This last couple of days seems to have been dominated by our marvellous spoonbills and then when the weather was overcast a fantastic gathering of 6000 roosting sand martins. On some days there has been up to 14 very entertaining spoonbills, and just stop and think for a moment - apart from starlings when did you last see a gathering of 6000 sand martins or any other small passerine? 

Sand martins at Singleton

The spoonbills get more and more interesting with the interactions between Fairburn and Blacktoft and then the wider populations in the rest of the UK and near continent. Earlier in the week we had two of this years youngsters turn up with parents which had originated out of Yorkshire probably east Anglia or Holland, they then moved over to Fairburn where there was 11 adult/Juvs, while here at Blacktoft we had 14 adults including a new juvenile! I'm not very good at maths but that makes 25 birds. Then there was the news that Fairburn has three active spoonbill nests! Who'd have thought only five years ago that all this would be going on and just how connected spoonbill populations can be with wetlands both here and across the North sea. 

Here's a few of my favourite moments

This bird was chased and flew towards the hide

Taking a stretch

Its a bit of a numbers game!

Mutual preening after a rainstorm

But its not just the spoonbills that have been yielding some interesting movements, take the adult little egret that was ringed on the 9th July at Weldrake Ings, by the 10th it was feeding on Marshland lagoon! I've always thought there was a link between the nesting birds near Goole and then Weldrake and Blacktoft depending on the feeding opportunities available. There was also another blue ringed bird but this time a Juvenile, I'm waiting for information but it seems this was from a colony near to Goole different to our Hook Island birds. 

It pays to be on the ball - I saw the ring colour on a LDV tweet

Certainly the hirundines and swifts have been entertaining recently as they hawk for insects particularly the corn midges (I knew they were good for something rather than making you itch like mad while in the hides!). The sand martins put on a fantastic show as you can see by the photo's below, but it all depends on the weather if they replicate this spectacular - it needs to be overcast and muggy!

Sand martins with marsh harrier trying to nab one of them for breakfast

I was also watching this swallow thinking it was feeding in the horse enclosure, however as my photo reveals it was actually collecting horse hair for lining its nest. 

Here's an already fledged juvenile. 

The marsh harriers seem to be having a reasonably good breeding season here in the mid estuary with at least 16 young already flying here at Blacktoft alone, however from reports from some parts of East Anglia it seems their Marshies have not fared that well. Small populations of birds such as Marsh harriers can quickly decline so its never too good to be complacent about having lots of them about here at Blacktoft. 

Juv marsh harrier at Ousefleet

The barn owls continue to entertain as the young continue to fledge with the bird below flying over me at Ousefleet when I was about to feed the ponies. There has also been regular hobby, off course chasing the sand martins and then a rather large peregrine banging through site from time to time. 

Duck are rather low key as they go into moult but search through for possible garganey, however its also good to see a few growing broods of gadwall, mallard, tufted duck and our mute swans which are almost three quarters the size of the adults now. Look out for water rails that are now regular along the edges of the lagoons.

Growing mute swan chicks

Waders continue to give a poor show at the moment but there is regular green sandpiper, snipe, lapwing about with then on occasion black-tailed godwit, redshank, avocet, curlew, oystercatcher and the odd fly over whimbrel. Not quite sure why its so poor for waders but certainly the wind directions aren't helping and I also suspect water levels across the river at Alkborough are at a good level for some of the above species. 

Snipe and green sandpiper

Plenty of small bod activity with good numbers of juvenile yellow wagtails around, sometimes showing well on Marshland lagoon and mid week the bearded tits were very good along the edges of Townend, Singleton and Xerox lagoons. A bit of a revival in singing sedge and reed warblers while reed buntings are still busy feeding young. There was also treecreeper again early in the week this time at Singleton. The first migrant willow warblers are now calling from the willows and there are still Cettis warblers feeding young and plenty of young whitethroats

Juvenile yellow wagtail

Bearded tits at Townend

Reed warbler 

Good to see the return of the first kingfisher for some time, always lovely to have that splash of colour around the place.

Good to see out around the livestock plenty of skylarks, meadow pipits, yellow wagtails, linnets and reed buntings which really seem to thrive in our low intensity mixed grazing regime. When you look at all the local hay meadows they have all been cut and baled, but then small hay meadows never seem to hold many ground nesting birds around here. What they do like is grazed or extensive set aside. 

Meadow pipit on a large pile of horse dung!

And you certainly have to watch where you tread - a meadow pipit nest with four eggs in

Reed bunting with food for young - today

Two of the younger mixed grazers

Visible from the bank as you look at our tree sparrow feeding station you can see our Horseshoe meadow arable reversion field that was only created two and a half years ago, as you can see its packed with wild flowers, butterflies, bees and many other insects. It really does look a picture at the moment and is really holding so much more diversity than it did when it was just wheat or barley. We will be cutting this meadow in August as this year it seems to be a late butterfly emergence and flowering of many plants such as field scabious. The best time for haying a meadow can vary depending on year, sometimes you just have to look and make a decision and hope the person who is taking the hay off for you can hold on! 

Bristly ox tongue and small white 

Field scabious

A view from within the meadow

A view in the evening light

Also seems quite a few dragonflies are coming out now so look out for these monsters - 

Still trying to get a full ID on this! Is it just a fresh migrant hawker?

  

This one was in the reserve car park - same here 

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