The last week has certainly seen a gradual change from early Autumn towards winter with a strengthening passage of fieldfare, redwing and siskin moving west and southwards while the build up of hungry pink footed geese has reached another fantastic total of 6% of the world population roosting mainly at Whitton and Reads Island! 

Pinkies at Reads Island

On Friday the team along with a few other birders undertook the October grey goose count along the Humber with in total an amazing 29,000 pink-footed geese recorded, almost exactly the same as last year which was an all time record count. One of the reasons why they are present in such good numbers these days is that there is a good source of food available within the surrounding agricultural land but also that their roost sites are safe from disturbance. In total 12500 were counted on Whitton and 10,000 on Reads Island, both of which form vital refuges for many hundreds of thousands of wetland birds from all over Europe, parts of Asia and even the Americas. Very much a reason to be cheerful!

In fact its been a good all round solid performance from the duck and geese on the Humber reserves this Autumn with our sites supporting roughly about 30,000 of them, and if I put it into context it wasn't so long ago that the whole of the Humber only had peak yearly counts of 20,000 birds, I certainly know there are other sites which support more ducks and geese now around the estuary so the gains are pretty good for some species although there are some which like mallard, pochard and goldeneye which have clearly declined. But overall its positive and a good indication that everyone's conservation efforts are certainly not wasted. And into the near future there is more habitat planned which can only be positive. 

Brent geese at our Tetney reserve have had a good showing too with 750 birds

Here at Blacktoft the main recent duck peaks have been gadwall 138 and shoveler 107, but there has also been 700 teal, and then a mix of mallard, shelduck, wigeon and also we've seen the return of the immature scaup and yesterday evening 2 whooper swans on Ousefleet at dusk, also very nice to see 'our' breeding mute swans return with their young all grown up and flying if not a little green. 

Scaup with mallard on Townend

Good to see the mute swan young doing well - we very rarely fledge two lots of young in a consecutive years

Over 100 shoveler is notable for the reserve

Gadwall numbers are increasing year on year now outstripping mallard, a sign of changing spring weather patterns?

We are low on wigeon numbers at the moment as they are mostly roosting on the river Trent but they are just starting to increase this morning to feed on the lush grass growth

Whoopers in the dark

Birds of prey are also really starting to show with yesterday being very noteworthy for a passage of common buzzards and with them a lone red kite, then at dusk, marsh harriers (15 counted on Saturday) peregrine and the immature ringtail hen harrier in to roost and probable merlin earlier in the day. Barn owls have been prominent and I do know that there are still young in a box near to the reserve which have still to fledge. 

Red kite drifting through yesterday

Not a great range of waders on these low tides but still at least 10 ruff and 44 curlew, also 400 golden plover flying around the estuary and small numbers of lapwing, redshank and snipe. But there are waders passing with a good showing of grey plover flying west this year, this was backed up by a flock of 14 out on the side of Whitton Island along with 38 avocets and two sanderling scuttling along the edge of the rising tide. In fact what a great recent addition to the Humber reserve's holding this site is turning out to be what with the pinkies and recently over 4000 waders including good numbers of golden plover and lapwing but also dunlin, curlew, and redshank meaning that its already supporting over 16,000 waterbirds not to mention the 20,000+ roosting gulls! (why do we always forget the gulls when we talk about wetland birds especially when the UK is internationally important for them!)

Ruff, redshank and ducks

A closer view of the ruff

The autumn movement of the passerines continues with redwing moving through and certainly now fieldfares present in the surrounding countryside in numbers, but also notable has been the recent passage and increase in numbers on site of bullfinch, also overhead movement of song thrush, siskin, greenfinch, yellowhammer, skylark, meadow pipit, and chaffinch - but numbers generally seem to be down on last year at the moment, maybe it just needs to get a little cooler. 

Meadow pipit in the berries

Cettis warblers are now blasting out their song from every bit of the reserve as their numbers continue to grow exponentially, while the bearded tits are still erupting in number depending on the weather. Stonechats are present in good numbers with at least four pairs between Ousefleet and Singleton. Great spotted woodpecker and kingfisher have added a splash of colour but we are still waiting on the Jays although I had two migrating along the escarpment at Alkborough at the weekend.  


Irrupting bearded tits

Birds feeding on the hogweed seed, they always do this during irruptions

And in the reed with at least some reed seed

But notable this year that the reed seed head production is the worst I've seen in 22 years on the reserve, I suspect due to dry summers stressing the reed and also an infestation of wainscots - I need to investigate further but if its a cold winter there may be a big crash in bearded tit numbers.......

Devoid of pinnacles - reed seed heads

The fungi is still performing well with these Shaggy inkcaps in the car park area showing of yesterday, note the drip of black ink Oozing from one of the caps as it starts to liquefy.

Its always a busy time of year both in the office and with on site management, the wet weather is of course always presenting challenges but it was nice to be able to welcome a few sheep to aftermath graze one of our little hay meadows that we are currently creating. Grazing the 'aftermath' is a traditional way of removing the growth of grass after the hay cut, it helps reduce down the grass height and vigour and allows the wildflowers to grow through while putting back a little bit of natural organic (very different btw to artificial fertilisers that create unnaturally high peaks of nitrogen and phosphates).  I'd love to aftermath graze our horseshoe meadow but it takes quite a lot of organising as we are not allowed to erect a permanent fence!

A couple from Horseshoe meadow

Many flowers are still going well like this field scabious

And the meadow saxifrage plugs we grew from seed are going great guns - I'm really looking forward to them flowering in the spring!!

Anyway to end with here's a link to a half hour TV programme produced by the Humber Nature Partnership that we work with over many aspects of the Humbers management, its a good introduction to the birds and some of the challenges and was shown on the community channel recently. So why not make yerself a cuppa and site down to watch. 

Wild Humber