Saturday, 31 May 2014

barffs and boats

A quick update on an upcoming event;

Next Sunday - the 8th of June is Open Farm Sunday and our graziers Edward and Nicola Duggleby of Beswick Hall Farms are opening up their excellent farm down the road at Beswick. 
Activities include a guided farm walk. tractor and trailer ride, national insect count, brush a lamb, sit on a combine, learn about the foods we produce - followed by refreshments and bbq where you can sample some of the belted galloway herd that help graze Tophill for a small fee.

It's a great opportunity to see a well managed farm with some outstanding habitat - Edward and Nicola entered a lot of their land under Natural England's Higher Level Stewardship scheme and woodlands at the last survey still held breeding turtle dove.  Wet meadows have had scrapes excavated in them for lapwing and waders which former warden Peter Izzard and myself helped advise upon.  In return a few plants have been swapped - some of our wetland specialities for some of their woodlands ones (The plantations around Barff Hill covert are very similar to what Tophill Low would have been like prior to the creation of the water works and did not suffer the bulldozer) - as such plants like lords and ladies have been introduced at Tophill as the nearest genetic progeny. 

Clearly it'll be quite popular as places are strictly limited - so if interested please contact the Duggleby's on 01377 270387 or 07818 169025


Forewarning too on another exciting series of events coming up in September:

We're teaming up with Beverley Boat Hire to run three riverine adventures to Tophill Low as part of the Visit Hull and East Yorkshire Walking and Outdoor festival.  We'll be running two trips from North Frodingham and one from Beverley to travel the river Hull to the Nature Reserve and dropping anchor at Hempholme Lock where there'll be a two hour tour of the reserve

Prices and exact timings are yet to be finalised - but please send us an e-mail or drop a line if you have an expression of interest. 

It should be a brilliant opportunity to see neighbouring areas seldom seen like Emmotland, West beck tributaries, Bethell's bridge to the north and Swinemoor, Leven Canal, High Eske and the like to the south.  We can't guarantee shearwaters and bonxies - but kingfishers, harriers, otter trails should all be in evdience.

Going forward we hope to be able to run these trips regularly with closer and better berthing to give people a great wildlife experience and 'go all green' instead of reliance on cars to get to Tophill...


No bbq or boats - but there will be the old faithful reserve walk on too - 10am this Saturday the 7th.  Free with standard admission


Plus two places left on this years final otter watch on the 13th - book in advance

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Deserted island

The word on everyone's lips for the last couple of weeks is 'what's happening with the marsh harriers?'  We can reveal that they are nesting on the reserve this year - but unfortunately not in last years location on South Marsh West. 

We have last years pair on North Marsh back again (which were kept low profile as the back up plan).  We're ok with publicising them as they are very well tucked away - the best description is featured at the end of this blog entry from a couple of years ago.

So why haven't the South Marsh ones come back? They've been seen in the area and even at the nest site but haven't settled.  Three reasons we reckon why not;
1 - The oil seed rape crop this year has grown - a freezing spring following winter floods last year stilted growth and removed this now favoured breeding habitat.  This year it was in full flower in March.
2 - The neighbours - last year we drained South Marsh East for management and the main residents all summer were a peace loving and tasty family of little ringed plovers.  Contrast to this year and the black headed gull colony is back with a vengeance - along with some menacing relatives.  Regular Darren reported a harrier attempting to land at the nest last week was mobbed so heavily it couldn't put down - or even sit in the tree behind
3 - And finally the law of sod - we installed a camera a few months back overlooking last years nest site in the hope we'd get some great views!  Bit like taking a camera on a fishing trip...
So that disappointment aside there is still plenty else to relish.  Cetti's warblers are again on site and indeed the same female was ringed last week by the group - complete with brood patch confirming evidence of breeding - details here.

Barn owls are currently feeding 3 chicks and the tawny owls have already entertained many in the car park some great shots here from Darren Smith:
And Bruce Pillinger:
with mum looking on:
Plenty of wood pigeon squabs about this weekend:
Unfortunately another one was picked off by the sparrowhawk within 30mins:
These Egyptian geese rolled in recently and have been a regular addition around the bottom of site - pics by Eddie Laker:
A few tail end waders have passed through in the last couple of weeks:
dunlin at Watton on the 8th, 10th, 12th,
wood sandpiper on SMW on the 14th - pic by Karen Williams
Common sandpiper on Sunday:
with the odd greenshank and whimbrel to boot and a few redshank like this one by Mal Jones:
A passing turtle dove on the 9th might be a lucky record for 2014 - and chances of spotted flycatcher anyone?  Some new arrivals though were a pair of little gulls that hung about on the Marsh - pic by Roy Lyon:
And a med gull by Roy too that hung around for a while (A good write up on Erich's page)- Roy:
However the heavily fortified tern island on South Marsh East had been vacated by all gulls last week.  The island next door is still fine with the first black headed gull chicks last Friday:
The terns peaked at 7 before settling down with 2 pairs now on nests:
Great result for a lot of work put in last summer by the volunteers:
So what went wrong on the main island - had the fox got out again? the belt off the electric fence would suggest not and nor did any prints.  We suspect it may be due to these shady characters:
This pair of lesser black backed gulls have been hanging around all season taking opportunities as they arrive.  In one case a cuckoo was reported flying over stimulating mobbing in the black-heads - which was the perfect opportunity for the LBBG's to gorge themselves.  It would appear no one is welcome - not even a pair of terns:
That said no nest as yet - so are they just going to hang about?  perhaps a good reason for the harriers to go elsewhere.  That said 4 pairs of little grebes suggest a lack of pike so a good result on the draining - Roy Lyon:
Linnets showy nearby - Darren Smith:
Sedge warbler by Brian Colley:
And a cracking shot of bullfinches by Andy Marshall - no digital trickery either!
Orchids by Brian:
And honeysuckle also by Brian:
Nice meal for any cuckoo - drinker caterpillar:
For the next stage have a look at Martin's blog for all the moth news.

There have been a few otter sighting of late - there are a few last minute places left on Friday night's event - £5 per person - ring 01377 270690 to book before hand.  Tony McLean snapped this one at the back of Watton NR last week:
Thanks again to the volunteer team L shaped hide is again open.  Like any DIY job it turned out bigger than envisaged! Rob puts the finishing touches on:

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A swift entrance

Swifts have been the big arrival since the last post - many hundreds in recent days moving through site.  The greatest spectacle has undoubtedly been the pair of garganey on Watton NR which turned up on the 29th of May and showed well for Saturday's reserve walk - unfortunately no pictures yet of these showy birds.  The last report on Hempholme Meadow on Sunday the 6th too was a tempting prospect, but perhaps the three snipe are a more likely and still notable breeding success.

Marsh harriers still continue to tantalise us.  It's a certainty they will nest in the environs of the reserve this year - but where is yet to be determined. They keep visiting last years nest site but have not been seen carrying any material yet - for interest the first logged incidence of this was the 05th of May last year; so what are they up to?..

There are still a few stragglers heading north - up to five pintail in recent days, 3 scaup were on O on the 27th and 1 on D on the 2nd, and this common scoter was giving some of the best photo ops of one ever at Tophill for Brian Colley yesterday on the 7th after arriving a day earlier:
Likewise barnacle goose on South Marsh by Brian:
Elsewhere wood sandpipers on Watton on the 26th and South Marsh East on the 1st were notable records of this scarce migrant, common sandpipers have been regular, 1 whimbrel on the 2nd and a white wagtail amongst 14 more pied's on the 5th.  Common terns have arrived and a pleasing 6 were logged on the 5th which will hopefully settle down to breed soon - Brian Colley:
Elsewhere some species have already bred - long-tailed tits on first broods by Roy Vincent:
Plenty of sedge warblers - Roy Vincent:
Common whitethroat - Brian Colley:
Orange tips:
Some cracking shots of all things invertebrate on Paul Ashton's blog here from the weekend including the latest emergent damselflies, and also on Steve Routledge's blog here.  For those who prefer beasties with a spinal column Roy Vincent snapped this Roe Buck at North Marsh:
And Andy Marshall showing the water voles under the hide survived the mink:
Otter is a regular piscivor on the North Marsh and has been showing well in recent days - thank to David Johnson for this one:
I've finally found time to add the otter walk dates on the events page above.  We're teaming up with Dave from Wolds Birding to offer the first on the 16th of May with another on the 30th and the final on the 13th of June (all Friday nights).  They are priced at £5 inc admission this year and will start at 7pm.  As ever otters never guaranteed 'but we always see something.'  Strictly book in advance only as places are limited - ring 01377 270690 for further details and bookings. 

And as and finally... If you like your vertebrates really big check this out! Grey seal snapped by Martin Hodges from the river bank at Tophill the other day - more info and pics on his blog here.