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August 2018 Newsletter

Species Spotlight - Little Ringed Plover.
Review - Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales.
Colour Ring Report.
July Bird News.
Forthcoming Events.
Past Newsletters.


 

 Species Spotlight - Little Ringed Plover

                        Colour-ringed Little Ringed Plover at Leasowe, April 2018 Eddie Williams


Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius) is a species which has been rather under the radar for me. It was when I saw Eddie Williams' photo of a colour-ringed bird (above) that I realised how little I knew despite writing the Little Ringed Plover species account for the Cheshire and Wirral Bird Report for several years! Consequently I've been doing some reading and compiling some counts over the past few weeks and the result is this article.

Little Ringed Plover - History and Status

Nobody knows how many Little Ringed Plovers there are. Unlike most waders, which concentrate at certain key sites either on migration or in the winter, they migrate overland on a broad front then spend the winter right across inland Africa south of the Sahara making them impossible to count. Counts are made of breeding pairs where possible and totals extrapolated from that - so the number of individuals in the European/African is usually quoted as being between 200,000 and 300,000, obviously with a large margin of error.

During the 20th century this species increased it's range westwards into the UK first breeding here in 1938. They prefer to breed on the unvegetated margins of fresh water and they take advantage of gravel pits and sand quarries. There are several of the latter in Cheshire and they first bred here in 1961 after several years of trying. By 1971 they hady increased to at least 20 pairs, since then numbers have fluctuated but the average is probably still around 20 pairs.

Dee Estuary


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Elegant, noisy and charismatic, terns are many people's favourite group of birds and we are lucky that the Dee estuary and north Wirral coast is one of the best places in the country to see them. The Dee Estuary has recorded 11 of the 17 Tern species on the British list (not including a possible Royal Tern), and below I detail six of the rarer species. Elegant, noisy and charismatic, terns are many people's favourite group of birds and we are lucky that the Dee estuary and north Wirral coast is one of the best places in the country to see them. The Dee Estuary has recorded 11 of the 17 Tern species on the British list (not including a possible Royal Tern), and below I detail six of the rarer species. Elegant, noisy and charismatic, terns are many people's favourite group of birds and we are lucky that the Dee estuary and north Wirral coast is one of the best places in the country to see them. The Dee Estuary has recorded 11 of the 17 Tern species on the British list (not including a possible Royal Tern), and below I detail six of the rarer species.Note: Species listed are all BBRC Rarities, except for White-winged Black Tern which was a BBRC rarity up to 2005. There are a few records which are documented elsewhere, mainly in the relevant local Bird Reports, but don't appear to have been submitted to BBRC and these have been listed below in brackets and regarded as 'probables'. The 1974 Royal Tern record was eventually deemed 'not proven' but I include it here for interest. Elegant, noisy and charismatic, terns are many people's favourite group of birds and we are lucky that the Dee estuary and north Wirral coast is one of the best places in the country to see them. The Dee Estuary has recorded 11 of the 17 Tern species on the British list (not including a possible Royal Tern), and below I detail six of the rarer species. Elegant, noisy and charismatic, terns are many people's favourite group of birds and we are lucky that the Dee estuary and north Wirral coast is one of the best places in the country to see them. The Dee Estuary has recorded 11 of the 17 Tern species on the British list (not including a possible Royal Tern), and below I detail six of the rarer species.

                               1st summer Mediterranean Gull (centre) at Hoylake, June 28th  Allan Conlin  

Elegant, noisy and charismatic, terns are many people's favourite group of birds and we are lucky that the Dee estuary and north Wirral coast is one of the best places in the country to see them. The Dee Estuary has recorded 11 of the 17 Tern species on the British list (not including a possible Royal Tern), and below I detail six of the rarer species.

References

1. As always with Rare Birds the primary source of information, either directly or indirectly, comes from the BBRC (British Birds Rarities Committee) 'Reports on rare birds in Great Britain'. These are published annually in British Birds, and can be found on-line at https://www.bbrc.org.uk/resources.

also of great help were:

2. Allan Conlin and Eddie Williams, Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire  & Wirral, 2017 (see http://www.deeestuary.co.uk/news1117.htm).

3. Robin Sandham, Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales, 2017 (email: robinsandham@hotmail.co.uk).

4. Cheshire and Wirral Bird Reports, CAWOS.

5. Clwyd/North East Wales Bird Reports, Clwyd Bird Recording Group.

6. BirdGuides - https://www.birdguides.com/.
 

7. David Cabot & Ian Nisbet, Terns, New Naturalist (Collins), 2013.

8. J.D. Craggs, Hilbre, Liverpool University Press, 1982.

Richard Smith.

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 Review - Scarce and Rare Birds in North Wales

This makes a great companion book to 'Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire & Wirral' reviewed in the November 2017 Newsletter. It covers a large area, five vice counties, and a huge amount of work has gone into writing this fascinating book. There are many different sections but the highlights for me are the article by Ken Croft 'The Birding Year in North Wales', a very detailed Systematic List of Records and no less than 19 finder's articles ranging from the Cretzschmar's Bunting' in 2015 to a 'Summer Tanager' all the way back in 1957. Both those species were seen on Bardsey Island and, remarkably, that small island contributes 47% of all records in the book, as nicely illustrated in a pie chart on page 26.   

I finish with a short extract from Ken 'mega-magnet' Croft's article:

August: A month when our thoughts turn to waders and a good place to visit would be the Dee Estuary, you never know what might be lurking out there in the vastness? Birds are drawn in and filtered along the coast especially on the spring tides.Here are some of the August birds found on the Dee: Pacific Golden Plover, Baird's Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher and Wilson's Phalarope. It is also the start of the autumn migration of passerines and maybe it is a time to think of a visit to Bardsey?A few rare warblers may be skulking out there on the island: Aquatic, Savi's, Booted, Bonelli's, Greenish as well as Melodious, Icterine and Barred Warbler have all been found on Bardsey in August as well as Britain's first record of Yellow Warbler in 1964. Finally, if we are going to see Cory's Shearwater, and we don't see many in North Wales, this is the best month to look for one. Point Lynas, Bardsey or The Range all likely vantages in optimal weather conditions.

This book is obtainable at https://www.nhbs.com/, at Conwy RSPB or directly from the author, Robin Sandham - robinsandham@hotmail.co.uk.

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     Colour Ring Report

June is a quiet month and, as a consequence, I had thought not to include a 'Colour Ring Report' in this newsletter - then suddenly I've been overwhelmed with records! There's been a lot of Knot records - not from the Dee estuary but of birds seen here last winter being recorded elsewhere, both of birds moving north to breed and non-breeding birds staying in the UK. As I'm still waiting for a lot of records from Iceland I will hold fire on these but I have a feeling there are going to be a LOT of knot records being reported in the coming months - see "Among Knots" if you want to know what this is all about.
Over the past three years there has been a big effort to study Little Terns by colour-ringing them, and, thanks to Henry Cook of the Gronant Wardens, I list some interesting 2018 recoveries including the oldest Little Tern ever recorded. Also details of our first ever colour-ringed Curlew.

Little Terns

Little Tern AAD at nest (photographed under licence)  North Wales Little Tern Group

AAD
- (photo above, taken under licence) seen on a re-lay nest, This is a 2004 chick born in Kilcoole, Ireland but had a colour-ring added in 2014 on the Isle of Man. It may have tried to breed on the Isle of Man this season before failing and starting again at Gronant as this is the first time this season it's been seen here this season. Waiting for confirmation on this.

XVX - an adult trapped this year, lost it's nest on 14/06 to flooding and found on 22/06, visiting two re-laid nests. Appeared to be incubating both but need to take another look to see what's really happening.

XLL - ringed in 2016 as a chick. This is the first 2-year old confirmed breeding at Gronant. It was suspected this was the case although it appears that more start at 3 years of age.

I43 - a bird likely born at Baltray, Ireland, seen on a nest. Lends more weight to the theory that Gronant recruits birds from other Irish sea colonies.

ZBA - an adult trapped recently that had a metal ring on, applied in 1993! In a couple of weeks it turns 25 years old, a new longevity record for the species. Still breeding at this good old age, indeed one of it's chicks hatched shortly after.

Curlew

FAC - black letters on white ring (left tibia).
Ringed as a juvenile at Haapavesi, Kyokyla, Finland on July 6th 2017.
Recorded on June 21st 2018 at Hoylake Shore.
This is the first colour-ringed Curlew on our books and demonstrates that at least some of the young non-breeding  Scandinavian Curlews which over-winter on the Dee also spend the summer here.

Richard Smith. Colour-rings were also recorded by Steve Hinde and Henry Cook, plus the rest of the Gronant Little Tern Wardens.

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July Bird News


                                          Little Tern at Gronant, June 27th Henry Cook    


It was certainly unfortunate that Storm Hector struck on the same day as the highest tide of the month with a storm surge of one metre on top of a predicted height of 9.6m  - as a result the waves crashed over the Little Tern colony at Gronant. At least 110 of the 174 nests were lost and it was feared many of the others would no longer be viable. However, Little Terns are nothing if not resilient and most of the eggs in the remaining nests have now successfully hatched. Not only that but 80 new nests have been relaid. So the good news is that it looks like we are going to have another successful season at Gronant despite the storm and with yet another record number of nesting pairs.

At Shotton 349 'Apparently Occupied Nests' were counted, slightly down on 2017 but the same as 2016. Unfortunately, the recent spell of hot weather has resulted in quite a high rate of chick mortality, it is the ones have just hatched which are at risk but I've been told the older ones were doing OK and the Merseyside Ringing Group have successfully ringed 240 of these.

                               1st summer Mediterranean Gull (centre) at Hoylake, June 28th  Allan Conlin  


The gull and tern roosts were a bit slow to build up through the month, which I take as a sign they are having a good breeding season. The first Mediterranean Gull wasn't recorded on the coast until the 28th when in 2017 several had been seen; I've been told a pair bred successfully again at Burton Mere Wetlands where there were also a large numbers of breeding Black-headed Gulls with chicks still present at the end of the month. They are obviously having an excellent breeding season all round at BMW and on the 28th the report was of 50+ Avocet chicks, 45+ Redshank chicks, 100+ Lapwing chicks and a creche of 21 young Shelducks.

There were five Red Kite records through the month, making 20 in total for the year - a big increase on recent years with a total of just six in 2017 and four in 2016. There were quite a few Marsh Harrier records, including a pair which have attempted to breed.

                                                    Red Kite over West Kirby, June 23rd  Steve Williams
Many thanks go to Charles Farnell, David Haigh, Steve Hinde, Matt Thomas, Chris Butterworth, Elliot Montieth, David Leeming, Alan Hitchmough, Steve Williams, Dave Edwards, Derek Bates, Allan Conlin, Karen Leeming, Frank Burns, David Thompson, Paul Mason, Henry Cook, Jeff Cohen, Graham Jones, 'Fran', Ray and Toni Sherlock, Graham Thompson, Richard Beckett, Ron Armstrong, Peter Coffey, Greg Roebuck, Hugh Sewart, George Knight, Andrew Jones, Ian Goldstraw, Martin Kalaher, Ian Hughes, Mary Laloli, Chris Schofield, Alan Irving, Gary Bawden, David Small, Martin Horton, Don Macintosh, Richard Parker, Clive Part,  Alan Kirkham, the Lighthouse and Wirral Birding Blog, the Dee Estuary Wardens and the Hilbre Bird Observatory for their sightings during June. All sightings are gratefully received.

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What to expect in July

As a lover of terns I always look forward to July with the return of the Sandwich Terns with flocks of up to 1,000 at Hoylake, West Kirby, Hilbre, Point of Ayr and Gronant. The Dee Estuary is one of the most important stop-over sites in the country for them after they finish breeding, ringing shows many of them disperse here across the Irish Sea from Ireland.
Gull numbers also build up and the combined gull and tern roosts can be a spectacular sight, one species in particular to look out for are Mediterranean Gulls which will still be in full breeding plumage early in the month, we can get up to 10 or more in the area.
Wader numbers will increase and we should see both Common and Wood Sandpipers, as well as good numbers of Whimbrels, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Dunlins and Curlews.
 
                                        Sandwich Terns on Hoylake Shore, July 2017 Roy Lowry


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Forthcoming Events

July Highest Spring Tides (Liverpool)

Also see Tides page

14th July, 12.48hrs (BST), 9.7m.  
15th July, 13.38hrs (BST), 9.7m.  

Forthcoming Events

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. 


Little Tern Events and Tasks at Gronant.

Feel free to just turn up but if you need further details please email nwlittletern@gmail.com or ring Denbighshire Countryside Services 01745 356197. Park at the car park opposite Crofters Pantry Cafe on Shore Road, Gronant (Shore Road is sign posted 'Lower Gronant/Presthavens' from A548). See Article and Gronant Map above. 

Thursday 5th July - Seabird Thursday at Gronant.
Guided walk to the Gronant Little Tern colony from Shore Road Car Park, Lower Gronant. Part of the Denbighshire Countryside Service 'Out-and-about' programme. 9.30am-12pm. Free event.

Sunday 8th July - Official Opening of the new Visitor Center and Monitoring Hide at Gronant. 12-1.30pm. Meet at the Shore Road Car Park. Drinks and a tour of the site with the North Wales Little Tern Group.

15th-16th July - Debris clearance from fencing at Gronant Little Tern colony following Spring tides. Meet at the Visitor Center by the Little Tern colony. 2pm each day. Bring gloves.


Wednesday  11th July and Monday 23rd July
- Wildlife Wander at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands.
1pm start. Price: 5 per person / 4 RSPB members / normal reserve entry charges also apply to non-members. Join one of our friendly, knowledgeable volunteers for a leisurely amble around much of Burton Mere Wetlands, including the unmissable viewpoint at the end of the Hillfort Trail on Burton Point. Take in the sights and sounds, learn more about the wildlife that thrives here, the work we do to give nature a home and the remarkable history of the estuary. Great for first time visitors or those looking to brush up on their identification skills; with constant changes as we move through the seasons, it's impossible to predict what might be seen. Spring and early summer is a wonderful time as we will begin to have lots of new arrivals showing their faces including some of our well-travelled migrants like the warblers, and lots of butterfly activity on warm sunny days. The heron and egret colony is noisy as their young start to hatch and chatter loudly amongst themselves, whilst the reserve is awash with an array of wildflowers coming into bloom. Booking not essential, but places are limited. A reasonable level of fitness and sturdy footwear are required. Walks typically last up to 3 hours, weather permitting.Ring 0151 353 2720 for further details.

Sunday 19th August - 'Liverbird' Birdwatching and Nature Discovery Cruise.
Mersey Ferries and the RSPB are hosting a 'Liverbird' Bird Watching & Nature Discovery Cruise on the River Mersey and out into the bay, on Sunday 19th August. The cruise is perfect for families and both new and experienced watchers. Sightings have previously included long-tailed skuas, peregrine falcons, osprey and Atlantic grey seals. Experts will be on-hand to answer your questions and help with the spotting of wildlife. Booking Essential. Buy tickets on-line:
https://www.merseyferries.co.uk/cruises/special-cruises-and-events/Pages/
Wildlife-and-Nature-Discovery-Cruise.aspx