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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

 

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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.

 

Lingering Glaucous Gull at Tophill Low NR

23 Jan

23/1/18 2018 has been slow to start for me. Apart from a trip to Tophill Low NR with JH and a quick ride up to Raywell it’s just been long walks with the dog. This week was forecast milder but there was still compacted snow on my street on Monday morning so again it was out with the dog. However managed a second walk at dusk which payed off with good views of both Barn and Little Owls at Haltemprice Farm. Fortunately Tuesday was better with out the rain previously forecast for the morning. Maybe because of the extra walk yesterday, the dog didn’t pester me, so was able to slip out early. Where to go? Although I’d already visited Tophill Low NR this year, with a lingering Glaucous Gull as well as reports of White-fronted Geese it seemed the best choice.

On arrival went straight to the visitors centre where the Gull was immediately seen on D reservoir wall from the “birders hide”. With Stonechats seen recently at Hempholme Meadows I headed north by the road. The Gull could be approached close enough to get a reasonable shot but then flew but usually just up and down before settling back on the wall.

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Juvenile Glaucous Gull at Tophill Low NR on D reservoir wall.

Hempholme Meadows was still iced over with only natures icebreakers present.

 

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Mute Swan at Tophill Low NR on Hempholme Meadows

Couldn’t see the Stonechats so headed back south, this time via D Woods. A quick stop at the feeders added Marsh Tit [calling!] to the list. Nothing reported from the lagoons and marshes so headed directly to Watton NR hide to look for the White-fronts. Only a few Greylag present but the drake Goosander and Pintail from my last visit were still present.

 

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Drake Goosander at Tophill Low NR on Watton NR

Looking through the Curlew I also located the Black-tailed Godwit with a few Redshank. A few more geese dropped in, this time Canada’s with one Greylag and a hybrid. An Otter was reported but I was unable to catch up with it and then last interest when a larger flock of Greylags dropped in this time carrying the two Russian White-fronted Geese.

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One Russian White-fronted Goose at Tophill Low NR on Watton NR

Walked back via the marshes but only had one Mute Swan on West and there was plant working on East. Both Lagoons were bird free. A flock of Lesser Redpoll had been seen around the centre pond recently but there was work going on in the vicinity today. Possibly had them flying off but didn’t relocate the flock. Checked the Alders by the lagoons which had often held them over the year but nothing doing. Met PD et al on leaving North Lagoon. They were looking for the Glaucous Gull, apparently led astray by my D looking like an O. Fortunately heading back to the visitors centre it was again settled on D reservoir wall.

 

Great White Egret at North Cave Wetlands

24 Sep

Last year at this time there were enough birds. particularly waders, locally to keep life interesting. So far this month it’s been hard going at my sites. Choose High Eske/Pulfin NR as my Patchwork Challenge site but so far it’s not pay off with many previously tied on birds not yet recorded. Added nothing this week despite visiting every other day. Nearby at Swine Moor it’s been slightly better finding a Garganey on the 21st.

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Garganey-Hornsea Mere

 

However the waders have been disappointing with just Ruff, peaking at 13, and the occasional Dunlin or Redshank.

Did Hornsea Mere on the 21st where a few Little Gulls were still around the jetties and my first returning Pintail off Swan Island.

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Little Gull at Kirkholme Point-Hornsea Mere

Also had two Bearded Tit briefly under Wassand Hide and a late Hobby nearby.

At Tophill Low NR on the 22nd only managed 2-3 Green Sandpiper with a Barnacle Goose [of unknown origin] on Watton NR.

On walk to Creykebeck substation with Wilbur on the 23rd was bit of a raptor-fest, the highlights being a Hobby hitting finches at Lawns Farm and Peregrine near Millhouse Woods Lane pumping station, although the latter may have had jesses.

Sunday morning I had planned to do Welton Waters in hope of seeing a few Bearded Tit. However got a text from SG about a Great White Egret at North Cave Wetlands. Not even a year tick but although there are a few previous records it would be a site tick for me. Didn’t panic though waiting for The Andrew Marr Show to end. Getting there the Egret had gone over the bank to the back of Main Lake. As distant as it was possible to be but did my best with the camera.

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Great White Egret on Main Lake-North Cave Wetlands

Some debate about whether it was the bird recently seen at Tophill Low NR [see here] but I remember the one I’d seen having pale legs when the current birds are almost black. There have been several records recently anyway including one at Hornsea Mere the same day I was last there. Moved on to Crosslands Hide, usually the best chance for waders, but was very quiet. In fact apart from Lapwing the only waders on site were the large number of Snipe on Island Lake and a brief Dunlin.

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Snipe on Island Lake-North Cave Wetlands

Had earlier seen a falcon, more likely Peregrine than Hobby, spooking everything off the north fields.

Great White Egret and other stuff at Tophill Low NR

2 Aug

2/8/17 I haven’t been to Tophill Low NR for a few weeks but with rain forecast it seemed a good place to be. Despite the title the big white heron wasn’t too important as I had seen one there in May, which despite their increasing occurrence was my first for almost three years and even longer at this site. More interesting was the report of Spotted Flycatcher at Hempholme Meadows yesterday. They had bred in O Wood but I hadn’t managed to see them there. However no sign up there but did see a Ruddy Darter on the way up and photographed some Little Gulls on the straight wall walking back [had counted at least 12 earlier from the visitor centre].

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Ruddy Darter at Tophill Low NR near “top hide”.

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Little Gulls at Tophill Low NR on D res wall.

Also no Kingfishers but had one walking past South Lagoon.

 

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Red Admiral at Tophill Low NR wildlife garden.

Headed to South Marsh East where the big egret had been earlier, as well as a variety of waders. No sign of the Great but several of it’s Little cousins.

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Little Egret at Tophill Low on South Marsh East.

Also a couple of Black-tailed Godwit and few Green Sandpiper but no sign of the Wood Sandpiper. The Lapwing regularly got up, as is their habit, taking other waders and some Little Gulls with them.

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Green Sandpiper at Tophill Low NR on South Marsh East.

Headed for the back-2-back hide in the hope that the missing two would be seen from there but got diverted to Watton NR where as expected an unidentified ‘stint’ was a Dunlin. Nice to see Common Terns feeding young though.

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 Common Terns at Tophill Low NR on Watton NR.

Had a look from L-shaped hide where as often moths provided more interest than bird.

Agonopterix alstromeriana, Copper Underwing and Mouse Moth at Tophill Low NR in L-shaped Hide

Back at South Marsh East where I had just missed the Wood Sandpiper but the Great White flew into view.

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Great white Egret at Tophill Low on South Marsh East.

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Goosander at Tophill Low on South Marsh East.

Back round to the first hide and the Wood Sandpiper was showing but distant. Having opened the visitor centre and with no one else around to past the task on to I went up there with the hope of locking up and going but a had a steady stream of customers. No problem though just made myself a cup of tea and rigged up a ‘scope to show those interested a Little Gull. At least I’ve gone some of my way to paying for my annual permit!

 

Birding from the new Tophill Low NR Visitors Centre

12 Mar

12/3/17 Went to Tophill Low NR with ML and RL on Sunday morning. Started in D reservoir Middle Hide. The long staying female Long-tailed Duck was still present but kept close in the the near side so was difficult to see and even harder to photograph.

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Female Long-tailed Duck on D reservoir.

The main purpose of the trip was to attend the meeting of those volunteering to help out in the new Visitors Centre. I’ll gloss over any details of the place as Richard will do a better job and some of the more interesting features are yet to be completed. The main room of visitors centre features full height windows over looking the reservoir but because of the essential anti-birdstrike coating they aren’t optically perfect. They give a good panoramic view but to get a better look or take pictures the adjacent ‘members hide’ is essential. Only has a fraction of the capacity of the now demolished Carpark Hide but being higher and nearer the reservoir the viewing is an improvement.

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Pair of Red-crested Pochard on D reservoir

Also can again view the reservoir with out the long muddy walk to Middle Hide.

There are feeders viewable from a side window and these seem fine for photography.

 

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Siskin on Visitors Centre feeders.

 

A few Chiffchaff are now singing but couldn’t hear the one by South Lagoon on the way out. Nothing else of interest reported on the reserve but with migrants; including Garganey,  Little Ringed Plover and Sand Martin; seen in the county this weekend, things should get interesting soon.