On Target

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Pallas’ Warbler, Merseyside, January 2016 (photo courtesy of Tony Disley)

Target species are, as the name suggests, birds that a birder aims to see in any particular situation such as a year-list, a twitch, a day-list, on a local patch or a foreign trip

The two target species on a trip to the Dee Estuary on 6th January 2016 were the Pallas’ Warbler and Hen Harrier aka the Skydancer

The Pallas’ Warbler was located on Target Road at Heswall ETW on 2nd January, very conveniently for 2016 year listers

Arriving at the site early on Wednesday 6th it took a few minutes to see the bird but a few hours to get mega, prolonged views!

The classic “Stripy sprite” with crown stripe, eye stripes, wing-bars and lemon rump, it seems to have a favourite hedge where it feeds along with 1-2 Firecrests, up to 8 chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits

Having co-found a Pallas’ Warbler in East Yorkshire in October 2015 it is tempting to think it might be the same bird that has travelled to the West Coast for a winter holiday in the luxurious environs of one of the Wirrals’ finest sewage farms

The Pallas’ Warbler looks set to do the same job as the 2015 New Brighton Laughing Gull for the Merseyside Tourist Board in attracting thousands of birders to the Wirral, with the associated economic boost that this brings

The Hen Harrier is a long-term attraction for birders to the Wirral with most sightings during the winter and Parkgate is the classic site to see Skydancers

Skydancers patrol the Dee Estuary during the day and roost in the Spartina adjacent to the Old Baths car park, just north of the Boathouse Pub (where it is possible to watch Harriers whilst enjoying a pint)

This target species was secured with a ring-tail (female or immature) Hen Harrier giving a superb aerial display, living up to the name Skydancer, including interaction with a Merlin, and a cream crown Marsh Harrier was also on view for comparison

The wildlife of the Dee Estuary was recently featured on Countryfile and Parkgate birding was featured on Coast, illustrating the growing popularity of birdwatching in this area and it is vital that all conservationists work together with local communities on the Wirral to stop fracking and UCG from happening in this globally important conservation area

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