Recent sightings

With the daylight at its longest as we pass by the summer solstice, the reserve is open late into the evening to enjoy all the wonderful summer sights and sounds around us. Orchids are a highlight of June, there’s been an abundance of southern marsh orchids, a few spotted orchids and only a couple of bee orchids this year. The Farmland Trail has been a good spot to find them and our volunteer Tom got some great photographs of them whilst leading a guided walk. It’s also time to keep a lookout for the small, beautiful purple hairstreak butterflies that will come out over the oaks near the Visitor Centre on calm, sunny days.


June's orchids – left, Southern Marsh Orchid, middle, Bee Orchid and right, spotted Orchid - Tom Giles

As the breeding season ends, kingfishers have begun to return to the Old Fishery Pools. Visitors have been treated to excellent views over Reception Pool and a recent school visit also caught glimpses of one along the Meres Trail. A family of stoats are appearing along the edge of Reception Pool, exciting visitors by bobbing along the bank before disappearing back into the deep vegetation. Normally a mammal that’s hidden away, a mole was spotted along the trail to Border Hide on several occasions, scurrying back into the bank, surprising visitors with how small it was!

Kingfisher – Ron Thomas

Although it is the beginning of summer for us, southward migration has already begun in the bird world and we’ve started to get sightings of spotted redshank out on Centenary pool and on the Scrape. Green sandpiper, another southerly migrant has been re-appearing, with excellent views on the edges of Reception Pool and the Scrape. A wood sandpiper has also been seen a couple of times and as the season continues, we’re looking forward to sightings of other passage waders such as common sandpipers and greenshank.

There’s not been much activity from the bitterns this season and although a pair were seen in early spring, there was little indication that they were breeding. However, over the last couple of weeks, we have had a small number of reports of brief sightings of individuals from Marsh Covert Hide again. Our marsh harrier pair are wonderful at the moment, sightings have become regular as the young fledge from the reedbed nest. We’ve just started to see two juveniles who are dark brown, with a golden head like the females

Over at Reedbed Screen, there have been brilliant views of a water rail dashing along, identifiable by it's moorhen-like size and call that sounds like a pig’s squeal. A great white egret has also been spending its time fishing in the open water behind Reedbed Screen and over on Reception Pool. Now is also the time to keep a lookout for great white egret fledglings: we think there have been at least two nests in the heronry this year. As you walk along the Wetland Trail, sedgereed and Cetti’s warblers can be seen and heard, along with reed buntingblackcap and whitethroat.

Water rail – Paul Jubb

Little ringed plovers have continued to be sighted from both Marsh Covert and Border hide, along with a small number of bar-tailed godwits amongst the many black-tailed godwits. A ruff in summer plumage landed on the scrape on the 29 June, giving superb views. Looking out over the Marsh Covert Flood and towards Bridge Pool, grey heron juveniles are perched, looking scruffy and getting used to life away from the nest, with a group of over twenty of them gathered on Tuesday. This area is also good for seeing ducks including shelduckshovelertealgadwalltufted duck and garganey. Although, they are becoming harder to identify now breeding season is over and they are moving into eclipse plumage.

The avocetlapwing and redshank chicks have matured and started wandering around the scrape. Mediterranean gull have also been seen out along the muddy edges of the islands. Another highlight over the last couple of weeks has been excellent views of swallowssand martins and house martins, as they swoop low over the Visitor Centre and field near the car park, feeding frantically on the insects that had been brought lower by the overcast and cooler weather. Most recently swifts have been following suit, creating a wonderful spectacle as they have been battling the windy weather.

Swift – Paul Jubb

Alongside the marsh harriers, hobby have continued to be a regular sighting, dashing high over the Visitor Centre and at Burton Point. Peregrinekestrel and sparrowhawk have also been regular visitors around the reserve and there was a brief sighting of a red kite early this week. Woodpeckers have been a delight to see, with great-spotted woodpeckers feeding young from the Visitor Centre feeders and green woodpeckers sighted with young in the Wildlife Garden

Star Sighting

As the breeding season comes to a close, it’s time to focus on the other amazing wildlife that appears on the reserve. The star sighting is the scarlet tiger moth. Burton Mere is one of the only places to see this day-flying moth in Cheshire and if you have a keen eye, you could see one of these beauties when walking along the reserves boardwalks. They are easy to identify when they open their wings, showing the scarlet red colour that gives them their name.

Scarlet Tiger Moth - Neil Francis  

Wardens Wanderings

As summer arrives, the wardens' workload changes from preparing, then supporting the breeding waders to the other work needed around the reserve.

Tackling the encroaching vegetation along the path edges on the reserve's trails has been a priority to ensure they are kept clear for visitor access. Out on the estuary, more cutting has also been done around the sheep fences near Decca Pools on the salt marsh. Keeping the fences free of vegetation helps keep grazing sheep protected during high tides.

Over at Point of Ayr news continues to be positive with the latest nest count at an amazing thirty, about ten nests more than last year! Six of these nests have been found in the last week which is keeping our warden team on their toes! Many of the chicks have hatched and some are very mobile from earlier nests. Work continues to protect the nesting grounds from disturbance and volunteers are out every day patrolling the area to remind the public not to go near these amazing birds.

Little tern on nest -Al Grubb

The team also headed up to Point of Ayr to complete one of the two annual Breeding Bird Surveys, required by the BTO to monitor the population changes in over a118 breeding bird species across the UK. Highlights for the survey were bullfinch and linnet recordings for the site.

Salt Marsh is more than just a brilliant home for birds, it’s also amazing for carbon capture and flood defence! Manchester University asked us last week if they could come to the salt marsh at Parkgate to do some soil core sampling to analyse carbon storage capacity of different salt marshes. They also saw some interesting paw prints whilst out there, most likely belonging to an otter!


Manchester University sampling out on the saltmarsh – Liz Holmes

Get involved

After a successful beginner’s Nature Photography Workshop at the beginning of the month, our expert Ron Thomas will be hosting another workshop, designed at an intermediate level for those who wish to brush up on their photography skills or build on what they learned on the beginner's course. This workshop is on Friday 8 July, 10am to 4pm and you can book a space on our website.

There's still time to grab one of our Big Picnic activity packs available to purchase for £3.50 for our Visitor Centre. They include our fantastic family trail all about butterflies and loads of activities you can do on the reserve and at home.

Have you got some time to spare? Are you passionate about nature and enjoy working with people? We’re still on the lookout for volunteers to support us in our Visitor Experience team at Burton Mere’s Visitor Centre. To apply and find out more look here: