• The breeding season just gets better and better! Great news for 'our' avocets

    Some fantastic news over the last few days here on the Humber is that avocets are fledging young from the lagoon that we created back in 2017 out on Whitton Island! See this link -   https://community.rspb.org.uk/placestovisit/blacktoftsands/b/blacktoftsands-blog/posts/putting-the-wetland-into-whitton It really is outstanding news because even though we create this new estuarine habitat we can only live in hope that it delivers…

    • 17 Jul 2019
  • Looking Up

    As birders we spend a fair bit of time looking up. Looking up into trees to spot that elusive arboreal beauty or staring into the sky tracking spoonbills, marsh harriers or flocks of sand martins. We usually have a pair of binoculars glued to our eyes which means we sometimes miss some of the splendour unfolding in front of us. So, this morning I decided to look down, and around me.

    The first thing I saw was an enormous…

    • 14 Jul 2019
  • Sand martins and spoonbills

    This last couple of days seems to have been dominated by our marvellous spoonbills and then when the weather was overcast a fantastic gathering of 6000 roosting sand martins. On some days there has been up to 14 very entertaining spoonbills, and just stop and think for a moment - apart from starlings when did you last see a gathering of 6000 sand martins or any other small passerine? 

    Sand martins at Singleton

    The sp…

    • 12 Jul 2019
  • Feeding Frenzy

    In my early birding days I’d listen to some of the “old folk” saying this time of year is slow for birding. I don’t agree. It’s all happening at the moment ranging from parent birds sitting on the nest, like this little grebe (surely we’ll have hatchlings soon!).

    To juvenile marsh harriers lazily soaring across the reed bed. It’s fantastic to see such diversity.

    I counted 5…

    • 9 Jul 2019
  • New things and old – Fledgling season.

    It’s a fantastic time of year where new things and fledglings abound and that includes me. I’ve been working at the reserve for a couple of months now and still feeling a little shiny and new. Thankfully I’m surrounded by a fantastic team of people (including volunteers) who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. Some of which I’m in awe of but it’s a pleasure to be amongst. Talk about a steep learning curve!…

    • 5 Jul 2019
  • Fledgling barn owls give top evening entertainment.

    There is no doubt that the 2019 breeding season is still very much in the swing of it with fledgling birds all over the place but then many broods of some species just hatching, it makes for some very entertaining birding both in the mornings and evenings here on the Sands although even in the heat of the day there is always something to see particularly a plethora of insects. 

    And I suspect there is non more quite entertaining…

    • 5 Jul 2019
  • Its all about the sticklebacks!

    Who'd have thought that the humble three-spinned stickleback would be so important at helping to feed so many important birds on the reserve at the moment including now regular feeding forays on Marshland lagoon from the veracious Fairburn spoonbills that are currently feeding chicks.  I still can't fully get over the fact that they are undertaking a 50 mile commute on each feeding trip! 

    Spoonbill from this week…

    • 2 Jul 2019
  • Breeding season reaching a new crescendo as marsh harriers fledge

    First of all I'd like to say how nice it is to have a few people commenting and reporting sightings recently via the Blog, its all very much appreciated and I do enjoy hearing about birds like short-eared owl on an evening this week - it all adds to the bigger picture.

    This week has as suggested in my last blog seen the first marsh harrier chicks take to the air! In fact they look amazingly strong so must have been…

    • 28 Jun 2019
  • Sultry mid-summer makes the marsh feel like the jungle

    Wow yesterday was amazingly sultry here on the Sands with it feeling more like Thailand than East Yorkshire with the humidity creating a steam across the marsh that in the morning tempted out a lovely party of 16 juvenile bearded tits that were feeding in the tops of the reeds at Xerox lagoon. This is the first indication of just how successful the beardies have been this year in their first and second broods and from…

    • 25 Jun 2019
  • Wildlife booming as summer solstice nears

    Wow with a bit of better weather now and a little bit of rainfall on and off it seems that the birds and the wildlife are really moving towards a mid-summers breeding season peak as well as now returning waders starting to trickle back from the north and east. 

    Bitterns seem to be all over the place at the moment with different birds flying around site giving a somewhat confused picture of what seems to be I suspect a…

    • 20 Jun 2019
  • Mid June Madness - Purple heron arrives!

    What with all the rain recently and it being in the middle of the breeding season it seems very much like there's the usual mid-June madness of a typical British summer. What was a little more unexpected though was the arrival of a superb adult purple heron that was found by our regular volunteer Chris while he was surveying the bitterns. Its the first reserve record for 30 years!

    Here's a picture and superb video…

    • 14 Jun 2019
  • Unexpected bittern success!

    Funny how sometimes secretive reedbed species can surprise you? Well this time it was our breeding bitterns, we had an inkling they were feeding young on site, but what we didn't expect is that they have young that were about to fledge! First seen by Sara (who was until recently one of our Wardens) on Sunday evening when she saw two bitterns at the side of Townend lagoon that then flew casing after an adult female. Then…

    • 11 Jun 2019
  • June + Wildlife = Diversity

    Being almost mid summer this time of June is very much about diversity here on the banks of the Humber, plenty of breeding bird activity, plenty of interesting insects and also the appearance of some interesting plants. 

    Vipers bugloss in Horseshoe meadow

    It is however typical D-day weather, never expect anything less form the British maritime influenced climate! Last years hot sunshine was an exception but this year…

    • 5 Jun 2019
  • Watch out Bertha's about!

    This time of year is always a busy time and certainly May 2019 is no exception, lots of management and survey work to do around the Humber reserves means I've been kept busy so apologies for the lack of blogs recently. Also some of you may have noticed my photo's have gone a little backward in quality - this is because unfortunately while on Holiday recently my camera decided to give up the ghost completely. 

    • 30 May 2019
  • Mid May Breeding season bittern bonanza

    It really is that time of year again when all the birds are in full breeding season flow as the early breeders fledge young and others are getting ready to hatch theirs. It seems that migration is subdued as the season of bountiful plenty dominates on the reserve with this morning an amazing three male bitterns on site, one boomer and two that seemed intent in following each other around in a sort of Mexican stand off…

    • 23 May 2019
  • Mid May highlights

    Been a week of changes here at Blacktoft and it's going to be a quick blog. With the last few summer migrants turning up, singing warblers are on very good form. ! was very pleased to hear three grasshopper warblers from Singleton hide on Tuesday evenings, when local barn owls were active with at least four birds hunting the reedbed.

    Easterly flow of wind has continued to pull in some interesting birds. A single black…

    • 17 May 2019
  • The rain will bring em down!

    As my brother and also my partner Masha know I tend to have a saying 'the rain i'll bring em down', that is the passage migrants! And its true, I've seen it time and time again that heavy rain and wind in the right direction will always bring something in, even at times birds that you didn't expect. However this time my wader predictions on the last blog that a bit of a SE blow and front gave the chance…

    • 9 May 2019
  • May just keeps on giving..............

    Its certainly been a fantastic spring here on the Sands with some great birding and wildlife watching just continuing on and on, it really seems to change day in day out with you never really knowing what will be about!

    Apologies too for the late blog, its just been a difficult week all round. Highlights have included the female Montagu's harrier that is still present on site but can be fickle. It seems the morning…

    • 7 May 2019
  • Mrs Mont's is back!

    Amazing news from yesterday that for the sixth year running our amazing and faithful Montagu's harrier is back on site and showing from reception down to Singleton hide. There has been no male bird for the last two years so lets hope that 2019 bring better cheer in the form of a new mate for our lonely female. Here's a couple of photo's and a bit of video which will hopefully now be working again!

    In front…

    • 1 May 2019
  • Spring Rouzel

    Its been a long time since we had a spring ring ouzel on the reserve (only one other in the last 20 years!) so it has been particularly nice to have a bird arrive and stay at Ousefleet for the past couple of days showing at times particularly well in front of the hide searching for worms. What a cracking bird they are with something quite magic about them whether you see them on migration or on their breeding grounds…

    • 25 Apr 2019
  • WorldCurlewDay - On the Humber

    Tomorrow Sunday 21st April is going to be world curlew day, very appropriate too with the Humber helping to support about 3000 wintering curlew every year, mostly from Scandinavia but very sadly having no breeding birds closer than on the Yorkshire Wolds, Weldrake Ings and maybe the odd pair left around the Doncaster area.

    Curlew from last night at Ousefleet, only 6 birds remained............ 

    What better way to understand…

    • 20 Apr 2019
  • A little warmth results in a few more migrants

    Not sure if it could have got much colder for the time of year with the east wind nithering both the birds and visitors to the reserve, but today the wind has calmed a little and this has resulted in a distinct arrival of a few more migrants! 

    This greenland type male wheatear was on Ousefleet feeding around the Konik ponies this morning.I just love the fiery throat of the greenlanders

    Our star birds though have been…

    • 16 Apr 2019
  • Cettis warblers - lots of em in fact!

    Just a quick Friday update, for full details see the last blog. 

    With the wind still from the east I would if you are visiting this weekend wrap up extremely well, the hides can be cold when the wind blows in through the open windows!

    But back to the last couple of days and the recent highlights. Only a few years ago Cettis warblers were a real Yorkshire rarity and when you did find them calling they were hard to find…

    • 12 Apr 2019
  • Easterly airflow brings the little gulls

    The weather may not exactly feel like it's spring here on the Humber (wrap up warm if you visit!), but the easterly airflow and depressed temperatures seem to have had some benefits to the birding on site. 

    Very nice to have had up to three little gulls on Marshland hawking the insects and mixing with the black headed gull colony. The little gull is on the right

    One of my favorite types of gull they are more like…

    • 10 Apr 2019
  • The years first spoonbills

    Fantastic to see the first spoonbills arriving this week with one bird yesterday and then two together on Ousefleet this morning during high tide, in fact the pool had a very dutch feel about it as there were avocets and ruffs with marsh harriers in the background over the reeds and then the Konik ponies grazing the grassland - just like I suspect the Oveerstplassen but on a much smaller scale!

    Spoonbills today on Ousefleet…

    • 5 Apr 2019