The Dee Estuary

The Dee Estuary, on the North Wales / North-West England border, is one of the United Kingdom’s premier birding locations for wetland and shorebirds. But I wasn’t there primarily for birds, although they do feature in this blog, mainly because you can’t miss seeing them if you visit the estuary.

Bird Flock

According to the Dee Estuary website there were 1,700 Black-tailed Godwit, 300 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15,000 Knot, 12,000 Oystercatcher and 5,000 Dunlin on the shore at Caldy/Thurstaston this morning.

Map picture

In the photograph above you can see Mostyn Docks on the Welsh side of the Estuary. It’s from here that the Airbus A380 wings are shipped to Toulouse in France for aircraft assembly.

One of the reasons I was on the English side of the estuary was to photograph the Cockle pickers as they worked out on the mud flats.

Mud Flats

Out there on the flats it soon turns from sand to thick gloopy mud and I wasn’t able to get too close to this boat because of this. Fortunately I had the Sigma 150-500mm attached to my trusty Pentax K-30 and using this combination I was able to get a reasonably close photograph.

Meanwhile I could see I was too late to catch the Cockle pickers in action; they had already harvested the days catch….


…. and I was only able to photograph them going out to retrieve it

Cockle Pickers

It’s not something I would like to do. It’s muddy, cold, tiring. These guys were struggling to drag the inflatable across the mud. Look at what they are wearing and see how muddy they are. One other interesting point about this photograph. If you look in the top right hand corner, you can just see a splash of white against the blue sky. This is Talacre lighthouse which features in many of my posts.

As well as the Cockle pickers harvesting shell-fish a few tourists were also trying to get in on the act, including this Oystercatcher.

Oyster Catcher

Because they eat cockles Oystercatchers are vulnerable if cockle beds are overexploited. Oystercatchers can be seen on almost all of the coastal areas of the UK.

I’ve seen a lot Redshank on the coast in the last two weeks and I wasn’t going to show this photograph because I’ve written about the Redshank before.


But on reflection (excuse the pun) I really liked this one myself and thought you might as well.

Finally, the all-black Carrion Crow is one of the cleverest, most adaptable of UK birds, they are quite fearless, but often wary of man. When searching for food Carrion Crows exercise caution initially, but are quick to learn when it is safe. They will then return repeatedly to take advantage of whatever is on offer.

Carrion Crow

Well that’s it for this post. I hope you enjoyed this brief visit to England with me and maybe we could do it again, sometime.

But before you go, here’s on more great little bird for you. As I was walking back up to the car this little Kestrel was hovering over the cliff tops, searching for small mammals or birds. It wasn’t that much higher than me which enabled me to get a few photographs before it flew away. Definitely my catch of the day.


Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats and are a familiar sight, hovering at the side of motorways, or other main roads. Preferred habitats are moors, farmland, even urban areas.

14 thoughts on “The Dee Estuary

  1. Well done Mike, great images, we are so lucky to have such rich estuaries and diverse wildlife. Don’t forget Hilbre Island, another great place to visit.



    1. I called in at the Wirral country park visitor centre to get information about tide times. They gave me the number to phone for exact times. So that’s another one to try.



  2. Loved this post. Love all the photos. Nothing wrong with duplicating the same bird species. There is no set rule. Your photogrphs are always so good and I really like the info and descriptions of the places and happenings.

    The “shell pickers” pictures are very interesting. I’ve never seen any of this sort before. Sure looks to be hard and rough work to go out to the mud flats in the cold and drag those heavy sacks around. So are these used for soup or what? I’ve no idea.

    The kestrel is an exceptional shot and indeed you were lucky to be so near. The lens that you used, captured the bird perfectly


    1. Hi Yvonne, cockles are used throughout Europe, sometimes with pasta. But often they are pickled with vinegar and then served, just as they are. Personally I don’t like them.

      The kestrel was lucky. I came off the flats, climbed back up the cliff to the car park and it was hovering over a bit of the cliff that was slightly lower than me. Too good to miss.



  3. Hello Mike. I do look forward to your posts on here. Great photography along with informative narrative to encourage others to pop along to where you have been or, try out the tips you give. I too think that the Kestrel shot is a real belter, one of the very best I have seen in a long long time. No wonder you are really chuffed with that one. Nice work Mike, as always. Good one.


    1. Hi Steve. Practice makes perfect as they say.. As I’ve shot more bird photographs I’ve started to master the technique better. I also went to Burton Mere that day. Didn’t get a lot of photographs. It was damn cold out at the hide on the estuary. Stuck it for about an hour and a half then gave up. Got some teal, a few young coots. Walking back a goldfinch and chaffinch….oh and some great landscapes as well. Whilst I was there a marsh harrier flew through, too far away to photograph though. Boy you should have seen the birds scatter out on the estuary. Vast swarms of them twisting and turning. Quite pretty really…



  4. A busy morning out on the Dee! The sights and sounds come through so beautifully in these shots Mike and what a bonus for you, and us, to find the kestrel overhead!


    1. That’s proving to be the most popular photograph, Patti. I’m still not a birdie man, I prefer landscapes, they don’t move for a start. But the weather in the national park hasn’t been that great recently, lots of low lying cloud, so I’m staying on the coast. From Talacre to Llandudno, probably about 18 miles the coast line is great, sandy beaches, Llandudno pier, the Great Orme, Talacre lighthouse, all worth photographing. Talacre to Chester is more industrial and we change the sandy beaches for salt marsh and mud, great for bird photography.



  5. Wonderful series Mike but yes the Kestrel takes the prize. Sometimes you get the chance and you just have to seize it. I think you need to give us more like that.


    1. Hi Tina. That little kestrel has got me so many comments, not only here but on Flickr as well. I looked at the sequence of photographs because I was on Continuous shooting. Out of the eight of the kestrel only two were sharply in focus and the one after this one was totally blurred as it dived after some prey.


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