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  • 29 July 2015

    Getting Busy for Saving Marshlands

    This April we received the fantastic news that we were awarded £45,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Saving Marshlands Wetlands Heritage and Wildlife project. The project aims to deliver more volunteering opportunities linked to heritage habitat management and people engagement in the historic Marshlands area surrounding Goole. With the help of the funding we received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the new volunteer welfare centre will be very soon up and running and will provide a space for volunteers to receive training (and have a little relaxation every now and then!). The facilities will help us to recruit more volunteers and the training will help the existing and new volunteers to gain highly employable work skills and practical experience, as well as providing them with all the friendships and laughter that come from being a member of the Blacktoft team! Assistant warden Liz and I are also in the process of developing a skills audit to find out if our volunteers would like to try their hands at any other jobs around the reserve. This larger, highly skilled volunteer work force will enable more of the Marshlands’ wetland habitats to be managed for conservation using traditional methods, so that future generations can learn about, take an active part in, and enjoy this important natural heritage and its wildlife. Planning for the open day on 16th August is also in full swing and the wader walk planned for next week is already proving popular with lots of people wanting to come along. The walk will be lead by our very knowledgeable volunteer Ian Traynor. He’ll also be leading some guided walks on the open day, so next week’s walk will be a good warm up for him! Another of our volunteers Penny will be busy with the moth traps on the open day and she knows so much about moths that we decided to entice her into helping out at a ‘moths for breakfast’ event at the end of August. As part of the Saving Marshlands project, volunteers are bringing this heritage to a wider audience and explaining it better via a diverse range of events, including the open days, wader walks, moths for breakfast, and lots more! It all sounds a lot but at least everyone can relax afterwards in the new volunteer welfare room!

    Posted by Charlotte Cullen

  • 28 July 2015

    Stoat and other top mammals put on a show stopper

    Its certainly been a pretty good week or two for sightings of many of our superb mammals, but there are also signs that there is much more around than you can see! Take for example the otter spraint that our Warden Mike found near one of the lagoon sluices the other day, he had a quick sniff of it and decided that it smelt much too sweet for Mink (yummy), it was also bigger than his hand indicating a much larger mustalid. He also reported a lot of water vole activity around part of the ditch with lots of their perfectly pelleted poo (it looks a bit like guinea pig poo) on the monitoring raft as well as lots of little reed platforms that they make along the edge, but neither of these little critters are showing at the moment..........   

    More visible has been fox's, roe deer's, hare's and a lovely young stoat that our volunteers Mike Johnson and Pat Crofton got some amazing photo's of while they were working in reception.

    The hare's up on Ousefleet have been brilliant to watch and photograph but I got this picture on the way up along the bank, its amazing when they have their ears pointed forward, it shows just how big they are!

    And to finish on here's a few snaps of the little star of the moment the Stoat. Stoats have been really scarce over the last couple of years here on the sands, probably due to the almost total loss of our rabbit population. At one time they were almost as common as the weasels but the last one I saw nearby this summer was sadly dead on the road next to the reserve.   The white paws are a good ID pointer on this individual that although it has a black tip to its tail has still not fully developed its full tail length and bushiness.

    The first one was by Pat

    And then a great series of shots by Mike

    Hope you enjoyed them as much as we did.






    Posted by Pete Short

  • 27 July 2015

    August Wader Walk

    The return of the Blacktoft Sands Wader Walks starts on Tuesday 4th August at 10am. The walk is led by our very knowledgeable volunteer Ian Traynor. It's £4 per person which includes a fantastic guided walk and a hot drink from the reception hide! Spaces are limited so if you'd like to join us for the Wader Walk please call Blacktoft on 01405 704665 or email us at

    Posted by Charlotte Cullen

  • 27 July 2015

    July ending on a crescendo of birding par excellence

    The last few days has been so unbelievably busy I'm going to have to split the blogs into two, the second one will be about the mammals which may have to appear in the next couple of days depending on time.

    Sunday morning was amazingly calm and as I walked around site the young warblers were just oozing out of the fen with many late broods of blackcap, sedge warbler and chiffchaff all being fed by the adults. As Site Manager this is what I love to see as much of our habitat management goes towards trying to get the best breeding season we can for all our species. Other notable passerine species that have been at times showing well have been grasshopper warbler near to marshland, up to 40 tree sparrows, two great spotted woodpeckers, and on Sunday a good number of juvenile bearded tits. Here's a few of my snaps to give you a feel of what the fen is like at the moment.

    Young chiffchaff being fed by parent

    Just the juv

    Recently fledged sedge warblers - two different birds from the same brood

    A juvenile blackcap, are you seeing pink spots - then you've had too much to drink?

    This spanking fresh juvenile male Beardie was part of a flock of about 10 that I spotted while shepherding the sheep on Ousefleet

     I'm really looking forward to the next ten days particularly in regards the waders, if the weather and tides combine as they are looking like they may then there could be a good influx from the continent. This morning the brief and elusive pectoral sandpiper (may still be on site somewhere?) was maybe the harbinger of what is to come? Also on site was a great mix of ruff, spotted redshank, 5 greenshank, green sandpiper, snipe, dunlin, lapwing, redshank, curlew and oystercatcher while on Friday there was a steady whimbrel passage including a superb bird on Marshland for about twenty minutes. When you are scanning the waders on Marshland lagoon keep an eye out for water rail, up to four have been seen recently.

    Whimbrel showing a classic crown stripe

    Just taking off

    And in flight by Mike Johnson


    And in a wodge of spotted redshank and black tailed godwit.

    Certainly worth keeping an eye on the duck at the moment and sorting through the teal for any possible eclipse plumage garganey, 7 common scoters were seen flying west on Saturday so its also worth looking at any duck flocks flying up the river Ouse.

    Birds of prey, yeah we've got em, take your pick! A red kite was seen late last week (was it Keith?) while the first merlin of the autumn flew past me as I was just about to pull out of the car park. The Montagu's family are still on site but only the one juvenile at the moment so maybe I was wrong that we had two, plenty of marsh harriers and regular hobby who will now be feeding young and occasional peregrine sightings from our little family of three. Add to this buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel then its a bird of prey bonanza.

    Male Monty's battering a marsh harrier by Tim and Si Jump

    Juvenile marsh harrier being mobbed by carrion crow on Ousefleet

    And one of the Pylon Pegs - they are pretty mobile now so not always there


    Plenty of little egrets still on site with up to 19, make sure you give them a second look too as a great white was seen just across the river at Alkborough.

    Its that time of year when birds are really moving with the willow warbler passage starting and cuckoo being seen fairly regularly, so although the weather forecast looks poor for us it should be good for birding, so get yourself out and dodge the showers and whatever you do make the most of the Autumn migration!  

    I'll leave you with a bird table stuffed with young tree sparrows - one of the species that has done pretty well this year











    Posted by Pete Short

  • 23 July 2015

    Still in the midst of the breeding season!

    The bird breeding season always carries on well into August and even September here on the Sands and this year with a cool spring many species are at last having the weather that they should have had to raise their young in. Its really good to see lots of newly fledged broods of young reed warblers, blackcaps as well as blackbirds and one of my favorite lots of little spotty juvenile robins.

    Titchy Robin keeping up tradition in the Blacktoft car park and already begging for food!

    Young reed warbler which was in the same tree as an adult male blackcap

     The Montagu's harriers are still showing superbly with at least one chick showing well, earlier in the week I could have sworn that there were two different young but at the moment I cannot seem to find to the smaller individual. The older one is particularly greedy taking plenty of food from the adults and this morning even starting to follow a marsh harrier to try and get fed! If you are palnning to visit and see them then I recommend that you get your skates on particularly now as the young can fly, they could leave site at any time.

    Male passing food to the juv today

    In perfect synchronization


    The fledged Marsh harriers are also very entertaining as they follow any adult they can see to try and get fed, we do however still have a nest that has half grown young in and these won't be fledging until August.

    A couple of juveniles interacting - they are not from the same brood, one is fully independent and the other is trying to get food from it!

     It also seems that the very noisy peregrine family up on the grazing marsh pylons are also a greedy lot, take a look at this shot of a juvenile and adult, notice what the Juv is sat on! double click to see more clearly


    Also keep a look out for hobby, sparrowhawk, kestrel and buzzard on your visit to make a full house of raptors.

    The waders continue to be pretty good viewing with at times nice close views of many species. Good numbers of black tailed godwits still on site along with avocets, spotted redshank, ruff, green sandpiper, dunlin, snipe, lapwing common sandpiper, curlew and this morning 170 golden plover flying above the Apex. The only new wader for the years list of 28 species was Knot that briefly visited on high tide.

    Views at times can be excellent

    Moulting Ruff males for comparison, they are almost more attractive in this 'limbo in between' plumage

    This ones just fantastic!

    This one's so different!

    The black tailed godwits continue to dazzle

    And nice to see dunlin in with the other waders, ruff and Black tailed godwit

    This morning the bearded tits were showing pretty well, hopefully this will continue especially as we lower the water levels. Other notable birds have been our ever present little egrets, kingfisher, yellow wagtails, great spotted woodpecker, up to 3 reeling grasshopper warblers.

    Will this be the year Fiery Fred our resident mute swan at last fledges young, he's been here 17 years or so and in that time never managed it, this year he still has 6 growing youngsters. Come on Fred and Freda!

    Lots of hoverflies appearing at the moment to complement the butterflies, their colours really dazzle.

    I noticed this hoverfly sp. on my way up to Ousefleet, its not one of our common species but still have to try and identify, anyone got any ideas? She or he's pretty cool.

    On a completely different note some of you may have noticed that one of our Koniks has had a bad cut on the side of his face. During this years visit from the farrier there was  bit of a kerfuffle in the pen and our gelding Mr S was bitten on and kicked in the face, unfortunately this cut became infected so we had to call the local vet Roddy in to help us.

    Normally Koniks are very quick healers and don't often need vet attention, but this time it was essential. Mr S is currently on a treatment of Antibiotics, had a tetnus jab and also has his cut cleaned daily by the team and Manuka honey applied to help it heal. At the moment its getting better helped by the fact that the Koniks have all behaved implacably in the pen to help us give him the treatment he needs.

    The things we need to be able to do as Wardens are often varied and certainly not conventional!

    This years farrier visit

    The wound - looks pretty bad doesn't it!

    Putting the Manuka honey dressing onto the wound - it tastes quite nice on toast too

    Not sure I'd like this size of needle going into my backside! Mr S getting his dose of penicillin

    I'll keep everyone up to date on the patients progress!













    Posted by Pete Short

  • 20 July 2015

    Just like birding in the Ebro delta!

    A comment by one of our stalwart species protection volunteers and fellow Barnsley-ite Jeff this morning just about summed up  the reserve at the moment 'just like birding in the Ebro delta in Spain'.

    And although I'm probably a little biased I reckon that he's not too far out with the waders and egrets now at times feeding right in front of you at Marshland hide, if you're fairly quiet that is! But also at times waders now using up to four lagoons when weather conditions allow, so plenty to see from all the hides! Saturday evening in Marshland was just superb as the light faded and wading birds were spread right across the pool, while in the morning Xerox had been the 'in' place with a sublime number and variety of waders packed into little flocks all bursting with noise and colours that pleasured the senses.

    Weekends highlights include, the years first golden plover back (20 sat in a field near the reserve), 5 green sandpiper, 22 spotted redshank, 130+ black tailed godwit, 31 avocet (with a flock of about 1000 flying over Alkborough flats this morning in the distance!), 12 ruff, 7 curlew, 17 redshank, 100+ lapwing, 6 greenshank (Saturday only), then lesser numbers and flyovers including whimbrel, oystercatcher, and common sandpiper

    hopefully of the following snaps convey just how good it can be (and remember I've only got a 60x bridge camera) also a few from Tim and Si Jump included including a nice one of the Black tailed godwits.

    Lapwing plodding through the gooey mud

    Still golden coloured golden plover

    Curlew in front of Ousefleet hide

    Black tailed godwits (tim and si) click to enlarge this for a better view

    And from this morning in front of Marshland

    Spotted redshank

    Green sandpiper

    And snipe

    And an avocet in the evening light preening on Saturday


    So what else has made it feel like the Ebro, well for starters up to 19 little egrets have offered fantastic close up viewing, the marsh harriers are constantly showing and food passing to their young and then the Montagu's harriers have been superb as they are feeding their flying young too.

    A few little egret pictures in evening light showing that with a little patience you can get really close!

    This morning I reckon I had views of two separate young Monty's that are different birds, one looks like it could be a female and is quite a strong flyer and the other a little male bird who is only just flapping up to receive its dinner. Both the Adult male and female are busy hunting so sometimes you have to wait a while to see them, but make sure you check all the harriers and know what you are looking for!

    This was the larger female type? talking food from the female - there is also a young marsh harrier sat on top of the bush

     Plenty of other birds to entertain with regular water rail at Marshland and a few beardies around most lagoon edges. Also two reeling grasshopper warblers this morning and lots of other small birds and their young including sedge and reed warblers, reed buntings, long tailed tits and much more including a juvenile cuckoo. Still plenty of young duckling around too with tufted duck, mallard and gadwall chicks plus mute swan still with 6 young, 2 great crested grebe chicks and a few little grebe young too.

    Aye just like the Ebro!


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 19 July 2015

    Only the lonely?

    Well over the weekend the Montagu's harriers have continued to perform superbly but although the juvenile(s?) is/are getting stronger and now taking food from the adults in mid air we have as yet not being able to confirm that there is more than one. By size I'd maybe say that the juvenile could be a female but my photo's need to get a little better to be sure. Here's a few snaps of the family from the weekend. So question is will the next week see us confirm how many young their really are?

    The male defending the young from a marsh harrier

    And a couple of him flying high in nice light

    And one from Tim and Si Jump - this shot was at Xerox

    And then of mother and fledgling - what a fantastic feeling when you see it in the air, everyone's hard work protecting the nest for a second year of success for this species here on the Humber, and it really needs all the success it can get with only seven nesting females and just four males this year. Yes the RSPB, its members and its reserves do make a difference!

    And just to add, someone visiting had said that the protection scheme for the Monty's must have cost a fortune, well it actually cost only time, all the volunteers and staff all put in their time and travel for free, I will therefore take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind support and help often at very ungodly hours! 

    The juvenile is on the left

    And on the left again

    This time below the female

    I'll do a full sighting blog tomorrow if I get time - the waders and other supporting cast of birds have been at times just sublime.

    And a last comment on Keith the Red Kite - on Saturday I managed to successfully release him back into the wild and about two hours later a friend (who didn't know I'd released him) texted me to say he had seen a Kite on his farm sitting on a post then flying west! That'll be 'our' Keith I said. Great to see him back where he belongs - If you'd told me when I was a lad that I'd be finding a red kite in Lincolnshire I'd have thought that you were in cloud cuckoo land, how times change..........

    Something told me Keith was ready to go!





    Posted by Pete Short

  • 15 July 2015

    Stunning male Monty's shots

    Having just received these amazing Male Monty's shots kindly sent by from one of our visitors Dave Adamson I'd thought that you'd all like to see them. Apparently he (that's the Monty's not Dave btw) was flying over Singleton hide a the time. Sit back and enjoy, they are absolutely stunning!


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 15 July 2015

    A brief showing of the first Montagu's youngster.

    It looks as though the Monty's are going to run us a merry dance as they fledge at the moment with just tantalizing glimpses for the first flying young. This morning the male was flying around with his legs dangling and at times chasing the marsh harriers. Then suddenly a smaller darker harrier flew up to meet him, than briefly again, I managed some quick shots but they were distant and only just show a very very distant juvenile. Hopefully the sightings will get better as the week progresses and we will eventually get to know just how many youngsters there are!

    And the male chasing a marshie

    The marsh harriers have been excellent too with one brood of two being fed constantly by their parents and a late brood at the back of Singleton lagoon still being fed in the nest. Even as you approach the reserve you can get some nice views of the harriers with this newly independent youngster hunting in a field near the road and giving me some nice photo opportunities. Plenty of peregrine activity and the odd buzzard too but no more sighting of either the long eared or short eared owls and for some reason barn owls are very quiet.

    Plenty of waders with at times up to 140 black tailed godwit, 19 avocet, 20 spotted redshank, 3 green sandpiper, greenshank, 17 redshank, 150 lapwing, 7 ruff and then a few dunlin on the tide. Curlew and now the odd whimbrel are passing over the reserve plus a few parties of oystercatcher. In the evening its always worth looking upwards as you may spot parties of common scoter heading west, particularly as the tide rises. Plenty of little egrets to watch too as they fish for shrimp and sticklebacks.

    Spot shank - Marshland

    Green sandpiper - Townend

    The duck are becoming very drab as they moult their feathers but the good news is that there are still six mute swan chicks and they seem to be growing well and the two great crested grebe chicks are getting fatter by the day.

    When looking at the waders look out for water rail and bearded tit that have been showing on and off depending on the weather. Best in the morning though for both species, remember the reserve officially opens at 9am although generally I'm unlocking the gates at 8am for those who want an extra hour.

    This moorhen decided to stand at the side of the path near First hide and pose for photo's


    A bit of variety now as birds are dispersing from their breeding sites and visiting the reserve with Kingfisher and great spotted woodpecker over the last few days.

    The resident roe deer and her twin calves have been showing well in front of Xerox and at Ousefleet while the hares at times have been stupendous in front of Ousefleet hide, here's a little taster from this morning.



    Posted by Pete Short

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Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 53.69844,-0.72462
  • Grid reference: SE843232
  • Nearest town: Goole, East Yorkshire
  • County: East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Country: England

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