Blog Post: 7 Bird of Prey Challenge

Ribble Reserves Blog w/c 02.12.19 The Ribble Reserves blog combines news from all our Ribble reserve sites; Marshide, Hesketh out Marsh and the Ribble Discovery Centre. Providing the latest information on sightings, events, shop offers and educational visit Black Redstart – Banks Marsh This bonnie start has been bobbing around Banks Marsh (Ribble NNR) cattle pen over the frosty days. This is quite a scarce visitor locally. Blk RdStart at Banks Marsh Photo Credit: Stuart Darbyshire Seven Raptor Challenge Seven birds of prey still frequent the Marshside reserves and Hesketh Out Marsh . We have seen many people complete the 7 in a day challenge, some picking up the final species as the sun set, and a few dipping out at 5 or 6. Will you take up the challenge before the year is out ? Merlin at Marshside PhotoCredit:WesDavies Sparrow Hawk at Marshside Photo Credit: WesDavies Hen Harrier- Marshside Photo Credit : Stuart Darbyshire Hesketh Out Marsh As birds and GWE Approching HOM Photo Credit:WesDavies Great White Egret on HOM approach Banks Marsh Reed warbler nest Willow bark ap hid Ribble Discovery Centre Recent sightings include some quite exciting birds. There were 36 curlews counted over at Lytham Moss, which is a fantastic number. Curlews are easily identifiable as being the UK’s largest wading bird and have a long curved bill. Perfect for reaching those delicious lugworms in the mud or indeed earthworms in the soil! There has been 3 snow bunting spotted up at Fleetwood marine lake. A beautiful larger bunting, probably migrated down from Alaska or Greenland for the winter. In keeping with the title of the blog there has been several raptors spotted over this side of the estuary also. A juvenille female merlin was observed hunting over the saltmarsh at Church Scar earlier in the week, alongside 50 or so godwits feeding on the estuary. There are also lots of buzzards buzzing around too, frequently being mobbed by crows. It is a theory that this occurs when juvenille buzzards are finding new territories. The crows become unsettled by the intruder in their patch and so try to ward the predator off. A ringed necked duck has also been listed as a spot on Fairhaven Lake. This single male has been observed with the tufties, as is often the way. The ring necked duck is of a similar look to the tufted ducks but has a grey flank, a larger head and an obvious (with binoculars or scope) white ring on its beak. Let us know if you spot it! A male and female pochard have also been spotted. Snow bunting photo credit Ben Andrew RSPB-images Education and Visitor Centre This week has been all about our volunteers. We had our learning team get together, an opportunity to thank them for their service this season, plenty cake and cupsof tea were had. But, we also looked back on our season. We have delivered our education sessions to over 1500 children since April this year and received 95% outstanding feedback. Much of this is down to our team of dedicated learning volunteers. It was also time for our Christmas together! We had a good turnout, with a competitive quiz hosted by Liz and volunteer Ray. Our area manager was in attendance and delivered our successes to the team, which is positive and inspiring to hear. We also had a number of long service awards to present, for 5 and 10 years service in volunteering with the RSPB. The Jacob’s join also went down well! Volunteering with the RSPB can be a rewarding experience and we have many roles across the organisation. It’s a great way to gain experience across a variety of fields whether it be in the retail sector, the education team or hands on fieldwork at Marshside and Hesketh. The RSPB offer all relevant training, uniform and references if relevant. We have many young people who have gained vital experience and have then gone on to secure work within the conservation sector, or have have upskilled to the point of securing other permanent work. We also have students undertaking university courses that require placement and being on the learning team is fantastic experience for anyone wanting a career working with children. Outdoor learning is a hot topic at the moment and where better than to gain experience than with the UK’s largest conservation charity? For further information on roles please contact jo.taylor@rspb.org.uk Volunteer photo credit Ben Andrew RSPB-images Shop After the success of our binocular and telescope open weekend it’s a wonder we have any left! But do not fear there is still time to purchase before Christmas. Our retail manager Ben has superb knowledge and is more often than not on hand to help with any queries you may have. He will also provide honest, impartial advice and is always super helpful! We have still got a fantastic 50% off 10 super suet cakes with meal worms, a sure fire garden bird favourite (they are in my garden anyway!). Perhaps grab a pack to keep those birds well fed over the coming winter, I’m sure they will go down a treat with your feathered friends.

Recent Sightings and Road Renovations

 In the last few days, after having seen temperatures plummet, we have returned once more to damper, milder conditions. The ice that covered the pools earlier in the week is gone and the ducks that were huddled around the small patches of open water have now spread out across the reserve. A stop in Lilian’s or Causeway hides will reward you with the sight of hundreds of birds busy dabbling or diving for food. Little grebes, goldeneyes, tufted ducks and coots appear frantic in their efforts to find sub-aquatic meals while shovelers, (pic by Hazel Rothwell) pintails, gadwall, wigeon, teal and mallards sift and pick leisurely in their quest for sustenance.

Meanwhile the seemingly ever-present marsh harriers appear to be constantly searching the reedbeds and water edges for prey; a short time spent anywhere on the reserve right now will almost certainly result in a sighting of at least one or two of these impressive raptors. Bitterns too have been something of a feature in recent days with multiple reports of flying birds, primarily from the Causeway area. Bearded tits are still being seen, though as we’d expect by early December their appearances along the paths and grit trays are dwindling significantly.

As anyone who has visited us lately (or looked at our Facebook page!) will be aware of the poor condition of the access track to our Eric Morecambe and Allen pools car park. In the past we have always maintained this stretch of track, even though the RSPB does not own it. I am happy to report that we have now arranged to repair and renovate this track and our wardening team are currently working hard to complete this work by the weekend.

If you’re planning on visiting Leighton Moss before the weekend, please bear in mind that the track will closed to traffic, though there will be pedestrian access for those happy to walk from the visitor centre.

 The starlings are continuing to roost off the main reserve, at Barrow Scout. So, if you wish to observe the thousands of birds descending into the reedbeds, you can do so from the Skytower or even from the Jackson and Grisedale hides. Please note that the birds aren’t really murmurating as such yet – the majority are simply flying in to roost. Once the coastal hides track has been re-opened, visitors may view the starlings by parking in the Allen / Morecambe car park and walking back up along the access track. Please do not park on the track under any circumstances, or stop on the road.

As in previous years the starlings are likely to relocate to the main reserve shortly. The murmurations over Causeway can be spectacular and once this start happening we will post news here, on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Pic by Alistair Grubb.

Jon