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1st November 2002
Connah's Quay Reserve.

Latest Bird Counts.
October Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

Newsletter Index.



A Year at the
DNS/Powergen Connah's Quay Reserve 

    It's been well over a year (April 2001) since I last wrote about this great little reserve overlooking both the River Dee, as it enters the estuary, and the RSPB Oakenholt Reserve - an area teeming with birds at all states of the tide.

My year starts in July 2001 when the reserve re-opened after the Foot and Mouth restrictions. Although lack of access meant breeding could not be fully monitored it was established that Skylark, Little Grebe, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Canada Goose and Mute Swan were all successful in raising young. Over the years there has been   significant erosion of the saltmarsh next to the West Hide and it's approach road, consequently birds are now seen much closer whilst they feed on the mud banks at low tide. A visit by Raymond Roberts in August 2001 revealed a couple of thousand Redshank, a few hundred Oystercatcher with Curlew, Whimbrel, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Green Sandpiper.

The West hide

Low tide was also the best time to see the birds during autumn and early winter 2001. Large numbers of Teal, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing and Oystercatcher were observed feeding in and around the gutter below the West Hide. In addition Greenshank and Spotted Redshank were seen and Wigeon numbers built up to 3,000, the highest number for several years. Sightings of Kingfisher, Brambling and Twite were also made. But a visit at high tide certainly brings its own reward, a count in November saw one of the largest ever counts of Black-tailed Godwits in this country, a Dee Estuary record of 3,900.

The beginning of 2002 carried on as the previous year left off with large flocks of wildfowl and waders, but also some interesting passerines. Highlights included three Bullfinches, 1,000 Chaffinch, five Brambling and 40 Linnets. By March the summer migrants started to arrive with the first Wheatear on the 17th and a Grey Wagtail in full summer plumage. Singing Skylarks and Meadow Pipits heralded the onset of spring.

It is generally believed that the beginning of July is not the ideal time to visit the reserve but three visits by Raymond Roberts showed this was not the case. The first was at high tide and revealed large numbers of Shelduck in a pre-moult gathering including a family with nine ducklings. The first of the returning waders included Dunlin in summer plumage together with Redshank, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank. The next was a delightful early morning visit at low tide. At such time the waders and wildfowl feed on the extensive mudflats and Common Terns and herons fish the pools. Both Buzzards and Ravens were seen overhead. The third visit was during a beautiful clear evening as the sun set with the brilliant colours reflected in the water and the calls of the waterfowl making it something rather special.

The above article was based on the Reserve Notes and other articles in the Deeside Naturalists' Society newsletters with kind permission of the Deeside Naturalists' Society. The reserve is only open to members of the society except on open days which are advertised in the events section of  this website's newsletters.


Bird Counts


Wetland Bird Survey Count for Connah's Quay and Flint - (Kindly provided by Brian Grey), 6th October.
2 Little Grebe, 105 Cormorant, 7 Heron, 9 Mute Swan, 720 Canada Goose, 100 Shelduck, 1 Wigeon, 455 Teal, 185 Mallard, 5 Moorhen, 15 Coot, 2,500 Oystercatcher, 410 Lapwing, 31 Knot, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 206 Dunlin, 3,950 Black-tailed Godwit, 32 Curlew 32, 17 Spotted Redshank, 1,177 Redshank, 4 Greenshank.

Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 8th October.
2,470 Black-tailed Godwit, 600 Knot, 70 Dunlin, 2 Little Stint, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 4 Spotted Redshank, 9 Greenshank, 1,000 Pintail, 1,200 Teal, 1 Golden Plover, 3 Ruff, 1 Common Tern and 1 Peregrine.
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), 6th October.
4 Great Crested Grebe, 62 Cormorant, 2 Little Egret, 15 Grey Heron, 8,300 Shelduck, 115 Teal, 57 Mallard, 1 Pintail, 7 Red-breasted Merganser, 5 Grey Plover, 230 Lapwing, 800 Knot, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 100 Dunlin, 2 Snipe, 1,660 Curlew, 5,650 Redshank, 9 Greenshank, 750 Black-headed Gull, 1,800 Common Gull, 37 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 460 Herring Gull and 6 Great Black-backed Gull. 1 Merlin and 4 Peregrine also present. 


October Bird News


The most notable event of the month must have been the severe gale on 27th. The wind had died down enough in the afternoon for a few birders to venture forth and see the high tide come in along the north Wirral shore and Point of Ayr, along with seven Leach's Petrel, a Sabine's Gull and a good selection of Skuas. Hilbre had a Storm Petrel and two more Leach's Petrels were blown into the estuary beyond Greenfield.

We had the usual spectacle of between 8,000 and 9,000 Shelduck off Heswall and Thurstaston. Spread out on the mud at low tide they are surprisingly difficult to see, just little dots to the naked eye. Four Scaup were unusual visitors to West Kirby Marine Lake, even more unusually a tundra Bean Goose turned up at the Point of Ayr. Two long-tailed Duck flew past West Kirby and another one was seen off Leasowe the day after the gale. The wild swans are back with so far 22 Bewick's and 2 Whooper, best seen in the Shotwick fields and Burton area. 

Both Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints continued to pass through in small numbers with a maximum of four of the former and three of the latter at Inner Marsh Farm. A count of 3,950 Black-tailed Godwits at Connah's Quay was a magnificent sight, and as I understand it there were also 200 at Inner Marsh Farm at the same time which makes it a record high number for the estuary. There was a good, if somewhat late, passage of Sanderling with 400 at West Kirby being the highest count. Among the 6,000 or so Oystercatchers regularly roosting on West Kirby shore are two leucistic birds. These are pale birds, sometimes called - incorrectly - partial albinos. One has only the odd bits of black and grey colour on it's back where it should be completely black, but the other has a rather fetching chocolate brown plumage where it should be black. A pale Redshank has also been seen for several years at Heswall.    

Thirty Little Egrets counted coming to roost at Burton is another estuary record. Swallows are very late this year, the last so far seen on the 30th. A Yellow-browed Warbler was a good find at Leasowe

What to expect in November
ver-wintering waders increase significantly during November, especially if we get a cold snap. Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit and Grey Plover - best seen either at low tide off Leasowe (to the east of the lighthouse) or Hoylake and Point of Ayr at high tide. Massive flocks of Knot and Dunlin, 10,000+ strong may be seen at Hoylake, but pick a high tide which still leaves a significant area of sand bank uncovered, between 8.6 and 9.6 metres. Inside the estuary Black-tailed Godwits should peak at around 4,000. These are usually seen around the Connah's Quay reserve and Flint but by the end of the month maybe as many as half of these make their way over to the English side between Heswall and Caldy.   

The first Goldeneye and Red-breasted Mergansers of the winter will return to the Marine Lake at West Kirby, an excellent spot to see these birds but either get there early or on a calm day when no wind-surfers are about. Teal, Mallard and Pintail often peak in November, these duck tend to be in the marshy areas off Heswall, Parkgate and around to Flint. Flint at low tide can be a good place to see them when many duck are resting on the banks across the river channel, otherwise choose a high spring tide when the duck are flushed from the gutters in the marsh.

Water Pipits should return to Neston Old Quay and may be a Green-winged Teal or two at Inner Marsh Farm. Last year the Little Egret population peaked in November, so we could see an increase on this October's record of 30.

We have another set of Parkgate high tide birdwatches at the beginning of the month, given a bit of luck with the weather (low pressure and west wind) we should have some great birdwatching with Short-eared Owls and Water Rails, along with the usual thousands of waders and duck. Last year we had quite an influx of Short-eared Owls seen on Burton Marsh, Leasowe and Point of Ayr

For those interested in what birds are out in Liverpool Bay there is a 90 page report available commissioned as part of the study into the feasibility of the wind farm off north Wirral. The website is, click on 'Appendix B: birds' to download the report. For those who haven't realised the wind farm is almost certainly going to go ahead - spoiling our sea views and having the potential to cause many bird deaths. This independent report has allayed my misgivings about the wind farm to some extent but by it's own admission it is far from complete, and I am still far from happy about the whole idea of 30 turbines out there turning away day and night amongst all those birds. For examples of  anti wind farm web sites expressing concern about bird kills see, and Note that a 30 turbine wind farm off Prestatyn has already been given consent. 


Many thanks go to John Harrison, Iain Douglas, Colin Wells, Karen Leeming, Peter Button, Mark Small, John Campbell, Neil Friswell, Colin Jones, Colin Schofield, Nigel Troup, Brian Roberts, Brian Grey,  Mike Hart,  Stephen Williams,  Chris Butterworth,  Martyn Jaimeson,  David Esther, Keith Lester, Mark Feltham, and the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens for their sightings during October. All sightings are gratefully received.

Forthcoming Events


November Highest Spring Tides
4th November, 10:28hrs 9.9m. (all times GMT)
5th November, 11.13hrs 10.1m. 
6th November, 11.56hrs 10.1m. 
7th November, 12..39hrs 9.9m. 

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. No need to book for these events unless specified - please check below.

Sunday 3rd November 8:00am, High Tide at Flint Foreshore. 
Experience the delights of coastal bird watching at its best. Expect to see large rafts of duck and loafing waders. (HW 09:43, 9.5m). This early morning walk (wellingtons essential) should produce views of Twite and Linnet. Learn to recognize these two similar species. No need to book, just turn up. Meet at Flint Lifeboat Station car park. Further information from RSPB tel. 0151 336 7681.

Tuesday 5th November 9:30am. High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate.
Encounter some of Britain's most exciting birds in the relaxed company of experts who will guide you through the drama and spectacle of the high tide. If the weather is right the tide should reach the wall flushing out special birds such as Water Rail and Short-eared Owl. Meet at the Old Baths car park, Parkgate, close to the Boathouse Inn. (HW 11:13, 10.1m) Further details call 0151 648 4371/3884.

Wednesday 6th November 10:00am, High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate.
Birdwatching at its best. Thousands of waders and wildfowl combine to make a true spectacle. If the weather is right the tide should reach the wall flushing special birds such as Water Rail and unexpected mammals such as Water Shrew. Meet at the Old Baths car park, Parkgate, close to the Boathouse Inn. (HW 11:56, 10.1m) Further details call 0151 648 4371/3884.

Sunday 10th November 11am - 3pm, Twixt Land and Sea.
Join the Ranger for a guided walk along the Wirral Way, Heswall Shore, Heswall Dales and the Dungeon Woodland and enjoy some of the superb views across local farmland and the River Dee. Stout footwear and appropriate clothing are essential. Please bring a packed lunch. Sorry no dogs. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

15th - 17th November. 
North West Bird Fair at Martin Mere. Click here for details.
The Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens will have a stand, I'll be there on Saturday the 16th.

Saturday 7th December 10:30am, High Tide at Point of Ayr
Join the RSPB warden to experience an impressive array of waders and wildfowl. Winter specialities may include Brent Goose and Short-eared Owl but be prepared that no two visits are quite the same at the Point of Air. (HW 12:45, 9.4m). No need to book, just turn up. Meet at the end of Station Rd, Talacre. Further information contact RSPB tel. 0151 336 7681.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2002', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself (Richard Smith).

All material in this newsletter, and indeed the whole web site, has been written by myself, Richard Smith, unless specified.