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Recent sightings

  • 18 August 2014

    Temminks and Montagu's top the BBQ

    Since the high tides put water onto the site last week the birding has been pretty good with the day of the Big Biochar BBQ being particularly good with the arrival of an adult Temminks stint that stayed for most of the day on Townend lagoon and gave some excellent views. Add to this both male and female Montagu's harrier on the same day and also still around at the weekend and its been some top birding.

    Temminks stint (photo by Mike Johnson)

    Male monts from earlier in the month


    Plenty of other goodies too with up to 26 ruff, 20 black tailed godwits, 21 spotted redshank, 5 greenshank, 4 green sandpiper, dunlin, redshank and lapwing while on Thursday there was a passage of 11 grey and 6 ringed plover west. The Temminks reappeared briefly on Saturday while there was also bittern and of course the marsh harriers.

    Plenty of duck and geese around too particularly on Ousefleet with recent noteworthy peaks of 450 mallard and 300 teal being joined by gadwall shoveler and a couple of tufted ducks plus up to 500 greylag geese.

    Interestingly one of the teal has been noted as having a yellow bill saddle marker attached with a letter J on, these are not used in the UK so the bird was marked on the continent possibly from initial enquiries in the Carmargue in Southern France. However there should be a number with the letter so if anyone has a photo of the bird or has seen both the letter and number then please contact me so we can get a final fix on where the bird was ringed. 

    Yellow wagtails have been very showy this year with a good number in front of Ousefeet hide feeding in with the wildfowl while there has been a distinct passage of willow warblers through the site.

    Posted by Pete Short

  • 12 August 2014

    In a knot about waders?

    Still a reasonable mix of waders about at the moment despite the heavy rain raising our water levels. Ruff numbers have been up to 11 and spotted redshank 23, other counts include 47 redshank, and 250 lapwing, 4 black tailed godwits, 7 green sandpipers, 3 greenshank, common sandpiper, dunlin and a few snipe.

    A peak of four Knot have has been nice, two of which were still in their brick red summer plumage but it seems the wood sandpiper has moved on after its extended stay. A bit of water has gone onto Ousefleet too with the high tides so this may add to the mix in the next few days.............

    Below - snipe and redshank

    Juvenile and adult ruff

    Spotted redshank and lapwing

    Wall to wall lapwings


    Other recent notable sightings have included 2 garganey, pintail, 5 little egrets, spoonbill (over), hobby, bittern and then the two Montagu's harriers that roosted in the reedbed on Friday night with the marsh harriers.


    A couple of garganey were on first - a moulting adult and juv (not great light!)


    Also keep a look out for yellow wagtails, water rails and a few bearded tits around the edges of the lagoons while there are still young gadwall, great crested grebes and little grebes mixing in with the moulting duck.


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 9 August 2014

    Waders continue at Blacktoft

    We are now into August and we are right in the middle of the main wader time at Blacktoft.  Today there were 22 spotted redshank, 30 snipe, 40 redshank, 7 green sandpiper, common sandpiper, ruff, wood sandpiper, little ringed plover, lapwing, dunlin and curlew.  Here are a few photos taken by volunteers John Whittle and Mike Johnson of waders at Blacktoft.

    Our wader walks continue next Saturday (16th)  and then on Saturday (30th) - both start at 10am and offer a great chance to learn about these amazing birds that visit Blacktoft to fuel up before continue migration to other continents.  To book on one of these events please email us at

    Elsewhere today - little egrets, water rails, plenty of duck, grey herons, little grebes, pied wagtails and few yellow wagtails.  These wagtails have started to add a bit of white to the back of our Konik ponies! 

    Posted by Michael Andrews

  • 6 August 2014

    Conserving Nature - The Big Biofuels BBQ - 15th August

    What an earth has Biomass and Biofuels got to do with Nature conservation I can hear you all mumbling! Well why not come along on the 15th August for the day and find out for yourself just how conservation on a landscape scale can be achieved by giving waste biomass an economic value - I think you will be pleasantly surprised at just how interesting and futuristic it is!

    The day will showcase all the weird and wonderful work the Humber reserves and Humberhead Nature Improvement Area are doing to try and make the wider countryside fit for the future and full of lots of great birds and wildlife. This includes working with industry, universities and farmers as well as a host of other partner organizations that are all vital to achieving a sustainable countryside.

    So what's going to be happening! (no need to book just turn up on the day - entry's free)

    • See how charcoal is made in the environmentally friendly Exeter Retort - (we're hoping that some charcoal will be available to buy on the day for your own BBQ!)
    • Take a close look and hear about the reed briquettes - perfect for burning on log burners and open fires
    • Learn more about reed biochar and how it can be used to increase agricultural production or just in your home compost
    • Enjoy a locally produced quality burger or hot dog cooked on Willow charcoal made from the coppice harvested on the reserve! (Vegi burgers will also be available)
    • See the awesome Softrak low ground pressure tractor in action and talk to LOGLOGIC who make the machine
    • Find out more about why grazing livestock including cattle and Konik ponies can be so good for managing habitats
    • Hear what the RSPB and UK Government Department of the Environment are doing on a national scale to make use of waste biomass
    • Have a walk around the reserve and see our wonderful wetland and brilliant birds
    • Learn how wetlands can help reduce flooding of homes and farmland
    • See the working gassifier made by Goole College and learn how biomass can be used to run a car engine!

    It should be a great day and is open to all and everyone from interested amateurs to people from industry, conservation and farming - we really want people to come along and learn more about biomass but also just to have a great fun day out!

    And not forgetting of course trying to see what you can do to make a Future Landscape that we can all enjoy and be proud off

    Here's my little vision...................

    A new landscape that can produce our food sustainably but has nature and conservation at its core, wetlands that can be used to produce biofuels, support wildlife and irrigate crops as well as some set aside and managed primarily for wildlife. Wildlife in abundance with bitterns booming and lapwings tumbling over fields in the spring. Skylarks soaring high and hares boxing in the fields, willow tits scalding you as you walk past wet woodlands and corn buntings jangling in the Barley. Cuckoo's cuckooing and turtle doves purring like when I was a lad, butterflies and insects buzzing in amongst wild flowers while egrets and glossy ibis feed in the ditches and ponds full of frogs.

    Yes I know it sounds fanciful but then in such a modern world we need to have modern blue sky thinking and decide just how we are all going to save our Countryside and wildlife from its continuing decline!

    So here's a challenge - young or old - Why not bring your vision to the event and we'll put it up in the visitor center on our Futurescape Vision of Tomorrow Board! (Or you can even draw a picture)

    (PS please note there will be a small charge for the Food)





    Posted by Pete Short

  • 4 August 2014

    Great white flyover

    Another excellent weekend with a good range of species including a flyover great white egret, unfortunatly the lagoons full of sticklebacks didn't seem to tempt it down to feed in with its smaller cousins the little egrets.

    The wood sandpiper was about too along with a nice range of waders including black-tailed godwit, greenshank, spotted redshank, green sandpiper, ruff, snipe, little ringed plover, whimbrel, curlew, dunlin, golden plover, lapwing, oystercatcher, avocet and redshank.

    Here a picture from this morning taken at Xerox of bt godwit, redshank, spotted redshank and greenshank.

    Great news is that the 5 young avocets can now fly - good news after such a difficult start to their breeding season (parent with young this morning)

    Birds of prey include regular hobby sightings, marsh harrier and up to three peregrines. (check out brians pictures of the juv marshies in the picture gallery)

    Yellow wagtails are still pretty good on Marshland while lots of whitethroats, willow warblers, sedge and reed warblers are now passing through the site on their way south.

    Most of our ducks are pretty brown and drab at the moment but more notably the very strong westward common scoter passage still continues with flocks of 100 and 60 over this weekend!

    Final pictures are from the weekend - sent to me by Tim and Si Jump

    Wood sandpiper (at the back of a redshank)

    Little ringed plover

    Juvenile Ruff


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 1 August 2014

    Wader numbers pick up a little

    Over the last couple of days the wader numbers and variety seem to have picked up a little being further boosted by the arrival of the first juveniles fresh in from their Northern breeding grounds.

    With the water levels low on several lagoons this has been attracting them in onto the soft mud to give some great views and photographic opportunities particularly from Marshland and Townend hides. Scores on the doors include 6 green sandpipers, 2 greenshank, 21 spotted redshank, 11 black tailed godwits, 40 snipe, 30+ redshank, lapwing, ruff, dunlin, curlew, oystercatcher and little ringed plover. What we really could do with is a bit more easterly influence in the wind direction I suspect to drift the waders over from the continent.

    Almost forgot the avocets - 3 adults and 5 almost fledged juveniles - Hopefully these will be flying at the weekend to avoid Mr Fox.

    Here's a few of my snaps from the above.

    3 adult and two juv Black tailed godwits, Marshland this morning

    Three lovely snipe

    Juv ruff - ruff are once again in very short supply - is their population crashing globally? 

    Redshank feeding in the gloop

    So too is this juvenile Dunlin

    Still a few marsh harriers about and little egrets along with the moulting duck. What is pleasing this year is how good a breeding season both little grebe and great crested grebe are currently having, I reckon little grebe must have fledged over 20 young and are still hatching new broods (!), while the GC geebs still have three well grown young with bizzarily the adults leaving the lagoons for a few days and then suddenly reappearing this morning!??

    Along the edges of the reed fringe there are still water rail and bearded tits but as the beardies are now in full moult they are being a little less easy to spot. Both adult and young beardies moult all their feathers at this time of year something that is peculiar to this species.

    Many small birds are quite quiet at the moment but there is a steady passage of willow warblers and also lots of young yellow wagtails which often feed on the mud at Marshland lagoon

    Fox's have been quite nice recently including this one that was on top of the bank the other day.






    Posted by Pete Short

  • 29 July 2014

    Landscape frustrations!

    I really really  love the idea of landscape scale conservation and mega large areas of habitats that cover 1000's of acres, but at times it can be a little frustrating (in fact painful) with the more moblie species such as the waders! 

    You see over the last few years or so Blacktoft has got a big brother over the other side of the river Trent at Alkborough Flats that is a combined flood alleviation tidal set back scheme, wildlife reserve and farmland and which has some pretty large tidal pools that tend to be at times a little over attractive to birds than our little old pools here on the Sands.

    Not that its bad birdwatching here at Blacktoft at the moment with spotted redshank, greenshank, green sandpiper, avocet, bearded tit, marsh harrier and 18 little egrets plus a load more species including plenty of water rails around the edges of the lagoons, marsh harriers and regular hobbies. At the weekend too the wood sandpiper put on a sterling display in front of the hides.

    But we don't have the number of waders which I would expect at this time of year and a recent e-mail from a freind revealed just where they are and yes you've maybe guessed it already! nearly 1000 avocets, 500 black tailed godwits, ruff, dunlin and a whole host of other species including up to 8 spoonbills all on the other side of the river at Alkborough not more than a mile away!

    You see in some years when Alkborough's pools stay wet they seem to be holding mountains of food that is just too attractive to the waders - it doesn't even seem to matter what water levels we have here at Blacktoft the birds just feed where there is the most food! We've tried everything to try and balance the bird usage out but each site goes through months and years when one is more attractive than the other. Of course this is what would happen in natural bigger wetlands where birds move around the site as per their needs - not so good for us birders but excellent for the wildlife!  

    Well of course I could say come to Blacktoft and not say anything about the 'dark side' but that would be kinda wrong in that I would not be supporting my own strong views that 'Landscape Scale Conservation is Best'. There are hides at Alkborough and footpaths and a car park and lots of areas to walk, but if you want to enjoy the birds I would recommend a telescope as they can be a little further away than at Blacktoft, but they can still be fantastic for those who love their birds.

    And here's the rub - for great close views then come to Blacktoft, for numbers and a few extra species go to Alkborough, or why not make a day out of it and visit both sites and come and see just what a great place the Upper Humber is becoming for birds.

    More breeding birds, more wintering birds and lots more passage birds than there has ever been with many now ready to colonise new wetland sites within the North of England.

    Yes landscape conservation - its going to take a bit of getting used to but its most definatly the way forward if we are going to save our birds and wildlife from the pressures of the modern world.

    Aerial shot of Blacktoft with Alkborough in the distance to the right of the picture - don't be fooled by the optical illusion, Alkbrough Flats is twice the area of Blacktoft!


    Posted by Pete Short

  • 27 July 2014

    Waders at Blacktoft Sands late July

    A quick update this weekend.

    We are now coming towards the end of July and waders are showing well at Blacktoft.  The wood sandpiper has been giving excellent close views in front of marshland hide.  Other waders include the 20 spotted redshank, plenty of redshank, greenshank, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, snipe, lapwing, avocets, black-tailed godwit, ruff and dunlin.  Waders are currently using marshland , xerox and townend lagoon. 

    Here is a nice photo taken by volunteer Mike Johnson.

    This week also sees the start of our wader events and these take place as follows:

    • Wed 30th Aug - 10am until 12 noon.
    • Wed 30th Aug - 6:30pm until dark
    • Sat 2nd Aug - 6:30pm until dark
    • Sat 16th Aug - 10am until 12 noon.
    • Sat 30th Aug - 10am until 12 noon.

    Please email us at or contact us at 01405 704665 to book at place on one of these wader events where you will get pointers on how to identify that wader.

    Other sightings this weekend include yellow wagtails on marshland lagoon, water rails and plenty of little egrets.

    Posted by Michael Andrews

  • 25 July 2014

    Holding on to the heatwave

    Phew what great weather we're having at the moment and also what a great variety of wildlife to see alongside all the excellent birds.

    Most notable recent sighting include garganey, osprey yesterday and wood sandpiper again today. There were plenty of bearded tits around Marshland this morning with four little egrets and a handful of juvenile yellow wagtails feeding alongside the avocet family and four green sandpipers.

    The avocet chicks are growing - hopefully they will be able to fly next week!

    Green sandpiper

    Add to this a mix of other waders including ruff, spotted redshank, dunlin, snipe, redshank and lapwing then there's plenty to sort through and identify.

    Marsh harriers continue to entertain with the young getting more and more moblie by the day, water rail are showing well around the edges of the lagoons and there's stil quite a few warblers feeding young.

    When you're walking down to Singleton hide why not take a bit of time to look at the Marsh sow thistle, one of the tallest plants on the marsh it is only found in 13 square Km in the UK. It's at its best at the moment as its flowering - pretty easy to Identify really as its over 3m tall!

    Hare's have been showing really well around the site and in adjacent fields, this one was lazing on some of the cut rape this morning at the reserve gates.

    Lots of dragonflies too including black tailed skimmer and look out for the first migrant hawkers of the year as I had one in my garden the other day. Butterflies nice too with still a good number of Essex skippers about.  


    Posted by Pete Short

How you can help

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Your sightings

Grid reference: SE8423 (+2km)

Great White Egret (1)
2 Aug 2014
Marsh Harrier ()
20 Aug 2014
Water Rail ()
20 Aug 2014
Ruff ()
20 Aug 2014
Green Sandpiper ()
20 Aug 2014
Spotted Redshank ()
20 Aug 2014
Bearded Tit ()
20 Aug 2014
Tree Sparrow ()
20 Aug 2014
Black-tailed Godwit ()
17 Aug 2014
Temminck's Stint ()
16 Aug 2014

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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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