Remarkably, the number
of Little Terns breeding at Gronant increased for the fifth
year in a row to a new record high of 129 pairs in 2013. No doubt this
has been fuelled by the seven out of eight very good breeding seasons
they had between 2003 and 2010 when the annual average for
the eight years was 101 pairs producing 137 fledged young. This
correlation between breeding success and number of pairs two to four
years down the line is interesting as terns are not supposed to be
particularly site faithful but a look at the graph below does seem to
indicate that young birds do return to breed here as well as the
adults. Certainly, after
three relatively poor breeding seasons we would expect a drop in the
number of pairs this summer so we will see what happens with
Compared with all those good breeding
the last three years have
certainly been challenging with a mixture of the weather and predators
being the main culprits for the low productivity. It was unfortunate in
2013 that unusually high spring tides in mid-June coincided with strong
west winds and many nests were flooded out. In addition, it was thought
that many chicks wandered out of the electrified pens at night and were
ground predators. Under the circumstances a minimum of 65 fledged young
wasn't a bad total. Big year to year differences is the norm for Little
Tern colonies, of course,
so there is nothing too worrying about the recent dip in productivity -
but a good vole year (so predators will eat voles and not terns!) with
several weeks of light winds would certainly
be very welcome this summer.
The following two paragraphs are from
Adrian Hibbert - Countryside Warden (North Denbighshire):
new successful LIFE+ partnership project between the RSPB, DCC
7 other associated beneficiaries is an exciting prospect for the next 5
years that begun in September 2013. Over the period it should help
improve our knowledge of little terns, their habitat and needs. One of
the most important elements will be to educate and increase public
awareness of the colony so to be able to sustain the little tern
protection for future years and increase their value in terms of
competing for space at new colonies. There is also an aim to increase
joint working between conservation bodies and businesses to improve
"The flooding in the winter of
2013/14 has dramatically altered the shingle ridge and even the area of
dune behind. The suitable nesting habitat for little tern is much
narrower but the area behind where the new spit has been forming over
the last three years is in good shape. The hope for 2014 is that the
change has been positive; however the size of shingle at the
traditional western area of the colony does not seem suitable being so
large. This may restrict the colony to a perceived smaller area but on
the other hand it could be beneficial in terms of tidal loss being
Wardening - Please Help!
Since 1975 this colony has been wardended, first by the RSPB and, since
2005, by Denbighshire Countryside Services. There is
that without this wardening, much of it voluntary, this colony would
have disappeared long ago. So
please help if you can. Please ring Denbighshire
Countryside Services on 01745 356197, or just turn up at Gronant and
It is also a great place to do some
bird watching - see my Gronant Site
Guide for more details. Also Click Here,
this link includes some details of what is
expected of the Wardens.
VISTORS - PLEASE NOTE
Extract from Little Tern Report Gronant
and photographers assumed it was acceptable to stand right on the
perimeter boundary on the seaward side of the pens. Why you would need
to do so with a big telescope is difficult to understand? However one
can understand their assumption that this is acceptable, but the
perimeter fence on the beach is really far too close to the colony. It
is difficult to manage this as tides would take away the perimeter
posts if they were further out. To ensure minimal disturbance of the
colony the entire beach should be closed off in front of the pens,
however it is unlikely that this would acceptable to local authorities.
Any people observed standing in front of the colony for more than 15
minutes were politely asked to move on. Most were fine with this once
it was explained that they were disrupting the colony. Some weren’t!"
Sources of Information:
1. Dr Adam Britt, Ben Leece and Amber Jenkins, Little Tern Report
Denbighshire County Council Countryside Services.
2. Graph showing Breeding Success of Gronant Little Tern
was originally supplied by RSPB and subsequently updated with data
from Denbighshire County Council Countryside Services.
3. Adrian Hibbert - Countryside Warden (North Denbighshire)
Richard Smith (Gronant Voluntary
Newly fledged Little Tern at Gronant
© Jim Armstrong
After a long season of
wardening it's always great to see these on the beach - Job done!
RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands and Inner Marsh Farm
The new boardwalk snakes it's way
towards the Inner Marsh Farm Hide
© Richard Smith.
In recent weeks there have been some
exciting developments at RSPB
Burton Mere Wetlands (BMW) including the opening of the long-awaited
trail linking the BMW
reception hide area with the Inner Marsh Farm (IMF) hide. This means
the old IMF car park is now closed and the hide and adjacent
trails are open at the same times as the rest of
BMW, car parking for all the hides is at the BMW Reception
Hide (accessed from Puddington Lane, Burton).
The Reed and Fen Trail, as it is
called, is a very pleasant walk. If you don't stop to look at the birds
and wild flowers, which I'm sure you will, it takes about 20 minutes to
get to IMF. One place to stop is at a new screen which
overlooks a pool that was previously largely hidden and it will be a
great place to see a good selection of waders and wildfowl.
Once you get to the old IMF area you
can now take the Hillfort trail* over the railway, giving fabulous
over Burton Marsh. It should be an excellent spot to see Hen Harrier,
Short-eared Owls and Pink-footed Geese in the winter.
The Reed Bed Screen
© Richard Smith.
On the way from the Reception hide and before you get on to the new
trail you will see the new Reed Bed Screen (above) giving good views
over a new scrape and the extensive reed bed area.
For a map of all the trails at BMW and IMF download
For more details about RSPB Burton Mere
As I write this in early June the Hill Fort Trail is only accessible if
you are a part of a Guided Walk. However, I'm told by the RSPB that the
trail will be fully open within a few weeks.
May Bird News
Eiders flying past Red Rocks, May 14th
© Derek Williams.
These eiders (above) came
unusually close in to Red Rocks, a great view. Five Velvet Scoters
off Hilbre on the 17th was probably the highlight so far as sea
watching was concerned but 8,500 Common Scoters on the same date was a
fantastic count for mid-May, as was 1,500 Scoters at the end of the
month when three Arctic skuas were also recorded. A Black Guillemot was
another good Hilbre record, with one seen on the 27th. 200
were counted on a couple of days, always good to see.
Grasshopper Warbler at Leasowe
Lighthouse, May 5th
© Steve Oakes
Migrants continued to come through for most of the month with the
undoubted bird of the month a Citrine Wagtail at Red Rocks on the 5th,
a first for Cheshire and Wirral. The first
Swift was over Hilbre on the very late date of May 3rd and the
Spotted Flycatchers were at Leasowe Lighthouse on the 15th with 10
there by the 20th. A Wood Warbler was caught and ringed on
on the 20th. A pair of Garganey's were at Burton Mere Wetlands where a
Red Kite flew over on the 18th which was also seen over Frankby on the
day. Incidentally, the escaped falconer's Red-tailed Hawk is still
around the West Kirby area - and still being mis-identified as a
Red Rocks Update
I've not written an article this month as very little has happened, and
certainly no consultation has taken place yet. See April
Newsletters for previous
articles. We may yet want help at Red Rocks if work re-starts in late
summer trying to persuade Cheshire Wildlife Trust that they should
be increasing bio-diversity at Red Rocks - not wantonly
Underground Coal Gasification and Fracking
election leaflet on the above, which was pushed through my door
recently, made me
angry. Better not say too much other than please see my Article
which, I believe, gives a more informed view on the
in our area is also very unlikely, but you may be interested in a
Report recently written and co-authored by the RSPB, National Trust,
WWT, Wildlife Trusts and others called 'Are we fit to frack?'. There
are undoubtedly some genuine environmental concerns with
which are discussed in this report in an informed and non-hysterical
thanks go to Derek Williams, Matt
Thomas, Richard Beckett, Derek
Bates, Chris Butterworth, Steve
Hinde, Roy Lowry, Jane Turner, George Knight, Dave Edwards, Mark
Gibson, Ian Fleming, David Leeming, Dan
Trotman, Les Hall, Allan Conlin, David
Haigh, Alan Irving, Jeremy
Bradshaw, Nick Bullen, Alan Hitchmough, Chris Wilding, Steve
Eades, Mal Sergeant, Bruce
Schofield, David Small, Steve Hand, Steve Oakes,
Farnell, Mike Hart, Jon Greep, Paul Brady, Charles Russell, Simon
Custance, David Huntingford, Colin Jones, Henry Cook, the Lighthouse
and Wirral Birding Blog
and the Hilbre Bird
for their sightings during May. All
are gratefully received.
What to expect in June
A visit to Gronant is a
must in June
with so much activity going on in the Little Tern colony. You will also
see nesting Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers as well as plenty of
passerines such as Skylarks, Meadow Pipits etc. Seawatching can be
surprisingly good off
Gronant and the other sites looking out over Liverpool Bay, Gannets are
ever present and given a good westerly wind we can get Manx
Shearwaters, Storm Petrels and skuas. Large numbers of Common Terns
from the Seaforth colony often feed along the north Wirral coast as far
as Hilbre, making for a spectacular sight.
of waders are much lower than in the winter there are still some around
and we sometimes get one of the largest over-summering flocks of
Black-tailed Godwits in the country with up to 1,000. These are usually
at Burton Mere Wetlands but last year they took to feeding off Caldy
and West Kirby on the estuary. Small flocks of immature Knot can also
be seen and these are often around Hilbre. But the waders we most look
out for are those returning from breeding with Green Sandpipers and
Spotted Redshanks usually the first to be seen, the latter looking
glorious in their black breeding plumage. By the end of the month gull
numbers will start to build up, these will be mostly Black-headed Gulls
but we nearly always get a few Mediterranean Gulls in with them -
Heswall, West Kirby and Hoylake are the best places to see these.
Reed Bunting at Burton Mere Wetlands, May 4th
© Ian Fleming
Spring Tides (Liverpool)
14th June, 12.41hrs (BST), 9.4m.
15th June, 13.29hrs (BST), 9.4m.
Organised by the Wirral
Ranger Service , Flintshire
Countryside Service and the
RSPB (Dee Estuary):
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 2014 Events Diary.
Saturday 28th June, Sunset and Wildlife on Hilbre
Price: £3 suggested donation per person
Join the Coastal Rangers and RSPB for an evening walk across the sands
to Hilbre Island to discover its wildlife and history. Warm
waterproof clothing, stout footwear or wellingtons are
recommended. Bring binoculars if you have them. Places are
limited and a suggested donation of £3.00 will be gratefully received
on the day.
The island has two compost toilets, but no other amenities. There is
ample free parking in West Kirby; the walk to the island is almost 2
miles in each direction, across wet sand and mud.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371
Saturday 12th July, Sunset and Wildlife on Hilbre
Price: £3 suggested donation per person
the Coastal Rangers and RSPB for an evening walk across the sands to
Hilbre Island to discover its wildlife and history. Warm
clothing, stout footwear or wellingtons are recommended.
binoculars if you have them. Places are limited and a suggested
donation of £3.00 will be gratefully received on the day.
island has two compost toilets, but no other amenities. There is ample
free parking in West Kirby; the walk to the island is almost 2 miles in
each direction, across wet sand and mud.
Booking essential (0151) 648 4371.
Saturday 26th July
The Big Sea Watch:
the Coastal Rangers, staff from the RSPB and Hilbre Bird Observatory
for a day on Hilbre looking for seabirds, wading birds and cetaceans
that inhabit our wonderful coast. We will be staying on
during high tide giving us the best chance to see them.
Places are limited with a suggested donation of £5:00 for this
For more information and to book your place please ring Wirral Country
Park on (0151) 648 4371