Posted on behalf of Fiona Wistow 

Recent sightings 

We are now halfway through March and it is definitely spring-like at Burton Mere Wetlands. Warmer weather and lengthening days, with the spring equinox this Sunday, accompany the spring migrants’ return. Chiffchaffs are making their arrival known, ‘chiffchaffing’ around the reserve, wheatears were spotted in the fields behind the car park and Burton Point, and sand martins were seen flying over Border pool on Wednesday.

Chiffchaff - Paul Jubb

We have also started to see signs of breeding behaviour with over 44 grey herons gathering around the pools and in the woodland adjacent to the reedbed trail, carrying nesting material. Great egrets and little egrets continue to be seen, with cattle egrets becoming more regular. Egrets are later breeders than their heron relatives, and the practice bubbling noises from little egrets can be heard from the neighboring woodland.

Grey Herons up in the heronry - Paul Jubb

It looks like two marsh harrier nests may be attempted this year, with two females and a male seen carrying nesting material over the reedbeds. Hen harriers have occasionally been spotted too.

It was this week last year that a bittern was heard booming for the first time at Burton Mere Wetlands. A few small booms and a brief sighting of one was reported from Marsh Covert Hide last week, where a bearded tit was also seen early on Tuesday. We are hoping that the bitterns will attempt to nest again and that sightings of these key reedbed species will increase. Cetti’s warblers are in full voice and can be heard along the reedbed and fen trails, and sometimes right next to the visitor centre. Reed buntings are often reported to the welcome team too.

Avocet numbers have reached at least 70, with more expected to arrive. Their breeding dates are a little later than our other waders such as lapwing which have started their display flights. Black-tailed godwits, the ones that will breed this year, are beginning to adopt their earthy orange summer plumage before they head to their Icelandic breeding grounds. Redshank are here in good numbers, and sightings of curlew, spotted redshank, golden plover, dunlin, ruff and snipe have also been reported

Occasional kingfisher sightings are being reported around the old fishery pools, and green woodpeckers and great-spotted woodpeckers continue to be seen fairly frequently.

It’s been lovely to watch a great-crested grebe on willow pool, its size very clearly contrasting with that of our much more regular little grebes. We have also recently had a pair on bridge pool, providing an entertaining watch with their elaborate courtship displays.  A male pochard, not a common visitor, was seen for a few days on bridge screen last week, and our pools and scrapes have housed our usual ducks including gadwall, wigeon, teal, shoveler, pintail, shelduck and tufted ducks.

The pink-footed geese are starting to reach their peak numbers with around 15,000 on the estuary, and they continue to fly overhead at the reserve. It won’t be long before they leave us for the summer and make the journey back to Iceland. Up to four barnacle geese have also been spotted among the Canada geese.

Star Sighting

The star sighting award this time goes to the female long-tailed duck that has been on Bridge pool since the weekend. As it's a sea duck, it is unusual to see one in this freshwater area of the estuary.  This winter visitor, which doesn’t have the same long tail as the males, has been seen daily, if you can keep track of where it will pop up with its diving feeding behaviour!

Long-tailed duck (right)  - Tom Giles

Warden Wanderings

In the fields by the barn and towards Burton Point, approximately 2,250 trees have been planted in partnership with Trees for Climate, The Mersey Forest and Cheshire West and Chester Council. These fields used to be sacrificial crop fields, planted with barley to provide food for typical farmland birds, however with a lack of interest shown, the plan was changed to scrub up areas of these fields (20% and 10% respectively) with species already found at Burton Mere Wetlands. This included hawthorn, blackthorn, dogrose, gorse and hazel have been planted providing fruit, nuts and habitat for invertebrates and birds. To create further variety in habitat, the tractor has been out rotavating to provide areas for birds such as lapwings to nest in as well as turning up food in the form of invertebrates.

Tree planting - Becky Longden

In Chapel Field, at the end of Station Road and looking out onto Burton Marsh, electric fencing has been put out this week to keep the grazing sheep and lambs out of the west section of the field. The field has rich floral biodiversity including species like pignut, rough chervil and common sedge. By keeping the livestock away, we hope to see the flowers flourish again.

Installing fence around Chapel Field - Liz Holmes

You may notice the carpet of green as the bluebells begin to emerge through the woods as you are welcomed to Burton Mere Wetlands and up upon Burton Point. To help the carpet turn its striking blue, we have temporarily fenced off areas at the Point to avoid trampling.

Spring means breeding birds and the ground nesting species including avocets, lapwings and redshanks are vulnerable to fox and badger predation. Therefore, work maintaining our predator exclusion fence has continued, including strimming back encroaching vegetation and repairing any holes.

Short vegetation along the reedbed trail has been cut back by a work party to create open areas for a larger variety of plants to grow up in.

Clearing Reedbed trail - Liz Holmes

Essential infrastructure jobs have also been taking place with this week's volunteer work party focusing on replacing path edging. 

Path edging work - Liz Holmes

Get Involved

We are still open until 6pm but from 1 April this will change to 8pm, to make use of the longer days. 

Between the 21 and 25 March, we are hosting a National Lottery Open Week to say #ThanksToYou and the National Lottery for helping connect local communities and nature. Just bring your National Lottery ticket or scratch card and explore our reserve with free entry for you and up to one extra adult and 3 children. Click here for more information and T’s & C’s.

The Big Wild Easter starts on the 26 March and it offers a fantastic nature-based day for the family. Enter the world of eggs with our quiz trail which runs around The Mere trail and ends at our Wild Play area. We also have our seasonal Explorer Backpacks designed to get your kids really involved in the wildlife here. The Big Wild Easter runs until 24 April.

Why not break your day by visiting with a lovely picnic? We have our great selection of sandwiches with Mozzarella & Pesto and Chicken, Bacon & Stuffing as new fillings to try, sausage rolls and our usual great snacks, drinks and ice creams.

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