A large flock of Knot, perhaps 20,000 strong, must surely impress
anyone who sees this spectacular sight - even complete non-birders or,
at the other end of the scale, hard core twitchers who will
claim they are only looking at them in
there is a Great Knot in the flock! There were certainly plenty of
opportunities to see large numbers of Knot last winter here on
the Dee Estuary, which was the best winter for this species
for many years.
The graph above gives you an idea of
the size of the flocks we saw. Dawpool Bank is the huge area of mud
Thurstaston Shore and it was just carpeted with Knots on Jan 9th when I
counted 48,000 there. I only know of one higher single site
count on the estuary since 1970, that was 52,000 at Hoylake
in December 2001. Unfortunately, I only received one count from the
Point of Ayr, but it was a big one with 42,500 on Dec 16th. The counts
at West Kirby was of birds actually on the ground at the roost, whereas
most of those from Hilbre were of flocks flying over, either flying out
of the estuary or heading towards the high tide roost at Hoylake. For
the forthcoming 2012 Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report CAWOS have
received no less than 93
Internationally Important counts from the English side of the Dee
Estuary, of which 32 were 20,000 or greater,
43 Internationally Important counts in 2011 of which only two were
But never mind about all these facts
and figures - it was the spectacle
of those tens of thousands of birds which really stick in the memory,
particularly during the January spring tides at Hoylake. Saturday
was the day of the High
Tide Birdwatch and it was an outstanding day with at least
200 birders enjoying the spectacle of 25,000 waders, mostly Knot,
pushed in by a big
high tide. If Saturday was
outstanding then Sunday was even better with the higher tide pushing
the birds that much closer, for about 30 minutes half the Knot flock
aerial roosted overhead which was an amazing sight in itself with
constant movement and turnover of the birds. Then came
Monday which was simply astonishing, the birds were so close to the end
of King's Gap you could almost touch them, unlike the previous day the
birds stayed mainly on the sand and were surging backwards and forwards
like breaking waves. I'd never seen anything quite like it before!
Tiny part of the huge Knot
flock at Hoylake, January 2013 © Kevin Morgans.
put last winter in perspective I have to show one more graph, below. It
the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) counts from when the scheme started in
1970 to the present day. The 1970s saw counts consistently around the
this was followed by a sharp fall in numbers in the 1980s which
was due to increased disturbance on the estuary. Since the
of 1989/90 max counts have fluctuated wildly, the best example of this
being a peak count of 5,672 in the winter of 2000/01 followed by the
highest ever WeBS count, 52,692 in 2001/02. The max WeBS
this last winter of 50,266 is therefore the second highest on record.
In contrast to all this the counts for the whole country have been
pretty steady for the whole period. I have written several articles
discussing Knots on the Dee Estuary and their fluctuations in number
over the years, so if you want to find out more look at the Newsletter
articles mentioned below.
Sources of Information for this article
and further reading:
- bird sightings archive.
2. Cheshire and Wirral Bird Reports: 1970 to 2011.
3. Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report 2012, in preparation.
4. Neil Friswell and Colin Wells, Dee Estuary and North Wirral
Foreshore WeBS Annual Report, 2011/12.
5. Chas Holt et al.
, Waterbirds in the UK 2010/11 (WeBS).
6. Richard Smith, North-west Estuaries Part 2 - Knot and Dunlin, July
7. Richard Smith, WeBS and Waders, May
8. Richard Smith, West Kirby High Tide Wader Roost, July
9. Richard Smith, The Knot,
April 2000 Newsletter.
10. J.R. Mitchell, M.E. Moser and J.S. Kirby, Declines in midwinter
counts of waders roosting on the Dee Estuary, Bird Study (1988) 35,
11. J.S. Kirby, C. Clee and V. Seagar, Impact and extent of
recreational disturbance to wader roosts on the Dee Estuary: some
preliminary results, Wader Study Group Bulletin, 68: 53-58, 1993.
WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey)
data in this article should not be used elsewhere in any way without
permission of the WeBS Office. To access official WeBS data please
contact the WeBS Secretariat - BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP
24 2 PU www.bto.org.
Wirral's Wonderful Waders
The Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens (see
the Wardens Page) have
produced a leaflet promoting the Waders of Wirral and also the work of
the Wardens without which the High Tide roost at West Kirby would
probably be just a distant memory. We
are always on the look out for
new Wardens so please help if you can. Full details are in
To download the leaflet please click on
the links below, it is in two parts (PDF format).
Wirral's Wonderful Waders - PAGE
1 and PAGE
A mix of Waders at Hoylake, September
Point of Ayr RSPB Reserve - Voluntary Wardens Wanted!
Ayr, on the North Wales coast at Talacre, is a great place to
watch a variety of birds as they come in to roost at high tide, but
unfortunately the site is extremely vulnerable to human disturbance.
The RSPB is looking for extra volunteers to help warden this invaluable
roost site, and protect the birds throughout the cold winter months.
Editor - to get an idea of how good an area this is
for birds see the Point
of Ayr Site Guide.
Shifts are run most weekends and typically last between 3-4 hours,
depending on the height of the tide.
If you would like to help in any way please contact the RSPB on 0151
353 8478 or Mobile 07860169452 . Not only
are you helping to save the planet, but it’s also great birdwatching
September Bird News
Hilbre Sea Watching - Photos by Scott Reid.
Top - Leach's Petrel on Sep 16th, Bottom - Adult Long-tailed
Skua on Sep 17th.
In many ways a classic
a good number of both those iconic September species - Leach's Petrel
and Curlew Sandpiper. Strong west winds mid-month bought in
numbers of Leach's Petrels peaking on the 17th with 109 past Hilbre.
One or two Storm Petrels were off New Brighton over the same period. At
least three Long-tailed Skuas were recorded, including an adult and
three juveniles. After the winds had died down a Great Skua hung around
the area even venturing as far as Heswall and flying past me at
Thurstaston almost within touching distance.
Curlew Sandpipers on Hoylake Shore, September 9th
© Steve Williams
It was the second best passage of Curlew Sandpipers over the past
12 years, with numbers not quite reaching 2011 levels, as you see from
the graphs below. It is interesting comparing the two years with both
showing a distinct double peak. Also, in both years the early peak was
of birds mainly along north Wirral, particularly Hoylake, whereas by
the second peak most birds were further up the estuary at
Mere Wetlands and Connah's Quay.
Remarkably, almost a year to the day a Western Sandpiper was at
Hoylake, an adult Semi-palmated Sandpiper was seen at Hoylake Shore, on
the 21st. Although only present for a short time it was well seen and
there seems little doubt about it's ID, unlike the Western Sandpiper
last year! A few Little Stints were recorded, max three at
Mere Wetlands on the 10th. A Pectoral Sandpiper was there at the end of
the month, presumably it was the same bird which was also seen on
Burton Marsh. 19 records of Mediterranean Gulls was a good number for
September, compare that to just three in September 2010 which was a
good year for them (see Med Gull
Harrier over Inner Marsh Farm, September 28th © Jeff Cohen
Although not as numerous as last year there were reports of one or two
Marsh Harriers throughout the month, max three at Burton
on the 8th. A ringtail Hen Harrier was also recorded several times on
the marshes. Up to two Hobbies gave some great views at both Burton
Mere Wetlands and the Inner Marsh Farm hide.
Several days of east winds
towards the end of the month eventually brought rich pickings with two
Yellow-browed Warblers (Burton Marsh and Red Rocks) and a Blyth's Reed
Warbler at Red Rocks.
Many thanks go to Steve Round, Dan
Trotman, Kenny Dummigan, David O'Farrell, Peter
Buckley, Allan Conlin, Eddie Williams, Andy Voisey, David
Haigh, Malcolm Segeant, Paul Mason, David Harrington, Jeremy
Bradshaw, Mark Gibson, Katy Van Woerdekom, Alan Hitchmough,
Jakeman, Steve Williams, Ray
Eades, Greg Harker, John Kirkland, Bruce
Butterworth, Jane Turner, Andy Thomas, Dave
Schofield, Karen Leeming, David Leeming, Les
Hall, Charles Farnell, Bernard Machin, Roy Lowry, Mark Evans,
Wilson, Dave Edwards, Elliot Montieth, Hannah Meulman, Tony
Darby, Steve Edwards, Bill Wonderley, Glenn Morriss, Alan Irving,
Richard Beckett, Kevin Morgans, Jenny Gardner, Graham Connolly, Frank
Burns, John Smith, Shaun Hickey, Juilan Weldrick, David Small, Keith
Lloyd Jones, David Wilson, Linda Evans, Kevin Smith, Malcolm Guy, Bill
Kreig, David Horton, Denzil Nicklin, Mark Williamson, Christine
Longworth, Reg Dixon, Deborah Marwaha, Joan Chappell, the
and the Hilbre Bird
for their sightings during September. All
are gratefully received.
What to expect in October
October isn't too late
to see plenty
of sea birds if we get north-westerly gales, particularly early in the
month. So expect Leach's Petrels, Sabine's Gulls, skuas etc. The north
Wirral coast is now one of the most important wintering areas for Great
Crested Grebes, but you will need a flat calm and clear conditions to
see them as most are a long way out and floating on the sea, conditions
also suitable for seeing what could be a good selection of rarer
grebes, divers and sea duck.
It was good for Curlew Sandpipers
last month and the usual pattern during a good influx is a second wave
of then to come through in early October. This month is usually good
for rarities, last year alone we had Long-billed Dowitcher, Temminck's
Stint, Spotted Crake, Red-throated Pipit and three Common Cranes.
of the highlights this month is Visible Migration - given the right
weather conditions and the right time and location this can be
spectacular. One early morning last year we had 47,250 Starlings, 3,940
Chaffinches and 73 Bramblings over Red
. To read more about 'Vis Mis' read the October 2010
There will definitely be signs of the returning winter with a build up
of both Brent and Pink-footed Geese, a return of the first Whooper
Swans, several Short-eared Owls on the marshes and we should see a Snow
bunting or two.
I write this at the end of September we have had several days of east
and south easterly winds with more forecast, this means there must be a
very good chance of some good rarities turning up this month blown
westwards during their return migration.
Kingfisher at Burton Mere Wetlands, September 13th © Jeff
Spring Tides (Liverpool)
6th October, 12.34hrs (BST), 9.5m.
7th October, 13.11hrs (BST), 9.6m.
8th October, 13.50hrs (BST), 9.5m.
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 2013 Events Diary.
Saturday 5th October, 10am to 3pm, Connah's
Quay Nature Reserve
High tide 9.4m at 11.59am.
opportunity to visit this great reserve normally open to members only -
should be large numbers of waders and duck roosting at high tide.
to find us: From A548 take the Connah’s Quay turn off and follow the
Power Station signs. At the reserve entrance, (Grid ref SJ271
714) you will be met by a member of the Society.
Tea and coffee available at the Field Studies Centre.
Saturday 19th October, 10:00am start, High Tide Birdwatch at
the Coastal Rangers, the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens and the RSPB to
see the large numbers of wading birds on Hoylake beach. With
tide, we should see the birds at close quarters as they roost and
feed. Beginners welcome. Dress warmly and bring
binoculars if you
Meet on the promenade at King's Gap, Hoylake. 9.4m tide just
For further information, contact the Coastal Rangers on 0151 648 4371.
Saturday 9th November 2013 from
11.00am to 4.00pm.
Cheshire and Wirral
Ornithological Society 25th Anniversary Celebration 9th Nov 2013 CAWOS
is pleased to announce that it will be holding a half day event to
celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Society on Saturday 9th November
2013 from 11.00am to 4.00pm.
Please come and join us for this, our Special Celebratory Day for
members/ non members and friends, old and new at Leahurst Campus,
School of Veterinary Science, Neston, CH64 7TE. The day will include a
programme of talks about Cheshire's birds with associated quizzes and
raffle. Lunch and refreshments included all for only £5.00pp.
For further information contact Clive Richards (tel. 01625 524527) or
Ted Lock (tel. 01625 540466).
Application forms can be downloaded by clicking on this link.
Saturday 30th November 12:00 noon – 3:00pm
Take Tea on Hilbre with the RSPB
Walk across the
sands to Hilbre Island where the RSPB will be serving tea and biscuits
during the above date and time. They will be on hand to show
island’s unique wildlife and will tell you about the work that the RSPB
are doing at their fantastic reserve at Burton Mere Wetlands.
no need to book, just turn up. Suitable clothing and footwear
essential for the walk out and please note – this is not a guided
walk. Remember to bring money for the tea!
For further information, please telephone (0151) 648 4371.