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    4th April 1999
    Feature - Lies and Little Auks
    Wetland Bird Survey Counts 1996/1997
    Latest Bird Counts
    March Bird News
    Forthcoming Events
    Latest Newsletter

Wirral Hundred Bird Race

The Wirral Hundred Bird Race is organised by the Wirral RSPB group . The bird race is open to any teams which includes at least one member who is a Wirral resident. The main aim of the race is to raise money and prizes are awarded to the teams with:
* the most species seen or heard within the 24 hour race period.
*the earliest recorded 100th species.
*the highest total of sponsorship money raised
Entries have to be in by 23rd April and the race is run 30th April/1st May. Registration form can be obtained from Steve Woolfall, ring Daytime 01244 402015 or Evening 0151 648 6007.
Should be a great day raising money for a good cause.
Good Luck!
Lies and Little Auks
  Penguin in the woods!
Time to put the record straight!
I recently saw a photo-copy of an article printed in Bird Watching magazine a couple of years ago. The article was called "Dee-lighful" and was quite a good summary of birdwatching on the English side of the estuary. In the article was an amusing little story about someone thinking they had found a penguin in Stapledon Wood (1 mile inland) which turned out to have been a Little Auk blown in by the gales.

Unfortunately, amusing as this story is, I'm afraid it is a pack of lies! Why do I say this? Because it was I who found the penguin (sorry - I mean Little Auk!) in the wood. I was taking the dog for it's morning walk after a strong October gale and saw a movement in the bracken. Luckily I saw it before the dog ate it and realised what it was straight away, although I did check in the bird book just to be sure, never having seen a Little Auk before.

I put it in a box and took it down to the visitors centre at Thurstaston Country Park and told them what I had found. You could tell by the looks on their faces that they didn't believe me and even when they looked at it they were saying 'Guillemot'. Luckily Vicky Segar, the warden on Hilbre Island at the time, turned up and saved the day, confirming my identification. She released the bird safely into deep water off Hilbre the next day. I have no idea how the story that I thought it was a penguin got out, somebody at the visitor's centre obviously thought it made a good story.

So there are two morals to this story, one, you never know what might turn up in even the most unexpected places, and secondly, never believe everything you read in the press, even the birding press!

Wetland Bird Survey 1996/1997
The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) 1996-97 for the whole of the British Isles has just been published. This is organised and funded by the BTO, RSPB, WWT and JNCC, the book can be purchased from NHBS for 15. Below is a summary in relation to the Dee Estuary:

The Dee Estuary has internationally important numbers* of 12 species, namely Shelduck, Teal, Pintail, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone. Only the Ribble and Chichester Harbour have more internationally important species.

The Dee Estuary holds the highest numbers of Pintail (5749) and Sandwich Terns (2090), and has the second highest counts of Shelduck (8047), Curlew (4583), Redshank (6226) and Turnstone (1193).

The highest count for total number of Dee Estuary wetland birds during 1996-97 was 141743 - this breaks down into 28239 Wildfowl and 113504 Waders. The 5 year average for total numbers of wetland birds is 122787. The book also has details of low water WeBS counts on the estuary which are performed at infrequent intervals. These will be detailed in the next newsletter.

The latest Dee Estuary WeBS counts for the whole of 1998 can be seen on this Web site for Waders (Shorebirds)/Terns and Wildfowl. More recent WeBS counts are detailed below.

*Numbers of a species at a particular location are deemed to be Internationally Important if they constitute 1% or more of the total population of that species.


Bird Counts

WeBS Count for Heswall Shore - 21st March 1999.
Great crested Grebe 1, Cormorant 1, Light-bellied Brent 4, Shelduck 52, Wigeon 16, Teal 11, Mallard 7, Red-breasted Merganser 32, Knot 300, Dunlin 300, Dunlin 50, Black-tailed Godwit 30, Curlew 220, Redshank 1600 and Ruddy Shelduck (Drake) 1.
On the same date the birds feeding in the Thurstaston fields were counted - Oystercatcher 450 and Curlew 300.

The WeBS counts take place during the high tide period but often larger numbers of birds can be seen on the mudflats off Heswall and Thurstaston at low tide. In the week prior to the above WeBS count the following birds were counted: Curlew 1000, Oystercatchers 5000, Knot 10000, Dunlin 10000 and Grey Plover 200. 2 Hen Harriers were seen coming in to roost in the Heswall/Gayton area during the same period.

Counts for Inner Burton Marsh during 19th and 20th March 1999.
Mediterranean Gull 1, Green Winged Teal 1, Smew 1, Spotted Redshank 7, Little Grebe 4, Goldeneye 6, Hen Harrier 1, Redshank 80, Black-tailed Godwit 100, Dunlin 1, Ruff 3, Curlew 5, Pintail 8, Wigeon 50+. Teal 50+, Gadwall 2, Shovelor 15, Tufted Duck 22, Pochard 1, Coot 30, Buzzard 1, Spoonbill (Balsaci Race) 1.

Report from Hilbre Island thanks to Steve Williams of the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
The first Wheatear was seen on Friday 12th. The first White Wagtail on Saturday 13th with many pipits and finches (including small numbers of Siskins) and similar birds on Sunday 14th as well as four Magpies (unusual number for Hilbre were only ones and twos are seen usually in early Spring).
Weekend of 27th and 28th March. First Sand Martins of the year. Also 5 Jackdaws, a female House sparrow (annual on Hilbre but by no means regular) and a wheatear. On the Sunday 28th six Chiffchaffs (first) as well as Goldcrests, 7 Wheatears and others including Meadow Pipits and various finches.
1st April. Very good movement of Meadow Pipits in excess of 150 by 7.45 am. Also 6 or so Goldcrests, 10 Wheatears, Siskins (5), Chaffinch (3) and a Woodpigeon!


March Bird News
With the coming of Spring there is already a noticeable drop in the number of birds on the estuary. However Spring brings the migrants, both those on the estuary passing through on their way to the Arctic and land migrants arriving to breed in the local woods and hills. The first Wheatear was seen on Hilbre on the 12th followed by Chiff-chaffs on the cliffs at Thurstaston (17th) and Sand Martins again on Hilbre on the 27th.

The most unusual birds during March were undoubtedly a pair of Common Cranes flying over Irby, my home village but I was ten miles away at the time! Another rarity was a Firecrest at nearby Stapledon Wood.

Inner Marsh Farm had it's usual crop of goodies, including a pair of Smew, a drake Green-winged Teal, up to 7 Spotted Redshank, Little Egret, Mediterranean Gull, a brief visit of 14 Pink-feet Geese and a Spoonbill. The latter is a Mauritanian Spoonbill (Balsaci race).

A pair of Hen Harrier still frequent the marshes, coming into roost at Gayton in the evening. A pair of Peregrine are usually seen hunting over the marshes and mudflats off Heswall, they always seem to fly inland in the same direction after hunting, towards Birkenhead. These are most likely the pair currently nesting in Hamilton Square.


Forthcoming Events
Next Spring High Tides
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):

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!

18th April. Rocky Shore survey. Early Morning.
Join the ranger at first light to search for rare sea slugs and corals on this mornings exceptionally low tide. Wellies essentail. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

24th April. 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.

2nd May. Dawn Chorus Day.
Wepre Park 5am, meet at Wepre Park Visitor Centre.
Greenfield Valley 5.30am, meet at Environment Centre, Greenfield Valley.
Royden Park and Thurstaston Common. 5.30am. Meet Royden Park car park, booking essential, ring 0151 678 4200.