Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

Curlew Sandpipers are rare in winter but some birds turn up in the county in autumn on their way from their Siberian breeding grounds to winter in Africa. These, overwhelmingly juveniles, occur in numbers varying from a few birds to three-figure flocks depending on the occurrence of easterly winds to blow them off-course when they set off on migration.

The first in winter in the county was shot at New Brighton in January 1891 (Coward & Oldham 1900), followed by only four winter records (December to February) in the next sixty years: 1905, 1942, 1954 and 1956 (Bell 1962). Cheshire and Wirral Bird Reports include single birds on 14 January 1973 at Red Rocks and 17 December 1980 at Meols shore.

In recent years there have been several late records, just extending into our Atlas period: four birds at Inner Marsh Farm to 25 November 1994; one at Fiddlers Ferry on 21 November 1999; two at Frodsham on 17 November 2001; and up to four at Inner Marsh Farm up to 17 November 2002. It is tempting to think that the warming climate is encouraging a few to stay later.

During this Atlas one juvenile was present all winter 2006/ 07 at Inner Marsh Farm (SJ37B), paralleling the first known long-staying winter bird, an adult at Frodsham from 6 December 2001 to March 2002.

It is not just in Cheshire and Wirral that wintering Curlew Sandpipers are rare: the mean number, summing the WeBS counts for all of England in the five years from mid-1995 to mid-2000, in the months of December, January and February was 1, 0 and 0 respectively (Brown & Grice 2005).