Little Gulls (Steve Williams)
WeBS Dee Estuary Report 2005/06
The Dee Estuary Wetland Bird Survey Annual Report 2005/06 has just been published and is full of facts and figures on the birds of the Dee Estuary. Because of the recent change to the WeBS 'year' from March to April to July to June this report actually covers 15 months rather than the usual 12.
The report begins by detailing those species which are present in Internationally Important numbers on the Dee Estuary, a total of 12, with another four present in National Important numbers. The systematic list is the usual detailed account of each species and includes 24 graphs with data going back to the winter of 1981/82. Looking at the five year moving averages in these graphs it is a fascinating insight into the trends for the past 25 years. These demonstrate that about twelve species show a long term increase, three show a long term decrease and the remaining eight species are at about the same level they were 25 years ago. So over the long term the Dee Estuary and it's birds seem to be in a reasonably healthy state although there are a few recent decreases in numbers probably due to the run of mild winters.
© Richard Smith
To obtain the Dee Estuary WeBS Annual Report 2005/2006, compiled by Neil Friswell and edited by Colin Wells, please contact the local RSPB by telephoning 0151 336 7681. WeBS counters receive a free copy.
Voluntary Wardens wanted for Gronant Little Tern Colony
Gronant is a wonderful place to spend a few hours in the summer with the constant activity of the Little Tern colony, some great sea-watching, skylarks and meadow pipits singing over head and wildflowers covering the sand dunes. 2007 will be the 32nd year that there has been wardening here, and as can be seen from the graph below the Little Terns continue to increase in numbers despite the best attentions of the foxes, crows and kestrels; great credit must go to all those wardens doing a great job over those 32 years.
Wardening will be starting in May and usually ends early August. If you want to help out as a voluntary warden, or just want to come along to see what it is all about, contact Adrian Hibbert at Denbighshire Countryside Services, email: email@example.com, tel no. 01745 356197.
Once again the RSPB are organising voluntary wardening at Neston Reed Bed, the scheme will begin March 26th and run through until the end of May. Wardening will take place each evening in order to protect this important habitat from disturbance. I know in the past this scheme has attracted birders who have realised what a good opportunity this location is for some serious birdwatching with the possibility of seeing migrating Ospreys and Marsh Harriers, large numbers of Little Egrets flying in to roost, Bearded Tits, Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owls and the numerous birds which breed in the reed bed. If you are interested please contact Stuart Taylor (Stuart.Taylor@rspb.org.uk) or Geoff Robinson (Geoffrey.Robinson@rspb.org.uk), telephone 0151 336 7681.
March Bird News
The mild weather and southerly winds early in the month brought in the first migrants a lot earlier than last year. But then northerly winds set in which meant that the number of migrants were reduced to a slow trickle. The table shows the dates when the first migrants of some of our commoner species were seen.
The same north winds which slowed down the spring migration rather spoiled the high tide bird watching events at Parkgate, what had been forecasted as the highest tides of the year were pushed back by adverse winds. However, the wind dropped on the 21st so that the tide just made it to the wall at the Old Baths and we had some fabulous views of Short-eared Owls, a total of four. Five were seen the following day off Heswall, an excellent number for March.
Leach's Petrels continue to turn up unexpectedly with two off Point of Ayr on the 19th, following a westerly gale. It was probably the same two birds which were seen later further west at Towyn, and Leach's Petrels were also seen near the Great Orme. Unusual though these sightings are they are, perhaps, not as unexpected as the large December influx this winter, in March birds will be on their way north and passing close to this country out in the Atlantic. The westerly gale mentioned above also brought in over 100 Little Gulls to New Brighton as well 18 Red-throated Divers and 12 Gannets off the Point of Ayr. The first Gannets were seen on the 5th, a good early date, but we are still to see the first Sandwich Terns.
Avocets have been moving through with five over West Kirby on the 5th and four at Inner Marsh Farm for a few days later in the month. The Curlew Sandpiper which has spent all winter at Inner Marsh Farm remained all month. Brent Geese numbers have remained high with over 90 early in the month and at least 57 by the end. The Brent Geese, which spend most of their time around the Hilbre islands, have been readily observable from West Kirby Shore. More unexpectedly was the sight of at least 500 Common Scoter observed from West Kirby during a very clear day on the 2nd, way out in Liverpool Bay. There have been good numbers of Great Crested Grebes all winter off Dove Point, Meols, the highest count in March was 222 on the 8th.
What to expect in April
For most species April is the peak migration time. Given the right conditions we can get many hundreds of Meadow Pipits and hirundines throughout the region, particularly over Hilbre. Hoylake shore seems to be particularly attractive to White Wagtails on their way to Iceland, on some days we can get over 100 on the beach. The horse paddocks and sand dunes west of Leasowe Lighthouse are always a good site for Wheatears, on April 23rd last year we had over 50 here. Out to sea will be Gannets, Razorbills, Guillemots and Little Gulls; and the first Common and Little Terns will return to their colonies at Shotton and Gronant respectively.
Wader numbers will be well down as most will have moved on towards their breeding grounds, but we can still have large flocks of Knot and Dunlin hurrying through on their way from Africa to the far north. Whimbrel should be passing through all month with Hilbre the prime site, but Heswall can also get very good numbers. Look out for waders changing in to their summer plumage with Spotted Redshank and both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits looking gorgeous! Look out also for the odd Osprey and Marsh Harrier passing through, and hopefully a pair or two of Avocets will stay to breed at Inner Marsh Farm or Burton Marsh.
With all this movement of birds April is a great time to see rarities. Last year was excellent with the list including Sub-Alpine Warbler, Alpine Swift, Long-eared Owl, Chough and Hoopoe; hopefully we will get a few more this year.
Many thanks go to John Kirkland, Jason Stannage, 'Gary', Neil McLaren, Paul Owen, Peta Sams, Mark Gibson, Paul Roberts, Stephen Ainsworth, Chris Wilding, Iain Douglas, Rob Williams, John Boswell, Martin Kelly, Geoff Robinson, Mark Kendall, Bill Owen, Pete Button, Phil Woollen, Bill Dickinson, Damian Waters, Frank Huband, Paul Mason, David Lee, Stuart Taylor, Peter Davison, Steve Oakes, 'Stephen and Lizzie', Gilbert Bolton, Brian Roberts, David Harrington, Dave Edwards, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Colin Schofield, Steve Round, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Jane Turner, Charles Farnell, Richard Steel, Paul Shenton, Ian Dyer, Ian Williams, Paul Rowlands, Leon Castell, Joy and Carol Mitchell-Lisle, David Huntingford, Chris Moore, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during March. All sightings are gratefully received.
Spring Tides (Liverpool),
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Wednesday 18th April 11:00am,
Thursday 19th April 11:30am,
Saturday 21st April 11.30 am, High Tide at
Point of Ayr.
Saturday 21st April 1.30pm - 3pm, Woodland Walk at
Royden Park. New
Sunday 29th April 10am - 12noon, Birds along the Brook.
Thursday 3rd May, Evening Sunset Walk to
Sunday 6th May, Dawn Chorus on the Dales. 4.30am -
Sunday 6th May 2pm. Birdwatching for Beginners at
Monday 7th May Bank Holiday,
Wepre Spring Walk, 2pm - 4pm.
NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2007', 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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