Like many other birders I had written
year's spring migration, it was getting near the end of April and the
weather had just been so poor we had seen little in the way of birds
passing through. But somebody wiser than myself said "there's plenty of
time yet" - how right he was!
After a couple of gales,
cold temperatures and torrential rain in the
last week in April the weather overnight on the 29th/30th calmed down,
became warmer and, most importantly, the wind swung to the south-east,
and as a result birds started to pour through. The Leasowe Lighthouse
was the focus of attention on April 30th with the highlights being over
70 Wheatears, seven Whinchats and 10 Yellow Wagtails - all looking
wonderful in the sun in the wild flower filled and partially flooded
horse paddocks. The next day was similar with Wheatears widespread
across Wirral, for example 24 were by Caldy Steps on the cliff where
or three would be a good number, and also three Whinchats there where
I've never seen any before.
May 2nd was an outstanding day, particularly on Hilbre. Members of the
Observatory knew something amazing was going on when they counted 72
Wheatears in the Marine Lake car park at West Kirby on the way over to
but this was nothing to what awaited them. I quote Matt
Thomas (from 'From
the Muddy Banks of the Dee
' Blog), who was the Ranger on duty
that day: "Looking around it was as if a Wheatear bomb had gone off.
All along the west side of the island were Wheatears. Some loafing on
the grass, others scromping grubs from the sandy cliffs. If you got one
in the viewfinder of the camera there was almost always another in the
same frame. There must have been around two hundred of them
during the course of the day but their numbers were dwarfed by the
amount of Willow Warblers that fell from the skies. Final total was
800. You looked at every bush, fence post and there was a Willow
Warbler there. I walked out of the garden of the Bird Obs and nearly
trod on one. I have never seen anything like it before."
Other highlights were
six Redstarts, 40 Chiffchaffs, 250 House Martins
and 3,000 Swallows. The Hilbre Obs Blog that evening
said "today saw almost certainly the largest ever fall of
migrants recorded at Hilbre since the Bird Observatory was established
in 1957". An incredible day.
But what caused this huge fall of birds? Steve Williams' article below
on the weather pattern that day demonstrates just how important the
weather is during migration. Such big falls are rare events in our area
but something similar did occur on April 23rd 1998 when 275
Wheatear and 1,355 Willow Warblers were counted at Red Rocks and
adjacent area, among many other birds there were also 95 White Wagtail,
and six Ring Ouzels that day.
This year's migration was certainly
late and much of it was concentrated in those three days - April 30th
to May 2nd. It was particularly good for Willow Warblers, Wheatears,
Whinchats and, as can be seen in the graph above, Common Redstarts. The
graph below demonstrates how late the migration was compared to last
year, which was also good for this species, and also just how many
passed through in those three days with a total of 19 records (as shown
by the green bar).
Sources of Information:
1. Matt Thomas - 'From
the Muddy Banks of the Dee' Blog.
2. Hilbre Bird Observatory Blog - http://www.hilbrebirdobs.blogspot.com/.
3. Jane Turner's Red Rocks records as published in Bird
4. My own records and those passed on to me with many thanks.
Weather and Migration Study
This short article by Steve
was written on May 2nd 2012, it was published on the Hilbre Bird
Observatory Blog that
kindly reproduced here with permission of the author.
Today's superb fall on
the island was, as always, a consequence of the
weather which plays such an important factor for bird migration
observed at Hilbre. The weather chart below shows the weather
map for 0.00hrs on Wednesday 2nd May 2012. A high pressure
over the North Atlantic and a low pressure to the south west of the UK
producing south easterlies up the country and high pressures centred
over Southern Europe encouraging south easterly airflow and migration
northwards up the UK.
The weak occluded front
travelling north to south down the UK (running
across from Northern Ireland to the Wash) no doubt encouraged many
migrants to be grounded and this can be seen in the weather maps below
(left 1200noon on 2nd May and right 0000hrs on 3rd May 2012)
showing the movement of the decaying occluded front and how it breaks
up over Hilbre during 2nd May 2012 before moving south during the
afternoon leaving behind sun soaked birders and numerous grounded
Weather maps courtesy of http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/
As always we continue to study the weather - which is always easier
May Bird News
migration was late -
but, boy, was it worth the wait! I've already described three very
special days above but the whole of May was excellent, including some
After a couple of easterly and southerly gales towards the end of April
we knew conditions were right for some interesting birds, the first one
duly turned up on the 2nd with a Temminck's Stint at Burton Mere Wetlands
it was presumably the same bird which was on Donkey Stand flash, Parkgate
from the 4th to 7th. This is the first record for this species in the
Dee Estuary area since May 12th 2004. There next followed
a Black-winged Pratincole on the 3rd and 4th, also at Burton Mere Wetlands
This was a real 'mega' and only the fourth one to be seen in
the whole of the UK over the past ten years. A Golden Oriole was
spotted in flight at Leasowe
by a couple of 'lighthouse regulars' on the 18th, it appeared to go
into a line of Willow trees but was never seen again - they are so well
camouflaged that they are almost impossible to see once they go into a
Other rare birds included an overflying Dotterel at West Kirby
Roseate Tern on the sand at Leasowe
, both on the 20th. A Turtle Dove was a good find
at Red Rocks
on the 25th. Both the long-staying Spoonbill and Great White Egret were
seen, the former was last recorded on the 7th whereas the latter
appeared intermittently all month. The second half of the month saw a
total of 10 Red Kite records, probably a record high for the area.
There appeared to be at least one wandering bird over Wirral plus
probably an additional two seen just the once over Flint
Common Terns at New
Brighton, May 17th © William Boyce
Spring passage remained strong until the third week of the month and
even as late as the 18th
there were 20 Wheatears at Leasowe
. We had given up the idea of
seeing/hearing any Wood Warblers this spring when two late birds turned
one at Stapledon Wood
and the other near Leasowe
, both on the
23rd. The 26th saw a massive
movement of Swifts with several thousand at Red Rocks
actually counted but true number could have been double that) and 2,100
over Hilbre on the same date.
Cuckoos are now scarce in our area but it was a
comparatively good year with 13 records this month, compared to the
more usual six or seven we have seen or heard over the past few May's.
There were plenty of Spotted Flycatchers passing through including six
at Red Rocks
on the 27th. 14 records of Short-eared Owls was a
surprisingly high number for so late in the spring, with one or two
birds seemingly resident at Leasowe
, and one
or two seen from Hilbre
this compares to a total of just two records in May last
After several very poor breeding seasons for Avocet
at Inner Marsh Farm it is great to see them doing well at the new
RSPB Burton Mere
Reserve which has an electric fence to keep out
predators, I understand by the end of the month there were 33 chicks
with one or two nests still to hatch. Also at the reserve were a Curlew
Sandpiper (non-breeding plumage) and seven Little Stints, both on the
Wheatears in the flooded horse paddocks
at Leasowe Lighthouse, May 2nd © Tanny Robinson.
Many thanks go to David Esther, Jeremy
David Huntingford, Paul Brady, Mike Davenport, Steve Williams, Keith
Scovell, Richard Steel, Bernard Bagnall, Charles
Farnell, Elizabeth Shand, Steve Hasell, Colin Schofield, Chris Morley,
Eddie Williams, Jeff
Cohen, Stephen Renshaw, Roy Palmer, Karim Labib, Steve
Round, David Leeming, Malcolm Sergeant, Kevin Smith, David
Haigh, Henry Cook, Mike
Hart, Kenny Dummigan, Ken Roberts, Richard
Beckett, Mark Gibson, Paul Vautrinot, John Boswell, David Jones, Jeff
Eades, John Billington, Andy Thomas, Alan Hitchmough, Bruce
Atherton, Dave Harrington, Gill Jakeman, Tim Baldock, William Boyce,
Michael Baron, Greg
Butterworth, Jane Turner, Peter Haslem, Dave
Thomas, Ian Cotterell, Tanny
Greep, David Small, Paul Mason, Kevin Roberts, Sean
Steve Hand, Peter
Forshaw, Mark Brockley, Janine Johnson, Steve Edwards, Ashley Cohen,
David Sanderson, the
and the Hilbre Bird
for their sightings during May. All
are gratefully received.
What to expect in June
Many birders regard June
as a 'dead'
month, admittedly it can be quiet but most years there is plenty going
on, not least some good rarites with both a Blyth's Reed Warbler and a
Paddyfield Warbler seen in June over the past couple of years.
in the month you can still see waders hurrying through on their way
north to breed, particularly Ringed Plover (tundra race) and
Sanderling, and by the end of the month the first post-breeding waders
arrive back. Spotted Redshanks are the first to arrive followed by one
or two Green Sandpipers, and we usually get an early Greenshank by
month-end. Look out also for non-breeding over-summering birds
such as Knot which sometimes can be present in their thousands. There
are also breeding waders with a few Ringed plovers, Redshanks and
Oystercatchers, as well as the Avocets at Burton Mere Wetlands.
Little Tern colony at Gronant should be thriving and out to sea will be
Gannets and Scoters, and a strong westerly should blow in Manx
Shearwaters and Arctic Skuas. It is not too early for the first
Sandwich Terns to return, perhaps failed or non-breeding birds.
will include one or two Hobbies plus the possibility of wandering
Ospreys or Red Kites. Most years we seem to get a visit from at least
two Spoonbills and it will be interesting to see if we see a Great
White Egret or not, perhaps the one that was here for most of the
Spring Tides (Liverpool)
5th June, 12.24hrs (BST), 9.5m.
6th June, 13.15hrs (BST), 9.5m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire Countryside Service and/or the
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.
Also see 2012 Events Diary.
Saturday 2nd June and
Sunday 3rd June, Garden Wildlife Weekend at Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB,
10 am to 4pm.
Pop along anytime to get free, friendly advice from the
experts on gardening for wildlife.
Be inspired by how the reserve has been set up and even take home a few
plants to help you get started.
Children can get their hands on some wildflower seeds and enter our
grow a sunflower competition.
For further details phone 0151 353 8478 or 0151 336 7681.
Saturday 9th June, Dusk Chorus - RSPB Event, 8pm to 10pm.
Dawn Chorus too early? Then perhaps our first ever Dusk Chorus event is
birds continue to sing and some become even more active. With a bit of
luck we may even see some of the creatures of the night...... Owls?
Meet at Burton Mere
Wetlands Car Park.
Cost: Adults - £2 RSPB members, £5 non-members, Children - Free
Wildlife Explorer members, £1 non-members.
Booking essential so please call 0151 353 8478 or 0151 336 7681.
Tuesday 12th June, 1:30pm - 3:00pm, Summer Walk over
Stapledon Woods and Caldy Hill.
Discover the variety of wildflowers and other wildlife on this stroll
with the Ranger.
Meet Kings Drive North off Column Road.
Sorry no dogs/
No need to book.
For further enquiries ring 0151 677 7594.
Saturday 23rd June, 10am to 12 noon, Moth Morning at
NATIONAL INSECT WEEK
With an abundance of vegetation Burton Mere Wetlands is an amazing
place for moths.
volunteer moth trappers will be working hard overnight so that come the
morning a whole variety of moth species will be on display and you can
ask our experts as many questions as you like.
Feel free to drop in at any point during the morning.
Children's activities will be running all day in the visitor building.
NB In event of bad weather expect fewer moths!
This event is FREE, for more details ring 0151 353 8478 or 0151 336
Sunday 24th June, 11am - 1pm. Dragons and Damsels, Part of
Springwatch with the RSPB.
Price: £2 members, £5 non-members.
The RSPB’s Burton Mere Wetlands is a fantastic place for dragon and
If these mini-beasts enthral you then come along and help us to find
the elegant yet elusive red-eyed damselfly.
will scour Burton Mere and the ditches around the reserve in order the
find as many flying insects as possible - we may even see some birds
Stay behind afterwards for a chat and a cuppa.
Children's activities will be running throughout the day.
In case of extreme weather these events may be cancelled.
your binoculars for close up views. Stout, waterproof
Please phone as booking
is essential, ring 0151 353 8478 or 0151 336 7681.
Friday 29th June, 9:00pm - 11:00pm, Bat and Owl Night at
Discover the variety of bats and owls that use Royden Park in these
Sorry no dogs.
Warm and waterproof clothing required.
Maximum no. of 18.
Booking essential, please ring 0151 648 4371.
- Sunday 1st July, 11am - 1pm, Bee-urton Mere Wetlands - Guided Walk