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 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. It's 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 Survey Count for Heswall Shore -
(Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 14th April.
24 Great Crested Grebe, 21 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, 317 Shelduck, 5 Mallard, 20 Red-breasted Merganser, 570 Oystercatcher, 7 Ringed Plover, 1,500 Knot, 1,150 Dunlin, 484 Curlew, 1,850 Redshank - also 2 Peregrine.
Maximum species counts from
Hilbre Island during April, many thanks to the Hilbre
Bird Observatory who provided most
of the data.
April Bird News
The table below shows the dates of some of the more commoner species were first seen or heard during the spring migration.
* 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.
There were not any big surprises this year although the general trend does seem to be for sightings to be earlier each year. We had some big 'falls' of migrants the most interesting being 30 Yellow Wagtail and 100 White Wagtail at Shotwick and 75 Wheatear in Moreton. It was an excellent spring for Ring Ouzels, a total of fourteen passing through compared with only three reports last year.
We had high atmospheric pressure and light winds for most of April, until the last few days when the pressure plummeted and strong winds blew in from the west - just in time for some of the highest tides of the year. This would have been fabulous in winter for birdwatching, as it was, with the sea covering the marsh, hundreds of Meadow Pipit, Redshank and Skylark nests will have been destroyed. Luckily this early in the year the birds will nest again and re-lay. The wind did have its compensations with large numbers of sea birds in sight off the mouth of the estuary including hundreds of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Terns.
Another species causing much excitement was the Avocet with two turning up at Inner Marsh Farm looking as though they might breed, at the same time two briefly touched down on the sand off Red Rocks. There appears to be at least seven birds in the North Wales/ North West region comprising something of a mini colonisation. Up to 14 Spotted Redshank and a similar number of Ruff spent all month at Inner Marsh Farm, just starting to grow into their striking summer plumage.
A handful of Ospreys passed through together with 2 Marsh Harriers and a ring-tail Hen Harrier. Single drake Green-winged Teal and Eider were the pick of the wildfowl. Ten thousand Knot briefly touched down at Thurstaston and 550 Black-tailed Godwit in summer plumage made a striking sight at Oakenholt. Another bird in summer plumage was a Black-throated Diver off Hilbre, seen on several days during the month.
What to expect in May: It's not too late to see large wader flocks on the estuary - thousands of Knot and Dunlin are on their way from Africa to Greenland, Iceland and Siberia. At this time of year they pass through quickly so one day you might see a flock of 10,000, the next day nothing. Whimbrel will still be passing through until mid-May on their way to Iceland and Scandinavia, and small groups of Sanderling may be seen as late as early June on their way to the far north.
Although the massed ranks of Shelduck have long since left we get quite a lot of pairs breeding along the shores of the estuary. At this time of year they are far more tolerant of humans and feed close to the beach. Each pair keep a feeding territory which the male defends, making for some interesting interactions with other pairs.
Both of our tern colonies will start to lay eggs - the massive Common Tern colony at Shotton and the much smaller, but vitally important, Little Tern colony at Gronant. Much rarer are Roseate Terns, hopefully we should see one or two passing through.
May often brings some unusual migrants, perhaps blown off course or simply over shot their normal range - birds such as Spoonbill, Golden Oriole, Serin and Nightingale have turned up in previous years. Last year Ospreys continued to come through until the end of May, just two or three for the whole month though, so you need a bit of luck to see one!
Many thanks go to
Phil Oddy, Bernard Machin, John Kirkland, Bob Brown, Elizabeth Rees, Linda
Greatwich, Ken Mcniffe, T. Morton, Keith Lester, Brian Roberts, Tony
Williams, Heather Hockaday, Thomas Giles, Tony Day, Peter Williams,
Paul Vautrinot, Gareth Stamp, John Roberts, Cathy McGrath, Stephen
Williams, Alan Chapman, Keith Lester, Colin Jones, Alan Jupp, Dorothy
Jebb, Mike Hart, John Campbell, Fil Moore, David Small, Steve
Williams, Mark Feltham, Brian Grey, Chris Butterworth,
David Esther, Martyn Jaimeson, Carl Clee, Ken Mullins and Jane Turner for
their sightings during April. All sightings are gratefully received.
Highest Spring Tides
26th May, 11.53hrs 9.7m. (all times BST)
27th May, 12.40hrs 9.7m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Sunday 5th May 4:30am - 6:30am Dawn Chorus Over The Common.
Friday 17th May 8:00pm Denizens of the Dusk.
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.