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3rd June 2002
The DEVW Report 2001.
Gronant Tern Colony.

Latest Bird Counts.
May Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

Newsletter Index.


              Chris Butterworth

The Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens Bird Report  2001


Hilbre view
An evening view across the sand bank from Red Rocks to Hilbre (Jane Turner)

Chris Butterworth.

Welcome to the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens second annual report on the birds and other wildlife recorded between West Kirby and Red Rocks, at the north west corner of the Wirral peninsula.
The format for the report is basically the same as last year and covers all species reported from the wardening area throughout the year. One change from last year is that the status comments, to the right of the scientific name, in the bird section now reflect the species occurrence off West Kirby shore, and not Wirral as a whole.
A special effort was made to record both migration periods and, as a result, a far more concise picture of the bird life of the site is portrayed than in last years report, which should be seen as being more of an overview. There are gaps in the records, so I can only reiterate last years plea for any sightings whatsoever, of any groups, to be sent, or given, to the author in order that we may produce as comprehensive a report as possible. Complete daily records from the inception of the wardening scheme in 1986 to date are lodged with the Natural History department at Liverpool Museum and are available to any interested party.
Yet again grateful thanks must be given to all who participated, in various capacities, to ensure the continued recording and protection of the fantastic wildlife spectacle of thousands of birds and people coexisting, in most cases amicably, in a very small and heavily frequented urban area. All voluntary wardens have, as usual, excelled themselves in dealing with the public in their normal calm and informative way, despite the occasional stimulus for behaving otherwise from a very small minority of beach users

Systematic list              
Red-throated Diver to Shag.
Bittern to Brent Goose.
Shelduck to Common Scoter.
Velvet Scoter to Osprey.
Merlin to Grey Plover.
Lapwing to Bar-tailed Godwit.
Whimbrel to Great Skua.
Mediterranean Gull to Reed Bunting will be published in the July 2002 Newsletter.

If you would like  the complete printed report including detailed sections on butterflies, flora and other wildlife (which covers everything from Natterjacks to seaweeds!), quotes of the year, the Wardening Year and an article on  Brent Geese on the Dee,  please send cheque made out to the ‘Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens’ for £2.50 (includes p&p) to Chris Butterworth, 247 Greenbank Road, West Kirby, Merseyside, CH48.

 If you think you might like to join the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens, or just want more information then e-mail Richard Smith through this website or phone the coastal ranger on 0151 678 5488. There are several articles on this website about the wardens, click here to see them.

Please note that the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens' Annual General Meeting is on the 21st June 7.30pm at the Wirral Country Park Visitor Centre, Thurstaston. The meeting, lasting no more than 30 minutes, will be followed by a talk on 'the Birds of the Dee Estuary' given by Valerie McFarland. Valerie is an excellent speaker and has a collection of superb slides. The meeting and talk is open to the general public and is a good opportunity to get to know both the wardens and the vital job they do protecting the wader roost at West Kirby. Places are limited so non-wardens please either e-mail or phone Richard Smith on 0151 625 2320 to book your seat. The DEVW annual report 2001 will be available at the meeting for just £1.00, a never to be repeated offer!

All sketches in the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens Report 2001 were  drawn by Chris Butterworth. 




Voluntary Wardening at Gronant


Imagine 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 most obvious sight and sound, however, is the colony of 80 pair or so of Little Terns nesting on the shingle ridges between you and the sea. There is constant movement as birds go out fishing to bring back a continuous supply of sand eels for the waiting young.  Little Tern

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 Counts


Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 12th May. 
29 Cormorant, 7 Grey Heron, 66 Shelduck, 15 Mallard, 710  Oystercatcher, 46 Dunlin, 20 Whimbrel, 100 Curlew.

Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 16th May.
400+ Black-tailed Godwit, 13 Dunlin, 30 Knot, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Temminck's Stint, 2 Redshank, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Little Egret, 1 Garganey, 4 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 90 Tufted Duck, 5 Reed Bunting, 4 Whitethroat. 

Please note that the count from Inner Marsh Farm is an informal estimate of species and numbers present, either carried out by myself or other birdwatchers visiting the hide. It is not meant to be a complete count and is not in anyway part of the Wetland Bird Survey or other count which might be carried out by the RSPB.


May Bird News


The spring migration was still in full swing at the beginning of the month with the highlight being 20 Yellow Wagtail, 70 White Wagtail and 47 Wheatear all in the Shotwick/Shotton rifle Range area. 5 Grasshopper Warblers was an excellent record for Hoylake Langfields.  
The two Avocets which turned up at Inner Marsh Farm last month stayed until the 9th. May be they have gone on to the marshes at the head of the estuary to breed, hiding in one of the many creeks, or they could be immature birds and moved on. One of two pairs at Leighton Moss have had chicks again so may be we will be lucky next year.

We had an exciting four days at Inner Marsh Farm in the middle of the month with 2 Spoonbills, a Temminck's Stint,  Great White Egret, Hen Harrier and a Gull-billed Tern all turning up in a four day period. That's in addition to the early summer flock of 450 Black-tailed Godwits, probably the largest in the country.    Spoonbills

Strong south west/west winds towards the end of the month meant sea watching was very much a fruitful activity. There must have been several hundred Gannets in Liverpool Bay for several days as well as many Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes etc.

Nigel Blake

 The nearest large Gannetry is on the island of Grassholm in south Wales, well over one hundred miles away but as they are known to travel up to four hundred miles from their breeding sites (1) then it is not all that surprising to see them here. But many will be immature birds, Gannets don't breed until their fifth year. A bird which doesn't stray far from their breeding grounds is the Puffin so it is quite a rarity off the estuary and single birds seen on two separate days was a good record - the nearest colony is Anglesey fifty miles away. 

The Hilbre Bird Observatory have just brought out a Checklist of the Birds of Hilbre.

Sadly I have just heard of the death of Eric Hardy, aged 90. He has been a leading naturalist on Merseyside since before the Second World War. He started writing his weekly nature article for the Liverpool Daily Post in 1930 inspiring many generations of budding naturalists. He founded the Merseyside Naturalists' Association and wrote many publications including The Birds of the Liverpool Area (1941) and Bird-Watching on Cheshire (1988) - both books are truly in depth guides to both the birds and sites of these areas, making some modern guides looking very light weight!     

What to expect in June: Undoubtedly the quietest time of the year on the estuary but even now we can get surprising numbers of waders at times - failed breeders or immature birds. There are always plenty of immature Oystercatchers around which don't breed until their fourth year, but last summer an unprecedented 10,000 Knot frequented the mouth of the estuary during the summer months. These were in non-breeding plumage so must have been one year old birds.   

Like the end of May any west winds should give good views of Gannets, Manx Shearwaters and other sea birds. Both Common and Little Terns breed locally - one of the best places to see Common Terns is off Greenfield Dock at low tide where they concentrate to feed. A visit to Gronant to see the Little Terns is always rewarding - I love going to Gronant. Despite being only a few hundred metres from a huge caravan park the beach and dunes appear so wild and isolated, it always reminds me of some forgotten Hebridean Island.  

Many thanks go to John Kirkland, Harry Davies, Ian Mara, Iain Douglas, John Billingoton, Mark Smith, Jean 'the dog walker', Cathy McGrath, Stephen Williams, Alan Chapman,  Dorothy Jebb,  Mike Hart,  John Campbell, Steve Williams, Mark Feltham,  Chris Butterworth,  David Esther, Martyn Jaimeson  and Jane Turner for their sightings during May. All sightings are gratefully received.

1. Handbook of the Birds of the Western Paleartic, 1983.

Forthcoming Events


June Highest Spring Tides
24th June, 11.38hrs 9.1m. (all times BST)
25th June, 12.26hrs 9.1m. 

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.

Sunday 2nd June 8:00am Bramble Ramble at the Old RAF Camp.
(between West Kirby and Greasby)
Join the Rangers and Wirral Wildlife to explore this forgotten corner of Wirral in search of warblers such as Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Grasshopper Warbler and enjoy the fabulous wildflowers including several species of Orchid. To book tel. 0151 648 4371/3884.

Wednesday 5th June 10:00am - 12noon.
Bird Walk around the North Wirral Coastal Park.
Meet at Leasowe Lighthouse for a walk around the ponds, reedbeds, hay meadows and scrublands of Moreton Conservation Area. We hope to find Reed Warblers and Reed Buntings, Common Whitethroats and Linnets, but you never know what else might turn up! No need to book. For further details, tel. 0151 678 5488.

Saturday 8th June 1:30pm. 
Orchid Spectacular at Inner Marsh Farm RSPB Nature Reserve. 
Come and see the spectacular display of Marsh orchids at Inner Marsh Farm Reserve. 15,000 spikes were counted by reserve staff in 2001. Learn about how we manage the reserve, over afternoon tea. Booking essential. Tickets: £3.00 members and £4.00 non-members. To book and further details call RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 15th June 8:30pm.
National Moth Night at Burton Point Farm RSPB. 
Take part in national moth night and join the experts moth trapping at Burton Point Farm.
Booking essential. Tickets £2.00 members and £3.00 non-members (A donation from the event will be given towards butterfly and moth conservation). To book and for further details call RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Wednesday 19th June 9:00pm Night Owl Watch.
Come along and watch those birds of the night. Barn, Tawny and Little Owl can be seen in this locality. A joint walk with the Wirral Barn Owl Group around Thurstaston Common and Royden Park. The event will start with a short talk about the conservation of these beautiful birds, followed by a walk and hopefully sightings. Please wear suitable clothing. Sorry no dogs. Booking is essential tel. 0151 648 4371/3884.

Friday 21st June 7:30pm. 'Birds of the Dee Estuary' by Valerie McFarland. Thurstaston Visitors Centre.
The Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens' Annual General meeting this year includes a talk by Valerie McFarland who is an excellent speaker and has a superb collection of slides. Come along to get to know the wardens and the essential job they do. Non-wardens please book either by e-mail or phone Richard Smith on 0151 625 2320, places are limited. The DEVW annual report 2001 will be available at the meeting for £1.00, a never to be repeated offer!

Sunday 23rd June 9:00am, Gander at Gronant Little 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.
The RSPB Little Tern wardens will be on hand for you to get the most from your visit. No need to book. Meet at Presthaven Sands Caravan Park at the end of Shore Rd, Gronant (near Prestatyn). Further information from RSPB tel. 0151 336 7681.

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.