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August 2010 Newsletter

Liverbird Cruise.
July Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

'Liverbird' Bird Watching and Nature Discovery Cruises

The the Liverpool RSPB Group Leader gets his hands dirty throwing out 'chum'
to the waiting birds during one of the 2008 cruises © Laura Bimson.

Mersey Ferries, National Museums Liverpool, RSPB and The Environment Agency have joined forces to put on two Birdwatching cruises for 2010.

These will take place on Thursday August 5th and Wednesday September 29th. The latter trip is likely to be the most popular as it is specifically aimed at birders.

The cruises depart Seacombe at 11.00am, Liverpool at 11.10am and Woodside at 11.20am. Price £12.00 for adults and £6.00 for children (3-15yrs).

For more details see: and, you can buy tickets from this latter site, scroll down to 'Liverbird' Bird Watching and Nature Discovery Cruise. Each cruise lasts about three hours.

For those departing from the Wirral side of the Mersey then Seacombe has a large free car park whereas Woodside is close to Hamilton Square Station for those travelling by train.

There will be an RSPB commentary on these cruises which will help to point out where the birds are and inform us about their habits and movements through the area. Members of the local RSPB Group will be dispensing 'chum' into the sea, a rather odoriferous mixture of fish oil and fish bits which the birds love - Petrels can smell it from miles away!

For the first time in several years I wasn't able to go on any of the 2009 cruises - and boy, did I miss out with a Sooty Shearwater and Honey Buzzard being the highlights! Previous years have brought in a good mixture of terns, Arctic Skuas and several species of gull including Little and Mediterranean. More unusual birds which have been seen are a flock of five Spoonbills feeding on Crosby Beach, both Long-tailed and Great Skuas, a flock of Pink-footed Geese resting on a sand bank at low tide and Storm Petrels. 

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July Bird News

                           Lesser Yellowlegs at Inner Marsh Farm, Aug 1st, © Phil Woollen.

The bird of the month turned up on the last day - a Lesser Yellowlegs at Inner Marsh Farm. It was first seen on the 30th but not confirmed until the next day. We thought we had seen the last of it when it flew high to the east at noon but it returned in the evening and is still present as I write this on Aug 1st. It is the eighth record for Cheshire and Wirral, and probably the second for Wirral. I say 'probably' as the last one, which was recorded in 1953 at Leasowe, is somewhat vague!

It was a good month for sandpipers with Wood Sandpipers recorded on eight days: at Inner Marsh Farm, Decca Pools and Shotton; max three at Inner Marsh Farm and Decca. Green Sandpipers were recorded  on 10 days: at Burton Marsh, Gilroy Nature Park, Inner Marsh Farm and Shotton, max six at Shotton. The one at Gilroy stayed for five days and was often feeding next to a Common Sandpiper making the size difference easy to see. Common Sandpipers were widespread and seen both on fresh water sites, including Gilroy Nature Park where there were up to three, and also Hoylake shore, Heswall shore and Hilbre.  Other migrating waders included Whimbrel, there were 23 at Hilbre on the 20th and 30 at Thurstaston on the 31st. Max count of Greenshank was eight at Parkgate, where there were also up to three Spotted Redshank, nice to see these back here which used to be stronghold for this species. A few Black-tailed Godwits passed through after their breeding season in Iceland, mainly at Inner Marsh Farm; eight of these were colour ringed including birds ringed in France and Portugal.

            A few of the many hundreds of gulls roosting at Hoylake mid July
           In the middle is a colour ringed Mediterranean Gull, © Peter Welch.

Despite several days of fresh westerly winds sea watching didn't produce any Storm Petrels and only a few Manx Shearwaters and Arctic Skuas. But there were plenty of Gannets around with max count being 300 off Hilbre on the 11th. Sandwich Terns returned in good numbers after breeding, highest count was at least 500 off Hilbre on the 24th. It was a record breaking season for the Little Terns at Gronant - 114 pairs and 216 fledglings. Previous record was set in 2003 with 110 pairs and 190 fledglings. Well done the wardens and terns!! A Roseate Tern was recorded off New Brighton on a couple of dates. Five Mediterranean Gulls were counted at both Heswall and Hoylake, with probably at a total of at least 15 different birds in the area.

A couple of Marsh Harriers and an Osprey passed through, and an early returning Hen Harrier was recorded twice. A Black Kite was reported flying from the estuary over Neston but was not confirmed.

Richard Smith.

Many thanks go to Richard Steel, Steve Williams,  Jane Turner, Chris Butterworth, Steve Hinde, Matt Thomas, Dave Harrington, John Jakeman, Colin Schofield, Paul Brady, Peter Welch, Charles Farnell, David Starkey, Jeremy Bradshaw, Mike Davenport, David Haigh, Clive Ashton, Jon Greep, John Nicklin,  Steve Hasell, Sean O'Hara, Gail Wilson, Mark Murphy, Dave Bancroft, Martin Kelly, Ian Hughes, Chris Davies, Gavin Littler, Paul Earley, David Small, Gareth Blockley, Peter Button, Sid Ashton, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during July. All sightings are gratefully received.

What to expect in August

August really is a great month for bird watching. It might not be as spectacular as September can be, but is certainly more reliable (not being dependent on prolonged NW gales) with an excellent variety of birds.

Any fresh westerly wind should bring in good numbers of Manx Shearwaters, sometimes we can get feeding flocks of several hundred just off the mouth of the estuary, and if the wind lasts for a day or two expect to see Storm Petrels (although they can be very difficult to see!) and may be towards the end of the month a Leach's Petrel or two. Most years we get one or two Pomarine Skuas with sometimes one hanging around for a few days, also expect to see both Arctic and Great Skuas. Terns will be much in evidence with several hundred Sandwich early in the month then more Common later. Little Terns can be a delight to watch feeding in Heswall gutter, also one or two Black and Roseate Terns may pass through.

Towards the inner estuary, particularly at Heswall and Connah's Quay, by far the most numerous wader will be Redshank with the Dee Estuary the most important site in the country for birds returning from Iceland. Along the North Wirral shore, Point of Ayr and Gronant we will see good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover on autumn passage, high tide off Hoylake and Red Rocks can be particularly impressive with 5,000 to 10,000 birds present. Other waders on passage will be Whimbrel, Greenshank and the three Sandpipers - Common, Green and Wood, these latter three preferring fresh water sites. Towards the end of the month we should get juvenile Curlew Sandpipers coming through - Heswall is particularly good for this species, but they can turn up just about anywhere, as can Little Stints. We are well overdue for a good Curlew Sandpiper year! Look out also for Grey Plover, many will still be in their splendid black and silver breeding plumage.

Passage Marsh Harriers will be in evidence, and the last two years we have had early returning Hen Harriers. Ospreys will be passing through but are always much scarcer at this time of year than in spring. No doubt Little Egret numbers will continue to increase, I've heard they have had a good breeding season at Burton - so maybe another record count!

            Grey Heron at Leasowe on July 30th, one of several, © Charles Farnell.

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Forthcoming Events

August Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.
11th August, 12.45hrs (BST), 9.7m.
12th August, 13.308hrs (BST), 9.8m.
13th August, 14.12hrs (BST), 9.6m.

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.
Also see 'Wingspan', a Diary of Birdwatching Events for Wirral and the North Wales Coast.

Wednesday 4th August, 8:30pm - 11:30pm, Barn Owls at Night - Wirral Country Park.
Join the Rangers at Wirral Country Park for a short talk and slide show about Barn Owls. They will then take you on a walk looking for Barn Owls hunting. This event is suitable for all the family but children under 16 years must be accompanied by a parent. Sorry no dogs.
Wear suitable clothes and bring your binoculars! Meet at the Thurstaston Visitor Centre.
Booking essential. Please telephone 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 7th August, 9:00am - 11:00am, Nature's Calendar - Summer.
Join the Rangers at Wirral Country Park for a gentle nature ramble across the west Wirral countryside to see the best of the summer wildlife. We’ll be on the lookout for birds, flowers, insects, anything that comes our way!
No need to book, meet at the Visitor Centre, Wirral Country Park (Thurstaston Visitor Centre).
For further information telephone 0151 648 4371.

Wednesday 11th August, 9.30am (HT 12.30, 9.7m), Terns and Waders at Point of Ayr.
Join the RSPB at POA as many species of bird gather in the area to build up their energy reserves before making their long flights to far off wintering grounds. There is no need to book just bring your binoculars and dress for the weather. Further details phone 0151 336 7681. Meet at the Smuggler's Inn Car Park.

Wednesday 11th August, 6:00pm - 9:30pm, Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands’ wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 3.5 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies recommended. All children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Sorry no dogs. Booking essential. There is a £1 charge per person for this event.
Please telephone 0151 648 4371.

Thursday 12th August, 10am start, Dee Day - Wirral Country Park.
Join the Rangers and WCP Recording Group at Wirral Country Park to celebrate all things “estuary”. There will be birdwatching walks on the rising tide and many other activities.
No need to book. For further enquiries please telephone 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 28th August and
Saturday 25th September
A free guided walk around the newly acquired grounds at the site of the Burton Mere Fishery. Find out about The RSPB’s plans for the area and the creation of new habitat and visitor facilities on the Dee Estuary Nature Reserve.  Booking is essential. To book and for further details please ring 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 29th August, 10:00am - 1:00pm, Heathland Walk in Heswall.
A morning stroll over Cleaver Heath and Heswall Dales and discover the wealth of wildlife on these lowland heathland reserves. A joint walk with Wirral Wildlife.
Meet at the Cleaver Heath Nature Reserve car park off Oldfield Road off Quarry Road West in Heswall.  Sorry no dogs.
For further enquiries telephone: 0151 677 7594.

Thursday 9th September, 9am start, Mud 'n' Marsh - Heswall Shore.
Join the Rangers and members of the WCP Recording Group on Heswall Shore to catch the first of the returning winter visitors to the Dee mudflats. Redshank and Shelduck numbers will be rising and there’s always the chance of a scarce passage migrant or two popping up!
No need to book, meet at Banks Road car park, Lower Heswall.
For further enquiries please telephone 0151 648 4371.

Friday 24th September, 7pm until late, Burton Mere Bat Night.
The RSPB and The Cheshire Bat Group are joining forces to bring you a unique opportunity to find out about the fascinating flying mammals that live around the reserve at Inner Marsh Farm and beyond. Booking is essential, places are limited. £3 RSPB/Bat Group members, £5 non-members - includes guided walk around Burton Mere and use of bat detectors. Call 0151 336 7681 to book and for further details - includes guided walk around Burton Mere and use of bat detectors.

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