Mersey Ferry Bird Cruises
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.
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!
June Bird News
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.
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.
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.
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.
Highest Spring Tides,
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):
Sunday 2nd July, 10am - 12.30pm, Heswall
Thursday 13th July, Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
Tuesday 18th July, 6pm - 7.30pm, A Walk around
Wirral Country Park.
Saturday 22nd July, 8pm, Birds, Bats, Moths and BBQ.
Tuesday 27th July and Thursday 10th August, Sunset Walk to
Saturday 12th August, 11.15am, Banks Road Birdwatch at
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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