News archive

May 2019

Friday, 31 May 2019

Updates- Marshside Reserve, Spoonbills and Bearded tits

Updates- Marshside Reserve, Spoonbills and Bearded tits

Funding secures exciting addition to RSPB Marshside

Thanks to funding from Biffa Award, the RSPB is taking even more birds under its wing on the Ribble Estuary after recently purchasing Crossens Inner Marsh, a wet grassland area adjacent to their existing Marshside reserve in Southport.
The marsh, which is already home to over-wintering birds such as wigeons, pink-footed geese, black-tailed godwits and golden plovers, covers an area about the size of 38 football pitches.

Over £464,000 funding from Biffa Award enabled the RSPB to purchase the land and will also fund major improvements to the marsh, which will benefit rare and unusual wildlife including nesting lapwings, redshanks, and avocets - which are the emblem of the RSPB, along with brown hares. The habitat works, which will take place after the breeding season this summer, will also improve the control of water levels on the reserve helping to prevent prolonged flooding of the rare coastal grassland.
Tony Baker, Site Manager for the RSPB Ribble Reserves said: "Purchasing Crossens Inner Marsh is the final piece of the jigsaw for us, not only as an extension to our well known Marshside reserve, but also in the completion of the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve (NNR). We're working in partnership here with Natural England who oversee England's NNRs, which enables us to do more for nature by creating opportunities for bigger, better and more joined-up management of these vital wild spaces."
Much of the wider Ribble Estuary is managed as England's third largest NNR and is one of the Top 10 most important wetlands in the UK for the numbers of water birds that live there. Some have travelled thousands of miles from the north to spend the winter months, others choose the area in spring and summer to raise their families, whilst some live there all year round.
Tony added: "Our new site at Crossens Inner Marsh, and indeed the whole of the Ribble Estuary NNR, is home to a range of incredible creatures that thrive in this harsh environment. In addition to sheltering birds and mammals from human disturbance, the site is stuffed with mini-beasts, which provide a feast for wetland birds. The marsh also benefits people, by reducing the flood risk from the sea to homes and businesses. Sadly, much of the coastal grassland in this country has been lost to human developments and it is further threatened by rising sea levels caused by climate change, making this place crucial to protect. We're so thankful to Biffa Award for the funding that has allowed us to purchase and improve Crossens Inner Marsh for nature and for people."
Gillian French, Biffa Award Head of Grants, said: "It is really important that we continue to support projects like this which provide and enhance habitats for a wide range of species. We can't wait to see even more birds using the site following the improvements."


A quintet of herons makes the Dee feel like the Med


An incredible five different species of heron, some more commonly seen in the Mediterranean, have arrived at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands nature reserve this spring and are showing positive signs of breeding, causing much excitement among visitors to the site near Neston on the Dee Estuary.
Burton Mere Wetlands is well-known for its grey heron and little egret breeding colonies, but this year, those two more regular types of heron have also been joined by a pair of cattle egrets, a pair of spoonbills and a pair of great white egrets too. These rare birds are all showing positive signs of breeding, having been seen carrying nesting material into the heron colony lately. If they are successful, it will only be the second time that cattle egrets have bred at the site and a first for both spoonbills and great white egrets.
Graham Jones, Site Manager at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands said: "It is absolutely staggering to see five different heron species making their home here. The grey herons nest here each year, but little egrets only colonised the UK in the late 1980s and have been breeding here since 2005. For them to now be joined by the much rarer cattle egrets, great white egrets and spoonbills is even more astonishing. They're usually more at home breeding in the Mediterranean, so we've been dubbed the 'Costa del Dee' by some visitors, who are enjoying seeing the birds from a special watchpoint that we have created to allow for better views. If the birds all breed it will be extraordinary and cause for additional celebration in our anniversary year."
The RSPB is celebrating their 40th anniversary 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 in 2011.
The whole area is over 6000 football pitches in size making the Dee Estuary nature reserve the 5th largest RSPB site in the country.
Graham added: "I grew up on the Wirral and started coming to Parkgate in the 1980s as a teenager to watch the birds thrive on the marsh. Back then it was inconceivable that little egrets would live here, let alone that we would be seeing even more unusual birds like cattle egrets, spoonbills and great white egrets. We've also got at least 10 pairs of Mediterranean gulls nesting too, so it truly is like being on holiday, and testament to the hard work and dedication carried out here for the last four decades."
Over the past 40 years, the RSPB's work on the Dee Estuary has created valuable spaces for birds and other wildlife, and they've undertaken extensive land management to support a variety of species to nest. Important conservation work by the charity further down the west coast at places like their Ham Wall reserve in Somerset, where creating the right conditions has seen cattle and great white egrets breeding in the past few years has also paved the way for these species to move northward and make their home on the Dee.



Rare bird breeding first at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

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.

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