Some fantastic news over the last few days here on the Humber is that avocets are fledging young from the lagoon that we created back in 2017 out on Whitton Island! See this link - It really is outstanding news because even though we create this new estuarine habitat we can only live in hope that it delivers for the species it was designed for. You can also read a little about it in the Natures Home article about Blacktoft in the Autumn issue that has just gone out. 

A three quarters grown avocet (right hand bird) - this one had been walked over across the river to the south bank! There were also three other broods

Whitton was a dry island with no water on it and although Avocets had nested on the foreshore before they had only ever fledged a couple of chicks, but it was a good bet that if we managed to construct some lagoons and ponds out on an island that was ground predator free there was an even stevens chance that the regularly dismally failing avocets at Blacktoft and Reads Island would at least have a fair chance to do something positive again. You see avocets are ecologically designed to move around dynamic habitats where they can avoid predators, but they are often hemmed in by humans and expected to nest successfully year in year round in one location, and unfortunately this just does not happen. They also need space - space to avoid intra-specific feeding competition but also to avoid being in a predator trap, Whitton gives this opportunity for the avocets to move their young around a large area and in so doing give them a better chance of survival. And for once our vision seems to have worked!

Pinkfeet over Whitton in December 2018 (Mike Pilsworth) - the project was not just about avocets!

But the success of the Whitton lagoon project just doesn't stop there! Putting the water onto Whitton has given a home to over 15,000 roosting pink-footed geese in winter, nesting redshank, oystercatcher, lapwing, marsh harriers, bearded tits and shelduck, and also a good roost site for waders such as ringed plover, curlew and dunlin. Its always pleasing to report a bit of success on a project but no more than for one that took so much effort and technical ingenuity as Whitton, my thanks go out to Crown Estates for having the vision and generosity for funding the project.    

Now back to the sightings for Blacktoft, still pretty exciting with some great birding at the moment! Recent highlights include up to 14 spoonbills with usually at least 8 or 9 birds on site all the time, also yesterday evening great-white egret on Townend (although no one told me!), a real reserve rarity, house sparrow (usually one record a year!), plenty of marsh harriers, bearded tits, barn owls and now even a few waders starting to use the lagoons.  

Feeding spoonbill

This bird was practising a bit of nest building this morning

Reserve rarity - house spadger

Hunting barn owl on Ousefleet - watch them from the gate. I also had the pleasure of one of the chicks perching on the screen at Ousefleet and looking down at me as I sat no more than 6 ft away!

Its to the left of the koniks diving

Lets also start with the marsh harrier nesting success - at least 22 young fledged from at least 9 nests - another outstanding season for this rare breeder, also while watching the adults feed the hungry young look out for peregrine, hobby and off course out lovely barn owls that are feeding their young like mad with one of the adults taking three large voles in this morning in less than half an hour. Less good news is that one of the young had a broken wing and unfortunately died as Mike was taking it to a rehab centre. Nature can be cruel at times. 

Marsh harrier juvenile - they are getting quite independent now

Another vole to feed the chicks!

Duck are suddenly starting to have an outstanding breeding season with our fourth tufted duck brood appearing on Marshland this week and also many growing gadwall and mallard chicks as well as the mute swan brood, moorhen chicks and little grebe young. Many people often think the breeding season is April and May but I think that really June, July and August are so much more important for all those productive and successful broods. 

Mallard chicks

Tufted duck chicks with adult

There's no doubt that many of the waders are over at Alkborough at the moment (see picture), but as time goes on these are starting to drift over to the lagoons at Blacktoft with snipe, green sandpipers, spotted redshank, ruff, black-tailed godwits, curlew, oystercatcher and common sandpiper all being present this last couple of days as well as lapwing, the odd redshank and on occasion greenshank. Also look out for water rails that are oozing out of the reedbed to feed alongside little egrets and grey herons

Black-tailed godwit - Townend

Snipe at Marshland

Spotted redshank - Townend (my camera had steamed up because I'd left it in the car overnight!)

Juv and adult little egrets

Waders at Alkborough 

Plenty of small bird activity with bearded tits feeding alongside the lagoons particularly in the mornings, cettis warblers still singing, plenty of reed and sedge warblers singing, tree sparrows still rearing young and also starting new broods, and then lots of resident birds which seem to be having a bonanza breeding season. 

The tree sparrow just go on and on nesting! This adult I suspect is just laying.


Wren - not often I get a decent photo of a wren - they never stay still!

Juv robin - just getting its little red breast

With this nice hot weather there has been plenty to see in terms of insects - here's four to watch out for on your visit.

I thought it was going to be a poor year for Essex skipper but they seem to be a late hatching species, look out for them on the path to Ousefleet.

Also look out for another late hatching species - these gatekeepers can be hard to pick out from the ringlets and meadow browns.

Look out for common blue damselflies that are just replacing the azure damsels.

And also it seems to be a good year for ruddy darter - see if you can tell them apart from the common darters, the males tend to be blood red and hold their wings forward and have a black moustache. 


Also our marsh sow thistle is starting to just come into flower along with our strawberry clover. 

Marsh sow thistle - Singleton

Strawberry clover

Leaving Horseshoe meadow for cutting in August is allowing some great blooms of species such as this ladies bedstraw.

While this wild carrot is like a lace napkin


One highlight for me was the discovery by a colleague of this superb Silky Rosegill fungi - unfortunately on part of the reserve without public access. It is nationally scarce to rare with only limited records. Its also on Black poplar which is also a scarce tree! 

Volvariella bombycina - a cracking fungi (A Henderson)

And last but not least - if you are visiting make sure you wear long trousers and long sleeves - the horse flies are a bit evil at the moment!