The Rare and Scarce Birds of Cheshire & Wirral by Allan Conlin and Eddie Williams has now been published. It is available at the Reception Hide at RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, at the Focalpoint Optics shop (close to junction 10 of M56 - see www.fpoint.co.uk), or by post. The cost is £24.99 + £3.95 P&P, to order please email email@example.com.
This is 248 pages of delight for all birders with an interest in the birds of Cheshire and Wirral and many of you will know the authors who, being keen local birders and well known finders of some mega rarities themselves, are well qualified to write such a book.
North Wirral is internationally famous as the best place in Europe to see Leach's Petrel and it is certainly appropriate that the first chapter in the book is about Sea-watching. The second chapter is a fascinating look at the changing status of several species including Cattle Egret and Yellow-browed Warbler, which is followed by a Site Guide detailing the most important sites in Cheshire and Wirral. The bulk of the book, of course, is the comprehensive Species Accounts. I love that the authors have included so many scarce birds as well as the rarities, so, for example, we have accounts of both Balearic Shearwater and Leach's Petrel, of Western Sandpiper and Grey Phalarope, of Radde's Warbler and Firecrest. This makes the book a much more rounded and comprehensive read. Included with the species accounts are various Finder's Accounts and these are perhaps the most interesting parts of the book giving an insight into what it takes to find a mega-rarity - dedication, expertise, perseverance, luck.................
I end, with
permission of the authors, with two short extracts. The first a site
guide to an area much loved by the authors, and the second the Sooty
Shearwater account which I though appropriate after one was seen in
September (2017) during the gales.
Meols to Leasowe.
is a large area consisting of a variety of habitats running alongside
and inland from the coastal embankment, roughly from Dove Point, Meols,
to the bottom of Pasture Road, Leasowe. This area is often just
called 'Leasowe’ or 'Leasowe Lighthouse'. It is a great catchment area
for migrants in spring and autumn and has produced a lengthy list of
rarities over the years. Unlike further west at Red Rocks,
migrants can be seen here throughout the day with many arrivals being
noted during the afternoon.
Sea-watching from the coastal embankment can be productive, especially during strong onshore winds in autumn. A selection of rare seabirds such as all four skuas, Sabine's Gull, Leach's and Storm Petrel's, Grey Phalarope and Sooty Shearwater can be seen in these conditions although there is less shelter here than at other local sea-watching sites such as Hilbre Island or New Brighton. The mudflats and tidal channels are also worth scanning as there is always a chance of a rare wader. Red-necked Phalarope and American Golden Plover have been seen here.
The Meols Common area, consisting of coastal dunes, runs alongside the embankment from Dove Point east to a large area of horse paddocks. The famous 1979 Asian Desert Warbler occurred here near the coastguard building. Other past rarities recorded here have included Wryneck, Little Bunting and Serin.
Inland from Meols Common and the coastal paddocks lies Park Lane. This runs eastwards from Bennett's Lane, Meols, to meet the large area of horse paddocks mentioned above. This tree- and shrub-lined road affords great views into the bordering fields and market gardens and attracts good numbers of migrants. White Stork, Pectoral Sandpiper, Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and Red-backed Shrike have been recorded in this area...................
The site guide continues to describe the area where the horse paddocks are, around the Leasowe Lighthouse and down Lingham Lane.
Sooty Shearwaters breed in the south
Pacific and south Atlantic on
small islands. Their main breeding range is around New Zealand, Tierra
del Fuego, the Auckland
Islands, Philip Island and the Falklands. They undergo a spectacular
migration at the end of their
March-May breeding season, taking a circular route north up the western
sides of the Pacific
and Atlantic oceans reaching subarctic waters in June-July. They then
cross from west to east and
return south down the eastern sides of both oceans in September-October
before the majority reach
their breeding areas in November.
The infrequent appearances of this species off our coastline is usually linked to the presence of strong onshore winds in autumn, ideally with a north-westerly direction. Even during these conditions, however, sightings are in no way assured and the species is far from annual in occurrence. The first county record was of a bird seen at close range off Hilbre Island by at least five observers on 13th September1958, the description of which satisfied A. W. Boyd, to whom the record was sent (8). A notable record was that of four birds seen off Hilbre Island by J. D. Craggs & J. C. Gittins on 21st August 1965. Peak numbers since that date include eight sightings in 1985 and five each in 1978 and 1984.
There have been no reports to date for 2106.
In terms of numbers recorded, it has been a record breaking few weeks for colour-ringed (CR) birds including a remarkable 95 knots. But we've also seen a good selection of other CR birds including oystercatchers. Since our little group have been logging the CRs, at least 12 years now, we've only seen a total of 10 Oystercatchers, amazingly six of those have been recorded in these past six weeks! With so many CR birds seen I can only give a few highlights, as follows:
WW-GflagO - the Gflag, which should be on the right tibia, was missing, same as one we saw last winter. Apparently the birds can get these off! (To read about the study into Icelandic breeding Oystercatchers see my article).
Ringed as incubating adult in SW
Iceland on May 27th 2015.
Recorded on Hoylake shore 20th and 22nd October 2017.
Also seen in Iceland close to ringing site in April 2016 and March and April 2017.
No other records outside Iceland.
Quite a few of our Oystercatchers have been ringed as breeding birds or chicks in north-east Scotland where there are two ringing groups - Grampian and Tay. We've seen three over the past few weeks, this one being typical:
(on yellow ring on left tarsus).
Ringed with metal ring as an adult in Ballater, Aberdeenshire, on April 1st 2012, then ringed with colour ring (T26) at the same location on March 29th 2014.
Recorded on Hoylake Shore on September 21st 2017.
Also sighted at Glen Cairn in June 2014, and in the river roost at Ballater in March 2015 and March 2017.
(black on white ring).
Ringed as a breeding adult at Skranevatnet, near Bergen, Norway, on June 5th 2016.
Recorded on Hoylake Shore on August 19th 2016 and October 9th 2017.
We continue to record these knots, below is a summary.
Total Orange flagged not recorded up to 31st October:
Caldy Wildfowl Collection - 78
Thurstaston Shore - 10
Plus a further 3 at both Caldy and Thurstaston
Hilbre - 1 (see photo of "OM" above)
Hoylake Shore - 1
Making a total of 93, 18% of the birds ringed on Sep 22nd at Altcar.
Plus there have been 45 sightings of
these birds at Crosby and Formby Point, demonstrating just how much
movement there is between the sites.
Colour-rings were also recorded by Matt Thomas, Steve Hinde, Peter Haslem, Richard Beckett, Paul Ralston, Alan Hitchmough, Les Hall, Jane Turner and Elliot Montieth.
What a fabulous month. The remnants of hurricane Ophelia was followed by storm Brian which in turn was followed by at least two more days of strong winds, all of which made for some great sea-watching. But in between these storms we had some beautiful quiet, often sunny, days making for some very pleasant birding particularly watching raptors, owls, egrets, geese etc over and on the marshes. Then there were the rarities.
The Pallid Harrier (first for Cheshire and Wirral) which was spotted at the end of September remained for two more days and there were a further three reports through the month. A Pectoral Sandpiper was at Burton Mere Wetlands on the 4th. A Sooty Shearwater during the storms on the 5th gave great views to a lucky few at Wallasey. Four records of Yellow-browed Warblers was back to more normal numbers after last year's influx and a Rose-coloured Starling was at Connah's Quay on the 16th. There was a very late record of a Melodious Warbler on October 29th at Lingham Lane, the first for Cheshire and Wirral since 1995. These are nearly always found on the coast and all previous records for our area were either on Hilbre or at Red Rocks.
To record Leach's Petrels on nine days in October was excellent, max 18 at Hilbre on the 5th. We also had Sabine's Gulls, Black Terns, Pomarine, Long-tailed, Arctic and Great Skuas and three more Grey Phalaropes to add to the 2017 total after an exceptional September.
This autumn we haven't had the massive flocks of Common Scoter seen in recent years, but 7,000 on the 2nd wasn't bad!
Just how many Marsh Harriers we've had on the estuary I'm not sure but, given the number of records received, the count of 10 counted coming into roost on the 17th was not totally unexpected. There are at least four Hen Harriers on the marshes including a grey male. It looks like it's going to be a good winter for Short-eared Owls with several counts of six and one of seven. At least one Cattle Egret has been at Burton Mere Wetlands all month and there have been counts of nine Great White Egrets at both Neston and Heswall.
4th November, 10.47hrs (GMT), 9.7m.
5th November, 11.27hrs (GMT), 9.9m.
6th November, 12.10hrs (GMT), 9.9m.
7th November, 12.54hrs (GMT), 9.7m.
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.
High tide on 5th Nov is 11.27hrs (9.9m) and on 6th Nov is 12.10hrs (9.9m). Best to arrive at least an hour before high tide to watch the birds being pushed in by the tide.
along to the Old Baths car park for chance of seeing a range of birds
of prey hunting over Parkgate Marsh. Harriers, peregrines and merlins
are all returning to the estuary for the winter and this is one of the
best places to watch, plus short-eared owls if we're really lucky.
The big tides on these days should push things in
chance of seeing a range of ducks, geese, wading birds and egrets as
their flocks build on the estuary for the winter.
There is free public parking at the Old Baths car park (CH64 6RN) at the north end of The Parade, and the Wirral Country Park car park on Station Road (CH64 6QJ). There are public toilets at Mostyn Square in the middle of The Parade, and a number of pubs and cafes.
Old Baths car park, Boathouse Lane/The Parade (B5135), Parkgate, Neston, Cheshire.
For further details ring: 0151 353 8478.
November, Dusk Chorus at Burton
Price: £8 per person (RSPB members £6.50)
Booking essential, ring: 0151 353 8478.
We're all familiar with the dawn chorus, but have you ever stopped to listen to the sounds of the countryside as the sun goes down? Honking geese, whistling waders and chattering jackdaws soundtrack peaceful sunsets at Burton Mere Wetlands, with one of the country's largest egret colonies returning from the marsh, and a small starling murmuration over the reedbed.
Join us for a late afternoon guided walk as the temperature drops and the birds start to prepare for another long night, returning as the light fades and many birds return to Burton Mere Wetlands to roost. Finish with a hot drink back in Reception Hide and chance of seeing a barn owl emerging to hunt.
Places are limited, so advanced booking and payment are essential.