WeBS Report 2004/05
The Wetland Birds Survey (WeBS) Report for 2004/05 has just been published and can be obtained from the BTO (see http://www.bto.org/survey/webs/index.htm). This report gives data from all the main sites from across the country for waterbirds and, as you would expect, the Dee Estuary features significantly in the report. It enables us to judge how important the Dee Estuary is for different species relative to the rest of the country and allows us to look at trends both locally and nationally.
It has to be said that the winter of 2004/05 was not a particularly good one for the Dee Estuary with overall numbers down on 03/04. The total number of birds present for 2004/05 was calculated as 115,259, compared to 171,906 the previous winter and the five year average of 148,986. In 2004/05 the Dee Estuary had the eighth highest total in the country, and the seventh highest five year average. Ten species were found to be present in Internationally important numbers, namely: Shelduck, Teal, Pintail, Oystercatcher, Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew and Redshank.
Was there any particular reason for numbers to be low in 2004/05? As there are so many species and many variables to take in to account it is never possible to pin it down to any particular problem but no doubt mild and windy weather depresses numbers as does high spring tides covering the main high tide wader roosts on WeBS count days at West Kirby and Hoylake, both of which we had on 04/05. The WeBS counts take place once a month and the dates are specified before hand. If, say, during the four crucial winter months there are two high spring tides covering the main wader roosts at West Kirby and Hoylake, a third count is low because of disturbance at Hoylake - perhaps a couple of peregrines clearing the beach or horse riders deciding it would be fun to gallop through the birds, and if the remaining count is ruined by thick fog or heavy rain - then we will get low peak counts for several species which won't necessarily accurately reflect numbers present for the majority of the winter. Of course low counts may also be due to real changes in populations and that is why the WeBS report always publishes five year averages which are a much better way to observe trends as they tend to even out the more random variables such as weather and disturbance.
To give you a flavour of the report I have given a brief account of 12 species:
Hilbre Bird Report 2005 - Review
Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report 2005
We’re delighted to say that the annual report for 2005 is now available. There’s an eye-catching colour front cover depicting a stunning portrait of a Kingfisher. The 168 pages of text includes 12 distribution maps, 11 graphs and 14 beautiful illustrations from two different artists. An updated colour map of the county forms the centre spread of the report. There are seven pages of colour photographs which best capture some of the highlights of the year. But there is no doubt that 2005 will be remembered as ‘the Waxwing year’ when large numbers invaded the country breaking records wherever they went, including here in Cheshire and Wirral. Phil Oddy’s comprehensive article on this remarkable event makes for fascinating reading. But Waxwings were not the only species of particular interest in 2005. There are articles on our first ever Chimney Swift and the second record of a Black Kite in the county, plus accounts of a Long-billed Dowitcher at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB, Whiskered Terns on Ashton’s Flash, Cetti’s Warblers in Neston Reed Bed RSPB and Pallas’s Warbler at Crossley. The increase in Little Egret numbers over the past few years, particularly on the Dee estuary marshes, is nothing short of phenomenal. In 2005 they bred next to the estuary for the first time, Colin Wells’ article tells all about this landmark event.
All the ‘regulars’ are there: ‘Weather and Bird Review of the Year’; the full ‘Systematic List of Birds Recorded in Cheshire and Wirral during 2005’, including ‘Category E Species’; ‘Early and Late Dates for Migrants’; ‘BBRC and County Rarities Decisions’; ‘Ringing Report’; ‘Chairman’s Review’; ‘Database Statistics for 2005’ and finally advice on the ‘Submission of Records’.
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. This will be particularly useful to those not familiar with new Systematic List order now adopted for the first time.
Cost of the report
has been kept at £6.70 + £1.30 p&p and copies are available from:
We would welcome comments and suggestions regarding the report – what do you particularly like and what could be improved upon? What articles or additional features would you like to see included? Would you like to see more colour photographs, cost-permitting? Do give us your views and help us to make sure the report improves year on year.
Birding North West - Review
The Birding North West magazine starts it's fourth year this month and is surely a 'must have' for the area's birders. The area covered by this monthly magazine includes Cheshire & Wirral, North Wales, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cumbria and Isle of Man; when you consider some of the superb birding sites in this area it is no wonder that the editors are able to pack it full of fascinating news, articles, photographs and comments every month. Each month there are articles about rarities by the people who actually found each particular species along with site guides, identification guides, a monthly round up, national bird news and general news and comments from readers.
The best way I can summarise the magazine is to give a list of some of the articles from 2006, so here goes:
The above is just a small sample of the articles published in 2006 with typically three or four published each month along with the regular bird news etc.
The annual subscription is £24 for 12 issues, cheques
should be made payable to 'CAW Birding' and sent to:
See also www.birdingnorthwest.org.uk.
January Bird News
I think it is fair to say that the near hurricane winds on the 18th were the strongest for a very long time around the Dee Estuary area. It brought down an awful lot of trees including one which cut my telephone line and meant I couldn't fully update this website for a week. Between 1140hrs and 1420hrs the average wind speed was above 48 knots, in other words storm Force 10, and for 45 mins around 1330hrs it blew Force 11, just below a full blown hurricane! It was only an 8.8m tide on the 18th but it nearly covered the marsh at Parkgate, as did the strong westerly blowing two days later on the 20th. (Weather data from http://cobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/).
Perhaps as we have been having strong winds all winter the gale didn't seem to have a large impact on the birds although a Common Tern at Hilbre on the 19th was no doubt blown in by the gale and is the first January record for Wirral. Also off Hilbre on the 19th were 34 Great Crested Grebe, 6 Red-throated diver, 16 Guillemot and 2 Razorbill. Virtually absent for most of the winter Short-eared Owls suddenly appeared a couple of days after the gale with three over Parkgate Marsh RSPB and another one at Thurstaston.
A spell of still sunny weather from 22nd to 24th was an opportunity for Pink-footed Geese to move across the country from Norfolk to South Lancs. Many passed overhead through the Dee Estuary with 850 on the 22nd, 350 on 23rd and a remarkable 4,500 - 5,000 on 24th. The first flocks appeared around 11am each day, just enough time for the birds to have left the Wash at first light and travelling at 30 - 40mph over a distance of about 120 miles. These numbers are small compared to the total population in this country of about 270,000, nevertheless it was a fantastic sight seeing these birds especially knowing that they had crossed right across the country to get here.
The highest number of Brent Geese on the estuary occurred on the 1st with 105 on Hilbre and three on Oakenholt Marsh RSPB, not quite beating last winter's record of 110. We've had record numbers of over-wintering Whooper Swans on Shotwick fields with a max of 33, but only 20 or so Bewick's Swans. The drake Green-winged Teal was seen yet again at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB; 1,400 Wigeon and 10 Gadwall were good numbers for Oakenholt Marsh RSPB on 12th.
With mild and windy weather for most of the month wader numbers have been low although we did get 11,000 Knot, 5,000 Dunlin and 100 Sanderling on Hoylake Shore on the 23rd and the peak Knot count at Thurstaston was a respectable 16,000. The Curlew Sandpiper is still overwintering at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB and up to 10 Spotted Redshanks have been on Oakenholt Marsh RSPB.
An Arctic Skua off New Brighton on the 4th was a good record for January. A Great Northern Diver was seen flying off Hoylake Shore on the 26th. Snow Buntings have been few and far between this winter but six were at Point of Ayr on 14th; 20 Twite was a good number for Burton Marsh RSPB on 28th, these are usually only soon on the Welsh side of the estuary, 20 were at Point of Ayr on the 19th.
What to expect in February
The first of the really high spring tides of the year take place this month, on the 19th, 20th and 21st. If the weather is anything like what we have been having for most of the winter, i.e. strong south west winds, the tides could be massive. These February tides usually produce the most birds as many of the over-wintering birds will still be here - so expect Water Rails, Short-eared Owls, Hen Harriers and Jack Snipe, as well as all the usual waders and wildfowl. However, I just get the feeling that we are well overdue for a period of cold still weather which, unfortunately, means no west wind to blow the tide in. But if that is the case there is no need to worry - get down to Heswall Riverbank Road where the marsh gets covered at a much lower tide height than Parkgate and, as the car park is raised up above the marsh, views of the birds can be superb. If the tide does decide to come in higher than expected it is only a 10 minute drive back up to Parkgate.
If we do get a spell of cold weather then that will be good news for waders as numbers will stay high throughout the month, the last two winters have produced very high numbers of Dunlin and Knot at the main high tide roosts at West Kirby and Hoylake. Both Brent Geese and Purple Sandpipers often peak in February, best seen at Hilbre.
Sea-watching can be surprisingly good - if we get calm weather after a spell of strong westerlies then expect to see good numbers of Common Scoters, Great-crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers and perhaps some of their rarer brethren such as Velvet Scoters, Slavonian Grebes and Black-throated Diver.
Many thanks go to David Haigh, James smith, Andrew Wallbank, Keith Duckers, Vic Tyler Jones, John Little, Chris Davies, Trevor Taylor, David Esther, Jason Stannage, Keith Hopwood, Geoff Robinson, Mal Smerdon, Phil Woollen, John Chaplin, Damian Waters, David Goodwin, Jeremy Bradshaw, Robert Williams, Paul Mason, John Roberts, Stuart Taylor, Paul Rutter, Gilbert Bolton, Steve Edwards, Allan Conlin, Kenneth Davies, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Colin Schofield, Steve Round, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Steve Wrigley, Jane Turner, Charles Farnell, Richard Steel, Laura Bimson, Jean Morgan, Karen Leeming, Paul Shenton, Ian Emmitt, Paul Murphy, Chris Wilding, Dave Edwards, Eric Osbaldeston, Martin Kelly, Graham Shortt, John Fisher, David Ritchie, Derek Pover, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during December. All sightings are gratefully received.
Highest Spring Tides
(Liverpool), also see
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Sunday 11th February 3:00pm.
Parkgate Raptor Watch.
Sunday 18th February 10:00am - 3:00pm.
Sunday 18th February 1.30pm - 3.30pm. Nestbox Builder.
Monday 19th February 11:00am,
Sunday 4th March 6.30am - 9.30am. Mad March Hares.
NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2007', 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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