This time of year is always a busy time and certainly May 2019 is no exception, lots of management and survey work to do around the Humber reserves means I've been kept busy so apologies for the lack of blogs recently. Also some of you may have noticed my photo's have gone a little backward in quality - this is because unfortunately while on Holiday recently my camera decided to give up the ghost completely. 

So who is Bertha you may ask? Well Bertha is one of our female Marsh harriers who seems to have no fear of either the black headed gulls or avocets and is currently raiding their colonies for young to feed her own growing chicks. Nature is certainly difficult to watch at times but this is certainly a stark reminder that its the lack of food around much of the wider countryside that is driving Bertha and the rest of the marsh harriers to seek food so close to the nest. What we need are much better environmental policies that help increase the available small bird, vole, frog and hare/rabbit population that would help to feed Bertha's young. Just a little is not enough! 

Bertha and black-headed gulls

And a male marsh harrier and avocets

Good though to see at least four barn owl pairs currently using the reserve to hunt (although maybe a sad indictment of the surrounding countryside) for what I assume is their growing chicks. There seems to be a pair in the box visible from Marshland hide with birds being fairly active and the t'other day giving a family a brilliant bird experience on their first trip to the reserve.

Barn owl on Ousefleet

There has certainly been a few interesting birds passing through over the last week with probably the strangest being a flock of 21 Kittiwakes that flew in from the Humber one evening and then turned around and flew back out towards the sea - 45 miles away. Also of note has been regular spoonbill sightings of birds flying over the side both east and west, also yesterday a great-white egret, and then on Friday evening a late osprey going north along the line of pylons.

Other notable birds of prey have included both peregrine and hobby. 

Bitterns have been a little hit and miss since the three bird extravaganza and the male has certainly stopped booming for now, but there has been occasional sightings mostly from the First/Xerox area. 

The male bitterns from the other morning

Just a few waders left around now but 41 black-tailed godwits were notable on Saturday while the lone curlew can still often be seen on Xerox alongside oystercatcher and lapwing.

Black-tailed godwits - Singleton. These will be mostly one or two year old birds and non-breeding adults

Curlew on Xerox

Duck have been fairly quiet as you would expect at this time of year but there has been garganey and up to 7 male pochard, plenty of gadwall and then a few shoveler, tufted duck and little grebes. Its certainly a late year for duck broods with only in the last week the hatching of a few more mallard broods. Plenty of little egrets now which some must be close to feeding their young at colonies elsewhere along the Humber.

Fantastic to see the brood of 5 mute swan chicks on Singleton

What has been particularly nice has been the regular cuckoo on the reserve, always nice to see and hear with this year seemingly a good return for this species with apparently good feeding in west Africa helping survival. Also notable has been the number of yellow wagtails breeding around site this year after a very slow start for this species, they seem to be particularly fond of the area where the Koniks are grazing hard to prevent laminates which can be seen from the gate at Ousefleet. 

Cuckoo at Ousefleet

A close encounter with a cuckoo at Ousefleet screen

A good population of meadow pipits goes a long way to helping cuckoo produce young

Yellow wagtail pair and the female collecting horse hair to line the nest 

The reedbed warblers have been nice too with both sedge and reed singing and showing well while on an evening there is reeling grasshopper warbler at Singleton hide. Plenty of reed buntings, whitethroats and tree sparrows too so currently a nice range of species about. The bearded tits seem to be having a good season this year with plenty of birds now feeding their second broods, best place to see them is First lagoon.

Whitethroat 

Reed bunting - the density of reed buntings in the tidal reedbed is staggering!

With all the rain recently then sunshine there has been the emergence of a good variety of dragonflies and other insects around the reserve giving something else to look out for while walking around, but no sign yet of the grassland butterflies although I suspect this may change this week as the temperature soars and hopefully the first meadow browns and ringlets will emerge. 

Azure damselfly - male

Some nice moths too to see, this green carpet was at Marshland hide.

The rain seems to have brought fore a bit of fungi on the grazing marsh - this one must have been sticky as you can see the insects stuck to the cap. 

While this dryads saddle looks lovely with a little pool pool of water on it - its own little micro habitat.

Another hairy caterpillar - the local cuckoos really need these to help their survival - we need more of these hairy ones but they have declined so badly.

Lovely to see the milkwort flowering too out on the grazing marsh, one of our brackish marsh specialities. Reputed to help the flow of milk in cattle

Horseshoe meadow is now starting to come to the fore - we will be doing a few meadow walks on open day with the opportunity to see this great new meadow and the plants it holds

Hay rattle - this will help create a grass sward that can also hold meadow flowers in abundance.

Cornflower - one of the arable flowers that is still persisting in the meadow in small quantities

There are also lots of buzzing creatures like this fly - don't forget how meadows promote diversity and abundance of other creatures which in turn help feed the birds. 

While this lovely whip spider was in Singleton hide on a rainy morning

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