With the reserve still closed in line with government guidelines for the use of enclosed public spaces here's an update on what has been happening over the last few days.

Crikey its like the Congo out there at the moment and not much better here in the office, but the weather is certainly good for the wildlife at the moment with the air literally buzzing in the steamy conditions. 

Horseshoe meadow is literally full of flowers, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, hoverflies. 

Field scabious


But the weather seems to suit this lovely two foot long grass snake that I came across on the path the other day stretched out basking in the morning light, a pretty rare sighting on the reserve as I don't seem to think they like the brackish flood conditions. 

But then grass snakes do like to eat these, small frogs. I also found this one frog-hopping across the path and a perfect size for a grass snake to eat.

And this brings me on to a birds related theme, more grass snakes may indicate more frogs and toad-lets which also make good food for our bitterns alongside eels and sticklebacks. I've certainly seen the bitterns this year take plenty of sticklebacks but certainly they love frogs when they are on the menu! 

And plenty of food has helped us have a record year here for bittern, here are three of the young that appeared this week at the edge of the lagoon form one of the nests, all looking healthy and in good stead for boosting the wider Yorkshire and Lincolnshire population.

Autumn wader movement has begun as water levels are lowering there has been green sandpipers, ruff, snipe, greenshank, black tailed godwits the odd avocet and good numbers of curlew heading west. 

Green sandpiper

Black-tailed godwit



As water levels lower too there is much more little egret activity alongside the herons with 19 counted this morning feasting on the food in Marshland lagoon and nice to see a few juveniles alongside the adults now. It always amazes me how independent young egrets become so quickly.

Juvenile little egret

Another young bird that was enjoying the sticklebacks last week was this juvenile black-necked grebe, it obviously hadn't come that far so maybe it was from the Aire valley reserves? Good to help out supporting such rare breeder even if it was just to help it get to where it was going to spend the winter. Notice how small its bill is compared to an adult.

Ducks seem to have had a resurgence with a very early arrival of 12 wigeon and this morning 94 teal on the lagoons, there has also been a single moulting garganey from time to time.

But there was also a surprise in the form of a couple of Mandarin ducks just for a short time, clearly in heavy moult it was more like grandpas old whiskers rather then the emperors new gown!

Good to see a good number of new coot chick broods now hatching around the reserve alongside good numbers of little grebes, many people would question why I'm so pleased to see coot young when they are a relatively common bird. However in Europe their numbers have fallen dramatically and they now on the European red list, and I suspect coot are having a hard time in the UK at the moment. So when you see a coot next, take a good look at it - in 20 years it could be the next turtle dove.  

Marsh harriers are very busy feeding their growing young although you certainly wouldn't believe it, during the hot weather you hardly see them move or fly around the reserve as they are hunting over the arable. Good news is that now the Northerly winds have subsided it seems like the barn owls may just be doing something in the Marshland nest box again. 

Male marsh harrier with food

Plenty of breeding activity around the reserve with the warblers really in full swing with broods fledging and new nest being initiated. And although the male cuckoo is becoming less conspicuous there has certainly been what I suspect is a female bird very busy around the reedbed looking for nests. Its certainly a long old time that we've had two males and two females around the reserve and long may it continue.  

Female cuckoo?

Here's just a selection of a few of the smaller birds on site.


Reed bunting and blackcap

Reed warbler - my camera seemed to have steamed up here!

And that's just about it for this week, its turning out to be a busy and long year. 

I'll finish with another look at Horseshoe meadow



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