Some of you may have seen brief snippets in the press regarding the new reception hide here at Tophill Low recently - needless to say this is progressing well but we want to be sure of dates and the like before we make final notification of the project. That hasn't stopped the woodland works from progressing well into which it wild sit. Our objective this winter has centred solely on the area behind the car park and North Lagoon to create a much more enjoyable walk for enthusiasts visiting the new facility. Currently its fair to say the walk can be a little bleak for the first few hundred yards in each direction but we hope by next year it will be transformed.
A lot of work has centred on the removal of likely thousands of sycamore saplings from beneath the mature original planting. This species seeds prolifically and has smothered all light to the woodland floor eliminating ground flora and creating a 'bean pole' wood with long leggy stems devoid of nesting habitat for birdlife. Initial works last year gave us a glimpse of what we could attain just by the addition of some light - the foxglove display was spectacular last season and promises to be so this too:
The tree management has extended to many of the old crack willow pollards in the wet areas. These have been cut many moons ago - and ideally are re-cut every 5-15 years to maximise habitat potential for feeding and breeding warblers giving these splendid characterful trees - a testament to generations of wardens and volunteers:
Further down stream a lot of work is being finished off on North Lagoon at the moment. After our improvement works last year we had some great views of waders like wood sandpiper at close range for the first time in 10 years. However the management of water levels was very challenging due to multiple blockages and leaks. The volunteer team have been busy clearing willows from the left of the hide and laying beech and alder to give great views whilst providing cover from disturbance. Meanwhile between the lagoons this breach in the 1950's bund made water control impossible with water flowing into North Lagoon that should have been going south:
Already spectacular is another Yorkshire Water site if you're not familiar with it. Brayton Barff is a Yorkshire Water owned woodland close to Selby. Our main contact Derek Cooper has published this illustrated online account of a year of wildlife on the site. The flycatchers are a standout feature - well worth a read here.
So that's what we've been up to - but what about the wildlife? Generally lots of this behaviour...
The southern marshes at some periods this winter were very quiet, but this is completely reversed now. We reckon this could be the most hectic year ever and will be a massive spectacle. Last year we worked to improve the habitat but it came late at the expense of breeding wildfowl which went elsewhere. This year the new habitat dubbed 'Palm Island' is ready and waiting - pictures courtesy of George Stoyle / Yorkshire Wildlife Trust:
Even the roe deer are frisky - rutting being spring time for them - Darren Smith:
And Bruce Pillinger:
Other sightings through the month include:
Scaup - the drake on D res regularly from the 1st Feb onwards
Mediterranean gull - again near daily
Iceland gull - a nice seasonal treat from a mild winter by Martin on the 6th & 7th
Bittern - finally pushed out by the ice on the 7th Feb
Goosander on the 7th, 9th, 21st, 23rd, 29th, Feb
Yellow legged gull on the 8th, 11th Feb
Kittiwake on the 8th Feb, 2nd March.
Little Gull on the 8th (perhaps the finest gull diversity day ever!)
Eurasian white fronted goose on the 9th - 13th on Watton
Along with Barnacle
And pink feet on the 10th, 13th, Feb, 2 Mar
9 snipe disturbed from Hempholme Meadow on the 11th
Whooper swans on the 18th
Greenfinch (!!) on the feeders on the 18th
Red crested pochard 18th
55 Golden plover on the 19th
Brambling on the 20th
Dunlin 1st March (heading north)
And to round off a winter that passed us by; Short eared owl on SME on the 6th March.
Grey partridge again visible on the access road
Our next post will likely feature sand martin, osprey, chiffchaff and little ringed plover - who's going to bag the first... Marsh tit, willow tit, cetti's warbler are fixtures on site.
But not all is rosy and sinister forces lay beneath.
At the end of last year we showed you some of our trail camera footage of an otter possibly taking a black headed gull. Since then it seems in these images supplied by Hull Uni student Zoe Latham who's undertaking a degree project on the population here it seems there is ready activity:
Often it appears to be a big dog - a useful size comparison here:
But the main interest has been what it has been hauling out; Coot had been observed earlier - but unfortunately this struggling tufted duck was also on the menu:
Some great shots were seen last week of the otter doing the back stroke up North Marsh - so as ever to see one in 'real life' its just a waiting game. Check out James Sharp's photography site for pictures of this an other too here.
For even bigger predators we have a treat in store courtesy of Josh Harrison - local and very talented wildlife photographer. Between March 18th and the 1st of April daily (excluding Wednesdays) we will have an exhibition of some of his best Arctic photos on show entitled:
On the evening of the 18th at 7:30pm Josh will be launching the exhibition with an illustrated talk - free but numbers are limited. If you would like to attend please contact Josh on
firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest before the 15th.
Visiting this could be the perfect time too for membership renewals. Subs for the April 2016-17 membership are due later this month - prices as per last year. The new permits will be in any day now and we'll post on the blog with the winning design revealed once they are ready for purchase.
Finally the much anticipated events programme is up on the events page above now too, .