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When to go



1st August 2003
WeBS 2000-01.

Wirral Birding.
2001 Clwyd Bird Report.
Latest Bird Counts.
July Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

Newsletter Index.

Wetland Bird Survey 2000-01


I always look forward to the national WeBS report arriving on my doorstep, unfortunately I had to wait an extra eight months for this one as it has been somewhat delayed! But it was certainly a case of better late than never as the report is, as usual, packed full of fascinating facts and figures. It gives us an opportunity to put into a national perspective local trends and counts.

The Dee Estuary has 10 species in internationally important numbers. This compares with just six on the Mersey Estuary, but the nearby Ribble Estuary, with its much larger wiildfowl numbers, has 15. The total number of waterbirds on the Dee Estuary was 135,113, a big improvement on 1999-2000 when only 92,284 were counted. This makes the Dee the seventh most important wetland site in the country. The increase is due to small rises for a number of species, but the biggest impact was due to a large increase in Dunlin from 21,627 to 41,656.

Here are some highlights with regard to the Dee Estuary:
Numbers of Cormorants have been rising steadily for a number of years and we have now the third highest with a maximum count of 864.
For the first time since these counts began the Dee Estuary had the highest number of Shelduck in the country with 11,563 in October. It is very likely that the newly established summer moulting area on the Mersey Estuary means that more birds are staying on the west coast of England in the autumn.

Although a long way below the maximum numbers of 10 years ago (12,000) the Dee Estuary still managed to have the highest count of Pintail with 4,216 in October.
Oystercatcher numbers showed a welcome increase to 21,326, the third highest in the country.
Although numbers of Sanderling on the Dee were unremarkable with a maximum of 452 in April, it is interesting to see that the nearby Ribble and Alt estuaries are seeing typically between three and eight thousand on passage, the sort of numbers we haven't seen since the 1970's. Those large flocks may return here some day but I'm sure we must still get flocks of at least 1,000 passing through in May and August but which are not seen on WeBS counts, perhaps because they don't roost here.
The increase in Dunlin numbers meant we had the second highest in the country with 41,656 in November. The nearby Mersey had a whopping 60,330 count in January.
The highest Curlew count for four years, 4,583, was the second highest in the country.
The Dee Estuary has long been a stronghold for Redshank and this year was no exception. We had the highest number on passage in September with 11,991, two thirds of these were seen at Heswall, a spectacular sight.
The mouth of the Dee Estuary is one of the best places to see terns on late summer passage, over a five year mean we have the third highest count for both Sandwich Tern (1,057) and Little Tern (153), and the fifth highest Common Tern count (405). The Common Tern count would have been a lot higher but does not include the colony at Shotton with well over a thousand birds if both adults and young are counted.

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).


"Birding The Wirral Peninsula
Where and When" - booklet by Allan Conlin



This booklet produced by local birder Allan Conlin is a comprehensive, yet personal,  guide to birding on the Wirral Peninsula. Allan gives details of all his favourite sites from New Brighton in the north to Inner Marsh Farm in the south. The text is accompanied by photographs by Steve Young, these are superb as you would expect of Steve's photos, and includes this Sabine Gull flying over the River Mersey published on the front cover. Copies can be obtained for 3.00 at Thurstaston Visitor Centre and Inner Marsh Farm, or by contacting  Allan directly by ringing 07791274837. I will be publishing an extract from this booklet in a future newsletter.


Clwyd Bird Report 2001


 The Clwyd Bird Recording Group has produced the latest Clwyd Bird Report. The CBRG may well be unique among bird groups, they represent different interested parties, not one group or club, and their county no longer exists as a single administrative unit but comprising of Flintshire, Denbighshire, Aberconwy and Wrexham.
They have produced another excellent report with the usual fully comprehensive systematic list and interesting articles. Of particular relevance to the Dee Estuary is a fascinating article by Chris Pirie (English Nature/ Countryside Council for Wales) about the Conservation of Birds on the Dee Estuary, detailing both the reasons why the Estuary is so important for the birds and also the Statutory Designations (SSSI's etc.) which protect it. In addition there are articles on the population status of UK's birds and a report on ringing during the year. The front cover consists of a watercolour painting of three Bullfinches, a target species for the group and a species of conservation concern - all records welcome!
The report can be purchased by sending a cheque for 5.50 (includes p&p) made out to Clwyd Bird Recording Group to Anne Brenchley, Ty'r Fawnog, 43 Blackbrook, Sychdyn, Mold, Flintshire CH7 6LT.

The Clwyd Bird Recording Group has asked me to remind everyone to please send in their records for Clwyd to Norman Hallas (Clwyd County Recorder), 63 Park Avenue, Wrexham, LL12 7AW, tel: 01978 290522, e-mail: .They are still accepting records for 2002.


Bird Counts


Hilbre Island, count from 15th July kindly provided by the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
12 Gannet, 26 Cormorant, 5 Grey Heron, 600 Oystercatcher, 10 Ringed Plover, 5 Sanderling, 118 Dunlin, 2 Whimbrel, 26 Curlew, 37 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 500 Black-headed Gull, 400 Common Gull, 800 Herring Gull, 100+ Lesser Black-backed Gull, 150+ Great Black-backed Gull, 200+ Common Tern, 1,500+ Sandwich Tern and 37 Little Tern. Also good passage of hirundines and swifts.  

Count from Connah's Quay and Flint - (Kindly provided by Deeside Naturalists' Society), 20th July. 4 Little Grebe, 23 Cormorant, 1 Little Egret, 6 Heron, 2 Mute Swan, 69 Canada Goose, 395 Shelduck, 13 Teal, 122 Mallard, 3 Tufted Duck, 1 Ruddy Duck, 1 Moorhen, 10 Coot, 5 Oystercatcher, 93 Lapwing, 30 Black-tailed Godwit, 19 Curlew, 2 Spotted Redshank, 98 Redshank, 14 Common Sandpiper.

Count from Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service), 22nd July. 2,990 Redshank, 42 Lapwing, 1,900 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1Turnstone, 2,380 Curlew, 11 Whimbrel, 1,500 Oystercatcher, 1 Greenshank, 15 Heron, 74 Cormorant, 4 Mallard, 193 Shelduck, 6 Canada Goose, 1 Peregrine ad male, 6,500 Gull spp, mainly Black Headed and Common.   

July Bird News


Never mind the White-winged Black Tern or Honey Buzzard, the bird(s) of the month must be the Little Terns at Gronant. I'd been saying all spring that we were due a bumper year, and what a year it has turned out to be! A record number of pairs, 110, have produced a record number of fledglings - 160 - and another 20 or so are still unfledged as I write. A look at the graph below shows just how good a year it is for the Little Terns. As is typical for a Little Tern colony numbers fledged vary greatly from year to year but the general trend since the RSPB wardening scheme started in 1975 has been upward. The season got off to a good start when the weather turned fine at the end of May just in time for nesting to begin. We have an excellent team of wardens who have managed to keep predation very low, the only problem being a particularly persistent male Kestrel which has taken a few chicks. So a bumper year indeed!

Data kindly provided by the RSPB (Dee Estuary)
Graph based on one originally drawn by Gareth Stamp

As usual July has been a good month for Sandwich Terns at the mouth of the estuary. They spend a lot of time loafing around roosting on the sand banks at any state of the tide, making them easy to see and count. The highest number were off Hilbre with a good count of over 1,500, and several 100 were seen daily at Gronant, Red Rocks and West Kirby. Of course the rarity of the month was the White-winged Black Tern, first seen at Gronant, it then moved to Hilbre and Hoylake before it was last seen at Seaforth. At this time of year this species is normally migrating over the east Mediterranean but with the fabulous weather we were having at the time no wonder it got confused!

It's been a good year for Common Sandpipers with 5 at Gronant, 7 at Hilbre and 6 at Shotton, as well as regular reports of single birds at various locations. There have also been good numbers of Spotted Redshank with up to 9 at Inner Marsh Farm. The Greenshanks are back at Parkgate, highest count so far is 24.

An unexpected sight was a Honey Buzzard on a fence by the Moreton spur road, but we quite often get Common Buzzards there. 

What to expect in August.
There should be plenty of Little Terns around for the first half of the month, with the colony at Gronant totalling 400 birds (including juveniles) plus our usual influx of passage birds we could see up to 600. Best seen off Point of Ayr, Hilbre and Red Rocks. These same sites are also excellent for seeing our other terns, Sandwich and Common, plus a few Arctic. Expect Sandwich Tern numbers to start dropping off by mid-month as they make their way south. We will get large numbers of Common Terns, some birds actually travel overland from the North-east of England directly to Liverpool Bay (Migration Atlas). This gathering of Common Terns this month is more of a post breeding dispersal rather than a migration, although this will start by the end of August. Black and Roseate Terns are also a possibility. Arctic Skuas will be around chasing the terns and may be a Great or Long-tailed Skua as well.  

Flocks of waders several thousand strong - Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling and Knot - will be passing through on their way south. These are birds breeding in the far north which winter in Africa. Some years the peak of this late summer passage is in early August, it then goes quiet again before the next wave in Autumn.

Greenshank numbers will build up, the Boathouse Flash at Parkgate being a favourite spot, we should get at least 50 by the end of the month. Inner Marsh Farm is a good place to see Green Sandpipers, last year at least one was present on most days of the month. Juvenile Curlew Sandpiper should start to pass through, they could turn up just about anywhere but Point of Ayr, Heswall and Hoylake have been prime sites for these delightful waders in the past.

Little Egret numbers will continue to build up, expect to see an increase on last year's 26, look for them off Parkgate and Denhall Quay. Marsh Harriers will be on their southward migration, and if we are lucky may be an Osprey or two.

Many thanks go to Karen Leeming, Colin Wells, Carl Clee, Brian Grey, Jean Morgam, David Small, Jon Wainright, Allan Conlin, BK and W Hassal, Mike Hart, Allan Patterson, David Harrington, Clive Ashton, Phil Woolen, Stephen Williams,  Chris Butterworth,  Martyn Jaimeson, John Harrison, Paul Rowlands, Neil Friswell, John Kirkland, Keith Gorley, the wardens at Gronant and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during August. All sightings are gratefully received.

Forthcoming Events


August Highest Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
29th August, 13:19 hrs 9.5m. (all times BST)
30th August, 13.58hrs 9.5m. 

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 10th August, 8:30am. Banks Road Birdwatch at Heswall.
One of the best places on the estuary to get close-up views of a variety of waders including Black-tailed Godwit, Knot, Redshank and Curlew. There is also a good chance of seeing Spotted Redshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel. (HW 10:40, 8.5m) Meet at Banks Road car park, Lower Heswall, near Sheldrake's Restaurant. Further information, tel. 0151 648 4371/3884

Wednesday 13th August, In Search of Terns.
A guided walk to Hilbre Island (staying over the tide) to search for Terns as they pass us on their mammoth migration. Please note there is a 1 charge for this event. Waterproofs and stout footwear are recommended. Please bring a packed lunch. Booking essential. Tel: 0151 648 4371/3884.

Monday 25th August (Bank Holiday) - Pelagic Trip from Anglesey in to the Irish Sea.
Local birder Allan Conlin has arranged a trip in search of seabirds including skuas, shearwaters and petrels. This will leave from Amlwch, Anglesey. The fully insured boat provides a sheltered cabin area, cooking facilities, hot and cold drinks and wc. The experienced charter skipper and on board guide will offer an enjoyable and memorable pelagic experience for only 25.00 per person. For details and to book your place ring Allan on 0151 625 9258 or 07791274837.

Saturday 30th August, 11:30am, What's that wader?
Do you struggle to tell your shanks from your stints, Calidrids from your Charadrids? Then come along for a simple step-by-step lesson in wader identification. Once you've mastered the 'yardstick' species, wader spotting becomes much easier and enjoyable. Expect a good selection of waders which should include Curlew Sandpiper and Whimbrel. (HW 13:38, 9.5m) No need to book. Meet at the end of Station Rd. Talacre, Point of Ayr. Contact RSPB on 0151 336 7681 for details. 

Thursday 11th September, Pirates of Hilbre.
A Guided Walk to Hilbre Island (staying over the tide) in search of Skuas, the pirates of Hilbre. With luck we will see them chasing gulls or terns to steal their food. Please note there is a 1 charge for this event. Warm waterproof clothing is recommended, please bring a packed lunch. 
Booking essential. For more details, phone 0151 648 4371/3884.

Saturday 13th September, 12:30pm - 2:00pm, Wader Watch at King's Gap.
Join the Ranger and the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens to see large numbers of waders at close quarters, as they gather to roost with the rising tide. Beginners welcome. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and binoculars if you have them. No need to book, meet at King's Gap, Hoylake. For further information phone 0151 678 5488.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2003', 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.