Amazing what a day or two does at this time of year here on the Sands, as soon as the weather changes then many birds ship out and then are gradually replaced by other species that prefer the different conditions to migrate. But of course this is what makes birding for me so interesting, you never quite know what to expect and certainly you can never quite seem to second guess what is going to happen!

So it certainly seems that for the two crake species the weather changed in favour of their migration south on the Tuesday evening making for the little crake just a one day event, however it was pretty fortunate that the bird showed for much of the day (very uncrake like!) and allowed everyone who came up until 7pm a new Yorkshire bird - that is unless you were birding in 1946!

Lovely view over towards Alkborough - but I was trying to work out if the varying colour on the tree's on the escarpment is actually the effects of Ash tree die back rather than Autumn. If it is then we are going to have a very different landscape and habitat in a short while in places. Current estimates suggest most Ash trees will be dead in 10 - 15 years time.

And with the water levels reducing across the site it seems that many of the birds have moved on, some certainly to Alkborough flats where on Wednesday two cranes were spotted from our Xerox hide! Wader numbers are certainly lower and duck numbers are much lower, but there is plenty to see for those who have a good look around site. 

With calmer conditions there are some days when the bearded tits are now erupting, but it seem even this is an uncertain science, with yesterday been pretty good but with a more southerly wind today there was not a sign or sound of anything. 

A few photo's from yesterday - you know I can't resist the beardies

As said there are fewer ducks about but yesterday there was a renewed passage west of wigeon, pintail and the first tufted ducks of the autumn, on the lagoons there is a mix of teal, gadwall, shoveler, mallard, and the odd shelduck, young tufted duck and little grebes on Ousefleet. 

A mixed flock of wigeon and pintail - many thousands must pass through the Humber unseen

Just wigeon - they were struggling going over the electric wires across the river.

Yesterday though there was an evening flight of pink-footed geese over the reserve with over 1000 birds all heading out to feed on the arable. Pretty spectacular as the gaggled and winked in their V formations. Also keep a good look out for whooper swans, their first of the year flew over Alkborough on Wednesday - unbelievably early and a little surreal in such warm weather.

Pinkfeet over Singleton hide

With water levels dropping at Alkborough I suspect quite a few of our waders have gravitated to the dark side, but there is still a nice selection on show on our lagoons with spotted redshank, redshank, dunlin, ruff, redshank, curlew, lapwing, green sandpiper still about and always a chance of something dropping in. 

Here's a picture of the Pectoral sandpiper that briefly dropped in early last week on Marshland lagoon (Picture by Mike Flowers) - where did it go?

Somewhat rather rarer than Pec Sand here at Blacktoft there was a treecreeper at Ousefleet this morning, while the smaller passerines were pretty spectacular around the livestock with many linnets, skylarks, goldfinch, reed bunting, meadow pipits, and four yellow wagtails all feeding on the insects and seeds. This really gives an insight into where we need to get to in terms of what all our common birds need to be able to thrive across the farmland, something a little rougher with few or no chemicals used on it, areas having a bit of livestock grazing and where it can be accommodated and then a lot more of it all over! 

Yellow wagtail next to cows foot

mostly Linnets

Mostly goldfinch

In the last couple of days there has also been a few more warblers around site as birds move south and try to fatten up for migration, today I had my first blackcap for ages plucking elderberries off the bush, while reed and the odd sedge warblers are still to be found along the edges of the lagoons. Willow warblers have now been firmly replaced by chiffchaffs while stonechat numbers are building around site. Cettis warblers are singing a lot more now and birds are at times giving some great views as they often do after their moult period is over. 

Stonechat on Ousefleet

Very noticeable has been the build up of swallows, enjoying the Indian summer that is now giving good feeding conditions.  And starlings are showing off their developing plumage and feeding around the back of the tractors ploughing the land. 

Swallows and martins at the Office

A quartet of young swallows - almost time to go.........

The starlings are looking very nice indeed as they gain their full splendour. 

Good to see barn owl hunting around Singleton hide yesterday evening, I've missed them recently. Plenty of marsh harriers about with a winged tagged bird the other day probably from the NW Norfolk population, its amazing how many of the birds in winter here on the Humber aren't those that breed or have been raised here. There was another sighting of the hen harrier on Saturday last so watch out at evening roost for the ringtail. Still regular peregrine, sparrowhawk, buzzard and kestrel but have the hobbies now mostly moved south?

Barn owl

Last but not least was another rare sighting for us, a 2ft long grass snake on Horseshoe meadow yesterday that slithered a little too quickly away from me to get a photo. I was just watering and firming in a few of the wildflower plugs that we put in during a plant a plug event last weekend, good to report that many of them are growing well and hopefully should produce plenty of betony and great burnet plants into the future. Grass snakes are very rare on the main reserve as they don't really like the brackish water, so its good to create a bit of habitat that they are using fairly regularly next to the reserve.

People doing something positive for the year of green action the environment and off course our beautiful wildlife. Thank you to all those who got stuck in (from 2 to 75 years old) and helped plant 900 plug plants which will make the meadow even more stunning for future generations to enjoy.

Just a quick update on the next few days weather, wind SE, a bit of rain. If this comes to fruition there could be some very interesting birding with a chance of little stints and curlew sandpipers plus just about anything else to boot! 

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