Travel Wildlife

Marsh harriers at Yorkshire’s Blacktoft Sands

I spent a long weekend trying to avoid the election madness in Yorkshire. I voted, then had a job interview and then drove across the country so I was a bit stressed! I’d also stayed late at work the day before to get everything done.

As ever, the countryside is the perfect antidote to everything so as soon as I got to Blacktoft Sands I was desperate to see everything before it closed at 5.


This is the approach to the reserve, as it had rained everything looked wonderful and green. The fledglings were also in full force!


Blacktoft certainly shows the power of putting up communal nesting boxes as they have a great population of tree sparrows and lots seem to have fledged! You can see this nestbox is well used.


What a beautiful sight! Not bad for a ‘little brown job’. The parents had certainly done well, feeding them all.


Magnificent male Konik ponies manage the reserve. They are very hardy ponies who don’t mind adverse weather conditions! They originate from Poland and they are intelligent foragers so they can adapt to the food available and they halt their own growth if food is scarce.


One of the islands at BS, you can see the black headed gulls, mallards and avocets enjoying the pool.


A shelduck flying just above the water. They are present all year round but there are much more in the winter. It likes to lay its eggs in the disused holes such as the burrows of rabbits or other mammals and even tree holes.


This is an owl box containing barn owls and their chicks! One fell out a week ago and the RSPB workers found it put it back in – success!


A view of the estuary.


Two baby little grebes! The parents were at the other side of the pool but they didn’t seem too distressed. These waterfowl parents like to live on the edge!


The best thing about the BS was the marsh harriers! It was the best views I’ve ever had of them so of course I got my camera out and started snapping away. Even the heron looks a bit worried and is keeping a low profile.

This is, of course, a female. You can see the landscape in the background, I like to see animals and humans living together side-by-side.


What a beauty, they fly so low that you can get incredible views of them. They eat frogs, small mammals and birds such as waterfowl.


Here is a male and a female. You can see the huge difference in size between the two. Female raptors as a rule tend to be bigger and browner than their male counterparts.

This is a food pass – I didn’t think I would get to see one, let alone photograph it! Admittedly you can’t see the food but the male is passing it to the female. Males have greyer wings and tail and are paler than the female.

One day I will be able to afford a bigger lens! But for now these pictures tell a story. I’ve definitely fallen in love with the marsh harrier now – I can’t wait to see more!

There are quite a few nesting marsh harriers at BS so it will be a sight when all those young fledge and there will be food passes galore.

My next trip is to Saltholme near Middlesbrough – watch this space.

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