Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A big rave up

Best birds since the last post have been the ravens which overflew Watton NR on the 12th of November.  Spotted by Lee Johnson these are a big rarity for Tophill Low and even better he managed to also preserve the moment on the camera (along with the belittled jackdaws):
Ravens are occasionally seen east of the Pennines and will hopefully go the way of buzzards in future years. 

Putting an appearance in Watton also since the 7th of November has been a spotted redshank amongst up to 10 common.  It was still on at the weekend and is perhaps the longest staying since the D res was drained back in 2007.  Other winter waders have included green sandpiper and dunlin.  We attribute this to the cattle from Easingwold grazing the reserve for the first time; they've made a real difference and taken the vegetation right down and opened the habitat up a lot.  The curlew and wildfowl clearly seem a lot more comfortable feeding around the seasonal ponds - presumably as the open vistas mean this character is more visible - Brian Colley:
Brian also captured these images of whoopers dropping in.  A lot have been in the county recently and we've been attracting groups of up to 13 since the 7th also:
There was a big movement of pink footed geese last week with 100 birds on the Watton pits and stragglers in and amongst the greylags.  4 pintail were also present recently - a drake by Brian here too:
Thanks to Francis Bell too for these images of the first goosanders of the year on the 16th:
A scaup was present on the 11th.  Another nice seasonal delight was a short eared owl on the 19th on Watton.  We really ought to get a stake out at Hempholme pump house and see if their active over Standingholme or Hallytreeholme as in the vintage 2011.  Siskins are generally reliable enough around the alders of the lagoons but the several lesser redpoll amongst them are always nice to liven things up.  Kingfishers are still on the North Marsh for those patient - Christine Watts:
Neil Murray:
And a festive Robin:
Otherwise our notorious gull botherer has returned from warmer climes and as such the species and numbers have multiplied rapidly.  Whilst present virtually every night Med gulls reached an all time high of 6 birds on the 18th, and yellow legs are near nightly.  Whilst the northerlies did not yield us a white winger of little auk we have had two consecutive Caspian gulls on the last two nights - a belting make this evening.  No doubt the details to follow on Martin's site here.  Otherwise a big build up of goldeneye recently:
Whilst we may be in the depths of winter there are still young about.  It would appear from Steve Hine's pictures and reports we can celebrate the recent birth of three otter cubs on the reserve - photographed on North Marsh last week:
We also caught a water vole (unharmed) in our mink traps today - so good to know these are still on the go after the recent capture of 3 American Mink.  And good news too was that one of our long term volunteers Dave Ware recently picked up 'Student of the Year' at his graduation from Bishop Burton recently - a great accolade and recognition of a lot of hard work put in both in study and helping on the reserve:

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Swags in the phrag

As per the last post really - we're still looking to the reed beds for the main interest at the moment.  The great white egrets are the star birds of the moment with two going to roost at the side of the south marsh west last week.  Sightings are somewhat erratic during day time - Brian Colley picked up a bird in Barmston Drain at Hempholme Lock last week:
Whilst it was on South Marsh East at the beginning of last week we think most of their time is spent either on the surrounding drainage network or the scrapes and fish refuges along the river Hull berm.  The berm is a very good habitat which houses some of our best reed beds - indeed for the bittern which continues to be present erratically too it is our best chance for a breeding one.  However left to its own devices the reed beds will be lost to willow again so we've been doing a bit of work with Yorkshire Water colleagues to cut the regrowth from the EA clearance 4 winters back:
Far better than being in an office and helping biodiversity and flood risk downstream in Hull at the same time:
Well managed reed beds in addition to cuckoos, reed bunting, reed warbler, sedge warbler and cetti's are also potentially home to enigmatic birds like the bearded tit.  One would think this a bit of pipe dream - but we've just had another 6 birds sighted last week by Paul Mountain.  This is similar to the number we had back in spring on south marsh west - so keep your eye out for a potential wintering flock which we hope can be persuaded to stay. 

But as always nothing's clear cut in nature and the habitats we make are always the best mix of compromises in many cases.  Willows are a useful resource for many species and when kept in check are a welcome asset.  One example was found on north marsh when the willows were being cleared to keep the kingfisher vistas open.  Lukas uncovered this wholesome looking grub gnawing its way through a stump - after being photographed and returned by Pete, Barry Warrington suspected this could be a lunar hornet clearwing larvae: 
Our resident clearwing gurus Doug and Martin along with ourselves cutting willows have been seeing exit holes in goat willow stumps for many years but no moth has ever been seen (they don't come to light and don't respond to pheromone lures).  As such Doug collated the evidence and sent it over to Charlie Fletcher at Yorkshire Butterfly Conservation whom gave it the thumbs up as a new species for the reserve via a collaborative effort on ID.  It'll still be nice to see an adult though...

Equally interesting and puzzling - one of our long tailed tits ringed by the team in summer was caught at Flamborough Bird Observatory three weeks back.  I'm not really sure of the logic to this direction when everything else is going the other way but interesting none the less.  Catching season for moths is pretty tail endish now - with clues in the name of Doug's latest efforts - December moth:
And feathered thorn:
Helvella crispa a smart fungi and likewise a season closing for most species apart from the somewhat 'wooden' remnants left:
Cetti's warbler has been unusually vocal given the generally dismal weather and holds promise for
next year in a similar manner to the pair of marsh harriers somewhat resident on the southern marshes.  Even food passing last week which seems a bit premature.

Otherwise the starling roost continues with otter being seen last Sunday - so sunsets on South Marsh West seem to be the pick experience of the moment.  Otherwise the barnacle, pink feet and bean goose seem to be still in the greylag/Canada flock but tricky as groups move in and out.  Drake pintail was a smart addition on Watton on Sunday and of higher provenance than the now 5 red crested pochard on D res constantly.  Small numbers of goldeneye, redwing, fieldfare and curlew building.  A late green sandpiper last week as written up on Steve Routledge's blog, along with merlin and peregrine and perhaps Erich's short eared owl a stone's throw from the reserve at Leven Carrs will give us a whirl as well this winter...

Thursday, 15 October 2015

reeding between the lines

Whilst there are masses of birds coming in from the continent including plenty of exotic ones it is perhaps the more common that are providing the current spectacle.  Line up on the lines of Watton Carrs are the many starlings roosting on the South Marsh West at the moment:
We said earlier that we weren't going to mow the reedbed island this year and certainly the starlings appreciate it as a home.  Roy Vincent captured this magnificent film:
You may catch near the end one of two sparrowhawks present hoping to predate the birds (one being sat on the hide roof).  Water rails are vocal too as their peace and quiet is invaded.  Absent in this is the bittern which has been seen a couple of times in the last week; I have seen the bittern previously drop in beforehand - likely hoping to snaffle a starling as they are capable of eating sizeable birds and mammals like water voles.  A young male marsh harrier is also a near permanent fixture on South Marsh East at the moment regularly sat on a post at the back.   We cant get it right all the time as we recently mowed the islands of North Marsh to remove willows and rank vegetation (and open the areas lost to kingfishers and water voles again). However we had claims that the previously active water rails had abandoned the new more open vista.  Fortunately not long after Michael Flowers and his birdwatching group snapped these pictures of rails again active:
Michael's new 2016 East Yorkshire Wildlife calendars are out now and available in the Wardens base.  Likewise Tony Robinson:
Whilst migrant hawkers were still on the go today and two great white egrets were seen on Sunday morning there are plenty of autumnal scenes - woody nightshade berries glisten in the woods:
The prince - Tony Robinson:
And hay meadows disappearing (in this case to Standingholme meadows next door to Hempholme Meadow as green hay to seed and enrich some of JSR's stewardship fields:
Barred Sallow by Doug Fairweather equally seasonal:
And beaded chestnut:
Robin - perhaps one of the many migrants coming in by Tony Robinson:
And a polish ringed Mediterranean gull confidingly sat on O res wall - snapped and researched by Erich Hediger - more details here:
Otherwise other notable sightings have included geese; Amongst 670 greylags and 270 Canada's were a 1st winter tundra bean goose on Watton NR on Saturday 10th with two pink feet, A lone whooper swan on the 11th on D res, barnacle goose on the 12th.  All the above geese converged again on the 13th together when a further 55 pink feet went overhead.  Siskin have been present around the lagoons for a few days - Andy Marshall:

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Arrivals and departures

Saturday's reserve walk was perhaps the most telling example of the changing season.  Whilst the hedges still held good numbers of chiffchaff like below:
The same flock at the lagoons also held a sizable number of siskin also.  The weekend prior had shown a huge influx of blackcap on site with every elderberry bush holding birds on Friday afternoon.  The ringing team last weekend exceeded any prior count of blackcaps and interestingly of the 9 birds ringed all were juvenile birds - the adults all seemingly having already gone.  Amongst the undergrowth was this critter we're still taking suggestions on - crank up your speakers and let us know your thoughts as we're a bit stumped!  (bird was never seen).
Its the time of year for odd birds turning up amongst the passerines and in addition to a small number of jays we've also had a good report of a lesser spotted woodpecker at North Scrub.  The Beswick Hall belted galloways up there have done and dusted and now returned back to Hempholme.  They've done a grand job and have been tucking into hawthorns and willows:
Meanwhile the Easingwold mob have been bringing some stability to Watton Nature Reserve - Andy Marshall:
Causing havoc on the wider carr land however has been this joker.  The 'white buzzard o' Watton' nice to see again and an absence all summer lends weight to the argument that this is an Eastern bird that overwinters here annually - Pete Drury:
And yes - its already been reported as an osprey and a rough legged buzzard!  Couple of more standard birds - Roy Vincent:
Keeping on a pale theme we've had some good numbers of little egret on the now re-filling South Marsh East - Roy Vincent:
 And Tony Simpson:
We've also had a lot of reports of dragonfly catching on the marsh swiping migrant hawkers and ruddy darters in flight:
And on Hempholme - Darren Smith:
Sneaking into proceedings on Tuesday the 29th was this great white egret on Watton NR - pics by Melvyn and Ann Ridgers:
Otherwise most waders have done and dusted with just a single lingering green sandpiper which may well be here all winter - Roy Vincent. 
That said we found a pot of gold under this rainbow:
We were at a site meeting with Yorkshire Water colleagues looking at a boat survey of the D reservoir.  Many of my finest wildlife sightings have been in full high vis - if you want to see wildlife forget full real tree ghillie suits and lens camo! In all seriousness if you dress the same as a hunter wildlife comes nowhere near.  Dress as a workman and wildlife instantly knows you are not a threat.  This small wader landed under us on the steps - a bit of an ID conundrum at first as I'm familiar with sideways waders but not vertical!:
It turned out to be 'just' a dunlin - but perhaps the finest views I will ever have! These were all taken with my phone as it landed a little further away:
Before coming for a close in look:
 Getting so close I was unable to frame it in my mobile phone!
Great views of a bird I could literally have picked up.  The journey back turned this vicious beast up - yearling grass snake with typical attitude problem:
The lagoon is also on the way up:
Young moorhen making the most of it:
And likewise the two big names of winter on the res - common gull left and black headed gull right:
Two examples of many as decoy fields went under the plough:
Also attracting good numbers of lapwing (and starling!) along with their unwanted shadow the peregrine falcon:
Our little murmuration of starlings over the river Hull at North Lagoon - our roost hits around 3000 birds in mid autumn before the birds seem to head for bigger assemblages elsewhere:
On a similar vein it may not be Brighton Pier, but our volunteers have been beavering away and South Lagoon is now open for business again:
Apparently good views of kingfisher from here - though North Marsh likewise has been freshly cleared and opened out for views - Natalie Grantham:
Sparrowhawks still up to no good in the environs as this scene of crime shows:
Kestrels too active on the reserve - we seem to see more of them in winter too - Roy Vincent:
And likewise roe deer as the vegetation thins - Roy Vincent:
Darren Smith:
A less welcome mammal is the American mink.  We do see some seasonality in the species and an autumn dispersal seems an annual phenomenon.  A tentative go at trapping has knocked out 4 mink in 10 days suggesting as big a problem as last year.  If you look after any stretch of waterway in the Hull Catchment above Beverley we'd be only too pleased if you wanted to join our campaign with one of our mink rafts - just get in touch. 
That said otter active too:
Another sting in the tail of summer - queen hornet:
 Likewise Roy Vincent:
Wasp nest by David Hughes:
Our extension of summer has allowed continuing invertebrate interest - Eristalinus sepulchralis by Doug Fairweather:
 Spectacular eye detail:
Small coppers have been very thin on the ground this year - I've only seen one myself and perhaps just the one that Natalie Grantham got:
Second generation speckled wood by Natalie more common:
Copper underwing agg in the ringing hut a late one in pristine order rather than the tatty examples usually in the hides:
Otherwise red crested pochard multiplying on the D Reservoir - Roy Vincent:
 Now two drakes and a female RV:
 Little grebes RV:
 And the bill banded tufted duck was 'BZ3' when we got a closer view - back for a second winter
Autumn marches on however and fungi are the seasonal interest of present - lots of inkcaps about:
And a new one for the list - sticky bolete Boletus viscidus by Doug Fairweather:
And perhaps one we don't want? A rather meek looking ash tree we're investigating...