Category: Marshside (RSPB)

Blog Post: Big Wild Summer time down at Fairhaven

Summer Time at the Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre Summer time and the living is easy….finally! After months of Covid restrictions we are finally seeing the finish line in sight. We may still remain cautious and keep our distance, keep touch points cleaner than usual and maybe even wear face masks, but we are looking forward to our first summer at the lake under our new guise and with many of the long awaited renovations completed. As the RSPB, our focus remains on connecting with nature. During lockdown it was noticeable how many people discovered a nature on their door step they had never noticed before. As time moves on and we have been returning to some sort of normality, these experiences dwindle. Having spoken with many teachers recently, outdoor experiences for children have been lacking. They report feelings of restriction and “cooped-up-ness” there’s been a lack of freedom. Many school visits have been unable to go ahead and there has been constant disruption to education, routine and lives. As a result the RSPB are keen to engage families with the outdoors over the summer holidays with Big Wild Summer. A Big Wild Summer at Fairhaven Lake comprises of a lakeside trail and activity pack. The trail boards are dotted around the lake with the activity packs being collected from the centre, so come in and grab one before you start. We have also got a whole brand new set of badges to make in the centre, which I know have been a family favourite activity for many years and for those pin badge collectors we have brand new stock in too. Alongside the trail and with thanks to the Heritage Lottery Funding and Fylde Borough council we have two fabulous activity back packs for hire too. Why carry everything, when you can borrow it off us? There’s a beachside backpack and a lake and gardens backpack, both include activity ideas and all equipment required to have a fabulous time exploring, discovering wildlife and having fun around the lake and on the beach. Just what children need after their many months of school disruption. We also have a selection of hot and cold drinks peruse the information boards with refreshments or take them out onto the lake. The finishing touches to the centre are also underway and will hopefully be ready around a similar time to the easing of Covid restrictions, so look out for our wonderful 360 degree rotating kiosk providing views all across the estuary from the heart of the centre. We look forward to seeing you there Jo

Blog Post: Muddy Days Ahead

If there was ever a good time for all to be closed then this year was it. We have undergone a huge regeneration, thanks to our partnership with Fylde Borough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The £1.46 million project has provided a whole new suite of fantastic facilities. Where we once ran our school visits from the rather small combined retail and education centre, we are now blessed with an entire space to ourselves. The Watersports Centre next door to the newly re-vamped RSPB shop and Visitor Centre is purpose built and hosts excellent facilities with ample toilets, handwashing and storage. The purpose built classrooms are light and airy and await the sounds and buzz of children. Being on the Ribble Estuary graces us with an exclusive suite of sessions too. Our most acclaimed and popular sessions are our Mud Habitat Study sessions. We don wellies and trudge through the unique environment that are the mudflats of the Ribble Estuary. It’s like nothing that many children have ever seen before and makes a fantastic comparison to other habitats they have studied in their school grounds. The specific adaptations of the creatures that live here are immediately obvious and through touching, identifying and observing children quickly work out why the creatures have evolved to be so. Food chains and ecosystems are also discussed. The awe evident on the faces of the children as they watch cockles and peppery furrow shells (or scrobicularia) burrow back into their damp world is something I will never tire of. Being coastal we make the most of it. Our other popular sessions for keystages 1 and 2 are beach based. Taking in the physical and human aspects of the landscape and again include identification of coastal wildlife that can be seen as well incorporating some teamwork and engineering. As well as visits from schools closer to home we receive visits from schools from all over the Northwest. Many children are experiencing the coast for the first time, the feel of the sand, the sound of the sea and this vibrant habitat buzzing with life. It’s not just a trip out but for many a new life experience and that’s what our outdoor education is all about. Touching, feeling, seeing, smelling real life in real places and making connections to the world we live in. It was great to welcome our local primary school down here from Ansdell Primary last Friday with their Year 2 class. It wasn’t quite the June day we were expecting, with persistent drizzle most of the morning and a chill in the air. We did not let this dampen our spirits however. As well as undertaking a watersports session with Outdoor Education Northwest they also ventured onto the beach with our Going to the Seaside session. I was truly impressed with the way the children engaged, they were keen and eager, I think being outside of their bubbled space and in the freedom is something that has been deeply missed for children and teaching staff alike during these times. They searched with interest and curiosity and then used our identification charts to work out what they found. Enthusiasm peaking when we found a sea potato, and giving those with a finely tuned interest an opportunity to share their knowledge, something that couldn’t happen in this hands on way in a classroom. I’ve since been informed since that the fresh sea and the hands on busy day tired those children out, fulfilling their needs to explore and be physical beings in a natural outdoor space, something that has been distinctly lacking during the times of this pandemic. We have also vowed to work closely with this school who have an ethos of using the outdoors as much as they can for their learning. This visit and others I have been part of with our colleagues at Leighton Moss have really hit home with me. Throughout the pandemic, children have been cooped up, initially at home and then at school, due to bubble restrictions. They have lost their freedoms, only allowed to mix with certain children in certain spaces at certain times. These children relished their time outside, in a different space, seeing different things and being in nature. It hits home how important outside experiences are for children. We work in this environment all the time, we probably take it for granted, for many children, school and the experiences it provides may be the only chance some children get to explore these diverse environments and we simply cannot wait to once more welcome as many children to our sites as we can. It’s not just about the learning, but the joy, awe and wonder we see on their faces. Jo Photos taken by Jo with thanks to Ansdell Primary School

Blog Post: Ruff, but Ready – By Martin Campbell

Marshside: an extraordinary place for an extraordinary bird Starting with a nice shot of an ordinary looking wader. What evidence is there in this photo for what this bird is likely to become? Which of the birds shown here is it likely to be? The answe…

Blog Post: The haven of Fairhaven

The new Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre Wow! what a busy time it’s been. The finishing touches were added to the shop merchandising and we finally opened our doors on Thursday 29 April, after closing in March 2020 it felt like a long time coming. It was great to welcome back all of our visitor centre volunteers, don the uniform once again and open our brand new doors to the public for the first time. Unfortunately the weather turned for the Bank Holiday weekend, but we had many regulars visiting to stock up on their long missed bird seed, a number of families through and lots of hot drinks consumed. The centre has now also been officially opened by the Mayor, so it is all systems go. Due to Covid there are some interactive family elements in the centre that are not quite ready for use yet. There will be an interactive self use “roatating kiosk” providing a variety of views across the estuary and lake and the touchscreen TV screen at the back will provide information linking to our website and social media pages. We also hope to introduce some small family events in the near future as restrictions are eased and in a couple of weeks we also hope to have activity backpacks for hire. Currently, there are audio pens available for little ones to select and listen to the bird sounds on the new information boards. These are really great fun, allowing self selection of sounds and noises, that we will be adding to all the time. Audio pens are a resource that are frequently used in schools, so will be familiar to many children. We are ensuring that these are fully disinfected and rotated between uses. We have increased our range of binoculars in the shop introducing the Leica range alongside our other reputable brands. To see our fabulous range please just call in or if you prefer call us on 01253 796292 to arrange a specific binocular or telescope appointment with one of our knowledgeable staff and volunteers. Other News Our opening seemingly coincided with swifts returning to the area so we are taking that as a good omen. Fabulous to see these birds returning, alongside swallows and house martins these birds will have made their way from the plains of Africa, having just spent the winter zipping around elephants and giraffes, they are now looking to find suitable nesting places in which to breed, before heading back off to Africa in August. The observation of passage birds such as wheatear and stonechat have now slowed as they make their way to their breeding grounds. But we are now joined by blackcaps, willow warbler and whitethroat , all adding their own tones to the birdsong around Fairhaven Lake and the sand dunes at the tip. We were also privy to a fantastic wader spectacle at high tide earlier in the week, with murmurations of dunlin and ringed plover. These birds were pushed in close to Granny’s Bay by the tide and provided astounding views, catching the eye of many perambulating the promenade and causing quite a scene in the skyline, terrific to see and fabulous to chat to so many people who were staggered by the spectacle they were witnessing. There are also a couple of swan nests around the lake, so there will be cygnets swimming around soon. Great to grab a coffee in the centre and check on the new arrivals at the lake. We hope to see you all soon. Jo Photos: Audio pens, whitethroat, ringed plover and dunlin by Jo

Blog Post: Welcome to RSPB Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre

Introducing RSPB Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre After months of moving walls, dismantling false ceilings, re-designing, painting, cleaning and sprucing, we’re super excited that the time has finally come to open the newly refurbished RSPB visitor centre here at Fairhaven Lake. This massive project has been made possible with thanks to our strong partnership with Fylde Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund . Those of you who have been following our restoration will know that this is part of a much larger project . The RSPB building is the first of the newly renovated buildings around the Lake to open, with the Isaac Dixon Boathouse Watersports and Education Centre, (which is just next door) not far behind us. We’re delighted to be able to welcome you back very soon! What’s new? Our shiny new name ! Formerly the Ribble Discovery Centre, we are now going to be called the RSPB Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre . For a long time, many locals and visitors alike have referred to us as “Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre” or “the RSPB centre at Fairhaven Lake”, so we decided we should do what we say on the tin. The interior layout – after not having much in the way of improvement work for many years, the building has a great new look and feel – as you walk in, it’s bright, light and airy. The removal of the old suspended ceiling has done much to improve this. The original high wooden ceiling is now in full view and looks fantastic and the lighter coloured carpet also adds to the fresher feel. We’ve got fabulous new interactive information boards and screens , including a free downloadable app , for information and activity ideas for when you are walking around the whole site, which will be linked to the boards around the lake and gardens. The whole focus is to then connect back to the importance of the estuary, with the sound and sights of birds in a spectacular sound and light show throughout the building. For those of you that have been before, the centre will be almost unrecognisable as you walk in. Gone is the old green carpet and tired, dark wood shop display. Gone are the bird sound displays that were past their prime. However, all of this has been replaced with much more modern interactive elements. The new 360 degree rotating kiosk provides live pictures of the lake and gardens and all across the estuary, which you can choose and select yourself. We’ve got lots of information and seasonal things to look out for. Family fun – Added to all of this will be family activity backpacks to hire , with ideas, equipment and identification charts, one for the beach and estuary and one for the lake and gardens. Great for a fantastic family day out. What’s not changed? Our shop – for existing and new customers alike, our much-loved RSPB shop is very much still here, just with a fresh, new face. It is a much clearer, brighter space with a whole new extended layout. The small dark office and stock room are gone (we’re sharing with Fylde Council in another building) and this extra space has allowed for a number of brilliant new elements and product ranges within the store. We will still be selling all the old favourites, such as our popular, Fair to Nature assured quality bird food and feeder ranges. We’ve also still got a fantastic range of binoculars and spotting scopes suitable for all needs and budgets. Whether it’s a pair of binoculars for the family to spot nature in your own garden, a telescope to use out birding, or compacts that make seeing wildlife on your walks that little bit extra special, we’ve got something for everyone. Prices start from just £25 and include premium brands such as our own popular RSPB series, along with Viking, Swarovski, Leica and Nikon. To try our extensive range in a Covid-secure way, please call us on 01253796292 to arrange an appointment. Wondering what to buy your nature-loving friend or family member, or just wanting to treat yourself? You can still find plenty of great ideas within our gift range. Whether you’re looking for wildlife-themed books, home and kitchenware, clothing accessories, or a new addition for the garden, we’ve got something for you. Plus, keep the little ones entertained with our fantastic range of fun and educational nature-inspired toys and games. We’ve got a selection of takeaway food and drink. We will be offering Bewley’s Bird Friendly coffee. Unlike traditional coffee plantations, growers leave the tree canopy above the coffee bush in place, providing vital home for nature in the trees and on the forest floor. This means this coffee is uniquely triple certified to the bird friendly, organic and Fairtrade Standards. Our Eros tea is also Fairtrade and organic where possible. All of our takeaway options are served in compostable vegware or we will happily fill up your own coffee cup or container. Wherever possible, our food is sustainably packaged, locally sourced, organic, Fairtrade, palm-oil free or sustainable palm oil. More fun for the family – for avid fans of our badge-making kit , never fear, there will be a new and improved version, so you’ll still be able to colour, make and collect and for those avid pin badge collectors there’s going to be much more fun about it. Events – in the coming months, we will start running a wide range of events and activities both in the centre and around the site, in partnership with Fylde Council. Some old favourites will return, but there will be an exciting new range of others to choose from too. Keep an eye on our website and social media for details. School and youth group visits – we are taking bookings for school and youth group trips from autumn 2021 onwards. By then we will have our brand-new classroom space in the Isaac Dixon boathouse, which will provide the perfect base for our unique, hands-on and fun learning outdoor experience by the seaside. We’ve got ‘ Learning Outside the Classroom ’ accredited opportunities for all key stages and abilities, including our exclusive mud dipping activity. With a suite of curriculum-linked sessions on offer, our qualified, enthusiastic learning team will help your class or group uncover the secrets of the Ribble Estuary and the creatures that call it home. Our friendly team of staff and volunteers are eager to be back on hand to welcome you. We will be ready to provide information about the Heritage Lottery funded regeneration, including the history of the site and buildings as well as the wildlife and nature of the gardens and the estuary beyond. The estuary is a vital source of food and nutrients for a quarter of a million birds every year, a testament to its importance as a wildlife haven on the Ribble, so we will help you explore what this vast site has to offer. The new centre will open its doors for the first time on 29 April and we are really looking forward to being able to welcome visitors old and new to our wonderful centre. We will be open every day 10-5 See you soon! Jo, Ben and Liz To keep up to date with all of the latest news, check us out on:

Blog Post: Migration hotspots

Spring hits the Ribble Estuary What a fantastically exciting time of year we are now at. If I am able, on my arrival to work, I take the opportunity to wander out onto the sand dunes at the tip of Fairhaven Lake to a patch of land I have recently christened “Migration Hotspot”. For the last few weeks this small patch of land has not failed to deliver with regular sightings of stonechat and wheatear . A much more learned colleague of mine has informed me that this little patch of land along the coast is a vital haven for these migrating birds. Birds such as this stonechat pictured here undertake a short distance migration, often arriving mid March onwards from Spain. They frequently stop off along the coast to feed tending to hug the coast as they travel. They stay a short while to re-fuel and then continue onto their breeding grounds. “Migration Hotspot” now has another patch within it named “Stonechat Corner”. Indeed another colleague and I walked over to “my” “Stonechat Corner” one lunchtime , whilst I held my breath after my bold claims of always seeing one there, luckily for me I was not let down, not only did we see them, we could hear them. The sound of this bird is like no other, it really does sound as if two stones are being knocked and rubbed together, fabulous when they are in full flow. They are the most terrific posers for photographs too. Stonechat are the earliest arrivals, next came the wheatear. After seeing photos and hearing tales of wheatear arrival I was very keen to spot them on the Fylde coast. I set out one morning convinced that that morning would be the day, I left down hearted as I had failed in my mission. Renewed again the following day, I once again set off. Beginning to once again feel beaten and ready to call it a day, a sudden movement caught my eye. There trotting down the dune was a wheatear, in fact two. Since then there has been a relatively steady stream. A small area of saltmarsh appears to be providing ample food, six wheatear, consisting of four males and two females bobbing around one morning have led me to name it “Wheatear Patch”. Wheatear migration is a staggering feat of endurance, spending the winter in Central Africa, they begin to arrive on our coast in March and April. They re-fuel here, spending a day feeding up after their mammoth flight moving onto breeding grounds on the moors and uplands, returning to Central Africa once again in August. The area these birds are stopping off for re-fuelling after their long treacherous journey is a very popular pathway for walkers, runners and dog walkers. I am pleased to say that I very often see very responsible dog walkers in this area, who walk with their dog on a lead or have exceptionally well trained dogs who do not randomly run into the saltmarsh to chase any movement they may see. This is great news for our migrating birds and our ground nesting birds alike. Unwarranted disturbances can see birds expending energy unnecessarily, which is something they don’t need after a long flight or if they are incubating eggs, such as the meadow pipits may be. Many of our spring breeders are arriving daily, a small influx of goldcrests in the bushes alongside the lake was noted the other week, I’ve recently heard chiffchaff calling their own name and blackcap have also been observed. I’m waiting for the melodious sounds of willow warbler and whitethroat next. The other sight I saw see last week was a memorising flight of sand martins , swallows and house martins streaming over the dunes. How lucky I felt to witness this arrival is difficult to express. Whilst it’s true that one swallow may not make a summer, I’m hoping that the many I saw that day, signify the beginning. Now, we just need to say goodbye to these frosty mornings and cold winds. Jo Male stonechat and male wheatear by Jo Arrivals, Departures, Residents and somewhere in-between at Marshside Up to four garganey have been staying over at Marshside having made the journey back from Africa. This scarce duck breeds in low numbers in the UK, with only up to 100 pairs nesting on a good year. They normally move on else where from Marshside to breed, but as they are secretive there is always a suspicion that a pair has stayed. They are about the same size as a teal, and the drakes have the most amazing eye stripe, pictured below at sandgrounders’ pool. Garganey – Wes Avocet have been building in number almost daily and have now just passed into treble figures. These iconic are also returning from wintering grounds in Africa. Over fifty pairs nested at Marshside last year breaking previous records. Hopefully this year will be even stronger. Avocet at Marshside – Wes We have our first lapwing nests of the year! This key species has seen large declines in living memory, and is one of the key species we manage for on the wet grasslands. Their nests are trixy to find as they are well camouflaged and the parents deploy rather clever diversion tactics to keep would be predators away. To help us understand how well they are doing and fine tune our management throughout the year we have small study plots. Within these plots we keep a careful and keen eye on each nests as the progress to ascertain a productivity figure (how many chicks fledge per pair). Lapwing nest at Marshside – Under licence – Alex Pigott Black tailed godwits are present in two distinct forms in the UK. The birds present at Marshside are limosa icelandic. This race of birds winters in the UK and migrates to Iceland to breed in the summer months. Young or out of condition birds save the energy required for the journey and can be seen at Marshide throughout the year – often starting to support their rusty breeding plumage. A scarcer race is also present on the Ribble, namely limosa limosa . This race is the the focus of a lot of amazing work, see this link. The breeding population is is very low, but the Ribble is lucky enough to hold up to two pairs on a regular basis. The difference between the races is superficially subtle, the limosa having a rounder head and slight plumage variation. Their Latin name is vey apt – limosa – , meaning mud Black tailed godwit (limosa icelandic) at Marshside – Wes Redshank are another of our ‘key species’ at Marshside, both on the fresh and salt water sides of marine drive. These birds are present all year round, but at this time of year their plumage brightens and they separate from their flocking behaviour into pairs. These ‘wardens of the marsh’ let their presence and that of predators known very clearly with their distinctive alarm call. Breeding pairs of this species have declined significantly, and much of our management on the Ribble is aimed at getting the feeding and nesting conditions just right for them. Redshank at Marshside – Wes

Blog Post: Spring is most definitely in the air

Spring is most definitely on its way. Walking around the lake is music to the ears, the increase in birdsong recently is very apparent. This melodious of soundtracks most frequently begins with the robins , who are well known to sing under any lights, lamp posts in the evening have been known to set the robin off. Blackbirds are not far behind. The sweet song of the dunnock is truly beautiful and is in my opinion a very much underestimated bird. Not only are they more exquisite to look at than at first noticed they also have a a rather secret and and very much polygamous reproductive life, with multiple matings occurring on both parts. Who’d have thought this little grey and brown bird has such a saucy secret life? These most infamous of songsters are joined by goldfinch sitting high up in the trees, with their unmistakable wheezy calls they cause quite a cacophony screeching overhead, amidst the charms of this delicate golden finch are often the rasps of greenfinch , their larger and bulkier cousin. Once renowned for their more aggressive tactics on garden feeders these finches haven suffered losses in the last 15 or 16 years due to the parasite trichomonosis. it looks as thought the greenfinch may be bouncing back though, which is great news for this most charismatic of garden birds. These two finches are joined by another cousin the smartly dressed chaffinch , again singing high in trees the russet red chest and belly of the male is unmistakable, along with its “pink pink” calls. The soundtrack is by now gaining in volume, suddenly a bewildering song is heard, which sounds unlike anything you’ve heard before, it has an almost imitative quality, as if trying to repeat something that has just been heard. It’s rather alarmist, quite shrill at times and seemingly repeating in sets of 3. This is the song thrush , loud, bold and almost electric. It’s melody adding another layer to the already rich selection of morning song. If there’s another unusual birdsong floating in the air, it’s almost bound to be a great tit , I feel they take great pride in throwing in something off the cuff, and not in the plan. They whistle, they wheeze, they’re tuneful, they’re off key, they’re everything. Don’t let them trick you, I’ve spent way too long listening to and recording great tits because I thought they were something else, only each time to be caught out by their tricks yet again. Blue tits unlike the larger great tits, seem at least to stick to the page a little bit more with their “siiiiih siiiih” type trilling, as is in the script. There’s a rather large flock of linnet here on the edge of the lake, they often flyby and occasionally perch in the trees towards the back edge of the lake. You can hear their melody coming and going as they dart across the sky. Their musical addition is a form of falsetto staccato with a rapid tempo, bouncing notes with pauses in between often accompanying their flight. Being beside the seaside also gives rise to the calls of the sea. The “kleep kleep” of the oystercatcher is a ubiquitous sound of the sea with the plaintive cry of the redshank adding another accompaniment, creating an absolute uniqueness to our “dawn chorus”. As for the gulls and the ducks, they appear to find the whole thing amusing, laughing at will at their own randomly chosen moment. The morning song (dawn chorus) will only ramp up even further as we move through spring and those already prepped and ready will be joined by fresh blood in the coming weeks. Migrant songsters will begin their move to breeding territories very soon. Along the sand dunes in particular the voices of blackcap , whitetrhoa t, chiff chaff and willow warbler will soon be heard. Hot on their tails will be the movement of swallows and martins , leading in April to the screeching swifts , who are always last to arrive and the first to leave. Life is entering a new phase, as we too see our lives moving on and through this pandemic the birds continue their cycle oblivious to it all and for this we must welcome them, nurture and enjoy them, for they bring new life and brighter days. Keep you ears open and your eyes peeled for the new season of life has begun. Jo Robin, blue tit and linnet Jo Taylor

Blog Post: Spring Springing – by Martin Campbell

Signs of new life at RSPB Marshside In February, there are still many of the wintering birds (e.g. black-tailed Godwit , golden plover , lapwing , curlew and wigeon ), visible in impressive numbers. However, this is the month when the first summer bird…