With not a great forecast on the cards today and the outside chance of an Otter encounter at last and some gulling i decided to travel over the bridge into the home county to the excellent Tophill Low near to Watton village.On arrival and after paying for my day permit,it was just beginning to get light,so i made my way quickly down to North Marsh.I entered the hide set the camera up and waited in anticipation and within five minutes i was rewarded,an Otter straight away.I attempted to get a few images as the animal was watched at pretty close range,catching several small fish and what looked like to be fresh water snails before he or she caught sight of me and quietly disappeared.What a great start and fantastic to see one after several attempts at this site,sadly the photos where nothing to write home about in the dull conditions,but it was a great encounter all the same.After spending some time waiting for a repeat performance and seeing a few other bits and bobs in the way of a single Grey Heron and Common Buzzard and a singing male Reed Bunting i carried on my journey around the reserve,flushing a single Woodcock as i left the hide..It was now trying it's best to brighten up and as i walked down the side of Barmston Drain the sun began to break through just as i watched 2 Little Egret chasing each other from the drain.This went on several times more as the dominant bird chased the intruder away from his or her fishing spot.At Hempholme Lock itself,very little was encountered apart from the afore mentioned Little Egrets,but a single drake Goldeneye was on the River Hull and 68 Golden Plover flew south.Large numbers of Corvids where feeding on the fields,which mostly consisted of Jackdaws and 3 Roe Deer browsed in a distant rough field towards Hempholme village.A quick walk through D-Woods back towards the car revealed singles of both Marsh and Willow Tit at the feeding station and after a quick refuel it was on to the southern section of the reserve.South Marsh was pretty lively with some decent numbers of birds on view which included 27 Shoveler,33 Gadwall and 30 Wigeon,with two prospecting Oystercatchers on one of the gravel islands.A short walk around the side of 'O' Res had me reaching the excellent Watton Nature Reserve and here more wildfowl and waders,but not in as large numbers as i have seen in the past,133 Wigeon,19 Gadwall,6 Cormorant,2 Curlew and 3 Grey Heron were the highlights and a decent sized flock of Teal were mainly obscured by the islands.A single Doe Roe Deer bounded past the hide at great speed,flushed by two walkers along the side of Barmston Drain.As i wandered back through the reserve it was really noticeable about the huge numbers of Snowdrops in flower,a great sight to see and as i neared North Lagoon,the sound of Siskins calling saw me watching a flock of 8 birds as they acrobatically fed on the small Alder cones.Back to the car again for another drink and the shedding of some clothes and a quick look around the car park saw me recording at least 62 Chaffinch feeding on the floor around the trees to the right of 'D' hide,a pretty good count and a single Great-spotted Woodpecker drummed away in the trees nearby.As time was getting on now,the final effort of the day,the gull roost and 'D' Res.As there was few Gulls yet,i had a quick scan around to see what numbers of wildfowl where present and the count revealed 55 Goldeneye,16 Pochard,312 Tufted Duck,302 Wigeon,16 Gadwall and 4 Great-crested Grebe.Fellow birder and guller Martin joined me eventually and we began to scan through the increasing numbers of Gulls as they arrived to roost and bathe.Thankfully,today we hit the jackpot,with firstly 2 adult Med.Gulls,a fully white headed bird with no hint of summer plumage and a second smaller bird(Possibly a female)with almost a full black head.But the cream of the crop came in last,when a white winger appeared in the middle of the gulls and it was the 'Barmston' Kumliens Gull!!.It was mostly in the middle of the res,but you could still see the subterminal markings in the primaries and the dark bill tip was obvious,what a cracker and definite reward for the hours put in today.This bird has been rather erratic in it's appearances this winter,not being always seen at Barmston and roosting at both Hornsea Mere and now three times at Tophill,but where does it go in the mean time...it's a bit of a mystery.Well what a superb beginning and end to the day today and another great visit,with great company and i travelled back to North Linc's very contented and happy.
|Record shot of the Otter,North Marsh.|
|Snowdrops,beside 'O' res.|
|The River Hull at Hempholme Lock.|
|Watton Nature Reserve.|
|Doe Roe Deer,Watton Nature Reserve.|
|Record shot of the 2nd winter Kumliens Gull,'D' Res roost.|