Tuesday 30 March 2010

30th March 2010

A Merlin was on the island today and at one stage had a finch kill at the north end.
Another moderate passage of Meadow Pipits with a count of 420 birds. Best of the other passerines were 3 Wheatears, 5 Goldfinches and 5 Swallows.
A five and a half hour sea-watch produced the following:- 6 Red-throated Divers,15 Graet Crested Grebes, 12 Common Scoter, 15 Gannets, 47 Little Gulls, 3 Wigeon and a Razorbill.
A Glaucous Gull which was identified at Red Rocks by a member (MGT) was distantly seen from the island.
(DB, + CJ and MGT at Red Rocks)

Monday 29 March 2010

29th March 2010

The first Goldcrest of the spring arrived today, let's hope it is not the last as the August bird of last autumn proved to be.
A big surprise was the find that the Black Redstart was still present on the island. Other birds were scarce with just single Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Little Egret. Thirty five Gannets were on the sea alongside 3 Little Gulls.

Sunday 28 March 2010

28th March 2010

With no sign of the Black Redstart and the wind in the west, time for the first breeding bird survey of the year. All the regulars were seen (with the exception of the Swallows yet to arrive) as breeding bird species are few at Hilbre; the complete list comprised Shelduck, Mallard, Carrion Crow (left), Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Wren, and Robin.

Two of the Wheatears (right) of previous days are still building up fat reserves on the island and when retrapped were found to have put on weight to the tune of 1.5 grams each.
The strong breeze brought in 50 Gannets in view of the island, and at least 6 Purple Sandpipers were found to be still present.
(JE) photos JE

Saturday 27 March 2010

27th March 2010

A Black Redstart was found early this morning on the fences around the obs, it was not trapped and despite appearing to move further up the island, so far it cannot be relocated.
Other news updates is that the two ringed Wheatears from Thursday are still present, and a Chiffchaff was singing on the island.
On the sea were 32 Little Gulls and 7 Gannets.
Latest:- 10.30 hrs. The Black Redstart (above) was re-found, trapped and ringed in the Newton heligoland and found to be a a first year bird.
(CJW et al, SRW) [41] photos CJW

Friday 26 March 2010

26th March 2010

A Snow Bunting was disturbed from the West Kirby shore at 07.30hrs which then headed out towards Hilbre, but was not seen on the islands. Two more Wheatears were ringed and several Siskins were heard overhead. At least 25 Little Gulls and 8 Gannets were on the sea.

Fly-pasts by both Peregrine falcon (left) and Nimrod aircraft(right) produced good photographs.
Ringed:- 2 Wheatears
(DB,PSW,CJW) [ 40] photos PSW

Thursday 25 March 2010

25th March 2010

The best migration day of the year - so far! Conditions were ideal with a light south easterly with mist and drizzle early morning to help bring the birds down to make the diurnal migrants visible to observers. Far and away the most numerous were Meadow Pipits (1150 counted) which passed south all day and could be seen approaching from the north west over the sea.

Highlight for many however were the 5 Swallows (left) that passed at intervals in singles during the day, and the 7 Sand Martins that were more expected at this early point of the season, both species being the first seen this year. Two Chiffchaffs were around the trapping area with several finches (5 Greenfinches, 5 Goldfinches, 2 Chaffinches (right), 10 Siskin) also down or overhead.
Others moving through were 33 Starlings, 7 Skylarks, 3 White and 30 Pied Wagtails also a Reed Bunting.

Three male (left) and a female Northern Wheatear stayed for most of the morning, while a Little Egret (above) dropped into the east gutter, this being the first seen this year !
A surprising find was a group of 4 Tufted Duck that flew passed observers south of Middle early morning, the only other duck today were 4 Wigeon going south-west mid-morning. Geese were represented by 2 Greylags and the wintering Brent (112 today including 2 dark-bellies).
The run of Little Gull sightings continued when c.50 appeared off the west side again at half tide and then promptly did their vanishing act before they could be pointed out to visiting birders.

Ringed:- 2 Northern Wheatears (right), 2 Chiffchaffs (far right), 1 Robin, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Goldfinch.

Another first for the year today was a showing by a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in the obs garden when the afternoon sunshine made the day warm (right).

(DB,CJ,KMc,CJW, et al) [ 37] photos CJ

Wednesday 24 March 2010

24th March 2010

The first Chiffchaff of the year appeared in the gardens today together with single male Greenfinch and Chaffinches. Meadow Pipits were again moving moderate numbers(c.300) and a hirundine flew throught the garden but views were too brief for it to be specifically identified.
Sixty Little Gulls were off the west side at low water and 8 Teal were seen at the north end.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

23rd March 2010

Not as much movement today with only 22 Meadow Pipits through but a few interesting birds to note.
Little Gulls continue to show off the west side (70 today). The Brent are down in numbers from the peak although there were 2 dark-bellied amongst the 110 birds counted. A pair of Wigeon were seen again, possibly the same as yesterday.
Three Magpies were observed in flight over the east hoyle bank.
Two male Wheatears and a single White Wagtail were on the island but the best passerine was a female Reed Bunting (right) which was caught and ringed. (DB,CJW) [29] Photo CJW

Monday 22 March 2010

22nd March 2010

A rare Hilbre species appeared today when 2 male Gadwalls were found on the whaleback with a pair of Wigeon before they flew off south. The last record seems to be of a single male seen south of Middle on the very similar date of 25th March 2006.
A male Wheatear stayed at the north end all day, even through a tremendous storm that occurred in the late afternoon.
Seen on the move over the sea were 31 Little Gulls (including some juveniles) that flew fairly close to the west side before the tide, and later 17 adults travelling south west at high water. Also off the west side were 22 Whooper Swans going north before landing on the sea, and eventually flying off to the north west. No other great surprises on the sea, and just a single Gannet and 2 Red-throated Divers were logged.
Meadow Pipits passed in moderate numbers (240) and 14 Starlings went over but other small birds were scarce, just a single White with the 7 Pied Wagtails, 2 Rock Pipits and a Goldfinch around the trapping area. A Raven and 4 Canada Geese can no longer be described as scarce, but were good additions making the day list up to 44 species.

Sunday 21 March 2010

21st March 2010

A sunny morning meant it was very clear overhead and movements of migrants were very limited over the island; despite the hope that a Ring Ouzel found at nearby Red Rocks gave, 40 Meadow Pipits, 2 Goldfinches and a Grey Wagtail were the only birds moving over the main island in the morning.
Observers who went expecting to see their first Wheatear were initially disappointed but during the morning one appeared on the path on Middle island although it did not stay and was certainly gone by noon.

A male Wigeon floated off the north end and then flew west (above), 2 Mute Swans flew east over the island (above), and the Velvet Scoter still resided in its favoured patch of sea.
(DB,JE+1,CJ,SRW,TGW) +ESCA (happy birthday !) photos CJ
Further updates for the last few days below:-

Saturday 20 March 2010

20th March 2010

An excellent day of migration for those who braved the weather. There was a south easterly early on with frequent bouts of heavy rain and even fog by 08.00hrs. This unsuitable weather for humans made for good conditions for seeing 42 species of bird on the island.
There were 405 Meadow Pipits moving through with 18 Pied, 2 Grey and 6 White Wagtails.
Two Fieldfares and a Redwing were down on the island with male and female Chaffinches, overhead were 2 Starlings and a Skylark.
Most exciting bird of the day was the first Wheatear of the season, a male seen just before 09.00hrs by the lookout.
The sea was also productive with all the usual species seen and also featuring 6 Red-throated Divers, 14 Gannets, 4 Little gulls, an adult male Eider, a Velvet Scoter seen with the 135 Common Scoters that moved south west which was in addition to the regular bird which was in its normal position off to the north east.
(DB,) +SH

Friday 19 March 2010

19th March 2010

A brief visit found a Snow Bunting that flew in from the east, landed at the north end and then went off east again towards the shore. A small number of finches were noted including a Goldfinch, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Siskins and also a Skylark.

Thursday 18 March 2010

18th March 2010

Some obvious passerine migration today, principally with Meadow Pipits numbering 255, and the first White Wagtail of the year, with 19 Pied Wagtails in attendance, and 11 Goldfinches and 4 Siskins over the island. A Harbour Porpoise passed down the west side at 11.00hrs.
Ringed:- 1 Robin
(DB, et al) [28]

Wednesday 17 March 2010

17th March 2010

Highlights of today were an adult male Eider flying south west, and a Raven travelling in the same direction. Sea-watching produced 4 Red-throated Divers, 14 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 6 Common Scoter. Overhead 40 Meadow Pipits and 4 Pied Wagtails went through.
(DB) +SH

Tuesday 16 March 2010

16th March 2010

A light south easterly gave hope of a reasonable days birding and it seemed to be delivering with a Merlin flushed from the south end of the main island and 3 Eiders close in to the west side (left). The trapping areas held 3 new Robins, hardly a passage but they were the first non-thrushes ringed this year. Seven Pied Wagtails went through and 2 Chaffinches were down briefly and together with the single Skylark that was the extent of the days passerine movements.
Eight large swans flew north out of the Dee but were too distant to identify specifically but were probably Whoopers.
A count of 282 Turnstones was certainly up on recent weeks and our wintering flock may have been joined by others arriving from elsewhere preparing to depart to the breeding places. At least 12 Purple Sandpipers are still with us.
The sea was quiet with records of 10 Great Crested Grebes, 10 Red-breasted Mergansers, a single Red-throated Diver and the Velvet Scoter making a very brief appearance when seen (unfortunately from the obs) to fly closely passed the north end.
The frogs together with their spawn are now both showing well on the track side of the main pond (right).
Ringed :- 3 Robins
(DB,CJ,KMc) +RW [27] photos CJ

Monday 15 March 2010

15th March 2010

An otherwise very uneventful day was made memorable when a Short-eared owl arrived on the island and landed for a short time on top of the SK heligoland trap. Unfortunately it did not become the second ever ringed at Hilbre but it was nevertheless welcome as the first seen this year.

Sunday 14 March 2010

14th March 2010

With the wind still in the north west there was again no passerine interest (apart from 2 Skylarks) and the best bird watching took place while viewing from the sea hide (left).
A Little Gull fed distantly with fluttering flight off to the west, and 3 Scaup flew from the Hoylake direction, quite close to the island and then towards Wales. After the tide a second winter Mediterranean Gull was identified with the other gulls around the north end and a Harbour Porpoise was watched for about twenty minutes and shortly afterwards it was seen moving towards the island to give close views for a short time. Some of the other seabirds from the log were :- 4 Gannets, 2 Red-throated Divers, 11 Great Crested Grebes, 65 Common Scoters and the Velvet Scoter.
All three of the island ponds now contain frogspawn and it won't be long before we can look forward to the appearance of all the other pond creatures.
(JE, CS+1,) +SH photo JE

Thursday 11 March 2010

11th March 2010

A beautiful sunny day but the north westerly did us no favours as regards migrants. Star bird of the day was a House Sparrow which stayed about for a short time, otherwise a single Pied Wagtail and a Skylark (right) were the meagre reward for sky watching.
The sea was no better with just 8 Gannets being of any real note apart form the continuing stay of the Velvet Scoter. Many Knot were again seen travelling north, but nowhere near the massive numbers of yesterday.
Around the paddocks and bungalows only single Song Thrush and single Blackbird could be seen, suggesting that some of the wintering birds have departed in the last few days.
With no decent pictures of scarce Hilbre birds to publish we show portraits taken today of some of the remaining winter visitors- Purple Sandpipers ( 8 counted) and the Brent.

(AAB,DB,CJ,KMc) photos CJ

Wednesday 10 March 2010

10th March 2010

An amazing 40,000 Knot were seen heading out of the estuary and off to the north, possibly vacating their wintering areas and moving towards their breeding grounds.
The wind was mostly in the north east but the only obvious passage overhead were 2 Siskins and 2 Goldfinches, and although the Linnets were counted at 8 birds they were probably potential breeders rather than migrants.
Later 10 Wigeon dropped in on the west side.
Three Common frogs were seen and frogspawn was found in the old obs pond for the first time this year.

Tuesday 9 March 2010

9th March 2010

A Peregrine sat on the rocks near Little Eye in the early morning light, unfortunately the breeze proved to be in the north or north west rather than the north easterly promised by the forecast, but nevertheless although there was no true migration there were small signs of spring movement.
The first Gannets of the year were logged and a total of 16 were counted, mostly at a good distance from the island. A drake Eider flew south west down the estuary and another was off to the north, which was later joined by 2 more drakes - making four for the day. The Velvet Scoter was eventually located even further out than usual, beyond the 12 Great Crested Grebes and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers. A single Red-throated Diver and 30 Common Scoters completed the sea-watch.

A Common Snipe was flushed from the main pond early in the day which was later occupied by 4 Mallards (left). A flight of 6 Jackdaws (right) (a scarce Hilbre bird) flew lazily west over the island.
Three Pied Wagtails went over, otherwise migrant passerines consisted only of finches with 4 Greenfinches (2 down around the Blackthorn) and 12 Goldfinches overhead.
(DB,CJ,CJW, et al) photos CJ

Sunday 7 March 2010

7th March 2010

Sunny again and the waders and Brents made a pleasant sight off the east side (left). Three Pied Wagtails were an increase on yesterday and the Linnets were up to 12 birds as the breeding season approaches. The three Dunnocks (right) that have over-wintered are showing signs that they may breed on the island, likewise the Blackbirds are also possible stayers although neither of these have been proved to breed for some years.
(JE) photos JE

Saturday 6 March 2010

6th March 2010

Reports of early Wheatears arriving in the country inspired a good look around the islands hoping to see the first in the local area but efforts were in vain and visible migration was at a standstill due to the light north westerly airflow. A single 'alba' wagtail overhead could have been the first 'white' of the spring but views and call were insufficient to establish it. Sea birds were few and distant but at least some were present with 15 Red-breasted Mergansers (left) and 8 Great Crested Grebes counted. The Velvet Scoter kept its usual distance to the north and east of the islands but the 70 Common Scoters flying about were even further away.

Thursday 4 March 2010

4th March 2010

A good early spring morning that started with a light south westerly but veered to the north east in the afternoon. Yet another Woodpigeon occured at the time it is most likely to be seen and 80 Lapwings flew north. A Common Snipe on Middle eye was supplemented by another flying high over the island in a northerly direction. A single Skylark went over but surprise of the day was a visiting male Reed Bunting that sat on the 'air-raid shelter' and proceeded to sing.
The Velvet Scoter reappeared again and was perhaps too distant when not seen on the last few visits.
Ringed:- 1 Blackbird
(DB,CJW) [24]

Tuesday 2 March 2010

2nd March 2010

Two drakes and a female Eider (right) off the east side were the best of the action on the sea, indeed the sea was otherwise remarkably quiet with no divers, grebes or scoters to be seen all day, just a male and a female Red-breasted Merganser.
A beautiful sunny day and with spring just around the corner slightly unusual species are appearing in small numbers; today 2 Canada geese, a Lapwing and a Wood pigeon were noted and over the island were 5 Skylarks, 2 Goldfinches and a Greenfinch.
At noon 11 Purple Sandpipers were counted in Niffy bay although other small waders apart from the Turnstones were at a premium; 7 Sanderling, 25 Ringed Plover, 12 Dunlin and 85 Knot. On Middle an estimated 10,000 Oystercatchers sought refuge from the highest tide of the year while on the ebb tide 6,000 Herring Gulls were seen towards the north and east of the island either resting on the sea, bird rock or the north shore beach.

The usual wintering passerines were seen including 3 Dunnocks (1 or 2 in song), 3 Rock Pipits (left), 4 Song Thrushes and 3 Blackbirds.

Another precursor of spring , the Lesser Celandine (right) has been flowering for some weeks now despite the continuing cold.
(DB,CJ,CJW, et al) photos CJ