Marsh marigold (Paul Jubb)

Easter is here, and despite the chilly temperatures there are sights and sounds of spring all around. With the easing of the Government's lockdown restrictions, we have been able to gradually reopen facilities at Burton Mere Wetlands through the second half of March.

We were fortunate enough to keep the reserve open through lockdown as a place for local exercise; this is now extended to general recreation, and since Monday 29 March groups of up to six people, or two households, may visit together.

Our staffed outdoor welcome point is open from 9.30am-5pm daily, providing information and serving takeaway refreshments. Contactless card payment is available and preferred for all transactions. We are required to operate the NHS Test and Trace programme during the hours of our staffed welcome point. Face coverings are not currently required as the only indoor places open are the toilets which are single cubicles, however as hides reopen we expect they will be required to be worn inside. 

The car park is open from 9am-8pm through April, as usual for this time of year, but allows the choice of visiting later in the day to avoid the busiest times. It is important to avoid arriving before 9am, as vehicles waiting outside our gate can block access for reserve staff and neighbouring farmers. If you are in the area early, we recommend a look at Burton Marsh just a short drive away, to the west of Burton village, where you can easily birdwatch from your car on the roadside or take a short walk along the Burton Marsh Greenway prior to Burton Mere Wetlands opening.

The all-important toilet facilities are open at Burton Mere Wetlands from 9.30am-8pm, with a deep clean first thing in the morning followed by regular checks and cleans up until 5pm. Baby change facilities are available whilst the welcome team are present.

 Singing dunnock (Paul Jubb)

We're delighted to have opened the garden for the season just in time for the Easter bank holiday weekend, a bustling home to common garden birds as well as occasional warblers and even green woodpeckers. A one-way system is signposted around the garden to help keep everyone safe. The only other one-way system is down the narrow causeway between The Mere and Woodland Pool. If you haven't visited us in the past year, these will be pointed out by the welcome team on your arrival, and the signs are clear and easy to follow.

The majority of trails are open, including the longest route on the reserve to the top of Burton Point for the unrivalled view of the estuary, with various viewpoints and two screens along the way. Reedbed screen has been popular for a couple of weeks, since the discovery of a bittern in this corner of the reedbed which is occasionally heard and seen by patient visitors. However, please be mindful of the need to practise social distancing when stopping at screens and viewpoints. A brand new, improved Bridge screen was built just ten days ago, a far better structure with a slight elevation to aid views onto Bridge Pool and beyond.

 Spring lambs in Burton Point field (Paul Jubb)

Until hides are allowed to reopen, views of the scrape are somewhat limited from around the visitor centre, but we've thinned some foliage to create a make-shift scrape viewpoint near the first entrance to the garden just a short walk out from the welcome point.

The short trail to the east of the visitor centre, whilst having no views onto the wetlands, has been good for seeing hares this week, as well as the busy bird feeding station and a quiet bench to relax at the far end. The woodland trail through Gorse Covert will soon be a popular place to admire the native bluebells which are just beginning to show some colour.

Families should explore the Wild Play area just off the car park, with den building, log balance beams and stump stepping stones for the little ones to enjoy without disturbing any wildlife (or other visitors!). Kids will also love our Wild Challenge sheets, which the grown ups can get on their smartphone by scanning a QR code near the visitor centre.

All being well, we can reopen our mail-order shop soon after 12 April, so you can once more order any RSPB products for free home delivery whilst directly supporting this reserve - including trying binoculars and telescopes before you decide which are right for you.

We ask that you continue to follow the guidance around non-essential travel and please stay local to your nearest nature reserves and green spaces. If you do visit us, please follow all current Government guidance around face coverings, social distancing, group sizes, hygiene and follow all signage on-site as well as instructions from the welcome team.

 Burton Marsh (Dan Trotman)

As lockdown continues to ease, it is inevitable more people will venture out to enjoy the estuary, which poses a risk to many ground-nesting birds at this time of year. The RSPB has launched the Watch Your Step campaign to encourage people to be responsible when returning to the countryside this spring. The saltmarsh from Burton to Parkgate is home to many vulnerable birds including avocet, redshank and marsh harrier which we work hard to protect, and whose breeding success can be so easily affected by recreational access to the saltmarsh.

For all the latest RSPB Covid-19 updates please visit: www.rspb.org.uk/reservesupdate

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