Three Great Crested Grebe chicks have hatched on the WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre reserve for the first time, as just one of two ‘firsts’ at the centre this week.

Reserve Manager, Tom Clare, Said: “If there has been one breeding wetland bird that has been missing from Martin Mere for the last 40 years, it is the stunning great Crested Grebe. Over the last couple of years this enigmatic species has been showing signs of nesting and breeding however this is the first time they have succeeded.”

The Great Crested Grebe is the biggest Grebe in the UK; and is one of the earliest conservation success stories. In the 19th Century many of the Great Crested Grebes were hunted to near extinction, for their feathers. When this bird became rare (only 32 breeding pairs in the UK) conservationist campaigned to stop the persecution of this stunning bird. These campaigns were successful and eventually lead the birds to recover to its previous ranges.

Apart from the birds beautiful plumage, it also has a very elaborate courtship display. Which is almost as indicative of the start of Spring as the first swallow or primrose. This display can be made up of several distinct behaviours. The first is normally head shaking with the crest in full splendor, then comes the weed ceremony. The ceremony takes place just before the nest is built. This is where the birds dive down and collect weed from the lake floor, with weed in moth the birds steam towards each other keeping low in the water. Once close enough, the birds will rise vertically out of the water holding a rigid posture still with weed in mouth. This elaborate display increases the bonding between the birds which creates very caring and protective parents.

Once the young have hatched out within a couple of hours the chicks climb on to the parents back for safety. The chick will stay here being fed insect, fish and strangely feathers. The feathers a fed to the birds as it creates a sieve which keeps the small fish bones in the stomach to be digested.

Keep an eye out for these birds swimming around in front of the harrier hide over the next couple of months.

The second ‘first’ is a beautiful pyramidal orchid that can be seen around the pond dipping area of the waterfowl gardens. This was first spotted this week and identified by both our Learning Manager and Reserve Manager.

WWT Martin Mere Wetland Centre is open every day (except Christmas Day) from 9.30am to 6pm during summer months and parking is free of charge. Situated off the A59, it is signposted from the M61, M58 and M6.  The Centre is also accessible via the Southport to Manchester and the Liverpool to Preston line by train from Burscough Rail Stations.  Visit the web site to find out what’s on all year round at Martin Mere and the other eight WWT Wetland Centres.


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