Saturday 27 February 2010

27th February 2010

The highlight of a fairly quiet day was 15 Little Gulls - the first of the spring - which magically appeared with the tide off the west side of the North End, before they disappeared again as the tide ebbed.

However, a Grey Wagtail was a further sign that spring was now very close indeed...

(ME & HW)

Thursday 25 February 2010

25th February 2010

Although the weather (SSE 4-5) started similar to yesterday the wind had dropped compeletely by 3pm.

Another good day with good counts of 415 Shelduck on 'the reef', 480 Curlew, 2,000 Knot, 3,000 Oystercatchers along with smaller numbers of other wader species. A single Peregrine hunted the islands as usual.

Brents remained at 150 pale-bellied and two dark-bellied.

However, the highlights of the day were a single Raven which flew south and yet another harrier - this time the more likely, for the time of year, Hen Harrier. A ringtail flew over the North End and off to the north east.


Wednesday 24 February 2010

24th February 2010

A brisk south south-easterly breeze (force 4-5) made for a cold February day.

The Brent Geese were still around in good numbers - 152 pale-bellied birds and two dark-bellied.

Other wildfowl included 75 Shelduck, a drake Red-breasted Merganser and a fine drake Eider flying north-east past the North End ... the forerunner to a few sightings off North Wirral.

A single Woodpigeon was seen again around the islands.


Monday 22 February 2010

22nd February 2010

A brief visit on a 'fresh' morning produced a single Woodpigeon in the 'heli' trapping area, but that was the only unusual visitor. The Brent Geese were present but were split into several parties around Hilbre itself and were mainly asleep with heads tucked in out of the cold wind - perhaps resting before their gradual departure over the next few weeks. Numbers tend to decline from the peak at the end of January/beginning of February through until later March/early April.

A single Peregrine sat on the beach. But very little else was seen and although looked for again there was no sign of the Velvet Scoter, perhaps it has moved on at last...

Sunday 21 February 2010

21st February 2010

After some initial snow flurries and dark skies it turned out a nice day, with views of the Welsh mountains providing an impressive backdrop to the calm sea. Birds were again at a premium with just the odd seabird and the Brent flock to admire. The small number of wintering passerines included a Robin that was ringed last autumn as a bird of the year and retrapped today (right). It seems top have survived the harsh winter in good shape and may possibly breed on the island this year.
(JE) photos JE

Saturday 20 February 2010

20th February 2010

A cold and sunny morning saw the island very quiet apart from the lifeboat crews on exercises.

There were few sea birds, just the odd G C Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser (above) and the resident Velvet Scoter doing its thing of staying out of camera range.
One of the wintering Dunnocks was heard to sing, possibly the sunshine inspiring it to perform (right).
(CJ) photos CJ

Friday 19 February 2010

19th February 2010

On the sea today were 24 Great Crested Grebes, 28 Common Scoter, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers but only a single Red-throated Diver was to be seen.
The Velvet Scoter was ticked as still present and a Peregrine was noted.

Tuesday 16 February 2010

16th February 2010

The Brents were again present in the same numbers as yesterday and again the focus was wader numbers with similar numbers to yesterday although an impressive 670 Curlew were counted along the tide edge between the Tanskies and Bird Island.

The other highlight of the day was a single Raven, not so rare these days, being chased off the island by the resident Crows, it headed off west towards Wales.

A single Pied Wagtail was an early sign of passage.


Monday 15 February 2010

15th February 2010

The high numbers of Brent Geese were still present although an accurate count was not possible c160 pale-bellied and 2 dark-bellied birds were present.

Wader numbers were the main focus with 40 Grey Plover, 6,000 Knot, 4,000 Dunlin and 620 Curlew and an excellent count for recent times of 240 Sanderling. The majority of these birds were seen on the East Hoyle sand bank.

Unsurprisingly a Peregrine was also seen!

A little more unusual was a Woodpigeon that was chased off by said Peregrine.


Sunday 14 February 2010

14th February 2010

A bright but cold start produced the first Merlin of the year early in the day. Other land birds were 4 Blackbirds, one of which was a female and was ringed this morning, also the flock of 7 Linnets that is still roaming the island.
The Velvet Scoter stays off the north end, but there were only 2 Red-throated Divers, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 11 Great Crested Grebes on the sea. High tide counts included 120 Turnstones and 13 Purple Sandpipers which seem to have developed a fascination with the tide gauge lately (above).
For the third time recently a Harbour Porpoise was seen on a sea watch over the tide.
Ringed:- 1 Blackbird (right)
(JE) [23] photos JE

Saturday 13 February 2010

13th February 2010

Another good day on the island for February. A single Peregrine sat on its usual spot on the ridge greeted observers on the way over and a record Obs count of 161 pale-bellied and 2 dark-bellied Brents as the tide flooded was a good start to the morning. Sea-watching was the main order of the day though with 12 Red-throated Diver, an incredible 158 Great Crested Grebes, 23 Red-breasted Merganser, 8 Goldeneye (including two smart drakes) and the Velvet Scoter drifted in and out on the tide occasionally flapping its wings and showing off its black-and-white markings.

The other highlight of the sea-watch was a Harbour Porpoise that swam past at 10.05am.

52 Pink-feet flew over the Obs (see below) in a nice flock but unusually heading westwards (perhaps towards the Warren Fields at the Point of Ayr?).

Whilst sea-watching the Purple Sandpiper flock (10 birds today) could be watched roosting at the North End (right) and a single Rock Pipit patrolled the sea-covered rocks (left) before being re-trapped in a potter trap (see below).
Waders were again much in evidence especially as the tide dropped, a flock of 25 Bar-tailed Godwit flew past and small numbers of Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Dunlin followed the receding tide edge. Large numbers of Knot were evident off the East Hoyle and further south down the estuary, but counting was difficult at that distance, despite the visibility being good enough to see the Cumbrian snow covered mountain tops.

Winter residents included 2 Dunnocks (both ringed), 3 Blackbirds (including a first year male re-trapped sporting its adult-liked black body plumage and bright yellow bill and eye-ring but with brown flight feathers), 4 Song Thrush and the small Linnet flock increased to 7 birds.

[CJ, PSW, SRW] Photos PSW and SRW

Thursday 11 February 2010

11th February 2010

A beautiful day on the islands today with light easterly wind, not a cloud in the sky, the first snow drops appearing - it felt like spring even if it that is still a few weeks away!

The Pale-bellied Brents still numbered c150 and there were 4 Grey Herons around the islands today. A slight increase in Shelduck numbers to 200 was nice and other wildfowl included two drake Red-breasted Mergansers and a fine drake Eider which flew past the North End, although there was no sign of the Velvet Scoter (perhaps it has simply drifted further out).

Also off the North End were the large numbers of 'big' gulls but still nothing unusual amongst them ... yet ...

Waders were much in evidence with nice counts of 3,000 Knot, 1,500 Dunlin, 380 Curlew, c100 Turnstone and 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, although Purple Sandpiper numbers dropped to just four birds (11 yesterday).

The highlight of the day was also a wader species as a huge flock of 350 Black-tailed Godwits flew over the Observatory buiding and headed high out to sea off to the North; a very good count for Hilbre of a Dee estuary 'speciality'; unfortunately no photographers were present to capture them in all their glory.

Winter resident passerines still present included Wren (3), Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Blackbird (2) and Song Thrush (3) supplemented by the arrival late afternoon yesterday of six Linnets which were still present today feeding at the South End.

Finally, two Common Buzzards were found circling over the East Hoyle sand bank before they drifted off eastwards over the Royal Liverpool Golf Course; no dount they thought it was spring too!


Wednesday 10 February 2010

10th February 2010

A Marsh harrier (possibly a young male) flew across the shore by Little Eye at 09.15hrs this morning. It continued on towards the north east before being put off by a cool stiff north-easterly wind and it veered eastwards and gained height as it crossed the Royal Liverpool Golf Course. The bird was spotted by an observer following the tide back, but fortunately observers on the island were alerted by mobile phone and got onto the bird before it drifted off. It is a most unusual record at this time of year with most Marsh Harriers passing Hilbre in April/May or August/September (although there has been one wintering on the Dee estuary at Parkgate).
It was obviously a day for raptors in the bright sunshine as yet another Sparrowhawk circled gradually westwards being mobbed by the resident Carrion Crows. Offshore the Velvet Scoter was found some way out off the North End and seems determined to spend the rest of the winter here.
There were lots of large gulls off the North End but no 'white wingers' could be found. On the passerine front a Rock Pipit remained around the North End and a Meadow Pipit was on Middle and a few Blackbirds and Song Thrushes remain on the main island.
Brents remained in good numbers with at least 140 present including several family parties such as this one (two adults and a young bird on the right).
(Photos by SRW)

Sunday 7 February 2010

7th February 2010

Plenty of fog around first thing but it gradually cleared enabling a look about the island, but there was no sign of the 4 Snow Buntings or the Corn Bunting (a true Hilbre rarity) that was feeding at the north end and seen by a regular visiting birder yesterday. Brent were counted at the 150 mark or thereabouts and the Velvet Scoter was later reported as still present.

Highlight of the morning was when a Sparrowhawk landed on the lower obs gate for a short while (left and below left).
Still 5 Blackbirds and 3 Song Thrushes wintering on the island, and two other long stayers in the shape of a Robin and a Dunnock (right) were retrapped and found to have put on considerable weight in the few months since first being ringed.
(JE,SRW,TGW) photos JE & SRW (Sprawk left)

Saturday 6 February 2010

6th February 2010

A productive low tide visit to Hilbre was made today by a regular visitor.
There were 4 Snow Buntings over at 08:15, and a Corn Bunting (a very rare Hilbre bird) was feeding at the north end and gave a short splutter of song from bushes by the telegraph building before moving towards the paddocks. The Velvet Scoter was still seen and 138+ Brent Geese counted. Other duck included 5 Red-breasted Merganser, 30 Wigeon, 2 Teal off the north end, and 350 Wigeon in the channel east of Middle, while 250 Pinkfeet Geese flew northeast in two skeins, Other birds of interest were a Sparrowhawk, a Peregrine, 2 Wood Pigeon and 2 Stock Dove over going South.
per SH

Thursday 4 February 2010

4th February 2010

A quick look around before the fog rolled in saw the Brent still at about 150 (photographed left with both colour ringed birds together,[click to enlarge]), just 4 each of Great Crested Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Red-throated Divers and 5 Grey Herons.
Six Meadow Pipits and 3 Linnets were more than of late, they may possibly be breeding birds returning early to inspect the island.
The low tide early morning at this time of the cycle was a good opportunity to see the build up of the honeycomb worm (sabellaria alveolata) reef at the bottom of the tide gauge (right).
(DB,CJW) photos CJW

Wednesday 3 February 2010

3rd February 2010

Just a single Red-throated Diver today but there were 11 Red-breasted Mergansers and several good duck records. A flock of 60 Wigeon flew south followed by another flock of 20, a Pintail and a male Scaup were seen, also the Velvet Scoter that has been off the north end for the last week. Thirty five Shelduck were logged today (on some visits recently none could be found), also a high count of 670 Curlew and 7,000 Oystercatchers.

Tuesday 2 February 2010

2nd February 2010

Another good sea watch today on a very high tide, with the sea coming underneath the sea watching hide on occasions (left). Red-throated Divers (below) were as numerous as Great Crested Grebes. Thirty eight Divers were counted but none of the rarer species could be found, but the Velvet Scoter (see 28th January) stayed within good viewing distance off the north end for the whole 3 hour period, although frustratingly never near enough to be photographed. Others on the sea were 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, 10 Common Scoter and very briefly a Harbour Porpoise broke the surface in the telescope field of one observer.
Middle Eye (below) hosted 750 Herring Gulls and a few thousand Oystercatchers while what was left of Little Eye was crowded with Cormorants. Eight Purple Sandpipers were seen after the tide, whilst around the trapping area were the usual Song Thrushes and Blackbirds and best of all a female Blackcap that evaded capture.
Ringed :- 1 Song Thrush
(CJ,CS,MGT) [ 22] photos CJ