Posted on behalf of Katie Ellis
Autumn is now well underway; the days are drawing in and the temperature has dropped a few degrees. The car park and paths are lined with golden leaves as the oaks thin out and the elusive jays are busy gathering acorns for winter. With the normal seasonal changes, we’ve also seen changes to our daily lives with the introduction of a second lockdown in England. Fortunately, our reserve has stayed open for those who are local to top up their nature batteries whilst out for their daily exercise and get some respite from day to day life. Details of what’s open if you’re able to visit are at the end of this blog, but to start here’s what’s been going on at the reserve over the last couple of weeks….
The Highland cattle have settled well into their new winter home, taking over the historic sheep grazing at the old Inner Marsh Farm part of the wet grassland, doing a marvellous job of breaking up the dense rushes whilst making some new friends. Cattle egrets have continued to be active on the reserve and keeping to their typical comical behaviour, seen perched on the Highland cows’ heads and even their horns! Up to eleven cattle egrets have been seen on the reserve at one time with almost daily sightings of them recently. Our wardens have been sending us plenty of pictures of the photogenic cows whilst out working.
Highland cows (Liz Boone)
Raptors have been a common sight on the reserve over the last fortnight, with ringtail hen harrier the main spectacle. In very close view of the visitor centre one has been hunting moorhen along the banks of Reception Pool and occasionally two are seen together. Marsh harrier, peregrine, merlin and sparrowhawk are fantastic to see so regularly. Out on the saltmarsh from Burton to Parkgate, short-eared owls are out in good view and the ghostly grey male hen harriers are also seen regularly with up to three reported out there.
Pink-footed geese are still wonderful with their vast skeins flying over, often paired with a wonderful sunset and occasionally a small starling murmuration. Teal, wigeon, tufted duck, pintail and shoveler are out commonly on the Main Scrape and Bridge Pool as are lapwing, black-tailed godwit, snipe, ruff, and dunlin. Fifty seven shelduck gathered on the scrape late on Sunday to roost, bringing brightness to end an otherwise drizzly, grey day.
Our smaller birds on the reserve have been brilliant lately too, with treecreeper and nuthatch busy near the visitor centre trees; stonechat, fieldfare, redwing, linnet, bullfinch, goldcrest, siskin and grey wagtail all further out on the reserve. Cetti’s warbler calls have continued to echo around the reserve and some migrating redpoll have been passing through, with visitors occasionally catching the calls and brief glimpses as they fly overhead. Bearded tits have been heard from the reedbed with the odd sighting on a clear, calm day.
Nuthatch (John Hewitt)
The new boardwalk has given opportunity to explore a new area of the reserve and with it has come frequent sightings of water rail and reopened the familiar steps through the alder carr, completing a temporary one way circuit, which is so far the best spot for chance of seeing the very well camouflaged woodcock on the reserve, an occasional winter sighting for those who look thoroughly amongst the dense undergrowth!
The first brambling of the season has been on the reserve, this male seen and photographed in trees near the Railway Bridge last weekend.
Brambling (John Hewitt)
The hide contractors finally arrived on site at the beginning of November and work is well underway with the new hide at the far side of the reserve, as well as the extension of path to its new location, along with the new predator exclusion fence; this means multiple contractors on site at times, keeping our warden team very busy alongside their normal reserve duties! All the hard work is well worth it and the hide is already looking fantastic. Here’s a photo from earlier in the week:
Hide build in progress (Graham Jones)
Our warden volunteer work parties have also been kept busy, clearing away mountains of dense vegetation for the path to reach the new hide, and replacing a fence post, along with keeping up with general reserve maintenance and keeping the path edges clear and safe for visitors.
Our car park, trails and toilets remain open to visitors in line with Government guidelines for daily exercise outdoors. The visitor centre, hides and mail order shop are closed for the duration of the lockdown. Our outdoor welcome point is staffed daily from 9am–4pm, where our friendly team can provide information to support your visit. We are continuing to offer a selection of tasty snacks and drinks to takeaway; make your order outside the visitor centre, with card payments preferred.
Our Wild Play area is open for families to enjoy den building and general woodland fun, and there are a couple of covered picnic benches in the car park and a short distance onto the reserve to provide a little shelter if the weather turns against you for your picnic!
Wild Play area (Dan Trotman)
Please follow all current Government guidance around social distancing, who you can visit with, hygiene and follow all signage on-site. We urge you to also follow Government guidance on non-essential travel and please stay local to your nearest reserves and greenspaces.
For those of you in Wales missing visits to Burton Mere Wetlands, our Point of Ayr reserve can still be enjoyed from the public rights of way, and the hide remains open as it is not a fully-enclosed space. A run of big tides starts on Saturday 14 until Wednesday 18 November, a great time for seeing winter waders and ducks up close, and maybe even a peregrine looking for its lunch! Bear that in mind if you're planning your daily outdoor exercise this weekend. For more information about the reserve: https://bit.ly/3pf4d3T. Monday sees the tides peak at 10metres, meaning for those on the English side of the estuary, a walk at Parkgate could be interesting, with birds pushed closer and raptors taking advantage.
In the forthcoming week, some maintenance work will cause some minor disruption around the visitor centre. On Monday 16 and possibly into Tuesday 17 November, the path to the East Bank viewpoint past the Bunker hide will be closed to allow for some boardwalk repairs. Then, starting on Tuesday, work starts on the visitor centre and main toilet block getting a tidy up with a new coat of protective paint. This will last probably into the following week, and will require occasional changes to the visitor welcome, so just follow our cues on site in case things look a little different to normal.
For the latest RSPB Covid-19 updates please visit: http://bit.ly/ReservesCovidUpdates
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