Blacktoft Sands is located on the Ouse estuary area, its a "well out of the way" reserve and attracts a lot of birds including the aforementioned Marsh Harrier, Bittern, Bearded Tit, and a plethora of waders and ducks.
Take a Lunch with you though, there is no cafe. A hot water dispenser and some coffee/tea sachets means you wont die of thirst, but you will starve.
Within minutes of arriving I had seen Goldfinch and Tree Sparrow feeding along the hedgerows and at the feeder station. Collared Dove and a blue Pheasant were later seen at the feeder station too.
The reserve is basically a long straight affair with 7 hides (including the reception area) spread out in a line over a distance of approx a mile. The hides cover a number of scrapes/lagoons of differing style and size. The hides are well maintained and suitable for long lens photography a couple of them are set on two levels and are good for both photography and scoping, Unfortunately as is always the case on RSPB reserves the hides are a little distant from the water in most cases but the two hides I found to be the best were the Townend Hide and the Marshland hide. The Townend Hide produced views of; Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Curlew Sandpiper, Moorhen, Marsh Harrier, Teal, Mallard, Little Egret, Black Tailed Godwit, Black headed Gull, and Goldfinch. My best acheivements here were these,
and Little Egret.
I also got a couple of very distant shots of one of the Marsh Harriers, this is a heavy crop.
What I really wanted were Snipe shots, but despite the fact that there were 2 in view they were just too far to focus on, so I was most disappointed.
The walk to the Marshland hide was broken with a coffee in the reception hide. I lingered in the hope of seeing the Juvenile Bittern that, for the previous 2 days, had shown well infront of the reception hide, unfortunately he failed to show so more disappointment there.
The Marshland Hide looks out over a lagoon with a number of islands dotted within it. These islands have recently been covered with new lumps of soil and earth so they were very un-photogenic, which was a shame because on one there were a group of three Snipe. I did try to photograph them but because of the distance and the fact that the snipe blended in with the soil I could not get the camera to focus. I satisfied myself with some nice views through the bino's though. I was also kept amused by a young Redshank feeding directly infront of the hide.
A number of Teal, a Shelduck, a Heron and some Lapwings were also present. I was about to call it a day when a movement caught my eye to the right of the hide and imagine my delight when it turned out to be a Snipe. I was shell-shocked, I absolutely love snipe. I am amazed by the size of the beak compared to the body so it was all I could do to contain my excitement for long enough to get some shots. As is always the case it never came completely into the open but with the exception of a few tall strands of cut reed/grass I managed these two shots which I hope you will agree are pretty good. They are only small crops mostly for composition.
Again, typically of Snipe, it wasnt long before he was skulking off to find better cover,so I didn't see him for long. Still I was in my element, chuffed doesn't cover it.
So all in all I had a very enjoyable 4 hrs on the reserve, less wind and cloud might have made it better, but I am not complaining, another bird for the year list (Harrier) and closest ever views of Curlew Sandpiper and Snipe made for a great time and a definate reserve to revisit.