Well almost the middle of June already and currently no sign of the reserve opening its gates due to the need to follow Government advice on social distancing and the use of our hides and pathways, we are planning though and hopefully have a way forward if things change to a situation where we can re-open when it is deemed safe to do so. Please note all the photo's for the blog have been taken while I've been surveying key species or while carrying out reserve management tasks. 

It seems though that some birds maybe are benefiting from a bit of isolation particularly our cuckoos that notably are often singing on site for long periods, they do seem to like this new found social distancing with at least two males and a hepatic female seen making it the best year for many for this species. 

Two male cuckoo's chasing each other

I suspect too that bitterns have also benefited with feeding birds dropping into areas around the hides where I've never seen them do before, mind you its been a real watershed year for this species but more of that to come in a later blog!  

Marsh harriers have been having a very up and down year with several pairs struggling and losing their first nesting attempts and relays, but they are if nothing a resilient species when left alone and it seems that the food supply is slightly increasing and that we may get 8 or 9 successful nests to fledge youngsters

This male brought in a frog, not actually that unusual but it seems I got a better photo of the frog than the harriers!  

And a stunning light headed male

We've also got the odd buzzard hanging around with this pale bird begging the question as to where it was born, much lighter than our usual local birds but then buzzards do vary as a species. 


The odd hobby and peregrine has been hunting over the reserve particularly the poor hobbies in the cool weather, they really struggle when its cold as in recent days, certainly an issue this year its been either stinking hot and bone dry or cold and wet, well there I go again moaning about the weather! 

Hobby hunting over the lagoons

Duck have got a little bit more interesting recently in part because a few broods are now starting to emerge with the 2nd clutch of mallard emerging after a terrible 1st brood failure and then the first brood of 11 gadwall chicks, again you can see why gadwall is starting to overtake mallard as the most numerous duck on site and this was typified by a count of 224 gadwall this week!

Gadwall chicks

It seems like a good year for mute swan with our breeding pair with seven young doing well on Singleton but then the arrival of a second pair that apparently walked onto site at Ousefleet and they currently have six young! Whence they came from I do not have a clue!

Mute family showing just how big they are compared to gadwall!

The marked and worrying absence of pochard continues with just a single female seen this week that flew off to Alkborough, but in among the moulting duck was a male garganey, amazing how quickly they lose their breeding finery - only two weeks ago he still looked pretty dapper. Also good to see the first two teal in ages and a lone wigeon.

Moulting male garganey

Plenty of little egrets and grey herons have been taking advantage of this years fishfest that seems to have been helped by all the winters and springs high surge tides that brought in the breeding age sticklebacks by the looks of it in their thousands and now they have bred there must be hundreds of thousands of fish and a few eels too that accompanied them.

Little egrets enjoying the sticklebacks

Grey heron 

Strangely though the spoonbills are not feeding at all on site but are flying from Alkborough where from last I saw they are having a feeding frenzy and then flying over the reserve towards Fairburn. 

Spoonbills flying west

Always a slow period for waders here at Blacktoft but this week there was some glimmer of whats to come. I have though kept water levels high this year all summer on the lagoons mainly because I've had to use them to protect some of our key breeding birds from ground predators and also partly because I wanted to save them in the hope that when we eventually re-open they will be full of food for the main late summer wader passage and dropping levels will provide good viewing. 

We have though had the first green sandpiper back already, quite an early date but certainly not too odd, there has also been the first curlew flying west on their moult migration. I'm still unclear if these early birds are failed breeders arriving back from the continent or just non-breeding birds that have summered on the Humber. 

Curlew flying west.

There's also been a flock of up to 100 lapwings but we still have some breeding birds within the local area that have young, amazing how they hang on in this area but I have been liaising with a large farm about them putting in Lapwing fallow plots alongside some good Countryside Stewardship options that will also benefit corn bunting, yellow wagtail and many other farmland birds. Lapwings need to be able to spread out across the farmland again like they once did.

Lapwing brooding young through the tractor window

 We also had the first avocets back for some time with two birds yesterday, all our breeding birds failed this year due to badger predation but then I expected this to happen to be honest, its one of the reasons of course that RSPB put the lagoons onto Whitton Island so that the avocets had a better chance of success. Although its early days these failed birds have joined the ones on Whitton Island and are re-nesting with birds on eggs and probably young in the lagoon although they are impossible to view from the mainland until they come out onto the mudflats. 



With this bit of cool weather the bearded tits have been starting to emerge from the reedbed with both adults and broods of varying age, it will be interesting to see this year how successful they have been particularly with the hot cold thing going on. Many warblers are also feeding young some their second broods I suspect.

Bearded tits - a bit of video of male, adult female and then a well grown juvenile

And my attention was drawn to some strange peeping call - although not the best photo it turned out to be a grasshopper warbler dumping the eggshell from a recently hatched chick away from the nest.

There has been plenty of young blue and great tits around site but I'm not seeing any blackbirds or robins etc, lets hope with this bit of rain some of our resident species have some good late broods. But for some species such as the swifts and swallows we desperately need the weather to warm up, they are all looking rather worn and tired just when they should be feeding young.

Young blue tit

And a final bit of news from Horseshoe meadow which is currently a riot of colour

Good to see during the nice weather the first meadow browns appearing, it won't be long before the ringlets appear too.....

I always like the tufted vetch when its in full flower

Also great to find a couple of pyramidal orchids flowering, hopefully into the future this species should do well on these soils as it does nearby. 

Sainfoin - good for bees 

And vipers bugloss also great for bees and butterflies

And that's about it for this week but I'll leave you with a soundscape of the reedbed from earlier in the year. Stay safe


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