Sunday 31 May 2009

Painted Lady Update 30th May 2009

After later counts of several thousand and an evening visit after the tide the day-count total of Painted Lady butterflies at Hilbre on Saturday (3oth May) was estimated to be an absolutely incredible 6,500! They were literally everywhere... on the landrover track...

In the trees (below left), on the thrift (below centre; their favourite plant on Hilbre during the invasion) and sunning themselves on the sheep tracks (below right)...

(Painted Lady photos SRW)
Adding to the insect bonanza was the sighting of a Red-veined Darter - a first record for the island (photo below not from Hilbre - BSB).

31st May 2009 Updated

Very quiet birdwise as is normal at the very end of May, and even the Painted Ladies were well down on numbers after the estimated 6,500 that had passed through yesterday, today there were about 200 early on building to 400 mid-morning and then nearly all gone by noon. In compensation 2 Four-Spotted Chasers (right) were in the area of the 'air-raid shelter' for some time and a Small Copper butterfly was in the SK paddock (see below).

A few birds were in evidence with the Peregrine (immature) greeting observers south of Middle on the way on (see right). And juvenile Meadow Pipits and Linnets recently fledged around the island showing summer is well and truly here (if the lack of migrants didn't make that obvious to observers!).

Very few Swallows except for the pair apparently attempting to breed, although a small number of Swifts went by. A Mute Swan flew east along the north shore tideline (left).

An afternoon/early evening visit produced another sighting of the Red-veined Darter first seen yesterday.

(DB,CJ,DNW,SRW,TGW+PSW) [397] Photos CJ and SRW

Saturday 30 May 2009

30th May 2009

Again the Painted Ladies make the headlines with another massive influx late yesterday afternoon and 3,000 were estimated on the island at that stage. This morning a systematic count produced the fantastic total of 3,420 on the main island alone (see video below), and others were passing along the shoreline. The arrival is unprecedented on Hilbre.

A Hobby was seen at 05.00 hrs flying down by the south end, and later a recently dead Swift (right) showing signs of predation was found on Buzzard hill, not difficult to make a connection there!

Less exciting news this morning were records of 7 Canada Geese, 2 Teal, 3 Little Egrets and 22 live Swifts.

A Pied Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit were ringed last evening.

An Azure Damslefly was also photographed (see left).

(DB,FD,JE,CJ,SRW + PSW) [397] photos SRW

Painted Lady invasion 30th May 2009 - Video

The Painted Ladies were everywhere, including the trapping boxes, which were quickly emptied and the decision was made to close them for the day.
Video by CJ

Friday 29 May 2009

29th May 2009 ( afternoon update)

The Painted Ladies built up during the late morning to an incredible 200 + at a conservative estimate, which is a lot of butterflies on a small island, and the ringers were kept busy emptying them out of the heligoland trapping boxes every half hour. Not to be out done many day flying Silver y moths (right) showed in all the grassy places on the island.

Just after noon the second bird highlight of the day (after the Spotted Flycatcher) was a couple of summer plumaged Golden Plovers flying south west (see poor record shot left), a late spring date for this scarce Hilbre bird. A few more Swifts (right) and Swallows passed and the Ringed Plover (below left) count had increased to 180 with as many as 250 Dunlin on the rocky shore.

Azure Damselflies have hatched out in the new pond and some were mating on the water (right).
(DB,CJ et al) [395] photos CJ

29th May 2009

A moderate south-easterly and mist early morning produced a typical late spring migrant in the form of a Spotted Flycatcher caught in the Newton mid morning (see left).

A few House Martin and Swifts passed overhead as did single Redpoll spp and Siskin.

Little Egret danced around in the gutter along with three Grey Herons and good numbers of Ringed Plover (80) and Dunlin (c100) were present.

Painted Ladies were still much in evidence around the islands with at least 25 seen during the morning.

(DB, CJ et al). [395]

Wednesday 27 May 2009

27th May 2009

A very strong westerly with showers turning to rain brought little before the tide except 7 Canada Geese, a Little Egret and the tardy Brent.

The Grey Seals (left) have now built up to about 300 hauled out on the west hoyle before the tide floods.

(DB,JE) [394] Photos JE

Monday 25 May 2009

25th May 2009 (Updated)

Another calm and warm day and summers past were brought to mind as a Skylark was on the ground in the area where they used to breed on Middle, and a pair of Swallows seemed to be prospecting a former breeding site on the main island. Only a few other Swallows passing today with a single Swift.

A Peregrine sat in the favoured position for these birds on the line of rocks south of Middle (right).

A warbler heard singing early morning in the Obs garden was thought to be a Sedge Warbler doing a sub-song. Later however it was heard again in the blackthorn between SK and Newton traps and suspicions were raised enough for a net to be erected. Subsequently a Reed Warbler was trapped in the Newton at about 2pm ... only the ninth record for the islands but the seventh since 2000 (photo below).

The main interest of the day were the Painted Lady butterflies (left) that have increased to dozens since yesterday (at least 40 counted) and were part of a massive migration arrival from southern europe witnessed on the south and east coasts yesterday.

Blue-tailed Damselflies have emerged in the main pond and are sitting hidden in the vegetation around the edge (above left), meanwhile the first real success for the new 'degsys' pond came with the first damselfly lava noted this morning (above right).
(DB,CJ,THM et al,NDW,SRW) [394] photos CJ & SRW

Sunday 24 May 2009

24th May 2009

A quick early visit before the tide felt like summer from the outset especially when a Painted Lady butterfly landed on the thrift near the north end (left), although the continued appearance of an exceptionally late Pale-bellied Brent (below) flying in circles around the sea made a strange seasonal contrast in the warm sunshine. Two Wheatears and a Collared Dove were on middle and a single Wheatear on the main island (left), with just a few Swallows gliding through.

As expected in this clear weather of late spring there were no passage finches or warblers to be seen.
(CJ) [393] photos CJ

Saturday 23 May 2009

23rd May 2009

A south easterly first thing this morning but failing to produce many migrants apart from 2 Wheatears and a steady Swallow passage also with 6 House Martins and 3 Swifts. Single Dunnock, Grey Wagtail and Lesser Redpoll were the only other exceptions to a very quiet day. Hardly a migrant in the true sense of the word but a Collared Dove (left) visited briefly and sat on the obs fence. Still at least 5 Whimbrel (below), 6 Sanderling, 25 Ringed Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit on the shore with a few Dunlin and Knot and several hundred Oystercatchers.

Two hundred Gannets sat on the sea towards the wind farms and a Red-throated Diver flew off to the west side.
Ringed today:- 1 Robin
(JE,CJ,SRW,+CD,PSW) [393] photos CJ

Friday 22 May 2009

22nd May 2009

A single Brent was again seen, and together with 3 Arctic Skuas (2 dark phase) seemed to have come from up river after the tide. Gannets numbered 150 on the sea.
(MGT) [392]

Thursday 21 May 2009

21st May 2009

With the wind in the north west, sea watching was the priority and good results were obtained with counts of 400 Gannets, 54 Kittiwakes (only 4 adults), 250 Sandwich Terns, 70 Common Terns and a Fulmar. An adult male Eider put in an appearance and 18 Whimbrel were still about the rocks. Again no warblers to be seen, will there be any more this spring ?
(DB) [392]

Wednesday 20 May 2009

20th May 2009

A very quick visit after the tide just to see what might have been missed this morning provided the answer - very little. A Brent seen flying off between the islands was a very late record, and a Song Thrush was extremely unseasonal, but the single Wheatear was more expected. Just a small trickle of Swallows went south.
(CJ,et al) [392]

Tuesday 19 May 2009

19th May 2009

A southerly wind brought 3 new Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat and a good count of 91 Swallows, 4 House martins and 2 Swifts. Five Little Egrets were on the shore.
(DB) [392]

Monday 18 May 2009

18th May 2009

The wind is just not abating - and to add to our frustration bands of rain passed through over night and this morning. The only warbler on the island was a Willow from yesterday indicating that birds had not really been on the move much. However, efforts were rewarded with a nice Common Sandpiper on the West side near Lady's Cave (apologies for terrible record shot - above left) and an unusual record of an immature Kittiwake on the east side rocks below the Old Obs (see below).

Interestingly the only new bird caught was an adult Robin?!?

Meanwhile back on the mainland the West Kirby Marine Lake has once again been drained (see below) and is providing excellent habitat for feeding gulls, waders and egrets.

Five Little Egrets (nine last night) were present this morning along with 7 Whimbrel (see opposite).

(DB et al) [392]

(Photo below of West Kirby Marine Lake with Whimbrel in foreground, Little Egret centre and Hilbre in background)

Sunday 17 May 2009

17th May 2009

With a freshening cold south-easterly wind hopes were not raised too high this morning - and observers were not wrong! Hardly anything first thing - but news of an Icterine Warbler on the Great Orme spurred the team on and another round of the traps produced a single Willow Warbler and a single Lesser Repoll (not quite the standar dreamed of but nevertheless not a 'null day'.

Another Willow was caught later with a third around the island - but no other warblers on at all - unusual for mid May in a south-easterly of any description. A few Swallows (c60) and the odd House Martin moved through but in general it was a very quiet morning. However, waders were in evidence with Knot, Dunlin, Turnstone, Curlew and Whimbrel (3) around the islands and 2 Little Egrets in the gutter.

(DB, TGW, SRW + PSW) [391]

Saturday 16 May 2009

16th May 2009

Despite the south east wind direction the morning did not 'feel right' because of the cold and gusty conditions and clear visibility.
A Peregrine was on the rocks south of Middle (left), and a drake Scoter off the west side (below), however passerines were hard to come by with just 3 Willow Warblers on the ground, a few Lesser Redpolls overhead and a Wheatear that did not arrive until after 09.00hrs. Swallows were at about 80, but a bigger proportion of House Martins were counted today at 37 birds but Swifts were again scarce at 2 individuals.

Up to 60 Gannets were on the sea, but Common and Sandwich Terns were only in single figures.

Excitement of the day was the arrival of 6 Mute Swans (3 adults and 3 immature) at the east of the island (left). They stayed for a couple of hours just below the obs garden and then flew off towards Wales. Mute Swan is a scarce bird at Hilbre, and most of them are 'fly by' records. Later the Lifeboat service were on excercises in the same part of the east gutter (below).

Ringed today:- 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Meadow Pipit.

(FD,JE,CJ,SRW,+CD,PSW) [388] photos CJ

Thursday 14 May 2009

14th May 2009

A pleasant change this morning to find hardly a breath of wind after the strong easterlies that had made birding quite uncomfortable recently.

The murky damp conditions were brightened for the observers by some good birds to be seen from soon after dawn.

The first 2 Spotted Flycatchers (above and right) of the year prefered to fly-catch from the fences and other open areas rather than the normal trees and bushes, which explains why they failed to be ringed today.

Likewise a Whinchat also failed to cooperate and stayed on high perches and even sat on top of a mist net pole at one stage (right).
More obliging were 3 of the 5 Sedge Warblers present, 1 of the 2 Whitethroats, and half of the small trickle of Willow Warblers during the morning.

Hirundines were logged at over 400 Swallows, 5 House Martins, also 4 Swifts.

Some significant wader counts (for this time of year) were about 1,000 Knot and 15 Sanderling all moving north east. The by now almost expected Little Egret (left) didn't appear until noon.

Ringed :- 5 Willow Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 1 Whitethroat.
(DB,CJ et al) [385] photos CJ et al

Wednesday 13 May 2009

13th May 2009

No warblers appeared until about 08:30hrs when 3 Willow Warblers (left) were around the paddocks, but very little else except a few Goldfinches (below) on the ground and a Redpoll overhead.
Eleven Swallows went through by 10.30hrs with 5 Swift and a Sand Martin, while Whimbrel were down to only 4 birds on the west side rocks and 2 Little Egrets fed in the east gutter (below left).

An Angle Shades moth (right) was found near the north end.
Later a Red Sword-grass (left) was discovered in the vicinity of the Newton trap, unfortunately it was dead, nevertheless it is a species previously unknown at Hilbre.
Ringed:- 3 Willow Warblers, 1 Linnet
(DB,JE,CF,CJ) [376] photos CJ & JE

Tuesday 12 May 2009

12th May 2009

A quiet morning until about 7.30am when the fresh easterlies brought the first Marsh Harrier of the year to the islands. A single all dark bird flew in from the West being mobbed by a Peregrine off the West side of Middle. It then made hard work of the easterly breeze as it headed firstly to West Kirby, before re-orientating and heading over the dunes below Pinfold Lane Steps and then inland towards the Carrs (Hoylake Langfields) - see poor record shot below.

[DB, SRW] Poor quality photo SRW

Sunday 10 May 2009

10th May 2009

Hardly any wind this morning for the first time in ages...however, migrant numbers didn't improve much although there was a good passage of Swallows with over 100 seen. Single Sedge and Willow Warbler were caught (see below).
However, lots of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were around the island as well as 4 Curlew and a single Common Sandpiper graced the Whale back again and 4 Little Egrets appeared after the tide.

(JE, DCT, PT, NDW + CD) [365] Photo JE