Monday, 15 June 2015

This is not a post...

Two kingfisher fledglings have been sighted which heralds the start of kingfisher season 2015.  It is always post breeding season in which the kingfishers tutor their young in front of assembled onlookers in North Marsh.  We've become something of conoisseurs of perches now and the thought was what to do this year.  We resurrected the 'no fishing' sign for last season but after two years the look is 'so 2014.'  This summer in the kingfisher world the look's all about rustic.  We managed to find a few good perches from the woods in the form of rotten branches but we wanted something heftier.  A good scavenge round unearthed these beauties:
These are not posts; these are 30 year weathered posts complete with rusty nail and sunbleached patina.  It is to this level kingfisher prep now entails.  Chris & Jo install the posts whilst directed by the managerial expertise of John and the Warden (it looked a bit muddy):
Even before the marsh had been left kingfishers were landing on the new posts; but prior to this we had already had a series of cracking photographs of the bird from Roy Vincent:
And Darren Smith:
Unfortunately the glamour was short lived and lenses have spurned these perrenial favourites in preference of these characters - Steve Brimble:
Reportedly today two hobbys gave stunning views hawking dragonflies, whilst an unfortunate great tit was a heavier snack last night.  Heron lurking in the reeds by Steve:
Everything seems a bit late this year; the first bee orchid on O res only emerged yesterday and the South Scrub orchid meadow is yet to reach its climax:
And dragonflies only really starting to get going - nice broad bodied chaser male by Andy Marshall:
And female ovipositing:

Wildfowl broods still seem hidden - mute swan emerged on Barmston Drain though - Andy Marshall:
Along with more Canada's:
Our stars of last week seemed to have departed now.  Certainly they were flying between branches on Monday last when Alan Walkington got a shot of the two chicks:
And its likely Steve was the last to photograph them last Tuesday in a final flourish of posing:
Terns though have only just hatched - three chicks on Saturday.  Plenty more to come however as they seem to multiply every time we visit.  At the last count there were a confirmed 12 nests - but there are suspicions of a 13th, with 20 birds visible at the same time it makes for quite a spectacle and is great payback for the winter works:
Another good pay off is all the mink trapping that took place last winter; water voles giving a good display in north marsh and as we suspected survived the mink influx - Steve Brimble:
It appears to us that mink are somewhat static in spring and summer during breeding season before dispersing in late summer - so that's when we'll be getting going again with our new traps. Elsewhere a water shrew showed well today and hopefully more to come as we think we know its nest. 

Otherwise thinks are relatively static but green sandpiper was beaten south this year by greenshank with two present on Saturday night on South Marsh East with a lone redshank today.  We've dropped the levels an inch in the marsh as we're hearing reports of a good movement of birds about so we shall see what we can entice.
To hear more about the mechanics of the water on the reserve along with all the other development updates we will be holding a long overdue Reserve open meeting at 2pm on Sunday the 19th July.  Its been many months since the last purely because we had nowhere to hold one; but for those that don't know we aim to hold a twice yearly update on reserve news for anyone whom is interested at the old centre / barn.  We also have Stefan's otter study results back too so will be covering the findings of this interesting research too.   

Regretfully too we report this week the passing of Ray Kenyon, 86, long time Volunteer Warden since the site opened to the public in 1993:
Ray helped meet and greet on the reserve for 20 years and will be affectionately remembered by many.  For anyone wishing to pay their respects amongst his Reserve friends there will be non-religious ceremony in keeping with Ray's views held at Haltemprice Crematorium at 11:30am on Wednesday the 24th of June with donations to Cancer Research.  Those whom knew Ray knew he was a staunch believer in reincarnation - so we wish him well wherever he is now and thank him for his help assisting people to enjoy the reserve and its wildlife in this incarnation.        

Saturday, 6 June 2015

A little imagination...

...was needed - but I guess a few tree stumps and bit of woodchip and its very nearly Wykeham!  At least that's what the male nightjar present from the 23rd to the 25th thought. 
Found by Doug and Martin; photo by here:
Alas self respecting lady nightjars were not so enthused by the miniature forestry and he left to more likely habitat; a great seasonal record however and the first for a great many years.  This perhaps represents the peak of summer migration.  A final few stragglers consisted of a black tailed godwit on Watton and temminck's stint and 3 dunlin on South Marsh East on the 22nd and spring was signed and sealed.   Lapwing present in small numbers:
Black tailed godwit flying south on the 30th is difficult to place at this time and could well have been returning and alas the following weekend on the 31st winter's icey grip descended - albeit in the pleasant form of a female red necked phalarope returning south after leaving the male tending the nest up in the north.  Photo by Lee Johnson:
Perhaps we should not be so despondent as summer seems to be late this year; generally we tell folk the best time to see bee orchids is the 1st week in June and there is not one to date.  Likewise the earlier flowering marsh and common spotted orchids have yet to attain their peak.  Some colossal counts of swifts in the recent inclement weather- Brian Colley:
 Roy Lyon:
Dragonflies have staggered into action between the cold winds with the first recorded emergence of broad bodied chaser on site today.  Whilst present since 2000 they had yet to be physically seen hauling themselves out.  Hairy dragonfly - Roy Lyon:
Black tailed skimmer and common darter are also now on the wing, along with large red eyed damselfly.  Smart four spotted chaser by Andy Marshall:
Wall browns and common blue butterflies have just got going in recent days - Roy Lyon:
 Erich Hediger
Perhaps the boldest and brashest of the insect eruption was this small elephant hawkmoth; the first ever trapped in the reserve's history by Martin on Friday - all the write up on his blog:
Appearing too are horse chestnut leaf miner moths - Erich Hediger
Diggers, dumpers and chainsaws now seem a distant memory.  As usual spring growth has masked all signs of works in winter and thoughts have gone from the challenge of finishing for breeding season to enjoying the fruits of our labours.  These include the highest ever tally of common terns on the reserve - 8 pairs on the South Marsh East.  Those nesting next to the lesser black backed gulls will be interesting to watch - will they be safer under the shadow of the gulls than in their hunting sight?  More write up on Erich's blog here

Our black headed gull boast was perhaps unfounded.  Unfortunately they remained faithful to Tophill Low Nature Reserve and within days of the marsh being refilled had skyrocketed to also record numbers despite a stalled start.  In and amongst was this sub-adult Mediterranean gull - Erich: 
 And Roy Lyon:
Shelduck have hatched young with broods of gadwall also seen.  Eagerly anticipated have been the kingfishers ready for photography season on North Marsh.  We can confirm two youngsters were being fed on the South Lagoon on Friday - so book your seats in North Marsh early.  Tomorrow's task is to renew the perching sticks (of course in as photogenic manner as possible). 

However far outstripping kingfishers were hobbys on Thursday with Steve Brimble capturing some stunning images of the birds and otters too have been erratically present too.  Along with grass snakes swimming across marshes - these too have now hatched from hay heaps around the reserve with 6" tiddlers seen around at present.  Reed warbler also there:
It's the season for cute bundles of fluff and star of the moment are tawny owls in the reserve car park having fledged from a box in the residential area.  At least two chicks have been readily visible recently - but please me mindful of traffic and private properties when viewing.  Elsewhere the great spotted woodpecker nest 50 yds West of the O reservoir substation are also worth viewing in their two storey nest.  Bats too are busy with 190 soprano pipistrelles recorded in the old centre bat boxes last week.
We regularly get asked about marsh harrier and whether they are nesting again this year.  At the moment we are confident they are in the area but perhaps not in the reserve as such.  The male was constructing what we presume to be a feeding platform on South Marsh West at the original nest site last week - so we await developments. 

Osprey continues to mill about as a non-breeder - causing havoc over the southern marshes yesterday, and likewise the lonesome red kite threatened to scavenge some of our volunteers on Thursday over South Scrub.  Sparrowhawks conversely are again prolific with another 3 nests this year kicking out the next generation of bird table botherers.

All in we're very pleased with the breeding season so far with double the cetti's warblers, quadruple the terns, the first oystercatchers on SME for 3 years and the first ever lesser black backed gulls.  Likewise willow tit and marsh tit are undoubtedly breeding.  There's a few more in the pipeline and then we're onto wader passage.  At the moment its all about retained water levels to protect eggs and chicks; next month things will start getting interesting as we start working that new landscaping for waders...


Coming up on the 18th of June we will be holding a business familiarisation event at Tophill Low in Partnership with the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Nature Triangle team at 10:30am taking folk on a tour to look at some of the best of the above.  This is for the benefit of local tourism businesses to:
Meet the project team and discuss how we could help your business
  • Get copies of the latest information to help you and your customers make the most of the Yorkshire Nature Triangle - including our brand new Visitor Guide and Business Toolkit
  • Hear about developments that are taking place across the region to boost the visitor experience
  • Explore some of the wildlife encounters your customers could enjoy
  • Meet other like-minded businesses in the region
  • Enjoy a Local Food lunch

  • Places are limited so reserve online by visiting the Yorkshire Nature Triangle website here.

    Monday, 18 May 2015

    Cucking up some waders

    Before reading this post why not tune into a cracking theme track by reserve member Matthew Newlove.  Matthew's been coming down to the reserve for the last year and rather than brandishing a camera has compiled this excellent recording of birdsong and wildlife around the reserve - a great way of experiencing a different angle on nature.  To listen click here.

    Our winter works are finally at an end on the reserve;  We've undertaken many different projects since January but the major one had been to regenerate the southern marshes for wading birds.  Water again welled back into the marsh:
    Last task was to build a shelduck nest before electrifying the islands:
    Levels rose rapidly and the exposed mud and new edge habitats attracted a number of  wading birds to the area in a decent spring movement:
    Greenshank SMW on the 25th, WNR 26th, SMW, 2nd, 2 on the 3rd.
    8 whimbrel on the D res wall on the 25th, 3 on the 10th,
    Common sandpiper on the wall on the 30th, 2 on the 2nd, 5 on the 3rd, and singles 12th, 15th,
    Dunlin on the 3rd, 5th on SME, 14th Watton NR.
    3 turnstone on the 3rd on SMW
    Green sandpiper on the 5th on SME
    Temminck's stint was around the southern reserve on the 8th:
    Black tailed godwit on the 9th on SME
    Wood sandpiper on the 9th with another whimbrel (pictures and write up on Martin Hodges site here)
    Male ruff on the 15th.

    Its now a case of steady away during breeding season before we start having a play with water levels some more as of June the 15th when autumn starts (sorry - 1st green sandpiper and its all over - so make the most of the next month!).  That said damselflies are now on the wing - large red - Brian Colley:
    Common terns arrived back on the 23rd and hit a peak of 7 before dropping back to 3 pairs of breeders at present:
    A couple of arctic terns sped north up Barmston Drain on the 8th, with a further 3 over D res on the 14th, and a straying med gull on the 5th and little gull on the 9th both on South Marsh East.

    The favourable winds on the 23rd of April also saw cuckoos up at North Marsh and as ever we are pleased with annual return rates on cuckoos.  We surmise that the invertebrate life of the reserve's reed beds and a continued healthy population of warblers still yield productive grounds for the birds in spite of their upland and farmland declines.  Evidence suggests we still have at least 3 calling males on the reserve and Roy and Andy described a magical night on the 7th when North Marsh was alive with birds all over often immediately in front of the hide with multiples about.  Roy:
    Andy:
    The barn owl too was very active - Roy:
    And Andy:
    Steve Brimble captured the roe deer here too:
    And red crested pochard have been showy around site - Darren Smith:
    With little grebe:
    And grey heron:
    A lucky glimpse was this rare shot of a water rail in flight by Roy Vincent:
    In terms of passerines yellow wagtails have been through in steady numbers though not the colossal passage of some years - Roy Lyon:
    And Roy Vincent:
    A big highlight on the 5th was a wood warbler which remained around the car park to the 6th - photos on twitter by David Aitken.  Cetti's are again very active - Jeff Baker:
    Details of the second female on the ringing blog.  Elsewhere vocal blackcap - Brian Colley:
    And smart reed buntings- Brian:
    Osprey has been erratically present in recent days - here is the bird that left the nest platform by Jeff Barker:
    A very welcome addition was two turtle dove on the 10th, and a nice bonus was a honey buzzard on the 13th found by Martin.  Safe to say plenty of swifts with 1272 through last week - but just two spotted flycatcher would be nice...