Monday, 7 September 2015

Convoluted posting

It's been all about the transient species lately on the reserve, perhaps the king of which was the convolvulus hawk moth caught in the trap on Saturday night.  A first ever for the reserve a fine beast indeed:
Whilst easy to get excited about, ultimately we find new species of moth for the reserve all the time thanks to many many hours put in by our dedicated volunteers - much of the best of the write up on Martin's blog.  In many cases the small non-descript brown micro's carry a greater significance on the reserve habitats than these big brash migrants more commonly encountered in the Med - but a cracker all the same!
Otherwise it's been migrant birds.  Drawing down the lagoons has given some great views of inland waders;  Perhaps the highlight was the two wood sandpipers which were present near daily until the 24th.
 Roy Vincent:
Distuinguished by the pale eye stripe and speckled backs they differ from the more numerous green sandpipers - couple of comparison pics here (green in foreground):
Green's hit a peak of 8 on the 16th:
 Colin Powell:
Common sandpipers hit a respectable 8 across the reserve on the 23rd and again gave some great close in views - which was to be hoped given the sacrifice of the Friday volunteers involved in excavating small islands in front of the hides to improve the viewing.  Warden gets hosed down after digging out two volunteers!:
We've got a new but of kit to try out in the coming days - so we'll report on that later...

But the efforts were worth it even prompting myself to scrape the dust off the SLR for a go with pleasing results:
Otherwise greenshank hit a peak of 3 on the 22nd and have been across the whole reserve - Comparison with a wood sandpiper here by Pete Drury:
Occasional snipe across the reserve - a pair of showy ones on North Lagoon - Pete Drury;
But numbers perhaps best indicated when the volunteers working on Hempholme Meadow kicked out 6 last week.  Best of the rest have included ruff and dunlin.

In many ways it's been a little disappointing as inspite of good numbers of common birds we've yet to get something more glamorous; the habitat looks the business for spotted crake or curlew sand but none forthcoming.  Repeated easterly winds held great promise and delivered nothing - even blowing birds away from the day prior!  Nice to read the positive comments from Tophill regulars that the reserve is like the 'old times again.'  A minor consolation was a high number of passage ringed plovers this year - a maxima of 4 on the 24th but likely more individuals through:
And a very late celebrity appearance by a pair of avocet - checking out South Marsh East for next year? Brian Colley:
And as ever grey heron and little egret on mop up - Pete Drury:
And 5 grey wagtails often present on North Lagoon (this at Hempholme) - Brian Colley:
Clearly we've done a lot of work last winter into spring and for species like the above and this won't have been of merit this season.  However plans are to retreat back into the central reserve this winter and sort out woodlands and lagoons - leaving the outer environs to tempt marsh harrier again for next year.  That said my observations are that it has been a slow year for raptors generally this year.  The vole crash has been well documented and our barn owls look unlikely to breed for the first year since 2006.  The birds are resident with a good pile of pellets in the box, but no young.  We hear from Robin Arundale of the Wolds Barn Owl Group that birds are starting to lay very late - and he expects to be ringing young in December.  Perhaps the cold weather also had a bearing on common buzzards and sparrowhaks only seemingly fledging very late this year - within the last two weeks.  The south end birds being very vocal - Brian Colley:
That said Derrick had a nice copper head juv marsh harrier on the 28th suggesting they have been somwhere or other.  Osprey also reported on Saturday.  Kingfishers as active as ever by Colin Powell:
And an unseasonal arrival was this bittern which is loitering all over the reserve at the moment.  Nice shot by John Pillinger suggesting quite an amber iris and washed out legs:
Normally our birds are all 1st winter's denoted by bright yellow irises and legs - so interesting that we have an older bird hanging about earlier in the season.  Nice write up on the ringing blog here detailing some of the ancient long tailed tits we have on site!.  However most interest was in amongst them on Saturday.  We fairly regularly get reports of firecrests on the reserve and if anything it almost seems to be a 'folk name' for a male goldcrest; many observers use the fitting description for a goldcrest with a red flame mark on its crest - but the reality is these are but male goldcrests.  This marking is not always visible so people are often elated to see it when shown.  But the firecrest is denoted by the white and black eye stripes giving a pied head.

On this occasion the observer volunteered a good description of this feature rather then red crests - from the Norway Spruces of D woods.  So it is what it is - there are a great many goldcrests up there for sure but finding a firescrest again?

Further ID conundrums included an aythya species with a 'bright blue bill' - initial thoughts of the return of the ruddy duck were solved when it transpired to be a tufted duck with the blue bill tag '23' on it.  Lee Johnson researched one in October last year with the tag 'BZ3' (which I presume is not a pre-worn 23?).  That bird was tagged on the 12/03/14 in Outines, France - so if any one has any updates it would be of interest.  Roy Lyon:
And otherwise the usual eclipse plumage ducks are a confusion like drake wigeon here by Colin Powell - the first 5 arrived on the 20th:
Novel wildfowl include the red crested pochard which it now seems is a permanent reserve fixture:
Other smart birds on the res have included a juv black necked grebe found by Erich and John H on Sunday (details here) and a Caspian gull by John L on Wednesday and cetti's warbler present when it chooses.  A cracking shot here of a juv cuckoo on O res wall on the by Maurice Dowson - now well on the way back to Africa:
Much like the painted ladies of the recent eruption - Brian Colley:
Fleabane is a great plant for late nectar - after the 'devastation' of winter slash and burn we showed the amazing pink vista in South Scrub in July. 
Now if we were harvesting fleabane we'd be pretty pleased with the crop:
Another late source is Hemp Agrimony being enjoyed by Red Admiral - Brian Colley:
And wall brown still in decent numbers on site - Brian Colley:
Linkages in nature are always very complex - look closely in this shot and you can see the near developed moth of what we best guess is bulrush wainscot in Hempholme Meadow during the autumn cut by Rob Quarmby:
Things will become a lot more autumnal soon when the main hay cuts come off.  Still time to enjoy the huge diversity of inverts' on offer.  There are a host of different hoverflies - Chrysotoxum bicinctum by Doug Fairweather:
And Paul Leyland:
Likewise Paul also sends us Dasysyrphus albostriatus:
Eristalis horticola:
Eupeodes latifasciatus:
Xylota segnis:
Doug conributes this fine Mirid Bug, Deraeocoris flavilinea:
Phytocoris ulmi:
Black Kneed Capsid - Blepharidopterus angulatus
Elsewhere autumn berries looking lush - nothing to compete with the guelder rose though:
Otherwise September is the month to see Southern Hawkers like this by Maurice Dowson being replaced by Migrant Hawkers - or 'hobby fodder':
And keep an eye out for odd warblers as breeders re-emerge and migrants pass through.  Willow here by Maurice: