Partly as a change of scene from the sand-dunes, I went to the official opening of the RSPB’s new nature reserve at Hesketh Out Marsh on 9th. The reserve is on land that I well remember being reclaimed from Ribble Estuary salt-marshes in 1979/80. Such reclamations went on for centuries, producing great tracts of productive farmland on both sides of the estuary. However, Hesketh Out Marsh was an old salt-marsh, the build-up of fine silt being so deep that the land proved difficult to drain for arable cropping. The RSPB has recently breached the earth bank in several places, allowing high tides to flood the former marsh.
Already, salt-marsh plants are returning, while wetland birds, including breeding Avocets, are flocking to the impressive network of scrapes and channels created on the reserve. A further bonus is that the effect of tidal surges further upstream is reduced, making it easier (and cheaper) to protect land and property from rising sea-levels.
October is invariably a good month for migrating birds, a northwesterly gale on 3rd producing 20 Leach’s Petrels struggling south along Ainsdale Beach. Later, there was a notable influx of thrushes from Scandinavia, Redwings being reported from about 7th. I saw my first Fieldfares on 13th but spectacular numbers came through later on. I counted 800 in an hour over Cabin Hill on 27th, while John Dempsey estimated 2500 to 3000 passing south at Crosby Marine Park early on 28th. The usual arrival of Pink-footed Geese from Iceland and Greenland led to flocks of up to 20,000 being reported at Martin Mere, where fellow-travellers included two Bean Geese of the tundra race from Siberia and a Lesser Canada Goose which may have flown the Atlantic.
Other rarities included a Little Bunting at Seaforth and two Long-billed Dowitchers briefly at Marshside. Finally, the remarkable increase of Little Egrets in our region was illustrated by a count of 65+ roosting on an island in Southport Marine Lake.