This weeks blog was written by Matthew Scarborough our newest residential volunteer.
Here at Burton Mere Wetlands we’ve had a great week for all sorts of birds. For waders there has been lovely views of thousands of lapwings as well as black-tailed godwit, curlew, dunlin, golden plover, ruff, redshank and snipe across the reserve but particularly well straight from the Visitor Centre.
Winter wildfowl are always a treat this time of year on wetland estuaries and the Dee is no exception. Thousands and thousands of pink-footed geese flyover between their roosting and feeding sites in a near constant flow. The best views are at dawn and dusk where the sound of huge groups in V-formation (skeins) fill the morning and afternoon air. We are also fortunate to have daily, intimate views of beautiful winter ducks such as teal, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall, shelduck and pintail.
Image: Paul Jubb
The wetlands here provide us with many daily spectacles and this week we’ve been very lucky with great views of raptors. Common sights are soaring buzzards and sparrowhawks as you arrive at the reserve and kestrels just outside the Visitor Centre hovering very obligingly for photographers. Most days we also have marsh harriers quartering over the marsh and reedbed as well as missile like merlins darting in low to the ground, lifting lapwings and wildfowl alike. Other fairly common raptors include peregrines hunting over the pools, hoping to catch ducks such as teal and wigeon. We’re really happy to have had more than usual numbers of hen harriers this week with visitors catching good views of them multiple times through the last 6 days. The saltmarsh area between Burton Mere Wetlands and Parkgate have still been providing us with great views of hen harriers and marsh harriers as well as views of short-eared owls and bitterns!
Other views this week have included the usual views of great white egrets and little egrets stalking their way through the saltmarsh as groups of redwing and fieldfare fly overhead. The starling murmurations have more or less finished for this year but there are still hundreds of starlings about the reserve - particularly near the hill fort at the west end of the reserve where we frequently find groups of linnet, siskins and ravens. The kingfisher seems to have been seen more often this week with morning visitors catching good views around the meres and even good views straight from the Visitor Centre. The reserve feeders have also been alive with activity this week with big groups of blue tits, great tits and long-tailed tits as well as chaffinches, greenfinches and great-spotted woodpeckers.
Star sighting this week would have to be an amazing view of a peregrine this Saturday morning. At around half 9 Dan Trotman spotted the peregrine flying in off the marsh towards the Visitor Centre where it continued to slow down and land right on one of the islands in full view. It then preceded to give us a fantastic show of jumping up and swirling around the scrape looking for opportunities to strike. After around an hour of a nearly full to the brim watching the display, the peregrine successfully secured itself a black-tailed godwit that it carried to the edge of the scrape to proudly tuck into to. It was at this point that, to the amazement to everyone watching and to the shock of the peregrine, a carrion crow swooped in, pinching the peregrines catch and flying away with its reward.
A lot of the jobs of this week for the warden and the reserve volunteers have been centred around maintenance of the reserve infrastructure. Clearance of the thick layer of leaves on all paths done earlier in the week will prevent paths from gathering layers of decaying leaf litter which would eventually create muddy and unattractive paths. Leaf clearance and scrubbing of boardwalks and bridges removes the leaf litter and dirt that traps moisture in the wood which can cause rotting and reduce the lifespan of the structures. The team have also been replacing decking boards outside the Visitor Centre as well as adjusting the doors and gates around the site so that they are easier to use. We have also been performing general maintenance on some of the reserve fencing and removing invasive plant species. The wild play area has also had a lot of attention from the reserve team this week to work on its development as a den building area.
* Just to make everyone aware that we’ll be closing the Marsh Covert Hide on Thursday 12 next week for maintenance and repair. *
Next Saturday we have the first of four community litter picks around the reserve in partnership with cleaning product manufacturers SC Johnson; the first one is at Point of Ayr, with details of how to get involved available here, and subsequent events at Oakenholt Marsh, Burton Marsh and Parkgate to take places in January to March.
Little Explorers is back with the next event running on 16 December. Meet at the visitor centre just before 10am for these sessions, which are aimed at preschool children (accompanying siblings welcome), no booking necessary. Stories and activities to excite your budding wildlife explorers plus juice for kids and a hot drink for the grown-ups. Price: £5 per child (£4 RSPB Wildlife Explorer members); accompanying siblings are half-price.
Unfortunately the Raptorwatch at Parkgate on the Sunday 8 is cancelled due the yellow weather warning of high winds. We'll be back with a bang in the new year with the next Raptorwatch taking place on Sunday 12 January so get the date in your diary.
Come find us at the Burton Mere visitor centre where we are now selling lovely mince pies! The usual stunning views and amazing birds now with extra festivity. The new December quiz trail “Christmas Nature Trail” is now available any day you visit to help you and your family get in the festive spirit.
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