Yes, apologies for no blog for quite a while, the volume of work for just two staff across the Humber reserves is at the moment just a step or ten ahead of us. I'll try and update as best I can when I can but blogs will now become add-hock when I can manage them and remember anything beyond the last few days!

Also apologies but at the moment we are unable to re-open the reserve to visitors, the logistics of social distancing and running a safe operation for staff, volunteers and visitors is somewhat beyond our current capabilities, resources and set up. When we will re-open is very unsure and we are keeping a close eye on what happens across the wider UK in the next two or three weeks to see if the site can be made safe.

Time to celebrate a few successes!

So what has been happening during this suddenly very wet mid summer period? Well certainly today it was very pleasing to see the first marsh harrier chicks fledging, the chicks on the flood plain are very late this year due to an early April spring tide that forced them all to relay. And coupled with a bit of a food shortage due to lack of voles I'm not sure what sort of season its going to be. But if anything the marsh harriers are resistant and they always amaze me every year in the end just how many young they get out! I do know one of our nests on a non-tidal site has fledged three young, so lets see what happen over the next week or so.

Two of our first marsh harrier fledglings! 

The big news this season was that the reserve had four successful bittern nests that all fledged at least some young! The best season ever across the local area and certainly one of the pairs fledged at least three young, one of which I saw this morning amazingly only about 50m from the nest site, there was another bird at Marshland the day before yesterday two so it seems although they are now independent they have more than enough food to keep them fit and healthy. 

Young bird from this morning flying across the lagoon

And one creeping around the edge of Marshland

There is no doubt that the many tides we had over winter and in the spring that we fed continually into the lagoons really helped them coupled with all the management work and habitat creation that we've done over the years to make things just a little better year on year. It was certainly and instructive year as I managed to film some of the females feeding along the reed edge and it was very obvious that they were only taking small sticklebacks, but lots of them. I did also get a bit of footage of one slurping down a glass eel just like a bit of spaghetti but in the main it was sticklebacks! 

That's what they are eating! Doesn't look like enough to feed a kingfisher never mind a brood of bitterns!

Bearded tits seem to have had a good breeding season with a few teasing days where the juveniles show around the lagoons after rain and give the impression of a bountiful season. If there is a bit of warm weather nest week I may be able to update you one the situation as they feed around the reed/mud/water interface.  

I have also noticed that the new reed seed heads are emerging, and with this wet weather the seed set should be excellent - great news if you are a wintering bearded tit, there should be great survival rates!

Duck are having a moderate to poor season although gadwall seem to be doing pretty well, I've noticed that the females are much more attentive of their young and seem to guard them better. Good too to see two broods of tufted duck but it does seem this year to be a complete blank on pochard. Good though to see that the four shoveler chicks are doing well and looks like they will fledge. 

Gadwall brood

Mallard brood - often now with less chicks

And tufted duck chicks

Our two mute swan broods are having very mixed fortunes with the curse of Fiery Fred seemingly upon one of the pairs. The brood of seven on Singleton are doing fantastic and they look like mini battleships. However, the poor brood of six that were on Ousefleet are down to just two and they are not growing either, this was always the problem with Fred's offspring in many years, they just never grew. Whether it was down to genes or just lack of suitable food in the lagoons I don't know, but nature sure is a cruel thing.

The singleton crew

Our records of unusual feral ducks continues with this morning a couple of brief Egyptian geese were on Marshland. This African goose was one of the first birds introduced into the UK back in the 18th century, long before many other species. 

Waders are starting to arrive back but not in big numbers, black-tailed godwits, the odd ruff, 4 green sandpipers, dunlin, snipe, redshank and lapwing are periodically on the lagoons. Plenty of curlew going west this year although one bird is not joining them as this morning Bertha our large female marsh harrier was on Ousefleet munching on one. Its always uncertain with harriers if they have just found a dead bird or if it was ill, but it certainly made a hearty meal and hopefully fed a few chicks!

Dunlin

Black tailed godwit

Young lapwing - hopefully from some of the pairs out on the arable this year that seemed to be raising chicks

Curlew

On some mornings there are up to twenty little egrets feeding on site sometimes joined by a few spoonbills that are enjoying the sticklebacks (its not just the bitterns that benefit!). Also nice to see a few broods of water rails around and a few young moorhens which seem to have been struggling in recent years. 

Two adult and what looks to be this years young spoonbill - question is is it from Fairburn or East Anglia?

Little egrets following a brood of mallards and catching the fish flushed out - clever things herons

With this rain there has been an emergence of breeding activity by both our resident and migrant birds with many of the thrushes certainly needing it after a very bad early season due to the drought. Warblers are singing and their previous broods are emerging from the reedbed, reed buntings are chiming and the tree sparrows are fledging young from the reserve like no tomorrow. Strange though there are no tree sparrows at all breeding in the car park after their first brood attempt a couple of months ago. A couple of interesting sightings over the last two weeks, a single crossbill (I suspect most of the crossbill and siskin invasion flew high over the site as I did look on a couple of mornings when I started early to avoid the heat at that time) in the willows one day and then a Tawney owl flying across one of the willow gaps.

Reed bunting 

Sedge warbler

Reed warbler

With all this rain there had to be a bit of fungi, and I was please to find this Silky Rosegill on one of our dead poplar trees, it was found last year in the same place so it was good to see its reemergence. 

And the Jelly ear too is always a sign that its wet as it re-hydrates, mind you its pretty obvious when you're soaking wet through shepherding the livestock!

And how about this weird gall on the willow!

With this rain our new meadows have had a bit of a reprieve from haying that has allowed them to carry on flowering giving a very nice display. Its always a judgement call on when to hay to keep a balance of the plants you want in a meadow, when you cut a little early many plants have a second flowering that can help insects late into the season. Daz our community officer who's just had a major operation and is on a long road to recovery asked how Horseshoe meadow was doing, so here's some pictures for you Daz! 

One of the nectar mix rich corners - nice to see it happening as planned!

And towards the centre of the field, full of ladies and hedge bedstraw, field scabious, vetch, clover, field mallow, ox-eye daisy, knapweed, yarrow, self heal - the photo's don't quite do it justice!

Greater Knapweed - its the first bit I've found in the meadow - I did drop a few seeds in the other year I'd purloined from the wolds 

What is pleasing is the growth of some of the plug plants that were planted as part of the Year of Green Action funding last year. We grew the plugs from seed ourselves and then got volunteers and some of our visitors to plant many of them into Horseshoe meadow. And with this rain many of them have flourished, none more so than the Betony as you can see below, this species is one of our target species in the creation of MG4/MG5 grassland so its great to see it thriving!

Betony plug - flowering in its first full year, result!

Cheers and stay safe

Pete

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