Blog Post: Cracking on with spring

Well it's been a fabulously busy couple of weeks all around for the Ribble Reserves team. Over at Marshside a brand new outdoor viewing screen has been installed. The old one, worn and rotting was taken down with surprising ease. With help from our wonderful volunteers putting the new one up was made lighter work. The coot nesting nearby showed remarkable resilience and patience. Whilst not directly impacted by the short term alterations it must have encountered some light disruption. The wonderful new screen was an immediate attraction as not more than two days later a broad billed sandpiper filled the gap that last weeks black winged stilt had left. The sandpiper, a rare American vagrant to our shores was however a short lived visitor, disappearing overnight, classic broad billed sandpiper behaviour. What a wonderful bird for those that were lucky enough to catch its fleeting visit. However, the broad billed left a curlew sandpiper behind, another wonderful wading bird to add to the Marshside list. Over at Fairhaven, the spring migrants started to trickle in a little more steadily. Greater numbers of swallows were seen and whitethroats were once again singing in their usual territories on the dunes. Thursday this week saw a fleeting drop in from a female redstart and Friday brought more wheatears who had been surprisingly noticeable by their absence of late. I was also stopped in my tracks on my way around the lake this morning by a rather handsome gull, which I immediately thought to be a yellow-legged gull. I'm not 100% about this as they can be tricky to identify, so I've popped it on our Twitter page for some other opinions, so please take a look. As I write I am continually distracted by a pied wagtail nesting in a pile of pallets in front of my window, I'm hoping for glimpses of fledglings in the next few weeks. The school children are also arriving in good numbers from all over the Northwest. Some of the children visiting from Bolton this week had never been to the coast, to hear them say "wow, it's so beautiful" and display genuine awe was amazing. During our "Investigating Coasts" session they discovered things they had never seen before whilst putting into context some of the things they had been learning about in class. We've actually undertaken a lot of coastal investigation sessions in the last few visits, including sand dune quadrat surveying. I know at least one school who has then taken the data they collated onsite and used it to extend learning in class, turning it into graphs to demonstrate their findings. One teacher saying that due the hands on practical aspect in context the children were able to learn in one session what would have taken her around three lessons to teach. We've had outstanding feedback so far too and are virtually fully booked for June and most of July, with some availability for May and of course there's always September too. It's certainly going to be a busy season. For further information about our school offer click here. We have a wide range of binoculars and telescopes in our shop at Fairhaven Lake too, whether you're just starting out or are looking to upgrade there is always someone on hand who could help you try before you buy and offer good, impartial advice. We also sell second hand wildlife books, so why not come and check out what we have? We had two or three signed Bill Oddie books recently and have had some good classic identification guides too. There's been some bargains to be had. If you have any good quality bird, wildlife and conservation books you'd like to donate then feel free to bring them down for us, we'd be very grateful. See you all soon Jo Whitethroat on Fairhaven sand dunes, wheatear and Oakhill School quadrat surveying by Jo