Several hundred lapwing take to the air shoaling and reforming. Amongst them a scattering of dunlin form a small silver ball against the shades of a winter sky, smeared clouds thick and heavy, the sun's light streaked into a faint gold on the horizon. Away to the east from Inner Marsh Farm hide is a good place to look for golden plovers, groups of curlew, from black-tailed godwits and pintail. On a walk in this direction listen out for Cetti's warblers and look out for stonechats, and the haunting whistle of wigeon fill the air as these cold days leave our fingers numb and breath lingering before retreating to a warm visitor centre for a hot drink and snack or sandwich.
Black-tailed godwits in flight (Sam Ryley)
This week’s wildlife highlights have included almost daily sightings of hunting peregrines, sparrowhawk and marsh harrier. Bearded tits are still here although reports from visitors have been less frequent this week, probably due to the weather getting chilly and the prospect of standing in wait less appealing! However, they were heard, then seen, on Sunday by a great volunteer mid-afternoon. During his wait at the Reedbed Screen in the hope of seeing them, he was rewarded with a water rail and kingfisher making appearances.
Look out for redshank, snipe, shelduck green sandpiper and little egrets from the visitor centre. Regular visitors to the feeders include great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches and goldfinch amongst the other woodland birds. Up around the field past the fen trail the field set aside for winter seed continues to attract flocks of linnet with the occasional brambling amongst them. Walk up to the view point and scan the field as the best place to observe winter flocks. Redwing and fieldfare are filtering through in small numbers as seen by visitors towards Inner Marsh Farm hide.
Linnets (John Hewitt)
Whooper swans occasionally drop onto the main scrape in front of the visitor centre. Look for them gathering on the far fields beyond the scrape together with large numbers of mute swans. A mix of ducks around the reserve include, tufted duck, teal and shoveler, all of which are looking rather dashing having recently come out of eclipse plumage. On the fishery pools look out for little grebes in particular.
Kestrels and hen harriers have been glimpsed gliding over the main scrape. cattle egret and great white egret are still present. The sighting of a pair of avocet this weekend from Bridge Screen was a nice if rather unexpected highlight although they were very much moving through.
A pair of avocets (Elizabeth Maddock)
Starlings have been roosting on the reserve for the past few days in their thousands. Small balls of starlings form before descending into the reedbed where the Reedbed Screen and Marsh Covert hide are both great places to watch them from. The Reception Hide is however the best place to take a seat and watch this quiet yet magical spectacle. Both peregrines and sparrowhawks will both take advantage of this come and dine, all-in-one buffet, however the success of these large flocks comes in their ability to present a large target that is ironically too difficult to hit! Occasionally they can be seen hunting through the flock and catching nothing.
The current time to look out for them is from 3.30pm onwards.
Work fixing up the ramp boardwalk, replacing the rotting boards with shiny new ones continued for several days last week with a further days work planned to replace more boards this week. Our volunteers have done a great job following a second round collecting up and taking away huge piles of leaves in the car park.
We have a tree-mendous family quiz trail for the whole family to come and do some tree gazing whilst finding out more about our wonderful woodland.
The Badger Hide is now closed for the winter and will reopen in the spring.
Our next Raptorwatch at Parkgate will be on the Sunday 9 December from 1pm until dusk; get the date for your diary, the birds have been spectacular lately with hen and marsh harriers, short-eared and barn owls all being seen regularly, not to mention the chance of one of two bitterns currently residing there!
We hope to see you soon.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654