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3rd January 2001
WeBS Counts 1998-99.

Latest Bird Counts.
December Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.



The Wetland Bird Survey for 1998-99

                                     Bar-tailed Godwits -  Valerie McFarland

    The report for the Wetland Bird Survey 1998-99 has recently been published and can be obtained from In case anybody thinks it is a bit strange I should be reviewing the 1998-99 report a month after the review of the 1999-2000 report, the latter report was the local one whereas the former is the national report which takes considerably longer to compile. It enables us to compare the Dee Estuary with other wetland locations throughout the country.

Along with many other sites the Dee had a considerable decrease in the total number of waterfowl counted compared with both 97-98 and the five year mean - 107,925 compared with the mean of 128,341. However the Dee Estuary still had the eighth highest number of birds and twelve species in internationally important numbers*.  

As has been the case now for many years the Dee had the highest number of Pintail in the country with 5,018. The only other species which had it's maximum number on the Dee was, perhaps surprisingly, Spoonbill. Five were present during April and May.

 Shelduck numbers were unusually low with only 5,364, the lowest count since 82/83, but this was still the fourth highest count in the country. The Redshank is another species which does particularly well on the Dee but a drop of over 2,500 since 97-98 to 4,907 meant that it only had the fourth highest count, although it still has the second highest five year mean. It should be noted that numbers of Shelduck and Redshank for the current winter (2000 - 2001) are significantly higher. 

One shouldn't get carried away with these 'rankings', after all it is not a competition. But it is fascinating to see how our local patch compares with others, and to see whether changes in numbers of birds are due to local circumstances or are reflected nation wide.

The WeBS counts are entirely dependent on the many thousand volunteers across the country, without which these reports would not be possible.

* A wetland is considered internationally important if it regularly holds at least 1% of the population of one species, or if it regularly holds 20,000 or more individuals of that species.


Bird Counts


Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 6th December.
Curlew 1, Redshank 260, Ruff 8, Greenshank 3, Black-tailed Godwit 22, Whooper Swan 2, Bewick's Swan 15, Shelduck 5, Shoveler 70, Pintail 12, Teal 1000, Wigeon 500, Goldeneye 7, Peregrine Falcon 1 and Stonechat 1.
Please note that the count from Inner Marsh Farm is an informal estimate of species and numbers present, either carried out by myself or other birdwatchers visiting the hide. It is not meant to be a complete count and is not in anyway part of the Wetland Bird Survey or other count which might be carried out by the RSPB.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 10th December.
Great-crested Grebe 3, Grey Heron 8, Light-bellied Brent Goose 17, Shelduck 5870, Wigeon 4, Teal 582, Mallard 84, Pintail 30, Oystercatcher 1540, Lapwing 40, Knot 20, Dunlin 10, Snipe 4, Black-tailed Godwit 3, Curlew 1330, Redshank 2200, Black-headed Gull 208, Herring Gull 27, Great Black-backed Gull 11, Merlin 1 and Sparrowhawk 1.

West Kirby high tide roost, highest count for December carried out by Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens - 30th December.
Ringed Plover 62, Grey Plover 320, Knot 7,800, Dunlin 12,000, Sanderling 34, Bar-tailed Godwit 13, Oystercatcher 3,000 and Redshank 137

Wetland Bird Survey count for Flint and Connah's Quay - (Kindly provided by the Deeside Naturalists' Society). 10th December.
Little Grebe 4, Great-crested Grebe 14, Cormorant 98, Grey Heron 4, Mute Swan 6, Canada Goose 16, Shelduck 72, Wigeon 20, Gadwall 6, Teal 666, Mallard 24, Tufted Duck 1, Moorhen 4, Coot 35, Oystercatcher 815, Lapwing 353, Dunlin 12, Black-tailed Godwit 28, Curlew 111, Spotted Redshank 4, Redshank 261, Greenshank 4.

December Bird News


                                                                       Valerie McFarland

I spent three magical days on West Kirby beach at the end of December during the cold frosty weather. Across the estuary the snow on the Welsh mountains was glinting in the sun through the crystal clear air, there was no wind so despite near freezing temperatures it felt quite warm in the sun and the waders were present in large numbers. Nine species were seen ranging from 12,000 Dunlin to a handful of Bar-tailed Godwit. I was one of the voluntary wardens protecting the birds from disturbance and with so many people out walking our role was crucial - a job well done in glorious conditions!

The snow and frost resulted in some cold weather movements including a passage of Redwing, Fieldfare, Lapwing and Skylark. The Skylark movement was particularly marked with 300 seen in just over two hours  over West Kirby. Just across from West Kirby on Hilbre Island have been a record number of pale-bellied Brent Geese, 29 being seen regularly. A few years ago we were lucky to get more than four! There have been at least 34 Purple Sandpipers and a very good count of 650 Grey Plovers on the island.

5 Little Egrets spent virtually the whole month on Burton Marsh, occasionally venturing onto the Welsh side with 3 seen flying over Greenfield Valley on Christmas Day. 98 Bewick's Swans and 14 Whooper Swans have been counted on the estuary, a welcome return to their numbers of two years ago after a dip last winter. At Neston Old Quay four Water Pipits were in their usual haunt.

Strong winds and very low atmospheric pressure in the middle of the month resulted in some unexpectedly high spring tides flushing five Short-eared Owls from the reeds off Parkgate. Other notable birds included a Smew (Inner Marsh Farm). Green-winged Teal (Inner Marsh Farm), Pomarine Skua (Hoylake) and Firecrest (Point of Ayr). 

What to expect in January: Many species have their peak numbers during January - look out for large numbers of Lapwing, Knot, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and Grey Plover. Both Mute and Bewick's Swans have their highest numbers in mid-winter with typical numbers of 100 and 60 respectively - both are best seen either off Burton Marsh or the New Dee Bridge at Connah's Quay

A Smew or two may be seen at Inner Marsh Farm. Spotted Redshank usually have a mid-winter peak and these can be seen at Inner Marsh Farm, Oakenholt and Parkgate Boathouse Flash - typically a total of twenty birds.

A flock of about 20 Snow Buntings are usually seen at Gronant and Point of Ayr during January, although so far this winter very few have been seen.

Many thanks go to Jane Turner, Steve Williams,  Brian Grey, David Ester, Carl Clee, John Gittins, Jeff Clarke, Brian Roberts, Cathy McGrath, Ian Lazarus, Mike Hart, John Kirkland, Bill Owens, Martyn Jaimeson, Chris Butterworth and the Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens for their sightings during December. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!


Forthcoming Events


January Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
11th January, 12.13hrs 9.9m. (all times GMT)
12th January, 13.01hrs 9.9m.
See Tides page for tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate is covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See events for 2001.

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the listing of events for 2001

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
All these events and walks have bird interest, even those not advertised specifically for birdwatching. No need to book unless specifically stated.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown here. Check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

Sunday 7th January. New Year Walk. 10.30am - 3pm.
What better way to start the New Year than with a gentle 4 hour walk with the Countryside Ranger, taking in some beautiful views of the Dee Estuary. Meet Maen Achwyfan Monument, grid ref. SJ 129/788. Ring 01244 814931 for details.

Saturday 13th January. High Tide at Point of Ayr. 11:00am.
Exciting coastal birds at the RSPB reserve (HW 13:30, 9.8m). No need to book, meet at end of Station Road Talacre. For info. ring RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 27th January 10:00am (HW12:58, 9.2m) Heswall
Exceptional close views of thousand of waders and wildfowl. Meet Banks Road Car Park. Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Saturday 27th January 11:45am High Tide Birdwatch, Hoylake.  
Join the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens as large numbers of waders gather to roost at the edge of the rising tide. No need to book. Meet at Kings Gap/North Parade, Hoylake. For Info ring 0151 678 5488. 

Friday 9th February 10:30am (HW 12:02, 10.1m) Parkgate High Tide
Vast movements of waders and waterfowl attract the attention of many predatory birds, while the flooding tide may reveal the presence of Short eared Owls, Water Rails and various small mammals. Meet: Old Baths car park, north end of Parkgate prom. Further information Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Saturday 10th February 11:00am (HW 12:47,10.2m) Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch and Parkgate Special.
Make it an extra special visit and combine your High Tide Birdwatch with a light lunch followed by entertaining talks from local bird experts at the Boathouse Inn. Tickets 6-50, for further information Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371. 

Note: Many of these forthcoming events extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371, or by e-mail  from myself (1.8mb Zip file).