Places to see birds

Hale Marsh, LNR Pickering's Pasture & the Duck decoy  

www.thefriendsofpickeringspasture.org.uk

Hale Marsh, LNR Pickering's Pasture & the Duck decoy  
Mersey Estuary view from LNR pickering pasture. L Bimson

Hale Marsh and the LNR Pickering's Pasture are located to the east of Hale Village between Hale and Widnes. Halegate Marsh covers an area of 345 , the marsh is flooded on high tides which reach up to the road on such occasions. There is no access on to the marsh itself, which can be viewed from Withins Way from Hale Village and from the road between Hale and Halebank, and from the hide at Pickerings Pasture LNR  Halebank.

Good numbers of Teal feed along the creeks on the marsh and flocks of waders may be seen roosting on the marsh (Golden plover, Lapwing, Avocet, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Dunlin). Flocks of up to several hundred Canada geese roost on the marsh during high tides with Black tailed Godwit & little egrets an increasing sight. In recent years a small number of Bewick and Whooper swans have stayed on the marsh during the winter. 
From the bottom of Withins Way an outcrop of rocks at the edge of the salt marsh attracts various waders and duck's and is always worth checking out.
 
Paths leading to Hale lighthouse and along Hale shore can be muddy and uneven. Small layby/car parking area junction of church rd/lighthouse rd. Couple of benches along paths.
Toilets should be accessible Hale village hall
www.walk4life.info/walk/within-way-hale-shore-church-road


Nearby  Pickering's Pasture LNR, a former land fill site has been reclaimed and an excellent wildlife area created in its place. It is a peaceful place where people can enjoy quiet walks, picnics and wildlife watching. The Pickering's Pasture Visitor Centre presents information about the variety of wildlife interest on the site.
Pickerings Pasture Ranger Centre, Mersey View Road, Halebank, Widnes, WA8 8LP

Mainly flat terrain with good paths throughout. However if considering a walk extension, there is a Series of a zig-zagging shallow steps which ascend to cross the bridge over Ditton Brook, cycle path leads onto Runcorn Bridge. Can be awkward for bikes & wheel chair users.
Benches & picnic tables on site. Tiolet facilities on site/pop up cafe possibly open sundays


Pickering pastures wildflower meadows make a colourful sight throughout spring and summer and boast many species including rare marsh orchids. Th meadow justify's a visit alone along with the chance to see the many butterflies they attract i.e skippers, coppers, blues, meadow brown, gatekeepers, tortoiseshell, orange tip, peacock, speckled wood and comma.

The reserve has large areas of woodland and shrubbery. Oak, elm, alder, wild cherry and sycamore are common species. With guelder rose, alder buckthorn, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and dog rose providing lookouts and hiding place for smaller birds. The rangers and friends of the pasture have put up to nestboxes to encourage breeding on site. A small feeding station is situated by the scrape hide.  Birds possible/likely to be seen, mistle and song thrushes, chiffchaff, various tits, blackcaps, goldfinch, linnet, whitethroats, blackbird, starling, swift, swallow, house martins, redwing, fieldfare, reed bunting, siskin and brambling.

The reserve has wide views across the River Mersey and offers great opportunities for birdwatching.

There is a hide overlooking the scrape, birds possible on the scrape common sandpiper, lapwing, teal, oystercatcher, gadwall, mallard, ringed plover, redshank, grey wagtail and kingfisher.

Birds of prey seen hunting over the estuary/marsh, peregrine, merlin, sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, marsh harrier and the rarer hen harrier. Barn and short eared owl.

**A WeBs count is completed on the reserve and seasonal reports of what's about can be found on the excellent friends website: www.thefriendsofpickeringspasture.org.uk


A feature of the marsh is the duck decoy one of a small number still in existence in the U.K. Access is restricted. Halton Rangers organise occasional public visits places are limited and need to be booked in advance.  The Hale Duck Decoy is an important Scheduled Ancient Monument, is the only surviving one in the North West.The Decoy is in the shape of an irregular pentagon, five arms known as decoy pipes, about 20 metres long radiate from the pond into the woodland. The decoy is surrounded by a 5 metre wide moat. A small bridge crosses the moat. 

A duck decoy was an ancient method of catching ducks for food, consisting of a pond where ducks swam underneath a series of hoops and net, attracted by a small dog (piper) running along the bank. It is thought the ducks regard the small dog as a predator such as a fox, and swim towards it as a method of drawing attention away from nesting or resting areas. The decoy is also part of the Mersey Estuary that is designated for it's nature value, and International Ramsar site and SSSI for it's safe feeding and roosting area for large numbers of wading birds and ducks.

Surrounding the decoy is a salt marsh: the salt marsh provides feeding and roosting sites for waders such as Redshank, Lapwing and Black tailed Godwit, and migratory birds like Golden Plover, Teal and Widgeon. There are 2 hides on the decoy, one looking onto the inner pond of the decoy, the other onto the marsh.
Educational facilities/plaques are in place and guided tours are conducted by a member of the parks an countryside staff.

During the summer months dragonflies and damselflies can be seen hawking the pond and ditches: azure and blue-tailed damselflies, brown and southern hawkers are the commonest, though large red damselfly and common darters are regular. Visits have been made by emperor dragonflies, broad-bodied chasers and four-spot chasers.