Skip navigation
Join the RSPB

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

Print page

Recent sightings

  • 22 December 2014

    A Real Christmas Quacker - A Wetland Full Of Waterfowl

    It may be mild and with no snow on the horizon but the reserve is currently teaming with wildfowl and waders, birds of prey and plenty of other Christmas goodies. It was also the winter solstice yesterday and the shortest day finished with a real nice sunset to help round off a wonderful weekends birding on the Sands, in fact its been a pretty excellent year all round so it is great to start the festive period up to new year on a high note.

    Below - lapwing, shelduck and dunlin at Ousefleet on Sunday.

    So what about those waterfowl, well today there were 192 wigeon and 310 teal all packed onto the front edge of Xerox all tippling and whistling away in the high winds, while the shoveler continue their feeding frenzy on the newly renovated Townend lagoon. They are also been currently joined by five very fine little immature goldeneye who seem to be enjoying posing for the camera, not often you can get close to this species at Blacktoft. Of note was a very late winter influx of diving duck, something we have been very short of recently so the 17 tufted duck that arrived and a lone male pochard are very welcome to boost the variety of species on the lagoons. 

    Tufties this morning before sunrise - nice to see em back

    And the shoveler are in fine fetal at the moment.

    The males are really starting to fight over their potential mates - its quite exciting to watch, this ones created his very own tidal wave!

    The teal and wigeon on Xerox don't look too shabby

    But these goldeneye are hard to beat just for sheer pose value at the moment

    And again

    Particularly spectacular this morning was the 1500 pink-footed geese that flew out of roost on the Humber and into the wind which forced them low over Singleton hide. Wow the noise of them and the rush of wings was fantastic! Pity my photo's couldn't capture the moment as it was a little dark at the time.

    Waders continue to put on a top show particularly at Ousefleet where the recent peaks have been 300 lapwing, 134 dunlin and 41 black tailed godwit. Up to 20 snipe are still frequenting the island at the back of Marshland (no idea why they prefer it!), while there are still up to 20 curlew at Ousefleet and a few golden plover flighting over. Redshank are a bit scarce with only a peak of two and the spotted redshanks seem to have gone back over to Alkborough for the moment.

    Lapwing at Ousefleet after the sparrowhawk went through

    And a few black tailed godwits mixed in with the other waders

    Birds of prey were again excellent with at least 17 marsh harriers in the air together last night and a ringtail and two male hen harriers in to roost last night, from my distant photo of the ringtail hen there is a suggestion that it may have a pinkish wing tag on its right wing. If anyone has a good photo and it show this can they please let me know? A single merlin also joined the roost last night and at least two sparrowhawks continue to terrorize the waterfowl. 

    Still quite a few stonechats (the robin of the reedbed) present on site and although quiet the cettis warblers still chunter away every now and then. A few winter thrushes mainly fieldfares and redwings left but as they have now stripped the berries almost clean their numbers are much reduced. Only one water pipit on Friday as we were reed cutting although there has been up to six. The Kingfisher continues to show well at Townend and First lagoons.

    So all in all some a top few days and I'm still avoiding the Christmas shopping! Just a reminder that we are closed on Christmas Day. All other days the reserve is open but the reception will re-open on the weekend of the 4th Jan.

    I'll finish with the solstice sunset.....................   



    Posted by Pete Short

  • 20 December 2014

    Merry Christmas and Happy new year!

    Wishing all our visitors and especially our Blog reader(s) all the best for the festive season, from all the Crew at Blacktoft  Many thanks for your continued and valued support.

    For 2015 I would like to ask you all to please help the Reserve and build the blogs readership so we can spread the Humber conservation word. If you can find the time it would really help if you could forwarding a link  to the Blacktoft blog to a friend, or if you register a like when you read the blog? It will really help us deliver so much more for birds and wildlife in the coming years and also let me know if anyone is reading it!

    Below - Goose, where it should be - Flying wild! - I'm much more of a Turkey man myself (mind you that on my world list too!)

    Best Regards - Pete (Hopefully I'll keep up the blog over the Christmas if I'm not too full of home made cider and pork pie that is)

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 19 December 2014

    Celebrate the weekend with a mince pie and hot cuppa

    This weekend why not visit to see our wonderful harriers and wetland birds (see last blog for what's about) and then pop into reception (open 10am to 4pm) to have a free mince pie and hot drink to celebrate the festive season. The hen and marsh harriers have been superb recently with a good selection of other wetland birds on offer such as our kingfisher and stonechats. Bearded tits too seem to be particularly obliging this December so if conditions are right you may get an early Christmas present.

    First light from Ousefleet hide

    And an arty shot of a Marsh harrier against a dramatic sky.


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 15 December 2014

    A wizard weekend!

    So here it is merry Christmas everybody's having fun, well that was certainly the case this weekend for those who decided to visit and watch our delectable delightful raptor roost from Singleton hide. But the reserve had so much more too with a great range of species for everyone to see during the day providing a wealth of excellent photo's for the blog and a few smiles around the site.

    How's about this for starters from Mike Johnson - a couple of marsh harriers on the top of a bush - nice!

    On Saturday the wizard bird of the day was of course the 3 merlin's that came in to roost, putting on a great show for everyone who had come to see the harriers, and yes there were harriers but for once they were not the stars of the afternoon. Sunday's roost spectacle just like the weather saw a total change with no merlin's but three superb hen harriers, two grey males and a ringtail all being buffeted by the winds and bombing the twenty or so marsh harriers! Here's some top snaps of the harriers taken over the last few days.

     Hen harrier photo's (from Mike Johnson and Pedro)


    Waders have been good too with 7 spotted redshanks on Sunday and up to 14 black tailed godwits, add in a few dunlin, lapwing, curlew, snipe, redshank and golden plover then it almost feels like late summer passage!

    Below - spot shanks in with the ducks

    Not so many duck around but at least 1000 pink footed geese over early am on Sunday. Then a few wigeon, 35 shoveler, 2 gadwall, teal, mallard and a single goldeneye about. A lone Barnacle goose flew through, probably part of the 1000 strong feral flock that resides further down the estuary. Hundreds of gulls going too and coming out of roost at the moment particularly lots of herring gulls but also plenty of common, great black backed and black headed gulls, keep an eye out for a possible white winger or two, you never know.

    Below wigeon grazing in front od Xerox

    And a few pinks fronted by a Marsh harrier early in the morning.

    Plenty of squealing and grunting in the reedbed from the water rails at the moment especially at roost time.

    The kingfisher was totally Halcyon this weekend showing superbly at Townend and providing this great photo taken by Dr Kia Ng (yes that's his full name if you were wondering if I'd spelt it wrong), as you can see its passing a bone pellet. Kingfishers use their pellets to line the nest and lay their eggs on, an amazing bit of behavior captured on 'film'.

    This was a nice image too from Friday sent By Mike J - Obviously old kingy likes this perch!

    Other notable passerine included cettis warbler (singing and calling), bearded tits showing really well from both Townend and Marshland (unheard of in December!), up to 3 goldcrests, then just a few redwing and fieldfare left now that they've gobbled up the berry crop.

    Watch out for the winter thrushes - Redwing by Mike J

    And there was a nice little charm of goldfinch at Ousefleet on Saturday eating the Alder seed - but no redpolls!

    Question is what's Santa bringing me! I hope its a flock of Bean geese or a few waxwings...................

    I'll finish on though a nice bit of festive fungi - old year decay. This was near first hide - I do know what it is but have forgotten the name, I'll post in a bit








    Posted by Pete Short

  • 12 December 2014

    Marsh harriers put on the style

    Just a quick update on the roost - probably up to five hen harriers roosting and lots of marsh harriers putting on a most splendiferous show this morning. For full effect click on the photo's to enlarge. The harriers are at their best around 9am or then 3pm to dusk. Well worth a visit and stuff the Christmas shopping! This weekend we will have a late afternoon guide in the hide to help you make the most of your visit to see the roost.

    If you are just wanting to visit for the day then still plenty of other birds to see including a good range of duck and waders plus the marsh harriers. Recent highlights - 4 whooper swans (in fields nearby), chiffchaff, bearded tits, stonechats, black tailed godwits, goldeneye, plenty of fieldfares and redwings and also good views of the roe deer. Plenty of pinkfeet suddenly around again at the moment with the count at Reads Island reaching an incredible December count today of 6600ish - probably a record count for this time of year.  

    Here's a few pics of the harriers

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 11 December 2014

    The grey ghosts of the reedbed

    The weather may be wintery, wet and windy but down here on the Humber the conditions seem to be suiting all the wetland birds particularly those spectacular birds prey. The real stars of the show at the moment are of course our wonderful hen harriers which suddenly seem to have arrived en force and along with the marsh harriers are putting on a show that is simply breathtaking.

    Below two grey males leaving the roost this morning and sparring with each other at Singleton lagoon

    This sudden showiness also seems to have being brought about by a slight change in where the birds are feeding during the day with many of 'our' harriers now flighting out towards Ousefleet rather than towards Alkborough Flats and that of course means that they are passing straight in front of the hides! We have at least two cracking grey male hens plus two ringtail hens about but also this morning the possible suggestion that there may be a third grey male, talk about exciting especially when they are surrounded by the hoards of hungry marsh harriers who just can't help showing off in front of the hides as small groups of them look for prey. Wowser!

    This morning too one of the male hens had a speedy little merlin shadowing it as it quartered the reedbed, merlin's often do this as they take advantage of the small birds flushed by the harriers. I've seen it several times and it never ceases to impress me, harrier flat, low and majestic and merlin speeding around from side to side just like a spitfire escorting a Lancaster bomber.

    Add to this regular buzzards, peregrines, sparrowhawks and kestrels then the reserve at dawn and dusk is just an outstanding place to be!

    Here's a few more pictures of the harriers from the last two days - sorry for the quality but the light is always a little poor at dawn and dusk - but hopefully they will inspire. 

    Ringtail hunting over Ousefleet

    Incoming male just after his escort the merlin had left his wing

    Both male hens again

    And finally - plenty of other birds around - update tomorrow if I get time.



    Posted by Pete Short

  • 9 December 2014

    Cold Weather Brings Festive Joy

    The start of cold weather always seems to be the best time for great birding at this festive time of the year and if you wrap up warm its also a fantastic time to be out in the countryside. This morning the frost and cold wind made it really feel like winter had eventually arrived and was wanting to make up for its tardiness, but to see the sunrise and get some great views of some of our birds crammed in close to the hides by the freshly formed ice on the lagoons made a little bit of a chilly walk all the more worthwhile.

    A stunning sunrise first thing this morning

    The most recent harrier update is that there are at least three hen harriers coming into roost on an evening and probably in excess of twenty marsh harriers, the hens are made up of two superb grey males and at least one ringtail although I have a sneaking suspicion that another ringtail is sneaking into roost very late in the day! Even in the day the marsh harriers are at times putting on a real show especially when they have made a kill and several birds all congregate together as in these photo's I took this morning - note the male stonechat on one of the photo's who seems rather non-pulsed by the tough guys (and gals!). 

    Other regular birds of prey include a pair of peregrines, buzzard, kestrel, sparrowhawk and the occasional merlin sighting.

    Waders too before the freeze were notable with up to 33 black tailed godwits at Ousefleet, occasional ruff, a single spotted redshank, four dunlin, and then accompanying redshank, snipe, lapwing and fly over golden plover. These snipe were very obliging in front of Marshland hide.

    A little wisp of snipe

    Not to be outdone the wildfowl have been in fine fettle with plenty of wigeon, teal and shoveller but the gadwall have now mostly left the site, and lesser numbers of shelduck and mallard who are now also in fine breeding plumage. At least three goldeneye were on Townend lagoon and allowed some nice shots as they chased each other about with the young males trying to court the females, who said cold damped the ardor! It was also great to see the resident mute swans acting as chief ice breakers, most useful for the smaller dabblers. Still a few pink footed geese around at the weekend and Monday with a minimum of 500 in the local area and flying over site.  

    Those frisky goldeneye

    And the female with a bit of ice behind her - brrrr

    But wigeon in fresh plumage really take some beating - is there a more beautiful British bird?

    One of the most beautiful sights and sounds this last few days must be the flock of hundreds of berry gobbling fieldfares who are ravaging the hedgerows and devouring any red berry they can lay their beak on. Who can not be tempted to spend a while looking at their fine fettled plumes and listening to the loud clamor of their chack chack chack calls. A few other notable passerine about including those illusive water pipits, at least two Cettis warblers, chiffchaff and then interestingly a few bearded tits in the reed in front of Townend lagoon today. A few other winter thrushes with redwing, song thrush and a good number of blackbirds still lining the hedgerow.

    On the mammal front I bumped into a couple of lovely Roe deer along the paths this morning and still the odd hare out and about. The koniks really now enjoying themselves in the cold being quite excited to see me this morning for some reason and charging across the field to greet me. 

    And to finish with another look at that sunrise..............

    And from the other day when the moon was behind the reed and the sun was just lighting up the sky from the opposite direction



    Posted by Pete Short

  • 7 December 2014

    Proud of our Humber Wetland Heritage!

    Since September the mighty Humber Estuary and surrounding wetlands have been pretty awesome indeed, in part due to all the mild weather but also because of the all the conservation effort being carried out along the estuary by the dedicated few through the provision of refuge's and land managed specifically for its birdlife. This is despite all the pressures that the modern world continues to throw at those windswept muddy shores that have meandered through the landscape for millennium and despite the guiding hands of Anglo Saxons, Romans, Vikings and modern day drainage engineers such as Cornelius Vermuyden that have changed the estuary forever.

    Collation of the Waterbird counts have revealed the minimum figure of a staggering 110,000 birds using the RSPB Humber reserves, namely Hook island, Blacktoft, Reads Island and Tetney Marsh. This has included 90,000 waders and wildfowl with notable counts of 42,600 golden plover, 7198 lapwing, 4050 Knot, 5422 dunlin, 14906 pink footed geese, 1532 shelduck, 2098 wigeon, 2406 teal, 1400 avocet, 2120 oystercatcher, 352 redshank, 250 grey plover and 266 Bar tailed godwits!

    A count of 130 snipe at Blacktoft would have been commonplace at one time - this year it was a very notable peak count

    The other 20,000 (a very modest estimate) is made up of roosting gulls which the Humber is internationally important for with massive numbers of common, black headed, herring and great black backed gulls all heading to the safety of the estuaries islands for the night.

    Overall I don't think I'm been too presumptuous in saying that when the final counts for this season are in for the whole of the estuary the number of waterfowl will top 160,000 birds and that's not including the gulls!

    But despite these amazing figures we must not be complacent when it comes to the conservation of such a natural national treasure trove such as the Humber. Historically the estuary covered 90,000 hectares while now it is roughly only a third of the size with the land area estimated at about 35,000 hectares with much of that land now behind sea wall, under the plough or has housing and industry on. 

    The Islandica race of Black tailed godwit (below) have been one of the most recent successes on the Humber with number rising over the last twenty years to peaks of 6000 molting and passage birds, but is this going to change soon and are we going to loose the area on the estuary where they feed?

    So going towards the end of another year all I can say is that the Humber needs your support, so for 2015 I extol all of you to fly the flag for the estuary and wherever and whenever you can tell people what a fantastic place the Humber is for its wildlife and why we should all work towards conserving what is left before what is left is lost forever.

    Dunlin numbers have halved in recent years - possibly due to a combination of factors including global warming but also possible declines in their breeding success on the tundra

    December Challenge!

    On a lighter theme I end by giving you a last bit to ponder on in regards some of the wading birds and local names used within living memory around the Humber, see how many you can get - I'll post the answers next week or you can post them on up yourself if you are confident of your answers.

    1. Tommy stint 2. Curlew Whelp 3. Sand runner 4. Long neb 5. Sea pigeon 6. Teafit



    Posted by Pete Short

  • 5 December 2014

    Cold brings out the water rails

    With a bit of a drop in temperatures the water rails are starting to come out to play! Best place is just as you walk onto the reserve in the two little cuts in the borrow ditch just in front of reception, the little squealer was showing lovely this morning. Unfortunately I'm a little light on recent photo's this week for reasons I won't bore you with so I'm afraid you'll have to make do with some from the family album.

    Close encounters of the reed-pig kind

    Also as mystic Pedro predicted again the cold is bringing in the hen harriers with a ringtail and grey male out of roost this morning as reported by Mike our site Warden. He'll be working this weekend and has asked me to tell anyone who prefers watching classic birds of prey rather than Christmas shopping that he will be in Singleton hide for the roost helping to point out the harriers and other birds of prey towards dusk. He also counted out 19 marsh harriers too so with a chill in the air tonight it could be good, but remember to wrap up warm! Hopefully there will be three hen harriers to join the throng.

    Hen harrier from two years ago (Graham Catley)

    Still a nice mix of birds around with the usual waders being joined by two Black tailed godwits and two ruff over the last couple of days. Hopefully the site wont freeze too much so that the snipe, lapwing, curlew and redshank stay on site rather than going out onto the river. I think many of the golden plover are now moving down to spain - don't blame em too.

    The goldeneye was on Townend this morning (got it at last!), while still plenty of wigeon, teal, shoveler, gadwall and shelduck on site but no other diving duck! Where are they?

    Goldeneye - Mike Johnson

    Other birds of interest were a massif flock of 450 fieldfare, then chiffchaff, cettis warbler, 2 fly over water pipits, stonechat a few goldcrests and the Kingfisher. I've been trying to take the odd photo of the local robins after my last blog as they really show the difference in a darker belly and flanks than the possible Scandinavian bird, but typically they now decide to be shy! 

    Oh to have hair like this!



    Posted by Pete Short

How you can help

Coast on a stormy day with heavy rain falling on coastal headland

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.

Donate now

Your sightings

Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

Pink-footed Goose ()
21 Dec 2014
Marsh Harrier ()
21 Dec 2014
Black-tailed Godwit ()
21 Dec 2014
Ruff ()
21 Dec 2014
Kingfisher ()
21 Dec 2014
Merlin ()
21 Dec 2014
Tree Sparrow ()
20 Dec 2014
Cetti's Warbler (1)
18 Dec 2014
Water Rail (1)
15 Dec 2014
Bearded Tit (5)
15 Dec 2014

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

Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.