Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens
of chasing after other peoples' birds? Fed up with dipping out yet again?
Spouse bending your ear over ruining yet another family weekend? No money
left after yet another trip to the Scilly Islands?
Our main job is to stop disturbance from walkers, dogs, horses etc., but we also count the birds and chat to passers-by about why we are wardening. It is always pleasing to hear the expressions of wonder when showing the wader roost to people through a 'scope, often invisible to the untutored naked eye. Of course you do not have to be an expert birder to join the wardens, we welcome anyone wanting to help out, and this is an excellent way to learn the art of birdwatching. For more details see the wardens page, follow the links at the bottom of the page. If you are interested either me or ring the Coastal Ranger on 0151 678 5488.
Island, count from 12th August kindly provided by the
6 Gannet, 70 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Ruff, 2,000 Oystercatcher, 900 Dunlin, 3 Whimbrel, 100 Curlew, 120 Turnstone, 300 Black-headed Gull, 70 Common Gull, 300 Herring Gull, 200 Great Black-backed Gull, 200 Common Tern, 400 Sandwich Tern and 150 Little Tern. That was just the highlights!
Count from Connah's Quay and Flint - (Kindly provided by Deeside Naturalists' Society), 17th August. 22 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 62 Cormorant, 5 Heron, 2 Mute Swan, 63 Canada Goose, 88 Shelduck, 58 Teal, 450 Mallard, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Moorhen, 28 Coot, 560 Oystercatcher, 22 Lapwing, 870 Black-tailed Godwit, 25 Curlew, 6 Spotted Redshank, 1,500 Redshank, 6 Greenshank.
Count from Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service), 17th August. 61 Cormorant, 8 Grey Heron, 163 Shelduck, 3,300 Oystercatcher, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 70 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Whimbrel, 3,150 Curlew, 6,780 Redshank, 4 Greenshank, 7,700 Gull spp, 2 Peregrine, 10 Kestrel and 2 Marsh Harrier.
August Bird News
waders on the estuary can be split in to three main categories. The first
are species which are here for at least nine months of the year and in most
cases are counted in thousands. Second are species which we only see during
spring and autumn passage, these are usually counted in tens. Thirdly are
vagrants which are birds well away from their normal range, just ones and
twos of these. This is, of course, somewhat of an over simplification but
nevertheless is basically true. In August we had all three types of waders.
There were large numbers of Redshank and Curlew on the estuary with the highest numbers at Heswall - 6,780 of the former and 3,150 of the latter. Despite some disturbance by cocklers Oystercatcher numbers have been high with a total of 9,500 at the high tide roots on Little Eye and West Kirby Shore at the end of the month. Of the passage waders Greenshank were numerous at Inner Marsh Farm with a maximum of over 60, compared with 12 this time last year. 21 at Heswall was an excellent count for this location. Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers were just starting to trickle through at the end of the month. The only wader properly described as a vagrant was the Pectoral Sandpiper. This species migrates from the east coast of northern Canada directly to the north coast of South America, across the western Atlantic. With such a long sea passage it is not surprising that a few get blown across to Europe. One was at Inner Marsh Farm for at least six days at the end of the month with another just briefly on Hoylake Shore.
The final count of fledged Little Terns at the colony at Gronant was 190, well above the previous record of 120 - a great breeding season! Other terns, Common and Sandwich, were numerous during the first half of the month making a splendid sight around Hilbre Island, but numbers tailed off as the month came to an end. A juvenile Black Tern was seen among the numerous gulls and terns at West Kirby on the 9th.
There must have been a bumper crop of voles on the Gayton Sands RSPB Reserve (between Burton and Heswall) as a remarkable 45 Kestrels were counted on two separate occasions. No doubt also attracted by the voles were Marsh Harriers, at least three have been seen on several days throughout the month. A Red Kite was an unexpected sight at Leasowe Lighthouse early on in the month and another one was seen heading towards the head of the estuary over Neston on the 29th, and presumably the same bird was seen at Shotton the next day. An Osprey was seen heading past Hoylake towards Wales on the 28th.
What to expect in September.
But don't despair if we don't get any NW winds, a good easterly, especially over northern Europe, should bring in good numbers of Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints. These will be mostly juveniles which tend to migrate by following the coast line round from northern Siberia, adults usually take a more direct route south.
Any period of light south-east winds should be good for visible migration, i.e. the migration of land birds such as Meadow Pipits, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtails, best seen along the coastline shortly after dawn - try Red Rocks, Hilbre or Point of Ayr.
Shelduck, virtually absent during August, will return in their thousands after moulting on the Mersey Estuary. We may get as many as 8,000, best seen from the top of Thurstaston cliffs at low tide or at Heswall as the tide is coming in. By the end of the month numbers of other duck should build up with several thousand Pintail and Teal.
Spring Tides, also see Tides page.
27th September, 12:54 hrs 9.9m. (all times BST)
28th September, 13:33hrs 9.9m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Thursday 11th September, Pirates of Hilbre.
Saturday 20th September, 11:00am, Grebes at
Saturday 27th September, 7:00am start, Migration Watch at
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2003', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Hard copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.
All material in this newsletter, and indeed the whole web site, has been written by myself, Richard Smith, unless specified.