Posted on behalf of Katie Ellis

Recent sightings

There’s been plenty to keep us busy at the reserve over the last few weeks! We’ve been welcoming back our spring birds, replacing Bridge screen and relaunching our visitor welcome along with lots of essential jobs to complete. Sand martins, house martins and swallows have returned, coming into view on more overcast days over The Mere and pools. Chiffchaffs and Cetti's warblers calls are resonating around the reserve, blackcaps have returned and butterflies are emerging with brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell, small white and gatekeeper seen so far.

The reedbed has been a hive of activity with the bittern that arrived mid-March continuing its booming, and occasionally putting on a show for us! The best sightings have been of him swimming around the open water in the reedbed and walking along the edges of the reedbed. His boom isn’t quite as booming now, with no signs of his call attracting a female yet. Bearded tits are heard calling on occasion, they are rarely seen but there are at least two pairs on territory in the reedbed. Reed buntings are visible hopping around the reeds and a little grebe pair are busy nesting, with willow warblers also returning and hopefully the first sighting of a reed warbler or sedge warbler likely in the coming days.

 Bittern swimming (John Hewitt)

A male marsh harrier is regularly drifting over the wet grassland and dropping into the reedbed as he brings food to the female on nest. Buzzards are also busy over the reserve with several pairs nesting on site. Sparrowhawks, and peregrines are regularly dashing through disturbing the scrape, with kestrels hovering near to the visitor centre, one perching on its favourite telegraph pole. It’s also been a good time to keep a look out overhead for migrating osprey with over a dozen seen over the Wirral recently including Parkgate, but none yet at Burton Mere Wetlands yet.

Catching visitors' curiosity, little egrets have started their mating calls from the heronry. A distinctive call, which sounds like bubbling, can baffle those who are not familiar with it. Over eighty pairs typically nest in the treetops along with grey herons and hopefully we shall see great white egrets and cattle egrets up there too soon, maybe even a spoonbill pair if we’re lucky!

 Little egrets and cormorant in trees (John Hewitt)

Out on the scrape, black-headed gulls have been at full volume defending their nesting sites and beginning breeding. Mediterranean gulls have returned but in lesser numbers than previous years, with up to two pairs on the scrape recently, as the weather warms up into the season we may see more return. Amongst the flocks of black-tailed godwits, one or two bar-tailed godwits have been occasionally seen when looking closely. Lapwings are fiercely defending their territories on the wet grassland from overhead predators and continuing their wonderful displays. There are now over 100 avocets on the reserve with signs of them starting to nest. We’re also seeing teal, shoveler, shelduck and gadwall dotted about and good numbers of tufted duck on Reception Pool.

Spotted redshank are a highlight for Bridge screen with up to nine seen, along with a pair of great crested grebe. A barnacle goose dropped in amongst the Canada geese over Easter weekend. High tides out on the estuary late March brought in thousands of pink-footed geese still residing on the estuary, but numbers have decreased as they depart for northerly breeding grounds.

It’s a brilliant time of year to see brown hares around the reserve fields and on neighbouring farmland, whilst on the fields of Burton Marsh Farm off Station Road we’ve also seen the first wheatears of the year.

Star sighting

The return of the wonderful hirundines have been one of the best signs of spring so far. Swallows and sand martins returned first over the pools on 22 March with them slowly increasing in number and the first house martins seen by early April. 

 Sand martin (Paul Jubb)

Wardens wanderings

The contractors have been back at the reserve, building us a new Bridge screen. Following the installation of our second predator fence, views from Bridge screen were impacted. Therefore, we’ve raised up the screened area of ground, creating an improved view over Bridge Pool with a more accessible layout and wider viewing windows. Whilst the contractors were here, they also made repairs to the paths that had been damaged from previous work in the winter.

 Bridge screen under construction (Megan Beckett)

 New Bridge screen getting its first use (Dan Trotman)

Over the estuary at Point of Ayr, Becky and Liz have been installing interpretation signs for the season and checking the shingle beach to prepare for the return of our little terns. A threatened species, they are in need of a helping hand on their exposed breeding grounds to ensure they are not disturbed by the public and predators. Throughout the summer we have volunteers out keeping an eye and preventing disturbance. We had a record 20 pairs breed last year, so hopefully all their hard work will bring another successful season!

 Warden, Becky installing little tern interpretation at Point of Ayr (Liz Boone)

 Becky assessing the shingle habitat after the winter storms (Liz Boone)

Another essential job out on the saltmarsh is installing and checking the redshank survey posts ready for breeding season. Armed with bobble hats and waders, Liz and Ged endured the cold and blustery weather that came after Easter, walking miles out into the Arctic winds on the saltmarsh carrying all the equipment on their backs! These posts will help us monitor the breeding successes of our waders out on the estuary throughout the season.

 Liz and Ged installing redshank survey plots on Burton Marsh (Liz Boone)

Get Involved

With further clarity from the Government’s roadmap, we have restarted our staffed outdoor welcome point outside the visitor centre, 9.30am–5pm and provide our takeaway catering offer 9.30am-4.30pm. Contactless payment is preferred and we have resumed the NHS Test and Trace programme during staffed hours as legally required. From Monday 29 March we were pleased to welcome back groups of up to six people or two households visiting together.

The car park is open 9am–8pm. Please avoid arriving before 9am, as vehicles waiting outside our gate can block access for reserve staff and neighbouring farmers. If you are in the area early, we recommend a look at Burton Marsh just a short drive away, to the west of Burton village. Toilet facilities are open at Burton Mere Wetlands from 9.30am-8pm, with regular cleaning in place. Baby change facilities are available whilst the welcome team are present.

With the ground drying out, we’re pleased to reopen our wildlife garden, with one-way system installed to ensure it can be navigated safely. Across the reserve we are encouraging visitors to stick to the designated paths and use passing places installed to ensure no wildlife is disturbed. The Wild Play area is also open for families to enjoy some den building, log balance beams and stepping stumps.

With further Government guidance recently issued regarding the re-opening of our hides, we will now be aiming to re-open them to the public from 17 May. We’re aiming to reopen our mail order shop from 19 April to order any RSPB products for free home delivery whilst directly supporting this reserve - including a prime place to try our wide range of binoculars and telescopes from our visitor centre before you choose which to buy.

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