Category: Marshside (RSPB)

Blog Post: Ribble Estuary reserves – part re-opening

As we are now beginning to see the easing of some of the restrictions on travel and spending time in green space, the staff here on the Ribble Estuary have been exploring ways in which we can re-open our sites. Crucially we need to make sure that it is safe for our staff, volunteers and visitors, and the wildlife that calls them home. Firstly, we are asking people to please stick to visiting reserves within your local area. We know the temptation may be to travel out to your favourite reserve, but please try to keep local, it hopefully won’t be long before we will be out enjoying more of our amazing countryside. The situation at each of our Ribble reserves is different, depending on the circumstances: T he Ribble Discovery Centre remains closed for now. We will only be able to open it when visitor centres and non-essential shops are allowed to be re-opened, but also when we can be confident that we can do so safely for our visitors, staff and volunteers. In the meantime, check out the RSPB online shop for all your bird food needs. At Marshside , we have re-opened the trails and car park. Please be mindful that it has limited capacity and can quickly become full in fine weather. Please do not park on the road. We have taken the decision to keep the hides and toilet closed here for now. We will only re-open these facilities when we can be confident it is safe for our staff, volunteers and visitors. We have re-opened the car park at Hesketh Out Marsh . As with Marshside, p lease be mindful that it has limited capacity and can quickly become full in fine weather. Please do not park along Dib Road, as it causes an obstruction. When visiting the reserves, p lease be respectful of other people’s personal space and follow the government advice around social distancing and hygiene. We want our reserves to continue to be a place where people feel safe and welcome to enjoy the special wildlife of the Ribble Estuary. It is a crucial time of year for our wildlife. Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh are incredibly important sites for a huge variety of species to raise their young. Many birds nest on the ground – they might not be obvious and the parents can easily become disturbed, causing their eggs or chicks in the nest to go cold. If you choose to visit our sites, you can really help them by following these important five points: Keep a look out – with fewer visitors during lockdown, wildlife may be closer than usual. Tread cautiously on verges and paths. 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. Keep dogs on leads – loose dogs can easily disturb ground-nesting birds and other wildlife. Back away – sharp alarm calls, birds with full beaks or coming unusually near to you could mean you’re too close to chicks. Back up the way you came, being careful where you step. 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. In the meantime, stay safe, keep following all government guidelines wherever you live, and we look forward to welcoming you back.  Marshside by David Morris

Blog Post: Reserve closures

Despite some very slight changes in lockdown restrictions in England, our Ribble Estuary sites, including Marshside , Hesketh Out Marsh and Ribble Discovery Centre remain closed to the public for now . Our priority is to ensure that we only re-open when we have everything in place to keep our members, visitors, volunteers and employees safe. We must also make sure that the wildlife that calls our sites home is ready to receive attention after a couple of months completely on its own. You’ll have seen reports from round the UK of birds nesting on and near normally busy paths (as well as some weird and wonderful places), so it’s going to take us some time to check and make sure they are safe too. We ask that you bear with us in these difficult times and check our Ribble reserves websites, Facebook and Twitter regularly for the latest information, as well as the RSPB Covid-19 updates here . If you are exercising on public paths around the Ribble Estuary sites, as well as abiding by social distancing measures, we urge you to be alert for nature and please be extra careful around it – especially on beaches (where birds such as plovers nest), paths (where plants have emerged, and birds may have nested) and open landscapes such as saltmarsh (ground nesting birds and other wildlife can easily be disturbed by people and dogs off leads). Thank you. We look forward to being able to welcome you back when it can be done safely and responsibly for all people and wildlife concerned. Marshside by Dave Morris

Blog Post: Breakfast Birdwatch, “Observations from my window” and Wild Challenge

This week we have been in touch with all our volunteers and we are pleased to report that they are all doing well. We are all making the most of the time at home to observe the birds and wildlife in our garden. This week we have two guest blogs. One from our retail assistant Liz who has written an account of the bird antics in her garden and one from Ellie, who has written about her sunflower competition with her brother Sammy. Views from my window – Part 1 Although I haven’t got a huge or horticulturally diverse garden, I am lucky enough to have fairly active feeding station and a selection of regular avian visitors to keep me entertained during this time of restricted outdoor activity. So far this week, I have managed to see blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds, chaffinches, starlings, a pair of greenfinches , goldfinches , wrens , dunnocks , rooks, magpies, jackdaws, collared doves , wood pigeons and, surprisingly, several feral pigeons that are generally absent from my list of garden spots. In addition, I looked out the other day to see what might have been causing my dog to be somewhat anxious to find a beautiful kestrel sitting on my fence. I have never spotted one anywhere in, over, or near my garden before so this was quite exciting! He didn’t hang about for long and it hasn’t put off my regular feathered friends from dining in my garden. I am fairly new to the world of birds so having more time on my hands has enabled me to spend longer observing their habits as oppose to simply identifying them. Dunnock Grahame Madge RSPB-images Goldfinch Chris Gomersall RSPB-images #1 The Entertainer I have to give a shout out to the humble wood pigeons that are currently my number one for entertainment value! Being ‘that time of year’, there are all sorts of antics going on and the remains of an old climbing frame has provided the perfect platform for them to perform in full view. The ritual seems to start with Mrs Woody strutting around the grass seemingly ignoring Mr Woody as he follows her around head lowered doing a dainty little skip every few paces. After a few minutes off they both go to a nearby tree where they sit at an acceptable distance apart whilst she (presumably) decides whether he is a worthy suitor. Everything goes quiet for a while after that, they fly off separately, change trees, come down for some spilled seed, I make a cup of tea or whatever before the grand finale begins. Mr & Mrs Woody reconvene on top of my climbing frame, at a safe distance apart to start with. Mr Woody hops around and preens himself, showing what a fine specimen he is! Once suitably impressed, Mrs Woody joins him and they hop closer and closer until they are snuggled side by side; and then comes the most unexpected behaviour…he feeds her! You can see him regurgitating food and she takes the food from well into his gaping beak – quite extraordinary! Whilst she is feeding she is nuzzling closer and closer until she finally accepts his advances and the deed is done. Quite amusingly Mr Woody then literally turns his back on her and hops off to go about his business which normally involves eating!! My (grown-up) daughter and I usually put voices to the action and end up in stitches – Oh the joys of social lockdown. Liz We are also encouraging the #BreakfastBirdwatch. This takes place between 8-9am every morning. Sit back with a cuppa and your breakfast and enjoy the birds from the window. Let us know what you see on our Twitter page @RSPB_Ribble and Facebook @RSPBRibbleEstuary . RSPB Flower Power Wild Challenge Me and my brother decided we wanted to grow something during our time at home, so we checked out the RSPB Flower Power Wild Challenge. However being siblings we decided to make it into a competition. Why not try it yourself? It would be brilliant to have beautiful sunflowers everywhere to brighten things up. Step 1. You need; peat free compost, sunflower seeds, trowels and pots Step 2. Fill your pots with compost Step 3. Make a small hole in the compost with your finger and pop the seed in. Cover it up with compost again. Step 4. Water the seed and find a cool spot inside that provides light but protects it from the frost. When the seeds start to grow we will put them into bigger pots and put them outside and tie them to a stick so they don’t fall over. When they start to flower we will measure them and let you know which variety grew the tallest and which of us won the competition. Ellie

Blog Post: Get Ready for a Wild Challenge

Well, in this time where we are all adjusting to working and learning from home, there are fantastic opportunities to re-engage with nature. Whether that is in your garden, what you can see from your window or even what you see in your allotted daily exercise time. I have appreciated the wildlife in my garden more than ever before, taking more time to notice the pair of blackbirds in my garden that not only come for the tit bits dropped from the bird table but also to collect nesting materials. I’ve also been taking part in #BreakfastBirdwatch which is a great way to start the day and we’d really like to know what you are seeing in you’re gardens, there’s variety everywhere. There has also been lots of butterflies flitting around, such as small tortoiseshell and red admiral. Check out our Twitter and let us know what you’ve seen @RSPB_Ribble or Facebook page @RSPBRibbleEstuary. The learning team here at the Ribble and at Leighton Moss have been checking out the Wild Challenge activities and we will share our experiences doing them here on our blog pages. this one is from Jayne one of the Learning Assistants at Leighton Moss, who has decided to undertake the “Let it Grow” challenge with her daughter. For further information about Wild Challenge check out our page here. Jo Let it grow, let it grow… So spring has sprung and whilst we are at home trying to find things to keep ourselves and our children occupied, it’s a great opportunity to give RSPB Wild Challenge activities a try. Sign up now at Don’t feel that just because you don’t have children that this blog and the activities aren’t for you, whatever your age you can experience and help nature in your own garden, from your window or whilst out on your daily exercise walk (whilst observing social distancing guidance) There are many studies that show that time in nature can improve our mental and physical wellbeing, which we all need right now. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing activities you can have a go at, giving you some top tips about Giving Nature a Home at home and generally helping to lift your spirits. Last night I saw a message from my local council in South Lakeland that our green bin collections would cease for the moment to allow them to concentrate on refuse and recycling. Therefore the first Wild Challenge activity my daughter and I are going to do is probably the easiest of all…Let it grow. The clue is in the title, let a small part or all of your lawn grow and let it go wild. The long grass will be great for insect life and you can keep a weekly photo diary to show how long and wild your very own mini jungle gets. If you decide to go for it and let your whole lawn grow then maybe you could mow a path through it, or create a maze, the possibilities are only limited by your creativity! So what can you do now to prepare to let it grow… Decide on the area of lawn that you are going to let go wild. Make signs and maybe put up a string fence or similar to let other family members know what you’re doing and remind them not to mow it whilst it’s growing. Take the first picture for your diary, measure the length of the grass today on day 1 and decide when you are going to take the next picture and measure it again, weekly is probably best. Then let it grow! Hopefully this sunny spring weather continues and you can have a go at this or other wild challenges. There will be more from us over the coming weeks so watch out, we will try and include challenges that can be done indoors too or adapted for a window sill or yard. To finish a quote from Rachel Carson the author of the book Silent Spring: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Jayne Buchanan Learning and Visitor Assistant Main photo tile Grahame Madge RSPB-Images

Blog Post: Covid19 and the Ribble Reserves

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 …

Blog Post: Cancellation of RSPB Southport Group Upcoming meetings

Please note that in line with current Government guidance, The RSPB Southport Group has decided to cancel all upcoming meetings. The latest government information and advice on coronavirus can be found on the Department for Health and Social Care’s web…

Blog Post: Ribble Roundup: Avocets at Newton – Last of the big high tides – Out and About – Twite rump

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. 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 !

Blog Post: Ribble Roundup – Start of the school year – Pink feet – Black-headed gull musings – Marine plastic – Red 67

Ribble Discovery Centre Education and Visitor Centre The start of the school visit season has kicked off in style, with Plant Detectives proving a popular choice even in February. The secret garden is the ideal location for this key stage 1 activity, it’s quiet, safe and secluded and is the ideal backdrop for the activities. Measuring and calculating the age of a tree is always one of the favourite activities, alongside making smelly cocktails. There’s never one that smells the same. We have also had success with the key stage 1 Brilliant Birds session. Our first session with Little Digmoor Primary School from Skelmersdale was slightly thwarted by the hailstorm, but we bravely battled on and triumphed at the end of the session with a successful study of feathers and nests. A few of really keen beans were eager to impart their own knowledge of feathers and experiences of observing birds nesting in their own gardens. Oversands School thoroughly enjoyed feeding the birds and made some good observations about the way the mute swans and ducks feed differently. We were also lucky enough to spot the kingfisher, much to the delight of the students. The bird feeder in the centre of the gardens has been a success, one of the numerous goldfinch have been spotted using it alongside blue and great tits. There is also a large charm of goldfinch in the trees along the back of the park, you can usually hear them before you see them, their characteristic rasping “tschree” communication call can be heard as they sit in the trees. Coal and long tailed tits have also been observed flitting around the garden and park. Image taken from archive Chris Gomersall RSPB-images The garden, park and islands are also alive with bird song! Spring is most definitely springing, jackdaws and magpies have been observed collecting nesting materials already. Book Review: Red 67 Red 67 is a collection of the 67 most endangered bird species in the UK. These species are of most concern, meaning that their population has and continues to decline in the long term. There are some surprising species on the list, such as the starling . This bird may still seem common, but the overall population has declined considerably. Each species in the book has a unique artwork and personal account. The personal accounts of 67 writers portrayals are endearing, worrisome and heart rendering. Accounts of childhood memories of times where a bird once prevalent has diminished in untold numbers endears the reader to each and every one and leaves them with a lasting concern for each. Of the 67 birds depicted, 23 of them can be found on the Ribble NNR either breeding or wintering. Pick up your copy of the book at the RDC or check out the BTO shop here for badges/shirts etc. Proceeds go towards improving these birds fortunes. Pink Footed Geese on the Ribble The pink-footed geese seem to have picked up on the warmer weather and longer days across the Ribble reserves and moving more in larger numbers. Some may be thinking of making the journey back to their breeding grounds, but the story isn’t so simple. Movements of large numbers of birds this time of year is common, with flocks moving around the UK before heading off. The ‘Ribble birds’ may move north before making their final journey, while birds from the east coast move in. Their departure wont be over night though, and we expect to see good numbers of this iconic bird for a few months yet. PinkFeet@BanksM: WesDavies Black-headed gull Appreciation BHGs@MS: WesDavies Opening Sangrounders hide at Marshside has remined me (Wes) of how amusing they are. Even though they are not yet quite in full swing (plumage or dance) they are well up on my list of most entertaining birds to be around, or surrounded by in the case of sandgrounders. There is something about their unashamed cries which is lairy and comical. I am looking forwards to seeing the display rituals and dances in full swing over the coming weeks. Black-headed gulls are listed as ‘Amber concern’, which seems odd as they appear in towns more commonly than they used to. However their coastal breeding populations have declined along with the change in demographics. Marine Litter The amount of litter in the strand lines remains an issue Ribble wide. We have ‘head-hunted’ all the particularly damaging bits we can, and will be organising a mass litter pick after the next spring tides. The only useful stuff from this winters offerings is a fishing net that will become a trailer net, some containers that make grand battery covers for e.fences and a rather serviceable chair for the workshop. The only thing slightly resembling treasure pulled out so far has been this rubber duck. Duck: WesDavies RDC Shop We have a fabulous offer of 15% off on 12.75 kg sacks of feed till 17 March 2020, so hurry to grab yourself a bird food bargain. It is also one of our binocular and telescope optic weekends this weekend and we have a fantastic limited offer on some telescope and tripod/monopod reductions. A huge saving of £50 on Avocet 60mm and 80mm scopes with case and zoom lens. There’s also saving of £36 on the AN tripod and an £11 saving on Viking monopod. Image: Ben Hall

Blog Post: A Call for Survey Volunteers

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 : Redshank, lapwing, avocet and Arctic tern chick images: WesDavies