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03/26/2014 Archived Entry: "Blacktoft Sands RSPB Reserve"

It was Rhodas birthday a few days ago and she said shed like to visit the Blacktoft Sands RSPB Nature Reserve near Goole. Its on the south bank of the River Ouse near Ousefleet just before the Ouse enters the Humber estuary. The carefully positioned hides provide first-rate views of marshlands which are home to some fascinating birds

The tidal reedbed is the largest in England and each lagoon seems to host its own particular species one lagoon had dozens of teals swimming on it, another lots of wigeon, and many have a variety of gulls, ducks, geese and waders. Best of all were the unrestricted views of marsh harriers as they hunted for prey.


Avocet photographed by Dave Cornwell on the Essex Marshes

The reserve is noted for two other dramatic species black and white avocets with their upward curving beaks are a regular sight. They roost on the reserve and leave at dawn to go to their feeding grounds. If you want to see them you need to get up early or visit at dusk. Perhaps the king of Blacktoft is the bittern. After being hunted as food, having their habitats destroyed as marshlands were drained, and then having their rare eggs targeted by collectors, there is no wonder their numbers declined almost to the point of extinction. However, thanks to careful conservation, numbers have increased and the familiar booming call, said by some to be like that of a bull, can be heard on many reserves, including Blacktoft Sands. We stayed for more than four hours fascinated by the sights around us.

On our way home we were held up for 45 minutes as Goole Bridge, which spans the River Ouse, was closed to road traffic. A huge container ship was approaching it must have measured the length of a small street. We got out of the car to watch as the pilot cautiously manoeuvred the bulky vessel through the narrow gap. It was a spectacular sight, and a first for us, as it made its leisurely way to the Humber, out to the North Sea and beyond.

Tomorrow, we have a Danish friend and keen collector of my books coming to visit. She wants to see the place that gave me the inspiration for my latest book, Murder at Maddleskirk Abbey (with Confession at Maddleskirk Abbey to follow). Ill give her a guided tour of Ampleforth Abbey. Ill show her the crypt with its many chapels and well climb the circular staircases to the gallery that overlooks the interior of the church. Maybe we'll hear the huge Walker organ being played or some of the choristers singing.

Visitors are made very welcome to the Abbey. Theres a bookshop and also a lovely teashop so Im sure our tour will include a welcome cup of tea and homemade cake or maybe even a glass of Ampleforth Abbey cider.

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