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    5th May 1999
    Low Tide Wetland Bird Survey Count 1996/1997
    Latest Bird Counts
    April Bird News
    Forthcoming Events
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Low Tide Wetland Bird Count 1996/97
 

The Dee Estuary constitutes the largest and most important estuary yet covered by the WeBS low tide counts scheme which take place once every seven years. These are infrequent compared with the usual WeBS core counts, which take place at high tide, because of the extra effort involved in counting birds over such a vast area of marsh and mud-flats. The counts take place monthly between November and February.

Dee Low Tide Count

   
The two counts, at high and low tide, tell a fascinating story of birds roosting in one estuary and feeding in another, and of how the different species spread themselves across the estuary. Taking the above map as an example this illustrates the distribution of two of the most important bird species on the estuary, Pintail and Knot. Their ranges are completely separate with Knot keeping to the mudflats of Dawpool, East Hoyle Bank and Mockbegger Wharf (MBW). A mean count of 33,000 Knot was counted which ties in quite nicely with the 30,000 maximum high tide count. This contrasts with Pintail which are found exclusively on the salt-marsh, in particular on the Welsh side off Flint. The numbers of Pintail counted at low tide were only about a quarter of those seen at high tide presumably because many were "lost" in the salt marsh as the tide goes out.

The north Wirral coast (East Hoyle Bank and Mockbeggar Wharf) was found to be the major feeding area for Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Sanderlings and Bar-tailed Godwit. Oystercatchers and Dunlin were widely distributed throughout the mud-flats of the estuary and Curlew and Redshank inhabit both the mudflats and salt-marsh.

The Bar-tailed Godwits are of particular interest, counts at high-tide on the Alt Estuary, just north-east across the Mersey from Wirral, were found to be 9,000 in 1996-97 whereas the low-tide count was only 440. This is almost certainly due to many of these birds flying across to the north Wirral shore at low tide to feed. In contrast Black-tailed Godwit are found in the inner estuary both at low and high tide off Heswall and Flint.

The study of how birds distribute themselves across the estuaries of Liverpool Bay with the ebb and flow of the tide is a fascinating subject. A body of enthusiastic birders who are currently performing this very study are the Liverpool Bay Wader Study Group.

The WeBS counts (both high and low tide) include the north Wirral shore as part of the Dee Estuary. This makes sense as there is no physical break between the two. For this reason I have decided to also include the north Wirral shore within this Web site. I already include Hoylake but will now also include the whole of the shore up to the start of New Brighton promenade. I will not include the mouth of the River Mersey because in no way can I claim that to be part of the Dee! I will add this extra page to the Web site prior to the 1999/2000 Winter season.

The above is a summary of an article published in the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) 1996-97. The book can be purchased from NHBS for 15.


   

Bird Counts
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Counts for Inner Marsh Farm during 15th April 1999.
Mediterranean Gull 1, Black-tailed Godwit 1000+, Little Stint 1, Ruff 20, Spotted Redshank 12, Redshank 400+, Oystercatcher 1, Spoonbill (Eurasian) 1, Spoonbill (Balsaci Race) 1, Peregrine pair, Gadwall 5, Teal 50+, Wigeon 10, Pintail 18, Shoveler 3, Shelduck 10, Tufted Duck 34, Swallow 20+, Sand Martin 2, House Martin 3, Little Ringed Plover 1, Lapwing several pairs breeding.

Report from Hilbre Island thanks to Steve Williams of the Hilbre Bird Observatory.
Hobby seen 26th and 27th April and a pair of Long-tailed Duck on 28th. The end of the month brought an Osprey seen on both 30th April and 1st May. Sunday the 2nd May was an excellent day with the first Common Sandpiper, 6 Whitethroats, 5 Sedge Warblers, Grasshopper Warbler, 45 Wheatears, 12 Swifts and excellent numbers of hirundines.
The terns are starting to pass through with 42 Arctic Terns on the 24th April, good numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns with the first Little Terns over the bank holiday weekend. Up to 15 Whimbrel are now being seen/heard daily along with a small remaining flock of 5 Purple Sandpipers soon to leave for their breeding grounds.

   

April Bird News
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The summer migrants continue to pour in, the first Willow Warblers were seen at Hoylake on the 2nd and first swallow, also at Hoylake, on the 8th. In fact the 2nd was a particularly good day at Hoylake as in addition to 6 Willow Warblers were a Ring Ouzel, 25 Wheatear, 25 Sand Martin and 6 Tree Pipits. A Black Redstart was observed at the Point of Ayr on the same date.
Another migrant passing through has been the Osprey with two sightings at the beginning of the month, both at Inner Marsh Farm, and two at the end of the month, one at Burton marsh and the other flying north over Hilbre Island.
As usual Inner Marsh Farm has seen plenty of activity with two Spoonbill present all month, including one of the Mauritanian race. Up to 14 Spotted Redshank are also at the 'farm' along with a pair of Garganey, one Little Egret and a Little Stint. 1,200 Black-tailed Godwit have arrived at IMF, last year this was the UK's largest summering flock.
Other birds of note seen during April were 4 Shorelark at Gronant (the remnant of the over wintering flock) and a pair of Peregrine, Greenshank and Short-eared Owl at the high tide birdwatch at Parkgate on the 17th.

   

Forthcoming Events
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Next Spring High Tides
15th May, 1152hrs 10.0m.
16th May, 1240hrs, 10.2m. (times BST)

Young Ornithologists Club at Ness Gardens
A complete listing of events for 1999 can be seen for this group who have a series of monthly outdoor and indoor meetings.

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

22nd May. Local History of Hilbre.
A guided walk to Hilbre looking at the fascinating history of these 3 small islands. A 4 mile walk of 4 hours. Booking essential. Ring 0151 648 4371/3884

23rd May. Marsh Matters. 11am - 1pm.
A walk into the creeks and marshes of the Dee Estuary to discover this seldom visited area. Close fitting wellies and warm clothing essential. Meet at Banks Road Car Park, Lower Heswall. Ring 0151 648 4371/3884 to book.

3rd June. Sunset Walk to Hilbre. Evening.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A walk of 4 miles in 4 hours. Bring warm clothing and a snack. Ring 0151 648 4371/3884 to book.

5th June. Early Morning Wildlife Walk. 4.30 am - 6.30 am.
Join the ranger at first light for a wildlife walk around Wirral Country Park. Ring 0151 648 4371/3884 to book.

9th June. Flora and Fauna Around Royden. 7pm - 9pm.
An evening stroll through the meadows, woodlands and wet areas of Royden Park. A Ranger-led walk with wildlife recorder Margeret Gilmour of the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Ring 0151 678 4200 to book.