Last weekend's heavy rainfall left us with higher than usual water levels across much of Burton Mere Wetlands this week. As a result, wildfowl were the dominant presence, namely the usual variety of teal, shoveler, wigeon, pintail, gadwall, and shelduck. Plenty of waders were still present, just pushed onto the wet grassland in shallower water with over 1000 black-tailed godwit present, vast flocks of lapwing, a steady presence of golden plover,on Centenary Pool, plus small numbers of curlew and ruff, and a peak of over 70 dunlin pushed in by Wednesday's high tide.
Pink-footed geese saw a notable increase in prominence through the week and became a feature grazing freshly-harvested crop fields near Bunker Screen as well as regular movements overhead including thousands at dusk heading towards the saltmarsh for the night. Whooper swan numbers remain in single figures, with just brief, often flight views of them at Burton Mere Wetlands so far.
Pink-footed geese in flght (E.Maddock)
The three cattle egrets continued to show well at the beginning of the week but have been conspicuous in their absence since Tuesday, but great egrets and occasionally little egrets have spent periods of time feeding on the saturated grassland in and around the cows, keeping us on our toes checking beak-colour very closely! Elsewhere, sightings of the elusive kingfisher and green woodpecker remain consistent, several Cetti's warbler can be heard calling from deep cover at intervals along the trails, and a grey wagtail is occasionally sighted around the old fishery ponds.
Raven numbers have dropped off from the recent unprecedented counts, whilst linnet numbers grow in the birdcrop fields and redwing and fieldfare are gradually arriving, migrating through in mixed flocks and at times feeding on the pastures of Burton Point. Pairs of characterful stonechats can be spotted even in front of the visitor centre, and sizeable gatherings of greenfinch are using the feeders by the barn.
Raptors were quiet at the start of the week but sightings picked up and by the weekend we were enjoying regular marsh harrier and sparrowhawk activity, occasional peregrine and merlin sightings plus the ever-present buzzards and kestrels, whilst on Wednesday a bold barn owl was hunting mid-afternoon near the railway bridge.
A real highlight of the week was the emergence of an impressive starling murmuration over the main scrape and reedbed, ultimately roosting overnight in the latter - well worth staying until closing time to witness this short-lived annual spectacle. It was a good week for mammals too, with brown hare, stoat and weasels sightings.
Flocks of lapwings and starlings (S.Ryley)
Star sighting of the week
The confirmation of at least one, probably two bitterns on the saltmarsh at the south end of Parkgate, and Neston Reedbed means its a fourth winter running that the reserve has been a winter roost for these birds.
Some extensive reed cutting was done in the main reedbed to open up the pool in front of the Reedbed Screen, and even more significantly along a bank and ditch near Marsh Covert hide towards Border Pool. This has dramatically opened up the view from the western end of the hide, with opportunities to see Border Pool and its surrounding wet grassland, and we intend to maintain this view to add another dimension to Marsh Covert hide's potential.
Wide open view from Reedbed Screen (D.Trotman)
A whole new view from Marsh Covert hide (D.Trotman)
Our next event is the Parkgate Raptorwatch on Sunday 10 November, and with marsh harrier numbers into double figures, male and female hen harriers and short-eared owls seen recently it'll be well worth joining us for chance of us helping you spot these birds.
After a successful Tidewatch at Point of Ayr in early October, we have another on Wednesday 27 November where we'll introduce you to the vast, varied roost of birds that the saltmarsh and shingle spit here is so vital for at high tide.
Following two trial events in October, we have three more Little Explorers events in November and December, for families with preschool-aged children to get closer to nature in a fun but informative way. Additionally, our November Wild Challenge quiz trail is all about trees, to mark National Tree Week at the end of the month.
Finally, fast approaching is our pre-Christmas Binocular and Telescope Open Day perfectly timed to choose the right new gear to be gifted at Christmas, or to treat a family member or friend.
Plenty of events to get involved with, or just pay us a visit any day as it's a fantastic time of year with vast flocks of birds to admire and a load of seasonal drama as outlined above! And if you're a fan of sunsets, it really is one of the best local places to spend the end of a bright day, with superb colours reflecting on the water as the sun dips behind the Welsh hills...
Sunset at Burton Mere Wetlands (E.Maddock)
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