Blog posted on behalf of Katie Ellis:

Recent sightings

It’s certainly felt a lot more like autumn over the last couple of weeks, but with the change of seasons we’ve been treated to some fantastic sunsets and rainbows amongst the mix of sunshine, northerly winds and even hail! The birds have also been reminding us winter is on the way with the arrivals of whooper swan, redwing and modest starling murmurations. Wheatear and whinchat seen on Burton Point, are travelling through on their way south. Pink-footed geese are surrounding the reserve with their wonderful winking calls morning and evening, with skeins of thousands flying over as the winter population rises.

Rainbow by Graham Jones

Raptors have been amusing us with brilliant views of marsh harrier, peregrine, kestrel and whilst the last hobby sighting was mid-month, merlin are becoming a regular sight. Ringtail hen harrier are making occasional appearances and a satellite tagged ringtail was noticed flying over the marsh last week. RSPB Skydancer project let us know that the bird was called Jarvis, named after Jarvis Cocker who’s a Hen Harrier fan himself!  Jarvis has been tracked from Snowdonia and has since returned, but hopefully he’ll be back as winter sets in. We’re still eagerly awaiting the return of the short-eared owls onto the estuary, but we’ve been kept occupied with views of tawny owl and little owl.

Jarvis is flight by Frank Burns

Egrets are on top form, ten cattle egrets showing off on the scrape, attentively following the cows around whilst they graze. Great white egret numbers continue to amaze us with 39 of them seen flying into roost in Marsh Covert woods. Looking over to the reedbed, bearded tits are occasionally seen and their pinging call heard alongside the less shy reed bunting. Kingfishers are delighting visitors dashing across the meres and Cetti’s warbler have continued to greet us on arrival every morning with their characteristic song.

On the scrape and bridge pool there’s plenty of winter ducks back including shoveler, teal, wigeon, gadwall, tufted duck, mallard and juvenile garganey. 56 pintail were also noted on bridge pool during our monthly WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey). Some rarer finds have been amongst the usual waders with curlew sandpiper, little stint, spotted crake, greenshank, green sandpiper, spotted redshank, ringed plover and golden plover in between the lapwing, black-tailed godwit, snipe, ruff and dunlin.

A clouded yellow butterfly was a highlight for the week, making the most of one of the warmer days on the reserve. Some brilliant photos were captured by a visitor, showing its vibrant yellow colour.

Clouded yellow butterfly by Neil Francis

Star sighting

A pectoral sandpiper arrived on 27th September, first found on bridge pool and at long range it took a while to identify. Better views followed on as it moved to the scrape and continued to appear for a few days, but with no sightings in a couple of days it’s likely to have moved on.

A comparison of the pectoral sandpiper right and ruff left. Picture by Tom Giles.

Wardens’ wanderings

The wardens have continued to tackle the vast amounts of cutting on the reserve. Be it out with the tractor mowing the wet grassland, cutting in the reedbed or getting Inner Marsh Farm area ready for the new predator fence and hide. As always, the volunteer team have been on hand to help and get stuck in with whatever is needed.

Volunteer work party by Liz Boone

Their hard work has paid off and Marsh Covert hide is ready to re-open for visitors and welcome back the wonderful winter wildlife.

Alongside cutting, reinforcements to passing places have been installed to ensure they are winterproof, and the boardwalk to Inner Marsh Farm is ready to go thanks to the volunteer warden team installing edging boards to support accessibility. Details below of how you can admire the finished work.

Completed new boardwalk by Katie Ellis

Get involved

What’s open

Bunker hide, East Viewpoint and the route up to Burton Point remain open. Refreshments available from the visitor centre for takeout, with hot chocolate, tea and coffee available with a wide choice of snacks.

Works have now been completed on the new boardwalk, as part of the Inner Marsh Farm project, creating an accessible route out to the new hide which is due to be installed this month. To give visitors a taste of the new route, we’re opening the boardwalk on Saturday 3rd October and creating a one-way system utilising the existing path with steps back to the main route. The route continuing to the current Inner Marsh Farm hide will remain closed whilst the new hide is built this month.   

Marsh Covert hide is also opening on Saturday 3rd October with social distancing requirements in place. Take a look at the signage in place advising visitors of social distancing requirements before you enter.

Re-opened Marsh Covert hide by Dot Seed