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3rd May 2001
West Kirby High Tide Roost.

Appeal For Wardens at Gronant.
Clwyd Bird Report 1999.
Latest Bird Counts.
April Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Latest Newsletter.

West Kirby High Tide Roost 2000 - 2001 

    The data collected by the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens from the West Kirby high tide wader roost is now complete for the winter of 2000/2001. Counts are performed on the nine most common waders which use the roost during every daylight high tide over 8.7 metres between the beginning of September to the end of March, a total of 94 days this last winter. A look at the average and maximum counts for 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 show a welcome increase for most species this last winter compared with the previous season, although nowhere near as high as the heady days of two years ago.

The bar chart below shows the average daily number of birds at the roost on a year by year basis. Up to 98/99 the graph demonstrates a remarkable cyclic pattern in the form of a sine curve. This is a typical population trend, particularly of high Arctic breeders - Lemmings come to mind! It will be interesting to see whether the cyclic pattern reestablishes itself or now becomes more random. The number shown is the sum of all the daily maxima for the whole winter simply divided by the total numbers of days counted. 

West Kirby - Average Daily Wader Counts 1986/87 to 2000/2001

                             All data gathered by Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens

The next graph below shows how the count varied over the 2000/2001 season compared with the previous year. The previous winter was very poor after the turn of the year. It was very mild in the first few months of 2000 whereas last winter was much colder and a lot more birds were present, surely no coincidence.  

West Kirby - daily total counts of all nine species, 99/00 and 00/01

All data gathered by Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens

By far the most numerous of the birds at West Kirby are Dunlin and Knot. Therefore the graphs reflect changes in their numbers more than any other species, this is demonstrated in the graph below for Dunlin, which is very similar to the total above.

West Kirby - daily counts for Dunlin, 99/00 and 00/01

All data gathered by Dee Estuary
Voluntary Wardens

One thing that is apparent is the large variation in numbers on a day to day basis. Where do the birds go when they are not at West Kirby? From my own observation whilst wardening it would appear if birds are feeding on the sand bank as the tide comes in they usually stay to roost and attract other flocks passing by. Whereas if no birds are feeding locally then the flocks driven off other areas by the incoming tide tend to fly over West Kirby without stopping, on their way to Hoylake or the Alt Estuary. However, during cold weather when much larger numbers of birds are present on the estuary the waders tend to stop at West Kirby anyway. A somewhat complex, but fascinating picture!

One species I find of great interest is the Redshank. Average numbers at West Kirby have been fairly constant over the past few years, but they show considerable variation over the winter. Looking at the graph below, why did they desert West Kirby last winter for virtually the whole of November? And why in mid-winter do they suddenly decide to go in the marsh which during other times doesn't have a single Redshank? Possibly the birds present in mid-winter are from a different population to those seen earlier and later in the winter, and have slightly different behaviour patterns. We get both local and Icelandic birds on the Dee Estuary. For more details about the Redshank see the August 2000 Newsletter.

West Kirby - daily counts for Redshank, 99/00 and 00/01

All data gathered by Dee Estuary
Voluntary Wardens

 The Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens have produced a report for the year 2000, for details click here. If you want to help with Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens just click on the link for details.

Many thanks to the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens for allowing me to use their bird counts, and  in particular to Roy Palmer for transposing the mass of data onto Excel spreadsheets.


Appeal for Voluntary Wardens at Gronant


Gronant can be an idyllic spot in the summer. I remember my first stint as voluntary warden last June, arriving early on a lovely sunny morning - two Grasshopper Warblers were singing in the marsh whilst a male Stonechat saw me off it's territory, as I approached the warden's hut I suddenly became aware of the Little Tern colony, a hundred or so were in the air screeching away before they left to go fishing in the nearby sea - an amazing sight. 

Out to sea a constant stream of Common Scoter were passing westwards, non-breeding birds on their way to their favourite haunt further up the North Wales coast. Later on in the summer I had the privilege of watching the newly fledged Little Tern chicks make their first flight knowing I had helped in their survival, a most pleasing sight.

The RSPB are appealing for voluntary wardens to help protect this colony. The wardening involves keeping predators (mainly crows and foxes) away from the nests, stopping holiday makers from walking through the colony and talking to anybody interested about the terns. As little as half a day a month would be a great help. The wardens are required from late May to early August, if you're interested ring the RSPB on 0151 336 7681.


Clwyd Bird Report 1999


The Clwyd Bird Recording Group have published the 1999 Clwyd Bird Report. This can be purchased by sending a cheque for 4.50 (includes p&p) made out to Clwyd Bird Recording Group to Anne Brenchley, Ty'r Fawnog, 43 Blackbrook, Sychdyn, Mold, Flintshire CH7 6LT..

The report has the usual systematic list which has descriptions of the status of 227 species. The list includes rarities such as Cory's Shearwater, Velvet Scoter, Goshawk, Kentish Plover, Red-necked Stint, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Alpine Swift, Richard's Pipit and Firecrest. The only criticism I have is that they have included the table for Oystercatcher numbers in with the description of Little ringed Plover, it had me fooled for a few minutes! A clear heading would have helped.

The tables at the back of the report demonstrate how the data has been collected from a rich variety of sources - including, among many others, WeBS, the Llyn Brenig log-book, BTO Common Birds Census, Welsh Raptor Study Group and various private records such as Roger Bagguley's comprehensive sea watching counts off Rhyl. 

The Black Grouse is a specialty of Clwyd and counts suggest that they might be slowly increasing thanks to a great deal of conservation work. There is a very interesting article on the Black Grouse by Ron Plummer. Other articles are 'Birds and Biodiversity' by Anne Brenchley and a summary of a good season for the Little Terns at Gronant by Gareth Stamp. 

Please send your records for inclusion in future Clwyd Bird reports  to the Clwyd County Recorder: Norman Hallas, 63 Park Avenue, Wrexham, LL12 7AW.



Bird Counts


No WeBS counts or count from Inner Marsh Farm this month due to Foot and Mouth restrictions. Thanks to John Gittins of the Hilbre Bird Observatory I have been receiving regular counts from Hilbre Island which I highlight in my latest sightings page. I thought I would take the opportunity to give a couple examples of the more detailed lists John gives me. With passage of both sea and land birds Hilbre is a great place to visit this time of year. 
This is a Greenland Wheatear about to be released after being ringed at the Hilbre Bird Observatory. Although the Wheatear passage hasn't been particularly strong this year they have managed to trap and ring a higher proportion than normal.

Counts from Hilbre, courtesy of the Hilbre Bird Observatory.

21st April.
5 White Wagtail, 5 Great-crested Grebe, 8 Goldfinch, 32 Swallow, 8 House Martin, 1 Rock Pipit, 65 Turnstone, 40 Sandwich Tern, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Whimbrel, 14 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Eider (male), 1 Shag.

26th April.
7 Great-crested Grebe, 100 Gannet, 9 Fulmar, 16 Common Scoter, 20 Kittiwake, 6 Razorbill, 1 Arctic Skua, 100+ Sandwich Tern, 13 Common Tern, 6 Whimbrel, 20 Swallow, 7 Sand Martin, 10 Wheatear, 2 Sedge Warbler, 3 Grasshopper Warbler, 1500 Knot, 7 Goldfinch.  

Note that gulls and some of the more commoner birds haven't been included.  

April Bird News


 Despite neither the weather or wind direction being particularly favourable there was an awful lot to see during April with both land migration and sea passage well underway.
This sketch of an Osprey was drawn by Jane Turner, which is very appropriate as it was Jane who saw two Ospreys go past her front window on Hoylake sea front this month - both going north-east, presumably on their way to Scotland. Another Osprey was seen far out on the estuary off Heswall during a high spring tide - this had to go down as a 'probable' as the bird was just too far away to be certain.

Other notable raptors were two Marsh Harriers ( West Kirby and Gronant), a Hobby at Gronant and a Honey Buzzard over Greenfield. 

There was plenty activity on the sea with a large passage of Little Gulls, with several hundred seen at nearby Crosby across the Mersey. Our maximum counts were 23 over West Kirby Marine Lake and 20 at Hilbre. Terns are passing through in good numbers with max. counts of 20 Little and 250 Sandwich at Gronant and 22 Arctic and 20 Common Tern passing Hoylake Shore. Good numbers of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Common Scoter were passing by Hilbre all month along with one or two Great and Arctic Skua. Twenty Brent Geese at Hilbre at the beginning of the month had dwindled to just two by mid-month.

It has been an excellent month for Grasshopper Warblers. We started on the 1st with what might well be the earliest ever record for Wirral at Red Rocks. There has been a steady passage through Hilbre with two or three nearly every day, many of which were ringed. But the place to go to hear 'Groppers' is undoubtedly Gronant were 10 were trilling away at the end of the month. Also at Gronant were the pick of the month's rarities - a Blue-headed Wagtail and a Corncrake.

Most of the early arrivals are here now as shown in the table below. One very early migrant not shown in the table was a Pied-flycatcher seen on the 2nd of April in West Kirby - a full two weeks earlier than normal and another probable earliest ever record for Wirral.

Dates of earliest sightings. Locations for 2001.

Species 2001 Location 2000  1999
Willow Warbler 8th March West Kirby 27th March 2nd April
ChiffChaff* 11th March Heswall 13th March 17th March
Blackcap* 12th March West Kirby 31st March Late March
Sand Martin 15th March Hoylake 16th March 27th March
Wheatear 22nd March Burton 12th March 12th March
White Wagtail 24th March Hilbre 17th March mid March
Swallow 28th March Hoylake 2nd April 8th April
Grasshop. W 1st April Red Rocks Mid April Mid April
House Martin 16th April  Greenfield 23rd March Late April
Whitethroat  27th April Caldy/Gronant 25th April 24th April
Swift 21st April  West Kirby 27th April late  April

* As small numbers of both Chiffchaff and Blackcap over winter in the area this is the date they were first heard singing.

Wader numbers were well down on those in winter but sizable flocks of both Dunlin and Knot were seen on their way north to breed in the Arctic. We normally only see Whimbrel on passage and plenty were about this month with a maximum of 13 at the Point of Ayr.

The Greenfield Valley bird survey continues, the total is now 67 birds. Click here for a complete list.

You might be interested in a new Webcam looking onto Hoylake Shore run by a local birder, Jane Turner. The picture isn't brilliant but at least you can tell if the tide is in or out, or whether it's cloudy or sunny. The thing of most interest is that next to the Webcam picture Jane gives regular updates of the birds she is seeing on the shore and in her garden. 

What to expect in May: Passage waders are still coming through, I saw 10,000 Knot flying past Hilbre directly out to sea on the 1st May, an awe inspiring sight knowing they were on their way to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Sanderling will be passing through right up to early June - look out for them at Gronant and the North Wirral shore.

Little and Common Terns will be returning to their nesting colonies at Gronant and Shotton respectively. After the excitement of seeing the first Spring migrant of each species arrive during March and April the remaining bulk of these populations will be arriving in May. Hilbre is an excellent spot for seeing the migration, if you can get there early in the day you will have more chance of seeing the birds. 

Many thanks go to  John Gittins, Cathy McGrath,  Mike Hart,  John Kirkland, Bill Owens,  Chris Butterworth,  Jane Turner,  Wendy Allen, Phil Lovell, Mark Smith, Colin Jones, David Small, Mark Feltham, Peter Williams and Gareth Stamp for their sightings during April. I rely on the goodwill of people like this, unlike some commercial sites I cannot offer financial inducements!


Forthcoming Events


Note that some events may be cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak. See latest news - click here.

May Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool) 
7th May, 12.00hrs 9.7m. (all times BST)
8th May, 12.42hrs 9.7m.
See Tides page for full tide table.

Note that the marsh at Parkgate may be covered when tide height is 9.8m or over, dependent on weather conditions. Low pressure with strong north-west wind will create higher than expected tide, high pressure with southerly wind means lower than expected tide. 

Wirral Peregrines Phoenix Group
A group for teenagers jointly run by the RSPB and Wirral Ranger Service.   For all young people (you don't have to be RSPB members) who want to do something to improve our environment and enjoy wildlife. See events for  2001.

Wirral Bird Club
The Wirral Bird Club welcomes all who are interested in birds, from the beginner to the experienced.  See the complete listing of events for 2001

Forthcoming Events (organised by the Wirral Ranger Service, Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the RSPB):
All these events and walks have bird interest, even those not advertised specifically for birdwatching. No need to book for these events unless specified - please check below.

High tide bird watches at Parkgate and Heswall for the whole of 2001 are shown on the high tide birdwatch page. Always check latest newsletter for any additions or changes.

Saturday 5th May. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 6th May. International Dawn Chorus Day

Dawn Chorus over Thurstaston Common. 4.30am - 6.30am.
Get up with the lark and listen to the splendour of the dawn chorus over this spectacular part of the Wirral countryside, with tea, coffee and biscuits available afterwards. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371. Note that if Thurstaston Common is still closed this event will be held in Royden Park next door.

Songs in Stapledon Woods. 5am - 7am.
Early birds get the worm on this avian exploration of Stapledon Woods. Join the Rangers for a walk to discover some of the sounds of spring in this wonderful woodland setting. Booking essential, 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 6th May. Spring Migrants at Point of Ayr. 8:30am
Waders on passage and feast of summer migrants. (HW 11:00, 9.6m). Meet at end of Station Road, Talacre. No need to book. Ring 0151 336 7681 for info.

Friday 11th May. Warblers in the Evening. 6:30pm - 10:00pm.
Start the weekend in relaxing fashion as we undertake a circular walk to enjoy the spring song of warblers in the Thurstaston area. We can expect such delights as rattling Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat and reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Those with stamina can join the late night moth trapping session (weather permitting) at the end of the walk. Meet at Wirral Country Park Visitor Centre, Thurstaston. To book your place ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 13th May. Woodland, Heath and Foreshore. 11.30am - 3:30pm.
Join the Rangers on a 6 mile walk along the Wirral Way, through Dungeon Woodland to Heswall Dales and back to Wirral Country Park along Heswall foreshore. A packed lunch recommended. Booking essential. NOTE: Itinerary likely to be altered due to Foot and Mouth restrictions. Ring 0151 648 4371.  

Saturday 19th May. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 19th May. Early Birds, Inner Marsh Farm.
Cancelled due to foot and mouth. For latest info. ring 0151 336 7681.

Sunday 20th May. Heswall Walk. 10:30am - 3:30pm.
Join the Rangers on this circular walk exploring the paths, heaths and open spaces in and around Heswall. A packed lunch recommended. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 2nd June. 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. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Saturday 7th June. Sunset Walk to Hilbre.
An evening stroll across the sands to Hilbre. A 4 mile walk of 3 hours, ideal for first time visitors. Please bring warm waterproof clothing and a snack. No Dogs. there is a 1 charge for this event. Booking essential, ring 0151 648 4371.

Sunday 10th June. All About Trees. 2pm - 4pm.
Take a stroll with ranger Gareth Peters, around Greenfield Valley, and learn a little more about the kinds of trees that we have and the folklore surrounding them. Meet outside the Environment Centre, Greenfield Valley, ring 01352 719177 for info.

Note: Many of these forthcoming events are extracted from 'Birdwatchers Diary 2001', which covers both the Dee and Mersey regions. Copies available from the visitor centre at Thurstaston, Wirral Country Park 0151 648 4371 or by from myself as a 1.8mb zipped file.