Gareth Stamp (RSPB Assistant Warden, Dee Estuary)
The RSPB has been involved with the management of the little tern colony since 1975. The graph below illustrates the rise of the Gronant little tern colony to it current status.
The breeding graph
demonstrates the erratic breeding success of the little terns at Gronant,
typical of this species. Little terns are long-lived birds and their
population is capable of withstanding poor breeding years. The population at
Gronant can be maintained by a good fledging success in every three or four
years. During the last decade, Gronant has had the reputation for being one
of the most productive colonies in Britain, and you can see why. In excess
of 100 young were raised in each of the following years - 1992, 1994, 1996
from Hilbre, provided by John Gittins of
the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
22 Gannet, 7 Manx Shearwater, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Ringed Plover, 14 Guillemot, 83 Common Scoter, 500 Black-headed Gull, 63 Common Tern, 42 Sandwich Tern, 165 Little Tern. 7 Arctic Skua, 150 Dunlin, 8 Whimbrel, 45 Redshank and 6,000 Knot.
Peak counts of birds on
West Kirby Shore/Red
Rocks during July , kindly provided by Chris Butterworth.
Marsh Farm Count for 21st July.
July Bird News
of the month must be the Great White Egret first seen by Colin Wells, the
RSPB warden, at Inner Marsh Farm. It only
stayed two hours but about thirty people managed to see it. Another rarity
at Inner Marsh Farm was a Spoonbill, it
apparently spent several weeks there whilst the reserve was closed because
of foot and mouth, but only stayed two days after the reserve reopened
The two tern colonies on the estuary certainly had very different fortunes. See the above article on the Little Terns to see how they got on. The Common Terns at Shotton had yet another record breaking season with 545 nesting pairs. The Merseyside ringing group had ringed 660 Common Tern chicks by mid July and were hoping it would be 700 by the end of the season.
Peak numbers of terns were 1,200 Sandwich Tern (Point of Ayr), 130 Common Tern (Hilbre), 400 Little Tern (Gronant - including breeding birds), 7 Arctic Tern (West Kirby), 2 Roseate Tern (Point of Ayr) and 1 Black Tern (Gronant). Large roosts of gulls included 1,900 Black-headed Gulls at West Kirby and 500 Herring Gulls at Hilbre.
Waders are returning in good numbers with both Redshank and Curlew building up rapidly at Heswall, and Oystercatchers at West Kirby. The best place to see Greenshank was Parkgate Boathouse Flash with a peak count of 29, expect more in August. Whimbrel are passing through with 15 being the highest single count at Hilbre. Rarities include up to 4 Little Ringed Plover at Inner Marsh Farm - there were two juveniles so they possibly have bred at the reserve. Small numbers of Common Sandpipers were seen in several places and 2 Green Sandpipers at Connah's Quay Reserve, with singles at Inner Marsh Farm and Point of Ayr. Connah's Quay had a visit from the over summering flock of Black-tailed Godwit, 600 with many in summer plumage - normally we don't see such numbers until well into October. As with June we were still seeing over summering Knot during July with 6,000 off Hilbre Island. Four adult Curlew Sandpiper were at the Point of Ayr, the juveniles should follow in late August.
What to expect in August: Often the most exciting month of the year with large numbers of passage waders, including a good number of rarities, terns and skuas galore, the possibility of a Marsh Harrier or two and the return of the Little Egrets.
At the mouth of the estuary - Hoylake and Point of Ayr - look out for flocks of hundreds of Sanderling and Ringed Plover passing through. Further into the estuary at Heswall thousands of Redshank returning from Iceland are a magnificent sight on a rising tide - one of the biggest roosts in the country. Last year we had a record number of 97 Greenshank at Boathouse Flash, Parkgate - numbers were already building up during July. The water levels at Inner Marsh Farm are ideal for attracting migrant waders at the moment, almost anything can turn up. Over on the Welsh side of the estuary both the Connah's Quay reserve and Point of Ayr attract their fair share of rare waders.
By the last week in August we should be getting the first of this year's juvenile Curlew Sandpipers passing through. These delightful birds, looking like a large and elegant Dunlin, follow the coast westwards from their Siberian breeding grounds unlike their parents which take a more direct overland route to their southern wintering grounds. Given a good breeding season and an east wind we might get as many as one hundred on the estuary. They prefer muddy areas to feed - look for them by the Lifeboat Station at Hoylake (they feed in the muddy tracks), Heswall shore, Parkgate Boathouse Flash, Inner Marsh Farm and Point of Ayr.
Many thanks go to John Gittins, Chris Butterworth, Bill Owens, Ted Abraham, Gareth Stamp, Dave Wilde, Dave Harrington, Brian Grey, Colin Jones, John Kirkland, Jane Turner, Phil Lovell and Brian Roberts for their sightings during July. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!
August Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)
20th August, 13.04hrs 9.9m. (all times BST)
21st August, 13.49hrs, 9.9m.
See Tides page for full tide table.
Note that the marsh at Parkgate may be covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide.
Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
Wirral Bird Club
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown on the high tide birdwatch page. Always check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.
Saturday 4th August. A Gathering of Terns. 8.30am.
Saturday 18th August 9:00 (HW 11.25, 9.2m) Banks Road Birdwatch,
Saturday 18th August. Guided Walk to the
Sunday 19th August 9:15AM (HW 12.16,9.6m) Banks Road Birdwatch,
Tuesday 21st August 12:00am (HW 13:49, 9.9m)
Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch.
Saturday 25th August. Marsh Matters 10am - 12 noon.
Saturday 1st September. Guided Walk to the
Saturday 15th September. Guided Walk to the
Sunday 16th September 8:30am (HW 11:11, 9.3m) Banks Road Birdwatch,
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself as a 1.8mb zipped file.