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1st June 2001
Hoylake Bird Observatory.

Appeal For Wardens at Gronant.
Latest Bird Counts.
May Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

Hoylake Bird Observatory! 

      Jane Turner
 

    About five years ago, as part of a one-to-one coaching program lavished on me by my employers, I set myself a number of work and life goals. One of these was to live in a house with a garden where I could see a Siberia Phylloscopus Warbler. This of course was a thinly disguised plan to move so the appearance of a Pallas's Warbler in the garden of our old house was something of a mixed blessing!

Fortunately, the imminent arrival of our third daughter in May (2000) gave us just the incentive we needed! We were prepared to live almost anywhere, as long as there were enough bedrooms, a 180 sea view and a garden with Siberia Phylloscopus potential. Forunately for us, one of about eight candidates came onto the market, between King's Gap and Hoylake lifeboat station. From the lounge it was possible to see Hilbre, Point of Ayr and Formby Point. The gardens were huge - both more than 100ft long and it had enough bedrooms. We moved in on May 12th (2000), just four days before Heather was born. We though it might be quite good for birds; Snow Bunting and Siskin overhead while we were viewing was obviously a good sign, but it was only after living there a few weeks that it became clear just what we were in for. Our first morning produced two cuckoos and a Spotted Flycatcher, the second a Sedge Warbler, a Whitethroat and a good selection of overhead birds including Tree Pipits, Redpolls, a Whimbrel and a Peregrine. Yes, as hoped, the North Shore flight line really did go clean through the front garden. The only catch was that we had no bushes or shrubs to slow things down.

Within days of moving in Mark and I had taken to wearing bins in the house to avoid cartoon style collisions when trying to find optics in a hurry. We now have old pairs of bins ready to hand at the less frequently watched windows. We also found that seawatching is much less demanding when you when you can do it from an armchair with a beer in one hand. Though some distance from the low tide mark, the height of the bedroom window and comfort factor more than compensate. We soon smashed a number of the Red Rocks record counts, most memorably a stunning passage of Manxies on June 23rd (2000), peaking at 1000 per hour and 1280 Guillemots on Oct 23rd.

We spent the three days of summer putting in a large pond and stream into the back garden, with hopes of attracting more migrants and started to plant a small forest in both the front and back in an attempt to hold them longer in the future. We also started to plan an extension to the house, with purpose built seawatching facilities and a view over the extensive cover in next door's garden. Heavy seeding of the front drive quickly atracted an excellent flock of around 50 House Sparrows and similar numbers of mixed finches.

By October it was starting to feel like we were living in a Bird Observatory. We were seeing unusual or interesting birds every day. We were recording significant counts of many species and even hosted a small scale "twitch" two weekends running. We had seen four species of skua, three species of diver and 15 species of duck.

Five species of chat graced the front lawn, including six Greenland Wheatears on one evening and we had seen nine species of warbler. The patch of beach directly in front of the house had produced Richard's Pipit, up to 35 Curlew Sandpipers, 15 Little Stints and two different adult White-rumped Sandpipers. One of these was found from the front room while watching England v West Indies and the other from the bedroom, while checking out a Roseate Tern off the north end of Hilbre. All this in one of the least inspiring autumns I can recall.

At the start of the year I set myself the testing target of seeing 150 species at Red Rocks. As I write this the new house list stands at 148 and we have yet to see Rook or Stock Dove! Five months after moving in, I'm now sure we could see almost anything and I can't help wondering what has moved unseen through the North Wirral gardens in the past. Arctic Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher on the same day in Meols, our own Pallas's Warbler in Hoylake and a Nighthawk in Moreton give a hint at what there has already been. Hopefully we will be able to add to this list in the near future - I can't wait for some SE winds in May.

So what are the downsides? Well, for one we have only been to Red Rocks about five times this autumn - it's so much easier to stand in the garden. Also we have been singularly incapable of doing anything to the inside of the house - once again it is just too easy to look out of the window or better still stand outside. However this is a small price to pay for the privilege of regularly seeing Peregrine and huge Knot packs from our bed. I would certainly advise anyone who had fantasised about living in a location where birding was possible to just do it!

Editor: As regular readers probably already realise it is Jane who gives me most of the sightings from Hoylake shore which go in my Latest Sightings page, gratefully received!  The 'Hoylake Bird Observatory' total for the 12 months since moving house was a remarkable 156 species - remember this is just birds seen in and from her garden. Jane is currently writing a report on the year which will be published on this web site. This article was first published in the January 2001 Bird News published by CAWOS, reproduced with kind permission of Jane Turner.

 

Appeal for Voluntary Wardens at Gronant

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Gronant can be an idyllic spot in the summer. I remember my first stint as voluntary warden last June, arriving early on a lovely sunny morning - two Grasshopper Warblers were singing in the marsh whilst a male Stonechat saw me off its territory, as I approached the warden's hut I suddenly became aware of the Little Tern colony, a hundred or so were in the air screeching away before they left to go fishing in the nearby sea - an amazing sight. 

Out to sea a constant stream of Common Scoter were passing westwards, non-breeding birds on their way to their favourite haunt further up the North Wales coast. Later on in the summer I had the privilege of watching the newly fledged Little Tern chicks make their first flight knowing I had helped in their survival, a most pleasing sight.


The RSPB are appealing for voluntary wardens to help protect this colony. The wardening involves keeping predators (mainly crows and foxes) away from the nests, stopping holiday makers from walking through the colony and talking to anybody interested about the terns. As little as half a day a month would be a great help. The wardens are required from late May to early August, if you're interested ring the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

 

Bird Counts

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Still no WeBS counts or count from Inner Marsh Farm this month due to Foot and Mouth restrictions, hopefully this may change in a few weeks. So again a count from Hilbre Island thanks to John Gittins of the Hilbre Bird Observatory. 

Count from Hilbre, courtesy of the Hilbre Bird Observatory.

2nd May.
1 Lesser Whitethroat, 7 Willow Warbler, 12 Greenland Wheatear, 9 Goldfinch, 5 Siskin, 50 Ringed Plover, 6000 Dunlin, 40 Turnstone, 29 Whimbrel, 2 Roseate Tern, 1 Puffin, 1 Long-tailed duck, 70 Common Tern, 60 Sandwich Tern, 8 Arctic Tern and 16 Little Tern.

Note that gulls and some of the more commoner birds haven't been included.  

 
May Bird News

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Dawn Chorus Day on the 6th turned out to be a nice sunny morning, if rather cold, with a reasonable turn out and a good variety of birds - including 'my own' Wood Warbler.
Plenty of migrants have passed through the area including Whinchat seen at Talacre, Hilbre, Hoylake and Red Rocks. Both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat have been seen or heard in good numbers throughout the region. A Wood Warbler stayed in Stapledon Wood for a few days and one was also seen in Greenfield Valley. 2 Turtle Doves at Red Rocks were more unusual visitors where there was also a Garden Warbler.  

A Red Kite over West Kirby was the pick of the raptors, although a probable Barbary Falcon at Hoylake was the most unusual, almost certainly an escape. Hobbys put in an appearance at Greenfield and Leasowe. Marsh Harriers were seen over Shotwick Fields and Hilbre, and  Ospreys at the Point of Ayr and north Wirral.

The first of May saw the largest wader flock of the month flying past Hilbre on their way north, 10,000 Knot and 2,500 Dunlin. Small parties of Dunlin and ringed Plover were seen throughout the month. Ringed Plover are breeding both at Gronant and the old Point of Ayr colliery site. Whimbrel have been passing through all month with the largest count being 29 on the 2nd at Hilbre.  

The Little Terns are back at Gronant with nesting starting a day earlier
than last year, and the large colony of several hundred Common Terns are back at Shotton. Plenty of terns have been seen on passage, maximum daily numbers being 100 Sandwich Tern, 300 Common Tern, 2 Roseate Tern, 1 Black Tern and 8 Arctic Tern. 

The Greenfield Valley bird survey continues, the total is now 74 birds. Click here for a complete list.

What to expect in June: This is the quietest month on the estuary, but that isn't to say it is empty - at the beginning of the month we might still get late passage waders on their way north, especially Sanderling. As early as late June we get some birds returning after breeding - especially those that have tried and failed. But also many none breeding waders stay on the estuary for the whole summer. Oystercatchers, for example, don't breed until their fourth or fifth year and we get as many as 3,000 in June.

Most activity, however is out to sea where good numbers of Common Scoter, Gannets, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Kittiwake may be seen. 

Many thanks go to  Phil Oddy, David Ester,  John Gittins, John  Kirkland, Bill Owens,  Chris Butterworth,  Jane Turner,  Phil Lovell, Mark Smith, Colin Jones, David Small,  Peter Williams, June Hargreaves, James Twemlow, Paul Vautrinot and Brian Roberts for their sightings during May. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!

   

Forthcoming Events

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Note that some events may be cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. See latest news - click here.

June Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
23rd June, 13.27hrs 9.4m. (all times BST)
See Tides page for full tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate may be covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

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 events for  2001.

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 2001

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.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown on the high tide birdwatch page. Always check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

Saturday 2nd June. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 7th June. Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A 4 mile walk of 3 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 10th June. All About Trees. 2pm - 4pm.
Take a stroll with ranger Gareth Peters, around Greenfield Valley, and learn a little more about the kinds of trees that we have and the folklore surrounding them. Meet outside the Environment Centre, Greenfield Valley, ring 01352 719177 for info.

Wednesday 20th June. Heathland Guided Walk. 7pm - 9pm.
Join the Rangers and members of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust for a circular walk over Caldy Hill to look at the work recently undertaken to improve this habitat which is home to some rare flora and fauna. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Thursday 21st June. Mid-summer Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A 4 mile walk of 3 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Friday 29th June. Birds, Beasts, Bats and bugs. 7:30pm - 6:00am.
Join us on this minibus mystery tour in search of nocturnal wildlife. Target species include Barn Owl, Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Grasshopper Warbler. Various bat species and other nocturnal mammals. Cost 6.00 per person. To book your place ring Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 30th June. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 1st July. Gander at Gronant Tern Colony.
Visit the last remaining Little Tern colony in Wales as it reaches a peak of activity with adults busily feeding their hungry youngsters. Meet at Presthaven Sands Caravan Site at the end of Shore Road, Gronant. For info. ring the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Thursday 5th July. Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A 4 mile walk of 3 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 8th July. Talacre - Back in time. 1pm - 3pm.
Join local expert, Bob Coran and ranger, Gareth Peters, on a time trek through the dunes of Talacre. Booking essential. Meet end of Station road, Talacre. Ring 01244 814931.

Saturday 14th July. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', 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 as a 1.8mb zipped file.