The Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society has
once again produced a most interesting and informative report. The monthly
review of the year is followed by a very comprehensive systematic list
covering eighty three pages including Wetland Bird Counts for the whole of
the Mersey and Dee Estuaries. Four colour photographs grace the centre pages
with particularly good ones of a Mediterranean Gull at New Brighton and
Water Pipit at Neston.
There is a comprehensive report on bird ringing with the most traveled bird being a Swallow ringed at Hoylake recovered in South Africa. As pointed out in the article the emphasis on ringing has now shifted from investigating movements/ migration to population dynamics.
Other articles include a description of the capture, ringing and identification of a Blyth's Reed Warbler, a first for Cheshire and Wirral, and a report on the huge countrywide Honey Buzzard influx during September, although we only got ten over here. But to put this in perspective - from 1967 to 1999 there were only 16 accepted records in Cheshire and Wirral. A fascinating piece about the movements of a colour ringed Spoonbill particularly caught my eye. This was one of the birds which attempted to breed at Frodsham in 1996 and was recorded 50 times during its life between 1992 and 1999.
Cost of the report is £5.70 (incl
Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore -
(Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 18th January.
1 Great Crested Grebe, 2,670 Shelduck, 296 Teal, 65 Mallard, 121 Pintail, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, 1,250 Oystercatcher, 30 Golden Plover, 597 Lapwing, 270 Dunlin, 1 Snipe, 1,350 Black-tailed Godwit, 397 Curlew, 1 Spotted Redshank, 587 Redshank, 1 Merlin and 2 Peregrine Falcon.
Maximum Wader counts for January at
West Kirby High tide roost (date in
brackets), counted by the Dee Estuary Voluntary
January Bird News
Large numbers of waders were present during January. Maximum numbers included 29,000 Knot (Hoylake), 24,500 Dunlin (Hoylake), 1,500 Black-tailed Godwit (Inner Marsh Farm) and 8,000 Bar-tailed Godwit (Hilbre). Those Godwit counts could both be record high counts for their respective locations (although the IMF count was even higher on the 1st of Feb.).
A good place to get really close to roosting waders at high tide is West Kirby Marine Lake were the old swimming pool used to be, now filled with large boulders. If you stay on the road side of the railings the birds remain undisturbed, in January we had over 100 Turnstone and 10 Purple Sandpiper here, as well as a few hundred Redshank and Dunlin. See photo below of some of the Turnstone, Redshank and Dunlin.
Twelve Spotted Redshank have been at Inner Marsh Farm with several Ruff. When I was there one Spotted Redshank was standing close to the hide in the middle of about forty Redshanks so its longer bill and legs together with the paler belly and breast were obvious and made identification easy, a bird which I've had difficulty with previously.
Brent geese numbers took a dip during January to 15, but increased again to 23 by the end of the month. One of these was of the dark-bellied race which has taken to spend high tide on the marsh at West Kirby eating the grass just a few yards from the dog walkers! Pink-footed Geese have only been seen in small numbers this year, just restricted to one flock of thirty and another of forty, both flying over.
As for most of this winter Short-eared Owls have been much in evidence with two seen both at Leasowe Lighthouse and Point of Ayr, but the best sighting was undoubtedly at Parkgate at a big high tide on the 30th when twelve were seen.
Just two more bits of news. First the latest Hilbre Bird Observatory Report is about to be published, click on the link for details. Secondly - those wanting to visit the hide overlooking Talacre fields (Warren Farm) where there can be large numbers of waders present at high tide can get the keys at any time from the visitor centre at BHPBilliton during office hours and at the BHPBilliton security office all other times. The hide is on Station Road (on the way to the Point of Ayr) just next to the railway bridge.
What to expect in February: Spring is here! Well, maybe not quite yet but given a mild day or two and all the resident birds well be singing their heads off establishing their breeding territories
On the estuary there will still be large numbers of waders about. If we get a cold snap like we had this time last year and we should see Knot flocks 10,000 strong as well as plenty of Dunlin, Oystercatcher and both species of Godwit. Bewick's Swans peaked in February last winter with 118 birds, see them at Burton Marsh or Inner Marsh Farm. Several other species also peaked in February last winter (according to the Wetland Bird Survey Count(1) ) - Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit and Turnstone - so not a bad month!
An early spring passage might include Little Gulls and auks at sea, and there is usually a gathering of between 50 and 100 Great Crested Grebe on the estuary before they head inland to breed.
There are some big spring high tides due at the end of February and early March which should bring some great birdwatching, including Parkgate where there is an organised Birdwatch.
1. Neil Friswell and Colin Wells, Dee Estuary WeBS Annual Report 2000/2001.
Many thanks go to Dave Harrington, Neil Friswell, Adam King, Dave Wilde, Dave Cavanagh, S Menzie, Alan Jupp, Wendy Allen, Chris Tynan, Dorothy Jebb, David Steer, John Graham, John Cambell, Chris Williams, Mark Feltham, Thomas Giles, Geoff Harrop, Mike Hart, Paul Hurley, Michael Clarkson, Brian Grey, John Kirkland, Jeff Clarke, Chris Butterworth, Bill Owens, Cathy McGrath, Eoin Jennings, Gerry Lucas, David Esther, Iain Douglas, Martyn Jaimeson, Carl Clee, Jane Turner, Brian Roberts and the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens for their sightings during January. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!
February Highest Spring Tides
27th February, 11.16hrs 9.7m. (all times GMT)
28th February, 12.01hrs 10.1m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Saturday 2nd February 12 noon, High Tide at
Sunday 17th February 11:15am, February Birdwatch at Banks Road,
Thursday 28th February 10:30am,
Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch.
Friday 1st March 11:00am, Parkgate High
Saturday 2nd March 11:45am, Parkgate
High Tide Birdwatch.
Sunday 3rd March 12noon - 1.30pm, Beginners Birdwatch at
Kings Gap, Hoylake Promenade.
Saturday 16th March 9:30am, Heswall.
High Tide Birdwatch.
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2002', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself.