About one third of
the land used by the wildfowlers is maintained as non shooting reserve,
possibly the first ever set up on the Dee5. In addition other
areas are strictly controlled. The habitat is carefully observed and
managed: for example:- Burton Marsh has perhaps as many as twenty small
dams built over the years to maintain water in the flashes. Just knowing
where to establish an effective dam is somewhat of a mysterious art. It is
extremely difficult to understand on this flat land just which gutter
drains what or even which way they ebb and flow (see Powalla flood air
photograph). The presence of flashes makes the area an attractive habitat
for migrant wildfowl and is probably a historical contributory factor in
maintaining such large numbers of birds over the winters. Just how long
flashes have been encouraged on the marsh is unknown, the information has
been lost in antiquity.
References, comments and footnotes.
1. The Worst
Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Gerrard (The Chapter called “The
August Bird News
Early August is the time of year when we get large post breeding flocks of gulls on the estuary, and they are often seen overland after ants. But the flock of 9,000+ mainly Black-headed Gulls over West Kirby on August 2nd must have been one of the biggest ever seen over that part of Wirral. Also at West Kirby were five Common Buzzards soaring over nearby fields, another sign of their increase. Red Kites are another bird of prey increasing in numbers across the country and we were lucky enough to have two this month: one over Gronant on the 10th and another over West Kirby on the 20th. Other raptors included a female Marsh Harrier, an early Hen Harrier and the usual sighting of one or two Peregrines.
500 Manx Shearwaters past Hilbre on the evening of Aug 25th was a great sight, other Hilbre birds included a female Eider, one Great Skua and the usual Common and Sandwich terns. Two Roseate Terns sitting on a buoy were a lovely sight just off Meols near the end of the month.
An unusually easy to see Spotted Crake (relatively easy to see!) spent most of the month at Inner Marsh Farm. A Spoonbill has been seen with the Little Egrets there early morning but disappears in to the marsh during the day. A Wood Sandpiper has also been at IMF. The maximum count of Greenshank at Parkgate reached 31, on the low side compared with the previous few years. Three Kingfishers were spotted on Arrowe Brook, they were known to breed here last year and probably have again this summer.
What to expect in September
215 Leach's Petrel, 195 Manx Shearwater, 355 Gannet, 5 Pomarine Skua, 54 Arctic Skua, 35 Great Skua and 4+ Sabine's Gull - these are the max daily counts we saw last September during some very strong NW winds. Usually we only get these numbers about once every four or five years, but there is no rule to say we can't get them in consecutive years - so lets hope! Ideal conditions are prolonged NW winds over several days around the middle of the month, about force 5 to 7. Get down anywhere along the north Wirral Shore, Hilbre Island or Point of Ayr to see all these birds, usually best on a high tide. Often the day after an overnight gale is best.
One thing we are overdue for is a good passage of Curlew Sandpipers (see article). For this we need both a good breeding season and an east wind to the north of us, that should bring in a good number of juvenile birds on their way to Africa. Difficult to predict where these will turn up but both Hoylake and Heswall shore have been good in the past. A good Curlew Sandpiper year is usually also a good year for Little Stints although they tend to prefer freshwater - such as Inner Marsh Farm, having said that we always seem to get one or two among Dunlin flocks at Hoylake.
waiting for the tide to recede on Hoylake Shore, Aug 22nd, 2005, ©
Shelduck should be back in good numbers, last year we had over 12,000, a record for September, and we often get good numbers of Teal atInner Marsh Farm. Also expect large numbers of Redshank, Oystercatchers, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit. This is often a good month for rare waders, over the past two years we have had American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and Dotterel. We might reach the milestone of 100 Little Egrets coming in to roost at Burton, that would be quite a sight. Looking back at the 2000 Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report it said "up to six Little Egrets were present on the Dee Marshes", and we thought that an amazingly high number!
Many thanks go to David Esther, Sabena Blackbird, Simon O'Connell, Shaun Williams, Nigel Troup, Dave and Emma Kenyon, Chris Tynan, Colin Schofield, Alan Patterson, Dave Hughes, John Roberts, James Armstrong, Clive Ashton, Bill Potts, Charles Farnell, Steve Williams, Chris Butterworth, Stephen Ainsworth, Steve Renshaw, Phil Wood, Chris Wilding, Dave Harrington, John Boswell, Peter Poole, Mathew Gardiner, Jane Turner, Allan Conlin, Mike Hart, Dave Wilde, Mark O'Sullivan, Jean Morgan, Richard Hurst, Phil Woollen, Steve Roberts, Colin Wells, Steve Round, John Rowlands, Iain Douglas, Heather White, Ian Hughes, David Banbury, Eric Sherry, Bob Howarth, Lynne Greenstreet, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during August. All sightings are gratefully received.
September Highest Spring Tides,
19th September, 12:56hrs 10.0m. Times BST.
20th September, 13:36hrs 9.9m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Liverbird Cruises - 1st September, 15th September, see last month's article.
Sunday 11th September, 10:30am, Grebes at
Saturday 17th September, 10:00am– 12:00noon, Wader Watch at
King’s Gap, Hoylake.
Sunday 25th September, 10:00am – 12:00noon, Birds along the Brook.
Saturday 15th October, 7:00am, Migration Watch and breakfast at
Marsh Farm RSPB Reserve.
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2005', 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.