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Smew! Second time lucky at Tophill Low NR

28 Dec

22/12/18 With the weather on Saturday forecast to be better than recently I had already decided to go out so when a drake Smew was reported at Tophill Low NR and Wilbur showing no interest in going out my plans were made. However on arriving in the visitor centre I learned there had been no further sightings since LJ had found it mid morning. After a look for myself over D res and seeing the lingering female Scaup also seen earlier  I headed south. No sign on O res so headed for Watton NR. Although again no sign of the Smew there was plenty of birds including Little Egret and a pair each of Goosander and Pintail. However only a single Greylag Goose. Little on the South Marshes with only a Little Egret seen on South Marsh East.

28/12/18 Think I other estimated Saturday’s mildest and should have worn another layer as I spend the next few days fighting off a cold but was feeling better on Friday morning. Wilbur was also more lively than recently so took him out but only made it part way to Creykebeck power station. Getting back to the park early afternoon I got a message that the Smew was back at Tophill Low NR. This time on reaching O res viewing screen the bird was present and not too distant.

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Drake Smew at Tophill Low NR on O Res.

After getting a few shots I headed for Watton NR but no sign of the Goosander or Pintail but there was again a Little Egret and a good number of geese, both Greylag and Canada as well as a Domestic Goose. Walking back through South Scrub I thought I could hear  Whooper Swans but although I could still hear them there was initially no sign from L-shaped hide. However six Whoopers, a family party with four juveniles, shortly drifted into view from the cover of O res wall.

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Whooper Swans at Tophill Low NR on O res.

Couldn’t see the Smew from either L-shaped hide or the viewing screen although the light is difficult near dusk from the latter. Again little on South Marshes with again only a Little Egret on East section.

Postscript on “Shag at East Park, Hull“.

After dipping the Smew on Saturday RL went to East Park to see the Shag. He found it now had a black plastic bag around its neck. MF didn’t see the bird on Wednesday.

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Shag at East Park, Hull-RL

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Shag at East Park, Hull

17 Dec

17/12/18 Apart from twitching the Royal Tern on Anglesey last Tuesday the only birding I’ve done recently had been locally with the dog.

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Royal Tern-Traeth Lligwy, Anglesey

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Raven-Traeth Lligwy, Anglesey

This doesn’t mean I don’t get to see much, as a Little Egret has been seen on the north side of Cottingham a few times recently with another lingering in fields north of Springhead GC. Even better last Wednesday managed to see Peregrine, Merlin, Little Owl and Green Woodpecker.

This morning the dog wasn’t interested in going out so with a Shag in Hull at East Park Lake since at least late last week and the weather better, got out on the bike for the first time in a while. From the feeding area [although ‘feeding’ is no longer encouraged] the bird was visitable and although the guy I spoke to seemed to think it was a Cormorant, on closer inspection it was clearly an immature Shag.

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First winter Shag-East Park Lake, Hull

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Goosander-East Park Lake, Hull

A few Goosander were also in the area and after getting a few pictures set off round the lake to count them. Thirty had been reported earlier and my count was in the same ball park.

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Black-headed Gull-East Park Lake, Hull

Didn’t see them myself but of interest Jay and Mistle Thrush are on site.

Mid summer at Tophill Low NR

2 Jul

2/7/18 After the heat of Sunday I had an early start at Tophill Low NR. Unlike last Tuesday, when the reserve was in thick fog, it was fine and already feeling warm. Having caught up with Kingfisher on North Marsh last week I headed south.

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Kingfisher at Tophill Low NR on North Marsh-26/6/18

No birds on O reservoir. On Watton NR three pairs of Common Tern were still sitting on the raft although still no sign of any chicks. No sign of yesterday’s eleven Black-tailed Godwits on South Marsh East but had twenty-two, mostly adult, Little Gulls roosting.

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Little Gulls at Tophill Low NR on South Marsh East

Also found a Snipe, my first on site this year, with another three seen from the other hide. Met DV and JB manning the visitor’s centre. JB had had a Black-necked Grebe at the far end of D reservoir. Eventually re-found it but was more a ‘can’t be anything else’ than a good view so moved round to Middle hide where though still distant at least the ID was not in doubt.

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Black-necked Grebe with Tufted Duck at Tophill Low NR on D res.

Had a quick look at North Marsh where Kingfishers had been seen earlier then moved on to Hempholme Meadows where there was nothing of note. Walked back along the straight road but saw no Yellow Wagtail. Back at the centre I discovered that I had missed an Osprey while I had been in Hempholme Meadows hide. Better news was a few of the Black-tailed Godwits had returned. Headed back to South Marsh East where six godwits were close to back-to-back hide but the Little Gulls had gone.

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Black-tailed Godwit at Tophill Low NR on South Marsh East

They weren’t feeding over the reservoir but may had been nearby over the river. Managed to see my first Common Tern chick of the year. Had seen a few dragonflies earlier mainly Black-tailed Skimmer and now it was truly warm added Four-spotted Chaser, South Hawker and Emperor.

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Male Black-tailed Skimmer at Tophill Low NR

Plenty of butterflies including Common Blue, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Small and Large Skipper. Also had my first Six-spot Burnet Moth of the year.

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Six-spot Burnet Moth at Tophill Low NR

 

 

Getting better views of the Purple Heron

2 May

1/5/18 Started Tuesday with a walk round Willerby Carrs with the dog. Quiet on the bird front with still no Willow Warblers in the area but did get my first Speckled Wood butterflies, as in 2017, at the back of Springhead GC.

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Speckled Wood-Springhead GC, Willerby 

Went to Tophill Low NR late afternoon. Had spent a lot of time on Sunday afternoon searching D reservoir for the Black-necked Grebe and again started off in the visitors centre hide. Less windy and from a different direction and the ducks were mostly just below me. The three Little Gulls [adult and two first summer] were still there as well as several Common Terns. Also three Common Sandpipers on the straight wall. Moved to middle hide to check for any birds to too close to the wall to see from the centre but still no sign of the grebe. Next headed for North Marsh to listen for Cuckoo but only heard Sedge and Reed Warbler. Continued north and eventually heard one in North Scrub. As I was up there I thought it worth a quick look at least for the Purple Heron. No one in the hide but birders I had recently seen said it had been just walked out of sight. Saw it fairly quickly but it was distant under the river bank and only showing it’s head and neck briefly. However it was slowly moving towards the back of the pool and eventually came fully out giving better views than I had had on Wednesday. Although still distant the light was good and took several photos before it again walked into cover.

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Purple Heron on Hempholme Meadow-Tophill Low NR

Walked back along the road and had five Yellow Wagtails including my first drab female type. Had a Fox along the road ahead of me but was always distant.

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Fox by D reservoir-Tophill Low NR

Continued on to South Marsh East but again no waders but there were several roosting gull including the Little Gulls.

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First summer Little Gull on South Marsh East-Tophill Low NR

 

Just when I thought spring had passed me by….

25 Apr

25/4/18 As I was getting ready to go out this morning there was a report of Red-rumped Swallow at Hornsea Mere. I had missed a few there in the past but having not renewed my permit for the hides this year I decided to give it a miss and go to Tophill Low NR as planned. Started in the centre hide where, after seeing a few at High Eske NR on Monday, I wasn’t surprised to have a few Swift high over the north end of D reservoir. With nothing of note on the water I headed south with hope of waders, but at South Marsh East I didn’t even have the pair of Little Ringed Plover or Redshanks I had seen last week. Did get my first Common Tern though.

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Common Tern in South Marsh East Black-headed Gull colony-Tophill Low NR

However from back-to-back hide had a Red Kite disappearing low north towards the lagoons. By South Marsh West added Sedge Warbler to my site year list. Also a few Reed and Cetti’s Warblers singing. In South Scrub added Lesser Whitethroat but Watton NR was also devoid of waders. Did have a pair of prospecting Common Tern and five Little Egret. Heading back north heard a probable Whitethroat song but a sudden shower made me move on. Thought of sheltering in the centre hide, with the possibly of the rain forcing something down, but the weather improved before I got there so continued north up the road hoping for a Wheatear on the reservoir wall but only had a few Yellow and Pied Wagtails [had a Common Sandpiper earlier from the centre.] Did hear a good Whitethroat in the bushes by Barmston Drain though. Getting to the top of D reservoir planned to listen for the recent Grasshopper Warbler in North Scrub but decided to have a quick look at Hempholme Meadows. MS was already in the hide and told me a Bittern was in the vegetation under the fence by the road. It had been seen and photographed much closer and in the open but I initially couldn’t see it. When I did spot its head my first thought was ‘this isn’t a European Bittern’ and I tried to remember whether the long staying Suffolk American Bittern had been seen today. However when it got more into the open it had a long snake-like neck and although brown wasn’t streaked on the body-an obvious Purple Heron. Rang RH’s mobile but only got his voice mail. Tried to get a few pictures but it too distant and the light poor.

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My best shot of Purple Heron on Hempholme Meadow.

With no reply from RH I went ahead and texted RBA but didn’t give the exact location to stop twitchers trying to view via Hempholme Lock. Pity the only other heron was a Grey as a Great White Egret and a few Little Egret have been almost guaranteed recently. Four species together would have been a spectacle!

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Great White and Little Egret on Hempholme Meadow-18/4/18

Was running short of time now as I had to get home to eat then take the dog out, as well as making sure ‘on site instructions’ did exist before the first birder arrived. Grasshopper Warbler would have to wait another day. Back at the centre spoke to MC, who I hadn’t seen for 12+ years. He had just spoken to the photographer who had pictures of a “bittern” so back tracked and managed to get a ‘back of camera’ picture from him, much better than my efforts.

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“Back of camera shot” of Purple Heron on Hempholme Meadow

I first saw Purple Heron at Tophill Low NR in 1994, when the L-shaped hide first put to test, although there had been a few earlier records. A brilliant picture of it by Tony Collinson My last was in 2011, this time on Watton NR.

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Purple Heron at Tophill Low NR-22/5/11

Seen well into the evening and appears to have shown better than I saw it. Maybe try for better shot tomorrow if the hide isn’t to packed, although I can always flash my Vol.warden badge if necessary!

Checking the Hornsea Mere blog looks like I have struggled with Red-rumped Swallow anyway.

26/4/18 The Purple Heron was still present early then reportedly flew east after being disturbed by a birder on the road. However it was back mid afternoon although distant but then flew south early evening.

27/4/18 Reported flying towards Hempholme Meadow late morning but no further sign by early evening. Please note, unless announced otherwise, only birders with an annual permit can be on site after 6pm or before 9pm. Also only view from hides and do not walk along the road or riverbank beside Hempholme Meadow.

After the Beast from the East

12 Mar

5/3/18 Filling the feeders on Monday morning it felt more springlike, helped by my resident Blackcap starting to sing. No sign of the dog so headed to Welton Waters. My first visit of 2018 and with reports of Smew, Scaup and Slavonian Grebe on the opposite side of the Humber at Barton Pits I hoped for something interesting. As usual parked on Myrtle Way and took the path to the across the airfield. A few Curlew there and Skylark singing. Reaching the flood bank set up to scan the airfield and adjacent marsh. A few Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Coot on the marsh and on the recently created ‘scrape’ a few Redshank and Dunlin, the latter a year tick. Walking east had a few Goldeneye on Brough Angling Complex. Next was watersports Pit but this apart from a small number of Mute Swan and Mallrd was empty not helped by a few sailing boats. There were a few Black-headed Gull at the far end and looking closer picked out an adult Little Gull, another species that had been seen in small numbers last week. With little to be gained from continuing east I walked Common Lane. Had a good number of small birds including Bullfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Since taking over, the now, Brough Angling Complex, Hull and District anglers have shown if anything hostility to birders so was pleasantly surprised to see a feeding station set up near the entrance gate, attracting a good number of birds including Reed Bunting and Greenfinch. Had a Cetti’s Warbler singing by the small pond. Walked east along the road to view the area of watersports pit not visible from Common Lane. No new birds but was fortunate that the now two Little Gulls were feeding close in.

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Adult Little Gull-watersports pit, Welton Waters

Walking back to my bike had two Stonechat on the fence enclosing the building site of the new school. Unfortunately while I had my camera out they didn’t return to the fence so had to make do with shooting them through the mesh, perched on vegetation. I had seen one nearby late last year.

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Stonechat-Brough

6/3/18 Tuesday morning headed to High Eske NR hopefully for a more complete coverage that my last visit. Still several Russian White-fronted Geese, although exactly how many I wasn’t sure as despite eight birds flying off, including a bird that may have been a Bean Goose, I again counted the regular seventeen birds on the water.

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Russian White-fronted Geese with Greylag Geese-High Eske NR

An Otter was feeding at the north end but I decided to walk to the south end then around the back. A Cetti’s Warbler was singing in the bushes but didn’t flush the Woodcock that had been seen for a few weeks on Pulfin NR. This time made it to Leven Canal. The two Whooper Swan were still to the west on Arram Carr and found a Stonechat on Leven Carr. Back at High Eske NR the Otter was showing well and also had a drake Pintail with the Wigeon.

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Otter-High Eske NR

A quick look at Swine Moor added Redshank and Golden Plover to the site year list.

7/3/18 On Wednesday the dog went back to his usual routine so had a morning walk. Nothing different from our normal birds but had a very relaxed Brown Rat in Oppy Wood that somehow was missed by the dog, probably too obsessed by Rabbits.

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Brown Rat-Oppy Wood, Cottingham

Was genuinely warm. Headed to North Cave Wetlands in the afternoon. My previous visit had been little more than a twitch of the Green-winged Teal so today I headed up Dryham Lane so to avoid wasting time on it. Found an adult Mediterranean Gull on Main Lake then spent a while waiting with out luck for Siskin by Far Lake.

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Near summer adult Mediterranean Gull-Main Lake, North Cave Wetlands

While checking reedbed was called by SG, from Turret Hide, he had the Green-winged Teal as well an adult Mediterranean Gull [later proved to be a second bird on comparing photos]. I had a good number of Teal which were pushed into the open by a low flying Marsh Harrier so now knew I didn’t need to look at them too well. Joined SG in Turret Hide and were lucky to see the recently regular Barn Owl.

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Drake Green-winged Teal-Island Lake, North Cave Wetlands

On the way out we checked the fields near the entrance and added Red-legged Partridge then a distant Stonechat on Dryham Ings. Had noticed a good number of birds on Church Pond on the way in so stopped to have a look on the way home. Plenty of Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Wigeon and a few Little Grebe. Had a couple of Kingfisher on the far bank, one of which flew closer and was last seen sat high in a large tree, higher than remember seeing one before. Just before SG arrived I found the drake Mandarin that had been resident at the Wetlands all of last year among the tree roots.

9/3/18 After a wet Thursday, Friday morning was again warm and although again like Wednesday turned cooler in the afternoon I headed to Tophill Low NR. Started in the visitor centre and had the Glaucous Gull on the same section of D reservoir straight wall as on my first encounter. Got a record shot and would have tried to get closer walking up the road but it decided to join the other gulls on the reservoir so after a quick look at the feeder without seeing Brambling or Lesser Redpoll by the centre pond I headed south.

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Juvenile Glaucous Gull-D reservoir, Tophill Low NR

Work on South Marsh East had finished and had a few birds, unlike on previous visits this year, including returning Oystercatcher. On Watton NR had three Pintail [two drake and a female] as well as a fly over Marsh Harrier which I saw again on my second visit to South Marsh East. Did the D reservoir gull roost and added Lesser Black-backed Gull but failed with Mediterranean Gull but as the gulls were at the north end of the reservoir so weren’t easy from the centre hide. Also no sign of the Glaucous Gull but it doesn’t always appear in the roost. Had a distant Peregrine over D woods.

 

My first {brief] visit to High Eske NR in 2018.

21 Feb

2018 continues to be cold and wet and I am still struggling to do anything more than walk the dog but the last few days were forecast, at least, to be a bit milder. Wasted Sunday morning on a reported Siberian Rubythroat in South Yorkshire at Bramwith Lock. A bird of my dreams having chickened out on a twitch to Shetland a few years back.  As I would struggle to get there on my own so I took up the offer to go early morning with SM and SE. This would have paid off if it had been seen anyway as the parking was limited and I must admit the navigation would have been difficult with out a satnav. Wasn’t a total waste of time as I added Jay to the year list and the regular Goosander fly overs were nice. The authenticity of the bird has been well debated. My thinking is although a hoax is never out the question [proved by a fictional American Robin in London the same day] the report of several sightings over a few days does make me wonder what actually was seen. No photo doesn’t help as a female Siberian Rubythroat isn’t a straight forward bird. Anyway it’s not been seen since so no point wasting anymore thoughts on it.

Monday was a wash out and Tuesday, with the strong cold wind, kept me to our regular walk to Lawns Farm.

21/2/18 Wednesday, the wind at least had gone but heavy rain mid morning wasn’t promising. However set off with the dog expecting an early return. Walked through the The Lawns Centre then round the playing field behind. The weather didn’t seem to want to make it’s mind up. It was quite warm when the sun got out but black clouds kept building. Head to the Millbeck Wildlife area where I made up my mind to head home and get out early afternoon. The choice was North Cave Wetlands, to add to my small list from the the Green-winged Teal twitch, or make my first visit of the year to High Eske NR. The first would at least give me shelter but it was the cowards choice so headed to the second. A rainbow over the area wasn’t a good sign but it was dry when I pulled up at High Eske Farm. Little in the orchard so didn’t waste any time and quickly headed down the track to the reserve. With DH now on twitter I know what is about. Quickly picked up two of the Russian White-fronted Geese with the Greylags then the other fifteen in a separate flock of their own.

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Russian White-fronted Geese-High Eske NR

Otherwise there was the usual few hundred Wigeon, a few tens of Goldeneye but only a few Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe. No Coot reflecting the situation last year when numbers were very low throughout. One of Oystercatcher pair had returned. No confidence in the weather so headed north to check the fields to the north for the Whooper Swans. Added Kingfisher to my year list over the north end of the pit. Saw two distant swans just after I left the reserve behind. Got the scope on them and confirmed they were the yellow billed birds I was looking for. Continued towards Leven Carrs but the rain started again becoming heavy as I hurried back to the farm for shelter. Added a few common species as I waited for the shower to pass. Went home via Weel Road to do Swine Moor. As expected there was plenty of water, holding a few hundred Teal and Wigeon and a pair of Shoveler but none of geese from last year. Also the only waders were a few tens of Lapwing. A fairly poor start to the year list but the amount of water should make spring at least interesting.

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Swine Moor from Weel Road, Beverley