Point of Ayr Site Guide
How to get there
Where to go
Straight ahead across the wet sand are low sand dunes, a beach and sand flats. Beyond is open sea with Hilbre Island in the distance. To the left, poking over the sand dunes is Point of Ayr lighthouse. A path going in that direction leads to a raised platform, ideal for sea watching, although a bit exposed during a gale. Further left again you will see an area of wet grassland and reeds, followed by scrub which merges in to a large area of sand dunes; this is an area known as the Warren. Facing back down Station Road and beyond the village of Talacre are Warren Farm fields which include a large flooded area.
The RSPB hide, salt marsh and the spit
Best to get there at
least two hours before high tide to see the waders coming in to roost. To
the left of the hide is a stony beach and beyond a raised area of the marsh;
both these are used by waders as roosts but the main roost is on the spit
just across the channel. The height of the spit means that there is room for
the waders to roost even on the biggest spring tides and this can often act
as a last refuge for birds driven off the sand banks across the estuary at
Hoylake and West Kirby. Unfortunately the spit is accessible from the beach
and consequently can suffer from disturbance. To combat this the RSPB have a
voluntary wardening scheme and anyone wishing to help should contact the
RSPB on 0151 336 7681. All the common waders roost here including both
species of Godwit. Oystercatchers are the most numerous with 5,000 being a
typical count. We also get Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Greenshank and
Spotted Redshank at times of passage. Rarities which have turned up over the
past few years include Marsh Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Kentish
Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and American Golden
The Beach and Sand Flats
This article first appeared in Birding North West Vol 3, No1.
July Bird News
numerous birdies and an eagle by a Tiger the only real birds at 'The Open'
were a pair of Stonechats in the sand dunes and a Peregrine overhead. The
wardens on West Kirby shore next to
the golf course did an excellent job of protecting the Natterjack toads
from being trampled under foot, the toads had a very good breeding season
with the hundreds of tiny toads produced crawling around the marsh and
The Little Terns at Gronant have also had a very good breeding season with well over 100 fledglings produced and quite a few chicks still in the colony as I write. If the total fledged reaches more than 120, a distinct possibility, then it will be the third ever best season there since wardening began in 1975. Over the past four years Gronant must have been the most productive colony in the United Kingdom for this declining species, both in terms of absolute numbers of fledglings produced and also for the number of fledglings per nest. The Common Terns at Shotton had another record breaking season with 1,032 chicks ringed by the Merseyside Ringing Group.
There have been large numbers of both gulls and terns in the estuary with max counts of 4,000 Black-headed gulls, 1,130 Sandwich Terns, 560 Common Terns and 271 Little Terns at West Kirby alone. Among the Black-headed Gull flocks at both Heswall and West Kirby have been up to three Mediterranean Gulls.
Wader numbers have been quite low, perhaps the hot weather has put them off, but the three young Avocet stayed a couple of days at the beginning of the month on Burton Marsh where there was also one adult. Inner Marsh Farm had a Wood Sandpiper for a few days along with both Common and Green Sandpipers and up to four Little ringed Plover. 15 Whimbrel were on Heswall shore on the 21st along with a leucistic Redshank for the ninth year running (leucistic meaning a bird which is unusually pale but not a full albino).
Several Marsh Harriers passed through including three juveniles hunting over Heswall Marsh on the 24th. The following day saw a Red Kite over north Wirral.
Despite the heat haze sea watching has been good with 13 Storm Petrels seen from a boat just off Leasowe on the 12th. There have been plenty of Gannets around with at least 200 in sight from Red Rocks making for a spectacular sight on the last day of the month. A few Arctic Skuas have been observed including three from Red Rocks on the 24th. Little Egret are starting to build in numbers again after the breeding season with at least 42 Little Egrets at Inner Marsh Farm. They bred again this year at a site next to the Dee Estuary. At least two Quail were heard on several days towards the end of the month in a field just south of Neston.
PS - the report of 7114 Sandwich Terns on West Kirby Shore on 19th July was a typo and should have read 794. Apologies for the mistake. Surprised no one queried what would probably have been a world record for a single site!!
What to expect in August
August can be a excellent month with the southward migration picking up, plenty of waders returning from breeding and, given a strong west wind, many of the seabirds more usually associated with September offshore.
Both Marsh Harriers and Ospreys will be on their way south, the former often staying a few days. Some years Kestrel numbers can build up to quite spectacular numbers on Parkgate Marsh - three years ago we counted 45 in one sweep of the telescope. A wandering Red Kite or two is also a distinct possibility. Swallows will be going through in their hundreds and the southern movement of warblers will be well underway, prime spots to see this migration are Hilbre, Red Rocks and Point of Ayr.
The Dunlin and Sanderling which pass through this month, many still in summer plumage, will be on their way to Africa to spend the winter. The rarer Curlew Sandpipers should be seen by the last week in August, perhaps earlier. Most of these will be juveniles as the adults usually migrate further east, we are overdue for a good Curlew Sandpiper migration so hopefully we might get a few good flocks with up to as many as 20 or so birds. They can appear just about anywhere on the estuary but prime spots in the past have been Hoylake, Heswall and Point of Ayr. Look out for Little Stints among the Dunlin flocks at Hoylake, they are also regular at Inner Marsh Farm. Black-tailed Godwits will be returning from Iceland in their hundreds, Flint Point is a good place to see them at low tide and Oakenholt Marsh at high tide. Many Godwits will be staying on the estuary for the winter but the Greenshanks are on their way to West Africa, many use the Boathouse Flash at Parkgate as a staging post, they can also be seen at Inner Marsh Farm and Heswall. As I write this at the end of July Boathouse Flash is completely dry after the drought and a series of neap tides, but high tides due mid-month should fill it again just in time for the main influx of Greenshanks.
Hundreds of terns will be in the estuary which they use for a bit of R&R before heading south. Sandwich Tern numbers will begin to drop but Common Terns, which finish breeding later, will increase during the first half of the month. There should also be a lot of Little Terns after their successful season at Gronant, and there is always the possibility of seeing Black and Roseate Terns. Any prolonged strong westerly wind towards the end of the month should result in both Storm and Leach's Petrels being blown towards the shore together with the more usual Gannets, Kittiwakes and skuas.
Many thanks go to David Small, Bryan Joy, Ian Hughes, Greg Harker, Neil McLaren, Jim Armstrong, Phil Woolen, Gilbert Bolton, David Haigh, Dave Harrington, Damian Waters, Steve Round, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wild, Colin Wells, Steve Ainsworth, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Jane Turner, Charles Farnell, John Kirkland, Dave Don, Neil Atkinson, Steve Liston, Geoff Robinson, Paul Vautrinot, Andrew Wallbank, Tanny Robinson, Steve Renshaw, John Boswell, Frank Huband, Mark O'Sullivan, Margaret Twemlow and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during July. All sightings are gratefully received.
August Highest Spring Tides,
11th August, 13.33hrs 9.6m. BST.
12th August, 14.17hrs 9.6m. BST.
Forthcoming Events (organised
by the Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Thursday 10th and 24th August, Sunset Walk to
Saturday 12th August, 11.15am, Banks Road Birdwatch at
Saturday 26th August, 11am, High Tide at
Point of Ayr.
NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2006', 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.
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