Category: Marshside (RSPB)

Blog Post: The best of 2021

Well, it was slow start to the year with the easing of Covid restrictions. But the wildlife is ever present, no matter who is watching, or waiting, the cycle of life continues. These are some of the wildlife highlights this year. Firstly though we must mention the re-opening of our brand new Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre. We are proud once again to be serving the people of the Northwest and from further afield. Bringing wildlife to your doorstep, supplying bird feeders and nature homes to the region and re-starting our vital education delivery of up to 2000 school children per year. This year started a little frosty. The development works to the buildings around the lake were in full flow. The lake almost totally froze over at one point in January, providing some swan ice skating comedy. The black and white oystercatchers out on the estuary high tide roost, looked like penguins from a distance too. Moving into spring, the arrival of stonechat mark the beginning of the breeding season. In comparison to many other migratory birds they have a relatively short distance to fly, with many coming from Spain, France or even just further south in the UK. A pair nested on the sand dunes at Fairhaven and produced a very early brood, with four fledglings. It’s more than likely that they went on to produce at least one other brood too. Watching this little family groups was fantastic and a personal highlight for me. However, one cannot forget the extraordinary photos of avocets at Hesketh out Marsh either. This photo taken by Wes at the beginning of April, looks like a painting. Their monochrome bodies bright against the perfect blue sky and I love the odd one out. Can you spot the stray bird? Look at the larger picture in the header. It was also cuteness overload with our Arctic tern chicks. Fabulous to see them using the tern tables, which provide a safe off the ground nesting spot, less accessible for land predation. Seven pairs were observed to breed at Hesketh out Marsh on the new rafts with three of the pairs successfully fledging two chicks each. The signs so far look good for the coming years. We were treated to a fabulous display one spring morning at high tide. A large flock of ringed plover and dunlin on a migratory stopover were pushed into Granny’s Bay at high tide. Everyone meandering down the promenade stopped to watch this extraordinary sight. With the advancing tide, the birds were pushed even closer to the shore, with hundreds of birds dotting around on the sand close in. Spectators “oooed” and “ahhhed” and were astounded at this spectacle, rarely do we see such a large flock so close in to the seawall. During the summer swallows swooped and swifts dash across the lake. Their numbers felt lower than years gone by, they face difficulties along their journey as well as limited spaces for nesting. Swift boxes must be a priority to put up next year. The lake and gardens are alive with busy birds throughout summer, not just the mallards and geese, but the garden, woodland and coastal birds. Linnets busily feed their families in the gorse bushes on the sand dunes, were wonderful to watch. There are a host of newly fledged birds including goldfinch , chiff chaff and willow warbler, as well as the more familiar blackbirds and robins, hopping around the trees. Before long the autumn passage begins and we start to note wheatears on the saltmarsh once again, stocking up on fuel before undertaking their enormous journey to Africa. Again watching wheatears hopping around the saltmarsh is an autumn highlight for me. Many of these are young birds making their way to warmer climes for the winter. The particular bird in the photo caught my eye this year as it was a paler bird than the others it was with. It is vital that these birds are able to utilise this feeding period to full advantage, stocking up on nutrients to last them as their journey progresses. However, it is all too familiar a sight that dogs disturb them, sending them into panic, using up food stores they are desperately trying to increase. Sadly this is the same for the birds that arrive on our shores for the winter too. Wader numbers increase by thousands on the estuary for winter. Once again these birds are constantly feeding, their need to consume calories to see them through the winter is a finely tipped scale. Dogs off leads allowed to chase feeding birds are a major source of disturbance and in some cases can be the difference in their survival prospects. Suddenly, the sound of pink footed geese fill the air. Hundreds of thousands of pink footed geese make their way from Iceland and Greenland to our shores to spend the winter. They are joined by vast numbers of black and bar tailed godwits , wigeon , teal , shelduck and pintail . All of these birds breed further north, making their way to our shores in autumn. The Ribble Estuary is the largest and most important single river estuary in the UK for these over wintering wildfowl. Many flit between Marshside and Lytham, spending their days feeding on the mudflats and wetlands. On our latest “Wader Watch Walk” large numbers of pintail were observed flying across the estuary and these beautiful ducks can sometimes be seen bobbing on the high tide at Granny’s Bay. Our next walk is our “Christmas Wader Watch Walk” on 23 December 11-2. If you’d like more information or to book, please click here. Of course the “lake cormorants ” also return for the winter, little egret and heron are seen on a daily basis around the lake edge. We are still awaiting the return of the winter kingfisher and eyes are peeled for the zip of blue. Scaup , pochard and a female goldeneye were also seen hanging around with the tufted ducks last year. We are awaiting to see who will choose the lake this winter. Marshside is of course alive with raptors at this time of year. Many harrier species are on the move throughout autumn, so ringtail hen harriers can be seen and there’s plenty marsh harrier activity too. Approximately three short eared owls are being regularly observed across the marshes presently. Short eared owls are diurnal and can therefore be seen hunting in daylight hours too. There’s been excitement recently at Sandgrounders hide with the re-emergence of a water rail . Whilst they may never have actually been anywhere, it has been some time since a water rail has been observed, so this is a definite positive to look forward to as the year progresses. Of course the autumn and winter sunsets are unbeatable along our coast too, across the estuary and over the lake, from the sand dunes is a great spot. As you can see the estuary and area around Fairhaven is alive with wildlife and all the other flora and fauna make up the balance in delicate ecosystem. The role our wardening team play in maintaining the wetland environment at Marshside and Hesketh out Marsh is of vital importance and their fabulous work enables nature to flourish, doing exactly what our strap line says and “giving nature a home”. What a wonderful place for some fresh air and nature. There’s loads going on around you all the time. As well as our fabulous #RobinRobin adventure trail at Fairhaven Lake there’s plenty for all to see. Don’t be afraid to call in the Visitor Centre to find out more and we hope to see you soon. Jo Photos from left to right Juvenile stonechat (Jo), swans on frozen Fairhaven Lake (Jo), avocets (Wes), Arctic tern chick (Wes), ringed plover at Granny’s Bay (Jo), wheatear (Jo), single ruff with black tailed godwit at Marshside (Wes), sunset (Jo), short eared owl (Ben Andrew RSPB-images)

Blog Post: It’s a real mixed bag

It’s a real mixed bag So after recently posting about the delay in the influx of winter thrushes, the weather really changed. The icy snap of the last few days and the decrease in temperatures prior to that has now sent them heading our way. So keep your eyes out for redwing and fieldfare in the area. We were very lucky with the weather just before storm Arwen, fabulously calm and serene high tides, with just the pastel blue hues of winter the only giveaway to the season. This kind of weather also lends itself to beautiful sunsets and Fylde coast sunsets are arguably some of the best. Understandably as the tide comes in the vast number of wading birds and ducks are pushed in towards the saltmarsh. Out there with my camera and binoculars I get lots of people stopping to ask about the birds, curious to know what they are and what they are doing, and swirling flocks produce great amazement and appreciation. At this time of year there are lots of different species all occupying different niches with their own unique adaptations, in what can look like a harsh environment. The mudflats are a vast source of food for these birds. As the tide comes closer the birds tend to roost together on the sand spits and saltmarsh. They sit it out until the tide once again recedes. This is then a great time to forage, following the sea as it departs the shoreline, revealing many invertebrates closer to the surface as well as nutritious goodies it leaves behind. Turnstone have been seen foraging on the beach area at high tide alongside little egret , knot and redshank . Many of the larger waders keep a greater distance from the sea wall, but I have also seen plenty pintail floating on the waters in the bay. We have recently introduced some guided high tide “wader watch walks”, which have been really successful. These short walks with John and Peter have provided an insight to the waders on the shore and saltmarsh at high tide, and introduced some basic identification tips. During December we are bringing a series of different “wader watch walks” at high tide in conjunction with Ribble Bird Tours. Stuart runs his own bird touring company and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. These walks with go a little further from the Fairhaven Visitor Centre and down to Lytham jetty, again providing insights into identifying the birds, what their adaptations are and the national importance of the Ribble Estuary. See here for further details and booking information. In other news we are really looking forward to the Fairhaven Christmas fair on Sunday 5 December. Lots of fun for all the family with stalls, carousel rides and Christmas wreath workshops with the Fylde Ranger team as well as it being RSPB binocular and telescope open weekend. We have a wide range of binoculars and ‘scopes to suit all needs and pockets. Binoculars were one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received, not only because they open up the world, but because I was able to try out different pairs and choose the ones that were the best fit for me. Try before you buy is always available at our stores and we always have experts on hand to guide you with your purchase. This weekend is a perfect weekend if you are thinking of buying for Christmas, and the weather is looking pretty tip top too. It really is a busy weekend, after storm Arwen wreaking havoc over the last weekend, the weather is looking much more favourable. Our #RobinRobin adventure trail with audio i s available, activity packs are available in the centre, why not grab one and head off on your own sneak? Don’t forget to take a selfie with our Robin Robin selfie board and share it with us too. Head back to the centre afterwards, decorate a robin for our tree and let us know how you went on. If you join us on Sunday for the Fairhaven Christmas fair we will be in the watersports centre making robin food tinsel and decorating robins in there too. If you call in the visitor centre, we do have the #RobinRobin picture book and plenty of food so our robins don’t go hungry this winter. We are looking forward to seeing you there. Jo sunset and mixed wader flock by Jo Robin Robin image courtesy of Aardman and Netflix

Blog Post: Let’s get hands on

Did you know that here at Fairhaven Lake we deliver hands on outdoor education on the estuary, lakes and garden to nearly 2000 children from the Northwest every year? The £1.46 million Heritage Lottery Funded project in conjunction with Fylde Borough Council 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 facilities, 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 popular sessions for key stages 1 and 2 are beach based. Our sessions take in the physical and human aspects of the landscape and include the identification of coastal wildlife. Teamwork and engineering is also incorporated. This week as well as our coastal sessions with Cleveland Preparatory School from Bolton w e’ve had a closer look at the birds and their adaptations with Manor Beach Primary School from Thornton Cleveleys. As well as visits from schools closer to home, we also 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. For many, it is a new life experience and that’s what our outdoor education is all about. Touching, feeling, seeing, and smelling real life in real places and making connections to the world we live in. For further information about our sessions, please see our website: For more information, please contact: Jo Taylor (Learning and Visitor Experience Officer)

Blog Post: Robin Robin

We’re delighted to be partnering with Netflix and Aardman on Robin Robin , a half-hour, stop-motion, festive story for the whole family, about a young robin trying to fit in. It’s debuting on Netflix on 24 November – get the date in your diary! To cele…

Blog Post: Good weather for ducks, but has the tide turned?

Autumn days ahead Warmer and wetter weather has been with us for some time recently, the ducks on the lake have had a whale of a time. Is this all part of climate change? It’s two of the key things predicted to happen as climate change advances. As World leaders meet at COP26 to sign up to climate change goals, we hope it’s not too late. We have already noticed one or two changes. Autumn is a time of great migration within the birding world, but some of the birds we would now be expecting to see in large numbers are not yet here. Redwing and fieldfare , are both over-wintering thrushes, flying in from Scandanavia. Numbers of arrivals are down at the time of writing. Redwings are identifiable from song thrushes as they have a bright eye stripe and as their name suggests they have red around their wing. Not on the back of their wings but underneath their wings, which you can see even when their wings are down and along their flank. They forage for berries during the day and then roost together in trees at night. Fieldfare on the other hand are a much larger thrush, having a red-brown back (mantle) and grey crown and nape. They have heavily spotted breasts with a rusty yellow tinge. They also forage on fruit from trees as well as fallen fruit, and can also been seen foraging on open fields and grassy areas. The usual influx of fieldfare has not yet occurred. Many people are also noticing that their usual garden robin has not yet made an appearance and numbers of blackbirds, thrushes and other birds that usually visit the garden are also down. The most likely cause of this delay is likely to be the warmer, wetter and windy weather we have recently experienced. Many of the birds we see feeding in our gardens in autumn are often continental birds, some coming from as far away as Russia. Many of “our” summer birds make their way southwards in autumn, they may still be here. Cold, harsh conditions prompt the birds to commence their journey, whilst warmer conditions will keep them put especially if there is a remaining food source. Whether there will be an impact on them because of their late arrival to our shores is not yet known. However what is known is that when these birds do arrive they will benefit from supplementary garden feeding. Blackbirds , thrushes and robins will frequently head towards gardens and parks. A mix of seeds, suet and mealworms will attract a large variety of birds. During the winter months it is not unknown for great spotted woodpeckers , nuthatches , goldcrests and finches to regularly visit gardens for supplementary bird food. In other bird news the Ribble estuary region will expect to host up to 10,000 pink footed geese over winter and around 1000 – 1,500 black tailed godwits . The godwits of late do seem to be spreading themselves a little more and finding new local areas to spend the winter in, so it doesn’t mean they’re not around. We look forward to seeing you soon – and don’t forget to pop into the shop and grab your festive goodies, with our wrapping paper and crackers, you can have yourselves a “greener” Christmas (we also have a great selection of cards, decorations, calendars and gifts) and do stock up on bird food for those incoming garden birds that will eventually arrive. And if you are thinking about buying a new pair of binoculars or a telescope, why not come to our Binocular and Telescope Open Weekend on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November – our friendly, knowledgeable team will be happy to answer all your questions and help you find the perfect optical gear to suit your requirements and budget. Jo Redwing photo: Ben Andrew RSPB-images Fieldfare photo: Ian Francis RSPB-images Bird food and robin: Jo

Blog Post: Observations of a wildlife watcher – guest blog by Sue Provost

Fairhaven Lake guest blog Sue is one of our volunteers at the Fairhaven Lake Visitor Centre. She has written us a guest blog this week about the comings and goings at Fairhaven Lake this summer: There are different starts of the year. For me the year turns at the start of autumn. Most of the summer migrants have left and some of the winter visitors have started to arrive. Whether you use meteorological time or astronomical time autumn starts in September. For me its astronomical with the autumn equinox being 22nd of September, officially marking the end of summer and the start of autumn. The change of season is already apparent at Fairhaven. The Canada geese that came to moult have left. The wheatears and stonechats are off on their long journey to Continental Europe and Africa for the winter. Our regular wintering female kingfisher has been spotted, moving away from the river and back to a seasoned winter feeding spot for her. Out on the Ribble estuary the waders are starting to arrive with increasing numbers, knot have been seen as well as returning turnstones. Small skeins of pink footed geese can be seen coming and going with the tides, we are awaiting their full noisy arrival with larger skeins anticipated. Soon there will be thousands of them grazing the fields at Marshide alongside them noisy whistling wigeons and teal. Soon the third largest population of migrant waders in England will gather to feast on the rich mud of the estuary. This year September also marks the full return to services and events down at Fairhaven. The visitor centre and shop have been open since April, welcoming visitors from far and wide. Our hot drinks machine has proved very popular, with a good range of bird friendly coffee. The Big Wild Summer Activity Trail has proved popular and there are plans afoot for further trails during the year. Look out for a half term spooky Halloween trail as well as other family activities. Don’t forget autumn is a great time to pick up a bag of bird seed and see just what birds you may entice into your garden, grateful for the extra food. The education centre is finally open and Jo is expecting the first schools this week. The team are ready and are really looking forward to welcoming children back on site. There has been lots of enquiries for summer already as schools book eagerly after such a long period of restrictions. Fairhaven Lake and the surrounding buildings look good after the refurbishments and pathway all around the lake is now open, once again allowing the circular walk around that so many people have missed. The stepping stones have also been added to the Japanese Gardens, which is fun, do you dare to hop across them? We all eagerly await the reopening of the café in a few weeks, fingers crossed. We have an interesting and ongoing situation with a swan couple as one of last year’s goslings is still hanging around despite many attempts of our two resident pairs to chase him away. Male swans will not tolerate single males continuing to hang around on their territory, so he is most unwelcome. He has taken up residence by the boats and frequently sits in the middle of the path almost ignoring walkers and their dogs. Many people enquire about him, asking if he is ok. He will simply move on in his own time, probably joining a group a juveniles and learn how to be a swan with them. Sadly there have been a number of incidents with swans and dogs both at Fairhaven and at Ashton Gardens. Unfortunately some have been fatal. One of the young ones from Fairhaven has been relocated to Ashton Gardens, however, I will keep you up to date with the Fairhaven Swan Opera. It’s not just swans affected by dogs off leads though, many birds on the saltmarsh are disturbed by dogs roaming through the grasses. Many of these birds are feeding before heading off on their migratory journey, so it is really important that they are allowed to do this. Keeping dogs on leads at the beginning of spring and autumn can really help lessen disturbances for these birds and ensure they take on the resources they vitally need. A final thought, climate change is affecting us all but one incident, not from Fairhaven, has shown most clearly how this year’s weird weather is affecting our wildlife. A mallard has been seen over Wyre this week with two very young ducklings. Let’s hope they can get strong enough before winter. If you have seen any weird wildlife events or activities please let us know. Thanks for reading, Sue Photos: Pink footed geese by Stuart Darbyshire, long tailed tits, flying mute swans and cygnet by Jo