Ok, I maybe got a bit over excited with the title of the blog but then the waders on site at the moment are pretty spectacular for the time of year! Peak counts of 13 spotted redshank, 9 green sandpipers and 30 black tailed godwits all in summer plumage have been making some memorable viewing. Unusually this year many of the waders are using Ousefleet pool to feed, possibly because when you look closely it is packed with newly hatching flies and chironomids (non-biting midges). If you have the patience to sit at the screen hide you may be rewarded by some mind blowing views like I was this morning with birds down to less than 30 feet away. There was also a couple of snipe and a female garganey, I wondered where she had disappeared to? I had indeed been doubly blessed as I had already been treated to a variety of other waders including avocet,more Blackwits, dunlin, redshank and lapwing on Marshland lagoon while I was checking the water levels to see if we needed to pump a bit in from another lagoon after the hot weekend.
Some people seem to think water is easily accessible on site and that we can pump or naturally flood onto any area we like but this could not be further than the truth! In fact water can only be naturally flooded onto the site between August and April, after then we can only let water off the lagoons or pump water from lagoon to lagoon and not from the river as we would need an abstraction licence and also a very expensive pump. Careful manipulation of the lagoons allows almost daily viewing through the summer but once the lagoons are dry then they are dry, that is until the next surge tide in late summer and Autumn. However, it then takes up to two months for the food to build up in them so that they are attractive to waders. In fact in the 1980's the RSPB had a whole scientific paper written on the manipulation of water levels to achieve food for breeding and migrant birds, so how we manage the lagoons today is not just a whim of the Wardens! Water is a very scarce resource at the moment and I ask everyone to understand that many nature reserves are having problems maintaining shallow lagoons and seasonal floods at a time when people tend to restrict and use the water that birds need too.
At the moment though, due to forward planning by maintaining high spring water levels, the lagoons are providing great viewing with in addition to the above WADERS(!) there are two spoonbill, who are still largely in residence, up to two little egret, male garganey in eclipse and a plethora of duck including a recent build up of 40+ teal returning from the north. Other birds of interest in the last five days include regular yellow wagtails, grasshopper warblers reeling, cuckoo, barn owls, hobby, little gull and osprey (both fly thoughts), and of course our resident Marsh harriers who should be fledging young any day. Reed warblers are just starting to fledge young and although the bearded tits are feeding their third brood they still remain elusive around the hides.
The curlew still continue to head west with the best passage numbers we have seen in a long time while a couple of little ringed plover flew east yesterday afternoon. One wader that is notable by its absence at the moment is ruff but as their European population seems to be sinking faster than the titanic no wonder we are seeing year on year declines on site. Reasons for this decline seem to be changes in agricultural practice on their breeding grounds and also being caught for fresh meat in Africa using fishing hooks on lines, a very sad end indeed for such a superb bird.
The recent hot weather has brought out hundreds of dragonflies including black-tailed skimmer, southern hawker and a dandy male broad bodied chaser on the path near first hide.
Now is the time to see those spotted redshank in stunning breeding plumage - we had 10 today!!
Also check out those green sandpipers when you go looking for the spotted redshank at the screen at ousefleet.
Marsh harriers are now spending quite a bit of time gliding over the tops of the reeds trying to encourage the young harriers to stretch their wings and take that first flight.
A grasshopper warbler has also started to sing near townend hide.
And we had another sighting of that cuckoo that has been around recently.
And we had an osprey fly over
And the spoonbills are still here - they were seen flying off towards the east this morning but quickly returned an hour later to take up position on townend.
The role of a Warden is often varied and this morning the Team had a little problem to sort out!
Happy to say the poor gal was quickly extracted using a bit of spade work, a tractor and some Iron pants! All good fun and in a days work, and as the title suggests, its not all about birds!
Although the Summer Solstice is now past the reserve is still very much in the frenzy of summer bird activity. The wading birds are pretty good for mid June with 10 spotted redshank (still in stunning plumage), a male ruff (with collar), 24 black tailed godwit, 58 avocet (plus 10 chicks), 2 snipe, 2 green sandpipers, plus the usual lapwing and redshank. Curlew have been much in evidence recently as they fly West to Morecambe bay on their moult migration, often detected by their bubbling call over 50 birds have been counted in a day this week. Some of these birds will be returning from the Nordic countries but others may have been 1st or 2nd year birds that often summer on the Humber. The reason why many of these birds go to Morecambe Bay is that it has a higher than average amount of food of food at this time of year and this aids quick replacement of feathers and there is a massive expance of mudflat where the birds are relatively safe from predators. They can often be accompanied by bar tailed godwit, oystercatcher and on a late evening common scoter, so make sure you scan over any passing flock just to make sure of your ID.
The spoonbills have been playing hide and seek with birds showing exceptionally some days and then being absent during the day on others but then returning on an evening. The drake garganey has reappeared on Singleton lagoon but now in full moult, but where is the female? Fingers crossed she is trying to raise a brood somewhere deep in the murkey reedbed pools the management team create through late summer reedcutting operations. The Shoveler broods are also doing well which excellent news for a species that has had some very bad breeding seasons recently. Plenty of marsh harrier activity too at the moment with both the males and females going out to catch prey for the growing young, (the females usually guard the young until they are about three weeks old often depending on the males to go out to hunt on the arable fields). The adults often start to look ragy at this time of the year mainly as they always seem to start moulting their main primaries (wing feathers) when they feed away from the nest. Maybe it's due to the need for plenty of food to help feed growing feathers as well as chicks.
Some good news from Reads Island recently with a report of at least 50 young avocet feeding along the edge of the island. After a terrible start to the breeding season here the avo's have really dug deep to hatch out these young in lagoons that are mostly dry, something that is very unusual. But it's a great example how prime habitat and a bit of habitat creation can work together to give those perfect conditions, even in 'poor' years. There's still a way to go before the young fledge though but I for one am rooting for the little Kloots, a dutch name for avocet, apologies to the Dutch if I've spelt it wrong!
A nice bit of Bio-diversity after the recent rains - rehydrated Auricularia auricula-judae
What a wonderful Saturday on the reserve. We arrived to find we now have 3 spoonbills feeding on first. They quickly decided it was time for a rest so off they went to their normal sleeping spot on singleton - by that island! They then slept until around 3pm before having a short flight to townend to feed - that is the way I left it a 5pm tonight. So now we have three spoonbills that I hope will be present for all our visitors tomorrow.
Down on marshland or up at Ousefleet screen - the waders. With 4 spotted redshank, greenshank, black-tailed godwits, oystercatchers, lapwing, redshank and avocet being present.
Also up at Ousefleet - a few hares were enjoying the sun - well it certainly didn't rain!
Back to birds - something was going on around reception. The tree sparrows were busy taking long pieces of cut grass into their new found hole in the roof of reception (different spot to last time!), sedge warblers, blackcaps, willow warblers, great tits, long-tailed tits and reed warbler were all active in and around reception.
And then our marsh harriers - they have been very active taking food into the nests with items of food.