Mike's 200 bird challenge Blog 4

One of the areas that I have come across during my research into good, relatively local, birding spots has been the Wirral, and over the first couple of months of this year I have visited on a number of occasions.

RSPB Burton Mere is an excellent reserve with a very nice new visitor centre, friendly helpful volunteers, and good hides overlooking the scrapes and reedbeds. On one of my earlier visits I was fortunate enough to enjoy amazing views of Bearded Reedlings, one of my favourite birds, and a relatively new bird for the reserve. There are also many other excellent sites along the Dee estuary, but I think my favourite has to be Parkgate, where the RSPB run many Raptorwatch and High Tide events over the winter. The reserve is a large area of salt marsh which is home to Harriers and Short Eared Owls which overwinter there, and is viewed from the car park past the Boathouse pub at the end of the promenade in Parkgate, or from along the Wirral coast path which runs alongside the reserve. 

Short eared owl

Having told some friends about previous visits where we had good views of both Marsh and Hen Harriers, Short Eared Owls and a Barn Owl, they were keen to have a look for themselves, so on Sunday 17th February, as the forecast for the area was good, we took a trip out there. The reserve is only 1 ¼ hours from Shrewsbury, and we were rewarded with amazing views of five short Eared Owls hunting over the salt marshes right in front of us in the warm late afternoon sunshine. Whilst we were watching the owls a Merlin flew into a tree by the path, right above us, and perched there scanning the marsh for voles. It was the best view I have ever had of this lovely little raptor, and a new tick for this year’s list, taking me to 125.

Merlin

Other good birding sites on the Wirral are at West Kirby, Hillbre Island, and Hoylake (see www.deeestuary.co.uk) and I will be returning to explore further during the course of the year.

I have also seen Merlin on the Shropshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Wem Moss, where I will also be hoping to again watch Hobby Falcons when they return to the reserve to breed in the Spring.

Mike Bell