I must have watched the female bittern flight in many times over the last ten years to feed her chicks but yet every time, just as I did yesterday I still want to get up and shout yahoo! Its just one of those sights that I will never never get tired of seeing and it always makes me feel just maybe a little bit too unashamedly proud to have helped in the conservation of such an iconic reedbed species.
But Blacktoft is such a small reserve in a very large world and it cannot of course save species like the bittern on its own, and therefore we are currently about to embark on our new and exciting project called 'Back to the Future'! Its been very kindly funded by Wren Environmental Ltd through their biodiversity action funding and is probably one of the most exciting projects I have worked on. The project is based around trailing new sustainable methods of managing and creating wetland habitat by looking at how we can use both new and old management approaches to create a NEW fantastic Futurescape, full of exciting birds and wildlife and over a very very large area!
By working on the reserve at Blacktoft and with other land managers and organisations all around the Humber and Humberhead levels area we are going to try and do something quite amazing, that is look towards making wetland habitat, birds and wildlife common! Imagine having bitterns, bearded tits, marsh harriers dragonflies and grass snakes as part of your everyday life rather than as a fast disapearing rarity. In fact its already happening as RSPB Old Moor has proved this summer with its amazing breeding bittern, and in an area which when I was a kid was at the heart of the coal mining industry! Where did those bitterns come from, Blacktoft maybe?
Much of the work on site will be about how we use our much loved Konik ponies and cattle and also how we harvest the reedbed and willow for the use in bio-fuels. There is also work around improving some ways in which we flood the lagoons and creation of better habitat for all our wetland wildlife. All this will be monitored and documented in the hope that the techniques can be shared and used elsewhere. There is lots more to the overall project but with one overarching aim of looking at how will we manage our wetlands in 20 years time when fuel and other non renewables are a lot more expensive?
Its going to be a challenge but I know with everyone's support we can do it, so if you live near to a wetland get ready to listen to that boom or ping from your bedroom window! And if you're on the reserve look out for Micheal J Fox on his hover-board!
Equally exciting if not as fast as the Delorian - the Softrak reed harvester!
If you look across the reeds at the reserve this moment you can often see the heads of many of the young marsh harriers as the sit on bushes watching and waiting for the arrival of their parents with food. Here is two of the youngsters out the front of first doing just this today.
Meanwhile down at marshland there is a lot of activity with waders, bearded tit and the family of water rails. Highlights from the waders include 12 spotted redshank, 10 ruff, greenshank, green sandpiper, dunlin and some golden plover. Here is a photo of some of the action or in this case sleeping.
Waders can also be seen on xerox and up at Ousefleet. Yellow wagtails continue to be seen on occasions at Ousefleet and down at singleton is the place to see bittern. Also look out for the smaller birds like the warblers as you walk the trails and if you would like a challenge, then have a go at counting those tree sparrows in the car park or on the flood bank.
Wader numbers are steadily building with some excellent numbers yesterday and today with 80 dunlin, 11 spotted redshank, 11 ruff, 11 snipe, 13 black-tailed godwit, 7 green sandpipers, 2 greenshank, 12 curlew, plus redshank, lapwing, oystercatcher, and fly over whimbrel. Other highlights have been regular bittern records with a bird seen regularly around Xerox and Ousefleet and then another around Singleton, 2+ little egrets, bearded tits, water rail plenty of marsh harriers, and 11+ yellow wagtails (mostly around Ousefleet).
Lots of other interesting things to see with roe deer and their young around in front of First hide if you're lucky and then a nice mix of dragonflies and insects including the first migrant hawker of the summer. (see picture below plus pictures of two other interesting species).
A common beetle at the moment around site Rhagoncha fulva
And finally some young plum reed aphids!