It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for both weather and sightings, with the scorching hot days followed with stormy conditions making venturing out onto the reserve quite challenging at times! Those who have come to visit have been rewarded with some great sightings and there are plenty of changes to the birds we are seeing showing signs the seasons are once again changing.
Migrating sandpipers have been a highlight with green sandpiper regularly seen on the Scrape and Centenary Pool, along with common sandpiper and the occasional wood sandpiper. The black-headed gulls have departed and for a short time left the reserve sounding a lot quieter before Canada geese repopulated the scrape as they start their moult, along with increasing numbers of greylag geese. Most of the avocets have now departed too, with only a few appearing on the scrape and a late family over by Marsh Covert hide.
Common sandpiper - John Hewitt
Snipe have increased in number and lots of the black-tailed godwits around are still in their amber summer plumage, along with a few spotted redshanks. Dunlins have also come onto the Scrape on a few days over the last couple of weeks, with lapwings and redshanks as always dotted around.
A wonderful dark brown juvenile marsh harrier has been regularly over the scrape, and a red kite drifted over on 24 July with excellent views for a short time before dropping into the wet grassland. Hobbies are still being sighted out over the fen and Burton Point, along with plenty of buzzards around the woodlands that have been travelling over to the scrape and disrupting the waders.
Recently fledged little egrets are gathering around on Bridge Pool and in front of Marsh Covert hide in their congregations, with a few great white egrets also seen in flight over the reserve or dropping in on the pools. Kingfishers have returned after breeding, with reports every few days coming in of them being sighted around Reception Pool and the old fishery ponds. A family of green woodpeckers is over at Burton Point, giving good views to those who venture up there.
Congregation of little egrets – Jeremy Snape
With the hot, sunny weather dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies have been brilliant. Essex skipper, wall brown, speckled wood, meadow brown, gatekeeper, comma and purple hairstreaks around the oaks are some of the best butterflies seen. A golden-ringed dragonfly found in the wildlife garden was the first record for the reserve and the Wirral, an excellent find by our fundraiser Elliot whilst out on the reserve.
Banded demoiselle – Neil Francis
Golden-ringed dragonfly – Elliot Wilson
The star of the show has been a long-billed dowitcher that arrived on 25 July and has been sighted daily moving between the Scrape and Centenary Pool seen amongst black-tailed godwits. Its markings are similar to a godwit but can be identified due to its size and shape being similar to a snipe. A rare sighting, it has brought lots of visitors in to see the bird, with only a small handful seen every year in the UK during migration.
Long-billed dowitcher - Andrew Wallbank
Our wardens have been battling through the heat and horseflies over the last couple of weeks! Liz and Lizzie have been out brushcutting around the predator fence to ensure the constantly growing vegetation doesn’t impact the fence’s effectiveness. The work parties have also been in supporting Liz with infrastructure work including repairing bridges out on the reserve's paths.
Work party repairing a bridge - Liz Holmes
Cutting around the predator fence - Liz Homes
Over at Point of Ayr, the little tern wardening has come to an end as all the young terns have fledged and are less vulnerable to disturbance. Myself and Megan had the chance to head up there for the day to see Liz, John and the voluntary wardens' efforts in action, also seeing the challenges they have faced with disturbance from visitors' dogs and how important the project is for these vulnerable ground-nesting birds. Seeing the terns come in close during the high tide was a wonderful sight and it’s fantastic to see some of the young terns that have fledged this year.
A beach clean also took place at the Point of Ayr on 17 Jul in partnership with Marine Conservation Society and SC Johnson. A handful of volunteers helped out tidying up the beach and endured the hot weather!
Point of Ayr beach clean - Liz Holmes
With the recent announcement of the easing of social distancing restrictions, we are pleased to have completed the final step of reopening our visitor centre. There are some slight changes to the set-up inside to ensure everyone can stay safe, with visitors using one side door to enter and the other to exit. There are chairs placed for seated viewing inside and we’re asking all visitors to continue wearing face coverings indoors unless exempt, as all RSPB staff and volunteers are also doing. More information is on a blog here: https://bit.ly/3zP7N9i
Test and trace is no longer a requirement, but the QR codes remain in place to check-in via the NHS Covid-19 app for those visitors who wish to.
Our takeaway snacks and refreshments are also still available from outside the visitor centre. We are currently working on returning a range of fresh sandwiches following unforeseen circumstances with our old supplier.
Big Wild Summer is well underway, and packs are available for £3.50 from our visitor welcome point. For August the pack has been refreshed with a new quiz trail and activity booklet.
We’re pleased to welcome some new faces to the visitor welcome team with new volunteers Eileen, Gina and Chas now supporting us during the week.
With the arrival of August and the evenings starting to draw in, the reserve will close at 8pm with all visitors asked to leave the car park by this time.
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