Sunday, 18 August 2013

Take a walk into the darkness at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands

Badgers - Laura Bimson

As dusk falls over RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, the nature reserve comes alive   and this month, visitors have the chance to uncover the site's secret wildlife on a special dusk walk.

With the help of RSPB wardens, visitors can discover the nocturnal creatures which make their home at the reserve, including bats, badgers and owls.  
There will also be the opportunity to witness a wildlife spectacle at Burton Mere Wetlands, which is home to one of the UK s largest colonies of little egrets. As dusk approaches, close to 400 of the birds   a new
record for the reserve   gather from across the estuary, creating a remarkable sight. Dan Trotman, Visitor Development Officer at RSPB Dee Estuary Reserves, said:  Whilst these birds are seen regularly feeding across the estuary s saltmarsh during the day, nothing compares to the sight and sound of dozens flying together into the tree-tops next to the nature reserve for the night. It s an amazing sight to watch.

As darkness looms, the first of the reserve s nocturnal residents emerge   the bats. Burton Mere Wetlands is home to several types of bat and visitors can get up close to one type known as the water bat, as they zip back and forth catching flies over the water, just inches from the footpath. During the special dusk walk, visitors will also have the chance to venture into the Gorse Covert woodland, listen to the tawny owls calling to each other and hopefully catch a glimpse of young badgers foraging in the woods as twilight falls.

Geoff Robinson, Asst Warden for RSPB Dee Estuary Reserves, said: There have been evenings when I 've been here alone and seeing the little egret colony in all its glory makes all the hard work we' ve put into managing this wetland over the years seem all the more worthwhile.  The bats are superb - you can end up with them swirling all around you, just inches away. The badgers are brilliant to watch too. They have lived at Burton Mere Wetlands for years, but their home is now protected as it sits within RSPB land. 
The walk is a great way to experience the reserve after dusk. I don' t think people appreciate how much goes on here after the sun goes down  it really is worth discovering.

In a bid to enable people to experience as much of the evening activity on the reserve as possible, the guided Dusk Walk will be held on Friday 30 August, starting at 6.30pm. The cost for the walk is  £5 per adult ( 3 for RSPB members) and  £1 per child (free for RSPB Wildlife Explorer members). 
For more information on the reserve and its activities, please call the reserve on 0151 353 8478, or check out the website

Juvenile Tawny owl. Andy Hay
Burton Mere Wetlands is the gateway to the RSPB s Dee Estuary nature reserve, with one of the newest visitor facilities in the country.   From the comfort of the reception building, visitors can see nesting avocets and lapwings in the summer and huge flocks of ducks, geese and swans in winter.  Water voles and badgers are resident here, whilst the summer months are alive with flickering colours from the countless dragonflies and butterflies.

Location and opening times:
RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Puddington Lane, Burton, Cheshire, CH64 5SF.  The reserve is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm  from November to March, and 9am to dusk from April to October.  The reception building is open from 9.30am to 5pm year-round.

RSPB raises fracking fears for Lancashire wildlife

Whooper swan   Ben Hall rspb images

The RSPB is issuing its first objections to fracking proposals over concerns that the controversial drilling technique will harmwildlife and the climate.

The charity has lodged a letter of objection with Lancashire CountyCouncil to a proposal by Cuadrilla at Singleton near Blackpool inLancashire. The drilling site is close to an internationally important
protected area for pink footed geese and whooper swans and could causedisturbance to the birds.
The RSPB is also officially objecting to the contentious drillingproposal at Balcombe in Sussex on the grounds that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out, and on climate change grounds.
Harry Huyton, RSPB head of climate and energy policy, said:  Many people are rightly concerned about the impact this new technology willhave on their countryside. These are not just nimbys worried about
house prices   there is a very real public disquiet about fracking. We have looked closely at the regulation in place to police drillingfor shale gas, and it is simply not robust enough to ensure that ourwater, our landscapes and our wildlife is safe.

Cuadrilla boss and former energy secretary Lord Howell claims thatwhen he made his much publicised howler about fracking the  desolateNorth East  he actually meant the North West. Singleton in Lancashire
is right in the heart of the North West and is on the doorstep of anarea which is home to thousands of geese and swans who will arrive fromas far away as Siberia to roost and feed next month and stay for the
winter. This area is protected by European law because it is so valuable forwildlife and Cuadrilla has done nothing to investigate what damagetheir activities could do to it.

The RSPB has called on Lancashire County Council to ensure Cuadrillahas carried out a full Environmental Impact Assessment before it goesahead with any work. The charity has also joined with other wildlife
and environment groups to call on the Government to rethink its shalegas policies.
Mr Huyton added:  Government figures show that in the north of Englandthere is potential for 5,000 sites and a total of up to 100,000 wells. The idea that these will have a benign impact on the countryside is
very difficult to believe. Fracking is cutting edge-technology and we really have no idea what
the impact will be on our wildlife. We do know, however, tha tconcentrating our resources on extracting fossil fuel from the ground instead of investing in renewable energy threatens to undermine our

commitment to avoiding dangerous levels of climate change. 

The RSPB is the UK s largest nature conservation charity, inspiringeveryone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protectthreatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will
teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLifeInternational, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

DIGISCOPING.    15th Aug 2013.

Had a go at digiscoping with new scope today. Visited Martin Mere WWT and then dropped in to see tern roost at Ainsdale beach on way home.

Hope you like the pictures.......Sean.

                          Green Sandpiper.

                          Marsh Harrier.


                          Little Egret.

       Sandwich Terns....195.   and about 20 Common Terns.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Woolfall Heath Meadow

Took a stroll last Saturday to the community open day at Woolfall heath meadow. Woolfall Heath meadow can be found alongside the A526, Seth Powell way L36.

Like Mab lane community woodlands and Huyton lane wetlands, Woolfall heath is another small place with plenty of heart.  Lying alongside the River Alt, this green patch is part of the Alt Greenway linking Huyton (The source of the Alt has been traced to the Huyton lane wetlands site ) with Stockbridge village.

Landlife  (environmental charity, founder of and based at the National Wildflower Centre) has worked with North Huyton Neighbourhood Network, Knowsley Council and funding partners on a Community Spaces Project to make it more accessible, open up new pathways for walking and cycling, do more sowings and plantings of wildflowers and trees.

Alt reedbed & wetland
In 1996 the environment agency restored and opened up the river Alt channels on Woolfall heath, creating islands, a wetland area and a reed bed.

This area is now noted as potentially an ideal habitat for water voles, frogs, reed warbler and bunting, dragons and damselflies. On the day I only observed blue damselflies; time will tell if the birds and voles populate the area. I guess this will be determined by the possibility of vandalism (dreaded scrambler bikes) or the community taking it to heart, and the upkeep of the area; there was some discarded rubbish around the wetland area and the water level was low in the pond/river area, which incidentally has a new wooden viewing platform overlooking it.
View from viewing platform

The Wildflower meadow is framed by trees and woodland, and has a circular disabled friendly path within, extending down to and beyond the Alt park resource centre and the playing fields.
Landlife has developed the meadow by stripping the rich top soil to expose the subsoil, the free draining sherdley hill sand.  16 wildflower species were original sown however recent counts show over 100 species of native plants are present.

i.e. devils bit and field  scabious, eye bright, ragged robin, cowslip, red campion, vetch, bluebells, meadow buttercup, ox eye daisy, birds foot trefoil,  wild carrot, thistle ,teasel, meadow poppy, hawkbit, cornflower, willow herb, geranium, borage, evening primrose, and nettle.

Trees and shrubs on site are varied include willow, poplar, oak, rowan, silver birch, buddleia, wild rose, blackberry, elderberry.

This wildflower rich habitat attracts a multitude of insects.  Butterflies noted within the hour I visited were Large and small white,

Peacock on scabious

peacock, gatekeeper, meadow brown, specked w ood, small tortoiseshell, common blue and a moth 6 spot burnet. Bees included garden, buff tailed and red tailed bumblebee.

But best of all was a sound, the chirrup of grasshoppers, reminiscent of happy childhood days.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Simple Birding pleasures

Just thought I'd share this cute little snake head with you.
2 young Gt crested Grebes on Sefton Park lake last week, mum and dad nowhere to be seen!?
(There were also baby little grebes -far too titchy for my camera to reach)

A Captive Audience

Plover & Dunlin on Hilbre

Saturday saw Rhodie, Indira and I taking a stroll over to Hilbre Island for a high tide Birdwatch with the Wirral Coastal Rangers and the RSPB.  It was not long on the walk over before we began to see groups of Dunlin, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Oystercatchers on the mudflats.

Incoming Oystercatchers
In fact a small group of Dunlin flew straight across our path, magical!  Three Little Egrets were in one of the channels and we soon became aware of a common tern flying over our heads.  On to the islands and the sun appeared from behind the clouds turning it into a lovely day, not too hot but warm enough to bring the butterflies out,
lots of Peacocks looking stunning on the thistles and a couple of Graylings ( a seaside speciality) mating.  Moving on to the lifeboat station at the far end of the island for the sea watch we saw lots of Little and Sandwich Terns dive bombing into the water for fish and sand eels.  A distant Great Crested Grebe was spotted whilst groups of small waders flew by closely and too quickly for Rhodie to get her camera on them.  After lunch at the rangers base where tea and coffee were provided, we went down the steps on the far side of the island where we managed to get close to a group of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers resting on the rocks. 
The ever observant common seals - throw us a fish!
A small flock of Linnets were seen too and a couple of Meadow Pipits. Back to the lifeboat station we arrived just in time to see a couple of Harbour Porpoises frolicking about in the sea.  Next on to the observatory where an informative talk was given on the importance of the island and the ringing work that is done there. Time to head back and one more treat in store in the form of a Whimbrel feeding amongst the rocks.

 A wonderful if tiring day but well worth the time and effort.

Ann (Tomo)

All pics - Rhodie Blythe

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Hen harrier on the brink of extinction in England

Bowland Betty

For the first time since the 1960s, hen harriers have failed to nest successfully in England.
Just two pairs attempted to nest this year in England, but both failed.
At one of these sites the RSPB was working with the landowner to ensure the nest was protected. Sadly, the eggs never hatched. While, conservationists believe this nest failed naturally, the Government'own wildlife advisors say that the population had been forced into this precarious position by illegal killing. The reason for the failure of the second nest isn't yet known.
No new hen harriers this season means that the hen harrier is one the brink of extinction in England.
The news of the nest failure follows the publication in May of the State of Nature report which showed that 60 per cent of those wildlife species which are monitored are declining across the UK.
The hen harrier was once widespread across Britain, but it has endured decades of persecution, which first forced this bird of prey out of mainland Britain by 1900. From remnant populations in the Orkneys and the Western Isles, changing land uses and decline of persecution allowed them to spread south once more, reaching England shortly after the Second World War. The future prospects for this bird largely depend on the attitudes of grouse moor owners.
Martin Harper is the RSPB's conservation director. Commenting on this year's blank year for nesting birds, he said: The hen harrier is one of our most charismatic birds of prey enjoyed by many visitors to the uplands. However, managers on some intensively managed shooting estates have been attempting to remove this bird since it recolonised.
The latest news is a huge set-back and only a victory for those who want to see this bird of prey disappear from England's skies, but we will continue to fight to ensure that this bird has a future in some of our most iconic landscapes.
A Government scientific study  the Hen Harrier Framework  suggested there is capacity in the English uplands for over 300 pairs of hen harrier [note 2]. This study cited illegal persecution through shooting, trapping and disturbance as the main reason for the hen harrier's unfavourable conservation status in England.
In 2011, the Government published Biodiversity 2020 (the revised England Biodiversity Strategy). In this strategy the Government made a clear commitment that there should be no extinction of an English wild species at the hands of man.This mirrors an international commitment under the Convention of Biological Diversity. Martin Harper added: With no birds nesting successfully this year, the hen harrier is clearly on the brink of extinction in England. We are eager to hear proposals from DEFRA about how the hen harrier can be restored to it's rightful place on the English uplands.
The RSPB is working with stakeholders as part of a Defra group to produce an emergency recovery plan for the hen harrier in England. The importance of this work has heightened by the terrible news from this year's breeding season. The RSPB believe it is vital this plan is properly resourced and prioritised by Government.
Former SAS soldier turned author Chris Ryan, who has been a long-term supporter of hen harrier conservation said: I have had the pleasure of watching these magnificent birds soaring over the uplands of northern England for many years. Knowing this inspirational bird has been pushed to extinction in England by illegal persecution is devastating. I want to see this species back in its rightful place on our moorlands.
For centuries the hen harrier has endured a very bad press and at some sites its appearance is not tolerated. Although the bird can take grouse, the RSPB believes there are ways of reducing conflict without illegally killing hen harriers. A long-term study at Langholm Moor in Scotland has revealed potential through a technique known as diversionary feeding. Using this measure gamekeepers provide alternative prey during the nesting season when hen harriers are hunting intensively to feed their chicks.
Martin Harper continued: We are aware of a small number of gamekeepers that have used this technique with great success and had the eggs hatched at the English nest, the local gamekeeper and landowner had agree to trial the technique. Unfortunately, these forward-thinking individuals appear to be the exception rather than the rule.
Bird of prey crime, including hen harrier persecution, is one of six agreed national wildlife crime priorities. However, this recognition hasn't been enough to save Englands breeding hen harrier and the RSPB has repeatedly called for the introduction of vicarious liability  making landowners legally responsible for the actions of their gamekeepers  to improve protection.

Harrier at Parkgate

Martin Harper concluded: We are only a few days away from the Glorious 12th  the traditional August start of the grouse shooting season. My challenge to those who run grouse moors is simple: respect the law and allow hen harriers and other birds of prey to flourish again.