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2nd December 2000
WeBS Counts 1999.

1999/2000 WeBS Report.
Deeside Naturalists' Soc.
Latest Bird Counts.
November Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.



Wetland Bird Survey Counts for 1999

                                     Dunlins at roost -  Valerie McFarland

    The 1999 WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) counts  for the Dee Estuary are now available - for both Wildfowl and Waders. The counting area is the whole of the Dee Estuary plus the North Wales shore between and including the Point of Ayr and Gronant, and also the North Wirral shore. The WeBS counts for 1998 are still on the web site and can be seen via the Bird Counts page.

The table below shows the maximum counts for the past four years for some of the most important species on the estuary.
  1996 1997  1998 1999
Shelduck  8047 10418 5634 8814
Wigeon 3682 5366 4314 2751
Teal 5347 6545 3457 5185
Mallard 2202 1904 1645 1734
Pintail 5749 5954 5018 5659
Oystercatcher 31580 25142 18932 17390
Dunlin 24696 30318 31619 30857
Knot 30025 58376 14000 8682
Black-tailed Godwit 1836 1959 1602 2543
Curlew 5450 5015 5370 4490
Redshank 8543 7307 9780 7328

Apart from Wigeon all the wildfowl species showed a welcome increase after a poor year in 1998. Mallard numbers are still way below what they were in the 1980's (typically 4,000), reflecting a national decrease. Wigeon numbers vary dramatically from year to year, the recent high point being 8,091 in 1994 followed by a low of 2,191 in 1995(1).

Oystercatchers have shown a dramatic fall over the past few years, this is probably due to poor cockle yields. The environment agency reported a good spat fall in 1999(2), which will hopefully mean good numbers of cockles during the next couple of years. Knot is another species to have declined. Here the story is more complex as numbers can vary dramatically from day to day as large flocks move from estuary to estuary, even feeding in one estuary whilst roosting in another. A flock of over 25,000 Knot were counted in February 1999 on West Kirby shore, unfortunately not on a WeBS count day! Black-tailed Godwit continue to increase, in the mid 1980's numbers were less than 500.

1. Neil Friswell and Colin Wells. Dee Estuary WeBS Annual Report, winter 1999/2000.
2.Richard Brassington. Commercial Fisheries on the Dee, The Deeliverer, July 2000.


1999/2000 WeBS Report


A report has been written on the Dee Estuary WeBS Counts for 1999-2000. This is available from Colin Wells, Burton Point Farm, Station Road, Burton, Cheshire for 4.00 including P&P. For all those interested in the waterfowl of the estuary this is a fascinating read. 

By way of a summary of the report I can do no better than quote the Introduction (written by the report compiler, Neil Friswell, and editor, Colin Wells) and Acknowledgements (written by Colin Wells). Colin is the WeBS co-ordinator for the Dee Estuary as well as being RSPB warden and Neil is his hard working volunteer helper. Many thanks to Neil and Colin for letting me quote this extract.

The introduction: Monthly recording of wildfowl and waders has taken place on the Dee Estuary for a considerable period of time, originally as part of national survey called the Birds of Estuaries Enquiry (BOEE) and latterly The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). Historically data have been analysed by the national coordinating body and a national report produced. Although the seed was sown many years ago to produce a Dee report it has taken many years and the improvement of technology to finally bring it into reality. It was felt that a locally focused report analysis would be useful in order to highlight trends in key species so that appropriate conservation action could be taken and as feedback and thank you to all the WEBS counters who gather the data. It is hoped that Countryside Council for Wales and English Nature will find the data helpful in monitoring the Dee Estuary SSSI/Ramsar/SPA site and in considering any extensions to the designated areas. The analysis will also assist in any deliberations of planning and recreational issues. The data will form an integral part of the recently proposed Sustainability Indicators which are being developed under the aegis of the Dee Estuary Strategy. It is planned to produce a report annually. 

This first report presents data for a waterfowl species counted during WeBS for the period April 1999 to March 2000 inclusive. This has been done in order that data for a complete winter period can be analysed. The peak count data for key species have then been compared to those since 1981/82 and population trends are graphically presented. Additional count data are then considered. The data show that the Dee continues to meet the criteria for International Importance for Shelduck, Teal, Pintail, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit (based on low tide counts), Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone and National Importance for Great Crested Grebe (based on RSPB data), Cormorant, Bewick's Swan, Shoveler (RSPB data), Ringed Plover (passage) and Sanderling.  
Neil Friswell and Colin Wells.

Acknowledgements: This report would have not been possible without the large team of dedicated WeBS counters who have given up their spare time to contribute to this important national survey, in particular the area coordinators Carl Clee, Brian Grey, Andrew Gouldstone and Gareth Stamp. A special thank you to Neil Friswell who has spent a lot of time glued to the computer inputting data and carrying out the data analysis. Once again I would like to thank everybody involved with WEBS counting as it is crucially important that we gather this data which makes such a major contribution to the conservation of the Dee Estuary. 

Keep on counting!  
Colin Wells.


Deeside Naturalists' Society


The Deeside Naturalists' Society now have their own page on this web site. They run and maintain the Connah's Quay Power Station reserve. The Reserve is well known for its wintering waders and wildfowl together with its passage migrants and is a splendid example of what can be achieved when industry and conservation groups work together in partnership. The reserve will be featured in a newsletter early in the new year. Note that the reserve is open to members of the Deeside Naturalists' Society only. The Deeside Naturalists' Society have kindly provided the WeBS counts for the Flint and Connah's Quay area, see Bird Counts below.


Bird Counts


Inner Marsh Farm  Count for 27th November.
Spotted Redshank 3, Redshank 250, Ruff 7, Greenshank 2, black-tailed godwit 5, Shoveler 60, Pintail 37, Teal 1000, Wigeon 200, Goldeneye 1, Tufted duck 3 Bewick's Swan 45, Whooper Swan 5, Sparrowhawk 1, Fieldfare 2 and Reed Bunting 5.
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). 12th November.
Great-crested Grebe 3, Cormorant 4, Grey Heron 5, Shelduck 6920, Wigeon 69, Teal 403, Mallard 68, Oystercatcher 800, Golden Plover 97, Lapwing 146, Knot 57, Dunlin 20, Snipe 4, Black-tailed Godwit 50, Curlew 603, Redshank 1750, black-headed Gull 216, Common Gull 10, Herring Gull 4, Great Black-backed Gull 2, Merlin.

West Kirby high tide roost, highest count for November carried out by Dee Estuary Volunteer Wardens - 26th November.
Ringed Plover 161, Grey Plover 256, Knot 4000, Sanderling 11, Dunlin 19000, Bar-tailed Godwit 5, Curlew 4 and Redshank 2. 

Wetland Bird Survey count for Flint and Connah's Quay - (Kindly provided by the Deeside Naturalists' Society). 12th November.
Little Grebe 1, Great-crested Grebe 4, Cormorant 103, Grey Heron 5, Mute Swan 9, Little Egret 2, Shelduck 64, Gadwall 2, Teal 738, Mallard 128, Red-breasted Merganser 2, Moorhen 7, Coot 30, Oystercatcher 3500, Lapwing 400, Knot 850, Dunlin 95, Black-tailed Godwit 2068, Curlew 58, Redshank 675, Greenshank 1.

November Bird News


                Andy Harmer

Stonechats were a welcome sight on the Wirral coast, pairs seen at both Burton and West Kirby. Many years ago they bred here but are now just a scarce winter visitor. Other notable small birds were a pair of Lapland Bunting at Burton and five Water Pipit in their usual spot at Neston Old Quay.

Burton Marsh has been the place to spot Little Egrets with 3 to 5 present all month, two were also at Oakenholt on the 12th. Bewick's Swans built up to 46 by the end of month with 6 Whooper Swans, they commute between Burton Marsh, Inner Marsh Farm and Shotwick Fields. Shelduck numbers were estimated to still be near last month's record count of 9620 at Heswall at the beginning of the month but had dropped below 7000 by the mid month. As usual Inner Marsh Farm had the pick of rare wildfowl with single Red-crested Pochard, American Wigeon and Green-winged Teal.  

Good counts of both species of Godwit were made with 3500 Bar-tailed  at Hoylake and 2000 Black-tailed at Oakenholt. A huge flock of 30000 Dunlin aerial roosted at West Kirby on the 12th, the largest flock of Knot counted was 12000 at Hoylake on the 11th. The end of the month brought a good selection of waders to Inner Marsh Farm including 5 Ruff, 4 Spotted Redshank and 3 Greenshank along with numerous Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit.

What to expect in December: The Christmas period is one of my favourite times on the estuary, especially if the weather is crisp and clear. If you get down to Heswall at day break you may be lucky enough to see the Curlew morning flight as hundreds of birds fly inland to feed, wave after wave calling all the way. Small parties of Knot seem to be scattered all along the shore with huge masses of Dunlin further out.

According to the last two year's WeBS counts numbers of birds tend to take a bit of a dip in December between peak months of November and January, but in previous years Pintail, Wigeon and Teal have all peaked in December. The flock of Bewick's Swan at the head of the estuary should also reach a maximum in December when over 50 may be present.

A flock of about 20 Snow Buntings are usually seen at Gronant and Point of Ayr by December, in some years Shore Larks are welcome winter visitors in the same area.

Many thanks go to Jane Turner, Steve Williams, John Baker, Brian Grey, Wendy Allen, Mark Feltham, Jeff Clarke, John Kirkland, Bill Owens and Martyn Jaimeson for their sightings during November. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!


Forthcoming Events


December Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
12th December, 11.38hrs 9.7m. (all times GMT)
13th December, 12.23hrs 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 events for 2000 and 2001.. 

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.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown here. Check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

3rd December. A Winter Woodland Birdwatch. 1pm - 3:30pm.
Join the Rangers on a walk to the Dungeon to explore this woodland 'oasis' adjacent to the Wirral Way and discover some of the birds that have made it their home. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

10th December. High Tide at Flint Castle. 8:00am.
Superb coastal birding with potential for scarce birds such as Twite and Hen Harrier (HW 10:10, 9.2m). Meet at the Lifeboat Station car park. For more information contact the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.

13th December. Banks road Birdwatch at Heswall Shore. 9:30am.
Wrap up warmly for some memorable coastal birdwatching. The waders will be in their drabber winter plumage, whereas the wildfowl will be looking their finest (HW 12:23, 9.7m). Meet at Banks Road car park, Lower Heswall. For further details ring 0151 648 4371.

17th December. 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, ring 0151 678 4200.

27th December. Christmas Ramble. 10am - 3pm.
Discover the north coast of Wirral, a land of sand dunes and reed beds. An 8-mile walk from West Kirby to Grove Road Station in Wallasey. Please bring a packed lunch and appropriate clothing. Booking essential, ring 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. 

Shearwater and Gull sketch by Tony Broome.