Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A big rave up

Best birds since the last post have been the ravens which overflew Watton NR on the 12th of November.  Spotted by Lee Johnson these are a big rarity for Tophill Low and even better he managed to also preserve the moment on the camera (along with the belittled jackdaws):
Ravens are occasionally seen east of the Pennines and will hopefully go the way of buzzards in future years. 

Putting an appearance in Watton also since the 7th of November has been a spotted redshank amongst up to 10 common.  It was still on at the weekend and is perhaps the longest staying since the D res was drained back in 2007.  Other winter waders have included green sandpiper and dunlin.  We attribute this to the cattle from Easingwold grazing the reserve for the first time; they've made a real difference and taken the vegetation right down and opened the habitat up a lot.  The curlew and wildfowl clearly seem a lot more comfortable feeding around the seasonal ponds - presumably as the open vistas mean this character is more visible - Brian Colley:
Brian also captured these images of whoopers dropping in.  A lot have been in the county recently and we've been attracting groups of up to 13 since the 7th also:
There was a big movement of pink footed geese last week with 100 birds on the Watton pits and stragglers in and amongst the greylags.  4 pintail were also present recently - a drake by Brian here too:
Thanks to Francis Bell too for these images of the first goosanders of the year on the 16th:
A scaup was present on the 11th.  Another nice seasonal delight was a short eared owl on the 19th on Watton.  We really ought to get a stake out at Hempholme pump house and see if their active over Standingholme or Hallytreeholme as in the vintage 2011.  Siskins are generally reliable enough around the alders of the lagoons but the several lesser redpoll amongst them are always nice to liven things up.  Kingfishers are still on the North Marsh for those patient - Christine Watts:
Neil Murray:
And a festive Robin:
Otherwise our notorious gull botherer has returned from warmer climes and as such the species and numbers have multiplied rapidly.  Whilst present virtually every night Med gulls reached an all time high of 6 birds on the 18th, and yellow legs are near nightly.  Whilst the northerlies did not yield us a white winger of little auk we have had two consecutive Caspian gulls on the last two nights - a belting make this evening.  No doubt the details to follow on Martin's site here.  Otherwise a big build up of goldeneye recently:
Whilst we may be in the depths of winter there are still young about.  It would appear from Steve Hine's pictures and reports we can celebrate the recent birth of three otter cubs on the reserve - photographed on North Marsh last week:
We also caught a water vole (unharmed) in our mink traps today - so good to know these are still on the go after the recent capture of 3 American Mink.  And good news too was that one of our long term volunteers Dave Ware recently picked up 'Student of the Year' at his graduation from Bishop Burton recently - a great accolade and recognition of a lot of hard work put in both in study and helping on the reserve:

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Swags in the phrag

As per the last post really - we're still looking to the reed beds for the main interest at the moment.  The great white egrets are the star birds of the moment with two going to roost at the side of the south marsh west last week.  Sightings are somewhat erratic during day time - Brian Colley picked up a bird in Barmston Drain at Hempholme Lock last week:
Whilst it was on South Marsh East at the beginning of last week we think most of their time is spent either on the surrounding drainage network or the scrapes and fish refuges along the river Hull berm.  The berm is a very good habitat which houses some of our best reed beds - indeed for the bittern which continues to be present erratically too it is our best chance for a breeding one.  However left to its own devices the reed beds will be lost to willow again so we've been doing a bit of work with Yorkshire Water colleagues to cut the regrowth from the EA clearance 4 winters back:
Far better than being in an office and helping biodiversity and flood risk downstream in Hull at the same time:
Well managed reed beds in addition to cuckoos, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler and cetti's are also potentially home to enigmatic birds like the bearded tit.  One would think this a bit of pipe dream - but we've just had another 6 birds sighted last week by Paul Mountain.  This is similar to the number we had back in spring on south marsh west - so keep your eye out for a potential wintering flock which we hope can be persuaded to stay. 

But as always nothing's clear cut in nature and the habitats we make are always the best mix of compromises in many cases.  Willows are a useful resource for many species and when kept in check are a welcome asset.  One example was found on north marsh when the willows were being cleared to keep the kingfisher vistas open.  Lukas uncovered this wholesome looking grub gnawing its way through a stump - after being photographed and returned by Pete, Barry Warrington suspected this could be a lunar hornet clearwing larvae: 
Our resident clearwing gurus Doug and Martin along with ourselves cutting willows have been seeing exit holes in goat willow stumps for many years but no moth has ever been seen (they don't come to light and don't respond to pheromone lures).  As such Doug collated the evidence and sent it over to Charlie Fletcher at Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation whom gave it the thumbs up as a new species for the reserve via a collaborative effort on ID.  It'll still be nice to see an adult though...

Equally interesting and puzzling - one of our long tailed tits ringed by the team in summer was caught at Flamborough Bird Observatory three weeks back.  I'm not really sure of the logic to this direction when everything else is going the other way but interesting none the less.  Catching season for moths is pretty tail endish now - with clues in the name of Doug's latest efforts - December moth:
And feathered thorn:
Helvella crispa a smart fungi and likewise a season closing for most species apart from the somewhat 'wooden' remnants left:
Cetti's warbler has been unusually vocal given the generally dismal weather and holds promise for
next year in a similar manner to the pair of marsh harriers somewhat resident on the southern marshes.  Even food passing last week which seems a bit premature.

Otherwise the starling roost continues with otter being seen last Sunday - so sunsets on South Marsh West seem to be the pick experience of the moment.  Otherwise the barnacle, pink feet and bean goose seem to be still in the greylag/Canada flock but tricky as groups move in and out.  Drake pintail was a smart addition on Watton on Sunday and of higher provenance than the now 5 red crested pochard on D res constantly.  Small numbers of goldeneye, redwing, fieldfare and curlew building.  A late green sandpiper last week as written up on Steve Routledge's blog, along with merlin and peregrine and perhaps Erich's short eared owl a stone's throw from the reserve at Leven Carrs will give us a whirl as well this winter...