Wetland Bird Surveys 2001 to 2004
You wait years for one then three turn up at once! Yes, the BTO (with WeBS partners) have at last got to grips with the backlog of WeBS reports and in fact have produced two, one covering the years 2001/02 and 2002/03, and another one covering 2003/04 (the WeBS year is April to March). I should add that it wasn't the BTO's fault that things had got so far behind schedule, and they've produced two great reports.
I have to admit I find bird movements, migration patterns and population changes in wildfowl and waders fascinating, far more so than driving several hundred miles after some poor lost vagrant just to tick it off a list. But maybe I'm a bit peculiar in that respect! Anyway, the WeBS reports give us a chance to see how the different species are doing nationally, and how the Dee Estuary fits in to this national picture.
Over the past ten years the Dee Estuary has been, on average, the seventh most important wetland site in the country with a typical total of peak counts of around 130,000 birds. In the period covered by the reports we had what must be one of the highest ever total counts with 195,671 birds in 2001/02. Yet two years earlier the total had been only 92,234. In comparison with other major sites the Dee Estuary numbers do seem to fluctuate more than others. 99/00 was a bad year with many species lower than normal, but the biggest factor was that the peak count for Knot in 01/02 was a massive 52,792 whereas in 99/00 the count was only 8,683 (see Dec 2004 Newsletter for effect of tide height on wader numbers). Among the sites that have more birds are The Wash and Morecambe Bay, no surprise as these sites are far larger than the Dee Estuary. But why, for example, do the Ribble and Humber estuaries get more birds? One big difference is that counts from these estuaries are dominated by a single species. On the Ribble it is Wigeon where there was 82,627 in 03/04 compared to the Dee's 5,658, and on the Humber it is Golden Plover with 50,662 in 03/04 compared with just 305 here.
For example in 2004 the Ribble Estuary had a max of two. In fact away from the south coast only Aber Ogwen has similar numbers to the Dee, and there is a similar cut off point on the east side of the country at the Wash (A. Musgrove BTO). So instead of an inexorable northwards colonisation they seem to have stopped, at least for now. Perhaps they find the Dee marshes too much to their liking!
The following is a quick summary of some of our most important species:
Canada Geese. The Dee Estuary has the rather dubious distinction of being the most important site in the country for this species with a five year mean of 2,568.
Shelduck. Ever since WeBS started the Dee Estuary has been one of the top three sites in the country. Until a few years ago the Wash has always had the highest numbers, but since 99/00 both the Dee and Mersey have had higher peak numbers. This is due to the build up of the summer moult on the Mersey with 19,810 there in 02/03, from which many go to the Dee with a resulting record number of 12,630 in Oct 03/04.
Pintail. Although well below the high numbers of 14 years ago when we had 10,000, the Dee Estuary remains the most important site in the country for this species with 6,317 in 03/04. After a slow decline nationally over 20 years it is pleasing to note an upturn since 00/01.
Oystercatcher. The Dee Estuary remains the third most important site behind Morecambe Bay and the Solway Estuary. In 01/02 31,851 were counted during a low-tide WeBS count, which is interesting because the max high tide count that year was only 12,608. Although the low tide count might be a bit on the high side due to double counting, in my opinion it is much more likely to be nearer the true figure.
Knot. Despite the high count of 52,792 in 01/02 the Dee Estuary is only the seventh most important site for this species. The five year mean is 26,397 compared to the five year mean in Morecambe Bay of 66,607, the country's most important site.
Dunlin. In 03/04 the Dee Estuary was the most important site in the country with 41,679, although the five year mean of 32,135 puts us in fourth place. Our neighbouring estuary, the Mersey, has the highest five year average with 49,358. No doubt there is much interchange between the two sites.
WeBS Office, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU
Tel: 01842 750050
Any data in the reports or this article should not be used in any way without permission of the WeBS Office. To access official WeBS data please contact the WeBS Secretariat - BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP 24 2 PU http://www.bto.org .
See also details of the Dee Estuary WeBS species alerts on the BTO website, these alerts bring to attention species that are declining (long, medium and short term) and the link gives a summary of the possible reasons and how serious the decline is thought to be. The only comment I would make is with the Bar-tailed Godwit where the summary does not make the point that although high tide counts are low, counts at low tide are quite high with many birds roosting on the Alt Estuary at high tide. http://blx1.bto.org/webs/alerts2005/Results/UK9013011/sphtm.htm
Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report 2004
The annual report for 2004 is now
available – is it our best ever? There’s an eye-catching colour front
cover depicting a stunning portrait of a Kestrel. The 168 pages of text
includes 14 distribution maps and four graphs within the systematic list,
five b&w photographs and 19 beautiful illustrations from four different
artists. An updated colour map of the county forms the centre spread of
the report. There are seven pages of colour photographs showing a total of
18 images which best capture some of the highlights of the year (provided
by a total of nine photographers!). 2004 will be well remembered for the
exceptional seawatching off the Wirral coast, so this report boosts some
amazing photographs of Leach’s Petrel, Sabine’s Gull and three species of
skua. Other photographs include various rarities found during the year
such as the obliging Dotterel at Leasowe and the ‘well-twitched’ White
Stork at Barnton. The possible ‘Iberian’ Chiffchaff’ at Dibbinsdale, which
generated a lot of debate as to its actual ID, has also been included.
All the ‘regulars’ are there: ‘Weather and Bird Review of the Year’; the full ‘Systematic List of Birds Recorded in Cheshire and Wirral during 2004’, including ‘Category E Species’; ‘Early and Late Dates for Migrants’; ‘BBRC and County Rarities Decisions’; ‘Ringing Report’; ‘Chairman’s Review’; ‘Database Statistics for 2004’ and finally, advice on the ‘Submission of Records’.
Articles cover a diverse range of subjects: ‘BTO Breeding Bird Survey’; ‘The Cheshire and Wirral Barn Owl Report; ‘Spotted Sandpiper: the Second Record for Cheshire and Wirral’; ‘Blue Phase Fulmar, Hilbre’; and two articles recording breeding firsts for Cheshire and Wirral: ‘First Successful Breeding by Cormorants’ at an amazing four different sites within the county, and the news of at least three pairs of ‘Mediterranean Gulls Breeding on Blakemere Lake’. Finally, there is a review of Malcolm Calvert’s new book Reed Warblers at Rostherne Mere representing a culmination of over 30 years of dedicated fieldwork and research.
Last, but not least, we have again included a species index at the back to help you quickly look up your favourite species, instead of having to wade through pages trying to find it.
Cost of the report has been kept at £6.70 + £1.30 p&p and copies are available from:
David Cogger, 113 Nantwich Road, Middlewich, Cheshire, CW10 9HD
Tel: 01606 832517 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Clwyd and Hilbre Bird Reports 2003
Unfortunately both these reports have been delayed a year but now,
thankfully, both have been published. I'm told by the editors that the
2004 reports will soon follow!
Although late they are still a great read, full of interesting articles plus the usual detailed systematic list.
The Clwyd Bird Report 2003
costs £6 + 1£ for p&p. Please make any cheques payable to Clwyd Bird
Recording Group and send orders to:
Hilbre Bird Observatory and Ringing Station Report 2003 cost £3.50 incl p&p. Please make cheques payable to Hilbre Bird Observatory, and send orders to:
Hilbre Bird Observatory,
Both reports should be available at outlets such as Inner Marsh Farm RSPB, Thurstaston Visitor Centre (for Hilbre report) and Conway RSPB (for Clwyd Report).
January Bird News
high atmospheric pressure and lack of wind from a westerly direction meant
the hoped for 10m tide at the end of the month was actually much lower
than predicted. Riverbank Road, Heswall,
turned out to be an excellent spot to see the birds as the marsh gets
covered here at much lower tides than at
Parkgate, also the edge of the marsh is much closer and Heswall Gutter
is just below the car park and full of birds. One thousand Pintail, three
Short-eared Owls and two Water Rails were the highlights on Jan 31st.
Brent Geese increased slowly during the month with a record number of 109 pale-bellied and 1 dark-bellied reached on Jan 29th. As always the best place to see these was on Hilbre at low tide. 40 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Northern Diver and 25 Scaup were the seawatching highlights from Hilbre this month.
The Richard's Pipit which first arrived in November remained on West Kirby marsh all month. Sometimes it was very elusive and not helped by birders wading through the marsh and flushing it in to the nearby Golf Course. There were some excellent views of it during the last few days of the month when everyone stayed on the path waiting for it to show itself. Also on the marsh was a Jack Snipe and, briefly, five Twite. Over thirty Twite were off Flint Castle on Jan 28th. Two Lapland buntings were a good find on Burton Marsh mid-month but four Common Cranes were the pick of the rarities. They were first seen flying over Runcorn Expressway on Jan 28th and subsequently landed on Shotwick fields late afternoon. Unfortunately they didn't stay long.
What to expect in February
Brent Geese numbers should remain high in the first half of the month, and could even increase in number yet again. February is often good for seawatching with the possibility of both Black-throated and Great Northern Divers. More regular are Red-throated Divers, Great Crested Grebes and Little Gulls.
It is not too late for a Smew to turn up at Inner Marsh Farm and no doubt the Green-winged Teal will still be around. February often sees Pink-footed Geese movements with the geese gradually making their way north.
Wader numbers are difficult to predict this month but if the cold weather persists expect to see large flocks of Knot and Dunlin, together with good numbers of both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits. Look out for Spotted Redshank at Inner Marsh Farm, we usually get 10 or so passing through.
The past two February's have seen a couple of interesting rarities turn up on West Kirby Marine Lake, last year a Long-tailed Duck and the year before a Little Auk, so you never know what might turn up.
As I write this we are in the middle of some very settled and cold weather, which is unfortunate for those hoping for a nice big high tide at Parkgate early in the month. But there is another four 10m+ tides due at the end of this month and early March, so lets hope for a good strong westerly wind to blow the tide in!
Many thanks go to Steve Ainsworth, Andrew Wallbank, Paul Vautrinot, Tom Morton, Brian Dyke, Steve Wrigley, Bernard Machin, David Esther, Colin Schofield, John Campbell, Geoff Robinson, Katie Barrett, Clive Ashton, Colin Jones, Charles Farnell, Steve Williams, Phil Woolen, Chris Butterworth, Sabena Blackbird, Jeff Stevens, Dave and Emma Kenyon, David Haigh, Matt Thomas, Dave Harrington, Pete Rogers, Damian Waters, Frank Huband, Jane Turner, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Allan and Sandra Evans, Iain Douglas, Alan Petheridge, Colin Wells, Margaret Twemlow, Dave Jones, Gilbert Bolton, Vi James, Eric Sherry, Paul Mason, Henerz Cook, Alan Patterson, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during January. All sightings are gratefully received.
February Highest Spring Tides,
1st February, 13:15hrs 10.1m. Times GMT.
2nd February, 13:59hrs 10.0m.
28th February, 11.28hrs 10.0m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Wednesday 1st February, 11:30am,
Parkgate Birdwatch Dee
Estuary RSPB Reserve.
Sunday 12th February, 8:30am -
11am, Winter Bird Walk.
Sunday 12th February, 9am -
11am, Nestbox Frenzy.
Sunday 19th February, 9am -
Tuesday 21st February, 10am -
12:30pm, Learn about Birds.
Wednesday 1st March, 10:30am,
Parkgate Birdwatch Dee
Estuary RSPB Reserve.
Saturday 4th March, 11:00am -
4:00pm. Open Day at the Connah's Quay
Saturday 11th March, A Guided
Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Sunday 12th March, 6am - 9am,
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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