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 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 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.
Marsh Farm Count for 16th May.
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
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.
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
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):
Sunday 2nd June 8:00am Bramble Ramble at the Old RAF Camp.
Saturday 15th June 8:30pm.
Wednesday 19th June 9:00pm Night Owl Watch.
Friday 21st June 7:30pm. 'Birds of the Dee Estuary' by Valerie McFarland.
Thurstaston Visitors Centre.
Sunday 23rd June 9:00am, Gander at Gronant
Little Tern Colony.
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.