Monday, 7 January 2019

Clean sweep

A few more species to add into the year list with Mediterranean gull, pintail, 6 shelduck appearing a few days later, black tailed godwit, merlin and red kite today to keep things ticking over.  Thanks to everyone whom participated in the day - we also raised £35.10 for Ryedale Wildlife Rehab to assist in their good work. 

As the official Tophill Christmas tree has become a habitat pile for the wrens, the Wildlife Photography Exhibition also comes to an end.  Thanks to everyone who submitted images and visited and voted in what was a really successful first instalment.  Hopefully everyone got chance to drop in and look through them.  Judging them was really difficult - as mentioned previously the panel's decision was based not purely on image and kit, but also the context and story the image told.  All were judged anonymously (where untitled on the picture).  Its all subjective; but our decision was for the animal category:
Marsh Frog by Rose Habberley - whilst technically an invasive; we liked its epic struggle up the log:

For the Wading bird category:
Jack snipe by Brian Blinkhorn - It was close run but the scarcity of the species in a well posed shot in its habitat edged it. 

For the plants category;
Water violets by Steve Shipley - Simple and effective on the reception hide pond. 

For the birds category;
Another Blinkhorn!  lots of great pictures in this category but the soft light on a tribute to a bird which more than likely didn't make it (one of this years youngsters which had been roosting on the reception hide but succumbed in Decembers prolonged wet spell).

Rob Worsfold's complete rainbow over the approach road. 

Best gull was a 50:50 shot with just two participants!:
Geraldine Gray's nesting black headed.

And then a hatrick for the kingfisher category:
Brian Blinkhorn again - a difficult choice but the way Brian's kingfisher had a three dimensional aspect and the clearly focussed pupil on its prey set it apart. 

And finally for invertebrates;
Scorpion fly by Steve Hines - a well posed picture of a smart beast. 

One category went un-awarded - young photographer unfortunately with no takers.  We'll certainly be running the exhibition again next Christmas with similar categories, but with the addition of a short video / sound recoding class of up to three minutes.  Full details will be posted in due course so get snapping...

But were the jury correct?  We also had the public vote so visitors could express their opinion.  The ballot was counted today and in 4th place:
Meadow pipits by Steve Hines - a cracking shot of a daily bird at Tophill - but very seldom on the ground.  In 3rd place:
Curlew by John Leason - a pin sharp shot of a bird that deserves recognition at Tophill.  In second place:
Hare by John Leason - a stunning portrait of an animal synonymous with East Yorkshire, and in 1st place...
Bittern by John Leason! Certainly a compelling verdict and well deserved on the consistency of quality in all his images.  Also worthy of note that it was taken at the aspect of the photography hide - so hopefully more to come this season at this location...

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Getting one up...

2018 finished off with a final flourish.  On Friday the 28th we overheard 6 whoopers as they landed on O res.  Going for a look at lunch Gill Reid clocked the drake smew which was great to see back again on O res, and came to D on the 31st also. 
John Coish:
The following day we had a visit from Pete Short, the RSPB's Blacktoft Sands Warden.  Its always good therapy to exchange notes on the perils of Wardening,  A chief moan is the 'it's quiet there's nothing here' we both get on occasion.  In our eyes there is always something to see - it may not what was expected - but there is always something if folks open their eyes...

With this in mind Pete passed me these shots later in the day:
This bird certainly smacks strongly of American blue-winged teal, immature males can still be in sub-adult plumage at this time of year so the white crescent would not be fully developed as here.   The other reason it could be indistinct is because it could be a hybrid.  Ideally more pictures and study would have been obtained - unfortunately another visitor then arrived and opened the flaps and flushed the bird, whilst remarking 'all these birds and we haven't seen anything rare'... 

At the time of writing we're still hoping it'll reoccur and vindicate itself fully with some nice flight shots. 

So with the above in mind what can you see with a bit of application?  A good barometer is the annual year listing event - we had a tough target this year, with 80 from 2018 the all time record to top.  So...

Arriving at the start of proceedings Angram Farm, Lukas and I leapfrogged down the road recording 
1) Woodpigeon
2) Rook - 200 over Decoy
3) Carrion crow
4) Pheasant
5) Barn owl unexpectedly flew overhead and straight into the Angram outbuildings
6) Blue tit
7) Great tit
8) Tree sparrow were all on the feeders - but alas no house this year
9) Feral pigeon / Rock dove - hanging around the yard
10) Stock dove - calling, but further good sightings later
11) Magpie
12) Blackbird
13) Great black backed gull - was on some prey item in the fields
14) Mistle thrush on the approach road was welcome for a some years troublesome tick
15) Redwing were in the hawthorns - and somewhat elusive the rest of the day
16) Common buzzard on Easingwold
17) Chaffinch was on the muck-heap first of many
18) Red legged partridge - a small covey at Easingwold Farm
19) Jackdaw - in the garden
20) Moorhen - 5 this year unfettered by last years otters at this time in Barmston Drain
21) Goldcrest in the car park conifers
Many thanks to all the great assistance we got through the day today - a great turn out of regulars and visitors helped keep the tally coming.  Jeff and Chris in the reception hide had already had:
22) Treecreeper
23) Pied wagtail
24) Coal tit
25) Starling
26) Cormorant
27) Robin
28) Dunnock
29) Great spotted woodpecker
30) Fieldfare
31) Song thrush
32) Lee Johnson bagged a couple of good ticks - grey partridge
33) Woodcock at first light (John Coish another later on Easingwold).  This was all by 9am! 
10am saw the first of the two walks; We started with a proper look on the D res -
34) Black-headed gull
35) Pochard
36) Goldeneye
37) Common gull
38) Tufted duck
39) Coot
40) Great crested grebe
41) Mute swan
42) Goldfinch
43) Wigeon
44) Gadwall
45) Greenfinch as we left heading south
46) Long tailed tit
47) Marsh tit - flew along the north lagoon willow tunnel calling - alas no willow today
48) Teal on south lagoon - with masses more on Watton and South Marsh East
49) Mallard there too
50) Lapwing
51) Redshank - an impressive 18 on the lowered South Marsh East (although already a digital tick on camera)
52) Curlew - three on SME
53) Sparrowhawk - sat on a post surveying the scene on SME
54) Marsh harrier - a female quartered the reed bed before another passed high over D res late in the day
55) Greylag geese - Watton
56) Canada geese - Watton
57) Kestrel - hovering at the rear - Lukas Rowe:
58) Goosander - the pair which had earlier been missed by the early watchers
59) Shoveler - several on Watton
60) Little egret - a single and more going along the river to roost at dusk
61) Cetti's warbler called from the top of Watton.  Not seen anywhere but heard multiple places.
62) Bullfinch - again on call in South Scrub
63) Water rail - another call
64) Herring gull overhead
Arriving back at the reception hide we met up with the other teams who had also recorded;
65) Pink-footed goose - another from Lee
66) The drake smew had made a welcome return for the day.  Mid afternoon it flew and dropped straight into the river Hull behind north scrub - perhaps where it goes?
67) Grey heron
68) Peregrine falcon
69) Kingfisher
70) Grey wagtail
71) Siskin
72) Linnet
73) Yellowhammer
74) Reed bunting - a confiding bird on north scrub later entertained everyone. 
75) Common snipe - final bird of the morning Lukas uncovered on Easingwold footpath on the carrs:
This presented us with a problem as we were only five off the pace - but not much easy left for the afternoon
76) Lesser black-backed gull was picked out by Chris Straw, before the long walk north through D woods and around Hemholme and back.  Chief target was a willow tit but to no avail.
77) Little grebe was the other target - the morning surveyors had failed; but we managed four downstream of the weir
78) Meadow pipit were in a small party over Hempholme lock.
79) Collared dove was not as enigmatic as the intended little owl at Hallytreeholme Farm - but a tick none the less and perhaps as uncommon now at Tophill.
80) The clincher came when a group of "large finches" alighted opposite north marsh.  A scope view found them to be a party of 16 corn bunting.  Best birds of the day - and a fitting end as we knew that; 
81) Tawny owl was an inevitability around the reception hide as darkness fell. 
So there we are - a new record set!  And tactically one up on last year so not setting the bar impassably high for 2020... In addition roe deer, hare, rabbit and otter spraint on the mammal list.  Proof indeed that there is always something to see!
To critique ourselves - no Mediterranean gull or other larid exotica (no Martin), the shelduck previously present daily had gone, and the two pintail according to Dave Hobson's feed were at Eske all day despite our efforts.  Willow tit was sorely missed and short-eared owl could not be located at dusk on Hallytreeholme or Easingwold.

We had a collection along the way for Ryedale Wildlife Rehab - so if you are suitably impressed by our efforts we'll be keeping the tin open for donations until Sunday the 6th of Jan - which is the last day for viewing the photo exhibition too. 

Hopefully the rest of the year carries on as strongly...