Heswall and Thurstaston Site Guide
When and where
By November there will be up to a couple of hundred Bar-tailed Godwits, a
thousand or more Black-tailed Godwits and 10,000 or more Knot. Many of these
feed on the mud between Heswall Gutter and the beach giving some fantastic
close views, sometimes large flocks of Knot and Godwits are just 20
feet away. Many of these waders form sub-roosts at low tide and it is a
fairly common sight to see mixed flocks of Knot and Black-tailed Godwits
fast asleep in Heswall Gutter off Target Road (view point 3).
(between three and one hours before high tide)
Rare and Scarce
Top of page Mersey Ferry Bird
Mersey Ferry Bird Cruises
Liverbird Wildlife Discovery Cruises.
The RSPB, National Museums of Liverpool and Mersey Ferries have teamed up again to provide birdwatching cruises in to Liverpool Bay. There will be three cruises this year (2007), on August 20th, August 22nd and September 17th, 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 by ringing 0151 330 1444.
These trips are always enjoyable with Arctic Skuas usually the stars of the show. Last year we also saw a couple of Storm Petrels, the first ever for these trips. In previous trips rarer birds have included Long-tailed Skua, Great Skua and Osprey with regular birds including Peregrines, Guillemots, Mediterranean Gulls, Kittiwakes, Sandwich and Common Terns, Little Gulls, Bar-tailed Godwits and Knot on the beach at Crosby/Formby, and Black-tailed Godwits at New Ferry. We also usually see a Grey Seal or two.
As with any sea-watching the weather is crucial and ideally we want to go out the day after a westerly gale which should produce plenty of interesting birds including Scoters, Gannets and Manx Shearwaters, and may be even some Storm and Leach's Petrels; but I suppose a Sooty Shearwater would be too much to hope for!
July Bird News
I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the dreadful weather we have had this summer. Days on end of heavy rain and strong wind certainly has had a bad effect on breeding success generally. The Little Tern colony at Gronant has been effected by the heavy rain killing young chicks and sand blowing over the nests. With a record 125 pairs nesting given last year's weather we would have been expecting around 200 fledglings. As it is the 72 fledglings produced, with a few more still expected, is not a bad total considering that weather. Sandwich Terns use the estuary as a nursery and resting area after breeding prior to moving south for the winter. They too have had a bad year from reports we hear but there certainly has been quite a few young birds among the large flocks on the sand banks, so it hasn't been a complete disaster. Max count of Sandwich Terns at Gronant this month was 515 and at Hilbre 1,000. A single Black Tern and a couple of Roseate Terns were reported off North Wirral towards the end of the month.
That same weather which played havoc with the breeding season resulted in some strong westerly winds, which meant some very good seawatching. It has been yet another good year for Storm Petrels with birds seen on five days: Hilbre had the most sightings with three on 4th, five on 7th and a single on 28th; but the Leasowe Gunsite produced the highest count with 14 coming past on 7th, a few birds were also seen at New Brighton the same day. Manx Shearwaters were recorded on 12 days with max counts of 230 off Hilbre on 4th and at least 300 off Hoylake on 10th. It has been a remarkable month for Skuas with Arctics reported on 26 days and Greats on four days. Compare that with July last year when Arctic Skuas were reported on just five days with no Great Skuas. The max of 11 Arctic Skuas reported to me on the 4th from Hilbre was remarkably high in itself but I understand the final count that day may actually have been 18, the highest ever North-West July count. Ten on the 10th and nine on the 11th were also very high counts. There was also an, as yet, unconfirmed report of 20 past Hilbre on another day during the month.
The two Spoonbills which arrived in early June are still here as I write, although because they have spent quite a lot of time way out on Burton Marsh have sometimes been hard to see. Up to seven Spotted Redshanks have been at Inner Marsh Farm, other passage waders have included nine Greenshanks at both Parkgate and Connah's Quay, and a couple of Green Sandpipers at Inner Marsh Farm. Black-tailed Godwits numbers built up in numbers through the month at Inner Marsh Farm with a max count of at least 1,850. Some of these have been colour ringed and these show that at least some of these are breeding birds returning from Iceland and not just all immature non-breeding birds which spend the summer here. There have been a few Knot amongst the godwits, some of these are in their lovely red breeding plumage living up to their American name of Red Knot.
A Garganey and Green-winged Teal were at Inner Marsh Farm on the 4th. A male Common Rosefinch was reported in Caldy on the 12th. Unfortunately no details of the finder and exact location of this bird are yet available so this has to go down as just a 'possible'.
What to expect in August
August is often a good month for Skuas with the possibility of Pomarine, Great and Long-tailed joining the usual Arctic Skuas. Given a strong north-west wind we should be seeing both Storm and Leach's Petrels, particularly at the end of the month for the latter. The same wind will also bring in Manx Shearwaters and the possibility of a Sooty Shearwater or two. There should be plenty of terns in the estuary with Common Terns in good numbers whilst Sandwich Terns will decrease through the month as they head south.
Counts for some wader species will be increasing rapidly through the month with several thousand Curlew and Redshank at Heswall and 3,000 or so Black-tailed Godwits at Connah's Quay and Flint. Last year the new bunded pool at the Connah's Quay reserve proved particularly attractive to Greenshank with a max of 30, similar numbers should be present at Parkgate. Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers should all be seen although the current very high fresh water levels isn't ideal, look out also for Pectoral Sandpiper, our most regular of the North American waders. By the end of the month Curlew Sandpipers should be coming through, some years just one or two and other years we can get flocks of 20 or so; they can turn up just about anywhere but Heswall Shore is always a prime spot for this species. High tide at Gronant, Point of Ayr and Hoylake should produce flocks of Grey Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin in summer plumage.
Many thanks go to Richard Steel, Paul Vautrinot, Steve Oakes, Steve Edwards, Stuart Taylor, David and Karen Leeming, Allan Wraithmell, Tanny Robinson, David Haigh, David Harrington, Peter Newman, Mark Gibson, Phil Woollen, Allan Conlin, Glyn Roberts, Dave Wild, Leon Castell, Steve Round, James Smith, Steve Williams, Steve Hasell, John Boswell, Chris Butterworth, Jane Turner, Charles Farnell, Paul Shenton, Gilbert Bolton, Nigel Young, Geoff Robinson, Colin Wells, Stephen Ainsworth, Mark O'Sullivan, Tony D'Arcy, Colin Jones, Clive Ashton, Paul Rutter, John Ferguson, Keith Duckers and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during July. All sightings are gratefully received.
Spring Tides (Liverpool),
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Sunday 12th August, Through Dales and Woods, 10am -
Wednesday 15th August, Evening Sunset Walk to
Thursday 16th August, Woodland Wonders at
1.30pm to 3pm.
Tuesday 28th August,
Skuas and Terns.
Thursday 30th August, Evening Sunset Walk to
NOTE: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2007', 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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