The last few weeks have seen regular visits from whooper swans on the main scrape and the odd visit from curlew sandpiper and green sandpiper. Other waders have been black-tailed godwits, lapwing, ruff, redshank, golden plover and lots of wonderful snipe.
Whooper swan: John Langley
Good sightings still of linnet, fieldfare, redwing, siskin, stonechat and bullfinch. The staff were lucky enough to catch a gorgeous red breasted male bullfinch around the visitor centre on Thursday morning.
Male and female bullfinch: Lynne Greenstreet
The little egrets and great egrets coming into roost of an evening around the old fishponds has been great to watch, as they jostle for a good position to settle for the night. About the same time the pink-footed geese come over too, heading back out to the saltmarsh to roost for the night.
Cattle egret were still entertaining us last week playing hide and seek with each other under the cows and a top record of thirteen seen together on the main scrape. Speaking of cows or rather coos, as part of us rejuvenating the Inner Marsh Farm wet grassland area, we now have some gorgeous local highland cows. During the autumn and winter months, we use cows to graze down the vegetation and churn up the mud as part of our annual management regime. The cows keep the vegetation down to a height that is better for the breeding birds in spring but just as importantly in winter lets more water sit on the ground for incredibly important wintering wildfowl we get here at the Dee.
Each year many surveys are carried out by our team and many dedicated volunteers across the Dee Estuary and surrounding area. These surveys play an incredibly important role in assessing the health of the saltmarsh and how the wildfowl numbers are changing each year. The huge numbers of wildfowl we record are testament to our reserve being such a special and unique piece of habitat. The work we do on the Dee Estuary supports many different beautiful ducks that are internationally and nationally important and birds like teal (our smallest duck in the UK) averaged around 4000 in October last year. Other species like wigeon numbers this October so far have been over 1500, pintail over 1300 and pink-footed geese around 8000.
Dee Estuary saltmarsh:Paul Jubb
Hen harriers have been great onsite at Burton Mere Wetlands, especially from the visitor centre. We have had two ringtails at once along with multiple marsh harriers being mobbed by crows. At least two grey adult male hen harriers were seen this week by the team out over the saltmarsh.
Male hen harrier: Paul Jubb
Point of Ayr, at the tip of the Welsh side of the estuary, has been its usual hive of autumn activity in recent weeks with some great sightings reported to us by one of our high tide protection volunteers out there; highlights there recently at a high tide roost were hundreds of curlews, redshanks, pintails, shelducks, dunlins and two grey plovers, 25 ringed plovers, 45 cormorants and a merlin. Of course with Wales in lockdown, only Flintshire residents can enjoy this for now.
The Inner Marsh Farm trail is well on its way to being ready for the path extension after last week's cutting and grass pulling. This week the team have been carrying out more path cutting and replacing more gate posts as well as clearing the falling leaves to installing much needed heaters for the visitor operations team. Spare a thought for Liz and her team all working outdoors in this miserable wet weather we have had recently, but also for the team in the office writing up serious management plans and the other hugely important behind the scenes work and admin.
As we move into our winter opening hours, closing at 4.30pm, on Sunday 1 November we will be reopening the visitor centre, in a markedly different manner to how we were all used to before the spring lockdown. The building will serve as a luxurious hide, with the wood pellet stove to take the chill off after you've been exploring the reserve in the wintry weather. Face coverings will be required to be worn inside, and therefore it will not be a space for eating packed lunches or enjoying our hot drinks, and we will inevitably have to operate timed access in order to ensure fair use by all visitors that want a turn.
Our refreshments will continue to be served outside the visitor centre, for consumption outdoors only, and our mail order shop will continue to operate inside as it has done since early October. Plans were in place to reinstate our much-loved Village Bakehouse sandwiches at the same time, but this evening's Government announcement of a second lockdown has put the brakes on that for now. Keep an eye on our social media pages for regular updates on how the second lockdown will effect us and our visitors, as we find out more in the coming days.
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