Become a member

Help us save nature at places like this. From £3 a month.

Print page

Recent sightings

  • 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

  • 3 May 2016

    Female Montagu's - She's back!

    Wowzer! What an amazing bank holiday weekends birding down here on the sands with a whole host of fantastic species seen, and just to prove the point, this morning I managed to see in an hour and a half bittern, bearded tit, marsh harriers galore, avocets galore,  and the female Montys!

    Look who's returned - this photo was taken yesterday from Singleton hide

    I managed to confirm that indeed the female Montagu's harrier had returned for the third year in succession back to the Humber on Monday Morning, how unbelievably exciting. Female Monty's aren't always site faithful from year to year so its great to see that she seems to find our reedbeds to her liking. There's no sign of the male yet though, although they can often arrive after the females so hopefully he'll be arriving soon or maybe one or two of the youngsters may arrive back as adults!

    Here she's chasing off a marsh harrier!

    She's best seen from Singleton or Townend hide at the moment but don't always expect her to be about, she sometimes goes off hunting or has a rest so again everyone needs to be patient and please allow other visitors the opportunity to view the birds from the hides.

    As is the norm at this time of year there are lots of birds passing through so there was a real eclectic mix of species on offer despite the far from perfect weather, the question is where the heck do I start! (Slight pause and sound of brain whirring)

    OK here we go - I'll start with the little uns, again there was both whinchat and wheatear up at Ousefleet as well as a few yellow wagtails. Plenty of warblers with lesser whitethroat, whitethroats, willow warblers, cettis warblers, chiffchaffs, plenty of sedgies, the odd reeling gropper and two or three reed warblers newly arrived.

    Female yellow wagtail at Ousefleet - take note Barry.

    Singing sedge warbler - they are doing some lovely flight display at the moment

    Linnet collecting nesting material this morning - I thinks its konik hair!

    Willow warbler by Si and Tim Jump

    Tree sparrow

    Quite an arrival too of one of my favourite birds the devil bird better known as swifts, also with the cold good views to be had of swallows, house martins and sand martins which on Saturday were being chased by the years first hobby.

    Devil bird

    And birds of prey have just been amazing with the marsh harriers being superb and notably yesterday evening an obvious arrival to roost of up to four first summer birds that must have freshly arrived from Africa maybe? Add in Buzzards, sparrowhawk, peregrine, kestrel, some amazing barn owls and short eared owls in the evening then its making for some amazing aprez tea time birding. Last night poor old barnie got battered by the hirundines (see picture below) then by four marsh harriers and the female montys all at the same time! 

    Barn owl pics

    Marsh harrier action - there's some real territorial scraps at the moment

    And just some most excellent close up viewing

    Waders are a bit thin on the ground to say the least but again plenty of avocet, there were also up to 100 black tailed godwits on Saturday but they seem to have deserted us since, just two lovely summer plumaged dunlin hanging about and interestingly 9 oystercatchers west but just one lonely lapwing. Hopefully when the wind direction decides to shift out of the north then then things may pick up?

    Spotted redshank in spring are just amazing - photo by Tim and Si Jump

    And feeding on insects brought up by the waves on Xerox lagoon by Pedro

    I know not many people seem to like the Black headed gulls but I do, and that in part is because they attract unusual species in, take for example yesterday when one of our volunteers Steve picked out two full summer plumaged Mediterranean gulls in with the BHG colony, now do you see what I mean?

    And sometimes the greylags aren't too popular but I challenge you not to like this shot of gosling and mother taken in front of Marshlands hide.  

    Plenty of other duck to look out for particularly pochard, tufted duck, shoveler, teal and gadwall, also plenty of little grebes and a pair of great crested on Singleton and a couple of little egrets hanging about. Other interesting news concerns our mute swans, we seem to after last years successful brood rearing have a min population boom with three pairs on eggs this year! 

    Gadwall looking lovely in close up

    So with more of a southerly flow forecast in the weather what are we in store for? 


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 28 April 2016

    The summer migrants certainly late - but defiantly not forgotten

    It seems that in the last couple of days a few more migrants have started to trickle in with a nice selection of warblers on site today and a fantastic adult male whinchat who was feeding out on the grazing marsh as I shepherded the sheep.  

    Yesterday evening I recorded the first singing reed warbler as I walked up to Ousefleet, that's a really late indeed but maybe not a surprise considering the temperature, there were also quite a few whitethroats about this morning and three lesser whitethroat's in the car park area too. Still up to three reeling grasshopper warblers around the hides and plenty of sedge warblers, willow warblers and chiffchaffs. The male blackcap's are starting to become particularly showy at the moment as are the Cetti's warblers as you can see from the photo's below.

    Blackcap singing near Xerox

    Whitethroat in front of reception

    And a Shot from Mr Pilsworth of a Cettis warbler - good to see the tail feather shape on this one

    Over the weekend the first swift was recorded but the hirundines are finding it hard going with the poor swallows often having to pick insects of the surface of the water. A distinct increase in yellow wagtails today too, they have locally just been unbelievably scarce, right across the arable.

    Yellow wagtail at Ousefleet in front of the hide yesterday evening

    The bittern is still booming while there are plenty of marsh harriers hunting around site. I do fear for the poor ol'beardies though that had young in the nest last week, I cant believe they have survived such perishing weather. Also the barn owl was hunting out in the daylight this morning in front of reception at 9.30am. 

    Plenty of avocet's now laying eggs though but still with the poor migration weather waders are thin on the ground to say  the least, highlights have been 14 spotted redshank occasionally roosting on site, 2 lapwing, 9 black tailed godwits, 12 snipe, 1 fly over whimbrel, a couple of Oystercatchers and the odd redshank, and that's yer lot! Lets hope this situation changes soon!   

    As I checked the ponies this morning it was certainly nice to have a few linnets back singing on the grassland and lots of meadow pipits and skylarks around, this skylark below seems to be collecting food for either its incubating mate or for young in the nest, good look to em!

    And while driving in to work down Church lane in Reedness this morning I had this lovely singing corn bunting, if you see it stay in your car and it'll stay singing on the wires, there were also a couple of yellow wags too.

    Corn bunt singing its little heart out

    And a yellow wagtail behind it

    And finally apologies for no blog for a while, I've been on a work trip looking at management of agricultural fields on the continent - can anybody guess where from the photo below. I'll hopefully be doing a full blog on why I was wondering through the tulips.


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 22 April 2016

    Cuckoo ye not

    Its still not really quite feeling like spring at the moment with this nagging North Westerly wind so when I was walking up to Ousefleet hide this morning I was flabbergasted to see this beautiful male cuckoo appear right in front of me on the Cherry tree. It didn't cuckoo though and after I'd managed to take a quick record shot it flew off to go and feed. One things for sure it wasn't looking for reed warblers as there aren't any singing in the reedbed at the moment! Mind you it is still early for reed warbler and like several of the other migrants seem to be doing they may be feeding out of sight in the reedbed or willows. With this cold there is no doubt that many migrants are concentrating on feeding to survive rather than sing.

    I really miss seeing cuckoo regularly they really are a superb bird, they were so common when I was a teenager and what a sad state of affairs it is where we now regard them almost as a semi rarity in this part East Yorkshire.


    And a bit blury flight shot as it disappeared into the hedge

    Saying that there a at least four grasshopper warblers now on site reeling in the reedbed and plenty of noisy sedge warblers, willow warblers and chiffchaffs. The cold certainly doesn't seem to be affecting the Cetti's warblers who seem to be singing from almost every bush.  There are blackcaps on site but they are very reluctant to sing although you may get a reasonable sighting in the willows, no whitethroats as yet and very few yellow wagtails

    Sedge warbler

    And how about this excellent shot from Tim and Si Jump of one of our Groppers, just in time for inclusion into the blog!

    Not many waders either but there was a single greenshank north this morning and over 80 avocets with several now incubating eggs. The bittern is still booming strong and there is plenty of marsh harrier action, this male was having a real fight with the carrion crows this morning. 

    I'm behind you!

    Yesterday a brief foray into the reedbed to survey the bearded tits confirmed that the odd pair are now feeding young in the nest, always an early breeder it always surprises me how hardy these little reedbed sprites are, and how elusive they can be! As I watched one of the pairs feeding a short eared owl floated by. 

    Another bonus while I was checking the grass growth on the grazing marsh (no comments about letting the grass grow under my feet please!) was a nice pair of wheatears, unfortunately I'd left my camera in the office, I think there's a lesson to be learnt there!

    If you want to see what else is about at the moment read my last blog. 

    I'll finish with our recent Aerial photo taken last week of the reserve, you can see in the background the extensive Wetland across the Trent at Alkborough Flats

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 20 April 2016

    Icelandic Exodus

    Yesterday evening as I sat in Ousefleet hide the now almost fully summer plumaged black tailed godwit's were stood in front in the water all constantly chattering excitedly, the wind was a light easterly, the sky was clear and the sun was shining, then suddenly they lifted up in a tight flock and headed off with a definate purpose in a north westerly direction, headed for their breeding grounds in Iceland! A breathtaking sight.

    I'd seen this before many years ago and maybe should have known what was in store when I had seen 7 whimbrel fly north in the morning, shortly afterwards I headed down to Singleton and called in at First hide, suddenly there were more godwits coming towards me flying over the reserve from Alkborough Flats, these too must have been on their way north along with a party of 45 redshank also probably on their way to Iceland. For me this was a very special and privileged moment , seeing migration happening before your very eyes and knowing that their next stop could be hundreds of miles to the North is something that really drives my personal inspiration and fascination with our bird life's incredible lives. Birding is not always about the rare and unusual it's often very much about enjoying those special moments and appreciating how amazing birds and their migration really are, yes a very special moment indeed and one that I will remember for a long time to come.

    Luckily not all the black tails have gone, there were still 77 this morning up at Ousefleet - this picture was of the birds that left yesterday.

    And the redshank flying high  

    There's been quite a bit of movement this week with the first three grasshopper warblers reeling in the reedbed and the years first lesser whitethroat rattling this morning. The reedbeds are full of sedge warblers too accompanied by Cetti's all singing often loud and in full view, but strangly no reed warblers yet although for them it is still early. In the scrub there are still plenty of chiffchaffs and willow warblers but the blackcaps are a little more elusive this year for some reason, they are there but the cold seems to be making them reluctant to sing!

    Chiffchaff - what a lovely bird they are close up

    Sedge warbler this morning belting out its song

    The bittern is still booming big and probably now between 10 and 12 pairs of marsh harrier nesting on site with the male often bringing in some quite large pieces of food for the females. The avocets on Townend are also pretty good value as they attempt to make their scrapes ready for the first eggs.

    The black headed gulls too are just starting to build up their nests at Marshland collecting food right in front of the hide

    Wader passage is still a little subdued due to the generally northerly conditions but there is a pair of oystercatchers on site, a few snipe, curlew, redshank and this gorgeous male lapwing.

    And worth a second photo of our poor lonely lappi

    Tuesday saw this immature little gull on Xerox although it could at times be a bit difficult to connect with as it kept flying off and then returning.

    At least three little egret on site and plenty of duck in fine summer plumage, you only have to  look at the photo's below to appreciate how beautiful wildfowl really are at this time of the year.




    And the first Cootlings!

    Lots of other passerines to see including the odd yellow wagtail, and also this nice white wagtail which was feeding near to the black tailed godwits. Funny really as the wagtail was probably also off to Iceland, I always find it amazing that these innocuous little birds who winter in Africa fly all the way to iceland, probably one of the longest migrations of any passerine in Europe!

    White wagtail

    And I'll finish with a lovely blue tit who I rescued from inside on of the hides - I got a nice peck of thanks!





    Posted by Pete Short

  • 18 April 2016

    Its snow joke!

    Apparently we had 22mm of snow here on Friday night that settled on the ground while I was fast asleep in bed and although when I got up at 6am it had just about melted it was certainly a reminder that yet again this spring is most defiantly another cold one dominated by Northerly airflows, frosts and cold rainfall.

    The cold weather seems to be raising the spirits of the new Koniks Theo and Splat!

    In the short term this is making things pretty difficult for the breeding birds and particularly the poor migrants who must be wondering why the heck they had returned from Africa, me too to be honest at times I wish I was back in the warmth of Ethiopia!

    However, all that said there is still some good birding to be had here on the Sands, particularly when the sun shines and gives a little bit of welcome warmth to an hour or two's birding. 

    Again I think maybe my recent photo's will go towards showing whats on offer and the quality of views that can be had of many of the species here on site and around the local area. One little consolation of the northerly winds seems to be that its holding some birds around site that would have maybe traveled further north by this time. Willow warblers and chiffchaffs seem to be equally affected as they are for us here on the Sands amazingly abundant around site and giving some very nice views as below. Other migrants are only trickling in but there seemed to be a few more blackcaps today and there was our first cuckoo on Friday, plenty of sedge warblers, the odd wheatear and yellow wagtail and a steady flow of swallows, sand and house martins. Amazingly though nothing new reported in during the weekend.

    Willow warbler

    And it seems that the northerlies as last year are starting to have advantages for a build up of a few waders with up to 177 fantastic mostly summer plumaged black tailed godwits feeding and roosting up at Ousefleet, there were also 8 spotted redshank this weekend and the first two summer plumaged dunlin this morning looking very dapper with their black bellies. Other waders on offer include Oystercatchers, curlew, lapwing, snipe, up to 73 avocets, redshank  and the first whimbrel of the year west on Friday.

    Black-tailed godwits from this morning (more photo's from the weekend on my last blog)

    And with avocets

    And with dunlin


    And avocets from the weekend

    Our bittern is still booming through most days while plenty of bird of prey action particularly our spectacular marsh harriers, but there is also plenty of buzzard sightings, kestrel and sparrowhawk. Barn owls still active at times and a chance of short eared owl. A lone red kite was again seen on Saturday, this species seems to be seen more and more these days as the population expands around the UK. At least one ringtail hen harrier still feeding around site occasionally.

    Marsh harriers have been just brilliant from reception - almost in front of the glass!

    At least three little egrets are now being seen regularly feeding around site while there is also a lone whooper swan out on the grazing marsh, it can fly but I seem to think that its not quite as well as it should be. Also still one goldeneye and one wigeon mixing with the other breeding duck around site. Hot of the press - the male scaup has re-appeared at Singleton this morning. 

    Whooper swan

    And a lovely little grebe at Marshland

    Male gadwall

    This little gull just turned up this afternoon - I was sent this picture by my colleague Carl - it was on Xerox, I still have to see one either this or from last year - elusive

    Our resident birds have been pretty excellent recently too especially the seemingly zillions of cettis warblers that seem to be in every part of the willow scrub and reedbed around the hides! This is leading to some great views and even the odd photo opportunity - woo-hoo, see below. Also plenty of reed buntings and tree sparrows, the tree sparrows seem to be building up their egg laying capability at the moment by feeding on the ground on insects and seedlings, this seems to help build up calcium for the eggshells.

    Cetti's warbler

    Reed bunting

    And tree sparrow

    I also had a little walk around the farmland the other day and managed to get some good views of corn bunting and yellow wagtail, best area near the reserve is on Swinefleet common. Its not easy to photograph corn bunt on the ground so I was quite pleased with this attempt. 

    Corn bunt

    And yellow wagtail - Ain't they just a superb bird! 

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 16 April 2016

    Black tailed godwits show off all their finery

    This morning can you believe we started with a layer of snow here on the estuary! The 16th April and it was certainly not a typical spring morning, in fact it was decidedly wintry and this did not bode well for my birding as I shepherded the Koniks, but persistence can pay off and sometimes inclement weather can give its rewards. 

    You see I've been pretty busy work wise over the last week and had seen in the reserve log that there had been a had a steady build up of one of my favourite waders black tailed godwit. They had been feeding up on Ousefleet lagoon, often in front of the hide but every evening when I'd gone up to try and see them in all their breeding colours they had done a flyer and gone off to roost across the river! Very frustrating and to top it off last night it even started raining and then hailing!

    This morning though despite the cold I decided to chance my arm, brave the cold and see if my luck was in. Fortunately it seems that the snow had been my Allie and brought lots of earth worms up to the top of the grassland in front of Ousefleet hide, so when I carefully entered the hide there they were 177 superb black tailed godwits all moulting into their breeding plumage and chattering away to each other. This gave me some fantastic birding almost at times feeling like I was part of the flock, in fact it was difficult to drag myself away to get on with the rest of my work.

    The Humber estuary is a vital winter and passage feeding area for a large part of the Icelandic breeding population, but there are serious threats to the Humber population due to the construction of a deep water port on their main feeding grounds at Immingham. We desperately need more good feeding habitat for this species if we are to retain this sort of amazing wader spectacle for the future and this should be provided further down the estuary by the developer not just by us in the upper estuary. Will it happen? We will have to wait and see.............

    In the meantime here's a few photo's of them - a reminder of what we could loose if functional (functional means that that the godwits are feeding on it!) compensatory habitat isn't provided before the development takes place. 



    Posted by Pete Short

  • 14 April 2016

    Booming Big!

    There's no doubt that this year our male bittern is defiantly booming big time, morning, noon and night! Sit in just about any hide on the reserve when its nice and still and you'll hear the young lad giving his all to attract the females. So if you've never heard bittern booming and want to sample the delights of the butterbump, (a local name and not a very nice one really as apparently it referred to how they self basted themselves while cooking) then now is the time to visit and listen to the rhythmic loud booms that echo across the marshland! Bitterns were apparently at one time a popular Friday meat alternative for the wealthy as they were 'allowed' by the Catholic church to be classified as fish, a bit of a swiz really! Why didn't they just go down the chippy and get a bit of haddock, I bet bittern tastes pretty awful anyway.

    Anyway enough frivolity and back to the excellent birding that has been turning up some interesting species over the last few days. After a two day absence at least one male garganey turned up again at Singleton this morning while a spotted redshank was on Xerox, just starting to attain it black summer plumage. Other goodies brought in by the changeable weather patterns were two green sandpipers on Monday at Ousefleet and little gull at Singleton on Tuesday.  

    Male and female Garganey from Monday

    Birds of prey and owls have been pretty good recently although it seems like our long eared owls (last seen Tuesday) have started to hide themselves away from everyone now and hopefully get down to breeding? Marsh harriers on the other hand have been excellent and there has still been at least one ring tail hen harrier seen most days. Owls though still continue to entertain with short eared over the reedbed last night and very pleasingly a male barn owl taking voles back to the nest box at Marshland. This really is good news and has really warmed the cockles of my heart as the female lost her mate on the road in the early winter (see my old blogs). She's been alone since then so I was really delighted to see the male taking her food last night. He's a pretty tough customer too as you can see from my record photo that he managed to fend off a kesi that tried to steal the vole!

    Barn owl with vole, and defending its super from Kes

    As you would expect there has been quite a bit of migration over the last few days with some cracking male wheatears going through on their way north. These seemed to be dropped down by Tuesdays heavy rain along with large numbers of sedge warblers and a few willow warblers. Other migrants are trickling in with a few yellow wagtails, plenty of chiffchaffs who are already nest building, swallow, sand martins, and the odd blackcap. However there is still the odd winter bird about too with fieldfare also seen mid week. 

    Male wheatear - the question is which race? looks quite bright

    And the recent tidal flooding 

    Seems to be giving the reed buntings plenty of habitat 

    And these little chaps - displaying sedge warbler, you get better photographs a bit later in the spring!

    Plenty of avocet's currently on site with over 50 now looking as though they are getting ready for egg laying, best seen on Townend lagoon in the morning at the moment but at least some are usually present most of the day. Other waders are again thin on the ground but there is usually curlew, redshank, lapwing and at least 12 snipe present. Hopefully as our water levels on Ousefleet Start to drop after the high tide flooding then we may start getting a few black tailed godwits back on to site from across the river (how prophetic - just been told there are 60 up on Ousefleet today!).

    Avocets on Townend

    The black headed gulls are wanting to get down to nesting but their numbers are well down on the past few years, no doubt the effect of Marsh harrier predation.


    A good smattering of common duck about to brighten the place up but notably at least one goldeneye is still on site. Lots of Cetti's warblers singing about site with one almost blasting my hat off this morning it was so close and loud! Also look out for little egrets, tree sparrows and all our common breeding birds as you walk around site. 

    Good to see too this morning a nice bit of spring fungi emerging on the grazing marsh this morning, still to identify it but it looks a bit like its some sort of bolete? 



    Posted by Pete Short

Your sightings

Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

Green-winged Teal ()
13 Apr 2016
Avocet (68)
4 May 2016
Cetti's Warbler (3)
4 May 2016
Singing/breeding calls heard
Tree Sparrow (6)
4 May 2016
Pair present
Yellow Wagtail (1)
3 May 2016
Spotted Redshank (4)
2 May 2016
Water Rail ()
30 Apr 2016
Pink-footed Goose (1)
30 Apr 2016
Whimbrel (19)
30 Apr 2016
Whinchat (1)
30 Apr 2016

Contact us

Where is it?

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

Get directions