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1st February 2004

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

Newsletter Index.
Brent geese

Dee Estuary Birds - Bibliography


This is something I have been meaning to do for a couple of years but somehow never got round to writing until now. The list has been split into three categories (Bird Reports, Booklets and Books), then in reverse chronological order, that is to say the latest publications are at the top. Many books are now out of print but it is well worth hunting through second hand book stalls for them, and a search on the internet might well prove useful. Personally I find reading the old books fascinating, they give you a real insight in to how the birds and the estuary have changed over the years, and indeed how the art of birdwatching and attitudes of birdwatchers have also changed.

Bird Reports and other annual publications:

  • Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report, published by CAWOS.

  • Clwyd Bird Report, published by the Clwyd Bird Recording Group.
    Usually available at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB or contact Norman Hallas on 01978 290522.

  • Hilbre Bird Report, published by the Hilbre Bird Observatory.

  • Dee Estuary WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) Annual Report, compiled  by Neil Friswell and edited by Colin Wells.
    Available at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB, ring 0151 336 7681.

  • Wardening at Gronant Little Tern Colony (report), published annually by the RSPB.
    Available at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB, ring 0151 336 7681.


  • Cheshire and Wirral Bird News, published three times a year, available to members of CAWOS only.

  • A Checklist of the Birds of the Wirral Peninsula by Steve Williams, 2003.
    Available from Steve Williams, 2 Westbourne Road, West Kirby, Wirral CH48 4DG for 2.00 post free.

  • A Checklist of the Birds of Inner Marsh Farm RSPB by Steve Williams, 2003.
    Available at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB, ring 0151 336 7681.

  • A Checklist of the Birds of Hilbre by Steve Williams, 2003.
    Available from the
    Hilbre Bird Observatory.

  • Birding the Wirral Peninsula by Allan Conlin, 2003.
    Available from Thurstaston Visitor Centre or ring Allan on 07791274837.

  • Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens Bird and Wildlife Report by Chris Butterworth, 2001.
    A comprehensive report of the flora and fauna (with emphasis on birds) of West Kirby Shore and Marine Lake, Red Rocks and Little Eye. Please     me for a free copy.

  • The Dee Estuary, published by the Dee Estuary Conservation Group, 1996.
    Available from Thurstaston Visitor Centre.

  • Hilbre - the island in a wilderness - by Valerie McFarland, Barry Barnacal and John Craggs, 1983.

  • Wings Across a Wilderness - A guide to birdwatching on the Dee Estuary - by Valerie McFarland and Barry Barnacal, 1978.

These last three booklets, illustrated with some excellent photographs, are wonderfully concise, yet comprehensive, guides to the Dee Estuary and it's birds.


  • Where to watch birds in Cumbria, Lancashire & Cheshire by Jonathon Guest and Malcolm Hutcheson, 2003, Christopher Helm.

  • A Guided Tour of Merseyside - its wildlife and natural history - by Bob 'the Birdman' Hughes, 2002, Avid Publications.

  • Where to watch birds in Wales by Dave Saunders, 2000, Christopher Helm.

  • The Breeding Bird Atlas of Cheshire and Wirral by J.P. Guest et al, 1992, CAWOS.

  • RSPB Guide to Birdwatching in Clwyd by Valerie McFarland, 1989, RSPB.

  • Bird-Watching in Cheshire by Eric Hardy, 1988, Countrywise.

  • Dee Wildfowler - The last professional, Harold Gill (Leslie Brockbank), 1982.

  • Hilbre 'the Cheshire Island', its History and Natural History edited by J.D. Craggs, 1982,
    Commonly known as the Hilbre 'Bible'. Everything you ever wanted to know about Hilbre, copies available on the Internet and at time of writing one copy for sale at Thurstaston Visitor Centre.

  • Estuary Birds of Britain and Ireland by A.J. Prater, 1981, Poyser.
    This book uses data gathered from the first six years of the 'Birds of Estuaries Enquiry' to give a detailed account of this country's estuaries and birds, good coverage of the Dee Estuary.

  • The Birds of Cheshire by T. Hedley Bell, 1962 (supplement 1967), Sherrat.

  • The Birds of the Liverpool Area by Eric Hardy, 1941, T. Buncle.

  • Feathered Folk of an Estuary by Guy B. Farrar, 1938, Country Life.
    Guy Farrar was a wildfowler turned naturalist and gives a fascinating account of the birds of the Dee Estuary between the two world wars.

  • The Fauna of Cheshire and Liverpool Bay - Vol.1. Mammals and Birds - by T.A. Coward, 1910, Witherby.
    The systematic list in this book and those in the above books by Eric Hardy and T. Hedley Bell give a comprehensive account of the bird life on the Dee Estuary and surrounding areas from the late 19th century until 1966.


Bird Counts


Count from Connah's Quay and Flint - (Kindly provided by Deeside Naturalists' Society), 24th January. 2 Little Grebe, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 194 Cormorant, 1 Little Egret, 7 Grey Heron, 25 Mute Swan, 60 Shelduck, 575 Wigeon, 9 Gadwall, 990 Teal, 92 Mallard, 6 Pintail, 1 Shoveler, 2 Tufted duck, 31 Coot, 800 Oystercatcher, 22 Ringed Plover, 700 Lapwing, 2,500 Dunlin, 2,760 Black-tailed Godwit, 20 Curlew, 1 Spotted Redshank, 600 Redshank and 8 Greenshank.

Count from Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service), 24th January. 1 Cormorant, 3 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, 47 Light-bellied Brent Goose, 697 Shelduck, 10 Wigeon, 1,993 Teal, 114 Mallard, 4 Red-breasted Merganser, 7,700 Oystercatcher, 60 Lapwing, 1,030 Dunlin, 142 Black-tailed Godwit, 1,767 Curlew, 1,700 Redshank, 382 Black-headed Gull, 62 Common Gull, 13 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 106 Herring Gull and 5 Black-backed Gull, also 2 Peregrine, 1 Kestrel and 1 Hen Harrier (ring-tail).

January Bird News


Brent Geese reached a peak of 50 on the 17th, 47 pale-bellied and 3 dark-bellied - the highest number ever recorded on the estuary. The pale-bellied Brent Geese (Branta bernicla hrota) are part of a 20,000 strong population which mainly winter in Ireland and breed in arctic east Canada. There was a good movement of Pink-footed Geese on the 26th with over 2,000 moving north. Although that number is small fry to those living in their main Lancashire haunts, here it is quite unusual and they made a glorious sight as skein after skein passed through over a two hour period. Although this may have been a local movement more likely it was a long-distance migration out of Norfolk, on their way north. Other wildfowl included drake Smew and Green-winged Teal, both at Inner Marsh Farm.

From high numbers of waders present at the end of December and early January, numbers were noticeable much lower by the end of the month, perhaps the mild weather encouraged them to fly to the mud rich estuaries of the North Sea. However, there were still good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits at Flint (2,760) and Oystercatchers were numerous off Thurstaston. Quite a few colour ringed Black-tailed Godwits were seen during the month, see last month's newsletter. Eight Greenshank was an excellent number for this time of year at Connah's Quay.

On most days on West Kirby shore things were fairly quiet for the Voluntary Wardens, but at least we had the consolation of seeing this Snow Bunting for most of the month.

Snow Bunting on West Kirby Shore 27th Jan, Dave Kenyon

The Hen Harriers are still on the estuary, with five coming to roost in the reed beds at Parkgate. At least a couple of Short-eared Owls were regularly seen at the same location and occasionally a Barn Owl.

The Wirral RSPB Group have recently published their 2004 programme, full of some very interesting outdoor and indoor activities, including a Woodpecker Walk at Stapledon Wood in March and a Seabird Special on Hilbre in August, and a talk by Colin Wells in November - 'A year on the Dee Estuary' . To join this group ring their leader, Martyn Jaimeson, on 0151 342 7813.

Bird Reports.
Both the 2002 editions of the Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report and Hilbre Bird Report have recently been published. As always I cannot rate these publications too highly, packed as they are with a wealth of local bird information. These are both available at the visitor centre at
Thurstaston, or click on the respective links if you wish to receive these by post.

What to expect in February.
The mouth of the estuary is worth having look at this month - we often get large numbers of Divers and Grebes, and a passage of Little Gulls. Brent Geese numbers should remain high until at least the middle of the month and Purple Sandpipers might well reach a maximum on Hilbre with 30 or so birds.
Look out for Pink-footed Geese moving north up the estuary, these may well be birds starting to move north from their Norfolk haunts.

The first of this year's high tide birdwatches at Parkgate takes place on the 21st. It has to be said that 2003 was a bit of a disappointment at Parkgate. Some people were even saying that the tide never comes in anymore - but this is far from the truth. Looking back at 2002 we had eight tides which either came all the way in or very close. This included a day in February when we saw 12 Short-eared Owls and 17 Water Rails. Who can forget the Spotted Crake crouching just under the wall on the 6th November that year, and the huge numbers of duck the day before? Fabulous! It is all a matter of luck with the weather - a good strong westerly and low pressure is ideal.

Our local woodland and garden birds will be in full song on mild days, a welcome sign of the spring to come. But we have to wait until March before the first of the summer migrants start trickling in.

Many thanks go to Michael Cocking, Nigel Troup, Cathy McGrath, Dave and Emma Kenyon, Lew and Sue Lewis, Matt Thomas, Graham Barker, Stephen Menzie, Mark Smith, Peter Cooper, Frank Huband, Bernard Machin, Alan Jupp, Clive Ashton, John Kirkland, Clyde Barrow, Rob Palmer, Alan Patterson, John Eliot, Steve Round, Tanny Robinson, Chris Tynan, Dave Wilde, David Esther,  John Campbell, Brian Grey, John Harrison, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, David Harrington, Colin Wells, Phil Woollen, Stephen Williams,  Chris Butterworth,  Martyn Jaimeson, Jean Morgan, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during January. All sightings are gratefully received.

Forthcoming Events


February Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
21st February, 12:02hrs 9.8m. (all times GMT)
22nd February, 12:40hrs 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 1st February, 10:00am - 12:00noon, Birding for beginners .
Pick up a few birding tips from the Rangers on this walk around Wirral Country Park (Thurstaston). By the end of the morning you should be confident on your RBmergs, mipits and GSwoods! The walk will include a session in the Visitor Centre bird hide with tea and biscuits laid on! Please bring waterproofs and binoculars if you have them. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 7th February, 10:00am (Flintshire), Flint High Tide Birdwatch.
Join the RSPB Warden on a walk along the edge of the mudflats and saltmarsh as we watch thousands of waders dropping onto the marsh to roost at high tide. Expect to see black-tailed godwit, knot, redshank and possibly greenshank and spotted redshank (HW 12:06, 9.2m). No need to book, meet at the Flint Lifeboat Station car park. For further details phone 0151 336 7681.

Tuesday 10th February, Divers and Grebes of Hilbre.
February is a good month to search for divers and grebes before they move inland to breed. Join the Rangers on a guided walk to the Hilbre Islands, staying over high tide. The rising tide forces waders to leave their low water feeding grounds and roost around the island allowing close quarter views. Warm waterproof clothes & stout footwear essential. Please bring binoculars. There is a 1 charge for this event, which is not suitable for young children. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 15th February, 10:00am - 5:00pm, National Nestbox Week Event.
Come along to Wirral Country Park Centre at Thurstaston for advice on nestboxes for our feathered friends. For further details, phone 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 15th February, 4:00pm, Parkgate Raptor Watch Special.
Come along and watch birds of prey with the experts. See the graceful hen harriers coming into roost on the RSPB reserve. Other birds of prey we hope to see are merlin, peregrine, sparrowhawk, short- eared owl and barn owl. Meet at the Old Baths car park, overlooking the RSPB Reserve at Parkgate, close to The Boathouse pub. For further details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

This event will be followed by a hot meal at the Boathouse pub and an illustrated talk on birds of prey by TV celebrity, Iolo Williams. Tickets will cost 9.95. To book, contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Tuesday 17th February, 7:30pm start, 'Cockling in the Dee Estuary'.
In recent years there has been concern over the intensive harvesting of cockles on the Dee Estuary and possible long-term damage to this ecosystem that is vital to so many birds. Martin Bailey of English Nature will address these issues at an evening talk at Alexander Hall, Heswall. This talk has been organised by Wirral Wildlife Group (part of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust) and there is a 1 charge for admission. No need to book, for further information call 0151 625 9349.

Wednesday 18th February, 1:30pm - 3:00pm, Bird Box Building.
Build a bird nesting box at Royden Park and learn more about our local resident birds. This event is suitable for all the family to enjoy. No need to book. Meet at the Rangers Office, by the Walled Garden. Further information
Tel: 0151 677 7594.

Saturday 21st February, 10:30am, Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch.
The saltmarsh off Parkgate comes alive with birds as massive flocks of waders and waterfowl are pushed in towards us by the incoming tide. If the tide hits the wall, small mammals such as voles, shrews and possibly water rails are flushed out. Meet at the Old Baths car park, which overlooks the Gayton Sands Nature Reserve at Parkgate, close to The Boathouse pub (HW 12:02, 9.8m). For details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 21st February, 10:30am - 2:00pm,
Open Day at the Connah's Quay Reserve.
An opportunity to visit the Deeside Naturalists' Society reserve, normally only open to members. There are four hides to choose from overlooking the River Dee as it enters the estuary and the high tide roost on Oakenholt Marsh (RSPB), HW 12:02, 9.8m. Tea and coffee available. PLEASE NOTE - non-members should meet at the gate of the reserve either at 10:30am or 12 noon to be escorted on to the reserve.

Saturday 6th March, 8:30am, Banks Road Birdwatch at Heswall.
Come and see the spectacle of several thousand-strong flocks of ducks and waders as they amass at the mouth and banks of the Heswall Gutter. Highlights include black-tailed godwits and golden plovers. (HW 11:09, 9.1m) Meet at Banks Road car park, Lower Heswall, near Sheldrake's Restaurant. For further information tel. 0151 648 4371/3884.

Sunday 7th March, 9:00am, High Tide at Point of Ayr.
The spit and saltmarsh at Point of Ayr are extremely important habitats for birds and they come alive at high tide with waders coming in to roost and ducks drifting in on the tide to feed on the marsh. Join the RSPB warden to watch the action as it unfolds (HW 11:24, 9.4m). No need to book, meet at the end of Station Rd. Talacre. Further information contact RSPB, tel. 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 14th March, 4:30pm, Parkgate Raptor Watch.
Come along and watch birds of prey with the experts. See the graceful hen harriers coming into roost on the RSPB reserve. Other birds of prey we hope to see are merlin, peregrine, sparrowhawk, short-eared owl and barn owl. Meet at the Old Baths car park, which overlooks the RSPB Gayton Sands Reserve, near The Boathouse pub. For further details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2004', 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.