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    1st August 2000
    The Redshank

    Latest Bird Counts
    July Bird News
    Forthcoming Events
    Latest Newsletter

Redshank photo kindly provided by Birds of Britain


That watchdog of the saltings, the Redshank (Tringa totanus), seems to be everywhere on the estuary at all times of year. Despite having a reputation for wariness, as the nickname suggests, Redshank can be approached quite closely during the winter months before finally taking flight with their lovely tu-tu-ee call. 
Redshank in the United Kingdom comprise two populations, birds that breed locally in Britain (tringa totanus), and those from Iceland (tringa totanus robusta), split about 50:50 (1). It is estimated that  60% of the Icelandic population winter in Britain and the majority of British breeding birds stay in this country all year round (1). The Dee Estuary is particularly important for Redshank as it typically holds up to 5% of the European population. The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) consistently shows the Dee Estuary vying for first or second place with Morecambe Bay for the largest numbers in the UK, and Heswall often has the largest single roost of Redshank in the country. Another large roost is at Oakenholt, but Redshank are found throughout the estuary including both mudflats and marsh.

The graph below shows how the numbers of Redshank have changed over the years 1970 to 1999.

Redshank on the Dee Estuary 1970 to 1999, maximum yearly counts.

Data provided by WeBS (incomplete counts for 1977 and 1978 not shown)

Overall the numbers have remained fairly consistent over the past 30 years. The early to mid eighties did show a fall in numbers but since then they have recovered, reaching as high as 9,780 in 1998.
Local birds return from breeding as early as late June with Icelandic breeders joining them during July, August and September. The graph below shows the distribution of birds from autumn to spring at their main roost at Heswall over the past three seasons.

Redshank at Heswall High Tide Roost  August to April

Data provided by WeBS

The distribution shows two peaks, one in autumn and the other in spring. In winter the birds are distributed far more widely resulting in a much lower count at Heswall during this period. It is very noticeable that for the last two springs counts have been much lower than that obtained previously. This is coincident with the upgraded sewage plant at Heswall coming on line during 1998, producing significantly cleaner water. Unfortunately cleaner water probably means less food for invertebrates and consequently less food for the Redshanks. This link has yet to be proven but it seems that sewage is good for Redshanks!

Latest: A very high count of 5733 Redshank at Heswall on 20th August 2000

The Dee Estuary also has a significant breeding population of Redshank on the saltmarsh. A survey carried out in 1996 of 75ha of Burton Marsh showed 20 pairs breeding with ten pairs consequently producing young (extracted from 1996 Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report).

WeBS data were supplied by the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS), a joint scheme of the British Trust for Ornithology, The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (the last on behalf of the Countryside Council for Wales, Department of the Environment Northern Island, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage).

1. A.J. Prater,  Estuary Birds, T&AD Poyser 1981.


Bird Counts


Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 14th July.
Hobby 1, Black-tailed Godwit 150, Dunlin 9, Redshank 11, Greenshank 1,  Mediterranean Gull 1, Common Tern 1, Canada Goose 38, Greylag 1, Tufted Duck (female with chicks), Little Grebe (pair with two chicks), Raven 2. 
Please note that the count from Inner Marsh Farm is an informal estimate of species and numbers present, either carried out by myself or other birdwatchers visiting the hide. It is not meant to be a complete count and is not in anyway part of the Wetland Bird Survey or other count which might be carried out by the RSPB.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 2nd July.
Great Crested Grebe 4, Cormorant 14, Grey Heron 14, Shelduck 14, Mallard 44, Oystercatcher 212, Dunlin 1, Curlew 1789, Redshank 168, Peregrine Falcon.

July Bird News

Fog Horns Scare Crows But Scarecrows Don't!
The Little Tern Colony at Gronant has had continuous problems with crows during this month. However, a combination of mobbing by the Little Terns and various scare tactics carried out by the wardens has resulted in minimum chick casualties.
The scare tactics include:

1. Running into the colony shouting and waving your arms (partially effective).
2. Scarecrows (completely useless, but it was worth a try).
3. Blowing a handheld foghorn (very effective - but best done in combination with 1)

Anyway, as a result of all this 52 Little Terns have fledged, a very creditable number considering the problems the colony faced this year with poor weather and predators (foxes as well as crows). In mid-July I walked along the beach on the seaward side of the colony. A lot of the juveniles were flying rather weakly low over the sand with the adults much higher in the air. It gave me immense pleasure seeing these young terns knowing that I had played a small part in their survival.

As well as Little Terns there has been a large roost of Sandwich Terns at Gronant, at times reaching over 1,000 at high tide. In fact terns have been very much a feature during July with 550 Common Tern chicks ringed at Shotton, many Sandwich,Common and Little Terns roosting at Hoylake and even a Black Tern at Point of Ayr. Following the terns have come the Skuas, the best sightings being at Point of Ayr where a Long-tailed Skua and 7 Great Skuas where seen along with the more normal Arctic Skuas. Strong mid-month winds brought in 10 Storm Petrels.

Waders are already returning in good numbers with about 2,000 Redshank and Curlew at Heswall, 1275 Sanderling at Hoylake along with 2,000 Dunlin and a few Bar-tailed Godwit. 25 Greenshank where seen at Parkgate, and 2 Green Sandpiper, a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Wood Sandpiper at Inner Marsh Farm.

Sketch by Pamela Dawson


Forthcoming Events
August Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)
2nd August, 13.51hrs 9.8m. (all times BST)
30th August, 12.48hrs 9.9m.

31st August, 13.32hrs 9.9m.
Note that the marsh at Parkgate is covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions.

Young Ornithologists Club at Ness Gardens
See the listing of events for 2000. This group have a most interesting series of monthly outdoor and indoor meetings for the younger birdwatchers.

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See the year 2000 events

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2000

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.

6th August. Sea Potato and Shell Walk. 10am - 12 noon.
A walk across the wilderness of East Hoyle Bank looking at the marine life that can be found there, including (hopefully) the Sea Potato. Meet at Dove Point slipway, Meols. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371/3884.

12th August. Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands. 
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies recommended. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

19th August. High Tide at Point of Ayr. 1:00pm
Waders and terns galore (HW 14:41, 8.9m). Meet at the end of Station Road, Talacre. For details ring RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

20th August. Parkgate Walk. 11am - 4pm
A leisurely circular walk to the lost port of Parkgate, through fields and marshes, looking at the local and natural history of the area. Booking essential. For information ring 678 4200.

26th August. The Dee Estuary - A Surviving Wilderness. 1.30pm - 5.30pm
A guided walk of approximately 4 hours, almost to Wales and back. This is a strenuous walk, often through deep mud and crossing channels of water. Wellingtons that won't get sucked off your feet are a must! sorry no dogs. Meet at Wirral Country Park Visitor Centre at Thurstaston. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371. 

30th August. High Tide at Parkgate. 11:00am.(Hw 12:48, 9.9m)
31st August. High Tide at Parkgate. 12:00noon.(Hw 13:42, 9.9m)
Spectacular birdwatching as the tide covers the marsh at Gayton Sands RSPB Reserve. Large numbers of waders and wildfowl will be present together with exciting raptors such as Peregrine, Merlin and possibly Marsh Harrier. Experts on hand to help you get the most from your visit. everyone welcome. Meet at Old baths car park, north end of Parkgate prom, near Boathouse Inn. For details ring 0151 648 4371.

1st and 2nd September. In search of Skuas.
Join a guided birdwatch to Hilbre Island in pursuit of those pirates of the sky, the skuas. If the weather conditions are right we can expect close encounters with Arctic and possibly Great Skua together with several species of terns and other seabirds. Places are limited. To book your place ring Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371.
Note - As we go to press I have been told that the trip on the 1st September is already fully booked.
Sketch by Jeff Clarke

16th September. Heswall Shore High Tide Bird Watch. 10:45am
Waders and Wildfowl galore at the tide's edge. (HW 13:43, 9.3m). Meet at Banks Road car park (near Sheldrake's Restaurant). For details ring Wirral Country Park at 0151 648 4371.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2000', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.