The spring of 2013 was very late as I'm sure you will all remember. Many of our spring migrants arrived exceptionally late, but it was strange as everything seemed mixed up with some species actually arriving earlier than normal! Our over-wintering birds, which move further north to breed, were also effected and we have heard reports of Knot, Redshank and Barnacle Geese all being delayed, and also Black-tailed Godwits.
The normal pattern is for the bulk of the godwits to arrive back in Iceland to breed in the second half of April with the rest ariving in the first week in May. This year the migration was delayed by at least two weeks and we heard of many birds being held up in the Hebrides with 800 on Islay, 1,520 on Tiree and 'thousands' grounded in the Outer Hebrides at the end of April.
We also had our own delayed
Black-tailed Godwits right here close to the Dee Estuary reaching a
maximum of 1,600
birds in late April, remarkably they were just a short walk from where
I live! They spent most of each day in a field where there is a
collection of wildfowl on the edge of Caldy, usually flying off to the
at Thurstaston in the afternoon to feed. With the majority in
plumage it made for a stunning
sight. 20 of the birds were colour-ringed which meant we could find out
their movements before they had reached Caldy and the graph below shows
just how far they range, reaching as far south as Portugal. There is
also much movement of birds between various sites within this
country. 30% we had never seen before in the Dee Estuary area
demonstrating that these weren't just local birds which were delayed
but that they had come from a wide area.
We get so much fascinating detail with these colour ringed birds that it is difficult to summarise in a short article so I thought I'd concentrate on just two birds as good examples of the sort of information we receive.
GG-GL (green over green on left leg, green over light green [also known as lime green] on right leg) was ringed as an adult on spring passage on May 3rd 2000 in Iceland. Outside Iceland it has only been recorded in a fairly narrow strip across the centre of the British Isles.
- recorded every May from 2001 to 2009 on spring passage, but
never on it's breeding ground.
Ireland - recorded both on migration and in the winters of 00/01, 01/02 and 02/03, also on spring migration in 2009.
Humber Estuary - first seen in August 2003 then every year here during the return passage up to 2010. It was at nearby Wheldrake Ings in March 2009.
Dee Estuary - first seen January 2010 then all through the winter of 10/11 at Thurstaston but not recorded again here until April 2013.
Seaforth Nature Seaforth - present for two days in March 2012.
The Wash - only record here was on Sep 21st 2012.
OflagY-OG (Orange flag over yellow on left leg, orange over green on right leg) was ringed on the Moeze Nature Reserve on the Atlantic coast of France on Dec 12th 2007. Since then it has been in France every winter, usually around the Charante Estuary.
On the return passage (Sep/Oct) in 2009 it was on the Wash, and was early returning in 2011 when it was on the Humber Estuary in early July.
It took a trip to Portugal in February 2010 where it was recorded by the Tagus Estuary.
It has never been seen in Iceland and,
before 2013, has never been recorded on spring passage. In 2013 it was
last seen in France on March 7th and turned up at Caldy on April 26th
where it stayed for four days.
Acknowledgements/Sources of information for this article:
1. "Operation Godwit - Project Jaðrakan", all those 'Blackwit'
enthusiasts who do the ringing and subsequent data compilation, and who
are so prompt at sending out details to people who send their records
in, key people are: Tomas Gunnarsson and Vigfús Eyjólfsson in
Iceland; Jenny Gill, Graham Appleton, Pete Potts and Ruth
Croger in UK; Becca and Jim Wilson in Ireland; Guillaume Gelinaud and
Julien Gonin in France and Jose Alves in Portugal. Also the Farlington
Ringing Group and University of East Anglia play an important part.
As well as being actively involved in ringing many of the above, and others, have written and/or contributed to various publications regarding Black-tailed Godwits - see
2. Matt Thomas, 'Following colour ringed migratory shorebirds around Europe - Part 1: Chasing Blackwits', see www.deeestuary.co.uk/news0812.htm.
3. Fellow colour-ring enthusiasts John Jakeman and Matt Thomas who kept me company at Caldy for many hours.4. foragyll.com for the information regarding birds in the Inner Hebrides.
5. Maps kindly provided by University of Texas Libraries (text added by the author).
Richard Smith.Top of Page
Point of Ayr, on the North Wales coast at Talacre, is a great place to watch a variety of birds as they come in to roost at high tide, but unfortunately the site is extremely vulnerable to human disturbance. The RSPB is looking for extra volunteers to help warden this invaluable roost site, and protect the birds throughout the cold winter months.
Shifts are run most weekends and typically last between 3-4 hours, depending on the height of the tide.
If you would like to help in any way please contact the RSPB on 0151 353 8478 or Mobile 07860169452 . Not only are you helping to save the planet, but it’s also great birdwatching too!
Editor - to get an idea of how good an area this is for birds see the Point of Ayr Site Guide.
Tern numbers will continue to build and a visit to Hoylake, West Kirby or Point of Ayr at high tide, or Hilbre at low tide, will be a fantastic spectacle with hundreds of both Common and Sandwich Terns, the noise alone is incredible! The Little Terns will have left Gronant and can often be seen feeding in the estuary, a good place is Hilbre gutter on an incoming tide. Some years we can get much rarer Black Terns passing through and an occasional Roseate Tern. These tern hordes will attract skuas, Arctic for certain but also a good chance of Great and Pomarine.
After the quiet of the past few weeks waders will return in their thousands. Dunlin and Ringed Plover will be on the beaches at the mouth of the estuary whereas spectacular numbers of Redshanks, up to 10,000, will be further up the estuary, particularly Heswall. Greenshank, Spotted Redshanks and various sandpipers can be seen at Parkgate, Burton Mere Wetlands and the Connah's Quay Reserve. Harder to spot among all the Dunlin could well be one or two Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints.
time last year we had six Marsh Harriers present on the marshes and
there is also a good chance of an early returning Hen Harrier. August
is also a time when we can see abnormal numbers of Buzzards
congregating when different family parties get together and circle
together, may be as many as 20 or more 'kettling'.
21st August, 12.03hrs (BST), 9.5m.
22nd August, 12.46hrs (BST), 9.6m.
23rd August, 13.27hrs (BST), 9.6m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the
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 2013 Events Diary.
Sunday 11th August, 11:30 start, Terntastic at Point of Ayr.
Price: £3 (suggested donation).
The mouth of the River Dee is a vital feeding ground for terns and other seabirds before they head off on their long journeys south, and The Point of Ayr is one of the best places to see them.
On this walk we should see close to 1000 terns (sandwich mainly but little, common and Arctic terns all occur) roosting close in as the tide covers up their feeding areas and forces them closer to shore.
Don't forget to bring your binoculars, telescopes and cameras.
So book your place now by phoning 0151 353 8478