As many of you now know we have tentatively re-opened the site to visitors, if you are to enjoy your visit then please read the last recent sightings blog that should tell you everything you need to know before you set off. We have a restricted offer and you will need to bring a face mask and hand sanitiser with you on the day. But if you do decide to visit here's an update on the weeks sightings. 

Migration gets into the swing...........

There's no doubt September is a fantastic and eclectic month for birds with all sorts of different species passing through the Humber either on migration or arriving to winter, but also some of the resident birds who are now finishing their summer feather moult are starting to emerge from the dense scrub around site. Of course migration ebbs and flows like the tide and some day are better but certainly this last week there was at first some fantastic passerine migration through site and then with a change in the wind direction a bit of renewed wader passage. 

On some of the cooler mornings it really did feel like Autumn had arrived!

And with a strong North Westerly flow this seemed to give a strong movement of many smaller birds particularly meadow pipits, siskins, and swallows, but also flying overhead the more notables included 2 crossbills, grey wagtail, the first redpolls of the year after a very poor passage last year, and then a good mix of chaffinches, greenfinch, sand martins, linnets, goldfinch and yellowhammers. The passage of yellowhammers seems to be a relatively recent phenomena over the last five years with numbers building year on year, not sure where they come from but possibly the Yorkshire Wolds where there is a good population of this species. 

Grounded siskin in the car park trees

Its been a phenomenal year for willow warbler passage and there were still a few birds in the willows all week but now joined by lots of chiffchaffs, there was also lesser whitethroat, blackcaps, but noticeable that the whitethroats, sedge and reed warblers are all slowly slipping away as they head south on the overnight moons.  

its not just been quantity though this week but a bit of quality in the form of the reserves second redstart of the Autumn (a surprisingly scarce bird on the reserve most years), and the odd wheatear, also notably 5 whichat on the grazing marsh alongside up to 3 stonechats. Yellow wagtails have also featured around the lagoons and Koniks mixed in with lots of pied wagtails that are probably on their way south too. 



Stonechat and whinchat side by side

As said plenty of resident birds now appearing with the Cettis warblers now singing out loud all across the reserve, the bearded tits are just finishing their moult but showing a few early signs of eruption, with high pressure building this may get stronger in the next few weeks but is best towards the end of the month. We still have a couple of treecreepers around site often mixing with the tit flocks roving about site. 

Yellow wagtail - I'll miss their sunshine colour when they are gone south for the winter

With us being closed I've tried to hold the water levels as best I could so that they are at a nice level for passage birds when we managed to get open, I seem to have been lucky that this week wader passage has started to become a little more prevalent and with the weather settled numbers are building especially on tide, but it is September so some species are always in short supply. Plenty of ruff though and up to 14 spotted redshank, small flocks of black-tailed godwits are feeding on the lagoons with redshank, snipe, the odd avocet and lapwing. While a few dunlin are feeding on the shallower pools accompanied at times by up to 2 curlew sandpipers, ringed plover and yesterday a brief wood sandpiper. As water goes down with the forecast warmer weather Singleton lagoon should hopefully get better and better.  Also small numbers of curlew often flying up the estuary to feed, and a turnstone west on Tuesday, and the largest count to date of 50 golden plover overhead.

Curlew sandpiper


Waders gathered at Singleton

Juv spotted redshank

Golden plover - their main arrival on the Humber is often 2 moths later than in the 1970's and 1980's

There has been up to 4 garganey on the lagoons particularly on Xerox and Marshland while there has been a very early arrival of the pink-footed geese this year with 600+ now roosting on Reads Island and then small flocks flying over the reserve out to feed on the arable. As with the waders westward passage of duck has been very low particularly when compared to last year, but when the wind changed there was a small flock of pintail flying up river indicating a renewal of passage. Really please too that all seven of the mute swan cygnets are all near to being able to fly, they had a nightmare last week when all the family got split up as they moved them around the lagoons, but yesterday I saw then all reunited on Singleton which was a relief. 


Pintail west

Pinkfeet flighting onto arable

Birds of prey are much in evidence around site but off course this can disrupt the lagoons and wader watching! So if the lagoons are empty please don't blame the staff, we can't stop the peregrines, marsh harriers, sparrowhawks and buzzards hunting over the site! At the end of August I also saw the first hen harrier and merlin of the year so check out you birds of prey. With reports that 60 of hen harriers have fledged in England this year it will be interesting to see if this equates to a good roost at Blacktoft! 

And on this note you may have seen the fundraising by the local community to buy Langholme Estate in Scotland where hen harrier breed in number, all Blacktofts recorded wing tagged hen harriers have been from this site over the years so please if you can support this project and donate what you can spare, its a great project that could really help this species. And yes me and my partner have both donated!



Hen harrier at the end of August

Still up to 3 spoonbills around site but again they can go out to the estuary on tide, it all depends on the day, also a few little egrets and the chance of the odd young bittern around the side of the lagoons. Plenty of water rail activity many still with young but its getting to that time too when there's a possibility of the odd crake so check them out and get a photo if unsure!

Spoonbills - Xerox

Young bittern at Singleton, this seemed to be a monster bird to maybe punting a guess it was a male?


A final surprise last week as I checked the cattle and work the EA are doing at the same time was a guillemot swimming on the river! Not an annual bird on the reserve and certainly an unusual record for September in what was a relatively calm bit of weather. 

Out on the arable areas in the local area there were a few gatherings last weekend of some nice gulls that actually for once stood still in the field (surprisingly wary at times for gulls). Nice to find at least one yellow legged gull among them. Still not a common bird in Lincolnshire. Also managed to scrump some wild pears to make spiced pear chutney with!

The jelly legged is the one stood up

A bit of mammal activity on site with Roe deer, fox, hare and stoat all seen over the course of the week. This fox was in front of Xerox hide one morning. 

Bits and pieces of interest around site, this is common liverwort in the car park found by our volunteer John who was welcoming visitors, its the female gametophores part apparently. Very nice to see, sometimes taking a closer look at nature can give lots of rewards.

Common Liverwort (John Sweetman)

A bit of fungi around site too with these inkcap species near to the toilet blog, two photo's of the life cycle. It may be pleated inkcap

And I thought I'd share this picture I took while on one of my old birdwatching sites near to where I grew up, you always find stinkhorns with your nose rather than your eyes and it took me back to my childhood when out walking with the family we always had a good look for this hilarious and educational species! In fact I still find them hilarious! Apparently the flies carry the spores on their feet to new places in the woodland. I did note with my naturalists hat on that they seemed to grow around the oaks and hazels.

A fungi classic - stinkhorn

Horseshoe meadow just seems to get better and better after its mid-july haying, in fact with the rainfall it's now in its second spring with lots of flowers giving out much needed nectar and pollen to the September insects. The more I see of this meadow the more I get to like it even though in my lifetime it will never match most of the better SSSI's. But just a walk around now gives the pleasure of flowering ladies bedstraw, red clover, hedge bedstraw, field scabious, three hawkbit species, ox-eye daisy, clary, and knapweed.  

Purple loosestrife

Field scabious


Red clover and hedge bedstraw

Clary with lots of other herbs

Hawkbit sp

I will also say to end, these twin calves are lovely, but a complete pain in the backside! The mothers of twin calves love to hide them, often so well they can't find them themselves. It makes for a lot of careful searching and checking especially when you have machinery working in the field with them! Butter wouldn't melt..........