Monday, 13 April 2015

Marton Mere Spring Blog

The Safari is pleased to introduce another guest blog from young AFON member, Alicia. I hope you enjoy her account of her visit to the nature reserve.

Towards the end of the Easter holidays, I went to Marton Mere and met up again with my mentor Dave. It was only the second time I'd ever been there and since last November the whole of the reserve had been undergoing some amazing developments, so I was very excited to see it!

We arrived at Marton Mere at 1.45pm ready to start the walk, where we met the Development Officer, Annie, and learnt that only half-an-hour before we had missed an Osprey flying over the reserve! All the same, we kept our fingers crossed for it making a second appearance and progressed to the first hide where we were greeted by a mass if wetland waders: Oystercatchers, Greylag Geese, Mute Swans, Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese (and a Peacock Butterfly) to name a few species. There were hundreds of Herring Gulls and (Lesser) Black-backed Gulls on the Mere and at one point they all flew up in a huge flock, spooked at something – we thought perhaps it was the Osprey but no such luck. It was probably one of the many Herons which kept flying around. we saw many more elegant waders including some young Cormorants that were sunning themselves in the typical 'Cormorant position'. It was lovely to watch. There were lots of pairs of birds, including a pair of Mallards that waddled right up the bank towards the hide.

Herring Gulls taking off in front of the first hide
We walked further around the reserve and I saw several Magpies flying around – a charm of Magpies! Then from the second hide we were also surrounded by loads of St Marks Flies which were flitting around the riverbank everywhere!There was a pair of Coots displaying to each other which I have never seen before, the two Coots were bunching themselves up and making themselves very fluffy before flapping their feathers at each other – it was fascinating to witness. Annie told us to look out for some nests, and we saw two Coots nests from the hide – rafts of reeds, floating on the water. In the distance we also saw a beautiful Goldeneye duck and a pair of Tufted Ducks, I don't see them much where I live so it was really special to see them both!

Tufted ducks
Further on we passed a tiny little patch of grass in which there was a spectacular showing of Snake's Head Fritillaries, Dave told us that he and a volunteer had planted ten fritillary bulbs 25 years ago and since then they had slowly colonised the area of grass in which they had been planted. They were very beautiful plants, and surrounding them were some Cowslips, the first I'd seen this year! Lots of large bumblebees were buzzing around the flowers, obviously filling-up on the bountiful nectar available!
Snake's Head Fritillaries
In a more wooded area of the reserve, we reached another hide which overlooked bird feeding tables, here we saw & heard many birds – including a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff – probably very recently returned from their migration. There were also Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Robin. I also spotted a large Bumblebee by a Willow tree which was identified as a queen Tree Bee – another first for me!

We left the busy woodland hide and walked round to the viewing platform for the mere, on the way we found out that a pair of Great-crested Grebes had been performing a full courtship display. I was disappointed to have missed them, and we spent a while looking out onto the mere for both the grebes and a rare Iceland Gull that had been in the area all winter. The Iceland Gull eluded us, however after much waiting I did spot one of the Great-crested Grebes as it swam and dived to feed. They're such beautiful, majestic creatures, and this one looked particularly splendid with its head feathers framing its white face like a crown. I also heard a Cetti's Warbler, which I had never heard before. It was in the reed beds, but only heard, not seen.
Great-crested Grebe
Next we reached the new hide, and were honoured to be the first group to use it – it was very smart! From the hide we heard a Water Rail, and saw Swallows (newly arrived back at Marton Mere), Sand Martins, an Oystercatcher pair mating on the sand bank and a Buzzard, which sent all the different gulls on the mere flying in panic! We also watched a Cormorant trying very determinedly to swallow a HUGE fish possibly a Perch which had its fins out. After many minutes of the poor Cormorant trying to swallow its prize, it succeeded, and it looked quite a bit lower in the water than it had been to start with! However, it flew off, so was obviously fine.

Finally, we had a walk up to the new scrapes at the top of the mere, where the Oystercatchers, geese and Cormorants were. We had a closer look at the Sand Martin wall which has been put in for them to use for nesting, and we  looked at the newly cleared habitats which will hopefully encourage even more wildlife to the reserve. As we started to walk back again, we heard a Blackcap, it sounded tantalisingly close however frustratingly we didn't see it.

Once again, Marton Mere has been a wonderful wildlife bonanza: the Osprey may have eluded us but the rest of the wildlife certainly did not! We saw a total of 40 different bird species (and that's only what we listed....)! and also lots of butterflies and other insects.
I saw another wildlife first for me- the queen Tree Bee, and I heard my first Cetti's Warbler, along with witnessing lots of birds looking their best for the breeding season. It was great to see all the changes at the reserve and thanks to Dave and Annie for another fantastic visit.

Female Mallard – hopefully there will soon be some ducklings
By Alicia                      Aged 15                                       April 2015 

We're sure you enjoyed that, here's her post from last November if you've not seen it before.
Where to next? Well it was sort of an action packed weeekend so we've got some more stuff to let you know about tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know how the youngsters are getting on in your outback                                                                                    


Stuart Price said...

Shame she missed the Osprey.............

Findlay Wilde said...

Brilliant blog post. Marton Mere is such a great place and I hope to see the new developments soon. I'd be very happy with 40 species.

cliff said...

They certainly are exciting times at the mere with all the redevelopment. Glad you enjoyed your visit, a trip round the mere with Dave always adds to the experience given his wealth of knowledge & wildlife spotting skills.
Shame you missed the Osprey - you're not on your own, I've been visiting the mere for 10 years & I've still never seen one there.
Love the Mallard photo, taken from a wonderfully low angle giving great eye contact, belter!