Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve(NNR)is the most important site in the UK for wintering wildfowl. The Reserve occupies over half of the Ribble estuary, including extensive areas of mud and sand flats and is one of the largest saltmarsh habitats in England. It supports over 250,000 ducks, geese, swans and wading birds and is internationally important for 16 species of wintering birds. During the summer, numerous birds nest on the saltmarsh including three types of gull, common tern and redshank, skylark, meadow pipit and linnet. The reserve is managed by Natural England. This includes grazing the saltmarsh with sheep and over 700 cattle during spring and summer to maintain the short sward on which the wintering wildfowl depend.
The NNR occupies land on both sides of the Estuary. The two most accessible car parks are at Lytham, and on the Marshside coastal road. Southport or Lytham St Annes are the nearest places for toilets and refreshments. Safe access is limited to public footpaths, as the rest of the Reserve is tidal saltmarsh and mudflats.
The best times to visit the site to see the wintering birds, local wildlife and environment are in the autumn and winter.