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There has been lots to see over the last couple of weeks at Marshside. It is so exciting to see many of our favourite summer visitors back after almost 9 months. For many there is none more exciting than the swift, which arrived back in force about a week ago. Now you can see at least a hundred birds catching insects and making their fantastic screeching calls high over the marshes.
Swift by Richard Brooks (rspb-images.com)
May is always an exciting time for migrant birds and this year has been no different. A real feature of Marshside in spring is the large mixed flocks of dunlin and ringed plover that can be seen from Nel’s Hide. These in turn attract their rarer cousins and we have been lucky enough to host a pectoral sandpiper for a week or so. Up to four curlew sandpipers have added a splash of colour as a couple of them are moulting into their stunning reddish breeding plumage. Finally there have been 3 male and one female garganey – this is a rare breeding bird here so we are keeping our fingers crossed that they decide to stay! Both the curlew sandpipers and garganey are still about so head down to Nel’s Hide if you would like a chance to see them.
Male garganey by Mark Sisson (rspb-images.com)
You don’t have to be in one of the hides to see great wildlife! Several visitors have been lucky enough to see both stoats and weasels while walking along the reserve trails. One of the best places to see them is near Polly’s Bench, where you can also come across a variety of butterflies. It’s amazing what you can see when you sit and wait for the wildlife to come to you!
Weasel by David Tipling (rspb-images.com)
Posted by Nick Godden
Exciting news! I was lucky enough to witness our first avocet egg of the year actually being laid on Saturday afternoon. There are now avocet nests in front of both Sandgrounders and Nel's Hides so why not come to have a look!
Avocet with a newly laid egg by Caroline Clay
We will be attempting to finish off the new Sutton's Marsh electric fence tomorrow (Tuesday 14th April) and this includes working in the area around Sandgrounders hide. We will aim to keep disturbance to a minimum and for as short a period as possible but it is inevitable that there will probably be less to see there than usual. We apologise for any disruption caused but in the long term we are confident that we will see a real improvement in the productivity of our various breeding birds thanks to the new fence.
Instead, why not head down to Nels hide where there are more avocets nesting as well as plentiful wildfowl and ruff, golden plover and black tailed godwit all coming in to breeding plumage.
Following the horrible windy weather last week it has felt almost summery here at Marshside this week! And there can be no doubt that much of our wildlife feels the same way as we have seen a mass of activity of both birds and insects. On recent sunny days you could not fail to notice the stunning small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies. Here's a fresh small tortoiseshell looking fantastic - but in only a few weeks after flying around plants like this bramble and being attacked by birds it will no doubt have ripped wings and start to look very sorry for itself.
Small tortoiseshell by Caroline Clay.
It has been all go on the bird migration front. The bad weather last week held back everything trying to migrate northwards so we saw a real influx of many of our early spring migrants as the weather changed for the better. This is a typical feature of spring migration as birds will wait during periods of rain, poor visibility or strong winds to reduce the risk of getting lost. They can then take advantage of nice weather and a favourable tail wind to continue their journey. Sand martins, swallows and wheatears have been seen regularly and there is currently a little gull at Junction Pool. The first week in April usually sees the bulk of migrant ospreys heading north and a few visitors were lucky enough to see one fly over Marshside on Monday.
With spring just around the corner there are noticeable changes all around the reserve, chiefly the arrivals and departures of all sorts of migrating birds. Our first Wheatear was sighted on the saltmarsh a few days ago perching on a fence post; while the returning avocets are making themselves at home outside Sandgrounders Hide - providing excellent photography opportunities as they display!
Wheatear by Ray Kennedy (rspb-images.com)
One of the first signs of spring that I always look for is coltsfoot, a lovely yellow flower not unlike a dandelion to look at. You can now see it in a few places on the grassy banks beside the reserve trails. Also, brown hares have been seen regularly on Suttons Marsh and are best observed from near the housing estate, so it's always well worth taking a longer walk.
Flowering coltsfoot by Guy Rogers (rspb-images.com)
We have been seeing a lot of displaying lapwings making their unmistakable ‘Peewit’ calls, and skylarks are filling the air with their cheerful song. With the winter being a particularly mild one, there has been an obvious exodus of our ducks and geese in recent weeks as they begin to make their journeys back north. I for one will miss the wigeon, whose evocative whistling calls sum up the wild character of winter on the Ribble Estuary perfectly for me.
See you in six months! Pink-footed geese and other wildfowl are now leaving the Ribble Estuary and heading north to their Icelandic breeding grounds. Photo by Steve Round (rspb-images.com)
Great video of a juvenile lapwing filmed by visitor Ron Jackson from Nel's hide.
Lapwings have enjoyed the increased protection offered this year on the reserve, in the form of two areas of temporary electric anti fox fencing. The number of juvenile lapwings visible on the reserve have been very positive so far this year.
Good views are best from Marshside Road looking into either Suttons marsh or Rimmers marsh, both hides on the reserve and Sutton’s trail near to Polly’s pool.
(Please visit the site to view this video)
Posted by Alex
A drake american wigeon was seen yesterday on rimmers marsh enjoying the new pool we have recently created.
Ron Jackson managed to film the bird yesterday from Nel's hide, click here to view it.
Ron also has footage of the ross's goose at Marshside which has been seen on Sutton's marsh from the visitor centre (Sangrounder's hide). Click here to view it.
Three glossy ibis still showing well on Rimmers marsh. Best seen from Marshside road about half way down. It is a short easy walk from the car park and who knows what else you might see on the way.
Please be considerate to other visitors and avoid parking on the footpath.
It's strange to think that I have been volunteering at RSPB Marshside for nearly 6/7 years on and off now and I am still coming back for more enjoyment. Working alongside the past Warden of the reserve and now working with the present warden and site manager I have been able to digest an awful amount of useful information and skills with reference to reserve wardening.
Before this post gets to in-depth I thought I would introduce myself a little more. My name is Chris Bridge and I am sadly nearing the end of my 6 month internship training as a reserve warden at Marshside reserve, working with and alongside Alex Pigott and Tony Baker. Throughout this period the reserve work has been varied and very useful to further my career in conservation and wardening.
Bird surveying, path creation, fence building, salt marsh management and visitor services are just some of the many tasks I have been involved in. Seeing the reserve through the seasons has also been very useful. Starting in Mid-April and ending in Mid-October; these last few months have been great for wildlife on the reserve. All the breeding birds have now finished and our autumn/winter migrants are steadily moving towards us on their migration.
The first Pink-footed geese have been seen today nearby so why not pop along to Marshside this weekend and the following weeks to see if you can catch sight of this winter goose species that winters on the Ribble estuary right on your doorstep.
If you happen to be visiting Marshside please do come in and say hello in our main hide (Sandgrounders) and tell us what you've seen on your visit!
Posted by CBridge
There were great views of the great white egret in front of the visitor centre (Sandgrounders hide) over the weekend.
Today the lapwings, golden plover and black-tailed godwits were showing well in good numbers instead.
Don't forget if you need to update your binoculors or just want to try out the latest RSPB stock, head to the visitor centre (sandgrounders hide) tomorrow where Julie from the Ribble Discovery Centre will be on hand to help you find the right optics for you.
We also have a few spaces left on the big tide walk tomorrow if you need an excuse to try out your new optics purchase. Todays walk at Hesketh out marsh proved worth the cold and windy walk with awsome views of barn owl, buzzard, kestrel, merlin, and hundreds of oystercatcher, lapwings and golden plover.
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?
Posted by Tony Baker
Grid reference: SD3520 (+2km)
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