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Recent sightings

  • 23 March 2014

    An overdue update and advanced notice of temporary closures

    As winter draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the past couple of months that have passed by in a blur. Memorable not only for being milder than the previous few, but also for the severe storms which whilst damaging to some parts of the country’s coastline, have delivered some superb wildlife spectacles on the reserve, at Parkgate and the other more exposed parts of the estuary. Burton Mere Wetlands’ flock of whooper swans headed for the North almost a month ago, and now as the last pink-footed geese, teal and wigeon depart, the days lengthen and temperatures rise, our summer visitors return to brighten the mood.

    Since the arrival of the first avocets on February 26, the numbers have risen steadily into the sixties, with over forty visible from Burton Mere Wetlands’ reception building as I write this, beginning to pair. The first chiffchaffs, and an early willow warbler, are being heard along the trails, and a handful of small tortoiseshell butterflies have spread their wings in the spring sunshine.

    Grey herons provided great entertainment as they were busy nest-building and shortly, their unusual chorus will drift down from Marsh Covert as their breeding, along with the impressive little egret colony, begins in earnest. Great spotted woodpeckers flash between the oaks and alders, and even if not seen, their characteristic drumming often fills the morning air.

    Behind the scenes this winter, we’ve been working hard on the completion of the Reed and Fen trail which will connect Burton Mere Wetlands to the old Inner Marsh Farm reserve; if you’ve visited you will probably have noticed the gradual appearance of new willow screening, a wooden footbridge, then an earth bund.

    The final touches to the path, along with some other exciting developments including a new viewing screen overlooking the reedbed, will be happening this coming week, which unfortunately means the entire Reed & Fen Trail and Marsh Covert hide will be closed to visitors from Monday 24 March for up to five days. The reception building, Burton Mere trail, Gorse Covert Woodland trail and Inner Marsh Farm will be open as normal throughout the week.

    We apologise for any inconvenience, but this essential work will substantially extend the reserve’s trail network, and open up a part of the reserve never previously accessible to visitors, improving Burton Mere Wetlands for everyone, forever.

    Posted by Dan Trotman

  • 21 November 2013

    Winter Wonderland

    Just a quick post to keep everyone updated on the recent goings-on at Burton Mere Wetlands and the Wild Wirral "Date with Nature" events, which are now gathering momentum as the winter wildlife increases in numbers. The deteriorating weather conditions are great for the wildlife spectacle across the Wirral as large flocks of waders gather across the north Wirral foreshore, the Hen Harriers increase in numbers on Parkgate marsh, as well as the arrival of the first Bewick swan of the year.

    The autumn months have been busy at the reserve with half term activities, which included bird feeder making, den building and the dissection of owl pellets - exciting stuff for family visitors! A well attended "Autumn Amble" certainly marked the start of Autumn here with cooler days and the mass fall of leaves in our woodlands.

    In early November, John - our Wild Wirral Information Assistant - was present at Parkgate Old Baths car park for three days of high tide events. These offered a great natural spectacle with mass movement of geese, wading birds, as well as the hunting birds of prey taking full advantage of the ample food available to them. Given the low atmospheric pressure and high winds, the 9.8m tide forecast for Tuesday crept to the wall at the Old Baths bringing the wildlife spectacle even closer to those who braved the weather - for many, it was the first time they had witnessed the marsh being completely inundated by the incoming tide, and were thrilled by the frenzy of birds that ensued. Fingers crossed for a repeat of this during the high tide eventsin early December!

    Although the days are becoming shorter and colder, it is no excuse to avoid making the most of the winter arrivals around the reserve. All through November, Burton Mere Wetlands has been running ‘Taster Thursdays’ which allows free admission for everyone and a free guided walk at 1pm, as well as a warm welcome at the reception hide with the stove to thaw your fingers after the walk, even on the coldest of days. Around the reserve the winter migration is underway with the arrival of various geese, ducks and whooper swans, fieldfare, redwing and the like in the fields - so why not make the most of the Taster Thursdays for your chance to have these species pointed out. Recent highlights of birds that aren't our "usual suspects" include a great white egret, seen once on the main scrape at Burton Mere Wetlands, and an adult male marsh harrier regularly hunting over the wet grassland and reedbed.

    For a full list of Wild Wirral "Date with Nature" events, follow this link to the events page:

    At the reserve, we've got an upcoming guided walk onto Burton Point:

    Also, we're doing a guided walk at Point of Ayr in early December:

    Posted by Dan Trotman

  • 10 October 2013

    A new kid on the block

    Last week saw the Dee Estuary staff team grow by one, as we welcomed our new Information Assistant, John Langley, who will be showcasing the spectacular wildlife around the estuary and the Wirral during this winter contract. This latest blog was written by John, to whom I hope you'll give a warm welcome if and when you come across one of his events in the coming months:

    "I would like take this opportunity to introduce myself as I have recently become a part of the Dee Estuary team, in the role of Information Assistant. I am a recent MSc graduate of Bangor University where I studied Conservation and Land Management having this opportunity to encourage public engagement with nature, as a part of an RSPB “Date with Nature” project, is really exciting for me. As a long-term Wirral resident, I am passionate about the wildlife on my doorstep, and would like to introduce you to what the area has to offer at Parkgate, Hoylake, Hilbre Island, New Brighton and beyond. You may have seen me at Parkgate last weekend where I was introducing members of the public to the different species found out on the marsh. The large flocks of Black-Tailed Godwits (1000+ on 7/10/13) on the Donkey Stand Flash have already impressed many people. The other species seen at Parkgate over the last weekend include a hunting peregrine, redshank, kestrel, sparrowhawk, little egret, grey heron, a short eared owl far out in the estuary, and a male and female hen harrier near to the Old Baths car park.

    One of the many events I will be running is “Skydancers on the Dee”, so the fact that hen harriers have already been seen there this autumn is fantastic. The Skydancer events will be running from this weekend (12/10/13) and every other weekend through the winter. Given the serious decline of the species, largely as a result of illegal persecution, the long-term survival of hen harriers is threatened, making this winter potentially one of the last times such an enigmatic bird is seen on the Dee Estuary. We will be set up at the Donkey Stand in Parkgate with telescopes, binoculars and family activities to raise awareness for the persecuted species and will aim to give everyone the opportunity to see the magnificent species before it may be too late. The event will be running from midday until dusk where we will hope to see the hen harries come in to roost, and I will enjoy showing as many people as possible this charismatic species.

    A very busy 2nd birthday celebration weekend, of family activities, cake sales, and guided walks at Burton Mere Wetlands ended the month of September before the arrival of migratory species. The lakes and scrapes around Burton Mere Wetlands are beginning to fill with Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and a range of geese. The arrival of a Pectoral Sandpiper has caused a stir, as well as three late avocets. Curlew Sandpipers have been showing well in small groups at both Burton Mere Wetlands and from Inner Marsh Farm hide, with ruff and spotted redshank becoming common sightings in recent days. This morning a fleeting visit by a water rail in the reception pool will hopefully result in another winter of cracking views of the bird from the visitors centre. For now, the kingfishers are regularly seen flying and perching around the reception pool and giving visitors the opportunity to see and photograph another enigmatic species that we are lucky enough to have on the reserve.

    I am looking forward to meeting and talking to as many people as possible over the coming months at the Skydancer events (starting 12th October), high tide watches at Hoylake (next one 19th October), and Tea on Hilbre (30th November), plus many more events to be advertised so keep an eye on our website and Facebook page (search RSPB North West England)."

    John Langley

    Posted by Dan Trotman

  • 8 May 2013

    A bank holiday boom

    With the wonderful weather we've had over the past few days, things have been busy down here at the reserve. Although the weather may have cooled down the bird action certainly hasn't with this morning bringing with it some brilliant views of a female marsh harrier and a male hen harrier, both from the comfort of the reception hide.

    This past weekend brought with it the first cuckoo sighting of the year and a stunning drake garganey showed well on the main scrape for most of saturday. The common terns have also arrived on the reserve with reports everyday since sunday and the avocets have well and truly settled in again this year with around 25 nesting on the reserve. Away from the water, the warblers have been in fine voice, as anyone on one of our successful early morning walks over the weekend will be able to verify. Sedge warbler, reed warbler, blackcap, grasshopper warbler, and common whitethroat have all been seen or heard. 

    The bluebells are out in the woodland and anyone wanting to get the best out of the woodland should grab themselves a place on our guided walk on Saturday the 18th May at 10am. By popular demand there will also be another dawn chorus walk on Sunday 19th May at 5am. Booking for these is essential so pop down or give us a ring on 0151 353 8478 to get a place. Full details:

    Elsewhere on the estuary the marsh at Parkgate is beginning to recover from the damage caused by the fire 4 weeks ago. Hopefully our wardening scheme will prevent any further incidents and the habitat can fully recover.

    Finally, in matters more pedestrian, the A540 will be closed on Sunday 12th May from 9am till late morning between the A5117 to the Two Mills junction, there should be a diversion in place but getting here from that direction may take a bit longer.

    Posted by Duncan Halpin

  • 17 March 2013

    "Much about?"

    Needless to say, Rhian's excited proclamation - upon the arrival of our first avocet of the year in mid-February - that spring was here, was a little premature.  Since then we've had plenty more snow flurries, frozen pools and lots of gratitude for the stove in our reception hide.  However, we've had a number of good sightings to please those who have braved the weather.

    That first avocet quickly moved on, but ten days ago we had three fresh arrivals, gradually growing in number to the eleven we have today; making themselves at home on the main scrape, hopefully preparing to nest on the same "avocet island" as last year.  In amongst the usual wintering waders were a handful of spotted redshank for much of the past two months, along with two to three hundred golden plover, not a common sight here on the Dee Estuary.

    One of our keen-eyed regular visitors picked up a solitary corn bunting in a mixed flock of winter finches and reed buntings making the most of our sacrificial seed crop a short distance from the reception hide.  The lesser scaup which had been picked up on pools around the south end of the estuary for weeks made a brief appearance at Burton Mere Wetlands, mingling with the tufted duck on the reception pool.

    After widespread disappointment that we'd not had a bittern this winter, a couple of reliable sources have reported brief glimpses in the reedbed from Marsh Covert hide - will it stick around for the summer and how long until we hear one booming?!  Visitors to the Inner Marsh Farm hide last wednesday were treated to this winter's first sighting of a green-winged teal, along with a Cetti's warbler perched on a bulrush in front of the hide.  Today, that side of the reserve has had reports of a single ruff on passage (or will we be lucky enough to see courtship behaviour again like last year?).

    Soon we'll bid farewell to our winter flocks, and the iconic short-eared owls and hen harriers will leave our marshes for their higher breeding grounds; a worrying time for the latter, after their pitiful recent breeding success, we must hope that the increased efforts of the RSPB to protect them on the heather moorlands will begin to make a difference.

    For daily updates on sightings at the RSPB Dee Estuary reserve and all around the Wirral and north-east Wales, visit

    Posted by Dan Trotman

  • 11 March 2013

    White Wingers

    "The problem with gulls is that they all look the same", is a sentence that I commonly hear. Many different gulls look similar, and experienced birders learn to look for the subtle differences between species for proper gull identification. With the high degree of hybridization among gulls and the wide variations of juvenile plumage, these can be some of the most challenging birds to identify.

    Over the weekend, we have had black-headed gull, common gull, herring gull, Mediterranean gull and the lovely little gull all make an appearance on our main scrape all visible from the visitor reception hide.

    The best tip we can give is to look at the bird’s wings, or wing tips; most of our common gull species have black primary feathers on their wing tips, which fold back along its tail feathers but the more unusual, and rarer gulls have white wing tips.

    Below shows three pictures the first  two showing the little gull and the third the Mediterranean gull.

    Little gull by Austin Morley: See the small balck bill, white wing tips, no black hood (adult out of breeding plumage) this is the worlds smallest gull.

    Little gull by Austin Morley: This picture shows the black under wings another distinctive characteristics of little gulls.

    Mediterranean gull by Austin Morley: This picture shows the birds adult plumage with full black cap, red bill and pure white wing tips.

    So keep your eyes open and check through the flocks of gulls as your might get lucky and see a rare and unusual gull amongst them

    Posted by Austin Morley

  • 4 March 2013

    A duck lesser in name only


    Yesterday we had a lesser scaup grace our meres, this great American duck is a very common sight across North America and gets its name from the its size difference from its cousin the scaup, or greater scaup. As the lesser is a tad smaller but in the UK when theses rare birds turn up this make them no less great.

    This bird has been loitering around the areas for a few weeks now and was first spotted near one of the border pools of Shotwick Boating Lake, hanging around with the local tufted ducks.

    Therefore, what is a lesser scaup and how does it differ from the scaup? Well have a look at theses stunning pictures below the first one shows its bill nail really well, this is the black spot on the tip of its bill. On a lesser scaup this bill nail is narrow and small while on the scaup its tends to be much larger and wider across the tip. The lesser scaup also tends to have more white and dark colouration on its flanks then the scaup.

    Besides the bill, what really marks the scaups either Lesser or Greater apart from  the coloration of the back and flanks of this bird while paddling around on the lake.The second picture shows the notch on its head, this is another distinguishing feature of lesser scaup.

    Sorry guys, that was confusing! Nevertheless, beyond that, these are beautiful birds, rare birds whether lesser or Greater.

    So here is an assignment for you. Get outdoors with your binoculars and try to find some of these brilliant birds they can come to any fresh water pond or lake and can even bee seen off shore in rafts of floating wildfowl.

    Photo by Austin Morley: Showing the small narrow black bill nail.

    Photo by Austin Morley: Showing the birds flanks and pale back pattern.

    Posted by Austin Morley

  • 18 December 2012

    Water Rail

    Another excuse to let people know how well behaved one of our water rails is ....

    Posted by Paul Brady

  • 11 December 2012

    Dusk Walk Delivers

    Thank you to all those who have attended our trail Monday evening dusk walks ... I hope you'll agree that the site of our resident great white egrets coming into roost right over your heads was worth it!

    Other sightings from Monday include green woodpecker, male hen harrier, peregrine, siskin, water rail and this lovely little stonechat ....

    Also out and about on the reserve the woodlands hold a good number of goldcrests .... I personally saw at least five by the entrance to Gorse Covert Woodland trail

    Posted by Paul Brady

Your sightings

Grid reference: SJ2778 (+2km)

Cetti's Warbler (1)
23 Apr 2014
Grasshopper Warbler (1)
20 Apr 2014
Singing/breeding calls heard
Water Rail (1)
19 Apr 2014
Avocet (50)
19 Apr 2014
Visiting probable nest site
Wheatear (1)
17 Apr 2014
Tawny Owl (1)
13 Apr 2014
Buzzard (1)
23 Apr 2014
Sparrowhawk (1)
20 Apr 2014
Shelduck (24)
20 Apr 2014
Dunlin (17)
20 Apr 2014

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Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 53.302495,-3.091627
  • Grid reference: SJ273789
  • Nearest town: Neston, Cheshire
  • County: Cheshire
  • Country: England

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