Recent Sightings The wood sandpiper was still showing well on Monday but has unfortunately not been spotted since then. A common sandpiper arrived on Tuesday though which was a nice sight. Spotted redshank numbers are still increasing and there were as many as 14 snipe counted this week. There is still at least 2 avocet being seen around the reserve too. The cattle egret is still showing well, clearly happy now we have cattle grazing on both the main scrape and inner marsh. A great white egret was also seen at the beginning of the week as a nice bonus. A ruddy shelduck also arrived on Monday and was around for a few days. Two kingfishers have been spotted and appear to be becoming more regular, mostly around the meres and reception at present, now the breeding season is over. A red kite flyover was also a special sight as always.
(Kingfisher taken by Marsh Covert Hide last winter, Elizabeth Maddock)
Plenty of butterflies still around due to the warm weather, as many as 13 species were seen in one day by one visitor. A beautiful migrant hawker dragonfly was also spotted on Wednesday.
Star Sightings This week’s star sighting has to be the spotted crake. It has been showing intermittently since Tuesday and was still being seen yesterday late afternoon/evening. It has meant a sea of telescopes the last few days as people sit dedicated and determined to see this elusive bird but many good sightings have been had.
Wardens’ Wanderings This week the wardens’ were again pulling ragwort out on the wet grassland. This time they had the help of a cooperate work party from British Gas which made the job a lot quicker and now the ragwort pulling is complete for the season. Warden Al and residential volunteer Gwen also went out to help the farmer and others do a sheep round up this week. They were out on the marsh for 6 hours in the end but it was a successful round up so all the sheep will be safe from the high tide this coming weekend.
On Sunday 12th we are supporting ‘Hen Harrier Day’! ‘Hen Harrier Day’ is raising awareness of the struggles facing hen harriers in the UK and how we can bring change to this situation and help improve things for them. There is an event down at the Old Baths car park at Parkgate from 12-3pm and some big names are set to attend so see you there! Come celebrate International Bat Night with us on the 26th August at Burton Mere! Starting at 8pm we will be going on a walk to discover the different bat species that live on the reserve. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/events-dates-and-inspiration/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-455516
June was a very busy month! On the reserve lots of work was being done on the paths as everything was growing so quickly and needed to be cut back to maintain access. Lots of days were spent cutting and raking different sections with volunteer work parties.
I also took part in the final redshank surveys for the year which involved walking back and forth across two study plots out on the saltmarsh looking and listening for redshank. It is really enjoyable getting up early to experience the wilderness of the saltmarsh at that time of day, watching redshanks flying and calling to each other. June also entailed a last minute sheep round-up, bringing the large flock off the saltmarsh, as the tides were going to be very high that coming weekend. Sheep round-ups are never a quick job but luckily for us it had been very dry so the ground was easier to walk on than normal and we could even skip the waders and just wear our wellies!
Unfortunately this same high tide was coupled with strong winds that created a tidal surge and had a big effect on the little tern colony at Gronant with a substantial number of nests being lost. I visited the evening after the high tide and despite the devastation the terns were displaying courtship behaviour again already and the numbers recovered quickly which is good news! Our fences at Point of Ayr were also destroyed so one day was spend over there untangling them.
(Little tern displaying after the high tide)
The past two months have also consisted of lots of training. In one week I had safeguarding training, social media training and GREAT welcome training (a technique used to ensure all our visitors at Burton Mere Wetlands receive a high quality welcome to the reserve). These were all really useful and informative and I definitely feel like I am now developing in the visitor experience side of my role. Alice (the other residential volunteer here at the Dee Estuary) and I also attended the RSPB's wet grassland training course in the Forest of Bowland. This was a really fun experience where we got to meet lots of other people from different organisations and find out what their jobs involve and also learn loads about wet grasslands which we can now apply at Burton Mere Wetlands.
At the beginning of July we also attended the RSPB Experience at our UK headquarters, The Lodge. This was two days learning more about the work of the RSPB both in the UK and internationally and all the different sectors of work we cover from research to habitat management and education through to changing policy and lobbying governments.
I also went on my first off-site membership recruitment event in June at Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston where we engaged with the public about the work of the RSPB, the importance of membership support and how this helps the RSPB run and do the amazing work we do! In July I also attended Parkgate Carnival which had a really fun atmosphere and I enjoyed chatting to people and getting them excited about nature and the vast reserve on their doorstep!
(View of the reserve from Burton Point)
At the end of July we had our Big Wild Sleepout at Burton Mere Wetlands! As people arrived the weather was a bit gloomy and we even heard some thunder but it soon brightened up and we had an amazing sunny walk around the reserve. We had a brief glimpse of a marsh harrier and then an amazing view of a water vole which sat directly in front of Marsh Covert Hide for about 10 minutes munching on the reeds! As we walked back after seeing the sunset at Burton Point we managed to get great views of the juvenile egrets flying up in to the roost.
Once it went dark we were able to watch the noctule bats coming out of a roost in the car park through an infrared camera which was really spectacular and then went over to the meres to see the Daubenton’s flying over the water in great numbers. After a brief tangent on to astronomy, looking at the bright blood moon as well as Mars and Jupiter, we went to find the badgers! We got to see two together feeding in our special, lit viewing area which was a great end to the evening! However this wasn’t even the end, as in the morning we opened up the moths traps that had been left overnight to see an amazing array of moth species. I have never done moth trapping before so it was incredible for me to see how they are not all just brown, as I had previously thought, but really beautiful and diverse!
There was such a community feel to the event and seeing everyone so engaged and excited about nature and seeing so much amazing wildlife in one evening was definitely one of my highlights of the placement so far! If you haven’t been able to go to a Big Wild Sleepout this year then you can still camp out in your own garden and experience nature there and then definitely make sure you come along to the sleepout next year!(Out exploring on the Big Wild Sleepout)
The wader variety of last week continued into this, with growing flocks of black-tailed godwits and lapwings across Burton Mere Wetlands, coupled with a few spotted redshanks, ruffs, little ringed plovers, green sandpiper, and on Friday, the arrival of a single wood sandpiper which stayed throughout the weekend to the time of writing.
Wood sandpiper (left) and green sandpiper (right) from Marsh Covert hide (D.King)
The lone cattle egret continues to spend much of its time on the main scrape, occasionally venturing to the near side to offer excellent views from Reception Hide. Last week's spotted crake, thought to have moved on, was seen again on Friday evening, on the back edge of the scrape in the company of resident water rails.
Raptors continue to grow in prominence, with marsh harrier daily, hobby on a few occasions, peregrine particulary active on Thursday and sparrowhawk at the weekend. The middle of the week saw impressive flocks of house martins and swallows gathering to feed over the scrape and Reception Pool, along with smaller numbers of sand martins and swifts. Warblers are becoming less prominent, but sedge warblers, common whitethroats and resident Cetti's warblers did their best to counter the waders' insistence that autumn has begun.
On Tuesday, the reserve's first curlew sandpiper of the autumn turned up with a brace of dunlins, and showed well on the main scrape until Wednesday.
Moulting adult curlew sandpiper (A.Lovatt)
The big task faced this week was the dreaded ragwort-pulling; a team of hard-working volunteers helped the warden and residential volunteers pull hundreds of ragwort plants from across the wet grassland. This laborious job is essential to make the area safe for the grazing cattle as the weed is potentially harmful, plus it prevents the plant spreading and gradually becoming increasingly dominant and out-competing the grasses.
The same volunteers helped take down the temporary section of the electric anti-predator fence running in front of Reception Hide; this was significant as it is the last time that temporary fence will be used. We are imminently set to install a permanent anti-predator fence around Reception Pool and under Reception Hide, avoiding potential weaknesses in the temporary fence and perhaps attracting some new breeding birds onto the newly-protected habitat of Reception Pool.
This work will inevitably have some impact on visitors as the contractors work close to Reception Hide, Reception Pool and the scrape, potentially causing some displacement of birds to the other parts of the reserve. As always, we will do our best to minimise the impact and appreciate your patience during the work.
Similarly, another contractor will be on site this week to finish work on the recently resurfaced Reedbed trail, but the impact to visitors will be minimal.
August is all about the nocturnal wildlife on the reserve, with Badgerwatch events taking place on Thursday evenings for the rest of the month and an International Bat Night event on Sunday 26 August. Further details of these events can be found here: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/find-a-reserve/reserves-a-z/events.aspx?reserve=Dee%20Estuary%20-%20Burton%20Mere%20Wetlands
If you're looking for places to take the children during the school holidays, look no further: we have a brilliant 'Creatures of the Night' family quiz trail, plus our explorer backpacks to hire and the den building area to go wild! Also look out for our new ice cream freezer so you can treat the kids (and yourself!) as part of your reserve adventure.