Sunday, 18 March 2018

Spring unsprung

A big difference in a week; and perhaps not the rapid ascent of summer you'd expect at this time of year.  Last Sunday we had the first chiffchaffs of spring sounding out and great crested newt emerging from the depths.  Indeed working upon the fox fence was a pleasant shirt sleeves job:
Contrast this with today:
Indeed the high winds and unsecured headgear were suitable for a bit of curling:
Either that or Inuit spear fishing..
The works on the fox fence continue well with nearly all land based sections now complete.  The fox has been wandering the line checking it out.  We haven't time this year to fence the far side along the river bank so hopefully it won't go long distance swimming. 

Regardless of the fox we had a great success last weekend with our long term mink issue having not caught any since last February.  We use the 'GCT mink raft' design which rely on the natural inquisitiveness of the animals to investigate holes to lure them into a live capture trap.  Baiting has never been successful and we have tried many types over the years.  Mink are predators rather than scavengers and therefore don't seem to be attracted to carrion (even though they do live on their own cached stores of dismembered prey in their home range of North America during winter).  We reckon the mink at Tophill had become trap shy - having possibly escaped in the past from a trap / or just had been selectively bred through our persecution to be naturally wary.  In the end we utilised some used pet rodent bedding and droppings pushed into each trap - the strong smell of potential prey was seemingly irresistible and the next day we caught a female. 

Removing a wild animal that is just trying to make an honest living (here due to human stupidity in the first place) is never a nice job.  However this animal was heavily scarred on the back of the neck from mating - and not recently so quite likely is an experienced breeder from last year.  As catches go this is top drawer, and at this time of year the hundreds of native birds and mammals this has saved this summer is undeniable.  And predictably the very next morning the male was caught in the same trap.  Our experiences are that mink tend to sit on a territory during summer so re-colonising is unlikely until this years young strike out in autumn.  Potentially this may have had as big an impact as the fox fence this year.  So a good start to spring (unless you're a mink).

Hopefully these guys may stand a chance for the first time in a while - Neil Murray:
A more welcome predator on the reserve here - great shot by Paul Lyons:
Otters don't tend to give us any issues for nesting birds - there seems a clear distinction that if it swims its fair game - anything on land they don't bother.  Bill Eggleton from yesterday:
Somewhere amongst this lot was the Glaucous gull yesterday - now present for 71 days:
We thought we'd lost it as it hadn't been seen in the week since Monday and it was assumed it had ridden the brief southerly stream north bound on Wednesday - but it was back and as showy as ever today.  This scaup turned up last week and was the best thing to come out of the recent inclement weather - Roy Lyon:
As stated in the last posting we are due car park re-surfacing this week - although this wasn't the type we had in mind:
The schedule for the week so you can plan your visit is:
Monday 19th - open as normal
Tuesday - upper half of car park being surfaced - lower open as normal
Wednesday - Lower half of car park being surfaced - expect disruption to parking
Thursday - Open as normal
Friday - White lining - expect disruption to parking

Also - New Membership permits; I very much hope from Saturday the 24th. 

A few more wintering specialities - brambling at the feeders still - Roy Lyon:
Wintering black tailed godwit - Roy Lyon:
Regardless of recent weather - when spring comes it will do so very fast.  Roe deer readying for the rut and shedding their velvet - David Goundry:
The barn owls have toughed it out through winter - Done Davis:
The grey herons are persevering and continuing construction:
The kingfisher perch had to be repaired after one broke it last week!  Cetti's warbler never went anywhere - Pat Crofton:
Three Mediterranean gulls tonight and one yesterday also a good sign of summer.  Scarlet elf cup here amongst the leaf litter:
Plenty of water in south marsh west this season:
And one of life's great mysteries:
 Frog spawn is an uncommon item at the best of times at Tophill - even less so 6 feet in the air:
Prime candidate would be tawny owl predation of frogs I reckon...