Monday 31 May 2010

31st May 2010

A light east north east breeze and bright blue skies made for a pleasant morning on the island, but as always at this time of year birds were thin on the ground although a few surprises turned up.

The first of these was a female Blackbird (ringed on its left leg - see left) which appeared first on the Obs garden fence before later being seen around the east side and on top of the SK trap. Blackbird has not been seen on the island for several weeks ... unfortunately it was not caught.

Following this a House Sparrow was heard and soon a male was discovered sitting on the Old Obs fence (a favourite spot for sparrows on Hilbre). It soon did a tour of the island but did not stop long enough to be caught although it frustrated the ringers by landing momentarily on the 'Heli' trap (see right).

Up to four Grey Herons and three Little Egrets fed in the gutter on the incoming and outgoing tide and a flock of 26 Canada Geese alighted on the shore below the Obs before heading out to sea and alighting again this time on the sea - a most unusual sight (see below)!

More Ringed Plover (70) and Dunlin (50) passed through but few other waders could be found apart from a few Oystercatchers. A male Kestrel was seen hunting around the island during the mornig and a Peregrine sat on its usual perch on the reef first thing (see left).

The day ended quietly but with the usual high hopes and anticipation with the wind turning to the south east...

[CJ, CLW, SRW, TGW, CJW (f), GIW] Photos CJ (Peregrine and Canada Geese) others SRW

Sunday 30 May 2010

30th May 2010

A change in the weather to a brisk north-westerly force 5 to 6 meant that sea-watching was the order of the day.

575 Gannets was the main species, the majority were distant but some came quite close (see right and below). Terns were well represented with 250 Common, 100 Sandwich and 3 Little Terns recorded along with a single dark phase Arctic Skua.

Other sea-birds included 7 Fulmars (see left), 6 Kittiwakes and 33 Manx Shearwaters.

The gutter contained 2 Little Egrets before and after the tide although sadly there was no sign of yesterday evening's Spoonbill.

Small numbers of hirundines passed through including a late Sand Martin and 3 House Martin.

A massive count of 670 Atlantic Grey Seals is the second highest count ever (following a record count of 723 on 25th May 2010).

[AAB, JE, AS, PSW, CLW, SRW + TGW, CJW (f), GIW +4] Photos PSW

Saturday 29 May 2010

29th May 2010

A wet blustery day greeted observers and despite the wind direction being from the favoured south east hopes were not high for many migrants ... and we were right! The only grounded migrant was a single Chiffchaff caught in the Newton (see right).

Single Grey Plover, Whimbrel, Swift and Peregrine and two Little Egrets (see below) and the incessant rain did little to lift the mood that spring was really over.

A final round of the island at about 730pm (between rain showers) produced nothing in the traps. However, from the SK paddock a large white bird wading in the gutter east of Middle Hilbre was spotted and set alarm bells ringing. A quick dash back to the Obs and grab of the telescope confirmed it to be a Spoonbill; the first one ever to be seen from the island (see left).

The bird was an immature and it stayed a short while feeding in the gutter before the semi-resident pair of Herring Gulls and a Great Black-backed harrassed it and it flew to below the Obs garded in the east side gutter - by now it was being watched from the comfort of the Obs balcony.

After a while it decided to fly off south. However, a short time later it reappeared in the same spot as it was originally found opposite Middle. A mini-twitch from the mainland ensued - and one fortunate member made it in time just as two mountain-bikers accidentally flushed it and it flew between the islands and off towards Wales (see right).

Another great bird for the island.

[DB (briefly), FD, CJ, CLW, NDW, SRW + TGW, CJW (f), GIW] Photos SRW

Wednesday 26 May 2010

26th May 2010

Following yesterday's comments about the Bluethroat at Leasowe (top right), Hilbre immediately came back to form this morning with a Nightingale (3 pictures), the second for the island, the first was ringed on 15th May 1979. The initial round of the heligoland traps at 07.15 hrs did not look promising with no birds in the 'heli' or the Newton, then on the way to the SK trap a discussion took place as to what excuse we had today for not producing the star bird of the spring - the weather seemed perfect. A push through the SK also seemed fruitless at first until the Nightingale shot out of the trees and up the ramp into the catching box, the bird being named even before the lid was closed. An onlooker may have seen two members jumping up and down and giving hi-fives! The Nightingale appeared to be a female on wing length, and after processing it was released into the thicket area at the bottom of the obs garden. Unfortunately for those waiting with their cameras it almost immediately disappeared over the cliff edge and was not seen again.
Slightly less exciting birds today included a Yellow Wagtail, a Greenland Wheatear, 2 immature Eiders, a single Manx Shearwater, 2 Common Terns, a Whimbrel, a dozen or so Swallows, 1 House Martin, 2 Sand Martins and 3 Swifts (right).
Ringed:- 1 Nightingale, 1 Linnet
(DB,CJ,CJW,SRW et al) [289] photos CJ, SRW and BSB

Tuesday 25 May 2010

25th May 2010

At last a Spotted Flycatcher (left) on the island after many being seen on the north Wirral coast and so we no longer felt the poor relations of the area, that is until later in the afternoon when we were trumped by a Bluethroat at Leasowe.

Not a great deal else to report except for a single Whimbrel (right), 20 Common Terns, 4 Sandwich terns, a Guillemot and a passage of 19 Swallows and a House Martin up to mid-day.
A strange record for this time of year was a flock of 2,000 Knot distantly flying north east in front of the wind farms.

A nest containing 3 naked and blind Field Voles (left) was discovered in one of the enclosed areas and was photographed and the nest re-instated to its finding condition.

A female Mallard was with a male off Middle Eye (right), this is the first sighting of a female (there have been 6 or 7 males) on the islands this year and perhaps they have bred after all as females can be very secretive at this time.
Ringed:- 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Linnet.
(DB,CJ,KMc) [287] photos CJ

Sunday 23 May 2010

23rd May 2010

A Willow Warbler was ringed today (left), the first for some time as the majority will be at their breeding sites now; also ringed was a juvenile Dunnock (right) which has obviously bred on the island and is the first proof of breeding in modern times.

The Lapwing from yesterday was still in the area although a Collared Dove this morning was a new arrival.
An unexpected guest was a racing pigeon that walked into the obs, examined most of the rooms and then departed out of the kitchen window only to reappear through the door later and proceded to help itself to a drink! (right). It refused any food and flew strongly off to the south later.

Pictured below are 4 moths from the light trap last night, clockwise from the top left are: Chinese Character (we think the scarcest of the four), Netted Pug (also scarce, see yesterday) Buff Ermine and Brimstone.

(DB+ESCA,JE,CJ briefly) [ 285] Photos JE

Saturday 22 May 2010

22nd May 2010

We don't expect any great number of passage birds this late in the spring but the odd Spotted Flycatcher or Garden Warbler would be nice, instead we had to be content with a single Wheatear and a small passage of Swallows and a Swift.
Bird of the day was seen even before arriving when a Lapwing (a scarce Hilbre bird, right) alighted on the rocks west of the lagoon between the islands.
A few Green Veined White butterflies flew early in the very warm morning and a Netted Pug moth (fairly uncommon but a Hilbre speciality at this time of year) was found near the obs.

Friday 21 May 2010

21st May 2010

A brief afternoon visit following the foggy morning produced a nice record of a male Whinchat.

Thursday 20 May 2010

20th May 2010

No apologies for not showing any bird photos today because there weren't any birds, at least none of great interest, just a slow passage of Swallows that did not begin until 8.00hrs (plus a single House Martin), two Wheatears on the main island and the regular small number of waders including 2 Whimbrel.

By far the most excitement was generated by the appearance of a Red Fox in the east gutter at about 09.00am (above). Observers attention was drawn to it by the noise of the breeding pair of Crows dive bombing it as it slowly walked out away from the island (left). The Fox increased speed as a mobbing group of gulls and Shelduck pursued it towards Red Rocks and in fact it broke into a gallop half way across. It seemed to be heading towards the slipway at Red Rocks but it is more likely to have sought the cover of the marsh.
A few Common Frogs have been seen out and about during the last few days (right).
Ringed today:- 2 Linnets.
(DB,CJ) [ 283] photos CJ

Wednesday 19 May 2010

19th May 2010

This morning was much more overcast than yesterday with light rain around dawn and the Swallows were passing first thing but were less visible as the cloud lifted and the sun shone through. In total there were 170 with just 2 House Martins and 4 Swifts to add variety. Seven Wheatears were on the ground for the first time for some days giving hope that some migrants may be hiding in the undergrowth but for the third day running no birds were available to be ringed.

Highlight of the day was a brief sighting of a Redwing on the roof of the buoymaster's house (record shot above) which then flew high off the islands to the south. Redwings are not strangers to Hilbre but never before has one been noted as late as this, the previous latest appears to be a record of 5 on 29th April 1989; goodness knows where it came from/is going to. It is interesting to note there was also a Redwing on St Martin's (Isles of Scilly) today (although there was also a Golden Oriole there!).
In the early afternoon a summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit (right with Turnstone) was at the north end with 3 Whimbrel (above) and 7 Turnstones which were also in full breeding dress. A few other wading birds are staying local at the moment including 57 Oystercatcher, 50 Dunlin and 4 Sanderling.
(DB,JE,CJ,KMc,PSW) photos CJ

Tuesday 18 May 2010

18th May 2010

A pleasant morning with a south easterly breeze was much more comfortable for observers but did not produce any birds in the first few hours. At 10.30hrs things improved when a male Redstart was seen to arrive from the sea on the west side, but despite an extensive search it could not be relocated on the island. Nearly an hour later a male Cuckoo flew in at the south end, crossed the ridge and disappeared down the west side. This explained the raptor like bird seen moments earlier distantly flying over Middle island, and the faint Cuckoo song that had one member thinking he was hearing things. Another thorough examining of every part of the island could not turn up the bird for photographs or ringing. The Cuckoo is nowadays becoming quite a rare bird on Wirral and especially at Hilbre where the last recorded was a juvenile in the middle of July 2003, and before that another juvenile in September 1998.
The only other birds of note today were the first Little Tern seen this year (despite there being over 100 at Gronant) that was seen flying in the direction of the west hoyle bank and a single Flava Wagtail heard calling over the West side.
As the day warmed butterflies flew such as Green Veined White, Common Blue, Orange Tip (right), Peacock and the first Painted Lady of the year. No birds were ringed.
(DB,CJ,KMc,MGT+1,+SH) photo CJ

Sunday 16 May 2010

16th May 2010

Contrary to the weather forecast the wind was disappointingly strong and in the north west this morning, giving a cold chill that if it wasn't for the flowers that were at their best (Thrift, Birdsfoot-trefoil, Bluebells etc.-right) no one would believe it was the middle of May.
With no land migrants apart from 46 Swallows and a House martin to be found the sea was given more attention but even seabirds were at a premium although a Fulmar and a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver and Great Crested Grebe were seen together with 12 Gannets, 4 Razorbills, 20 Common Terns and 2 Sandwich Terns.
There are at least 74 Dunlin and 2 Whimbrel still present today. No birds ringed.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Blackbird Recovery

During this relatively quiet spell we bring news to encourage the observers and ringers who are working hard each day on the island at the moment with only modest rewards...
A male Blackbird was ringed on Hilbre on 3rd January 2009 (and was retrapped a week later still on the island) was found on 26th March 2010 at Alsgarde, Helsingor, Denmark.

This adds to the nice set of controls/recoveries of Blackbirds that Hilbre Bird Observatory already has had from Northern Europe and Denmark in particular.
Remarkably when ringed on Hilbre it was the first bird to be ringed on Hilbre during 2009.
[Photos SRW top and JE right - the actual bird]

15th May 2010

A bright and clear morning with a moderate North Westerly breeze greeted observers who had stayed on overnight. Expectation was low but were raised (temporarily) with a Whitethroat captured in the SK on the first round of the traps.

However, the only other passerine migrants were a singing Chiffchaff (presumably the bird that has been present for a week now) and a Willow Warbler that was ringed a few days ago.

A Peregrine sat on the reef and up to four Grey Herons patrolled the gutter as the tide flooded. There were a few terns and Gannets on the sea and a few Whimbrel and Curlew picked there way along the tide edge.

Otherwise another quiet day, coverage remains excellent, surely there are still birds to arrive...

[CJW, SRW + DGW, RTW] [281]

Friday 14 May 2010

14th May 2010

With the wind remaining in the south the only excuse today was the rain - it had started before dawn and it continued on and off (but mainly the former) for most of the morning.

However, it was obvious that a few Willow Warblers had been 'downed' by the drizzle and when the rain eventually stopped a couple were ringed and then observers got a brief glimpse of a red tail which later proved to be a nice first summer male Redstart which was trapped in the SK (see below).

Later the Peregrine appeared on the reef and up to 5 Little Egrets were in the gutter below the Obs garden.

[DB, PSW et al] Photos PSW [280]

Thursday 13 May 2010

13th May 2010

This Spring on the island is certainly confusing the weather analysts amongst us... a light south-easterly, with some slight mist (albeit with relatively clear skies) resulted in very few grounded migrants indeed.

However, observers struggled on and four birds were trapped and ringed (3 Linnets and a Willow Warbler) and there were a couple of interesting retraps including a male Chiffchaff that seems to have made the island its territory.

A Wheatear appeared on cue as the tide rose and the day warmed up for a change.

[DB et al] [277]

Wednesday 12 May 2010

12th May 2010

After yesterday's excitement things quietend off once again with a single Sedge Warbler on the island.

More news to follow...


Tuesday 11 May 2010

11th May 2010

A light west north westerly and some drizzle did little to lift the spirits of observers - however, they were rather suprised to find the first Whinchat (a male) of the year; first on Middle and later on the main island. Also present were a Sedge Warbler, two Whitethroat and 2 Wheatear.

Sea-watching was very productive with 26 Manx Shearwaters early on, 4 Red-throated Divers, 34 Gannet, 60 Sandwich and 25 Common Terns, 14 Guillemot and a male Eider.

Whimbrels again passed through in good numbers (18).

However, bird of the day was the first Osprey of the year for the island which drifted in from Prestatyn until directly north of the North End before it then headed out (in the usual manner) towards Formby Point. At last!

[DB + SH]

Monday 10 May 2010

10th May 2010

Hardly any wind first thing brought hardly any birds! The wind then picked up to a brisk cold easterly which brought in some Swifts and a few Swallows.

The highlight of the morning was a Common Sandpiper at the South End but other 'strange' waders included the semi-resident Oystercatcher with the deformed downcurved bill (see right).

Whimbrels were again present in small numbers (see left) and the passage of Ringed Plover and Dunlin continued.

Finally, of note was the ship below seen bringing in the blades for one of the windmills for the offshore windfarm.

[BSB] Photos BSB

Sunday 9 May 2010

9th May 2010

A beautiful day on the island with hardly a cloud in the sky (see left view from Middle Eye near high tide).

Unfortunately, this coupled with a light north-easterly meant that grounded migrants were again thin on the ground although several Willow Warblers were present and three new birds were caught and one was retrapped from 28th April 2010 - having not been retrapped since - where had it been in the meantime?

Up to six Little Egrets were at the south end of Middle and along the reef during high tide (see right) and five Eiders flew in from the west and landed on the sea opposite the Obs. Good numbers of Dunlin (over 450) and Ringed Plovers (up to 150) were around the islands throughout the morning and a nice mixed flock of small waders at the North End of Hilbre included 3 Turnstone in smart summer plumage (below right rear) and a passing Purple Sandpiper (see below left rear with Dunlin in foreground);it is several weeks since our last wintering Purple Sandpiper left the islands.

A single Bar-tailed Godwit was hanging around with a nice flock of half a dozen Whimbrel; at least 15 of the latter were counted today. On the way over to the islands, just after high tide, an Eurasian Golden Plover was found on the rocks between the islands and allowed very close approach (see above and right).

It is unusual to get these superb plovers 'down' on the islands we usually just hear and see them flying over. However, we have had a number of single birds in the last week or so.

Back on the main island a couple of Goldfinches were trapped along with a Chiffchaff (which was a retrap from 6th). Finally, a fine first summer male Greenland Wheatear was caught in the potter traps and found to weigh over 42 grams (with a rather high fat score!) - this bird was certainly ready for the next large step in its journey. This is almost twice the weight of some Wheatears caught earlier in the spring.

Finally, Hoylake Lifeboat (right) made an appearance and motored down the West side of the main island during RNLI exercises ... recognise anyone?

[AAB, DB, JE, DCT, PT, AW, NDW, SRW + TGW] [273] Photos SRW

Saturday 8 May 2010

8th May 2010

9am update

A brisk north easterly (force 5-6) overnight, but despite good cloud cover the visibility was just too good – you could even see the peaks of the Lake District from the island. If there were any grounded migrants they were certainly keeping low (and who could blame them?) Despite the temperature reading 10.8 degrees C the wind meant that it felt considerably colder.

A couple of new Linnets were caught in the SK early morning but there was little else of passerine interest.

The main focus was on the small but increasing numbers of Dunlin (c300) and Ringed Plover (c30).

Despite the wind sea-watching was also very unproductive with single Great Crested Grebe in the gutter, 3 Common Terns and 6 Gannets seen.

Two Greylag Geese reappeared between the islands over the tide but departed soon after.

[DCT, PT, VT, NDW, AW, SRW] [266]

Friday 7 May 2010

7th May 2010

The wind picked up and had veered to the North East however a couple of Willow Warblers arrived (and one was caught). A single Whitethroat remained on the island and 4 Wheatears appeared.

The day was one of small numbers but an interesting mix of species with two Canada Geese, a single Razorbill and two Little Egrets in the gutter. Waders included 15 Whimbrel, 150 Dunlin and 35 Ringed Plover.

The bird of the day was the hoped for (with this wind direction) Marsh Harrier which was found by observers leaving the island as it flew over Little Eye and battled its way into the headwind (photos above and below).
[DB, PGR, DCT, PT, VT, CJW, NDW] [264] Photos by CJW