Spring tide spectacle for wildlife lovers

Published date: 28 January 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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A NUMBER of events will be held to coincide with one of the best wildlife spectacles in the region.

Many local people are familiar with the phenomenon of the high “spring” tides flooding the vast saltmarsh of the estuary at Parkgate, but few have been there to witness it and the activities that follow.

In a bid to encourage people to experience the wildlife spectacle for themselves, free events will be held by the team from RSPB Dee Estuary nature reserves from Friday, January 31 to Monday, February 3 – with telescopes and binoculars available for public use.

Dan Trotman, visitor development officer at RSPB Dee Estuary reserves, said: “The high tides in early December and January were some of the biggest and sadly most destructive in many years.

“Seeing the incoming tide reach the sea wall at Parkgate is unimaginable on a normal day due to the extent of the marsh, but in December the tide even came over the wall onto the promenade.

“These infrequent natural events are something we like to celebrate because it is a chance for people to see this part of our nature reserve on the estuary at its most impressive. The Dee’s saltmarsh is home to hundreds of small mammals which are flushed from their homes by the incoming tide, attracting magnificent birds of prey including short-eared owls and hen harriers to feed.

“With thousands of wetland birds trying to keep on the edge of the water, large flocks can be seen shifting around trying to find drier ground. Other predators take advantage too – foxes will be more than happy to snatch an easy meal, while even herons and gulls have been seen helping themselves to voles and small birds.

“It’s not easy watching the voles desperately fleeing for their lives – in December dozens were scrambling up the sea wall and running across the road – but it’s a great reminder of how much wildlife is thriving on the marsh and the value of the RSPB protecting such a vast wilderness.”

The RSPB will be hosting the free events at Parkgate’s Old Baths car park and at the Donkey Stand on the four days of forthcoming high tides.

Mr Trotman added: “The extent of the spectacle is dependent on the weather conditions on the day – low pressure and a strong northwesterly wind are the best to drive the tide in fully, which is quite likely with the weather we’ve had so far this winter. Obviously that’s something we won’t know for definite until closer to the time; it’s a case of keeping an eye on the weather forecast, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed and be present at Parkgate regardless.”

Car parking is limited on Parkgate promenade and at the Old Baths car park, but the RSPB has arranged for extra free parking to be available for visitors at Marsh Nurseries on Boathouse Lane (CH64 6RD) and the Wirral Country Park car park on Station Road (CH64 6QJ).

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