Wednesday, 1 January 2014

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...