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Recent sightings

  • 30 November 2015

    Blow the wind down

    Despite the very changeable weather and strong winds at the moment there has been some pretty decent birding here on the sands in the last few days.

    The harrier roost held 18 marsh harriers on Friday although no sign of the hen harriers despite both male and female hen harrier being reported roosting on Thursday, again it seems very much if your lucks in with this species at the moment. At least two merlins knocking around so check the kestrels perched on top of the bushes, sparrowhawk is pretty regular and chance of peregrine and buzzard.

    I had a little peek under a bit of driftwood where I suspected there was a short tailed vole nest, imagine my surprise (and theirs) at seeing six young voles all huddled up together!

     I put the driftwood back down so they could regroup as this female kestrel obviously knew what was happening!

     A good selection of wildfowl on site at the moment with plenty of teal (including our white headed bird), shelduck, wigeon, 3 goldeneye, gadwall and shoveler. A few skeins of pinkfeet still flying over from time to time and certainly worth checking out all the greylags as a Greenland white-fronted goose was reported in with them at Alkborough across the river. 

    But pride of place goes to our little mini family 'herd' of 4 whooper swans who arrived on Saturday and are still feeding in fields next to the reserve. (see last blog for more pictures)

    Waders can be fickle as many are feeding over at Alkborough but there are up to 12 ruff roosting at Ousefleet and a few redshank and dunlin on high tide. 500 lapwing and 500 golden plover came of the Humber Apex on Friday to provide a nice backdrop to the roosting harriers. The recent tides have been poor so we have not had any water onto the site, this could be good news at Ousefleet as the water levels may lower in December and hopefully attract a few more waders in.

    Ruff and dunlin

    Lapwings in a panic

    This little egret provided a nice late November treat in front of Ousefleet - low and behold there was sunlight too!

    And the wind just raising its head feathers

    Strange that many of the Fieldfare have moved on despite there being oodles of Hawthorn berries still on the bushes, but the reserve still has a few plus a few other thrushes. Stonechats have been good recently and so have the Cetti's warblers who seem to show better and better these days. On calm mornings there is a chance of bearded tit and water pipit flying around but also still good numbers of more reed buntings around and of course our tree sparrows on the feeders.


    A lurking Cetti's warbler on the barrier at Marshland

    Again the mammals have been showing quite regularly with roe deer, fox, brown rat (good bird of prey food), weasel and stoat all around.  

    But I'll leave you with another shot of the voles













    Posted by Pete Short

  • 28 November 2015

    A very tired family

    This years whooper swan passage seems to have really been disrupted by this constant South westerly airflow and strong winds with their main migration route being shifted over a few miles towards the coast with many seen at Bempton , Spurn, Donna nook and Gibraltar Point. We have seen reasonable numbers but not the big days passage's that have marked the last couple of years when they have moved through in large numbers.

    The biggest herd has been just twenty birds strong but now it seems like its the turn of the late stragglers, those birds with the cygnets in tow who find it harder to move in poor conditions. This morning I spotted a small party of four swans flying south just as the wind picked up, then suddenly they decided to land on the reserve and made a bee line for Singleton lagoon, as it happened when me and Charlie went to investigate it turned out to be  a lovely little family party of whoopers. It was a great leaving present for Charlie who finishes her contract on Monday and therefore this weekend will be her last.

    They gave some excellent views as they moved closer to the hide, always nice to see such beautiful birds and it was difficult to leave them and get back to work, here's a few shots of them as they rested from their epic journey towards East Anglia from Iceland.

    Plenty of other birds around too with merlin, water pipit, ruff, little egret, stonechat, today then 18 marsh harriers yesterday with 500 lapwing and 500 golden plover in the distance over the Humber Apex.




    Posted by Pete Short

  • 27 November 2015

    Birding in the darkness, a new approach?

    Over the last few days the high tides have been in the wee hours of the morning which has meant that to ensure the livestock have been kept safe in case of a surge tide we have had to be on site pretty early just in case the sheep and ponies have required a bit of ushering up onto the bank for safety.

    Wednesday morning saw me pulling into the car park in the dark but with a superb glowering moon in the sky with a glimmering Mars (that's the planet not the bar btw) by its side. the temperature was cool but not cold and there was a stillness that carried the sound across the sands. Wigeon whistling, Cetti's singing and water rails squealing made it all that bit more special. Even in the dark I could enjoy my birding and must have heard at least 20 species by the time I reached the grazing marsh.

    The early morning marsh

    And the tide? Nothing at all! But still at least I'd enjoyed my early start. Yawn

    Bird wise its been a pretty good week for this time in November with a good variety of species, in fact something for everyone in all departments. Even in the rain I had great views of a barn owl battling with a kestrel as it fought to keep its breakfast vole, marsh harriers have been superb and there has been merlin knocking about. No reports of the hen harrier but I may do a roost watch tonight to see what is coming in.  There has also been regular peregrine and sparrowhawk so a good range on site at the moment.

    I've been having some lovely shots sent to me by visitors of this kestrel who seems to bask in his beauty

    Photo by Mike Booth


    And this ones a lovely shot by Pat Hogarth


    And a nice early morning landscape of a couple of Marsh harriers by Pedro

    A interesting range of passerines (perching birds) have included grey wagtail, stonechat and a few bearded tits at Townend, the kingfisher continues to show well as do the Cetti's warblers which seem to be everywhere at the moment! There may have even been an influx of Cetti's on Thursday morning as they were just all over the shop, I even found one in a hedge alongside the grazing marsh! Still a continued passage of siskin and redpoll over and brambling around the car park yesterday in with an obvious influx of chaffinch. Only a few fieldfare alongside a few redwing and song thrushes, the wardening team have reported up to four water pipits around as they cut the reed near to Singleton so keep and ear open for them as they fly around giving out their distinctive whist-whist call.

    A different angle on the Kingfisher by Mike Booth

    And stonechat

    Wader interest has centered on up to ten ruff and 58 snipe that are mixing in with the currently low numbers of redshank, lapwing and golden plover. Plenty of curlew flying up the river though with a peak of 50 birds recently. The single little egret is still feeding on Ousefleet from time to time. Just to note an American golden plover was seen on Swinefleet common this week so if you see some goldies in a field as you drive to the reserve it may be worth a scan through.

    A super wisp of snipe on Townend

    And curlew against the morning sky at Ousefleet

    A herd of 20 whoopers went through mid week, and on the lagoons there are now up to four goldeneye and moderate numbers of wigeon, teal, shelduck, mallard, gadwall and shoveler which are all looking pretty dapper in their winter plumage. A few little grebes are hanging on much later than usual while the lagoons remain ice free but only a few small skeins of pinkfeet left in the area at the moment.

    Pinks over Blacktoft Church

    One of the other feature's of the morning was the massive number of gulls coming out of the Humber roost, it was almost impossible to estimate as many were leaving in the semi dark and distant so that you couldn't estimate species, but thousands of common gulls, black headed and herring accompanied by lesser numbers of great black backed gulls. A pretty amazing sight and difficult to do justice in a photo, but here's one, double click for best results. Worth a look through on an evening just in case there's a white winger.........






    Posted by Pete Short

  • 23 November 2015

    Here cometh the ice, man

    At last we have seen a bit of winter here on the Humber with the first snow showers, frost and ice on the lagoons, its been fantastic to feel the chill of winter and experience the fantastic birding rewards that it has brought as many birds flock together and come closer for some most excellent views.

    And what a weekend it was, I avoided the Christmas crush in town and made my way out into the sunshine to do a bit of birding in the light of day, nothing too shocking there then. But plenty for everyone to see all weekend with reports of both hen harriers, ringtail and adult male and the barn owl showing well on Sunday. The Marsh harriers were stunning as they came out of roost both mornings particularly on Saturday when they were battling the Northerly gale and snow showers! There was also peregrine, sparrowhawk and kestrel to add to the raptor extravaganza.

    A couple of marsh harrier photos's

    fighting the snow!

    Wigeon numbers are also building up nicely particularly on Xerox lagoon where they have been driven by the ice to feed, there was a total of 390 on site today, 330 of which were on Xerox. Another duck of note too was the drake goosander which put in another brief appearance flying over Ousefleet while the goldeneye passage is the best for years with more flocks of 7 and 4 west on Sunday and up to three birds feeding on the lagoons now.

    Wigeon grazing the island on Xerox - I will always love wigeon, they evoke so many fond memories!

    Teal and shoveler

    And goldeneye

    Before the 'little' freeze up this morning, (I can't bring myself to call it the big freeze yet), there were up to 52 black tailed godwits on Saturday and then 9 ruff roosting on Ousefleet on Sunday, all supported by lapwing, curlew, redshank, snipe and up to 30 dunlin. Still at least one little egret hanging on and feeding around the sheep.

    Black tailed godwits flying past reception

    But its also the little bods that have really been livening up proceedings with the bushes, particularly the Alders at Ousefleet holding some lovely siskin and goldfinch, but also a mix of goldcrest, cettis warbler, song thrush, redpoll,  redwing and not forgetting our friendly robin.



    And Roberta

    The fieldfare continue to be entertaining and so are the starlings with flocks of up to 10,000 occasionally going over. Plenty of tree sparrows around the feeders and overhead passage of skylark, woodpigeon and chaffinch.

    Starlings look lovely in the right light - these were at Ousefleet offset by the red of the Haw berries

     The Kingfisher continues to enthrall while the fen specialities have been really good with lots of reed buntings feeding along the paths and regular stonechats along the sides of the lagoons.

    The stonechats look great in the clear light of cold weather - this one was at Ousefleet

    But best of all the cold has been bringing out the bearded tits around the edges of the lagoons, Eddie had some at Townend while the team cleaning the hides had 7 showing well at Marshland today, these photos were at Ousefleet as I shepherded the Koniks.

    A lovely male


    An equally lovely female showing how easily they can blend into their habitat

    I'll finish today with the mammals who are also starting to show as the cooler weather bites, look out for roe deer, hare and fox all of which I saw during the weekend and also this stoat that is hunting around the footpaths, when I took this photo it was jumping into the long vegetation almost a meter of the ground, fascinating to watch although this robin was mobbing it, from a safe distance that is!











    Posted by Pete Short

  • 22 November 2015

    Cold snap brings out the titmice

    With all the blustery windy weather over the last few weeks the bearded tits have been seemingly keeping themselves very much tucked up in the reedbed. Even the Wardening team have been saying that they haven't seen or heard feather or ping of em as they have worked cutting the reedbed ditches.

    Well that's very much the thing about bearded titmice (The old English name  - they are colloquially known as the old man of the reedbed in France - a reference to their moustache which many older French men once sported), they just disappear for weeks on an end and when you think they have disappeared altogether along comes a bit of frost and ice and low and behold there they are feeding on the reed seed in front of you.

    Here's a few snaps of them from this morning up at Ousefleet. Take a look at how the female looks like a little mouse, hence titmouse

    The old man of the reedbed showing off his moustache

    You can see the nice gentle pink blush on the flank of this one as it extracts the reed seed

    Here's the titmouse look I was on about

    And a pair together on the reed top

    I'll keep a couple back for tomorrows weekend sighting blog - some good sightings of a nice range of birds and some good light for photo's - should be worth a gander.




    Posted by Pete Short

  • 19 November 2015

    November heats up as temperature drops!

    The last couple of days has seen some excellent mid November birding especially when the wind decides to die down! Todays dynamic duo of usually cryptic crepuscular creepers and peepers were bittern and short eared owl with the support of kingfisher, at least two stonechats and plenty of marsh harriers (peak of 24 at roost recently). The SEO was hunting next to the car park in the middle of the day!

    Kingie on his/her favourite perch - Xerox depth gauge


    And stonechat

    A few waders drifting back onto site too with ruff yesterday, up to 30 dunlin on the tide and a supporting cast of curlew, lapwing, snipe and redshank. Not so many golden plover about though for some reason, maybe they know the chill is on the way.

    It seems the duck want to be on the grazing marsh pools at the moment with good numbers of wigeon around plus a mix of shelduck, gadwall, shoveler, teal and a single goldeneye still good numbers of pinkies over too despite being chased of every field they settle in poor things.

    It's always interesting to note how different birds use different habitat management on site, take the wigeon, they really seem to like the sheep grazed areas at the moment at Ousefleet, no surprise really as they like the growing tips that the sheep create that have high sugar levels in them. But it was interesting to note that exactly one day after I let the Koniks out of their 'diet' enclosure the wigeon had already started to graze the areas of grass they were feeding on in front of the hide(below).

    Wigeon grazing with the sheep - can you see them? Double click photo for better view

    It was also interesting to see Fiery Fred and Freda (our resident mute swans) suddenly get super aggressive in front of Ousefleet hide, then I saw another adult swan flying past, they certainly do feel protective of their young although it seems one is currently AWOL somewhere. Here's a pic of them all fluffed up ready for battle.

    The barn owls are still around and may get better as the cool weather gets a grip but no confirmed sighting of the hen harrier over the last couple of days unless someone can correct me. There's been merlin though along with the usual kestrels and sparrowhawks.

    Marsh harrier

    Plenty of fieldfares around still plus redwings, song thrushes and blackbirds, Cettis warblers still singing and the odd siskin and redpoll over. Still the odd little egret feeding on site and plenty of water rails squealing with one bird showing in the borrow ditch as the water levels drop at an alarming rate.    

    I'll finish with something really seasonal! This morning I noticed that there were at least three flowering plants on the grazing marsh, buttercup, chamomile and red clover, they're going to get a real shock this weekend!




    Posted by Pete Short

  • 17 November 2015

    The land that light forgot

    Yes it very much seems like the dark winter days are upon us and with next week looking as though temperatures may be a little more near to 'normal' there is now certainly a feel that Winter is at last on the way . My early morning birding is now mostly WSL, that is without sunlight, hopefully a bit of sun will return so that I can bring you colour pictures rather than 'black and white'.

    A lovely bright morning sunrise which turned out to be a bit of a false dawn!

    But the birding on site has not been without its rewards despite the wind and rain forcing many of the wildfowl to seek refuge on the river, persistence usually gives at least one reward per day! The male hen harrier is still joining the marsh harriers at roost time and there have also been records of buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel. The barn owls too are still about although they seem to be favouring the Ousefleet end of the site at the moment where I was lucky enough to have one feeding right next to me one evening while I was checking the sheep.

    A lovely male goosander out on Ousefleet flash was a nice sighting this morning, they seem to get scarcer and scarcer as each year passes here on the Sands, this is probably to do with the milder winters that means they stay further north or on the continent. It was a shame the sun wasn't quite out of bed for the photo's as the males have lovely green heads.

    And having a preen

    Still the odd party of whooper swans making their way over the site heading south but it seems these constant westerly's are forcing them to migrate down the east coast this year right by the seaside. Still at least 11,000 pinkfeet roosting on the Humber so look out for them feeding on the fields as you make your way to the reserve or for parties flying over the site during the day. A bit of a build up of Shelduck saw 43 on site this morning along with a mix of wigeon, shoveler, teal, gadwall and mallard plus still at least 5 little grebes and a single goldeneye on Ousefleet flash.

    four of the six Whoopers

    Wigeon are now almost in full plumage

    Pinks out on the fields

    Other notables includes kingfisher, stonechat, several Cetti's warblers and the first grey wagtail for a while this morning. Two yellowhammers were welcome sightings in the hedgerow while there are still good numbers of Fieldfare around with a few more redwing, songthrush and blackbirds around this week. But this cheeky robin that was begging food at Ousefleet was most defiantly sporting the grey belly of a british bird.

    The blue, great and Long tailed tit flocks up at Ousefleet often contain a couple of lovely goldcrests while the passage of redpolls and siskin seems still to be going strong.

    Goldcrest at Ousefleet - he looks a bit Nordic to me.

    Following on from my blog about the good vis mig of siskin and redpoll this autumn some of you may be interested in reading the BTO's demography (demog) blog on the autumns siskin passage and their origins and destinations and also the impressive goldcrest influx this autumn and the amazing distance many of those have travelled. Here's a link that should take you to the blog, you may have to wait a day or so as they are updating it today.

    read more about this autumn's exceptional Siskin surge

    Male siskin

    I'll leave you with a couple of bits of other biodiversity

    A newly emerged Angleshades moth that was in Xerox hide the other evening! These warm temperatures are really stretching out the emergence season for some species

    And this young buck roe deer who was obviously wanting to prove his manhood this morning despite his lack of antlers!





    Posted by Pete Short

  • 12 November 2015

    Male Hen Harrier joins the Roost spectacular

    With all this ridiculously mild weather its seems like its been a long-long wait for the hen harriers to join the evening roost. And oh yes they've certainly tantalized us with their sporadic appearances, just like their nickname the grey ghost of the reedbed they've appeared in front of you and then been lost into the vapours before your very eyes.

    Yesterday the ringtail speeded in front of me and over Xerox hide and then back around via Ousefleet and off onto the arable. Then later in the afternoon Matt, who was working at a neighbours cutting reed texted me at about 3pm to say a grey male had come towards the reserve! Was this going to be it, were we at last going to have a roosting bird in with the Marsh harriers or was it going to disappear into thin air?

    And so it was I decided to go and see for myself, a short while later I was sat in Singleton hide with the marsh harriers drifting in and putting on a fantastic show, sixteen of them but no sign of either the ringtail or grey male hen. Then almost at the last, just to the side of the Marsh harriers the grey male hen harrier appeared out of know where! He put on a lovely little fly around the reedbed before finally drifting back in and landing to roost in the reedbed, the last bird to roost!

    My pictures were pretty poor of the male hen as it was a bit dark so you'll have to make do with a marsh harrier!

    And today he's come in again so hopefully he'll make a regular habit of it and be joined by the ringtail and if the weather comes a bit cooler a few more could appear and make for a great December roost spectacle.

    There is certainly a good selection of birds on site at the moment what with the harriers, sparrowhawk, plenty of kestrels and of course our late afternoon stars of the show the barn owls.

    kestrel hovering on the grazing marsh

    It seems that now that bonfire week has finished the pinkfeet are starting to drift back onto the estuary, a friend pointed out to me that we always loose them during this week, he reckons they don't like the fireworks and he may just be right! But probably about 1000 out today and over the site. Still plenty of shoveler, gadwall, wigeon, and teal on the lagoons and these are being joined by a few waders including lapwing, over 50 snipe, redshank, curlew and a single spotted redshank from time to time.

    Its not often that the pinks mix in with the graylags like this

    The snipe seem to like roosting on Townend


    The windy mornings have meant that visible migration has been a bit stop start but with this morning being bright and not so blustery there was renewed vigour, over 300 fieldfare, quite a few wood pigeon, lots of skylark, a few meadow pipits, 20+ siskin and a few redpoll some of which were feeding in the same alders as the siskin were.

    Redpoll in the Alders

    And woodies

    Other highlights have been kingfisher, stonechats (at least 4 around the lagoons), 3+ cettis, and the years first woodcock and just reported by Liz someone saw a bittern today at Singleton! There's still a few little egrets flying around and occasionally touching down for a feed.

    Little egret flythrough

     And at last there is an increase in the number of fungi on site, this lovely pair were on a bit of driftwood.

    And look who getting his winter coat - he must be sweltering, our koniks much prefer snow and sub zero!




    Posted by Pete Short

  • 11 November 2015

    Barn Owls superb

    It really is worth a visit for the Barnies at the moment as they are just showing superbly, our star female who hunts in front of the hide is just the best barn owl in terms of how close she comes towards people and also by being the most exquisitely plumaged bird that I have ever seen. The best time to have a chance of connecting with both her and the rather more shy male is to come at early gates or to stay and watch the raptor roost which is building nicely at the moment. I'll do a full sightings blog at the end of the week but recent highlights have been the winters first woodcock, ringtail hen harrier this morning, merlin, water pipit, stonechats, and kingfisher.

    Anyway in honor of Bertina the barn owl  here's a few pictures of her from yesterday in front of Xerox hide again, she does like to perch on the electric fence posts.

    I knew all that money on the electric fence would pay dividends!

    Looking intently for a vole for breakfast and showing her head patterning off very nicely

    The long shawl of beauty, not your average wildlife picture of quality but this time it kinda works? Maybe

    Now she's just plain showing off - but when you're a barn owl I suppose you can!




    Posted by Pete Short

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Your sightings

Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
3 Nov 2015
Whooper Swan ()
29 Nov 2015
Marsh Harrier ()
29 Nov 2015
Merlin ()
29 Nov 2015
Tree Sparrow ()
29 Nov 2015
White-fronted Goose (Greenland) ()
29 Nov 2015
Spotted Redshank (5)
29 Nov 2015
Pink-footed Goose ()
28 Nov 2015
Bewick's Swan (3)
24 Nov 2015
Black-tailed Godwit (2)
23 Nov 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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