morris actually bumped the Jan 1st total up to 69 with a late merlin record on the day too on Easingwold Farm; And Brian spotted this common buzzard being mobbed by carrion crow:
Great white egret has fleetingly been seen around site - presumably one of the Hornsea birds now ranging about.  Three years ago this would have been a highly notable record; now its treated with near indifference as all the southern herons seem to becoming more common.

Elsewhere marsh and willow tit in the woods have been joined by siskins on the feeders.

But we're thinking of spring now; chiefly on the South Marsh East.  There's now a substantial depth of water but an awful lot of vegetation to cut to re-open the vista for breeding birds from invasive willow saplings; Rob and Ken turn the clock back 70 years or so in a pre war Hull Valley scene:
The new island in the centre of the marshes has had around a tonne of gravel floated out to provide a home for common terns this year:
We'll be re-fencing and electrifying the islands nearer the hide to prevent a fox massacre this summer.  But we're optimistic for a bumper year for both breeders and waders this summer as decaying vegetation from last summer kick starts a food chain. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Year listing 2014

And the tally for todays event;

Despite the most uninspiring winter for some time and a fairly dismal day, proof of what can be seen when people open their eyes!

1. House Sparrow - picked up by Rob Worsfold on the access road at Angram Farm
2. Great spotted woodpecker in the car park:
3. Sparrowhawk made an attack
4. Dislodging coal tit
5. Blue tit
6. Carrion crow
7. Woodpigeon
8. Collared dove
9. Great tit
10. Greenfinch
11. Goldfinch
12. Chaffinch
13. Goldcrest
14. Moorhen was logged earlier
15. Big numbers of greylag geese went over but to fleeting to see if anything exotic was amongst them
16. Robin
17. Jackdaw
18. Redwing
19. Mistle thrush
20. Blackbird
21. Stock dove
22. Mallard flew over as we left
23. Pheasant was in the woodland
24. As was wren
25. Kestrel had been logged earlier
26. Lapwing were over D res
27. Marsh Harrier passed the woodlands at the feeders
28. Blackcap was a nice spot by Gayna in D woods
29. Treecreeper was part of the same mixed flock
30. Mute swan over the tree tops
31. Barn owl seen on north scrub earlier (and later on Watton)
32. Siskin logged earlier by Derrick Venus
33. Willow tit on the freshly filled feeders
34. Long tailed tit
35. Bull finch at the top of North Scrub
36. Rook
37. Coot on D res
38. Tufted duck
39. Goldeneye
40. Wigeon
41. Black headed gull
42. Pochard
43. Shoveler
44. Gadwall
45. Teal
46. Herring gull
47. Common buzzard around Hempholme Meadow (the white buzzard later at Watton NR)
48. Common gull
49. Little egret heading north up river
50. Magpie over Struncheonhill
51. Grey Heron over Bethell's Bridge
52. Dunnock at Hempholme lock
53. kingfisher
54. Little grebe
55. Canada goose
56. Golden plover over Brandesburton
57. Great-black backed gull
58. Cormorant
59. Marsh tit on the feeders with another visit

A great morning.  Unfortunately the wind and rain came in for the afternoon and slowed the tally considerably as we went south after lunch;

60. Curlew on Watton Carrs
61. Redshank on Watton NR
62. Pintail - a fine drake:
63. Great crested grebe on O res
64. Peregrine over D res for the roost as the night came in
65. Lesser black backed gull
66. Iceland gull - bird of the day by Martin
67. Scaup - by Andy Nunn
68. A bookend sparrow by Rob again; this time tree at the old wildlife centre

Mammal sightings included roe deer, hare, rabbit, squirrel and arboreal stoat too.

All in not a bad effort; level with the 68 of last year with no smew or bittern yet to find.  And some terrible omissions like woodcock, linnet, yellowhammer, pied wagtail, fieldfare etc.

White Christmas / The grass is always greener...

We've had some wild weather at Tophill over the Christmas holidays as have most - thanks to Brian Colley for this one of the O res during one of the gales:
This wasn't necessarily a bad thing - we need some water for the southern marshes which have been only gradually refilling seeing as it has not rained to speak of since last January:
And the best news was that we had our own white carpet over the festive period - all credit to Martin Hodges and Lee Johnson for putting the time in to winkle out an array of specialties.  Certainly have a look on Martin's page for the thorough write up here; but the edited highlights were:
21st Dec
2 mediterranean gull
22nd Dec
Yellow legged gull, 2 mediterranean gull and 1600 herring gull
And the kumlien's gull - a new Tophill ssp. tick and likely the Barmston bird driven inland by the storms
23rd Dec
Iceland gull
24th Dec
Glaucous gull, med gull
25th Dec
Med gull x 2
26th Dec
Med gull x 3 and lesser black backed gull
27th Dec
Lesser black backed gull and med gull
28th Dec
med gull x 2
29th, 30th and 31st Dec
Med gull nightly
1st Jan
Iceland Gull

The best of the rest over Christmas included up to three pintail and up to two scaup - thanks to Bruce Pillinger for this one:
Brian Colley sent these shots of a wintry Watton NR - smart mallards:
 And goldeneye:
Fox upsetting them:
Check out Tony McLean's blog for the welcome return of a long awaited new batch of photos from Watton NR too!

A welcome new addition to the Tophill Low list was this spruce cone bug Gastrodes abietum found and identified by Doug Fairweather:
In the last post we showed the belted and white galloway cattle grazing the scrub down which they have made a great inroad upon - Brian Colley. 
However we should have realised they weren't just watching the sunset at Wilfholme...
They were in fact plotting.  4ft high fencing with barbed wire top is the accepted norm for cattle fencing, especially dumpy ones with short legs.  The lure of rich grass on the river bank combined with high winds making them flighty saw all three scale the fence pictured above; a tuft of hair and print outside betraying the escape. 

They were quickly relocated:
However there is something wrong with this picture - Wilfholme is on the far bank in this shot.  For some reason best known to themselves they then swam the river Hull and ended up on Baswick Steer on the Brandesburton side of the river Hull - 50yds away and a 40 mile return trip by car.  Big thanks to Nick and Martin Voase at Baswick Steer who amicably hosted them with their sheep flock whilst Edward from Beswick tempted them back into the truck with the feed bucket.  In contrast to much of the UK the river Hull is so low at the moment there's a thought they may have actually simply forded it.

All's well that ends well - needless to say they have been dishonourably discharged back to Beswick; Their work effectively done anyway for this year.

We'll be heaping some old hawthorn bushes in front of the fence to try and avoid this imponderably unlikely occurrence from happening again.  These being the same breed who refuse to walk over the 2 foot deep ditch at Hempholme! They will be back again likely earlier in the season this time to control Hempholme's spring growth to make better lapwing habitat.

Hopefully the otters will be happier with their home; Thanks to Roy Vincent for these shots of the volunteer gang who have been 'mucking in' to bring the structure to near completion now - Mike builds up the holt chamber using surplus blocks from the new toilets:
One of the twin entrance pipes being installed - again from recycled materials
The basis of the main entrance - a large tree root; we wouldn't want the photography opportunities spoilt!:
Built up chamber with spoil ready to cover:
Lucas gets stuck in - we've excavated a 30m long entrance dyke which will funnel otters leaving the holt to give great views from the hide; and provide water vole, water parsnip and heron habitat (which has already been in):
 Pete dragging out unwanted willow roots growing in the marsh - around 30 years  of creep has lost 30 feet or more of the north marsh.  We've relieved the tree line back to the original profile with pollards set to regrow and return the marsh to calm by the end of this summer with 6 foot of regrowth:
Air vent on left (we don't want damp problems!).  Camera capability on the right:
The lid goes on - now covered with insulation and spoil.
A well earned rest and dip in the new channel:
The otter mother and cub have already been repeatedly eyeing up their new accommodation with many sightings at dawn. 

So it's all to look forward to in 2014; And if you getting the post Christmas blues don't worry - gorse in flower and its downhill all the way now to summer...