Burton Mere: A Summers Delight

Summer, it’s everyone’s favourite season and where else better to celebrate it’s return into action than a day trip over to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands with the company of Luke Anderson as a replacement due our planned trip with our local RSPB local group to RSPB Coombe’s Valley being cancelled as a result to the quiet simply horrific downpour aka a British summer.

Waking up at the crack of dawn to the choruses of European Blackbirds, Winter Wrens, Dunnocks, European Robin & even a Song Thrush (a local rarity), Luke & I popped into the garden to check out the haul of moths in my brand spanking new Skinner moth trap! It’s only the second time I’ve deployed the trap and with over 2000 species of moth in the UK their still a group I’m getting to grips with; taking into account I do live in a heavily urbanised area neither quantity or quality is what I’m going to get, but it doesn’t really matter as it gives an insight into what moth numbers and species are like in an urban setting: Bee moth (x3), Light brown apple moth (1x), Scalloped hazel (1x), 2 Large yellow underwing (x2) & a female eupeodes luniger (1x).

As our planned trip to RSPB Coombe’s Valley had been unfortunately cancelled we had to think of a Plan B that morning: Bidston Moss NR, Hilbre Island, Leasowe Lighthouse, Birkenhead Docks? All potential sites to visit on this cold, wet & dam right miserable day but we needed shelter and quiet frankly that brought us to the conclusion that RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands would be todays haunt on this very typical summers day.

Arriving at the reserve Luke & I soon settled in for a good scan of the scrapes with the use of our rather underestimated mono-scopes, very few people were in the Reception Hide keeping look out and there wasn’t anything remarkable to push me onto the magic 300 mark. Yet there was still plenty of note worthy birds out with a 1 Black-tailed Godwit (L.l.islandica), 1 Western Marsh Harrier, 2 Common Tern, 3 Mediterranean Gull (2 adults & 1st summer), 30c Pied Avocet, 1 Western Yellow Wagtail and to round it all off a new brood of Common Shelduck with 12 young were picked up by a fellow observer.

Med Gull_edited-1
Mediterranean Gull (Icthyaetus melanocephalus) – A 1st summer bird that’s remained faithful to the reserve all summer since I first discovered it back in late March. It’s also worth mentioning that Mediterranean Gulls are infact breeding at the reserve with possibility 2 pairs, another rare breeding bird at the reserve.

Besides that already mentioned the scrapes were pretty quiet so we headed off for a stroll round the reserve but not in the hunt for birds, instead we’d be going in the hunt for insects. Ever since I started going out with Luke he’s opened my eyes into the whole new diverse & extraordinary world of insects, it’s a field that I’ve been wanting to indulge myself into for a while now but due to personal projects, work, college & social complications it’s had to be placed on hold. Walking along the gravel paths in mixed conditions Luke & I kept a carful eye on the bordering vegetation to pick up practically anything, a skill which as with birding develops over time to the point were it becomes natural.

Venturing over to the Marsh Covert Hide to take a look at the breeding Grey Heron, Little & even Cattle Egret now! We did come across some pretty fascinating mini-beasts which consisted of my personal favourite bugs that are longhorns, ever since my trip to Bardsey Island last year where Ben Porter showed me his spectacular Alpine Longhorn that instantly got me hooked on these creatures. The longhorn species that we encounter included that of just two species Spotted Longhorn (Rutpela maculate) & Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn (Agapanthia villosoviridescens), but in addition to this we further came along a Yellow-barred Longhorn (Nemophora degeerella) which unlike the others mentioned is a species of moth hence it also being known as the longhorn moth.

Marsh Covert Hide its self was quiet as always with the occasional Eurasian Reed or Sedge Warbler passing by to and from nests sites whist on the water a brood of Mute Swans were out and about with a supporting cast of Little Egret, Common Redshank, Northern Lapwing, Little Grebe & the female Cattle Egret could only just be made out from deep within the Little Egret colony. So far only a single chick has been seen within the compounds of the nest however reports have been coming in that there might be a second chick, viewing is tricky due to location & winds so nothing is solid yet. Scorpion fly’s were also in the air and in good numbers but as always eluded the lenses.

Sedge Warbler_edited-1
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) – A male that occasional showed on the north side of the hide.

Rounding off here we headed off to conclude our visit at the Inner Marsh Farm (IMF) Hide that resulted in spotting our first butterfly of the trip in the form of a Large Skipper picked up by eagle-eyed Luke and even aloud for us to have some obliging views of what was surprisingly a butterfly tick for Mr Anderson. As it happens we spent more time than we should of with the BF & Bridge Screen as the heavens opened above us so it was a mad dash over to IMF to seek refuge from the downpour and have a kip.

IMF is the longest standing hide at the reserve dating back well over 30 years that’s held host to some of the reserves finest & most exquisite birds: Gull-billed & Whiskered Tern, Black-winged Stilt, Blue-winged Teal, Bonaparte’s Gull, Long-billed Dowitcher & Black-winged Pratincole; the hides age is as imagined backed up with not only its appearance but also the sheer quantity of sheded spider skins & disused egg sacts, which during our 3hr stay in the hide the only spider to be found was a Zebra Jumping Spider.

Tufted eating egg shell_edited-1
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) – See that in the bill of the female ? The egg shell of a Black-headed!
Avocet & Gadwall_edited-1
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) – Most commonly viewed from the Reception Hide with several pairs breeding on the IMF Pool.

Moving onto the avian life to be seen from IMF the dominant species would and can only be the Black-headed Gull, a very under-rated and under appreciated species as with all gulls. Their true beauty is always dismissed and many folk don’t even bother giving these graceful creatures a second glance, instead  just dismissed due to it just being a gull. Several pairs were on the islands with a equal split of birds still on eggs and birds with young. Besides the grace of the Black-headed Gulls other birdlife included the likes of Northern Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit (L.l.islandica), Eurasian Wigeon, White Wagtail (M.a.yarrelli), Tufted Duck, Common Kestrel, Little Egret, Pied Avocet and 46 Gadwall which is by far highest count I’ve ever had for the IMF Hide.

RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands is one of my all time favourite reserves and today with Luke I wasn’t only able to enjoy with a good friend & with our feathered friends, but also I was able to take pleasure in that I’m developing news skills in a field that’s been well over due an exploration.

Thanks for reading,

E.

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