BIRDING THE MERSEY - LEACH'S PETREL

Know a good birding site or a favourite site for a specific species? Add a short description here with Grid Reference and access route if applicable. No rare breeding bird sites though please.
Wandering Tattler
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Location: Beverley, East Yorkshire
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BIRDING THE MERSEY - LEACH'S PETREL

Postby Wandering Tattler » Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:31 pm

Autumn is the time for seawatching and pelagics, when the weather stops the migration of land birds there is a chance of still seeing something unusual and perversely it appears that the worse the weather the better the birds with seawatching.

In 2009 I paid my first visit to the Wirral in search of Leach's Petrels in strong westerly winds. On that visit I started at Leasowe Foreshore, south of Wallasey, before moving on to New Brighton's Fort Perch Rock for high tide. I listened to a local birder and discovered that in his option and experience I had made a mistake. It was another year before the combination of weather, free time and Leach Petrel movement aligned themselves.

When recent weather forecasts predicted that the UK was going to subjected to a prolonged period of strong North-Westerly and Westerley winds in mid September it meant a return to the Wirral. This time I went to Fort Perch Rock for dawn and, as the local Mersey birder predicted, as soon as first light broke a steady stream of Leach's Petrels started to head into the Irish Sea from the Mersey. I counted 27 birds leave before birds started to be blown back into the river, making the counting of individual birds impossible, however Leach's were visible for a large part of the 3.5 hours that I was there and down to about 250 metres away (I could have gotten closer if I had followed the dropping tide as the photographers were).

Local birders also explained that in autumn birds often leave the Mersey through the southern part of the river mouth, making Fort Perch Rock an ideal spot to watch from. Apparently in spring the opposite happens with birds heading out through the north, making Crosby and Seaforth better sites.

After my Mersey birding I moved to Leasowe Foreshore, in the hope of seeing a Sabine's Gull or rarer skua. When I arrived the tide was quite a long way out, but I was treated to up to 8 Leach's lingering off shore and on the beach. I did see a few skuas and Manx Shearwaters, but no Sabine's this time.

If you are interested in seeing Leach's Petrel in mid-late September, then I cannot think of a better place than Fort Perch Rock at New Brighton on the River Mersey and it is a lot more stable than a rocking boat!

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