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August 2016 Newsletter

Wetland Bird Survey 2014/15 Summary.
Colour Ring Report.
July Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.


Wetland Bird Survey 2014/15 Summary

                                                    Pintail on the Dee Estuary  Matt Thomas.   

Both the National and local, Dee Estuary, Wetland Bird Survey Reports for 2014/15 have been published. As always these give us an insight into how our wetland birds are doing across the country and how the Dee Estuary fits in with national trends. 

"Summary Report"

These days all the UK data is published on-line although I do miss the book they used to publish with detailed accounts of every species. However, the on-line summary report for 2014/15 is particularly interesting with loads of articles which include: "Birds of lakes and ponds", "East Atlantic Flyway monitoring",  "Diving ducks on the rise in Finland", "Increasing numbers of some scarcer wintering wader species", "Globe-trotting Godwits" and "Focus on... Crane", as well as several others including those going into more detail into WeBS trends. Click on the image to download a PDF version of the Report. To look at the data itself click on and follow the link "Search the WeBS Online interface" where you can search either for Site or Species.


Remarkably, 14 out of our 16 commoner wildfowl species increased in 2014/15 compared to 2013/14. Does this mean the Dee Estuary had a bumper wildfowl winter? Well, not really, I'm afraid it was more a reflection of the poor winter preceding it. However, there were certainly some highlights including a count of 6,208 Pink-footed Geese on Jan 25th 2015, up from the previous record of 4,000. There was an even higher count in 2015/16 so now the five year average is of International Importance. Brent Geese reached a new high with 270 in January 2015. Shelduck numbers have varied greatly since a high of 12,234 in 2010/11, they reached a low of 4,632 in 2013/14 but there was a welcome increase to 6,947 in 2014/15. The Dee Estuary was the most important site in the country for Shelduck in 2014/15 but both the National and Local trend is of a slow decline. It was good to see a big increase of Wigeon with 5,028 compared to a low of just 1,177 in 2011/12. Numbers over the past three winters have returned to what has been typical for the past 25 years or so.


Over-wintering numbers were fairly disappointing, mainly due to the mild weather which means a lot of birds stayed further east. An exception were Sanderling with a max of 1,545 on Nov 9th 2014, the third highest count over the past 35 years. But the highlight was undoubtedly the large numbers of Dunlin on passage in August with a remarkable 24,232 on the 10th, there have only ever been two higher August counts on the Dee and they were both in the early 1970s. The count of 24,232 was the fourth highest in the country for the whole of 2014/15, the highest being 44,250 at the nearby Mersey Estuary in December. Nationally numbers have declined quite substantially since the mid-1990s although over the past six or seven years they have levelled off.

                                         Dunlin and Redshank on the Dee Estuary Matt Thomas.

References/Sources of Information:

1. Frost T.M. et al. WeBS Report Online: Waterbirds in the UK 2014/15. BTO, RSPB and JNCC in association with WWT.

2. Neil Friswell and Colin E. Wells, Dee Estuary and North Wirral Foreshore: WeBS Annual Report 2014/15.

3. Cheshire and Wirral Bird Reports 1968 to 2014, CAWOS.

Richard Smith.

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Colour Ring Report

 Top: Sandwich Tern chick K3A (the one we saw was K3B) Tony Murray. Bottom left Black-headed Gull J39E  Matt Thomas. Bottom right Black-tailed Godwit OBG-GYG  Richard Smith.

A much better month with several colour-ringed gulls, Black-tailed Godwits and Sandwich Terns recorded, although only one of the latter could be read. We are still waiting for feedback for quite a lot of birds but these are the one's received so far.

Sandwich Tern

The Dee Estuary and North Wirral Shore is one of the most important staging areas in the country for Sandwich Terns post-breeding before they make their way south, but we have little idea where the many hundreds of birds which come here have bred, so it's particularly pleasing to see a colour-ringed bird in order to gain more knowledge about this fascinating species. K3B shows an interesting north-east dispersal across the Irish Sea.

K3B - black letters on a white ring. Ringed as a chick on June 17th 2016, at Sgarbheen Island, Ladys Island Lake, Co Wexford, Ireland (Ladys Island Lake is a major tern nesting site including 1799 pairs of Sandwich Tern - thanks to Tony Murray for the info).
Recorded at Hoylake Shore on July 23rd 2016.
Also recorded at Ladys Island Lake, Wexford, on July 11th and 12th 2016.

Black-headed Gull

J39E - white letters on green ring. Ringed in Oslo, Norway, on April 14th 2015.
Recorded at Hoylake Shore on July 23rd 2016.
Recorded a further seven times in Oslo between the ringing date and May 26th 2015.
Seen on Hoylake Shore in August, September 2015 and January and February 2016.
It returned to Oslo on March 25th 2016 and was reported from there many times up to July 7th 2016.

Herring Gulls

M+B - black on yellow ring. Ringed as a chick in Cardiff on July 2nd 2013.
Recorded on Hoylake Shore on July 22nd 2016.
This bird spent a year in the Bristol area between August 2013 and August 2014.

6U8B - black on yellow ring. Ringed at Harewood Whin Landfill site, 3km west of York, on May 1st 2015.
Recorded on Hoylake Shore on July 22nd 2016.

Black-tailed Godwit

OBG-GYG. Ringed by Mike Pratt & Mervyn Miller at Iken on the River Alde, Suffolk, England, on August 27th 2015, as an adult male.
Recorded at Gilroy Nature Park, West Kirby, on July 28th to 31st 2016.
This bird likes RSPB Reserves being seen at Hollesley Marsh in Suffolk in October 2015 and January 2016 before moving to Minsmere, Suffolk, until May 3rd 2016. It was on the River Blyth in Suffolk on May 25th, a very late date if it has bred in Iceland this year.

Richard Smith and Matt Thomas.
Colour-rings were also reported by Steve Williams and the Hilbre Bird Observatory, Les Hall and Tanny Robinson.

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July Bird News

The Little Terns at Gronant continue to have a very good season. I don't yet have the final numbers but I do know there was a record number of pairs nesting and that the number of fledglings is going to be one of the highest ever. There was an amazing count of 807 Little Terns (adults and fledglings) counted on the 20th, there was much speculation about where the extra birds came from and it is interesting that every year we get this peak around the third week in July. It seems that around the Irish Sea Gronant is one of the few colonies to have done well and at least some of these extra adults will have been failed breeders from elsewhere. In addition, there are also a lot of non-breeding Little Terns in the population - probably both second year birds and adults taking a year off - so they could well be those. Little Tern numbers also notieably increased around Hilbre with 127 on the 23rd.

                              Sandwich Tern and Little Tern at Gronant, July 19th Roy Lowry

July 23rd saw a count of just over 1,000 Sandwich Terns from Hilbre, and the previous day there were 600 at Hoylake which I counted - it was a nice still day and the noise they were making was amazing! Although the gull roost at Hoylake wasn't anything exceptional in numbers it was good to see several Mediterranean Gulls among them and there were a total of seven individuals along north Wirral. 

After last Month's article on the record number of Spoonbills I wasn't expecting numbers to increase yet again, but there were nine on the 28th at Burton Mere Wetlands.

                               Spoonbills and a Little Egret at Burton Mere Wetlands, July 29th Tanny Robinson

It looks like Spotted Crakes bred at Burton Mere Wetlands again this year with an adult and juvenile first spotted on the 22nd. 

By the end of the month the increase in wader numbers was very noticeable and I had 2,500 Dunlin busy feeding off the south end of West Kirby Marine Lake on the 29th. Black-tailed Godwits also increased rapidly over the last week at Gilroy and had reached the all important threshold of Internationally Important Numbers by the 31st, with 630. As usual Heswall was the best place to see Whimbrels with max count of 54 on the 21st. Other good records were seven Common Sandpipers at Connah's Quay on the 4th and two Wood Sandpipers at Burton Mere Wetlands on the 7th.

                                             Dunlin at Hilbre, July 21st Matt Thomas.

Richard Smith.

Many thanks go to Stan Skelton, Eddie Williams, Tanny Robinson, Mark Turner, Steve Hinde, Matt Thomas, Roy Lowry, Chris Butterworth, Jeff Cohen, David Haigh, Allan Conlin, Jeremy Bradshaw, Alan Hitchmough, Steve Williams, Elliot Montieth, Richard Whitby, Bruce Atherton, Carole Killikelly, Henry Cook, Colin Jones, David Jones, Dan Trotman, Dave Edwards, Graham Connolly, Les Hall, Ian Douglas, Steve Hand, Bruce Atherton, Jane Turner, Paul Lee, Jannette Hegarty, Frank Burns, Paul Earley, Ian Dyer, Richard Beckett, Pete Butt, Brian Lingard, George Knight, John Coupe, David Taylor, Michael Ward, Glen Morris, Steve Liston, Alan Irving, Paul Ralston, Simon Gough, Richard Speechley, Paul Mason, John Wannop, the Lighthouse and Wirral Birding Blog, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during July. All sightings are gratefully received. 

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What to expect in August

August is a great month for birds on the estuary. There will be plenty of terns with hundreds of Sandwich, Common and Little Terns, and some years we can get a small passage of Arctic and/or Black Terns. Wader numbers increase, most noticeably on the outer estuary with thousands of Dunlin and hundreds of Ringed Plover, this is the return passage with many birds heading far to the south for the winter. Little Stints, Curlew Sandpipers and Ruff could well be among them, on freshwater sites Greenshanks will be coming through with the usual range of sandpipers. By the end of the month we would hope the Black-tailed Godwits at Gilroy will have reached 2,000 with many others of this species around the estuary.

Given a fresh west wind out to sea look out for Storm Petrels as well as many Gannets and Manx Shearwaters, and given a gale towards the end of the month we can expect Leach's Petrels.

Several Marsh Harriers are usually present and Burton Mere Wetlands is always a good site for them in August, expect also to see returning Hen Harriers. Hobbies and one or two Ospreys should also be spotted.

                                             Black-tailed Godwits at Gilroy, July 29th Tanny Robinson.
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Forthcoming Events

August Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.

20th August, 13.15hrs (BST), 9.5m. 
21st August, 13.56hrs (BST), 9.5m.  

Forthcoming Events

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. 

Please note that the entrance for the above Hilbre talk is free but any donations for the Friends of Hilbre will be gratefully received.

FULLY BOOKED! Friday 19th August, Sunset Walk to Hilbre Island.
6:00pm to 10:00pm
Join the Rangers and the Friends of Hilbre for a guided walk to Hilbre Island.
On the walk we will learn more about the amazing maritime history of the island and look for the wildlife, including Grey Seals that make the islands their home. There should be large numbers of terns to see flying around the island.
As we return from the island we hope to catch a special Dee estuary sunset.
There is a 3 charge per person with money raised going to conservation work on the islands.
Booking essential: email or ring 0151 648 4371.
Please wear suitable footwear and bring a waterproof.
Meet by the Dee Lane slipway next to the Marine Lake car park

Saturday 20th August, Hoylake High Tide Birdwatch.
11 am start, high tide at 1.15 pm, 9.5m.
Free, No need to book.
Join the Coastal Rangers, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the RSPB on this high tide birdwatch at Hoylake promenade to see large flocks of wading birds as they gather and roost on the shore. We hope to see dunlin and knot numbers building as they begin to return from their breeding grounds, plus a range of other wading birds on migration. With a rising tide, we should see the birds at close quarters as they roost and feed.
Beginners welcome - a great opportunity to brush up on your wader ID with knowledgeable guides. Dress warmly and bring binoculars if you have them. Telescopes will be available to use throughout. No need to book.
Meet at the bottom of Trinity Road, King's Parade, Hoylake. There are public toilets nearby and various cafes and pubs for refreshments in Hoylake.
For more info ring 0151 648 4371.