With the long slog of January over, February marks the last month of winter and increasing daylight sparks some early signs of spring. With that in mind, our focus turns to the impending bird breeding season, and doing everything in our gift to help the reserve’s priority wildlife have its most successful season possible.

Since the reserve is currently open only for local exercise, it is markedly quiet compared to at times in the second half of 2020, but there is one big change we need to make as part of our preparations for breeding season which impacts you, our visitors.

The informal East Bank viewpoint, which was installed as a temporary feature in July 2020 before our hides were allowed to reopen due to Covid restrictions, will soon be closed to avoid any undue disturbance to birds as they prepare for nesting on the wet grassland around the main scrape.

 Recent view from the viewpoint with frozen scrape and snow-topped Clwydian hills

We’ve had great feedback from many of you about how much you have loved watching the reserve from the new vantage point over the past seven months - and we've enjoyed it just as much - but it was only ever intended to be for the short-term and ultimately the needs of the wildlife must always lead our decisions. We're actually surprised to have been able to keep it open for as long as we have, based on the potential impact on the winter flocks of wildfowl and waders, not to mention the ground conditions!

The overriding priority for Burton Mere Wetlands is the breeding success of wading birds, namely avocets, lapwings and redshanks. Having monitored the behaviour of our winter wildfowl and wader flocks over the past few months, it is evident that allowing visitors on top of that bank affects birds’ use of the scrape and the closest parts of the wet grassland. With avocets due back from their southern wintering grounds within the next fortnight, and lapwings already showing courtship behaviour, we must act now to avoid any impact on their chances of nesting.

 Lapwing sitting on nest in wet grassland (A.Grubb)

It’s not only our moral obligation to protect these nesting birds including the face of the RSPB’s logo, but as a Schedule 1 bird, disturbing avocets whilst nesting is an offence contrary to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, whilst lapwing and redshank have red and amber conservation status respectively, so need all the help they can get.

After breeding season – fingers crossed another successful one – we will reassess the use of the viewpoint, but in the meantime we hope you can, if you’re lucky enough to live locally, continue to enjoy the trails and the abundance of wildlife to be enjoyed along them.