Martin Mere

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Whooper swans in a field near Burscough

Another fine day with no calls on my time, so, recalling the swans I had seen from the train to Southport the other week, I headed to Martin Mere. It’s run by the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and is – I discovered – much more of a family-friendly wildfowl theme park than I was expecting. It doesn’t have the monopoly on whooper swans though: I saw (and heard) scores in a field as I walked from Burscough.

Martin Mere is practically a zoo: there are wildfowl from around the world (presumably with wings clipped), including flamingoes. I was looking forward to seeing the feeding of the otters . . . until I saw them. They were captive Asian otters; on the plus side I saw a complete otter for the first time, but that was far outweighed by the sense that the poor things wanted to swim free.

Like Welney in Norfolk, there are feeding times for the wildfowl. Noisy queues formed early:

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and it was interesting to note that greylag geese were amongst the crowds, but the pink-footed geese which I had seen earlier stayed away. I don’t blame them: feeding time was a melee of barging and snapping bills, with shelducks in the thick of it. Not quite the “blood in the water” match of 1956, but close.

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I didn’t really like it, but lots of other people did and, of course, I realise the WWT needs to attract paying customers in order to do its conservation work.

On the walk back to the station, I noticed that there were still plenty of whooper swans in the field.

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