Mere Sands Wood Reserve { Part Three} the Lakes and Ponds

Visitor Centre

Visitor center at the reserve.Photograph by D.A.L.
Visitor center at the reserve.Photograph by D.A.L.

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

This the final hub of the series looking at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve. In the first hub-Mere sands Wood a reserve to be proud of, we looked at the visitor center and wandered through the wild flower meadows to observe the plants and their associated wildlife. In the second hub of the same title Mere Sands Wood {Part 2 } The wild Flower meadow and Woods, we meandered through the intimate woodlands looking at some of the bird life, squirrels, bats and fungi. In this hub we will take in the lakes, ponds and water channels and their associated wild life, which between them lure in the greater majority of visitors.

As mentioned in the first hub,a series of lakes were created after the sand extraction had been completed.The individual lakes are surrounded by woodland and can only be seen with any clarity from one of the strategically placed hides dotted around the reserve, with the exception of the lake, which can be admired from a purposefully constructed viewing platform. This lake plays host to yellow water lilies Nuphar lutea, a robust aquatic plant, with large foliage that may cover large areas of the water's surface. The solitary rounded flower heads are small in comparison , yet it is the seed vessel that are the salient feature once the flowers have faded. They have been sculptured by nature to resemble small brandy bottles or flasks of a dark green colour.

The lakes and inhabitants

This lake is viewed from a purposefully constructed platform.Photograph by D.A.L.
This lake is viewed from a purposefully constructed platform.Photograph by D.A.L.
The flask shaped seed vessels are a salient feature. Photograph by D.A.L.
The flask shaped seed vessels are a salient feature. Photograph by D.A.L.
The dabchick is a rotund bird. Photograph courtesy of B.S. Thurner Hof
The dabchick is a rotund bird. Photograph courtesy of B.S. Thurner Hof

Dragonflies.

Dragon, and damselflies are often seen during the latter summer months as they rest on the lily leaves or dart among the marginal vegetation in their quest for prey. These creatures may be observed from the hides around most of the lakes.

A bird that frequents this particular lake is the little grebe commonly referred to as the dabchick. It is the smallest of the European grebes. Its presence is often revealed by its high pitched rapid trill which gradually fades away, which shatters the tranquility of this setting. Its plumage is dark although closer observation will reveal that on its face and neck there is rufous tints. There is a pale yellow or light marking near the base of the bill. Its outline is rotund and gives the impression of being tailless.

A feature of this entertaining bird is the way it frequently dives under the surface to catch small fish insects and small invertebrates. The nest is a floating structure constructed from weed,sedge and grasses.It is anchored to a branch of a tree in the manner a barge is moored to a canal bank. It is a fact that in the winter months the bird appears much longer necked and not as rotund, at this time may be mistaken for the black necked grebe, which is a much scarcer species.

The individual hides are relatively large structures seating up to 15-20 people positioned so that the wildfowl can be observed through the window slits without disturbing the inhabitants of the lakes and their environs.


Pathway to the hide

The pathway which leads to one of the hides.Photograph by D.A.L.
The pathway which leads to one of the hides.Photograph by D.A.L.

See the species

Although still popular during the summer months, it is from late October until early March that the hides are more popularly visited when the geese arrive from Greenland and Russia in great numbers to over winter here in the comparatively mild climate of ours.Pink footed geese may number many thousands and they are often joined by whooper swans and a variety of duck, which includes shelduck,widgeon,Garganey,gadwall,tufted,pochard,shoveler,and of course the resident mallard.

Pintail duck

Pintail duck. Photograph by courtesy of J.M.Garg
Pintail duck. Photograph by courtesy of J.M.Garg
Pink foot Goose arrive in their thousands during early winter.Photograph courtesy of M.P.F.
Pink foot Goose arrive in their thousands during early winter.Photograph courtesy of M.P.F.

Chance to see the Bittern

The reserve also attracts wading birds in lesser numbers, but the Sefton Coast and Southport Marshes are relatively close by and many wading birds winter on the mud banks and salt marshes, where their natural food is readily available.

One of the rarest breeding birds in Britain, the Bittern,may be seen from the Marshall hide during the winter months. This heron like bird is secretive and elusive and spends the majority of the time amid the tall stems of the reed and sedge which grow in profusion around many of the lakes. As the reed beds grow deeper and thicker it is hoped that one day the bird may join the breeding list at Mere Sands Wood.

During the late spring and early summer, sedge warbler, reed warbler and reed bunting all successfully breed in the security afforded by these reed beds.

Wetland areas

reed beds are an important habitat. Photograph by D.A.L.
reed beds are an important habitat. Photograph by D.A.L.
Photograph by D.A.L.
Photograph by D.A.L.
Photograph by D.A.L.
Photograph by D.A.L.

Water lilies

The ponds play host to beautiful water lilies, bog bean and other aquatic vegetation that attracts wildlife.On the surface duck and coot frequent the reeds while beneath the surface many creatures dwell in their watery kingdom. In order to observe the complex comings and goings of aquatic creatures one has to follow some basic yet necessary guidelines and one will be rewarded with sightings that would be missed by the mobile casual observer.

You need to find a comfortable yet discreet place, preferably with a tree behind your back with branches over your head. Many aquatic creatures can see shadows through the surface to shapes against the sky. Keeping still will help prevent shadow movement but also diminishes vibrations from the ground which carries into the water,thus detected by many aquatic creatures.

Top. Scorpion fly. Below. Young Coot

Insects like the scorpion fly may be found on shady vegetation. PhotOgraph by D.A.L.
Insects like the scorpion fly may be found on shady vegetation. PhotOgraph by D.A.L.
This young coot was born in the surrounding vegetation. PhotograPh by D.A.L.
This young coot was born in the surrounding vegetation. PhotograPh by D.A.L.

Finally

Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve in common with all habitats in England, is constantly changing, with the seasons. I will be revisiting as summer slides in to autumn.

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