RSPB Blacktoft Sands in the East Riding of Yorkshire is celebrating the opening of a new bird hide, which allows budding birdwatchers to get even closer to the nature reserve’s wildlife.
Blacktoft Sands sits on the south bank of the River Ouse, where the waterway widens to become the Humber Estuary. The reserve hosts a diverse population of waders, warblers and raptors, which can be easily spotted from the accessible trails and hides. Blacktoft Sands also has a wide variety of wetland birds, including marsh harrier, bittern, bearded tit, and avocet.
Retired dental surgeon, Joy Croot, a volunteer at the nature reserve near Goole, donated the money to replace the ageing Xerox hide which stood on the same spot and has delighted visitors for more than three decades.
The new hide will be known as ‘Reedling hide’, a name chosen by Joy in honour of one of her favourite birds at the nature reserve, the bearded tit, and will be officially opened on 20 January 2023.
The joy of birdwatching
Joy has lived in Healing with her husband for 25 years, and has been coming to RSPB Blacktoft Sands for many years, both as a birdwatcher and volunteer. After retiring from dental surgery in Cleethorpes, and lecturing part-time at Sheffield University, she embarked on her dream of seeing birds all over the UK. Joy had this to say:
“It’s just an amazing, magical place. I’ve been going birdwatching at Blacktoft for as many years as I can remember. It’s a beautiful reserve and so peaceful, with amazing birds and staff, there’s always something to see. In the spring there are at least a dozen pairs of marsh harriers. We take it for granted.
“I retired in 2018 and spent 2019 seeing as many birds as possible across UK. Afterwards I started volunteering, including at Blacktoft Sands. I’ve learned so much here and just wanted to give something back.
“Many years ago, a friend and I were talking about wills, and I decided to leave some of my money for a new hide – but for purely selfish reasons, I decided to donate the money while I’m still here. I thought if I’m dead I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it!
“Having seen the new hide, I think it’s fantastic. The RSPB staff have really done the hard graft and Gilleard has done a great job.”
Reedling hide stands higher than the previous one it replaced, known as Xerox hide, offering spectacular unrestricted views across the reserve.
RSPB philanthropy manager, Sarah Standing, said: “Giving a significant gift to the RSPB can be a very rewarding experience. We make sure the donor is involved at every step of the way, which means they feel really close to the work they have supported and can see the benefits of their generosity. It’s been such a pleasure to keep in touch with Joy and see the hide project come to fruition thanks to her decision to support the RSPB in this special way.”
Access to nature for everyone
The new dual-level hide was designed with accessibility in mind, so everyone can enjoy the sights and scenery at RSPB Blacktoft Sands. The building features an accessible lower deck served by two doors, allowing easy access for people with reduced mobility, and has the potential for a ‘pandemic-proof’ one-way system. A stairway leads to the upper floor with a viewing gallery which runs the whole length of the structure.
RSPB community engagement officer, Darren Johnson, said:
“We want people to access nature, and this new hide helps us achieve that. One of our hides is difficult for people with restricted mobility, especially at this time of year, but the new hide is open to everyone, making Blacktoft one of the most accessible reserves to visit.”
Garthorpe-based specialist bird hide construction firm, Gilleard Bros Ltd, worked with staff from the nature reserve to design and build the structure. Work took place alongside a similar project at RSPB Minsmere in Suffolk.
Bird hides are special buildings for viewing birds and other wildlife without disturbing them, and allow people to see the animals in their natural environment. The existing hides at Blacktoft Sands are popular with visitors and wildlife photographers for the unrestricted views they offer.
The new hide is expected to last for 30 years, and enthral hundreds of thousands of visitors in that time, but work to maintain the hides and improve Blacktoft Sands for visitors doesn’t stop. The RSPB has a five-year plan for the other hides at the nature reserve.