FIVE different species of heron have arrived at a nature reserve near to Neston.

The species, more commonly seen in the Mediterranean, has caused excitement among visitors of the RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands.

Known for its grey heron and little egret breeding colonies, Burton Mere Wetlands is now home to a pair of cattle egrets, a pair of spoonbills and pair of great white egrets.

The rare birds are showing positive signs of breeding as they have been seen carrying nesting material into the heron colony.

If breeding is successful, it will be the second time that cattle egrets have bred at the site and a first for spoonbills and great white egrets.

Graham Jones, site manager at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands said: “It is absolutely staggering to see five different heron species making their home here.

"The grey herons nest here each year, but little egrets only colonised the UK in the late 1980s and have been breeding here since 2005. For them to now be joined by the much rarer cattle egrets, great white egrets and spoonbills is even more astonishing.

"They’re usually more at home breeding in the Mediterranean, so we’ve been dubbed the ‘Costa del Dee’ by some visitors, who are enjoying seeing the birds from a special watch-point that we have created to allow for better views.

"If the birds all breed it will be extraordinary and cause for additional celebration in our anniversary year.”

Celebrating 40 years at the Dee Estuary site, the RSPB first secured the reserve in Parkgate in 1979 creating a protected area for tens of thousands of birds.

Now the whole area is more than 6,000 football pitches in size making the Dee Estuary nature reserve the fifth largest RSPB site in the country.

Graham added: “I grew up in Wirral and started coming to Parkgate in the 1980s as a teenager to watch the birds thrive on the marsh.

"Back then it was inconceivable that little egrets would live here, let alone that we would be seeing even more unusual birds like cattle egrets, spoonbills and great white egrets.

"We’ve also got at least 10 pairs of Mediterranean gulls nesting too, so it truly is like being on holiday, and testament to the hard work and dedication carried out here for the last four decades.”

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