An evening and morning walk round the Sands to check the cows and water levels on site gave me an avian spectacular that everyone who visits seems to be enjoying at the moment! Waders were top of the bill with the prodigal Marsh Sandpiper still about, curlew sand, 10 green sands, 14 spotted redshank, 150 Black tailed godwits, 2 greenshank, 11 snipe, 6 ruff, 9 dunlin, 8 avocet (plus 3 young ). I missed the spoonbill but that seems to be showing today following its usual one day on and one day off rota! Add to this marsh harriers, plenty of bearded tits including a flock of 10 showing well on marshland today, water rails, little egrets, garganey, yellow wagtails and a stack of warblers, reed buntings and tree sparrows then hopefully there is something for everyone to enjoy! The weekend and particularly early next week will see some highish tides so maybe this may bring in a few birds feeding out on the estuary so here's hoping for another good wader.................
A quick update on yesterday/this morning with Osprey, little ringed plover, hobby, 1200 sand martins and 700 starlings at roost time, hobby, wheatear, 2 grey plover and 30 oystercatcher west! Migration is really starting to roll on! Oh and the beardies were showing very well indeed.
Or in fact that should be 300 sand martins try to avoid stunning hobby late evening. OK maybe a bit of a literary liberty, but yesterday evening while sat in Singleton hide trying to relax after a busy working weekend (all caused by that much in demand marsh sand) I was treated to a fantastic display of attack and defend military strategy traded by the roosting sand martins and a male hobby! The sheer exhilarating speed which the hobby displayed as it scythed through the tight knit flock of martins was breath taking. And at one point it came so close to the hide I lost focus on my bins, eventually it settled on the elder bush at the back of the lagoon and I was able to get a great scope view of it and its black prince like armoured helmet. Fantastic and better than what was on the TV for sure. I think the sand marts won btw, unlike the Spartans!
Both birds are sub Saharan migrants so I presume this will be all re-enacted down in deepest Africa in a couple of months time! And its certainly that time on the reserve as many migrants are starting to finish up their breeding season and are currently feeding frenetically in order to lay down fat reserves for the long journey south. This is certainly notable with the sedge warblers at the moment as they will be mostly departing in the next month and a half. There are literally hundreds of birds in the reed bed at the moment (although we only see a few), eating as much as they can particularly the KFC* takeaway of the reedbed the Plum reed aphid. Although only small, this tiny insect lives in small colonies on the reed after migrating onto the site from Prunus bushes (hence the name plum), they are in fact also a plum colour (unsurprisingly) at times but more importantly to the birds they are like little balls of pure energy. The sedgies feed on these and other insects and store the fat, which if you could catch one you could actually see just under the birds skin and bulging from storage areas around the body! Unlike us though these little warblers loose the fat overnight on their migration south as the energy store is consumed by their none stop flight down to Portugal! Its then down to Africa from there. British Birds are really amazing but of course many birds live in Africa much longer than they do in the UK!
So what does this all mean to us then? Well it means in reality we all have to consider how our birds are protected in their wintering quarters and on migration, if we do not then they may not always return during our summer, conservation has no boundaries when it comes to birds that can fly. So next time you wonder why the RSPB is working on projects abroad, think about the sedge warblers, sand martins and hobbies at Blacktoft!
*KFC = Kentucky Fried Chicken
Below - grubby hand and just to the left on the reed a small colony of about 30 plum reed aphid - looking quite plum coloured no less
This is a common question at this time of year at RSPB Blacktoft Sands.
We regularly have been 10 and 20 different species of wader visiting us on migration south. Right now we have spotted redshank, black-tailed godwits, green sandpipers, redshank etc using our lagoons. Our lagoons allow you close views of many different types of wading bird therefore providing an excellent chance to learn what wader is what.
To help you come to an answer to what is that wader you are watching, we are running a series of events during the next few weeks and months.
Starting next Wednesday 27th July and running every fortnight until the 21st September we have WADER WEDNESDAYS. Just turn up anytime from 11am until 4pm on these special wednesdays and join guides in hides who will be helping you identify those waders. You will also be able to ask experts about choosing the right binocular and telescope.
Then on Saturday 30th July and Saturday 6th August we have Wader Walks. These are special guided walks where you can join an expert for two hours as you go around the lagoons looking at those waders. These start at 9am on both saturdays. If you would like to join one of these guided walks then please book in advance by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
And then on Sunday 7th August - join us for minibeasts and mud lovers. Again during this day we will have guides in hides looking at those mud lovers - the waders. OK its the food in the mud that they like! Also during this day we will have regular minibeast hunts throughout the day. Just turn up anytime between 11am and 4pm.
Right to get you started - What are these waders?
Of course I'm not encouraging everyone to stand outside the gents toilets for too long but as you walk onto the reserve there is a fantastic Hornets nest in the loft space above! Have a look, the photo below is a quick record snap with hopefully some better ones to go on the photopage soon. The nest is quite busy at the moment with workers draging their prey into the nest site, Fantastic!
Wow what a week down at the Sands! It just seems to have been one interesting bird after another and then of course the marsh sandpiper. Today the full hand of sandpipers was made complete by two wood sandpipers turning up on site. That has made an interesting wader week what with up to 8 ruff, 20 spotted redshank, 7 greenshank, 8 dunlin, common sandpiper, 4 snipe, 58+ black tailed godwit, 6 avocet, plus the additional curlew, fly over whimbrel, curlew and oystercatcher. If you missed it all, hopefully you can get here for the weekend.
And its not been all waders, there has been a plethora of other interesting semi rarities that have been on site. The spoonbills have been almost resident from 10.00am to 8.00pm, usually on Townend lagoon accompanied by up to 13 little egrets. Then the garganey turned up mid week and has been present since, add in Arctic tern, ringtail hen harrier, 3 Egyptian geese, plus bearded tits and marsh harriers so close that you could chuck a stick at them, amazing!
The weather forecast may be a bit off at the moment for Saturday but for those that do not know Blacktoft then I will just add that we have seven observation hides that will keep you dry and still have a good days birding! Good birds don't stay for ever so if you want to see the sandpipers or spoonbills then come and visit soon.