One of Goole’s lesser-known claims to fame has to be that it is home to the largest area of tidal reed bed in the UK.
And if you pay a visit to RSPB Blacktoft Sands Nature Reserve this autumn, you stand a good chance of seeing an amazing variety of breeding birds, including marsh harriers, bitterns and bearded tits, as well as hare, roe deer, stoats, tree sparrows and all manner of other wildlife and wildflowers.
Without the creation of reed bed sites such as Blacktoft, there are species which could be lost forever, and there are around 270 different types of bird which now call the reserve home.
The reserve’s visitor experience officer, Alex Jones, told Our Goole: ‘There are around 10% of the country’s bearded tits at Blacktoft. This year we have had 10 pairs of marsh harriers nesting, and this is a species which declined to a single pair in England in the 1970s.’
Birds on the lagoons are clearly visible from all hides, with marshland hides providing particularly close views of waders and ducks. There are a series of guided walks throughout the year, intended to introduce beginners to various waders, warblers and raptors.
From late June to October, visitors can watch migrating wading birds feeding and resting on the lagoons. Spotted redshanks, greenshanks, black-tailed godwits, ruffs and dunlins can all be spotted. There are also spectacular roosts of sand martins and swallows, and visitors can listen for the ‘pinging’ calls of flocking bearded tits on calm October mornings.
Younger visitors are always welcome at Blacktoft and a specially designed programme of activities encourages children to see nature at its most awesome. There is also a series of walks taking place as part of the Heritage Lottery-funded ‘Saving Marshlands’ project, which celebrates the natural heritage of the East Riding. The walks are ideal for those who are new to bird watching, and specialise in wading birds.
Alex said: ‘The reserve is an incredibly relaxing place to be, and at this time of year there is a great display of wildflowers and insects in addition to a wonderful variety of birds. We are always keen to welcome new visitors of all ages, and autumn is one of the best times of the year to see one of our most famous species, the bearded tit.’
Blacktoft Sands is wheelchair accessible and refreshments are available. Dogs are not allowed except for registered assistance dogs. For more information, including admission prices, call 01405 704665 or visit www.rspb.org.uk