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The last few days have really seen some fantastic wildlife watching here on the Sands with an eclectic mix of superb birds, insects, amphibians and mammals on site, here's just a few highlights hopefully giving you an idea of just how good its been at times. High tide can be particularly good at the moment with the weekends tides around 2 and 3 o'clock, so best to be on site for at least 1ish if you want to connect with it. However birding in the morning or early evening can also be pretty good so don't worry too much, there may be other highlights for you to find!
Its always good to meet visitors and help them see whats on site and it was nice to be able to show a couple of youngsters with their Dad a few of the waders, in return they showed me their excellent Jersey Tiger moth that they had found while on holiday in France. And yes all the avocets were down at Reads Island today, over 2000 were counted by the Wardening team along with over 1500 shelduck!
Where do I start?
Look out for the fantastic large red underwings that are emerging at the moment - they often like to cling onto the hides as in the pictures or on the toilet block! A tottaly awesome moth .
And on the window of the reception building a show from underneath giving a slightly different perspective (maybe in need of a bit of a clean! the window that is not the moth!)
With a bit of rain the toads were emerging along the paths this morning
There's some top mammal watching at the moment with both stoats and weasels, fox wading across the lagoons at Singleton and regular hares on Ousefleet gorging themselves on the orache and fat hen and also plenty of roe deer sightings
Fox at Singleton, notice how old Basil is keeping his brush dry
Hare at Ousefleet having a good streatch
And it looks like a match made in heaven as one of the koniks takes a shine to one of the cows!
And the birds? Yes there's some top notch birds to be seen on site at the moment depending on if your lucks in, have a look at the blog before the previous blog (if that makes sense) for more details on species.
Recent highlights though are in pictures below
Montagu's harrier is still knocking about - this picture was taken on Wednesday but she was also seen on Thursday
And at least one spoonbill landed on the lagoons today to give some amazing views as it fed in Xerox lagoon - pictures galore!
Here's one showing its foot - something you don't always see, honest!
And a couple of action shots
Waders - 20 species or so over the last week.
Curlew sandpiper with ruff behind on Xerox
And curlew sandpiper, ruff, lapwing and teal - Xerox
Little ringed plover on Marshland
Greenshank on Marshland - I think a theme is emerging here?
Snipe - on Marshland, - yes there may not be a lot of water on Marshland but it is still worth a look as it often has a few little surprises on it. Unfortunately we cannot fully reflood it until there is a tide that is high enough and that will be up to Mother Nature............
A few other birds to watch out for alongside all the waders etc
Yellow wagtails have been at times showing well on marshland or at Ousefleet alongside the Koniks
And I had this encounter with one of my favourite birds the stock dove at Marshland - the hummingbird of the north! They seem to feed on the smallest of seeds but what I liked here was that alongside the female was a lovely juvenile that had just recently fledged - probably from the Marshland owl box, I don't suppose many people bother to photograph juvenile stock doves do they?Or am I not on my own
Mother stock dove
A close up - I really must get out more!
And showing off her emerald neck patch that only glimmers in a certain light - just like hummingbirds as it happens
And the little un, notice the rather large bill which is a sign that its only recently fledged - a lovely little dove
A pair of stockies on Ousfleet
I'll finish with the tree sparrows that are gathering at the feeders in number at the moment.
Whatever the weather have a good weekends birding - I'm hopefully going to be having a good look around as you never know what may turn up at this time of the year.
Posted by Pete Short
You never quite know when she will show but suddenly she appears over the reedbed out of the ether of the Humber sky, just like yesterday evening when I spotted our faithful female Montagu's harrier who appeared alongside two of the marsh harrier chicks. She continued to fly around the reserve for about five minutes giving some great views to everyone in the hide and allowed maybe a last few pictures before she departs for Africa.
However, take note the wing moult with her outer primaries still unmoulted and broken off which may mean that she could spend a few more weeks in the local area, so if you visit keep your eye out for her and check out any harriers you see.
Also this morning there were two curlew sandpiers while yesterday evening there were 9 spoonbills that landed out on the Reserves mudflats on the estuary, two had flown in slightly earlier to investigate the lagoons so lets hope they decide to roost on them in the near future.
Here's a few shots of the Monty's
With the marsh harrier juv in the background
Showing her ragged primaries that give her wing a blunt appearance like a hen harrier - you can clearly see the wing moult and by the looks of it some tail moult too
And from below
The question is will she return next year and be able to attract a mate? lets hope so
All of a sudden the reserve seems to have that late summer feeling with the Elderberries ripening and the blackcaps chacking in the bushes as they get ready to migrate southward.
The lagoons that have water in look in great condition at the moment for the waders and other waterbirds and should hopefully see us through till the next high tide cycle. Unfortunately the last set of tides wasn't even high enough to wet my boots on the river bank let alone flood up any of the lagoons, however for me management is about looking at challenges in a positive way and even though it may have been nice to have re-flooded Marshland and Townend lagoon, in management terms it may be a positive in the long run in regards wintering birds that will feast on the annual weeds and for next years waders.
Over the last week we have recorded nineteen species of wader on the reserve with curlew sandpiper and little stint yesterday as well as knot, at the weekend there were three sanderling to add to the growing wader list, other waders included good numbers of ruff, black tailed godwit, and 27 spotted redshank, as well as redshanks, lapwings, snipe, greenshank, green sandpiper, oystercatcher, curlew, whimbrel, ringed plover, turnstone, whimbrel, and golden plover.
Here's a few photo's of some of the waders around site
Knot on Xerox - Tim and Si Jump
And a nice assemblage of ruff, lapwing, redshank, knot, and curlew sandpiper (Tim and Si)
And another excellent shot by Tim and Si of curlew sandpiper with little stint
And then a few shots by Pedro mostly taken on a rainy but excellent Friday dinnertime's birding at Ousefleet screen
Snipe and ruff
Snipe, ruff and greenshank
And from Xerox yesterday, Knot
Little egret numbers can vary but often there are up to 20 present, also quite a few sightings of water rails around the edge of First and Singleton lagoon, duck numbers have dropped off a little over the high tide period as birds have moved over to Alkborough Flats but they will be back soon as the tides were so low, 20 pintail were notable on Singleton lagoon on Saturday evening, quite an early return fro this number of species.
little egret feeding along the edge of the recently mown front of Singleton lagoon
This morning it was noticeable that the young marsh harriers are starting to move and feed away from site a little, again another indication that the Autumn is on its way, however there are still some good views to be obtained of the adults with this male say on a post next to Townend lagoon this morning and having a good preen.
Plenty of small birds around site with the tree sparrows still using the feeders, yellow wagtails around the Koniks at Ousefleet and then a good mix of migrant warblers, cettis warbler, and a few bearded tits around the edge of Singleton lagoon. Regular great spotted woodpecker too around site and another sign of the changing seasons was the first grey wagtail over.
And to finish with here's a few photo's of a magnificent hare that I spotted sat on the bank as I walked back from Ousefleet screen, usually they leg it away as fast as they can when I stop and start the camera up but this time this old hare decided he was hidden enough not to be seen, but fortunately not quite enough!
As you can see I was quite close! You can see just about every little hair on around his beautiful face - double click for full effect of the photo
Just a quick blog on what a great period its been for the wading birds here on the sands, I'll follow up with a few photo's tomorrow when I receive them of some of the waders that have been frequenting the lagoons, I'm hoping that it can only get better too when we get back to an easterly airflow, perfect for wader migration.
Today there was curlew sandpiper, little stint and knot while at the weekend there were also 3 sanderling, add this to the 16 species of wader seen at the end of last week then we are almost at 20 species (see last blog), despite some of our lagoons now being pretty dry we still have waders on every lagoon and in the next week or so we'll be letting a bit of water off Singleton lagoon to hopefully cash in on peak migration.
Its been a pretty good week all round here on the sands with the wader passage starting to look like it should at this time of year with some great viewing particularly on Xerox lagoon. High pressure from the continent seems to have confirmed my opinion that we need an airflow from the east rather than the north west to get those birds passing through and using the lagoons.
Seven species of wader and garganey - Xerox
Nice at last to see a bit of wader diversity with turnstone on Townend this morning, also regular greenshanks, green sandpipers, up to 19 ruff, black tailed godwits, avocets, 12+ snipe, 14 spotted redshank, 7 dunlin, lapwings, redshanks, and then also curlew, a single whimbrel west, ringed plover, oystercatcher and up to 80 golden plover back over the apex this morning - sixteen species of wader isn't bad at all and hopefully it will get a little better on the high tides this weekend.
Here's a few photo's
A couple of snipe - Ousefleet screen
Lapwing in the evening light as I was ploughing in the tractor at Marshland
Juvenile ruff at Ousefleet screen
The question is will Marshland flood up over the weekend with a series of high predicted tides that should do the job hopefully? The newly renovated lagoon looks superb and even though its dry waders are starting to use it so I'm pretty excited about the prospect of what the Wardening teams hard work will achieve. Lets hope my predicted wader rarity turns up, even if it is usually when I'm on leave!
Plenty of other birds to see with marsh harriers, peregrine, hobby and the first bittern sighting for quite a while, also plenty of little egrets, garganey, water rails, and even a few bearded tits. The group of 6 beardies which are often down at singleton seem like a late brood as they are showing no signs of moult, I suspect only fledged a maximum of two weeks ago!
Duck numbers have been really building up too with a great count of 580 teal, 100 gadwall, 28 wigeon and 4 pintail, a seemingly very early return of these birds from northern Europe.
Greylags coming in to land
Yellow wagtails are still good value around site and there are plenty of smaller birds around site with the cettis starting to sing again after their brief rest and a few migrant warblers feeding up ready to move south.
And I managed to get a better photo of the yellow legged gull out on the fields yesterday.
Again the mammals have also been excellent with hare, roe deer, fox, and particularly the stoats and weasels, take a look at these two superb photo's from our star volunteer Pat Crofton, note the weasel is carrying a rather large youngster!
Stoat - note white paws and bushy black tail
Weasel carrying a rather too big youngster
A lovely performance yesterday by two of my favourite birds on Townend lagoon in the evening in what was some great birdwatching accross the site. The young marsh harriers were sublime as they played about starting to learn the skills they will need to catch prey giving some superb views and a few nice photographs. And probably one of the nicest most beautifully subtle waders you are ever likely to encounter the greenshank seemed not to be bothered one bit by the activities of the harriers who to be honest didn't seem like they had mastered the art of catch and dispatch!
See what you think.........
And the marsh harriers - great to see them doing so well compared to the 1970's when the number of successful breeders was only 1 pair in the UK, still a pretty rare breeding bird though in the UK and even after watching them pretty regularly for over 25 years I still get the same thrill as seeing my first one which I seem to think was at Strumpshaw Fen.
And at last! A semi decent flight shot of one of the Juveniles
Amazing what a bit of high pressure and the right wind directions will do, as predicted migration has picked up considerably now that the north westerly winds have abated and allowed the migrants to start to move in earnest. This morning as I drove into work the swallows and martins were gathering in flocks as too were the multitude of tree sparrows that have fledged this year. It was also notable that the lesser black backed gulls are gathering in the fields, always worth a look through as there are often a few yellow legged gulls in with them.
LBB and Yellow legged gull - not the best picture but then it was early in the morning when I was half awake! Note you can occasionally find Caspian gull so well worth the trouble of scanning through birds on the fields and on the river at Whitgift Church
But amazingly we still have birds raising young with at least two tree sparrows nests still with young in! For some species the breeding season just seems to be going on and on this year, all good positive news for those species that could do with a boost to their numbers.
you can just see the tree sparrow chick peering out of this nestbox which seems to be stuffed full of nesting material
At last the wader passage seems to be picking up with an excellent selection of species on Xerox at the moment with Ousefleet and Singleton also now starting to attract a few birds as the water levels start to reduce. Good recent counts include up to 73 black tailed godwits, 18 spotted redshank, 37 redshank and 16 ruff, there are also up to 4 green sandpipers, 3 greenshank, 9 snipe, 12+ avocets, a single dunlin and a good number of lapwings while other birds flying over (always a sign that migration is taking place) included a party of 11 curlew than singletons of whimbrel and ringed plover.
These greenshank were on the tiny puddle of water that is left on Marshland lagoon this morning. We are currently busy rehabilitating this lagoon but are hoping that we will be ready to re-flood it on the high tides over the weekend and be in a position to re-open the hide. The ploughed and landformed area of the pool should I reckon be pretty good if we can flood it.
And Black tailed godwits by Tim and Si Jump
General wader collection of four different species - can you ID them?
The marsh harriers have been excellent too with the males still feeding young of at too broods while there are also regular sightings of peregrines that are also provisioning their young.
This male marshie was having a rest from hunting in front of Ousefleet hide
These brood of youngsters have been good value from Xerox hide
And the male in flight by Tim and Si
Duck numbers are building up on site very nicely with over 300 teal and also good numbers of mallard, gadwall and shoveler, and 9 wigeon, but note there is still the eclipse garganey which is often favouring Xerox at the moment. Also keep a look out for water rails particularly on First lagoon where they have been fairly regular near to where the moorhens are feeding their young. Other notables were a count of 35 little grebes mostly on Singleton and a couple of great crested grebes that flew down the river yesterday, plus up to 28 little egrets at the weekend.
Garganey by Tim and Si
A very strange incident yesterday on the reserve was that it literally started to 'rain' straw! It spooked the birds a little and as you can see this heron even grabbed a piece of it, note the garganey is next to it! Maybe some straw had been lifted by a wind devil and dumped over the reserve? This took me back to when I worked on the Ouse Washes many years ago when a Devil took half the field of hay I was turning and lifted it up in a great spiral of grass and away!
There has been the odd interesting passerine record with redstart at the weekend and whinchat down at Singleton on Friday. But stars of the show have been the yellow wagtails that have been feeding around the Koniks often within a few cm's of the lads face. Not too many sightings of the bearded tits at the moment as they are undergoing their full feather moult, but a few showed well from Ousefleet screen on Saturday so never say never!
Yellow wagtails are getting quite rare elsewhere in the country so its great to have such good numbers on site.
This one was very close to me as I shepherded the cattle
And a bit closer shot showing all the lovely feathers
Always a sign of the summer moving on is when we get the mouse moths in the hides - they are a BAP species
Some lovely mammal sighting recently with hare, roe deer, stoat and weasel all showing well and giving some very nice photo opportunities.
What I love about this photo is that you can see the insects
And a nice picture perfect shot of willy weasel
If you've been visiting the reserve recently than you may have been wondering what we have been doing at Marshland lagoon and why the hide has been closed for access.
Well where do I begin? Brackish lagoons, in fact lagoons of any kind often need a bit of a 'rest', in fact one in every four years should be a year when the lagoon is dried out and allowed to rest a little and allow management to both control colonizing vegetation as well as allowing some annual plants to grow. The rotation should really go over the four years, dry (to allow annual weeds to grow), fully flooded, part drained, drained, then the cycle starts again.
Marshland is the lagoon at the top of the photo, note how much the reed has encroached - this takes away much of the spring and mid summer shallows for feeding waders - we will be taking out some of the reed on the right of the picture right back to the lagoon banks to re-set the succession.
Here at Blacktoft though with so many visitors to site its often difficult to do as there is so much demand for their to be good birding from what is one of our best hides, however sometimes you just have to 'bite the bullet' and take opportunities when undertaking reserve management when they come around. Marshland has been undergoing all two years of the mid cycle for the last umpteenth years so that we have been able to maximize birding.
You get some great views of waders at Marshland - we're trying to ensure this stays that way - blast from the past - a nice wood sandpiper right in front of the hide
With several poor tides and also a need to maintain water levels in Ousefleet lagoon for a few late breeding waterbirds this year it became apparent that Marshland lagoon was going to dry out completely, the first time in many years so it was time to re-set the ecological succession a little on the lagoon so that it can in the long run be a better lagoon for its birds. We do still of course have several lagoons that have great water levels for waders so this wasn't going to be a disaster for the site but a great chance to try and improve the lagoon for wintering, breeding and passage waterbirds.
With much of the lagoon dry enough to take machinery on, and take it from someone who has got the tractor stuck in the mud, the lagoon does have to be dry to support seven tonnes of machinery, we could get on and do some serious management, something we have been itching to do for a couple of years!
So what have the team been doing, well first of all we hired in a mini excavator and set about re-building up the eroded breeding islands as well as creating little ridges and pools for wader to use as the water levels are reduced next year.
Mr Pilsworth creating islands and pools
We have then cut back some of the reed and in areas taken it right back to the bank, just as when the lagoon was created way back in about 1987. We have then been ploughing up the reed rhizome which will help kill the reed and re-create spring and Autumn shallows. Hopefully this should make for some excellent viewing from the hide particularly on the left hand side of the lagoon.
The 1930's single furrow plough in action!
And the early results
Of course there will be some winner and some losers in terms of bird species but overall it will hopefully be better and deliver a little bit better for the birds that it was originally designed for, waders and ducks.
The team have been really working hard to get the work ready for the next series of high tides at the end of next week when hopefully if there is enough water we will re-flood the lagoon and then wait to see what happens.
Don't expect instant results - it often takes about three weeks for the insect population to build up again so hopefully the lagoon will be delivering the first indications of how successful the work has been in early September. But next year should really see the fruits of our labours. Saying that, in the rain this morning there was already ruff and avocet feeding on the barely wet soil, so you never know!
Ruff from this morning
We are hoping to have the hide fully open by the middle of next week but it should be open at the weekend if anyone wants to go and have a look at what the results are so far.
I'll be looking forward to that spring broad billed sandpiper or maybe a BW Stilt or two
This BW stilt was in Bulgaria on a salt settling tank in the edge of town, next year it'll be at Blacktoft on Marshland lagoon, now there's a promise!
Where does the time go! Apologies for no posts recently but as August starts the reserve management work pace picks up and while the weather is good we have to crack on with the work.
You may think that there's not been much to write about but when I look back its still been a nice week for birding on site with yesterday a sighting of a Montagu's harrier, possibly 'our' female who seems to still be in the area! Other notable records have included three juvenile whinchats all together on the electric fence line at Ousefleet, eclipse garganey which is often to be found on First lagoon, spoonbill briefly and then a nice juvenile cuckoo.
Garganey on first
A nice selection of waders to be seen with a definite increase in the numbers of snipe, ruff, avocet and black tailed godwit. Also good numbers of spotted redshank then also green sandpipers, redshank, lapwing, and the occasional oystercatcher, greenshank, curlew and a single ringed plover over yesterday. Hopefully with the lagoons looking good and some high pressure forecast next week with south easterlies and a few high tides the wader passage on site will pick up and a few more different species will occur. Good to see the first juvenile ruffs in too.......
Ruff adult - they come in all kinds of plumage
Snipe numbers are at last increasing with views particularly good at Ousefleet screen
Marsh harriers are giving some top views with the juveniles now starting to hunt for themselves, also look out for peregrine and hobby which a almost daily at the moment.
And one from a different brood
A nice mix of smaller birds about site with plenty of yellow and pied wagtails, also look out for migrating warblers which are feeding up on the insects in both the reedbed and willows. A noticeable build up of goldfinch at the moment and still a few tree sparrows around the feeders.
Aphid colonies on the reed are great for feeding sedge and reed warblers that are fattening up for migration - not sure if these are plum reed aphids - they don't seem quite as plum as usual if they are!
Pied wagtail and wood mouse right in the middle of Marshland lagoon that is currently dried out on its management rotation, what it was doing out there is anybodies guess but I suspect feeding on insects - its very fat!
Plenty of dragonflies on the warmer days with the chance of migrant hawker now, and still a few painted lady butterflies about after the influx.
And keep a look out for the Angelica that is along the footpath
Mammals are always good at this time of the year with regular roe deer and stoat, fox, and the hares have been very entertaining up at Ousefleet!
Here's a few pictures of the hares to finish with, I was just watching this one in front of the hide resting its self.
When suddenly another one appeared and they started boxing!
Then a little bit of chasing each other
Followed by a bit of a extra attention
A bit more sniffing
Then a bit of what nature does naturally!
Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)
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