Burton Mere – 21 April 2024

Most people would agree that four Spotted Redshank coming into full breeding plumage and a female Scaup were the birding highlights of a fantastic day at Burton Mere, but this gem of a reserve has so much more to offer.

A small lane leads towards the visitor centre and then a path breaks off through a fragment of ancient woodland. The woodland floor was carpeted with a sea of native Bluebells reaching into every corner, while Garlic Mustard and Cow Parsley lit up the edge of the path. On every tree, vibrant green leaves burst from swollen buds. The soft, downy, green of the Beech reminded me of a caterpillar emerging from a chrysalis and we were treated to Orange-tips and Peacocks as the spring sunshine filtered through the canopy.

Avocet Photo: Steve Martin
Avocet Photo: Steve Martin

A lovely new café at the reserve was the first calling point for many members with the added bonus of being able to watch Mediterranean Gulls from the balcony. Their smart summer plumage made the somewhat misleadingly named Black-headed Gulls look decidedly drab. Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits fed busily in the shallow pools.

Black-tailed Godwit Photo: Steve Martin
Black-tailed Godwit Photo: Steve Martin
Avocets Photo: Steve Martin
Avocets Photo: Steve Martin

Moving on towards the hides, Cetti’s Warblers seemed to sing from every bush, occasionally providing tantalising glimpses. One bird, singing from willow scrub misjudged its cover and revealed itself to a group of lucky birders. The prize for going unseen went to Grasshopper Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat instead. The warblers, freshly arrived from their wintering grounds, were in full song and only Garden Warbler remained unrecorded.

Willow Warbler Photo: Judy Smith
Willow Warbler Photo: Judy Smith

A Common Lizard basking on a log pile proved an obliging subject for the photographers among us. Shooting through the grass was a bit tricky but the subject was less mobile than the birds.

Common Lizard Photo: Steve Martin
Common Lizard Photo: Steve Martin

The view from the Iron Age fort is well worth the climb, both for the views and the bird species. Raven, Great White Egret, Peregrine and Knot were all spotted across the marsh. A pair of Linnets gathered nesting material, probably nesting in the nearby gorse, ablaze with yellow flowers in any month of the year.

Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite and Common Buzzard added to the raptors seen and Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker also put in an appearance. Little Grebe were resplendent in their breeding plumage. Towards the end of the day, as the sun continued to shine on down on weary wanderers, a bench at the east of the reserve provided views of a pair of Stonechat, perched on a fencepost. If only all birds were so obliging.

Little Grebe Photo: Steve Martin
Little Grebe Photo: Steve Martin

We managed to leave almost on time with three members of the party hot-footing it up the lane claiming to have forgotten we weren’t parked at the visitor centre. I suspect they were engrossed in a search for the perfect photo!

Sean Ashton

Attendees:      31
Birds seen:       78