Blog Post: New Year (ish) 2021 on the Ribble Estuary

New Year at Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh As the year that was 2020 drew to a close, Marshside saw a few fleeting appearances of Kelvin- Helmholtz clouds. These rare wave like formations take their name from the physicists that first described the complexities of wave formations in air and liquids (The Kelvin-Helmholtz Instability ). They occur in clouds when there is a strong vertical shear between two air streams, which happens surprisingly scarcely. The new year arrived with some 'proper' winter weather freezing most of the reserve. Rimmer's marsh was almost completely frozen, with only the hardiest gulls left standing on the ice and good numbers of pintail and shoveler on the small patches of clear water. Moving water on Sutton's and Crossens marshes kept the ice at bay in places, much to the advantage of wigeon and teal . The cold snap eventually subsided to rain (and a little snow) leaving the marshes looking muddy and wet again. Any freshly exposed mud was quickly taken advantage of as birds topped up any extra calories they missed under the ice. The long range forecast suggests that we are due another cold snap in the near future as a result of the polar vortex collapse at the beginning of January. Keeping the Reserve Open and Covid Safe 2020 was testing and turbulent for everyone (2021 is starting much the same). At Marshside , the changing rules and guidance on what we can open, social distancing and hygiene have affected the way people can visit our sites and the way we work dramatically. On the ground our amazing volunteers rose to the challenges at short notice, incorporating safe working and traveling throughout. Despite the social distancing constraints, sanitising of tools and daily interference that Covid has brought they continue to over achieve. We would be lost without their dedication. Why don't birds feet freeze It seems an impossibility that birds can stand so happily on ice without getting cold, or even frozen feet. This hardiness is the result of a clever complex of veins and arteries, including a contraflow arrangement mid leg. This system acts as a heat exchange, releasing only enough heat to the foot to keep it going. This keeps the rest of the body warm as minimal heat has a chance to pass to the ground. Feathers make great waterproof insulators, and we see these change externally as they move from summer to winter plumage. Breeding plumage can take up a lot of energy to keep up (after all they are showing off), winter plumage is less elaborate which saves energy on maintenance. Underneath this exterior change, big changes can happen. Long distance migrants can change the size and shape of their organs to help them fly amazing long distances. Birds wintering in cold climates can change the size and shape of organs to keep heat in and store more fat. Works at Marshside/Hesketh Weather and lockdown permitting we have plans to finish the fencing work started last year on Rimmer's and Hesketh East. We also hope to get the 'tern sanctuary' on East established, all we need is some good weather at the right time. Our bigger projects are; We have some more 'you are here' signs ready to go up around the reserves at key points. Predator exclusion fencing on Rimmer's Marsh Predator exclusion fencing on Hesketh East New tern rafts and habitat at Hesketh East Ditch restoration and habitat creation at Hesketh West And at Fairhaven Work continues in the RSPB building at Fairhaven Lake, with all internal structures in place, walls are plastered and ready for painting. Very soon it will be time to fit out the new shop area and start the installation of the new information boards for the Visitor Centre. These photos show the interior of the pagoda building. The first picture is of the shop area. This has been expanded to include the old office and kitchenette area. Thus making the retail space far bigger than previously. The second picture shows the layout of the Visitor Centre side. There will be a site 'Welcome' from here and an opportunity to download informative site apps as well as interactive boards and screens in the centre itself. Work is also progressing well in the Isaac Dixon boathouse. This will be the watersports and education centre. Included in this will be a fabulous new classroom area for visiting schools. It's light and airy and has ample toilets and handwashing facilities for children. It's going to make a fantastic base for our education delivery, before we get out to the 'hands on' stuff. The double doors will be the main entrance to the classroom space. There will be ample toilet and washing facilities for this area. The whole building is such a huge space it's really exciting to know that it's going to get lots of use.