With no sign of ice or snow down here along the Humber its certainly seems to be a case of suits you sir! No shortage of birds right across site but also it seems the mammals are becoming more active while with mild and damp there has been some lovely fungi to see along the trails.
Sunrise earlier in the week - there's been some real corkers this winter
But before I start just to remind everyone that the road through Whitgift is closed 8am - 3pm every weekday until the end of next week, therefore access to the reserve is from the Scunthorpe side via Adlingfleet. All roads are open on the weekends.
Also another reminder that we now have our own facebook page, here is the link
We are also now on Twitter too @Blacktoft_Sands
So on with the sightings, as said with the site wet and a lack of frost the lagoons have been teaming with waterfowl particularly teal, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, and mallard, but tufted duck numbers are gradually rising and there has also been three beautiful whooper swans which roost on Marshland lagoon but can often be seen from Singleton hide during the afternoon. Unfortunately the green-winged teal only stayed a couple of days but you never know when it may return.
Displaying green-winged teal from last Friday - will we ever see hybrids with teal from this regular male?
There's also been up to 450 pink-footed geese knocking about and 600 greylags roosting on Ousefleet, but typical for us we've only had one record of white-fronted goose which was a bird that flew over and out towards Whitton. Blacktoft for some reason always seems to go against the national trend during influxes and with rarities!
The marsh harriers one morning seemed to be checking out the greylags for injured or dying birds, there were in the end five of them.
Birds of prey have been spectacular at times with up to 3 hen harriers coming in to roost although it does vary between 1 and 3, the marsh harriers too have really put on some great displays as they hunt around site through the day while often mobbing the buzzards. Add in kestrel and sparrowhawk, the chance of merlin and then not forgetting the superb barn owls then it really is some great birding.
A lovely kestrel
Ringtail hen harrier - from the softrack cab!
And barn owl from this morning - doing what the sign is telling it to do!
I almost forgot too the other morning the young male peregrine that tried for over 5 minutes to catch a desperate and brave lapwing, the peregrine diving again and again as the lapwing ducked and dived, the poor thing even had to evade a couple of marsh harriers that were halfheartedly trying to take advantage. However in the end the lapwing prevailed and got away looking very relieved and tired! Birding really at its best.
Not the best photo's as the peg was so fast and the light poor - brave lapwing evades the peg.
Waders numbers have fluctuated with varying numbers of lapwing, flyover golden plover and a few feeding redshank and snipe but little sign of the black-tailed godwits at the moment or ruff. However, there has been up to 160 curlew with many often visible either on the arable field next to the reserve or from the gate to the grazing marsh at Ousefleet. Interesting that we have had a colour ringed bird sighted feeding on one of our grass fields enjoying the worm fest brought about through grazing with cattle. The male curlew was ringed on Seal Sands on the Tee's estuary on 3rd August 2019, an interesting movement down to another estuary, the bird is possibly from the Scandinavian population, I'm quite interested in the movement as we get lost of continental curlew flying up the estuary in July, and I'd never presumed that birds would move southward after arriving on another estuary.
Curlew enjoying the wormfest
And a few on the flood bank
Still a nice variety of passerines about site with a few water pipits (although beware there are a few meadow pipits too) flying about the lagoons, also stonechats, tree sparrows, goldcrests, fieldfares and redwings among some of the more notable.
The lovely stock doves are often found at Ousefleet
Godcrest this morning - one day I'll get a decent photo!
Certainly a few mammals about with the first fox sighting in quite a long while yesterday, also weasel, roe deer and the odd hare and keep a good look out for otter, the presence of fresh spraints seems to indicate they are pretty active around site
Roe deer - with a fuzzy barn owl in the middle
Also some nice fungi around site, nothing rare but always an added bit of interest.
Jelly ear and red-leg toughshank - often found on the Elder together
I found this nice one at one of our other sites along the Humber at the weekend while counting wildfowl
Currently the team are full on with the reedcutting and being 50% down on staff at the moment its taking a real team effort to get on with the job, we cut the reed to create a mosaic within the tidal reedbed that ensures it stays in tip-top condition for all our reedbed birds but particularly the bearded tits and marsh harriers. If we left it to its own devices then succession would start to take place and eventually we'd loose what is one of the best inter-tidal reedbeds in the country. The management does involve some burning of the brash so you may see quite a bit of smoke on some days, its all part of the management and nothing to worry about! Most of the smoke is caused when the reed is slightly wet and is mostly water vapour, and in terms of carbon the balance of a healthy growing reedbed and the carbon it stores far outweighs what little carbon is released. Also just to remind everyone that the tidal reedbed is on silt and not deep peat which the RSPB do not support burning on.
Cutting the reed with our softrak
And experimental rolling of the reedbed with a light roller to see if we can add to the mosaic and create nesting sites for bearded tits and other reedbed passerines such as sedge warbler and reed bunting. I've already found its best results in the standing reed rather than the poor quality areas that are already laying flat - it produces the leaning reed that beardies like to nest under.
I find it perverse and irresponsible that the rspb response seeks to hide the problem rather than instigate matters to address it. Rats are not native, they eat birds eggs particularly of ground nesting species and live rats are not the preferred prey of UK predators - bird or mammal. The rspb's laid back attitude and failure to address their rat problem appears to have led to an explosion in their rat population. It is possible to control rats without resorting to poison and to keep a lid on rat numbers with correct management of bird feeders. Sadly it appears the rspb at Blacktoft Sands are not willing to do so.
I appreciate the advice on controlling seed waste. I therefore think it best we move the feeders away from the visitor area where they are not visible as we need to support our tree sparrow population but don't want to offend as I feel whatever we do in the current mild weather there will still be rats.
However I should maybe add a few words, as with all riparian habitats there are always rats present around the whole reserve, with the mild wet weather this year the population is high especially around the feeders but also all around the whole reserve. The feeders do not allow the rats onto them and we restrict the feeders to two, filling them only once a day so they empty, most of the feeders we use have catching dishes. This approach has worked pretty well for many years until this year with the flood waters and lack of cold. But as with all birds, especially the tree sparrows seed does get dispersed. And as the pheasants and moorhens aren't feeding under the feeders this year much its leading to some uneaten waste.
However, as much we all dislike rats they do feed our foxes, badgers, stoats and weasels as well as our marsh harriers and barn owls. So if they are not harming anything or posing a direct threat to human health then the question is just because we can see them is it a disgrace. Or is it not a problem if they are hiding in their holes? Rats are part of nature wether we like it or not.
Mammals are certainly active.15 large rats under the bird feeder! An appalling advertisement to the public showing what can happen if you feed birds without taking simple precautions. What is needed is a large tray just below the feeders to catch falling seed and large paving slabs around the base of the pole so the rats can't make their holes.
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