After a soggy May, we’ve welcomed in June with wonderful sunshine and the reserve is bursting with swathes of lush green vegetation. The scrape is busy with avocet chicks quickly growing and feeding on the muddy edges of the islands, along with plenty of black-headed gull chicks and a few ducklings; shoveler, teal, tufted duck, gadwall and shelduck are also busy feeding, along with black-tailed godwits and occasional dunlin.
Avocet with chicks (Ron Thomas)
Marsh harriers are becoming more active, being seen performing food passes tending to their nest in the reedbed. Still a rare sighting for Burton Mere Wetlands and the Wirral peninsula, we’ve seen up to two red kites flying over the reserve, recently seen two days in a row on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 June. Summer visiting hobby are regularly added to our sightings lists now and peregrines occasionally drop down on the scrape alarming all its residents.
Marsh Harrier (Dave Hunt)
Walking between the reedbed and Marsh Covert hide, the little egrets' ‘bubbling’ call can still be heard. We’ve seen up to seven spoonbills over the reserve, pairs landing in the heronry in the mornings. The spoonbills have also been sighted circling over the reserve, then heading out to the estuary and still seen occasionally around saltmarsh pools at Parkgate and Burton Marsh.
After surveys completed by our site manager, it has been confirmed we have had three pairs of great white egrets that have bred in the Marsh Covert heronry, with a total of 10 young between them! Warblers are also still singing away with sedge warbler, reed warbler, grasshopper warbler, Cetti’s warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff, whitethroat and blackcap all seen and heard.
With our new Border hide open, we’re getting some brilliant sightings reported back. Two curlew sandpipers were seen on Thursday 3 June and two sandwich terns were seen on Sunday 6 June, with seven appearing briefly again flying over the scrape on Thursday 10 June. From Bridge Screen, a pair of great-crested grebes can be seen and kingfishers are starting to be seen around the old fishery pools again, returning from nearby breeding sites. Swifts are also dashing around with their ‘screaming’ calls heard as they rush over the visitor centre.
Spoonbill (John Hewitt)
Across the reserve butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies are all emerging. We’ve seen azure damselfly, large red damselfly, emperor and broad-bodied chaser. Butterflies have been brilliant too with brimstone, orange tip, wall brown and meadow brown a few of the many around. we're still waiting on the first sightings of the purple hairstreak butterflies that emerge around the visitor centre oaks when sunny.
With the warm, sunny weather the first common lizard of the season seen on Sunday 6 June. Brown hares are occasionally spotted on neighbouring farmland, with one seen lazing in sun! Marsh orchids are blooming with their vivid purple flowers along the paths, bee orchids popping up in front of the visitor centre and along the Farmland trail, where our broad-leaved helleborine is starting to sprout once again.
Southern Marsh orchid (Paul Jubb)
Action from our resident bittern has continued, and last week we had confirmation of a pair, meaning they're hopefully tending to a nest! More recently we’ve been seeing a lot more activity from the bittern, with regular feeding flights around the wetlands. After looking closely at photos from visitors and regular monitoring, we suspected that there was both a male and female coming out to feed separately, before they were briefly seen together on Tuesday 8 June. We’re now hoping for a sight of a juvenile over the coming weeks to confirm they have had a successful nest.
Female bittern with full crop, carrying food to nest (Andrew Wallbank)
Our warden team have been keeping up with lots of reserve maintenance over the last few weeks, checking on our predator exclusion fences to ensure they are protecting the wet grassland during the breeding season.
Assistant warden Liz has been up to Point of Ayr to check on the fencing which is protecting little terns breeding on the shingle beach there and checking in on their progress. Our volunteer little tern warden, John has been leading the way with our daily volunteer presence around the area to prevent disturbance and monitoring the birds.
Point of Ayr shingle and temporary exclusion fence (Becky Longden)
A volunteer work party at Burton Mere Wetlands on Thursday maintained the path edges and trimmed back hedges and any overgrown vegetation on the paths to keep the site pleasant and comfortable for visitors to access.
To finish the week our wardens headed out onto the marsh to carry out redshank breeding surveys.
Our range of takeaway sandwiches, snacks and drinks are still available from our welcome point outside the visitor centre. There’s a wide variety of flavours from our range of Marshfield Farm ice cream tubs and plenty of still and fizzy soft drinks to help cool off after a walk in the sun.
The car park, toilets and trails are now open from 9am–9pm and will be until the end of July. We continue to ask visitors not to arrive before 9am as vehicles waiting block access for the reserve team and our neighbouring farm. If you arrive in the area before 9am we recommend a detour to nearby Burton Marsh only five minutes away down Station Road, Burton where you can look over the saltmarsh from your vehicle, or take a stroll along the Burton Marsh Greenway.
Our brilliant Wild Challenge family quiz trail is available from the welcome point for £2, currently all about baby birds. The last stop on the trail is in our Wild Play area, which is open daily for families to use.
All trails and hides are now open; please bring a face covering to wear indoors and follow guidance including maximum numbers in the hides. Our visitor centre remains closed but this will be reviewed in light of the delay to Step 4 in the Government roadmap out of lockdown.
Our mail-order shop is open to take orders. We have a wide range of binoculars to try before you buy and anything from the RSPB catalogue is available to order with us. When you order with us, there’s free home delivery on orders over £15 and the profits come directly back to the Dee Estuary reserve.
Hope to see you soon!
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