Since my last blog a few weeks ago there has been some very mixed weather. I only seem to recall the glorious sunny days that were a wash of colours across the reserve. The change of autumn leaves is in full swing no, and as you drive down our main track try not get distracted by the fantastic shades ochre and red.
Autumn leaves: Elizabeth Maddock
Raptors have been a little quieter on the reserve this week but nevertheless exciting. We still get the odd sighting of what we think is one of this year’s juvenile marsh harriers from our reedbed pair, coming in and disrupting things over the main scrape. Ringtail hen harrier are being seen occasionally on the reserve and there have been reports of a juvenile male out over the marsh recently. Peregrine and sparrowhawk are still regularly hunting the abundance of birds on offer across the reserve.
The main scrape has a good number of ducks including gadwall, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, shoveler, recently they have been a bit difficult to identify but now their moulting eclipse plumage has disappeared you can see them in all their splendour, pintail are a little behind and have not fully regained their smart plumage. Pink-footed geese are one of the top spectacles to see here now, in huge numbers, thousands and thousands can be seen particularly well first thing in the morning as they head from our estuary to Burton Mere Wetlands for the day.
Redshank and wigeon enjoying the sunshine: Paul Jubb
Waders galore around the main scrape area! Bunker hide and the East Viewing Point can be the best place to see them. This week we’ve had greenshank, ruff, snipe, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, redshank, lapwing, occasional curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper and the first curlews of the season. We even had a very late avocet seen on bridge pool Sunday. On that note we also had some late swallows coming past the Visitor Centre this week landing on the edge of the roof before finding their bearings and setting off back to Africa.
Great egret, cattle egret, little egret and grey heron all showing well for most of our visitors across the reserve in different locations, but the cattle egret still steal the show on the main scrape with their continued comical behaviour with the cows.
Well persistence paid off! With the calm sunny weather conditions and regular visiting, a few dedicated visitors got some wonderful views of the bearded tits. This time not from the Reedbed screen but along the path between Marsh Covert hide and Bridge screen. They can be heard pinging in the reeds, and they are possibly using the grit off the paths at the moment as they change their diets from insects to seed at this time of year.
Other highlights of more autumnal feel are the redwing and fieldfare now being seen regularly at the railway end of the reserve. Cetti’s warbler , wheatear, siskin, skylark, nuthatch, green woodpecker and kingfisher just some of the mix of beautiful birds around at the moment.
Kingfisher: Paul Jubb
A little spectacular highlight for me this week was first hearing about sightings of the pale tussock moth caterpillar, with it lime green colour and fantastic yellow tufts. I then was lucky enough to get sight of one for myself, thanks to a keen eyed volunteer.
Pale tussock moth caterpillar: Megan Beckett
Point of Ayr high tides should be good this weekend, Monday and Tuesday see High tides of around or just below 10m. Recent sightings of waders in huge numbers like 1000+ redshank! It is a fantastic spot to visit for a number of brilliant waders and ducks like knot, black-tailed godwit, 10,000 oystercatcher, 300+ pintail and wigeon. Other seasonal visitors at the moment are siskin, redwing, fieldfare, brambling and great numbers of linnet. Peregrine are a brilliant highlight at the moment with a pair regularly seen hunting.
The Whooper swans have made a return with up to 16 individuals seen out over Burton Marsh around Denhall quay area during the week. We got views of a handful on the main scrape best viewed from the Bunker hide or East Viewing Point. The whooper swan may be mistaken for the smaller Bewick's swan which we also get here on the Dee at this time of year but no arrivals just yet.
Wow yet another busy couple weeks for the warden team! Liz and her team have been working very hard clearing the new path through to where the new Inner Marsh Farm hide will go, Thursday they replaced a gate post and yet more path cutting.
Warden team working hard, clearing new path for new Inner Marsh Farm hide: Liz Boone.
Becky has had her hands full with the new predator fencing work starting this week. You don’t appreciate how much goes into this side of the reserve until you chat to the wardens about it and realise the obstacles you come across just to put in a fence. There is a lot of forward thinking required about all future management and access required down the line in different seasons.
New predator fencing: Becky Longden
Both Liz and Becky have been busy in the tractor too doing the essential cutting on the wet grassland area. They are getting rewarded well with the best views - even photos while they stopped for a break - of the cattle egrets and even some jake snipe.
We all often forget how many small jobs need doing around the reserve that just keep everything looking great and ticking over. Tasks include mowing the garden, cleaning hide windows, cleaning picnic benches, trimming back path edges and weeding. So, a huge thank you to those volunteers that also come in and do these “little” but incredibly important jobs that sometimes may be overlooked, we really appreciate everything our volunteers do.
Enjoying the view of cattle egrets on a break with the cows: Becky Longden
Our shop is now open for us to take your orders. It is a great way to support the RSPB and our local reserve the added bonus for you is if the sale is over £15, we can give you free delivery. We are still taking catering orders for you too, so when you need a nice hot brew and a snack to keep you going in the colder weather just come and ask one of the staff at the Visitor Centre.
Marsh Covert hide is now open and working well for visitors with social distancing and face covering use in place. Bunker hide and the East Viewpoint are still in use too for the best views of the main scrape. The new boardwalk via the steps is open as a one-way system to the main path and being enjoyed by visitors.
10m High Tide at Parkgate on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18, unfortunately we are unable to attend in our normal capacity but if you headed down there see if you can spot your first short eared owl of the year! As I mentioned before, hen harrier’s male and female are around and the more commonly spotted marsh harriers.
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