Trip reports

Field Trip - RSPB Burton Mere Wetland

Adult black-tailed godwit in summer plummage, at the RSPB Snettisham nature reserve, Norfolk

Sunday, 7 April 2019

It had been five years since the group last visited the RSPB reserve at Burton Mere - right on the border between Cheshire and North Wales. Leaving Sheffield on a cold cloudy day, we arrived two hours later to a fairly clear sky. Much of reserve is on land reclaimed from the Dee estuary and this has been made into a rich wet grassland with shallow scrapes and lagoons - home to a variety of wading birds and wildfowl. A reedbed supports an abundance of warblers and Bearded Tits.

Looking for a place to park took us first into Burton village, on the edge of which we were surprised to see a large and very late flock of Fieldfares.

After being dropped off at the top of the lane leading to the reserve, we had a very pleasant walk though the woods in which the Bluebells were just coming into flower. There was plenty of bird song and the occasional sighting of woodland birds including Blackcap and Chiffchaff.

Arriving at the reception hide, we availed ourselves of coffee and tea whilst we took in the scene. Right in front of us was the Reception pool where a great many Black-headed Gulls were joined by one solitary Mediterranean Gull. Numerous Avocets patrolled the shallow water with other waders being Redshank and Lapwing. These were joined by a wide variety of wildfowl including Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Shelduck and Canada and Greylag Geese. Nearby Willow Pool however seemed to hold nothing but a large number of Tufted Ducks!

Leaving the reception hide, we headed for Reedbed Screen where we had been told Bearded Tits were showing well. Quite a few of the group had a good display but unfortunately not everyone.

Continuing our exploration of the reserve, we came to Marsh Covert Hide. Looking from this at Bridge Pool, we could see both Redshank and Spotted Redshank - an excellent chance to hone our identification skills for these two rather similar species. Fortunately, the Spotted Redshank were in the process of developing their dark summer plumage meaning that they were much more 'blotchy' than their more commonly seen relatives. Oystercatcher and numerous Black-tailed Godwit were also present along with Mute Swan and plenty more ducks including Wigeon.

Possibly the biggest excitement of the day was to be had at Inner Marsh Farm Hide from which, as well as more Avocets and Godwits, we saw two Pintail on Centenary Pool and a female Long-tailed Duck - a species more normally spotted out at sea. It was quite a long way off - in fact, it was in Wales whilst we were in England! - but everyone got a good look at it through the scope.

Heading to the furthest extremity of the reserve, most of us climbed Burton Point headland to look out across the extensive saltmarsh which is also under RSPB protection. A Great White Egret was picked out amongst more numerous Little Egrets, some of which were also seen at the heronry on the main reserve along with nesting Grey Herons. Shelduck, Curlew and Marsh Harrier were also spotted along with three Black Swans. Although not on the official list of British birds, these were still a real treat for some of us who had not seen them before.

Heading back towards the Visitor Centre, at least four calling Buzzards were seen soaring high above. Returning to the coach through the woods, by now in beautiful sunshine, a Nuthatch was seen and a Great Spotted Woodpecker heard.

Other species seen during the day included Sparrowhawk and Kestrel and Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits. Cetti's Warblers were singing loudly and one was spotted on the wing. A lady (not one of us) managed to catch a really lovely photo of this so we know it was not just our imaginations. As well as Chiffchaff and Blackcaps, several members of the group heard a Willow Warbler and a few actually saw it. A lone Swallow was spotted but as we know 'one swallow doesn't make a summer' so we wanted more!

As well as the birds, the warm sunshine later in the day brought out a number of butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Orange-tip.

32 people attended
80 bird species seen
Star Species: Long-tailed duck, Bearded Tit