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3rd April 2002
Hoylake Bird Report.
Gronant Tern Colony.

Latest Bird Counts.
March Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.


             Pied Wag sketch

The Hoylake “Bird Observatory” Bird Report for 2000-1

The Birds of CH47 2AS - Part 2


Jane Turner

We moved into our new house on May 12th 2000. This is an account of our first 19 months in the house, which we have nicknamed Hoylake Bird Observatory. It has become clear that we are sat right on the North Wirral migration line and almost anything might turn up. To add to this it is possible to sea-watch in comfort at any time of the day and the patch of beach in front of the house is the last to be flushed on the incoming tide.

The species list of 167 seen in or from the grounds compares favourably to the County's top birding haunts, e.g. in 2000, about 160 species were recorded at Frodsham.

White rump sand

White-rumped Sandpiper, Sept 2nd 2000

Systematic list    
Red-throated diver to Grey Phalarope where published in the February 2002 Newsletter.
Pomarine Skua to Kittiwake.
Sandwich Tern to Turtle Dove.
Cuckoo to Rock Pipit.
Yellow Wagtail to Blackbird.
Fieldfare to Willow Warbler.
Goldcrest to Carrion Crow . 
Starling to Corn Bunting .   

If you would like  the complete report in 'Word' format on CD, including more illustrations and additional sections on Mammals, Lepidoptera and Odonata, contact Jane Turner at .

All photographs and sketches in the Hoylake Bird Observatory Report were taken/ drawn by Jane Turner. 


Voluntary Wardening at Gronant


Imagine yourself sitting in sand dunes over looking the sea. It is early morning in June and even the Irish Sea looks blue in the sun. Overhead is the constant sound of Sky Larks and all around a beautiful array of wild flowers. Out to sea an occasional Manx Shearwater or Gannet pass by with the more hurried parties of Guillemots and Scoter in groups of twenty or more. In front of you a pair of Ringed Plover are feeding chicks and a young Oystercatcher is hiding in the long grass. 
The most obvious sight and sound, however, is the colony of 80 pair or so of Little Terns nesting on the shingle ridges between you and the sea. There is constant movement as birds go out fishing to bring back a continuous supply of sand eels for the waiting young.  Little Tern

The screeching of the birds is somehow very restful and you are tempted to nod off. Suddenly the noise takes on a different note as the whole colony takes flight. Its that f-ing Kestrel again looking for a breakfast of Little Tern egg and for the third time in an hour you have to rush out in to the colony shouting and bawling, waving your arms and looking like a complete idiot  - just thankful it is too early for any holidaymakers to be about - yes, this is Gronant!

Gronant really is a great place to be birdwatching in the summer and we need voluntary wardens to help protect the Little Terns from marauding crows and kestrels, and the occasional thoughtless holidaymaker. Just half a day a month between May and August would be a great help, more would be even better. E-mail me or ring the local RSPB on 0151 336 7681 for more information. See the August 2001 newsletter to read about the recent history of this colony.



Bird Counts


Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 3rd March. 
1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 551 Shelduck, 157 Teal, 20 Mallard, 11 Red-breasted Merganser, 2,512 Oystercatcher,  16 Knot, 224 Dunlin, 779 Curlew, 3,442 Redshank, 3 Peregrine, 1 Merlin and 1 Short-eared Owl.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Flint and Connah's Quay, kindly provided by Brian Grey of the Deeside Naturalists' Society. 3rd March.
6 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 104 Cormorant, 166 Shelduck,
38 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 137 Mallard, 387 Teal, 3 Tufted Duck, 3 Goldeneye, 17 Coot, 915 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Knot, 150 Dunlin, 43 Curlew, 2 Spotted Redshank, 594 Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 1 Little Egret.

Count from Hilbre Island for 23rd March thanks to Chris Williams of the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
1 Grey heron, 1 dark-bellied Brent Goose, 22 light-bellied Brent Goose, 19 Shelduck, 8 Mallard, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Kestrel, 5,000, Oystercatcher, 10 Grey Plover, 40 Curlew, 40 Turnstone, 50 Redshank, 100 Herring Gull, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 50 Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Collard Dove, 6 Skylark, 200 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 11 White Wagtail, 2 Wren, 6 Robin, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 9 Carrion Crow, 28 Starling, 17 Chaffinch, 5 Goldfinch, 4 Siskin, 8 Jackdaw, 20 Sanderling, 8 Greenfinch, 4 Woodpigeon and 1 Grey Wagtail.


March Bird News


The spring migration is well and truly underway as you can see from the table below which shows the first sighting for some of the commoner species this spring, and the previous two years for comparison.

Species 2002 Location 2001 2000
Blackcap* 8th March Irby 12th March 31st March
ChiffChaff* 15th March Neston 11th March 13th March
Wheatear 16th March Hilbre 22nd March 12th March
White Wagtail 16th March Hilbre 24th March 17th March
Sand Martin 18th March Inner Marsh F. 15th March 16th March
Swallow 27th March Hilbre 28th March 2nd April
Willow Warbler 29th March Hoylake 8th March 27th March
House Martin     16th April  23rd March
Whitethroat        27th April 25th April
Swift     21st April  27th April

* 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.

By far the most numerous of the migrants so far have been Chiffchaff and Wheatear with over 30 of the former along the Wirral Way by Thurstaston  and the same number of the latter on Hilbre, both over Easter. A very early Whinchat was reported on 13th March by Leasowe embankment, if confirmed this will be the earliest ever sighting for Wirral/ Cheshire.

We have had some really superb birdwatching at Parkgate during the high spring tides at the beginning and end of March. Including the last day of February a total of well over one thousand birdwatchers turned up for the six organised birdwatches. Every day saw the tide coming very close, or right up to the wall. This meant some great close up views  of Short-eared Owls looking glorious in the spring sunshine. 

Short-eared Owl

But the highlight for me was on the 2nd of March - we were all gathered in the car park prior to the guided walk when suddenly a Merlin passed right over head closely pursued by a Peregrine. Next minute the Peregrine turned around and drifted over the car park. It then proceeded to hover in the wind for 2 minutes just 20 feet overhead having a good look at us all before slowly flying off over the marsh. For many, including myself, it was their best ever view of a Peregrine - fabulous! But it wasn't just Peregrines and Owls, other highlights included 4 Water Rail, 13 Little Egret, 30 Brambling and 12 Jack Snipe.

However, all this was tinged with some sadness as this was Jeff Clarke's last stint as Ranger at the Parkgate birdwatches after fifteen years. Many of you will know Jeff and not many will know a more knowledgeable and enthusiastic birder. But Jeff's greatest strength is to be able to convey that knowledge and enthusiasm to the public - his impersonation of a Moorhen defending its territory or a feeding Little Egret is something to behold! Jeff is moving on to Halton as Conservation and Education Officer - I'm sure we all wish him the best of luck.

Jeff Clarke
Jeff in full flow at a Parkgate high tide birdwatch.

Other highlights include 23 Brent Geese and 13 Purple Sandpiper on Hilbre, 9 Spotted Redshank at Inner Marsh Farm and 75 Twite at Flint.

What to expect in April: The spring migration will turn from a trickle to a flood. Large falls of warblers and other migrants occur from time to time, keep an eye out along the north Wirral coast and Point of Ayr early in the morning. Of course Hilbre Island is also an excellent spot to see the migration, expect several hundred Meadow Pipits a day when the passage reaches its peak as well as plenty of hirundines and warblers.

But the migration isn't just confined to land based birds, a strong west or north west wind will blow many sea birds close inshore - Gannets, Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and several species of terns on their way north. Best view points are Point of Ayr, Hilbre and the north Wirral coast. Terns will be returning to their breeding colonies during the month, Common Terns at Shotton and Little Terns at Gronant.

Large flocks of waders - Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling - will be passing through from their wintering grounds in Africa to the Arctic. I find it particularly awe inspiring this time of year watching these flocks knowing just how far they are traveling. How welcome, and vitally important, the Dee Estuary must be as a feeding station, many birds probably flying here in one go from North Africa.

Many thanks go to  Christopher Wilding, Ken Mcniffe, Dave Harrington,  Dave Wilde,  Gareth Stamp, John Roberts, Julian Weldrick, Cathy McGrath, Stephen Williams, Ian Emmitt, Christina Batey, Alan Chapman, Keith Lester, Andy Scholfield, Gareth Williams, Eric Burrows, Colin Jones, Alan Jupp,  Dorothy Jebb,  Mike Hart,  John Campbell, Chris Williams, Mark Feltham,  David Hinde,  Brian Grey, Jeff Clarke, Chris Butterworth, Jonathon Morton, Gill Jakeman, Fil Moore, Colin Macleod, John Ferguson, Bill Owens,  David Esther, Martyn Jaimeson, Carl Clee, Jane Turner and the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens for their sightings during March. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!

Forthcoming Events


April Highest Spring Tides
27th April, 12.16hrs 10.2m. (all times BST)
28th April, 12.59hrs 10.2m. 

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.


March 22nd to 7th April
National Exhibition of Wildlife Art
The exhibition is open to the public from March 22nd to 7th April at Road Range Gallery,
Mann Island, 
Pier Head, Liverpool.

The exhibition is open seven days a week, Mon to Fri 10am - 6pm, Sat and Sun 11am - 4pm. Admission Free. Free draw every day of a wildlife print donated by one of the exhibiting artists. A percentage of the sales will go to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. This exhibition, now in its eight year is the largest open selling exhibition of original wildlife art in the UK.

Kingfisher painting
Terance James Bond

Saturday 6th April 12:30pm Grebes at Greenfield.
Join the RSPB warden in a search for grebes and mergansers. Enjoy a relaxing walk along the coastal fields with finches and wheatears on offer. No need to book. (LW 14:12, 3.2m) Meet at Greenfield Dock car park, off Dock Rd, Greenfield. Further information contact RSPB tel. 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 21st April 10:00am - 12noon Bird Walk around Red Rocks.
Red Rocks is a popular resting spot for birds on their great spring migration north. Walk around the site with a ranger to discover the birdlife of this famous sand dune and reed bed reserve. Meet at the bottom of Stanley Road, Hoylake. No need to book. For further details, telephone 0151 678 5488.

Thursday 25th April 7:00am Spring Migrants at Point of Ayr.
Join the RSPB warden in a search of the bushes for spring migrants. Target species include Tree Pipits, Whinchat, Grasshopper Warblers. Last year a Corncrake was found here. No need to book. Meet at the end of Station Rd. Talacre. Further information contact RSPB tel. 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 27th April 7:00am - 12noon Catching the Warbler Wave.
Spring-time migrants return to the UK in force in the last week of April. Join the Ranger on a circular walk to cover a variety of habitats in search of several species of warbler and other trans-equatorial travelers. Bring a packed lunch and sturdy footwear. Booking essential. tel. Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371/3884.

Saturday 27th April 6:30pm 
Evening Special at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB Nature Reserve. 
Join the RSPB Warden for an evening stroll around the fantastic reserve at Inner Marsh Farm Nature Reserve, Burton in search of spring migrants. Finish the evening with cheese and wine. Tickets are £5.00 members and £6.00 non-members. Booking and further information contact RSPB on 0151 336 7681

Sunday 5th May 4:30am - 6:30am Dawn Chorus Over The Common.
Listen to the fantastic bird song at this time of day. Join the Rangers on this stroll over Thurstaston Common and experience the range and variety of song over this heathland. Surely one of the most uplifting experiences of the wildlife year. There will be tea and biscuits available afterwards. Sorry no dogs. To book your place tel. Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371/3884.

Saturday 11th May 6:30am Early Birds.
Inner Marsh Farm RSPB Nature Reserve .
Join the RSPB Warden for an early morning birdwatch at Inner Marsh Farm Nature Reserve, Burton, in search of summer migrants. Costs inclusive of continental breakfast are £5.50 members and £6.50 non-members. Booking essential. Further details and tickets from the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 12th May 5:00am Spring Dawn Chorus. 
An early start to hear birdlife at its best, followed by a slap up breakfast. The event is kindly sponsored by Kimberly Clark. Please book in advance tel. 01352 719177. There is a charge of £1.50 for the full breakfast. Meet at Kimberley Clark Plant visitor car park, Aber Industrial Estate, Flint. (Grid ref SJ 238/734). 

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2002', 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.