Please note the reserve is open from 9am – 6pm, covid guidance is in place e.g. test and trace, social distancing, reduced capacity and masks in enclosed areas. Please be kind to others especially if they are waiting for space.
Humans! We have people back on the reserve after around 8 months. It’s been great to see so many of you experiencing the brilliant wildlife the Humber has to offer from the hides at Blacktoft – and of course to welcome you all back. It’s been fab to see so many familiar faces and plethora of new people who have visited us for the first time.
Your excitement and enthusiasm has been infectious and we’re all walking with an extra spring in our step.
Speaking of spring – the weather seems finally to have broken with some glorious sunny days. The hawthorns are blossoming and the meadow flowers are beginning to bloom. The insects are buzzing and the smaller passerines are very active making up for a cold April and wet May.
Warmer weather brings out more insects. It’s been great to see good numbers of hirundines, especially swifts and swallows whizzing over the lagoons.
Swallows and martins
Thanks to the young man who really made me smile when I gave him the mission of photographing a swift in flight. Not an easy task but he returned an hour later with a better pic than the one I took above.
Our smaller feathered friends have been very active all around the reserve.
Tree sparrows are a familiar sight at the reserve but we sometimes forget how hard these little beauties have faired in the past. It’s estimated we lost 93% of our UK population between 1970 and 2008. In recent times they’ve faired a little better – let’s hope the difficult early breeding season didn’t have too much of an impact.
It’s been fab to see some of the ‘returnees’ as well. Reed and sedge warblers are busy flitting around the reed beds gathering food for hungry young.
Reed bunting proudly sporting his summer plumage.
White throat on the edge of the drainage ditch.
Walking round the reserve listening to white throat and black caps as they serenade us has been an absolute pleasure too.
Meadow pipits, skylarks and the odd yellow wagtail have been making use of the grazing marsh – especially around the cows and ponies.
Although, if I was a meadow pipit or reed warbler I’d be a little wary of the cuckoos which have been echoing around the marsh (and there’s been plenty of sightings too). Cuckoos are brood parasites, usurping the nests of the much smaller birds mentioned above. Cuckoos will often wait until it’s target has left the nest to feed then sneaks in and lays a single egg (which often mimics it’s host’s colour) leaving the host parents to rear the chick. Once the cuckoo chick hatches (after around 11 days) it often pushes the host eggs out of the nest so that it gets all the food from it's foster parents. The adult bird won’t be here that long since they’ll be flying back to Africa around the end of June. The young cuckoo fledglings will never meet it’s parents but instinct will guide it to it’s African wintering grounds.
Although the vast majority of passage waders have moved on to their breeding grounds it was great to see a small flock of black tailed godwits (around 9) land at Ousefleet on Sunday but sadly they evaded my camera. The majestic avocet have stayed around for a while joined briefly by a couple of lapwings.
Lapwing with avocet.
Sadly the lapwings don’t appear to be nesting at the reserve although we have had reports of nesting at other sites around the Humber (please note it is illegal to disturb nesting birds).
Black headed gulls have taken up residence at Marshland lagoon as well, making their usual noise and mobbing anything that strays too close.
Black headed gull.
Little gulls have also been frequenting the Ousefleet lagoons with several sightings over a few days. Sadly they’ve evaded my camera lens but head over to our twitter feed where Pete has posted some great footage of them.
Humans and little gulls aren’t the only rarities that we’ve seen at the reserve either!
Bittern have been seen regularly in short flights ranging across the lagoons (mainly between First hide and Xerox). Many of our visitors have shown me their superb photo’s (which I’m not at all jealous of!) but these are the best I’ve had from my camera – and I didn’t even take them. That credit goes to Dean – one of our wardening team – who managed to grab this distant shot whilst I was taking a comfort break (typical).
Spoonbills are regular ‘fly bys’ too – I suspect they may be using Alkborough Flats over the river from us but still a great sight.
Spoonbill fly by
Garganey has also spent some time at townend lagoon but hasn’t been seen since – fingers crossed for an encore!
Garganey and shoveler
And perhaps the biggest coup this week has been the appearance of a glossy ibis. It had spent a couple of hours at Ousefleet hide last week but didn’t stay with us long – I suspect it may have been using other areas close by. But the last few days or so it’s spent much more time with us. It is of course a marsh and wetland specialist but very far from home being native to Eurasia, Central and North America. Although they usually prefer eating invertebrates and aquatic insects this one seems to be feasting on chironomid larvae – abundant in the Humber mud. It was with us this morning briefly this morning (Wednesday) but appears to have headed off in the direction of Alkborough.
Whilst us humans have been away from the reserve the marsh harriers have got used to not having us around – and have been coming much closer to the hides giving us some superb views. And just to clear up a question we’ve been getting lately – our marsh harrier celebrity ‘dangly’ (so called because he flies with one leg dangling) definitely has two legs, and possibly 2 females since he’s been seen frequenting Whitton Island too.
Dangly the marsh harrier showing off both legs.
Well that’s all for now.
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