1st July 2006

Mersey Ferry Bird Cruises.
June Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.



Mersey Ferry Bird Cruises

A lovely sunny birdwatching trip out in to Liverpool Bay, © Richard Smith

Liverbird Wildlife Discovery Cruises.

The RSPB, National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and Mersey Ferries have teamed up again to provide birdwatching cruises in to Liverpool Bay. There will be three cruises this year, on August 7th, August 21st and September 15th, each one lasting about three hours. To book use the Mersey Ferries website - http://www.merseyferries.co.uk/special/index.aspx or contact Mersey Ferries directly.

I really enjoy these trips and went on all three last year. The stars of the show are undoubtedly the Arctic Skuas, we usually get several with great views of them chasing the many terns and gulls. Last year we also had a Great Skua and the year before a Long-tailed Skua. Other regular birds include Peregrines, Guillemots, Mediterranean Gulls, Kittiwakes, Sandwich and Common Terns, Little Gulls, Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot on the beach at Crosby/Formby, and Black-tailed Godwits at New Ferry if we get that far on the way back. On one trip last year we even had an Osprey overhead heading south, a great thrill.

Steve Round ©, Manx shearwater off north Wirral

However, don't get the impression that this is a pelagic trip with a procession of Fea's Petrels and Sooty Shearwaters! It is most certainly not, and I don't recall ever seeing any petrels or shearwaters at all on these cruises, the weather has never been right. But one of these days we will strike it lucky, what we need is for a strong west wind to blow for a day or two before the trip and in these conditions there is no reason why we can't expect to see Manx Shearwaters, Storm Petrels, Leach's Petrels and even a Sabine's Gull along with the commoner Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Guillemots. That would be something!     

Richard Smith

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June Bird News
Three days of strong west winds in the third week of June made for some excellent sea-watching the highlight of which was 30 Storm Petrels in the mouth of the Mersey off New Brighton, also plenty of Manx Shearwaters, Fulmars and Gannets out in Liverpool Bay. In very different conditions I saw four Arctic Skuas off Gronant flying over a flat calm sea - not a bad number for early June.

Our tern colonies are doing well. The Common Terns at Shotton have yet again a record number of pairs - 722, the previous record set a couple of years ago was 656. The max count of Little Terns at Gronant this month was 250, and so far at least 80 pairs have laid eggs with the first chicks now hatching. Unfortunately a Kestrel has been causing some problems and took seven adult birds, unusual behaviour when normally we would expect to lose only one or two adults to predation in a whole breeding season. We fear that it will now start taking chicks and the wardens need all the help they can get chasing it off. If you would like to help please see contact details in the May newsletter. But it is not all doom  and gloom as, despite the Kestrel, we still expect a good number of chicks to have fledged by the end of the season. My estimate would be a min. of 50 and max. of 100, hopefully it will be at the higher end! Over one hundred Sandwich Terns have been roosting at high tide at Gronant throughout the month, presumably these are non-breeding birds.

Steve Round ©, Black-tailed Godwits flying over the RSPB Inner Marsh Reserve, June 2006.

Inner Marsh Farm has been full of waders all month with up to 230 Black-tailed Godwit and 560 Knot over-summering. The three Avocet chicks have fledged without any problems, they flew off and disappeared for a couple of days towards the end of the month but returned on the 30th.Six Little Stints were unexpected visitors on the 11th, these will be late migrants still on their way north although normally they would be migrating much further east. Six Spotted Redshank looked splendid in their summer plumage. Curlew had built up to 1,000 birds by the end of the month at Heswall and rarer waders included a Wood Sandpiper over West Kirby on 14th and a Green Sandpiper at Point of Ayr on 27th.

Steve Round ©, Little Stints, Inner Marsh Farm, 11th June 2006.

Little Egrets are breeding again at a location next to the Estuary and there are quite a few non-breeding birds about including 15 on Burton Marsh and nine at Heswall. A Red Kite has been hanging around, it was seen over the West Kirby/Thurstaston area on the 9th and 14th. One of the more common birds on the estuary this time of year is, surprisingly, the Carrion Crow - up to 187 were on Thurstaston Shore all month feeding on crustaceans and whatever else they can find.

What to expect in July

Many birders think the summer months are 'dead' as far as birds are concerned with nothing to see until the September gales. Personally, July is one of my favourite months with the estuary filling up with post breeding terns and gulls, waders pouring in to the estuary, including the passage of rarer birds, and, given a fresh west wind, some excellent sea watching. 

By mid-month the raucous cries of Sandwich Terns will be everywhere in the mouth of the estuary and they even get down as far as Heswall and Flint. The sand banks around Hilbre Island at low tide are particularly attractive to them and you can get good views of the adults feeding the many juvenile birds. Hundreds can also be seen at their high tide roosts at Gronant, Point of Ayr, West Kirby and Hoylake. These same sites attract large roosts of gulls, mainly Black-headed but look out for the one or two Mediterranean gulls which are usually amongst them. Then there is always the possibility of a rare tern passing through - possibly a Black or Roseate, a couple of years ago we had a White-winged Black Tern. If we get a still humid day look out for hundreds of gulls overhead after flying ants, a spectacular sight.

There will be a very noticeable increase of Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher throughout the estuary as they return from breeding. A few hundred Dunlin and Sanderling will be on southward migration, Sanderlings often catching the unwary birdwatcher off guard at this time of year as they look so different in their summer plumage - although they still look like clockwork toys racing along the tide line! July is also good for rarer passage waders with Green Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Whimbrel all coming through. Raptors start to drift south by the end of the month with one or two Ospreys and Marsh Harriers to be seen. 

Open Golf Championship at Hoylake.
Those wishing to visit West Kirby and Hoylake by car had better avoid the area for the week beginning 17th July as there is likely to be very bad traffic congestion and no parking because of the 'Open'. However, there are park and ride facilities which you can use and there will be a frequent train service from Birkenhead and Liverpool, see http://www.opengolf.com/ticketTravel/travel.sps.

Many thanks go to David Small, John, Kirkland, Phil Woolen, Gilbert Bolton, David Haigh, Dave Harrington, Damian Waters, Steve Round, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Colin Wells, Steve Ainsworth, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Dave and Emma Kenyon, Jane Turner, Graeme Low, Gordon Baker, Colin Jones, Charles Farnell, Steve Downing and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during June.  All sightings are gratefully received.

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Forthcoming Events
July Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
13th July, 13.49hrs 9.1m. BST.
14th July, 14.35hrs 9.1m. BST.

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 July, 10am - 12.30pm, Heswall Heath Hike.
Enjoy the beauty of this heathland habitat on this enchanting walk over Heswall Dales and Cleaver Heath Local Nature Reserves with the Rangers and Members of Wirral Wildlife. This even is suitable for all the family to enjoy. No need to book. Sorry no dogs. Meet at Cleaver Heath Car Park, Oldfield Road, Heswall (SJ 258825). For further enquiries ring 0151 677 7594.

Thursday 13th July, Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
Cross the sands to discover the Island's wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for the first time visitor. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies are recommended. Sorry no dogs.
There is a £1 charge per person for this event. Booking essential, phone 0151 648 4371.

Tuesday 18th July, 6pm - 7.30pm, A Walk around Wirral Country Park.
Join the Rangers for a leisurely stroll around Wirral Country Park and enjoy the fresh sea air and spectacular coastal views. This is an easy going walk over grassland and paths with one or two steps. Sorry no dogs.
Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 22nd July, 8pm, Birds, Bats, Moths and BBQ.
Join the RSPB Wardens at Burton Point Farm, Dee Estuary Reserve and delve into the world of the creatures of the night. Learn all about our nocturnal neighbours with the local experts.
BBQ followed by apple pie and cream. Booking essential. Costs are £9.50 for members and £10.50 for non-members. For booking and further information contact RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

Tuesday 27th July and Thursday 10th August, Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
Cross the sands to discover the Island's wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for the first time visitor. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies are recommended. Sorry no dogs.
There is a £1 charge per person for this event. Booking essential, phone 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 12th August, 11.15am, Banks Road Birdwatch at Heswall.
One of the biggest roosts of redshank in the country occurs in the saltmarsh off Banks Road. Amongst the thousands of waders that are herded up in front of us by the tide, there is a good chance of seeing spotted redshank and curlew sandpiper (HW 14:15, 9.6m). Joint event with RSPB. Meet at Banks Road car park, Lower Heswall, near Sheldrake’s Restaurant. For further details, phone 0151 648 4371/3884.

NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2006', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Hard copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.

All material in this newsletter, and indeed the whole web site, has been written by myself, Richard Smith, unless specified.

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