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The Wirral by Elliot Montieth

My name is Elliot Montieth, I'm 16 years old and I'm a very active and passionate birder, photographer and volunteer based on the mighty Wirral peninsular in the North West of England.

Elliot MontiethMy story began when I was 7 years old and my mum took me to see some breeding black-winged stilts up at WWT (Waterfowl and Wetlands Trust) Martin Mere. Since that day I've had an unrivalled love for the natural world and spend as much time as possible exploring the Earth's natural beauty which, being on the Wirral, isn't that hard as you've got everything right on your doorstep.


WWT Martin Mere may have been where my story started off, but I needed somewhere I could continue that story and where better than the Wirral. If I were to sum the Wirral up as a whole it would have to be like someone has turned Minsmere into a county, it has every conservable habitat that you can think of; sand dunes, grassland, farmland, wetlands, mud flats, sand banks, woodland, salt marsh, rough grassland, reed beds and healthland. Small but diverse. 


The Wirral


The Wirral is bordered by both the Dee and Mersey Estuary, so as a result it's not just nationally important, it's internationally important for a wide variety of birds such as shelduck, pintail, common scoter, cormorant, sandwich tern, oystercatcher, ringed plover, black-tailed godwit, knot, dunlin and common redshank! Black-tailed godwits have to be my favourite out of that list for a few reasons; such as their "weekaweeka" call which blesses the air like snowflakes do on a cold crisp winter's day, and when they start to transform out of their blazing copper summer plumage into winter plumage each bird has its own colour scheme.


Luckily for me the best place for them on Wirral, and one of the best places in the UK for black-tailed godwits, is Gilroy Nature Park. Gilroy is only a 5 minute walk from my school, and when I'm either in History, the 6 Form Block or my Form Room I can observe them filling the skies in their captivating flocks, as they turn the sky black before barrelling downwards into Gilroy. Sometimes after school or when I have a free period, I'll walk down to Gilroy and transfix myself with these roosting beauties as they transform the park from nothing into an internationally important site, coating the park in their thousands.


Thousands of birds!


On an average winter's day the Wirral coastline will sustain around 100,000 wading birds and 10,000 waterfowl, with hotspots being Hilbre Island, West Kirby, Gilroy Nature Park, Heswall, New Brighton and Hoylake. You'd think with the sheer numbers that we get on the Wirral that we'd get one or two rarities hidden amongst them, and guess what...we do! Here's a short list: hoopoe, wryneck, red-backed shrike, woodchat shrike, terek sandpiper, laughing gull, american herring gull, surf scoter, Blyth's reed warbler, red-flanked bluetail, Radde's warbler, black-winged pratincole, western sandpiper, red-throated pipit, gyr falcon, semi-palmated sandpiper, board-billed sandpiper, yellow-breasted bunting, citrine wagtail, white-throated sparrow, alpine swift, little swift, great-spotted cuckoo, black-billed cuckoo and desert warblre to name a few!!


But it's not the rarities that make the Wirral a special place and nor is it that we are the best place in England to watch Leach's petrel and wintering hen harriers. What makes the Wirral special is whatever you want it to be; for me it's that the Wirral is a place of sheer beauty and perfection, it's a proud place to be from because not everywhere is internationally important for such a wide array of birdlife. 


Look on your doorstep!


The Wirral demonstrates that you don't need to go far and wide to see amazing wildlife spectacles and see mind blowing wildlife because it's right on your doorstep. In my garden I've had peregrine falcon, black redstart, marsh harrier and waxwings. In school i've had whimbrel, red kite, merlin, peregrine falcons, yellow-legged gull, little egret and mediterranea gull. Just a 15 minute walk away from my house I've got breeding peregrine falcons, 60 wintering great-crested grebe and Wirral / Cheshire's largest colony of common tern...which I found.


The Wirral, small but just simply magnificent.