Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tophill Low after the snow

An early morning visit to Tophill Low yesterday. The access roads were clear, although the access road was a bit icy at times. There was still some snow on the south side of the D reservoir. My first stop was the car park. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew right over me, making a drumming noise (with beak?). Then I heard it drumming repeatedly from the trees.
 I spent some time in the south D reservoir hide. There were many Wigeon, Gadwall and a few scattered Shovelers. Further up I could see Coots, an immature Great Black Backed Gull and some groups of Mute Swans. Goldeneyes were very active, flying up and down. I watched a pair interacting near the hide. The female was clearly soliciting mating, staying parallel to the male, low on the water and head low, but the male did his neck stretch, bill pointing up displays a few time before actually mounting her. Afterwards, the male dismounted, although he kept hold of the female's neck feathers and they remained attached like that for a few moments. Quite cool to see the whole sequence from close range.
 I move onto the woods, heading to the north of the reserve. The woodland is quite wet and flooded in parts, but the clearing by the feeders is buzzing with Blue Tits, Great tits, Coal Tits, Goldfinches and Chaffinches. A small tit joins in to feed a few times, a Marsh or Willow tit. I watch intently trying to see the features that allow to discriminate between these very similar species. I can't see any white wing panel, but the bird looks fluffy, with a rich buff colour and a matt black top. Unfortunately, it kept quiet and I didn't take any photos, but Tophill Low warden confirms that Marsh tits haven't been seen feeding in the feeders in this area so it is more likely to be a Willow Tit.
I watch a Treecreeper and a Wren by the feeding area on my way to North Marsh hide. North Marsh is mainly frozen. Other than a small bird diving into the reeds and that doesn't surface again, nothing to report.
 But on my way to the Hempholme hide, I flushed a Barn Owl from the pollarded poplar area, I watch it with the binoculars while it flies away from me into the Hempholme lock area, but I don't get to see where it settles. A beautiful, rich colour individual, what a great sight. A Kestrel is also disturbed. At home I make a sketch of a flying Barn Owl. I have seen far to many roadkill Barn Owls and it is nice to see a live one.
 On the long walk by the straight side of D res I find a barn owl pellet by a post. I can see the rodent teeth sticking out of it. I will update the post with what I find inside. Then, in the middle of the path, the impressive head of a Great Black Backed Gull, the bill has the adult colour save for a thin black ring near the tip. It looks fresh and has still all feathers, but I carry it to the car, and leave it in the boot while I pop in to see if there is anything of interest in the lagoons. As I get into the car on my way back, I realise that the head stinks. Fortunately I have a plastic bag to put it in.
A brilliant day in Tophill Low, must come back more often.
Pair of Goldeneyes after mating
View of D res
Wren near the feeders in the wet D woods
A squirrel was actually inside this squirrel proofing before it got out and almost completely tore it apart. The feeders were truly buzzing with Tits (three sp. on the photo), and Chaffinches were feeding on the ground.
A frozen pond by D res
Two Mute Swans were actually feeding in the frozen Lagoons though some holes in the ice:
A Grey Heron stopped briefly on the lagoon shore, but promptly left toward the river Hull, probably deterred by the ice.

UPDATE: Contents of the Barn Owl pellet: 3 field voles, 1 common shrew, 1 pygmy shrew. Keyed out using this RSPB resource

Bird List
  1. Barn Owl
  2. Black-headed Gull    
  3. Blackbird    
  4. Blue Tit    
  5. Bullfinch   
  6. Carrion Crow    
  7. Chaffinch    
  8. Coal Tit    
  9. Common Gull    
  10. Coot    
  11. Dunnock    
  12. Gadwall    
  13. Goldeneye
  14. Goldfinch    
  15. Great Black-backed Gull    
  16. Great Spotted Woodpecker    
  17. Great Tit    
  18. Grey Heron   
  19. Greylag Goose    
  20. Jackdaw    
  21. Kestrel   
  22. Lapwing    
  23. Long-tailed Tit    
  24. Mallard
  25. Mistle Thrush 
  26. Moorhen    
  27. Mute Swan    
  28. Pheasant    
  29. Pochard    
  30. Robin    
  31. Shoveler    
  32. Tree Sparrow    
  33. Treecreeper
  34. Tufted Duck    
  35. Wigeon    
  36. Willow Tit   
  37. Woodpigeon    
  38. Wren

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

I wasn't prepared for the Big Garden Birdwatch at all this morning. I hadn't filled the feeders, I hadn't cleaned the window panes to see clearly, I hadn't locked the cat in, I hadn't even decided I was going to do it. Yes, the hanging feeder happened to be quite full as our regular flock of sparrows appears to have deserted us, but the roof of the feeder on the bird table had collapsed in the night under the weight of the snow, and it was blocking access to the seeds, and the windows, lit by the low winter sun, looked filthy. At least the cat was dozing by the radiator. I had just finished my morning coffee and distractedly glanced at the garden. There was an odd bird on the bird table... a female blackcap! could that be? I hadn't seen a blackcap in the garden for years. I dashed for the camera. When I returned the bird was gone. Was I hallucinating? No, the Blackcap was sitting on the apple tree (above) and promptly moved back to the bird table. I was able to take a few shots, when a robin dashed in, both birds had a quick squabble and the Blackcap flew away. Well, this was the start of my hour bird watching. I stood there by the conservatory window and watched our average assortment of garden birds come and go for an hour. Fun!
The star of the show, female Blackcap
Dunnock hiding under the garden table
and the appearance of a cat put an end to the Big Garden Birdwatch 2013

Monday, 14 January 2013

Snowy Wetlands

I went for my monthly visit to North cave Wetlands. If was very cold and gloomy, but at least it wasn't snowing. There was a dusting of snow on the ground. I seemed to be the only person in the reserve - other than the Wild Bird Cafe lady - but there were birds aplenty, as usual, and the wardens had been busy before me topping the feeders.
 The feeders were attracting large numbers of  Long-Tailed tits. Blue and Great Tits, Goldfinches Greenfinches and Tree and House Sparrows also feasted on them. 
Long Tailed Tit
The water was very high at Village lake and Island lake, and there are no islands to be seen, the birds congregating in the shallows. While in East Hide, a Green Woodpecker caught the corner of my eye as it flied away to settle on a tree by south hide, and then laughed in the distance.
 I go on to Turret Hide, where, other than a few Shelducks and Teal there is little else, and then move onto the north side of the reserve.
Three of a group of five Reed Buntings
The water level is quite low on Reedbed Lake, and a flock of Redshank and Lapwing feed on the muddy shores.
I spot a Bullfinch, a male, the first I see in the reserve, on alders by Carp Lake.
As I arrive at South Hide, I am ready for a hot cup of coffee. A lone Cormorant on the raft with a few lapwings. Coots, Gadwalls, Pochards and Tufted ducks feed. A large flock of Teal in the distance and a pair of Greylags. Suddenly, I hear the rattling alarm call of a Carrion Crow. I quickly scan the horizon and at first only see a Kestrel hovering in the distance, undisturbed by the crow, but then I see a larger raptor with dark brown, long wings a flash of white on the tail, flying fast close to the ground alongside the lake shore, flushing a large flock of Lapwings into the air. The raptor, possibly a Hen Harrier or Buzzard, settles on a bush in the north hedge, too far for me to ID.
There are Large Siskin flocks on the alders by Main Lake and the main entrance, but I cannot spot any Redpolls amongst them.
The lone Cormorant on Main Lake raft
The Hen Harrier settled on the top of the bush to the right of the centre of the photo.
As I leave, the snow starts falling over the reserve.

UPDATE 15/1/13: I have left the raptor without identity, as it does not fit Hen Harrier or Buzzard.

Bird list
  1. Black-headed Gull 
  2. Blackbird 
  3. Blue Tit 
  4. Bullfinch 
  5. Carrion Crow 
  6. Chaffinch 
  7. Common Gull 
  8. Coot 
  9. Cormorant 
  10. Dunnock 
  11. Gadwall 
  12. Goldfinch 
  13. Great Tit 
  14. Green Woodpecker 
  15. Greenfinch 
  16. Greylag Goose 
  17. House Sparrow 
  18. Jackdaw 
  19. Kestrel 
  20. Lapwing 
  21. Long-tailed Tit 
  22. Magpie 
  23. Mallard 
  24. Moorhen 
  25. Pochard 
  26. Redshank 
  27. Reed Bunting 
  28. Robin 
  29. Rook 
  30. Shelduck 
  31. Shoveler 
  32. Siskin 
  33. Song Thrush 
  34. Teal
  35. Tree Sparrow 
  36. Tufted Duck 
  37. Wigeon 
  38. Woodpigeon 
  39. Wren