Funny how sometimes secretive reedbed species can surprise you? Well this time it was our breeding bitterns, we had an inkling they were feeding young on site, but what we didn't expect is that they have young that were about to fledge! First seen by Sara (who was until recently one of our Wardens) on Sunday evening when she saw two bitterns at the side of Townend lagoon that then flew casing after an adult female. Then yesterday they were seen again and photographed from first hide by one of our visitors, hopefully photo's to follow next week. 

Unfortunately I can't seem to load up the video! Will see what I can do! (see link on comments for one of our adult bitterns)

This is really fantastic news and somewhat surprising because we had no idea that the young were at this age with our adult female bitterns not regularly flight feeding, it seems though that the spring tides have brought enough food into the lagoons this year for the birds to feed near to the nest site and then walk their young to good areas of food. Some of this is the fortunate result of the late spring tide that we had that often helps bring in sticklebacks and eels into our lagoons, but also I suspect the result of work that was undertaken as part of the funded 'Back to the Future' project that created new feeding and nesting areas for Bittern within and near to the lagoons. And there's more, I suspect there is a second female feeding young somewhere on site and these too may be quite advanced! Good to see Blacktofts Bitterns still booming!

Our marsh harriers are also busy feeding their young with at least 8 probably nine active nests with young and possibly one or two more to hatch, we were worried that the terrible weather may badly affect them but at the moment the day has been remarkably dry so hopefully this usually hardy species will manage to pull through the purple patch especially when they are helping themselves to the odd plump black-headed gull chick. 

Hunting male marsh harrier

In yesterdays poor weather some of the females were starting to steal food off the males from other pairs - growing young harriers need a good steady supply of food. 

Growing black-headed gull chicks

Breeding barn owls too can be affected badly by rainfall so it was pleasing yesterday to see the adults bringing in some decent size prey in the morning, lets hope the four pairs hunting on the reserve also pull through.

Barnie and vole

Our bearded tits can be hardy breeders too and there are still quite a few pairs whizzing across the tops of the reeds, as long as the rainfall isn't too heavy the young can survive nestled down in the covered nest at the base of the reeds. By the looks of it the first and early second broods have done quite well with well grown juveniles now emerging from the reedbed to feed along the reed edge.

Juvenile bearded tits 

Spoonbills are regularly flying over site so keep those eyes to the skies, there were three immature's this morning but also quite a few pairs that are commuting to the Aire valley. Little egrets are also feeding quite a bit around the lagoon edges particularly at Townend alongside grey heron and of course the odd bittern.

Little egrets on Townend

A few noteworthy sightings over the last few days with a pair of adult Mediterranean gulls drifting east over the reserve on Friday, also cuckoo still about and showing from time to time, and a single avocet returning to site yesterday briefly. There was a very nice little brood of Cetti's warblers near to reception on Sunday, this species just seems to be increasing at almost unbelievably fast rates, just wish a few other birds species could do the same.

Dunnock with plenty of food in its bill - is it feeding a cuckoo or just a big brood of young?

Adult and young tree sparrows feeding on our tree sparrow feeders

Not too much indication of a wader return though as yet with only the nesting lapwings around site and the odd visit from an Oystercatcher. But any day soon the first green sandpipers or spotted redshank could return.......... (stop press - green sandpiper on First lagoon this morning 12/06/2019!)

Ducks are hatching a few broods with the first pochard brood of the year joining the mallards and gadwalls, duck at this time of the breeding season however do not like wet weather with their ducklings chilling very easily in cold and rain. Odd and sods include a count of 157 adult gadwall, 3 wigeon and garganey. The five mute swan chicks seem to be doing OK so lets hope they continue to grow (Blacktoft for some reason often has a problem with swan chick growth - possibly just a lack of available food)

Gadwall brood Marshland

Pochard young at Sunrise (Mike Pilsworth) 

Before the cold weather there were a few nice insects about around site with the first meadow browns emerging and some common blues. Also good moth numbers including an abundant emergence of yellow shell

Common blues

Yellow shell

Also very pleased to find this pyramidal orchid in Horseshoe meadow - we spread some harvested hay from a good pyramidal site on some of the meadow so suspect it is from this. This species does do well in some parts of the local area so lets hope it gets a hold although I suspect we need to further reduce down grass vigour a little through regular haying and mowing or grazing. 

Pyramidal orchid

While on one of our other sites along the Humber I also found this pair of Knot-grass beetles - I suspect a new record for the local area?

Lets hope summer arrives back soon.......................