THE month for Ringed Plovers
estuary. It is this month when we get the migrants, which breed in the
high Arctic, passing through in their hundreds on their way to spend
the winter in Africa. They tend to favour sand, rather than
so you will see them at Gronant, Point of Ayr, Hilbre, West Kirby and
Hoylake. On August 21st last year (2013) I was lucky enough
see Hoylake shore covered with them at high tide when I counted 1,600,
which may well be the highest single site count on the Dee estuary
since the 1970s. I always look at these small birds with awe knowing
how far they have already travelled and how much further they still
have to go.
Way back in the 1970s we used to have
larger numbers but since then counts have been much lower, but it is
pleasing to see over the past three years a big
that the WeBS count of 1,630 on August 25th 2013 was the highest since
We also get birds coming through in May on their way back to their
breeding grounds, but the August peak is always larger here on the Dee
Estuary. In contrast, on the nearby Ribble Estuary the peak is
usually in May and in 2011 (and with only a slightly smaller peak in
May 2012) they had the highest ever recorded count for Lancashire with
6,270 (see graph below).
Nearer to the Dee estuary both Frodsham
Marsh and the Mersey estuary can have good numbers in August, although
the peak counts vary greatly from year to year. Recent high counts at
Frodsham include 3,250 in August 2009, one of the highest ever recorded
there, and there were 1,500 in August 2013. The same day as
Frodsham birds were counted 1,120 were on the north shore of
the Mersey estuary, which is the second ever highest count there.
Ringed Plovers sheltering from the wind at Point
© Richard Smith.
These migrants are from two
- which breed in Greenland and Eastern Canada, and tundrae
- which breed in northern Scandinavia and right across northern
Siberia. Both populations winter in Africa. These recent good numbers
could indicate that these populations may well be increasing but, of
course, we only see a tiny proportion of the total, which may well be
as many as a million birds, so I don't think we can come to any
conclusion in that regard without looking at the bigger
Plover at New Brighton
© Steve Seal.
There is a third population of Ringed
Plovers - the nominate race hiaticula.
Ringed Plovers are one of the few waders which breed around the Dee
estuary and it is a joy to see them when I'm wardening at Gronant with
their soft calls and distraction displays. They breed at several
locations along the Welsh coast as well as two locations on North
Wirral. These are hiaticula
birds and it is also this population which spends the winter with us.
The British Isles is of major importance for hiaticula both for
breeding and wintering, there is some movement south in the winter but
only as far a Iberia and the Moroccan coast and the majority both breed
and winter in western Europe. It is this population which has undergone
a major decline in this country since they reached a peak in the late
1980s. This is probably due to both disturbance in their coastal
breeding areas and some birds staying further east during mild winters.
However, there is some evidence that the population as a whole only
shows a moderate decline. The graph below shows numbers recorded in the
winter on the Dee estuary and mirrors the national decline,
they reached their lowest ever winter max in 2011/12 (52) but
there was a very welcome bounce the following year. Lets hope that
References/Sources of Information:
1. BTO, WeBS Reports Online, http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/webs.
2. Neil Friswell and Colin Wells, Dee Estuary and North Wirral
Foreshore WeBS Annual Report, 2012/13.
3. Cheshire and Wirral Bird Reports, 1967 to 2012, CAWOS, plus 2013
data not yet published.
4. Simon Delany et al., An Atlas of Wader
Populations in Africa and Western Eurasia, Wetlands International,
5. The Migration Atlas, BTO, 2002.
6. Birds of the Western Palearctic (BWPi - interactive edition).
7. David Norman, Birds in Cheshire and Wirral (Atlas), CAWOS, 2008.
8. Bird Atlas 2007-11, BTO, 2013.
Red Rocks - Update
I have some news this
Wildlife Trust have set out a consultation timetable for the management
plan for Red Rocks. The Cheshire and Wirral Ornithological Society
(CAWOS), the Dee Estuary Conservation Group (DECG) and Wirral Wildlife
(Wirral branch of CWT) have all been invited to a meeting early in
August, with a fuller consultation with various bodies and individuals
(including myself) to take place shortly after. CAWOS and DECG have
been asked to put forward nominees to take part in the
plan working group. Work on Red Rocks is planned to resume on October
I hope this will turn out to be as good
news as it seems. It is not
the comprehensive re-surveying of the site followed by a complete
re-assessment of the features of the SSSI which is our ultimate aim,
but at least it is a good step in the right direction. There are some
worrying aspects with the consultation process - for example, why no
mention of Natural England and their Conservation Enhancement
Agreement? - but we will have to wait to see what happens.
For those who have not been following
the problems at Red Rocks - see the Madness at
Red Rocks article and the subsequent
follow up article.
July Bird News
Juvenile Cuckoo at Leasowe, July 29th
© David Haigh.
Mediterranean Gulls were much in
evidence, particularly in the first half of the month. Total number of
records received came to 57, which is second only to the 63 in July
2010 which was a record month for this species. Notable counts were
three off Leasowe Lighthouse on the 7th and seven on Heswall Shore on
It was great to stand on Red Rocks and
hear the constant noise of the Sandwich Terns,
highest count was 795 at West Kirby on the 24th, with similar numbers
at Hilbre. There were 133 adults with 33 juveniles on the 13th, so a
good breeding season. There was also good
numbers of Little Terns at West Kirby with up to 200 towards the end of
the month including 70 fledglings. There was a massive count of 587
Little Terns at Gronant on the 27th which included at least 107
fledglings. I think 587 is a record high number for the Dee
estuary, it will include birds which have bred elsewhere and
arrived at Gronant at the end of the breeding season.
Wader numbers built up steadily during the month, it was an amazing
contrast between the beginning of the month, with just a few
Oystercatchers and Curlews around, to the end when there were many
of Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Redshank etc. The early return of
Black-tailed Godwits caught us by surprise but we understand some
appalling weather in Iceland in the first week of July meant that many
broods were abandoned and thus many of the adults left early. We've had
record numbers of these waders at Gilroy Nature Park (West Kirby) with
a maximum of 1,220 when we would normally be expecting no more than 100
there by late July. I write this on the last day of the month
having just got back from Gilroy, it was truly magical seeing the
godwits come in from the shore pushed off by the rising tide in flocks
anywhere between three and three hundred strong, as they flew over me
to land you could hear the wings slicing through the still air - a
really amazing sound - and when they landed they all started 'talking'
to each other, a surprisingly load musical twitter.
Heswall shore has been good for waders, as well as the usual thousands
of Redshank and hundreds of Curlew, we had 86 Whimbrel on the 25th and
seven Common Sandpipers on the 29th. Greenshank numbers are
starting to build up, there were several reports of single birds and
eight were on Parkgate Marsh on the 26th.
With light easterly winds for most of the month sea-watching has been
poor, but we did have three days when Manx Shearwaters were seen with
max 95 from Hilbre on the 13th. An early returning Hen Harrier has been
seen and there were two Marsh Harriers (a female and a juvenile) at the
end of the month.
Last, but not least, the big news of the month was the successful
breeding of Spotted Crakes at Burton Mere Wetlands, there had been
several reports of singles over the past couple of months but there was
much excitement when an adult with two chicks were spotted from the
reception hide on the 29th.
thanks go to Derek Bates, Matt
Thomas, Richard Beckett, Chris Butterworth, Steve
Hinde, Eddie Williams, Dave Edwards, Jim Armstrong, Allan Conlin, Greg
Bradshaw, Alan Hitchmough, Steve
Eades, Colin Schofield, Dave
Cohen, Steve Hand, Charles
Farnell, Elliott Montieth,
Paul Earley, Jon Wainwright, David Small, Graham Murphy, Tony Darby,
David Peate, David Leeming, Angie Mounsey, Julie Rogers, Ron Stores,
Andy Thomas, Jon Greep, Mike Buckley, Rob Dogson, Paul Mason, Andrew
Farrell, Andrew Livermore, the Lighthouse
and Wirral Birding Blog
and the Hilbre Bird
for their sightings during July. All
are gratefully received.
What to expect in August
Spring tides mid-month
come just at
the right time to bring a spectacular display of terns and
waders to Hoylake shore - weather permitting, of course! Tides from the
10th to the 15th should result in hundreds of Sandwich and Common Terns
on the shore, also Little Terns will be present and some years we
can get a few Black Terns. There will be large numbers of
- Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Sanderling, and look out for gorgeous
looking summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot and Grey Plover. A
large number of gulls should include one or two Mediterranean Gulls.
Hoylake is a prime spot for all this but Gronant, Point of Ayr, Hilbre
and West Kirby are also all well worth a visit.
Bad weather can spoil all this by scattering the birds, but strong
winds do have their
compensation with the prospect of seeing Manx Shearwaters, Gannets,
skuas and Storm Petrels blown in. If we have gales late on in the month
there is always the possibilty of the first Leach's Petrels of the year
Early in the month there is always the prospect of seeing one or two
summer-plumaged adult Curlew Sandpipers, and we could get the first
Curlew Sandpiper juveniles coming in by the month-end.
Greenshank numbers will increase with Parkgate marsh and the Connah's
Quay reserve good sites to see these, and there is always the
possibilty of seeing a rarer wader such as Little Stints at Hoylake or
Pectoral Sandpiper at Burton Mere Wetlands.
Land birds will also be on the move and on Hilbre we can get
spectacular falls of Willow Warblers as well as good numbers of
Wheatears and other migrants. August is a good month for Marsh Harriers
and some years we can have several around the estuary.
Marsh Harrier at
Burton Mere Wetlands plus accompanying flushed birds, 25th
July © Elliot Monteith
Spring Tides (Liverpool)
11th August, 12.15hrs (BST), 9.7m.
12th August, 13.01hrs (BST), 9.8m.
13th August, 13.47hrs (BST), 9.8m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire
Countryside Service and the
RSPB (Dee Estuary):
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 2014 Events Diary.
Mud Glorious Mud!
the Coastal Rangers and RSPB to find out what lives below our feet on
Hoylake beach and learn about the birds that feed on the creatures that
we might find! Please be aware that wellingtons are ESSENTIAL
this event and is not suitable for very young children. No
to book - just turn up at the above time. Meet at the
Station, King’s Parade, Hoylake.
For further information please ring Wirral Country Park on (0151) 648
Saturday 16th August
6:30pm – 9:30pm
Sunset and Wildlife:
the Coastal Rangers and RSPB for an evening walk across the sands to
Hilbre Island to discover its wildlife and history.
waterproof clothing, stout footwear or wellingtons are
recommended. Bring binoculars if you have them.
Places are limited and a suggested donation of £3:00 will be gratefully
received for this event.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371
Saturday 6th September 12:00 noon – 3:00pm
Take Tea with the RSPB:
across the sands to Hilbre Island where the RSPB will be serving tea
and biscuits during the above date and time. They will be on
to show you some of the island’s unique wildlife and will tell you
about the work that the RSPB are doing at their fantastic reserve at
Burton Mere Wetlands. There is no need to book, just turn
up. Suitable clothing and footwear are essential for the walk
and please note – this is not a guided walk. Remember to
money for the tea!
For further information, please telephone Wirral Country Park on (0151)
Saturday 27th September 12:00 noon
High tide Birdwatch at Hoylake:
Join the Coastal Rangers, Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the RSPB on
this high tide birdwatch at Hoylake to see large numbers of waders as
they gather and roost on the shore. We hope to see dunlin,
knot etc, as they begin to return from their breeding
grounds. No need to book. Meet at the bottom of
Trinity Road, King’s Parade, Hoylake.
For further information please telephone Wirral Country Park on (0151)
648 4371 .