A short pre-tide visit found little on the rough sea except a Great Crested Grebe and 82 Common Scoters, a walk through the old obs garden however flushed a Short-eared Owl from underfoot that was obviously sheltering form the westerly wind. It flew south towards Middle Eye and seemed to land between the islands but was not seen again. Two Purple Sandpipers were at the north end; a Song Thrush and a Rock Pipit were noted, and a pair of Teal were in the gutter east of the obs (right, CJ).
Weather: Force 8, gusting 9-10 (waves coming over the top of the old lifeboat station at times!) regular squalls but brightening up after the tide.
A tough day weather wise for the single brave observer but 157 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were counted (146 off Middle and 11 on Little Eye around high tide) and 3 Purple Sandpipers were noted.
Seawatching was difficult in the circumstances but records included c220 Common Scoter moving (including two on the water off the Obs garden for the majority of the day) and a single Greater Scaup (with three Common Scoter).
A single Fulmar was a great winter record for recent years. Other species recorded included Red-throated Diver (2), Kittiwake (5), singles of Gannet and Guillemot.
Highlight of the seawatching was a mixed flock of duck including 21 Pintail, 3 Wigeon and a single Shovelor (always a good record for Hilbre more often recorded in spring or autumn).
It was too windy for counting the waders however a flock of 24 Ringed Plover spent the majority of the high tide on the rocks/grass towards the North End.
Weather: SE force 4
A massive rock-fall was discovered at the south end of the island. Boulders are scattered near the pathway up onto the island, it is the biggest collapse on the main island in living memory. On the flood tide 270 Grey Plover flew north east and 120 Sanderling flew north. A Song thrush was on the island and the first Lesser Celandine was flowering.
By good fortune a beautiful morning for an observatory work party. There was no time for normal birding but birds noticed from the trapping areas were 10 Grey Plover, 12 Sanderling, 25 Redshank, a Song Thrush and a flock of 17 Linnets.
Most of the Herring gulls this morning were to the west of the island (4,500), to the east were good numbers of Grey Plover (230) and 8 Bar-tailed Godwits on the tide edge and another flock of 27 flying passed the north end.
Other wader counts today before the tide were 120 Knot, 30 Dunlin, 10 Sanderling, 50 Turnstones and just 2 Purple Sandpipers. Purple Sandpiper numbers have been very disappointing this winter following a slow decline here over the last few years.
On the sea were 8 Great Crested Grebes, about 80 distant Common Scoter and a single Red-throated Diver. Two Peregrines hunted the shore.
The only land birds of note were 6 Robins, a Rock Pipit and 2 Song Thrushes. Four Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were also on the log. Signs again of a Red Fox on the island, droppings and scent noted yesterday and footprints this morning.
Approaching the islands, 3 Rock Pipits could be seen at the south end of Middle and 6 Linnets were also there. Noticeable immediately were a large gathering of Herring Gulls (5,000 plus) on the islands side of the east hoyle sand banks, the attraction soon became clear when many were seen eating starfish which had obviously wrecked in the area recently. A male Peregrine flew down the east gutter carrying its small wader prey. A single Goldfinch flew over and was the only small passerine apart from the regulars on the island, a Song Thrush was also present. Waders flocked on the shore towards West Kirby at the advancing tide, 5,000 Knot,1,200 Sanderling and at least 500 Dunlin, with 25 Grey Plover and 3 Bar-tailed Godwits also noted. The Brent were counted at 232 when they were west of Middle Eye on the flood tide.
Weather: SW force 1/2, bright but cold
A very quick visit before the tide enabled a Blackbird to be the first bird to be ringed this year (left,CJ). Also present was a Song Thrush, a Dunnock and several Meadow Pipits. A look around the island before the tide rushed in found a Common Scoter, 2 Great Crested Grebes, many Turnstones, 2 Purple Sandpipers, and a few Dunlins and Ringed Plovers.
A visiting birder staying the tide noted the following: 48
Brent Geese (all pale-bellied)
Andy Thomas writes about a fascinating incident during the day: A
mini-drama about 45 minutes after high tide: a Peregrine hit Middle Eye
and got an Oystercatcher but when mobbed by a couple of crows dropped it on the
water. Great Black Backs tried to get in on the meal but were driven off by
a Bonxie which then sat on the tide and ate the victim while drifting past
Hilbre and out into the bay shadowed by unhappy gulls and a Red-throated Diver
that came to see what was up. All very tasty!
An early tide meant
getting over to Hilbre in the dark to undertake the WeBs count. A walk around the
island at first light revealed two Song Thrushes and the usual resident
passerines. Between 08.00 & 09.00 over 1800 Cormorants were counted leaving
the estuary and heading out to sea. Purple Sandpiper numbers were low and they
didn’t roost in their usual place, only three birds were counted after the high
tide feeding at the north end. Turnstone numbers were impressive with 114
counted roosting in Niffy Bay including the regular colour ringed bird from
2008/2009. Amongst the waders roosting around the island were 23 Ringed Plover
and singles of Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover. A juvenile Shag was found dead on
top of the west side cliffs near the telegraph station. The large oystercatcher
roost on Middle Eye included the leucistic bird seen and photographed on the 14th
of December 2015.
The sea was fairly
quiet but a male Long-tailed Duck on the sea with a small flock of Common
Scoter was a good find as were three Scaup that initially flew in from the
windfarms and landed on the water briefly before flying towards the island and
passing down the west side (above).
An accurate count of
the Brent Geese (above) wasn’t possible as they didn’t fly in between Hilbre and Middle
Eye as the tide ebbed. 12 birds roosted at the south end of the island but
after the tide ebbed 124 were counted on the reef south of Middle Eye. The blue
/ white colour ringed bird was picked up as the observer left the island.
Weather: SE 0/1 no wind, no rain and a little sunshine for a change !
Sparrowhawk (Matt Thomas)
Highlight of the morning was the finding of a Sparrowhawk perched on the wall of Telegraph house to the consternation of the few Meadow Pipits in the area. The ebb tide saw a pair of Teal fly south down the ridge and 2 Wigeon sat on the tide south of Middle. The sea was very calm but revealing few birds, just 5 Great Crested Grebes, a Guillemot, a Shag, a male Common Scoter close in with many more distantly towards the wind farms. Only 2 Purple Sandpipers were seen, also a single Grey Plover. The Brent were scattered all about the islands, so impossible to count but certainly exceeded 150, 2 of which were colour ringed.
Yesterday a Fox was seen from the mainland by the Wirral Ranger crossing from the islands towards the Red Rocks area, not necessarily the animal that has been on Hilbre most of last year as that has not been seen there for some time.
Weather: SE force 5/6
A single Lapwing, a very irregular visitor to Hilbre, was the highlight of the morning. Also recorded were 115 Brent Geese, 7 Shelduck, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Common Scoter, 5 Wrens, 4 Robins, 3 Rock Pipits, 9 Carrion Crows, a flock of 12 Linnets on Middle Eye and an immature female Peregrine.