Dee Estuary Newsletter

1st July 2007
Mersey Ferry Bird Cruises.
June Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

Mersey Ferry Bird Cruises


A lovely sunny birdwatching trip out into Liverpool Bay, Richard Smith

Liverbird Wildlife Discovery Cruises.

The RSPB, National Museums of Liverpool and Mersey Ferries have teamed up again to provide birdwatching cruises in to Liverpool Bay. There will be three cruises this year (2007), on August 20th, August 22nd and September 17th, 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 by ringing 0151 330 1444.

PLEASE NOTE:
1. The August trips are advertised as 'Mersey Heritage Cruises' by Mersey Ferries but I am assured by both RSPB Liverpool (see http://www.rspbliverpool.org.uk/ferrypageevent.htm) and Mersey Ferries that birdwatching will be included as part of the cruise and RSPB volunteers will be on board. As in previous years we will be going out to Formby Point, weather permitting. The September trip is advertised as a Liverbird Discovery Cruise as in previous years.
2. Due to work on the Pier Head at Liverpool the cruises will depart from Seacombe and Woodside only. For those with cars there is usually ample car park space at Seacombe, for those coming by train get off at Hamilton Square Station, Birkenhead, which is a short walk to Woodside Pier.

These trips are always enjoyable with Arctic Skuas usually the stars of the show. Last year we also saw a couple of Storm Petrels, the first ever for these trips. In previous trips rarer birds have included Long-tailed Skua, Great Skua and Osprey with regular birds including 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. We also usually see a Grey Seal or two.

As with any sea-watching the weather is crucial and ideally we want to go out the day after a westerly gale which should produce plenty of interesting birds including Scoters, Gannets and Manx Shearwaters, and may be even some Storm and Leach's Petrels; but I suppose a Sooty Shearwater would be too much to hope for!

Richard Smith.
 

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June Bird News
 

The Great White Egret which was seen briefly in May turned up again on the 1st at Decca Pools, Burton Marsh, it then flew to Gronant where it was seen on the lagoon the next day. Burton was also host to the only other rarities of note this month - a female Red-backed Shrike which showed nicely for a few hours in a field next to Denhall Lane on the 24th, and a pair of Spoonbills which arrived on the 1st and stayed most of the month; they spent most of the time at the Inner Marsh Farm and Burton Marsh RSPB reserves.

Our tern colonies both have record numbers of pairs breeding. At Shotton there are 762 pairs of Common Terns, the previous highest number was 722 last year. Gronant has 125 pairs of Little Terns, the previous highest number being 110 pairs in both 2003 and 2006. Hopefully, this will mean that we will have record numbers of fledglings at end of the breeding season but the bad weather at the end of June will certainly not have helped breeding success, so we will just have to hope for the best. Good numbers of Sandwich Terns were already back in the estuary by the end of the month with 115 roosting at West Kirby.

Having written an article on Manx Shearwaters for the June newsletter I feared that we were not going to see a single one this month, but the same bad weather which caused problems for our tern colonies brought some strong westerly winds resulting in 385 Manxies off Hilbre and 125 off Red Rocks on the 29th. On the same day we had 4 Arctic Skuas, 255 Gannets and 28 Kittiwakes off Hilbre and a Black-throated Diver at Point of Ayr. An immature Great Skua at New Brighton on the 5th was also of note.

We have had up to 11 Avocets at Inner Marsh Farm and although there appeared to be three nests only one was successful with three chicks. A Spotted Redshank had returned by the 20th, increasing to five within a couple of days; looking glorious in their black summer plumage. Up to 286 immature Black-tailed Godwits have spent the month at Inner Marsh Farm. Curlew had returned to the estuary in good numbers by mid-month with 672 at Heswall on the 17th. There have been one or two Whimbrel hanging around Thurstaston/Heswall, presumably non-breeding birds. Two Quail were heard calling near Burton Marsh on the 2nd, followed by a single bird during the next three days.
Left: Avocet at Inner Marsh Farm, Steve Oakes AEBS Ltd.

What to expect in July

The one species I most associate with July is the Sandwich Tern, the estuary will be filled with their screeching calls as they disperse here in their hundreds as soon as they finish breeding. High tide roosts can be seen at Red Rocks, West Kirby, Point of Ayr and Gronant, and at low tide they gather on the sand banks around Hilbre. Gulls also build up rapidly after breeding with thousands present in the estuary, look out for the distinctive Mediterranean Gulls in among the rest. If flying ants are about we can get hundreds of gulls, particularly Black-headed, overhead. This month can also be good for other seabirds, particularly in a strong westerly wind - look out for Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters, Gannets and Arctic Skuas.


Sandwich Tern off Hilbre Island, Steve Oakes AEBS Ltd.

The return passage of waders will be noticeable with Common and Green Sandpipers at our fresh water sites, and maybe one or two Wood Sandpipers, but Common Sandpipers can also turn up just about anywhere around the estuary. A few Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Little Ringed Plover will also be passing through. Of the commoner waders we should get good numbers of Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Sanderling returning, the latter in their summer plumage often catching people out who are more used to seeing their bright white winter plumage.

Unlike the waders and seabirds the estuary will be virtually empty of wildfowl as they under go their annual moult, the Shelduck moult in their thousands on the mud banks of the nearby Mersey Estuary, although there is some evidence that a couple of thousand or so now moult on the Dee Estuary. Marsh Harriers start heading south this month, and we can also get the occasional wandering Red Kite.

Many thanks go to Paul Vautrinot, Dave Edwards, Karen Leeming, Chris wilding, Neil McLaren, Graeme Lowe, Tanny Robinson, Jayne Peet, Pete Button, Frank Huband, David Small, Mike Jones, David Harrington, Mark Gibson, Allan Conlin, Bob Pilgrem, Dave Wild, John Kirkland, Colin Schofield, Mark Murphy, Steve Round, Dave Barrow, Steve Williams, John Boswell, Chris Butterworth, Derek Gifford, Jane Turner, Charles Farnell, Paul Shenton, Paul Rowlands, Gilbert Bolton, David Ritchie, Mark Evans, Ron Graves, Nigel Young, Rose Schofield, Paul Ritchies, Ian Maw 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 (Liverpool), also see Tides page.
15th July, 12.48hrs 8.9m. BST.
16th July, 13.30hrs 8.9m. BST.
17th July, 14.10hrs 8.9m. 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 1st July. Greenfinch or Goldfinch? 10am - 12noon.
A morning of bird spotting for beginners and an opportunity to discover what birds can be seen in Central Park, Wallasey. Please bring binoculars if you have them. Booking essential, ring 0151 691 1450.

Wednesday 4th July, Evening Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of four hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing (Wellington boots are recommended). Sorry no dogs. There is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential - ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 15th July, Heathlands Hike, 10am - 12.30pm.
Enjoy the beauty of these heathland habitats on this walk over Heswall Dales and Cleaver Heath Local Nature Reserves with the Rangers and members of Wirral Wildlife Trust. This event is suitable for all the family to enjoy. Suitable clothing and footwear essential. No need to book. Meet at Cleaver Heath Car Park, Oldfield Road (SJ 258825) Heswall. Sorry no dogs. For info ring 0151 677 7594.

Thursday 19th July, Evening Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of four hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing (Wellington boots are recommended). Sorry no dogs. There is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential - ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 29th July, Greenfield Valley Butterfly Walk, 2pm.
Join the Friends of Greenfield Valley Association in a walk around this delightful area full of wildflowers and butterflies. 21 species of butterflies were recorded in the valley in 2006. Meet at Bryn Celyn car park (take the A548 from Flint towards Greenfield, after passing the main car park at Greenfield Valley turn left at the traffic lights and on to the B5121 toward Holywell, the Bryn Celyn car park is 3/4 mile on the left.

Sunday 12th August, Through Dales and Woods, 10am - 3pm.
Join the Ranger and members of Wirral Wildlife on a summer stroll over footpaths, woodland, heathland and parts of the Wirral Way. This event is suitable for all the family to enjoy. Suitable clothing and footwear essential. No need to book. Meet at Cleaver Heath Car Park, Oldfield Road (SJ 258825) Heswall. Sorry no dogs. For info ring 0151 677 7594.

NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2007', 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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