1st January 2005

Colour-ringed Waders.
Birdwatchers Diary 2005.

Latest Bird Counts.

December Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.


Colour-ringed Waders in the North West

Hilbre Bird Observatory and Ringing Station have been colour-ringing waders, particularly Turnstone, Purple Sandpiper and Redshank over the last few years. We have had some interesting sightings of these birds within the North West (North Wales and North-west England). Here is a summary of just a few of the more recent sightings:

Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima

At least three of the Purple Sandpipers present at Wallasey/New Brighton, where there have been up to 13 birds reported during November 2004, have Hilbre colour-rings. These birds were ringed at Hilbre in the winter of 2000/01. It has long been thought that Hilbre birds move between the island and North Wirral during the winter and ringed birds have been seen there in the past, but recent winter sightings of colour-ringed birds have proved this beyond doubt. It will be interesting to monitor the numbers of birds moving between the two sites and the timing of these movements to determine how important the North Wirral site is for feeding and roosting of the Purple Sandpipers.
Interestingly, Hilbre had the first foreign recovery of Purple Sandpiper as long ago as 1964 with a Hilbre ringed bird caught in Greenland. However, it is believed that Purple Sandpipers wintering on the west coast of Britain actually breed in Canada, as the Greenland and Icelandic populations are mainly resident and recoveries from there are probably of birds passing through to Canada.

Purple Sandpiper - New Brighton (Steve Round ©)
Up to 13 birds were seen at this site during November including at least three Hilbre ringed birds

Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Several Hilbre ringed Turnstones from winters 1998/99, 2000/01, 2002/03 and 2003/04 have been recorded at various sites along the North Wirral shore between Meols and New Brighton during this 2004/05 (and previous) winters. Birds have also been recorded down the West Wirral coast from West Kirby Marine Lake to Caldy.

From further afield a Hilbre ringed Turnstone from winter 2000/01 was seen at Heysham Harbour on 19th September 2004. Similarly, we controlled a bird ringed at Morecambe Bay several years ago at Hilbre this winter (2004/05). We have had a number of recoveries and controls from the Morecambe Bay Wader Study Group over the years. Another bird ringed at Hilbre in October 2003 was controlled at Rhos-on-sea in March 2004.

This adds to the picture that has already been developed in the past with many recoveries from Hilbre ringed birds and controls at Hilbre of birds ringed elsewhere (see Hilbre Bird Reports 1957-2003 inclusive). One such bird was ringed at Bidston on the Wirral and controlled at Hilbre 15 years later. Hilbre has had a few recoveries and controls of Turnstones from Iceland during the past 47 years of ringing at Hilbre.

Redshank Tringa totanus

Hilbre colour-ringed birds have recently been sighted at Meols and Caldy on the Wirral. In the past one colour-ringed bird (from the Outer Hebrides), was ringed as an adult female on South Uist in 1985 and returned to Hilbre each winter during 1988-1992 and again between 1997-1999. During its summers it returned to breed successfully on South Uist and raised many young. It was eventually found dead, predated by a Peregrine, in 1999.

Many of the Redshank that winter on our shores are from Northern Britain and Europe although the Icelandic race (robusta), which are larger than the nominate form, also occurs.

These records are just a small selection of sightings from the colour-ringing scheme that has been carried out at Hilbre over the last few years. We are building up a much more comprehensive picture of the movements of these three species, both within their wintering grounds in the North West of Britain as well as their migration routes and breeding grounds.

However, we need birders within the North West (and further a field) to send in their sightings of colour-ringed birds. If you see a colour-ringed bird you can send in details to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) or you can send details direct to us at the following email address: hilbrebo@aol.com

Chris Williams - December 2004
(Ringing Secretary Hilbre Bird Observatory and Ringing Station)

This article first appeared in Volume 1 No. 11 of Birding North West and reproduced here with kind permission of Chris Williams and CAW Birding.

Editor: Note also the Black-tailed Godwit ringing scheme, several ringed birds have been seen on the Dee Estuary over the past couple of years. Two percent of the population have been ringed so we should have 50-100 on the estuary.

Top of page

Birdwatcher's Diary 2005
Dear Birdwatcher,

Welcome to the 2005 Birdwatcher’s Diary for the Dee and Mersey Estuary region. The diary is a partnership between the RSPB, Countryside Ranger Services and other local wildlife groups. We hope you enjoy the packed programme of events we have lined up for you.
Last year’s highlights were the monthly Raptor Watches at Parkgate, with a stunning male hen harrier putting in a welcome appearance last November. In June, on the second Orchid Spectacular at Inner Marsh Farm the group were lucky enough to discover bee and pyramidal orchids, the first records for the reserve! So you never know what you might see.
In this year’s 2005 diary we have introduced several new events including ‘Egrets and wine’ where you can help count the little egrets with the staff as they come in to roost at Inner Marsh Farm, and then afterwards relax with some cheese and wine. There is also the welcome return of ‘Shore Birds at Shorefields’ to help promote this lesser known site on the Mersey Estuary.
Thank you for supporting our events, and I look forward to meeting you all soon.

Happy birdwatching,

Colin Wells
(RSPB Site Manager, Dee Estuary)

   DEE ESTUARY            
Click here for the diary.


Top of page

Bird Counts
Count from Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service), 12th December.
4 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Cormorant, 9 Canada Goose, 1,690 Shelduck, 7 Wigeon, 857 Teal, 78 Mallard, 882 Pintail, 19 Scaup, 17 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Water Rail, 8,740 Oystercatcher, 361 Golden Plover, 600 Lapwing, 462 Dunlin, 15 Snipe, 342 Black-tailed Godwit, 953 Curlew and 930 Redshank. Note that 8,000 Shelduck, 2,000 Lapwing, 30,000 Knot, 2,000 Dunlin and 2,000 Curlew had been seen during the previous week - either at high or low tide. Also 70 Black-headed Gull, 17 Common  Gull, 8 Lesser black-backed Gull, 31 Herring Gull, 6 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Merlin, 2 Peregrine and 4 Hen Harriers (Harriers all in view together - 3 ring-tail and 1 grey male).

Count from Connah's Quay and Flint - (Kindly provided by Deeside Naturalists' Society)
12th December. 1 Great Crested Grebe, 119 Cormorant, 1 Little Egret, 6 Grey Heron, 1 Mute Swan, 1 Canada Goose, 120 Shelduck, 3 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall, 94 Teal, 1 Shoveler, 2 Tufted duck, 24 Coot, 350 Oystercatcher, 818 Lapwing, 2,001 Dunlin, 3,000 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Curlew and 49 Redshank.

Count from West Kirby Shore provided by the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens, date of max December count in brackets).
10,000 Knot (17th), 10,000 Dunlin (17th), 300 Curlew (10th), 200 Redshank (10th), 560 Bar-tailed Godwit (11th), 13 Ringed Plover (11th), 3,000 Oystercatcher (12th), 53 Sanderling (12th), 1,000 Grey Plover (14th).

Top of page

December Bird News
Brent Geese increased steadily through the month ending up with a record 60, they are all of the pale-bellied race (Branta bernicla hrota). If you want to see these birds then Hilbre Island at low tide is best, try and get over early morning if possible. At high tide they are usually on Little Eye, although infuriatingly they prefer the side hidden from view from the shore! Sometimes they fly down to Heswall and can be seen floating on the sea just off the marsh, or over to the Point of Ayr where they join the wader roost. Other notable wildfowl were 85 Bewick's and 10 Whooper Swan on Burton and Flint Marshes, and both a drake and female Smew at different times at Inner Marsh Farm where there was also a drake Green-winged Teal. There was a report of 70 Little Egrets coming to roost at Burton, another high for the estuary.

Brent Geese on Hilbre Island, 21st December 2004 © Richard Smith

This is a good year for Waxwings across the country and we have had our share here, although so far each flock has only stayed a short time in our area. Over 100 at Ewloe (near Queensferry) was the largest number.

I visited Leasowe shore a couple of times during the month and numbers of waders seem to be a bit down from the last few years. I also noticed that the shore here seemed noticeable sandier this winter, probably as a result of the September gales, and this could explain the low numbers of waders which prefer mud to feed on. In contrast there have been good numbers of birds in the estuary proper with large flocks of Knot and Oystercatchers off Thurstaston at low tide, and counts of waders at the high tide roost on West Kirby Shore are showing a definite improvement after three poor years. Two Spotted Redshanks at West Kirby and Hoylake were somewhat unexpected as this species usually prefer more fresh water or marshy habitats.

Part of a 30,000 strong flock of Knot at Hoylake, Steve Round ©

Five Hen Harriers, including a stunning adult male, coming in to roost just off Parkgate were the star birds for most people this month. Eight Short-eared Owls seen flying over Burton Marsh was also a fine sight. As usual there have been plenty of Peregrines around and I saw one hunting through a flock of over 25,000 waders at Hoylake making for a spectacular sight in a near gale.

What to expect in January

January is a bit of an unpredictable month regarding waders - some years we get massive numbers, whilst other years are very poor. But if there is a cold spell, specially around the North Sea coasts, expect large flocks of Knot - may be as many as 50,000 roosting on Hoylake shore. Cold weather should also bring in plenty of Lapwings with 8,000 or so making a spectacular sight on Burton Marsh. The much rarer Spotted Redshank often have a mid-winter peak of about 10 birds, best seen at Inner Marsh Farm or the Connah's Quay reserve. Purple Sandpipers should also increase during the month with about 20 to 30 on Hilbre and 10 to 20 along the North Wirral coast.

We've already had record numbers of Brent Geese on Hilbre Island this winter but if they follow the normal pattern they will continue to increase during the month - so may be as many as 70?? And to think seven was the norm only a few years ago! Strong westerly winds might bring in good numbers of Great Crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers, best seen around Hilbre or off Point of Ayr.

Flocks of Pink-footed Geese often pass through in January. A hundred or so are usually on Burton Marshes but large flocks heading north-west will most likely be on their way from Norfolk  to South Lancashire. Bewick's Swans build up to over a hundred birds, sometimes difficult to see way out in the middle of the marshes.

Many thanks go to  Ray Roberts, Bernard Machin, Steve Williams,  Chris Butterworth,  Martyn Jaimeson, Mark O'Sullivan, Phil Woollen, David Wilde,  Allan Conlin, Steve Ainsworth,  David Banbury, Mike Hart, David Esther, Steve Renshaw, 'Eric', John Kirkland, Allan Hewitt, Pete Rogers, David Banbury, Nigel Troup, Bryan joy, Frank Huband, Andy Coxen, John Campbell, Richard Hurst, Clive James, Colin Schofield, Roger Morgan, Jean Morgan, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens  and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during December.  All sightings are gratefully received.

Top of page

Forthcoming Events
January Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
12th January, 12:30hrs 9.8m. Times GMT.
13th January, 13:18hrs 9.8m. 

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 for these events unless specified - please check below.

Sunday 9th January, 8:30am, Seaducks and Shorebirds.
During the winter months the Marine Lake at West Kirby is a good place to spot seaducks including goldeneye, scaup and red-breasted merganser. Join the Wirral RSPB local group on a stroll around the lake to get views of these birds without having to venture out onto the waves! Then head to Cubbins Green to view the waders feeding on the rich estuary mudflats. Meet at the Dee Lane slipway. For more details phone 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 23rd January, 3:00pm Parkgate Raptor Watch.
Watch the elegant hen harriers come in to roost on the RSPB reserve at Gayton Sands.Other birds we hope to see include merlin, peregrine, sparrowhawk, short-eared owl and barn owl. Meet at the Old Baths car park, Parkgate, close to the Boathouse pub. For further details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 29th January, 10:00am – 4:00pm, RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.
Join the RSPB Wardens at Ness Gardens bird feeding station. Help us count the birds in the Gardens as part of a national survey, and learn all about garden birds and how to attract them to your garden. All welcome. Meet at Ness Gardens tearoom. No need to book. For more details tel. 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 30th January, 11:00am, Banks Road (Heswall) Birdwatch.
One of the best places on the estuary to get close-up views of a variety of waders including black-tailed godwit, knot, redshank and curlew as they amass along the banks of the Heswall Gutter (HW 14:09, 8.9m). Meet at Banks Road car park, Lower Heswall, near Sheldrake’s Restaurant. For details, tel. 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 30th January 10:00am – 5:00pm, Big Garden Birdwatch.
Join us in the bird hide at Wirral Country Park and take part in this national RSPB event to count the birds in our gardens. For further details, phone 0151 648 4371.

Thursday 10th February 11:00am Parkgate Birdwatch.
High tide at Parkgate is the best time to discover the hidden treasures of RSPB Gayton Sands reserve. If the tide reaches the wall, small mammals such as voles, shrews and possibly water rails are flushed out. Meet at the Old Baths car park overlooking the Gayton Sands Nature Reserve at Parkgate, close to The Boathouse pub (HW 12:18, 10.1m). For details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Friday 11th February 11:30am Parkgate Birdwatch.
Another chance to learn about the birdlife of this important saltmarsh reserve. If the tide is high enough flocks of waders will be joined by raptors such as peregrines, hen harriers and short-eared owls. (HW 13:01, 10.1m) For details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 12th February 12:00noon Parkgate Birdwatch .
Third and final chance this month!
(HW 13:42, 10.0m). For details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2005', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Hard copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.

All material in this newsletter, and indeed the whole web site, has been written by myself, Richard Smith, unless specified.

Top of page

Birding North West is a new monthly magazine for birders in the North West Region. Our aim is to bring you the news of rare and scarce birds in our region while it is still news. We consider that up-to-date news, photographs of regional birds, articles on the occurrence of birds in the North West and other articles relating to our region is what our readership want.

The blank (UK) Birding Webring is a collection of quality birding web sites that are based in the United Kingdom.

Visit the webring homepage for more information, or click here to add your site to the ring.

A complete list of all the sites in the webring is available by clicking here.

previous site in ring : random site in ring : next site in ring