There is no doubt that the 2019 breeding season is still very much in the swing of it with fledgling birds all over the place but then many broods of some species just hatching, it makes for some very entertaining birding both in the mornings and evenings here on the Sands although even in the heat of the day there is always something to see particularly a plethora of insects. 

And I suspect there is non more quite entertaining than the barn owl brood at Ousefleet that you can see in the evening from Marshland hide! Sat in there yesterday evening with my brother we both laughed as the larger chicks tested their new found flying skills while the other in the box watched on and occasionally flapped one wing and then the other out of the box door. It was quite difficult to pull ourselves away from this amazing entertainment - also good to see at least 4 chicks looking fit and healthy. 

Two youngsters playing peek-a-boo

Some hilarious wing exercise


Many of the marsh harrier chicks are now fledged and busy chasing after the adults as they bring in ever increasing amounts of prey. Not sure quite yet how many will fledge but it does look like a good year with at least three in one of the more advanced broods.  

Female hunting tufted duck chicks - and yeas she did get one

Here the female tufted duck is defending from the marsh harrier - she put up a valiant defence while the chicks dived for their lives

A bit more bittern activity of late with two birds seen on Singleton lagoon yesterday while the spoonbills are regularly flying past the hides with occasionally the adult birds feeding on the lagoons. Also a few more little egrets appearing with both young birds (with yellow green legs) and adults (with black legs and breeding plumes) and feeding alongside the lagoons with the herons. 

Spoonbill on Marshland

Juv little egret

Bittern Juv

Nice to see the duck broods and particularly little grebes now surviving a lot better although two tufted duck broods on Townend this morning were having to defend themselves from attack by a female marsh harrier and great black-backed gull. Amazing to see how many gadwall broods and chicks there are especially compared to mallard, you can clearly see why gadwall is becoming the most common duck on the reserve in summer. Also very nice to see a few fledged little grebes and also at least seven young from three broods being reared on Marshland lagoon while our stalwart female on Ousefleet is still incubating her nest right out in the open in front of the screen hide. I'll be devastated if she doesn't hatch them off as she's tried so hard to build and keep the nest afloat.   

Tufted duck brood

Little grebe on nest

Waders are still a little fickle but gradually things are improving with peaks of 64 magnificent red summer plumage black-tailed godwits fresh in from their breeding grounds in Iceland. Also a sign of a bit of passage this morning with a whimbrel over, then over the last few days a mix of waders including spotted redshank, redshank, little ringed plover, lapwing, green sandpiper, greenshank, curlew, oystercatcher and then the autumns first golden plover flying over yesterday. There is also the odd avocet now calling in on the lagoons with an adult and two well fledged young yesterday, this often happens on the reserve with the family parties often coming down from the Cleveland area to feed on the Humber.

Black-tailed godwits in some spanking plumage


It seems like many of our passerines are having a good breeding season with many young birds around site of different species, check them out carefully as you may find something a bit different. Also look around the edges of the lagoons as there are plenty of juvenile bearded tits emerging particularly at Marshland and Townend lagoon.

This juvenile sedge warbler (you can age it from the speckling on the upper breast was enjoying a tasty earwig

I also noticed this morning that the plum reed aphids were at last starting to appear - they are great fod for reed and sedge warblers and allow then to fatten up for migration.

Plenty of lovely young lotties this year with a big flock often ambling along the hedges

Checking the livestock has revealed some amazing number of young skylarks and meadow pipits with also lots of reed buntings, linnets and now a few yellow wagtail young, great to see the yellow wags fledging young as they are a species that is really declining in many areas. One thing our meadow gives through the low intensity of our mixed sheep, pony and cattle grazing coupled with leaving many areas rough with docks and a few thistle patches is plenty of great habitat that holds loads of food.

Juv yellow wagtail

And an adult with food

A small micro moth that was very abundant - I wondered if they were responsible for the caterpillars above?

Mixed low intensity grazing can be great for grassland species

Reed bunting on electric fence line

With a little more daytime heat and sunshine the insects are now starting to flutter and buzz all over the reserve, I think many are late due to the cold and wet spring but now that seems to be behind us everything is making up for it! 


 Hoverfly with goatsbeard 

Meadow brown on creeping thistle - creeping thistle are a great nectar plant for insects!

Dragonfly species - possibly ruddy darter or if not common darter 

I'll finish with a picture of Ousefleet lagoon - after last years excavation works you can see the release of nutrients which may be interesting when we lower it down for the waders.