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    1st March 1999 (Updated 16th March)
birthday cake
The Web Site is one year old this month. I've taken the opportunity to completely change the style of presentation of the site so hopefully it now looks a bit less amateurish. Feedback on the new look would be most welcome, along with any latest sightings. Thanks to everyone who has sent me their bird sightings over the past year, keep them coming! It is also an opportune time to include the highlights of the past 12 months. The other main feature of this month's newsletter is the complete 1998 Wetland Bird Survey Counts, both for Waders (Shorebirds)/Terns and Wildfowl.
The usual news is included:- latest bird counts , rarity news and forthcoming events. The past year's newsletters can also been seen.

March 1998 to February 1999 - Highlights
March 98 brought 1,400 Black-tailed Godwit to Inner Marsh Farm, a reserve record. 1,000 were still there in May and June, Britains largest summering flock - a magnificent sight in their breeding plumage. Large numbers of Redshank were off Heswall both in the spring and autumn with 4,000 in March 98 and 6,600 in September 98, the largest Redshank roost in the country. Other waders include several sightings of Wood Sandpiper at IMF along with 11 Spotted Redshank in April and 4 Curlew Sandpiper and 6 Little Stint in August. An American White Rumped Sandpiper was seen off Point of Ayr in June.

The three Spoonbills present on the Estuary during the Winter had increased to five by March 98 reaching six in June at Parkgate and Burton. Three hung around until September but have not been seen since. In contrast a single Little Egret seen last spring had been joined by another four by November, again mainly at Parkgate and Burton.

Wildfowl included a Ruddy Shelduck at Heswall during late winter (1998) with two present in January this year. A small flock of up to 12 pale bellied Brent Geese have been at Hilbre all winter. Other Geese include 60 Pinkfeet at Burton during February (1999) together with 40 to 50 Bewick's Swan. A pair of Smew have been at Inner Marsh Farm most of the winter, a Long Tailed Duck made two brief visits to West Kirby Marine Lake during November/ December, a Green Winged Teal was at Burton in the Spring and an American Wigeon at Parkgate last Autumn

April 1998 brought a remarkable fall of migrants, in particular 1355 Willow Warblers along the north Wirral coast in one early morning. Other warblers seen include a Dusky Warbler at the point of Ayr during December and Dartford Warbler at Heswall over the Christmas and New Year period. Up to 21 Shorelarks and 35 Snow buntings have frequented Gronant Beach all winter.


Bird Counts

The complete 1998 Dee Estuary Wetland Bird Survey Counts are listed for Waders (Shorebirds)/Terns and Wildfowl. In addition the latest WeBS counts (21st February) for both Heswall shore and Inner Burton Marsh are shown below:

Heswall Shore
Shelduck 289, Teal 175, Mallard 8, Lapwing 2, Dunlin 53, Snipe 1, Black-tailed Godwit 64, Curlew 1750, Redshank 1206, Hen Harrier 1, Peregrine 2, Grey Plover 1, Cormorant 2, Ruddy Shelduck 2.
In addition the nearby fields held 300 Oystercatchers and 538 Curlew.
This was a low count for Heswall due to very windy conditions.

Inner Burton Marsh
Smew 2, Wigeon 820, Teal 320, Mallard 60, Shovelor 31, Canada Geese 350, Greylag Geese 8, Pochard 14, Tufted Duck 25, Little Grebe 1, Heron 8, Redshank 180, Spotted Redshank 11, Ruff 6, Black-tailed Godwit 25, Curlew 12, Pintail 61, Barnacle Goose 1, Dunlin 1 and a Buzzard.


Rarity News - February
The pair of Ruddy Shelduck reappeared late February on Heswall shore easily seen just off Sheldrakes Restaurant. The small flock of pale-bellied Brent Geese are still at Hilbre Island along with 55 Purple Sandpiper, out to sea at Hilbre up to 20 Red-throated Diver have been seen, beginning to return for the spring.
Inner Burton Marsh still holds a pair of Smew, the drake being seen far more than the female. 61 Pinkfoot Geese paid a brief visit mid February and 11 Spotted Redshank where feeding in the lagoons during the WeBS count. 40 to 50 Bewick's Swan are spread out between Burton and Connah's Quay, best seen from the new Dee bridge. At Parkgate single Little Egret, Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl were observed. The Little Egret being particularly easy to see just off Parkgate front.

Forthcoming Events
Next Spring High Tides
19th March, 1223hrs 10.1m.
20th March, 1304hrs 10.1m.
17th April, 1301hrs 10.3m.
18th April, 1344hrs, 10.2m.

A recent high tide birdwatch at Heswall, pair of Ruddy Shelduck in sight.

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

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

21st March. Connah's Quay Circular Walk. 1100am.
A gentle five mile walk to discover the wild side of Connah's Quay. Bring packed lunch and wear strong boots and waterproofs. Meet Kwik Save car park, Connah's Quay.

27th March. A Guided Walk to the Hilbre Islands.
Cross the sands to discover the Islands' wildlife and history. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. Wellies recommended. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

7th April. Wepre Reborn. 10am to 12pm.
As nature springs into life join our walk and see Wepre Park as it is reborn! Should be great for woodland birds.

17th(11am and 18th (1145am) April. High Tide Birdwatch at Parkgate, experts on hand at Old Baths. Note exceptionally high tide on the 17th, 10.3m!