Burton Marsh: Migrant Waders

The pools on the Dee estuary salt marsh between  Burton Point and Denhall Quay on the Wirral, Cheshire boundary can often harvest a pretty good selection of migrants. Given the fact that the Irish sea had been battered by storms in recent days, hopes were that something such as a phalarope will have been blown up the estuary and onto the marsh.

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Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)

Arriving on the scene all was pretty bleak, a distant cream-headed Western Marsh Harrier & Great Egret just about the only things keeping the show going on the outer marsh. Setting up camp for a session of visible migration, things started to seem a bit more lively with a pretty good selection of birds over a two hour period: Western Yellow Wagtail (ssp. flavissima) (1), Tree Pipit (2), Grey Wagtail (1), Northern Raven (3), Meadow Pipit (44), Common Skylark (55), White Wagtail (ssp. yarrelli) (2), Common Starling (500c), Eurasian Collared Dove (10), Common Blackbird (5), House Sparrow (50c), Eurasian Blue Tit (1), Common Woodpigeon (8) and my first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn with in total 764 coming into land on the outer marsh between Neston Reed Bed and Parkgate. I’ll be spending a reasonable amount of the time through the winter scanning the 8000c Pink-footed Geese we get here on the Dee estuary, why ? Well you never know what your going to find!

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Pink-footed Goose (Anser barchyrhynchus)

Meanwhile putting my attention back on the marsh I headed out to roughly half a mile to check the pools, expecting that last nights rains and light northerlies winds to have prevented any further migration. It was dyer, having not brought my wellies having left them in a barn somewhere in Gwynedd, I resorted to wearing the only pair of outdoors shoes I had. Soaking feet would have been ok but at the end of an hours and a half search nothing was to be found besides a scattering of Common Redshanks, little Egrets waterfowl & Green Sandpiper.

News came in of a Little Stint showing from the Reception Scrape of RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, so with bugger all out on the marsh to see and my old patch holding something worth while, well why not.

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Western Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
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Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Arriving on site the first thing that caught my attention was a Wood Sandpiper giving it the classic “chiff-iff-iff-iff” over the scrapes before landing on the wetlands behind the reeds; the reserve seemed on form today with the Western Cattle Egret still on show, however distant with Green Sandpiper, Common Ringed Plover, Ruff, European Green Woodpecker and European Golden Plover out and about on the scrapes.

Re-locating myself over to the vintage Inner Marsh Farm hide in an attempt to rediscover the Little Stint, I found myself with the sight of many waders from the likes of Pied Avocet & Black-tailed Godwit, right up to a rather lovely juvenile Spotted Redshank out on the far end of the pool. Having had a good breeding season up in the arctic the UK has seen an influx of juvenile Spotted Redshank this autumn, unlike that of adults this period of the year juveniles are separated by brownish barring on the flanks, belly, chest and neck pulse a dark brown cap and upper parts.

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Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
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Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)

With time on my side I paid my attention to the Ruff which numbered 18 for the reserve today, 11 of which were juveniles and are separated this time of year from the adults by clean buff underparts and unbarred tertials. A nice bird to study and one the north west seems to be top game for with several hundred wintering up at WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire.

The day was pretty quiet I guess you could say, well a more or less typical day up round these parts. But as the autumn progresses who knows what’ll turn up.

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Ruff (Philmoachus pugnax) – Female in foreground with male in background for size comparison between the sexs.



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