Well the recent harrier roosts have provided excellent viewing particularly of the two ring tail hen harriers and the ghostly grey male who have all shown amazingly well alongside the masses of marsh harriers! Plenty of other birds of prey to keep a look out for with regular sparrowhawk, peregrine, and occasionally merlin and barn owl. New year often see's the roost grow in number (!) so why not pay a visit to blow away those Christmas cobwebs? Best viewing is from Singleton hide from about 2.30pm - dusk for the harriers and Xerox hide for the barn owls.
The white-fronted geese continue to mix in with the greylags out on the arable farmland next to the reserve while other recent goodies have included regular singing cetti's warbler, stonechat, water pipit, treecreeper and great spotted woodpecker. Still up to 3500 golden plover and 1000 lapwing wheeling around over the estuary but keep a look out for the single ruff that is visiting Ousefleet with the lapwings. Around the bird feeders are the regular tree sparrows, but recently there has also been a couple of yellowhammers alongside the moorhens, chaffinch, and forever hungry pheasants.
I eventually managed to get to have a quick check of another of the Humber teams reserves Reads Island on Christmas eve, with the surrounding mudflats holding over 5000 Dunlin, and 1000 golden plover plus a fantastic sight of 34 pintail many of which were stunning males in summer plumage. There was also a good number of marsh harriers here too and a few pink footed geese flighting in to roost. The fallow deer that live very happily on the island seem to be doing well with at least 20 chomping the vegetation nice and short. Unfortunately as the reserve is in the middle of the Humber it is only viewable from a distance on the South Ferriby road which at the best of times is rather busy and dangerous so not always the best site to visit unless you know the area well - Blacktoft is much safer! However, It is an important site and often holds 15,000 plus wader and ducks in the winter and helps highlight that the Society does a lot more along the estuary than just running Blacktoft. There will be more about our 'other' two sites (Reads Island and Tetney Marshes), in the new year and just how important they are to the protection of the birds and wildlife along the estuary.
As I'm now of to the Lake District to get completely wet through (judging by the weather forecast) I wish you all Happy new year!
PS - My reed seed is germinating very well for those interested (see last blog)
Below - The magnificant Reads Island from the air! Note all the lovely internationally important mudflats for the Humber's wading birds, something we need to protect for the future.
Yes I know I said on my last blog that it was my last one before Christmas but unfortunately the wet stuff has somewhat foiled my plans today to visit Reads Island. So here I am stuck in the office trying to catch up on what I need to before the planned new year madness of reedcutting starts.
Anyway I suppose yesterday afternoon and this morning were consolation for todays and yesterdays woes! It all started when I went out into the reedbed to collect some reed panicle samples for my research in to food abundance and bearded tit winter survival, which I always save as a christmas treat! (more about this on a later blog). Anyway, there were certainly plenty of geese flying about with hundreds of the usual greylag geese but also plenty of white-fronts and rather pleasingly a few beans mixed in too. The white-fronts seem to have a liking for the field next to the reserve with at least 100 there this morning, the beans are a bit more unpredictable unfortunately.
Finally on my way out of the reedbed the harrier roost was building up and I got excellent views of both a ringtail and adult male hen harrier all within a few minutes, add to this the many marsh harriers piling into the roost and a stunning female barn owl hunting in front of Xerox hide then I felt I'd had a pretty good afternoon while getting a bit of work done!
Again I must stress that the geese should not be disturbed by birders if at all possible and this was borne out by the badly injured individual that I found on the reserve which had obviously taken a shot to the side and leg (most distressing) - unnecessary disturbance can lead to birds being shot as unfortunately we have no say in where people can shoot adjacent to the site. Please help keep the geese safe by allowing them to feed in the fields next to the reserve for which the RSPB rents some of the shooting rights
On a more positive note. This morning on my early patrols and shepherding duties I had the pleasure of yet another stunning sunrise over the reserve, a fine start to the day before the rain hit.
And that is I promise, it! Apart from a couple of photo's! I'll maybe see you on the reserve as I'll be opening the centre up for a while tommorrow.
Sunrise over the reserve from Ousefleet hide
And someone just wanted to say happy Christmas!
Wow is it warm to day or what? The toad walking across the path in the reedbed certainly thought so but the poor old chap may get a little shock if it all changes in the new year. Did'nt someone tell mother nature that is was Christmas and it's supposed to snow.
Anyway just to let everyone know that the reserve will be open every day EXCEPT Christmas day when there is strictly no access to the site for legal reasons. Wolves will be patrolling so you have been warned!
So if you fancy getting away from all the Christmas and New Year palaver and doing a bit of wildlife watching with your new optics then we have the perfect blend of fresh air, birds and other bits and bobs.
Still plenty of Marsh and Hen harriers on site along with all the Christmas trimmings of peregrine, barn owl, merlin, sparrowhawk and kestrel. Also a chance of white-fronted and bean goose in with the greylags feeding on the fields. Please be careful not to disturb these as they are likely to be shot at if made to move off the safe feeding areas. Two bearded tits today were the first I have seen in ages probably due in part to such mild conditions that are allowing them to feed deep in the reedbed. However, other birds regularly around include fieldfare and redwing, Curlew, lapwing and golden plover with the odd spotted redshank, cetti's warbler, treecreeper, and water pipit. If you learn the calls before you visit you may be able to pick out the last three species much more easily as they all have distinctive calls.
Duck numbers remain low but there are a few wigeon, teal and the single goldeneye around on the lagoons and grazing marsh. Roe deer seem to be everywhere and the odd hare is now making an appearance in the fields next to the reserve. They'll be boxing soon, particularly with the unseasonal temperatures.
Anyway that just leaves me to finish my last blog of the year with a Happy Christmas and New Year to all our visitors and regular blog reader! See you soon..........
Above - Hen harrier pictures by Graham Catley
And a reminder of last December! Brrrrrr
Yes indeed, I was thinking of you all Christmas shopping this weekend as I had a very enjoyable stress free weekend birding on the Sands. We even had Santa who was getting away from the Christmas eve preperations and enjoying a bit of hard core birding! There'll be some photo's to come shortly, but I did manage to ask him for a new pair of bins and a New Year mega in the form of a snowy owl at Ousefleet - phew! Question is have I been a good Warden? Probably not...................
Anyway it certainly was a weekend of quality birds! The birds of prey were spectacular with the 38 marsh harriers a new Humber record, 3 different hen harriers including a stunning grey male, 2 peregrines battering the wood pigeons, merlin, sparrowhawk, and barn owl. The peregrines were amazing as they hunted in tandem with the male casually flying up river and over the top of the woodies, and then the female ripping in low to try and make the kill.
The list of other birds was about as good as it gets for December with bittern, whooper swan, water pipit, male goosander, cetti's warbler, tree creeper, white fronted goose, pink-footed and bean goose, spotted redshank, 100 colourful fieldfare and a few accompanying redwing, 80 dunlin, snipe, 400 teal on the apex (when I was doing a bit of survey work), stonechat, little egret, and what were probably 25 Bewick's swans flying east. The Bewick's were a little distant as they were over 't' other side' of the river so it was difficult to be 100% sure, but interestingly all who saw them on their flight east thought they were this species. It's been a long time since we've had so many Bewicks or in fact any at all and they are now classed as a major reserve rarity. Mind you it was a tad chilly so if you plan to visit this week wrap up warm!
Just to prove it here is a picture of the Marsh harriers courtesy of Graham Catley.
This evening roost started with them coming in ones and twos then finished with 38 MARSH HARRIERS in the air at once around 4pm. 2 RING-TAIL HEN HARRIERS were also flying around at that time. Added to that white-fronted geese flying around, thousands of golden plover, a merlin and a barn owl.
Here is a photo taken by Neil earlier this week of one of those hen harriers.
Please add your photos of hen harriers, marsh harriers and a view of them all together to our gallery or email email@example.com and I will add them for you.