Who'd have thought that the humble three-spinned stickleback would be so important at helping to feed so many important birds on the reserve at the moment including now regular feeding forays on Marshland lagoon from the veracious Fairburn spoonbills that are currently feeding chicks.  I still can't fully get over the fact that they are undertaking a 50 mile commute on each feeding trip! 

Spoonbill from this week - it seems to like the mornings 

That's a big stickleback its got! 

And from Saturday morning  right in front of the hide! - (Mike Pilsworth)

Very nice this morning to have the re-appearance of a bittern again after a dearth in recent days, this bird is a youngster by the looks of it and showed itself off well on Xerox lagoon, clearly visible from reception.

Another bird alongside the two above that seem to enjoy a stickleback cocktail are the little egrets with the adults now being joined by the juveniles that have yellowish legs. 

And so do the little grebes who are currently hatching young all over the place, they always seem to have a better late breeding season as I suspect they loose many of their early nests to coot and then young to marsh harrier and heron. But late in the breeding season they seem to often have a surge of success as predation pressure drops. 

The marsh harriers are very busy feeding growing young with some of the broods already showing signs of wondering away from the nest sites, I get the feeling that they will disperse onto the arable as soon as possible this year but then we always get a few broods that linger around the lagoons after the first ones have fledged and left site.  

An interesting early sighting of a merlin yesterday would surely have been an adult bird, while the barn owls have quietened down a little due to the good weather that is allowing them to hunt on an night, you can however see them hunting on an evening and the young birds often in the front of the box opposite marshland lagoon. 

Well grown barn owl chick in nestbox

Adult with prey

Waders are running us a merry dance at the moment as birds move between the lagoons and Alkborough Flats. There are a few often present but then some mornings and evenings can be much better than others, no guarantees which day will be which I'm afraid. Recent highlights include 11 black-tailed godwits, 2 green sandpipers, little ringed plover, spotted redshank, greenshank, oystercatcher, redshank, lapwings, and a few returning curlews. On Friday with a SE blow there were at least 30 curlew going west in what was a strong passage, but we also now have back a few 'wintering' birds that are feeding on the grazing marsh and local cut hay fields, it seems like our mixed grazing continues to work wonders for this species.

Green sandpiper - Marshland

Black-tailed godwits Marshland - they unfortunately didn't stay too long (Mike Pilsworth)

For many birds the breeding season is just finishing but for the ducks its still very much in the swing of things, I suspect this is because of the cold and wet spring that has forced many to relay in a second nesting attempt. Gadwall have young of all ages with some nice broods out there, while I was surprised to see a new brood of tiny mallard chicks on Monday on Marshland. The pochard chicks by the way had gravitated down to Singleton lagoon, a very important lagoon for duck brood rearing due to its size and varied habitat. The mute swan chicks are growing well and looking strong - hopefully they will fledge by September that will then allow us to lower the lagoons for the waders. 

Mother and two of the six well grown gadwall chicks on Ousefleet lagoon

Mallard chicks

Moorhen chicks in the car park - another late breeder

Plenty of smaller birds are fledging chicks with the bearded tits now appearing around the edges of the lagoons ready for this upcoming bearded tit walks this Saturday and next Saturday. Good to see a few nice broods of reed buntings and a few warblers with Cettis warblers still singing! Good to hear chiffchaff after a long absence and there was a probable coal tit calling from the car park this morning indicating after last weeks treecreepers that the woodland birds are on the move. 

Reed bunting fledgling looking lovely and in fresh plumage

Tree sparrow young are fledging all over the place with some adults already collecting nesting material ready for the next brood. Good to see a few more yellow wagtail young on the grazing marsh alongside many broods of meadow pipit and skylark

Yellow wagtails - juvenile and adult

With the nice weather there has been a notable increase in butterflies and dragonflies, butterfly highlight has been the first ringlets among the meadow browns while on the dragonfly front there has been the first black-tailed skimmers and a few late hairy dragonflies

Ringlet 

Hairy dragonfly eating a ladybird

Moth numbers are increasing which should make the Thursday's morning moth event very enjoyable with Mike our Warden and moth expert. Here are a few recent moths he's caught on site. The event starts at 8am - there is a small charge)  

Micro moth Schoenobius gigantella (Mike Pilsworth)

cream-bordered green pea (Mike Pilsworth)

pale prominent (Mike Pilsworth)

I'll finish with a flower - field mallow in Horseshoe meadow

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