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Wirral waders & Wildfowl, and a few Raptors!

On Wednesday Jan 23rd I headed to the Wirral marshes with the forecast of a 9.99m tide giving hope of a spectacular watch. In reality the expected influx of water never happened, just a trickle came up the gulleys and the marsh never became fully waterlogged. The watch however did not disappoint with most of the target species seen. I joined the group of local birders at the end of Cottage Lane, Heswall, my usual venue for these tides.

Our watch turned up two Hen Harriers including a stunning adult male which I first picked up on the ground not far out from where we were watching. It eventually got up and started to hunt, very spectacular. A Short-eared Owl was also seen as well as a Merlin which gave great views on several perches on the marsh.

A distant Peregrine stayed put for most of the high tide, not hunting at all. Five or six Marsh Harriers were also seen, one devouring prey not far out and then carrying it off when harassed by a crow. The final raptors here were a Sparrowhawk on a post and a Buzzard over. Two Great White Egrets were also out in the gutters from our watchpoint. Huge flocks of Redshank and Oystercatchers were spooked by a Fox trotting across the marsh.

After high tide and a hot chocolate or two I headed to Neston Old Quay where a Barn Owl showed superbly well on a fence post close in and then hunted over the inner marsh giving tremendous views. My final destination was the far side of the river at Shotwick Fields where 3 Bewick's Swans fed with 7 Whooper Swans, 2 Black Swans (!!!) and 15+Mute Swans.

The next day I took advantage of the high tide for a second time, nipping up the Wirral again, but higher up this time.

Firstly I headed to Meols prom to check out the waders and like the other birders I met there was really disappointed. In previous years there have been big flocks including Knot, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwits, but today the only waders in any numbers were Oystercatchers and Redshank. The tide did sweep in really fast, covering the whole shore but only small numbers of Knot, Grey Plover and Dunlin were seen, over 50 Sanderling were the largest gathering of a single species other than Redshank and Oystercatcher. Not a single Bar-tailed Godwit was seen, a few Curlew being the other species present. A Peregrine sitting on the mud/sand was nice to see and when it got up it shifted everything, as did the constant stream of dogwalkers out on the shore!

Next destination was New Brighton. Here on the Marine Lake Pontoon were 4 Purple Sandpipers along with lots of Turnstones and Redshank (pictured). A nice aside was showing a couple of women the waders through my scope, explaining what they were and phoneskoping a record piccy for both with their phones. Maybe I've converted a couple of members of the public into birders! Finally I called into West Kirby for a shameless yeartick of Pale-bellied Brent Goose, a flock of up to 20 birds was seen flying out near Hilbre Island and Middle Eye. A single drake Common Scoter was on the water off the Marine Lake.

Redshank, Turnstones & Purple Sandpipers

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