Friday, 21 March 2014

Sand storm arrives

A drought of blog postings in the last couple of weeks.  Things have been manic of late trying to undertake the last few winter jobs before all the migrants arrive.  We've been doing a lot of prep work ready for the new facilities proposed in a year or two; basically improving the woodlands by removing a lot of the rank sycamore saplings which are blocking all light to the forest floor and replanting them with around 300 native understorey species to provide better food and nesting resources.  That's not to say the sycamore was wasted as it now forms the 'great wall of Tophill' a magnificent 200m long habitat pile that is already home to wrens, robins and a large flock of chaffinches today:

We've also been finishing off the new bat roost to replace the former wildlife centre which was home to around 300 soprano and common pipistrelle bats - this will be there new permanent residence and hopefully a great asset to the reserve:
We've also been sorting all the end of year and membership side of things - and one very large job has been compiling all of the records people have diligently submitted in the HVWG hut over 2013 to form an annual report.  This perk has been sent to all 13/14 members who've provided an accurate e-mail address - if you've not received yours then check your spam filter and if not there feel free to send me an e-mail at with your membership number and I'll happily send a copy on.

This brings up membership too - all current cards expire on the 31st of March and we now have the new ones in - to renew drop by the Warden's base or post off one of the forms downloadable above and post it off.  As ever we searched those pictures submitted to the tophillpics e-mail to find a few candidates that would work as a new card.  Trying to separate one of many exceptional harrier, otter or kingfisher proved impossible so we chose the following; banded demoiselle by Maurice Dowson - a major rarity at Tophill Low and an exceptional pic on this basis:

Brown long-eared bat by Andy Nunn; a quirky subject:

Great white egret by Martin Lonsdale - a nice view of Hempholme Meadow in full bloom:

Osprey by Darren Smith - perhaps more regular this year with luck?

Red necked grebe by Roy Lyon - A smart bird:

We took all these and anonymously put them to the vote amongst the team back at the Yorkshire Water HQ - and the winning entry was...  Reed warbler by Tony Simpson - an excellently sharp picture amongst the reeds which forms the basis of the 2014/15 card:

Tony wins a years permit.  If you fancy a crack we'll revert to the original format this year of all entries in by Dec 31st 2014 and must have been taken at Tophill Low in 2014.  This time send me your single best at years end and again we'll put them to the vote; we'll put some reminders out nearer the time

So on to wildlife news.  As predicted the warm snap did indeed bring in the first chiffchaffs; the first on the 8th with the familiar call now numerous around the woods.  Bill Eggleton bagged the first advance party single sand martin over North Marsh on the 14th; no more were seen until today when a party of 15 were over D res.  Grass snake made a first appearance on the 9th along with brimstone and small tortoiseshell butterflies.  Mediterranean gulls as per the norm have been seen on most watches with an increasing presence of lesser black backed gulls returning to breeding grounds and Lee Johnson found a female scaup this evening on the roost.  A bittern was again present on South Marsh West last week - thanks to Steve Brimble for this shot:

And a taste of winter still here - white fronted goose again on Hempholme Meadow by Dave Ruffles this afternoon:
Hidden from view on the same were 11 snipe flushed by Ben as he set the mink trap last Friday: a nice compliment to up to 6 lapwing seen displaying and holding territory over the meadow at present.  Perhaps show of the moment is on the road between Sleights and Angram Farms; c.30 yellowhammers this morning and 9 yesterday - a great show.  7 buzzards were logged on the 9th by Martin Hodges and the presence of Marsh Harriers again interested gives us hope for the year with a couple of red kite were again seen in the area on the 7th.  Barn owls active on North Scrub by John Coish:
Recorded too have been water rail, up to 69 curlew -  Steve Brimble and John Coish:
And John Coish:

Little egrets Steve Brimble:
Pintail on South Marsh East, peregrine, kingfisher, marsh tit and willow tit.  A cracking sequence of pictures here by Roy Lyon of one of the two pairs of displaying great crested grebes on D res:
Exquisite indeed compared to John Coish's relatively dowdy little grebe on South Lagoon:

And just to annoy all those who have put fruitless hours in at North Marsh; otter by Karen Williams:
And Steve Brimble:
So next on the scene? Expect blackcap, swallow and little ringed plover in the next few days.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Otterly annoying

As is the way with most wildlife the otters tantalised everyone in the last posting, leading to a hide full all week for which on the whole they stayed well away! They did show off on Friday for Alan Walkington here:
And on Saturday this dog otter was larking about in Watton NR for the reserve walk:
A successful morning also unearthed the cetti's warbler again on South Marsh West and this fox:
The covering of mist seemed to have extended the morning activity of many individuals like this kingfisher on North Lagoon:
This kingfisher on North Marsh by Alan was perhaps a sign of things to come:
Kingfisher at Hempholme by Roy Vincent:
Whereas this abstract picture of heron, coot and kingfisher on Watton by Roy Vincent is a strange composition!
Best birds of last week were a pair of red kite which overflew the D res - an uncommon visitor to the lowlands of the valley from their wolds stronghold.  The marsh harriers have been active and perhaps are a more acclimatised resident.  Geoff Dobbs reports with near certainty that the male present here us that which has been at North Cave over this winter; having a prominent forked tail with a central feather projecting.  Given it spent its winter break eating water hens it would certainly sound like ours! Roy Vincent snapped this Tophill celebrity courting in the spring sun - the fabled white buzzard of Watton and friend:
Other sightings have included med gull on the 2nd and 3rd (see Steve's and Erich's blogs for the latest Kumlien's write ups), an oft present pintail on South Marsh East, little egrets on Hempholme Meadow, peregrine over north marsh, 60 pink footed geese south over D res yesterday.  Great tit above the feeders by Paul Linton:
This male reed bunting was snapped by Kay Rooney also on the feeders:
Otherwise the nesting contingent are starting to get going in earnest - barn owl on North Scrub by Hana Scott:
Shelduck on North Lagoon:
Oystercatchers on Watton:
Roe deer - getting ready for their spring rut as opposed to the autumn of most other deer sp.:
And a scarce commodity this year; song thrush in O woods:
Keep an eye out in coming days for spring migrants - clement weather and southerly winds are set to blow in the first sand martins, chiffchaffs and little ringed plovers of the year.  We just hope there isn't a cold snap to follow.