Thursday 2nd April
A day at one of my favourite RSPB reserves (aren't they all?) and one with a lot of memories from 40 years ago. Burton Mere RSPB reserve, a part of the Dee Estuary complex which includes the Inner Marsh farm area was the site for today's itinerary.Goodbye to the wonderful Steve and Margaret and of course Lucas, then a cycle over the Dee estuary bridge and a chance meeting with two lovely cyclists, John and Janice who were waiting for their son, Clinton Butcher who's doing a sponsored cycle ride for a homeless charity in Cambridge.
If you're in the Cambridge area you may want to take part in their event on Star Wars Day, May the Fourth. Take a look here. Good fun to be had by all. Now where can I get a costume for that day?
We must have talked about cycling and travel for about an hour! Great couple.Off the main road onto the cycle path, I left that to look for swans in a field beside the sailing pool here. There were swans but only mutes, 34 of them. Down to the end, I tried to enter the reserve via the back door so to speak and came across padlocked gates. A quick turn around and a cycle for a couple of miles around fields took me to the Puddington lane for Burton and I soon arrived at the RSPB visitor's centre.
What a lovely welcome! Two lovely RSPB ladies (aren't they all?), Deborah and Joan came up to me and Joan said, “Where have you been? You're late!” I have to admit to being 4 days behind schedule but I was surprised that they knew that. All in fun, they gave me a hot chocolate and a large cookie. Well, almost gave me a large chocolate. I do tend to use my arms a lot to expound when pontificating and Joan came up behind me when I was doing so to Deborah and a young RSPB man named Josh. My arm crashed into Joan and the hot chocolate went everywhere! Second embarrassing moment in two visitor centre visits. Oh well.I then met Derek, another RSPB staff memebre and put the bike and lads away in a safe place and settled down to bird. The centre looks over lagoons and the expanse of meadow and reedbed. Someone found a very distant merlin sitting on a fence post, only my third of the year. Good start. I sat down and looked out. Pintail, gadwall, shovelor, lots of avocets and many more black-tailed godwits. A peregrine flew around. Two ladies next to me, Sandra and Lynn from Runcorn were beginners and asked for ID. Instead of saying that was such and such I opened the field guide and asked them to find the bird. Shame they didn't share their pickled onions as we birded together.
Off out around the reserve, past the bird feeders and through the area with fish ponds and trees, I went down the trail to the first hide to look out over the lagoons here. Not many birds, just a couple of avocets with shelduck.
Next along a new section of path leading to a great broadwalk around to the Inner Marsh Farm section. Here I met Colin, the Dee Estuary RSPB site manager and Geoff who together are the most fabulous and respected RSPB people. Together with a couple of volunteers they were fixing a pathway to the next hide. Great to see them both again.
Down to the hide and a look out over the area, I remembered the last time I cycled here and had an argument over Man United with a birder in this very hide. It almost came to blows! I met the same bloke a few weeks later coincidentally in Derbyshire where he came over to me and acted like he was my best friend!Back to the centre, I'd seen 52 different species, once again a great total as the summer migrants aren't in yet.
Another brilliant RSPB reserve with lots of developments ongoing, wonderful staff, great birding. Perfect!
The rest of the day was sent cycling to West Kirby via Parkgate.
The memories? 40 years ago this area had been my birding patch and cycling around all of the area brought back lots of memories. The marsh had changed a lot being a lot drier than back then. Lagoons and muddy areas had gone and the rookery near Burton had gone too. Mind you I don't remember any cettis warblers and there were a few of these as I carried on.Parkgate, the place where chips had flew so long ago as my first hen harrier came over.
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