Written by and posted on behalf of Katie Ellis and Matthew Scarborough
A week of fairer weather has brought out lots of winter wildlife and lots of visitors too.
Waders and ducks are still in abundance across the reserve with good numbers of black-tailed godwit, dunlin, redshank, lapwing, snipe, ruff, curlew, shelduck , teal, wigeon, pintail, gadwall, tufted duck and shoveler. Good numbers of geese have been both on the reserve and flying over with pink-footed geese, Canada geese and greylag geese being most common with the occasional pair of Egyptian geese too. Cormorants have been frequent visitors over the scrape, airing their wings after fishing and a pair of oystercatchers have returned to feed around our scrape islands. Common gulls have also been a frequent sight from the visitor centre as well as three noisy little grebes on the willow pool. An exciting and lonely green sandpiper has also been appearing to left of the scrape around the pools best seen from Bunker Hide.
Little grebe (Paul Jubb)
The reedbed has been busy with Cetti’s warbler seen and heard on most days, reed buntings, water rail scurrying along the ditches and we were treated to a small starling murmuration at dusk on Wednesday. The first sightings for a couple of weeks of bearded tits turned up this week letting us know that they are doing well through the recent cold and wet weather. The reedbed has also given visitors good views of kingfishers and grey wagtails and so are always worth looking out for. Whilst walking along the Reedbed trail it is always worth checking the adjacent Marsh Covert woodland too as its been very productive for birds recently. With almost the whole range of the crow family we have been regularly been seeing ravens, jays, carrion crows, rooks and jackdaws. It has also had a lot of mixed finches including siskin, bullfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch and a particularly big group of goldfinch. Other woodland sightings this week have included excellent views of great spotted woodpeckers, long tailed tits, nuthatch, treecreepers as well as occasional views of chiffchaffs. 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 intimate views of green woodpeckers and goldcrests.
Fieldfare (Paul Jubb) It has once again been an excellent week for birds of prey here at Burton Mere Wetlands. Here at the reserve we have had daily views of hunting kestrels, sparrowhawks and buzzards with regular views of marsh harriers. The peregrine has also visited the reserve this week along with a female hen harrier which showed very well in front of the visitor centre. After months of not even a glimpse of our breeding little owls we were finally able to get views of them last Thursday when one was spotted at Burton Point looking from the Burton Marsh Greenway.
The visitor centre as usual has been an excellent place to be on the reserve to see almost everything around on the wetland. It has been particularly good to see very close views of great white egrets, little egrets, grey herons all catching fish in the pools in front as well as pairs of stonechat feeding around pool edges. Around the visitor centre and the Gorse Covert trail as dusk comes has been a good time to see woodcock emerging from their daytime roosts this week. At around the same time around the old fishponds has been good for catching a ring-necked parakeet that has recently started to roost in the woodland over the last couple of weeks. As we revert to a 5pm closing time from Saturday 1 February, next week could be ideal to stay until the very end to chance your luck.Image: Paul Jubb
Our highlight this week has been an excellent group of 11 siskins that have been feeding very acrobatically on alder seeds right above the path giving visitors a real show!
Great and little egrets Paul Jubb)
The big job this week for the warden team was clearing a significant area of willow within the fen area that has long been impeding the birdcrop field viewpoint towards the end of the Farm and Fen trail. The view has now been extended back to it’s original grand view that looks across Bridge Pool and beyond across much of Burton Mere Wetlands. Let us know what you think next time you visit.
Willow clearing beneath the viewpoint (Matthew Scarborough)
On Monday, the team carried out the strenuous task - involving a several mile walk across ungrazed saltmarsh - of the winter low tide Mersey Estuary bird surveys which are important for monitoring the numbers of wader and waterfowl populations feeding on the intertidal mud off Stanlow Marsh.
It's the last few days of the January “Big Garden Birdwatch" family quiz trail if you can squeeze in an after-school visit this week ahead, but we'll have a brand new one out for the start of February next weekend. Along with the quiz trail we also have Explorer Backpacks to hire for the kids to take out and get exploring.
Our next Little Explorers event is on Monday 27 January between 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.
Our next Binocular and Telescope Open Day will be over the weekend of Saturday 1 February and Sunday 2 February between 10am-4pm. Price: Free (normal admission charges apply to non-members wishing to access the reserve)
Join us for our first Parkgate Tidewatch of the year on Tuesday 11 February and Wednesday 12 February between 10.30am-2.30pm. 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 then brings in the likes of short-eared owls, hen harriers, marsh harriers and many other spectacular raptors as well as vast flocks of the wetland birds being brought closer in to view.
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