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3rd October 2000
Estuary Strategy
Latest Bird Counts
September Bird News
Forthcoming Events
Migration Watch 2000
Latest Newsletter




    Promoting a Co-ordinated Approach to the Planning and Management of the Dee Estuary.
Article by Dr A Jemmett, MBA, MIEEM

The aim of the Dee Estuary Strategy is to safeguard the future of the Dee Estuary by promoting sustainable development and better communication between different user groups. The Dee Estuary Strategy is a voluntary initiative supported by approximately 90 organisations around the Estuary since 1996. It is funded by a partnership including Government Agencies and Local Authorities. Free copies of the Strategy Report, newsletters and Business Plans can be requested via e.mail to or by fax: 0151 666 1343.

Although the Strategy policy report provides policy guidance the strength of the Strategy is in the depth of partnership, which is underpinned by the principle of communication not confrontation. Since its inception in 1992 the work of the Strategy has been co-ordinated by a full time officer. The work is co-ordinated through an action programme and Business Plan that have been developed by consensus.

The Strategy is involved in a wide variety of projects and initiatives ranging from educational CD ROMs, posters, signage, policy advice, conflict prevention and regional issues. It also supports the work of organisations like English Nature and the Countryside Council for Wales who are promoting local Biodiversity Action Plans and a management scheme for the proposed Special Area of Conservation.

During 2000 partners around the Dee have been working on a European funded project called "Quality of Coastal Towns." The sustainable tourism project, which receives 75% grant aid from Europe, is helping to collect a huge amount of information about the use of the Estuary. The objective of this work is to improve the quality of Estuary experience for the local community and visitors alike.

Throughout 2000 surveyors and volunteers have been out counting and interviewing users of the Dee Estuary. Information through a series of reports will be made available to the local authorities and other users of the Dee Estuary on a range of subjects including:

a) Visitor user profiles from Point of Ayr in Flintshire to Eastham on the Mersey including Wepre, Thurstaston, West Kirby and Leasowe.

b) Surveys of caravan parks at Thurstaston and Point of Ayr.

c) Total counts of people using the Country Parks, beaches and sand dunes along the Wirral and Sefton coasts.

d) Transportation surveys and vehicle counts.

e) Surveys of the participants at the high tide bird watches at Heswall and Parkgate.

Not only will all this work provides valuable information for site owners and managers but it is also being used to inform a team of consultants who are assessing the feasibility of improving the facilities and quality of coastal experience on Wirral and Sefton. The consultants will be looking at opportunities such as improving facilities, interpretation, staffing levels, access provision, theming of sites and events. 

The Quality of Coastal Towns project is just one of a wide range of work overseen by the Dee Estuary Strategy. If you would like more information please visit our web site at:

Bird Counts


Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 1st September.
Pintail 36, Wigeon 8, Garganey 2, "lots" of Teal and Mallard, Barnacle Goose 1, Curlew Sandpiper 2, Dunlin 4, Ringed Plover 6, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Green Sandpiper 1, Snipe 8, Little Stint 1, Greenshank 22, Spotted Redshank 2, Curlew 1, Raven 2, Peregrine Falcon 1. 
Please note that the count from Inner Marsh Farm is an informal estimate of species and numbers present, either carried out by myself or other birdwatchers visiting the hide. It is not meant to be a complete count and is not in anyway part of the Wetland Bird Survey or other count which might be carried out by the RSPB.

Wetland Bird Survey Count for Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the Wirral Ranger Service). 17th September.
Cormorant 98, Grey Heron 18, Shelduck 3170, Teal 52, Mallard 73, Red-breasted Merganser 2, Oystercatcher 350, Lapwing 50, Knot 5, Curlew Sandpiper 2, Dunlin 98, Curlew 2460, Redshank 7580, Greenshank 4, Peregrine Falcon 2.

West Kirby high tide roost, highest count for September carried out by Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens - 26th September
Oystercatcher 3500, Ringed Plover 65, Grey Plover 200, Sanderling 5, Dunlin 1020, Bar-tailed Godwit 211, Curlew 1465, Redshank 50, Sandwich Tern 5, Common Tern 1, Shelduck 2, Heron 1, Linnet 40, House Martin 4. On Little Eye - Cormorant 30, Oystercatcher 5000 and Curlew 1000. 

September Bird News


Two birds from across the Atlantic were the highlight of September. The White-rumped Sandpipers just off Hoylake promenade attracted a good number of twitchers, the second bird staying for several days although both were hard to spot among all the Dunlin.

The Curlew Sandpiper passage rather petered out after the beginning of the month but we still managed 30 at Hoylake and 18 at Heswall, both on the 2nd. Other notable Sandpipers were a Pectoral Sandpiper seen both at Burton Marsh and Inner Marsh Farm, and a Wood Sandpiper also at Inner Marsh Farm. As the numbers of Curlew Sandpipers dropped off so the Little Stint passage increased with between 5 and 15 present at Hoylake for several days.

A day of strong north-west winds on the 6th meant some excellent sea-watching with Great, Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas seen along with thirty Arctic Skuas. Other good sightings were 3 Roseate Terns and both Little and Sooty Shearwaters, plus a large passage of Common Terns and Gannets. 10 Leach's Petrels were seen off Leasowe and 8 at Hilbre Island, but the winds didn't go on for long enough for large numbers of this species to appear.

We couldn't quite match last month's record count of Greenshank but there were still fifty two at Parkgate at the end of the month. Redshank numbers at Heswall continued to build up with a remarkable 7,580, one of the highest ever counts there. 

Wildfowl numbers are rapidly increasing on the estuary after the breeding season. The 5,500 Shelduck at Heswall probably spent their late summer moult among the 16,000 Shelduck counted on the Mersey estuary in August. Eight hundred Pintail were spotted on Burton Marsh and three light-bellied Brent Geese spent their time swimming in the sea just off the beach at West Kirby. Up to four Garganey and a Ruddy Shelduck were present at Inner Marsh Farm.

Other notable birds during September included 2 Spotted Crake (Inner Marsh Farm), Little Egret (Parkgate), Long-eared Owl (Hilbre), Osprey (Red Rocks and Hoylake), Marsh Harrier (Inner Marsh Farm), Mediterranean Gull (Meols) and Wryneck (Point of Ayr).

What to expect in October: Large flocks of Dunlin and Knot - expect to see flocks of at least 10,000 birds roosting at Point of Ayr, Hoylake or West Kirby. Shelduck numbers usually peak this month with over 8,000 on the estuary, mostly at Heswall. Other duck such as Pintail and Teal should also return to the estuary with about 5,000 of each species, the Dee Estuary is the most important site in the country for Pintail. It is not too late to see good numbers of Leach's Petrels so long as we get several days of strong north-west wind early in the month. The first Purple Sandpipers and Snow Buntings should appear, the former on Hilbre Island and the latter at Hoylake, Hilbre Island, Point of Ayr or Gronant. Winter migrants from Scandinavia will be coming in large numbers, including Fieldfares and Redwings, many of these can be seen migrating along the coast (see Migration Watch 2000 below).    

Many thanks go to Jane Turner, Steve Williams, Cathy McGrath, Mark Feltham, Jeff Clarke  and Martyn Jaimeson for their sightings during September. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!


Forthcoming Events


October Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
27th October, 12.04hrs 9.7m. (all times BST)
28th October, 12.42hrs 9.7m.
See Tides page for tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate is covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

Young Ornithologists Club at Ness Gardens
See the listing of events for 2000. This group have a most interesting series of monthly outdoor and indoor meetings for the younger birdwatchers.

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See the year 2000 events

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2000

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
All these events and walks have bird interest, even those not advertised specifically for birdwatching.

1st, 14th and 15th October. Migration Watch 2000 (see below)

1st October. High Tide at Flint Castle. 12 noon.
Superb coastal birding with potential for scarce birds such as Twite and Hen Harrier. (HW 14:19 9.4m) Meet at Lifeboat Station car park. For more information ring 0151 336 7681.

7th October. Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands. 
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies recommended. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.There is a 1 charge for this event.
Sketch by Tony Broome.

15th October. Beginners Bird Watch at Hoylake. 12 noon to 1:30pm
If you want help identifying all those waders, come along - members of the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens will be there to show you. We expect at least nine different species. Those of you who read my Latest Sightings page will know what a great place Hoylake shore is. Meet at Kings Gap/North Parade (by Lifeboat Station). No need to book, for details ring Wirral Country Park at 0151 648 4371.

18th October. Parkgate Walk. 11am - 4pm
A leisurely circular walk through fields and marshes to the lost port of Parkgate, looking at the local and natural history of the area. Booking essential, 0151 678 4200.

28th October. High Tide Birdwatch on Hilbre Island.
Come and see the shore birds of Hilbre. A 4 mile walk, staying on Hilbre for approx. 5 hours. Please bring warm waterproof clothes, wellies, a snack, a hot drink and binoculars. No dogs. There is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential. 0151 648 4371.

29th October. Heswall Shore High Tide Bird Watch. 9:15am
Waders and Wildfowl galore at the tide's edge. (HW 12:18, 9.6m). Meet at Banks Road car park (near Sheldrake's Restaurant). For details ring Wirral Country Park at 0151 648 4371

12th November. Searching the Strandline. 11am - 1pm.
Join the Rangers for a walk along the high water mark, discover some of the things left on Thurstaston Beach by the tide and learn more about the dynamics and ecology of the estuary. Booking essential. 0151 648 4371.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2000', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371. 

Migration Watch 2000


Every year since 1992 the various Ranger Services in the Mersey and Dee Estuary region have been staffing visible migration watchpoints. This brings to the public's attention one of the most fascinating aspects of bird behaviour. Each autumn vast numbers of birds pass through our region unseen but a few notable species gather together in large numbers. At certain points they become channeled along well known migration corridors. Each year produces surprises, such as 1999's Woodlark and Common Crossbills at the public watchpoints on the Wirral, but the real thrill is seeing the massed passage of regular migrants such as the winter thrushes as well as the various species of finches and buntings. For full details of venues contact Wirral Country Park at 0151 648 4371/3884. The selected dates and times of the migration watches are:- 

Sketch by Tony Broome
Start Times: 

Sunday 24th September 7:00am

Sunday 1st October 7:00am 

Saturday 14th October 7:30am 

Sunday 15th October 7:30am  

Public watchpoints will be staffed at several locations around the region. This includes the Wirral Country Park at Thurstaston, Denhall Lane at Burton,  both on the north shore of the Dee Estuary (all dates) and Hale Lighthouse Shore (1st October only), in Halton on the North shore of the Mersey.