WILDLIFE lovers in Runcorn and Widnes have been encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for a rare bird spotted on saltmarsh sites along the banks of the Mersey.
The little egret, a smaller cousin of our more familiar and larger grey heron, is one of a number of species that have made the gradual journey north through Europe in recent years, despite being a rare migratory visitor just 20 years ago.
During the 1990s, anyone wanting to see the little egret would have to make the long journey to Cornwall or Devon, however the birds are now being spotted regularly along the saltmarshes of the Mersey.
Nature experts believe a warming climate and natural colonisation of the north may be behind the egret’s move to the region.
Increasing numbers of the great white and little egrets and the exotic-looking spoonbill are being spotted across the North West’s saltmarshes.
The trust hopes its strategy for connecting wetlands across 8,000 hectares of river banks will boost the fortunes for birds like the little egret, and bring an added bonus for visitors heading to nature reserves.
Saltmarsh at Wigg Island and Moore have been recommended as good spots to sight the little egret.
Richard Gardner, the trust’s living landscape manager, said: “Our vision is to create a string of interconnected wetlands, which we’re already achieving through working with local farmers and landowners.”
“The combination of healthier rivers, more sympathetic riverbank management and maintaining floodplain grazing will be creating the conditions that birds like the little egret find irresistible. In recent months we’ve been lucky enough to have both great white and little egrets making regular visits to our reserves, and we hope this will continue as we develop the habitats further.”