Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Waterbirds Over Winter = WOW!

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
Winter is one of the most exciting times at Hesketh Out Marsh, and sightings this year have been spectacular as ever! Here at the heart of the Ribble Estuary, one of the UK’s most important locations for wintering wildfowl and waders, the reserve has welcomed thousands and thousands of birds gathering here for their winter holidays. Just a smidgeon of wigeon at Hesketh Out Marsh Since October, an impressive 93 bird species have been recorded around the reserve. Waterbirds dominate the marsh, and sightings have included 7 species of geese and swans, 10 species of ducks, 13 species of shorebird, and 12 other waterbird species (comprising gulls, herons, grebes and rails). As the seasons changed, October brought increasing abundance and high diversity, with the movement of birds into and through the reserve. Noisy calls heralded the arrival of great skeins of pink-footed geese returning to overwinter in the local area. Occasionally other goose species tagged along, like the four barnacle geese seen flying over Hesketh on 23 rd October. Migratory swans started to arrive from the second week of October, with flocks of whooper swans joining the handful of resident mute swans on the reserve as well as on surrounding farmland. Scanning carefully through the flocks, swan-scrutinisers spotted the first Bewick’s swans – the whoopers’ rarer cousins – on 23 rd November. Several hundred whoopers continue to roam the local area now, with small numbers of Bewick’s among them. Whooping it up: whooper swans in a field along Dib Road on the way to Hesketh Out Marsh Can you spot the Bewick's swan among the whoopers?         Image by Ric Else Spectacular flocks of wintering wigeons still dominate the marshes on the reserve. The largest congregation at Hesketh so far this season was observed on 1 st February, with an epic 9,550 wigeons counted. Their numbers have since dropped again as flocks roam around the estuary, but reserve totals remain impressive - typical observations this winter have ranged anywhere between 2,000 and 7,000. Hiding among them like Where’s Wally has been an interesting American wigeon hybrid, seen several times during November, showing that it’s always worth scanning through the flocks for something that looks a little different. The marshes have provided great conditions for teals , shelducks and mallards , all present in their hundreds. Smaller numbers of other duck species have also been seen through the winter, including shovelers , pintails , gadwalls and goosanders . Migratory waders have also been spending the winter at Hesketh Out Marsh, with several species present that are rarely seen elsewhere locally. Up to three spotted redshanks have remained on the shallow lagoons throughout the winter, along with a lingering greenshank or two – both species that are more typically seen only during the passage season (like the r uff , little stint and 9 curlew sandpipers observed during October), but these guys clearly liked Hesketh enough to stay! The more numerous redshanks complete a nice Tringa trio. Large flocks of lapwings and golden plovers have also made themselves at home, particularly on the eastern half of the reserve, where their combined totals can easily reach 2,000 birds. Shank you very much: a redshank poses nicely More recently, a few oystercatchers have been returning to the reserve after an absence over the last couple of months. Similarly, coots have also suddenly appeared with the first sighting this season occurring on 1 st February – perhaps another signal that the seasons are changing and birds will be on the move once again. What will the spring bring? We can't wait to find out!

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Recent sightings: autumn is coming!

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
Some people may be unhappy at me for saying this but autumn has already begun, for some birds at least. This is particularly noticeable as wading birds that have failed to breed are now returning from further north. The two species that are almost always the first to appear are common sandpiper and spotted redshank, and both were on the lagoons this week. There are two spotted redshanks towards the western end of the reserve, both are really worth a look as they are still resplendent in their speckled black breeding plumage. Common sandpiper by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)   While it might be autumn for a few wading birds, it is still definitely summer as far as our insects are concerned. The grassy banks are dotted with lovely butterflies such as red admiral, meadow brown and small tortoiseshell. In the last week or so we have started to see a few painted ladies, hopefully the pioneers of a much larger invasion still to come! One of my favourite wildlife groups is the bumblebees and the workers can be seen in their hundreds searching the clovers and vetches for the best sources of pollen. Meadow brown by Caroline Clay.   We are really pleased to have two tern rafts now on the lagoons to the west of Karen's Viewpoint. Hesketh Out Marsh used to have a sizeable tern colony before it was reclaimed for farmland about 40 years ago so it is fantastic to be able to help them recolonise a former breeding area. There is a pair of common terns that are often seen displaying across the site, but the stars of the show are the arctic terns. At least three pairs are present and investigating the rafts. You can get brilliant views of these graceful birds fishing close to the path. We have also had a few unusual sightings recently. Last month there was a Temminck's stint for a few days and this month we have been treated to a gorgeous male blue-headed wagtail. A sub-species of our yellow wagtail, this bird should really be in France or further south or east. As Colin's photo below shows, you can often get really good views as he sits on the fence beside the path at the western end of the reserve. Male blue-headed wagtail at Hesketh Out Marsh by Colin Bushell.

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Recent sightings: autumn is coming!

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
Some people may be unhappy at me for saying this but autumn has already begun, for some birds at least. This is particularly noticeable as wading birds that have failed to breed are now returning from further north. The two species that are almost always the first to appear are common sandpiper and spotted redshank, and both were on the lagoons this week. There are two spotted redshanks towards the western end of the reserve, both are really worth a look as they are still resplendent in their speckled black breeding plumage. Common sandpiper by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)   While it might be autumn for a few wading birds, it is still definitely summer as far as our insects are concerned. The grassy banks are dotted with lovely butterflies such as red admiral, meadow brown and small tortoiseshell. In the last week or so we have started to see a few painted ladies, hopefully the pioneers of a much larger invasion still to come! One of my favourite wildlife groups is the bumblebees and the workers can be seen in their hundreds searching the clovers and vetches for the best sources of pollen. Meadow brown by Caroline Clay.   We are really pleased to have two tern rafts now on the lagoons to the west of Karen's Viewpoint. Hesketh Out Marsh used to have a sizeable tern colony before it was reclaimed for farmland about 40 years ago so it is fantastic to be able to help them recolonise a former breeding area. There is a pair of common terns that are often seen displaying across the site, but the stars of the show are the arctic terns. At least three pairs are present and investigating the rafts. You can get brilliant views of these graceful birds fishing close to the path. We have also had a few unusual sightings recently. Last month there was a Temminck's stint for a few days and this month we have been treated to a gorgeous male blue-headed wagtail. A sub-species of our yellow wagtail, this bird should really be in France or further south or east. As Colin's photo below shows, you can often get really good views as he sits on the fence beside the path at the western end of the reserve. Male blue-headed wagtail at Hesketh Out Marsh by Colin Bushell.

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Recent Goings On

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
Now that the sun is shining, spring has well and truly arrived. Recently, the RSPB has led a guided walk to highlight the wildlife finding a home at Hesketh Out Marsh and the surrounding area. Although the weather conditions were ideal for wildlife watching, it had a calming effect on the tide, which gently flooded the reserve. Particular highlights during the visit included a flock of 27 Mute Swans, and a Black Swan, several mixed flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, a group of Eider approximately 25m off the sea wall, a resting Whimbrel and a peregrine looking for something to eat.                         Dunlin by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) During numerous visits to the site over the past month it has been great to observe the increasing number of swallows and martins feeding over the pools. The avocets are also looking very settled across the site, as is the barn owl that has regularly been seen hunting over the long grass area beyond the car park. It has also been a great spring for other wildlife including the emergence of hibernating butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell and Peacocks as well as the occasional sighting of Orange Tip Butterflies. Whilst on a site visit today, a group of grey partridge and two brown hares were found in a neighbouring farmer’s field that had recently been worked, making them very visible. Brown Hare by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com) In other news at Hesketh Out Marsh, contractors are working on site once more so there is plenty of comings and goings during the day yet disturbance to the wildlife is kept to a minimum, especially during this important time of the year. Over the next week we are hoping to float our tern rafts to encourage common terns to use Hesketh Out Marsh as their summer residence, so keep a watch out for them and any other wildlife during your next visit.

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Recent Goings On

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
Now that the sun is shining, spring has well and truly arrived. Recently, the RSPB has led a guided walk to highlight the wildlife finding a home at Hesketh Out Marsh and the surrounding area. Although the weather conditions were ideal for wildlife watching, it had a calming effect on the tide, which gently flooded the reserve. Particular highlights during the visit included a flock of 27 Mute Swans, and a Black Swan, several mixed flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, a group of Eider approximately 25m off the sea wall, a resting Whimbrel and a peregrine looking for something to eat.                         Dunlin by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) During numerous visits to the site over the past month it has been great to observe the increasing number of swallows and martins feeding over the pools. The avocets are also looking very settled across the site, as is the barn owl that has regularly been seen hunting over the long grass area beyond the car park. It has also been a great spring for other wildlife including the emergence of hibernating butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell and Peacocks as well as the occasional sighting of Orange Tip Butterflies. Whilst on a site visit today, a group of grey partridge and two brown hares were found in a neighbouring farmer’s field that had recently been worked, making them very visible. Brown Hare by Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com) In other news at Hesketh Out Marsh, contractors are working on site once more so there is plenty of comings and goings during the day yet disturbance to the wildlife is kept to a minimum, especially during this important time of the year. Over the next week we are hoping to float our tern rafts to encourage common terns to use Hesketh Out Marsh as their summer residence, so keep a watch out for them and any other wildlife during your next visit.

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Buff-breasted sandpiper still showing well

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
The juvenile buff-breasted sandpiper that turned up at Hesketh Out Marsh on Sunday is still there and showing well this morning. Best views are by the large tree trunks on the top of the sea wall.

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Blog Post: Buff-breasted sandpiper still showing well

Posted on - In Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)
The juvenile buff-breasted sandpiper that turned up at Hesketh Out Marsh on Sunday is still there and showing well this morning. Best views are by the large tree trunks on the top of the sea wall.

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)

Source Hesketh Out Marsh (RSPB)