The beauty of Burton Mere and Parkgate in Cheshire

On bank holiday weekend I decided to visit the Dee Estuary for the very first time. I’ve wanted to go for a long while and I was so pleased that I did.

Nature is the place to collect your thoughts and find solace and thats exactly what we did.

I got a bee tattoo as a tribute after the Manchester concert attack and I’m so glad I did. It reminds me of my love of nature as well as my love for Manchester and the solidarity that I feel.

My boyfriend was very hungover but I was determined to visit, so I picked him up and off we went.

The word ‘estuary’ conjures up quite industrial images in my mind but I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I never realised it was such a rich area in terms of both wildlife and money! It looks like an incredible place to live.

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The staff at the reception hide (a very cosy and well-funded hide) couldn’t have been more helpful and were obviously passionate about what they do. They gave us a good overview of all the birds that were currently on the reserve.

There were some great views of these two black tailed godwits having a scrap.

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This is the biggest island in the scrape. You can see the black headed gulls, mallards, coot, a shoveler and an avocet on its nest. There were a few breeding avocets, 71 fledged last year from BM, lets hope for even more this year! What a success story.

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Here is a small island with a common tern nesting, there are also black headed gull chicks on this island. Apparently there were shoveler chicks but we didn’t see them. I did see some mallard ducklings sheltering from the rain under their mum which was a treat.

I also saw a fledgling pied wagtail and there was a small gang of sanderling, the first time I’ve ever seen them.

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If you look closely you can see four great tits in this photo! The whole family descended on the feeder and the poor parent was busy feeding them. These fledgling will soon be independent and they are lucky to have such a great food source.

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Its not often that you see a moorhen off the ground but this one loved patrolling the fence line! We saw this along the burton mere trail and the pools were full of tufted ducks and a mallard with ducklings also.

On the way back we saw a brown rat with a short tail near the pools, it quickly ran into the banking when it saw us.

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A stunning reed warbler in its rightful place – the reeds! I’ve never seen one before so this was another first for me. Burton Mere is a great place to see warblers as we saw quite a few, more than in Leighton Moss. I think this is because the reedbeds are so big which gives them many places to hide.

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In the water on the way to farm area, we saw a wigeon. My very first! I was amazed by his beautiful colours. It was like a parrot in duck form, especially against the monochrome looking gulls in the background.

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From the hide near the farm we saw these two beautiful oystercatcher chicks, with both parents doing a good job of feeding them.

There were some other young birds that we were worried about.

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These five ducklings left this island – but where was their mother?

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We watched them swimming in the open water, calling for their mum. There was nothing we could do but watch when they went from island to island and then disappeared into the reeds.

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We were about to give up and then the mother flew back in and they sprinted towards her. Here they are happily reunited. I think the mother left them on the island but they decided to go for a swim but she managed to find them. I’m not sure how often mother ducks leave their young as I have not seen it before, it seems pretty risky to me!

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Another warbler, a beautiful and inquisitive sedge warbler who flitted from perch to perch looking at us. They are not shy birds at all!

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We saw this dunnock up by the farm and I managed to get a nice view from through the trees. I hoped it was a linnet but no, I’ll have to tick that off my list at a later date.

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We saw this lovely common whitethroat, I’ve only seen one before in my local patch so I was pleased to see this one collecting for its nest.

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A view from the marsh covert hide. Not quite as busy as the reception hide but I saw some redshank and lapwings busy in the outskirts.

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There is an area that is cordoned off where you can see this cattle egret nest! I could only see its head but there was a little egret next to it and a heron’s nest behind it so it was a hive of activity!

Cattle egrets have only been breeding in the UK for the past ten years, so this is quite an exciting and Northerly location for them. All three species of egrets are now making their mark on the UK and I saw all three, two in Burton Mere (little and cattle) and one in Parkgate (great white).

So what did I see altogether?

  • Common tern
  • Black headed gull
  • Common gull
  • Mallard
  • Teal
  • Grey wagtail
  • Black tailed godwit
  • Oystercatcher
  • Grey heron
  • Avocet
  • Sanderling
  • Coot
  • Moorhen
  • Magpie
  • Blackbird
  • Wigeon
  • Shoveler
  • Shelduck
  • Little egret
  • Cattle egret
  • Gadwall
  • Canada goose
  • Reed warbler
  • Great tit
  • Blue tit
  • Dunnock
  • Chaffinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Sedge warbler
  • Common whitethroat
  • Woodpigeon
  • Lapwing
  • Little grebe
  • Mute swan
  • Tufted duck
  • Chiffchaff
  • Jackdaw
  • Robin
  • Redshank
  • Kestrel
  • Great white egret
  • Pheasant
  • Starling
  • Swallow
  • Brown rat

So 44 species of birds in one day! These include Parkgate as well which we visited after Burton Mere, where I got fantastic views of a beautiful kestrel.

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I’ve never seen a kestrel so close up so this was a great thing for me. I was looking for a hide, not realising it was a car park. I imagine if you sat there all day you’d see a lot of raptors.

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We had some chips whilst looking out on to the marsh and it was great day in all. And only 45 minutes from Manchester. Both reserves are absolutely beautiful and I can’t believe its taken me so long to discover them!

I will most definitely be back, hopefully next time in the sunshine!

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