Please note that the reserve is still closed until further notice. The blog is to help people keep in touch about what is going on and particularly those who are still unable to get out and about into the countryside. For further details of why we are still closed please see previous blogs.

Well what an up and down summer we are having this year with certainly the last few week nothing to shout about in terms of any settled spell of good weather, this is certainly affecting the insect numbers on site, something that I'd suspected but when looking back on last years late July - early august blogs there is no doubt that populations of species such as hoverflies are totally different with very few around. 

Rain has been quite frequent and so have cooler temperatures especially at night. But hopefully there is some hope at the of the rainbow with a few days of warmer weather forecast

A lovely recent rainbow over the reserve

A nigh time scene, Jupiter and Saturn have been great recently alongside the rising moon - much better than TV!

The marsh harriers are gradually winding down now with most young fledged and some drifting away from site into the surrounding arable. As said on the last blog its been a pretty difficult breeding season for this species with many pairs failing due to lack of food and predation of the nests almost certainly by fox. However, all said and done the Humber reserves have fledged 20 chicks from about 17 nests which equals a 1.17 productivity rate, not that bad when you consider our target in our management plan is 1.5 chicks per pair. 

The harriers have been at times quite scarce around the reserve this year as they have had to hunt far and wide for prey, but on the odd occasion they have provided the usual special moments that this spectacular raptor does here on the Sands. 

Juvenile marsh harrier

Male feeding the young

And this bird that was trying to feed on a greylag carcass floating in the water, it just couldn't balance though to get a purchase on the meat! (can't quite make up my mind which sex this bird is as its got red feathering around the legs like a male!)

And a bit of video

Other birds of prey have also been scarce but there is a summering buzzard along the hedge, kestrels and then a family party of peregrines occasionally on the pylons. Barn owls is occasional in the Marshland box but its very unsure if its bothering to breed because of the lack of voles. 

After a bright mid July wader numbers have really been depressed this last ten days or so with at times very few waders on the lagoons and with this cool weather seemingly very few insects in the water for them to feed on. No numbers to shout about but a few black-tailed godwits, a couple of dunlin and avocets, green and common sandpipers, 20 snipe, the odd ruff, a few lapwing, redshank and that's just about it on the pools. Flying over there has been a few oystercatcher, curlew and the odd whimbrel west, plus occasional greenshank. We certainly need a change in the winds to change to a more favourable direction I suspect.

Nice to see a few juvenile redshank feeding on site 

Black-tailed godwit 

Big white birds still feature with little egrets and a few spoonbills including what is almost certainly the two older fledged spoonbills from Fairburn that have occasionally been on site and hassling the parents for a good feed of stickleback soup.

Little egret


Ducks are very quiet indeed as they go through their moult and fledge their last few young although up to 600 greylags often make up for it as they noisily flight in from the arable to sit on the lagoons. Interesting though to see two white leucistic greylags alongside the others which I suspect are from the same brood. Another sighting was 3 common scoter drifting up river alongside Whitton Island as I tried to count the young marsh harriers.

Although maybe not constant in intensity its certainly been an interesting period for movement and gathering of young and adult passerines. Last week saw our now annual record of a tree creeper (only recorded a few years ago, remember we are an isolated marsh!), with also our more usual late summer influx of great spotted woodpeckers. 

And then there has been a classic passage of lemon drops, more usually known as young willow warblers that move south in short hops and often stay and feed up at Blacktoft, as we have only a couple of breeding pairs it always surprises me of how such an isolated estuarine site attracts so many passage birds. One evening it started to rain and lots of willow warblers started giving their distinctive hooit call from every other bush on the reserve, a conservative estimate of maybe 40+ birds must have been present. 

Juvenile willow warbler 

There was also a bit of chat movement with one warm Friday when the insects emerged the first whinchat of the year sitting in front of me as I tried to monitor the harriers and just went on catching insects, very distracting but also very pleasing to see one of my favourite chats. 

Adult whinchat

There was also a mini influx of stonechats around the time Weldrake got theirs although ours was not as spectacular, mind you 4 birds was a nice early record although you never quite know if they are locally bred as in the last year or two they have started to re-colonise North Lincs where I have found at least three pairs this year only a stones throw away. 


There has also been a few sedge and reed warblers feeding young around site

Reed warbler 

Sedge warbler

The tree sparrows are currently busy feeding their latest brood which will probably fledge after the middle of august but small flocks are now starting to gather and feed on the adjacent spring wheat flock. A few linnet flocks gathering and so are the meadow pipits showing that the year is moving on towards autumn.

Adult male linnets are little stunners! 

Yellow wagtails have as I said on my last blog had a poor season next to the reserve so it was pleasing to find a flock of 30+ feeding on the farmland we now manage in a failed crop of broad beans. The crop btw failed because of the very dry spring, not our poor farming ability! Its actually grown by a local farmer. Good though to see the field supporting plenty of other small birds such as meadow pips and skylarks all feeding on the insects infesting the struggling beans. 

Good to see that at least some juvenile yellow wagtails have fledged. 

Mammals have been quite visible recently around the reserve especially the roe deer including a couple of young that seem to enjoy playing hide and seek around you from time to time, here they went out for a little drink and to dirty their feet in the lagoon mud! 

Equally enjoyable was a little encounter with a shrew that was one evening feeding alongside the footpath. You see plenty of dead shrews and get views of this lovely little mammal but its very rare to stand there and watch one hunting and eating! 

Ooops forgot to put the picture of the shrew in, in a rush yesterday evening!

And a bit of video

Rouzel Perusal Part 2

And to finish on I'll go on an away day special! Regular readers may remember my Rouzel Perusal blog which me and my partner Masha often go on in spring time to enjoy the upland birds in the dales. Well this year because of the obvious we couldn't really do it and we have both had a lot of work commitments. So yesterday we went on a long promised and put off trip to Gunnerside for our annual 11 mile circular walk. 

Target species were spotted flycatcher, dipper, and of course ring ouzel. We weren't sure what we would find as it was of course August but then you do see what you see, so were we successful? Well yes surprisingly so for many species with great numbers of spotted flycatcher, redstart, wheatear, dipper and more grey wagtails than I've probably ever seen along the river with also plenty of dippers and a bonus of 2 kingfishers.

Spotted flycatchers - they obviously seem to benefit from the greater number of insects still present in the uplands

Redstart - seems like its been a good breeding season for them in this area

A stunning moulting male wheatear

And grey wagtail were just all along the river, in my 40 years of birding I've never seen so many!

Dippers really seem to prefer the wooded parts of the stream, something I've only become aware of in the last few years

But most surprising of the day was this flock of 12 ring ouzels that were stripping a rowan tree of its ripe berries on the hillside looking like they were feeding up ready for migration, a proper rouzel perusal! The video is best watched on a larger screen. 

Out on the moor

A still shot of one of the birds guzzling a berry

The bush is alive with ring Ouzels

In all we had 14 ring ouzels, 20+ redstarts, 20+ spotted flycatchers, 8 dippers, 80+ (!) grey wagtails, and lots of wheatears - sometimes heading away from the coast in Yorkshire can be just as nice for quality birds!