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Recent sightings

  • 4 March 2015

    Escape from Coaltitz

    Despite a cool breeze over the last few days there has been the first signs of a bit of spring and the return of a few more of our summer visitors. What was more of a surprise though this morning as I was leaving site was a coal tit that was on top of the hedge near to the tree spuggie feeders. Coal tit is not always an annual species on the reserve and more normally expected in the autumn when the breeding birds are dispersing, so a spring record was a nice little surprise.

    Other signs of spring down here on the Sands have been a couple of oystercatchers, the years first breeding plumage great crested grebe on Singleton this morning, and the first territorial black headed gulls on the islands.

    Displaying bh gulls - how time fly's!

    Not large numbers of marsh harriers about at the moment (I think the majority are roosting on Whitton Island) but you can still get some great views and photo's of the birds that are about, and at the weekend the male hen harrier put on a good show in both the morning and on Sunday evening, only problem was that I was the only person in the hide! There was a ringtail too that has reappeared on Tuesday so maybe a few birds are returning North. Merlin was also present on Saturday night and then in the day a couple of buzzards, kestrel and sparrowhawk.

    Hen harrier from Saturday in the field next to the reserve

    And not forgetting marsh harrier

     Waders have been unpredictable but at times up to 170 dunlin, 2 ruff, 10 redshank, lapwing, some great views of snipe, a handful of flyover golden plover and up to 54 curlew out on the grazing marsh. On my day off I had a bit of a bus mans holiday on the morning and nipped over to Alkborough to see a few avocets, by the looks of it it shouldn't be too long before we get the first back on Ousefleet, in the meantime here's a photo or two of them. And just in for today from Mr Pilsworth this afternoon there was 10 spotted redshank and 13 black tailed godwits from Ousefleet hide - excellent! How's that for up to date news. 

    A few photo's from Alkborough of the avo's (NOTE - not on the reserve - at Alkborough)

    A good build up of 370 wigeon is a good record for the reserve and mixed in with them has been a single pintail plus plenty of the usual teal, mallard, tufted duck, pochard, little grebe, and shelduck. 11 whoopers were part of a good movement across the Humber on Saturday. Still a few pink footed geese around too with at least 350 on the weekend

    Feeding wigeon in front Marshlands


    And a fine breeding plumage mallard

    On the small bods (a local term for birds used by a surprisingly large number of people!) front there has been a couple of cettis still lurking, and a pair of beardies at Marshland this morning, goldcrest and a few lotties (long tailed tits), and plenty of singing robins, dunnocks, skillies (skylarks), reed buntings and song thrushes.

    The local robins are cranking up the volume

     On the mammal front the roe deer are showing well but not too many hare's at the moment.





    Posted by Pete Short

  • 26 February 2015

    Elves in the coppice

    Don't believe? Well its true I tell you, there are elves down in the willow coppice here at Blacktoft and they are truly something special to see.

    Scarlet elf cups are one of my favorite fungi and seem to always appear at this time of year when there is a drop of rain and still the chance of frosts.

    I've put one of the willow branches with some of the older cups on it next to the seat that is alongside the path as you walk to Marshland hide, well worth a second look if you are visiting this weekend, but remember, watch out for those mischievous elves they may want their cups back...............

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 25 February 2015


    With the water now starting to settle a bit on the reserve after the recent spring tides the paths have now become dry and a bit of mud is starting to appear attracting a few waders like these ruff (pic below) that were in front of Ousefleet hide. There was also a real nice mix of redshank, dunlin, snipe and it was very noticeable that the lapwings were coming very nicely into their breeding head plumes.

    Ruff - note how the light is giving them a two tone leg colour.

    And the lapwings.......

    The teal were looking very nice too




    Posted by Pete Short

  • 24 February 2015

    Quick update - recent sightings

    Bit busy at the moment what with one thing or another so here's a quick update on what's around.

    Over the weekend the tide put a lovely splash of water across the site particularly into the tidal reedbed, this will set us up lovely for the spring and the fast approaching breeding season.

    Below - At last a wet reedbed!

    Although it went over the paths a little the reserve is just about back to normal with only a few puddles left on the way to Xerox hide which you can just about get away with paddling through with stout boots on.

    Bird wise the extra water has brought about an increase in the number of teal and wigeon on site with a good supporting cast of shoveler, gadwall, pochard, tufted duck and shelduck. Still up to 600 pinkfeet out over the reserve most mornings but this is now very early as the days increase in length.

    Waders have been a little scarce as the water levels out but still plenty of lapwing, curlew and a few snipe and redshank.

    Still one grey male hen harrier roosting on site along with the marsh harriers you can also see during the day. Also the first barn owl at the weekend for quite a while.

    Still a couple of cettis warblers on site and up to two water pipits but both species are very elusive. Bearded tits are a little quieter too as they feed on the insects washed out by the tide. But still a good number of stonechats about and plenty of tree sparrows on the feeders. A good number of reed buntings returning to the reedbed to breed and plenty of squealing water rails.

    The four Bewicks swans continue to feed on Swinefleet Common in fields near to Church land that leads to Reedness. 

    Nothing like a good paddle in the reedbed here on the Sands



    Posted by Pete Short

  • 20 February 2015

    Spot reds return

    With the start of the high spring tides and a little bit of estuarine water seeping onto the reserve there has been a good selection of birds using the reserve including these two lovely winter plumaged spotted redshank

    There has also been up to 20 black tailed godwits, 40 dunlin, 90 lapwing, 10 redshank and a few curlew and snipe.

    Plenty of waterfowl about still with the pinkfeet showing in the morning quite well in the field next to the reserve. The pintail and goldeneye are still hanging around Townend hide along with the multitude of wigeon, gadwall, teal and shoveler while a party of six whooper swans briefly alighted onto Ousefleet on their way back north. Quite a few little grebes about now so maybe it won't be long before the first great crested grebe is seen.

    With some quieter weather recently the smaller birds have been more active particularly the stonechats, this pair were at Singleton today, there is still at least one cettis warbler about but they seem to have left for their breeding grounds early this year and no singing males currently just a calling female. I clocked that cheeky little pair of bearded tit that have been wintering in the little block of reed between reception and Marshland all winter, some days people get good views of them but others they just seem to melt away into the reed.............

    Still at least one hen harrier is roosting along with the marsh harriers and on some nights merlin too.  

    And finally the hares were on good form today around the paths.

    And getting into my personal space!









    Posted by Pete Short

  • 18 February 2015

    British wildfowl take some beating!

    With the sun shining and the days lengthening the wildfowl on the reserve are now getting excited and as little  touch of spring is injected into the Marshland air the reserve has come alive with vibrant colours and sounds that make the reserve a very special place to be. 'British' wildfowl really do take some beating and with the light being so good give some excellent photographic opportunities even for my little camera.

    There has also been a hint of other birds starting to pass through with the first Red kite of the Spring seen flying over the reserve. For a full run down on what's about see the last blog.

    So here you have it, the last couple of days in colour.

    Our lovely male pintail, he moves about quite a bit, this was at First hide

    Shoveler pair in fromt of Townend hide

    An exquisite male gadwall on Singleton showing off his black bum and vermiculation's 

    Pochard are feeding deep in the lagoon mud - you can see it all over the males face (top left)

    Male teal take some beating for sheer colour

    And the tufted duck have been showing off their headgear very well at Singleton

    More and more greylags (the goose that lags behind) and coot are starting to return to the Sands

    And the flocks of wigeon are really tame now that the shooting season is nearly over on the estuary (just let me add there is no shooting on the reserve nor ever will be!)

    I really like the female wigeon for photographing, their patterning is so beautifully subtle  

    Nice to see a few pinkfeet mixed in the greylags too - these were on Ousefleet grazing marsh

    Up to three goldeneye are still feeding on Townend lagoon 

    And the snipe are still good at Marshland

    Plenty of reed buntings singing on fine mornings with this male just moulting into its summer plumage and feeding along the path 

    While this female posed against a bright blue sky on the way to Ousefleet

    And a final note, the bewicks are back feeding on Swinefleet common (were visible from Church lane which leads to Reedness of the A161 today)

    Picture from January




    Posted by Pete Short

  • 16 February 2015

    Pintail and Snipe enjoy the rain

    Although this morning was a little damp the waterfowl seemed to be having a great time on the lagoons. Suddenly loads of wigeon again (where have they all been), teal, gadwall, mallard, shelduck, tufted duck, pochard, pink footed geese, 3 goldeneye on Townend lagoon and a cracking full breeding plumage pintail on First. Also of interest is that at least four of the Bewick swans were back on Swinefleet common in fields near the A161 yesterday and today, please do not park along this road as it is very dangerous, pull of onto one of the side roads and park sensible so people can get past.

    Good numbers of both coot and little grebe too indicating a strong return of some of our breeding waterbirds.

    A selection of wildfowl shots from this morning

    Pintail they do look better in good light I assure you!

    Pintail and gadwall

    And a nice male shelduck

    A superb male wigeon from the weekend (Tim and Si Jump)



    And not to be outdone the snipe were feeding away like mad particularly in front of Marshland lagoon where they gave some top notch photographic opportunities. On top of this there was also 80 dunlin, and a good number of lapwings plus a couple of redshank up on Ousefleet flash.

    Not so many smaller birds showing in the gloom but plenty of bird of prey activity with on Friday 12 marsh harriers, 2 hen harriers and a merlin seen at the roost.

    A quick trip out into the reedbed to inspect our tractor produced plenty of beardies pinging and a good number of stonechats feeding around the reedcut plots plus a single water pipit.

    Certainly the rain didn't bother the roe deer who were munching away on the edges of Townend lagoon.

    And this weekend I had a quick look at Reads Island, oddly enough no avocets but the sight of 6000 golden plover and 1400 lapwings out on the mud banks plus a few bar-tailed and black tailed godwits close to the shore more than made up for the Avo's absence.  Here's a few record shots

    Golden plover

    And a nice mix of duck, waders and  bh gull just by the Ancholme sluice

    And finally just a nice shot of a few lapwings






    Posted by Pete Short

  • 13 February 2015

    Camera, lights action - well for the reed anyway!

    What a murky old week its been down on the sands with poor light and fog at times, however looking out of the window at the moment its seems to be clearing, just in time for the weekend. But of course never a dull week down here on the Marsh with a good range of birds and wildlife and the first signs of spring with a bit of winter return passage north and a few of our breeding birds returning to the lagoons.

    Apologies for the poor photo's this week, been busy and the conditions have been a bit dark for photography.

    Up to 11 pochard have returned to the lagoons

    Plenty of marsh harrier activity with some great close up views particularly of the birds in front of First lagoon and Singleton and one of the pairs still mating with each other at times. I've had no news of the hen harriers this week but I would probably say that a least the one male is coming in to roost along with the merlins so still well worth a visit for the late afternoon roost.

    Ousefleet flash is still attracting good numbers of waders at time with best of the bunch up to four ruff in with the dunlin, redshank, snipe, curlew and lapwing all making the best of the low water levels. Some very high tides at the end of next week so it will be interesting if we get a good splodge of water onto the reserve, something we are quite desperate for after a very dry winter.

    two ruff and a dunlin

    Plenty of other waterfowl using the site with a good number of coot now returning after their winter absence being backed up by wigeon, gadwall, shelduck, shoveler, teal and a few more pochard and tufted duck. Spring really must be in the air as the greylags and canada geese are already starting to prospect for nests and I don't think early easter eggs are too far away! Water rails have been fairly prominent too particularly in the borrow ditch just as you walk onto the reserve, while 40 pinkfeet have remained on Ousefleet and on some mornings over 600 over the reserve to feed on the arable.

    Plenty of resident passerines singing their little hearts out especially the song thrushes and dunnocks but also yesterday one my personal 'first signs of spring' here on the wetland, chiming reed bunting. The kingfisher is still busy along the ditch and the cettis warblers are still present in the scrub, but strangely no sign of singing as yet. Birds returning north have included a few redwings, fieldfare and chaffinch while out in the reedbed there have been plenty of stonechats but just one water pipit.

    Fox, hare and roe deer all on good form too with the first boxing hares recorded mid week.

    And finally you always get some unusual requests when working on a nature reserve, which if we can we will always try to help with, so midweek when I received a phone call from Kim at ITV production unit to ask if we had a bit of spare reed I had to reply how much do you want as has it happens we do have a few hundred acres? So in the end a couple of tonnes of reed have been sent to help dress the set on their Beowulf production for television, all for the price of a donation to help with our conservation work!

    Thanks to our Wardening team for sorting this at such short notice - fame at last, well sort of!










    Posted by Pete Short

  • 10 February 2015

    Another top weekend!

    Another top weekend despite the freeze thaw effect that seems to be part of the course at the moment, however it does not seem to be effecting the excellent wealth of wildlife that has been on show.

    It was also good to meet everyone at the weekend in reception and chat to you all and really nice to see the young-uns visiting too who seemed to have a whale of a good time. I do like a bit of dry Yorkshire humour  and leg pulling and told one of the young girls (about 6 or 7) who was visiting that if she dropped the hire binoculars out of the hide window I'd have to hold her by her legs upside down and out of the hide window so she could reach them, - after a few seconds a little smile came to her face as she realized just what I had proposed!  

    Another advantage of nice weekends were these top marsh harrier photo's kindly sent to me by Dave and Jo Dimmock who I chatted to on Sunday (they also had great views of the hen harrier) Thanks for sharing them!


    It was lovely weather too on Sunday that helped the day go quickly and was topped off for me with a last half hour birding up in Ousefleet hide that gave me some lovely numbers of waders feeding on the now defrosted pool. Sometimes it help to know when hides are at their best and Ousefleet often seems to get better as the day goes on with it really at its best just as the beautiful red Marshland sunset goes down.

    A perfect Marshland sunset

    This helped me towards some nice wader counts with over 50 curlew, 14 black tailed godwits, 47 dunlin, 30 lapwing and 4 redshank. On Saturday there was also a ruff and a few golden plover over while the snipe continued to oblige visitors with some F.A.B views in front of the hides. What I also really liked about Ousefleet on Sunday were the little party of about 30 pink footed geese who were feeding out on the grassland area, we've been trying to get a few pinkies to feed on this part of the reserve for ages so it was great to see them undisturbed and feeding right until the last rays of sunshine disappeared.

    Curlew out on a frozen Ousefleet on Friday morning

    I also enjoyed this carrion crow that was 'gnawing' on this black headed gull wing, you could even hear the ripping as it tore of what little flesh there was.

    A nice selection of wildfowl was spearheaded by the three goldeneye, with a supporting cast of teal, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, shelduck and over 900 flyover pinkfeet. Also some nice views of water rail near to reception hide although he didn't quite pose for the camera.

    The birds of prey again were on top form with hen harrier and the amazing marsh harriers showing plus up to 2 merlins, 2 buzzards, sparrowhawk and this lovely kestrel.


    And not to be outdone the smaller birds were on good form with kingfisher, stonechat, cettis warbler, a good flock of roosting fieldfare, goldcrest, the first long tailed tits for ages, plus a few bearded tits, skylarks, meadow pipits returning from the south and lots of singing from the local dunnocks, robins, song thrush, and wrens.

    female Bearded tit - photo taken at Townend hide

    Meadow pipit along the path to Ousefleet

     Our little furry friends have been on top form with the hare's showing well and starting to chase each other around, there has also been regular roe deer, fox and weasel on site, I was also shown a great photo of a lovely wood mouse that was next to one of the hides. 

    This hare was feeding in front of Ousefleet hide along with all the waders.

    And a shot from the other day of a roe deer and stonechat - the stonechat was following the deer around, a good little record shot of a relationship between two species that we rarely if ever see. Who needs domestic livestock?!

    And finally another 'behavioral' shot of red legged partridge - not a great photo (must stop giving the lens too much vindran-whally) but nice because it shows the frost around the birds but also on their backs. This was another on 'my way to work shots'.







    Posted by Pete Short

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Your sightings

Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

Tree Sparrow ()
2 Mar 2015
Marsh Harrier ()
28 Feb 2015
Water Rail ()
28 Feb 2015
Avocet ()
28 Feb 2015
Black-tailed Godwit ()
28 Feb 2015
Spotted Redshank ()
28 Feb 2015
Pink-footed Goose (300)
25 Feb 2015
Shelduck ()
2 Mar 2015
Gadwall ()
2 Mar 2015
Shoveler ()
2 Mar 2015

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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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