Its a fantastic time of year to be out and about birdwatching as a few winter stragglers mix alongside freshly arrived summer visitors.
Yesterday 200 pink-footed geese (is there a better example of a winter visitor?) were flying around whilst swallows (the iconic summer migrant) where feeding busily over the pools - it was one of the oddest things I have seen in the natural world so far.
Other winter lingerers include: Pintail, wigeon, teal, shoveler and snipe.
Other Summer arrivals to look out for: Sand martin, house martin, willow warbler, yellow wagtail and whitethroat.
Meanwhile, the weekends big tides have provided excellent views of short-eared owls (x8), hen harrier, merlin and peregrine - all strictly winter vsiitors to the estuary, so come and see them soon before they leave for their breeding grounds.
After a few weeks of coming and going it seems as though we have avocets that like the look of the new scrape out in front of the reception building :)
Currently three avocets are sitting down, with the max count so far is 20 individuals - a nice round number perhaps all will pair up nicely? This behaviour is normally a sure sign that they will lay eggs, so I'm asking all the readers to cross their fingers, legs, toes, anything really in the hope that we have some cute fluffy chicks running around soon.
In addition at least a dozen pairs of lapwings are showing signs of nesting too with one bird sat down as right in front of the reception building. These birds are a priority of the work we do here and this is really pleasing news to the team of staff and volunteers.
Meanwhile, at least two little ringed plovers are present and many visitors are wishing these Schedule 1 birds the best of luck too, and you'll need luck to see them as they are very good at hiding.
Other wetland nesters include coot, moorhen and little grebe, one pair of the coots have constructed a monstrous nest!
Up in the trees of Marsh Covert the noisy herons have been joined by their smaller relatives, the little egrets.
Speaking of trees one lucky visitor saw a treecreeper carrying food, a good sign of nesting birds - look out for this in your own garden. Our nestbox scheme is showing signs of working as several of them have had blue tits going in and out.
With all these potential nesters out and about I'm sure there will be a few twists and turns so get yourself down here and watch the drama unfold - who needs Springwatch!
Some of you may be well aware of our litter picking efforts around the reserve in the last week or 2. The spring high tides over easter kindly dumped a load of tyres, shoes, underware, buckets, balloons and even a smashed fibre-glass boat on to the marsh! We did a good clean up on Point of Ayr whilst erecting the fence around the shingle ridge to prevent walkers and their dogs from disturbing nesting birds such as ringed plover. The fence is a strand of rope with educating posters encouraging dogs to be kept on leads and people to keep off the enclosed shingle area.
We filled the trailer and back of the truck whilst litter picking at Parkgate yesterday - in the rain!! But all was OK as we had chips and ice cream for lunch :-)
On the farm a number of veterinary students along with myself have been helping our tenant farmer and his shepherd with the lambing of 900 ewes!!! No time to chat, eat, drink or text!!! I can still smell the muck under my nails! The students worked on shifts with the locals going home for a snooze and a wash and those from further affield resting in the static caravan on site! At least most were born during the sunny period of spring, it is a cruel welcome to the world in this rain! Due to the busyness of lambing 2 volunteers helped bring the sheep in off the march prior to Easter weekend and the spring high tide - no easy task with no dogs! However due to lambs and breeding birds dogs would not have been a good idea. I think we all slept well that night after 8 hours of walking in waders!
The next few weeks will be filled with early morning surveys for red shank and lapwing. It doesn't seem long since I last did them! We will also be taking a team of volunteers to Talacre to help Denbighshire Countryside Services electric fence around the little tern colony. A worthy task indeed to keep the foxes out whilst volunteers chase away flying kestrels!
Work is a joy this time of year with ears always open for the first singing warblers and eyes peeled for breeding activity and blossoming wild flowers :-)
See you soon Rhian
An interesting yellow wagtail was found at Burton Mere Wetlands yesterday by some local birdwatchers and caused a bit of commotion.
Yellow wagtails are an interesting species with much variation across their range. In Britain we get the standard "yellow wagtail" which has a mostly yellow head with small amounts of pale green on the nape. However, on a regualr basis at this time of year the UK turns up a few of the other variations on the theme.
This individual shows a blue-grey head with no supercillium (eyestripe) and has a clear white throat thus leading most observers to lean on the side of the Italian race known as Ashy-headed Wagtail. But some Northern Fenno-Scandia birds have this white throat .... any input is much welcome particularly from those who are familair with these two races.
Oh and it has been seen today as well!
"Seconds out, round two..." should be the cry as the ruff at Burton Mere Wetlands are duking it out! Don't worry though as their version of the duking it out is actually more of an showy dance.
These fascinating birds become rather odd-looking at this time of year as their breeding hormones kick in they acquire the most spectacular plumage. The ruff gets a ruff and not only that there are different coloured ruffs with different coloured ruffs ... and just when you thought you were getting to grips with your wader identification.
These males compete for females (and to confuse matters more the females ruffs do not get ruffs and are more correctly known as reeves) by forming a lek, an area of ground were males can display to each other. The ruff lek is very complicated and is difficult to summarise in a few sentences .... so here goes!
WIthin this lekking area several roles for the ruffs have been identified. Some ruffs are typically territorial (usually black or chesnut ruffs) hold and dominate leks. Whilst the white variant tends to be of a roving "satellite" type and tend to try and mate whilst the dominant male is otherwise distracted. A third type of male behaviour has recently been noted too as some males are mimics of females and sneak in to mate!
Currently at Burton Mere Wetlands there are 12 male ruff and they can be seen going through all these behaviours even though there isn't a female in sight!
Its also worth noting that these birds will not breed here but other notable birds breeding here so far include: tree sparrow, avocet, lapwing, redshank, water rail and little grebe. And we've already seen our first ducklings :)
Other recent sightings include (all BMW unless stated): great white egret (Parkgate too), spoonbill (Parkgate), yellow wagtail (x5), spotted redshank (x10), hen harrier, peregrine, white wagtail, grasshopper warbler