A dramatic natural event can be witnessed this month as Spring tides are due to inundate RSPB Dee Estuary Nature Reserve, at Parkgate.
Spring tides only happen on a handful of occasions each year. If the weather conditions are right, they are so high that they actually flood the whole saltmarsh.
This natural occurrence becomes a real wildlife spectacle as the more secretive birds and creatures that normally live there, like water rails, snipe, harvest mice, and water voles, flee the rising tide and are brought closer inland.
This in turn can attract the most amazing birds of prey, like ghostly grey hen harriers, gliding short-eared owls, and high speed merlins as well as the majestic grey herons and little egrets who take advantage of the situation.
Paul Brady, RSPB Visitor Development Officer, said: “Watching the tide surge towards you with the Welsh hills as a stunning backdrop is thrilling. Add to that the sights and sounds of huge flocks of birds, along with the excitement of expert predators doing what they do best, makes it an experience to remember.”
He added: “The wildlife can come so close on these tides that one year someone actually had a bird that’s normally very hard to see, a water rail, hiding in his rucksack!”
In the winter, the marshland of the Dee Estuary is an internationally important habitat for a vast numbers of ducks and wading birds.
These free RSPB High Tide Bird Watch events are running on Saturday 19 February at 10 am, Sunday 20 February at 11 am and Monday 21 February at 11.30 am.
Everyone is welcome to come along to the Old Baths Car Park, Parkgate, where expert staff and volunteers will be on hand to showcase the action.
Further details of these events can be obtained from www.rspb.org.uk/parkgate or by phoning 0151 336 7681.
Ringtail Hen Harrier by Andy Hay (RSPB Images)
After a great World Wetlands Day event at the Point of Ayr on Wednesday (25+ red-throated diver and 3 porpoise offshore) we have received a piece of good news .......
A few years back after the repeated vandalism of a hide on site we took a decision to remove what had become a dangerous and unpleasant place to be. It was always in our thinking to replace this hide that was in one of the best places to birdwatch on the estuary.
Now, after years of hard work a replacement is drawing close and the penultimate piece of the jig-saw is in place. You will all be pleased to know that we have been granted planning permission for a robust viewing structure on the exact same site as the old hide.
We have been working hard with our partners: BHP Billiton, the land owners, and Flintshire County Council to arrive at an acceptable and affordable replacement solution.
We had to carry out an appropriate assessment and also apply for renewed planning permission to create a new structure on site.
Any new structure on site would have to fit in with the natural environment as much as possible and it is highly unlikely that we would have gained planning permission for neither a concrete block structure nor a metal container hide.
We aim to replace the traditional style of hide in the near future with a form of viewing structure that is less appealing to anti-social behaviour. As such we have identified some robust designs that have been used under similar circumstances at Moore Nature Reserve, Cheshire and Connah’s Quay DNS Reserve which have stood up to vandalism well whilst still providing a good level of protection from the elements.
We have secured full funding for the structure thanks to RSPB members, BHP Biliton and a generous local businessman.
However, we are awaiting one final piece of the jig-saw to fall into place before going ahead with the construction of this facility. We do not own the land at Point of Ayr and are awaiting the signing over of a lease by BHP Biliton which hopefully will come in the near future.
We continue to be very active at the Point of Ayr with our very successful High Tide roost wardening scheme helping to limit the disturbance of the important wader roost there. Fencing off the spit each spring to protect ground nesting species such as Ringed plover from disturbance continues to be priority work for us and again is providing positive results.
The team on the Dee continue to be very active in liaising with the local authorities and landowners around balancing the needs of the recreational use of the Point of Ayr with it’s special wildlife.
A number of bird watching events are already planned in what is going to be a big year for us, keep an eye on www.rspb.org.uk/pointofayr for updates, sightings and events.
If you have any further enquiries please feel free to get in touch with the reserve office on 0151 336 7681 for more information, to volunteer, report your sightings or to support our work.