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September 2017 Newsletter

Wirral Wader Festival 2017.
Colour Ring Report.
NEW publication - Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire and Wirral.
August Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.


       Wirral Wader Festival 2017

Hoylake shore with terns in the foreground, Oystercatchers in the background and a nice selection of gulls.
Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens

The third Wirral Wader Festival will take place this September to celebrate the tens of thousands of wading birds that visit Wirral’s unique coastline every year. Wading birds such as knots, dunlins, curlews and bar-tailed godwits feast on the rich mudflats of the Dee estuary and North Wirral shores and can be easily seen from places such as Hoylake promenade. To showcase this natural spectacle, Wirral Coast Partnership has organised a busy programme of events for Wirral Wader Festival on the 8th, 9th and 10th September.  

Karen Leeming, Chair of the Wirral Coast Partnership commented that: “Since the Wirral Wader Festival Partnership held the first UK Wader Festival in 2015, it has encouraged a number of other UK coastal areas to follow suit and we think that this is a fantastic achievement.  

“The entire Wirral coastline has protection as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the internationally important numbers of wading birds that live here through autumn and winter. As a result, it is the focus of conservation efforts from a number of environmental organisations, local authority departments and private sector organisations who all contribute to the event. 

“The Festival starts with a talk by the naturalist and environmentalist Iolo Williams, also a renowned presenter on the BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch, on Friday evening and then a full weekend of events held at Hoylake and West Kirby.  

“Everyone is welcome from keen bird watchers to people who have never looked through a telescope but who would like to learn a bit more about local wildlife – we have lots of people to help identify what you are looking at, and we have a lot of activities for children and the young at heart.” 

Wirral was approached to hold the first event of its kind in the UK in 2015 by Rick and Elis Simpson of Wader Quest. They came on a visit to view the remarkable efforts of the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens (DEVW) who protect the thousands of birds roosting on West Kirby and Hoylake beaches at high tide. 

Wirral Wader Festival was created by DEVW with Wirral Council’s Coastal Rangers, Cheshire Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and Wader Quest.

There will be high tide watches to marvel at the knot and dunlin roosts on Hoylake beach and at Cheshire Wildlife Trust's Red Rocks nature reserve.  At West Kirby there will be live footage beamed direct from Little Eye, showing off the oystercatchers and curlews up close.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust will be holding guided walks around the Red Rocks SSSI nature reserve and hosting the children’s activities.  Wirral Rangers will be guiding a walk to Hilbre Island.

For full details of the events and activities during the festival, visit, or Most activities on Saturday and Sunday are free but some have a small charge.  Seats for the Iolo Williams talk cost 15 and must be pre-booked on:

NOTE: High Tides (Liverpool) are as follows during the Wader Festival:

Friday 8th Sep - 1315hrs, 9.4m.
Saturday 9th Sep - 1351hrs, 9.4m.
Sunday 10th Sep - 1430hrs, 9.2m.

A full program of events is given below - click here or on the image to download this events leaflet as a PDF file:

                                     Part of a large Knot roost on Hoylake Shore Matt Thomas.
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Colour Ring Report

As usual Black-tailed Godwits dominate the colour ring spotting activity with up to 4,000 at the Caldy Wildfowl Collection - since the birds returned in July we have recorded 24 different ringed birds a total of 307 times, this compares to 2016 (itself a record year) when we saw a total of 20 ringed birds 142 times (in 2016 most were at Gilroy). The reason for this increase is three fold - there have been more birds in total (last year's highest August count at Gilroy was 2,580), there has been greater observer effort and viewing conditions at Caldy are better for seeing ringed birds than at Gilroy, with the view point being both closer and elevated above the godwits. Below I summarise the life history of three of them (we are still waiting for feedback for many of them).

Other wader species have been a bit disappointing although it was good to get a second record of a Redshank and only our second colour-ringed Avocet in my database. Colour-ringed Sanderlings and Dunlin remain elusive, however we had an interesting Great Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Black-tailed Godwits

             Top - W//R-RN, Bottom Left - OY-RN, Bottom Right - OR-OflagL,  all by Richard Smith.

Black-tailed Godwits

Logging the colour-ringed godwits enables us to get an idea of the turnover of the moulting flock and it's interesting that birds which winter to the south of us quite often only stay a day or two, as per two of the ones described below - obviously in a hurry to get to familiar territory. Others are our regulars which we see day after day, intriguingly most of these regulars have their favourite spot in the field where they moult so not only do we see them every day but in the exact same place every day. This appears to be an undocumented behaviour and we are not sure why they do it, other than they are creatures of habit like ourselves! See my article Observations of Black-tailed Godwits written in 2016 when they were at Gilroy.

W//R-RN - ringed as an adult in Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth, on September 5th 2010.
Recorded at Caldy Wildfowl Collection on August 18th 2017.
Since being ringed this bird has spent every autumn and winter in the Langstone/Chichester/Pagham Harbours area. But it wasn't until 2016 that it was recorded in summer when it returned very early from breeding in Iceland when it was on the Thames estuary on June 28th before moving to the Oare Marshes in Kent during July and August. There are two records from Iceland in May 2013 and May 2015.

OR-OflagL - ringed as an adult on the Reserve de chanteloup, Ile-D'Olonne, France on March 19th 2014.
Recorded at Caldy Wildfowl Collection from July 28th to August 1st 2017.
Up until the above record this bird has never been recorded outside of France with nearly all records during late winter and early spring on the Atlantic coast just south of Brittany, a favourite are for the godwits.

OY-RN - ringed as a tiny chick in southern Iceland on June 11th 2017.
Recorded at Caldy Wildfowl collection on August 7th 2017 and was present there for the rest of the month.
It was among the first of the juveniles to arrive from Iceland, many more have since arrived during what was a good breeding season for them.


WB-LY - ringed as a chick at Seal Sands, Cleveland, on June 7th 2017. One of a brood of two which were both ringed,
Recorded at Oakenholt Marsh on August 6th 2017.


R//YW-YB - ringed as an adult at Peterstone, near Cardiff, on January 12th 2016.
Recorded on Heswall shore on July 15th 2016 and August 4th 2017.
Only other record is at Rhymney Mouth, near Cardiff, on March 12th 2017.
Along with many other Redshanks this bird must be using Heswall as a staging post on it's way from it's breeding grounds to South Wales. We don't know where it breeds but it is likely to be Scotland or Iceland.

Great Black-backed Gull

              Great Black-backed Gull JT353 photographed in Mandal, Norway in April 2017 by Finn Jorgensen.

JT353 - white letters on a black ring.
Ringed as a chick in the southern tip of Norway (Mandal) on June 19th 2013.
Recorded on Hoylake Shore on September 1st 2015 and August 21st 2017.
As a juvenile it's first stop after leaving Norway was the famous Bird Observatory on Helgoland island (Germany). The only other record was back in Mandal, Norway, in April 2017 meaning it has travelled back to where it hatched, presumably to breed.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

R2DY - Yellow letters on black ring.
Ringed as a chick on the Ribble Marshes on June 25th 1999.
Recorded on Hoylake Shore on August 21st 2017.
After ringing the first record of this bird was on the Algarve, Portugal, in April 2001, it was back there in January 2015 and October 2016. The only other record was at Porto do Son (north-west Spain), in September 2009. 

Little Tern

               Little Tern XCJ vidioed in the Netherlands in 2017 (above photo was grabbed from the video).

XCJ - black on yellow ring.
In the August Newsletter I reported "Recorded at East Chevington, Northumberland, on July 3rd 2017.
Ringed as a chick at Gronant on July 10th 2016.
Notable for two reasons, that it came back to the UK in it's first summer, perhaps more common than previously thought, and the first Gronant colour-ringed bird to be seen away from the Irish Sea."

Since then our attention has been drawn to a video of this same bird taken in the Netherlands sometime during the summer - at the time of writing I don't know the exact location or date - but at some stage it must have flown across the North Sea thus demonstrating how widely at least some of the first year Little Terns disperse.

Richard Smith.
Colour-rings were also reported by Matt Thomas, Steve Hinde and Colin Schofield.

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New Publication

This eagerly awaited book will be available in September, going at sale in the Reception Hide at Burton Mere Wetlands on the 9th (see Events below for further details). There will be a full review in this newsletter within the next month or two. The cost will be 24.99 + PP. For further details and to order please email

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August Bird News

                               Black-tailed Godwits at the Caldy Wildfowl Collection Richard Smith

Although most of the usual birds were seen, some in good numbers, it has to be said that the month was relatively quiet. But there were certainly impressive numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and the 4,100 at Caldy on the 29th was a record inland count for August in the Dee estuary area as was the count of 227 juveniles - it has been a good breeding season in Iceland. The count of 6,670 Redshanks at Heswall on the 26th wasn't quite a record high for the site, but was still probably the biggest flock in the country for this month!

                                  Pectoral Sandpiper at Burton Mere Wetlands Mark Woodhead

There was an impressive count of 14 Spotted Redshank at Connah's Quay on the 14th and a Pectoral Sandpiper at Burton Mere Wetlands at the month-end was the only notable rarity. Plenty of Great White Egrets were recorded including an excellent count of seven at Burton.

                                  Black Tern with Common Terns at Hilbre Steve Williams
                                                                              Hilbre Bird Observatory

A few Black Terns were seen with singles at Hoylake and Red Rocks whilst five were in the tern roost at Hilbre on the 25th. An impressive 202 Little Terns were off Hilbre on the 21st with 1,200 Sandwich Terns at Gronant the following day.  Arctic Skuas were recorded on several dates max seven both at Hilbre and Red Rocks.

One or two Marsh Harriers were about as was a single Hen Harrier. No Ospreys were seen but a Red Kite flew over Neston on the 12th. Quite a few Wheatears passed through including a count of 10 near Burton Point on the 30th.

                                              Wheatear at Burton Point Frank Burns

Many thanks go to David Haigh, Mal Sergeant, Steve Hinde, Jeremy Bradshaw, Mark Gibson, Matt Thomas, Chris Butterworth, Roy Lowry, Mark Woodhead, Paul Shenton, David Leeming, Alan Hitchmough, Richard Whitby, Steve Williams, Richard Speechley, Dave Edwards, Richard Beckett, Derek Bates, Peter Haslem, Jane Turner, Karen Leeming, Graham Conolly, Geoff Robinson, Julie Rogers, Linda Platt, Colin Schofield, George Knight, Ian Fleming,Frank Burns, Henry Cook, Charles Farnell, David Thompson, Neil Mcmorran, Ian Fleming, Carole Killikelly, Kevin Roberts, Paul Ralston, Alan Rowley, Alan Irving, John Sharp, Simon Gough, David Small, Paul Vautrinot, Ian Fewtrell, William Owens, Steve Hand, Mike Cooper, David Taylor, Jane Bell, Glyn Thursfield, Shaila Saunders, the Lighthouse and Wirral Birding Blog, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during August. All sightings are gratefully received.

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What to expect in September

North Wirral, Hilbre and Point of Ayr are the best places in the country to see Leach's Petrels. The month they are normally seen is September but they aren't guaranteed, we need a north-westerly gale to blow them towards the coast. We have not had a really good passage of these birds since 2010, the ideal conditions to get one is for a prolonged and strong north-westerly gale to blow for at least two days and the nearer the middle of the month the better. In these conditions they get blown through the north channel of the Irish Sea straight towards the mouth of the River Mersey, they then fly westwards close to the shore past Leasowe, Red Rocks, Hilbre and Point of Ayr. Prime viewing points are New Brighton, Leasowe Gunsite and Hilbre. Such conditions are also right for a whole lot of other species such as Grey Phalaropes, Sabine's Gulls and Long-tailed Skuas whilst Arctic Skuas will be in double-figures.

                                                Leach's Petrel off Hilbre Matt Thomas

Curlew Sandpiper is another species associated with September. For more info about Curlew Sandpipers see The Curlew Sandpiper Influx (2011) and Curlew Sandpiper Influx 2016. We will also get plenty of other waders passing through including Little Stints, Greenshanks and Ruffs.

September is always good for rarities and in the past few years we've had Dotterel, Hoopoe, Little Shearwater, Sooty Shearwater, Red-backed Shrike, Semi-palmated Sandpiper......

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Forthcoming Events

September Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page.

20th September, 12.03hrs (BST), 9.5m. 
21st September, 12.41hrs (BST), 9.5m.  
22nd September, 13.15hrs (BST), 9.5m. 

NOTE: High Tides (Liverpool) are as follows during the Wader Festival:
Friday 8th Sep - 1315hrs, 9.4m.
Saturday 9th Sep - 1351hrs, 9.4m.
Sunday 10th Sep - 1430hrs, 9.2m.

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. 

WIRRAL WADER FESTIVAL September 8th to 10th 2017 - Further details will be published in September Newsletter on this website but here are a few highlights:

Friday September 8th: Iolo Williams Friday Evening Talk - Wildlife of the Welsh Coast.
Where: Heswall Hall, Heswall
Time: Doors open 7.00pm for 7.30pm start. Cost 15. Booking
Parking: CH60 0AF (for sat nav use CH60 4RH). Nearby municipal car
parks free after 6.30pm

Saturday September 9th: Sunset walk to Hilbre Island.
Saturday 5.30pm-8pm. Booking essential. 3 fee
Jo in Wirral Rangers and Cheshire Wildlife Trust o n a magical w alk to Hilbre
Island. Contact to book and for meet ing details.
(Composting toilet available on the Island, no other facilities).

Saturday September 9th - Book Launch: 'Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire and Wirral'.
Price: Free entry to Reception Hide (normal admission charges apply to non-members to access rest of reserve); book is priced 24.99, cash sales only.
Don't miss this exclusive opportunity to pick up your copy of this brand new publication hot off the press and meet its authors Allan Conlin and Eddie Williams. 'Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire and Wirral' is a must-have for any local birdwatcher, offering detailed and comprehensive historical records of the birds you won't find every day - or even every year!
Drop in any time between 10am and 4pm and ask the authors about their local birdwatching experiences and putting together the book.
Book is priced 24.99, CASH SALES ONLY.