Sunday, 31 January 2016

White out

January saw a brief interlude of cold from the general slide into spring:
The best that this could rustle up was a lone white fronted goose which turned up on the 4th and was still here at least to the 24th.  A small party of around 12 pink feet has also been with the feral greylags of Watton NR as has a single barnacle still here on the 17th. 

Wildfowl are still substantially pegged back by the unseasonable weather.  A small party of pintail with smart drake have been between Watton and D res, as has the drake scaup picked up on new year's day. But again we're now into breeding season and the 1st arrival of the year was the shelduck of the 16th - really all interest is gearing up for this now and it's looking promising.  Many of the main players are established and ready - barn owl is present (though looking for a friend), cetti's never went as per willow tit and marsh.  Marsh harriers have been present consistently all winter on the reserve this year so we're pretty optimistic on that front.  Last Thursday we noted that the sap had already risen in the sycamores with buds about to burst - massively early:
The river Hull as ever has damped out the heavy rain; the Wolds aquifer doing its usual slow release with consistently high but not threatening levels over January - perhaps a good example of the importance of decreasing run speeds on upper catchments unlike many places:

Unfortunately less so on the buzzard front - our white friend from Watton Carrs had to be put down last week.  Whilst doing very well and eating and flying the injury to its leg never healed up after several courses of anti-biotics and had infected the bone. 
As ever thanks very much to Jean Thorpe of Ryedale Wildlife Rehab whom did her best along with Battleflatts Veterinary practice at Stamford Bridge. 
Further details on her site - another Yorkshire Water Buzzard rescued from a sludge tank at Elvington by a colleague faired better and was subsequently released. 

Still plenty of buzzard activity and there are many with the similar white characteristics on the approach road an most welcome was a grey partridge record on the 17th.  Red kite have again put in a spring appearance on Watton - photo's by Tony McLean on the Flickr feed - whether this will come to anything other than a wandering is debatable as they seem to do this every year.  This character was on the pylons though the other day - peregrine:
Otherwise great avian predators include the dog otter of the O reservoir whom has been proven as an established bird eater in recent trail camera footage - pictures to follow...  Elsewhere North Marsh as ever seems to be a good place with a number of recent midday reports - Steve Brimble capturing some here:
And likewise this stoat with 'ermine ears' galloping about:
Their cousins the north American mink are however less welcome and the 7th and 8th of the winter were removed a couple of weeks back which is disheartening; but we have recently recruited some new allies - Matthew Arnold whom is keeper for the West Beck Preservation society has recently taken 12 of the mink rafts and traps for both this and other fishing clubs so we hope we can really get on top of the problem again.   

Martin has been putting the hours in on the gull roost as ever though the hopes for a white winger are becoming slim.  Perhaps the kumlien's gull at Barmston will drop in as it has done in previous winters.  That said a caspian gull on the 5th was a nice bird, and some good but telling numbers of southern European species - 13 little gull on the 3rd, med gulls regularly with a maxima of 5+ on the 3rd, and a yellow legged on the 5th.  Interestingly Erich Hediger got the return back from the med he photo'd on the O res wall on the 12/10/15 - turns out this was ringed as a chick in southern Poland on the Czech border at Wojcice Opolskie on the 13/06/15 - so gives us an idea of where our winter birds come from:
Otherwise much work continues on thinning, pollarding and replanting ready for the new reception hide project.  Abetted by the RSPB wildlife explorers - Margaret Boyd:

If you're interested in joining in then contact us on the usual address and we'll forward you to Margaret who runs the team - here's the next three sessions:

Saturday 20th February– 10am– 12pm  Living Seas Centre, South Landing         
“What a load of rubbish!”

Time to get busy...pick up a bag and fill it with litter to help clean the beach. This is a vital job to keep the local marine and land wildlife safe. Being creative we may be able to find a use for all that rubbish, if not then Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Inside we will find out more from the staff at the centre and get warm with refreshments for all the hard work. Parking charges apply. Meet outside the centre. Wrap up warm, wellies are a good idea.

Saturday 19th March - 10am – 12pm Top Hill Low
“Roll your sleeves up, wellies on, get ready for some hard work...”

As always, Richard has some work for us to do on the reserve. Hard physical work but worth it as our efforts really do contribute to helping manage the reserve for wildlife.  Refreshments when the work is done and a chance to see what is around the site. Admission charges apply, toilets open. Wrap up warm & wear gloves.

Saturday 16th April  – 10am – 12pm   Parish Wood, Filey
“If you go down to the woods today....”

Then out into the meadow and across the farmer’s field you’ll reach the cliffs frpm this great little reserve. Thinking all about different habitats and what they can provide our local wildlife in such a small area. The cliffs should be welcoming back some of our seabirds too. If we have time we can pop to Filey Dams too. Park on the residential road close to the reserves entrance. No facilities.

 Likewise another plug too for an upcoming talk by Andy Rouse in memory of notable local birder Mick Carroll:
Equally sad to hear of the recent passing of Martin Garner - both did a lot for conservation and birding particularly in our region. 

Next Tophill event is the reserve walk this Saturday the 6th at 10am - free with standard admission. 

Friday, 1 January 2016

New year's deluge

Our annual year listing event today - the lack of wintering birds due to the mild weather never promised a record breaker - but a good effort none the less and a respectable tally of 66 (*we said 65 originally but forgot to write in Teal) species in the day:

Starting from Angram Farm and scanning the fields along the Yorkshire Water approach Road;
1. Tree Sparrow
2. Chaffinch
3. Blackbird
4. Great Tit
5. Blue Tit
6. Robin
7. Feral Pigeon
8. Rook
9. Carrion Crow
10. Herring Gull
11. Great Black Backed Gull
12. Common Gull
13. Red legged Partridge
14. Woodpigeon
15. Moorhen in Barmston Drain
16. Pheasant
17. House Sparrow
18. Dunnock
Catching up with some of the regulars before starting we learnt of earlier;
19. Kestrel
20. Little Egret
21. Lapwing
22. Coal Tit
23. Goldcrest
24. Goldfinch
25. Great Spotted Woodpecker
26. Lesser Black Backed Gull
27. Willow Tit
28. Barn owl
Starting in the car park we had:
29. Fieldfare
30. Magpie
And into D res we had;
31. Great crested Grebe
32. Mallard
33. Coot
34. Pochard
35. Tufted Duck
36. Cormorant
37. Greylag
38. Gadwall
39. Wigeon
40. Buzzard
41. Black headed Gull
42. Shoveler
A trip north through D woods saw;
43. Jackdaw
44. Wren
45. Sparrowhawk
46. Water Rail
47. Song Thrush
Arriving at Hempholme Lock we had;
48. Little Grebe
49. Mute Swan
50. Long tailed Tit
51. Stock Dove
A return down the river Hull saw a nice bonus:
52. Lesser redpoll flock of 7 - photo by Dave Ware
53. Tree Creeper was found just before the car park
54. Collared Dove
After lunch around the lagoons were
55. Siskin
56. Starling over the Southern Marshes
57. With Pied Wagtail on them
At Watton NR
58. Curlew
59. Redshank
60. Snipe
61. Grey Heron
Back on the D reservoir courtesy of Martin was
62. Scaup
63. Mediterranean Gull
64. Yellow legged Gull
and finally Michael Preston had seen a
65. Kingfisher on North Marsh in the afternoon
*66. Teal

So a reasonable tally - not bad given no exciting smew etc. As ever there were an number of notable omissions that should or could have been seen;
Greenfinch - perhaps a sign of the times - do come to feeders erratically
Grey Partridge - likewise
Marsh Harrier - Didn't grace us today but ever present
Cetti's - likewise
Mistle Thrush - likewise
Tawny Owl - likewise
Goosander - likewise
Jack Snipe - in Hempholme undoubtedly but we didnt flush
Woodcock - none in the meadow or elsewhere - a 'drive' would have dislodged them
Spotted Redshank - reported 27th and presumably same lingerer.
Red Crested Pochard - absent today
Pintail - here on 29th
Whooper Swan - immature had moved off. 
Bittern - probably here somewhere but the ice hasn't encouraged it out. 
Short-eared owl - not far away and occasionally wandering onto Watton NR
Grey wagtail - often at the lock but some disturbance by time we had arrived

So a 'theoretical' 80 odd if all your stars aligned on a winter visit to Tophill

No significant geese flocks for exciting ones (even Canada!), and no tit flocks for a summer warbler sticking around.  And no hope for arctic white wing gulls in the roost - the three species present that should be in southern Europe were telling as anything.

Otherwise; otter, brown hare, roe deer and rabbit for those counting. 

A lot of fresh plant growth - and as one of our regulars said - just 10 weeks til the first Little Ringed Plover now. 

Otherwise since the last post:
Goosander, med gull nightly to a peak of 6 on the 31st, yellow legged gull regularly.

The flooding which affected many areas seems to have not affected Tophill particularly.  As ever the chalk aquifer damps the flows down of the river Hull - however it appears the boxing day rain in the upper reaches did cause a brief spate in the river - which our unfortunate trail camera which was merrily above the waters on the 23rd will testify:
Plenty of folk has worse than this to contend with though

Saturday, 19 December 2015

White Chistmas cancelled

This could be a reference to the mild weather - the closest we'll get to a white covering is the brambles which have come back for a second flowering:
And hawthorn has put on some good growth in the last month!: 
But namely it wont be white on Watton Carrs because our celebrity white buzzard was found out of sorts on the access road last week.  This fine beast has been the source of many arguments and mis-identifications over the years and without it the number of 'osprey' and 'rough legged buzzard' will nose dive...  As such it needed sorting out so we ran it up to Jean at Ryedale Wildlife Rescue whom as ever provided a brilliant A&E service with the appreciated assistance of Battleflatts Veterinary practice at Stamford Bridge:
As a matter of course it was checked over - we always regard this individual as so recognisable it is a useful barometer when there are so many reports of persecution elsewhere - the fact it is still on the go after so many years reflects positively on our neighbouring shoots and keepers, and happily to say there was no evidence of foul play.  A swollen foot and a bit of an infection suggested a minor RTA or flight collision and by the following morning it was merrily wolfing down breakfast:
As such we hope it can be released back out on the site in coming days to confound reserve visitors for years to come!

As result of the mild weather everything seems somewhat slow on the wildfowl front and the likelihood of a smew being dislodged seems remote at present.  That said there have been a few interesting gulls on the wild waters of the reservoirs:
Martin has been putting the hours in and found a few nuggets.  A big build up of herring gull in late November to around record levels carried in a third caspian gull on the 26th and perhaps every other night yellow legged and mediterranean gulls have been present with a lingering lesser black backed.  The goosander roost is on the reservoirs but not until the light has near disappeared and presumably the two in the last post are those that have been reported regularly subsequently.  A reported razorbill was never picked up again.  White is also out of vogue at present on O reservoir where a nightmare for any larid lover has taken place.  Otters have been known to utilise the steps in and out of the res for a few years and picking this one up on the new round of otter surveying was not out of the ordinary:
However what was the following morning were the amassed corvids present:
Shortly followed by the removal of a well picked over remains of a black headed gull: 
We know that otters do take birds erratically but gull predation is a new one on us.  That said it'll need to polish a few more off if it to make a serious in road.  And it seems to only visit every few nights as per the following trigger:
Whilst there have been no further sightings of the three otter youngsters there have been sightings of lone otters in Hempholme lock, O reservoir and on North Marsh - capturing an otter 'for real' is a different proposition but Bruce Pillinger managed this great picture:
Much appreciated by fishermen of all forms was the release of stock for the river Hull by the Environment Agency last week:
Big numbers of dace and bream going in under the lock:
As ever most of the whooper records stem from late November and sightings dissipate subsequently with last group of 7 on the 26th.  Seemingly left behind was this immature often present on South Marsh East - Michael Flowers:
Tony Robinson:
Showing immaturity too was an immature peregrine falcon giving excellent views as its acrobatic abilities exceeded its patience on the December reserve walk.  It is erratically successful however with the remains of this lapwing presumably attributable:
Whilst undertaking reserve management on the north scrub we kicked out a common snipe and a jack snipe was attributed when our chainsaw man described "a small wader with yellow stripes that flew off under my feet - not knowing it was there I'd have taken its head off on the next sweep!" - a vintage jack snipe description.  The purpose of our labours was on one of the few 'outer' reserve tasks this winter (inkeeping with the 'bedding in' of last winters large scale projects) to remove the thousands of small hawthorn, willow and ash saplings from the important grasslands exposed by the removal of big trees last year and galloway grazing.  A painstaking finger tip search which will hopefully pay off:
The cattle have now left south scrub and the reserve for winter - but will return again as soon as the grass starts growing next season. Rail's creeping about as ever but seldom out in the open without the ice - Darren Smith getting lucky:
The leave it alone policy seems to have worked well with marsh harriers continuing to overwinter mainly around the South Marsh - Michael Flowers:
Michael also had a tentative look for former favourites the woodcock at the back of the old wildlife centre. Whilst the building has changed the habits have not and indeed there are still two woodcock present.  Feel free to view but please do so only from the gateway - do not enter the meadow:
Incidentally we now have copies of Michael's birdwatching calendar available at £8 available from the reserve office - a great guide to seasonality in East Yorkshire. 
Michael's also casting for new students on his introductory birdwatching courses which run on a choice of weekdays and mornings / afternoons across East Yorkshire.  They're perfect if you're new to birdwatching or fancy learning about wildlife in a low pressure friendly atmosphere - or indeed just want to see a lot of East Yorkshire you never new existed.  All the details are on Michael's website here.

Another plug as well - Gayna Wallis has been one of our members for a long time and in another pursuit has recently compiled a history of RAF Carnaby nearby - a great read and Christmas present all the proceeds are going towards a permanent memorial for the airmen at the former airfield:
Copies are available again at the reserve office also priced £8.

Otherwise welcome sightings have included raven again on the 3rd of December, cetti's prolific on the southern site and some big thrush flocks on the road in.  A few pink feet have been over but again most have now gone through south to the beet fields of Anglia, and a pair of grey partridge on the road was a welcome though increasingly uncommon sight - and little owl was as ever keeping its distance from the reserve at Angram Farm recently.

Less welcome was the 6th american mink to be removed since September - video'd on trail camera in happier times the week prior:
We removed 13 last winter in what is the worst spate in 15 years since trapping started on the river Hull.  The only reason we have water voles at Tophill is because of this window; if we stopped they'd be gone within the year.  The big problem is apathy after mink were nearly eradicated from the upper reaches around 2010.  A lack of catches meant interest wained and the mink have exploited this to resurge in a big way across the river valley. 

Again - we do still have a number of mink rafts we can pass on.  If you are responsible for a section of river or know someone that is, and you can check on a raft and trap daily (even if its only two or three days in succession a week) we'd love to hear from you on the addresses above as at the moment Tophill's native wildlife is under mink siege.

However a brighter glimmer in that you may recall we a had a lesser spotted woodpecker sighting reported a couple of months ago.  We've since had a further two reports including on the fat feeder in the woods.  So a challenge for all you photographers is to nail it once and for all.

Meanwhile the reserve will be open every day including Christmas so if you'd rather avoid the in-laws and seek out another velvet scoter like last year get stuck in. And of course there are the spectacular Tophill Low Christmas illuminations to admire courtesy of Duncan and the guys in the Works:
Otherwise we'll be looking to pick up the events programme for 2016 again after a 2015 hiatus due to all the big works last winter - so look out for an array of otter evenings and others upcoming. But first off as is tradition there will be the New Year's day 'year listing event'. Either get your 2016 list off to a racing start or just freshen off the night before there'll be two drop in walks at 10am and 1pm with the emphasis being upon finding as many bird species as possible. It'll be a tough one as last year we hit a record 73 which will take some surpassing. 

Merry Christmas