Liverpool Bay, Seabirds and Wind Farms
The Environmental Statement for Gwynt y Mor wind farm has just been published. This is a huge project of up to 250 Blackpool Tower size turbines to be built off Rhyl in 2008. Much as I am tempted to I will not use this newsletter as a rant against wind farms, although I do detest them, but will instead concentrate on some very interesting ornithological information contained in the statement.
The report brings together data from numerous aerial and boat surveys carried out in Liverpool Bay over the past six years. These have transformed our knowledge of what birds are out there, so much so that there is now a proposed Liverpool Bay SPA (Special Protection Area) which will give it special protection under the EC Wild Birds Directive. I understand that the SPA will cover an area between Moelfre on Anglesey to Fleetwood in Lancashire. One of the most important species, in terms of both conservation concern and numbers, is the Common Scoter. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust started aerial surveys here in the winter of 2000/2001 establishing that typical numbers were 25,000. A very good number considering 10 years ago that was thought to equal the total UK population, although estimates have doubled since then. But in February 2003 Peter Cranswick of the WWT couldn't believe the numbers he was seeing from his plane, ending up with a total of 79,000. These were concentrated in several areas: Colwyn Bay, Conwy Bay, off Formby, off the Ribble Estuary and Shell Flats off Blackpool. But this wasn't just a one off count, the following February saw 83,500 in the same places, nearly all within the proposed SPA. One of the largest concentrations was off Blackpool on Shell Flats, just were a large wind farm is proposed, fortunately it looks as though this one will not be given the go ahead.
Other species of
particular interest were recorded as follows:
Cormorant and Shag
The birds most at risk from the wind farm would appear to be Gannets, Kittiwakes and Auks as many use the proposed area. Although Common Scoter tend to be nearer in shore they must also be at risk as they are very susceptible to disturbance and there is bound to be much tooing and froing between the shore and Gwynt y mor.
The above is a very brief summary of the ornithological data contained in the npower Gwynt y Mor Environmental Statement, a non-technical summary of the statement can be seen on the npower website - http://www.npower-renewables.com/gwyntymor/index.asp. When reading it remember it was written by someone wearing rose-tinted glasses as regards wind farms - they are not quite the wonderful, nice to see, highly efficient machines they would have us believe! More details of the Common Scoter survey can be seen on the Wetlands and Wildfowl Trust website - http://www.wwt.org.uk/publications/. If you want to protest against wind farms, and up to 340 turbines will be in sight from Red Rocks by 2009, then I suggest you contact your MP, make your feelings known to your local and national bird society, and try to stir up the local press who seem to have a conspiracy of silence on the topic.
December Bird News
two Richard's Pipits which appeared at the end of the month on the marsh
at West Kirby stayed until about
mid-month, with one remaining for the rest of the month. Luckily the
waders on the shore at high tide were not disturbed by the birders looking
for the pipits and numbers are up on last year, particularly Knot which
reached a max of 17,000 compared to 10,000 last December. We think these
are probably the same birds which have been seen off
Thurstaston in good numbers at low tide.
There have been quite a few duck on the Marine Lake at West Kirby with a max of 17 Red-breasted Mergansers and 18 Goldeneye, together with a Red-throated Diver, and a couple each of Great-crested Grebes and Shags.
Brent Geese just went on increasing and reached an incredible 104 on the 20th, all but one pale-bellied birds. Other geese included 600 Pink-footed Geese over Heswall on Christmas Day. Four Hen Harriers continue to come in to roost at Parkgate, three ring-tails and a single sub-adult male. The full adult male was definitely seen once but doesn't seem to be roosting with the other birds.
Over on the Point of Ayr a spotted Redshank has been seen regularly together with a snow buntings in the sand dunes, parties of Brent Geese were seen from time to time flying over from hilbre.
What to expect in January
Brent Geese normally peak by the end of January, any increase on the 104 seen last month will be a record! We often get movements of Pink-footed Geese this month, probably coming over from Norfolk. Bewick Swans should reach 100 or so birds on the marshes, although often they are so far out it is very difficult to count them. Hopefully a Smew will turn up at Inner Marsh Farm together with the long staying Green-winged Teal.
January can be surprisingly good for sea-watching with Great-crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers and even some Little Gulls in sight. These are usually best seen from Hilbre Island as are Purple Sandpipers which should reach 30 or so birds this month.
There is a 10m tide predicted for the last day of the month, given a good SW to NW wind this will make for some spectacular birdwatching, particularly at Parkgate.
Many thanks go to Ian Hughes, John Boswell, Liz Shand, Steve Renshaw, Heather White, Colin Davies, Bernard Machin, David Esther, Colin Schofield, John Campbell, Clive Ashton, Colin Jones, Charles Farnell, Mike coe, Steve Williams, Phil Woolen, Chris Butterworth, Sabena Blackbird, Jeff Stevens, Matt Thomas, Dave Harrington, Jane Turner, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Allan and Sandra Evans, Pam Green, 'Emma'. Keith Hopwood, Andrew Jennings, Mark O'Sullivan, Bob Pilgrem, Iain Douglas, Nick Payne, Colin Wells, Mark Murphy, Helen Warburton, Margaret Twemlow, Rhys Findlay-Robinson, Mark Warren, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during December. All sightings are gratefully received.
January Highest Spring Tides,
30th January, 11:45hrs 9.7m. Times GMT.
31st January, 12:32hrs 10.0m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Sunday 1st January, 9am - 12
noon, The Big Bird List.
Sunday 22nd January, 3:00pm,
Parkgate Raptor Watch Dee Estuary RSPB
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2006', 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.
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