you will know Martyn Jaimeson, head Ranger of the Wirral Ranger Service,
among the many different hats he wears he has recently become group leader
of the Wirral RSPB members group. Martyn informs me that the group has an
excellent programme of indoor and outdoor meetings and anybody wishing to
join the group will be very welcome. Full details are on the
Wirral RSPB website,
but you can also contact Martyn at the Thurstaston Visitor Centre by phoning
0151 648 4371, or the membership secretary on 0151 639 1853.
To get a feel of the programme on
offer here are a few examples:
Bird Survey Count for Connah's Quay and
Flint - (Kindly provided by Brian Grey), 8th
4 Great Crested Grebe, 38 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 7 Mute Swan, 39 Shelduck, 402 Wigeon, 3 Gadwall, 387 Teal, 76 Mallard, 2 Tufted Duck, 6 Moorhen, 46 Coot, 210 Oystercatcher, 1,260 Lapwing, 15 Knot, 1,120 Dunlin, 48 Black-tailed Godwit, 100 Curlew, 1 Spotted Redshank, 218 Redshank.
Wetland Bird Survey Count for
Heswall Shore - (Kindly provided by the
Wirral Ranger Service), 8th December.
Waders on the West Kirby Shore high
tide wader roost, counted by the Dee Estuary Voluntary
Wardens. Maximum counts for December, dates in brackets.
December Bird News
26 Goldeneye and 14 Red-breasted Mergansers were the maximum counts on West Kirby Marine Lake, a slight increase of the former and decrease of the latter compared with December 2001. Brent Geese (all pale bellied) reached a maximum of 24 during the month, seen on Hilbre, Little Eye and West Kirby Shore. Also seen from Hilbre was a Velvet Scoter. An unusual spot for a sea duck, the rifle range pool at Shotwick held an immature Long-tailed Duck for several days. A small flock of 7 White-fronted Geese spent several days at the Warren fields near the Point of Ayr.
The cold weather in the middle of the month brought in plenty of waders with some spectacular views of large flocks of Dunlin and Knot. A count of 1,850 Black-tailed Godwits off Caldy was the highest count this winter on the English side of the estuary, and along that same stretch of shore 18,000 Oystercatchers were a magnificent sight at low tide. 20 Purple Sandpipers on Hilbre on the last day of the month was the highest count so far this winter, up to 8 more were seen at Wallasey. Also at Wallasey have been between 3 and 4 Snow Buntings, remaining very faithful to a small patch of beach and sea wall, just beyond the Lifeguard Station. 1,900 Bar-tailed Godwits was a high count for the roost at West Kirby although larger numbers have been seen at low tide at Leasowe.
The bird of the month was an immature Marsh Harrier at Parkgate, very unusual in winter. My records indicate the previous latest Marsh Harrier in Cheshire was on 1st December in 1994, the one this year first appeared on the 20th and stayed until Christmas Eve. Roosting nearby was a Hen Harrier (ringtail), which stayed all month giving great views as it came into roost in the reed beds. In recent years Hen Harriers have become quite scarce on the estuary, although there was one last year seen quite often hunting on Burton Marsh, but its roosting place was never discovered.
What to expect in January.
We have already had good numbers of Brent Geese on Hilbre last month and if they follow the pattern of the last two winters we would expect them to reach the high thirties, including a handful of the dark-bellied race. The drake Smew at Inner Marsh Farm will probably be joined by two or three more birds, including a redhead. We should be getting more Red-breasted Mergansers on West Kirby Marine Lake, may be as many as thirty on a good day.
Flint is a good spot to see birds at low tide with over 1,000 Black-tailed Godwits and many duck, mostly Wigeon and Pintail, loafing on the sand banks. Look out to for Twite and Ravens, both seen regularly at this location.
You might think it is a bit odd that I've written this after just writing a month by month guide which includes January. However, I thought I would still include this section as I can then put it into context with the previous month, and the same month last year - rather than a more general overview which the guide is meant to be.
January Highest Spring
Tides, also see Tides page.
3rd January, 11:26hrs 9.5m. (all times GMT)
4th January, 12.11hrs 9.5m.
Forthcoming Events (organised by the
Wirral Ranger Service,
Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
Saturday 4th January, 11:00am, Rails of the River Bank.
Sunday 12th January 2:30pm - 4pm. North Wirral
Sunday 19th January 09:30am. Banks Road
Saturday 25th January 9:30am - 11:30am. Big Garden Birdwatch.
Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from the 'Birdwatchers Diary 2003', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Hard copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371.
All material in this newsletter, and indeed the whole web site, has been written by myself, Richard Smith, unless specified.