"The Joy of Birds" - Apologies for the
somewhat cheesy title but on the 20th birthday of www.deeestuary.co.uk
I tried to
think why do I bird watch, why do I spend so much time writing about
birds, why do I spend so many hours just staring at waders? And the
simple answer is that they bring me joy. So on the occasion of this
anniversary I thought I'd indulge myself and write about some of my own
highlights over those past 20 years. You may think the list is a bit
eccentric and wonder why it doesn't include any rarities, but it
reflects my own interests and the birds and events which have brought
me the most pleasure.
Following a big ringing effort in 2017 in Iceland and the Waddensee, and locally at Altcar on the Sefton coast, many hours have been spent logging these colour-ringed birds as part of the study into this species, specially those that visit the Ribble and Dee estuaries. It is no exaggeration to say that this winter has seen the most productive work ever on Knot in the UK. You may think hundreds of volunteers have been involved in this work but we are just a handful of enthusiasts with well over 90% of the records collected by just myself and Steve Hinde here on the Dee Estuary, Peter Knight and Rose Maciewicz on the Sefton coast from Southport to Crosby, and Ed Keeble in Suffolk*. All this is eclipsed by Benjamin Gnep who spent from 25th July to 15th October 2017 on the lonely island of Griend in the Waddensee (Netherlands) where over 100,000 Knot undergo moult. As Peter said when talking about Benjamin "there aren’t many people like him who would happily spend all day every day for months on a deserted sandbank reading Knot rings – apart from us, that is!". During his 2017 stint Benjamin recorded 1,438 different colour-ringed Knots, many of which we've subsequently seen here in the north-west of England.
*which isn't to say other people haven't been collecting records and on the Dee estuary these include Matt Thomas, Richard de Feu, Allan Hitchmough, Elliot Montieth and Paul Ralston, and I know birders from Ireland, Morecambe Bay and NE Scotland have also sent records in.
Here on the Dee estuary we've been involved in wader research, in the form of logging colour-ringed birds, for well over 10 years but with Knot only at the periphery as we rarely make it into double figures each year. Seven colour-ringed birds in the winter of 2016/17 was fairly typical and numbers of Knot on the estuary that winter, and the previous winter, were disappointingly low, so we weren't expecting anything different this winter - but we were wrong! There have been a lot of Knot around starting with an inland roost, a very unusual event in itself, at Caldy where they were present for several weeks in the autumn, then the winter brought over 20,000 Knot to Thurstaston where we have monitored them both roosting and feeding. The increase in the number of colour-ringed Knot, their location on the estuary close to the shore (and inland at Caldy) together with a big increase in observer effort has resulted in a huge jump in colour-ring sightings. Being able to follow individual birds, almost on a daily basis, is vitally important in our efforts to understand the movements and requirements of these birds.
The maps show where the birds we have recorded where ringed, with various different ringing schemes, and below are some figures:
|Knot on the Dee Estuary September 2017 to Jan 2018|
|Total number of Observations of colour-ringed birds:||960|
|Individuals with Orange flags (ringed at Altcar Sep 2017):||277|
|Individuals with Yellow flags (ringed in SW Iceland May 2017):||30|
|Individuals with Yellow flags (ringed in NW Iceland May 2014):||2|
|Individuals with Yellow flags (ringed in N Norway):||4|
|Individuals ringed on the Waddensee, Netherlands:||33|
|Individuals ringed in Poland:||1|
|Individuals ringed in France:||1|
|Individuals ringed in NE Canada:||1|
Of the 519 birds ringed with an Orange flag at Altcar on September 22nd 2017 we have now recorded 53% of them on the Dee estuary and 54% between Crosby and Southport, with a total of 407 seen since September; this is a remarkable recovery rate considering these birds were ringed just five months ago. The only birds reported away from the area are just a handful at Morecambe Bay to the north and the east coast of Ireland to the south-west, with just one away from the Irish Sea in NE Scotland, so there has been hardly any dispersal through the winter other than to the Dee Estuary.
The interesting question now is what will these birds do in the spring? Previous experience suggests that the over-wintering flock effectively splits with some heading back east to the Waddensee whilst others first head north to the Ribble estuary in April before flying to Iceland in May where they moult into breeding plumage. They will be watched along the way and for the first time we should get a clear idea of the spring movements of 'our' Dee estuary birds, then we look forward to their return after the breeding season!
References and Further Reading:
1. Benjamin Gnep, 'Among Knots', Report about the results of two ring-reading seasons in autumn 2016 and 2017, Royal Dutch Institute for Sea Research, November 2017.
2. Richard Smith, Colour Ring Report
October 2017 Newsletter, www.deeestuary.co.uk/news. This
item gives some background for the 'Ribble Knot Project' including the
ringing of the Orange flagged birds in September 2017.
Jim Wilson has co-authored many papers on Knot migration and he was involved in the discovery that the Knot which stage in Northern Norway in May were not, as had been assumed, on their way to Siberia but instead flew west across the northern Atlantic to Greenland and eastern Canada to join the larger numbers which migrate through Iceland. Here are two articles:
2. Davidson, N.C. & J.R.
Wilson. 1992. The migration system of European-wintering Knots Calidris
canutus islandica. Wader Study Group Bulletin 64(Suppl.):
3. Wilson, J.R. & P.S.
Tomkovich. 2017. Spring migration of Red Knot Calidris canutus subspecies
through N Europe. Wader Study 124(2): 125–133.
Recent work by NIOZ has shown that many Knot, including juveniles, fly from eastern Canada and Greenland straight to NW Europe after the breeding season rather than staging in Iceland:
4. Dietz, M.W. et.al, Do Red Knots (Calidris Canutus Islandica) Routinely Skip Iceland During Southward Migration?, The Condor 112(1):48-55, 2010.
5. In the winter of 2015/16 a Knot
(given the name of 'Paula') was tagged with a satellite
transmitter on the Waddensea, and has now been followed twice to NE
Canada and back. Click on the link below to download a PDF file which
describes the project and includes maps:
Eva M.K. Kok, Paula 2.0: Second migratory track of red knot, 2017.
It is becoming increasingly apparent – both from anecdotal and
first-hand experience - that many people are accessing Connah’s Quay
Nature Reserve despite not being current members.
Notwithstanding the fact that non-members are uninsured when on site, it is clearly unfair to paying members that some visitors are using the facilities for free. It also creates a situation whereby regular visitors to the reserve are either reluctant or unwilling to publish details of any scarce birds that visit the site given what has occurred on previous occasions.
If you are a non-member and wish to visit us in the future, please ensure that you are carrying a 2018 Permit. Both new members and those wanting to renew an expired membership can find the renewal form at: http://www.deenats.org.uk/public/joinus.html.
Hereafter, anybody suspected of not being a current member will be asked to produce their Permit and failure to do so could result in them being asked to leave the site.
It is understandable however, that on occasion, current members may wish to bring prospective members to the reserve and in such cases exceptions will be made. After all, we have some excellent wildlife to enjoy here at Connah’s Quay and we are keen to encourage as many people as possible to join us.
Chair, Deeside Naturalists’ Society.
- black on yellow ring.
Ringed at Belvide Reservoir on 8th July 2008.
Recorded at Parry's mine pool, Greenfield Valley, on 21st January 2018.
Also recorded in Greenfield Valley on 3rd July and 22nd September 2017.
There have been several Black-headed
Gulls recorded over the winter which are regulars in this colour-ring
report - these include 5HP
(both ringed in Copenhagen), 2J75
(ringed in Bowness) and TMEN
(ringed in Poland).
Colour-rings were also recorded by Steve Hinde, Matt Thomas, Les Hall, Colin Schofield, Elliot Montieth, Allan Conlin, Jeff Cohen, Paul Ralston, Dave Winnard and Ian Beggs.
A high spring tide on the 4th produced an excellent 12 Sort-eared Owls off Cottage Lane, Heswall, flushed from their roost there and the highest number at that location for several years. The same high tide resulted in over 10 Water Rails and 4 Great White Egrets at Parkgate with six on the 7th. The same set of tides saw good numbers of Purple Sandpipers on the pontoon on New Brighton with max 13 on the 6th. A Bittern was spotted at Parkgate on a couple of dates.
As far as I know there hasn't been any roost count of Marsh Harriers going into Neston Reed Bed but there have been good numbers recorded all month including 12 at Parkgate on the morning of the 27th. Max count of Hen Harriers was three, including a grey male.
I don't know what the total count of Pink-footed Geese is on the estuary but there has been much movement with 3,000 flying north towards south Lancs on the 6th but there were still 3,000 on Burton Marsh on the 8th. Over 1,000 (max 1,800) have been roosting every night on the edge of Heswall Marsh then flying inland at first light to feed in various fields around Heswall and Thurstaston. Nine Greenland White- fronted Geese were still at Warren Farm until at least mid-month. Max count of Brent Geese around Hilbre was 320 and it was good to see the small flock of six Eiders present all month.
A Firecrest was a good find at Neston Sewage Works with one or two Water Pipits there and at Neston Old Quay.
A Glaucous Gull was seen off the Connah's Quay Reserve and off Flint, and there were several Mediterranean Gulls scattered among the Black-headed Gull flocks in the wet fields in north Wirral. A Cattle Egret was recorded several times feeding with Little Egrets in fields by Puddington.
|White Wagtail||4th March||Hilbre||15th March||10th March|
|Sand Martin||11th March||Hilbre||16th March||7th March|
|Wheatear||11th March||Burton||23rd March||11th March|
|Swallow||14th March||Meols||24th March||20th March|
|Willow Warbler||17th March||Shotton||29th March||22nd March|
|House Martin||27th March||Leasowe
|7th April||31st March|
||Shotwick||13th April||12th April|
|Swift||19th April||West Kirby||22nd April||19th April|
||Burton||21st April||20th April|
2nd March, 11.21hrs (GMT), 9.8m.
3rd March, 12.03hrs (GMT), 10.0m.
4th March, 13.44hrs (GMT), 9.9m.
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.
March and Sunday 4th March , High Tide Raptor Watch at Parkgate.
10.30am to 1.30pm.
Come along to the car park at the Old Baths for the chance of seeing a range of birds of prey hunting over Parkgate Marsh. Hen and marsh harriers, peregrines and merlins all spend the winter months on the estuary and this is one of the best places to watch them, plus short-eared owls if we're really lucky. January's big tides were helped by Storm Eleanor but the tide reached the seawall and gave brilliant views of these hunting raptors, plus hard-to-find birds like water rails, rock pipits and lots of small mammals fleeing.
These biggest tides in March offer the same spectacle, so why not venture out to try witness all the drama. Low pressure and a westerly wind will help push the tide and wildlife in close. There's also chance of seeing the great range of ducks, geese, wading birds and egrets in big numbers as they are pushed upstream by the rising tide.
There is free public parking at the Old Baths car park (CH64 6RN) at the north end of The Parade, and the Wirral Country Park car park on Station Road (CH64 6QJ). There are public toilets at Mostyn Square in the middle of The Parade, and a number of pubs and cafes.
Tide times: Saturday 3 March, 10.0m at 12.03pm; Sunday 4 March 9.9m at 12.44pm