13th February 1999
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Time and Tide Wait for No Man
Birds? Wot Birds?
West Kirby sandbank at low tide!!!

Readers of my Right Time at the Right Place web page will know how important it is to get to a good birding spot at the right state, i.e. time, of tide. I was reminded of this recently during two separate visits to the estuary.

The first was a trip to Hilbre Island at low tide. No problem with Hilbre which was it's usual good self with plenty of Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers and a small flock of Brent. What was amazing was the total lack of birds on the walk to Hilbre over West Kirby sandbank. Talk about the place being a desert! I suppose the word sand gives it away, never a particular favourite with feeding birds. A look south through my telescope to the mudflats off Caldy and Thurstaston revealed a very different picture. Here were the massed flocks of Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Knot and Shelduck just visible in the distance. Of course the time to go to West Kirby is at high water when the birds use the sandbank as a high tide roost. On that same day I saw a mixed flock of 5,000 Dunlin, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit there, at one time a peregrine put them all to flight and they were swirling around for about five minutes before all landing again like a breaking wave. A fabulous sight.

Several days later I went to Thurstaston shore. The best time to go is about three hours before high water although it is good throughout the low water period. Unfortunately I was delayed and didn't arrive until one and a half hours before high tide. The water had already covered the mud and was halfway up the beach, again it was a case of 'Birds? Wot birds?'!! Remember this was the same Thurstaston shore seen at low tide from my walk to Hilbre heaving with birds, which just goes to show - Time, Tide and Birds wait for no man!!

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Latest Bird Counts and Sightings:

  Inner Burton Marsh
Count for 4th February.
20 Shoveler, 7 Shelduck, 8 Pintail, 200 Wigeon, 200+ Teal, 8 Goldeneye, 17 Pochard, 240 Redshank, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 17 Curlew, 3 Dunlin, 7 Ruff, 12 Spotted Redshank, 7 Ruff, 16 Tufted Duck, pair of Smew, 5 Gadwall and 1 Little Grebe.

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  Rarity News mid January to mid February:

At Heswall the highlight was the arrival of a pair of Ruddy Shelduck which stayed for three weeks. The status of Ruddy Shelduck arriving in this country is unknown. They may be recent escapes, feral birds from the continent or true wild birds. Inshore at Heswall Dales the Dartford Warbler showed just once. Obviously doing a good job of hiding from the Twitchers, some of whom disgraced themselves over the Christmas period.
Parkgate still has up to four Little Egret but there were no sightings of the Hen Harriers seen earlier in the winter. Fifty Bewicks Swan have been on the marsh at the head of the Estuary, spread out between Connah's Quay and Burton. The Dee doesn't have large numbers of geese but the pale bellied Brent Geese at Hilbre Island have now increased to twelve.
A pair of Smew were present at Inner Marsh Farm throughout the past four weeks although the female has not been seen in the past few days. Also at the farm, paying a brief visit, was a Bittern, along with twelve Spotted Redshank.
The Shorelark and Snow Buntings are still at Gronant Beach with up to 17 of the former and 25 of the latter, an adult Glaucous Gull is also about. Two Snow Buntings were at Hoylake by the old baths together with two thousand Bar-tailed Godwit, making up somewhat for the lack of Black-tailed Godwit around at the moment, the highest number seen was 100 flying inland at Heswall. As usual Hoylake shore had huge numbers of Knot during January, I counted 5,000 but probably at least double were present.

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).


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Next Spring High Tides (Times BST):
18th February, 1244hrs 9.8m.
19th February, 1324hrs 9.8m.
19th March, 1223hrs 10.1m.
20th March, 1304hrs 10.1m.

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):

19th February (1145am). High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate, experts on hand at Old Baths.

20th February. High Tide Birdwatch at Flint Castle. 12 noon (HW 1324)
Special birds in a superb setting. A chance to witness enigmatic predators such as the Merlin or that scarce upland finch, the Twite. Meet at Flint Lifeboat Station car park. Ring 01352 780 527 for information.

6th March. High Tide Birdwatch at Heswall. 1045am (HW 1342)
Waders and wildfowl galore. Meet at Banks Road car park (near Sheldrake's Restaurant). For details contact RSPB - 0151 336 7681.

13th March. Marsh Matters. 2pm-4pm.
A walk into the creeks and marshes of the Dee Estuary to discover this seldom visited area. Close fitting wellies and waterproof clothing essential. Meet at Banks Road car park (by Sheldrakes Restaurant). Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

19th(1030am), 20th (11am) and 21st (1145am) March. High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate, experts on hand at Old Baths.

20th March. High Tide Birdwatch at Point of Ayr. 1000am.(HW 1230)
Meet at the end of Station Road, Talacre. For info contact RSPB on 01352 780 527


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