Yes its dull and at times foggy and raining but at the moment it seems like December is the month that just keeps giving...............

But don't always expect too much from the reserve! It is December after all and the weather can change the birding very quickly, but these mild conditions are at the very least ensuring the lagoons are staying clear of ice and this is allowing the wildfowl and waders to feed while the raptors and passerines add a little bit of interest to the visit. 

A foggy day but even then there is something beautiful and mystical about the reedbed.

One Christmas bonus for us is that the road works have packed up for the festive period so you can until early January access the reserve from any direction!

The raptors have been excellent with at least 21 marsh harriers coming in to roost along with at least one ringtail hen harrier, plenty of buzzards still harassing the marshies and then a good chance of merlin, sparrowhawk, kestrel and barn owl too. If the weathers not too bad this afternoon I'm going to be down in Singleton myself for a change from the computer screen. 

Marsh harrier sitting out the rain

As already said good to see the wildfowl still able to use the lagoons with Ousefleet hide being the best place for numbers of birds. Wigeon, teal, shelduck, shoveler, gadwall, and mallard have been joined in the evening by up to 600 noisy roosting greylag geese, quite spectacular and certainly at times noisy! 

Put yer finger in yer lugoils (ears!) Extreme greylag noise warning!

Feeding wigeon on Ousefleet on a better morning earlier in the week!

A lone and rather lost and sad looking whooper swan cygnet was present this morning on Singleton lagoon although it certainly wasn't popular with the breeding mute swans that were giving it a hard time. I'm not sure if the whooper is just stained with soil from where its been feeding or is lightly oiled, we'll keep an eye on it as best we can and if needs be see what can be done if its in difficulty. 

A bit of panto - watch out he's behind you!

The pink-footed geese numbers too have increased recently with regular skeins flying over the reserve and out to feed on the sugar beet tops that are notably abundant this year out on the arable fields. 

Wader numbers are certainly a bit erratic but there has been up to 30 black-tailed godwits, 30+ curlew, a peak of 1700 lapwings out over the Humber and a few redshank and lapwing on Ousefleet, but only the odd snipe.  


The other morning it was good to be able to watch the curlew feeding, about 20 were busy pulling worms from the arable field next to the reserve while some were feeding in with the sheep on our grazed brackish marsh. It was a great example of how the farmland should integrate with the estuary so that birds like curlew, golden plover and lapwing can have large areas to feed in despite there being a huge flood bank dividing the two habitats. Interesting to also note that the abundance of worms in the arable had been brought about from the oil seed rape stubble being ploughed into the field thereby creating lots of organic material for the worms to feed on at the surface.  

Curlews feeding on the arable - sorry I've gone a little video mad at the moment 

There has been a nice selection of passerines with still plenty of fieldfares, redwings and blackbirds along the hedgeline but very notably in the fog while I was doing bearded tit survey work in the reedbed lots of song thrushes in what seemed like a distinct fall of this species. 

Male Bearded tit from one of the reedbed transects


And a lovely female

And talking of those little reedbed sprites I was amazed this morning to have six feeding in the reed fringe opposite Xerox hide in full view, despite the constant rain and mild conditions! I'd been finding some really good numbers on my two reedbed transects mid-week so I know there were good numbers present but it usually has to be cold and iced up for them to show along the edges of the lagoons. 

Video of the beardies at the back of Xerox

The reedbed transects have as usual been very interesting with early estimates of probably 300+ birds present across the site, it always amazes me just how successful bearded tits are here at Blacktoft but then we do also undertake lots of specific reedbed management for this species. 

It was good though to see lots of other passerines out in the reedbed benefiting from the mosaic of reedbed habitat that we create for the beardies, plenty of stonechats, reed buntings, wrens, blue tits, robins and probably most notable lots of Cettis Warblers. A rare breeding bird until recently in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire they are still a very localised breeding bird, but I suspect there to be at least 50 of them wintering this year and probably that is an under-estimate!  

There have also been up to three beautiful bullfinches feeding in the willows near to the hides

Much of the habitat we've been creating over the last five years or so also looks pretty good especially areas where we created nesting areas of deeper water and reed for breeding bittern, with high water levels this year I'm looking forward to spring and booming bittern time!

Pool filling with reed - breeding bitterns like reed areas with deeper water.

As is our arable conversion field Horseshoe meadow which is looking in tremendous condition ready for the spring, nice to be able to see lots of wild flowers dotted in the grass including the odd cowslip that seem to be staying wintergreen this year. I'm hoping that the cowslips are going to increase considerably over the last two years and are going to put on a fine display in 2020 alongside the 70+ wildflower species that we now have in this little gem of a field.  

Cowslip - it will look much nicer in April!

There has also been a few late fungi appearing with some Ivory waxcaps at the entrance to the reserve and a few bits within the meadow, maybe not too much to look at but I think they have a lovely charm 

Ivory waxcaps

Fungi in Horseshoe meadow

Anyway finally, just to say a final Merry Christmas to all from me and all of the Humber team and a happy new year to all our visitors and amazing volunteers, thanks for all your support over the last year - it really does make a difference to the conservation work we can do around the amazing Humber Estuary for thousands and thousands of birds and a whole heap of other wildlife! 

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