Thanks to the silting of the River Dee over the centuries, the estuary close to Neston today provides some of the best birdwatching – or birding – in Britain.
Some 120,000 wading birds and wildfowl spend the winter here, providing a major spectacle, especially during high tides when the marsh is covered, pushing the birds up against the shoreline from Burton to Parkgate.
Burton Mere Wetlands was opened to the public by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in September 2011.
Parkgate is well-known for its high tide birdwatches, when up to 400 birders gather along the sea wall. As the birds’ roosting sites are covered, they take to the air, and small mammals like water voles, mice and shrews break cover to avoid the tide.
All this activity attracts the attention of Herons, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers, Peregrines, Merlins and Sparrowhawks. The most spectacular hunter is the Short-eared owl, which can be seen patrolling the tide line.
The estuary mud is a rich feeding ground for waders, who come to find snails, shellfish, ragworm and lugworm over the winter.
But the sights and sounds are not limited to winter, as a range of visitors breed in the summer, including Skylarks, Redshank, Lapwing, Mallard and Shelduck.
Part of the estuary is run as an RSPB nature reserve and the RSPB runs guided walks and talks from the Old Baths car park on Parkgate Parade.