Blacktoft Sands – 21 Apr 2016

Another magnificent and sunny Spring Day today – so I decided to visit Blacktoft Sands. Two kinds of birds really get me excited – waders & warblers. Blacktoft usually has both in abundance.

Just of late there have been reports of mass migrations of huge numbers of Black-Tailed Godwits, so I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the wader department, but I’d read only yesterday that there were warblers singing all over the site, so I felt confident about those, at least.

Before I’d even made the obligatory check-in at Reception Hide, I could hear songbirds and warblers singing all over the carpark area and approach-path through the reeds. Almost immediately, I spotted a beautiful Sedge Warbler singing its heart out atop a clump of weeds in the reedbed about 50ft away. Click, click, click went my camera shutter, and the first good bird was in the bag for today!


A cracking Sedge Warbler near Reception Hide

After reporting-in, I made my way to each of the three hides to the East of the Reception Hide first of all today. All the way up to Ousefleet I could hear, and occasionally glimpse, Sedge Warblers, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Cetti’s Warblers and an assortment of other birds including Blackcap, Dunnock and Blue Tit. It was just great to hear so many fabulous birds announcing their presence on the reserve. Photographically, of course, it’s very hard to capture these small ‘flighty’ birds; they are well camouflaged and constantly flit about through the bushes; the only Blackcap shot I got today was of a male, and it was desperately out of focus! However, if it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun!

Wader-wise it was a bit of a disappointment again due to the continuing high water-levels in the lagoons. However, there were a great many Avocet around, and I took a few photos of a huge flock of them flying over Marshlands Lagoon once I had walked down to the three hides at the West end of the reserve.

The other bird that Blacktoft is particularly noted for is the Marsh Harrier. Today was my 21st visit to Blacktoft and only once in all of those visits have I not seen at least one harrier. A magnificent male bird flew quite close-in to First Hide whilst I was in there today. It settled on a fence post about 150 yards away and I was able to watch it for a good few minutes before it took of again and continued to patrol the reedbed looking for prey.

As I walked back towards the car-park I was once again able to see, and photograph, a variety of small birds including Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and a very tame and obliging Wren. I was hoping to spot a Whitethroat – I got a photograph of a really nice specimen here last year, and I’ve yet to see a Whitethroat this year. However, I’ll have to keep looking.


A beautiful Wren in the reeds.


One final note: once again I heard a Bittern booming in the reeds near First Hide. One day…

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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