It was a brand new reserve for me today – Alkborough Flats in North Lincolnshire. I first heard of Alkborough about three years ago and have been meaning to visit there ever since. Well, today was the day when it finally happened!
Of course I’ve been geographically very near to Alkborough on numerous previous occasions, given that it’s only about a mile West of Blacktoft Sands. Being located on opposite banks of the Humber-Trent confluence, however, with no convenient river-crossing, the two reserves are a good distance apart by road – 22 miles according to Google Maps.
From the Western-most hide at Blacktoft – Singleton Hide – you can easily see Alkborough village and it’s impressive church tower standing on the hillside.
On arrival at Alkborough I first had to find the church and follow the steep downhill road which leads to the car park.
It was a bright, sunny day and I was determined to see the Spoonbills which have been onsite here for some time. The other species that I’ve heard Alkborough is renowned for is it’s Bearded Tits. I was full of anticipation!
Well, I didn’t have long to wait.
On entering the ‘Main Hide’, which is only a few hundred yards from the car park, I was immediately struck by two things – I was looking out onto a mud-flat with the biggest mixed flock of Avocet and Black Tailed Godwit I’d ever seen, and, in the distance a group of Spoonbills were sifting the water for food. There must have been at least 300 hundred Avocet and more than a hundred Godwits in the mixed flock. A number of Spotted Redshank, Black Headed Gulls and Shelduck were also present.
I knew immediately that I’d be visiting Alkborough more frequently!
Although the spoonbills were rather distant from my location, I soon noticed an old, dead tree that they used as their roost. About six more Spoonbills were arranged on the branches, mostly dozing, but one or two seemed to be preening. Too distant for a decent photograph, but clearly identifiable as Spoonbills.
After spending a good half hour or so in the Main Hide, I decided to walk further up the West-facing path I had embarked upon. All the way up the path there were vast reedbeds and hedgerows on either side of me. I could hear any number of birds singing: Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings, Reed Warblers, Chiffchaff and Skylarks. A Kestrel was hovering over the arable fields to my left. Further up the path a Heron was standing rigidly to attention, watching the water for movement. In short, it was glorious; a birder’s paradise almost!
I walked all the way up to Trent Falls hide which overlooks the confluence of the Ouse, Trent and Humber rivers. Although there wasn’t a lot to see there today, I’ve read that this is a fantastic spot from which to view passage migrants, and I could certainly see why. I shall have to make a point of returning here in September when the Autumn migration is in full-swing.
As I returned down the path towards the Main Hide again, I photographed a number of birds: several Reed Bunting, a Reed Warbler, a Wren, a skylark rising into the air whilst singing its long-unbroken song, and a beautiful male Linnet sat atop a Hawthorn bush, resplendent in full-summer breeding plumage. This bird was quite a poser and sat still for me for a good five minutes worth of photograph-taking.
Back in the Main Hide once again, I photographed a Sparrowhawk flying by with a rather large dead bird in its talons – at least I hope the poor victim was dead by this time!
A flurry of action in the tall reeds to my left and a juvenile Bearded Tit flew across right in front of the hide. I did my best to capture the bird, but unfortunately it was rendered completely out of focus by my camera during the few brief instants it was visible to me.
So, Alkborough really lived-up to its reputation today. I will no doubt be returning there before very long – watch this space!