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August 2011 Newsletter

Mersey Ferries Bird Cruises.
July Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

Liverbird Watching and Nature
Discovery Cruises.

                  Skuas to port, Med Gull to starboard! Richard Smith.

Mersey Ferries, National Museums Liverpool and the RSPB have joined forces to once again host the hugely popular Liverbird Discovery Cruises on the River Mersey and out into the bay. The cruises will be on Thursday 18th August, Saturday 3rd September and Thursday 15th September. For details and to book see the Mersey Ferries website.

For those boarding from the Wirral side of the Mersey then Woodside Ferry Terminal is close to Hamilton Square Station for those travelling by train, for those travelling by car I would recommend Seacombe Ferry Terminal which has a large free car park.

Don't expect to see rare pelagic seabirds on these cruises but what we do get is a good selection of the local birds - such as Arctic Skuas, Common and Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes, Mediterranean Gulls and plenty of other gulls attracted by the 'chum' thrown over the back of the boat. We have also had rarities such as Storm Petrels, Long-tailed Skuas, Spoonbills, a Sooty Shearwater and an Osprey. Expect to see a good selection of waders as they fly over between north Wirral and the Alt Estuary. One year on a low tide trip we saw several hundred Pink-footed Geese resting on sand banks having just flown in from Iceland. Added to all this will be a display put together by Liverpool Museums and a commentary by the RSPB.

Richard Smith.

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July Bird News

Numbers of Sandwich Terns built up rapidly early in the month and had already reached 218 on the sand banks by Hilbre on the 6th and were close to 1,500 here by the end of the month. Good views of these raucous birds were also had from West Kirby shore as the tide came in with up to 880 present - I estimated around 30% juveniles among them so they must have had a good breeding season.  By the end of the month numbers of Common Terns had increased, max count was 280 at Hilbre, there were also 9 Arctic Terns and 35 Little Terns at West Kirby. The latter had a good breeding season at Gronant, I understand, but I don't have any details of numbers of young fledged yet. Single Roseate Terns were spotted from New Brighton on the 18th and on the 23rd from Leasowe Lighthouse.

    Two Arctic skuas chasing a young Kittiwake, July 29th, Hilbre, Colin Jones from Hilbre Blog.

We didn't see our first Skua until the 16th, a Pomarine and two Arctics from Hilbre, but from then on Arctic Skuas were recorded almost every day. The most unusual record were of six on a sand bank off Heswall on the 26th, on the same day five of these were resting on the rocks by Hilbre - the highest number was nine east of Hilbre on 24th. Strong north-west winds on the 17th and 18th blew in a few Storm Petrels, four in the Mersey mouth was the highest count. We also had some Manx Shearwaters coming past including a large feeding flock of up to 700 birds.

There were plenty of gulls around including Mediterranean, three were in the fields around Hoylake and West Kirby during the strong winds and at the end of the month three were at both Heswall and West Kirby Shores.

                                 Mediterranean Gull, July 9th, Hilbre, Paul Brady.
There was an early ringtail Hen Harrier at Parkgate on the 5th, but no Marsh Harriers or Ospreys. There were seven reports of single Hobbies and it seems likely they have bred in the area.

It was nice to see good numbers of Dunlin back, 2,000 at West Kirby on the 29th with 3,000 flying past Hilbre two days later - and a summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper. 17 Greenshank at the Connah's Quay Reserve on the 18th was by far the highest count of this species. At least 500 Black-tailed Godwits were at Inner Marsh Farm on a couple of dates. Spotted Redshanks were a bit thin on the ground but there were two at Parkgate on the 7th.

Richard Smith.

Many thanks go to John Jakeman, David Leeming, Mike Jones, Steve Williams, Steve Hinde, Chris Butterworth, Graham Thompson, Charles Farnell, Malcolm Guy, Colin Millington, Martin Kelly, Colin Jones, Bruce Atherton, Paul Brady, Dave Wild, Matt Thomas, Jeremy Bradshaw, Dave Harrington, Kenny Dummigan, Paul Vautrinot, Jane Turner, John Nicklin, David Small, Dave Edwards, Greg Harker, Mark Evans, Ian Fleming, Steve Hand, Harry Lyon,Andy Buckley, Peter Haslem, Ray Eades, Gail Wilson, Stuart Feely, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during July. All sightings are gratefully received.

What to expect in August

There is always plenty going on in August, both in the estuary and out to sea. Passage wader numbers will be building up and we should see thousands of Dunlin and hundreds of Ringed Plover at Hoylake, Point of Ayr and Gronant. We will also get Grey Plovers looking fabulous in their breeding plumage, and among the Dunlin hopefully some Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers. On fresh water sites expect to see Common, Green and Wood Sandpipers and Spotted Redshanks. Greenshank numbers will increase during the month at both Parkgate and Connah's Quay, around 30 at each site is usual. Black-tailed Godwits will be returning from Iceland with hundreds at Gilroy NP (West Kirby), Inner Marsh Farm and Connah's Quay.

          Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit at Gilroy Nature Park, August 2010, Richard Smith.

There will be plenty of gulls around including Mediterranean; Hoylake and Heswall seem to be best for these. Gronant, Point of AyrHilbre, West Kirby and Hoylake are the places to see terns - Sandwich Terns in particular will be noticeable in their hundreds with their raucous cries, also Common and Little Terns and maybe one or two Black and Roseate Terns.

Any fresh westerly winds will result in good sea watching. August is always a good month for Arctic Skuas, but sometimes we get a Pomarine Skua hanging around for several days plus one or two Great and Long-tailed. Manx Shearwaters will be out in Liverpool Bay, hopefully passing by in their hundreds, and maybe a Storm Petrel or two and by the end of the month we would hope to see the first Leach's Petrels of the 'autumn'.

On the marshes we may get our first returning Short-eared Owls and Hen Harriers, as well as Marsh Harriers on passage.

    The digger at Parkgate (Dee Estuary RSPB) working on what looks like a promising wader scrape,
                                                 July 22nd, Richard Smith.
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Forthcoming Events

August Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.
30th August, 12.39hrs (BST), 9.8m.
31st August, 13.21hrs (BST), 9.9m.

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 2011 Events Diary.

Saturday 13th August 8:15 am until 4:00 pm. Terns and Skuas on Hilbre.

Join the Rangers and staff from the RSPB for an over tide visit to Hilbre Island. We should get great views of the Terns as they dive into the sea in search of small fish followed by Skuas as they take chase to steal their meal!  Suitable clothing, footwear and packed lunch are essential.  (Please note that we shall be cut off from the mainland) Sorry no dogs.  Please book early as there are limited places available. For booking and further enquiries call: 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 14th August, 2:00pm - 4:00pm, Barn Owls on Wirral.
Join the Wirral Barn Owl Group and discover more about the efforts being made to conserve Barn Owls on Wirral. Learn more about their habits and habitats including looking at the food they eat.
Max number is 30. Booking essential.
Sorry no dogs.
Location is Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston Visitor Centre. Please ring 0151 648 4371 to book.

Sunday 14th August, 6:30pm - 9:30pm, Barn Owl Talk and Evening Walk - Wirral Country Park
Join the Rangers and Steve Harris from the Wirral Barn Owl Group for an evening illustrated talk followed by a walk around the Thurstaston Visitor Centre and along the Wirral Way to (hopefully) see these lovely birds quartering over the fields at dusk.
Sorry no dogs.
Maximum number is 25 and Booking is essential.
Location is Wirral Country Park, Thurstaston. Please ring 0151 648 4371 to book.

Tuesday 23rd August, 6 pm to 10 pm. Wet Walk into Wales.
A chance, courtesy of the landowners - the MOD and the RSPB - and guided by the Dee Wildfowlers Warden to see the glory of the Dee Estuary. Wellies and waterproofs minimum requirements. Booking Essential - please ring Wepre Park on 01244814932, charge is 3.50 with all proceeds to RNLI. Details such as meeting point will be available when booking.

Wednesday 31st August, 11 am to 1.30 pm, Dee Estuary Expedition.
An opportunity courtesy of Corus to walk and lunch in the heart of the Dee Estuary guided by Coastal Rangers and the Dee Wildfowlers. Booking Essential - please ring Wepre Park on 01244814932, charge is 3.50 with all proceeds to RNLI. Details such as meeting point will be available when booking.

Thursday 1st September, 11:00 am start, 40 Years of Ramsar – An eye on the Mudflats.
Join the Rangers and members of the Wirral Country Park Recording Group for a special look at the Dee estuary to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention that protects internationally important wetlands. As the tide rises plenty of wetland birds will be on the move and we will track them with the new remote “mud-cam” out on the flats and our screen with us on the shore.
Binoculars/telescopes will be available.
Meet at Banks Rd car park, Lower Heswall (next to Sheldrake's Restaurant).
For further enquiries ring 0151 648 4371.

The BIG DEE DAY (Celebrate 40 years of Ramsar) - Wirral Country Park at Thurstaston.
Friday 16th September, 10:00 am to 4:45 pm.
Saturday 17th September, 10:00 am to 4:45 pm.
Come down to the Thurstaston Centre to celebrate all things Dee Estuary with an action packed couple of days. There will be guided walks, slideshows, self-guided trails and information stands with experts on hand to tell you more about the estuary and it’s wildlife. Binoculars/telescopes available.
For further enquiries ring 0151 648 4371.

On the Welsh side of the estuary the BIG DEE DAY will be a 48 hour marathon of cleaning, clearing and celebration of the Dee Estuary. Please ring Wepre Park on 01244814932 for details.

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