After a three month hiatus in our birding trips, Helen and I made a very welcome visit to Blacktoft Sands today.
It was a beautiful (if cold) January afternoon, with barely a cloud in the sky. On arrival we discovered a bus-load of visiting birders had come-up from the Leicester area for the day – no doubt hoping for a glimpse of the recently-returned Hen Harriers.
Helen and I decided to walk up to Marshlands Hide first. It’s one of my favourites at Blacktoft, and the scene of many great bird sightings over my 30 visits to this reserve. Unfortunately, today was a disappointment; a single, distant Shelduck and a juvenile Little Grebe were the only birds that we spotted here today. I scoured the distant reeds, as I generally do here, trying to spot some Bearded Tits, but none presented themselves today. Our next ports of call to Xerox Hide and First Hide were similarly bereft of avian-life today. I did manage to grab a few shots of Magpies and Woodpigeons flying across the front of the hides with lovely sunshine on them, but there wasn’t much else to get excited about today.
By the time we reached Singleton Hide at the bottom of the trail, we had finally caught-up with all the visiting birders. Singleton was absolutley packed to the point where it was standing room only. This is not uncommon for Singleton, as it’s easily the best location for spotting all the varieties of Harriers that are present at Blacktoft.
True to form, we didn’t have to wait long to see our first Marsh Harriers of 2018. A number of them were coming in to roost, with at times up to four of them in one tree!
It’s always very exciting to watch these magnificent raptors as they soar above the reeds in search of their prey. A quick bit of memory recall reminded me that out of 30 visits to Blacktoft Sands, I have only failed to see any ‘Marshies’ on one single visit so far.
A number of Tree Sparrows and assorted other garden birds were very voluble at the feeders as we took our leave of the reserve. I scoured the trees in this area for Fieldfares and Redwings, but alas, none were to be found today.
We had a lovely walk around Blacktoft Sands, despite the paucity of bird-life, and we were glad to feel the fresh air in our lungs at the start of what will hopefully be another exciting birding-year.