The island has been monitored by the bird observatory even over the Christmas period, indeed one member (DB) has already been present on 249 days this year ! One of the obvious features at the moment is the amount of water in the main pond (below), it is at such a level that none can previously recall, almost up to the path, obviously as a result of the persistent rainfall this last 9 months.
27th December :- 2 Red-throated and 1 unidentified diver species, 7 Wigeon, 7 Common Scoter, 20,000 Knot between the east hoyle and the north shore, A Common Seal between the main islands and an appearance by the resident rabbit proving it is surviving the weather. A Redwing was noted over and a new Song Thrush was ringed.
(DB,JE) [ 1089-32]photos JE
26th December :- 19 Red-throated Divers, 40 Great Crested Grebes, 27 Guillemots, 3 Razorbill, 30 Pintail flew north, 340 Turnstones, 18 Purple Sandpipers, 2,300 Dunlin flew north, 30,000 Knot flew south in the tanskeys area on the ebb tide, 1 Rock Pipit.
25th December :- a Slavonian Grebe in the east side gutter, 30 Wigeon and 5 Pintail flew south, 4 Teal, 4,500 Oystercatchers, 120 Grey Plover and 15 Bar-tailed Godwits flew south, 80 Shelduck, 5 Linnets and 2 Meadow Pipits on the island.
24th December :- 6 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Egrets, 1 Kestrel, 5 Common Seals in a separate haul out on the west hoyle bank.
21st December :- 211 Brent Geese ( includes a few dark-bellied ), 1 female Scaup, 7 Grey Herons, 90 Redshank, 1 Little Egret, and the regular winter passerines included 6 Wrens, 2 Dunnocks, 4 Robins, 3 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes.
A pleasant day for a change with no wind and the sunshine making it feel almost balmy. A flock of 42 Wigeon lanquished off the west side of Middle for an hour or so in the morning, while at the same time an even larger flock of 78 Teal flew north east off the west side but were not seen again. As observers watched the now familiar female Scaup off the north end, 6 Mute Swans flew east over the slipway towards the north Wirral shore. Surprisingly no Purple Sandpipers could be found on the low tide, but 120 Turnstone were present and flocks of 50 and 60 Sanderling flew west.
A sea watch over the tide braved the rain and was rewarded with a Slavonian grebe on the sea, a special record of this rare small grebe; also noted were an adult Kittiwake, a Shag (quite scarce this year), 4 Red-throated Divers,2 Red-breasted Merganers and 20 Common Scoters and the female Scaup. On the island were 2 Rock Pipits and a Redwing passed through early. An interesting sighting today was of a Peregrine trying to catch a Little Egret in flight over the east Hoyle, the Little Egret managed to make it to the marine lake unscathed.
Lots of fog around the island and temperatures barely lifted above freezing today, nevertheless some decent records to report. The Medditteranean Gull of yesterday made another appearance this time on the west side, the female Scaup also continued to show. Other duck sightings were few with 2 male Goldeneyes and a single Wigeon in addition to 28 Common Scoters. A Fieldfare flew off east and a Redwing was briefly on the island, while 55 Skylarks flew west and a single in the opposite direction. Four Song Thrushes were present, some of which will be long staying birds. Twenty five Great Crested Grebes were on the sea with a Red-throated Diver and 40+ Grey Plovers were seen on the east hoyle sands.
Not above freezing point today and icicles were seen on the east side of Middle as the sun went down. An adult winter Meditterranean Gull flew past the north end slipway early in the morning after the fog cleared. Ducks were the other feature of the day with flocks of 9,5 and 4 Teal, a male Goldeneye, a Wigeon, and lingering birds from the last week or so, a female Scaup and a group of 4 Pochard. Two Redwings and a Fieldfare passed through early and a Lapwing flew east towards the mainland. Five Song Thrushes were logged and a Rock Pipit was present.
Ringed:- 1 Song Thrush [ 1088-32 ]
A summary of some recent records are below
26th November :- 1 Redwing, 28 Teal, 2,500 Knot in the east hoyle/ little eye/ red rocks area.
(DB) 27th November :- 11 Pintail flew north, 2 Red breasted Merganser, 1 Wood Pigeon.
(DB) 28th November :- 19 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Goldfinches, 3 Starlings, 30 Sanderling, 118 Redshank.
(DB) 29th November :- A Velvet Scoter flew west and landed on the sea, 40 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Red-throated Divers, 4 Teal, 10 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Pochard (very rare at Hilbre), 4 Teal, 3 Redwings.
(DB,MGT) 5th December :- A female Common Scoter, 40 Sanderling, 2 Rock Pipits at the north end.
(DB) 6th December :- 1356 Cormorant flying out to sea at dawn, 8 dark-bellied Brent (out of over 200 birds), female Scaup, 4 Pochard, 1 male and 2 female Pintail, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers.
(DB) 7th December :- 222 Brent Geese (including at least 5 dark-bellied), 150 Redshank, 14 Linnets on Little eye. Six Common Seals separate from the main seal haul out on the west hoyle bank.
(DB) 10th December :- A Snow Bunting was flushed from Middle island, the female Scaup at the north end, 72 Bar-tailed Godwit.
(MGT) 11th December:- A male Tufted Duck flew west, the female Scaup still present, 1 Teal, 5 Redwing, 4 Song Thrush, 1 Starling, 2 Goldfinch, 3 Little Egrets, an unringed Rock Pipit at the north end, 260 Curlew on the east hoyle, 19 Purple Sandpipers, 8 Great Crested Grebes.
On and off the island before the tide meant crossing in the dark, and as the daylight came the Lakeland fells and Black Comb were clearly visible behind the wind farms (above). A Song Thrush was the only new bird ringed today, winter not being the best time for a potential ringing trainee to be experiencing ringing for the first time, although a Wren and Blackbird were retrapped. The usual waders and other species were present with the addition of a group of Teal.
A brisk NNW breeze and clear skies greeted observers who ventured over to Hilbre to stay over the tide today. A tour of the paddocks soon revealed there were no new migrants in so attention turned to the sea.
It soon became obvious there was a good movement of ducks with at least 80 Teal being logged including one flock of 30 birds. 15 Wigeon also flew past the island and at least 100 Common Scoter were logged.
There were plenty of Great-crested Grebes and as the wind died and the swell reduced a conservative count of 150 was made although the haze made counting difficult. Red-throated Divers were present in good numbers and at one stage there were 15 in the air together. A Black-throated Diver was a good record and was seen several times before eventually flying out towards the wind farms as the tide ebbed.
Star bird however was a late Grey Phalarope that jinked in from the Point of Ayr and landed on the sea never to be seen again!
As the tide fell the Purple Sandpipers made a reappearance off the end of the slipway and 12 birds were noted.
Some thrushes on the island this morning arriving in a misty dawn and a light south easterly. About 10 Blackbirds, 5 Song Thrushes and 3 Redwings went through altough most had gone in the next hour. A Fieldfare was trapped in the 'Newton' heligoland, the first captured this year, and continuing the norm of about one per year on the ringing list. Late morning a flock of 130 Fieldfares were seen travelling east towards Red Rocks. A Goldcrest was also on early and another later in the morning, while 2 Skylarks made Middle island their home for an hour or two, and a total of 4 Starlings flew about the main island. A pair of Goldfinches were ringed later, giving ringers the opportunity of comparing male and female in the hand. Fifteen Purple Sandpipers were present, the most this winter, and a fairly calm sea enabled up to 25 Great Crested Grebes to be visible off the north end. Turnstones were counted at 170 birds.
A surprise for the observer came when a very late Swallow flew low through the gardens this morning at 09.00hrs. Other small birds were scarce, 5 Skylarks and a Starling were the best logged. A more prolonged sea watch than usual at this time of year produced 8 Gannets travelling east, a Red-throated Diver and 5 Great Crested Grebes. The first ducks for a while came in the form of flocks of 6 and then 9 Wigeon, and a flock of 280 Sanderling was typical of the groups seen flying passed the north end in the last few weeks. Mammals were well represented today with sightings of 'Thumper' the rabbit, 2 Wood mice, and signs again of the presence of a Red Fox.
Very light winds today and 5 Siskins flying south were the most interesting passerines, also 2 Rock Pipits ringed here in previous years. The Brent were at another new high for the winter of 215 birds, and a good count of 350 Curlew was between Little Eye and the east hoyle. Evidence of a Red Fox on the island came in the form of some faeces found.
A visit by a second class of the Workers Education Association (Sale branch) today found all the usual specialities at Hilbre to interest the visitors:- over 200 Brent Geese, Purple Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Great Crested Grebes etc. With no new passerines in the paddocks ringing could nor be demonstrated, however the process was explained and the day was fully appreciated by the visitors who especially enjoyed seeing a Common Seal close by Middle eye.
A sunny day for the visit to the island of the Salford University photographic society, and they much appreciated the good light for their pictures. Purple Sandpipers showed well and have increased to 12 birds, and the 2 colour ringed Turnstones are still to be seen. A new Song Thrush was on the island also a Blackcap in the bracken at the south end that refused to be captured for ringing.
Groups of 500 and 400 Starlings flew south, 8 Blackbirds were on the island with 4 Redwings and a Fieldfare also recorded, and finches including 12 Goldfinches and 3 Chaffinches.
Ringed ; - 2 Blackbirds. [ 1079-31 ]
(CJW et al)
The weather looked promising this morning with a light south easterly and mist on the welsh coast, and indeed there were Blackbirds on the island first thing although about 7 went south soon after dawn leaving 6 or 7, some of which would be local birds and the rest new arrivals. One adult male in particular (above) had a wing length of 139 mm that suggested it could very well be of continental origin, birds from both Holland and Germany have previously been controlled at Hilbre at this time of year. A flock of 8 Lapwings and a group of 50 Starlings were logged early in the morning, other smaller parties of Starlings called in at regular intervals throughout the day, one individual escaped from a mist net which was most disappointing as we haven't ringed a Starling for a year or two. A Siskin went across Middle calling and was the only finch apart from 6 Linnets and a flock of 10 Goldfinches which arrived in the afternoon. Just 2 Skylarks were heard over the island and a single Rock Pipit at the north end. As the tide flooded 10 Wigeon flew north east and 2 Little Egrets were on the shore and then at around midday a flock of 23 Jackdaws flew south east towards West Kirby and later 2 Mute Swans flew between the islands and north east along the north Wirral shore.
bathing Purple Sandpiper
Only 8 Purple Sandpipers could be found at high tide, but there may have been others roosting elsewhere. Among the waders today 160 + Sanderling crossed the north end in 3 flocks, also a flock of 350 by Little Eye, and as the big tide flooded 7,500 Dunlin and 120 Grey Plovers were noted while many Knot were again on the east hoyle sands on the ebb, and a single Common Snipe was on the ridge south of Middle after the tide. On the sea 11 Great Crested Grebes and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers were present and a single Red-throated Diver flew west.
Knot on the east hoyle sands
Great Crested Grebe
Ringed:- 5 Blackbirds, 2 Goldfinches, 1 Robin, 1 Wren. [ 1077-31 ] photos :- JE (Blackbird) CJ (others)
Typical early winter fare on the island today. 142 Brent Geese were present before the high tide but as always, counting was difficult as they were well spread along the shore. Closer views were obtained after the tide and the two colour-ringed birds Red H;Blue D and Blue S;White H (see 12th October blog entry) were noted as was just one of the dark-bellied birds. A sea watch over the high tide produced 39 Great Crested Grebe, 8 Red-throated Diver, 5 Guillemot and 2 Razorbill, with four Little Egrets together flying to Point of Air. Eleven Purple Sandpiper equalled this winter's highest count so far.
Passerines were thin on the ground with just 6 Robins, 3 Blackbirds, 1 Goldfinch and a solitary Skylark flying West. The regular Merlin flew through early morning
A small thrush movement this morning as a result of the light south easterly, 6 Redwings (with one seen 'in off' the sea) 7 Blackbirds and 3 Song Thrushes were present, while 45 Starlings flew west. On the sea were 2 Red-throated Divers, 25 Guillemots, 3 Razorbills,15 Great Crested Grebes, and after the single yesterday 5 more late adult Gannets flew north. A massive 15,000 Knot were between Little Eye and the north shore, also 100 Sanderling and 40 Grey Plover. Three Common Seals were noted in a separate haul out from the Grey Seals on the west hoyle.
Several nice records today, especially for a north westerly breeze. A Black-throated Diver was the best bird of the day, also on the sea was a late adult Gannet flying south west, a Razorbill, a Guillemot and 15 Great-crested Grebes. Land birds on or over the island included 3 Goldcrests,2 Redwing, a Greenfinch, 200 Starlings flying west and a Golden Plover also flying west after the tide. Eleven Purple sandpipers are still present, also counted were 60 Ringed Plovers and 45 Bar-tailed Godwits in flight while 3 Pintail represented the ducks.
Another peak in numbers for the Brent geese today with 202 counted included 2 that were seen to arrive from the north west, also 400 Shelduck were noted in the Hilbre area. Purple Sandpipers also reached a new high of 11 birds for this winter and Redshanks were more numerous with about 200 present. Four Little Egrets were on the shore. Passerines were scarce, a single Rock Pipit, a female Chaffinch, a Redwing and a Song Thrush were all that could be found.
The heavy rain forecast for around midday turned out to be just drizzle and so a visit by a party from a Workers Education Association class (Sale branch) late morning proved to be very pleasant. Earlier bird of the day was a Fieldfare that was found in the strong south westerly breeze, also 900 Starlings flew over the island, 550 Curlew were by Little Eye on the tide ebb and another high count of 191 Brent was made. The visitors enjoyed views of waders that are quite rare in the Manchester area, there were 3 Purple Sandpipers, many Turnstones, 11 Bar-tailed Godwits and of course Brent Geese also seldom occur inland. A female Chaffinch was a surprise capture in the 'heli' trap and to see a bird ringed was a new experience to the most of the visitors.
Ringed 1 Chaffinch [ 1068-31 ]
(DB,CJ,KMc +SD, Dave Steel, Dave Bowman and party) photo CJ
After the Buzzard recently over the island, today another was seen through telescopes at Red Rocks, a more expected way of seeing a Buzzard while on Hilbre. Brents were counted at 180 including the 6 dark-bellied birds and a Purple Sandpiper was present, the first since one here briefly a couple of weeks ago.
The Starlings continue to move over the island, flocks of 76, 110, 11, and 40 today. Fifteen Pintail flying south were the best sightings, a single Goldcrest was on the ground and the colour ringed Little Egret is again in the area.
A fall of Blackbirds occurred on the island this morning but as often happens, most had gone not long after dawn, although some lingered long enough to be ringed. Five Song Thrushes and a Redwing were also part of the movement which took place despite a clear night, but the south east breeze (which soon turned to the north east) certainly helped. A Woodcock was also found. Previous ringing recoveries from this time of year suggest that most of these birds are from the continent, and this seems to be the case today as the Blackbirds measured had wing lengths compatible with continental (possibly fennoscandinavian) origin. The 6 Dark-bellied Brents are still here. Waders were scattered on the low tide although 120 Redshanks was a good count.
'Thumper' lives ! (regular readers will understand)
Ringed:- 4 Blackbirds [ 1067-31]
The wind was back in the south east this morning but it was very cold although mostly sunny. The early part of the day started with a bang when a very late Swallow flew through the obs garden, an excellent record, and there was a continuation of the constant parties of Starlings that have been flying over in the last few days, this time mostly travelling south instead of west, today totalling over 300 including a flock of 150. Five Skylarks passed over the shore. Mid- morning a Common Buzzard circled low over the obs before heading off south, and we make no apologies for including some pictures as although it is now a common sight on the mainland it is still very rare for a Buzzard to show over the islands. Three Chaffinches were in the paddocks, also 2 Song Thrushes but little else that was new. The group of 5 Dark-bellied Brent that arrived yesterday was on the whaleback with 168 of the pale-bellied form. A very brief sea watch produced 1 Red-throated Diver and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, while 38 Bar-tailed Godwits were off the east side.
This morning a Short -eared Owl was disturbed from a geo on the east side and headed towards Middle island but was not seen again. A party of 5 Dark-bellied Brent Geese were discovered sitting on the vehicle track between the islands, they had obviously just arrived here, the single first seen on 30th Oct was still present and not part of the group. The Merlin was here again, a Goldcrest was down and Starlings moved through again, the largest flock being 120 birds. An interesting sighting was of a Rock Pipit seen on Bird Rock that was ringed and from the slightly abnormal appearance of the bird, it is almost certain to be the one of the same appearance ringed at Hilbre 2 years ago.
Starlings were again moving this morning with flocks of 300, 250, and 2 further flocks of over a hundred, 3 Skylarks did likewise and 4 Redpolls passed throuigh the island. A female Blackcap was in the trapping area. The Merlin was seen again.
Two Snow Buntings were feeding at the north end for a while this morning but eventually flew off towards the Point of Air. The 12 Red-throated Divers seen on the sea watch in the strong westerly wind were more than have been around so far this autumn, also noted were 7 Guillemots, 8 Common Scoter, a Razorbill and a Pintail. A single Chaffinch fed most of the day in the obs garden. A large flock of 186 Starlings flew across the island with a few more following later, while a single Lapwing was logged flying east. At least 2 colour ringed Turnstones that were marked in previous years are with us for this winter and the largest counts from the island recently were of 500 Sanderling and 45 Bar-tailed Godwits. A interesting sighting today was of 6 Common Seals separated at the haul out of the Grey seals on the other side of the west hoyle bank, as was mentioned recently it is suspected that a small colony of Common seals may becoming established.
Another (or the same) Merlin was seen again but best record of the day would probably be the 3 Mute S that flew south west passed the island. There were still some Starlings going through but not as many as yesterday, the largest flock being one of 50 birds. A male Chaffinch was in the paddocks but little else. Fifteen Grey Plovers were more than we usually see near to Hilbre.
A record count of 1542 Cormorants took part in the regular flight out of the estuary after dawn this morning, and fly-overs of Starlings included a flocks of 200 and 120 travelling west. A Dark-bellied Brent sighted today is the first this winter amongst the many pale-bellied birds. About 9 thousand Knot flew about the north shore, while a good count of 200 Turnstones was made. A single Goldcrest was on the ground.
It was a lovely day on Hilbre today, not much wind and sunny, and looking at the forecast probably the most pleasant day of the coming week. The best birds of the day were undoubably the flock of 3300 Starlings flying from Red Rocks to North Wales early in the morning, nice to see Starlings in such numbers from Hilbre. There was a steady movement of Meadow Pipits, 45 were counted but there may have been more. A Rock Pipit flew along the mist net ride in the Old Obs garden but did not catch itself. A new Dunnock and Robin were ringed, while a Wren, an adult Dunnock and a female Blackbird that was ringed on the 31 August this year were re-trapped. Wigeon continued their recent set of sightings, with a flock of 5 on todays log. Still no sign of the Purple Sandpiper of a few days ago, but the Brent reached a new high count this winter of 176 from Hilbre.
A very cold northerly wind greeted observers today and although the sun shone throughout it never felt warm. Again there was no movement of thrushes, just a single Song Thrush and possibly only 1 out of the 4 Blackbirds was new in. A flock of 200 Starlings flew west over the island followed some time later by another 8. A group of 8 Wigeon flew low over the sea out of the Dee in the morning with Cormorants for company, and another 3 were noted later. Two Goldfinches were down for a while, 1 checking the feeders, also the long staying Chaffinch has put on weight during its stay, perhaps due to the provision of seed. Turnstones settled in Niffy bay for the high tide and 82 were counted with 21 Redshank, although the Purple Sandpiper found the other day could not be located. Two Razorbills around the island and 9 Great Crested Grebes flying east in ones and twos were the only sea birds of note, and sighting of the day was a harbour Porpoise that breached a couple of times out to the west at about 11.00hrs.The change to cold weather does not seem to have affected ' thumper' the rabbit who was seen scampering rapidly passed the bungalows.
Despite the many records of thrush movements around Wirral today the single Song Thrush that was trapped and 4 Redwings over seemed to be the only thrushes moving in our direction this morning. Carrion Crows however totalled 70 including a group of 54 together, a very large number to be found in this area. Best of the sea sightings were 1 male and 2 female Eiders, there were also 15 Guillemots, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers. The male Chaffinch of recent days is still here, but for the first time for a while there was no sign of the Merlin. Three Rock Pipits were noted and a single Starling passed over. Good counts from the shore included 170 Redshanks and 55 Curlew.
Ringed :- 1 Song Thrush [ 1061-31 ]
A light easterly this morning but no bird movement to speak of, although 70 Lapwing flying south west was a good record in Hilbre terms, a Woodpigeon was a day visitor, but apart from a single Goldcrest all other passerines were not new including the male Chaffinch that has been here for a few days now. The Merlin was seen also 2 Rock Pipits and as many as 8,000 Knot were about the Little Eye area.
Some breeze today from slightly north of east cleared the mist from around the coast and produced a very quiet day with mostly single migrants, 1 each of Starling, Skylark, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Rock Pipit but 2 Pied Wagtails and 2 Siskins. The Chaffinch was the bird ringed yesterday that has been here for a while and 3 of the 4 Blackbirds were probably island birds. One of the two Little Egrets was the colour ringed bird (see 12th October), the Merlin was also our old friend of recent weeks and there was another appearance by 'thumper' the rabbit who is now a resident. Two Guillemots and 2 Great Crested Grebes were the sole sea bird representatives although 3 Wigeon were logged, while the Brent were once again counted at 171, equally spectacular was the sight of 5,000 Knot at the Tansky rocks just before the tide.
A misty day with almost no breeze made it pleasent walking about but dull for observing or photography. Three Redwings were seen on the island this morning and there were also 2 Song Thrushes through with a few Blackbirds. A flock of 20 Starlings were grounded briefly and 1 or 2 others flew over, also a Skylark and 3 Pied Wagtails. A Chaffinch which was about the island yesterday was finally ringed, likewise the only Goldcrest present today. The Brent were counted at 171, ten Common Scoter were noted on the sea, also a Razorbill and a Guillemot. The Merlin was joined on the island today by a Kestrel.
The first Purple Sandpiper of the winter has arrived, it was found this afternoon at the north end and is about the expected date although in some years odd birds have appeared in summer and early autumn but have seldom stayed for very long. Several Blackbirds were about first thing in the morning but another visit in the afternoon found 10 more in the paddocks. A large flock of 78 Starlings landed in the old obs trees, while a Reed Bunting was in the trapping area with 2 Chaffinches. Apart from the regular Merlin other birds noted were 5 Little Egrets, 2 Wigeon and a Skylark.
The fog around Wirral cleared over the shore at dawn but about 09.00hrs a thick blanket crossed the Dee giving visibilty on the island down to 50 yards. Even before the fog it was a good morning with migrants on the ground, Song Thrushes in particular with 9 today, also 7 Blackbirds, 10 Goldcrests and a Chaffinch. Two Reed Buntings were on Middle after dawn, but did not make it to the main island, although a wandering Wood Pigeon did so.
The Short-eared Owl from yesterday was surprisingly still on the island and was flushed from the bracken at the south end, and of course the Merlin still made the island its own, this time without any opposition from another of its kind. Counting of any shore or sea birds was almost impossible although the fog did lift later as the sunshine broke through.
Ringed:- 7 Goldcrests, 4 Song Thrushes, 2 Blackbirds, 1 Chaffinch [ 1054- 31 ]
A party from Wirral Advocacy was able to enjoy some of the day with us.
(DB+ESCA,JE,CJ,KMc) photos JE (Chaffinch) CJ (others)
Very little happened in the first 2 hours this morning and then 2 Ravens were seen to be mobbing something at the south end of the island and on investigation a Short-eared owl was found around the bracken area. The Merlin was joined by another and they were later observed over the island to be exhibiting the 'grappling' behaviour often noted in raptor species, possibly in this case connected with territorial rights. Two adult Whooper Swans flew south, there has been quite a few records of Whoopers moving this way over the last week or so. Passerines were scarce, 3 Goldfinches, a single Goldcrest, a Song Thrush and 1 or 2 new Blackbirds were all that could be found.
(DB + ESCA)
Two Canada Geese flew west across the shore at dawn, they probably come from the local park. The island gave a hint of the thrush movements that we expect at this time as 6 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes were present. A Song Thrush was the first to be ringed this autumn, indeed it may even be the first seen. Three Starlings flew in from the north over the sea and a White wagtail was in the obs garden and perched on the roof before departing north. A small number of Goldfinches were about and apart from an abnormal number of Robins little else was found. The Merlin chased the waders around the north end.
A quiet start to the morning with just the Blackcap ringed yesterday in the paddocks and for the first time recently no Goldcrests at all, although 5 Chaffinches were noted about the area. Things improved mid-morning when 6 Whooper Swans flew down the east side and away to the south west. Twenty nine Starlings passed through and overhead a party of 5 Jackdaws and then 2 Ravens and then another one travelled east from Wales. The Merlin is still about the islands but the Snow Bunting at Little Eye seems to have gone. Oystercatcher numbers are still rising with an estimated 4,500 present today.
The heavy overnight rain stopped at 07.00hrs giving way to a day of sunshine and showers leading to some stunning rainbows.The Snow Bunting was still feeding on the tide wrack on Little Eye, giving great close up views to those with a camera.
An immature male Blackcap was in the trapping area at dawn, a real bonus after the rain and especially pleasing following the extreme scarcity of sylvia warblers at Hilbre this autumn, also a Goldcrest was heard, possibly the single bird recorded yesterday.
Four Skylarks were over the shore and 3 Starlings later arrived over the sea from the north west, a single Chaffinch was in the garden briefly and a Lesser Redpoll was heard overhead. It seems there are 3 Rock Pipits present at the moment, although we suspect different birds move through at this time of year.
As one of the highest tides of the year approached a Sparrowhawk flew across the shore and a Merlin was found sitting on the rocks west of the old lifeboat house.
A brief sea watch was mostly uneventful, just a distant Arctic Skua , 5 Great Crested Grebes and a Guillemot, while waders on the log included 350 Sanderling, 100 Knot, 40 Dunlin and 76 Grey Plover.
Video above of the tide joining behind Little Eye to finally cut off the islands
Ringed :- 1 Blackcap. [ 1035-31 ]
(DB,AEH,CJ,NDW,SRW,+ Phil Collins (LOC member))
Photos:- CJ (rainbow and Blackcap), SRW (Snow Bunting, Grey Plover, Sanderling and video) Phil Collins (Merlin)
One member braved the storm this morning to do a sea watch. The westerly gale suddenly became a force 9 and then gusted to force 10 for a while which sent the occassional wave crashing against the sea hide. Reward came in the form of a Black-throated diver on the sea, a Bonxie and small numbers of other seabirds including 8 adult Kitiiwakes, 4 Gannets and 4 Razorbills. Three Golden Plovers flew west, a female Goosander was sighted and a Snow Bunting was briefly on the ground on the esat side before flying off, probably the bird which was on Little Eye yesterday. A single Goldcrest appeared to be the only migrant about the island.
Observers arriving at first light had high expectations, particularly with an easterly wind, and although the frequent showers did ground some passerines, the hoped for rarity didn't materialise! About 8 Goldcrests arrived with the first shower, 5 of which were caught and ringed, but most seemed to move off fairly quickly. Many of the 10 Robins were new in, as were several Wrens and most of the 75 or so Meadow Pipits. 4 Skylarks moved through as did 6 Starlings and a House Sparrow. Raptors were noticeable with an adult Peregrine chasing the Knot early morning, a Merlin darted through and a male Kestrel was present for the duration.
At least 150 Brent Geese were off Little Eye at high tide and then near Middle after the tide but more were probably out of sight; about 150 Shelduck flew in late afternoon. A brief sea watch produced 17 Common Scoter, 3 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Razorbills. 3 Little Egrets included the colour ringed bird seen recently. The highlight the day was a Snow Bunting glimpsed briefly on Little Eye as the tide came in and then relocated after the tide in the same place.
Another fairly quiet day but in October there is always something to see and this morning was no exception. The wind backed from south east to north west in the early part of the day. A small passage of Wrens was noticeable with 9 on the island, 4 Goldcrests were in the gardens but apart from Robins and Dunnocks and 3 Rock Pipits found along the west side very else on the ground. A female Sparrowhawk flew in from the south but failed to take a liking to the island and was not seen again. Overhead a single Jackdaw was heard and 2 House Sparrows flew in circles around the island for an hour or so, a Grey Wagtail was heard and 10 Starlings and 16 Skylarks were totalled in 3 separate parties, just a single Goldfinch and Greenfinch made it on the log. Four Harbour Porpoise were showing distantly off to the north for a few minutes at about 12.00 hrs. The reward for watching the sea was 5 Red-throated Divers, 20 Great Crested Grebes, 52 Common Scoter and a single female Red-breasted Merganser that flew between the islands. A Little Egret was in the gutter and over 100 Shelduck in the Little Eye area.
Ringed:- 3 Goldcrests, 3 Wrens. [ 1022-31]
Variable winds with heavy rain and hail showers was the order of the day, but a few good records resulted, chief of which was a Firecrest that was heard and seen to fly passed observers and off to the south, unfortunately not to return. An adult Whooper Swan flew west across the north end of the island and continued south west towards Wales. Two late Swallows were part of a small movement of migrants during the day which also included 10 Goldcrests, 3 Goldfinches, 3 Greenfinches,2 Starlings and a Grey Wagtail. Four Wigeon were noted also 3 Little Egrets, one of which was the colour ringed individual mentioned recently (see below). The Merlin was seen again. A Convululous Hawk Moth was found dead by the Buoy-masters house.
Ringed:- 5 Goldcrests, 1 Blackbird [ 1016-31 ]
With the early arrival and increase in number of Pale-bellied Brent Geese (up to 148 have been counted already and we are not half way through October yet!), we have already seen the return of two colour-ringed birds from previous winters. The famous "HDRB" (see above right on the 'whaleback') was ringed on Axel Heiberg island (Arctic Canada) on 2nd August 2007 and he first arrived at Hilbre on 24th December 2008 and has been returning each winter since.
A second colour-ringed bird ("HSWB") was ringed at Dungarvan Harbour (Northern Ireland) on 18th December 2008 and first appeared around Hilbre on 12th November 2010. He returned to the island soon after HDRB this autumn. Perhaps more birds will follow this winter. Thanks to the Irish Brent Goose Research Group (www.irishbrentgoose.org) for information about these birds.
Waders have been arriving back since August including one of our Turnstones colour-ringed in the winter of 2007/08 on Hilbre and possibly the bird seen on passage in Iceland in spring 2008.
A Little Egret seen on Tuesday and Wednesday 9th and 10th October 2012 (see right) was colour-ringed and had similar sequences from those seen previously at Hilbre (eg see blog entry for 3rd January 2011) that have been ringed along the North Wales coast as chicks. We have just received news back that this bird was ringed as the eldest of a brood of two on 25th June 2012 at Penrhyn (Bangor). Thanks to Tony Cross for the information (http://midwalesringers.blogspot.com).
Finally, Wirral Ranger Matt Thomas, of "From the muddy banks of the dee" Dee birder blog fame (http://deebirder.blogspot.co.uk/) spotted a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at West Kirby Marine Lake pontoons last Sunday but he could not quite read the lettering. Just before a trip to Hilbre on Wednesday 10th October 2012 he managed to get a photo (see below). Matt has since found out that this bird was ringed at Stavanger in Norway on 10th July this year - it had been caught by hand with a food lure and Matt's sighting is the first sighting since it was ringed in Norway.
To cross before the early tide meant leaving in the dark, and as the dawn broke the rain started and never really relented. It didn't take long to check the trapping areas as there were no birds present and it seemed that none would be arriving after the rain had started, but then looking out of the obs window with cups of coffee in hand an unringed Chiffchaff was seen feeding in the shelter of the pittosporum bush (left).
Another sally into the field during a slight lull in the rain found a late Swallow hawking over the north end. The Merlin showed again west of the obs, and an even more regular friend the rabbit was in its usual position near the SK paddock gate. As members departed the island 6 Wigeon were on the sand just south east of Middle, and a group of 100 or so Sanderling were running on the shore east of Little eye (right).
(CJ,KMc+SD, et al) photos CJ (Chiffchaff), KMc (Sanderlings)