Thursday 30 December 2010

30th December 2010

Thick fog today hampered observations but 169 Pale-bellied Brents were counted, along with 17 Wigeon. Other noteworthy records included 2 Redwing, a single Golden Plover and a Short-eared Owl.


Wednesday 29 December 2010

29th December 2010

Somewhat milder today with all the snow and ice now vanished making all parts of the island accessible. No winter Snipe or Lapwings were logged, and only 12 Skylarks appeared although 11 Linnets were the first for some time on the island, while 3 Blackbirds were noted early and 6 Song Thrushes continued their stay (one being re-trapped from last winter).
The Brent numbered 167 including all three colour ringed birds, but duck were at a premium, with 3 Wigeon seen and a flock of 6 Scaup flying west.
A Sparrowhawk flew across early on but did not stay, while a male Kestrel showed up and swooped on an unfortunate Song Thrush in the bracken at the south end. There were some other signs of kills today with finds of 2 dead Knot, 2 dead Redshank, 2 predated Lapwings, and most surprising of all, Golden Plover remains in the rangers garden.
A Grey Heron stood on 'Wheatear hill' by the obs for a while and only flew when visitors on the path came too close (above & right).
Fourteen Great Crested Grebes were the only 'seabirds' of note today.
Ringed:- 1 Song Thrush.
(DB,JE,CJ,PSW) [717] Photos PSW

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Just outside our recording area - invasions!

The country has been enjoying a Waxwing invasion since early autumn and Hilbre has had a number of records during this time. On Christmas Eve four Waxwings turned up in one Obs member's garden in nearby West Kirby. The same garden that had one on 14th December 2008 (see blog for that date).

They did not stay long though (three of the four right).
As well as Waxwings (and many other species heading west to avoid the extreme weather on the continent), Woodcocks have been occuring in large numbers across the country and again Hilbre has enjoyed three records between October - December (so far...).

Normally a crepuscular species one was found on the snow covered lawn of two members' garden in nearby Heswall on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day afternoons (see left). Photos by SRW.

Monday 27 December 2010

27th December 2010

The temperature was just above freezing this morning but it felt very cold in the south easterly breeze, and the sheep were certainly again ready for their food and water (left).

Access to the north end was limited due to the ice making the rocks slippery, and the only good record from off the slipway was a Scaup drifting close in. It is probably the same bird as seen yesterday, at least it was the same plumage type.

Flocks totalling 50 Lapwings flew across and a single bird spent some time on the island (right), an unusual sight as most prefer the shore and rocks when visiting Hilbre. A Peregrine gave a good show as it doggedly refused to be beaten by the Knot it was chasing, although the latter seemed to survive.

There was only 1 Blackbird present but 6 Song Thrushes were counted, the only small overhead visitor was a single Skylark.
The Brent (above) were unable to be counted on such a short visit but seemed to be at about the 100 mark, and the usual waders were seen, including an obliging Bar-tailed Godwit just before the tide (right).

(CJ,CJW+2,PSW,SRW) photos CJ

Sunday 26 December 2010

26th December 2010 - Boxing Day

A Boxing Day visit before the tide by a couple of members resulted in more cold weather movement and some good sightings.

Good movements of Lapwings were recorded with over 80 counted moving west in small groups, flocks of Scaup were seen on the sea and a small group of Tufted Duck (4) and Scaup (female) flew over the North End (see left). Another Scaup appeared below the Obs garden and drifted down the gutter as the tide flooded (see below) and a Goldeneye also flew down the gutter (below left).

The sheep were fed by Obs regular and Voluntary Coastal Ranger Derek (see below right).

The highlight of the day was another Jack Snipe flushed from the top of the East Side slipway it flew off low south along the East Side so may still be around ...

Waders were again much in evidence with vast flocks of mainly Knot (below right) and Dunlin but also including good numbers of over 400 Bar-tailed Godwit (below left) and the Tanskies also held up to 350 Grey Plover as the tide flooded.

[DB and SRW]
Photos SRW

Saturday 25 December 2010

25th December 2010

HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all our blog followers from everyone at Hilbre Bird Observatory.

Friday 24 December 2010

24th December 2010

No visitors on Christmas Eve prompted a brief afternoon ebb tide visit. Several Lapwings huddled around Little Eye (see right) and more were seen by Middle Hilbre and over the main island. A couple of Grey Herons continue to hunt on Hilbre; unusual to have them on the island when people are present (see below).

The elusive (and speedy!) Rabbit was at last captured 'on film' although the usual excuses (light, snow, fast moving subject etc etc) apply - apologies for the blurred image (see below left)!

Numerous tracks have been found around the islands during this cold spell and the Rabbit has obviously been roaming the island extensively looking for food.

[CJW, SRW] Photos CJW (Grey Heron) & SRW

Thursday 23 December 2010

23rd December 2010

The wind remained in the north east and with slightly overcast conditions it was bitingly cold. However, yet another good day occurred with small movements of Pink-footed Geese recorded (20 and 17), 7 Lapwing passed over, a single Snipe was noted.

A superb count of 82 Scaup, 3 Tufted Duck and a single Goldeneye continued the wildfowl and wader theme for the week.

Of 8 Song Thrushes and 2 Blackbirds present four of the former and a single male Blackbird were caught and ringed.

[DB, BT + SReid] [716]

Wednesday 22 December 2010

22nd December 2010

A quietier day today with the wind shifting to north-east it felt even colder than the -3 degrees C registered by the weather station.

A good count of 394 Curlew was made along with 140 Turnstone and both Kestrel and Peregrine were noted. The winter resident Rock Pipit was still present along with 2 BLackbirds and 8 Song Thrushes.

Two Lapwing passed over and 10 Scaup and 2 Wigeon were also noted.


Tuesday 21 December 2010

21st December 2010

Winter solstice produced an excellent mid-winters day with 43 species recorded on and around the islands. A couple of Red-throated Divers were on the sea accompanied by 90 Great Crested Grebes. A superb count of 1,000 Shelduck was made along with impressive numbers of waders (such as 20,000 Knot, 120 Grey Plover, 5,000 Dunlin and 200 Bar-tailed Godwits).

Highlights of the day were many and included a Woodcock which was flushed twice from the island once from in front of the 'Newton', a Woodpigeon passed over (along with 17 Lapwing), a single Redwing also passed over (calling) and 22 Whooper Swans passed by in groups of four and sixteen.


Monday 20 December 2010

20th December 2010

South east and mist produced an excellent day for species (40 recorded) and numbers. Wildfowl was much in evidence with 600 Shelduck, 43 Wigeon, 2 (m & f) Pintail, 5 Goldeneye, 66 Scaup and 12 Pink-footed Geese recorded.

Not to outdone waders were also well representsed with 21 Purple Sandpipers (equalling the current winter peak count), 29 Lapwing passed over in small groups and a Little Egret was noted. However, the highlight of the day was a Jack Snipe - very unusual at Hilbre and no doubt brought in due to the extreme weather currently being experienced. It flew low over the gate in the Obs garden.


Sunday 19 December 2010

Norwegian Ringed Oystercatcher

On 12th December 2010 a freshly dead Oystercatcher was found on the East Hoyle Sand Bank (see blog for that date). It was found to be ringed and the ring identified it having been ringed in Norway (see left) with the words "Stavanger Museum" inscribed on it (see right). Details have been sent off to the BTO and we await news of exactly where and when the bird was ringed. Photos Oystercatcher PSW and rings SRW.

19th December 2010

An early morning tide had one observer heading around the frozen tide edge before first light to get to the island. Others followed on the ebbing tide to enjoy an absolutely stunning day (weather-wise - see approach from Middle Eye above) on the islands...a crisp day, still snow on the ground and beautiful blue skies were complimented by some more excellent recording. Apologies for the number of photos but the islands were in sparkling form today.

It is not often that the shore is frozen and even the tide in flat calm conditions had ice floating by (see below and right).

Wader and wildfowl numbers were very impressive, and on a WeBS count day, over and after the tide. The best count was 20,000 Knot but good counts of all the regular species (including Redshank - see right) were made and no doubt encouraged the attendance of a Peregrine.

Shelduck were present on the frozen shore in their hundreds, the Brents were loafing around Middle Eye and the reef. Other geese included several skeins of Pink-feet (122) passing over and a flock of Greylag (20).

The Scaup flock was still present and had increased to 70 birds during the morning (see above), it still included at least one Tufted Duck (a drake) and nice surprise in the form of three Shovelor (including two drakes) - an unusual record at Hilbre at this time of year. More typical for the time of year were two Goldeneye and a Razorbill on the sea.
Whilst a Little Egret feeding in a tidal pool is also rather typical now; it still looked a little out of place for December (see left)! Good numbers of Wigeon were seen today (see below) including separate flocks of 40 and 65 and a total for the day of 143.

Other cold weather movement was noted including a few flocks of Lapwings (the largest flock being of twenty nine birds), over 150 Skylarks moved over the islands but small groups did stop on the islands briefly, a couple of Redwing were noted and a Snipe was heard and later seen near Middle Eye.
The day ended as it had begun with stunning blue sky but no wind at all with Middle Eye reflecting in the pool between the islands in the evening light (see below right) and the shoreline beginning to freeze even worse than it had this morning (see below left from West Kirby Promenade) tomorrow could be even colder...

[DB, JE, CJ, PSW, TGW, SRW] Photos by PSW (Redshank, Wigeon, duck flock - mainly Scaup) and remainder SRW

Saturday 18 December 2010

18th December 2010

The weather turned on Friday evening and brought a covering of snow to the Wirral peninsula as well as to Hilbre which is unusual. Observers made an afternoon visit on Saturday to enjoy the views of the islands blanketed in snow (view of Hilbre from Middle Eye above, Hilbre Bird Observatory below left, main island looking back from North End below right).

The snow provided evidence of a number of species present on the island including the elusive Rabbit (left). However, the birding wasn't bad either with 5 Redwings seen and heard overhead as well as 70 Skylarks passing over including one flock of 60+ birds (see far right). The blackthorn in the trapping areas was also sprinkled with snow too (see above right).

A single Snipe was flushed from near the frozen pond. At the North End a flock of 52 Scaup (see below centre) was found drifting just off the island and the flock included a single drake Tufted Duck. A single Wigeon (left) drifted close in shore as did a single drake Teal (see right).
An adult winter Mediterranean Gull flew past the North End and is presumably the same bird that has been seen on about four occasions around the islands recently.

The cold weather movement continued well into the afternoon and included ten Lapwings heading west. Waders were much in evidence around the North End slipway with 4 Purple Sands, plenty of Turnstone (c100), Knot (25), Grey Plover, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlews (see right) to name but a few.
Passerines on the island included a couple of Rock Pipits, a slight increase in Meadow Pipits was noticed and out of 4 Song Thrushes and 3 Blackbirds a new male Blackbird was trapped and ringed and a female was retrapped as was a Robin.

[PSW, SRW] [712] Photos Skylark, Wigeon and Curlew PSW and remainder SRW

The day ended with blue skies and sun dipping down behind the snow clouds above Wales bathing the island in lovely blue light reflecting off the snow (see below).

Sunday 12 December 2010

12th December 2010

Christmas came early to Hilbre today in more ways than one!

Just inside our recording area on West Kirby beach (and then around West Kirby Marine Lake) almost 500 Santa Clauses enjoyed the glorious weather on their 'Santa Dash' in aid of Hoylake Cottage Hospital (see above). Competitors of all ages heading for the finish line (right) with Hilbre in the background.

Back on the island Christmas really had come early for the Obs, although there were very few birds (albeit good numbers of Brents remain), a freshly dead Oystercatcher was found by a member on the way off the island on the East Hoyle Bank and was discovered to have a Norwegian Ring on it from Stavanger Museum - continuing our incredible run of excellent records this year. We await the details of exactly where and when it was ringed.

[DB] Photo of Santas by SRW

Saturday 11 December 2010

11th December 2010

Local members of the bird observatory gathered on the island today to celebrate long standing member Marc Eden's 50th Birthday. Marc has been a member of Hilbre Bird Observatory for over thirty years and it was a day for reminiscing. Superb food (supplied by Marc's partner Harriet) and the odd tipple meant that despite the cold weather and few birds to be found it was a lovely day enjoyed by everyone present (see below)...a glass was also raised to absent friends past and present.

Birds included a good count of 152 pale and 2 dark-bellied Brent Geese and included the Canadian ringed bird.

[Front row Harriet and Marc; middle row from left to right - KMu, PSW, AS, AMC, ESCA, AAB, AEH, FD, NDW, SRW; back row DB, BSB, CJW] Photo by DGW

Friday 10 December 2010

10th December 2010

A record count of Brents was the highlight today with 171 birds counted on the ebbing tide.


Tuesday 7 December 2010

7th December 2010

Icicles in Niffy bay (left) on another very cold day but luckily no wind chill to deter observers from being out in the field. Three Redwings went through early but some Song Thrushes (below) stayed with about 7 on the island all morning together with a single Blackbird. A Golden plover was between the islands before the tide and another flew east in front of the north end later and 4 Common Snipe were flushed from various areas during the morning.

Besides the resident Dunnocks, Wrens and Robins there was just 1 Meadow Pipit and 2 Rock Pipits to be found, whilst overhead only a single Skylark and 3 Starlings showed all day.

The sea was well watched and produced counts of 23 Red-throated Divers (left), 92 Great Crested Grebes (a large number but well down on Sunday), and 2 Guillemots. A Great Northern Diver was seen from Hoylake near to the green buoy (JET).

Duck today included more Scaup (groups of 18, 2 and 6), 3 Goldeneye (right), and 3 Mallard flying west across the south end.

Ringed :- 1 Song Thrush.

(DB,CJ,CS+RB,CJW, et al) [711] photos CJ

Sunday 5 December 2010

5th December 2010

An overcast morning with absolutely no wind produced a quiet morning, to start with. The grey skies coupled with 'flyovers' resulted in apologies for the record-shot photos today. The only passerines on the island were the usual winter residents including two Rock Pipits (one of which was ringed in October - see right).

Things started improving when a Great Northern Diver was spotted flying over the Obs garden to the West before it turned and headed towards the North End (see left). Ironic considering the impressive numbers of Red-throateds at sea yesterday.

The distinctive call of a Snow Bunting was heard over the North End and the bird was spotted flying overhead and off to the South and then West (see below left and right) - unfortunately it could not be relocated anywhere on the island later and had perhaps headed off to the Point of Ayr.

Waders were again in good numbers with at least 12,000 Oystercathers, many of which roosted on Middle Eye which was packed to the top (see left) and many more were trying to pile in during the tide (see below).

Three Snipe were present on the main island (see left) continuing the recent spate of records coinciding with the cold weather - we are surely due a Jack Snipe or Woodcock soon...

Despite the good records mentioned above, the highlight of the day was an incredible count of Great Crested Grebes with 515 counted (mainly out towards the Burbo Wind Farm) in rafts of up to twenty birds that could be seen for miles on the flat calm sea in bright sunshine as the weather improved during the afternoon.

[CJ, SRW, TGW] Photos CJ (Snipe) and SRW (rest)