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1st September 2001
Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens.

Latest Bird Counts.
August Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

 

         DEVW Logo

Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens
 

    History of the Wardening Scheme(1)

During the late 1970's and early 1980's monitoring of over wintering wader species on the River Dee noted a decrease in numbers. One of the prime causes was seen as disturbance, particularly at the roost sites, and the most vulnerable was that formed between West Kirby and Red Rocks. Not only was this site easily accessible by the general public (more so than any other on the estuary) but work carried expanding the car parking area at the north end of West Kirby Marine Lake had potentially increased the future numbers of visitors and altered the general tidal flow, allowing silting to take place. It is from this time that the formation of the salt marsh / embryo dune complex in front of the older dunes has taken place.

Dunlin
Dunlin on the marsh, West Kirby Beach (Valerie Mcfarland)

With logistical support from the local council, national conservation bodies as well as NGO's, concerned local birdwatchers and professional ornithologists established a voluntary wardening scheme in 1986 to monitor bird numbers, prevent disturbance to the roost and to educate both the public and local government.

Over the following 14 years we have seen a massive increase in beach use by local people and visitors as well as a trend towards a return to previous bird numbers utilising the site for roosting. Although there is, as yet, no analytical evidence that the wardening has been responsible for the increased and / or continued use of the roost site, all empirical data points towards the fact that, without our input, the roost site would have been empty of birds many years ago.

The wardening scheme has been recognised as the longest running such project in the world and it is the only source of long term data on the correlation between bird numbers, beach usage and disturbance.

"Quotes of the Year from the Beach"
 

Couple from New Zealand
     
"I knew we should have got a cat" Man with Labrador, in heavy rain.
"I think he deserves a chance to play" Strange young woman about her dog
"I don't read notices" Windsurfer taking a breather on the edge of the marsh.
"They got here quicker than I did" Canadian woman (with a certain amount of bitterness) talking about the speed birds cross the Atlantic
"You should have been here yesterday - I've never seen so many birds" Said to bored warden looking at a shore completely devoid of birds

Why not join us?

As little as three hours a month on the beach would be a great help, more would be even better. You don't have to be an expert birdwatcher - our most important task is to prevent disturbance to the birds. Mainly this means just chatting to people, explaining how the shore is a major roost for the birds and why they shouldn't be disturbed. You will be in a team of three people and will get as much training as you want. There is some great birdwatching to be had and you will meet some very knowledgeable birders who will be only too pleased to pass on some of their expertise.

If you are interested ring the Coastal Ranger on 0151-678 5488.

Find out more about the Voluntary Wardens and the birds on this Web Site:
West Kirby High Tide Roost Counts 1986 to 1999
West Kirby High Tide Roost Counts 1999/2000,
The role of DEVW in stopping bird disturbances at West Kirby
DEVW Annual Report 2000,
West Kirby High Tide Roost Counts 2000/2001.

(1) Chris Butterworth, Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens Annual Report 2000. Reproduced here by kind permission of Chris. 

 

Bird Counts

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Count from Hilbre, provided by John Gittins of the Hilbre Bird Observatory, 4th August.
4 Whimbrel, 10 ringed Plover, 20 Sanderling, 300 Dunlin, 6 Curlew, 90 Turnstone, 150 Redshank, 1,000+ Oystercatcher, 6 Gannet, 5 Arctic Skua, 1,000 Black-headed Gull, 600 Common Gull, 100 Great Black-backed Gull, 2,000 Herring Gull, 3 Arctic Tern, 30 Little Tern, 100+ Common Tern and 200 Sandwich Tern

Peak counts of birds on West Kirby Shore/Red Rocks during August , kindly provided by Chris Butterworth.
800 Shelduck (off Little Eye), 3,500 Oystercatcher, 5,000 Knot, 1,500 Dunlin, 3 Whimbrel, 1,750 Curlew, 450 Redshank, 3,600 Black-headed Gull, 1,003 Common Gull, 97 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 51 Great Black-backed Gull, 296 Sandwich Tern, 108 Common Tern, 5 Arctic Tern and 67 Arctic Tern. Also seen flying over the shore - 1 Little Egret, 1 Bittern, 1 Raven, 1 Hobby, 2 Common Buzzard and 1 Marsh Harrier (male). 

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 19th August. 
1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Cormorant, 15 Grey Heron, 1,093 Shelduck, 2 Wigeon, 5 Teal, 100 Mallard, 223 Oystercatcher, 40 Ringed Plover, 28 Grey Plover, 72 Lapwing, 2 Knot, 12 Curlew Sandpiper, 140 Dunlin, 1 Snipe, 15 Black-tailed Godwit, 20+ Whimbrel, 2,580 Curlew, 4,045 Redshank, 15 Greenshank, 5770 Gull spp., 75% Black-headed.

Wetland Bird Survey count for Flint and Connah's Quay - (Kindly provided by Brian Grey of the Deeside Naturalists' Society). 19th August.
220 Canada Geese, 3 Little Egret, 3,000 Oystercatcher, 31 Ringed Plover, 626 Lapwing, 400 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Whimbrel, 4 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Ruff and 2,073 Redshank (not all species included).

Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 16th August.
6 Greenshank, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 60 Shovelor, 600+ Canada Geese, 23 Greylag Geese, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 3 Common Buzzard, 3 Marsh Harrier (all female), 1 Hen Harrier and 1 Peregrine Falcon. 
Please note that the count from Inner Marsh Farm is an informal estimate of species and numbers present, either carried out by myself or other birdwatchers visiting the hide. It is not meant to be a complete count and is not in anyway part of the Wetland Bird Survey or other count which might be carried out by the RSPB.

 
August Bird News

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Egrets were very much a feature in August. The Great White Egret which had made such a brief visit in July arrived back on the 12th and has been here ever since. It spent most of its time off Flint although as it was usually in mid river it was debatable whether it was actually in Wales or England.
Little Egret numbers built up to a maximum of sixteen by the third week, double the previous record - a sure sign that they are still increasing rapidly in this country. They even bred in nearby Frodsham Marsh this summer, a first for the North West of England.  Little Egret - Link to Peter Jones' Web Site

We didn't quite reach last year's record of 97 Greenshank at Parkgate, but 80 at the end of the month was an excellent total. A few adult Curlew Sandpiper have been seen, and at the end of the month some juveniles were trickling in. But unlike last year they seemed to be passing through quickly, the best number being 12 at Heswall. Maximum daily counts of other passage waders included 3,500 Oystercatcher (West Kirby), 3,500 Dunlin (Hoylake), 500 Sanderling (Hoylake), 1,000 Ringed Plover (Red Rocks), 5,000 Knot (West Kirby) and 1,000 Grey Plover (Leasowe). Such large numbers of Grey Plover are very unusual this early in the year, 20% were in summer plumage, the rest immature birds in non-breeding plumage. 

It was a good month for raptors with nine species recorded. This included four Marsh Harriers seen in one day, three females and a male. Shortly after the first Marsh Harrier turned up we saw a ringtail Hen Harrier (probable juvenile) which has been seen using the reed beds at Neston as a roost. The other raptors include an Osprey at the Point of Ayr and a Hobby seen several times at Inner Marsh Farm.

The Greenfield Valley bird survey continues, the total is now 86 birds. Click here for a complete list.

What to expect in September: If we get force five to nine winds between September 4th and 22nd for at least two consecutive days get down to Leasowe, Hilbre Island or Point of Ayr - and watch the show - a continuous stream of Leach's Petrels flying west! We are certainly due a good Leach's Petrel year, the last being 1997 when good numbers were seen on nine days - the best was September 8th when there were 123 off Leasowe, 140 off Hilbre Island and 255 at Point of Ayr. Of course winds like this will also be excellent for other sea birds such as Skuas, Fulmar, Gannets, Kittiwakes and Guillemots. 

Wader numbers will build up rapidly during the month, Redshanks usually peak in September with highest numbers at Heswall, we had 7,580 last year. Juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints will be passing through in the first half of the month, you should see them at either Hoylake or Point of Ayr - try and spot them among all the Dunlin.

There are some high spring tides over 10 metres during the month which will give some fabulous bird watching - particularly at Parkgate where the sea should reach the wall, unless we get a strong south wind and high pressure! 

Many thanks go to John Gittins, Jeff Clarke, Chris Butterworth, Bill Owens, Julian Weldrick, Mark Feltham, Dave Wilde, Wendy Allen, Mike Hart, David Ester, the Smallwood family, Dave Harrington, Martyn Jaimeson, Cathy McGrath, Brian Grey, Colin Jones, John Kirkland, Jane Turner, Phil Lovell and Brian Roberts for their sightings during August. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!

   

Forthcoming Events

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September Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
18th September, 12.44hrs 10.1m. (all times BST)

19th September, 13.27hrs, 10.2m.
20th September, 14.08hrs, 10.0m.
See Tides page for full tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate may be covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See events for  2001.

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2001

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.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown on the high tide birdwatch page. Always check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

Saturday 1st September. Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 15th September. Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4-mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 15th September. 10:30am  - 3pm. An Autumn Stroll.
A 5 mile seasonal wander in the Wepre countryside with Senior Ranger, Tom Woodall. Bring packed lunch and strong walking shoes. For info. ring 01244 814931.

Sunday 16th September 8:30am (HW 11:11, 9.3m) Banks Road Birdwatch, Heswall
Exceptional close views of thousand of waders and wildfowl. Meet Banks Road Car Park. Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Tuesday 18th September 11:00am (HW12:44,10.1m) Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch. 
Vast movements of waders and waterfowl attract the attention of many predatory birds, while the flooding tide may reveal the presence of various small mammals. Meet: Old Baths car park, north end of Parkgate prom. Further information Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681. 

Short-eared Owl

Wednesday 19th September 11:45am (HW 13:27,10.2m) Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch. 
Vast movements of waders and waterfowl attract the attention of many predatory birds, while the flooding tide may reveal the presence of various small mammals. Meet: Old Baths car park, north end of Parkgate prom. Further information Tel: Wirral Country Park on 0151 648 4371/3884 Or RSPB 0151 336 7681.

Saturday 22nd September 1:30pm (HW 15:28, 9.2m) High Tide Birdwatch at Kings Gap, Hoylake.
Join the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens as the waders gather to roost at the edge of the rising tide. Autumn wader migration has reached its peak and brings with it the chance of exciting passage birds such as Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint. No need to book. Meet at Kings Gap / North Parade, Hoylake. For info. ring 0151 678 5488.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself as a 1.8mb zipped file.