RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Wirral, UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, Wirral, UK

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Wonders of The Wirral
Port Sunlight | Leasowe Lighthouse | Williamson Art Gallery | Birkenhead Priory
Birkenhead Park | The U-Boat Story | Port Sunlight River Park | Hadlow Road Railway Station
Forget Me Not Care Farm | Burton Mere | New Ferry Butterfly Park | Hilbre Islands
View of a Reedbed

Burton Mere Wetlands on the Wirral is a nature reserve on the bank of the River Dee with views across to Wales. It is owned and run by the RSPB and is well worth a visit if you are interested in wildlife and wading birds.

History

The Burton Mere was created on part of the estate of the Gladstone family to host duck shoots, and later was turned over to farmland. The RSPB purchased Inner Marsh Farm in 1986 and opened it as a nature reserve in 1992 with three pools. More farmland (Burton Marsh Farm) was purchased in 2006, and Burton Mere Fisheries was added to the reserve in 2008. A Reception Hide with facilities for visitors and views across a new wetland area was opened in 2011. The site was formally launched as a tourist destination, complete with brown road signs1 to help people to find it, in April 2014 after new paths and birdwatching screens had been added.

Visiting

View of the Main Scrape

RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands can be found by heading towards the village of Burton on the Wirral and then following the brown signs2. The path to the Mere is a woodland trail that contains a stunning bluebell carpet in spring. There is a large car park and a toilet block, including facilities for disabled people, just outside the Reception Hide.

The Reception Hide is a spacious building with windows on three sides providing excellent views across the wetland area. A log burner keeps it cosy in winter, and wide entrance doors mean it is kept cool in summer. Hot and cold drinks and snacks are available for a small charge and there is a range of merchandise such as wildlife books that you can buy. You can borrow a bird identification guide though, and hire binoculars. There is a telescope set up for visitors to use to get close-up views of wading birds including avocets (the bird that features in the RSPB's logo). There are plenty of seats so you can take a break after having walked the reserve, or enjoy the views before venturing out.

RSPB Members can enter the reserve for free, but there is a charge for non-members and donations are also welcomed. From the Reception Hide you can use the door on the left and go along a path next to grassland containing marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza purpurella) and other wildflowers until you reach a small hide and viewing point. From the door on the right hand side of the Reception Hide, paths lead round to a wider variety of different habitats.

Little Egret wading among reeds

On this side of the reserve there are feeding stations where small birds such as goldfinches and bluetits can be seen, as well as pigeons, grey squirrels and rats. Insect houses have also been installed. Sculptures and a nature trail for children are hidden around the place, so you have to look carefully to see the wooden woodpecker, for example. There is a viewing screen with slots at various heights so that people can look across the reedbed and try to spot reed buntings or listen out for Cetti's warblers. There is a shady path round the fishery pool where you can look out for little egrets and great white egrets as well as trying to spot colourful kingfishers. A sunny3 path where dragonflies frolic and lizards may be basking leads from the pool to the Marsh Covert Hide, which is spacious and has seats and opening windows for excellent views across sheep grazing land and the reedbed where gulls gather and wading birds wander. Continuing along the path takes you to the Inner Marsh Farm section of the reserve, with paths leading to another hide and up to the Wirral's Iron Age Hill Fort.

Seasons

The variety of habitats within the reserve mean it is well worth visiting at varying times of the year to see different birds and other creatures that are around. The winter months are good times to see kingfishers and gulls. In spring you'll see teal and shelducks, and hear geese fighting for breeding territory. In early summer you might see spoonbills sweeping for food in the water, or hear the little egrets' gurgling call in the trees. There may be some moorhen chicks and ducklings about. Tufted ducks are also looking good in their black and white plumage. Late summer sees snipe, godwits and lapwings exploring the wetland area. Autumn is a good time to see dragonflies and lizards basking on sunny days. The hides and viewing equipment on offer also mean wildlife spotters and photographers enjoy great views and are often rewarded with good pictures as souvenirs of their visits.

1In the UK, brown road signs are used to direct people to tourist attractions, while blue, green and white road signs direct people to towns and cities.2Note that Burton is a Conservation Area, meaning that road signs inside the village have to be discreet so as not to distract from the character of the area - this means that some of the signs are tricky to see.3As long as the weather obliges.

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