1st May 2006

Gilroy Nature Park and the Langfields.
Wardens - Gronant Little Tern Colony.

April Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.



Gilroy Nature Park and the Langfields

Gilroy Nature Park is one of those 'feel good' projects which benefit both the local community and wildlife. The area where the park now stands was once a rubbish tip, when residents saw the poor standard of  restoration of this site in 1984 they decided to take positive action. Consequently a society was formed, funds raised and many volunteers recruited to transform the area into a Nature Park consisting of  woodland, meadows and a large pond. Among those who have helped are local schools, Scouts and Guides, Conservation Volunteers from both Liverpool University and Liverpool Polytechnic, Wirral Wildlife, Wirral Ranger Service and many local residents. Between them they have created a great little nature reserve.

To reach the Nature Park walk down the path from Gilroy Road, on the right, opposite the Nature Park, is a field which is flooded in winter and attracts a good number of duck and waders including Teal, Mallard, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits and Curlew. Little Ringed Plovers are seen here occasionally. On both sides of the path is a thick overgrown hedge and ditch, attracting large finch flocks and Water Rails. Carry on down this path towards Hoylake where you will see fields of  damp grassland and ditches, these are the Hoylake Langfields - also known as the 'Carr Fields', or just 'the Carrs'.

Both the Langfields and Gilroy NP are on a flight path between the Dee Estuary and north Wirral shore with birds cutting the corner off north-west Wirral , either flying along the valley between Thurstaston and Caldy hills, or round the West Kirby side of Grange Hill. This means they tend to get more than their fair share of birds with almost anything turning up. Raptors include the occasional Hen Harrier and Osprey (one or two a year) with Peregrines, Common Buzzards, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks regular. A couple of years ago 11 Sparrowhawks and five Common Buzzards were in the air together, an amazing sight! In winter between 200 and 300 Curlew can be seen busily feeding in the fields and sometimes large flocks of Lapwings join them. If there has been heavy rain the open water can attract a good number of wildfowl including Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pintail and Pink-footed Geese, even White-fronted Geese and Whooper Swans have turned up in the past. Snipe enjoy the damp grassland and 50 were counted in one field on Jan 29th this year. Black-tailed Godwits are often seen but Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers are much rarer and only occur during migration. Many other birds pass through on migration; 3,000 Swallow passed through early morning on Sep 13th last year, 1,100 Fieldfare on Nov 22nd with 37 White Wagtails and 21 Wheatears on Apr 10th this year. Like any good birding site early morning is the best time to see the most birds, but at any time of day the walk between West Kirby and Hoylake through the fields makes for a pleasant birdwatching stroll.

These fields would make a great nature reserve and may be we should try and encourage either the Cheshire Wildlife Trust or RSPB to buy them! As well as migrants and wintering birds surveys have shown that this area has a good number of breeding birds with 40 species breeding annually, another 13 species occasionally and eight species have possibly bred in the last few years. Regular breeders include Grey Partridge, Lapwing, Tawny Owl, Skylark, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Common and Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Bunting. Occasional breeders include Tufted Duck, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Redpoll. Teal, Snipe and Water Rail are all possible breeders and a pair of Black-tailed Godwit were seen to be displaying and copulating a few years ago.

For directions to Gilroy Nature Park and Hoylake Langfields  from the West Kirby side click here, and from the Hoylake side click here.

Richard Smith

Thanks to Edwin Jones for letting me use the info in his Gilroy file, and to Chris Butterworth who supplied most of the bird details.

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Little Terns at Gronant - Appeal for Voluntary Wardens
Gronant is a great place to be in the summer, it is home to between 70 and 100 pairs of Little Terns - the only colony in Wales and one of the biggest in Great Britain. There are also always lots of Sandwich Terns about, Gannets, Manx Shearwaters and Common Scoters out to sea, a good selection of waders, some of which breed here, and the usual marshland warblers.

The Little Tern colony wouldn't exist without the wardening scheme which protects them from both human disturbance and predators - mainly crows, kestrels and foxes. So once again we are appealing for people to have a go at wardening. The Denbighshire Countryside Service are organising the voluntary wardens again this year so if you want to volunteer email Garry Davies at garry.davies@denbighshire.gov.uk. Garry can also be contacted by phone - 01745 356197 or 07884490345. Wardens are present every day from late May to early August so if you want to know what is involved just come down and have a chat, or contact me, Richard Smith, by   for more details; 2006 will be my seventh year of voluntary wardening and I've enjoyed every minute! For directions see http://www.deeestuary.co.uk/gronant.htm.

 Little Terns at Gronant, July 2005, © Jim Armstrong

Richard Smith

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April Bird News
Wow - what a good month for rare birds! Starting with the most rare, here they are:

One Subalpine Warbler was caught in a trap on Hilbre Island early on the 30th where it was subsequently ringed by the Observatory team and released. It was seen briefly twice more during the same day. This is the fourth record for Cheshire and Wirral, and the second for Hilbre.
One Dartford Warbler was seen briefly and identified by one observer at Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston, on the 22nd. This has to go down as just a 'possible' but would have been only the fourth record for Cheshire and Wirral if it had been confirmed, but unfortunately news didn't get out about this bird until two days after it was seen. At this time of year it was just as likely to have been the similar looking Subalpine Warbler as above.
One Alpine Swift over Barnston between the 13th and 22nd, it or another was also seen from Carr Lane, Moreton, on the 24th. What a great bird! It was present over Easter so many people got to see it, and for the first three days it was here it was coming over the Fox & Hounds Pub car park every 10 minutes or so, although it became more elusive as time went on. This is the sixth record for Cheshire and Wirral, the last one on Wirral was observed flying over Stanley Road, Hoylake, on April 23rd 1998.
One Chough in fields near Greasby on the 13th. Although this was seen just by one non-birding observer the description sent in was undoubtedly of a Chough. The last Chough seen in Wirral was one which flew over Hilbre on March 30th 1980. There have been a few records in Cheshire and Wirral over the years, some of the earlier sightings are likely to have been escaped birds. But recent expansion of the breeding range of this species in to Clwyd, and the fact that we are in sight of the Great and Little Orme on the North Wales coast where this species is regular, makes it puzzling that we have had to wait so many years since the last record. Again it was unfortunate that local birders didn't get to find out about this bird until four days after the event.
One Serin was seen over Stanley Road, Hoylake, on the 6th, and another flew around Hilbre on the 28th. Classed as a vagrant in Cheshire and Wirral this species was last observed in 2000 on May 7th at Red Rocks, so to get two records in one year is pretty good.
A Wryneck was observed flying over the A540 near Ness on the 27th. Although classed as a vagrant this species seems to be coming more regular with six records over the past eight years.
A Hoopoe usually turns up every one or two years and are always good to see. Unfortunately the one behind Leasowe Lighthouse on the 16th was only seen by a handful of people and was not relocated.
In contrast the Long-eared Owl sitting in a small tree close to Leasowe Lighthouse on the 26th was more obliging allowing many birdwatchers to see it from a distance of only 10 metres. This rare resident is far less common than the Short-eared Owls we get on the marshes in winter.
Subalpine Warbler - Hilbre, left (Colin Jones ©), Alpine Swift - Barnston, middle (Steve Round ©) and Long-eared Owl - Leasowe Lighthouse, right  (Steve Round ©).

Other relatively rare birds included Ospreys, we had seven going over on their way north, an excellent number, single Wood Warblers were both heard and seen on two dates towards the end of the month in Stapledon Wood, Caldy, the Spotted Crake observed at the end of March at Parkgate was seen again on the 2nd and there are two Avocet at Inner Marsh Farm.

All these rarities makes the normal spring migration seem mundane in comparison but this carried on apace. The dates when the first of some of our more common migrants were noted are shown in the table below and those for April were much the same as the previous two years.

Species 2006 Location 2005 2004
White Wagtail 19th March Flint 17th March 14th March
Wheatear 23rd March Caldy 16th March 17th March
Swallow 25th March Red Rocks 25th March 18th March
Sand Martin 26th March Shotton 17th March 18th March
House Martin   29th March Leasowe   2nd April 28th March
Willow Warbler 31st March Leasowe 25th March 31st March
Swift 16th April Red Rocks 17th April 20th April
Whitethroat 17th April Leasowe 18th April 15th April
Cuckoo 29th April Leasowe 1st May 3rd May

We didn't get any mass movements of birds this year, although there were certainly plenty of Wheatears around, especially on the 23rd when over 50 were in the horse paddocks near Leasowe Lighthouse, 20 on Burton Marsh and 12 next to Stapledon Wood, Caldy.

There was some good movement of birds out to sea in particular on the 25th when as well as hundreds of terns there were 350 Gannets, 300 Razorbill, 200 Guillemot and 140 Manx Shearwater. At one point after high tide Hilbre Island was more like Skomer with many of the auks and 'Manxies' sitting in the water together and loads of Gannets and terns overhead! Single Arctic and Great Skuas were also off Hilbre along with a pair of Eider, 56 Brent Geese were still present on April 1st but had all gone by the month end. The first Little Terns arrived back at Gronant on the 25th.

What to expect in May

A quick look at May sightings from the past three years makes mouth-watering reading: Wryneck, Wood Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Temminck's Stint, Slavonian Grebes, Red-backed Shrike, Montague's Harrier, Bonaparte's Gull and White Throated Sparrow. Some of these rarities are migrants passing through, perhaps blown a bit of course, others are migration overshoots; birds which normally spend the summer much further south or east, or in the case of the White Throated Sparrow and Bonaparte's Gull, much further west. Hopefully we will get our share this year.

Out to sea we will get a good passage of terns, including Arctic and perhaps Roseate and Black, the Little Terns will return to Gronant and start nesting by the end of the month - lets hope for some good weather for them. Gannets will be going past in good numbers together with the more unpredictable Manx Shearwaters. Up to a thousand or more Black-tailed Godwits at Inner Marsh Farm will make for a spectacular sight with many in summer plumage, hopefully the pair of Avocets present last month will stay. Look out for flocks of waders out on the estuary and along the north Wirral shore - Knot, Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover - these will be birds which have spent the winter in Africa and are on their way to the far north to breed.

Many thanks go to  Andy Jennings, Sabena Blackbird, Matt Thomas, Mark Evans, Steve and Lorraine Fitzgerald, Jeff Stephens, Mark O'Sullivan, Peter Williams, Nigel Grice, James Armstrong, Isobel Carrahar, James smith, Bill Owen, Tanny Robinson, David Haigh, Dave Harrington, Steve Round, John Boswell, Paul Vautrinot, Valerie Nixon, Ian Emmitt, Allan Conlin, Glyn Roberts, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Iain Douglas, David and Karen Leeming, Colin Wells, Steve Ainsworth, Malcolm Rolph, Jim Moran, Stephen Menzie, Rob Black, Allan Kirkham, Mo and Geoff Watkin, Phil Woollen, Bob Pilgrem, Ian Fewtrel, Leon Castell, Bernard Machin,  Colin Schofield, Clive Ashton, Colin Jones, Charles Farnell, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Jane Turner, Alistair Townend, Tony Molloy, Margaret Twemlow, Stephen Morris, Mark Turner, John Kirkland, John Ferguson, Keith Duckers, Peter Button, Gary Keating, Dorothy Jebb, Ian Hughes, Sandra Evans, Anthony Mclean, Steve Astley, 'Derek' and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during April.  All sightings are gratefully received.

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Forthcoming Events
May Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
26th May, 11:17hrs 9.4m. BST.
27th May, 12:03hrs 9.4m. BST.

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.

Saturday 6th May, 5:30am, Ness Gardens early morning Breakfast Birdwatch.
Join the local RSPB Wardens for an early morning walk around Ness Gardens. Costs inclusive of cooked breakfast are £7.50 (Friends of Ness Gardens) or £12.00. Booking essential. Further details and tickets from Ness Gardens on 0151 353 0123.

Sunday 7th May, 6am – 8am, Wirral Way Warblers.
Join the Rangers on this popular walk to see the return of the warblers from their African winter. Up to 6 species have been seen on previous walks!
Booking essential: (0151) 648 4371/3884.

Saturday 13th May, 6:30am, Breakfast Birdwatch.
Join the Warden for an early morning birdwatch at Inner Marsh Farm, Dee Estuary RSPB Reserve. The trees and bushes will be alive with bird song while lapwings display overhead. Costs inclusive of continental breakfast are £6.00 members and £7.00 non-members. Booking essential. Further details from the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 14th May, 9am – 11am, The Big Bird List.
Plenty of summer migrants will have arrived to breed so this is a great time to update the Wirral Country Park Big Bird List. Spot as many as possible on a walk around the varied habitats of west Wirral.
Booking essential: (0151) 648 4371/3884.

Sunday 4th June, 1:30pm.
Orchid Spectacular at Inner Marsh Farm, Dee Estuary RSPB Reserve
The reserve’s wetland fields become carpeted with marsh orchids in the spring. Join the Warden on a walk around this special part of the reserve not normally open to visitors. Learn about how we manage the reserve over afternoon tea. Booking essential. Costs are £3.50 for members and £4.50 for non-members. For details and to book phone the RSPB on 0151 336 7681. Please book early to avoid disappointment.

Saturday 10th June, 1:30pm.
Orchid Spectacular at Inner Marsh Farm, Dee Estuary RSPB Reserve
A second opportunity to join the Warden on a walk around a special part of the reserve not normally open to visitors. The event is followed by afternoon tea. Booking essential.Costs are: £3.50 members and £4.50 non-members. To book and for further details call the RSPB on 0151 336 7681. Please book early to avoid disappointment.

NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2006', 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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