A Summary of the WeBS Counts on the River Mersey - 2017
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October 2017 Mersey WeBS Count Summary
Another record breaking count with three species in record numbers. The record breakers were 60 little egrets, continuing their increase: this count is of national importance. 101 herons was the first three figure count beating the previous record of 97. The most amazing count was 198 ruff. Ruff have been building up on Frodsham deposit grounds with over 100 recorded regularly, however, there were also double figure counts at Ince and Manisty, five at Oglet and single birds at Hale and Birkenhead Docks, showing they seem to like the whole estuary. National importance for ruff is eight, a figure we have been regularly beating in recent years. Looking at the BTO WeBS database 198 would be the third highest count of this species in the country in the years 2011-12 to 2015-16.
49 mute swans was the highest count this winter, while 380 pink-footed geese show that not all the birds on the Dee and Ribble are missing out the Mersey. 3,000 Canada geese was about the same as last month. Wildfowl are beginning to build up with 344 wigeon, 819 teal, 666 mallard and 210 tufted duck. I would expect those to increase as we get deeper into winter. 310 shoveler was seven shy of the record we set last October and is nationally important. We recorded our first goldeneyes of the winter with two on the Weaver Estuary. The most unusual ducks were two red-breasted mergansers, one on Ince Marshes and one at Eastham. As well as the record number of little egrets and grey herons there were three great egrets, 204 cormorants and 42 great-crested grebes, the highest to so far this winter.
Apart from the ruff, the most outstanding waders were 15 little stints roosting on Hale Marshes. Those two species were nationally important. Failing to make a nationally important count this winter so far was curlew, with 1,186 some way below our recent average maximum of 2,000, in what is usually their peak month. However, they can occur in large numbers during other months too. Redshank were again in internationally important numbers with 3,500, just below last month’s 4,000.
Amongst the gulls was a Mediterranean gull and two yellow-legged gulls, while 581 greater black-backed gulls was notable. Shaun also found a guillemot that looked a bit sickly.
Amongst the non-water birds Elliot found a yellow-browed warbler at Birkenhead Docks, which is a site first. Amongst the six raptor species were six peregrines and our first merlin returning to winter on the estuary.
This weekend WeBS counters have also been busy with the first of the winter’s low tide counts for which the results are just filtering through, more on that another time.
September 2017 Mersey WeBS Count Summary
Forty three mute swans were a good count, with 30 of them in the Upper Estuary at Runcorn Sands, Astmoor. Canada geese numbers had dropped with only six hundred in the usual haunt on Ince Marshes. However, nearly 3,000 at Hale made it still a sizeable flock.
The moulting flock of shelduck have obviously gained their flight feathers and dispersed down from 7,000 to 1,200. Duck numbers were generally low, which is to be expected in September, however, shoveler showed an increase: up from 5 to 168. Next month will be interesting as we set a new record of 317 last October.
A few years ago over 200 cormorants would be remarkable, but these days our count of 242 was to be expected: the same is true for little egrets with 42 counted.
There was a good variety of waders with 18 species seen. Of those 15 ruff were nationally important and 694 black-tailed godwit was internationally important and double last month’s count. 1,000 curlew was reasonable but not as good as I had hoped for. However, redshank, which usually peak in September-October, hit a 14 year high with an internationally important count of 4,158. Most of the these birds were at Eastham Locks and New Ferry, areas we were not counting a few years ago meaning the decline might not have been real, they were just elsewhere. Certainly the Gowy, which usually holds over thousand birds, was almost empty proving these birds can be quite mobile.
August 2017 Mersey WeBS Count Summary
Canada Geese numbers had dropped from 7,700 in July to 4,700. Shelduck had also fallen from over 10,000 to just over 7,000 which is still more than twice the threshold for international importance. 291 cormorants was a good count reflecting an increase in this species, especially around Hale where they breed and roost.
Among the waders we had nationally important counts of ruff with 13 and redshank with nearly 2,000. The most unusual wader was an early purple sandpiper at Garston.
However, the most amazing count was made by Rob at Hale a week after the WeBS count with 4,000 ringed plover roosting in the field behind Hale lighthouse. This is the highest ever count of the Mersey beating the previous record of 2,600 set in August 2013 when we had 1,100 at Hale and 1,500 at Frodsham. Looking at the WeBS database it might also be the second highest count in the UK in the last 5 years.
Along with a few thousand dunlin, a few sanderling, a little stint and a curlew sandpiper this must have been quite a sight and shows the value of reporting casual counts of good numbers of birds, especially migrants like ringed plover that can be here one day and gone the next and so hard to track with a once a month WeBS count. If you have any good counts please send to me and I can add them to the WeBS database as casual counts.
The next count is September 10th and we should be expecting good numbers of curlew and redshank as they both peak in September and October.