Places to see birds

Dee Estuary reserves- Parkgate, Point of Ayr

Dee Estuary reserves- Parkgate, Point of Ayr

The Dee estuary reserve incorporates 3 areas; The RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands reserve, all the marsh off Parkgate and the saltmarsh, lagoons and dunes on the Welsh side of the estuary at the Pt of Ayr.

The town of Parkgate was once a bustling port, one of the main departure points for Ireland in the 18th century. The silting of the river has left a rich marsh which, at high tides during the winter months, provides some of the most spectacular bird watching in the North West of England.

The estuary teems with life, it supports huge numbers of waders and wildfowl throughout the winter months. Estuarine Mudflats are the most productive habitats on the earth.
QUESTION: How many calories are there in one cubic metre of lovely Mersey mud?

ANSWER: 4160, the same number of calories as 16 Mars bars. Yum! No wonder thousands of birds are willing to fly all the way from the Arctic to feed here. In each square metre of mud it is possible to find upto 450,00 worms and 5,000 snails
Large flocks of waders and wildfowl such as Shelduck, Teal, Pintail, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Redshank, Knot and Curlewas come to feed on Ragworm, lugworm, mud snail, mussels, cockles and shrimp.

In winter Redwings and Fieldfares from Scandinavia feed on the fields/golf course along the Wirral Way. Spring is a good time to see a variety of warbler species, small birds recently returned from southern Europe and African wintering grounds Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat. The hedgerows will be in full flower, bright yellow gorse contrasting with the vivid white flowers of blackthorn. Long-tailed Tits nest in the gorse, brightly-coloured male Yellowhammers sing 'a little bit of bread and no cheeeese' from the top of hawthorns, while Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet flit about.

Parkgate is renowned for its high tide Birdwatch's. (

This occurs when the incoming tide reaches heights of over 32ft/9.8 metres and covers the marsh. From the Old Baths car park near The Boathouse public house at Parkgate., you can watch large flocks of wading birds driven up onto the saltmarsh.
With all this movement, the opportunist hunters arrive. Herons, Gulls, Kestrels, Hen and Marsh Harriers, Peregrines, Merlins and Sparrowhawks could turn up - check posts and tree stumps on the marsh. Short-eared Owls, quarter the marsh. Ground predators are sometimes visible too - Foxes, Stoats and Weasels retreat towards the sea wall; with the smaller animals snatching their lunch of smaller mammals such as Water Voles, Wood Mice, Shrews, Brown Rats and Common Shrews.

During the summer months the marsh is home to breeding birds - Skylarks being the most common, building their nests amongst the scurvy grass and golden samphire, alongside Redshank, Lapwing, Mallard and Shelduck.

Riverbank Road is just north of the reserve on the Dee Estuary. (Beyond Gayton Cottage on map) Enjoy panoramic views of Heswall Gutter (Teal and waders feed in the gutter before it floods), the saltmarsh and estuary beyond.

The Point of Ayr reserve is situated on the Welsh side of the Dee Estuary and consists of a large shingle spit and associated saltmarsh and mudflats, and sand-dunes facing north into Liverpool Bay.
This estuary forms one of Britain's most important sites for passage and wintering waders and waterfowl.
The reserve is reached via the minor road to Talacre off the A548 Prestatyn to Flint road. From Talacre walk east towards the point or west to the shore and dunes.

At the Pt of Ayr an open-backed hide gives good views of the marsh and river mouth, it is accessed along the embankment heading south. The walk is on a level, loose gravel path and the hide is 1.1km from the reserve entrance.
Looking out towards the Irish Sea from the beach a spot of sea watching brings the possibilities of migrating Terns, Gannets, Fulmar, Shearwaters,Skuas, Petrels, Kittiwakes and sea ducks such as scoter, pintail, sawbills. Divers, grebes and auks are present in winter.

Wheatear, Whinchat, Reed bunting, Pipits, Stonechat, Skylark and various Warblers can be seen among the sand dunes and marsh behind the beach.If your lucky Snow Bunting and Twite.

Waders can reach 20 000 in midwinter, the most numerous species being Oystercatcher,, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, others Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew and Turnstone

Of the raptors, species possible, include Hen Harrier, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon, Short eared owl.

More information on the Dee/Wirral area can be found on the excellent Dee Estuary Birding Website

The Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory Web Site publishes the Liverpool Tide Table for the next two months. These predictions (both times and heights) are the same as published by Laver's in their Liverpool Tide Table booklet.

Tide times on the Dee Estuary are the same as for Liverpool except that the high tide at the mouth of the estuary (e.g. Hoylake, West Kirby, Hilbre, Mostyn and Point of Ayr) are about 20 minutes earlier. High tides further in to the estuary on the Welsh side (e.g. Flint and Connah's Quay) are about the same as Liverpool whereas at Parkgate and Burton they are about 20 minutes later for the former and at least 30 minutes at the latter, as the tide has to make its way over the marsh. Note that tide times are often printed as GMT even during the British Summer time period.