Liverbird Wildlife Discovery Cruises.
The RSPB, NMGM (National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside) and Mersey Ferries have teamed up again to provide birdwatching cruises in to Liverpool Bay. This year there will be three cruises, on August 18th, September 1st and September 15th, 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.
Merseyside Ringing Group - 50th Anniversary Report
report is a celebration of 50 years bird ringing. This is our hobby, an
activity we pursue with a passion whilst always enjoying it. Merseyside
Ringing Group has provided many enduring friendships, given us lots of
fun, but has always been dedicated to improving our understanding of
birds." - Peter Coffey, editor.
I thought I could do no better as a
way of introducing this review than quoting this first paragraph of the
report. The report includes nine fascinating articles from those published
by the group over the years - these include such gems as 'The Brambling
invasion of Merseyside -1981' and 'European-African Songbird Migration
Network'. Two of the articles are directly related to the Dee Estuary -
'Weight variations of Ringed Plovers on the Dee Estuary' and 'The Shotton
Tern Colony'. I quote from the latter, written by the late Ron Birch in
Of course a good portion of the report is taken up discussing and listing the birds which have been ringed and recovered. This includes a section named "50 years - 50 birds" listing some really quality birds. I list three here, all ringed on the Dee Estuary:
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
Ringed as an adult: 06.08.67
Hoylake, Wirral, Merseyside.
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Ringed as an adult:15.12.74
Thurstaston, Wirral, Merseyside.
Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)
Ringed as a chick: 23.06.92
Extracts used with permission of Professor David Norman, with thanks.
July Bird News
been a bit of a funny year at our tern colonies. Breeding started very
late which has had a big effect on the Little Terns at
Gronant, but not so much
It was estimated at the end of May that there were 583 pairs of Common
when in a normal year they have all arrived. But a check a month later on
just one of the rafts indicated quite a lot more had arrived. Anyway, the
Merseyside Ringing Group ringed 862 chicks, of which they reckon at least
750 have fledged - yet another record. At
Gronant the Little Terns
seem to have come in three waves. One in the second half of May, the next
in June and the third in July. Weather plays a big effect on how
successful the first wave is and this year the start of nesting coincided
with bad weather. As a result there were just a few nests and most of
these were outside the electric fence so most have been predated. The
second wave was more successful resulting in about 60 nests, but because
of the late start at the time of writing very few of the chicks have
fledged. More bad weather causing sand to blow over nests hasn't helped
this year, so we aren't expecting a bumper crop of young birds. The third
wave in July are either non-breeders or may be early/failed breeders from
other colonies. This third wave resulted in at least 410 Little Terns at
quite a sight, and the presence of this flock hopefully helps to deter
avian predators. None of this seems to have effected Sandwich Terns which,
judging by the numbers of juveniles around, seem to have had another good
breeding season. They come here after breeding in various locations around
the Irish Sea and several hundred have been seen at
July's highlight must have been the strong west winds from the 19th to 23rd which blew in 30 Storm Petrels past Hilbre on 21st (23 here on 20th) which could well be a record number for Hilbre. Also seen off North Wirral and Gronant over this period were 2 Great Skua, 5 Arctic Skua, 45 Gannets, 47 Manx Shearwater, 54 Common Scoter as well as Fulmars, Kittiwakes etc., all very good numbers for July.
Other birds of interest were two Ospreys, a Spotted Crake at Inner Marsh Farm and 3 or 4 Mediterranean Gulls which have been seen in the area. 21 Greenshank were back at Parkgate on 21st, 6 Spotted Redshank at Inner Marsh Farm on 11th and 600 Black-tailed Godwit back at the Connah's Quay Reserve by the month end.
What to expect in August
Usually an excellent month for birdwatching. On the estuary expect huge numbers of waders, counts of Redshank and Curlew usually peak this month as they return from breeding - last year we had just under 7,000 Curlew and over 10,000 Redshank. It is believed that the Dee Estuary is the most important site in the country for passage Redshank. Get down to Heswall Shore at least two hours before high tide to see these thousands of birds. Greenshank numbers will build during the month with up to 50 at Inner Marsh Farm, Parkgate Boathouse Flash is also a good spot to see these passage birds. Other passage waders include Common and Green Sandpipers, usually just two or three at a time, and by the end of the month we should be getting a few Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints coming through (see article on passage waders). August is also a good month to see passage Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover - try Gronant or Hoylake Shore as the tide comes in. Many of the Grey Plover will be in summer plumage; a stunning sight!
A strong wind in the west quadrant towards the end of the month should make for some excellent sea-watching; Leach's Petrel, Storm Petrel, Skuas etc. The southerly migration will be well underway and we should see good numbers of Willow Warblers, Swallows etc. passing through Hilbre Island. Larger migrants will include Marsh Harriers and Ospreys.
Little Egret numbers will build up, a good place to see these is at Inner Marsh Farm as they come in to evening roost with may be as many as 50 or so birds. There will be hundreds of terns around, especially over the first half of the month. Shelduck will be largely absent as they will be moulting over on the Mersey, but by the last week of August look for them returning in large numbers.
Many thanks go to James Armstrong, John Spottiswood, Greg Hawkswell, John Kirkland, John Ferguson, David Haigh, Clive Ashton, Charles Farnell, John Campbell, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Jane Turner, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wilde, Mark O'Sullivan, Jean Morgan, Richard Hurst, Tom Giles, Phil Woollen, Colin Wells, 'Dunraven', Margaret Twemlow, Steve Round, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during July. All sightings are gratefully received.
August Highest Spring Tides,
21st August, 13:20hrs 9.8m. Times BST.
22nd August, 14:03hrs 9.8m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Liverbird Cruises - 18th August, 1st September, 15th September, see article above.
Sunday 7th August, 10:30am, Banks Road Birdwatch at
Saturday 20th August, 9:30am, High Tide at
Point of Ayr.
Sunday 11th September, 10:30am, Grebes at
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2005', 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.