Monday 30 March 2009

30th March 2009

A Sparrowhawk and a Wheatear present in the early morning drizzle were not seen after 08.00hrs, and a Fieldfare (right) that moved between middle and the main island also did not stay more than 30 minutes. An immature Merlin (below) however spent most of the day either sitting on various perches or chasing Meadow Pipits, of which there were a small passage of 95 birds.

At about 10.00hrs unexpectedly a party of 16 Whooper Swans flew down the east side and across between the islands and off towards Wales.

Apart from the Pipits hardly any passerine migration took place at all, no warblers, no Goldcrests, no finches (apart from resident Linnets), just the early Wheatear and 2 Grey Wagtails.
The winds were much lighter today so the sea was not much better with only a single Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot, Shag and 4 Gannets with a few Scoter.

No new birds ringed today but P459332 the oldest known British Meadow Pipit (right) (see 21st March) was again availing itself of the free meal in the potter traps.
(DB,CJ) photos CJ

Sunday 29 March 2009

29th March 2009

A quick visit turned up a single female Wheatear on the island, also 2 Chiffchaffs around the Blackthorn.

Saturday 28 March 2009

28th March 2009

Still very strong winds, the sea producing 4 Red-throated Divers and 25 Gannets.
(PGR,NDW,CJW + Liverpool Ornithologists Club)

Friday 27 March 2009

Peter Williams

The Williams family would like to thank everyone for their kind messages of sympathy and support during this difficult time and to everyone who turned up last Wednesday.

26th March 2009

Highlights of a pretty good (and blustery) sea-watch included Great Northern Diver, female Scaup and Kittiwake.


Wednesday 25 March 2009

23rd March 2009

The first two Sandwich Terns of the year were seen today and the Coal Tit was still present.


22nd March 2009

With a brisk westerly breeze very little in the way of migration was expected. However, there were a few left-overs from Saturday with Wheatear and few Goldcrests present. The bird of the day was however very unexpected - a Coal Tit was feeding on the nuts in the Obs garden before being promptly trapped and ringed.

(AAB, AS, CLW, NDW, SRW, TGW, CJW) Photos to follow

Saturday 21 March 2009

21st March 2009

It was a clear sky with only a light breeze from the west early morning but later the wind increased from the north west and the mist almost became fog. Improved conditions for watching seabirds due to the on-shore wind were negated by the difficulty of seeing through the mist, nevertheless 30 Gannets and 49 Little Gulls were noted together with 9 Mergansers, a Red-throated Diver and the male Eider that again flew passed the north end. An old adult cormorant (right) in such fine breeding plumage that it resembled the continental race sinensis came into view on two occasions.

A Short-eared Owl was on Middle and may have roosted overnight but was not seen again despite apparently resettling on the island. Two Merlins were also about the Middle Eye area and were probably the same birds as yesterday.

There seems to be an increase of Turnstones at the moment as these waders prepare to move north to breed and Purple Sandpipers were counted at a healthy 18.

The 3 Wheatears (left) on the island today proved to be all females of the nominate race oenanthe.
No Chiffchaffs at all today but finches still went through in small numbers:- 12 Goldfinch, 7 Greenfinch, a Chaffinch and a Siskin, but wagtails seen were just of the Pied variety (13). A small fall of Goldcrests (15) happened last night despite the wind being in the west, a phenomenon not unknown to regulars on the island.

Trapped for ringing :- 5 Goldcrests, a Wren, a Robin, a Chaffinch (left) and 2 Wheatears (right).
A Meadow Pipit was re-trapped that was originally ringed on Hilbre in 2001, and initial enquiries suggest this is the oldest known Meadow Pipit in Britain !


Friday 20 March 2009

20th March 2009

A strong south-easterly chilled observers from early morning, and despite a Grey Wagtail down on the east side of middle it soon became apparent that migration was not as strong as yesterday. Twelve Gannets were showing in the first hour but very little else was on the sea except for 3 Common Scoter, and even the Gannets disappeared later.
The Merlin from yesterday(right) flew east over the island and almost immediately another went down the west side proving there were two individuals present.

Meadow Pipits were in good numbers (no Tree Pipits today !) but finches were well down with only 12 in total including 3 Siskins. Only 2 Pied Wagtails today, but a single White was welcome. Goldcrests were also scarce with 6 noted and a single Chiffchaff, most of which seem to have stayed from yesterday.
Five House sparrows (left) came down on the bushes but did not stay too long while 2 Starlings did not even alight at all nor did a Wood Pigeon (below) that flew south passed the light (not a bird we would bother to photograph on the mainland !). The resident Mallards have increased to 9 drakes inhabiting the main island pond.

Two Wheatears (below right) were eventually found that either arrived late in the morning as Wheatears tend to do on Hilbre or had been hiding from the blustery wind.

Could any micrologist identify this fungus (above) found today on a Hilbre log pile? [click to enlarge]

Trapped for ringing :- a Meadow Pipit and a Goldfinch (right).


Thursday 19 March 2009

19th March 2009

Another excellent day started with early morning fog bringing some Goldcrests (left) and Chiffchaffs (right) in off the sea at the north end, 14 Jackdaws over and 2 Sand Martins moving east. As the sun broke through Goldcrests continued to drift in throughout the morning with the odd Chiffchaff and were eventually logged at 35 and 8 respectively.
Two males and the first female Wheatear (left) were also early arrivals, while finch numbers were moderate at 15 Linnets, 12 Goldfinch, 10 Chaffinch, 10 Greenfinch and 10 Siskin, but 4 Reed Buntings and 2 House Sparrows were good records for a March day.

Meadow Pipit numbers increased to 60 as their spring migration got under way, but far and away the star bird of the day was an exceptionally early Tree Pipit that called and flew south low over observers at about 10.00hrs. This could possibly be the earliest ever record for Tree Pipit on Hilbre, and is very early even in national terms.
On the sea the male Eider was again noted, also 11 Great Crested Grebes and a Gannet.

The Brent are now slightly down in numbers on the winter peak, but the Dublin ringed bird (left) was showing well.
Other birds passing through during the morning were a Rook, a Starling, a Blackbird, a Grey Wagtail, 15 Pied Wagtails, 8 Wood Pigeons that flew south, and a Skylark (below) which unusually for that species decided to alight on the island.

Peregrine and Kestrel were both present and a Merlin (above) gave infrequent glimpses at it flew actively overhead and around the cliffs.

Trapped for ringing 11 Goldcrests, 1 Robin, 1 Dunnock (right)

ps:- male and female Shoveler in the east gutter in the afternoon (DB)

Tuesday 17 March 2009

17th March 2009

A cloudier day but with continuing south easterlies bringing the early migrants to our coasts. Early morning two Yellow-legged Gulls were on the whaleback and 2 Jackdaws were recognised by their distinctive calls overhead while both Canada Goose (2) and Wood Pigeon were added to the visitor check list before 08.00hrs.

Finches were more numerous than yesterday with counts of 45 Linnets, 23 Goldfinches, 3 Greenfinches, 2 Chaffinches, 7 Siskin and a Redpoll. First arrival for the year were 2 White Wagtails identified with 8 Pied Wagtails passing over. Three Reed Buntings and 2 Starlings were also transient visitors but 10 Goldcrests, 2 Blackbirds and a Song Thrush stayed to feed before moving on.

Another male Northern Wheatear stayed the day, this time keeping exclusively to the north end of the island and at one time sitting on top of the sea watching hide (right).

Trapped for ringing: 5 Goldcrests, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Robins, 1 Song Thrush

(DB,CJ,KMc et al) photo CJ

16th March 2009

The fine weather brought a large increase in species as the spring migration got under way in earnest. Even the sea-watching was eventful with 2,500 Common Scoter towards the west hoyle windfarm, a possible record count of Great -crested Grebes at 232 off to the north west, and 36 Mergansers in total.

The 'usual' crop of March unexpected species included 7 Mute Swans going north, 2 pairs of Ravens, 3 House Sparrows, a Sparrowhawk and a Lapwing; while more regular but nevertheless welcome migrants were some finches (5 Redpoll, 2 Goldfinch), also 5 Skylark, 4 Grey & 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Sand Martins and several Goldcrests.

Pride of place however goes to the first Wheatear of Spring, a fine male found on Middle early morning (see below).

(DB, CJW & SRW) Photos SRW

Sunday 15 March 2009

15th March 2009

A much less breezy day with some sunshine helped enhance the feeling of spring, especially when the first Sand Martin of the spring was seen flying north west across the island and 2 Goldcrests which were also the first of the year appeared around the gardens. One one the Goldcrests was trapped and showed the orange crown of a male.

A male Eider (below right) was seen going west passed the north end and a Sparrowhawk soared high over the tide edge.

Still only a few other passerines, including a single Blackbird grounded, with 3 Pied Wagtails, 3 Goldfinches and 2 Greenfinches passing over.

Six more Little Gulls were identified towards the wind farm.


14th March 2009

A strong westerly as expected produced little except some decent seabirds including 8 Red-throated Divers, 9 Gannets, 4 Little Gulls, 3 Mergansers, 3 Kittiwakes, some Great Crested Grebes and Guillemots with 2 Razorbills.

(JE,MGT et al)

Friday 13 March 2009

13th March 2009

A number of members gathered on Hilbre this morning to honour the memory of Peter - he will be sorely missed by all. The flag remains at half mast.

Three Magpies attracted attention by flying around the island from early morning, but one was seen later off to the west to be swimming in the Dee with Gulls! A tricky identification problem caused by a bird in distress. Twenty two Red-breasted Mergansers were off the West Hoyle with 18 Great Crested Grebes but no sign of any Little Gulls.

Lots of Meadow Pipits singing on territory now, 4 drake Mallards have taken up residence on the main pond and a flock of 6 Linnets went over which may not have been resident birds, and the only other migrants were 9 Pied and a single Grey Wagtail passing over.


12th March 2009

The first Chiffchaff of the spring graced the island today. On the sea 2 Red-throated Divers, 5 Guillemots and a Razorbill were seen.


11th March 2009

A quiet day but with two species that tend to occur more at this time of year; a Canada Goose and a Great Tit. A total of 16 Carrion Crows including 14 on the East Hoyle bank is also above the norm.


Tuesday 10 March 2009

10th March 2009

Highlight of a high tide sea watch were 2 adult male Eiders and 114 Common Scoters, otherwise only small numbers of the regulars with 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Crested Grebes and a Shag. The Brent stood at 137 (including 4 dark-bellied) and a good count of 330 Curlews roosted the tide on Middle.

The Stonechat has stayed longer than most and is still present, a single Redwing and a Pied Wagtail were among the very few other passerines on the island today.

After 16.00hrs, just when observers expected nothing more a Peregrine flew south west, a Common Buzzard (still a very scarce Hilbre bird) went east high over Middle, 2 Rooks (another scarcity) travelled west towards Wales and 5 Pintail flew east and then south east down the estuary.


Monday 9 March 2009

Peter Williams

It is with broken hearts that we report the passing away of the Obs long-standing Chairman Pete Williams.

Pete died on Saturday 7th March 2009 after collapsing whilst on his favourite walk, near the Dungeons in Heswall, Wirral, with his devoted wife of 43 years Doreen. There are no words to express Dee’s loss.

In relation to the Obs - he was quite simply the driving force behind Hilbre Bird Observatory for the last thirty plus years with too many achievements on the island to mention here but they include the moving of the Obs to the current building, the building (and re-building again and again) of the three heligoland traps, the construction of the sea-watching hide, the production of the annual report from 1981 to the present day, the training of many birders and lots of ringers – many of whom are now A permit holders throughout the UK and around the world. He has touched the lives of so many.

Not to mention all of the birds he has found, seen and ringed on Hilbre in his 50 years visiting the island.

Whilst he loved birds and all aspects of nature – he was also a people person – he simply loved people and in particular he loved children and their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn which was matched by his own undiminished passion for life right to the end. He lived life at 120mph – and that was not just the speed he returned home from work every Friday night – before heading to his beloved island with his adoring boys.

He has been taken too soon at just 65 – but he lived every minute of every day and we are so proud to have known him so well and to have shared the three loves in life – his family, his friends and his island with everyone at the Obs.

Thanks to everyone for all their support at this difficult time.

Dad you never did walk alone and you never will

Chris and Steve Williams

Pete Williams at the opening of the Old Obs in 1962 (third from left)

Friday 6 March 2009

6th March 2009

A male Common Scoter was east of middle briefly this morning and then flew out to sea.

The Stonechat is still showing well on the fences around the south end and a Peregrine hunted a few times to the east of the island.

Overhead passerines were all singles: Skylark, Reed Bunting, and both Grey and Pied Wagtails, while on the ground a few Robins and Meadow Pipits but no Linnets at the moment.

(CJ) photos CJ

Thursday 5 March 2009

5th March 2009

The Brent are still keeping up the numbers with 140 including 3 dark-bellied and the Dublin ringed bird. The Stonechat is still present and a Greenfinch was the first this year, also a male Sparrowhawk made an appearance.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

4th March 2009

A pair of Goldeneye again, possibly the same as 2 days ago, and a Blue Tit arrived from the mainland. More predictable at this season was a 1st winter Stonechat that frequented the Obs garden and new pond area.

Tuesday 3 March 2009

3rd March 2009

Visits today by a Canada Goose and both Grey and Pied Wagtails.

Monday 2 March 2009

2nd March 2009

Both male and female Goldeneye was a good find on the sea today, while an unringed Rock Pipit and a Song Thrush were about the island.

Sunday 1 March 2009

1st March 2009

An excellent sea watch today including firsts for the year Little Gulls (10) and an unexpected Arctic Skua and a Fulmar. A Gannet was another early visitor alongside regular wintering Red-throated Divers (30), Great Crested Grebes (65), Red-breasted Mergansers (3) and Common Scoters (20+). Less regular ducks were a pair of Pintail and a male Eider. The only passerine of note was a single Goldfinch.