Friday, 18 September 2020

18th September 2020

 Weather: ENE force 1/2, then NE 2/3    bright

A very good September day started with a Chiffchaff and a couple of Goldcrests in the paddocks and several Wheatears including 1 on Little Eye and 3 on Middle. Two male Stonechats were soon seen appearing in all parts of the island and first one then two Redstarts, one of each sex, showed on the paddock fence lines. A Whitethroat gave a brief appearance in the bracken by the bunker but failed to show again as did a male Blackcap in the obs garden. Also logged today were 5 Skylarks, a Pied Wagtail and 35 Meadow Pipits. A Golden Plover flew across the island calling and 2 Ravens came in at the north end with one flying around the island. A sea watch produced 6 Red-throated Divers, 6 Guillemots, 2 Gannets and 20 Common Scoter. Only 4 Brent could be found, the rest must have been elsewhere in the estuary on the very high tide or moved on. Apart from the 3,000 or so Oystercatchers in the roost waders were mostly in small numbers including 38 Ringed Plovers, 1 Grey Plover and 30 Redshank. A Kestrel was present, also 3 Little Egret and a Grey Heron. In the afternoon at least one, possibly both, of the Redstarts was still present and 5 new Wheatears dropped in near the north end. On the whole an excellent day with a lot of the most sought after of the regular September species showing.

 Ringed: 1 Redstart, 1 Robin.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

17th September 2020

 Weather: SE force 2 fresh breeze, sunny, mist around estuary.

Another nice day at the obs, but with little cloud expectations were moderate, and so it proved. A single Chiffchaff and 3 Goldcrests fed in the paddocks and a Grey Wagtail and Goldfinch briefly visited.. Among the 6 Wheatears was this lovely male with a Rock Pipit photo bombing. 

Highlight of the waders were 2 Greenshanks arriving in the east gutter to feed, a scarce visitor to Hilbre but typical at this time of year.

the supporting cast  included 50 Turnstone, 32 Redshank and 20 Dunlin.

Many parties of Common Scoter flew about at the (very high) tide, also 2 Guillemots, 2 Gannets; 3 Great Crested Grebes but an obliging summer plumaged Red-throated Diver was the star.

Both Kestrel and Peregrine amde an appearance. The only wildfowl seen this morning were a flock of 5 Teal flying in to the north end, 6 Shelduck and the 28 Brent now residing. 

Ringed: 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest.

photos CJ

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

15th September 2020

 Weather: SE force 1/2   high cloud and some mist around coasts

 Similar weather to yesterday, the change being some cloud drifting in early morning, resulting in a completely different day migration wise. Right from the off 3 White Wagtails were at the north end, others came through later, and a Spotted Flycatcher was fly catching in the obs garden and was joined by a few Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers around the bushes. Four Wheatears together on 'Wheatear hill' added to the feeling of a 'good' day to come. Nine Skylarks made it to the island, some landing on 'buzzard hill' for a time.

 A large flock of 46 Linnets flew about and a Lesser Redpoll called overhead as did 6 Grey Wagtails while  a number of Meadow Pipits were moving through including a leucistic bird that caused initial consternation.

Two unringed Dunnocks were a surprise as none has been seen here for some time. Not to be outdone several Goldcrests came in a sort of second wave of arrivals, while all the time the Spotted Flycatcher toured just about every suitable inch of the island before being eventually caught for ringing in the SK trap. 

Ducks made a strong appearance today with 12 then 6 Wigeon, a Teal and scarcest of all in a Hilbre context a pair of Shovelers. Eighteen Shelduck were a more normal sight. Pink-footed Geese showed for the first time this autumn when a skein of about 270 birds flew south down the Wirral coast as seen from Hilbre. A Raven called in the area, keeping up the recent series of appearances here. The Brent seem to be numbered at 29 now, while on the sea were 12 Gannets, 1 Guillemot and 3 Razorbills.

The Kestrel is still here, today unsuccessfully having a go at the flycatcher and a Peregrine passed down the east side.

Ringed: 4 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Robin, 1 Dunnock.

Monday, 14 September 2020

14th September 2020

Weather: SE force 1/2         cloudless sky with a small amount of coastal mist

A disappointing morning on the whole with migrants very scarce, just single Wheatear and Willow Warbler and the first Goldcrest ringed this autumn, although there seemed to be more Robins around than usual. The now regular several Rock Pipits were showing well at the north end.

Some 24 Gannets, 15 Scoter and 12 Guillemots were off the north end and 2 Wigeon flew up the west side, a sign of the late autumn to come.

Ringed: 1 Robin and 1 Goldcrest

Sunday, 13 September 2020

13th September 2020

Weather: SW force 5/6

A sea watch on the early morning tide was surprisingly good with the main highlight being a Pomarine Skua seen towards Red Rocks and along the shore.

 The supporting cast included 4 Manx Shearwater, 2 Razorbill, 2 Guillemot, 350 Common Scote, 50 Gannets and a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver.
A Merlin flew north west and a Stock Dove west, although naturally small migrants were sparse in these conditions, just a Goldcrest and 2 Grey Wagtails.

photos AEH

Friday, 11 September 2020

11th September 2020

Weather: WNW force 5

A midday check of the island came up with 2 Common Snipe, also the first Goldcrest of the autumn, The Brent were counted at 23 including 5 juveniles. On the sea were 6 Gannets, 95 Common Scoter and 2 Guillemots and 6 Great Crested Grebes. Best of the waders were 8 Bar-tailed Godwits, 22 Ringed Plover and 62 Redshank. Eleven Little Egrets were more than usual and 135 Sandwich and 14 Common Terns were noted.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

10th September 2020

 Weather: WSW force 0/1   light rain

A mid-morning visit found 6 Wheatears around, a small movement of Swallows and a couple of House Martins. A Skylark was by the light and a Raven continued the run of records lately by this species. The Brent Geese suddenly increased to 21 birds including a few juveniles. There are still a good number of Sandwich Terns about which together with some gulls attracted an Arctic skua to the area where they gathered. Waders included 39 Redshank, 32 Turnstones and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits while also on the shore were 9 Little Egrets and a Shag on the sea.

Monday, 7 September 2020

7th September 2020

.Weather: SW force 2/3   light rain in the morning heavier spell early afternoon

Another quiet day with no small migrants to add interest but at least there were 3 Ravens near to the Little Eye area, one of which came to the main island and was promptly seen off by the local Carrion Crows.

 A single pale-bellied Brent Goose stood on the north end rocks off the slipway early on and then promptly disappeared. Very little to be seen on the sea at low tide except a Guillemot drifting in to the north end and fishing .....

 but more Guillemots were noted  at high tide together with several Gannets. At least 5 Rock Pipits were present also 3 Little Egrets, 2 Grey Herons and either 1 or possibly 2 Kestrels. A Peregrine took a kill at the north end and went to Little Eye with it. Two Bar-tailed Godwits were the best of the few waders at low tide. Only 2 Linnets were seen all day, and observers had to wait until late in the afternoon for the first Pied Wagtail. 

photos CJ

Thursday, 3 September 2020

3rd September 2020

 Weather: WSW    rain early morning

A short visit found it quiet with the only migrants being 3 Wheatears, and a House Martin. Five resident Rock Pipits were noted and 28 Turnstones and 18 Redshank were among the waders present. There are still 75 Sandwich Terns reluctant to set off south, and 2 Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were also on the shore.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

2nd September 2020

Weather: SE force 2/3    

Headline of the day was a Wood Sandpiper heard calling as it went over, possibly towards the north west of the island, but was not relocated. Wood Sandpiper is a very scarce Hilbre visitor indeed, not seen in most years. Minimum passage earlier in the morning included a Chiffchaff, 2 Wheatears, 2 Grey Wagtails and a Yellow Wagtail in flight across the top of the island. Waders included a Whimbrel, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits.and a summer plumaged Grey Plover.

Two Kestrels and a Peregrine were about and at least 6 Rock Pipits were seen, while 22 Linnets still flit around the island.. In the afternoon 4 Pintail came in from the sea, possibly to winter in the area, in any event the first of the autumn to arrive.

photos CJ

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

1st September 2020

 Weather: SE force 1, slight mist around the estuary.

A clear sky meant no grounded small warblers, although the Chiffchaff from yesterday was still here and later on a Whitethroat fed about the obs garden bushes. Rock Pipits were very active and at the moment appear to be more numerous than Meadow Pipits. A couple of Wheatears stayed a good while and showed well.

The wader roost on Middle was unfortunately well disturbed by a paddle boarder but several Dunlin and Ringed Plover rested on the main island including this colour ringed bird, the origin of which will be researched.

A Raven was again a visitor, arriving from the welsh direction and a single Golden Plover flew from the north east and across between the islands. A Razorbill dived off the west side,

 while the best of the other sea birds were a couple of Gannets and quite a few terns. There were just 6 Brents here this morning after the seasons first arrival of 9 yesterday. After the tide a big surprise was the miraculous re-appearance of the Yellowhammer after not being seen for a number of days, this time it seemed to favour the rangers garden, although that area has been checked several times since its last showing. 

As the tide ebbed the Oystercatchers and Little Egrets were reluctant to leave their roost on top of the south end of Middle.

 photos CJ (others), SRW(dawn)

Monday, 31 August 2020

31st August 2020

Weather: SE 1, 4/8 cloud reducing to 1:8, good vis becoming very good

The day began early with members staying on the island and another joining from the mainland.
A single Snipe flushed from near the North End soon after dawn.
The change in the weather with light south easterlies brought the hoped for phylloscs with 3 Willow Warbler (one caught) and the first 3 Chiffchaffs of autumn proper (two caught and ringed). 

Up to 7 Rock Pipits were present around the islands and 4 Wheatears again passed through.
Twenty Swallows appeared around the entrance of the ‘heli’ trap and another flock of 60 birds appeared between Middle and Little Eye mid morning.
The Kestrel remained around the main island for much of the day and 12 Shelduck were noted leaving the estuary in two flicks (8 and 4).
Three Shags were off the east side as the morning tide flooded.
Photos SRW (chiffchaff), AEH (others)

Sunday, 30 August 2020

30th August 2020

Weather: ENE force 1

Nine Pale-bellied Brent were found on the west side between the islands this morning, these are the first arrivals of the autumn. Just a single Willow Warbler was present but there was a minimal movement of 2 Grey and 4 alba wagtails, 5 Wheatears and 6 Robins on the island. A Razorbill again was noted, possibly the same as recently and 2 Kittiwakes, 5 Common Scoter and 2 Shags were also on the sea. A large number (estimated at 520) Curlew were at Tanskey rocks but wader numbers were generally small apart from 3,000 Oystercatchers, although 2 Whimbrel and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits were notable. Both Peregrine and Kestrel hunted the area. For once Grey Heron outnumbered Little Egret 3 to 2. Five Rock Pipits were logged, while among the insects flew 3 Red Admirals, a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

29th August 2020

Weather:  N  force 4 

Best bird on a quiet day was a Raven, a regular visitor lately. Tern numbers are now declining here as the autumn approaches and today there were 25 Sandwich and 4 Common Terns logged. Some waders seen included 2 Whimbrel, 22 Curlew, 45 Turnstone and a Bar-tailed Godwit, but Oystercatchers are by far the most numerous with about 3,500 today. Given the northerly wind it was no surprise there were no small migrants present. What will tomorrow bring?

Photo SRW

Friday, 28 August 2020

28th August 2020

Weather:  NE force 4    drizzle later

On a brief visit 6 Gannets showed close in to the island and an Arctic Skua was seen, also a Razorbill off the west side. Eight Little Egrets was a good count.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

27th August 2020

Weather:  SE force 1/3  rain later

After sea watching following the gales, lighter winds made for more normal birding. The moulting Yellowhammer popped up again after a couple of days, two Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat were around, also a Reed Bunting making us think autumn cannot be far away. Five Wheatears were present and a small movement of a dozen or so Swallows and 3 House Martins passed through. Three Kittiwakes and 12 Guillemots were the aftermath of the gales. The stand out count of the small waders were 230 Sanderling. A Shag was noted and 6 Little Egrets were on the shore. Plenty of Linnets today, 48 flew around the island.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

26th August 2020

Weather:  WNW 6, dropping, 8/8 cloud (clearing later), early drizzle, poor becoming good

Gale force winds overnight meant that seawatching on the early morning ebb tide was the order of the day.

Kittiwakes and terns streamed passed the North End close inshore, often 'below the beam' during the first hour or so of daylight.  116 Kittiwakes were counted during the day along with 615 Common, 420 Sandwich,  74 Little and 8 Arctic Terns all moving west.  Later many of the terns appeared to return to the East Hoyle sandbank to roost on the evening tide when the wind had dropped.
Gannets numbered 47 including some birds that were very close in around the main island in the morning and afternoon.
Up to four Arctic Skuas were noted but only one came close loafing on the water during the morning and afternoon tide a single Great Skua was noted heading towards the Mersey.  Two Manx Shearwaters were noted and an adult Yellow-legged Gull flew past.  However, the highlight of the morning was an early Leach's Petrel which made its way westwards off the North End; possibly our earliest ever (see below iPhone scoped video grab).
The male Yellowhammer remained around the island but there was little evidence of any other passerine movement apart from a couple of Robins.
The Kestrel remained for much of the day in the sheltered 'Niffy Bay'. 

Waders were very much in evidence with plenty of all the regular species as well as 3 Whimbrel, a summer plumaged Grey Plover in off, 2017 Knot and a huge flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the evening tide south of West Kirby Marine Lake (c3,500).
A Peregrine was noted around the North End during the morning tide and another was noted harassing the waders and tern flocks on the evening tide.

Photos CJW (majority) and SRW (Leach's Petrel)

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

25th August 2020

Weather:  ESE 5-6, 8/8 cloud, rain, poor vis

A poor day weather-wise but not a bad day for observations began with pouring rain and a Teal just off the North End.

A single Raven appeared over the South End, no doubt one of the regular pair that have been seen recently presumably from the breeding pair at Hoylake.  

A redhead Goosander flew up the gutter as the tide flooded and the Yellowhammer remained on the island but was only seen a couple of times between rain showers.

The afternoon tide proved fruitful with good numbers of Common and Sandwich Tern as well as 24 Little and 3 Arctics, as well as 5 Manx Shearwater and 3 Arctic Skuas.  

A single Common Sandpiper was noted at the south end in the drizzle early evening. 

Monday, 24 August 2020

24th August 2020

Weather:  NW 1-2, 2/8 cloud, good vis

A stunning morning greeted observers on the island this morning with wall to wall sunshine for the majority of the day.

Things were much quieter on the sea and the light north west wind and clear blue skies did little to produce many grounded warblers with just a single Willow Warbler noted.

However, Wheatears were moving through with 8 birds counted today including 4 on Wheatear hill at any one time.  Unfortunately they were being kept away from the potter traps by the resident Rock Pipits with two birds (an adult and a young one) retrapped (from March and July respectively).

The moulting Yellowhammer was still present but still being fairly elusive.

A few waders were noted including 5 Whimbrel and terns were less noticeable but there was a large Sandwich Tern roost after the tide in the evening.

The juvenile Robin was still present.

Ringing:  retraps only Rock Pipit (2), Robin (1)

Sunday, 23 August 2020

23rd August 2020

Weather:  WNW 3/4, increasing 5/6 over the tide, occasionally squall

The day began with a nice record of Golden Plover and the first Teal (4) of the autumn.  The promised gale force winds did not materialise but observers were still hopeful for a good seawatch.

Intriguingly the male Yellowhammer, which had not been seen since Thursday, was caught in the heli trap.  Only the second to be ringed at Hilbre in the last 20 years.  It was found to be moulting and may remain on the island for a while longer to complete its moult. 


After the excitement of the reappearance of the Yellowhammer - two Kestrels were found fighting in a bramble bush outside the Obs gate.  They were distracted by their fight and ignored the photographers.  Perhaps an indication of how the recent moribund bird came to a sad end?

Seawatching was better than expected given the moderate wind and only occasional rain squall.  Highlights included two Great Skuas, 5 Arctic Skuas, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 65 Kittiwakes, 75 Gannet and good numbers of terns with 600 Common, 333 Sandwich and 26 Little Terns counted.

Six Razorbills were also noteworthy as was a lovely first winter Mediterranean Gull which came in off at the North End and past close inshore to the slipway.

Waders were also well represented today with 2 Purple Sandpipers notes, 7 Whimbrel, 64 Ringed Plover and a single Grey Plover.

A juvenile Robin caught and ringed was perhaps further evidence of successful breeding of this species at Hilbre this year and likewise another Rock Pipit was caught.  Meanwhile, amongst other natural history sightings a male Common Blue Damselfly was noted.

Photos:  CJW, PSW, SRW
Ringing: Yellowhammer, Rock Pipit, Robin

Saturday, 22 August 2020

22nd August 2020

 Weather: SW 2/4 

The wind had dropped a good deal from yesterdays blow but nevertheless sea birds still in good numbers for the observers at the high tide. The first Bonxie of the year was the chief prize although 100 Manx Shearwater, 150 Gannets, 50 Common Scoter, 6 Kittiwakes, an Arctic Skua, a Fulmar, and a Razorbill and Guillemot, were close behind. The lighter breeze encouraged 4 Willow Warblers and 3 Wheatears to the island. The single Purple sandpiper was still present and a moulting summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper was found, although it was a different bird from that of 2 days ago. Amongst the waders were 25 Ringed Plover  5 Whimbrel.

Friday, 21 August 2020

21st August 2020

Weather: SW force 6 rain

The highlights of  a sea watch in response to the strong winds arriving were a count of 175 Manx Shearwaters passing and a single juvenile Black Tern, the first here this autumn. Almost as impressive were 200 Gannets counted with 2 Kittiwakes, 2 Guillemots, 28 Common Scoter and 25 Little Terns among the over 1,000 terns seen. Also about the island were 2 Shags, 7 Whimbrel and 4 Little Egrets. There are still 2 Kestrels. The only 'migrants' as such were 2 Starlings and a Swift.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

20th August 2020

 Weather: SE force 3, mist around the estuary.

The Yellowhammer was again flitting about the island all morning, never staying long enough in one place to pose for pictures, before disappearing this afternoon. It is far from certain that it has gone for good as it was not seen at all on Sunday despite observers being present most of the day. A Spotted Flycatcher took a liking to the east side of the island, first appearing in Niffy bay and then spending most of it's time in the rangers east side garden.

A very high tide at this time of year meant attention was paid to the roosting small waders around the rocks which duly paid dividends in the form of a Curlew Sandpiper and a Little Stint being found amongst them. They were hard to pin down as the flocks of 1,200 Dunlin and 200 or so Ringed Plovers kept rising when disturbed and the Curlew Sandpiper was quite elusive (even though it was in partial summer plumage) but the juvenile Little Stint was eventually located for pictures. 

 With Dunlin for size comparison.

The Curlew Sandpiper in partial summer plumage.

A less expected arrival on the north end was a Purple Sandpiper which moved with the Dunlin flock to the west side to roost. Normally a winter resident a single Purple Sandpiper (centre of picture) often makes it here in mid-summer, they are thought to be just  passing through from elsewhere.

Besides the Dunlin and Ringed Plover, other waders today included 5 Whimbrel, 700 Knot and 6 Sanderling. A Red-breasted Merganser flew passed the island but sea birds in the fresh southerly breeze were at a premium apart from the Sandwich and Common Terns.

 Only 3 Willow Warblers were about the paddocks today, and possibly just 2 Wheatears, with a few extra Swallows passing through. Two Kestrels  hunted the island and a Peregrine flew across between the islands.

Insects included the odd Common Blue butterfly, a Red Admiral and best of all a Painted Lady, a nice record for today, while 2 Migrant Hawker dragonflies were near the 'heli' trap.

Ringed: 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Linnet, 1 Meadow Pipit 

photos SRW