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I hear your groans, but I couldn’t possibly write this blog without using that awful pun. Without question, the star bird of the past week was the single white-winged tern, a rarer relative of the vagrant black terns of which there were multiple sightings in the North West this spring, including at Burton Mere Wetlands.
Around 3 pm on Friday, the staff and volunteers were alerted by a keen-eyed visitor of the unexpected yet distinctive bird over the main scrape in front of the Reception Hide, much to the delight of everyone present and the scores of birders who “twitched” once the news was made public, with many still present at 9 pm when the car park was due to be locked.
White-winged black tern by Anthony Lovatt
Despite best efforts of Site Manager, Colin to find the bird on Saturday morning there was no sign, suggesting it had moved on. There were still plenty of highlights over the weekend, most notably the increasing little egret activity in the top of Marsh Covert as the young birds on the nests approach fledging.
Amongst them, an immature great white egret was displaying some interesting nest-building behaviour – of course, too late for this year, not to mention the absence of a mate and the fact it’s not of breeding age – but perhaps following its instincts and getting some practise in for next year?
Little egret having a bad hair day by Lynne Greenstreet
To add to the numerous duck broods mentioned last week, a family of little grebes has been showing well at the Reedbed Screen, whilst the mute swan family have taken up residence on the Reception Pool with their four growing cygnets.
One of our summer fixtures, the non-breeding black-tailed godwit flock, seem to be enjoying the slightly higher water level on the scrape after last week’s rainfall, with numbers over 200 in recent days. Some are even braving the Reception Pool, offering fantastic close views, which bodes well for when we drop the water level there in the coming weeks to attract more waders during their migration. Just today, a single spotted redshank and a funky orange-plumed ruff joined the party, suggesting the beginning of the "autumn" migration is imminent.
Away from the birds, the common lizards have been putting on a show on the fence at the beginning of the Reedbed trail, basking on the warm wood during recent sunny days. Stoats have also been showing their face a lot along the Burton Mere trail and close to the Marsh Covert Hide.
The bee orchids continue to delight our visitors with their unusual, ornate flowers; over 100 “spikes” are now in bloom, perfect timing for our Wonderful Wildflowers guided walk on Sunday. There are still places available so call or email the reserve if you’d like to attend: 0151 353 8478 or email@example.com
We’re also now taking booking for this year’s Big Wild Sleepout; for one night only, we’re inviting families for an evening adventure discovering the nocturnal wildlife that makes its home here, then spend the night camping on your favourite nature reserve! Click here for full details or contact the reserve on the details above.
Posted by Dan Trotman
Typical; just as we were getting comfortable in the lovely warm, dry weather, the British summer gets up to its usual tricks. Whilst we’ve barely seen the sun for days, the rain showers have generally been brief although heavy, but if you manage to dodge them the mild temperature still makes for a lovely walk around the reserve.
There’s still plenty of wildlife to enjoy at this time of year, not least the stunning wildflowers coming into full bloom, especially our numerous southern marsh and bee orchids. If you’d like to learn more about the wildflowers at Burton Mere Wetlands, why not book onto our “Wonderful Wildflowers” guided walk on Sunday 26 June? Click here for full details.
Bee orchid by Ray Banks
In the meantime we have a wildflower-themed quiz along the Burton Mere trail, for any families (or fun-loving adults!) to enjoy on an after school or weekend visit. Pick up an answer sheet in reception before you head out for a walk.
The aforementioned orchids are drawing plenty of comments from visitors at the moment, with dozens of bee orchids lining the east end of the Burton Mere trail, and the purple marsh orchids popping up all over the wetland but lots visible on the islands of the main scrape adding a splash of colour amongst the lush green hues.
We saw the last avocet nests hatch last week, and with over 70 chicks around the scrape and many almost fully grown now, we’re getting close to celebrating a fantastic year for one of our main breeding wading birds. Two others, lapwing and redshank, may be less visible but our surveys suggest they’ve had decent breeding seasons too.
Recent sightings of note include the odd Mediterranean gull, sandwich and common terns, cuckoo, yellowhammer, ruff, spotted redshank, great crested grebe and a pair of garganey. An oystercatcher brood has been showing well from the Inner Marsh Farm hide, whilst a great spotted woodpecker has been feeding a juvenile close to the feeders near the Reception Hide.
Other highlights of recent days have been the discovery of various duck broods – gadwall, shoveler and teal – the latter two particularly significant in this part of the UK, in fact it’s only the second ever confirmed breeding of teal at the Dee Estuary reserve!
At least four spoonbills are still present and spending time between the Marsh Covert woodland, the main scrape and the saltmarsh, plus a single great white egret has returned to the egretry after a few weeks’ absence.
It’s been quiet on the raptor front, with marsh harrier sightings becoming very infrequent, although hobby and peregrine are seen quite frequently and a red kite was spotted overhead twice in the last fortnight.
Finally, don’t forget it’s Father’s Day this Sunday, and our “Dad’s Go Free” event, so why not bring your Dad down to Burton Mere Wetlands where he’ll receive free entry, plus a complimentary hot drink from our concessions stand!
What a week we've had to end May! The warm sunny weather along with the arrival of four spoonbills last Tuesday left some visitors wondering whether they were beside the Mediterranean rather than the Dee.
We'd been getting fairly excited by a single, elusive spoonbill on Burton Marsh for a few weeks, so imagine our amazement when the awesome foursome were first seen in the Marsh Covert treetops close to where the little egrets and herons nest.
Along with the scores of avocets, now with over 70 chicks of varying ages, there was a real continental feel to the reserve heading into the bank holiday weekend. Just as we were getting used to our striking new residents, a fifth bird arrived on Sunday afternoon, and along with the other four spent some time feeding on the scrape, with fantastic views from the Reception Hide.
When Site Manager, Colin arrived early on Monday to find SIX spoonbills feeding on the scrape, we really thought he was dreaming. This equalled the record for spoonbills on the Dee, set way back in 1998.
Spoonbills by Barry Barnacal
The fantastic photo above shows an angry adult avocet fearlessly fending off the spoonbills for straying too close to its brood, to add to the strains of defending their young from lurking black-headed gulls, crows and herons.
Other highlights around the scrape have been the odd yellow wagtail along with the occasional redshank brood emerging from the rushes. Elsewhere, before even leaving the car park visitors have been admiring the frenzied feeding and nest-building behaviour of the pair of spotted flycatchers nesting in a nearby tree. A great spotted woodpecker was seen feeding its recently fledged youngster today, in trees between the car park and Reception Hide.
Spotted flycatcher by John Hewitt
The south-east end of the Burton Mere trail remains a good place to look for hobby, currently taking advantage of the plentiful swifts. At least three Cetti's warblers have been heard dotted along the trails between the reedbed and Inner Marsh Farm hide.
Up on Burton Point, a pair of linnet and a green woodpecker were highlights today, whilst a male garganey and a mute swan family were offering great views from the Bridge Screen.
The recent warm weather has seen the emergence of lots of butterflies, with orange tips, peacocks and large whites the most prevalent at the moment. Red-eyed damselflies are beginning to perch on the lily pads on Burton Mere, whilst the common lizards are in their usual basking spots on the fence rails at the beginning of the Reedbed trail.
If you didn't get down to the reserve over the bank holiday weekend to see the spoonbills, you'll be pleased to hear there are still three around. Will we see any more? How long will they stick around? What's the correct collective noun for a group of spoonbills?! Watch this space...!
Posted by Helen B
Spoonbills by Anthony Lovatt
Marsh harrier - 1 over reed bed
Hobby - 1 over Marsh Covert hide
Spoonbill - 5 on scrape
Avocet - 70+ chicks on scrape
Ringed plover - 1 in front of reception hide
Spotted flycatcher - 2 in trees in car park
Cetti's warbler - 3 around the reserve
Reed warbler - 1 by reed bed screen
Raven - 1 over Marsh Covert woods
Barnacle goose - 1 on scrape
Garganey - 1 in front of Inner Marsh Farm hide
Also seen around the reserve -
Orange tip butterfly
Red admiral butterfly
Small skipper butterfly
Holly blue butterfly
Spoonbill by Anthony Lovatt
Ringed plover - 1 on scrape
Spoonbill - 3 in Marsh Covert woods
Great white egret - 1 on marsh seen from Burton Point
Cetti's warbler - 1 by reed bed screen
Sedge warbler - 1 by reed bed screen
Grey wagtail - 1 in front of reception hide
Green woodpecker - 1 by railway bridge
Barnacle goose - 1 on reception pool
Large red damselfly
Four-spotted chaser dragonfly
Whitethroat by John Hewitt
Spoonbill - 4 in Marsh Covert woods
Black-tailed godwit - 50+ on scrape
Green woodpecker - 1 behind mere pool
Mandarin - 1 on mere pool
Bee orchid - first flower of the year
Green-veined white butterfly
Small tortoiseshell butterfly
Small white butterfly
Large white butterfly
Avocet chick by Anthony Lovatt
Avocet - 45+ chicks on scrape
Dunlin - 3 in front of Inner Marsh Farm hide
Swift - 50+ over reception hide
Sedge warbler - 1 in reeds next to reception hide
Green woodpecker - 1 on Burton Point
Common tern - 1 over mere pools
Pintail - 1 on bridge pool
Great crested grebe - 2 on bridge pool
Northern marsh orchid
Speckled wood butterfly
Small heath butterfly
Dunnock by Stephen Griffin
Hobby - 2 over field by barn
Curlew sandpiper - 1 on scrape
Ringed plover - 11 on scrape
Little ringed plover - 1 on scrape
Dunlin - 3 by Inner Marsh Farm hide
Cuckoo - 2 on Burton Point
Curlew sandpiper by Anthony Lovatt
Hobby - 1 over reserve
Ruff - 1 on scrape
Dunlin - 1 on scrape
Common snipe - 1 behind scrape
Grasshopper warbler - 3 around the reserve
Cetti's warbler - 4 around the reserve
Spotted flycatcher - 1 by path to barn
Yellow wagtail - 2 by barn
Cuckoo - 2 by Marsh Covert hide
Spoonbill - 1 on scrape
Great white egret - 2 over reserve
Raven - 1 over reception hide
Grid reference: SJ3173 (+2km)
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