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June 2013 Newsletter

Gronant Little Tern Colony.
May Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.


Gronant Little Tern Colony

                                      Little Terns over Gronant  Steve Round.

There was a yet another increase in breeding pairs of Little Terns at Gronant in 2012, to a record 125. However, due to a combination of bad weather, higher than expected tides and predation by kestrels and foxes these produced only 47 fledglings*, a much lower number than hoped for.  

Disappointing though this total is it is not anything to be too concerned about as all Little Tern colonies have good years and bad years and Gronant is no exception as can be seen in the graph below.

In terms of the long-term health of the colony the most important line on the graph is the number of pairs and that has been growing ever since the colony was first wardened in 1975, a very pleasing statistic. 

As I write this the 2013 breeding season is just starting and after two relatively poor years we hope we are due a good one, a season like 2010 would do nicely! One aspect which is crucial to the success of the colony is the presence of wardens. A shortage of wardens last year resulted in the colony being unmanned for 72 daylight hours in June and this no doubt contributed to the high predation levels. 

So PLEASE - if you can spare a few hours as a Voluntary Warden you will be helping to continue the success of this Little Tern colony, the only one in Wales. It is also a great place to do some bird watching - see my Gronant Site Guide for more details. Also Click Here, this link includes some details of what is expected of the Wardens.

If you are interested in becoming a Voluntary Warden please ring 07920593506. You are free to just turn up and have a chat about what is involved before committing to anything. The season runs from late May to the end of July/early August.

The graph below is an interesting comparison of the Gronant colony with colonies elsewhere in the country in 2012. Being relatively sheltered from the bad weather East Anglia had a good breeding season with the largest colony in the country, Winterton Dunes, also being the most productive. Elsewhere things were not so good with the Cleveland colonies, for example, producing no fledglings in comparison with a good 2011 there.   

* The fledgling total of 47 is an estimated maximum count. For various reasons it was not possible to perform an accurate count of all the fledglings in 2012 and the actual number may well have been lower than 47.

Sources of Information:
1. Andrew Farrell and Wendy Williams, Little Tern Report Gronant 2012, Denbighshire County Council Countryside Services.
2. Table showing 2012 Breeding Success of selected Little Tern Colonies received from DCC Countryside Services with thanks.

Richard Smith (Gronant Voluntary Warden).

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May Bird News

                       Grasshopper Warbler at Leasowe Lighthouse, May 1st   Richard Steel.
Like last month's superb photo of a Grasshopper Warbler by Jeremy Bradshaw, this equally superb photo above was taken by patiently waiting for the bird to appear from a sensible distance away. NOT by harassing the birds by crashing through the undergrowth, NOT by getting far too close and NOT by playing a Grasshopper Warbler song full blast from an IPod whilst four people surround the bramble bush the obviously frightened bird is hiding in!!!! Unfortunately, stupid behaviour carried out by a few idiots this spring around Leasowe Lighthouse.

With some strong west winds sea watching was excellent. There were at least 750 Manx Shearwaters and 500 Gannets (both on the 11th), three Great Skuas (13th) and eight Arctic Skuas (22nd), as well as numerous Kittiwakes and both Common and Sandwich Terns.

                               Cuckoo at Burton Mere Wetlands, May 5th Jeff Cohen.

Everyone knows about the big decline in Cuckoos across the country but the graph below suggests there may have been a bit of a recovery locally over the past few years which is good news. There were 15 records this year, well up from a low of just four in 2006.

After seeing mainly just grey birds through the winter it is always a thrill to see waders in their splendid breeding plumage. Godwits look particularly spectacular and there were 540 'blackwits' at Gilroy Nature Park early in the month and 200 'barwits' off Wallasey on the 19th, but 200 silver and black Grey Plovers at Hoylake on the 11th were the best of all.

Rarities included a heard only Bee-eater at Red Rocks on the 20th. This might seem an unlikely record but they do turn up from time to time, there have been six previous records in Cheshire and Wirral in the past 30 years, including singles at Hilbre, Hoylake and Red Rocks. Both a Temminck's Stint and a Pectoral Sandpiper were at Burton Mere Wetlands on the 24th. Other scarce waders included four records of single Curlew Sandpipers, a good number for May, and three Little Stints on Hoylake Shore. A good passage of Redpolls included five Mealys at Leasowe on the 25th.
Richard Smith.
Many thanks go to Greg Harker, David O'Farrell, David Haigh, Malcolm Segeant, Paul Mason, Steve Hasell, Mark Turner, David Harrington, Jeremy Bradshaw, Mike Buckley, Alan Hitchmough, Kenny Dummigan, John Jakeman, James Smith, Steve Williams, Ray Eades, Jeff Stephens, Bruce Atherton, Chris Butterworth, Jane Turner, Andy Thomas, Dave Wild, Matt Thomas, Jeff Cohen, Colin Schofield, Paul Vautrinot, Dan Trotman, Gail Wilson, Richard Steel, David Small, Karen Leeming, Rob Bithell, David Leeming, Les Hall, Damian Waters, Steve Hand, Ken Mullins, Richard Beckett, Malcolm Guy, Dave Edwards, Peter Button, Graham Connolly, Mike Coupe, Mark Gibson, Mark Williamson, Dunan Halpin, Mark Palin the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during May. All sightings are gratefully received.

What to expect in June

June is often regarded as the quietest month of the year but looking back over the past few years shows there are always plenty of birds to see. For starters the list of rarities includes Blyth's Reed Warbler, Paddyfield Warbler, Little Swift and Pectoral Sandpiper. We also are likely to get a passing Red Kite or two and at Least one Great White Egret.

For some waders the breeding season will already be over and expect the return of both Spotted Redshanks and Green Sandpipers with Burton Mere Wetlands and the Connah's Quay Reserve the best spots to see these.

Seawatching can be excellent, if we get some strong westerlies expect lots of Gannets and Manx Shearwaters and maybe some Storm Petrels. There will be plenty of terns out in Liverpool Bay, no doubt being harrased by two or three Arctic Skuas.

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Forthcoming Events

June Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.
24th June, 12.278hrs (BST), 9.5m.
25th June, 13.18hrs (BST), 9.6m.
26th June, 14.07hrs (BST), 9.5m.

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.
Also see 2013 Events Diary.

Saturday 1st June  10:00am – 2:00pm
Summer on Hilbre:
Join the Coastal Rangers, RSPB and Wirral Wildlife on this low tide walk to
Hilbre Island. We will see the flowers and plants that flourish on this
tidal island, learn about the birdlife and the island's history.  Suitable
clothing, footwear and sunblock are recommended for this walk.  Bring a
snack and something to drink along with binoculars if you have them. Places
are limited and a suggested donation of 3 will be gratefully received on
the day for this event.
Booking is essential (0151) 648 4371.

Sunday 2nd June, 10:00am - 12:00pm, Summer Birds at Royden Park and Thurstaston Common.
Listen and see the variety of birds that visit here from Africa as well as our resident species on this bird walk.
Sorry no dogs.
Please wear warm and waterproof clothing.
Meet at the Coach House/Court Yard at Royden Park.
The Tea Servery here is open for refreshments.
For more info ring: (0151) 648 4371.

Saturday 8th June   6:30pm – 9:30pm
Sunset and Wildlife:
Join the Coastal Rangers and RSPB for an evening walk across the sands to Hilbre Island to discover its wildlife and history.   Warm waterproof clothing, stout footwear or wellingtons are recommended.  Bring binoculars if you have them.
Places are limited and a suggested donation of 3:00 will be gratefully received for this event.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371.

Friday 14th June, 9:00pm - 11:00pm, Bat and Owl Night at Royden Park.
Join the Ranger on this evening stroll and discover where bats and owls live and hunt.
Meet at the Court Yard/Coach House at Royden Park.
Wind/waterproof clothing and stout footwear are essential.
Sorry no dogs.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371.

Thursday 20th June - Wild Shots, Digital Wildlife Photography on Hilbre Island.
Also on 20th July and 19th August - see details at bottom of page.

Saturday 6th July      6:30pm – 9:30pm
Sunset and Wildlife:
Join the Coastal Rangers and RSPB for an evening walk across the sands to Hilbre Island to discover its wildlife and history.   Warm waterproof clothing, stout footwear or wellingtons are recommended.  Bring binoculars if you have them.
Places are limited and a suggested donation of 3:00 will be gratefully received for this event.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371.

Saturday 13th July 10:00am start, Marine Wildlife Workshop.
Interested in marine wildlife? 
This event is for you!
Come along to Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston where the Sea Watch Foundation will be teaching you cetacean identification skills in readiness for the annual Whale and Dolphin Watch 2013.  The RSPB will give a talk about seabird conservation in the marine environments and Cheshire Wildlife Trust will talk about marine wildlife conservation.
The workshop will be followed by a beach walk/scavenger hunt in the afternoon.
No need to book.
For further information telephone Wirral Country Park on (0151) 648 4371.