A couple of years ago the RSPB Humber reserves purchased a small 8 hectare island just outside of Goole called Hook Island or as some like to call it Howden Dyke Island that is of course depending on which side of the river Ouse you happen to live on!
Hook Island, note how the surrounding area of what in historical time would have been estuary is now farmland and housing, this makes the refuge area of Hook Island a very special place
Yes I know its only a piddling little site compared to other reserves but of course it does lie within the much larger (35,000 hectare!) Humber Site of Special Scientific interest and Special Protection Area which can hold up to 160,000 wintering and passage wetland birds! So there was very much at the time of purchase some method in our madness when we went ahead with its acquisition, particularly as the island holds a very strategic location in the upper reaches of the Humber for thousands of the birds that use the wider farmland of the Humberhead levels to feed on.
The Humber plays such an important role in helping to conserve many thousands of waders
The question was could we make the reserve better and more beneficial over time by adding value to this small semi-urban reserve?
So two years down the line and after quite a lot of negotiation I'm very pleased to announce that the Humbers very own 'tear of India' (because it looks like Sri Lanka!) has grown just a little bit more to become a much bigger reserve with the addition of 40 hectares of surrounding mudflats that helps complete the refuge area.
Here you can just see some of the emerging mudflat after high tide to the right of the island with Goole in the background
The Island itself is a quite rare habitat in itself on the Humber wet woodland, what is special about this willow thicket is that it provides the perfect nesting habitat for the local herons and little egrets and in winter a regionally important roost of over 200 cormorants.
A herons next in the tangle of willow
Little egret numbers nesting on the island reached at least six pairs this year
But the purchase of the island didn't include the surrounding inter-tidal mudflats that can at times support up to 4000 golden plover and 2000 lapwings plus many other wetland birds that need somewhere to rest, wash up and feed. The twenty five year lease of the mudflats will therefore help us to provide much more comprehensive protection for this little jewel of a nature reserve and ensure that the network of wider Humber refuges are not degraded through disturbance or inappropriate developments.
The mudflats with roosting golden plover and the M62 road bridge behind, you can view the island from the banks of the river Ouse near Goole
Lapwing and golden plover, two of the target species
The Humber is however very much like the rest of the UK and very much under pressure from the advance of modernization but the RSPB Humber reserves team are really showing that through a network of sites and by working with others within the wider estuary we can protect hundreds of thousands of birds and associated wildlife.
Our sites at Blacktoft, Whitton Island, Reads Island and Tetney can at times hold over 110,000 birds (and growing!) with this year some superb counts of wintering and passage birds that are dependent on a good network of quality wetland sites right across their whole breeding and wintering range.
The Humber reserves network is proving vital to protecting birds like these pink-footed geese
So yes a small purchase can go a very long way, especially when you can add a bit of extra value when it comes to the conservation of the Humbers Internationally important wetland birds and all this is made possible by your fantastic support through your membership and generosity.
Even a few ruff have been using the mudflats this year.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654