Well May hasn't even started but it looks as though the weather is changing somewhat for May and giving real meaning to the old saying 'ne'er cast a clout till May be out' - mind you I never try to take my coat off in the middle of a Yorkshire summer unless I have to as I've experienced far too many cold ones over the years! 

Certainly for the birds its seems to have been causing quite a bit of confusion with a mix of winter and summer migrants, some of which have been quite a surprise like the brent goose this morning. 

Brent goose

Of course the reserve is still very much on lock down for people with the site closed to all visitors, but this is also giving rise to the wildlife gradually creeping across the visitor area a bit like those scenes of explorers in the jungle when they find a lost city, well maybe not quite that extreme as yet but just look at the reed growing up out of the paths! 

Nature re-claims the paths! 

One of the most marked re-claims has been those regal rulers of the reedbed our marsh harriers, this year they are constantly pushing the boundaries of where they are comfortable to nest with this superb male collecting nest material yesterday in a frantic effort to keep a female that seems to have turned up. His chosen nest site was in a place I'd never seen them attempt to nest and it will be interesting to see what happens. 

He's a really magnificent bird - if not a little obsessive!

One day there was also a late short-eared owl flying high trying to migrate maybe? The crows didn't like it!

The avocets too have been busy nesting in the most impossible place they could have chosen that leaves them open to predation! I must admit I find them totally and utterly frustrating as a species, you create perfect habitat for them out in the middle of the Humber and then they seem to prefer to nest in a place where ground predators can just walk out to, one day maybe I will understand why they do what they do! 

Bittern activity has now calmed right down with only the male booming, I presume the others reported in my last blog went of to Scandinavia during the high pressure, the bearded tits though are busy. I'm pretty sure most of them lost their first brood due to the very high April tide, but they are if nothing much more resilient than many species as long as they have the right well managed habitat, they are also very prolific and quick breeders so got straight back down to nesting and are now hatching their first brood replacements. Often over the three broods they have losses in one or the other brood even themselves out. 

Male bearded tit searching for insects in the reed panicles 

And a picture of one of our reed cut plots, I hope our crew of volunteers who helped out are pleased with the great results this year, plenty of water, no frosts to knock the reed back as it can do and therefore some great habitat.

All the hard work was well worth it, the reedcut plots look superb and are surrounded by birds

Its also full of sedge warblers (300 singing males!) this year with a good return from Africa, while the reed buntings who do very well in this tidal reedbed are also present in great numbers, its also been very heartwarming to see a good return of that little cryptic creeper the grasshopper warbler back into the drier bits of reedbed. 

Sedge warbler - its a good return for these

Reed bunting male in cracking colours

Grasshopper warbler numbers go up and down like a yo-yo from year to year, I remember one year we had over 28 reeling males but in most years its about 8 to 17. I've always wondered for this species if they are mobile in where they nest depending on habitat condition, last year we had low numbers but many areas around the country had much higher numbers, and I've known this scenario before. I wonder if anyone knows the answer? This bird was near to one of the sluices as I was checking, its a dark breasted individual but the green hew on it is the reflection of the vegetation I think. 

And here's a bit of video 

One thing we are having to do this year to control the risk of laminates in the Koniks is keep them in a restricted area and stop them from becoming overweight, apart from them been a complete pain in the backside as they find all sorts of ingenious ways to get through the fences there has been some great benefits for the birds especially the yellow wagtails, meadow pipits, skylarks and migrant wheatears who at times are making the most of the short turf and insect food created by the dung. There was even a late migrant fieldfare for a few days!  

Skylark

Greenland type wheatear on a very large pile of Konik dung!

While I think this bird was more likely to be Scandinavian as it was during the easterlies (note its not as buff on the underside) or is it just the light

Yellow wagtail - there has been up to 32 which is a good number in spring

Unbelievably we had not had a single garganey this year, there is a range of duck on site, gadwall, teal, shoveler, tufted duck and a pair of pochard although the pochard numbers are dismally low. But there first brood of mallard are out and surviving the harriers, while the first coot chick appeared yesterday. 

Mallard chicks

Most odd though along with the brent goose has been a pair of pink-footed geese that have been ever present and seemingly settled in for the summer. I doubt they will breed but its still odd to have them feeding on site in the summer when pink-feet never want to feed or roost regularly in the winter! 

Wader migration has been err well almost non-existent apart from a small flock of 11 oystercatcher flying around the Trent. Other than that the highlights have been 10 black-tailed godwits, 3 lapwing and on tide yesterday 6 spotted redshank, but they were only around for a short time. 

Oystercatchers

Spotted redshank - now almost in full breeding plumage

There also seems to be a bit more spoonbill activity in the last couple of days with this superb adult today for a short time. 

Not lots of little egrets this year, I seem to think the nearby colony has deserted or maybe they are feeding elsewhere. We are mostly left with non-breeders. 

This heron was enjoying the sun

While these cormorants were enjoying the fish!

With the warmer spell of weather there has been some nice insects about and some interesting plants starting to flower in the meadows and around site. Here's a selection of them

Small-flowered wintercress (tentative ID from a friend) from the tidal reedbed areas - first time I've ever noticed it!

And for all those who helped with the wild flower plug planting - good to see the meadow saxifrage flowering, I suspect the first time in many years this plant has flowered in the local area! 

Thyme-leaved speedwell, a common flower but very nice in one of our restored meadows all the same.

Horseshoe meadow is currently blooming lovely despite being a bit too dry in recent weeks, ragged robin, meadow buttercup, among the cowslips and dandelions and all the other plants, its should be a real riot this summer. 

Ragged robin

Meadow buttercup

Nice to see the ladies smock along the edge of the paths with this small hoverfly in it and spider web

And I quite like my flies - like this one on the Hawthorne. I'd failed to photograph the first large red damselfly of the year. 

And quite a good number of butterflies still including plenty of speckled wood butterfly and a few large whites. 

And just for rainman - a nice bit of fungi on the willow, small thing as I say please me, on this one I like the drip of water at the bottom of the fungi, at the time it was very dry. You may have to enlarge to see it

 

Anyway that's about it for the round up, remember stay safe and well and just a last reminder please do not visit the reserve as we are still working and regularly patrolling the site. 

 

 

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