It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last Warden's Wanderings blog. Having been battered by a couple of storms and rounding up sheep on the saltmarsh before Ophelia hit, I am writing this on a brilliant autumn day – I didn’t plan that well!! The reserve always look great on a day like today with the autumn colours of browning reeds surrounded by mature broadleaf woodland makes the view towards Burton village a classic autumnal scene.
Arrival of autumn - Image J. Langley
Autumn is a really important time of year for wildlife to feed up before the winter arrives which can clearly be seen across the site with growing numbers of linnet, reed bunting and goldfinches eating seeds in the cover crop by Inner Marsh Farm. Elsewhere around the reserve marsh and hen harriers have been seen on the marsh as well as Burton Mere Wetlands where we have been given great views from the Reception Hide. If you are planning on going out for a walk over the coming weeks it's well worth venturing up to Burton Point viewpoint or Denhall Quay to try and spot short-eared owls, a day-flying owl, hunting over the marsh.
It wouldn’t be autumn without mentioning the arriving skeins of pink-footed geese. At the moment, on my commute from Chester, I often see hundreds heading inland in search of farmland to graze, then the opposite way as I’m leaving for home in the evening when they arrive back on the reserve for safe roosting. The most recent count had just short of 4000 pink-footed geese using the reserve as a whole with many feeding in neighbouring fields during the day. We have had reports of a single white-fronted goose being amongst them as well, a challenge for anyone with the time to scan through the flock!
Hand pulling Crassula helmsii – image A. Grubb
On the reserve we have turned cattle out onto the Inner Marsh Farm pools to help create a better habitat for breeding waders and hopefully increase productivity to boost national numbers of redshank and lapwings. Regular visitors may have noticed the work carried out on Bridge Pool when looking out from Marsh Covert hide. This was carried out by a digger (see Al’s blog ), however we are unable to get a digger on the other side of the hide, which also has the invasive Crassula helmsii. Instead we are reverting to the old fashioned method of removing it by hand to create more open water for feeding wildfowl and kingfisher. The latter is seen regularly hunting over those pools and hovering almost like a kestrel looking for food.
Hovering Kingfisher – Image S. Ryley
I have also had a varied few weeks with being asked to deliver a talk about the reserve to RSPB North Cheshire local group as well as a leading a guided walk at Point of Ayr. Both went well, it’s great to be able to show people how great a resource the Dee Estuary reserve really is both at an indoor meeting as well as on site. The guided walk coincided with the arrival of Storm Brian, but luckily we managed to avoid the worst of the weather. As always on a rising tide the hide at Point of Ayr provides a brilliant spectacle with thousands of curlew, redshank, oystercatcher and shelduck roosting on the edge of the reedbed as well a pintail, teal and wigeon on the water. This massive amount of wildlife attracted a hunting peregrine, and gives us a great opportunity to really get to grips with the huge numbers of birdlife that call the Dee Estuary home over the winter months.
People enjoying the Point of Ayr guided walk – Image J. Langley