Well, the recent drop in temperature and the change in wildlife certainly feels like autumn is just around the corner. This only means new and exciting wildlife around the corner too!
In the last couple of weeks, we have had a nice mix of waders turning up, all viewed from the recently reopened visitor centre or Bunker hide looking at the Scrape and from Border hide on Centenary Pool. The wonderful usual suspects like black-tailed godwit, redshank, and lapwing, which are always out there to enjoy. Then most days we have had a couple of green sandpipers, with the odd common sandpiper, ruff, dunlin, greenshank and handfuls of snipe. The main highlight was a lone pectoral sandpiper, which we had seen on the Scrape and from Border hide for four days in the first week of the month.
Greenshank: Elizabeth Maddock
All the ducks showing well like gadwall, tufted duck, teal, the odd wigeon, shoveler, shelduck, and pintail in the last couple of days have returned. They become difficult to identify at this time of year as they are going through their eclipse plumage which is when they moult all flight feathers and look quite drab and brown generally and become quite vulnerable to predators at this time. So even the normally brightly coloured males which you may rely on to identify look more like females.
Male pintail: Paul Jubb
All our avocets have now left, thankfully they had a decent breeding season despite many obstacles, including a very cold then wet spring. Equally the lapwing and redshank did better than expected. Swallows and swifts are still hanging around, and visitors have been taking some gorgeous photos of swallows with juveniles lining up along the fence lines up on Burton Point, all exercising their wings in preparation for their epic journey back to Africa.
Great egret, little egret and grey heron are all showing well at present, with a good breeding year for the great egrets with three pairs having a total of ten fledged chicks. They are being seen more regularly on-site from Reedbed screen and occasionally on the Scrape or Reception Pool. Another bit of excitement after a couple of months of not being seen, are our newest addition to the reedbed area is bittern! Mainly seen in flight around that area, to date no definite juveniles have been seen, so keep your eyes peeled for any strange looking birds and pictures are welcomed. If you spend time at Parkgate, another fantastic area of our reserve you may be lucky enough to spot a spoonbill down there most mornings.
Bittern: Andrew Wallbank
Other more autumnal highlights have been the nuthatch and treecreeper seen near the feeders by the visitor centre while kingfisher can normally be spotted around The Mere trail or garden ponds. I would have to say the best views have been the water rail at the back of the Scrape from Bunker hide and the visitor centre. Green woodpecker have also been slightly less elusive than usual, either being seen in the garden or at Burton Point.
Kingfisher: Ron Thomas
Raptors have been great recently with the typical marsh harrier sightings quartering across the back of the Scrape and the reedbed area. Thursday morning there were two beautiful juveniles over the wet grassland behind the Scrape. Peregrine, sparrowhawk, and possible some of the last views of the year of hobby have been seen hunting across the reserve recently. The sparrowhawk in particular has been very exciting, coming very close, right across the boardwalk in front of the visitor centre.
The hen harrier and short-eared owl are our duo star sighting for this week. They are both back on the Dee Estuary after breeding season a short-eared owl seen recently at Parkgate and a ringtail hen harrier has been seen at Burton Mere Wetlands from Border hide on Sunday evening.
Female (Ringtail) hen harrier: Paul Jubb
Short-eared owl: Paul Jubb
The hard work continues for the warden team. They have been putting the new tractor to work and topping the access tracks around the reserve, RSPB ecologists have been around recently carrying out important survey work and looking into the use of an enormous piece of tractor-trailed machinery called a spoil spreader, which will be used to clear more muddy edges and to clear out some of our ditches on our wet grassland that were first created over a decade ago. In a nutshell, the more mud the more invertebrate life and therefore more food for the birds.
As always, all the very important small jobs carry on like mowing the edges of the paths and garden areas, clearing back the ever-encroaching brambles that sneak over the fence, clearing the car park and keeping the hides clean and generally having a good old fashioned clear out of the work areas.
New tractor hard at work!
Visitors have been able to enjoy our hides again for two months, and the visitor centre is now also open for seated viewing to maintain a safe environment for visitors and the reserve team. We ask that all visitors continue to wear a face covering in our indoor spaces unless exempt, as all RSPB staff and volunteers are still doing for everyone’s safety.
Although the visitor centre is open, we continuing to serve all refreshments as takeaway from the outdoor welcome point, however, visitors are permitted to take them to consume inside. This helps us keep things flowing smoothly especially at busy times.
Our mail-order shop is fully up and running to place your orders for free home delivery for any order over £15, and we have a great offer on until 31 August with 20% off all Super Suet 150 boxes! Shopping with us is a fantastic way to give extra support directly to your local reserve.
Big Wild Summer will be coming to an end when the schools go back next month, so make sure you catch our latest family quiz trail; Creatures of the Night, along with a new activity booklet, your certificate and a 10% shop discount voucher all for just £3.50.
With the changes in season and the shorter days the reserve will be closing earlier each month; from Wednesday 1 September, we will be closing at 7pm so please make sure you are leaving the car park by this time.
All current updates and further info about the reserve can be found here: https://bit.ly/3gc8qCk
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