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Seaforth Nature Reserve

A major roosting site for waders and seabirds

An area of 30ha in the heart of the Liverpool Docks at the mouth of the Mersey, comprising two lagoons surrounded by tipped infill, and a small reedbed.


This is a major roosting site for waders and seabirds; large numbers of ducks in winter; nationally important for spring passage Little Gulls.  


Gulls: Many thousands, predominantly Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed, roost - especially at high water in autumn, winter and spring. 15 species recorded include Ross's and Bonaparte's; Yellow-legged regular; particularly in autumn and winter, Ring-billed annual; Mediterranean seen most days. Little Gulls seen at any time of the year; winter storms bring birds in from the Irish Sea to shelter but most spectacular is the spring passage from the last week of March to the first week of May, when up to 500 gather en route to their breeding grounds in Finland. 


Seabirds: Cormorants roost on the reserve daily but are most common in autumn, when huge numbers (up to 900) shelter from storms.  


Terns: Up to 2000 Common Terns roost in late summer. Small numbers of Sandwich and Little in both spring and autumn; Arctic regular, mainly in spring; Roseate annual in summer; Black annual, usually in autumn; Forster's, White-winged Black and Gull-billed also recorded. Colony of Common Terns breeds on rafts. 


Ducks: Up to 1000 Teal in winter with other dabbling species. Winter diving species include Pochard and Tufted, but of more significance are regular flocks of Scaup and Goldeneye. American Wigeon, Smew, Long-tailed and Ferruginous Ducks also recorded.  


Waders: 38 species of waders recorded. The bulk of the high-tide roost is made up of just two species: Redshank (up to 2000) and Oystercatcher (up to 1000), together with smaller flocks of Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Curlew. Turnstone, Knot, Black- and Bar-tailed Godwit are regular, while 50 or more Snipe and two or so Jack Snipe can be seen in winter. Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper are regular during passage periods. Scarcer species include Temminck's Stint, Purple, Green and Wood Sandpipers and Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes. Rarities include Kentish Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, White-rumped, Buff-breasted, Marsh and Terek Sandpipers.


Passerines: The main focus of attention is during spring and autumn, when White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Wheatears feed in hundreds on the rabbit-grazed grassland. Yellow Wagtails and Whinchats are regular but becoming less numerous. Rare ground-feeding species recorded include Red-throated Pipit, Pied Wheatear, Bluethroat, Song Sparrow and White-crowned Sparrow. Scattered scrub supports small numbers of migrating warblers. Rarities include Icterine, Yellow-browed and Blackpoll Warblers.


Other birds: Large numbers of Swifts and hirundines feed over the freshwater pool during spring and summer. Little Swift has been recorded. Visible migration: With the right weather conditions in autumn, huge numbers of passerines fly over; most numerous are Meadow Pipit, Skylark, hirundines, Swift, Chaffinch, Redwing and Fieldfare. Raptor migration is unpredictable but occurs in spring and autumn with Osprey and Marsh Harrier seen most years. Rarities include Red Kite, Black Kite, Honey Buzzard and Red-footed Falcon.


Further information: Wader roosts form 2-3 hours before high tide. Gull numbers are less affected by tides, with late morning and the afternoon generally best. Three hides are located by the freshwater lagoon. There are no seawatching facilities. Toilet facilities are located in the visitor centre.

Species and habitats


Nearby nature reserves

Lunt Meadows
4 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside
Freshfield Dune Heath
8 miles - The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside
New Ferry Butterfly Park
8 miles - Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Nature reserve map

Reserve information

Seaforth Nature Reserve, Royal Seaforth Docks, Liverpool
L21 1JD
Map reference
SJ 318 971
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Opening Times
Open at all times
30.00 hectares
Members only - all members require a pass from the Port Police. Please contact the Trust directly, do not contact the Port Police directly. Please note you will need a visitors pass and a vehicle pass
Reserve manager
Fiona Whitfield
Tel: 0151 9203769