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The big ‘spring’ tides of the autumn blow in again soon (seasons can get confusing can't they!) and the birds are even more mobile than usual.
On the September spring tides our Marshside guided walk participants enjoyed some great close-up views of knots and dunlins out on the estuary. I wonder if the bird in the photo was just too tired to fly away after its incredible journey from perhaps as far away as Greenland? Or is it because these birds don’t see humans as a threat - perhaps they have never seen one before? Either way it makes for great views and a photographer’s dream!
Our Hesketh Out Marsh guided-walkers were lucky to see a young spoonbill circling them for some time. The young marsh harriers have also been popping up everywhere but especially at Hesketh where there have been 3 together recently. There are at least 40 little egrets about and they have been joined by a great white egret recently. The bright sunny spells are still tempting migrant hawker dragonflies and small tortoiseshells and red admirals to fly too. Perhaps it is still not too late for an ‘Indian summer’?
Why not join one of our big tide walks coming up on the 16th and 17th October?
Dib road track is flooded between the farm house and our car park. Please take extreme care if visiting the reserve by car.
Maybe leave the car at home, put on your wellies and take a walk to the reserve down one of the many footpaths in the area.
Spring tides hit the Ribble
Visitors are invited to the RSPB’s Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh nature reserves to witness the high “spring” tides and the spectacular wildlife spectacle they bring to the Ribble estuary.
Spring tides actually occur every month but are particularly large in both spring and autumn. An increase in the moon’s gravitational pull takes the tide both further in and further out, completely flooding the saltmarshes and mudflats.
The Ribble estuary is internationally important for the vast numbers of geese, ducks and wading birds that rely on its marshes for food during the winter months.
Up to a quarter of a million birds may be present on the estuary on a good day and the colossal spring tides bring them to feed much more closely inshore than normal. This means they are much more visible to people visiting Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh. The spring tide also flushes out many kinds of other wildlife that live on the saltmarshes, attracting birds of prey such as hen harriers, marsh harriers and short-eared owls.
The RSPB are running five days of Big Tide Birding guided walk events from March to May at Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh, where visitors will be able to get close to the action as the tide comes in.
“The sights and sounds of huge flocks of birds and the dramatic display of predators doing what they do best, make these spring tides an experience to remember," says Warden Alex Pigott.
The first event is on Saturday 10 March at Hesketh Out Marsh and runs from 10.30am until 1.30pm. Tickets cost £5, £3 for RSPB members and half price for under 18s. Advanced booking is essential. For tickets, please all the Ribble Discovery Centre on 01253 796292.
Here are details of the other events on the Big Tide Birding season:
RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh
Sunday 8 April - 10:30-13:30
Sunday 6 May - 09:30-12:30
Saturday 7 April - 10:00 - 12:30
Monday 7 May - 10:30 - 13:00
For more information and to book please call the Ribble Discovery Centre on 01253 796292.
There has been some exciting RSPB management at Hesketh Out Marsh recently which I will have a stab at describing here.
We were fortunate to receive grant aid through Higher Level Stewardship for hedge-laying work. This funding was only available for a relatively short period so we were very pleased to have been successful in getting the funding and being able to crack on with it.
As it stood, the hedge was of relatively low value to wildlife, as anyone who has surveyed it over the last 5 years will be able to confirm. It had been neglected for many years, had little lateral growth and seldom produced any berries. It was more like a line of little trees that had been planted too close together than a hedge. Hardly any birds attempted nesting in it although magpies found the hedge a desirable location. Although it looks a bit sad at the moment in its recently chopped state, we can guarantee that it will harbour much more wildlife next year and in the years to come.
We have also planted a considerable length of new hedge. If you put our site in its local context, it’s great that our neighbour’s hedges are also still relatively young . This means that we now have a very healthy age-mosaic in the area with every stage from new to old as well as laid, flailed and un-managed hedges within a mile radius. We hope that some of our neighbours may follow our example and lay their hedges as they mature in years to come.
Hedge-laying is a traditional method of prolonging the life of a hedge and creating a stock-proof barrier. The first hedge-layers may not have realised that they were also creating a fantastic wildlife habitat at the same time. The new vertical growth of stems that arises in the spring to cross the laid horizontal branches, provides a wonderful nesting and feeding area for smaller birds and animals, protected from predators by a thorny screen. We are confident that we will add linnet to the nesting birds in the hedgerow along with a number of the other typical farmland/woodland edge species and if we are very lucky, yellowhammer too (we have left the occasional tall hawthorn as a song perch for them). The shrubs will also flower and fruit more vigorously (incidentally, this technique works well in the garden too!)
Local folk may like to know that the hedge is laid in the ‘Lancashire style’ by one of the few local experts in this craft.
We have fenced the hedge off from the grazers, leaving a wide strip of ground into which the hedge can expand. This will create a broad-based hedge which will be of much greater value than the narrow-based old hedge we started with. The rough grassland edge that will develop next year we hope will be the perfect place for grey partridges to nest.
The hedge was casting a shade on the flora which I think will be evident when we see next year’s growth of flowering plants. It was also shading out the ditch on the inland side. This is known to be a negative factor for another of our special wildlife species, the water vole, as well as of course suppressing aquatic plant growth.
Now its done we can’t wait for the spring to see the hedge take off!