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July 2009 Newsletter

Bird Watching Cruises.
June Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

'Liverbird'Bird Watching and Nature Discovery Cruises

A happy bunch of Birders on the Mersey Ferry on Sep 24th 2008 after we'd seen five Spoonbills on Crosby Beach, © Laura Bimson.

2009 is the year of the Environment and to celebrate this Mersey Ferries, National Museums Liverpool, RSPB and The Environment Agency have joined forces to put on four Birdwatching cruises.

These will take place on Friday July 31st, Tuesday August 18th, Monday September 14th and Saturday September 26th. These are always popular and the September trips are likely to sell out quickly - especially as one is on a Saturday!

I understand that the July and August cruises depart Seacombe at 11.00am, Liverpool Pier Head at 11.10am and Woodside at 11.20am, and the September cruises depart Seacombe at 1.00pm, Liverpool Pier Head at 1.10pm and Woodside at 1.20pm - but you better check the times with Mersey Ferries when you book. For more details see: and, you can buy tickets from this latter site, scroll down to 'Liverbird' Bird Watching and Nature Discovery Cruise.
Each cruise lasts about three hours.
For those departing from the Wirral side of the Mersey then Seacombe has a large car park whereas Woodside is close to Hamilton Square Station for those travelling by train.

There will be an RSPB commentary on these cruises which will help to point out where the birds are and inform us about their habits and movements through the area. Members of the local RSPB Group will be dispensing 'chum' into the sea, a rather odoriferous mixture of fish oil and fish bits which the birds love - Petrels can smell it from miles away!

So what can we expect to see?
Don't get the impression that these are pelagic trips looking for rare petrels and shearwaters, rather they are an opportunity to get a closer look at the more common seabirds of the area. We will see a good selection of terns and gulls which should include Common and Sandwich Terns, both Little and Black Terns have also been seen in the past, and apart from the more common species of gulls we would also expect to see Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull and Kittiwakes. The ferry passes close to where the Kittiwakes nest by Liverpool Docks. On previous trips we have had excellent views of Arctic Skuas, on one trip a Long-tailed Skua flew right past the ferry and there has also been a distant sighting of a Great Skua. 

If we are lucky enough to go out a day after a westerly gale we will expect to see Storm Petrels, Manx Shearwaters, Gannets and a selection of auks. Sometimes it's the unexpected which is the most exciting - such as the five Spoonbills on Crosby Beach and a flock of Pink-footed Geese on a sand bank just flown in from Iceland, both these were seen last year. Whatever the weather I'm sure each trip will be a great day out. 

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June Bird News

          Paddyfield Warbler on Hilbre, June 5th, © Steve Williams

A Paddyfield Warbler on Hilbre was undoubtedly the bird of the month. This is a first for Cheshire and Wirral and arrived on the island on June 5th when it was trapped and ringed, it was trapped again on the 9th. It's normal breeding grounds are the far south east of Europe then eastwards across Asia. Up until the end of 2007 a total of 68 have been recorded in this country and it would seem from the records that the species is becoming more regular - although still very rare.

At this time of year I normally report on the success of the Common Tern colony at Shotton which has steadily grown larger over the years. This year we would have expected over 700 pairs to be nesting, instead the colony is completely deserted with only a few birds having been seen flying over. We don't know the reason for this although lack of suitable food in the inner estuary is suspected. A similar desertion of the colony by the terns occurred in 1992 which was thought to be due to an algae bloom in the estuary during hot weather, causing a crash in sand eel numbers. Many of the Common Terns seem to have gone to the colony at Seaforth where much larger numbers than normal have been counted, although due to lack of nesting space there has only been a small increase in nesting pairs. Lets just hope that everything returns to normal next year.

In contrast the Little Terns at Gronant are doing well with 110 nests recorded, and there seems to be plenty of food for them out in Liverpool Bay. Predation has been very low and the first chicks have already hatched.

It was not a particularly good month for sea-watching with the wind direction southerly or easterly most of the time. But a few of days of westerly winds brought in a couple of Arctic Skuas and a few Manx Shearwaters and Gannets.

Oversummering immature Knot are unusual on the estuary but we had good numbers here this month. Firstly 1,500 were seen from Hilbre on the 13th, followed by a report of 'thousands' observed flying out of the estuary early on the 22nd. The following day a member of the Hilbre Observatory managed get a more accurate count with a remarkable total of 5,500. These birds appear to be roosting at Seaforth where a mixed flock of 12,000 Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits have been reported. More usually non-breeding 750 Black-tailed Godwits were at Inner Marsh Farm at the beginning of the month although these soon moved on.

The first returning Spotted Redshank was at Inner Marsh Farm on the 15th with two present on the 19th, and the first Green Sandpiper on the 25th. Three Little Ringed Plover were there by the end of the month. A Red Kite flew south along the edge of the English side of the estuary on the 23rd, just as rare in June was a ring-tailed Hen Harrier on the 12th on Burton Marsh, a Marsh Harrier was reported on the 3rd. There was a total of six reports of single Hobbies.

Other birds of note were two Spoonbills, which spent their time between Inner Marsh Farm and Parkgate, and a total of four Mediterranean Gulls all seen on the 28th. The local Grey Herons have enjoyed fishing in the drained West Kirby Marine Lake, up to nine have been recorded. Photo left/above taken by Mike Jones on June 23rd.
The gulls have enjoyed it too!

      Great Black-backed Gull with eel on the mud at West Kirby Marine Lake, © Charles Farnell.

Richard Smith.

Many thanks go to Mike Jones, Steve Williams, Tony Twemlow,  Jane Turner, William Boyce, Steve Hinde, David Thompson, Dave Edwards, Dave Harrington, Bill Wonderley, Paul Brady, Colin Jones, John Elliott, Henry Hill, Paul Shenton, Charles Farnell, Jeremy Bradshaw, John Kirkland, John Smerdon, Ian Fleming, Bruce Atherton, David Haigh, Mike Hart, Jon Greep, Sarah Haslem, Paul Vautrionot, John Martin, Colin Davies, Andrew Pasterfield, Rob Sim, Edward Birtwistle, Mark Evans, Tony Peet, Clare Shaughnessy, Nick Bullen, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during May. All sightings are gratefully received.

What to expect in July

July sees a large influx of birds into the estuary with the end of the breeding season for many species. Apart from large numbers of gulls, which may include a few Mediterranean Gulls, the most noticeable species will be Sandwich Terns with their raucous cries filling the mouth of the estuary from Gronant to Hoylake. Ringing returns suggest that many of our birds come from Ireland rather than Cemlyn Bay in Anglesey - but those of you who have been watching Springwatch will know that the Cemlyn Bay birds have had a good breeding season after two disastrous ones due to Heron predation. Other terns usually include a Roseate Tern and Black Tern or two. The Little Terns at Gronant always show a large increase in July, we think this is due to an influx of second year birds coming up from the south for a visit to what will be their breeding colony following year. Hopefully we should also see a good number of Little Tern fledglings.

Waders will start returning with good numbers of Oystercatchers, Redshank and Curlew by the end of the month. Less common waders will include Greenshank and Spotted Redshank, and maybe something rarer such as a Pectoral Sandpiper. Black-tailed Godwits will be returning from Iceland in their hundreds with many continuing on south after a short stay at Inner Marsh Farm, Connah's Quay or Gilroy Nature Park, some will be colour ringed so make a note of the rings - you can send the details to me and I'll get back to you with the details.

July can be a great month for seawatching particularly during a strong westerly wind - Storm Petrels are always difficult to see but with a bit of patience can usually be spotted flying between the waves along North Wirral, Hilbre and Point of Ayr. Sometimes Manx Shearwaters can be seen in their hundreds and look out also for Arctic and Great Skuas.    

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Forthcoming Events

July Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.
24th July, 13.49hrs (BST), 9.6m.
25th July, 14.34hrs (BST), 9.6m.

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.

Friday 3rd July, 9pm to 11pm, Bat and Owl Walk at Royden Park.
How do bats find their food? Why do owls hunt at night? Join the Rangers and members of the local Bat Group and discover the habits of these nocturnal creatures. Please wear warm clothing and suitable footwear. Suitable for all the family to enjoy. Sorry no dogs. Booking essential.
Tel: 0151 648 4371

Thursday 9th July and Thursday 23rd July, Sunset Walk to Hilbre Island.
Cross the sands to discover the Island’s wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first-time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies are recommended. Suitable for all the family to enjoy. All children under 8 must be accompanied. Sorry no dogs. There is a £1 charge per person for this event.
Booking essential. Tel: 0151 648 4371

Saturday 18th July, How to be a Wildlife Photographer. 10am to 4pm.
See poster at bottom of this page for details.

Thursday 23rd July, In Search of the Silent Hunter - 7.30pm start.
A free guided walk to look for the enigmatic barn owls that live in the area around Parkgate. This event is held in conjunction with the Wirral Barn Owl Trust. This event is free and interested parties should meet at the Old Baths car park, Parkgate at 7.30pm. Bring your binoculars, suitable clothing and footwear. All are welcome but children must be accompanied by adults.
RSPB Event.

Saturday 25th July, Night Walk with Barn Owls.
Enjoy a talk by Steve Harris of The Wirral and Cheshire Barn Owl Trust and afterwards go for a Ranger-led walk and see the Barn Owls hunting – hopefully! Sorry no dogs.
Booking essential. Tel: 0151 648 4371

Saturday 25th July, Birds, Bats, Moths and a BBQ - 7.30pm start.
A nice relaxing evening down at Inner Marsh Farm, includes a guided walk to the hide, moth trapping session and a bite to eat. Cost is £9 for members, £10 for non-members, booking is essential, places are limited - so book early to avoid disappointment. Phone 0151 3367681 for details and to book. RSPB Event.

Thursday 6th August, In Search of the Silent Hunter - 7.30pm start.
A free guided walk to look for the enigmatic barn owls that live in the area around Parkgate. This event is held in conjunction with the Wirral Barn Owl Trust. This event is free and interested parties should meet at the Old Baths car park, Parkgate at 7.30pm. Bring your binoculars, suitable clothing and footwear. All are welcome but children must be accompanied by adults.
RSPB Event.

Saturday 8th August, Spectacular Sandwich Terns at West Kirby.
10am until 2pm - Pop along to West Kirby at any time during the day to find out more about Britain's largest breeding tern. Staff and volunteers from the RSPB and Wirral Council ranger will be on hand with binoculars and telescopes to watch as these birds feed up their young before the long haul flight to their wintering grounds in Africa.

Saturday 8th August, 11am start, Terns and Waders at Point of Ayr.
August is a great month to see Terns and Waders on the Dee Estuary and Liverpool Bay. We would expect to see hundreds of Sandwich Terns and good numbers of Little and Common Terns hopefully with attendant juveniles. The waders will still be in their breeding plumage, some looking very different from their 'normal' winter plumage. We would certainly expect to see Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover. Hopefully Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot will also be present.
(HT 13.30, 8.7m). For further information ring RSPB – 0151 3367681.
Meeting point: Smugglers Inn car park.

Saturday 22nd August, High Tide Big Bird Watch at Flint Castle, 11am Start.
Join all of the areas wildlife and conservation groups for a joint bird watch. Height tide is due at 13.27 at a height of 9.8m. Flint Castle provides excellent views over the estuary and we should see hundreds of birds moving to roost away from the in-coming tide. This is part of the opening day of this years Big Dee Festival which celebrates the estuary and its heritage - so bring along the whole family for a fun-packed day.

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