Sunday, 27 February 2011

Drab times...

Eventually made it out to Tophill Low NR, however my appearance was some time later than many others. Grey and dark was the theme for the week, and despite Thursday being glorious, a quick look out the window in the early hours, when the rain was hammering down, suggested I'd be best off turning off the alarm clock.

Despite the forecast, the moth traps were out. All I know from experience is that now we are in Clouded Drab season... and the species is drab... dull... and not really worth getting up to see! Moth, or potential moth enthusiasts, be warned... this is dull moth trapping. In birding terms... tis a bit like day ticking a Dunnock!!!

Check out the the warden's blog for news on what was caught, and all the other Tophill news. My recent posts make it sound like nothing turns up... but put in the time and with a bit of luck, who knows what might appear in view!!!

On the birding front, a '1st winter' female Scaup was on D res, though elusive once eyes where taken off it, as the bird was diving with regularity when observed and rather awkward to see well. However, there does seem to be an increase in Aythya... so Ring-necked Duck is my next prediction within the fortnight! A single Smew was at WNR as was a drake Pintail, but the flock of Egyptian Geese had moved on.

The gull roost featured nothing of interest other than Common Gull and Black-headed Gull. Only 5000 birds, another season almost over, and despite being addicted to looking through the roost when I'm not at work (and when weather allows) I won't miss cold evenings and regular disappointments. After one Glauc and one Iceland, and knowing the history, I have a few months to contemplate retiring... after 11 winters of sitting in the car park hide or middle hide overlooking D res, as the temperatures start to rise in the spring, I can't imagine how cold another winter could be!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Another dull evening at the gull roost

Title just about sums it up! Highlight of the day was finding a packet of Viennese Whirls in the Spar in Cranswick that had two extra free! Excellent time was had munching on them and drinking tea in middle hide overlooking D res at Tophill Low NR.

The birds! Well maybe 16000 gulls roosted, 3 Lesser Black-backs hardly worth the 2.5 hours spent looking through them. A drake Pintail and 5 Goosanders made up the rest and fortunately it got dark.

Hope for a better times to come!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

It's grey and wet... but I'll try and blog something!

Leaden grey skies, peeing down with rain. A day for not for going far. Took enough time to get out of bed and I'm not sure it even got light today.

I can only imagine what it was like queuing hoping to see a dove somewhere down south in this weather after a good drive (and paying a fiver for the priveledge of hoping I might see it!), listening to the tedious conversation of experts in the field of birds they haven't seen as they curse others for failing to identify birds they would like to have seen, albeit ones they couldn't actually manage to identify themselves! Not quite turned my back on twitching... the birds are good, just the 'clientelle' that seem to turn up in habitats frequented by rare birds seem to spoil it nowadays!

I guess the hobby of birdwatching and twitching has become too accessible and is well marketed. Or maybe it is me that is past my sell by date and I'm doing it all wrong? Could I be old school???

So it was 5 hours or so sat overlooking D res in the hope of seeing something interesting. Scary to think a Little Egret might be bird of the day! Fortunately it didn't appear, nor did many gulls! Two Lesser Black-backed Gulls for all that looking hardly meant it was time well spent as Doug Fairweather and me shivered away. A group of 6 Goosanders roosted at dusk, and a flock of Siskins occasionally bounced west over the res and then bounced back east into D wood several times during the afternoon.

A least we can post a picture... some Witches Butter was photographed at Castle Howard last Sunday by Doug Fairweather.

Moving further afield, our Scotland reporter to the blog (remember his Gyr last year?) recorded Golden Eagles sat on rabbits, some cracking looking Red-breasted Mergansers and Ravens in the Invergordon area. Not bad for a trainspotter!

Blast from the past

A Red Sword-grass from March 26th 2005... will we catch one at Tophill Low NR in 2011? Lets hope it warms up a little.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Iceland delight

A bit of a dull February day. Certainly not my favourite time to be out birding. Headed out to Tophill Low NR again not expecting much of interest. Spend 3 hours looking over D res through the gulls which dropped in during the afternoon.

Highlight of the Larid watching was a 1st/2nd winter Iceland Gull which appeared on the res at 4.55pm. Despite the poor light, the bird was pretty obvious amongst the 8000 or so gulls and was still present when the light went at 5.25pm. How long will we have to wait for the next one?

Other than the regular gulls, a Lesser Black-backed popped in a few times and was still present at dusk while a couple of Goosander roosted.

Click on Tophill Low for the latest round up of sightings from Richard the Warden.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Lights on... office opens for a new season

So after the winter lull, Friday night saw the moth lights out at Tophill Low NR for the first time this year. Not sure what time they got emptied, but the enthusiasts sorted through the 6 which were caught... all Pale-brindled Beautys the catch. As a good sleeper I didn't feel so guilty for having a lie in!!! But the early start to the season poses a few questions. What will be caught in 2011? Will we catch Red Swordgrass this spring? (I'll find and post a photo of the only record ever of this spring species) Can we add to site list this year? 2010 was pretty good and a lot of target 'yeah we'll catch'em eventually' species, have been added. So we shall just have to wait and see. And that is before we delve into the micros!

After writing of catching new species for the Tophill Low NR list... even these are now appearing in the car park! A few years ago this would have been hard to add to a Tophill year list as a 'species using the site'. (Sorry but better as flyovers)

Other than what was an on-site rare a few years ago, a tour of the reserve yielded a redhead Smew at Watton Nature Reserve amongst the usual wildfowl sundries. Several Bramblings in the car park brightened up the tea drinking, 5 Goosander roosted on D Res at dusk and once again the gull roost failed to turn up anything interesting. However, 46 Cormorants flew high north at dusk. A spring movement? First time in 10 winters I've seen a flock that big fly high north

Onto fungi... Some good clumps (if that is the correct term?) of Jews Ear noted.

And the list included Scurfy Twiglet, Velvet Shank, Crystal Brain, Yellow Brain (anyone noticed how scarce it is this year?) some old Dead Man's Fingers and some Coral Spot... which means I'm now scraping the barrel for writing!

But there are signs of spring. Snowdrops are showing well...

The Skylarks are singing on bright sunny mornings, and it will soon be time for summer migrants passing through. And for interest it will soon be Odonata season... the way the weekends and historic records fall suggests (given the weather) a potential earliest date ever in area VC61 (SE Yorkshire) is in the offing.

Spring is coming, almost time to play the game.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Dull and grey... part two!

Doug Fairweather has sent some of the few pictures taken at the weekend at Tophill Low NR. No bird ones but a couple of new subjects that might get more time spent on them as the year progresses.

Spiders seem to be a subject not having made it on to the blog until now. A little searching needed to find these 2 Nuctenea umbratica hidden away under the bark of a live sycamore... which is now a dead sycamore as it fell down in the weekend gale.

Also molluscs aren't a usual feature on here. This attractive little snail was found in the horse chestnut leaf litter along the now extinct horse chestnut avenue. A Cepaea spp, probably hortensis.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dull and grey

Back at Tophill Low NR again. Other than a few Bramblings at the visitor centre and a couple of redhead Smew on Watton Nature Reserve it was rather quiet. Fungi wise it was dull, gull wise it was tedious... and we ended the day drinking tea in the rain. Can't have good days all the time!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Birding at dusk

Another evening at Tophill Low NR looking through the gulls. After the good birds late last week, predictably nothing of interest could be found amongst the assembled 10,000 birds, but the way I see it is 'I'm one night nearer finding a good gull'.

There were still things to see, 2 Buzzards and a Peregrine appeared early evening, the latter causing a headache for the local Woodpigeons, and 6 Goosander (4 drakes) roosted on D res at dusk, while a Woodcock was flying around the car park at last light.

Atwick Lapland

The old haunt of Atwick was visited mid-week by Neil Hart. Many moons ago, it was heavily hit on a regular basis and we turned up a few good birds. Neil Hart was there in the week and enjoyed seeing a Lapland Bunting on the cliff top. Scanning the sea, a Black-throated Diver was showing well close inshore and a couple of pale-bellied Brent Geese flew north.

A trip to Blacktoft was less productive. Just a Marsh Harrier as expected, while my quiet week in Howden was limited to counting Bullfinches in the park during break times... up to 16 most days around the bowling green.

Rather windy as I type... back sometime later with the gull news from Tophill Low NR!