Heronwatch runs each year from February to mid May. People can come and talk to our volunteers about the herons and wildlife around the Mere, and also about becoming a Heronwatch Volunteer!
There is a brand new Heronwatch Website - follow the link to 'Ellesmere Heronwatch' on this page!
There is also a Facebook page which will have regular updates throughout the nesting season. Follow the facebook link on this page.
Heronwatch is a unique project to help visitors learn about the breeding herons on Moscow Island at The Mere, Ellesmere. The birds first nested on the island about forty years ago and each year they return to the heronry and take up their nest sites, high up in the trees.
Thanks to funding from Big and Heritage Lottery through The Mere Heritage Restoration Project, we now have powerful video cameras on Moscow Island which send live close-up images of the Herons to screens inside the Boathouse Visitor Centre. Visitors can use the hand controls to zoom in and out onto the nests and baby chicks.
The new cameras are proving to be a tremendous success with visitors and volunteers alike. The nest sites are being filmed 24 hours a day, enabling us to watch the bird activity in great detail.
Heronwatch volunteers will be on hand inside the visitor centre most days in the spring and early summer to talk to visitors about these remarkable birds, and explain behaviour such as ‘snap displays’ and ‘stretch’ displays. Did you know, for example, that a heron's legs turn from pink to orange during courtship?!
Breeding Herons at The Mere
The Mere Herons usually start re-appearing in early January. During the winter months the herons probably migrate to the coast or Dee Estuary, where conditions remain unfrozen for feeding on fish, eels, frogs and evens small birds.
The male looks for a nest site high in the tree tops on Moscow Island, which he defends by straightening his neck, fluffing out his feathers and snapping his beak. He calls through the day and night to attract a mate, and when one comes close stretches his beak skyward and arches his head over his back, clapping his bill.
The female builds a nest several feet across with twigs and branches brought to her by the male. She lays up to five bright blue eggs, and the chicks are born covered in long dark down with bristles on top of their heads. The parents take it in turns to look after the noisy chicks, which beg constantly for food! The heron chicks leave the nest after about seven weeks.
Why not become a Heronwatch volunteer?
The heart of Heronwatch is a friendly team of dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers who talk to visitors about the herons and monitor the nest sites and bird activity. You don’t need any prior knowledge or experience to be a volunteer, just an interest in wildlife and talking to people! There are no set hours - you can sign up for a few hours or a few days over the Heronwatch period, whatever suits you.
If you would like to discuss becoming a volunteer, please contact The staff at the Boathouse Visitor Centre on 01691 622981.
How can I find out more about Heronwatch?
- Visit the BBC web page by clicking the link
- Download Heronwatch annual reports from the archive
Cameras and plasma screens show live footage daily. Heronwatch volunteers are almost always around from spring to early summer to talk about the herons and other wildfowl on The Mere.