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    3rd April 2000
    The Knot

    Voluntary Wardens needed at Gronant
    Wirral RSPB Race 2000
    The Wirral Society
    Latest Bird Counts
    March Bird News
    Forthcoming Events
    Latest Newsletter
    The UK Birding Web Ring

The Knot (Calidris canutus) 

Martyn Jamieson
  This is the first of an occasional series featuring a specific species found on the Dee Estuary.

Watching great clouds of Knot flying in tight formation must be one of the most enduring memories of any visit to an estuary. As they turn seemingly as one, flashing grey and white in the sun, the flock, ten thousand strong, splits as a Peregrine dives through them - a wonderful sight.  

Two distinct populations of Knot pass through the Dee Estuary, those breeding in Canada and Greenland and the other breeding in Siberia. By far the most numerous is the Canadian/Greenland population which spend the winter here and the rest of Western Europe. The Siberian birds are only seen on migration on their way to and from West Africa, some even go as far as South Africa - however the majority of this population is thought to migrate further to the east. 

      Canadian Arctic/Greenland/                         North Central Siberia/
      West European population                         West African population

The graphs below show how the numbers and yearly distribution of Knot have changed over the years. Twenty to thirty years ago many Knot flew directly from their breeding grounds to the Dee to moult during the months of July to September. This was followed by a mid-winter peak as birds from further east (especially the Waddenzee) moved west fleeing from the cold continental winter and/or to find fresh supplies of food. The latest WeBS (Wetland Bird survey) data from 1993 to 1998 show that the moulting Knot no longer use the Dee in any thing like such numbers. Now they moult further east on estuaries such as the Waddenzee and the Wash. The Dee still sees the mid-winter peak as demonstrated by both the WeBS data and that from one of their main high tide roosts at West Kirby for 1998/99. However the figures for the winter just gone (1999/2000), which was mild both here and on the continent, show no mid-winter peak at all at West Kirby. The birds choosing instead to stay on the continent. 

Number of Knot on the Dee Estuary - Wetland Bird Survey data for the whole estuary and West Kirby high tide roost.  
Note that the WeBs data show the peak monthly counts over the five year period specified and data from West Kirby the peak count from each month. Both these counts are taken at high tide.

These high tide counts don't tell the whole story by any means. Firstly, low tide counts* carried out by WeBS show quite clearly that many Knot feeding on the Dee Estuary at low tide fly over to the nearby Alt estuary to roost at high tide. These birds are therefore missing from the Dee Estuary high tide counts. Secondly during migration the Knot pass through the area quickly, feeding at low tide then continuing their journey at high tide - again missing the high tide counts. A visit to the estuary during late April and early May will often result in the sighting of large flocks of birds feeding on the mud banks. Stand at Red Rocks at high tide and you may be rewarded by the sight of flock after flock passing you on their way north. 

*The Wetland Bird Survey 1996-1997 and 1997-1998, obtainable from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

WeBS data were supplied by the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), a joint scheme of the British Trust for Ornithology, The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (the last on behalf of the Countryside Council for Wales, Department of the Environment Northern Island, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage).
Data from West Kirby high tide roost supplied by the Dee Estuary
Voluntary Wardens, thanks to Roy Palmer for collating the data.


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. 

Wirral RSPB Bird Race 2000

This year's Bird Race is being held over the 5th/6th May.
Start:   8.00pm, Friday 5th May anywhere within the race boundaries
Finish: 8.00pm, Saturday 6th May, the Ship Hotel, Parkgate

The Wirral RSPB Bird Race is an annual event to raise money for the work of the RSPB. All teams join together in friendly rivalry to enjoy a day's birdwatching and to pass on the comprehensive species list recorded on Wirral on one day to the county recorder.

For further details, rules and an application form contact:

Steve Woolfall
85 Ridgemere Road
CH61 8RR

Tel: 01244 402015 (daytime)
       0151 648 6007 (after 9pm)
E-mail: s.woolfall@chestercc.gov.uk

The Wirral Society

The Wirral Society was formed back in 1928 as an environmental watchdog, with the object of protecting the natural beauty, architecture and flora and fauna of the Wirral Peninsula. For the last 70 years, the society have done their best to take an active role in preserving what makes Wirral unique, keeping a careful eye on any proposed plans or developments which they believe threaten what the society set out to protect, all those years ago. 


Bird Counts


Inner Marsh Farm  
8th March: Goldeneye 10, Pochard 8, Tufted Duck 20, Shovelor 24, Pintail 8, Wigeon 300, Shelduck 26, Little Grebe 4, Dunlin 50, Black-tailed Godwit 150, Redshank 15, Golden Plover 50,Snipe 10, Heron 5, Merlin1, Sparrowhawk 1.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 19th March.
reat Crested Grebe 6, Cormorant 4, Grey Heron 2, Shelduck 188, Teal 12, Mallard 9, R. B. Merganser 33, Oystercatcher 540, Dunlin 460, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Curlew 750, Redshank 1450. Sparrowhawk, Merlin and 2 Peregrine Falcon also observed.

West Kirby shore high tide roost  - counts carried out by Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens.
The highest count during March was on the 19th: Knot 350, Oystercatcher 680, Ringed Plover 12, Sanderling 14, Curlew 296, Grey Plover 8, Dunlin 189 and Redshank 875.  

March Bird News

Spring migration is in full swing and the mild March weather brought some remarkably early first sightings, in particular  Whinchats and House Martins, see the table below.

Species Date Place First Sight 1999
Wheatear 12th Burton 12th March
Whinchat 13th Leasowe Late April
ChiffChaff 13th Thurstaston 17th March
Sand Martin 16th IMF 27th March
White Wagtail 17th Hilbre mid March
House Martin 23rd Hilbre Late April
Willow Warbler 27th Neston 2nd April
Blackcap 31st Heswall Late March

Gulls have been much in evidence with Glaucous gulls at Gronant, Point of Ayr and Hilbre, Mediterranean Gulls at Inner Marsh Farm and Hilbre, Iceland Gull at West Kirby and a very good passage of 76 Little Gulls seen from Hilbre Island. 

Also at Hilbre have been 42 Purple sandpipers with good numbers of migrant land birds including over 500 Meadow Pipits on the 23rd and 4 Stonechat, an unusual Hilbre visitor. Divers are returning to their breeding grounds and sightings have included ten Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver. 

Water Pipits (12) and Little Egrets (3) are still at Neston, the Old Quay giving particularly good views. Other birds of note include Little Stints at West Kirby and Inner Marsh Farm, which also had a visit from a short staying  Bittern. 


Forthcoming Events
April Highest Spring Tides
18th April, 12.06hrs 9.6m. (all times BST)
19th April, 12.44hrs 9.6m.

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):

9th April. Marsh Clearance and Beach Clean on 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

16th April. Parkgate Walk. 11am to 4pm.
A leisurely circular walk to the lost port of Parkgate, through fields and marshes, looking at the local and natural history of the area. Booking essential, ring 0151 678 4200.

22nd April. Birdwatch at the Point of Ayr. 12 noon
Waders galore and the first summer migrants. (HW 13:50, 8.9m), meet at the end of Station Road, Talacre. For details contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681. Jointly organised by the RSPB and Flintshire Ranger Service.

27th April. Island Adventure Day. 10am - 3pm. 
Explore the caves and pools on Hilbre Island and hunt for hidden treasure! Children must be over 7 years old. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

29th 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. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

30th April. Our Woodland Heritage. 10am - 12noon
Join the Ranger on a walk through Stapledon Woods and learn more about the development of our local woodlands, how they came to be where they are what is being done to secure their future. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

30th April. Tales of Trees. 1:30pm - 3:30pm
Explore the trees of Royden Park and hear the tales and myths relating to them. Booking essential, ring 0151 678 4200

5th May. Rocky Shore Walk. 5.30pm - 9pm
A specialised walk to look at the life normally hidden beneath the waves.  A 4-mile walk of nearly 4 hours. Warm waterproof clothing and wellies are essential. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

7th May. International Dawn Chorus Day. 4:30am - 6-30am.

Dawn over the Dee. Join the Rangers on an early morning walk along the Wirral Way, through the Heswall fields and back along the beach to Thurstaston where we might locate exciting migrants including Grasshopper Warblers and Lesser Whitethroat. A refreshing vup of tea or coffee in the visitors centre afterwards. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Dawn over Thurstaston. Discover the wealth of birds that live within Royden Park and Thurstaston Common. Tea, coffee and biscuits available afterwards. Booking essential, ring 0151 678 4200

20th May. Early Morning, Inner Marsh Farm. 06:30am
Join the RSPB Warden for an early morning birdwatch in search of summer migrants. Costs, inclusive of continental breakfast, are 5.00 for members and 6.00 for non-members. Booking essential, ring 0151 336 7681.

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.