Burton Mere Wetlands - 19 Nov 16

Here are a few images from my visit to the RSPB Reserve at Burton on the Wirral today. The best birds at Burton were 2 Water Pipits. However they were distant and flushed off before I could even a record shot. Thereafter all I heard / saw were Meadow Pipits. Many years since I have seen Water Pipit

The Long-eared Owl was so well-hidden that I could not even locate it in the viewfinder

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One of the highlights of a visit to the excellent RSPB Reserve at Burton on the Wirral was the 1000+ Pink-footed Geese. Here a lone bird arrives. Separate from Greylag Geese, which also have pink feet, by the bill pattern – on Greylag it is all-orange (and both the bird and its bill are larger).

A ‘proper’ echelon of geese inbound. Not really identifiable in this shot but could be from voice in real life – indeed they could be heard long before they could be seen. Every species of goose has a different call such that seeing them well is not needed for positive ID.

A very neat formation here. In echelon trailing birds get some slip-stream effect from those ahead of them and avoid the turbulence of being directly behind. The ‘leader’ is changed regularly to allow each bird to take advantage of the slip-stream.

This smaller group was close-enough for visual ID. It also shows the upper-wing pattern of this species. Bird #3 has unbarred flanks and rather more extensive pale on the bill indicating a juvenile.

Half a flap later we see bird #2 has the barred flanks of an adult.

A lone Shelduck was present: probably too early in the season to be able to sex this bird – drakes acquire a swollen red base to the upper-mandible.

The narrowness of the rufous band under the belly suggests to me this is a duck ....

 .... although here the band across the flanks seems rather wide.

Two duck Teal. All the pools were thronged with this species. I cannot recall seeing so many in one place before.

The intricate feather pattern of a drake Teal.

Another highlight was the presence of at least 5 Cattle Egrets. One was seen, helpfully, standing on a cow. Not in this view though. Separate from the similar Little Egret by the heavy jowl and yellow bill. Little Egret in flight would show yellow feet. Like other egrets increasingly frequently seen in the UK. Beware of assuming that egrets with cows they are Cattle Egret – I have seen mixed flocks of Little and Cattle in the same field.

This is a female Marsh Harrier: it would not come closer! The flight action is quite different from, say Buzzard, but in this shot we can see the wings are longer, narrower and less rounded than those of a Buzzard and also see the pale crown. The hunched appearance as it searches below for movement of voles is typical.

Rather distant: a Green Sandpiper. Although mainly a migrant small numbers over-winter usually in sheltered creeks that are unlikely to freeze. Burton being adjacent to the Dee Estuary provides year-round shelter.

A Black-tailed Godwit. This is an immature – an adult would have all the mantle the same grey tone we see on a few of the feathers. It is the retained immature feathers that have pale fringes. We cannot see the ‘black tail’ here: separate from Bar-tailed Godwit by the bill shape – in Bar-tail it has a slight upward curve; and by the legs being longer, especially above the ‘knee’ (its actually the ankle).

and the other side.

In this view we can see that the tail is certainly not ‘barred’.

A ‘blizzard’ of gulls spooked by something. If you look hard there are 2 Lapwings and the wing-tip of a Common Gull visible while all the rest are Black-headed Gulls.

Nothing too much here: 7 Herring Gulls (6 adults and a 1st winter); 5 Black-headed Gulls; 5 duck Teal and a Lapwing (and a few bits of gulls).

One of the 7 Herring Gulls seems bored! Preening on its left is an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A whole suite of Herring Gulls: from the left: most of an adult; a 3rd winter; a 1st winter; 5 adults; and a 2nd winter (oh: some Black-headed Gulls, duck Teal and a Lapwing).

The two 1st winter Herring Gulls centre-stage demonstrate the different rates of progress out of juvenile plumage – the left-hand bird retains the darker coverts of a juvenile.

A terrible shot through the glass of the Reserve Centre but we can at least compare an adult Mediterranean Gull (in the centre) with the Black-headed Gulls alongside. Slightly larger with a smudged dark mask through the eye and a larger, redder bill.

Last of the gull species for the day: the rounded head, the dark-looking eye and the rather weak bill distinguish a Common Gull.

A Starling – or a Sheep, depending upon how you look at it! The pool behind is part of the Teal throng.

The back-drop at the reserve is not very attractive: there is a paper mill to the south.

.. and a railway along the W end. Neither seems to affect the birds. Further away the hills of Wales and the Dee Estuary provide better scenery.

(Ed Wilson)