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 ready a while back but just reluctant to fly in the constant rain! Its looking like it may be a pretty good year with the first brood having at least three chicks, amazing to think that marsh harriers only started to breed every year in 1994 here on the Sands. Now it would be disappointing to have less than 8 pairs on site - how times change.

Marsh harrier chick flying high! Always a great moment to see them fledging

And one of the adults hunting (Mike Flowers)

Another nice surprise this morning was a brood of 8 recently hatched pochard chicks that were on Marshland lagoon but then interestingly seen swimming with their mother in the ditch in front of reception. Pochard are still classed as a rare breeder although in Yorkshire many of the recently created wetlands such as Old Moor and Potteric seem to be producing most of the UK's young. It will be interesting to see if these ducklings turn up on any of the other lagoons especially in light of where they were last seen, this is because in recent years many of our pochard broods have just disappeared overnight and we've never quite known whats happened. However, I have thought that both pochard and tufted duck have been taking their young off site onto the river and then to places unknown - where are they going? Intriguing 

Pochard mother and some of the large brood - Marshland

Its still early days for waders but as said in the last blog there is a smattering with over the last three days up to four spotted redshank, ruff, green sandpiper, lapwings, snipe, oystercatcher and a few curlews heading west. Good to see on our reserve on Reads Island which we have just signed a new 21 year lease for was holding over 200 curlew on Wednesday. 

Spotted redshank and lapwing on Xerox

A stunning white male ruff from yesterday - Mike Flowers

The barn owls are just amazing this year with the adults now feeding large chicks in what seems to be an amazingly good vole year. You can often hear the young-uns screeching in the box at Ousefleet while you can then watch the adults from the gate hunting and then returning with a big fat juicy vole. 

Barn owl with monster vole

And in flight hovering 

And flying towards

Bitterns on the other hand have just gone completely quiet with not a single sighting all week, however from past experience this doesn't mean to say that they are not around! Spoonbill continue to fly over the reserve with just the odd bird calling in from time to time - as the weather heats up I suspect this will change. There are a few little egrets now starting to pick off the shrimps and sticklebacks around the edges of the lagoons and quite a few water rails squealing so look out for young ones emerging from the reeds. A single common tern went west over Ousefleet on Wednesday

A bit of a surprise yesterday morning was a rare Blacktoft bird, well in fact three of them at least! A little family party of treecreepers next to Horseshoe meadow in the ash trees with one flying over to the car park and back. There have only been about 5 or 6 records of this species in over 40 years on site - compared to over 40 pectoral sandpipers! 

Yesterday there was also a nice cuckoo photographed by Mike flowers, good to see this species having a good showing this year. Also plenty of young birds fledging including sedge warblers and the years first yellow wagtail this morning in with the Koniks. 

A lovely cuckoo by Mike Flowers

And also very recently fledged sedge warbler 

Bearded tits are really busy feeding their third broods at the moment while a few youngsters are emerging along the edges of the lagoons. Also plenty of Cettis warblers, reed warblers and other resident birds present including some nice stock doves often at Ousefleet. Tree sparrows are again going mad at fledging young all over the site, good to see them maintaining their productivity for yet another year - we must be doing something right!

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