19th December 1998

A Very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all readers of this Web Site
from Richard Smith

I've recently been able to access two sources of latest bird sightings which now makes it worthwhile to have a latest sightings page. This will be continuously updated, hopefully at least twice a week, but depends on the above sources continuing. It is likely to tail off a bit in the quiet summer season! As always would be grateful to anybody sending in their own sightings (see E-mail address bottom of Home page).

Latest Bird Sightings
Latest Bird Counts
Rarity News
Forthcoming Events

A Christmas Walk

Over the Christmas period last year I went for a magical walk along Heswall shore. As I recall it was overcast but dry with no wind and mild. I got down to the shore just after dawn, not particularly early this time of year, and had the place to myself. Walking north the marsh was to my left, at this point just 50 yards wide between the beach and Heswall gutter. The marsh was alive with birds which had come ashore to feed during the night. Every few yards as I walked a flock of fifty or so Teal would fly up and drift over to the gutter, flying back on to the marsh behind my back. Redshank were particularly undisturbed by my presence, only moving off with loud cries if I got within a couple of yards. Curlew were scattered in ones and twos, some flying inland to feed in the nearby fields giving out their wonderful call as they went. Further on the marsh peters out altogether and I could see the vast mud flats of the estuary where the Shelduck feed. A stream runs over the beach here and about fifty Shelduck, many gulls and even a handful of crows were bathing and drinking the fresh water. Again these birds seemed remarkably tame in the early morning light and I turned back here not wishing to disturb the birds further. It had been a wonderful Christmas walk.

Latest Bird Counts and Sightings:

Below is the WeBS count for the whole of the Dee Estuary for September 1998 compared with that for September 1997. The 1997 count is incomplete in terms of numbers of species covered.

1997 1998 1997 1998
Little Grebe 27 Oystercatcher 24177 16550
Gr. Crested Grebe 5 12 Ringed Plover 330 354
Cormorant 374 613 Lapwing 1493 694
Grey Heron 78 59 Grey Plover 71 219
Little Egret 5 Knot 341 1868
Spoonbill 3 Sanderling 24 50
Mute Swan 14 9 Little Stint 3
Shelduck 4010 5634 Curlew Sandpiper 27
Wigeon 430 309 Dunlin 1461 2501
Gadwall 5 Ruff 43
Teal 1088 729 Snipe 7 37
Mallard 1010 1645 Black-tailed Godwit 138 235
Pintail 2777 2692 Bar-tailed Godwit 67 40
Shoveller 25 86 Curlew 3726 3815
Tufted Duck 20 Spotted Redshank 7 11
Common Scoter 2 Redshank 7338 9780
Red-br. Merganser 3 2 Greenshank 51 100
Turnstone 141 374
Also seen on the day of the count (6/9/98) - Various feral geese, 2 Water Rail, 78 Moorhen, 118 Coot, 1 Spotted Crake, 2 Green Sandpiper, 7 Common Sandpiper, 346 Sandwich Tern, 213 Common Tern and 16 Little Tern

Inner Burton Marsh
Count for 30th November.
12 Dunlin, 5 Snipe, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Curlew, 6 Redshank, 20 Coot, 8 Pochard, 4 Goldeneye, 4 Shelduck, 30 Pintail, 30 Shoveller, 3 Gadwall, 100+ Teal, 300+ Wigeon, 10+ Reed Bunting.
Also see rarity news below.

The WeBs count on 6th December revealed over 4,000 Pintail and 16 Bewick Swans. One of these swans was ringed by Dutch scientists on breeding grounds in Russia in 1996. The following year it was recorded at Martin Mere (WWT) and last year was seen in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. A record 300 Great-crested Grebes are off Greenfield.

Rarity News:

Up to four Hen Harriers have been seen mostly on the English side of the Estuary at Parkgate. I had a real close up of a ringtail flying over the shore path at Heswall. This is the first time they have wintered on the Dee for three years. Also seen from Parkgate during the recent spring high tide were three short-eared owls.

From Decca pool off Burton on the 21st Nov. the following birds were seen: 1 Spoonbill, 1 Peregrine, 1 ringtail Hen Harrier, 1 Short-eared Owl, 5 Little Egrets and 2 Jack Snipe. A single Smew at Inner Burton Marsh has been about most of the past month.

Gronant has been particularly good on the Welsh side of the Estuary with up to 16 Shore Larks and 47 Snow Buntings present. On the 24th Nov. a Jack Snipe and Short-eared Owl appeared with a Merlin on the 26th Nov.

Just down the coast at the Point of Ayr a Dusky Warbler was seen throughout the first week of December. Also at the Point of Ayr were observed Firecrest, Waxwing and Smew.

The Long-tailed Duck seen in early November has returned to the Marine Lake at West Kirby and has been joined by a single Scaup.

If anybody wants to E-mail any sightings of birds or sea-mammals to me I will be most grateful (see bottom of Home page for address).

Next Spring High Tides (Times BST):
2nd January, 1111hrs 9.7m.
3rd January, 1158hrs 9.8m.

Forthcoming Events:

3rd January (10am). High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate, experts on hand at Old Baths.

Following organised jointly by Wirral Ranger Service and the RSPB.

20th December at 9:30am. (HW 11:49) and 17th January at 08:30am (HW 1109). High tide birdwatch at Heswall.
Should be excellent for waders and duck. Meet at Banks road car park, lower Heswall. For info. Ring 0151 336 7681.

Following organised by the Wirral Ranger Service.

16th January. High Tide Birdwatch at The King's Gap, Hoylake. 9am (HW 1031).
With the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens. Hoylake shore has a large wader roost. Ring 0151 678 5488 for information.

Following organised jointly by the RSPB and Flintshire Countryside Service.

31st January. High Tide Birdwatch at Point of Ayr. 9am (HW 1030)
Good for both waders and duck with a visit to the RSPB reserve. Meet at the end of Station Road, Talacre. For more information ring 01352 780 527.

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