The Ribble Estuary is one of the most important locations for wildlife in Europe. There are many wildlife habitats, large flocks of birds, wildflowers on the marshes, mud burrowing worms, fish and other sea creatures. The estuary conjures up different scenes to different people. Some may think of the vast sun-baked sands, or windswept dunes. Others may picture cattle grazing on the marshes or flocks of wading birds scurrying along the strandline as the waves ebb and flow.
(Teal image copyright to Andy Hay - RSPB images)
Others will still imagine larger waves pounding sea walls along the coastline. All of these views are equally important as each signifies a habitat vital to wildlife and each, even the mud, contributes to the beauty of the Ribble Estuary and makes it a wonderland for wildlife.
Beauty and mud might not seem to be related. But, the intertidal mud and sand flats of the estuary are teaming with millions of invertebrates (worms and snails) making a veritable feast for birds, and the Ribble Estuary is internationally important for birds. If you don't agree that the mud is beautiful you are bound to agree that the birds the mud brings are.
Some birds (such a Redshank, Ringed Plover and Common Tern) nest on the estuary and raise their chicks through the summer. Others such as Pink Footed Geese merely call in on their Spring and Autumn migrations, using the estuary as a 'filling station' - a stop off point on their journeys to and from their breeding grounds further north. Many birds (such as Teal, Wigeon and Pintail) prefer to spend the winter on the estuary as the temperatures rarely fall below freezing and they are always sure of plentiful food supplies.