Written by Matthew Scarborough, Residential volunteer.
A wild weather week with all sorts of weather conditions from sleety rain to warm still sunshine has been reminding us that spring isn’t too far away now!
Great white egrets have been seen every day this week mixed in with the usual daily sightings of little egret and grey herons fishing in pools around the reserve. Some days all three of them can be very easily seen all together as they hunt in the reception pool just metres in front of the Visitor Centre. Also seen best from the Visitor Centre has been the years first avocet sightings! The first being a lonely individual turning up on the main scrape on the 13 February which continued to feed there for several days before disappearing. Then, on the 21 February, a pair of avocets flew in on the same spot and have since been roaming the scrape giving visitors excellent views.
Pair of avocets by Elizabeth Maddock
We have been getting more great views of raptors again this week with regular sightings of marsh harriers and kestrels using the strong winds to great effect to hover over the grasses and reed looking for small mammals. Both male and female hen harriers have been seen on the reserve this week along with occasional peregrines that often lift huge amounts of waders into the air as they pass through.
The woodland areas at Burton Mere Wetlands have been very productive this week with visitors reporting sightings of birds such as jays, ravens, mistle thrushes, song thrushes, treecreepers, nuthatch, goldcrest and a mixture of finches including siskin, goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch and bullfinch. Particularly around the Meres, the woodland has also been a great place to see great spotted woodpeckers, sparrowhawks, buzzards and kingfishers. It has also been worth looking around under the trees near the crop field as it has been a good place to see secretive woodcock and water rails.
The main scrape and wet grassland areas are still holding huge amounts of winter waterfowl and waders including ducks such as shelduck , teal, wigeon, pintail, gadwall, tufted duck and shoveler. Big numbers of geese are still prevalent in and around the reserve such as pink-footed geese, Canada geese and greylag geese with a pair of Egyptian geese too. Wader sightings have included hundreds of black-tailed godwits and lapwing as well as snipe, ruff, curlew, oystercatcher, dunlin, redshank and spotted redshank with infrequent sightings of green sandpiper. The wetland has also been where occasional Mediterranean gulls have been spotted.
The reedbed has been an excellent place to see and hear very active Cetti’s warblers as well as reed buntings, grey wagtails and water rail. Walking towards Burton Point at the far end of the reserve has been the best for seeing the regular groups of fieldfare and redwing as well as great views of green woodpeckers. At the start of the week a visitor at Burton Point saw views of around 27 whooper swans showing that it is always worth checking the marsh for unexpected visitors.
Signs that spring is around the corner have been popping up all around the reserve such as the first opening daffodils and the huge amounts of bluebell leaves sprouting which promises for another spring spectacle. The first sighting of a newt has been reported as well as black-heading gulls sitting on islands in big groups most of which in the process of moulting into breeding plumages. Lapwings have started flight displays and songbirds have restarted singing to hold territories and attract potential mates.
Star sighting this week has to be the return of the cattle egret that has been missing from the reserve for some time now. It returned on 17 February and spends most of its time either feeding around the cows in the field and the entrance to the reserve or out on the wetland where it can be seen flying in and out of ditches. However, one day this week it had decided to surprise us with stunning views of it feeding in the reception pool just in front of the visitor centre.
Cattle egret by Alasdair Grubb
This week the warden team have been performing maintenance and repairs to the predator fence so that it is in top condition for when the breeding season starts. The last two weeks of on and off stormy weather has been testing the limits of the trees on the reserve as well as the willow screening which prevents disturbance to birds on the reedbed pools. Therefore, the team have been dealing with broken branches and potential hazards as well as repairing and strengthening the willow screening. The warden team have also been removing willow from the wetlands and almost all vegetation from the scape islands which provides clear open ground which is the preference for breeding birds such as avocet.
Our next Little Explorers event is on Monday 24 February, 10-11.30am meet at the Visitor Centre and come see what stories and activities we have planned. Price: £5 per child (£4 RSPB Wildlife Explorer members); accompanying siblings half-price.
The Coastline litter pick is on Saturday 29 February, 10am-1pm and we need as many hands as we can get! Come along and join in clearing up the large amount of litter brought on to the Burton Marsh Greenway by the recent surge tide from Storm Ciara.
Join us for our first Parkgate Tidewatch of the year on Tuesday 10 March to Thursday 12 March between 10am-2pm. We will be down at the Parkgate Old Baths for the spectacle of high tide as it comes in and pushes small mammals up the saltmarsh which can bring in some spectacular raptors.
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