Yup – I must stop trying to do two things at once (just seen my mistake)
Intro from Wes Extra pressures and working arrangements in our reserves team brought by Covid19 has made fitting in some regular blog writing time tricky. So we are delighted to have had an offer from Martin to help us out. We often bump into him (if you can still bump into people from 2m away!?) at the reserves, searching for the best light or telling tales of godwits escaping peregrines or impromptu starling murmurations. We love his posts that pop up on social media – not just the stunning photos – but the way he describes the experience of enjoying his wildlife encounters, often ‘through the lens’. This week is an introduction, we can’t wait to see what images and musing come our way in the coming months: Hello, My name is Martin Campbell and I have been requested to do a regular post to the RSPB website/community. I have been interested in birds for as long as I can remember, from the days of primary school, roaming the County Durham countryside looking or Herons , Kingfishers , Treecreepers , Yellowhammers and the like. Sitting on the fence – Kestrel at Marshside At around the age of 18-20, I did several stints of voluntary wardening at RSPB reserves including Leighton Moss, Coombes Valley and Insh Marshes. Then work got in the way, though during my 36 years as a primary school teacher, I did a lot of nature-based work with children, often using my own photographs. In recent years, this included the RSPB’s Big Schools Birdwatch . Cattle egret in flight – Marshside I am now three years retired and have loved having the time to spend on nature photography. Since lockdown, my link with RSPB Marshside has flourished as it’s one of my nearest open spaces. I am currently posting regularly on Facebook (West Lancashire Nature Notes) and this is definitely raising the profile of the reserve. Hare in the grass – Marshside Hopefully my photographs will highlight how underrated this place can be as a nature reserve. Black-headed gull feeding – Marshside Teal in the sun at Marshside
It’s a strange time for us all at the moment, but it’s lovely to hear how much nature helps lift your spirits through lockdown. We know for many of you, our Ribble Estuary reserves are a big part of providing enjoyment and solace in the natural world. Before setting off, please read through the following update on the opening situation of the facilities at each of our Ribble Estuary sites, changes that may be in place to keep everyone safe, and how you can help protect vulnerable wildlife during your visit: Traveling to Marshside / Hesketh Out Marsh Current government local restrictions effect both Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh reserves. Please check restrictions in your area before traveling to any of our reserves. Marshside – Is in Sefton – Tier 3 Heasketh Out Marsh – Is in West Lancashire – Tier 2 Current government advice is for no nonessential ravel between tiers Marshside , We’re delighted that the car park and both hides are open daily, 8.30am-5pm, along with all the trails. You’ll notice we’ve made some changes to help keep you and our team safe: When visiting us, please observe current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and follow all signage on-site. We’ve put hand sanitiser at the entrance to each hide, so please use it before going in. We also recommend you bring your own. Unless exempt, all those who can are required to wear a face covering in our hides. You’ll see that we have spaced out the seating to allow for social distancing and so some windows are not in use – we have clearly marked these. Some are locked open and some are locked shut to avoid touching, so please leave them as you find them. You’ll spot that we’ve got maximum numbers signposted at the entrance to the hides too, so please consider the amount of time you dwell in them on busy days, to allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful wildlife in safety here. Due to limited staffing at the moment, our toilet remains closed for now. Please be mindful of our limited car parking capacity, particularly on sunny days, and don’t park on the road. D o consider visiting at less busy times or have an alternative destination in mind if we are full when you get here. Normal car parking charges apply for non-members. RSPB members park for free – please place your membership card face down in your windscreen. (Images of the newly refurbished inside of Sandgrounders’ hide, showing the socially distanced seating and window set up. Images by Wes Davies Hesketh Out Marsh We’re pleased to say the car park is open, along with the trails. As with Marshside, please be mindful that it has limited capacity and can quickly become full in fine weather. D o consider visiting at less busy times or have an alternative destination in mind if we are full when you get here. Please do not park along Dib Road, as it causes an obstruction for our neighbours and other visitors. On-site, please observe current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and follow all signage. Ribble Discovery Centre We remain closed to the public here because w e’re having a makeover! Thanks to funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund , we’re delighted that the Ribble Discovery Centre is being completely refurbished, along with other facilities and activities at Fairhaven Lake, as part of an exciting Fylde Council project. This means we are closed until March 2021. School and youth group bookings are being taken for April 2021 onwards. In the meantime, all our great products can be purchased from our other Lancashire store at the fabulous Leighton Moss or from our online shop . We will provide updates on this blog and social media (see links below) when we have more information. Thank you for your support and we’ll see you when our transformation is complete. Important to remember: It is a crucial time of year for our wildlife, as we move into migration season. As part of the Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve – both Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh are incredibly important sites for a huge variety of species to raise their young and to rest on migration. Many birds rest and nest on the ground – they might not be obvious and can easily become disturbed by human activity, causing them to unnecessarily use up energy and so reduces their survival chances. With nests, parents being scared off can make the eggs or chicks go cold and not survive. When visiting our sites and elsewhere in the countryside, you can really help the wildlife by following these five important points: 1. Keep a look out – with fewer visitors during lockdown, wildlife may be closer than usual. Tread cautiously on verges and paths. 2. Stick to the designated paths – you can easily disturb wildlife by veering off-route. Download a trail map for Marshside here and Hesketh Out Marsh here to see where the designated trails are. 3. Keep dogs on leads – loose dogs can easily disturb ground-nesting birds, birds that are resting and other wildlife. 4. Back away – sharp alarm calls, birds with full beaks or coming unusually near to you could mean you’re too close and they may have chicks. Back up the way you came, being careful where you step. 5.Report anti-social behaviour – if you see anything suspicious, such as evidence of wildlife crime, fly-tipping or uncontrolled fires, report this to the relevant emergency service. Thank you for your continued support and patience. It really means a great deal to us. Keep up to date with changes to our Ribble sites by subscribing to this blog and if you’re on social media, by following us on Facebook and Twitter . Stay safe. These colourful black-tailed godwits continue to grow in numbers at Marshside as more birds return from their breeding grounds – image by Wes Davies
Last Updated – 19/03/20 These are difficult and unsettling times for all of us but we hope that nature can provide a welcome respite in whichever form and wherever you may encounter it. Following the latest advice, we have made some changes to the way …
Out and About The RSPBs work extends far beyond our reserves. Working with partners across the county and country helps us give nature a home wherever we can. This week the Marshside team and volunteers were out and about in the wider area lending a hand ‘off site’. We surveyed Newton marsh, a privately owned site used as grazing pasture on the northern side of the Ribble. This site is great for waders, and is one of very few sites black-tailed godwit breed in the UK. We were glad to see avocet back on site (a recent coloniser). Not only because they are ace, but they are committed to defending sites from avian predators, and help defend the godwits by proxy. We also cleared broken trees from the anti-predator fence, a piece of infrastructure we helped get installed on site. Over the summer, working with the graziers and farmers, we will continue to monitor the site and give the black-tailed godwits the best chance of fledging chicks possible. If you think you could help out at this site, check out this blog for details. A little further down the road at United Utilities – Alston reservoir, we helped out at a decommissioned reservoir which has been transformed into a super little wetland. Staff and volunteers from Marshside and Leighton volunteered time to make some final pre-season improvements to the site. The encroaching rushes were strimmed, mowed and scythed and the sand martin boxes were renovated ready for the summer residents. Images: WesDavies Highlights were four jack snipe and ice-creams High Tides The last of the wintery big high tides was able to quietly cover the reserves, with no encouragement from any storms. While at its peak, it seemed that all of the pink-footed geese moved onto crossens marsh, although they seemed pretty unsettled. https://vimeo.com/397168379 Video: WesDavies Twite: StuartDarbyshire High tides are a great time to get close to birds as they are pushed up the saltmarsh. Stuart Darbysire was able to get this ace (above) shot of a twite feeding on the rising strand line. Its not often you get such good views of that colourful rump. The key to great views, experiences and photos like the one above is timing and patience. It should go without saying that walking up to/through flocks of birds at the top of the tide is not a good idea. This is when they are most vulnerable as most of their habitat is under water and disturbing them can be harmful. Waiting still, as the tide rises is they key to being surrounded by birds. They are well worth the wait !
Volunteer Bird Surveyors Needed Keeping track of the fortunes of birds on the Ribble is no easy task, its an enormous area to cover, and to make things harder its not always accessible. We run various programs, from specific species success, to full breeding species lists. This breeding season brings challenges of new areas (Crossens inner marsh) and an increased effort on target species. There is no way we can cover all we want to without help from our team of monitoring volunteers. We are currently seeking new volunteers to join the team, with various levels of commitment needed. What you need: Basic bird identification skills are needed for most studies, however, some can be made relatively simple – its more important that you are keen. You will need to be relatively fit to visit some areas, we do however have some very accessible sites. Why help monitor Monitoring species success and abundance helps us understand on a local and national level what management and external factors are effecting our wildlife. Locally the results can change management such as cattle numbers, planned works and habitat restoration. The data feeds into national data sets, allowing for the ‘big picture’ to be developed and answer questions on climate change, farming practises and more. What you get As well as the warm ‘doing your bit’ feeling, you will get to know an area or family of birds very well. The attention needed to monitor leads to experiencing many magical wildlife moments, not normally found while birdwatching. We will also provide all the training and equipment you need. Example Roles (1 or more) -Redshank Plots Help us understand the decline in redshank population on the Ribble and nationally. We will be increasing our redshank monitoring from 2020, with new plots across the inner and outer marshes. We will be recording how many birds have how many nests and fledge how many chicks. Could you take on a redshank plot or two? Once a week: March to July -Lapwing Plots Our lapwing monitoring will be expanded to include Crossens inner marsh. Knowing how well this target species does is fundamental to wetland management. We will be recording how many birds have how many nests and fledge how many chicks . Could you keep an eye on a nesting lapwing plot? Once a Week: March to July -Avocet Plots The avocet was the first bird to return to breed in the UK following the RSPB’s conservation work. The species has now returned to Hesketh Out Marsh, an area that was arable fields a few years ago. We will be recording how many birds have how many nests and fledge how many chicks . Could you keep an eye on avocet families? Once a Week: March to July If you are interested in taking part in taking part in any of these studies, please get in touch : Wes.email@example.com Redshank, lapwing, avocet and Arctic tern chick images: WesDavies
Love My Marsh Event Clearing waste from Marshside is an ongoing battle, with waste from the sea and river collecting in the saltmarsh on falling tides, as well as litter being thrown from cars along the roads. Fly-tipping is also becoming a more frequent issue. Despite the inclement weather, we had a hardy gang of folk make a difference on the saltmarsh at Marshside last weekend. Togged up to the hilt and pickers in hand they scoured the saltmarsh, removing an array of waste from this special habitat. We sorted the spoils into recyclables, landfill and ‘treasure’. Unfortunately the landfill pile far outweighed the other, with a disappointing amount of black bags heading for the ground. Treasure included a serviceable chair, sprayer (complete with unknown liquid) and a pirates hook. Its of note that if the glass bottles belonged to the pirates, they have diversified from rum of late. We were secretly hoping to find Robin, to help out Batman (our workshop mascot) who appeared on the marsh last year. But alas, he must still be adventuring with the Titans. Presfield Hereos Presfield School do an amazing job of keeping Mrshside rd and Marine Drive clear of littler week in and week out with their excellent litter picks. This week they showed off their woodwork skills (who knew) and made an impressive set of ‘Birdbox Kits’ in our workshop. Thus weeks class measures a sawed over 20 kits, next week we will be pre-drilling the holes and packing them up ready for dispatch to the Ribble Discovery Centre . Stay tuned for details of the up and coming DIY Birdbox event there in the coming weeks. Marshside Birds With our focus on litter, willow clearing and birdboxes, its been difficult to keep up with our favourite winter residents. Reports have been coming in that the Dowitcher has been hanging around in its preferred spot. We did see that that the tufted ducks , loving known as tufties are starting to look rather smart, and proud of that fact. Nells hide is a grand place to see them up close. Tufted at Nells Hide: WesDavies We have also had reports of a suspected intersex wigeon . Spotted by Stuart Darbyshire, this bird sure has an interesting set of characteristics, no doubt due to some strange genetics. Prob intersex wigeon : Stuart Darbyshire There are thousands and thousands of pink-footed geese on and above the Ribble at any one time. Hidden among these are a few ‘orange legs’. They are not separated in anyway – but they are cool to spot. Some of the fun is finding one, but we find that its the looking through them is where the real fun is. Orange pink feet : Stuart Darbyshire
Welcome to this weeks Ribble Roundup w/c 20.01.20 Not only do we have our new Facebook page @RSPBRibbleEstuary , we also have our own Twitter page too @RSPB_Ribble . Please like and share our pages, we are really looking forward to engaging with as many of you as possible and providing lots of information about our work in conservation and education around the estuary. We look forward to welcoming many visitor contributions on both channels and welcome any photographs and snippets of information about our wonderful sites. Marshside Marshside – Crossens Predator Proofing We are happy with the way Crossens has developed – especially with the speed that birds have taken to this prime spot. We are not the only ones that have noticed, as foxes have (quite understandably) noticed the change. This week we have been ‘snagging’ the anti-predator fence, making sure that the birds we attract can successfully fledge chicks unhindered. We found a lot of evidence of foxes prowling the perimeter, and fixed a few week spots that would no doubt be tested when chicks can be heard calling from inside. Image: WesDavies Marshside – Looking up We have been treated to some outstanding sunrises and sunsets over the week, and have been grateful for a break in what seemed like a never ending cycle of heavy rain. Sandgrounder sunrise: WesDavies Rimmers Aglow: AlexPiggott Marshside – Volunteer Party Snacks The volunteer work party continued to cut and burn the encroaching willow on Marshside Rd / Rimmers Marsh. What changed this week was the calorie intake, with the introduction of smores at the end of the day. Who knew it was acceptable to sandwich marshmallows between chocolate biscuits? By the end of play, we convinced ourselves that we were calorie neutral. Smores – WesDavies If you think you could eat smores, get in touch (terms and conditions apply) Ribble Discovery Centre Since those beautiful photographs were taken at Marshside we have had a week of fog. However on arriving via Granny’s Bay on Wednesday morning there were hundreds of curlew on the shore line. What a contrast, the large and heavy construction machinery in the foreground and the beautiful, mystical and ethereal look of the curlew in the fog on the mudflat just beyond the saltmarsh. This again highlights the importance of the Ribble Estuary to these birds. The estuary is a significant strong holding of curlew especially in the winter, they will freely move around here, being pushed up to the shoreline in high tide. Curlew have suffered a steep decline in population over recent years and they are in real trouble. The RSPB alongside the BTO, Natural England and other organisations have a established a UK Curlew Action Group and a conservation plan is in place. For further information about our work with curlew conservation both in the UK and internationally click here. A rather grey and foggy photo of the Curlew at Granny’s Bay Curlew at Granny’s Bay, photo credit: Jo Taylor Other interesting sightings at Fairhaven Lake include two pintail ducks spotted on Wednesday morning, the female kingfisher and a number of little egrets , once again standing in the lake, due to the low level water. It’s really great to be able to observe them hunting, they look to be having quite a lot of success. There are also many redshank bobbing around the slopes of the lake too, flying off with their high pitched alarm call on anyone or anything getting too close. Redshank photo credit Jo Taylor Education and Visitor Centre We are looking forward to welcoming our first school visit of 2020 in February, with a class from Strike Lane in Freckleton visiting to undertake our “Plant Detectives” session. We shall be wrapping up, having lots of fun and learning outdoors. Shop This week in the shop we have half price on 3kg buggy nibbles and our bird feeding starter kit is still half price till Sunday. It can still be purchased before the ##BigGardenBirdwatch One of our retail volunteers Lesley has spotted this mug, lid and tea leaf infuser from our new product range that she particularly rates. She says: “It’s a beautiful mug, but really handy and practical, the infuser allows a good quality loose leaf tea to be placed in, the lid keeps the tea hot whilst it infuses and then you place the infuser into the lid, so it doesn’t make a mess on the worktop”. Lesley’s preferred loose leaf tea is Early Grey.
Keen eyed visitors will have spotted the ‘ One Wing Amongst Many ‘ sculpture that has appeared on the cross bank between Hesketh Out Marsh West and East. The skyline breaking wing stands to thank FCC Communities Foundation for supporting our work on the realignment of the East wing of Hesketrh Out Marsh. If the sculpture seems familiar, you may have seen the rest of the set one the Fairhaven Discovery Trail, near the Ribble Discovery Centre . This is the first wing of many to make it to this side of the Ribble Estuary. The sculpture silhouettes an Arctic tern against sky, and is the highest point in a surprisingly large area. Photo Credit: WesDavies Photo Credit: WesDavies Arctic terns , a scarce bird in the North West UK, were once common on the Ribble Estuary. Unfortunately, land use changes, influxes of other spices and changes in the meta population led to their decline. Our work at Hesketh, has started to improve their fortunes. Firstly with the creation of new habitat ( the realignment ) and latterly with the creation of bespoke nest sites. These tailored sites, are in the form of both floating rafts and shallow banks of cockleshell. Several families of terns quickly utilised the rafts and banks, as well as a few rouge pairs making their own way. Photo Credit: WesDavies Photo Credit: WesDavies Most pairs so far have been successful, and when they return this year they will find further safer spots within the shadow of ‘one wing amongst many’.
Happy New Year As we step into a new year, we reflect on what 2019 brought us, and think about what 2020 has in store. Last years theme was a Bigger Better and more Connected Ribble, and we took some giant steps in that direction. Bringing the estuary,…