Hatfield Moors & Blacktoft Sands – 16 Jul 2016

I went somewhere new today – Hatfield Moors National Nature Reserve, near Doncaster. I hadn’t really meant to go there but thought I would call in for a quick look with a view to making a more thorough investigation of the reserve at a future date. As I had no reserve map with me, and there being no facility to obtain one whilst there, I only made a brief stop, visiting Boston Hide which is only a few yards from the car park.

It’s always interesting entering a new hide for the first time, wondering quite what you’ll see when you open the wooden shutters in order to look out. As I approached Boston Hide I had no idea what to expect as the area was dense with trees and shrubs which I couldn’t see beyond. As I lifted the wooden shutters I looked out onto quite a sizeable expanse of water with quite a few birds visible and many more singing in the nearby greenery.

I scoured the water margins nearby and quickly spotted a Common Sandpiper about 60 yards away from me. I took a few shots of it before it disappeared from view. Waders are probably my favourite bird, so I was pleased to have seen this bird.

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A Common Sandpiper at Hatfield Moors

I spent about twenty minutes watching from the hide, but as nothing else of great interest appeared during that time, I decided to move on to Blacktoft Sands about twenty miles away.

At Blacktoft I decided first off to go up to Marshlands Lagoon. I’ve enjoyed many excellent bird sightings here in the past and hoped that today would be equally rewarding.

As I stepped in the door of the hide, the first thing I noticed was how much lower the water level was than I’d seen it in a long time. There was much more mud showing in front of the hide which meant much more wader-potential at long last.

As I settled in and started scouring everywhere I could see, another birder in the hide pointed out a group of Bearded Tits in the reeds off to my right. I took several photos of the rather distant birds, but at least they can be positively identified as Beardies!

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I know they’re hard to see but there are three Bearded Tits near the centre of this shot!

Also from Marshlands I coud see a pair of Snipe, on the nearest island, showing well in the sunshine despite their fabulous camouflage. A couple of Ruff were also present towards the back of the hide with a few Lapwings.

My next stop was Xerox hide which was pretty full of birders today. I always try to get to the upstairs level of this double-decker hide, if possible, but that wasn’t happening today! The reason was that there was a large, assorted group of Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank and Ruff all showing very well at the hide-side of the lagoon today. I couldn’t get a clear view of them over the tops of the reeds from my downstairs vantage point, but occasionally I could see a head or two popping above the level I was sitting at. My attention was soon distracted anyway by a lovely female Marsh Harrier which was sweeping back and forth overhead in search of prey. Today was my 25th visit to Blacktoft, and only on one of those previous occasions did I fail to see a single Marsh Harrier. They’re pretty-much guaranteed at Blacktoft Sands nowadays – a great species-recovery success story.

Next I called into First Hide where I watched a Little Grebe parent with a couple of chicks. Every time I come into this hide I’m reminded of the occasion this time last year when Helen and I sat here and watched a Heron steal a Little Grebe chick from its nest and swallow it whole, all whilst the distraught parent bird watched, powerless to stop the carnage. Horrible, but that’s nature for you, ‘Red in tooth and claw’ to quote Alfred Lord Tennyson.

My final stop of the day was at Townend Hide. Last year the lagoon here was completely resculpted to provide what is now a perfect wader habitat. There didn’t seem to be a lot here, at first, but as I continued to watch I became aware of a pair of Green Sandpiper off to the left-hand side of the lagoon, near the front. Little by little they edged closer and closer to the front of the lagoon until I had a really good sighting of them. I took a good many photos of them before they eventually upped and flew off.

I saw more different types of waders today than at any other time this year so far. Perhaps the Autumn will be a real bumper wader season this year??

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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