A first visit to Burton Mere Wetlands has been on the cards for a long time, and no thanks to Covid, put that and many other reserve visits for us all on a back burner, then, this wonderful weather we're all enduring now we can meet indoors putting yet more locks on life, the weather finally gave a brief bit of respite on Wednesday 19th May 2021!
Whilst working, I was always an early riser, up around 04:00 and now in retirement, I'm still waking the same time, its engrained into my body clock, not that I mind, I like the mornings, and as in this case, the early morning get-up often facilitates an early start.
The morning sky had that air to it, a nice day kinda air, so I was getting ready to make an early dash to Middleton Lakes, but before I did that, I just had to double check the forecast, which showed much of the country was to enjoy a day of respite.
No time to prepare lunch Burton Mere had been shouting about their lovely sarnies, so all I had to do was take a drink, or two, and my debit card....
Not the best of weekdays to make for a last minute planned day out, it is leg care day, so I needed to be home by teatime, or I'd be in trouble, and a three hour drive each way, meant I had to leave around 14:00!
But, it had to be done, it was an open weather window and worth it.
A decent drive up, and not too bad a drive back, but then I know the roads to and from Chester well to avoid motorway driving, being two thirds of my regular route to N Wales.
Burton Mere is very much off the beaten track, and nicely so, and having heard lots of good reports about it, I have been long wanting to visit.
Upon arrival, I checked in, bought one of their nice locally made sarnies, and headed off to explore the reserve, and was taken aback by this almighty beast looming overhead!
It had BELUGA tattooed on the side. And here was me thinking beluga was a whale!
For those who don't know the area, it is quite close to Broughton, where Airbus and BAE Systems make wings for Airbus planes, which are than transported by plane back to the assembly factory, in Toulouse, France. When you look at the plane, it does resemble an airborne beluga whale....
Anyway, back to the reserve, the first pool, Willow Pool, was very much alive with activity, predominantly black headed gulls, but other species were available if you looked.
Following the path round, you pass other smaller pools to your right, and if time permitted, I would liked to have spent time observing them. However, that'll be for another day, hopefully when time permits, or, and the weather....
Following the path, a nice hardcore and suitable for wheelchair users, I continued to the first viewing screen, called Reed Bed Screen, because it looked out on the reed beds, which again, was very active. In fact, all pools were active, there was no shortage of species to view, including black headed gulls....
However, among all the activity, there was a reed warbler, possibly a pair, busy among the reeds.
I'll say at this point, my warbler experiences are very limited, so if I'm wrong, and that goes for any other species, please feel free to correct me, I've still a lot to learn, and I'm very happy to learn.
A solitary mallard drake, seemed very calm and relaxed, though I'd have thought somewhere his mate would be busy looking after the brood.
From there, continuing along the path to the Marsh Covert Hide, a lovely looking hide, nice and spacious and very well set out to enable social distancing comfortably, with fabulous views across the Reed Bed and Bridge Pools.
Again, lots of activity, and this coot particularly caught my eye, and the camera, as it was paddling away with nesting material.
this next photo was clear enough to enable cropping
This visit was one of short stops at the various viewpoints and hides, and I didn't really have the time to give those viewing points the justice they deserved, so it was quickly time to move on again, and this time to the next screen, called Bridge Screen. it may seem a weird name, but actually behind you is a small bridge which takes you yet further around the pools.
Now here I need some guidance on species.
There is no mistaking this next bird, an avocet, of which there were plenty to be seen.
This is where the guidance is needed, I initially thought red shank, but once the legs became visible, they were too dark, so my guess is bar tailed godwit,
Having a good feed...
and a tasty morsel within its beak...
I mentioned a beluga whale earlier, this next one looked almost like a killer whale!
But in miniature....
Of course, it was Mr Tufty, dived just as I was taking his piccie, how antisocial.....
There were lots of female orange tip butterflies around the reserve, and yet I never saw a male!
From the Bridge Screen, it was cross the bridge behind and head round to the new hide, called Inner Marsh Farm Hide, right by a railway line.
From here, lots of activity was observed, avocets, Canada Geese, red shank, avocets, and more, and even black headed gulls would you believe!
A typical avocet pose....
plus lots of avocet activity, though sadly, I never saw in young, though there were some there.
Fancy stirring up the sediment!
Some red shanks were feeding close to the hide.
Around midday, a flock of bar tailed godwits flew in. My guess is the tide as coming in on the nearby Dee Estuary, high tide was around 15:00.
Did I mention there were some black headed gulls on the reserve!
There was a lot of territorial stuff going on....
Be on your way, go on, get orf with ya....
There was some peaceful activity from the black headed gulls.
This one seemed to nose dive into the water, and nothing chasing it either!
While another was getting stuff for some DiY
Mr & Mrs Shelduck were trying to have a peaceful feed.....
and decided to give it a rest for the time being and dry out....
It was time to start heading back to the car, and stopping off at the various screens enroute, hoping for a glimpse of the bittern, which had been quite visible the previous couple of days, but alas, not for me...
But I was treated to yet another sighting of the Beluga!
The Canada Geese family outing....
The house (doubt sand, but happy to be corrected) martins were quite active, but as ever, it was hard to get even a half decent piccie!
And finally, a pintail
Sadly no bittern, which had been quite visible the previous two days, but it was a good day, well, half day, and well worth the shortened trip, and I will definitely be back, hopefully for a longer visit, and next time, to explore the hides and screens I didn't have time for this time.
Flickr Peak Rambler
"Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"
Lot to learn
Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can
In reply to HAZY:
HAZY said:Excellent post Mike and despite your long journey it was certainly worth the effort with such an array of wonderful sightings. I'd almost forgotten what Burton Mere Wetlands looked like as it is proably 18 months or so since we visited and it use to be a regular haunt before the pandemic. Let us know if you head back that way and we'll be happy to do a meet and greet LOL Avocets are such attractive birds both on the ground and in flight along with the other waders and nice you saw the reed birds too plus the strange Beluga whale which is often passing on its way to or from Broughton ! Seems to have gone a size up to XL since we last saw it - haven't we all LOL
Thank you Hazel.
As far as I'm aware, there five Beluga's, so it may be a different one to the usual one.
I also understand they are finishing off the last of the Airbus 380 wings, which may be why it seems bigger. The A380 is to be discontinued very soon.
I will certainly be back, hopefully not as a last minute decision like this was, and let you know next time I'm there.
In reply to gaynorsl:
gaynorsl said:Well done Mike on getting to Burton Mere and back in the time you had, you seemed to have viewed a good number of waders and lovely pics they are too, especially lovely to see the Avocets, they used to be the logo for the RSPB didn't they some time ago. You were lucky to get a nice day and let's hope for more later on this month for more trips for everyone.
Thank you Gaynor.
I've no problem driving long distances or hours, apart from the cost for fuel LOL.
I'd like to get back to Conwy and Aber Ogwen, but that will be a while away, particularly as the A55 is enjoying extensive repairs, and as far as I'm aware, in Wales, hides are still closed.
In reply to Seaman:
Wendy S said:Looks like you had a great visit Mike, as an aircraft enthusiast the Beluga interested me I've never seen one of those,it's mainly military aircraft we get in our area.
Thank you Pete, it was a fabulous visit.
Yorkshire is still very much a military area, the Beluga is based on the A300, but enlarged so it can carry complete wings, fuselages and other large parts of aircraft bodies for final assembly in Toulouse.
Spectacular it is, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with the Vulcan.
In reply to TJS:
TJS said:Hi Mike,
Thank you Trevor.
Yes, the BHG are quite commonplace, and noisy. The full sequence of the BHG territorial fracas is available to view on either link below.
Though I have a reserve around 30 mins drive away, I do like my coastal reserves as well.
The full set of photos are now online in my Flickr albums:
May 2021 Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peak-rambler/albums/72157719122808640
RSPB Reserves General Album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/peak-rambler/albums/72157690744580974
Wendy S said:Like you Mike we have great birding habitats certainly within 1 hrs drive but the Yorkshire coast is about 2hrs at least. As Chris is the only driver, I was always a 2 wheeler, this along with 3 or 4 hours birding makes a long tiring day for us both so the coast is a bit of a Holy Grail
Its the opposite way round here, I've had all the various licences, from 2 upto and including 18 wheels, while Mrs PR doesn't drive, so if she needs to go anywhere, where public transport isn't an option, then its my job as chauffeur, particularly at the moment as she is still recovering from her spine op last October.
However, Mrs PR wants to spend a day in Chester, so a Burton Mere return trip is on the cards.....
All that is needed now, is decent weather.....
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654
Accepting all non-essential cookies helps us to personalise your experience
These cookies are required for basic web functions
Allow us to collect anonymised performance data
Allow us to personalise your experience