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    1st March 2000
    Hilbre Bird Observatory Report 1998

    *Voluntary Wardens needed at Gronant*
    Spring Migration 2000
    Bird Highlights - March 1999 to February 2000
    Latest Bird Counts
    February Bird News
    Forthcoming Events
    Latest Newsletter
    The UK Birding Web Ring

 Hilbre Bird Observatory Report 1998 

  The Hilbre Bird Observatory have just released their latest report. As always this is an excellent tome which includes a complete species systematic list, month by month summary, breeding birds, many good colour photographs and much else. Two of the photographs are shown above, on the left a Grey Phalarope - this bird stayed a week in January delighting many visitors with its typically tame behaviour. On the right is a Woodchat Shrike, the second record for the observatory.

The report is full of fascinating snippets of information - such as the Redshank, DN57756, identifiable by its coloured rings and seen now for several years around the islands. Another was the identification and differentiation of both the 'British' Wheatear and those breeding in Greenland, the species description in the systematic list merits no less than 2 bar charts and a pie chart! Among many other bar charts is one that plots the number of Skuas recorded against wind strength, clearly showing that the peak numbers occur during the strongest winds, especially the rarer Skuas. 

As well as the birds the report covers insects, butterflies, mammals - including Grey Seals (max 443 in 1998) - and an article on the dead whale washed up on West Kirby beach (incidentally discovered by the Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens). 

I hope this has given you some insight into the report. To buy it click on the HBO link which gives a contact address.


Voluntary Wardens needed at Gronant

Those of you who have visited the Welsh Shore page will already know of Gronant on the North Wales coast between Point of Ayr and Prestatyn, and some of you may actually have been there. It is a beautiful wild area of sand dunes, marsh and beach. In the summer it holds the only Little Tern colony in Wales and the RSPB are appealing for voluntary wardens to help protect it. This will involve looking out for predators, especially crows, gulls and foxes, stopping holidaymakers and their dogs from walking through the colony and chatting to any interested passer by about the birds.

I've just volunteered so you might see me! The wardens will be required from end of May to beginning August.

If you're interested ring the RSPB at 0151 336 7681, mention this web site if you wish - I know they would be interested to know if this appeal is successful. 

Spring Migration 2000

Spring migration is always an exciting time with hoped for large land falls of birds and a good sprinkling of rarities. The migrants also bring with them the promise of warm sunny days after the long Winter. March is the month when this migration gets into full swing so watch out for those first birds of the year. Some of the firsts for last year were as follows:
  • March 12 1999  Wheatear at Hilbre
  • March 13 1999  White Wagtail at Hilbre
  • March 17 1999  Chiffchaff at Thurstaston
  • March 27 1999  Sand Martin at Hilbre
  • April 2     1999  Willow Warbler at Hoylake
  • April 8     1999  Swallow at Red Rocks

The earliest sightings for the year 2000 will be published in future newsletters. If you see an early sighting of any summer migrant please e-mail me, I'll let you know if it is a first sighting and put in the latest sightings page. It will be fascinating to see how the dates differ from year to year.


Bird Highlights March 1999 to Feb. 2000

The Web site is two years old this month, as last year I've compiled the birding highlights from the previous twelve months:

It was a good year for twitchable birds - my definition of a good twitchable bird being a rarity easily seen without disturbance and hanging around for several days! In September a Red-necked Phalarope stayed at Inner Marsh Farm for at least ten days. This was followed by a Red-backed Shrike at nearby Burton which stayed for a total of 47 days during September and October. Unusually this was an adult female, most migrants of this species seen in this part of the country are juvenile. Next a Hoopoe turned up at Hoylake for 15 days, last seen on November 4th. Due to its rather pale washed out plumage this was thought to be an Eastern bird. On the other side of the estuary at Oakenholt and Greenfield Dock a Richard's Pipit was  present from the end of November and throughout December.

Many rarities only stayed for a short period, or just seen flying over. These included a pair of Common Cranes flying over Irby (near  Heswall) in March, a Nightingale at Heswall and Golden Oriole at Thurstaston (both in May).

Raptors included two Hen Harrier roosting at Gayton at the end of the 1998/99 Winter, unfortunately no Hen Harriers have been seen this past winter. The spring of 1999 saw the usual passing Osprey, two at  Inner Marsh Farm and another at Hilbre. Common Buzzards are increasing in this area and this was demonstrated by the sighting of no less than 15 at Inner Marsh Farm in one day in October. It was also good to see plenty of Peregrine Falcons, I was lucky enough to see five in one hour on Heswall shore. Short-eared Owls roost in the long grass and reeds on Parkgate Marsh and ten of these birds were seen on Christmas Eve flushed by the high tide. 

There was a good passage of Curlew Sandpiper in the Autumn. The highest count of this lovely little wader was 23 at Heswall. The Autumn also brought a good number of Greenshank (45), Green Sandpiper (9) and Little Stint (5) to Inner Marsh Farm

Both the Common Tern colony at Shotton and the Little Tern colony at Gronant had excellent breeding success with about 500 and 100 fledglings at each respectively. 

Wildfowl included six Ruddy Shelduck seen both at Inner Marsh Farm and Point of Ayr during August. Also at Inner Marsh Farm was an American Wigeon in May and December, and a pair of Smew seen on and off most of the winter. A drake Long-tailed Duck complete with long tail graced West Kirby marine lake in November.

Both Spoonbill and Little Egret have been seen regularly at Burton and Parkgate. Four Spoonbill visited Inner Marsh Farm for a short time in the Autumn but the Mauritanian Spoonbill is the one seen most often. This is the Spoonbill which arrived in this country on a ship before being released at Slimbridge and then making its own way up here. 


Bird Counts

Inner Marsh Farm  
14th February: Smew 2 (pair), Goldeneye 7, Pochard 11, Tufted Duck 6, Shovelor 50+, Pintail 30, Wigeon 500, Little Grebe 1, Pink-footed Goose 80, Coot 70, Dunlin 50, Black-tailed Godwit 100, Redshank 80, Spotted Redshank 4, Curlew 20+, Yellowhammer 2, Reed Bunting 20, Chaffinch 30. Many Teal and Shelduck present but not counted.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 20th February.
reat Crested Grebe 4, Cormorant 2, Grey Heron 1, Shelduck 417, Teal 150, Mallard 5, R. B. Merganser 9, Water Rail 2, Oystercatcher 700, Ringed Plover 1, Golden Plover 51, Lapwing 590, Knot 10, Dunlin 540, Snipe 1, Black-tailed Godwit 4, Curlew 478, Redshank 1030, Turnstone 6. Sparrowhawk and Peregrine Falcon also observed.

West Kirby shore high tide roost  - counts carried out by Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens.
The highest count during February was on the 4th: Knot 200 (25,500), Oystercatcher 56 (200), Curlew 350 (204), Grey Plover 50 (530), Dunlin 2,500 (21,400), Bar-tailed Godwit 0 (450) and Redshank 50 (160). For comparison the highest count for February 1999 is included in brackets. As you can see numbers are well down this year, the count in February 1999 was a record for the Voluntary Wardens counts at West Kirby.  

February Bird News
The coming of spring has been heralded by an early passage of Little Gull at Hilbre, 32 on the 22nd and 35 on the 26th. Also at Hilbre are 27+ Purple Sandpipers and 7 pale-bellied Brent Geese. A good record for the island was 2 Puffins together with 50 Great-crested Grebe.

The Mauritanian Spoonbill has spent most of the month at Neston Old Quay where up to three Water Pipits have been seen. Eleven Spotted Redshank were observed at Inner Marsh Farm along with forty or so Black-tailed Godwit. Over a hundred of these are at Heswall, but many more, 1,000 or so, are at Connah's Quay on the Welsh side. Also in Wales, at Gronant, are twenty-two Snow buntings where a Glaucous Gull was seen early in the month.


Forthcoming Events
March Highest Spring Tides
20th March, 11.28hrs 9.8m. (all times GMT)
21st March, 1208hrs 9.9m. 

22nd March, 1244hrs 9.8m. 

Young Ornithologists Club at Ness Gardens
See the listing of events for 2000. This group have a most interesting series of monthly outdoor and indoor meetings for the younger birdwatchers.

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See the year 2000 events

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2000

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):

18th March. Guided walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

19th March. High Tide at Riverbank Road,  Heswall. 9am
Witness a dynamic spectacle as thousands of waders and wildfowl take flight as the tide floods the marsh at Heswall (HW 10:49, 9.6m). Meet at Riverbank Road car park, Lower Heswall. For details contact the Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371.

21st March. High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate. 11:30am.
Spectacular birdwatching as the tide covers the saltmarsh (HW 12:08, 9.9m). Large numbers of waders and wildfowl, whilst Water Rail, Peregrine, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl are all possible. Spring migration is here so there is a good chance of catching up with the massed flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare preparing for their journey north. Experts on hand at the Old Baths car park, near Boathouse Inn. For more information call 0151 648 4371.

24th March. Birds and Migration. 7pm - 8:30pm.
Where to, where from and why - the mysteries of bird migration explained. An illustrated evening talk by Jeff Clarke, the Senior Area Ranger in West Wirral and well known local ornithologist. For booking and details ring 0151 648 4371.

9th April. Marsh Clearance and Wirral Coastline. 10am.
Keep our coastline tidy. Help the Rangers and RSPB Wardens clear away tide line debris. Locations and contact numbers as follows:
Parkgate - Cheshire countryside Management Service - 0151 327 5145
Gayton to Thurstaston - Wirral Ranger Service - 0151 648 4371

Note: Forthcoming events extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2000'. Please e-mail me if you want an electronic copy, hard copy available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.