Friday, 29 March 2013

Hide and seek

Being half term, I take my 4 year old to North Cave for a bit of birdwatching. As we are parking I spot a brown rat by the drain opposite the cafe, my daugher can see it clearly, as I stop the car and point it to her. Not the fox or hedgehog she wanted to see, but another mammal and she's quite thrilled. She is also pleased to write it down on my notebook.
Given the weather, with flurries of snow every now and then, and a biting breeze, we go quickly from hide to hide and after East Hide and Turret Hide, we turn round and go down Dryham in the car for the other two hides. Lazy, really, but it is too cold for her.
The Black-Headed gulls are back in force getting ready for nesting (above), they are so loud in Island Lake that although I think I can hear a Skylark singing, I can't make it out clearly from the background noise.
I scan the area north of the reserve for raptors, and can make out a Buzzard being mobbed by crows in the distance.
 Four species of gulls are visible from Turret hide. Two immature Great Black Backed gulls dwarf a Herring gull nearby, and also a few Common gulls sprinkled amongst the BH gulls.
Great Black-backed gull immatures.
Displaying Black-headed gull
A Herring gull to the left looks tiny compared with the immature GBB gull
Drake Tufted Duck showing its impressive tuft
Bird List

  1.  Black-headed Gull        
  2.  Blackbird        
  3.  Blue Tit        
  4.  Buzzard        
  5.  Carrion Crow        
  6.  Chaffinch        
  7.  Common Gull        
  8.  Coot        
  9.  Dunnock        
  10.  Feral Pigeon        
  11.  Gadwall        
  12.  Great Black-backed Gull        
  13.  Great Crested Grebe        
  14.  Great Tit        
  15.  Greylag Goose        
  16.  Herring Gull        
  17.  House Sparrow        
  18.  Lapwing        
  19.  Little Grebe        
  20.  Magpie        
  21.  Mallard        
  22.  Moorhen        
  23.  Mute Swan        
  24.  Oystercatcher        
  25.  Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)        
  26.  Pochard        
  27.  Redshank        
  28.  Robin        
  29.  Rook        
  30.  Shelduck        
  31.  Shoveler        
  32.  Teal        
  33.  Tufted Duck        
  34.  Wigeon        
  35.  Woodpigeon     

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Hints of spring

The sun came out today and I walked through Pearson Park on my way to work today. I stopped to take a portrait of this relaxed Mallard drake. He kept an eye on me, but didn't flinch as I got closer.
 The Stock Doves were very active, chasing, doing circular display flights and cooing with that unique call of theirs that I read somewhere is reminiscent of a lions roar.
This Stock dove showed some interest in a nest box. The hole looks like it has been made larger, but I am not sure who did that.
One of them surprised me by alighting on the ground and feeding. They are quite timid and keep to the trees. It is the first time I spot one on the ground in the park. 
There has been about a dozen Greylags overwintering in Pearson Park, with a maximum of 45 on early February. They do not appear to roost in the park, but fly in every morning.
A mating pair of Mallards with a not very good looking drake interfering. The female is underwater, being held by the drake with the shiny green head.

The drake and female bathe while the interfering male swims away.
 The Common Gull flock was still strong. They probably won't be around much longer.
 There had been a light frost, but the pond in the wildlife garden was frost free, and full of clumps of frogspawn. 
Mistle thrush feeding by the large puddles on the grass
Bunch of Feral Pigeons enjoying the sun.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Four white beauties in Tophill Low

The weather forecast was appalling this morning: cold, windy and heavy rain. My choices were North Cave wetlands and Tophill Low, and I decided on the latter. On the way, it was only raining lightly. A Brown Hare crossed the approach road near Decoy Road and then run across the field. I parked by D res and walked back to the information center for a permit. I popped in South Lagoon hide, where a couple of Greylags were having a noisy altercation with a Mute Swan. There were three Pochard pairs which kept diving one after another, but little else. I headed back to D res hide and watched for a while. Two drake and a female Goosander were just visible in the distance. Goldeneyes, Coots and Tufted Ducks in abundance. By 10:40 I headed to D woods, a Redwing hid on the bushes, and Chaffinches and two male Song Thrushes sang completely ignoring the dark clouds.
 In D woods I heard the wheezing calls of a Willow Tit travelling with Blue and Great Tits. I stopped briefly by North Marsh, where the only birds in evidence were a Moorhen and a pair of Mallards, and pressed on. The rain had altogether stopped and as I came out of the woods into the scrub, I saw a Barn Owl hunting. She saw me too, and, with nowhere to hide, I carried on, with her flying ahead of me towards Hempholme Meadows. A Goldcrest and a Treecreeper fed on the pollarded trees just before the hide. In the meadows, Two Little Egrets, first of the year for me, Teal, Gadwall, Oystercatcher and the Barn Owl hunting by Hempholme Lock. At some point three birdwatchers came in and one of the Little Egrets moved on, but then two Barn Owls became visible, sitting or flying low at the other side of Beverley and Barmston Drain. They must be having a hard time hunting with so much rain, so I guess that's why they are being active in the day. A large flock of Goldfinches flew about and there were Pheasants everywhere, and lots of shooting around the reserve, which I find very unnerving. A Grey Heron flew to the river bank, scaring the ducks.
 Just before I left the hide, I spotted a male Kestrel atop a tree, and one of the Barn Owls flew over the river bank towards North Scrub. As I walked back I came across this barn Owl again, and it allowed great views, at some point it was less than 20 m away and looking away from me, with occasional glances over her shoulder. My best Barn Owl encounter ever!
 In the car park, a male Reed Bunting fed on the ground with Chaffinches, and in the approach road, the Hare was in the same spot, tiptoeing on all fours, all watchful.
Little Egret
A distant view of the Barn Owl
The Barn Owl by the bank of the River Hull, on North Scrub.

Bird List

  1. Barn Owl       
  2.  Blackbird       
  3.  Blue Tit       
  4.  Bullfinch       
  5.  Carrion Crow       
  6.  Chaffinch       
  7.  Coal Tit       
  8.  Common Gull       
  9.  Coot       
  10.  Dunnock       
  11.  Gadwall       
  12.  Goldcrest       
  13.  Goldeneye       
  14.  Goldfinch        
  15.  Goosander       
  16.  Great Spotted Woodpecker       
  17.  Great Tit       
  18.  Grey Heron       
  19.  Greylag Goose       
  20.  Jackdaw       
  21.  Kestrel       
  22.  Lapwing       
  23.  Little Egret       
  24.  Long-tailed Tit       
  25.  Mallard       
  26.  Mistle Thrush       
  27.  Moorhen       
  28.  Mute Swan       
  29.  Oystercatcher       
  30.  Pheasant       
  31.  Pochard       
  32.  Redwing       
  33.  Reed Bunting       
  34.  Robin       
  35.  Song Thrush       
  36.  Stock Dove       
  37.  Teal       
  38.  Treecreeper       
  39.  Tufted Duck       
  40.  Wigeon        
  41.  Willow Tit       
  42.  Woodpigeon       
  43.  Wren

Monday, 4 March 2013

What a day in North Cave Wetlands!

Despite the cold breeze and overcast conditions, there was a number of people on the reserve today. The background noise today was whistling Lapwings and screeching sounds of Black Headed Gulls, with the added novelty of the laughing Little Grebes. Of the latter I saw two pairs, one at Village lake and another in Main Lake.
There were Curlews calling on the fields and singing Skylarks. It would be hard to decide on what is the highlight of the trip, the Stoat encounter and the Smew came close to the top, but there were many others. Like the pair of Shelducks close by Turret Hide (above), aren't they the most elegant ducks?
A Green Spotted Woodpecker landed on an Alder just in front of me. 
A large Lapwing flock took to the air in a few occasions.
Noisy, Black Headed gulls with their fresh, silky breeding plumage displaying... 
fighting and generally having the place to themselves
A Stoat running towards me on the path to Turret hide. I stopped much earlier than the Stoat, but it eventually stopped and froze for long enough for me to take its photo. It immediately then disappeared through one of the draining tubes at the side of the path. I love the white gloves!
Two Mute Swans fighting. There was lake wide commotion with chases, water running and flying (is there a name for the flying while running that swans do?), and fast swimming. The one on the right is busking, an agressive posture of swans. The scene was almost comical as there was a group of mobbing Black Headed gulls, that seemed to have taken sides, attacking the agressive swan.
A Teal pair by Turret Hide.
Brown Rat feeding under the bird feeders. I guess this is an unintended effect of having bird feeders in nature reserves. Rats are also not good news for ground nesting birds.
An approachable male Reed Bunting.
Redhead Smew, a lifer, I flushed her in Far Lake. And she settled on the far end, but little by little she settled in the middle of the lake.
A raft reunion of Oystercatchers.
Full breeding plumage Great Crested Grebe.
Little Grebe.
Feeding coot, the Main Lake water was so transparent and still that you could see them underwater.
Hovering Kestrel
I failed to find a map of the reserve on the web with all the lake's names, so here is one from the information panel at the entrance. It shows the initial stage of the reserve, which has now greatly expanded on the south and west. At least I can come back here if I forget the lake names.

This was one of the most memorable trips I have made to NCW.

Today's Bird List

  1. Black-headed gull        
  2.  Blackbird        
  3.  Blue Tit        
  4.  Carrion Crow        
  5.  Chaffinch        
  6.  Common Gull        
  7.  Coot        
  8.  Curlew        
  9.  Dunnock        
  10.  Feral Pigeon        
  11.  Gadwall        
  12.  Goldfinch        
  13.  Great Crested Grebe        
  14.  Great Tit        
  15.  Green Woodpecker        
  16.  Greenfinch        
  17.  Greylag Goose        
  18.  Herring Gull        
  19.  House Sparrow        
  20.  Kestrel        
  21.  Lapwing        
  22.  Little Grebe        
  23.  Long-tailed Tit        
  24.  Magpie        
  25.  Mallard        
  26.  Moorhen        
  27.  Mute Swan        
  28.  Oystercatcher        
  29.  Pheasant        
  30.  Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)        
  31.  Pochard        
  32.  Redshank        
  33.  Reed Bunting        
  34.  Robin        
  35.  Rook       
  36.  Shelduck        
  37.  Shoveler        
  38.  Skylark        
  39.  Smew        
  40.  Snipe        
  41.  Starling        
  42.  Teal        
  43.  Tree Sparrow        
  44.  Tufted Duck
  45. Wigeon 
  46. Woodpigeon 
  47. Wren