Burton Mere Wetlands was one year old on September 24th, it being the
first anniversary of its opening last year. The
been a big success, almost 30,000 people have visited and the RSPB
had recruited 340 new members in the first six months after opening. It
has also proved a massive hit with the birds and this past
year has been an exceptional one both for common and rare species.
local birders, of course, knew the adjacent reserve Inner Marsh Farm as
a great place to birdwatch and we watched with much excitement and
anticipation for several years as this reserve was being expanded to
become the new Burton Mere Wetlands. Until
shortly before it was opened we didn't know it was going to be called
that (inevitably shortened to BMW!) but we had heard various reports
and rumours of good birds there from what was called variously Inner
phase 2, IMF2, 'the new scrape' or just 'the new workings'.
my summary, below, of birds seen at the new reserve starts several
months before it actually opened.
Pre September 2011
The most celebrated bird
was undoubtedly the Lesser Yellowlegs first
found on the new scrape at the end of July 2010 and was then present
for several days, thankfully it was also seen from the Inner Marsh Farm
hide. Other good records include at least 100 Common Snipe (Jul 2010),
seven Green Sandpipers (Jul 2010) with six present Jul 2011, five
Little Ringed Plovers (April 2011), 450
Black-tailed Godwits (May 2011) and two Wood Sandpipers (Aug 2011).
The reserve opened on the
the largest influx of Curlew Sandpipers into our area for over ten
years, highest count from the reception hide was 18 and it was good to
so many of these elegant waders. There were also two Little Stints and
a Pectoral Sandpiper recorded in that first week the new hide was
opened. Those staying late at the reserve were rewarded with the sight
of a Great White Egret going to roost in nearby trees.
Curlew Sandpiper at Burton Mere Wetlands, Septembe 2011 © Keith Scovell.
A month of egrets and
Cattle Egret was the rarity of the month and there were now two Great
White Egrets flying into roost from the Dee marshes, together with
around 180 Little Egrets. Wildfowl numbers rapidly built up
included 80 Pink-footed Geese, 160 Shoveler, 2,500 Pintail, 4,000 Teal
and a few Whooper Swans. Both Hen and Marsh Harriers were sighted.
Jack Snipe spent much of the month close to the Marsh Covert hide,
giving great views. A Bittern was more difficult to see but was viewed
a couple of times flying over the reed bed. A Glossy Ibis was a nice
rarity and equally unexpected was the arrival of 14 White-fronted Geese
which marked the beginning of the best winter for geese on the Dee
Estuary in living memory.
The White-fronted Geese
increased to 40, often feeding on the reserve but also on the
surrounding fields, as did 500 or so Pink-footed Geese. Wild
swans occasionally came on to the reserve, max 20 Bewick's and 40
Whooper. A Short-eared Owl was regularly seen and was often very close
to the hide, the Bittern was still present but rarely spotted. Also
difficult to spot among all the other ducks was a Green-winged
Tundra Bean Geese with feral Greylag
at Burton Mere Wetlands, January 2012
© Paul Brady, RSPB
We saw the icing on the
cake as far as geese were concerned shortly into the New year with the
arrival of two Tundra Bean Geese, very rare in the Dee Estuary area,
they were joined by a third bird later in the month. The White-fronted
Geese reached an excellent 59 and there were over 2,000 Pink-footed
Geese on the marshes with at least 1,300 of these coming into roost on
the reserve. We even had a dark-bellied Brent Goose although
several Barnacle Geese also seen were probably feral. A couple
of Hen Harriers were regular visitors.
reached a maximum of 63, the best winter for this species on
the Dee Estuary since at least 1964 and probably for over a century. 32
Bewick's Swans visited as did a
more unexpected Little Gull and six Crossbills which flew over.
A Bittern showed well on
several occasions and 25 Grey Herons was an
unusually high number. Both Marsh and Hen Harriers were seen and the
first Avocets of the spring arrived.
Avocets reached at least
20 and started to breed. Two Ospreys flew over and four Little Gulls
flew through. A continental race Yellow Wagtail caused some excitement
and was identified by the finders as an Ashy-headed Wagtail, normally
found in Italy. A
Spoonbill and Garganey were present.
Two stunning rarities this
month, a Temminck's Stint was closely followed by a Black-winged
Pratincole giving the twitchers a treat. The Avocets proceeded to have
a very successful breeding
season with 16 pairs nesting. Other waders also did well with
25 pairs of Lapwings producing 50 chicks fledged and three pairs of
Oystercatchers producing four fledglings. Three Garganeys and a
Spoonbill were the other highlights.
reached 30, it was amazing that the birds knew where it was
safe to breed, i.e. on the new scrape which is surrounded by
anti-predator fencing, rather than at Inner Marsh Farm where
productivity had become low over the past few years due to predation.
A Bar-tailed Godwit
and Ruff, both in full breeding plumage, made for a stunning sight, as
did the first returning Spotted Redshanks. A pair of Common Terns bred,
a rare event for Cheshire. An over-flying Red Kite was a good record as
were six Crossbills.
A Hobby chasing
dragonflies gave great views from the hide. A Pectoral Sandpiper turned
up and Black-tailed Godwits reached 500 including some early returning
breeding birds from Iceland. A Great White Egret was seen again.
Two or three Marsh
Harriers were in view most days from the reception hide and a total of
at least six were recorded in the area during the month, including one
wing-tagged as a chick this year in East Anglia, an excellent record
and an unexpected movement west. 30 Yellow Wagtails were counted by one
of the wardens working on the drainage ditches, many of these might
well have bred locally in the Shotwick Fields. A Pectoral Sandpiper
was still around and the Black-tailed Godwits reached over 1,200. The
latter made for a great sight with their various plumages -
full breeding, non-breeding, juvenile and all shades in between! Some
of these had colour rings and birds had been ringed in Iceland,
Montrose in Scotland, Ireland, The Wash, south-east England and France;
with their life histories showing some fascinating movements. The
reserve was full of ducks with large numbers of Teal flying to and from
the reed bed, but the most obvious were Shovelers with a total of 150.
A nice first Birthday
present was the arrival of a juvenile Sabine's Gull blown in
by strong winds and which stayed for four days. This American gull is
only seen on exposed coasts such as at Hilbre and north Wirral, and
even then only rarely and after prolonged gales. This September we only
had one Curlew Sandpiper, but it stayed for several days and the
Pectoral Sandpiper showed well, both from the Reception hide and over
at Inner Marsh Farm. There were still plenty of Black-tailed Godwits
although some had moved on, one colour ringed bird seen here on Aug 6th
was already back in France by the Aug 13th.
For more details of RSPB
Burton Mere Wetlands and how to get there visit the RSPB website -
Burton Mere Wetlands.
Also see the October 2011
Newsletter and www.deeestuary.co.uk/burtonmere.htm.
Many thanks to the RSPB
and the many local birders who provided the much of the information and
records for the above article.
September Bird News
Knot at Leasowe Gunsite,
We had plenty of the hoped for wind which brought in good numbers of
sea birds. The wind didn't quite blow hard enough for long enough to
bring in large numbers of Leach's Petrels but we had
three good days with 15 off Hoylake
on both the
14th and 18th and 95 past Hilbre
on the 19th, more wind at the end of the month saw at least eight off New Brighton
Sabine's Gull at Burton Mere Wetlands, Sep
23rd © Mark Washington
There were good of numbers of skuas with no less than six double-figure
counts of Arctic Skuas max 68 at Hoylake
both on the 14th. There were many sightings of Great, Long-tailed and
Pomarine Skuas with peak numbers again on the 14th, max counts were 2
Long-tailed Skua, 2 Pomarine Skua and 14 Great Skua. Other good
seabirds included a Sooty Shearwater (19th) and Black-throated Diver
(29th), both off Hoylake
and a Slavonian Grebe at Hilbre
on the 13th. During the
strong winds there were four reports of single
Sabine's Gull off north Wirral but more unexpected was a juvenile
'Sabs' which turned up at Burton
on the 20th and stayed for four days.
Despite plenty of interesting sea birds the star bird must be the
Semipalmated Sandpiper which was on the shore at Meols
19th and 24th, a nice find by the twitchers who came to see the
'semi-p' was a White-rumped Sandpiper present on the 21st and 23rd.
Also present were at least three Little Stints and six Curlew
Sandpipers. A probable American Golden Plover flew over Hilbre
on the 23rd. Two
Grey Phalaropes were seen on the 14th during strong winds, one
at New Brighton
and one at Hilbre
The Pectoral Sandpiper was still at Burton
first half of the month.
Photo left: Dunlin at Hilbre © Joe Wynn,
Brent Geese had reached a remarkable 60 at Hilbre
by the end of the
month when previously we've only seen one or two in September. Another
high count was a 'kettle' of 21 Common Buzzards over Newton (West Kirby
south-west, this is the third time in four years we've seen a large
group of Buzzards over north-west Wirral at this time of year - are
they just local birds or migrants, or both? We don't know! A couple of
Ospreys flew through and both Hen and Marsh Harriers were seen on the
marshes. A Great White Egret appears to be resident again on Parkgate Marsh
were there for a short while. One more bird of note was a Cetti's
Warbler at Red Rocks
on the 10th.
Many thanks go to Mark Washington,
Bernard Machin, Colin Wells, Jeremy
Bradshaw, Malcolm Sergeant, Paul Brady, Kenny Dummigan, John
Harker, Joe Wynn, Steve Williams, Les Hall, Charles
Farnell, Mike Cocking, Andy Thomas, Ray
Butterworth, Jane Turner, Peter Haslem, Dave
Thomas, Steve Seal, Stave
Hand, Mark Evans, David Wilson, Jeff Cohen, Brian Lingard,
Roy Lowry, Richard Steel, David Small, Dave Harrington, Dave
Edwards, Charles Canning,
Austin Morley, Ian Fleming, David Leeming,
Karen Leeming, Nigel Jaratt, James Smith, Eddie
Williams, Jon Greep, Chris smith, Norman Hallas, Alan Irving, Colin
Schofield, Ken Mullins, Stephen Simpson, Jean Newall, Michael
Clarckson, Julian Weldrick, Julie Rogers, Colin Jones, Kevin Smith,
Judith Founds, the
and the Hilbre Bird
for their sightings during September. All
are gratefully received.
What to expect in October
Fieldfares pour into the country this month, given a south-east to east
wind many of these get pushed onto the the west coast as they move
south where we can see this 'Visible Migration'. At it's best this can
be spectacular with hundreds of birds flying over - for
more details Click
often get gales this month and with them Leach's petrels, Skuas,
Sabine's Gulls etc. Numbers are unlikley to be as high as in the
equivalent conditions in September, nevertheless seawatching can
certainly be very exciting. Calm conditions can also bring it's reward
with the plenty of birds visible on the sea - north Wirral holds one of
the largest flocks of Great Crested Grebes in the country but they are
a long way out hence the need for a calm to be able to see them, also
visible in such conditions should be a selection of divers, other
grebes and sea duck - particularly Common Scoters.
The first of the winter's big tides are due just after mid-month (see below
given a decent west wind the tide should cover the marshes bringing
Short-eared Owls and both Hen and Marsh Harries close in, together with
many thousands of ducks and waders - and this month is when bird
numbers generally increase rapidly prior to the cold winter weather.
had some great rarities over the past few Octobers, e.g. Barred
Red-flanked Bluetail, Long-billed Dowitcher, Radde's Warbler and
White-winged Black Tern.
Spring Tides (Liverpool)
16th October, 12.09hrs (BST), 9.9m.
17th October, 12.51hrs (BST), 10.0m.
18th October, 13.35hrs (BST), 9.8m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the
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.
Also see 2012 Events Diary.
LiverBird Watching and Nature Discovery
Crusies 2012 - Click here for
October. “The Thurstaston Circle”.
10am start at the Visitor
A guided birdwatch along Thurstaston Shore, across Heswall Fields and
back to the Visitor Centre via the Wirral Way.
We will be following the rising tide along Thurstatson Shore looking at
the birds being pushed towards the marshes at Heswall.
Warm waterproofs and good walking boots/Wellingtons recommended. Bring
some binoculars if possible.
(0151) 648 4371 for more info.
Saturday 6th October, Sunday 7th October and Sunday 4th
Skydancers at Parkgate
- 12 noon until dusk.
is an exciting new four-year project aimed at raising awareness and
promoting the conservation of hen harriers in the north of England.
Dee Estuary is a vital wintering ground for these amazing birds and is
the best place to see them from October through to March.
people have never seen a hen harrier, but once seen it is rarely
forgotten. This bird is a beautiful, agile hunter, and its aerobatic
sky dances are among the most awesome spectacles in nature.
with only a handful of pairs still breeding successfully in England,
the hen harrier is currently a species on the brink.
Come along to
Parkgate to find out more about the hen harrier story and what you can
do to help save hen harriers before it's too late!
Look for the
RSPB Love Nature marquee along the main promenade at Parkgate where
friendly staff and volunteers will be with telescopes and binoculars
plus family activities, free information and more: http://www.rspb.org.uk/skydancer/
Directions: The "Donkey Stand" opposite Nicholls Ice-cream shop on The
Parade (B5135), Parkgate, Cheshire.
Tuesday 16th October, High Tide at Parkgate
the RSPB at Parkgate for the spring tide where we should see Hen
Harriers and Short-eared Owls as well as numerous Waders and Wildfowl.
High tide 120Meet
the RSPB at Parkgate for the spring tide where we should see Hen
Harriers and Short-eared Owls as well as numerous Waders and Wildfowl.
High tide 1209hrs, 9.9m.
Wednesday 17th October, High Tide
High tide 1251hrs, 10m.
Thursday 18th October, High Tide at Parkgate
High tide 1335hrs, 9.8m.
Saturday 3rd November, 10am start for guided walk, Point of Ayr
Join us for the official opening of the new hide at Point of Ayr,
Talacre and take part in a free guided walk.
The Point of Ayr affords great views over the Dee Estuary and
beyond. Whilst the addition of the new hide gives up-close
views of thousands of birds as they are pushed in by the rising tide.
Refreshments will be available.
Also see video
shot in and around the hide - Click
Thursday November 15th 9.30am start, Riverbank Road Raptor Roadshow, Lower Heswall
the Rangers, the Friends of Wirral Country Park and other local groups
at Riverbank Road car park in Lower Heswall. The highest tide of the
month will flood the marshes flushing wading birds and small mammals
from cover. This will alert raptors such as Hen Harriers and
Short-eared Owls wintering on the marsh to the possibility of an easy
meal. Warm waterproofs and binoculars are recommended.
No need to book, meet at Riverbank Road car park, Lower Heswall.
For more information: (0151) 648 4371.
NOTE: The two events below could be easily combined.
Saturday November 17th 9.30am start, Pintails of the River Dee, Thurstaston Shore
Dee estuary is most important wintering site in the U.K. for these
elegant ducks. Join the Rangers on a guided walk along beach from the
Visitor Centre as the tide rises. We will see them feeding in the
channels that criss-cross the mudflats then they will join with the
other ducks and waders to roost in marsh at high tide.
waterproofs and strong footwear are recommended. Bring binoculars if
you have them. No need to book, meet at the Visitor Centre, Station
Road, Thurstaston. CH61 0HN For more information: (0151) 648 4371.
Saturday 17th November, start at 11am, High tide Birdwatch at King’s Gap, Hoylake
will discover why Wirral’s foreshore is an internationally protected
site when you join the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens, Coastal Rangers
and the RSPB on this winter birdwatch at Hoylake. Organised as part of
Wirral’s Year of Coast and Countryside. High tide at 1.09pm, 9.7m.
No need to book. Ring 0151 648 4371 for