Just a quick reminder that the reserve is closed for the foreseeable - for more information please read the start of the last blog. Straight into the blog this week without further ado. 

Mid to late May is always a time when worlds collide as the breeding birds are in full swing around the reserve but yet there are still species such as the arctic waders that are passing through on their way to exotic places such as Greenland that will still have remnants of snow and ice!

And certainly the last ten days or so have really proved the point here on the Sands with the team now monitoring key species and protecting the site which allows us to be able to look a bit closer at whats going on. The first whiff of any wader passage was a brief wood sandpiper last week.

Then followed by a couple of nice breeding plumage ruff reeves (females), that also only fed up for an hour or two and then on their way north-east, as soon as I saw these ruff I thought how unusual it is to see the females in nice breeding plumage in this country, you sometimes get the odd male but I can't recall in recent years seeing such nice looking reeves. 

And with at last a bit of southerly flow there was as I have called it before the arrival of the 'long flight brigade' some of my favourite waders although common species, ringed plover, sanderling and dunlin. But these are no ordinary fellows, these birds are coming from wintering in Africa and going to the far North maybe even to Greenland and the dunlin and ringed plover are of different races the dunlin are probably Arctica while the ringed plover are Tundrea.  

Sanderling, dunlin and ringed plover - they always seem to arrive just as the water is disappearing!

And a bit of video of a very distinct dunlin, I've seen other pictures of birds like this one with the suggestion that they are of the Arctica race, I suspect the other dunlin are too but certainly this one stands out from the crowd. 

other than the avocets, lapwing and a couple of oystercatchers its not been the busiest of wader migrations this year with by the sounds of it birds preferring areas down the estuary.  

Oystercatcher having a wash

The terek sandpiper though that was briefly at Alkborough didn't unfortunately make it onto the main reserve although it may have by the sounds of it flown out onto the apex right out by the river, certainly a great bird for the local area and I'd already warned that after a relatively quiet period Alkborough would have a good-un and bite back!

Birds of prey have been a little more prevalent with a few hobby sightings while watching the marsh harriers, also a ragged red kite, regular buzzards, sparrowhawks, kestrel and barn owls hunting over the fen. 

Hobbies are so fast my camera finds it difficult to get a good shot

And this male harrier brought in a young hare! A bit gory to say the least - daft thing was that he is feeding an incubating female at the moment not a growing family! 

And a pair food passing

Monitoring the harriers has also had its high points with this female bittern appearing the other morning feeding alongside the drying Ousefleet flash, many people think bitterns stand in one place like herons but in fact the females can be very active foragers as the video shows although on this occasion she doesn't get any reward! 

Its certainly been a bit of a heron sort of week with a few little egrets, a fly over great white egret and the odd brief spoonbill and plenty of feeding herons. While this little gull called in to mix with the black-headed gulls that were cleaning up Ousefleet lagoon as it dried out. 

On the wildfowl front the best news has been that the pair of mute swans on Singleton have hatched a whopping brood of seven cygnets, probably the largest one I've ever seen on site. Other than that the most notable news if the lack of pochard this year, virtually non-existent and rather worrying for a species that is one of our key species. 

Its certainly been a reasonable return for some African migrants but by the sounds of it not all in the UK, here on the Humber Cuckoo seems to be having a good year with a nice male often present around site as we are working, this one turned the eye as it sat in a bush being mobbed by a reed warbler. 

A lot of our warblers have now stopped singing as they get on with brood rearing, while the bearded tits are just finishing their first and starting their second broods, it currently looks like they are having a relatively good year but it will be interesting to see how they cope with the current drought conditions later in the year as some food sources become exhausted. 

Passerine migrants have now almost dried up but last week there was a nice Greenland type female wheatear in with the ponies and then the other day a white wagtail on the drying mud, I'd looked at all the wagtails passing this spring with no luck or sign of an alba wagtail and then one suddenly turns up in mid-May, mind you some birds do go all the way to Iceland so maybe it was a late straggler. 


White wagtail

Again there has been some nice insects and flowers around site with our Horseshoe meadow now all of a buzz. A few azure and blue tailed damselflies emerging, four-spotted chasers and hairy dragonflies, and wall brown butterfly, the only green-veined white but then lots of common blues in the meadow. Common blue butterflies were always a little scarce around the reserve so it was really heartwarming to have a least 10 today early morning on just a quick ten minute check of how the hay is coming along in the drought. 

Common blue on Ragged robin!

Wall brown 

Blue-tailed damselfly

Green-veined butterfly

Azure damselfly

Even if the Hay is slow its certainly suiting the wildflowers with new species joining the assemblage now including greater goats beard and wood avens (a new species for the field), a remarkable plant when you read about it used for all sorts of herbal remedies to treat dog bites, liver disease, chest infections, gastric upsets, toothache, halitosis and heart disease! Its also the food plant of the grizzled skipper butterfly although I don't expect any to appear soon!  

Greater goats beard

Wood avens

Southern marsh orchids are just appearing in the meadow

And thats it for another week - I need to get on with work on the ground, there's a sausage casserole to cook!