Sunday, 17 April 2016

Shrug off those winter blues at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands this spring


Now is the perfect time to discover one of the best bluebell woodlands in the region - at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, on the Dee Estuary. Each spring, the nature reserve’s Gorse Covert, an area of semi-natural ancient woodland, bursts into colour with a blanket of blue and this year, the bluebells have not disappointed.
Due to the mild winter, many of the flowers are already beginning to emerge and tease admirers with their colour, well before their usual May bloom.  Last year, hundreds of visitors to the nature reserve told RSPB staff of their delight at seeing such a pristine area of the iconic British flower.
Dan Trotman, Visitor Experience Manager at RSPB Dee Estuary reserves, said: “It’s one of my favourite times of the year, when the woodland floor gradually changes from its dull winter green to the vibrant blue hue. Over the past couple of years visitors have really started to notice the intensity of the bluebells; people come to the reserve purely to see the spectacle. The contrast of the deep blue against the greenery of the trees creates a lovely setting for a relaxing stroll. We’ve recently added two new benches so you can sit and enjoy the tranquility even longer.”
To celebrate this natural wonder, visitors are invited to join in a special ‘Bluebells and Birdsong’ guided walk to discover more about the bluebells as well as other interesting flowers and wildlife on the reserve.
Dan added: “On our event this year, visitors can not only enjoy a stroll into the heart of the bluebell woodland, there will also be the chance to venture up to Burton Point where there is another impressive stand of  these flowers, along with breathtaking panoramic views over Burton Mere Wetlands and across the estuary to the Welsh hills.”
“While Gorse Covert and Burton Point can be enjoyed independently by all visitors to the reserve, the guided walk is a great way to discover more about the wildlife that lives here. The nesting birds will be in fine voice, adding to the tranquil atmosphere, and you will be given tips on how to pick out the songs of different birds. It’s a great way to spend a morning.”
The ‘Bluebells and Birdsong’ guided walk will be held on Saturday 30 April from 10 am to noon.  The cost is £5 per person (£4 for RSPB members) and includes a hot drink in the reception hide. To book your place, phone 0151 353 8478 or email
For more information on the reserve and its activities, check out the website

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

For Feb 13th my daughter Katy had organised a visit to a birds of prey centre at Stockley Farm, Cheshire as a treat for Jamie’s 11th birthday. Jamie wanted Granddad to go as well so I helped transport some of the 7 kids and adults.

I have never previously ever had any desire to visit such a place when I have had opportunity away on holiday. However, I have to say, that Saturday 13th Feb 2016 will live long in my memory as a simply wonderful experience.

Gary and Pam took us out from the centre with a Harris Hawk (Georgia) on gloved hand. She was free to fly off at will, often landing in a tree above us, always returning to the hand for a tit bit. Shredded chick-meat was the tempting bait but it looked more like a bundle of feathers! Each of the kids took turns to experience the bird returning to their gloved hands from a position in the trees. Wonder and joy and excitement was written over their faces. For me the special highlight of the hour was seeing the hawk take off and land on the ground a couple of hundred metres away – after a rabbit Gary said – and then return from that distance when she saw a tit bit being jiggled on a gloved hand! They told us of the exceptional sight that hawks etc have.

Back at the centre we were introduced to other hawks and some owls, including the European Eagle Owl, which is the biggest owl of the lot. The barn owl was so soft to touch - so beautiful. 
As a dedicated bird watcher I had some interesting conversation with Gary and Pam. The children asked some pretty intelligent questions and I was surprised at the knowledge some of them displayed. I had the bright idea to ask Pam for a couple of feathers for Jamie’s nature table and she returned with a kestrel feather and one from a Harris Hawk – what a memento from the visit!
Add to all this the farm animals and the bouncy castle and the kids had a very special experience to remember.


Port Sunlight River Park

This riverside park, on a restored landfill site, offers a remarkable variety of habitats for such a small space. I started by walking round the lower path, beside the muddy creek of the River Dibbin towards the Mersey Viewing Area. There are striking views across the Mersey, and there were plenty of woodland birds singing in the scrub on the slope of the large plateau that has been created ~ robins, wrens, blue and great tits, as well as a blackbird and the inevitable woodpigeon.

Further round, the path is bordered by taller trees, with chaffinches, greenfinches and chiffchaff singing, and excellent views down to the wide expanse of mudflats, with shelduck, oystercatchers, dunlin and redshank, as well as a few mallard in the water. On the other side of the path, the reedbeds in the lake are now well established, and I saw a pair of reed warblers as well as a male reed bunting perching and displaying. Out on the water a pair of pintail were busy searching for food below the surface, as were half a dozen tufted duck, while a coot and several teal were joined by herring gulls having a rinse in the fresh water.

When I arrived up on the summit a lark was singing and a pair of wheatears were flitting about: and all this in sight of the wastewater works and dockside businesses !  All in all, well worth a visit, as the wildflower and tree planting take hold and the site matures. Accessibility is good, with firm paths throughout (two of the paths to the summit are marked on the site map as steep, but the rest are manageable). There are toilets at the Mersey Viewing Area, and plenty of benches along the way.

The LandTrust: Port Sunlight River Park has been transformed from a closed landfill site to a 35-hectare park providing a popular community space with an array of walkways, wildlife, wildflowers and a wetlands area

Anne Pope