Following recent excitement over the arrival of rare herons to the site*, RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands is now celebrating further, with confirmed breeding of rare bearded tits for the first time ever at the nature reserve near Neston.
Bearded tits are strikingly beautiful and rather comically named birds that rely on reedbeds to make their home. Once much more common throughout the UK, reedbeds are sadly now one of country’s rarest habitats as many have been drained for development or agriculture. In the North West, the only place where they have traditionally bred is at the RSPB’s Leighton Moss reserve in North Lancashire, but following the arrival of six birds to Burton Mere Wetlands last autumn, at least two pairs are now known to have bred for the first time on the Dee Estuary.
Graham Jones, Site Manager at Burton Mere Wetlands said: ‘In 2007 we were able to purchase land adjacent to our reserve from the Welsh Assembly. A three-year work programme began almost immediately to create a reedbed, into which volunteers’ hand-planted over 10,000 reed seedlings. To have bearded tits now breeding in the very same reedbed this summer has been a wonderfully fitting culmination of all that hard work, and a fantastic way celebrate our 40th anniversary”
The RSPB are marking four decades on the Dee Estuary this year, having secured their first reserve at Parkgate back in 1979, creating a protected area for tens of thousands of birds. Since then, their land holdings have expanded significantly, to both sides of the border, with Burton Mere Wetlands being the most recent addition eight years ago. The whole area is over 6000 football pitches in size making the Dee Estuary nature reserve the 5th largest RSPB site in the country.
Over this time, the RSPB’s work on the Dee has created valuable spaces for birds and other wildlife to thrive, and they’ve undertaken extensive land management to support a variety of species to nest. It is not known exactly where the bearded tits have come from, whether populations elsewhere in the UK or from Europe, but it’s hoped that this is the start of them breeding each year at Burton Mere Wetlands.
For further information on the rich variety of wildlife at the RSPB Dee Estuary as well as upcoming events, visit rspb.org.uk/burtonmerewetlands