Bird lovers and nature enthusiasts will find a fascinating place to explore in the wildlands of Lancashire, specifically in the county’s Ribble Estuary. This nature reserve is located where the River Ribble meets Ireland’s Sea in the north-west coast of England. The estuary occupies territories both in Lancashire and in Merseyside.
Around the reserve and the marshes of the area, numerous sightings of rare bird species both local and migratory could be sighted, making the Ribble Estuary an invaluable site for birdwatching and its enthusiasts. Locals and visitors can be serenaded by various bird calls that could be heard within the area such as owls, wildfowls, and waders.
The Ribble Estuary as a Protected Area
The Ribble Estuary is classified as a slough – meaning it is composed mainly of shallow waters where many of the flatlands in its vicinity becomes exposed during the low tide. Saltwater fishes such as salmon and trout use the estuary to acclimatize themselves before proceeding to the freshwater territory. Many flatfish species can also be found in the estuary such as flounder and sole.
The abundance of fish in the area adds to the attraction brought about by numerous bird species that flock to the estuary, which serves as their over-wintering and feeding areas. A large number of birds that have found sanctuary, estimated to be 20,000, in the Ribble Estuary is the reason why it has been declared as a Ramsar site (given to wetland sites that have been recognized as important under the international Ramsar convention) and as a Specially Protected Area.
Other than the fishes found in the bodies of water in the area, mudflats in the Ribble Inlet also provide a source of food for many birds as they house various populations of invertebrates. Shrimps, shellfish, and several kinds of worms can be found here. They feed Dunlins, Grey Plovers, and Shelducks.
The varieties of species seen in Ribble’s estuary made it a site for special interest from 1966 up to the present. The conservation and research done in the estuaries are headed by Natural England.
Birdwatching in the Ribble Estuary
In the United Kingdom, estuaries serve as rich settings of biodiversity. The estuary sites which contain saltmarshes and intertidal mud, support wildlife especially birds. In the case of the Ribble estuary, a quarter million birds call the area their home. They make use of all the major habitats near the estuary like the wetlands, marshes, farmlands, and estuarine mud.
Wildfowls can be found commonly in the area of the wetlands. A large population of gadwall and teal occupy the Ribble estuary wetlands along with other species such as the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and the Willow Tit. Breeding species and woodland birds are also found in the marshes. Some include the Treecreeper, Redpoll, Kingfisher, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Pochard, and Shelduck.
Meanwhile, grass-eating birds like Wigeons, Whooper Swans, and Pink-footed Geese find their place in the saltmarshes. A population of 70,000 Wigeons spends their winters in Ribble Estuary. While during summertime, the marshes become a breeding habitat for Terns, Gulls, Skylarks, Lapwings, and Redshanks.