In January, Martin Mere is certainly the place to come for all birdwatchers to start their annual list of birds with some big daily totals possible. Recently, the winter has been even more exciting, with two birds turning up on the reserve that are so rare in the North-west (and even in the UK) that they didn’t even make it onto our checklist.
First of all, on New Year’s Eve, a Slavonian Grebe was seen on the mere. Frustratingly, for year-listers, it had gone the next day. However, with all the water bodies across the reserve, it is still worth keeping an eye out for this rare winter visitor.
Better news comes from the spotting of a Green-winged Teal which is still present on site. This bird is a native of the Americas but a few make it to the UK every year. It only really differs from our common teal by having a white stripe on its side. So, with it hanging out with over 2000 Eurasian Teal, you need to play the ornithological version of “Where’s Wally” to spot it.
One family of birds you will not fail to see on the reserve at the moment are birds of prey. A record 10 Marsh Harriers have been hunting on the reserve and one lucky photographer captured seven of them in one shot! A much scarcer Hen Harrier has been regular over the last couple of days and a pair of Peregrines has been seen every morning. Buzzards, Merlins and Sparrowhawks are also seen every day at the moment and a photogenic Kestrel is hovering and perching within a few yards of the Ron Barker hide throughout the day.
With several thousand ducks and our regular flocks of Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese, the mere is a bustling place at the moment, especially during the daily swan feeds from 3pm. Add in the small songbirds that are around the site, with specialities such as Brambling and Willow Tit at our feeders, and it really is a great time to visit Martin Mere and get those checklists adding up.