Places to see birds

Hoylake, Red Rocks & Hilbre Island

Hoylake, Red Rocks & Hilbre Island
Hoylake shore - Laura Bimson

The Wirral peninsula has a wide variety of habitat to explore ranging from grassland and parks, woods, marshes and shores. Both the Mersey and Dee estuaries are internationally important wildlife sites for waders and wildfowl in winter. It is protected or listed by numerous agencies: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Area (SPA), Sensitive Marine Area (SMA), Natura 2000 site, Ramsar site.
The shore at Hoylake by the Life Boat Station is a high tide roost for waders. Hundreds of oystercatchers, knot, dunlin, bar tailed godwit and redshank should be seen, especially in the autumn and early winter. Further down towards the old baths and slipway beyond, the flats become quite muddy and consequently are feeding areas for a various waders, gulls and shelduck. Both the Mersey, Dee estuaries and North Wirral foreshore feature significant areas of intertidal sand and mud flats. Mudflats are highly productive, under the surface are a wealth of invertebrates including cockles, ragworms, and shrimps. This abundance of life makes mudflats very important feeding and resting areas for internationally important populations of migrant and over-wintering wildfowl and waders, able to support huge flocks.

On the inland side of Hoylake are a group of marshy fields called the Langfields. Saltmarsh vegetation consists of a limited number of salt tolerant plants adapted to regular immersion by the tides. Saltmarshes act as high tide refuges for waterfowl, breeding sites for terns, gulls, waders and passerines (skylark and meadow pipit) in autumn and winter. In winter, large flocks of swans, geese and ducks rely on saltmarshes. In Wirral, the majority of coastal saltmarsh is found in the Dee Estuary between Parkgate and Heswall. Small areas occur at West Kirby and at New Ferry on the Mersey.

Red Rocks consist of two main habitats, south towards West Kirby and Red Rocks Marsh (28 acres, The marsh lies just above the high water mark, behind the Royal Liverpool Golf Course, north of West Kirby Parade) the sand dunes, and to the north Hilbre Point overlooking Bird Rock and East Hoyle sand bank.
Red Rocks Marsh is a nature reserve part of which is maintained by the Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The marsh attracts a considerable variety of migrants on passage in spring and autumn. The reed beds contain breeding sedge and reed warblers in spring and summer whereas the sand dunes are full of skylarks and occasional stonechat. The reserve is also home to over 50 species of flowering plants, which includes a number of local and national rarities. Red Rocks is an important site for its records of migrant birds with high numbers of redwing, fieldfare, chaffinch, greenfinch, siskin, brambling, yellowhammer, reed bunting, sedge warbler, snow bunting and willow warbler. Altogether over 200 species of birds have been recorded. The main interest of the Red Rocks Marsh nature reserve is that it forms the only breeding colony of natterjack toads on the Wirral Peninsula.

Hilbre island.
The Red Rocks area are so named due to the Wirral sandstone laid down in the Triassic period The equivalent of the Sahara, this was were dinosaurs roamed, leaving their footprints in the mud - occasionally we still find these footprints, now fossilized in sandstone.
It is thought that the islands of Hilbre were part of the mainland until the end of the last ice-age, about 10,000 years ago. The increased water levels caused by the melting ice cut a channel between West Kirby and what are now the 3 Hilbre Islands
The Hilbre Islands are a Local Nature Reserve. Hilbre Island is the largest of a group of three islands at the mouth of the estuary of the River Dee, and lie about 1.6 km from Red Rocks. The other two islands are called Middle Eye (or Little Hilbre), and Little Eye.

The islands are tidal and can be reached on foot from the mainland at low tide. The Islands are cut off from the mainland by the tide for up to four hours out of every twelve, so allow 1 hour for the 2 mile crossing, allocate more time if you walk slowly, or have small children. Leave Hilbre no later than the latest crossing time, or you may be trapped by the tide.
Be aware that strong winds may bring the tide in early or suddenly.

The tides are different every day - see

The Safest Route to Hilbre Island
1. Start from Dee Lane Slipway, which is adjacent to the Marine Lake, West Kirby.

2. Walk toward Little Eye, the smallest of the three islands, keeping it on your right.

3. As soon as you pass Little Eye turn right and continue on the sand passing Little Hilbre {or Middle Eye} on your left.

4. Between Little Hilbre {also known as Middle Eye} and Hilbre take the rough track over the rocks towards the south end of Hilbre where there is a footpath leading onto the island.
Facilities: There are no shops, public toilets or fresh water on the islands, and very little shelter.Toilets are available at Dee Lane slipway 10am - 6pm in the summer months.

The most obvious group of birds to be seen from Hilbre for most of the year are the waders. Hundreds feed and roost at high tide on the seaweed covered rocks around the islands, oystercatchers, turnstones, curlew, shelduck and and Hilbre specialities brent goose and purple sandpipers. Regular sea birds are gannets, manx shearwaters, little gulls, skuas and a good selection of sea ducks, divers and grebes such as common scoter , cormorant and red throated diver. In late summer: sandwich, common and little terns .
Migrating Landbirds that turn up and are trapped and ringed by members of the Hilbre Bird Observatory are meadow & rock Pipits, willow warblers, swallows, wheatears, robins, chats & finches, starlings, blackbirds and even tiny goldcrests. Typically about ten species breed on the islands i.e shelduck, meadow pipits, linnets, mallard, skylark, pied wagtail, wren, robin and carrion crow .

Friends of Hilbre Island:
Cheshire Wildlife trust