brought some superb high tide birdwatching at
On all ten days the tide came either right over, or nearly over, the marsh.
Highlights include 7 Short-eared Owls, 1 Hen Harrier, Peregrines, Merlins,
30 Brambling, 78 Snipe, 15 Jack Snipe, 1 Spotted Crake, 3,000 Teal and 6,500
The spring migration was particularly notable for a good passage of Ring Ouzels. Altogether 14 sightings compared with just 3 in 2001. Other good numbers were 30 Yellow and 100 White Wagtails at Shotwick and thirty Wheatear at both Hoylake and Leasowe.
The RSPB at Burton, with facilities limited by planning restrictions, were hard pressed to cope with large numbers of birders due to one good bird after another over the past 12 months. The more unusual of them included a Marsh Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern and Long-billed Dowitcher.
Out to sea the summer was particularly notable for the number of Gannets seen off the mouth of the estuary with several in sight most days, especially when the wind was in the west. It was also a good summer for Arctic Skuas, no doubt chasing the Gannets and other sea birds. There was a record number of Common Terns at Shotton, 555 pairs, but unfortunately poor weather just after the chicks hatched meant the total fledged was down on last year. The Little Terns at Gronant had a much better year than last, with 60-65 chicks fledged. A Stone Curlew turning up in the middle of the tern breeding season was an unexpected visitor to Gronant.
The autumn was notable for yet another record number of Black-tailed Godwit with 4,200 in October, most of them at Connah's Quay. September was virtually windless so no Leach's Petrel passage but a very strong gale at the end of October blew a few in to the north Wirral coast, along with a Sabine's Gull and hundreds of Kittiwakes.
A ringtail Hen Harrier spent the
winter on the marsh at the head of the estuary, roosting off
it was joined for a short time by a male bird. This is the first Hen Harrier
to over winter here since 1998/99. The Marsh Harrier which also joined the
Hen Harrier for a short time in December and January was much more
unexpected, they normally winter in southern Europe and Africa.
taken the opportunity to update both the photographs
and links pages. All the bird photographs have
been replaced with new ones, and just over half the ones of the estuary
itself. I am most grateful to all those that have let me use their
The links page has been updated
with the simple expedient of getting rid of most of them! So now I only
include two sets of links, local web sites and those which specialise in
providing general birding links.
Bird Survey Count for Connah's Quay and
Flint - (Kindly provided by
Deeside Naturalists' Society), 16th February.
3 Little Grebe, 8 Great Crested Grebe, 77 Cormorant, 2 Mute Swan, 45 Shelduck, 245 Wigeon, 19 Gadwall, 286 Teal, 124 Mallard, 3 Goldeneye, 45 Coot, 47 Oystercatcher, 253 Lapwing, 220 Dunlin, 2,500 Black-tailed Godwit, 45 Curlew, 7 Spotted Redshank, 375 Redshank, 3 Greenshank.
Wetland Bird Survey Count for
Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the
Wirral Ranger Service), 16th February.
February Bird News
month for geese with a maximum of 26 Brent Geese on Hilbre, 145 Pink-footed
Geese and 16 White-fronted Geese. The latter two species stayed on
Marsh for most of the month. It was particularly pleasing to see the
'White-fronts' which are quite rare in this part of the country. Also at
Burton have been a good numbers of Swans with up to 120 Bewick's reported
with about 30 Mute Swans.
A count of 3,200 Black-tailed Godwits on the estuary was a very good number for February. 2,500 were at Connah's Quay and the rest off Heswall. Purple Sandpipers reached 25 on Hilbre, better than last winter but still a bit short from the more normal 35 to 45 recorded in previous winters.
Due to the high pressure and southerly winds which kept the tide low the high tide birdwatches at Parkgate were a bit disappointing. But we did get a great view of the ringtail Hen Harrier which put up 3 Short-eared Owls. Out to sea, off Hilbre, the highlights have been 21 Red-throated Divers, 2 Shags and 22 Great Crested Grebe. Common Scoters in the Irish Sea are just that, very common! But it is unusual to see them close to the coast, so the eleven I saw flying within 50 foot of Red Rocks were somewhat unexpected. Another duck we don't see much of these days is the Scaup, so it was good to have 20 off Moreton in the middle of the month.
What to expect in March.
* As small numbers of both Chiffchaff and Blackcap over winter in the area this is the date they were first heard singing. Locations above for 2002.
On the estuary many species will notably decline in number during March. But it is a complex picture as we will start to see passage waders coming through. These are birds which spend winter in southern Europe and Africa on their way north to breed. An increase in Redshank numbers is almost certainly due to Icelandic birds gathering before moving north. There will also be much movement of Oystercatchers with British breeders moving to their their breeding grounds whilst those breeding in Iceland and the Faeroe Islands delaying their departure. Yet another Icelandic breeder, the Purple Sandpiper, will remain in good numbers on Hilbre right up to mid-April before moving off.
The channel of the River Dee at low tide off Greenfield Dock is a good place to see Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes, before they move inland to breed. Three big high tides over 10 metres this month which should give some spectacular birdwatching (see below for events), lets hope the weather is right for the tide to cover the marsh.
February Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
19th March, 11:56hrs 10.1m. (all times GMT)
20th March, 12.37hrs 10.2m.
21st March, 13.18hrs 10.1m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Sunday 2nd March 08:30am. Banks Road
Wednesday 19th March 10:15am.
Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch.
Saturday 5th April 11:30am. High Tide Birdwatch at
Point of Ayr.
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2003', 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.