A week of stormy weather meant sightings were somewhat less extensive than usual, with generally fewer people visiting Burton Mere Wetlands. Still vast flocks of lapwings, but up to 40 curlews have been a nice addition alongside the usual black-tailed godwits, whilst a single spotted redshank was seen a couple of times around the reserve, and snipe were regularly exposed on muddy edges.
A peak of four water rails were found across the site, including one on the island on Woodland Pool and another on Reception Pool very close to the visitor centre at times. There was plenty of kingfisher activity, seen flying past and perching briefly near the visitor centre, plus on The Mere but the most prolonged views were in the ditch at the beginning of the Reedbed trail. One water pipit is still present, and a single woodcock was found in a reliable spot in the wet woodland on the Inner Marsh Farm trail.
Kingfisher (Carole Killikelly)
Birds of prey have been a delight, with daily marsh harriers, peregrine and sparrowhawk, the latter two often seen hunting the starling flocks as they fly to roost in the reedbed. A female merlin has taken to perching occasionally in a tree above the toilet block behind the visitor centre, a repeat of last winter, giving excellent views from below. A ringtail hen harrier was seen most days, and Sunday saw the first adult male hen harrier sighting of the winter at Burton Mere, along with a barn owl hunting over the wet grassland late afternoon.
Up to 15 siskins have been counted feeding in alders along the Burton Mere trail along with one or two goldcrests and families of long tailed tits, whilst greenfinch views have become increasingly good at the feeders near the barn past the Bunker Screen. Along the Inner Marsh Farm trail, up to three bullfinches, pairs of stonechats, and mixed flocks of linnets and reed buntings are providing great entertainment as they busily feed.
Female reed bunting (Paul Jubb)
On fields near the car park, small numbers of fieldfare and mistle thrush were seen feeding, whilst two ravens were seen flying over on a couple of occasions. It was a very good week for stoat activity, with multiple sightings quite close to the visitor centre.
Today's Raptorwatch at Parkgate was one of the best events there in recent memory. Highlights were another male hen harrier (seen at very similar time to the one at Burton Mere), short-eared owl (around 3pm) and barn owl which emerged at 3.15pm but flew back and forth many times for an hour until darkness got the better of us. We also saw five marsh harriers, peregrine and merlin in flight, not to mention a brief flight view of one of the two bitterns that have been around for a couple of weeks.
On Thursday, our warden heard a common crossbill near the Bridge Screen, which was later reported seen by a visitor in the wet woodland on the Inner Marsh Farm trail - an infrequent record on the reserve.
It was a busy week with two different contractors on site. One was carrying out the annual ditch clearing of the designated main river channels through the site, allowing us to maintain good control of the water levels. The other contractor started work on the electric fence around Reception Pool that will connect to the existing fence around the scrape and wet grassland that makes Burton Mere Wetlands such a haven for breeding wading birds, namely lapwing, redshank and avocet. Including Reception Pool in that protected area could mean we get some exciting birds nesting even closer to the visitor centre in years to come, meaning brilliant viewing potential.
Contractor installing fence around Reception Pool (D.Trotman)
Assistant warden Liz worked with volunteers to erect a new stock fence to keep our tenant farmer's sheep escaping their pasture into Burton Mere Wetlands' sacrificial crop field. Sunday was the monthly WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey), with both wardens, site manager and several volunteers deployed to their respective sectors of the estuary to count the birds present at high tide.
If you missed this week's Raptorwatch don't worry, we have another coming up on Sunday 13 January, when all of the aforementioned stars should still be present. Before that we have our Big Farmland Birdwalk at Burton Mere Wetlands, offering a chance to get behind the scenes and off the beaten track for closer views of the winter swans and flocks of farmland birds on the reserve. Full details can be found here rspb.org.uk/burtonmerewetlands, with booking via Eventbrite. Likewise, Parkgate events can be found at rspb.org.uk/parkgate, including the first Tidewatch of the year for a 10 metre tide on Wednesday 23 January.
But before all that, there's the rest of December when we're open every day (except Christmas), with masses of birds to enjoy or if nothing more, just a winter walk to escape the hustle and bustle of the high streets and shopping centres.
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