Sunday 18th February 2024 The Wirral

Ian took us to one of his favourite places to birdwatch, the Wirral, starting the day at Parkgate and then moving on to RSPB Burton wetlands. Twelve members turned out. Parkgate was overcast; although we left Shropshire on what we thought was a mild morning there was a distinctly cold breeze blowing over the marsh when we got out of our cars at Parkgate!

Lots of egrets, little and great white, Canada and pink-footed geese, mallard, teal and mute swan were seen amongst the tall marsh grasses surrounding the pools of brackish water. Large flocks of lapwing were seen wheeling around over the marsh as well as a few redshank, curlew and oystercatcher. Skylark, meadow pipit and stonechat were out on the marsh too. Marsh harriers were hunting over the saltmarsh but no hen harriers or short-eared owls were spotted on this occasion!

In the carpark a song thrush serenaded us and a mixed flock of goldfinch and linnet were restlessly flying in and out of the surrounding trees and over the marsh. In the fields on the landward side of the car park wood pigeon, magpie, blackbird, black-headed gull and pheasant were seen. A robin, dunnock and wren were practicing their spring repertoire from different branches of the same bush in a field hedgerow while great tits were feeding in the garden. Eagle-eyed Ian spotted a peregrine flying fast across the field away from us just as we decided to leave for a more sheltered location at Burton.

The weather took a turn for the better at Burton; still cold but some sunshine. Ian had his first views of avocet this year from the visitor centre window. They were among a large flock of black-tailed godwit as well as a few redshank and ruff. A lone spotted redshank was also hidden in the flock.

Water rail and cetti’s warbler were heard on route to the bridge screen. A flock of about 20 grey heron flew just above the treetops to land on the marsh in front of us where each individual kept a sizeable area of personal space around themselves. Our group stopped at the screen for some time having a master class in wader identification as a large flock was standing close to us and barely moving. We were able to compare leg length by how much leg was exposed from the water of neighbouring godwits; a single bar-tailed godwit was hiding amongst the black-tailed godwits recognisable by its much shorter legs. Some of the black-tailed godwits were starting to change into their rufous summer plumage. Another spotted redshank and a few ruff were also in the flock.

Next stop was the border hide where among more black-tailed godwits several knot and a couple of dunlin could be found. When seen together the knot were slightly taller than the dunlin with a straight bill which wasn’t as black as the dunlin’s slightly downcurved bill.

Other birds seen on the reserve included teal, shoveler, shelduck, tufted duck, wigeon, Canada goose, lapwing, coot, moorhen, marsh harrier, great tit, blue tit, nuthatch and chaffinch.

In all, nearly 60 species were seen by the dozen members attending this most enjoyable day out.

Spotted Redshank