Whilst Rimmer’s marsh is completely dry we have closed Nel’s hide. We are taking this opportunity to make some repairs in the hide and give it a repaint. We will be re-opening the hide within the next couple of weeks at the end of the school holidays….
This is a blog about the happenings and sightings at RSPB Marshside, a nature reserve on the Ribble estuary near Southport. It’s been a busy spring and summer season so far – with lots of work being done by our warden team and volunteers to maintain the anti-predator fence around Sutton’s marsh. The fence works by excluding foxes and badgers from the reserve, in order to protect ground nesting birds (such as lapwings and avocets ) during the breeding season. We’ve also been doing lots of surveys to see how successful the wildlife is doing, and if there is anything more we can do to help them! Lapwing nest by Will Fox. This is a lapwing nest we found earlier in the season. We’ve had a good number of lapwing nests appearing this year, but sadly we aren’t seeing many chicks reaching fledgling stage. Predation is likely to be the biggest factor in this, with gulls, crows and even an otter seen on the marsh taking eggs and chicks. On Rimmer’s marsh (the side without a predator fence), a family of foxes has taken up residence, offering great views of the vixen hunting, but also sadly reducing the number of young birds we’re seeing. It’s not all bad news though, as we move into the summer we’re beginning to see some of the fruits of all our hard work. Young avocets can occasionally be seen on the saltmarsh and at Hesketh Out Marsh – many are at adult size now but their wings and back still appear more brown and patchy, rather than crisply defined black and white. Great views of some tufted ducklings can be seen from our visitor centre, as well as many young black-headed gull chicks, swallows and starlings. Over at Hesketh Out Marsh, our tern rafts have been successful with two arctic tern nests successfully hatching chicks, and a further two nests near Karen’s viewpoint. There are also regular groups of black tailed godwits, dunlin and an eider duck frequenting the site. Work is progressing well on the East side, where Environment Agency contractors are creating new ditches and pools that will be flooded in September when we breach the sea wall. This will create a new area of rich saltmarsh habitat, as well as helping with flood alleviation and providing great views of wildlife. Tern raft (pre-nesting season) by Will Fox – we cover the base with a mixture of sand, stone and shells, which terns like to nest on, as well as little wooden shelters for the chicks to hide under. Some slightly rarer visitors to Marshside include a male scaup and several adult cattle egrets. It’s a great time of year for moths and butterflies, with hundreds of colourful burnet moths out on the sunnier days. You can identify them by counting the spots on each wing – I’ve spotted lots of six-spot burnet moths, but how many spots have you spotted!?
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog and there has been all kinds going on…….the breeding season is now in full swing. Lapwing have been nesting around the reserve, they have been quite early this year so keep your eyes peeled for their downy chicks wandering around the marshes pecking at everything they come across. Avocet have also taken up residence outside of Sandgrounder’s hide, giving possibly the best views around (in my unbiased opinion). Avocet from Sandgrounder’s by Barry Smith There was a brief visit by a spoonbill , the cattle egrets have been taking a look at the new influx of cows out on the marsh and last week I was driving home along Marshside Road and spotted a hooded crow sitting on a fence post preening itself, these birds seldom move more than a few kilometres and generally breed in North-west Scotland and Ireland……there have been a number of sightings logged around the reserve so I definitely wasn’t seeing things. Elsewhere we’ve been treated to plenty of warbler song – whitethroat , cetti’s warbler , blackcap , reed warbler and grasshopper warbler have all been belting out their favourite tunes. It also looks like the cuckoo has arrived back, a few sightings have been reported around the sand plant area. There have been the usual residents along the golf course by Fairclough’s viewpoint – great tit and blue tit have been busy nesting but we’ve also had redpoll , pied flycatcher and a tree pipit . Great Tit by Barry Smith Rimmer’s Marsh has been busy, common sandpiper , ruff (spotted lekking at the weekend) ringed plover, little grebe and a number of pairs of gadwall . Sutton’s marsh is a noisy place with huge numbers of black-headed gulls nesting, we’ve still got a few Mediterranean gulls and a common gull has also been sighted. The cold weather has been keeping the butterflies at bay but I did see a couple out in the warm sunshine this morning, peacock , small tortoiseshell and speckled wood . Speckled wood by Barry Smith Unfortunately my internship has come to an end and future recent sightings blogs will be provided by our next batch of interns. Marshside has been an amazing place to work and six months has flown by……it all started with thousands of whistling wigeon on a cold November and has finished with thousands of screaming black headed gulls on a warm sunny April afternoon…….with plenty of brilliant experiences in between. I hope you’ve found this blog useful and please continue to enjoy the wildlife spectacle that is Marshside.
Our summer visitors are continuing to return in large numbers to Marshside – the last week has seen wheatear , sand martin , house martin and swallow making a comeback along with a few of our favorite warblers…… chiffchaff , blackcap and willow warbler have all been seen (or heard) around the reserve. It was a slightly overcast day when I found the time to see what’s been about, once again there were plenty of pink footed geese feeding in flocks around the reserve. Pretty soon they will have moved on northwards to their breeding grounds so enjoy them while you can!! Pink footed geese in flight by Barry Smith There are still plenty of wading birds to enjoy, from Sandgrounder’s hide you can expect to see oystercatcher , black-tailed godwit , redshank and lot’s of lapwing . There have been a number of ruff seen around the reserve so keep your eye out for ‘lekking’ males – April is the time for this impressive sight and you may be lucky, Britain is just on the edge of it’s breeding range. A little ringed plover has been seen at the sand plant, and behind in the outer marshes there have been marsh harrier , merlin and peregrine – further out still we have had a few eider ducks bobbing along the edge of high tide. Fairclough’s Pool by Barry Smith Little grebe have been busy around Nel’s pool with large numbers of tufted duck and shelduck while out towards the golf course we have seen sparrowhawk , great spotted woodpecker and jay preparing for the breeding season. And finally this week I’m giving special mention to the collared dove – for no other reason than the fact that it let me get so close to it and I got a great picture…. Collared dove by Barry Smith
I’m going to start this weeks blog by giving a mention to our early emerging butterflies, I spotted two species while I was out on the marsh this afternoon – Glorious sunshine possibly bringing them out of hibernation. The first was a peacock butterfly, unmistakable with it’s menacing eyes shining brightly in the sun…. Peacock butterfly by Barry Smith And the second was a number of small tortoiseshell feeding along the bank by the golf course – this butterfly has suffered a worrying decline in recent years with a number of theories being offered, one such theory is an increase in the presence of a parasitic fly which also attacks other species such as peacock and red admiral . Small tortoiseshell butterfly by Barry Smith On the bird front it has been business as usual, with large numbers of pink footed geese being seen on the outer marshes, one of our volunteers counted around 4500 over at Hesketh out marsh so it appears they are hanging around the Ribble estuary for a bit longer. We’ve had a number of swallows spotted flying over Rimmer’s marsh and a couple of wheatear sightings – avocet , redshank and black-tailed godwit are also busy feeding out on Suttons marsh (and hopefully getting ready to breed). Redshank by Barry Smith A small flock of around 14 twite has been seen and the number of mediterranean gulls being reported from Sandgrounder’s hide continues to increase. I’ve noticed a drop in raptor activity this week, buzzard and sparrowhawk have been hunting around the reserve and just as impressive there has also been a raven patrolling the edges of Suttons marsh. Lapwing have once again been providing impressive barrel rolls and aerial acrobatics while other sightings include ruff , gadwall , wigeon , teal and little egret . Lapwing by Barry Smith I will finish off this weeks list with goldfinch , goldcrest , long tailed tit and meadow pipit……
The most exciting time of the year is upon us and the movement is on………the departure of our winter visitors is underway and the summer migrants are beginning to appear – along with numerous early flying bees and butterflies. Colt’s foot is starting to push it’s way through bringing a splash of yellow around the reserve and avocet numbers are continuing to increase, with around 50 currently dividing their time between Nel’s pool and Rainford’s pool. Colt’s foot by Barry Smith Wigeon numbers have dropped considerably over the last week or two, as have the pink footed geese, they are still around but in noticeably smaller flocks . A chiffchaff has been singing it’s summer song and there have been a group of goldcrest moving around the reserve, busily flitting around in the trees by Nel’s hide and Sandgrounder’s. There have been some really big flocks of golden plover (1000+) and black tailed godwit (1500+) and a tundra bean goose has once again been seen on the outer marshes. A number of stonechat have been seen around the edge of the reserve, I was lucky to catch one while I took a walk to Fairclough’s view point last Friday. Stonechat by Barry Smith Other notable sightings this week are water pipit , a flock of 20 pied wagtail feeding on Crossens out marsh, ruff , little grebe and snipe along with a vast array of raptors – buzzard , merlin , kestrel , peregrine and sparrowhawk. Round and about there are plenty of teal , gadwall , tufted duck and a good number of mute swans – What a glorious day it’s been today, bright blue skies and a nice bit of spring sunshine……sure beats being in the office. Springtime from Fairclough’s by Barry Smith Long may it continue!!
First things first, our avocets have well and truly returned!! On 2 nd March there were six reported at Hesketh out marsh and another six were reported from Nel’s hide. Hot off the press today is a revised total of twelve avocets at Marshside, all of which were identified at Nel’s pool. Avocets at Nel’s by Barry Smith There have been numerous sightings of water pipit this week, including two seen together on Crossens out marsh – they are one of our more scarce winter visitors so it’s nice to see that they are sticking around. Black headed gulls are continuing to gather noisily with around 300 at Rainford’s pool, keep an eye out for the mediterranean gulls hidden amongst them. Black headed gulls by Barry Smith Other notable species this week include an influx of mute swans and four whooper swans , a water rail has been seen in the ditch on Rimmer’s marsh and we have had a good number of pied wagtail and grey wagtail . I took a walk along the road out into the saltmarsh this afternoon, accompanied by the song of sky larks . It was a couple of hours before high tide but there were some large flocks of waders already being forced inland by the on rushing water. Small mixed flocks of dunlin , knot and grey plover were feeding in the mud nearby – offering great views through the scope, with a good number of curlew and redshank searching further out. Shelduck and oystercatcher were also busy along the shoreline and a single turnstone was sitting quite still amongst the tussocks. Unfortunately I couldn’t wait for the tide to make it to it’s high point as the wind and rain sent me back to the van. On my way back I noticed 14 little egrets were feeding together along the ditch near the main car park. A last glance over my shoulder confirmed that there were lots of birds along the water line and taking flight out towards the estuary……I’ll get back when the weather is kinder!!
I’m slightly late with my sightings blog this week as we’ve been busy over at Hesketh out marsh carrying out some essential habitat management work, if you haven’t had a chance to get over there it’s definitely worth a visit – expect to see large flocks of redshank , lapwing and oystercatcher – also short eared owl , barn owl and marsh harrier have all been spotted recently – check out our winter overview on the Hesketh out marsh page for more in depth details. View of Hesketh out marsh by Barry Smith Anyway, back to Marshside…….To me it feels like spring is on it’s way, daffodils have already started appearing in my garden and the birds are noticeably more vocal as the days begin to stretch out longer. One of our spring/summer visitors returned to the reserve on Sunday, two avocets made an appearance on Rimmer’s marsh and could be seen from Nel’s hide amongst a large flock of black headed gulls – the avocets return around this time to breed so lets hope this will be another successful year for them. We’ve had a couple of other new sightings this week, two ruff have been reported on Rimmer’s marsh and on Crossens outer there have been reports of a water pipit and a european white fronted goose among the flocks of pink footed geese . I have noticed large numbers of shelduck and oystercatcher around the reserve, golden plover have been taking to the air – twinkling in the late winter sun as lapwing , curlew and redshank call shrilly across the marshes. Shelduck and oystercatcher by Barry Smith A spotted redshank has been seen amongst a flock of redshank and a jack snipe was reported from Sandgrounder’s hide where you can also expect to find plenty of our regular visitors – in the water…… pochard , gadwall , pintail, wigeon, shoveler and teal while in the air you can (almost) guarantee peregrine , hen harrier, merlin and buzzard . A final spring note………The brown hares are busy chasing each other around the marsh, I’ve not seen any boxing but it’s only a matter of time. Brown hare by Barry Smith Of course you know that all this mention of spring means one thing? A cold snap coming in just to prove that winter hasn’t quite lost it’s grip – we’ll find out in the next few weeks!!
Back to the usual sightings blog this week, with lots of interesting things to report. There have been a couple of lovely clear days giving great views out across the marshes to Blackpool, thought I’d share a picture taken during my lunch earlier today…… View of Blackpool by Barry Smith It’s not just the view that’s appealing, the outer marshes are the places to see some spectacular stuff – hen harrier , peregrine , kestrel and merlin have all been spotted hunting for prey this week, sailing above the pink footed geese and black headed gulls . A couple of stonechats have also been reported, busily feeding on insects and keeping an eye out for predators from the top of any vantage point available. Rimmer’s marsh has had large numbers of pink footed geese, shelduck and a few greylag geese – whilst amongst the pools there have been wigeon , teal, pintail and shoveler – not forgetting to mention mallard, tufted duck and lots of displaying coots. There have also been two bewick swans spending a bit of time on the marsh, always good to see. Shoveler by Barry Smith From Sandgrounder’s hide we have once again been treated with the spectacle of large flocks of golden plover (2000+) and lapwing (1000+), oystercatcher , curlew and snipe are offering regular views and the kingfisher continues to make it’s darting visits around Rainford’s pool and Junction pool. While I was working earlier today I stopped to take in the sight and sound of a few hundred wigeon grazing on the grasses – waddling and whistling their way around the marsh…….it’s probably been the soundtrack to my internship so far. Wigeon by Barry Smith A final rundown around the reserve includes meadow pipit , skylark , greenfinch , goldfinch and twite .