What an amazing couple of weeks here at Blacktoft, around the Humber and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

I know it’s been a little while since our last blog. But then our small but dedicated team of staff and volunteers have been very busy looking after approaching 4000 visitors.

Of course the vast majority of those have come to see what is this years star bird, Larry the White Tailed Lapwing. It’s presence has been immense.

White Tailed Lapwing

As a native of southern Russia and the middle east there’s many theories as to how it’s ended up on our shores, enduring high pressure over the continent, extreme weather conditions e.g. forest fires or even a general dispersal west from it’s traditional grounds. Nevertheless we’re very pleased to have it at the reserve and for so long too.

All credit to our assistant warden Stuart Taylor who first discovered the bird on 26th August. He was at the reserve early that morning checking water levels, and after rubbing his eye’s several times ‘raised the alarm’.

That first day was somewhat hectic as staff mobilised to cope with the sheer number of visitors descending on the reserve and a massive thanks goes out to all our staff and especially our volunteers. They have really stepped up to the mark to make everyone feel welcome and facilitated everyone getting as best a view as possible.

A 1st for Yorkshire and only the 8th record in the UK, it’s been wowing audiences ever since. People have travelled the length and breadth of Britain and beyond to catch this once in a lifetime bird.

White Tailed Lapwing

We’re doing all that we can to make sure as many people as possible are able to see this wonderful bird, so we’ll be continuing to open the reserve at 8am until dusk (around 8pm) while it’s still around. Keep an eye on our facebook and twitter pages for the very latest information.

Of course it’s not the only bird around the reserve. We’ve been graced with little stints too (although not for a few days now).

Little Stint (Pic:- Pete Short)

A rarity in itself with around 800 passage birds and only 14 wintering birds the little stint has been a pleasure to view. It’s highly likely the birds we’ve had at the reserve are juveniles and will be headed south to Africa for the winter.

Next on our illustrious list of avian visitors (we’ve had many renowned human visitors too) is glossy ibis. It’s not the first time at the reserve this year but hasn’t been around since 20th May this year. It’s spent much of the year over the river Trent from us at Alkborough.

Glossy Ibis (taken 12.09.21 in low light)

Glossy Ibis (taken 20th May 2021 in better light).

Great White Egret (Pic:- Pete Short)

It’s not so long ago that great white egret was a major twitch in the UK, thankfully they’re not quite so rare these days. 100 years ago these beauties were globally under threat arising from the fashion industry at that time. From 1889 onwards Our founders Emily Williamson, Etta Lemon and Eliza Phillips campaigned tirelessly to ban the import of feathers culminating in the introduction of the Plumage (Prohibition) Act in July 1921. A move which potentially saved a plethora of species both at home and abroad. Of course we still campaign tirelessly to protect our wildlife and habitats but in these troubling times our focus has changed somewhat towards the nature and climate emergency.

On to some of the more usual (but nonetheless amazing) birds around the reserve.

Of course marsh harriers continue to please around the reserve – concentrated towards the eastern end (Singleton) of the reserve.

Other raptors include this rather fast peregrine spotted over Whitton island. It’s hard to tell if it’s the same bird but one was spooking the waders (including Larry) last week.

Peregrine falcon (Pic:- Pete Short)

And although one of our more common raptors a pair of buzzards graced us circling over reception.

Buzzard over reception hide.

Hobby has also been seen chasing dragonflies across the reserve.

Bearded tits continue to show well across the reserve with many reporting good views from marshland, xerox, first and townend hides.

Beard tit (Pic:- Pete Short)

There’s been lots of water rail about too (including juveniles).

Water Rail

This one was a little distant at the back of marshland lagoon but there have been lots of closer sightings too.

Speaking of marshland lagoon many people have commented about the water levels here just now. They are very low but that has been intentional. The warden team have been working feverishly to ensure the lagoons across the reserve are in great shape for the future maximising food resources and maintaining scrapes and improving islands. We’re expecting some very high tides in early autumn which will help to refill the lagoons and replenishing food sources.

Other waders seen around the reserve this week include spotted redshank, redshank, green shank, ruff, green sandpiper, black tailed godwits and snipe.

Black Tailed Godwit

Out on the estuary avocets have been showing in fantastic numbers too.  Pete recently counted around 1600 at Read’s Island on a recent WeBs count – what an incredible spectacle.

Avocets over Read’s Island (Pic:- Pete Short)

As time runs out for this blog just one more amazing spectacle to report.

Thanks to visitor Peter Finch for spotting and capturing nightjar on the reserve this morning – something I never expected to see in broad daylight!

This elusive and normally nocturnal bird and expertly camouflaged was perched on the access barrier at marshland lagoon earlier – amazingly the pic above is unedited and taken on a mobile!

What with all of the above, black browed albatross at Bempton and green warbler at Buckton just north of there Blacktoft Sands, the Humber and East Riding of Yorkshire truly is the place to be for birding just now.

That’s all for now – hope to see you at the reserve.