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June 2024 Newsletter


Little Terns - Gronant and Point of Ayr

Little Terns at Gronant, May 2023 Steve Round

The new Little Tern season is now well underway, so it's time to recap on how they did in 2023. The number of pairs breeding at Gronant increased by one from the 2022 record high, to 212. But numbers at Point of Ayr, which also had a record season in 2022, dropped from 34 pairs to nine so the total for the Dee Estuary was 221 - still the second highest ever.

The number of fleldgelings dropped quite substantially from 278 in 2022 to 171 in 2023. This seems to be mainly due to the attentions of a pair of Kestrels which visited Gronant several times a day between June 9th and June 18th. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to stop a determined Kestrel and I remember the despair in 2001, when I was wardening, when they took most of the chicks that year - aided by a fox which managed to get into one of the pens! However, 171 fledgelings last year was by no means a disaster and the productivity of 0.77 (average number of fledgelings per pair) is still more than the 0.74 which is the minimum required to maintain numbers. The productivity at the Point of Ayr was a lot higher than at Gronant with an average 1.78 chicks per pair. If we can solve the problem with the kestrels (perhaps by diversionary feeding), and given good weather, then the productivity could easily be as high at Gronant which would result in over 370 fledglings. That would be fantastic. Perhaps in 2024?

Voluntary Wardens Wanted

There is no doubt that these Little Tern colonies would not exist if it wasn't for the wardening schemes. Gronant is one of the most successful colonies in the British Isles and you can help maintain that succes by volunteering, either at Gronant or Point of Ayr. This leaflet (published in 2018 so now getting a bit out of date but mostly still relevant) explains what is involved 'Becoming a Little Tern Volunteer Warden'. But feel free to just turn up at either colony and have a chat to the wardens on duty, and just look at the Little Terns. 

Or volunteer by following the links below:

Gronant: Click on this link to see Denbighshire Countryside Sevices page "Can you help support Wales' largest Little Terns Colony":  https://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/en/news/.........

Point of Ayr: contact the RSPB at Burton Mere Wetlands.

Sources of Information

1. Gronant 2023 Little Tern Report compiled by Claudia Smith, Sam Brown and Jonny Lee, Denbighshire County Council 2023.

2. Point of Ayr Little Tern Report 2023 (contact RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands for more info on this report).

Richard Smith

Juveniles on the beach at Gronant - A great sight to see at the end of the season Les Hall

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Colour Ring Report


Two newly ringed Shelduck were spotted in May. Shelducks on the shore in late spring are presumably breeding birds so it's good to know where these birds have originated from.

Shelduck Red over Green - Red over metal, at Heswall May 2024 Steve Hinde

Ringed at Longton Marsh, Ribble Estuary on  09/03/2024.
Recorded on Heswall Shore on 02/05/2024.

This is a new scheme undertaken by the Preston Wildfowlers Association.

Shelduck Blue UK at Heswall, May 13th 2024 Steve Hinde

Blue UK
Ringed at Martin Mere on 05/03/2024.
Recorded on Heswall Shore four times between 09/05/2024 and 16/05/2024.


Dunlin O - Y (6EH) at Hilbre, April 2024 Steve Williams (Hilbre Bird Observatory)

O - Y (6EH)
Ringed at Ynyslas (Cardigan Bay) on 21/09/2021.
Recorded at Hilbre on 29/04/2024.

This is our thirteenth Dunlin ringed by the Mid-Wales Ringing Group. Of those 13 this is only the second spring record, with 11 recorded between July and October and one in January.


Oystercatcher Green T242 at Hilbre, May 2024 Richard du Feu

G -T242
Ringed at Bergen, Norway, on 17/06/2021 as a chick. Exact location was in the grounds of the local IKEA!
Recorded at Heswall Shore on 29/06/2023 and at Hilbre on 04/05/2024.


Despite being the most important site in the country for Redshanks we struggle to find colour ringed ones, so it was good to see this one with a white flag ringed by the Wash Wader Ringing Group.

O - White flag (CCK)
Ringed at Frieston Marsh, Wash, on 11/09/2021.
at Port Seton on the south coast of the Firth of Forth on 11/10/2023, then a few days later it was at Saltfleet Haven, Lincs, on 15/10/2023.
Burton Mere Wetlands on 18/04/2024.

The record in April was the first away from the east coast of the UK.

Herring Gull

Orange (159:C), Wallasey Shore, May 18th 2024 Tony Ormond

O - 159:C
Ringed on the Old Lighthouse Island, Copeland Islands, Co. Down, Northern Ireland in July 2023 as a chick.
Recorded six times between October 2023 and January 2024 at the Redgate Recycling Centre at Gorton, SE Manchester.
It was at Seforth NR on 14/04/2024 and Wallasey Shore on 18/05/2024.

Black-headed Gull

Y - 2A94 at Burton Mere Wetlands on April 30th 2024 Mark Woodhead

Y - 2A94
Ringed at Fishers Green, Essex, in June 2018.
Recorded at Fleet Services (M3 motorway), Hampshire, in June 2020. It was back at Fishers Green in June 2022 and 2023.
Recorded at Burton Mere Wetlands on 30/04/2024 and 02/05/2024.


Wheatear R - DTT at Hilbre on May 4th 2024 Steve Williams

Red - DTT
Ringed on the Calf of Man, Isle of Man, on 02/05/2024.
Recorded on Hilbre 03/05/2024 and 04/05/2024.

This wheatear was recorded on Hilbre just a day after it was ringed, and an unexpected movement south-east when you would expect Wheatears to be heading northwards in May. This is only the second colour ringed Wheatear seen on Hilbre, and the first was also ringed on the Calf of Man. I quote from the Hilbre Bird Observatory Blog: "It is amazing that Hilbre colour ringed Wheatears for a several years without a single sighting ever, such are the distances travelled and unihabited breeding places involving our migrant Wheatears".

Colour Rings were recorded by Richard Smith, Stephen Hinde, Matt Thomas, Richard du Feu, Mark Woodhead, Colin Schofield, Sean O'Hara, Tony Ormond, Steve Williams and Steve Round.

Richard Smith

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May Bird News

Montagu's Harrier heading north past Leasowe, May 9th Sean O'Hara

Two rare raptors in May with a Montagu's Harrier past Leasowe on the 9th and a Honey Buzzard over Burton Mere Wetlands on the 26th. Both seemed to be getting more frequent early on this century but have since become much rarer. The last record for a Montagu's over Wirral was at Moreton in April 2007 with records of birds flying past Hilbre in 2003 and 2004. There have been several Honey Buzzard reports over the years but most have been 'probables' and not found their way into the Bird Reports. Acccepted records include one at Leasowe in 2006 and two in 2008 when there was a country wide influx, with one at New Brighton and one at Leasowe.

10 Waxwings at Saughall on the 3rd reminded us that summer was still several weeks away but no less than two Siberian Chiffchaffs at Leasowe early in the month was a nice reminder that the spring migration was still well underway, as did a lovely Blue-headed Wagtail there on the 5th.

 Iberian Chiffchaff, by Park Lane at Leasowe Lighthouse, May 3rd Sean O'Hara

Waders were passing through all month including Whimbrels which peaked at 147 at Heswall on the 5th with 11 still there on the 26th, and five Curlew Sandpipers was a good total for May.

Short-eared Owl in hedge on edge of marsh, Heswall, May 4th Steve Hinde

There were six reports of Short-eared Owls, with most coming from Hilbre and the Leasowe Lighthouse areas probably indicating a couple of birds were lingering there. There were also six reports of Ospreys, with four of these reports coming in the second half of May this may again suggest a single non-breeding bird wandering around the area.

Avocet mobbing an Osprey, Burton Mere Wetlands, May 9th Steve Round

On the 6th Hilbre had two Puffins, 18 Eiders and 1 Black Guillemot, and the were another two Puffins seen later in the month. The previous day 123 Red-throated Divers were on the sea. 

Red Knots at Leasowe at the end of May Richard Smith

A very good breeding season in 2023 means there are a lot of non-breeding one year old Knots in the Liverpool Bay area and a couple of thousand visited Leasowe Shore at the end of the month.

Burton Mere Wetlands is well known for good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits all year round, but Bar-tailed Godwits are scarce here and rarely make it into double-figures - but in May numbers, all immature birds, reached an incredible 176 on the 30th so presumably they also had a bumper breeding season in 2023.

Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits at Burton Mere Wetlands, May 27th steve Round

Many thanks go to Steve Williams, Steve Hinde, Alan Hitchmough, Richard Whitby, Bruce Atherton, David Leeming, Steve Round, David Thompson, Sean O'Hara, Jane Turner, Mark Woodhead, David Small, Mark Gibson, Derek Bates, Jeremy Bradshaw, Dave Edwards, Ken Mullins, Richard du Feu, Geoff Robinson, Allan Conlin, Tony Ramsden, Steve Lane, Tom Giles, Nigel Maitland, Colin Schofield, Eric Burrows, Carole Killikelly, Stephen Bushell, Tony Ormond, Eddie Williams, Matt Thomas. andy Jones, Roger Henry, David Huntingford, Richard Lowry, Charles Farnell, David Lee, Paul Rutter, David Furber, Jake McGinty, David Harrington, Barton Mally, Steve Harris, Carol Littler, Mike Webb, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during May. All sightings are gratefully received.

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What to expect in June

Although the quietest month of the year on the estuary I find June a fascinating month with waders still hurrying through on their way north early in the month, yet, as early as the third week of June, we get birds already returning after breeding.

You may see small flocks of Sanderlings along north Wirral, Point of Ayr and Gronant in the first few days of June. They will be busy feeding up before flying across the Atlantic to breed in northern Greenland and Canada. Look in awe at these birds as they may well have wintered on the south-west coast of Africa, meaning a journey of at least 8,000 miles by the time they reach their breeding ground.

Knots aren't a species we would normally expect to see in June but several thousand non-breeding birds do spend the summer along the Liverpool Bay coasts (mainly Formby/Ribble) and sometimes they visit us here.  Last June we had the unusual sight of 400 Knots at Burton Mere Wetlands and 150 at the Connah's Quay Reserve. With a very good breeding season in 2023 there will be lots of immatures and I would expect some of these to visit us this summer, hopefully several thousand. Most Whimbrels will have arrived in Iceland to breed during May, but we always get a handful of non-breeding birds in June with Heswall the best place to see them.

There were a few records of Ospreys in May, perhaps a single young bird hanging around the area so it may still be here in June.

In the second half of the month birds start to return from breeding with the earliest waders returning being Spotted Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers, Wood Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers. The fresh water sites at Burton Mere Wetlands and Connah's Quay are best for these, but Common Sandpipers seem to be particularly attracted to the banks of the River Dee where it flows past Connah's Quay and Queensferry.

The end of the month will see a notable increase in gulls and Sandwich Terns on the sand and mud banks. I always love to pick out Mediterranean  Gulls among the Black-headed - looking stunning still in full breeding plumage.

Mediterranean Gull at West Kirby, early July 2021 Richard Smith

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Forthcoming Events

June Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page

6th June, 11.36hrs (BST), 9.2m.
7th June, 12.24hrs (BST), 9.2m.

Forthcoming Events

Also see events at https://events.rspb.org.uk/deeestuary