Monday, 24 April 2017

Potteric Carr revisited

There has been several years since my last visit to Potteric Carr. Today I took my eight year old daughter for a visit, one of the few Mondays she's been able to come along as her school had a training day. On arrival, I was very impressed with the new visitor centre, full of information panels on the conservation work carried out by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and its repercussions on the wider community. The visitor centre is modern and beautifully placed overlooking a beautiful pond with a wide reedbed fringe. Once the new planting around it is established, this would be a great spot for a picnic while nature watching. My only quibble is that I couldn't find a sightings board if there is one. They do keep a blog with recent sightings, but there is something special, and more immediate, about checking what's been seen on site,
Accessibility is a big plus in the visitor centre and the reserve at large, with ramps for all but two of the 13 hides and several flat, permissive paths.
It is a very large reserve, and it is hard to explore fully in a single visit. There are four way marked trails, some of these quite long. We did a combination of the the Dragonfly Trail and the Wetland Trail. My main aim for the day was to try and see or hear a Bittern, and the extensive reedbeds of the Huxterwell Marsh appeared as a good bet, as it was there where Bitterns were confirmed to have bred at Potteric Carr for the first time in 2014. This success was the result of extensive habitat management to improve and expand reedbeds in the reserve, and culminated a trend set for years before, as the reserve had supported an overwintering population since the 1990s. We visited several hides, and got great views of a male Marsh Harrier being mobbed by Black-headed gulls (top shot). Canada Geese, Greylags and Mallard had downy young, and coots were busy bringing nesting material to their nests. West Scrape hide allowed close views of Oystercatchers, Little Ringed Plovers and feeding Black-tailed godwits. As we were preparing to leave, a small wader flew in on the close bank out of sight. I decided to sit for a little while in case it reappeared and I'm glad I did as a Common Sandpiper appeared on the exposed mud very close to us.
 We finally moved onto Roger Mitchell hide, quite hungry at this stage as we had only brought a few snacks. The view is magnificent: a large expanse of reedbed in between the wetlands surrounded by trees. As we got in, a quick soft booming greeted us. After a long wait, we had a bit more booming, coming from the centre of the reedbed. It was a lifer for me, and although we had no sighting, topped a great day out. We almost raced back to the visitor centre for some well deserved lunch.
A view of the new visitor centre
To add to the interest there is a great collection of carved wooden animal sculptures by the trails. This newt was one of our favourites.
Noon fly, Mesembrina sp. resting on one of the sculptures. 
Frog and lily pad. 
Coot with nest material. 
Ducklings feeding on the mother drain. 
Greylag goslings.
Black tailed godwit. 

Common Sandpiper. 
Bottoms up! Shelduck, coot and Mallard upending.
A well grown male Nuctenea umbratica spider sits on a corner of a hide window. 
Reeds from which the booming was heard. 
Large Red Damselfly, my first dragonfly of the year. 
Hawthorn blossom. 
Canada geese family by the visitor centre. 
A large unidentified Caddisfly larvae moving at the bottom of a pond, with a case made of leaf pieces. 
Resting canada goslings.

More information
Potteric Carr YWT NR website.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

River Hull. Stage 8. Swinemoor

A beautiful afternoon with a light breeze and cottony clouds, I headed to the second of the Beverley Commons that adjoin the river Hull: Swinemoor. Swinemoor, which occupies an area of about 119 ha, sits between the SE of Beverley and the River Hull. It is a flat expanse of pastures prone to flooding, with some flooded scrapes and lines of overgrown hedgerows and occasional trees. It is crossed by the Beverley and Barmston drain. I walked by the drain to reach the beginning of the river stage proper, on the west side of the river, just opposite of where I left it the last stage.
 The sunny, warm weather brought butterflies out. Three Peacocks fluttered up and down circling each other for a long while at the north side of the common and Small Tortoiseshells were plentiful and very active too. I also had my first Holly Blue of the year and a male Orange Tip.
 The cattle and horses have been allowed on the common in the last few days (top shot).
Swinemoor is well known for its bird diversity. Today, hirundines, including Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows were busy feeding over the river. Both Swallows and Sand Martins appeared established, as some were collecting mud by the shore of the drain. Several pairs of Lapwing seem to be breeding, with some occasional skirmishes with the local Carrion Crows. A Meadow Pipit sung. Snipe are known to breed in the common, but it was an early visit in the season and in the day, for them to be drumming. Other than the breeding birds, Swinemoor is known as a migration hotspot in the area. I repeatedly searched for Yellow Wagtails, with no luck, although Pied Wagtails were plentiful, with at least two pairs. One highlight was a flock of about 10 Whimbrel, which landed near the drain and started feeding for a while on the pasture. In addition to a Redshank, two Ruffs fed on one of the scrapes. Overall, I listed 42 bird species in today's stage. A telescope would have been very useful, as the pools are distant from the paths and it is unadvisable to approach the pools to avoid disturbance to ground breeding birds.
I finished the stage by near the pedestrian bridge parallel to Hull Bridge.
The pedestrian bridge at Tickton.
Holly Blue butterfly. 
Cattle and horses at the common. 
Swallow and House Martin picking mud for nesting.
A young Grey Heron fishing by the drain.
The wide expanses of the common. From the drain, looking East. 
Lapwing by scrape. 
The Yellow Dung flies waste no time as soon cowpats are available. 
A speedboat went past. 
A bend of the river shows the reedbed fringing its East margin.
Whimbrel. One of of a flock than landed and started feeding near the drain.
One of the pools and the bridge over the drain on the background.  
From this patch of reedbed came the scratchy, repetitive song of a Reed Bunting, the first of the year for me. 
View of the river from the pedestrial bridge 
View of Hull Bridge over the river Hull. 
An alderfly by the drain.
More information
An entry at Birdnerd with information on the common. Here.

Check the Google maps in the blog for the routes involved in each stage.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

River Hull. Stage 7. Weel and Grovehill

A warm day with a South-Westerly breeze I drive over the river by Weel or Grovehill Bridge, with a narrow single lane. The stage, a short one skirts Beverley between Figham and Swinemoor. I start the walk on Weel, a small village with a single access road, protected from flooding by a metal embankment. I walk on top of the embankment to make the most of the view. A Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock butterfly go past.
A few long boats and abandoned barges are tied to jetties on the west bank after Beverley Beck lock, from where I couldn't find a public right of way. Grovehill is an industrial state in Beverley, but on the other side of the river there is farmland and a couple of Skylarks were in full song. As I stand on Weel Bridge, a Swallow flies by, just my second this year.
 As I see the flat expanse of Swinemoor with its pools, a couple paddles by on their kayaks, which looks like a very fun way to going up river (top shot).
The village of Weel and its embankment, looking east.
A large patch of Marsh Marigolds.  
A friendly pony tethered to the bank comes to greet me. 
Singing Linnet. 
Weel Bridge. 
Looking SE from Weel Bridge.
Towards the end of the stage. Swinemoor in the background.
Hovering Kestrel near the recycling centre.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Spring at Allerthorpe Common

A spring day with just a light breeze and full sun spent at Allerthorpe Common. Chiffchaffs sung almost non stop, with one collecting nest material. At least a couple of Willow Warblers joined them in song, the first of the year. 
 We listened for Woodlark song and finally heard one, which then sung non stop for quite a while. It took ages to locate, but when we did it gave superb views, the best I've had for this species. We then focused our efforts in herps, and found a female Adder basking by the side of the path. On the heath, several Common Lizards scurried in the vegetation before we could take any photos. We also found a Smooth Newt under a log.
 A Red Kite, at least two Buzzards, a displaying female Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel made for a nice raptor tally. Coming across a flock of Brambling at least a dozen strong was also a highlight.
On the invertebrate front, many butterflies on the wing, with peacock males being particularly abundant, with at least 12 flying past, several Peacocks, and several Comma. There were also several species of bees active, many visiting willow blossom, including Bombus pascuorumB. lapidariusAndrena fulvaAndrena clarkella, and A. haemorhoa.
Male Yellowhammer. 
Singing Linnet.
Female Sparrowhawk in territorial display flight. We also had Buzzards, a Red Kite and a Kestrel.  
In a pine plantation, a flock of Brambling called incessantly.
Woodlark on stubble field. 
Smooth Newt. 
Brimstone. The only male that stopped to feed, the rest flew rapidly by.
Tachina ursina, a tachinid fly.
Andrena haemorhoa.