How long have you ever spent in a hide on a nature reserve? Half an hour, an hour, maybe several hours if there was something really special to watch.
On Saturday I spent eight hours working in Sandgrounders Hide at the RSPB's Marshside reserve, just outside Southport. As well as all the really friendly people I met, there were some great wildlife moments and a few surprises too. Staying for the whole day meant I got to see the rhythms and patterns behind the different species on the marshes and also had the best chance of seeing everything, it's true that patience pays off. Whether it's five minutes or five hours it's great to get outside and back into nature so here are my tips for visiting the Marshside reseve.
Five minute pause:
Watch the many, many black headed gulls on the islands. You've probably seen them lots before but here is a good opportunity to see lots together and all their different habits, bathing, fighting, feeding and preening. There's also the beautiful black-tailed godwits feeding around the pools, which are just coming into their chestnut summer plumage.
Thirty minute sit down:
The reserve's iconic avocets are back and six of these lovely birds were pairing up and regularly feeding meters away from the hide windows during the day. Seeing avocets so close was a brilliant experience and it's well worth sitting down and waiting a few minutes for them to come back if they're not there at first.
Two hour stake out:
Look out for merlins swooping over the marsh on the hunt for prey (all the gulls flying up in a panic is normally a good clue) and search the thousands of black headed gulls for rarities like the three mediterranean gulls we saw on Saturday. They look like black headed gulls, but with blacker heads, redder beaks and they look like they have white mascara too!
If you don't fancy sitting down in a hide, you can go for a walk round the reserve too and look for the pink-footed geese, white fronted geese and golden plovers that are in the surrounding fields. However long you have this week, and where ever you decide to go, find some nature and enjoy it!