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    2nd June 2000
    Estuary Web Surfing

    Voluntary Wardens needed at Gronant
    Latest Bird Counts
    May Bird News
    Forthcoming Events
    Latest Newsletter

Estuary Web Surfing 

  Man did not weave the web of life.
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web he does to himself.
Chief Sealth
  PLEASE NOTE: All the links were working when this article was written. They may not be working now!

So starts the Wollochet Bay Estuary Project web site, a particularly good example of an Estuary web site, the estuary in this case is on the west coast of the USA in the state of Washington. 

There are many good web sites about birding, some of which are on my links page,  but web sites dedicated to estuaries alone are much rarer. I therefore thought it would be interesting to do a search and review some of the best ones that came up.

Starting here on the Dee is the Dee Estuary Strategy. To quote -  "The Dee Estuary Strategy is a coastal zone management initiative which seeks to balance the competing demands and uses of the area. The Strategy is a public / private partnership supported by over 85 organisations." The Web site gives a list of many reports and projects pertinent to the Dee and also contains some interesting articles including "A Changing Coast" by Dr Alan Jemmett and "A Coastal Footpath for the Dee" by Bernie McLinden. Also close to home but taking a noticeable lighter tone is the Mersey Strategy which includes a quiz on "How much do you know about the Mersey Estuary?" and "Can you complete our Jigsaw to reveal a familiar River scene?". One of the biggest estuaries in the UK is Morecambe Bay and the Birds of Sunderland Point covers the southern area of the bay including the Lune Estuary. It's a comprehensive site including maps and bird counts.

A search on any subject almost guarantees a plethora of American sites and this one was no different. Two  Web sites cover the whole of the United States, the National Estuary Program is government sponsored and covers 28 estuaries. The Restore America's Estuaries is much more of a citizen driven scheme and is a national coalition of 11 regional, coastal community-based environmental organizations with a combined membership of over 250,000 people.

The American sites are too numerous to go into detail but a particular favourite is Explore the Estuary Live from North Carolina. Every few months there is a live net broadcast of a field trip accompanied by an expert naturalist. But the page I like the most on this site is "What is an Estuary", a most interesting and informative non-technical description accompanied by some delightful illustrations.

Elsewhere in the world web sites about estuaries are far more difficult to find. One that took my fancy was the St Lucia Game Reserve from South Africa. Instead of detailing the number of wading birds visiting the estuary this one concentrates on the number of Buffalo, Hippo, Crocodile and antelope!

Australia has a number of good sites including one about the beautiful Swan River Estuary running through Perth and also the Derwent Estuary in Tasmania. Australia is interesting because they get the peak number of shore-birds in their summer, these are the birds which breed in the far north in our northern summer. Birds include the tiny red-necked Stint, only weighing 30-40 grams, yet flies all the way from Siberia.

My last site is from France. Most of you will have heard of John-James (or Jean-Jacques) Audubon, the famous 19th Century American ornithologist. But did you know he has a marsh named after him in the mouth of the Loire? The web site describes both the 2,000 hectare marsh, which is an excellent estuarine nature reserve including 230 species of birds, and also gives the history of Audubon who spent his boyhood summer holidays in the area.


Voluntary Wardens needed at Gronant

Those of you who have visited the Welsh Shore page will already know of Gronant on the North Wales coast between Point of Ayr and Prestatyn, and some of you may actually have been there. It is a beautiful wild area of sand dunes, marsh and beach. In the summer it holds the only Little Tern colony in Wales and the RSPB are appealing for voluntary wardens to help protect it. This will involve looking out for predators, especially crows, gulls and foxes, stopping holidaymakers and their dogs from walking through the colony and chatting to any interested passer by about the birds.

I've just volunteered so you might see me! The wardens will be required from end of May to beginning August.

If you're interested ring the RSPB at 0151 336 7681, mention this web site if you wish - I know they would be interested to know if this appeal is successful. 

Bird Counts

Inner Marsh Farm  
7th May: Mauritanian Spoonbill, Cuckoo 1, Common Tern 2, Black Tern 2, Gadwall 7, Little Gull 1, Black-tailed Godwit 60, Dunlin 22, Little Ringed Plover 2, Ruff 1, Curlew Sandpiper 1, Garganey 2, Ruddy Shelduck 1, Whimbrel 1, Ringed Plover 3. Several pair of Tufted duck and Shelduck also present.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 7th May.
Cormorant 2, Grey Heron 2, Shelduck 65, Mallard 5, Oystercatcher 680,Ringed Plover 3, Dunlin 20, Whimbrel 19, Curlew 150, Common Sandpiper 1.

May Bird News
Two rarities stand out this month, a Pectoral Sandpiper at Inner Marsh Farm and a Woodchat Shrike at Thurstaston, the latter being only the sixth ever record of this species in Cheshire/Wirral (unless my records aren't up to date!). Another rarity was a Turtle Dove but, unlike the previous two, this certainly wasn't a twitchable* bird being seen only by one person (albeit an experienced birder) flying fast over West Kirby.

 As well as the Pectoral Sandpiper at Inner Marsh Farm there have been various other passage waders including Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Little Ringed Plover and over 100 Black-tailed godwit. The Mauritanian Spoonbill and a Ruddy Shelduck seem to have taken up permanent residence there! A Little Egret, Little Gull and Mediterranean Gull complete the list for IMF this month.  

Hilbre Island had plenty of migrants passing through including 3 Garden Warbler, 3 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Tree Pipit and the usual Wheatear, Willow Warblers and Hirundines. A Serin was seen at nearby Red Rocks.

The Little Terns have returned to Gronant with about 40 nests and between 80 and 90 birds in total. Unfortunately the bad weather at the end of May will not help their breeding success. 

* For those who don't know what a 'Twitchable Bird' is. It is a rare bird that stays long enough in one place to be seen by a good number of Twitchers, that merry band of people who travel the length and breadth of the country in search of rare birds to tick off their list. 


Forthcoming Events
June Highest Spring Tides
3rd June, 12.38hrs 9.8m. (all times BST)
4th June, 13.26hrs 9.8m.

Young Ornithologists Club at Ness Gardens
See the listing of events for 2000. This group have a most interesting series of monthly outdoor and indoor meetings for the younger birdwatchers.

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See the year 2000 events

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2000

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):

3rd June. Dusk 'till Dawn. 8pm - 6 am.
Join the Rangers on this marathon nature watch! This nocturnal navigation will introduce you to a host of wildlife not usually seen during the day. Places are strictly limited on this tour of West Cheshire and Wirral. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

10th June. Dee Day. 10am - 4:30pm
Speakers, discussions and guided walk. Local history, natural environment and looking to the future. Includes talk by Colin Wells, the Dee Estuary RSPB warden. Organised jointly by the Wirral Green Alliance and the Wirral Ranger Service. Held at Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston. For further information ring 0151 666 2221or email: jim@cesul.org.uk

10th June. A Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies recommended. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

11th June. Hirundine Houses. 10:00am
Join us on a walk to witness the frenetic breeding activity of Martins, Swallows and Swifts. Later make a House Matin happy by creating a des-res to place under your eves. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

14th June. Parkgate Walk. 11am - 4pm
A leisurely circular walk to the lost port of Parkgate, through fields and marshes, looking at the local and natural history of the area. Booking essential, 0151 678 4200.

14th June. An Evening stroll on Heathland. 11am - 4pm
Join the Ranger and members of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust on an evening walk looking at the flora and fauna of Cleaver Heath and Heswall Dales. Meet at Cleaver Heath car park, Oldfield Road, Heswall. Booking essential, 0151 678 4200.

22nd June. Sunset Walk to Hilbre. Evening.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A walk of 4 miles in 4 hours. Bring warm clothing and a snack. Ring 0151 648 4371/3884 to book.

25th June. Ffynnongroyw and Garth Woods. 10:00am
A walk with the Deeside Urban Wildlife Group taking in the woodland and countryside of this part of North Flintshire. Meet at the car park before the stream at Garth Mill. For further details contact Huw Roberts on 01244 831021.

1st July. Food for free in the Dunes. 7pm - 9pm.
A leisurely walk through West Kirby sand dunes to Red Rocks looking at the amazing feast of wild plants on offer. Meet at Dee Lane Slipway, west Kirby. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371/3884.

6th July. Sunset Walk to Hilbre. Evening.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A walk of 4 miles in 4 hours. Bring warm clothing and a snack. Ring 0151 648 4371/3884 to book.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2000', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Please e-mail me if you want an electronic copy, hard copy available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.