Quite often December can be a little like groundhog day and I'm usually writing this sort of title in January, but there's certainly no doubt that after all the rarity excitement there has been a wee but notable change in the birds using the reserve triggered by the change in water levels and availability of food.

Take the goldfinch that are suddenly managing to gain access to the Alder cones up at Ousefleet, they are currently greedily hoovering up the seeds that by the looks of it must be rich in high calorie fats. It's these little micro changes that I do like to notice as well as the big ones. 

There's no doubt that the harrier roost is forever changing from day to day with still plenty of marsh harriers but on Friday two hen harriers including a grey male, add in merlin, sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel and barn owl then the late afternoons can be a bit of a raptor fest. Mind you you do need to wrap up well and stay late as the hen harriers can be late comers to the party.  

Nice last week to see the marsh harriers coming in to feed on a goose carcass that was on one of the islands on Xerox lagoon, sometimes we don't think of the greylags as a keystone species but in many ways they are, in this respect I suspect they and their young help provide food for our large marsh harrier population. The greylags are also often able to alter habitats through their grazing which gives them a duel ecological function within the landscape.  

Another change has been the presence of a small flock of black-tailed godwits at Ousefleet, often asleep and resting at the weekend they were busy feeding, greedily gathering the worms. Its interesting to see that they don't lift out their prey but eat it as soon as they extract it from the ground, this is in many ways efficiency of movement but also a way in which to stop other birds like gulls from steeling it. 

And a bit of video of them feeding

Other wader that have been present in varying numbers include snipe, redshank, curlew and lapwing, the lapwing flock down towards the Humber and feeding on our Apex mudflats is often over 1000 birds although at the weekend out on Whitton Island I counted 3700 alongside 1500 golden plover, that was until a peregrine chased them all away!

The lapwing look stunning in the low but saturated December light - it will soon be the shortest day!

Wigeon and teal numbers are holding steady accompanied by the usual gadwall, shoveler, shelduck and mallard while there is still the odd little grebe on site, very odd for us at this time of year. There was a single whooper swan at the end of last week that had seemed to have lost the herd!

Wigeon in flight


And it seems like a few pink-footed geese are returning to the estuary with over a thousand this morning all wanting to go and feed on the nearby sugar beet field. Always nice to have them around but never easy to photograph! 

Eating the beet

And in flight

And pinks over Blacktoft Church and the Rebecca M barge crane which I hired many years ago to put a JCB onto Reads Island!

Still a few fieldfare around and notably redwings, probably the most redwings in December I've seen in a long time, while this morning there were a couple of song thrushes and a few blackbirds. 


The siberian chiffchaff is still hanging around with it being seen on Saturday again, also the bullfinch, stonechats and tree sparrows are still around alongside greenfinch and the commoner passerines including a couple of goldcrests.

I try not to do two video's usually as it can often overload blog - but just wanted to share these golden plover, dunlin etc down at reads on Sunday. 

  • Very cheeky Mike! Does that mean I don't get a merit mark. 

  • Great videos Pete, they are very clear and well-shot.  The godwits especially are fasinating and it looks as if ithe film has been speeded up, so fast is their feeding action!                                                                                                                                                    Incidentally, I know that the swan is large but a "whopper"?  (Sorry, couldn't resist!).