Curlew Sandpiper from the Inner Marsh Farm
Hide © Keith Scovell
It has been a good year for Curlew Sandpipers. The first juvenile
arrived on August 16th and over the next two days singles were
Hilbre and Burton Mere Wetlands. But it was at Hoylake where there was
a big influx with nine on the 20th. These are all very early dates and
this was reflected nationally with a large number of birds arriving in
the third week in August. By September more were at Burton Mere
Wetlands and it was probably the same birds there for several days
which gave a late peak in the second week of September. A double peak,
which is shown locally for all three years (2011, 2013 and 2016), seems
to be due to birds first concentrating on Hoylake shore (and nearby
sites) then moving to Burton Mere Wetlands, there is little indication
of a double peak nationally.
The graph above shows
the BirdTrack data for the UK for 2011 and 2016. The 2011 data is
fairly typical with a peak around the first or second week of
September. The 2016 data shows a very early peak around mid-August
coinciding with the big influx of juveniles into the country. The
previous small peak in July will have been all adults. The graph below
of Dee estuary data shows that the 2011 and 2013 data were very
similar, with most birds in the estuary or along north Wirral in early
September with the second peak consisting of birds mainly at Burton
Mere Wetlands. 2016 data is quite different with a small peak in the
third week of August coinciding with the main influx of juveniles
countrywide, birds then seemed to move to Burton Mere Wetlands during
the first half of September, they then moved on much more quickly than
in the other two years.
The bar chart below shows we had
10 poor years up to the big influx in 2011, followed by good years in
2013 and 2016. The numbers are the total of all daily
records, so those birds which stayed for several days will have been
counted more than once.
breeding success of Curlew Sandpipers is very much governed by the
Lemming cycle with good Lemming years, when predators can more easily
catch rodents rather than chicks, coinciding with good breeding years.
Many years of monitoring this species in Poland, where they have far
more birds than we get, including adults, has shown that after
good breeding season the juveniles arrive a week earlier than for a bad
season. As the graphs show the juveniles arrived exceptionally early
this year both locally and nationally, so this may well indicate an
exceptionally good breeding season. Trawling through British Birds, in
particularly the well documented influxes of 1969 and 1988, such an
early large arrival of juvenile Curlew Sandpipers into the country
appears to be unprecedented. There were some large numbers involved
including 258 at RSPB Frampton Marsh close to the Wash and 70 across
the Irish Sea in Wexford. The highest count on the Dee
was just 13 at Burton Mere Wetlands, but previous influxes have
resulted in much higher max counts with 32 in 2011 and a massive 108 at
Heswall in 1996 when at least 40 were present for four weeks. I think
we are overdue for another major passage of this lovely small wader.
Mere Wetland, September 8th 2016
© Tanny Robinson
References and Further Reading:
1. Yahkat Barshep, Wlodzimierz Meissner
& Les G. Underhill, Timing of migration of the Curlew Sandpiper
through Poland in relation to Arctic breeding conditions, Ornis Fennica
2. P.I. Stanley and C.D.T. Minton, The
unprecedented westward migration
of Curlew Sandpipers in autumn 1969, British Birds 65: Sept 1972.
3. J.S. Kirby, K.K. Kirby and S.J.
Woolfall, Curlew Sandpipers in
Britain and Ireland in autumn 1988, British Birds 82:9, 399-409.
4. BirdTrack (BTO) - www.birdtrack.net.
5. Cheshire Bird Reports 2001
6. Clwyd Bird Reports and North-east
Wales Bird Reports - various.
7. Latest Sightings archive -
www.deeestuary.co.uk (many thanks to
who sent their sightings to me).
Many thanks for your overwhelming support.
At the tme of writing this (Oct 31st 2016) nothing is yet resolved but
we are very hopeful that the Gilroy Scrape will be restored. As soon as
I know something definite I'll put it on my home page.
is a very interesting article written by Graham Appleton about the
importance of safe roost sites for Black-tailed Godwits, it mentions
Gilroy and he has kindly used some of my photos:
Colour Ring Report
Top left and clockwise:
(Alan Hitchmough); Rock Pipit (Steve Williams and the Hilbre Bird
Observatory); Black-tailed Godwit R-OR//W (Richard Smith); Black-tailed
Godwit LN-BR (Richard Smith).
Apart from Twite (featured in the
December 2015 Newsletter)
colour-ringed passerines are very rarely recorded around the Dee
estuary and, being so small, even more rarely successfully read.
Luckily the Rock Pipit seen on Hilbre was caught as you can see in the
above photo. Black-tailed Godwits were recorded in good numbers through
September and October, I report three colour-ringed birds
Colour-ringed Gulls have been in short supply with just one seen, and
we have another Canada Goose from Lake Windermere.
Black Headed Gull
, Black letters
on a white ring.
Ringed near Lodz in Poland on April 12th 2013.
on the shore between the Marine Lake and Little Eye, West Kirby, on
October 2nd 2016, also seen later in the month on the pontoon on West
Kirby Marine Lake.
Apart from when it was ringed this bird has never been recorded away
from West Kirby and Hoylake.
It was present from September to January 2013/14.
From July to February 2014/15.
From October to February 2015/16.
white on yellow ring.
Ringed at Giske Ornithological Station, Giske Island, Norway, on August
Recorded at Hilbre on October 10th 2016 and on several dates through
the month, also at Red Rocks on October 19th.
From the Hilbre Bird Obs Blog:
"Two of the
Rock Pipits that bred on the
island this year were recaptured this morning, so when another Rock
Pipit was seen to be in the potter trap, nothing special was thought of
it, until that is a bird bearing a Norwegian metal and colour ring was
Rock Pipits were known to pass through the islands in small numbers in
late autumn and we could only speculate as to their origin, now we have
concrete evidence that at least some are from Scandinavia.
Members were naturally very excited by this occurrence, one
of the best ringing controls ever at Hilbre."
ringed in northern Iceland as a chick on July 19th 2013.
Recorded at Gilroy, West Kirby, on September 17th, 20th and 23rd
This bird spends every February in the rice fields near Lisbon although
it hasn't been sighted anywhere in any other winter month. It was
spotted back in Iceland in May 2015 and it spent July 2015 on the east
coast of England being seen near Doncaster and on the Humber Estuary.
August 2016 saw it on the Alt Estuary across the River Mersey before it
moved to Gilroy in September.
ringed at Holbeach on the Wash on August 12th 2006.
Recorded at Caldy Wildfowl collection, West Kirby, on October 22nd 2016
and on three dates later that month on Thurstaston shore.
This bird seem to disappear for months and even years at a time.
Perhaps it hides in some obscure creek in southern Ireland and it was
here, at Clonakilty near Cork, in October 2008, March 2009 and
September 2009. It was not seen again until the cold spring of 2013
when it spent the second half of April at the Caldy Wildfowl collection
close to the Dee estuary. August 2013 saw it back on the Wash and the
following winter back in southern Ireland, where it was also in
December 2015. The only other site it has been recorded is the Ouse
Washes where it was in February 2015.
ringed in Iceland on July 15th 2013 as a chick.
Recorded on six dates in September and October 2016 at Gilroy, West
It was at Marshside near Southport during October 2013 before turning
up at Burton Mere Wetlands in March 2014. Apart from a visit to Port
Sunlight River Park in September 2014 it was recorded exclusively at
either Gilroy or Thurstaston over the next two years. July and August
2016 saw it at the Slimbridge WWT centre before turning up at Gilroy in
white letters on red ring.
Ringed at Bowness-on- Windermere on June 28th 20146.
Recorded at Burton Mere Wetlands on September
Also seen at Talacre (Point of Ayr) on September 24th 2014. It was back
at Bowness-on-Windermere in June 2015.
This bird was ringed by the RSPCA Ringing Group as part of a project
looking at movements to and from Lake Windermere, Cumbria, where the
majority are ringed during the annual moult period.
Smith and Matt Thomas.
Colour-rings were also reported by Steve Hinde, Derek Bates, Steve
Williams and the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
October Bird News
Suddenly we seemed to have been
inundated with species of white herons with record numbers of
Spoonbills (12), Cattle Egrets (5) and Great White Egrets (12), that's
apart from Little Egrets whose numbers have increased from single
figures to several hundred in 15 years or so. Sometime over
the winter I'll write an article putting these numbers into a local and
Cattle Egrets at Burton
Mere Wetland, October 25th
© Tanny Robinson
We were also inundated with
Yellow-browed Warblers. We have now got used to relatively
large numbers on the east and south coast of the UK in recent years but
we get very few here. But from the end of September though to late
October we had an unprecedented 35 records - compare that with six in
2015 and just one in 2014!! Again, my plan is to write an article about
these fascinating if difficult to see birds.
Marsh Harrier off Denhall
Quay, October 31st
© Richard Steel
Two female Marsh Harriers were recorded through the month with a male
also seen. It was good to see a grey male Hen Harrier flying over the
marshes and there appears to be at least three ringtails also present.
Five Short-eared Owls were off Denhall Quay by the end of the
month, hopefully we'll see more during the spring tides due in
November. A Bittern was spotted a few times off Parkgate Old Baths.
Large numbers of Common Scoters were seen all month off north Wirral,
we estimated at least 10,000 on several dates but it wasn't until we
had a mirror like flat calm sea on the 21st did we realise we had in
the region of 40,000 out there. The highest ever count for Cheshire and
Wirral! A few Velvet Scoters and a Long-tailed Duck were also
Curlew Sandpipers continued to come through in small numbers all month.
750 Sanderlings at Hoylake early in the month was an excellent count
although Dunlin and Knot numbers have still to reach their winter
levels. Black-tailed Godwit numbers at Gilroy, Caldy and Thurstaston
increased through the month to around 4,000 with at least 2,000 on the
Welsh side as well.
Sandwich Tern off New Brighton, October 5th © William
thanks go to Eddie Williams, Tanny Robinson, Mark
Turner, Steve Hinde, Matt Thomas, Mal
Sergeant, David Leeming, Roy
Lowry, David Haigh,
Cook, Gail Wilson, Dan
Trotman, Dave Edwards, Graham
Turner, Richard Beckett, Alan Irving,
Paul Ralston, Derek Bates, Paul Mason, Damian
Farnell, Elliot Monteith, David Small, Gail Wilson, Steve Jennings, Ian
Douglas, Colin Wells, Colin Schofield, Andrew Ingram,
Mark Gibson, William Boyce, Frank Burns, Jon Maitland Jones, Carole
Killikelly, Hugh Stewart, Ian Dyer, Edward Murphy, Bryan Joy, Mike
Cooper, Colin Jones, David Green, Gary Powell, Adrian Morgan, Michael
Ward, Susan Schofield, Deborah Marwaha, Nigel Jarratt, Chris Wilding,
George Knight, Richard Whitby, Steven Liston, Frances Rarehare, John
Butler, Chris Smith, Neil Mcmorran, Chris Roberts, John Dawson, Ian
Mansell, Nick Moss, the Lighthouse
and Wirral Birding Blog
and the Hilbre Bird
for their sightings during October. All
are gratefully received.
What to expect in November
gales, particularly if they are followed by strong westerlies, can make
for some great sea-watching and last year we had a good number of
Leach's Petrels this month. Calmer weather will enable us to see what
is on the sea and it will be interesting to see if the huge flocks of
Common Scoter remain or if. more probably, most go further south.
The high tides forecast for mid-month should make for some spectacular
views of the birds on the marsh with Hen Harriers, Marsh Harriers,
Short-eared Owls, Pink-footed Geese as well as thousands of waders and
ducks. If we get a cold spell, especially on the near continent, expect
to see many thousands of Knot at Hoylake, Point of Ayr and West Kirby.
Short-eared Owl seen from Denhall Quay, October 31st
© Jeff Cohen.
Spring Tides (Liverpool)
14th November, 10.25hrs (GMT), 9.8m.
15th November, 11.11hrs (GMT), 10.0m.
16th November, 11.56hrs (GMT), 10.0m.
17th November, 12.42hrs (GMT), 9.9m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire
Countryside Service and the
RSPB (Dee Estuary):
Tuesday 15th November and
Wednesday 16th November, Parkgate High Tide Birdwatch.
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.
Start times vary, best to arrive a minimum of one hour before high tide
Parkgate Marsh is one of the best wetland habitats in North West
England, but until you've witnessed the spectacle of a rising Spring
tide, it's impossible to appreciate just how much wildlife makes its
Thousands of wildfowl and wading birds that are here for the winter are
pushed closer by the rising water and there's a chance of a hunting
peregrine trying it's luck. Small mammals usually hidden in the grasses
are flushed from cover, offering a feeding frenzy for the kestrels,
harriers and short-eared owls.
Join us at Parkgate's Old Baths car park and the Donkey Stand near
Nicholl's ice cream shop, where we'll be set up with marquees and
telescopes hoping for the right weather conditions to really push the
Car parking is limited on Parkgate promenade, but 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 for refreshments.
Ring 0151 353 8478 for further details.
High tide times:
Tuesday 15th November: 11.10 am (10.0m)
Wednesday 16th November: 11.56 am (10.0m)
Sunday 27th November,
Raptor Watch at Parkgate.
1pm to dusk.
us for a chance to see up to seven different birds of prey including
peregrine and merlin, plus two types of owl that all make their home on
the RSPB Dee Estuary nature reserve. With its panoramic views of the
saltmarsh, Parkgate is one of the best places to watch for the birds
Stick around until dusk for a chance to see the graceful
and endangered hen harriers flying into roost for the night on the
marsh close to the Old Baths car park, plus a ghostly barn owl emerging
No booking required, come along any time between 1 pm and
sunset. Dress appropriately for the weather and don't forget your
binoculars! Public toilets and various pubs and cafes are situated
close by along Parkgate promenade.
Ring 0151 353 8478 for further details.
The Old Baths car park, Parkgate (just north of The Boathouse pub)