Apologies for there being no blog for a while, work has just been incredibly busy and even today its going to be a short blog I'm afraid.
Just a reminder that the reserve opens 9am to 5pm - last entry at 3.30pm. Please bring a face mask with you for use in the hides and toilets and also it is recommended that you bring your own hand sanitizer.
So on with the blog.............................
After typically a 'quietish' period after we reopened it seems that October has suddenly come alive again with on Sunday a reserve first in the form of a lesser yellowlegs (an American Species) amazingly a new bird for the reserve and a new wader species to the list, taking Blacktoft to 51 species of wader since 1973, not a bad total for somewhere that is 45 or so miles from the sea coast. I'm sure there are sites that have recorded more, possibly Minsmere and the likes but it shows yet again that Blacktoft can always produce the unexpected!
Typically I was working off site and arrived just as a Marsh harrier sailed over the lagoon and the bird departed before I could clock it! Birding can be so fickle. It hasn't appeared since but you never know it may re-appear sometime and hopefully it will winter in the area somewhere.
Lesser yellowlegs - photo by Neil Norvoch, with thanks for sending through
There are regular little egrets feeding on the lagoons but there has also been great white egret from time to time, amazing how these birds are increasing but they are not always from as close as you think with one bird seen in the Lower Derwent Valley this summer being from a nest in Belarus!
Great white egret
Little egret making use of some of our grass piles that help promote insects as they rot down
Also keep looking for water rails on the edges of the lagoons, there are plenty about
Wader numbers on the lagoons as is often the case at this time of the year are low but there has been some nice viewing with black-tailed godwits, up to 25 ruff, 10 spotted redshank, green sandpiper, snipe, lapwings, redshanks and a few dunlin now appearing. There are often a few golden plover flying over with birds starting to return to the estuary in numbers now, also two grey plover flying around the other morning, and the odd ringed plover on tide.
Curlew are feeding up on the grazing marsh but also alongside the reserve, these were enjoying the worms buried in the soil in this recently harvested field bean crop.
There is no doubt though that autumn is defiantly here with hordes of pink-footed geese returning to the estuary and often feeding around the reserve with over 2000 birds at times, while a roost count down at Reads Island gave a whopping total of 12,000! The sound and sight of large numbers of geese is just breath-taking and certainly worth taking the time to enjoy the moment.
Can you spot the odd one out?
There has also been the first whooper swans through, relatively early for this species but nice to see all the same.
Duck numbers have been pretty good with plenty of birds enjoying the good feeding habitat we have created on Ousefleet grazing marsh. Today there were 1400 teal while at the weekend there was 3300 teal on Reads Island, its always difficult to know if some birds move about from day to day but I suspect the total of 4700 teal is probably an underestimate! This is very much what the Humber Special Area of Conservation was designated by the then government for and its good to see our work giving such positive results. As they start to moult into breeding plumage keep an eye out for the returning green-winged teal that seems to occur annually recently.
There has also been up to 300 wigeon on Ousefleet and 35 pintail, but they are quite crafty and love to feed overnight, sometimes mostly leaving in the day and roosting on the river! But there has been a few birds left during the day for people to look at.
Wigeon migrating west
If you look carefully through the teal you may find a garganey or two, they generally like to be on Xerox on the left hand Island, look for the face marking which help identify them.
Interestingly there has also been a few barnacle geese around, some heading west, however we do have a large feral population here on the Humber so sometimes its difficult to know if birds are from the wild populations. However there has been a displacement of barnacles this year southward on migration so I suspect a few are genuine wild birds, particularly those that are mixing with the pink-footed geese.
Barnacles heading west
Birds of prey have been interesting with plenty of marsh harrier activity but now regular merlin sightings including a nice male the other afternoon, not much buzzard activity but off interest was the sound of young barn owls from the Ousefleet nestbox as I was looking for my lost phone the other night! I haven't seen an adult for ages but they must be hunting somewhere in the darkness.
Marsh harrier - a nice male
Peregrines are very regular with daily sightings of up to three birds.
For the passerines summer is slipping into winter with now only chiffchaff, the odd reed warbler, a handful of swallows and yesterday a lone wheatear along the flood bank.
They are being replaced at the moment but mostly it seems by Northern British birds, certainly there are a lot of stonechats with an amazing 12 birds counted on the grazing marsh this morning alone! There is also a strong overhead migration at times with the most notable and unusual being good numbers of crossbills that have been irrupting all summer, last week there was a party of 7 over and then this morning one of 13.
Stonechat, they seem to be doing amazingly well due to lack of cold winters (a massive influx yesterday all around the area by the sounds of it on twitter with many places having record counts)
And such a lovely bird
Crossbills heading high over the reserve, honest! you often hear them before you see em
Also on the move are droves of siskins and redpolls, with redpoll passage particularly heavy this year probably one of the heaviest I've seen for many a year. Last year I can't recall more than two birds over! Plenty of yellowhammers on the move this morning and then a mix of meadow pipits, skylarks, chaffinch, the odd grey wagtail, 3 mistle thrushes south the other morning and then growing numbers of skylarks. But no winter thrushes or bramblings yet although it is of course still early.
There's also been the odd rock pipit through, not often you get them on the ground but this was one of two, its almost impossible to tell if they were the continental subspecies in this plumage.
Still regular treecreepers around site and a nice great-spotted woodpecker which struck me as looking a little unusual for some reason, amount of black around the head and chest colouring but maybe I just don't see enough great-spots.
Its also that time of year when the bearded tits fly high and irrupt to find reedbeds to winter in or colonise. Best on calm mornings with a bit of high pressure there have been many birds leaving site, when they can get up enough courage that is to get through the electricity pylon wires!
Some nice bits of autumn around with a bit of fungi starting to appear including this dune waxcap. The small white spots that ID this pieces are hard to see!
And this, which is an oyster mushroom I think, they can be variable?
Also nice to see is Horseshoe meadow in full bloom with many spring flowers still giving a dash of colour all across the field and the grass not dominating at all, just as a wildflower meadow should be!
Its been quite good for late butterflies with both small copper and brown argus the other day in the sunshine.
And I'll finish with the last of the summers embers, a migrant hawker dragonfly on the signs of autumn, red berries of the hawthorn
I was watching a lesser yellowlegs at swinefleet on the river two weeks ago,it must be the same bird
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