That's the amazing number of waders, ducks and geese birds that have been counted using our fantastic Upper Humber refuges during October and November this year and certainly shows just how important our network of reserves are along this amazing bird filled estuary. 

A view from Townend lagoon this summer with a range of waders ducks, herons and spoonbills......

And it really hit home on Sunday when me and my partner Masha did a bit of extra curricula birding over at Alkborough flats which overlooks Whitton Island and then take in Reads Island on our way to visit our friend Mr Mouncey who lives opposite the Island. 

Bearded tit at Alkborough - another wetland bird dependant on the estuary's habitat

Always nice to see marsh harriers sparing 

It all started really as we had a brief look at a very wet Alkborough where there were plenty of ducks flying about but also a superb flock of 500 curlew sat out in the wet grassland, it was then a walk along the escarpment to overlook Whitton Island where the mudbank was filled with 4000 waders, mostly lapwing and golden plover but then 180 dunlin was nice and so was 158 curlew which I suspect were additional to those on Alkborough. 

Some of the 500 curlew on the grazed fields at Alkborough flats

We had seen small parties of curlew feeding in the fields and I suspect that the true numbers within the Upper Humber must total between 800 and 900 birds, possibly more of this near threatened species, and particularly pleasing that the surrounding habitats were functioning very well in terms of feeding for them. Good to see our Whitton refuge working well and also in the background the wider Humber Wildfowl refuge holding good numbers of waterfowl, and the Apex over at Blacktoft holding over 700 teal plus other duck in the distance.  

The Upper Humber Humber curlew population was always important - good to see it being maintained

The tide was falling and so we went on to Reads, and as we drove past it looked as though there were very few birds present - mm I remarked or something similar. Anyway we thought we'd better have a closer look since we'd driven down there. It soon became apparent that there were birds but many were down in the channel feeding, plenty of lapwing and a few hundred dunlin. A walk down the bank soon allowed us to see out onto Redcliffe Middle sands where we could see a large flock of golden plover and quite a lot of dunlin, but I said we'd count them after we'd finished the others. 

Initially there were lapwings, dunlin and a flock of about 120 black-tailed godwits

But after finishing we looked over again and all the golden plover had vanished into thin air! Then lots of the other waders started to fly about as though there was a peregrine hunting but we couldn't locate it, so where the heck was all these golden plover? It was then that I put my bins up to look at a flock of black-tailed godwit and suddenly saw a blizzard of golden plover descending from the skies with the blizzard getting thicker and thicker as thousand of birds rained from the sky to start to settle in front of the Humber bridge.

Waders 'dreading' to escape a predator 

Counting them was impossible so we had to estimate in hundreds and convert into thousands as we went, conservative estimates gave a massive 23,000 birds and this may have been an underestimate! The flock wheeled and corkscrewed about giving one of those amazing wader spectacles that British estuaries are quite rightly truly famous for, it was just mesmerising and breathtaking all at once especially as the numbers of dunlin had risen to 4000, and in all there was over 28,000 waterbirds in front of us! 

Here's a few photo's of the goldies, so difficult to do em justice!

Look at the two golden strips on the mud underneath the bridge!

Cork screwing in front of the bridge

Unfortunately my video wouldn't load but you can see it on the Old Moor and Blacktoft Sands facebook page!

A truly memorable days counting but then we hadn't even waited for the pink-footed geese to come into roost! The team had counted over 23,000 in October roosting on both Whitton and Reads and over the reserves we've had good counts of teal (3000+) wigeon (800+) pintail (160 on the river Trent) mallard, shoveler, gadwall and waders such as redshank too. 

Pinkfeet down at Reads earlier in the Autumn

A quick estimate of numbers (and being careful not to double up numbers across the sites) I reckon the RSPB reserves alone have held over 63,000 waterfowl with the Upper estuary probably supporting 70K at least if you include the sites as a whole. And in a world of growing human population pressures and development I think this is truly worthy of note. It also shows just how creation of habitats along the estuary is helping many species that are in trouble and have declining world populations, but it also shows how important the surrounding habitats within the arable farmland are and how they govern waterfowl numbers using the estuary. 

Avocets, dunlin and pinkfeet - the estuary is important for so many species of waterfowl at different times of the year

One of the Humber Reserves teams aims is to carry on working with as many people as we can to increase availability of good quality habitats both within and outside the Humber Special Protection Area, reduce down disturbance of birds in all areas, and where possible create new top quality habitats particularly near to the estuary.

And this is really happening now both in the Outer and Inner estuary (both sides of the Humber bridge) with many fantastic opportunities to deliver for not just birds but all wildlife currently making for some exciting times ahead! 

Hopefully into the future I'll be reporting bigger and bigger numbers but then off course we also have to halt the declines in many of these species breeding numbers across the world, a big challenge but hopefully by working together to must, will and can turn things around, it would be such a shame to lose such amazing estuarine wader and wildfowl spectacles............  

Lets not forget how important the Outer estuary is for waders - this was at Spurn in the Summer

 

 

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