Trip reports

Dee Estuary - Parkgate - Leader Dave Stafford

Dee Estuary - Parkgate - Leader Dave Stafford

Sunday, 27 January 2019

A group of 9 convened at Parkgate at 9am facing very challenging weather conditions with a fierce north westerly wind verging on gale force at times, but otherwise at least it was dry, clear and bright, with good visibility.
What should not be underestimated however were the invaluable opportunities the adverse weather presented not just for spotting birds but also learning jizz and ID in difficult conditions.
Various sites were visited on the north side of the River Dee but due to the particular tide tables we reversed the published itinerary to make use of whatever high tide produced round 2pm, so after meeting at 9am and spending an hour at Parkgate we moved on to Burton Mere and then returned back to Parkgate for the afternoon instead. Late afternoon we moved on to Denhall Lane which has been previously good for Barn Owl and Short Eared Owls and Harriers but perhaps unsurprisingly none appeared doubtless due to the high winds which generally grew worse throughout the day.
Highlights however were large and widespread flocks of Pink Foot Geese, above average Curlew numbers and a large flock > 2,000 Lapwing out on the estuary at Parkgate and a couple of Great White Egret with even more of these birds at Burton Mere, with 6 / 7 noted altogether, whereas 19 had been recorded locally. Heron and Little Egret were seen aswell in good numbers.
Early morning Raptors included Peregrine and Merlin in low hunting pursuit flight, followed later in the day by Ringtail Hen Harrier and an adult male Hen Harrier. Due to the high winds these birds interestingly appeared remarkably small, due to streamlined profiles in the wind and 'unspread' wings requiring powerful hard and close wing beats, not needing lift. (The Merlin was seen in silhouette only but usefully close enough to confirm body profile and fast flight characteristics - believed Female). Passerines were scarce, with mainly Redwing few and far between and a tit flock on the feeders by the visitor centre together with Greenfinch and the odd Skylark taking flight out on the estuary grassland. Good numbers of Stock Dove and ubiquitous woodpigeon of course.
Mixed wader flocks feeding at Burton Mere included Redshank and Dunlin together with a Sanderling with good numbers of Black tailed Godwit. Once in flight however and with the challenging high winds thwarting site of wing bars it was difficult to confirm if there were any other species amongst them !!
Walking towards Inner Marsh from Burton Mere produced a Gadwall, a group of Fem. Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Mute Swan, high numbers of feeding Canada Goose and Greylag and a sizeable flock of feeding Wigeon whilst Siskin were in the trees bordering the marsh beyond. A few Dabchicks were noted which are always worth watching. Between the group, whilst a total of only just over 30 birds were sighted often with only brief views, these were extra rewarding after the concentration effort to nail the key ID features.
Modest respite was found behind a high sandstone wall on the corner of Denhall Lane which was the only place where it was possible to use a telescope because of the relentless high wind but unfortunately no birds of note were seen despite spending an hour there, so the day ended at 3.45pm.