Estuary Wetland Bird Survey Annual Report 2001/2002 has been published. This
covers the period effected by foot and mouth restrictions so the amount of
data is limited relative to other years, but luckily the important autumn
and winter periods are fully covered. The report concentrates on the 'core
counts' which are the counts which take place at high tide, but this winter
also included low tide counts for the whole of the estuary which have
produced some fascinating data. In addition figures from other surveys
carried out by the RSPB are included.
The report was very ably compiled by Neil Friswell, and the acknowledgements in the front of the report have been written by the Dee Estuary WeBS coordinator, Colin Wells, which I reproduce here:
I have taken the opportunity to update my bird counts page with the latest WeBS data.
Apologies for the late publication of this article but I have been waiting for the publication of the national WeBS report, which I now hear will not be published for another month or two.
The Dee Estuary WeBS report is
available from Colin Wells, Burton Point Farm, Station Road, Burton,
Cheshire for £4.50 including P&P, or £4.00 from the reception at Inner Marsh
pleasantly surprised on opening the package to see that the front cover was
a full page glossy photograph of a Wheatear. This immediately gives the
report a more professional look and brings it in line with other leading
bird reports. But that is not to say I miss Tony Broome's wonderful sketches
which have adorned the front covers of many a report in the past.
As usual the report itself is full of interest with articles including the history of the Black-necked Grebe at Woolston Eyes, now the most important site in Britain, and an account of the remarkable increase of the Little Egret which in 2001 bred for the first time in northern Brtitain.
It was in 2001 that CAWOS (Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society) chose to computerise all their records - and what a mammoth task it turned out to be. Altogether 47,762 records were received from 795 locations. The total number of species was 272 plus 23 escapes. All this was received in an amazing range of formats and subsequently put into a database specially written for the job by the Chairman's husband. All concerned must be congratulated, both on the completion of the 2001 database and the publication of another splendid report.
The report can be obtained by post for £6.80 (includes UK postage) from David Cogger, 113 Nantwich Road, Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 9HD, make cheques out to 'CAWOS'. Copies are also available at Focalpoint and Thurstaston Visitor Centre.
Hilbre Bird Observatory Report for 2001 is now available, see the
HBO website for
Hilbre Island was completely unaffected by the foot and mouth restrictions which so hampered birdwatching in other parts of the country, so a complete year's observation was carried out as detailed in the systematic list. As usual Steve Williams has peppered the list with numerous bar and pie charts, adding an extra dimension and interest to just plain text.
2001 will also be remembered with sadness as it was the year of John Gittin's death. Bob Anderson has written a moving piece in tribute to John, who was a founder member of the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
Bird Survey Count for Connah's Quay and
Flint - (Kindly provided by
Naturalists' Society), 5th
5 Little Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 97 Cormorant, 4 Grey Heron, 8 Mute Swan, 2 Shelduck, 1 Wigeon, 18 Gadwall, 1,200 Teal, 108 Mallard, 1 Pintail, 6 Moorhen, 21 Coot, 92 Oystercatcher, 660 Lapwing, 2,000 Dunlin, 1 Snipe, 785 Black-tailed Godwit, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit, 16 Curlew, 6 Spotted Redshank, 210 Redshank, 2 Greenshank.
Wetland Bird Survey Count for
Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the
Wirral Ranger Service), 5th January.
Marsh Farm Count for 21st January.
January Bird News
we escaped the snow in this part of the country we still had some very cold
spells. The windless period after New Year produced some glorious
frosty days ideal for a walk and a bit of bird watching.
These 'pinkfeet' flocks were all heading north and may well have been part of a movement away from Norfolk to escape the harsh weather there. We also had 16 White-fronted Geese (European race) at Inner Marsh Farm for several days, a good number for this part of the world. Brent Geese on the estuary increased steadily over the month reaching 33, 32 pale-bellied and just 1 dark-bellied. Best place to see them was Hilbre at low tide, on most high tides they made their way to Heswall on the far side of the marsh. The single dark-bellied Brent often spent high tide by itself, and was seen happily feeding on the marsh at West Kirby a few feet away from the dog walkers on several occasions.
It was a good month for ducks, especially at Inner Marsh Farm. The Green-winged Teal and Smew, both drakes, stayed all month. The American Wigeon which had appeared at the end of December stayed until the 3rd, disappeared, then re-appeared on the 17th. Then a Long-tailed duck, initially on Shotwick Boating Lake, joined them. On days when all four were in view a total of 14 duck species were recorded. And just to add the icing to the cake we had a Long-billed Dowitcher for a few days at the end of the month.
The regular Twite flock was seen at Flint Castle, with 44 recorded. The 3 Snow Buntings still remained loyal to one patch of sand at Wallasey, although they weren't seen every day - usually when I went to look for them! The number of Water Pipits at Neston Old Quay was open to debate. The local expert reckons that the Scandinavian race of Rock Pipits are routinely misidentified as Water Pipits, and I'm sure he is right. So may be only 2 Water Pipits rather than the 6 reported one day. Off Neston Old Quay, and the rest of the marsh, Hen Harriers were seen most days patrolling up and down. The ringtail was joined by a male for a few days giving great views at Parkgate when they came in to roost. These are the first Hen Harriers to overwinter on the Dee since the winter of 98/99. But far more unusually a Marsh Harrier was seen at Parkgate. This may well be the first ever January sighting in Cheshire/ Wirral, although there was a probable sighting reported to Eric Hardy in 1966.
Nine Little Gulls off Hilbre were unusual for January. In the late 1970's and early 1980's they were often seen over winter but since then very rarely. 45 Great Crested Grebes, 26 Red-throated Divers and 31 Purple Sandpipers were other good records from Hilbre - all seen on the same day as the Little Gulls.
What to expect in February.
However, on the estuary there is no doubt it is still winter with all the overwintering species still present in large numbers. But even here there are signs of movement with a noticeable reduction in Dunlin and Knot by the end of the month, and an increase in Curlew and Redshank - gathering before moving off to their breeding sites. We also often get a build up of Great-crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers at the mouth of the estuary, and may be a few of the more uncommon grebes and divers if we are lucky.
Bewick's Swans, Teal and Wigeon numbers often peak in February, and hopefully we will get over 30 Brent Geese on Hilbre for at least the first half of the month. There is much interchange of Pink-footed Geese between Norfolk and South Lancashire and February sees the start of a general movement northwards. We often see flocks of between 100 and 400 strong passing north through the estuary during February, and these may well be part of this northward movement.
The first high tide birdwatches at Parkgate take place on the 19th and 20th (see below for details). This time last year produced some fabulous birdwatching at Parkgate - 12 Short-eared Owls and 16 Water Rail for starters, it was only a 9.8m tide but with a strong SW wind it almost came over the wall!
February Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
19th February, 12:58hrs 9.9m. (all times GMT)
20th February, 13.39hrs 9.8m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Saturday 1st February 9:30am. High Tide at
Wednesday 19th February 11:15am.
Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch.
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2003', 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.