West Kirby shore is a great place for some winter bird watching, especially at high tide. The sand bank holds up to 20,000 waders at peak times - mainly Knot and Dunlin, there are great views of the three Hilbre islands and out to sea Red-breasted Mergansers and a selection of Divers and Grebes show up from time to time. For a detailed report on the bird life of this area see Chris Butterworth's excellent report - The Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens Report 2001.
West Kirby shore is not only popular with birdwatchers, it is also a good place for walking, cycling and horse riding. But this is a problem for the roosting waders which can be disturbed by all this activity, using up precious energy which they need for their long migration flights. That is why the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens were set up to protect this important wader roost. We are down on West Kirby shore at every high tide over 8.8 metres during the winter daylight hours. Our job is to chat to people about the birds and politely request they keep away from the roost. The vast majority do, and many look through our 'scopes with amazement at the sight of so many birds, often invisible to the untutored naked eye. If you are interested in getting in some great birdwatching whilst doing a useful job why don't you join us? The Coastal Ranger will send you details or you can just come along to the beach and have a chat - ring 0151 678 5488. Also try the following links for more info:
Description of role and appeal for new wardens
This article was first published in the January 2004 issue of Birding North West and shown here with kind permission of the author, Allan Conlin. I've kept it back until this September so you can see what was about a year ago - but I can't promise another 'yankee plover' this year! - Ed.
The afternoon of the 20th September (2003) was really no different to any other day on the Wirral, so I set off to the North Wirral Shore to do my rounds near the lighthouse at Moreton. Having nearly completed my usual route in search of any vagrant passerines, I met Mark Turner and his partner Brenda walking towards me as I was walking back towards the car park. After a 10-minute chat, generally lamenting about the poor quality birding at that time, we parted company and as we did so I reminded Mark to call me should he find anything.
As I had one leg in the car, my mobile starting to ring, 'Mark Turner' displays on the screen. 'I've got a Golden Plover, are they common here?' he asks. I suggested to Mark that was he sure it wasn't a Yankee G P, as there were a few in the country. Looking up at the sky, half in the car, with drizzle starting to fall, I decided to continue homeward bound until he said it was running around on the sea defence. Alarm bells started to ring, as all the Golden Plover I have seen here have been flying over, or on the beach with the Lapwing flock. 'I'll be there in 10 minutes!!'
With a quickened
pace breaking out into the occasional trot, I arrived back at where I had
been 15 minutes earlier to see a small, long legged, long winged
golden/grey washed out Golden Plover species running around on the sea
defence. It gave an excellent overall impression of American Golden Plover
but we wanted to be sure we didn't have a Pacific. Between us we took an
extensive and full description, and after a couple of telephone calls, we
had ironed out any potential pitfalls and we were happy to have found
Wirral's first American Golden Plover.
Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service), 22nd
38 Great Crested Grebe, 136 Cormorant, 1 Little Egret, 8 Grey Heron, 3 Mute Swan, 1,441 Shelduck, 4 Teal, 20 Mallard, 3,200 Oystercatcher, 14 Ringed Plover, 18 Knot, 3,580 Curlew, 7,072 Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 6,500 Gulls mostly Black-headed also 1 Marsh Harrier, 3 Peregrine and 6 Kestrel.
Count from Point of Ayr - (kindly provided
by Sam Dyer), 5th August.
August Bird News
interesting month! Lets start at the end of the month when a strong
north-westerly blew for about 24 hours or so bringing in 12 Leach's
Petrels, 4 Storm Petrels, 3 Great Skuas, at least one Pomarine Skua, 1
Long-tailed Skua and 1 Grey Phalarope. Most of these were seen off
Leach's count is the highest August count for 10 years. Even more
skuas had been seen a few days earlier on the 25th when 25 Arctics and 5
Greats were off Hoylake.
Not a particularly good month for passage waders as the heavy rain meant water levels were too high at their favourite sites - Inner Marsh Farm and Parkgate Boathouse Flash. Even so we had 5 to 6 Green Sandpiper at IMF and 46 Greenshank at Parkgate. There were plenty of waders at Heswall with 7,072 Redshank and 3,580 Curlew - it wouldn't surprise me if the Redshank count for the whole estuary ends up being the highest in the country, and could be a record count for the Dee Estuary. Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints started to come through with 12 of the former at Heswall and two of the latter at Hoylake. I had an unofficial Wetland Bird Survey Count given to me of 3,500 Black-tailed Godwit (estimate at some distance), so a couple of days later I went down to Flint Point where I discovered 3,380 of them roosting at low tide. A remarkable count for August and again probably the highest in the country. To put this in perspective the last three August counts for this species have been 973 (2001), 738 (2002) and 1,043 (2003).
Plenty of terns around all month with max. counts of 1,200 Sandwich Terns, 500 Common Tern and 300 Little Terns, all off Hilbre Island. On Hilbre Island there were a couple of excellent days for visible migration with max counts of 250 Willow Warblers and 1,050 Swallows as well as 3 Spotted Flycatchers and 2 Pied Flycatchers.
Little Egrets continue to increase with a record count of 47 coming in to roost. They are remarkably difficult to see out on the marsh during the day with the grass being so long at the moment. Easier to see were a Hen Harrier and up to two Marsh Harriers. Other birds of note were a Red Kite near Connah's Quay and four Garganey at Inner Marsh Farm.
What to expect in September.
A North-westerly gale in the middle of the month would do very nicely. This will blow good numbers of Leach's Petrels in to the mouth of the river Mersey and along the north Wirral Shore. It was 2001 when we last had a good passage so we are about due another one and the north Wirral, Hilbre Island and Point of Ayr are the best places to see this species in the whole country. A gale will also bring in large numbers of other sea birds, rare and common, all making their way south. Expect hundreds of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmars along with the rarer Sabine's Gull and all four species of Skua.
Waders will arrive here in large numbers this month. Redshank usually peak at 8,000 to 12,000 birds, probably the highest count for this species in the country. To see this spectacular sight get down to Heswall Shore at least two hours before high tide. There should also be a good sprinkling of rarer waders with Curlew Sandpipers, Little Stints, Spotted Redshanks and Greenshank all passing through.
Duck counts will increase rapidly after their summer moult, in particular Shelduck, Teal and Pintail. Shelduck are best seen off Thurstaston and Heswall, Teal at Inner Marsh Farm and Pintail off Flint. Look for Common Buzzards 'kettling' which they tend to do this time of year. This is when they gather together in large family parties, may be as many as 10 or more, and soar high overhead - an amazing sight. A few Ospreys and Marsh Harriers should be seen heading south and both Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls will start to come in for the winter.
Many thanks go to Ray Roberts, Kevin Smith, Jane Turner, Fred Heywood, Nigel Troup, John Cambell, David Esther, 'Welsh Weasels', Mark Turner, Mike Hart, Dave and Emma Kenyon, Bernard Machin, David Harrington, Stephen Williams, Chris Butterworth, Martyn Jaimeson, John Roberts, Mark O'Sullivan, Phil Woollen, John Kirkland, Colin Wells, David Wilde, Tanny Robinson, Allan Conlin, Colin Schofield, Karen Leeming, Sam Dyer, Steve Ainsworth, the Wardens at Gronant and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during August. All sightings are gratefully received.
September Highest Spring Tides,
1st September, 13:44hrs 9.5m. (all times BST)
16th September, 13:16hrs 9.5m.
28th September, 12:03hrs 9.5m.
29th September, 12:40hrs 9.6m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Wednesday 1st September, 11:15am, LiverBird Wildlife Discovery Cruise.
Saturday 25th September, 2:00pm, Grebes at
Saturday 26th September, 11 am to 3pm, Open Day at
Sunday 26th September, 10:00am, Birdwatch at
Point of Ayr.
Saturday 2nd October, 12:30pm, Banks
Road, Heswall, High tide Birdwatch.
Saturday 16th October, 9:30am -
3:00pm. Open Day at the Connah's Quay
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2004', 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.
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