round the corner from the
Point of Ayr
is a beautiful wild area of reed beds, sand dunes, shingle and beach - this
In the summer Gronant is full of the sound of Skylarks overhead, Reed and
Sedge Warblers in the reeds and Little Terns over the shingle. This is the
last remaining Little Tern colony in Wales and thanks to round the clock
wardening organised by the RSPB the colony is thriving. From just 15 pairs
when the scheme started in 1975 the colony has grown to over 80 pairs.
The wardens' job at the colony is twofold, firstly to stop predation of nests - mainly crows and kestrels by day and foxes by night, and secondly to ask any people on the beach not to walk through the colony, which is fenced off and clearly sign posted. Additionally we have a steady stream of interested birdwatchers to chat to. In reality people are rarely a problem, trying to stop a determined crow or kestrel far more so. But the presence of the wardens is a big deterrent to the predators - we have a variety of cunning tactics which mainly involve running, shouting and waving arms - but it works!
However, I don't want to give the impression that wardening is all work and no play. Most of the time it involves sitting in the sand dunes, basking in the sun and doing a bit of birdwatching! Arctic Skuas, Gannets, Guillemots, Common Scoter, Sandwich Terns and Manx Shearwaters are all regular off shore. In fact Sandwich Terns are present in many hundreds when their breeding season finishes in late June. Rarities which have turned up during the last three years include Storm Petrel, Arctic Tern, Black Tern, Great Skua, Stone Curlew, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier. This summer will be my fourth year as a voluntary warden, and I've enjoyed every minute!
Anybody wanting more information
about wardening should contact the RSPB at Burton Point Farm by telephone
(0151 336 7681) or
of a national scheme organised by the BTO the Hilbre Bird Observatory are
colour ringing Wheatears (both Northern and Greenland) with the hope they
are seen elsewhere and reported.
For spring 2003 both the right and
left tarsal will have red rings, in the return autumn passage it will be red
on the left and yellow on the right. Other ringing stations are using
different colour combinations. If you see any of these ringed birds either
e-mail Steve Williams
or contact the BTO. There is an excellent article on Wheatears written by
Steve Williams in the
Bird Survey Count for Connah's Quay and
Flint - (Kindly provided by
Deeside Naturalists' Society), 19th April.
4 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 11 Cormorant, 9 Mute Swan, 24 Canada Goose, 160 Shelduck, 3 Gadwall, 14 Teal, 44 Mallard, 6 Tufted Duck, 1 Moorhen, 21 Coot, 680 Oystercatcher, 2 Lapwing, 290 Knot, 1,500 Black-tailed Godwit, 50 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Curlew, 1 Spotted Redshank, 55 Redshank.
Wetland Bird Survey Count for
Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the
Wirral Ranger Service), 20th April.
April Bird News
* 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 2003.
There was also a very good passage of Little Gulls with a maximum of 120 birds, this was later than most years with the main migration usually taking place in March. A Red-necked Grebe in summer plumage was seen on the 12th, and possibly the same bird was off Red Rocks four days later.
The Long-billed Dowitcher continued to visit Inner Marsh Farm intermittently, and was observed to be moulting into summer plumage. Another bird which had stayed the whole winter, the female Long-tailed Duck, was last seen on the 26th. Up to 15 Spotted Redshank, a Wood Sandpiper and over 300 Black-tailed Godwit were the best of the rest at Inner Marsh Farm.
What to expect in May.
Flocks of Dunlin and Knot will be speeding through early in the month, in a hurry on their way to the far north to breed. Small numbers of Sanderling will be seen right up to the end of the month, their breeding grounds won't be snow free until well in to June.
Terns will start breeding at both the large Common Tern colony at Shotton and the much smaller Little Tern colony at Gronant. Given a fresh west wind sea-watching should prove fruitful with good numbers of Manx Shearwaters, Gannets, Fulmars, Guillemots and Common Scoter.
Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
16th May, 12:06 hrs 10.0m. (all times BST)
17th May, 12.54hrs 10.0m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Saturday 3rd May 7:00am. Migrants on the Move.
Sunday 4th May 4:30am - 6:30am. A Song of Stone.
Saturday 17th May 7:00am - 11:00am. Summer Bird Race.
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2003', 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.