Monday, 28 September 2015

Foggy Far Ings

An early morning trip to Far Ings with Robert Jaques. There was thick fog, over the Humber Bridge the visibility was really poor, but there were some views to be had out of the hides at Far Ings. Gadwall, Coots and Great Crested Grebes fed in front of the hide. Shortly after arriving a Cetti's warbler announced its presence with a loud, staccato call from the reed beds close to the hide. Another one replied shortly after from the other side of Ness Pit. Despite the proximity of the song, and us looking intently at the reeds, the cetti's remained invisible (at least five individuals sung around the reserve). While we watched, a Migrant Hawker flew for a few seconds and quickly settled on the reeds, this was the only invertebrate seen in the trip.
 We walked to Target Lake, where we briefly glimpsed a Kingfisher hovering over the water in search of fish before it disappeared from sight. A Little Egret landed then on the shore of the island and started circling it. It caught a little fish and spent quite a while handling it, spitting it on to the water and picking it again. A few photos revealed that it was a Three-spined Stickleback, its pelvic and dorsal spines erect, which the egret obviously couldn't easily swallow. After a little more handling, the fish was finally dispatched. The egret got another stickleback and the same lenghth process was repeated (You can watch a short clip, here).
 We carried on and stopped on the high hide at the N side of Ness Pit. Other than a cormorant on the water, the place was quiet and deserted. Then there were some 'pings' in the distance and a flock of Bearded Tits flew low over the reed bed and landed relatively close to the hide.
A couple of drake Gadwall preening on the shore.
Spider web heavy with dew
Little Egret handling stickleback.
More spider webs on the fog.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

September at Tophill Low

Another wet Monday, so I headed to Tophill low to play a bit of hide and seek. It didn't actually start raining until 10, so, I could watch a Migrant Hawker hunting by the South Hide by D-reservoir, but that was all regarding invertebrates. On arrival there were plenty of coots in D-res. Actually, other than the scattered Mute Swans (including a dead one by the wall) it was hard to make up any other species amongst them. Eventually I found also Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Pochards and a lone Red-crested pochard with a very disheveled crest.
 Goldcrests called from D-woods. The drizzly rain had started and I didn't stop much to watch the feeding birds in the wood's feeders. A Marsh tit and a Coal tit, with a bunch of Chaffinches, some of them hovering to fetch seeds straight from the feeder.
 Everything was very quiet at North Marsh. A couple of Moorhens fed contentedly on the water. The silence was only broken by a group of Long-tailed tits passing by and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying over. The sky brightened and the rain stopped, so I left the hide towards Helmpholme meadows. I heard the screech of a Jay in the edge of the wood, and managed to watch it as it got into a large willow. I noticed there are a few oaks in D woods, now loaded with acorns. I had never seen Jays here. On my way back the screeching again, and it sounded like two individuals.
 Things were even quieter at Helmpholme, with just a family of Moorhens about.
 On the way back I went into one of the hides overlooking the D-res. There were a group of dark gulls and I am hopeless at sizing birds at a distance. Only after two flew off and I could see the pink legs I realised there was quite a few Great Black-backed gulls. I quite like the photo at the top of the post, which came out with a strange quality, almost like a watercolour, showing four gull species loafing together in a large group, occasionally shaking off the rain from their feathers: Great Black-backed, Herring, Common and Black-backed, all with their winter attire almost complete.
The rain never amounted to more than a drizzle, so I decided to head to the southern side of the reserve. Other than a male Marsh Harrier and a Little Egret in South Marsh, nothing else much to report.
Red-crested Pochard
Male Migrant Hawker
The osprey nest decoy, ready with remote camera, on a quiet spot by D-res.
Belted Galloway cattle grazing the pond
A drake Shoveler still in eclipse
And a female Shoveler
Mute Swans on South Marsh

Monday, 14 September 2015

Wet and Weird Wetlands

It was a dark, cold and drizzly morning at times at North Cave Wetlands, which will be obvious from the quality of the selection of photos in the post. Just after leaving the car it was obvious a large flock of greylag geese had just landed in the reserve, their calls still nervous and loud, maybe family groups reuniting after being separated and the members of the flock assessing the situation. From the viewing platform, I could watch the flock, probably numbering over a thousand individuals, slowly calming down. I scanned the flock for other species or unusual individuals. The Black Swan that often visits the site was with the them, and also at least three GreylagxCanada hybrids. I couldn't see other species, but there was an unusual leucistic individual. There were many Lapwings and Little Grebes today, I don't think I've ever seen so many of the latter in the reserve. A few Wigeon and many teal too.
 Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins flew about, reminding me that we are in migration season and they soon will be gone.
 In Island Lake there were many Snipe, scattered about, Shoveler and more Lapwing. I walked on the path by maize field by the road, where i came across a few fairy circles made from fungi growing on the grass making  a circular pattern. On the large patch of rosebay willowherb, a few Reed Bunting played hide and seek, although in general they were quite curious and let me approach quite closely (top shot).
 The couple of unexpected wintry surprises were a Short-eared owl, a species I hadn't seen in many years, flying high over the fields north of the reserve. I didn't have very long views as the hawthorn hedge got in the way, but its large head and long broad wings were very apparent. I only managed a very poor blurry shot. Then while watching a mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits I heard siskin calls and there they were. The Siskins at the same time that a Migrant Hawker hung from the same alder tree was something I don't see every day either.
 From Crosslands hide I watched four Little Egrets feeding, a distant Greenshank and a Ruff. There was not much else.
 One of the highlights was finding an Elephant Moth Caterpillar on rosebay willowherb by the Butterfly Path, they are fantastic beasts. The rain then started to pick up, reminding me that it was time to go home for a warm lunch.
Leucistic greylag
Black Swan
CanadaxGreylag hybrid
Grey Heron
Two Snipe and sleeping Teal at Island Lake
Kentish Snail crossing spider web
Fairy ring by maize field
Record shot of Migrant Hawker resting on alder, surprisingly given the weather, it was flying about a few moments earlier.
Siskins about to fly to the alders by the north path
One of three very quiet Chiffchaffs
An extremely poor shot of a Short-eared Owl flying over fields N of the reserve
One of four Little Egrets
This large Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar sat quite exposed on Rosebay Willowherb
Resting Sand Martins
Meadow Pipit
For today's bird list click here.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

A walk near Bishop Wilton

A visit to an area in the Yorkshire Wolds near Bishop Wilton this lovely morning, warm, sunny and quite still. We walked up a steep well wooded hill, with ash and beech, where Green Woodpeckers called and a passing mixed tit group included a Marsh Tit. Then we walked down into a wonderful, dry chalky meadow with plenty of flowering knapweed and wild carrot, which was buzzing with insects. Common Green Grasshoppers sung their rattlesnake-like song and there were plenty of hoverflies and butterflies, nine of these on the wing: Holly Blue, Large White, Marbled White, Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and Red Admiral, but topping the numbers were Small Skippers, of which we must have seen more than 50. A highlight of the trip was to see four species of raptor from the same spot. Two Red Kites flew and dived after each other whistling for pretty much all the time. At one point or another, Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk joined them flying over the hills.
A few Marbled White on the wing.
Meadow Brown
Musk Thistle
Meadow Brown
Common Green Grasshopper
Silver Y and grasshopper
Wild Carrot and Eristalis sp.
Marbled White on knapweed
A view of the meadow
Red Kite
Tumbling Red Kites

Antler moth and Small Skippers on Devil's bit Scabious.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Summer at Oppy Wood

The weather forecast wasn't great, so I decided to avoid a long trip today and popped in at a nature reserve nearby, Oppy Wood, just in the outskirts of Hull. This is a recently planted woodland, with plenty of paths, glades and meadows. It can get quite wet, but today the paths were all dry. It actually finished spitting by the time I got there, the clouds slowly broke and let some sun shine. It was quite warm and humid and insects were plentiful. On the western side of the reserve, near the ditch, an azure damselfly. I saw an unidentified darter and a larger, brown dragonfly (possibly a four spotted chaser, but they didn't settle for photos). Another frustratingly unidentified insect was a large female leafcutter. Male Eristalis intricarius and Volucella pellucens hovered on the glades over buzzing clumps of flowering brambles.
I found copse snails, Arianta arbustorum, resting on nettles, creeping thistle and hogweed leaves in the company of White-lipped and Kentish snails. All the ones I picked up, without fail, emerged rapidly from their shells as soon as I put them on my hand, in contrast to Kentish Snails, which remained inside their shell.
 There were quite a few Small Tortoiseshells on the thistles by the entrance, and a Comma. I started seeing Commas two days ago, and I've seen them every day.
Male Small Skipper on Creeping thistle
A male Volucella pellucens resting
Green-veined white
Goat's beard, Tragopon pratensis
Female Dronefly, Eristalis tenax
Azure damselfly
Copse snail, Arianta arbustorum 
Kentish (left) and Copse (right) snails, demonstrating different behaviour when picked up.
Large Skipper
Burnished Brass

Butterfly List

  1. Meadow Brown
  2. Ringlet
  3. Speckled Wood
  4. Red Admiral
  5. Small Tortoiseshell
  6. Comma
  7. Little Skipper
  8. Large Skipper
  9. Green-veined White
  10. Small White