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:
firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
Little egrets Steve Brimble:
And just to annoy all those who have put fruitless hours in at North Marsh; otter by Karen Williams:
And Steve Brimble: