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June 2014 Newsletter

Little Terns at Gronant.
RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and IMF.
May Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.


             Little Terns at Gronant

                                        Little Terns at Gronant Steve Round

Remarkably, the number of Little Terns breeding at Gronant increased for the fifth year in a row to a new record high of 129 pairs in 2013. No doubt this increase has been fuelled by the seven out of eight very good breeding seasons they had between 2003 and 2010 when the annual average for the eight years was 101 pairs producing 137 fledged young. This correlation between breeding success and number of pairs two to four years down the line is interesting as terns are not supposed to be particularly site faithful but a look at the graph below does seem to indicate that young birds do return to breed here as well as the adults. Certainly, after three relatively poor breeding seasons we would expect a drop in the number of pairs this summer so we will see what happens with interest. 

Compared with all those good breeding seasons the last three years have certainly been challenging with a mixture of the weather and predators being the main culprits for the low productivity. It was unfortunate in 2013 that unusually high spring tides in mid-June coincided with strong west winds and many nests were flooded out. In addition, it was thought that many chicks wandered out of the electrified pens at night and were taken by ground predators. Under the circumstances a minimum of 65 fledged young wasn't a bad total. Big year to year differences is the norm for Little Tern colonies, of course, so there is nothing too worrying about the recent dip in productivity - but a good vole year (so predators will eat voles and not terns!) with several weeks of light winds would certainly be very welcome this summer.

Recent Developments

The following two paragraphs are from Adrian Hibbert - Countryside Warden (North Denbighshire):

"The new successful LIFE+ partnership project between the RSPB, DCC and 7 other associated beneficiaries is an exciting prospect for the next 5 years that begun in September 2013. Over the period it should help improve our knowledge of little terns, their habitat and needs. One of the most important elements will be to educate and increase public awareness of the colony so to be able to sustain the little tern protection for future years and increase their value in terms of competing for space at new colonies. There is also an aim to increase joint working between conservation bodies and businesses to improve their protection."

"The flooding in the winter of 2013/14 has dramatically altered the shingle ridge and even the area of dune behind. The suitable nesting habitat for little tern is much narrower but the area behind where the new spit has been forming over the last three years is in good shape. The hope for 2014 is that the change has been positive; however the size of shingle at the traditional western area of the colony does not seem suitable being so large. This may restrict the colony to a perceived smaller area but on the other hand it could be beneficial in terms of tidal loss being reduced."

Wardening - Please Help!

Since 1975 this colony has been wardended, first by the RSPB and, since 2005, by Denbighshire Countryside Services.  There is no doubt that without this wardening, much of it voluntary, this colony would have disappeared long ago. So please help if you can. Please ring Denbighshire Countryside Services on 01745 356197, or just turn up at Gronant and introduce yourself.

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.


Extract from Little Tern Report Gronant 2013:

"Birdwatchers and photographers assumed it was acceptable to stand right on the perimeter boundary on the seaward side of the pens. Why you would need to do so with a big telescope is difficult to understand? However one can understand their assumption that this is acceptable, but the perimeter fence on the beach is really far too close to the colony. It is difficult to manage this as tides would take away the perimeter posts if they were further out. To ensure minimal disturbance of the colony the entire beach should be closed off in front of the pens, however it is unlikely that this would acceptable to local authorities. Any people observed standing in front of the colony for more than 15 minutes were politely asked to move on. Most were fine with this once it was explained that they were disrupting the colony. Some weren’t!"

Sources of Information:
1. Dr Adam Britt, Ben Leece and Amber Jenkins, Little Tern Report Gronant 2013, Denbighshire County Council Countryside Services.
2. Graph showing Breeding Success of Gronant Little Tern Colony was originally supplied by RSPB and subsequently updated with data from Denbighshire County Council Countryside Services.
3. Adrian Hibbert - Countryside Warden (North Denbighshire)

Richard Smith (Gronant Voluntary Warden).

                                  Newly fledged Little Tern at Gronant Jim Armstrong
            After a long season of wardening it's always great to see these on the beach - Job done!
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RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and Inner Marsh Farm

           The new boardwalk snakes it's way towards the Inner Marsh Farm Hide Richard Smith.

In recent weeks there have been some exciting developments at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands (BMW) including the opening of the long-awaited trail linking the BMW reception hide area with the Inner Marsh Farm (IMF) hide. This means that the old IMF car park is now closed and the hide and adjacent trails are open at the same times as the rest of BMW, car parking for all the hides is at the BMW Reception Hide (accessed from Puddington Lane, Burton).

The Reed and Fen Trail, as it is called, is a very pleasant walk. If you don't stop to look at the birds and wild flowers, which I'm sure you will, it takes about 20 minutes to get to IMF. One place to stop is at a new screen which overlooks a pool that was previously largely hidden and it will be a great place to see a good selection of waders and wildfowl.

Once you get to the old IMF area you can now take the Hillfort trail* over the railway, giving fabulous views over Burton Marsh. It should be an excellent spot to see Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owls and Pink-footed Geese in the winter.

                                   The Reed Bed Screen Richard Smith.

On the way from the Reception hide and before you get on to the new trail you will see the new Reed Bed Screen (above) giving good views over a new scrape and the extensive reed bed area.

For a map of all the trails at BMW and IMF download Trail Map. For more details about RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands Click Here.

* As I write this in early June the Hill Fort Trail is only accessible if you are a part of a Guided Walk. However, I'm told by the RSPB that the trail will be fully open within a few weeks.

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May Bird News

                              Eiders flying past Red Rocks, May 14th Derek Williams.

These eiders (above) came unusually close in to Red Rocks, a great view. Five Velvet Scoters off Hilbre on the 17th was probably the highlight so far as sea watching was concerned but 8,500 Common Scoters on the same date was a fantastic count for mid-May, as was 1,500 Scoters at the end of the month when three Arctic skuas were also recorded. A Black Guillemot was another good Hilbre record, with one seen on the 27th. 200 Gannets were counted on a couple of days, always good to see.

                    Grasshopper Warbler at Leasowe Lighthouse, May 5th  Steve Oakes
Migrants continued to come through for most of the month with the undoubted bird of the month a Citrine Wagtail at Red Rocks on the 5th, a first for Cheshire and Wirral. The first Swift was over Hilbre on the very late date of May 3rd and the first Spotted Flycatchers were at Leasowe Lighthouse on the 15th with 10 there by the  20th. A Wood Warbler was caught and ringed on Hilbre on the 20th. A pair of Garganey's were at Burton Mere Wetlands where a Red Kite flew over on the 18th which was also seen over Frankby on the same day. Incidentally, the escaped falconer's Red-tailed Hawk is still around the West Kirby area - and still being mis-identified as a Buzzard/Red Kite/Osprey.........

Red Rocks Update

I've not written an article this month as very little has happened, and certainly no consultation has taken place yet. See April and May Newsletters for previous articles. We may yet want help at Red Rocks if work re-starts in late summer trying to persuade Cheshire Wildlife Trust that they should be increasing bio-diversity at Red Rocks - not wantonly destroying it!

Underground Coal Gasification and Fracking

An election leaflet on the above, which was pushed through my door recently, made me angry. Better not say too much other than please see my Article on UCG which, I believe, gives a more informed view on the subject.
Fracking in our area is also very unlikely, but you may be interested in a Report recently written and co-authored by the RSPB, National Trust, WWT, Wildlife Trusts and others called 'Are we fit to frack?'. There are undoubtedly some genuine environmental concerns with fracking which are discussed in this report in an informed and non-hysterical manner (!):
 see and Fit to Frack.
Many thanks go to Derek Williams, Matt Thomas, Richard Beckett, Derek Bates, Chris Butterworth, Steve Hinde, Roy Lowry, Jane Turner, George Knight, Dave Edwards, Mark Gibson, Ian Fleming, David Leeming, Dan Trotman, Les Hall, Allan Conlin, David Haigh, Alan Irving, Jeremy Bradshaw, Nick Bullen, Alan Hitchmough, Chris Wilding, Steve Williams, Ray Eades, Mal Sergeant, Bruce Atherton, Chris Butterworth, Dave Wild, Jeff Cohen, Colin Schofield, David Small, Steve Hand, Steve Oakes, Charles Farnell, Mike Hart, Jon Greep, Paul Brady, Charles Russell, Simon Custance, David Huntingford, Colin Jones, Henry Cook, the Lighthouse and Wirral Birding Blog, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during May. All sightings are gratefully received. 

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What to expect in June

A visit to Gronant is a must in June with so much activity going on in the Little Tern colony. You will also see nesting Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers as well as plenty of passerines such as Skylarks, Meadow Pipits etc. Seawatching can be surprisingly good off Gronant and the other sites looking out over Liverpool Bay, Gannets are ever present and given a good westerly wind we can get Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and skuas. Large numbers of Common Terns from the Seaforth colony often feed along the north Wirral coast as far as Hilbre, making for a spectacular sight.

Although numbers of waders are much lower than in the winter there are still some around and we sometimes get one of the largest over-summering flocks of Black-tailed Godwits in the country with up to 1,000. These are usually at Burton Mere Wetlands but last year they took to feeding off Caldy and West Kirby on the estuary. Small flocks of immature Knot can also be seen and these are often around Hilbre. But the waders we most look out for are those returning from breeding with Green Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks usually the first to be seen, the latter looking glorious in their black breeding plumage. By the end of the month gull numbers will start to build up, these will be mostly Black-headed Gulls but we nearly always get a few Mediterranean Gulls in with them - Heswall, West Kirby and Hoylake are the best places to see these.

                             Reed Bunting at Burton Mere Wetlands, May 4th Ian Fleming

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Forthcoming Events

June Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.

14th June, 12.41hrs (BST), 9.4m.
15th June, 13.29hrs (BST), 9.4m.

Forthcoming Events

Organised by the Wirral Ranger Service , Flintshire Countryside Service and the RSPB (Dee Estuary):
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 2014 Events Diary.

Saturday 28th June, Sunset and Wildlife on Hilbre.
Price: 3 suggested donation per person
Booking essential
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 on the day.
The island has two compost toilets, but no other amenities. There is ample free parking in West Kirby; the walk to the island is almost 2 miles in each direction, across wet sand and mud.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371

Saturday 12th July, Sunset and Wildlife on Hilbre.
Price: 3 suggested donation per person
Booking essential
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 on the day.
The island has two compost toilets, but no other amenities. There is ample free parking in West Kirby; the walk to the island is almost 2 miles in each direction, across wet sand and mud.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371.

Saturday 26th July     
The Big Sea Watch:
Join the Coastal Rangers, staff from the RSPB and Hilbre Bird Observatory for a day on Hilbre looking for seabirds, wading birds and cetaceans that inhabit our wonderful coast.  We will be staying on Hilbre during high tide giving us the best chance to see them.
Places are limited with a suggested donation of 5:00 for this event. 
For more information and to book your place please ring Wirral Country Park on (0151) 648 4371