Burton Mere 15/06/22

After a long wait, we finally had a scheduled visit with good weather. The sun shone and coats were not necessary. It seems such a long time ago since that was the case. Getting to Burton takes about an hour but it always feels further away coming back as the motorway traffic quickly builds up in the afternoon. The reserve itself is a pleasant one to visit. The hides are new and the paths are well maintained and accessible to people with mobility issues. The birding is normally good too.

After a quick look out at the lake in front of the visitors’ centre, we set out on the path to the hide on the far side of the reserve. This takes you through some woodland past a couple of small ponds before dropping down to the level of the marsh and running alongside the reedbed. The wood had been quiet apart from blackcap and a dunnock, but once into the open by the reeds, more birdsong was heard. There was Cetti’s warbler, blackcap, chiffchaff, and reed warbler singing regularly. Occasionally, flying overhead were little egrets probably heading to their nests. A few years ago, there was a spot on this path where you could look into the trees and see the nests of little egret, grey heron, great white egret and spoonbill. Today the nests are not visible, the closer trees have grown taller, and the nesting area is further back. At this point, a track to a more recent hide, the marsh covert hide, has been built. While walking down it to the hide we saw a marsh harrier fly over. This view of a female harrier turned out to be the only sighting of one.

Leaving the marsh covert hide we continued to walk along the perimeter path. This eventually left the thick reeds and passed through an area of scrubby trees and tall grass. This is an area where grasshopper warbler has been seen and heard but not on this visit. We did get a sedge warbler and whitethroat here. The whitethroat was trying to feed three young that were flitting about in the long grass. A few goldfinches twittered in the treetops.

The far hide had a few more different birds to see. There were a couple of non-breeding plumage spotted redshanks, redshanks, black-tailed godwits, little ringed plover, and a great white egret most notably. Walking back from this hide we continued to see and hear what we had discovered on the way out. However, when we reached the reedbed screen, there was a water rail, wandering out of the reeds and preening then feeding before disappearing into the reeds again. It repeated this performance several times allowing us all to see the bird no more than 2 to 3 metres away. It was a pleasure to see this shy retiring bird that is more often heard than seen and to realise how small it is.

Although we stayed for another hour or so and visited other hides there was nothing much to add to the count. We did get a couple of house martins flying over but that just emphasised how few hirundines we saw. At this time of year I would expect to many swifts, swallows, house martins and sand martins, but this year no matter where we have been the numbers are small.

Thanks to those who accompanied me on the walk you made it all worthwhile.

Duncan Turner