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Recent sightings

  • 27 May 2016

    Lucky LEO and the sounds of summer

    What an absolutely fantastic week its been here on the Sands with the reserve hooching with quality birds, just of course as it should be for this time of the year!

    This morning the highlight for me was a lovely male cuckoo that was cuckoo-ing as it worked its way through the scrub around the hides, and its seems that for once I can say that we have had a good week for cuckoo sightings! Not often I get the pleasure of saying anything positive about cuckoo's these days, lets hope they produce a few young!

    Reed warblers watch out, Cuckoo's about! This bird had been taking spiders webs and down from the willows which was trapped in it to build its nest the other day.

    Yesterday also had a host of decent sightings of garganey, the distant buzzing savi's warbler, montagu's harrier, bittern, spotted redshank, greenshank, 8 black tailed godwits, plus plenty of marsh harriers, avocets, and then a whole host of bearded tits feeding young. I even got my first sightings of a couple of  gingernuts, better known as recently fledged bearded tit young. 

    Marsh harrier food pass - the food is falling mid air equidistant from both birds

    Also about in the evenings are our lovely barn owls which seem to be finding plenty of voles this summer. 

    Breeding waterbirds are producing plenty of young with some nice big broods of mallard appearing out of the reeds and the coot seemingly rearing a few broods of three, signs that the marsh harriers are finding plenty of voles.

    Walking about also brings some nice insects at the moment like the garden tiger moth caterpillar below and and emerging blue tailed damselflies, so dainty.

    Keep an eye out for yellow wagtails along the edge of the reserve, the one below was collecting nesting material while I shepherded the cattle yesterday. I also had reeling grasshopper warbler this morning near to Townend hide so make sure you listen out for its reeling and if the wind is in the right direction you may be able to compare it to the sav's.

    I also had up to five hare's all chasing each other around.

    But the star of the show yet again was a very obliging long eared owl that decided to sit right out in the open near to the reception hide in the morning just as I walked onto the reserve. Always nice to see this species in summer but even better when its sat out in the open, here's a few shots of the bird with its feathers wet from the drizzle. 

    No branches in the way!!

    A little closer! - look into my eyes.........................

    And not often you get a shot of long eared owl like this actually moving.

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 24 May 2016

    Reedbed buzzing with life

    With all this lovely weather recently the reserve really seems to have come alive with young birds oozing out of the fen and a few surprises too with last night the faint buzzing of a singing savi's warbler coming from somewhere deep inside the fen opposite Townend hide. Unfortunately its not visible but its always worth keeping a look out in case it decides to move over to sing around the wet reedbed surrounding First lagoon. Its a pretty typical date for Sav's to turn up at Blacktoft with most of the birds in the past being found at either the end of April or end of May and then singing in a very typical pattern into June. 

    Nice to see the barn owl flying past while listening to the Sav's

    Another surprise is that our female Montagu's harrier seems to have returned to site and is again being seen fairly regularly in the mornings and then on an evening, again analysis of past monty's records here on the sands have shown that most have been seen in the last ten days of May. This gives a glimmer of hope that a lonely male may still have time to appear and pair with our lonely female, well you have to be positive! 

    The female monts from yesterday evening showing very nicely

    Our other star breeding birds have been pretty excellent too with regular bittern sightings plus the male still booming, plenty of avocets, waves and waves of bearded tits (more than I've ever seen before!), and of course lots of excellent food passing from the marsh harriers. It really is turning out to be a good early breeding season for once!

    Can you spot the bittern?

    Over the last few days too there has been a good emergence of young wildfowl with at least two of the mute swan nests now hatched and looking very lovely indeed! A few nice size mallard broods too who seem to be favouring Ousefleet grazing marsh. 

    Freda and her new family

    Plenty of other decent birds around site to entertain with two very nice male garganey on Sunday, up to 36 black tailed godwits on Ousefleet, good numbers of little egrets (I still enjoy seeing these fantastic little herons), and plenty of Cetti's warblers still belting out their songs. Another bird of note that seems to be singing a lot at the moment is the water rail, listen out for their song in the evenings as you look out for another of our star performers the barn owls. Strangely and very out of season the male goosander flew up river again! How strange we are getting more records than in the winter.

    Male Garganey on Ousefleet

    Little egret

    Avocet and Black tailed godwits

    Plenty of the more common species too to see with good numbers of reed warbler in now and singing alongside the sedge warblers in the reedbed. Also in the scrub look out for blackcaps, willow warblers, whitethroats and chiffchaffs while out on the grazing marsh there are plenty of skylarks and meadow pipits but only the odd yellow wagtail who seem to have returned in very poor numbers this year to the local area. Lots of tree sparrows feeding young in the nest boxes and still using the feeders.

    Other wildlife seems to be responding to the nice weather with plenty of mammals including hares, weasel, and stoat. A few hairy dragonflies and the first blue tailed and large red damselflies plus a mice mix of butterflies including the years first small copper.

    Evening all

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 20 May 2016

    The green green phragmites australis of home

    With a little bit of sunshine and a little bit of rain it seems like that the reedbed is at last coming to life and turning into the verdant fen that we all know and love in summer time. And it seems like the wildlife is responding too with a lovely range of different birds, insects and mammals on site to titillate any naturalists interest!

    In with all the breeding ducks there is a lovely male garganey often to be found on Xerox lagoon, he's showing some lovely elongated scapulars as you can see from the photo below, pity it wasn't a bit brighter this morning.

    Also of interest is the lone male wigeon, he did have a mate in tow until recently, so question is where is she? Wouldn't it be lovely to see a brood of this scarce breeder on the lagoons, I once saw a brood in Orkney and they are fantastic little ducklings.  

    Not so good news though with the female Montagu's harrier which may have decided she'd waited long enough for a male to arrive, she's not been seen today on the reserve and so it looks like that's it for the year here at Blacktoft. In reality we had been pretty lucky the last two years and I suppose it all maybe had to end somewhere, especially when the decline in this species is still taking place. Not all is lost for this female, she may relocate to another breeding site further south and still has time to raise a family, you never know with this very mobile species. 

    Maybe though it is a warning call to us all that the poor old Montagu's harrier needs a lot more conservation input and protection than its getting at the moment, that's if we are ever going to see their population rise again in the UK back to the 30prs there once was in the 1950's.

    Better news on the Bittern front with some excellent sighting as the female continues to feed her ever growing brood. I also have the inkling that some of the marsh harrier nests are hatching young as the males have suddenly gone into overdrive with a male this morning catching a small bird right in front of reception hide, it may be a reed bunting (see below). Hobby about too plus short eared owl and barn owl showing really well on an evening making for some fantastic birding.

    Bittern over the reedbed while I was surveying beardies

    And marshie with passerine prey

    Plenty of avocet's on nests but no chicks, as always seems to happen with this species when it nests in numbers the poor old young seem to be food for just about anything that likes to eat them, this time its a heron. However, avocets really needs much more dynamic habitat along the Humber so that it can move its breeding locations around from year to year, hopefully in the next few years this will happen but delivering habitat in this very intensive landscape takes time and money.

    And after the pictures of the avocet laying into the water I posted here she is after I let down the levels a cm or two

    Its all a bit ying and yang with the bearded tits showing well today and feeding plenty of growing young. Plenty of other birds around the fen with lots of reed warblers now in chattering away, sedge warblers, whitethroats, cetti's, willow warbler and blackcaps. There has also been regular cuckoo which may be a female as its not cuckooing! Some lovely reed buntings too and the tree sparrows should be fledging young any day, they are also having a good season with around 30prs breeding.


    Again not many waders about bar the avo's with just the the odd curlew, black tailed godwit, lapwing, oystercatcher and snipe recorded this week. I'm hoping that by next week when the wind goes a little southerly that we should maybe at last start to get at least some migrant waders?

    Plenty of butterflies about at the moment especially orange tips and today some dragonflies that I'm pretty sure were hairy dragonflies (too early for any other long bodied species?) Quite a few hares about too on the grazing marsh, roe deer around the lagoons, weasel running around the paths and fox along the bank. 

    Hare's on Ousefleet

    A nice fox -not so welcome for the ground nesting species!

    And just to say don't forget on Sunday that its the HLF funded Konik Welcome Event on Sunday 10am - 4pm - true to form the cheeky lads seem to have jumped the gun and introduced themselves by knocking down the electric fencing. 

    Blonde the lead stallion saying hello to Theo and Splat - soon to be TV stars!


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 19 May 2016

    A bearded tit breeding season extravaganza

    Last year was a very poor breeding season for the bearded tits here on the Sands but it was a mild winter and this ensured that both adult and juvenile survival was very high, particularly when there was plenty of reed seed and nutritious insects for them to eat and very little cold weather.

    A male from this morning showing off his mustache 

    So here we are in May and despite a cold end to April the weather is good and the insect abundance is excellent, the perfect combination for the bearded tits to have a storm'in first brood period! But their upturn of fortunes in the last 13 years or so here At Blacktoft are not just a quirk of fate, they are in fact a combination of careful research, constant monitoring and perfect management of the reedbed for this rare breeding bird by the Humber reserve staff - incidentally mostly in our spare time!

    Below some lovely beardie habitat along the edge of Singleton lagoon - it had birds all along it collecting food. The reed-water interface is very important for this species as they search by eyesight for slow moving non biting midges (chironomids).

    But this extra dedication has really paid off and this year early indications are that we could be in for a humdinger of a year not just here on the Sands but all along the Humber. This morning I popped into the reedbed to see how things were going and again the number of birds feeding young was phenomenal, with birds whizzing past me with their little wings whirring and their beaks full of chironimids and other juicy insects for their waiting youngsters.

    An adult bird typically flying low over the reedbed with a beak full of food

    And a female searching for insects

    It was very obvious that many were landing in the right hand side of Singleton lagoon to collect their food and this should make them visible from the hide. But there are also birds feeding around Xerox and First hide so just make sure you check the edge of the reed for both adults and parties of fledged young which should be appearing any day. It certainly is a much better year than last year when they were almost impossible to see even for a dedicated beardie researchers as myself.

    A male behind the reed, they can be very active at this time of year and stay slightly hidden behind the reeds

    Just like this female

    So when you are next visiting then have a good luck for the beardies, you may not get super close views but once you've started to get your eye in for them you'll suddenly realize just how many pairs we've got! 

    Here's to a good second and third brood so that we really have a spectacular summer and autumn for this species! 


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 17 May 2016

    Must see pictures - avocet laying an egg!

    Recently the avocets have been providing me with hours of interesting birding observations with their quite eccentric behaviour here on the Sands. The last couple of days though its been one particular pair that I've been watching with great interest and was rewarded today with a very rarely seen event in wild birds, the female (well it wouldn't have been the male would it!) laying an egg in front of me! I've seen it only twice before and never had my camera at the ready but I now what pre-laying behaviour I have to look for  to spot birds that are at point of lay!

    So here it is the full sequence of shots showing the little egg coming into the big wide world, you'll notice too that this pair of crazy avocets is laying its second egg straight into the water! To give them a little chance I've started to lower the water levels by a cm or two, the question is will they succeed?

    Adult birds over the first egg, you can see the female baring down on the left over the first egg - don't worry too much as the egg should survive as long as its not incubated!

    First indications of the big event - you can see the egg duct starting to dilate.

    Heave ho!

    Almost half way

    Big push!

    The egg arrives, out at last!

    Phew, big shake down


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 16 May 2016

    Breeding season Bonanza!

    Suddenly May has sprung to life here on the Humber with the breeding birds taking the lead and hatching young all over the place. As I've said before, last years breeding season was particularly poor so this upsurge in activity so early in the season in 2016 is very encouraging, touch wood!

    Yesterday evening the reserve was just outstanding with lots of avocets, Montagu's  harrier, marsh harriers, lots of bittern sightings, bearded tits skimming the reedbed, singing Cetti's warbler, seven little egrets over, barn owl hunting right in front of me and then a superb adult Osprey right over the reserve - another night to remember and no beer involved.

    Osprey over Singleton - wowzer indeed

    Of course there are ups and downs and it seems very much like that the male Montagu's harrier from last weekend was not our usual male just a passage bird who has moved off and left a very frustrated female harrier who wants to get down to egg laying. She's displaying and nest building but at the moment there is no male, off course its still not too late for her to attract a mate but if she doesn't then she will probably move on and start her way back down south. So if you want to see her then you'd better get a move on!

    Other goodies since the last sightings report have included single black tern and little gull, a male garganey on Sunday a goosander west, and two short eared owls on Saturday evening.

    Lots of other birds to see at the moment with plenty of warblers about including good numbers of singing reed warblers along with the whitethroats, willow warblers, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, and sedge warblers, although the groppers have gone very quiet during their incubation period with only two singing out in the reedbed on Sunday.

    Whitethroat looking very nice among the May Flower

    Singing Chaffinch looking very dapper

    The avocets are pretty amazing at the moment with many birds hatching young while birds are still laying! This morning there was a lovely brood of five at Townend while up at Marshland there were birds feeding right in front of the hide then a pair which had bizarrely laid an egg in very shallow water (they were nest building too around the egg). They didn't much like the Ozzy though as it flew over the colony.

    Not too many waders at the moment but the odd flock of Oyks west, lapwing, redshank, common sandpiper and black tailed godwit about on and off on tide.

    I make no apologies for going over the top with my avocet photo's - some lovely birding 

    Two tone eggs

    A brood of five - I have the feeling that one of these chicks isn't their own, avocet's have a habitat of stealing other birds young!

    The little soldiers making a break for it!

    Feeding adult

    One of the possible food items - dubenni shrimp around one of the sluice pipes


    An impatient couple! They've laid their egg in the water but seem quite happy about it

    Another bird which which is pretty amazing at the moment is the bittern, they are really active which indicates that they have young, it may even be two active nests but we have yet to fully prove this but watch this space. The young probably hatched last week which is the earliest hatching date we've ever recorded by a long way, amazingly they must have sat through snow and cold to get to this point, aren't birds just amazing.  Best places for sightings are Townend and Singleton hide, give it a bit of time and watch the tops of the reeds carefully.

    Bittern coming in to land at Singleton

    As you watch the tops of the reeds you should see bearded tits which are just all over the place this year and are seemingly having an ouber first brood period. I certainly think it worth noting here that early indications are that it could be a fantastic year for this species on the Humber with probably just over 200 pairs breeding in the reedbeds, this would be possibly about quarter of the UK population of this rare breeding bird with no one location in the UK ever holding this number of beardies - conservation history in the making maybe..............

    A beardie feeding on the reed edge at Marshland - photo taken from the hide - ping ping

    Fred and Freda have also hatched five cygnets again on Singleton; lets hope the other two pairs of mute swans hatch their young, they must be due real soon. There are also new broods of ducklings emerging and plenty of young tree sparrows in the nest boxes making them entertaining viewing from a distance (please let them get on with their feeding if you decided to have a look).

    Feeding young

    With a nice beak full of insects - just what growing chicks need

    Lots of other wildlife to see with plenty of butterflies emerging, quite a few hares, the odd toad about and some nice wild flowers by the sides of the paths.

    Green veined white

    Ladies smock 

    It was also interesting this morning because out lead Konik stallion Blonde had decided to introduce himself nose to nose with the new lads Theo and Splat, there was lots of funny squealing's and play fighting among other things but 'first contact' seemed to be quite friendly. Thank goodness because I'm not separating fighting stallions!

    We've also got some very nice cattle this year on the grazing marsh, here's a nice picture of them with the sheep behind and Whitgift lighthouse.

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 10 May 2016

    The wild rover returns!

    This weekend the Male Montagu's harrier returned to join his mate who had been waiting patiently for him for over a week, what absolutely amazing news! Apparently there had been a very late movement of Monty's recorded passing through France the day before as the Northern European birds battled their way through the Northerly air flow. It seems like the male after his arrival is mostly leaving site to feed so that he can build his strength back up for breeding, mean while the female seems to mostly hunt around the main reedbed block. Lets hope that we have another successful year for this pair, particularly with only seven females breeding in the UK last year this rare and beautiful raptor remains one of the UK's rarest breeding birds.

    First photo of the male sent to us by Graeme Robertson

    Friday afternoon saw three cranes drifting east over the reserve, possibly the same three cranes my friend Dave told me about that he could see in the field next to his garden a couple of weeks ago near Reads Island! While on Sunday there was a single black tern as part of the major movement through the country on that day, we never seem to get many black tern sightings, partly I suspect because they pass low along the river and therefore cannot be seen from the hides!

    Plenty of avocet's on site at the moment with a whopping 138 counted yesterday. Then yesterday evening there was a whiff of wader passage when 3 dunlin and a black tailed godwit called in, this was confirmed this morning with a strong wader passage east over the site and included 14 redshank, 4 turnstone, 3 black tailed godwit, 3 ringed plover, grey plover, 2 whimbrel and a couple of lapwings. Surely these birds must be coming up from wintering in Southern Europe and Africa and tacking against the east wind to reach Scandinavia and the Russian Arctic? Lets hope a few start to land and feed on Ousefleet with this drop of rain.

    Avocets on Marshland - you need really good light to get a nice photo of these pied pipers of the wader world, I love the photo's of them fighting, it really brings them to life

    Lone black tailed godwit

    Plenty of Marsh harrier activity on site with some excellent food passes taking place, the bittern was booming really strong this morning and two birds were seen together yesterday, lets hope its a new female arriving on site. The odd hobby sighting recently and still short eared owl and barn owl performing on an evening. 

    Short eared owl being mobbed by a carrion crow at Ousefleet

    At last a few more reed warblers are arriving into the reedbed to join the sedgies and Cetti's warblers while plenty of whitethroats, blackcaps, willow warblers and chiffchaffs now. Some other migrants remain scarce particularly cuckoo and yellow wagtail, however there are a few yellow wags out on Ousefleet.

    This morning before the rain arrived I did a bit of bearded tit survey work to see at what stage they were at and assess the effects of the cold spell that we had in late April. Although I'm sure that some broods perished in the cold and snow it seems that there are currently lots of adult birds feeding broods and that they are finding plenty of chironomids. However, it was noticable that some birds were nest building and others were feeding up around pools or chasing each other around in small parties. This is always a sign that the 1st brood period has been disrupted by bad weather or in some years high tides, but it does not mean that of course there is a problem.

    A male collecting insects

    And one with a big bundle of chironomid flies

    Beardies are very dynamic and can have six nesting attempts per year, they only have a maximum of 3 broods but they will relay from failed broods up to six times! This of course means they can soon make up time especially as they will start laying new broods in a new nest while they are feeding young in the nest! Lets hope all the active birds will have a good replacement brood and that we'll have plenty of bearded tits for the autumn. I reckon if all goes to plan then we could have 1000 birds by late summer!

    While undertaking the survey I was also pretty pleased to see a couple of grasshopper warblers reeling away low down in the vegetation. They've been incredibly shy this year so far but hopefully as the reed grows and the weather warms up a little they will start to sing a bit more out in the open. Here's a few shots of two different birds, note the variation in colour of the two individuals which is fairly much a reflection of the variation you get in this species, sometimes the birds are a light cream on the breast and then many are darker brown.

    Gropper Number 1

    Gropper Number 2

    And finally I'll leave you with a couple of mammal shots or at least one of the photo's evidence of a mammal!

    A nice male roe deer that brightened my evening yesterday

    Water voles evidence in the eel run pipe! Ah there's nothing like a tasty reed shoot..............................


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 6 May 2016

    Recent Sightings - Female Monty's still around

    Our poor old lonely female Montagu's harrier is still around but as yet unfortunately no sign of a male, this is a little worrying as despite her displaying quite vigorously yesterday there is no sign of a partner. Lets hope that due to the delayed migration that eventually a male passes by and decided to pair up with her, or better still last years male turns up late. (see BrianN's excellent photo of her on our website photo's)

    Still a nice range of warblers around site with plenty of whitethroats in and displaying around the scrub, also lesser whitethroat giving its death rattle song this morning along the hedge, and a lone grasshopper warbler reeling on the way up to Ousefleet. It looks like that due to the late spring most of our groppers have just got straight down to nesting and only reeled for as short period. Other warblers to look out for are reed warblers that are increasing in number day by day, plenty of sedge warblers, blackcap, Cettis warblers, chiffchaff and willy warblers.

    Sometimes vegetation just gets in the way!


    Reed warbler

    Sedge warbler

    While looking for the Monty's this morning I notice lots of bearded tits flying around the reedbed, some were chasing each other while other were obviously feeding young in the nest. There are some very high tides this weekend forecast so I'm a little worried that the reedbed may get flooded just when many species like the harriers and beardies are incubating or feeding young.

    I also noted a short eared owl hunting over the reedbed along with the many marsh harriers.

    A walk in the fen to check the ponies health was amazing with lots of reed buntings, meadow pipits, skylarks and a couple of stunning wheatears of the greenland race 

    Singing Reed bunting

    White *** - also known as wheatear

    Plenty of avocets about but not too many other waders although there may be glimmers that at last things are starting to move with ringed plover and common sandpiper recorded recently. It looks like there is now just a lone spotted redshank which is still not in full summer plumage.

    At least two little egrets feeding on Ousefleet and plenty of bird of prey with a chance of hobby, buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel, barn owls is still regular on an evening.

    Regular readers of the blog may remember my recent picture of corn bunting from Church lane at Reedness, well yesterday afternoon as I was driving home there was also a flock of at least 28 as well as the singing male! At times birds just confound me, where have all these birds come from and why are they not on territory? I do have a theory that they may be female birds, I've often had an inkling that male corn buntings form local flocks in the winter (many of the flocks I find seem to have mostly singing males in around here during the winter) then disperse across the farmland to their territories during Feb/March, the females seem to arrive back later and maybe this flock was all composed of females feeding up ready to pair with the males? Question is where they go in winter is anybodies guess! 

    I'll leave you with a picture of the Great black backed gull that seems to have a liking for greylag eggs!

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 6 May 2016

    Tulips and Wetlands from Amsterdam

    Intrigued eh? Wondering what Tulips and Amsterdam has to do with the Humber and our reserves work to help save both wetland and farmland birds, well if you are read on. (I'll post a recent sighting up straight after this post so you know what excellent birds are about at Blacktoft)

    Last week found myself and a couple of colleagues over in Holland courtesy of the Royal General Bulb Growers Association or KAVB for short to look at some very interesting management of the bulb fields near to Leiden. And a very interesting and thought provoking visit it was too especially to see how bulb farmers over in Holland have adapted to using more sustainable farming techniques to grow their tulips, daffodils , and Hyacinth by reducing down the volume of chemicals that were required to keep them growing year after year.

    Tulips from Amsterdam! This was the KAVB garden that had all the breeds of tulip in! Really beautiful.

    So what has all this got to do with birds and the Humber, I'm sure you are still asking and also wondering if you've logged into the correct blog! Well the answer is quite simple really, to help reduce down pests, the Dutch shallow flood up their fields usually in the autumn  which in essence inadvertently create what wetland managers term as 'pop up wetlands'. Other countries use similar techniques in rice, carrot and potato fields for similar reasons with some of these being larger areas that are flooded for longer to create what is termed 'walking wetlands' as they move around farmed areas over a two to three year period (particularly in the USA  - See my blog on Walking wetlands from last year or look it up on you tube).   

    Of course flooding land to increase fertility is nothing new - Warping of the land with river silt was how the arable was created around the Marshlands area in the not too distant past, they used to run water onto the land on high tide over the stripped peat, they would then allow the silt to settle out and they would slowely run the water off back into the river. This created much of the farmland in the area around Blacktoft that you see today. Slightly different in aims than what the Dutch are doing admittedly but certainly not a million miles away from flooding bulb fields.

    A 'pop up wetland' just being flooded - not many birds on it as there was no passage, it was as cold there as it was back in Blighty!

    In some countries they even time the flooding of fields in Autumn by tracking migrants and when they are getting near to the area they flood up fields, thus unlocking food for hungry migrants just at the right time! Why can't we be quite so coordinated across the UK and Europe? 

    Another view of the simple bunds they use, note the water is only kept at 2 inch deep across the field

    When done at the right time many of these pop up wetlands can be really good for attracting passage waders and duck as well as larger herons and storks. This is what we were really interested in, can the Dutch model be adapted to provide sustainable farming as well as temporary wetlands within the UK's agricultural landscape? The tour included visiting farmers and discussing how they flooded their fields and what they got out of it and I'm sure they would have told us if it wasn't worth the effort. But Bulb growing is a very profitable business and it seemed that the local farmers were very much of the opinion that despite loosing one summers growing that the land had become very much more sustainable.  

    You can see why so many people like tulips - these were in Keukenhof  show garden where in 8 weeks they have up to a million visitors!

    Yes you have to cultivate the land carefully after flooding and incorporate organic manure but the flooding has really changed the way they farmed. What was surprising for me was how birds like lapwings, black tailed godwits and oystercatcher still used the bulb fields to breed in, so although still declining they had many more breeding waders than our local farmland - in part yes a reflection on their being very few ground predators but also interesting that such an intensive agricultural practice such as bulb growing could still find some room for waders.

    Can you spot the two incubating lapwings - tulips in the background! 

    And can you spot the oystercatchers!

    And some waders on the wet grassland - lapwings and limosa race Black tailed godwit

    The area we looked around was very urbanized and no doubt was loosing species such as Channel Wagtail and Skylark due to increasingly intensive farming but also other land pressures leading to loss of wet grassland and fallow fields. Like us the Dutch still have a long way to go before declines in farmland birds can be arrested and turned around into a positive.

    Channel wagtail - apologies for the quality of the photo but it was hailing and only 4 degrees!

    For me the key word in this is sustainable, we all need to look at how conservation and farming can work together to be sustainable, sustainable in wildlife terms and sustainable in food production. Will the idea of pop up and walking wetland be usable in the UK - well if done in the right way and for the right reasons then yes I certainly think that it can in the future be a very useful way of managing land.

    As a project we certainly have a lot of important questions to ask about how temporarily flooding land can be done sensibly and not cause more problems than it solves for both farming and wildlife, but for me the Dutch have shown the way forward, all we have to do now is be positive and adapt their work to create our own 'pop up' wetlands that can be used by wetland birds for both feeding and roosting on.

    It certainly would be good to just get on with a field trial and just see what can be done!  

    A final treat on the way back apart from a good cup of British tea (why can't the Dutch make a good cuppa?) was as the flight passed over from Amsterdam to Leeds Bradford airport we flew right up the Humber, at this point the clouds cleared and there below me was the incredible view of all the RSPB Humber reserves I have the privilege of managing, a truly landscape vision of the area all below me! 

    What an end to a fantastic trip

    Many thanks go to Andre and Marika from the KAVB and their colleagues who made for such an inspiring visit and taking the time to look after us. 

    Below - And finally displaying lapwings above, you've guessed it Tulips!






    Posted by Pete Short

Your sightings

Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

Avocet (11)
28 May 2016
Cetti's Warbler (2)
28 May 2016
Singing/breeding calls heard
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
28 May 2016
Singing/breeding calls heard
Tree Sparrow (4)
28 May 2016
Shelduck ()
28 May 2016
Gadwall (5)
28 May 2016
Shoveler (2)
28 May 2016
Buzzard (1)
28 May 2016
Common Tern (1)
28 May 2016
Great Black-backed Gull ()
28 May 2016
No breeding code

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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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