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I had just been thinking how slow a June it had been for waders when I went to bed one evening, when I got up on the 1st of July and had a look around the hides things had just suddenly changed overnight! Today it has been even better with a host of fantastic waders, many of which are still in summer plumage on show on Xerox lagoon.
What a list of wader goodies indeed including 13 spanking summer plumaged spotted redshank, 6 ruff some of which almost have a full collar on (quite unusual for us at this time), 2 lovely black tailed godwit, 3 greenshank, 4 green sandpiper, 2 snipe, 15 redshank, 4 avocets, a regular daily curlew and oystercatcher passage over site (including two well grown young), and then over 80+ lapwing. At times some of the waders were bunched together which gave some high class birding views for all those in the hide especially with the other birds that were on offer. Here's a few snaps, and just to say make the most of it as high tide's start on the weekend and this may mean quite a few of these birds may move over to Alkborough if it re-floods a little.
Avocet flying onto Xerox lagoon by Mike Johnson - good to have your photo's back for the blog Mike!
A mega mix of waders by Pedro - Ruff, spot red, redshank, blackwit and lapwing
A line of ruff
Three spotted redshank and a ruff almost in its full collar looking like an African warrior with its his head dress on.
Greenshank with a little chironomid larvae in its bill
A nice bunch of waders and duck
And again - now that's what I call good birding!
The Montagu's harriers continue to perform in front of one and all as the male keeps busy supplying the female and hopefully growing chicks while many of the marsh harriers now have young that can fly. It seems like the brood size this year is 3 chicks for the marsh harriers, lets hope its the same or more for their rarer cousins. Keep an eye out hobby as they are taking advantage of the big emergence of black tailed skimmers on the lagoons, apparently one put on a superb show on Wednesday morning. Other recent birds of prey sightings include peregrine, buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel.
The male Monty's from this morning just after a food pass
And a male Marsh harrier trying to tempt the young to fly - it failed, must be too hot or they are too fat judging by the bundle of prey its got!
Green sandpiper on Townend - bottoms up
Lapwing on Townend splashing in the mud
Bearded tits were again performing well around Xerox lagoon this morning with those that took advantage of the temporary 8am opening time managing to see them along with all the above, one couple who popped into reception at 9.30am on their way out of the reserve said they had had an outstanding time and seen the lot!
Plenty of other birds around to entertain with little egrets now starting to build up with 6 birds this morning on Xerox. Also plenty of reed and sedge warblers, cettis warbler still singing, 10 siskins south today, yellow wagtails and lots of duck including shoveler, teal, gadwall wigeon, pochard but unfortunately no sign of daffy the ring necked duck recently.
Little egret by Mike Johnson, a lovely crisp flight shot
One piece of really good news is that at least five of the mute swan chicks are still on Singleton and growing by the day (will Fred and family fledge their young this year?) while the two remaining great crested grebes are also growing fat on their fish diet.
I'll finish today with another of Mikes shots a gorgeous singing reed bunting
Posted by Pete Short
Phew its certainly getting warmer and warmer at the moment and its going to be an interesting afternoon as the farrier and vet attempt to trim the lads (konik ponies) hooves this afternoon. With all the horse flies about they are not in the best of temperaments, mind you neither am I when you're constantly being munched by those little blighters!
Bird wise though it was an excellent morning as I shepherded the livestock and did my stint on early morning species protection. As its so hot at the moment I will open the reserve gates for the next week or two at about 8am rather than the usual 9am, however please note that when the gates are locked that means that there is no entry to the reserve so please help us to protect the site by adhering to our requests.
Star of the show for me was this lovely adult Mediterranean gull that was having a bath on Marshland lagoon. The black headed gull colony seems to have attracted a few Meds recently so its always worth listening out for their distinctive Meow Meow call. Med gulls used to be a pretty rare bird when I was a teenager so its really nice to see them visiting the Sands more and more, especially when they give you crippling views. Here's a few pics, notice its got a colour ring on, probably from one of the colonies in Europe.
The spotted redshank continue to put on a good show with again seven at Xerox this morning although I could also hear one calling from somewhere elsewhere on site. Yesterday they were taking a bath seemingly trying to get rid of some of their molting feathers that seemed to make them a bit itchy.
Bearded tits put on a nice show this morning too with about 15 juvs along the back edge of Xerox lagoon and often at the top of the reeds. As I always say they are best in the morning and on warm still days, so now is perfect and I expect the show to get better and better as the week progresses. Arrival at 8am when I open the gates should give the best chance to see these reedbed sprites.
A little party of them at the tops of the reeds this am.
Yesterday I promised to try and get a picture of the young peregrines as I was lookering the sheep, the brood was split between two pylons this morning so I could only get shots of one close by juvenile, however they show quite clearly that he has a full crop so obviously is being fed pretty well on fat wood pigeon by the looks of the feathers nearby on the grassland.
Walking across the grassland getting the ponies into their holding area and then tending the sheep made me aware that the fields are currently full of skylark, meadow pipits, reedbuntings and a few fresh broods of yellow wagtail which is really nice to see. I also managed to take a few nice snaps as those horse flies bit nice and deep!
Adult yellow wag
I think this is a very faded female
A nice skylark with what looks like a seed in the beak
And I also managed to get some nice insect photo's along the back up to Ousefleet hide yesterday, I went for the artistic approach of photography to mask my poor focus ability!
Common blue damselfly - nice to see a few damsels about as they have just been so scarce here on the reserve this cold and chilly summer
The last few say days have yet again seen some excellent birding on site especially the Montagu's pair which have just been putting on an incredible show as they rev up to feed their growing brood of young. The female during the day is at times patrolling and hunting for long periods of time, even venturing up past reception now, while the male is food passing probably up to ten times a day. At least a couple of times yesterday he followed a line that took him over Xerox Lagoon giving everyone in that hide and in reception some amazing views.
Here's some of my photo's from reception on my little camera.
And a very post industrial landscape view
And the female on one of her several forays
Not to be outdone the marsh harriers are now fledging their young with the chicks at times grasping to get hold of food in mid air (see snap below), what has been interesting though has how the Monty's have been coping with any attempt from the female marsh harriers to steal their food, the male comes in and food passes quickly to the female then just like a spitfire peels away and drives off any advancing enemy attacks from the Marshies!
There certainly seems to be some spectacular bird of prey action at the moment if you are lucky enough to catch it, red kite being mobbed by the Monty's, hobby which are always spectacular whatever they are doing, sparrowhawk hunting, kestrel, and this morning I had a family of four peregrines on the pylons at Ousefleet (1 adult 3 young), the female was eating some prey as the young all called out hungrily. Unfortunately I'd forgot my camera this morning so didn't get any shots, doh!
Thursday saw another year first with three eclipse (moulting) male red crested pochards, they seemed quite settled but unfortunately were gone by the next day. There are some quite large feral populations of 'cresties' in the UK these days and it may have been likely that they were from these especially as they have bred in East Park in Hull before! Even so still a nice bird to see although the moulting males always look a bit odd as though some ones glued their bill on.
Again the ring necked duck showed for at least part of each day over the weekend with some people getting some great photo's of the bird. And again one of my highlights is the number of broods of duck emerging with one of my favorites a brood of 8 tufted duck, but also pochard, gadwall and mallard. It gives me a bit of hope that our bitterns that have gone very quiet may have a late nesting attempt. Not sure where our mute swans have gone off to but probably onto one of our little pools out of view.
Wader wise the highlight is our seven summer plumaged spotted redshank but also now at least two green sandpipers knocking about, also in the last few days, 3 very brief male ruff, 85 lapwing, 5 redshank, greenshank, 2 snipe and a few fly over curlew although the big passage of last week seems to have slowed a bit.
Green sandpipers onTownend
Other birds of note have included our resident singing cettis warbler, grasshopper warbler, a reasonable number of bearded young bearded tits this morning in little flocks (remember morning is best for beardies), little egret and a host of young reed and sedge warblers starting to fledge plus plenty of tree spuggies still raising young in the nestboxes. Out across the grazing marshes look out for hares, meadow pipits, skylarks and yellow wagtails.
On the biodiversity front it was great to see quite a bit of strawberry clover flowering on the grazing marsh yesterday as I shepherded the sheep, it seems to have a liking for our brackish grazed saltmarsh and is quite an uncommon plant these days, so good to see it thriving.
With the warmth butterflies are having a mid summer surge with today good numbers of fresh meadow browns, & ringlets, and then odd large skipper, speckled wood and red admiral. But no photo's although I'll fix that in the next couple of days when I'm down there shepherding the sheep and ponies.
You will off course from reading my many previous blogs all know by now about Blacktoft's teams efforts to try and help save a whole host of wetland birds along the whole Humber and beyond!
This includes our current endangered star attraction the breeding pair of Montagu's harrier, but with only 7 females and 4 males left in the whole of the country this species needs action to save its very existence in the UK. This is just one reason the defense of the European wildlife directives is so important for the UK and this off course includes the Humber's and Blacktofts bitterns, marsh harriers, avocets, reed warblers, pochards, bearded tits, pink footed geese, knot and yes I could go on and on and on!
But if you go to the link below and watch the inspirational little video at the bottom of Martin Harpers blog I think this says it in a much more effective way than I ever can. You don't nessicerily have to read the blog, watch the video first and I think it gives a much more powerful impact on what the RSPB and other organizations are fighting for.
Enhancing these directive's rather than weakening them could help to save our wildlife disappearing in a hail of bullets like turtle dove, (what did happen to dusky the radio tracked turtle dove over spain I wonder!?) or seeing some of our best areas for wildlife over developed and ruined.
Not too sure about the music though maybe it could have done with a bit of Motorhead or the Clash to give it some more oomph, but then that's maybe just a result of me growing up in the 1980's.
And just to add recent highlights here at Blacktoft over the last few days they have included 3 eclipse plumage red crested pochard, ring necked duck, the first snipe of the autumn passage and all the species on my last recent sightings list give or take the odd flyover!
And just thought I'd add a picture of my own on this blog from my trip the other year to Spain - all birds that could be affected by the review if we do not fight for the right outcome.
Here's Charlie's (her nickname) first blog after her 'baptism of fire' to the Humber reserves team. She will be employed to run the visitor operations but also help develop the volunteer team along this part of the Humber as part of our Saving Marshlands Wildlife Heritage Lottery Funding that we have just received (more of this gr8 news latter in the month). We have had so many great kids in recently who are really enjoying finding out the joys of the natural world here on the Sands.
So here's her fantastic little story about how too young lads made the most of their visit. And if you bump into her be sure to say hello and tell her about your visit and sightings.
These days it seems that many children just aren’t connected to nature anymore. Whatever the reasons for this are, the result is fewer people feeling connected to nature, and fewer people fighting to protect it. But is there much exciting wildlife in Britain? We don’t have lions or elephants or crocodiles, so what is there to be connected to and excited about?
Last week at Blacktoft Sands, two young boys visited the reserve with their parents. The boys had set themselves a target of seeing fifty different species of wildlife before the year was up. They had started the week previously and in one week had ticked off forty-five species. They showed me pictures of all the animals they had seen and the excitement in their voices as they showed off their snaps was lovely. The boys were fascinated by their sightings and their wildlife identification skills were impressive. I heard one of the boys telling an unsure visitor what bird she was watching through her binoculars.
I hope the boys continue to be enthralled by wildlife, as it is them who have to continue the important work of conservation; and we need them to continue it. We have to get more children and, adults alike, excited about nature so that they want to protect it. They need to get outside to discover the natural wonders around them. They need to see the amazing amount of biodiversity that exists on their own front doors. I loved seeing the boys being so excited about British wildlife and that look of pure delight on their faces when they watched a spider and a beetle battle it out for patch supremacy!
So take a leaf out of the boys’ book and try to see fifty species of British wildlife before the year is up. But, as you’re ticking them off, don’t forget to enjoy each one’s beauty as you go along and I think you’ll find that the wonders of British wildlife easily competes with the wonders of the Serengeti or the Amazon.
Over the last couple of days the young marsh harriers have surprised us a little by starting to fly around their nest sites and take food from the adults in mid air, but why the surprise? Well despite all the cold weather in May and June this year these young are ten whole days earlier than the first flying young last year! Some basic calculations of egg laying, incubation and egg laying periods works out at about 78 days for the young to fly thus giving a laying date roughly in about the first week of April!
At one time I would have said average laying date here on the Humber would have been around the 15th of April especially when most if not all of our Marsh harriers went south to Africa to winter. But it was pointed out to me that one of the pairs I saw with 3 flying young yesterday on our Reads Island reserve had wintered there and remained much as a pair all year. Amazing really how things are changing for some species and pointing towards though's pairs that avoid migrating may be getting a good jump start on the rest!
Marsh harrier young at reads Island
Our other harrier the Montagu's breeding pair became 'famous' this week by appearing on the local BBC news. It was really good to highlight just how endangered these birds really are and how important this nesting pair is to the survival of this species in the UK. The female is now starting to hunt a little away from the nest and taking food back that it has caught so I reckon the chicks are approaching 20 days old now.
Waders are a bit thin on the ground for the time of year but spotted redshank, lapwing, redshank, avocet and green sandpiper all today. Keep an eye out too for the ring necked duck which seems to be frequenting Singleton at the moment. You may notice that the vegetation in front of Singleton Hide has not been cut, this is to help deter fox ingress into the areas where the harriers are nesting and will not be cut until they have fledged. Birds come first I'm afraid!
Avocet down at Reads Island - there are about 500 there at the moment!!!
With the upturn in the weather its also pleasing to see a few more duck broods emerging with pochard, mallard and gadwall young around the site, the young great crested grebes doing well and amazingly the Mute swans still having 6 young and them growing and growing! For some reason over the years I've noticed that all our swan chicks do not grow, possibly because of a lack of protein in their diet. But this year there is a lot of weed and insects in the lagoon so fingers crossed Fiery Fred our long resident (at least 16 years) male mute swan will at last fledge some young.
Also busy feeding their young are the reed and sedge warblers and resident birds such as dunnocks, wrens and robins. Here's a nice picture of a newly fledged reed warbler.
The yellow wagtails seem to like feeding around the sheep and ponies out on the grazing marsh
At last too with the sunshine a few butterflies are starting to appear with both ringlet and large skipper emerging along the flood bank grass.
And last but not least with the warm and wet weather it was nice to see some snowy inkcaps emerging on the Konik dung, always nice to see a bit of early fungi, its lovely how the edges curl up.
'The Humber without a curlew is like the night without the moon, and he who has not eye for the one and ear for the other is a mere body without a soul' - a slightly altered version of an Anonymous poem but certainly very apt for the reserve at the moment as the westward curlew passage of birds from Scandinavia has seen small flocks passing over during the day which really give you a sense that the seasons are moving on.
Curlew passing west t'other day
Other waders returning from their breeding grounds have been up to three superb all black spotted redshanks, 2 avocet, greenshank, and 30+ lapwing but our second red necked phalarope of the year that called in briefly yesterday and possibly again this morning is still probably going north. This year there have been loads of red necked phals around the country which seems to indicate that they are having a few problems getting northwards to their breeding grounds on their usual migration routes. Is this due to the constant NW airflow or just the cold northerly temperatures?
Greenshank and spotted red
The Montagu's harriers continue to entertain particularly now that the chicks are growing the female is starting to fly about quite a bit more and the male has slightly increased his food deliveries. They certainly are plucky little harriers as they are constantly giving the marsh harriers a good battering and no wonder with one female marsh harrier stealing some food of the male Monty's this morning!
Male monts going out to hunt
Our other star attraction at the moment the ring necked duck can be a little more unpredictable as it suddenly appears and then disappears for hours on end. The little gull yesterday was rather strangely our first of the year while a 1st summer Mediterranean gull joined the breeding black headed gulls on Thursday and Friday for a short while.
Its also starting to be an interesting mid June for vis-mig (visible migration) so keep your eyes to the skies. Crossbill over yesterday and then very unusually two siskin and grey wagtail today! But for me the sight of a nice brood of 8 pochard chicks was my highlight on Sunday and Monday, one of our scarce breeders there are probably no more than 500 pairs in the UK of this lovely diving duck.
Pochard brood Singleton
Another highlight was discovering that the great crested grebes actually have three young.
Other notable birds include cettis warbler, a few bearded tits around the lagoons, hobby, common tern, and a couple of regular little egrets.
Can't be bad at all for mid June!
Its been a funny old week, at times there seems little about but after a couple of hours birding on site when you look at the species you've seen you realize that you've had an excellent bit of birding! Maybe its the cloud and cool that affects perceptions but there's no doubt that birds are being a bit fickle at the moment and commuting between the estuary, other local wetlands and the reserve. So again patience is the key and if your lucks in you will leave with a fine list of quality species.
A nice view of the fen along the paths from Wednesday evening
Good to see that the Monty's pair are still going strong with the female starting to fly around a bit more each day, the male comes in about four or five times a day with the best place now to see the food passes being Townend, and then upstairs in First and Xerox. You can also get good views of the male too from these hides as he flies out to hunt as the photo's below show.
And the female going head to head with a boat coming up the Humber!
The ring necked duck has shown well some days but then almost not at all on others. Yesterday was a good day but he arrived at 9.30am and then lest the site about 5.30pm. Plenty of people though managed to connect with this welcome addition to their lists. The photo below shows daffy (daffy duck was a ring necked duck btw) with spotted redshank, pochard and tufted duck) picture by Tim and Si Jump, nice!
The marsh harriers are mostly feeding young now with probably seven pairs still active on site, they are still giving some great views but I did notice for the first time today that a male took the food straight to the nest and the females starting to go out hunting, this means that the chicks are old enough to be left un-brooded, oh how the season is flying! Other birds of prey to look out for are hobby, kestrel and sparrowhawk.
Return autumn wader passage is very slow at the moment but the single spotted redshank is still about and our first green sandpiper of the year was seen and photographed on Xerox. A few curlews heading west and a few avocets visiting the lagoons plus redshank, lapwing and oystercatcher but not in any notable numbers as of yet.
green sandpiper yesterday
A 2nd year Mediterranean gull was also a good sighting for us on Wednesday as it mixed with the black headed gulls on Marshland
Other birds of note to look out for are grasshopper warbler (at times showing very nicely), little egrets, a few bearded tits around the lagoon edges, cettis warbler still singing and a nice pair of yellow wagtails that are often on the road just outside the reserve. There are still plenty of reed and sedge warblers plus whitethroats and reedbuntings which look lovely in the fen at the moment.
little egrets sparing on Towend - not the best photo in quality but somehow it captures something different!
And keep an eye out for skylark on the grazing marsh - there's lots about at the moment
Hares have been very entertaining out on Ousefleet grazing marsh giving lots of photographic opportunities - how about this for a nice bit of photo bombing by one of the lads!
And also this nice snap of a female roe deer out in the fen grazing unconcernedly as I approached.
And finally the last bit of info is that the bluish beetle from my last blog was called green nettle weevil.
What will the weekend bring!
It may be mid June and slap bang in the middle of the breeding season for many species but the birding is starting to get flaming hot at the moment! This morning it was great to see that the Yankee male ring necked duck had returned to Xerox allowing everybody a second chance at this Yorkshire rarity.
When I first noticed it in with the pochards I could see most of the id features, head shape, extent of white on the flank and bill shape but I was a bit unsure as the bill was all one uniform colour. Then I suddenly realized that when the pochards feed on this lagoon they always have muddy bills, and lo and behold after a quick wash and brush up behind one of the lagoons I was proved correct as you can clearly see from the pictures!
With a dirty bill
And after a wash and brush up
For comparison an archive shot of tufted duck
A nice view of Daffy's head shape
And very kindly Daffy shows of all his id features
And a final shot showing the bill
To add to this of course we still have the Montagu's harriers which are now busy feeding young in the nest which is absolutely fantastic news! The male comes in to feed the female about four or five times during the day so again the key to seeing them food passing is to have patience and keep waiting. At the moment any of the hides from Xerox to Singleton can be good for seeing the action, have a word in reception for the latest updates on where's best to go.
Male monts going out to feed
The wader passage is just starting to pick up a little with oystercatchers and the odd curlew flying west on the tides but also there is a splendid summer plumage spotted redshank from time to time, up to 35 lapwings, a couple of redshank and at the weekend a lone black tailed godwit. But don't expect avocet, It looks like the last pair have now sadly lost their chick and this means they will go out to the estuary to feed with the other failed breeders. We may get the odd bird from time to time but it looks like all the Humbers avocets are going out to our reserve at Reads Island to nest now. Hopefully in the next week a few more waders will arrive back from Scandinavia.
Redshank (left) and spotted redshank
The bitterns are elusive but still present on site as a male has been occasionally booming, but the good news is that there are quite a lot of bearded tits starting to frequent the edges of the lagoons over the last few days. Marsh harriers are performing really well with plenty of superb food passes while on the evenings there is quite a bit of barn owl activity plus occasionally a bird in the box opposite Marshland lagoon.
Marsh harrier on post
Quite a bit of small bird activity too with lots of sedge and reed warblers feeding young and yesterday at 5pm in the afternoon this fandabidozi (see below) grasshopper warbler reeling near to Marshland hide ramp. The cettis warbler is still singing too so yes lots going on and I'm sure plenty more to come in the next couple of weeks.
I also noticed out on the grazing marsh while shepherding the Koniks that the milkwort is starting to flower, one of our saltmarsh specialties. It was said that cattle who grazed on it had better milk production. The saltmarsh is teeming with hares at the moment so have a look over it from the gate and Ousefleet hide, there is the odd yellow wagtail here too occasionally feeding on the short grazed turf.
The years first hummingbird hawk moth was noted yesterday while I noted this interesting blue beetle feeding on nettle, any ideas on species anyone?
We're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused. Please help us rebuild from the worst storm in 60 years.
Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)
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