Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB and Parkgate

Well, I thought the three Cattle Egrets at Marshside last week were a good record, but with five of them reported at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB this week, well I just had to go to see them.  When I first arrived the vegetation had just been cut and most of the birds had been flushed from in front of the Visitors' Centre. The Cattle Egret were in the long grass with the cattle and I couldn't really see any of them. In fact I couldn't really see much of anything!

Then a single Marsh Harrier gave a brief but good view from the Visitor's Centre and flew off in the direction of the old Inner Marsh Farm hide. So I decided to go for a walk down to the new hide in the hope of getting better views of it from there. On the way down I heard a Cetti's Warbler calling in the reeds along the footpath along  with hundreds of Pink-footed Geese flying overhead as indeed they did for much of the day.

There was not much to see when I got to the hide except for a distant Green Sandpiper which flew off when I tried to photograph it. However I did see this Kestrel being mobbed by a Lapwing of all things!

So then I went back to the Visitors' Centre in the hope of getting better views of the five Cattle Egret together, which eventually I did. The cattle had moved out of the long grass by now and the Egrets had moved with them before eventually flying off to an island to do a spot of preening.

Here they are all together - it was quite difficult to get them all in one shot with a 300mm prime lens.

The closest views were from inside the Visitors' Centre and so these shots had to be taken through the glass window as they don't open in here.

As I was watching the Cattle Egrets, two Marsh Harriers appeared and were sometimes involved in chases. They looked to be both female, with one perhaps a juvenile or immature bird.

When they had gone I decided to go down to Denhall Lane to eat my lunch where I saw absolutely nothing! From here I moved on to the old baths car park at Parkgate where I had been told a grey male Hen Harrier was frequently being seen. I was told that the bird generally comes into roost between 3pm and 4pm and so I was in good time to see it if it appeared. 

Arriving at about 2:45pm, I waited a good hour along with three other birders before it eventually did appear. I only managed a couple of record shots but I had a great view through my scope. The photographs are good enough to clearly see what the bird is and I also saw a ringtail Hen Harrier whilst I was there.

Grey male Hen Harriers are rarely seen nowadays as they are persecuted by landowners and gamekeepers who wish to protect their grouse and so-called sport of driven grouse shooting.  If things carry on like this these glorious birds will be driven to complete extinction in England - this surely can't be right, can it? A petition to ban driven grouse shooting which received over 22,300 signatures will soon be debated in Parliament and we await the outcome. Read about it here: 

This Little Egret is probably the best photograph I took today, but I did see some good birds.

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