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3rd March 2001
Bird Highlights.

Appeal For Wardens at Gronant.
DEVW Report 2000.
Cheshire Bird Report 1999.
WeBS Data Tables.

Latest Bird Counts.
February Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.
 
Peregrine chase

Bird Highlights - March 2000 to February 2001

   

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

The past year has seen a few records broken. The mild weather in early 2000 both here and countries to the south meant some very early spring migrants including the earliest ever House Martin to the area at Hilbre. Another record broken at Hilbre during the winter just gone was the highest recorded number of Brent Geese, 34 pale-bellied and 5 dark-bellied.

The late summer/autumn period also saw some high numbers of birds. It started in August with a record gathering of 97 Greenshank on Boathouse Flash at Parkgate followed by 7,580 Redshank at Heswall in September and 9,620 Shelduck at Thurstaston in October. The autumn saw a very good passage of rarer birds. Flocks of more than ten Curlew Sandpipers were seen in several places including between 20 and 30 off Hoylake for several days. Also at Hoylake were 15 Little Stints. But the autumn highlight at Hoylake was undoubtedly the presence of two White-rumped Sandpipers (possibly same bird counted twice).

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It was a good summer for terns with 52 Little Terns fledged at Gronant , 550+ Common Tern chicks at Shotton and large post breeding roosts at Hoylake and Gronant including over 1,000 Sandwich Terns. Following the terns came the skuas with all four species seen in good numbers.

The winter of 2000/2001 has been good for swans with 121 Bewick's and 14 Whooper, a welcome increase from last winter. Several Pink-footed flocks visited the estuary from their south Lancashire haunts, the largest number being 300 on Burton Marsh. But the highlight of the winter must be 11 Short-eared Owls seen by 400 people during a Parkgate high tide birdwatch. Little Egrets are still slowly increasing with a maximum of six counted, five were present at Burton for several weeks. 

Many thanks to all those who have helped me over the past year, including all those who have sent me their sightings - too numerous to mention here. I would like in particular to thank Tony Broome, Jeff Clarke, Valerie McFarland, Eric bird and Andy Harmer for allowing me to use their sketches and photographs.

 

Appeal for Voluntary Wardens at Gronant

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Gronant can be an idyllic spot in the summer. I remember my first stint as voluntary warden last June, arriving early on a lovely sunny morning - two Grasshopper Warblers were singing in the marsh whilst a male Stonechat saw me off it's territory, as I approached the warden's hut I suddenly became aware of the Little Tern colony, a hundred or so were in the air screeching away before they left to go fishing in the nearby sea - an amazing sight. 

Out to sea a constant stream of Common Scoter were passing westwards, non-breeding birds on their way to their favourite haunt further up the North Wales coast. Later on in the summer I had the privilege of watching the newly fledged Little Tern chicks make their first flight knowing I had helped in their survival, a most pleasing sight.

The RSPB are appealing for voluntary wardens to help protect this colony. The wardening involves keeping predators (mainly crows and foxes) away from the nests, stopping holiday makers from walking through the colony and talking to anybody interested about the terns. As little as half a day a month would be a great help. The wardens are required from late May to early August, if you're interested ring the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

 

Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens Annual Report 2000

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For the first time the Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens have produced an annual report, written by Chris Butterworth. The report covers the year 2000 and not only details the nine species of waders regularly counted by the wardens but also a total of 105 other species observed along West Kirby shoreline from the Marine Lake to Red Rocks, plus the island of Little Eye. The report is available from Chris Butterworth, 247 Greenbank Road, West Kirby, Wirral, Merseyside - please include cheque (made out to Chris Butterworth) for 1 to cover P&P. This wardening scheme has been recognised as the longest running such project in the world and is the only source of long term data on the correlation between bird numbers, beach usage and disturbance.

 

 

Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report 1999

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The Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society  have once again produced an excellent report. There is the usual comprehensive yearly review and systematic list. The list alone is 85 pages long and includes a lot of detail on each species. WeBS counts for the whole of the Dee and Mersey Estuaries (not just those bits falling within Cheshire) are shown for wetland birds. The species list is greatly enhanced by eight very good colour photographs.

In addition there is Tony Broome's entertaining article on the discovery of a Terek Sandpiper at Frodsham, a new county record. The report on bird ringing is fascinating with the longest recovery being a Turnstone ringed at New Brighton found 3770km away at Baffin Island, Canada. The Raptor Study Group demonstrates the remarkable increase of the Common Buzzard in Cheshire and Wirral, from 7 pairs in 1992 to 184 pairs in 1999/2000 (not all pairs have been confirmed to breed). An article on the Breeding Bird survey in Cheshire (1995 to 1999) shows the varying fortune of different species but demonstrates a most welcome increase in Lapwings and Sky Larks. 

A must for anyone with an interest in Cheshire and Wirral Birds.

The report can be obtained from: P.Brewster, 23 Verdin Close, Moulton, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 8RL. Price is 5.70 including P&P, make cheques out to CAWOS. 

 

Wetland Bird Survey Data

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At the suggestion of the Dee Estuary WeBS coordinator I have re-arranged the WeBS data so that they show a complete winter's figures, rather than a calendar year - in line with normal Wetland Bird Survey reporting. The following years' data are now available - 1997/98, 1998/99 and 1999/2000. These can be accessed from the Bird Counts page. For a much more detailed insight into the 1999/2000 counts read the Dee Estuary WeBS Annual Report which is available from Colin Wells, Burton Point Farm, Station Road, Burton, Cheshire for 4.00 including P&P. This has a description of the status of all the wetland birds, including graphs showing trends back to 1980. A review/ summary of this report was shown in the December 2000 Newsletter.

 

Bird Counts

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Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 11th February.
Great Crested Grebe 3, Cormorant 2, Pink-footed Goose 100, Shelduck 720, Teal 1200, Mallard 77, Pintail 50, Red-breasted Merganser 7, Oystercatcher 6,400, Golden Plover 33, Lapwing 270, Knot 300, Snipe 4, Black-tailed Godwit 493, Curlew 880, Redshank 1060, Black-headed Gull 63, Common Gull 39, Herring Gull 30, Greater Black-backed Gull 3, Kestrel, Merlin. Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk.

West Kirby high tide roost, highest count for February carried out by Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens - 10th February.
Ringed Plover 260, Grey Plover 1,100, Knot 10,000, Sanderling 50, Dunlin 7,000, Bar-tailed Godwit 1,000 and Redshank 200. 

Wetland Bird Survey count for Flint and Connah's Quay - (Kindly provided by the Deeside Naturalists' Society). 11th February.
Cormorant 75, Shelduck 86, Gadwall 9, Teal 983, Mallard 92, Shoveler 2, Tufted Duck 4, Goldeneye 2, Oystercatcher 639, Knot 280, Dunlin 32, Black-tailed Godwit 1500, Curlew 44, Spotted Redshank 2, Redshank 277, Greenshank 2.

Wetland Birds Survey count for Hoylake Langfields - fields inland of Hoylake (with thanks to C. Butterworth). 11th February.
Grey Heron 3, Mute Swan 3, Pink-footed Goose (feral) - 1, Canada Goose 1, Muscovy Duck 1, Mallard 39, Moorhen 22, Coot 4, Oystercatcher 14, Lapwing 38, Redshank 6, Black-headed Gull 480, Common Gull 92, Herring Gull 11, Peregrine Falcon 2, Sparrowhawk 1, Grey Partridge 3 and Water Pipit 1. 

No count from Inner Marsh Farm this month.

 
February Bird News

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A count of 121 Bewick's Swans on Burton Marsh was the highest of the winter, a pleasing return to the numbers seen three years ago. Other wildfowl include a pair of Smew and a single Ruddy Shelduck both at Inner Marsh Farm. Pink-footed Geese are still around including two flocks totaling 320 birds seen during one the Parkgate High Tide Birdwatches. The record number of 39 Brent Geese were still at Hilbre at the beginning of the month but had dwindled to 10 by the end. 

We had two glorious birdwatches at Parkgate, one on the 9th in lovely sunny weather and the other on the 10th a bit damper, but the tide came in further to make up for it. It was estimated that a remarkable 11 Short-eared Owls were seen on the 10th plus plenty of Water Rails and the usual masses of wader and duck.  

The cold sunny weather mid-month brought in 30,000 Knot to Dawpool bank off Caldy and Thurstaston together with several hundred Black-tailed Godwit. Oystercatchers are noticeably more plentiful this winter and this area is as good as any to see many thousands.

Other notable sightings were 80 Twites off Flint, a Peregrine Falcon chasing a Merlin over Hilbre Island, 12 Waxwings on Thurstaston Hill and a single Mediterranean Gull at Inner Marsh Farm.

The Greenfield Valley bird survey continues, the total is now 54 birds. Click here for a complete list.

What to expect in March: The foot and moth epidemic has rather put a dampener on birdwatching at the moment but there are still plenty of areas around the Dee Estuary away from farmland where it is safe to go. Click here for more info.

The Spring migrants should start to pour in from the middle of March onward. As last year I want to tabulate the first sighting of each species so if you see an early migrant please me. Here is the table from 2000 compared to 1999.

 
Species First Sight 2000 Location First Sight 1999
Wheatear 12th March Burton 12th March
Whinchat 13th March Leasowe Late April
ChiffChaff 13th March Thurstaston 17th March
Sand Martin 16th March IMF 27th March
White Wagtail 17th March Hilbre mid March
House Martin 23rd March Hilbre Late April
Willow Warbler 27th March Neston 2nd April
Blackcap 31st March Heswall Late March
Swallow 2nd April IMF 8th April
Cuckoo 25th April IMF mid April
Swift 27th April IMF late  April

Many thanks go to Gareth Stamp,  Brian Grey, Wendy Allen, Carl Clee, John Gittins, Jeff Clarke, Cathy McGrath,  Mike Hart, Iain Douglas, John Kirkland, Bill Owens, Martyn Jaimeson, Chris Butterworth, Frank Gleeson, Mark Feltham, Paul Hurley, Robert Lister, Alec Cheney, Magali Pascal, Jon Williams, Maurice Berry, Nick Moss, Colin Jones, Jonathan Clarke and the Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens for their sightings during February. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!

   

Forthcoming Events

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Note that some events may be cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. See latest news - click here.

March Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
10th March, 11.45hrs 10.2m. (all times GMT)
11th March, 12.27hrs 10.3m.
12th March, 13.10hrs 10.2m.
See Tides page for full tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate may be covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

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 events for  2001.

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 2001

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.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown on the high tide birdwatch page. Always check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

Saturday March 10th March 10:00am (HW 11:45,10.2m) Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch. - CANCELLED
Vast movements of waders and waterfowl attract the attention of many predatory birds, while the flooding tide may reveal the presence of Short eared Owls, Water Rails and various small mammals. Meet: Old Baths car park, north end of Parkgate prom. Further information Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Sunday March 11th March 10:30am (HW 12:27,10.3m) Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch. - CANCELLED
 Vast movements of waders and waterfowl attract the attention of many predatory birds, while the flooding tide may reveal the presence of Short eared Owls, Water Rails and various small mammals. Meet: Old Baths car park, north end of Parkgate prom. Further information Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Saturday 24th March 8:30am (HW 11.09, 9.3m) Banks Road Birdwatch, Heswall.
Exceptional close views of thousand of waders and wildfowl. Meet Banks Road Car Park. Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7631. 

Saturday 24th 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 25th March 9:00 (HW 11.41, 9.4m) Banks Road Birdwatch, Heswall
Exceptional close views of thousand of waders and wildfowl. Meet Banks Road Car Park. Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Sunday 25th March 9:30 (HW 11.41, 9.4m) High Tide at Point of Ayr
Superb coastal birding with the chance of the first migrant Wheatears. Meet at end of Station Road, Talacre. For info. ring the RSPB 0151 336 7681. CANCELLED

Saturday 7th April 9.00am (HW 11:39, 9.8m) Banks Road Birdwatch, Heswall
Exceptional close views of thousand of waders and wildfowl, together with incoming migrant warblers. Meet Banks Road Car Park. Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Saturday 7th April. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 8th April 2pm - 4pm. A Look at Trees in Spring. 
Join the Ranger on a walk through the woodlands of Royden Park taking a close look at the vast variety of trees and learn how they have influenced our lives with woodland poems. No need to book but best check re. foot and mouth. Meet at the Rangers Office by the car park. For info. ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 8th April 4:30pm - 8:30pm. Marine Biology Walk. 
Join the Rangers from the North Wirral Coastal Park on a specialist guided walk looking at the flora and fauna that have adapted to living in this titdal environment. Warm clothing and wellies essential. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 14th April 6:00am. Early Risers on Hilbre.
A chance to explore the enchanting Dee Estuary Islands in pursuit of migrants. If the weather is right anything from Ring Ouzel to Sandwich Terns may appear. Also many waders will still be around the islands, many in their super breeding plumage. There is a cost of 1 per person. Booking essential. Ring 0151 648 4371.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself as a 1.8mb zipped file.