For those new to the website wondering why my year starts in March - it's because the website was first set up in March way back in 1998.
The year ended like it started, with a big high tide covering the marsh at Parkgate. It was specially pleasing that this last month we had some good high tide birdwatches at Parkgate with the tide over the marsh on each of the three days, this after two poor years.
Getting back to March last year, the spring migration got off to a late start compared with recent years due to bad weather. However we did get a nice passage of Little Gulls off Hilbre (max 85), 2,500 Black-tailed Godwit was a good count for March and a pair of Gargeney at Burton were earlier than normal. We also had five Hen Harriers coming to roost at Parkgate, and a Red Kite and Osprey passing through. By April the migration was in full swing with 2,500 Meadow Pipits at Hilbre on the 12th followed by at least 200 White Wagtail on Hoylake beach on the 14th. We had a good sprinkling of rarities with a Hoopoe, White Stork and Osprey all appearing on one day. A full summer plumage adult Bonaparte's Gull turned up in May at Inner Marsh Farm, where they also had a Temminck's Stint and a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers. Migration continued with a good number of Whinchats including 10 at Red Rocks and 15 at Burton over the Spring Bank Holiday.
Despite some appalling weather in June the Little Tern colony at Gronant did very well again in 2004. The figures at the end of the season were that 89 pairs produced 167 fledged young, the second highest ever in both cases. Other summer highlights were three Ruddy Shelduck, one Golden Oriole and three Red Kites. The strong wind at the end of August brought a foretaste of what was to come with 12 Leach's Petrel, 4 Storm Petrel, 3 Great Skua, both a Pomarine and Long-tailed Skua and a Grey Phalarope.
October brought another record - 13,334 Shelduck, an amazing sight spread across the mudflats off Thurstaston. Over 1,000 Sanderling was a good number for Hoylake Shore, the highest since 1994.
The second and third records involved Waxwings. They flooded in to the country this winter and we had our fair share. Towards the end of December there were over 100 at Ewloe (near Queensferry), and in January 93 spent a couple of days at Greasby on Wirral. The former was a Flintshire record and the latter a Wirral record. I hope you all got to see some Waxwings as numbers like these normally only come once in a lifetime. Large numbers of Little Egrets had been seen from July onwards, they were up to 65 by October then the record was broken in December with 70, compared with the 2003 high of 34. If they keep on doubling we'll have over 4,000 by 2010!
Other interesting birds not already mentioned included a Nightjar at Hoylake in May, an adult Glaucous Gull which hung around the West Kirby/North Wirral area for a couple of weeks over the winter, Slavonian Grebes at Leasowe in October, and at Hoylake and Inner Marsh Farm in February, 2 Cetti's Warblers at Neston and a drake Long-tailed Duck at West Kirby, also in February.
Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service), 13th
11 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 24 Brent Goose, 198 Shelduck, 389 Teal, 26 Mallard, 6 Red-breasted Merganser, 6,530 Oystercatcher, 21 Golden Plover, 44 Grey Plover,450 Lapwing, 2,100 Knot, 4,780 Dunlin, 40 Black-tailed Godwit, 1,390 Curlew, 1 Turnstone and 750 Redshank. Also 16 Black-headed Gull, 4 Common Gull, 2 Lesser black-backed Gull, 68 Herring Gull, 3 Great Black-backed Gull.
Count from West Kirby Shore provided
by the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens, date of max
February count in brackets).
Connah's Quay and
Flint - (Kindly provided by
Deeside Naturalists' Society)
February Bird News
three very good birdwatches at
Parkgate, which makes a
nice change! As is usually the case the first day (10th) was the best for
birds, the highlights being two Hen Harriers, six Short-eared Owls and 10
Water Rails. One Short-eared Owl drifted so close to the watching
birdwatchers you could almost touch it! The tide came up to the wall on
all three days but was deepest on the 12th, with a strong north-westerly
Bewick's Swan numbers reached over 100 on Burton Marsh and 250 Pink-footed Geese were observed flying over Meols. Brent Geese were still at record numbers at the beginning of the month, with 63, but had dwindled to 42 by the end. On a lovely still and clear late afternoon two Velvet Scoter, over 150 Common Scoter, 129 Great Crested Grebes and a probable Slavonian Grebe were seen from Hoylake Shore. Both the drake Smew and Green-winged Teal stayed most of the month at Inner Marsh Farm. But the most interesting duck seen this month has to be the lovely drake Long-tailed Duck on West Kirby Marine Lake, it arrived on the 16th and was still there at the end of the month. If the Dotterel at Leasowe was the most photographed bird on Wirral in 2004 then this Long-tailed duck must be a very good candidate to be the most photographed in 2005!
The cold weather in the second half of the month, specially further east, meant that there were good numbers of waders with 10,000 Dunlin and 15,000 Knot at West Kirby being the highest counts. There were the usual over-wintering Spotted Redshanks with five at Inner Marsh Farm. 5,300 Bar-tailed Godwits were counted at Leasowe and 1,600 Black-tailed Godwits off Flint Castle - both at low tide.
Most of the Waxwings seem to have gone further south but we did have 10 in Heswall and 18 near West Kirby, but neither flock stayed for very long. There has been the usual flock of 90 or so Twite at Flint Castle, with 40 to 50 briefly at Burton. A Slavonian Grebe was at Inner Marsh Farm on the 10th, I believe this is a first for the reserve. One Snow Bunting visited West Kirby Shore but was later found dead, and another two were seen briefly at Wallasey.
News of two Cetti's Warblers just at the south end of Neston reed bed was released right at the end of the month.
What to expect in March
The return of the first spring migrants is always an exciting time and the table below shows the date when the first one of some of our more common species have been seen over the past three years. If you see an early migrant please let me know by .
These very early migrants are employing a risky strategy - they hope to have the pick of the breeding sites, but if the weather turns bad they could starve. Chiffchaff and Blackcap are not included in the table as some spend the winter here, although we do get a considerable influx in March and April with returning birds from further south.
Wader numbers will noticeably drop in March, Oystercatchers in particular move off to their breeding sites leaving just the immature birds to spend the summer here. In contrast both Redshank and Curlews can increase in number as they gather on the estuary to feed up before they too move off to their breeding grounds.
Little gulls will be passing through out to sea on their way to the Baltic Sea, and we should see our first Sandwich Terns and Gannets of the year. March is a good time to visit the local woods to try and spot a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker high up in the trees. It has been another good winter for Short-eared Owls and a few should still be around for the high tides on the 11th, 12th and 13th.
They have had huge numbers of Pink-footed Geese in Norfolk this winter so we might well get some of these passing through the Dee Estuary on their way to their Lancashire haunts. I'm told that there was a very large movement through the midlands going NW at the end of January, but they must have gone north of here.
Many thanks go to Joseph Wynn, Iain Douglas, John Eliott, Martin Hore, Mark Smith, Roy Palmer, Barry Barnacal, Colin Jones, Dave and Emma Kenyon, Ray Roberts, Bernard Machin, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Martyn Jamieson, Eric Sherry, "Welsh Weasels", Jane Turner, Phil Woollen, Allan Conlin, Steve Ainsworth, Mike Hart, David Esther, Jean Morgan, Steve Wrigley, Neil Friswell, John Blades, John Roberts, Mike Cocking, Nigel Troup, Paul Fletcher, Steve Round, Val Williamson, Chris Wilding, Craig Jones, Rob Bithell, David Haigh, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during February. All sightings are gratefully received.
March Highest Spring Tides,
11th March, 11:58hrs 10.2m. Times GMT.
12th March, 12:37hrs 10.2m.
13th March, 13:15hrs 10.0m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Saturday 5th March, 8am to 9:30am, Early Morning Spring Walk.
Friday 11th March, 10:30am, Parkgate
Sunday 13th March, 10:00am - 3:00pm. Open Day at the
Connah's Quay Reserve.
Sunday 20th March, 5:00pm, Parkgate
Saturday 9th April, 11:00am, Parkgate
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2005', 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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