Tuesday 31 August 2010

31st August 2010

The wind had turned completely to the south this morning, but the much hoped for easterly did not really materialise ('there's always tomorrow...').

However, a couple of Chiffchaffs were present early morning as was a Wheatear and an early morning Sparrowhawk passed through. The first 'round' of the traps resulted in a surprise - a retrap male Pied Wagtail (ringed in May) as well as a new juvenile bird; perhaps they had been roosting in the 'Heli' trap overnight (see left).

The Robin passage of recent days increased today with six new birds caught and at least nine birds on. A Whitethroat was caught during the morning but other warblers evaded capture until the afternoon when a retrap Willow Wabler and a new Chiffchaff were caught.

Two more Sparrowhawks flew through mid morning and went well off east when attention turned to other matters with seal pup present near 'Shell Bay' (see right).

A drake Tufted Duck and the first Pintail of the autumn (two) provided the wildfowl interest and a superb summer plumaged Red-throated Diver drifted on the tide but little else in the way of sea-birds was noted.

The highlight of the day was found amongst the roosting flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover, a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was picked out and showed very well over the high tide period (left and below right). The waders being much less disturbed by visitors today than yesterday.

Many hundreds of Dunlin and Ringed Plover (below) flocked on the exposed rocks at high tide.

As afternoon turned to evening the fourth Sparrowhawk of the day appeared shooting through the Obs garden chasing one of the resident Dunnocks - the Dunnock dived straight into the net which probably resulted in the Sprawk seeing the net at the last minute and quickly taking diversionary tactics before alighting briefly on the BBQ from where it gave the Dunnock a cursory glance before heading off north. The Dunnock was extracted from the net and released unharmed.

Ten birds caught today included six Robins, Mipit, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and a Pied Wagtail. Another beautiful evening on the island with sunset, rainbow effects and incredible cloud formations...

[BSB, DB, CJ, KMc, NDW, SRW et al] [420] Photos SRW

Monday 30 August 2010

30th August 2010

What a difference a day makes! The wind had dropped overnight and despite still being a relatively stiff northerly (dropping and backing north east later) the only wind blown sea-bird of note was this Great Crested Grebe that spent the morning fishing just off the slipway.

The first sign that things had changed overnight was the sound of a calling Goldcrest from a bramble bush at first light, despite being photographed (see left) it stayed well clear of the traps and nets; sadly a rare sight in recent times at Hilbre. Let's hope it is a sign of their recovery.

Next was the appearance of four Wheatears together at the North End not long after dawn. Up to at least a dozen Greenland birds spent the day on the island and the improving weather (with hardly a cloud in the sky) meant that the presence of day-trippers resulted in the Wheatears taking up residence of the sheep paddock, fences (see below left) and 'Newton' trap wall.

This resulted in the first three birds of the autumn being trapped and colour-ringed; all of the Greenland race and including a male (see above right).
With the sun shining the resident birds were also putting on a show including the recently colonising Dunnocks (left). Apart from a couple of Robins (of five birds present) the three Greenland Wheatears were the only birds caught. The sun was now blazing and being August bank holiday Monday the Hoylake Lifeboat (RNLI) show put on a performance with the highlights being a spitfire (left) and a couple of bi-plane "wing walkers" (right).

Up to six Little Egrets fed on the ebbing tide during a beautiful evening on the island and as the sun gradually set and the day cooled you could see the Lake District mountain range from Hilbre - there is always something to see here even if the birding is slow ('Black Combe' is on the extreme left).

[FES, TJS, CLW, NDW, SRW, TGW, CJW(f), GIW] [410] Photos SRW

Sunday 29 August 2010

29th August 2010

The strong north westerly wind continued at force 5 or 6 gusting force 7 occassionally (later) gale force 8. An early morning sea-watch produced 500 Sandwich Terns, 30 Common Terns, a single Little Tern and a single Wigeon (just off the North End - see left with Oystercatcher). However, star bird was a juvenile (intermediate phase) Long-tailed Skua which was seen twice for extended periods heading west and occassionally harrassing the odd tern.

A later sea-watch over the tide produced 2 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Fulmar, 20 Kitttiwakes and a single Great Skua.

The only other birds of note were the continued presence of small numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits on the East Hoyle (20 today, 30 yesterday) and the almost ever present Little Egret in the gutter hunting the ebbing tide (see right).

[JE, PSW, SRW, CLW, TGW, CJW(f), GIW + visitors JC and RS] Photos (Wigeon PSW & Little Egret SRW)

28th August 2010

A brisk north westerly brought very little to the island today apart from single Arctic Skua on the sea and a couple of Little Egrets in the gutter. A Wheatear battled against the wind and took shelter in Fisherman's Cove on Middle.


Friday 27 August 2010

27th August 2010

A beautiful calm sunny morning dawned with many thousands of hover-flies about the bracken, most were the common 'Marmalade' species episyrphus balteatus, but there were also many of the slightly bulkier syrphus ribesii and the larger black and white scaeva pyrastri (above, shield bug picromerus bidens, above right). This was much the same mix as seen previously (see 15th August).

The birds were similar to yesterday, in that there were few, but there was one star bird: yesterday the Redstart, today the Spotted Flycatcher (above) which was in the SK trap at the first round. One of the 2 Willow Warblers present was ringed on 6th of this month and not re-trapped since - has it been off to the mainland for a while ? A Garden Warbler (presumably the bird from 25th) was heard several times in various bramble patches but failed to show itself while the 2 Wheatears were 2 more than yesterday, and a troop of 4 Collared Doves (above) enlivened the paddocks for an hour or so. Again no Whimbrel or Greenshanks first thing this morning, but a dozen or so Bar-tailed Godwits were on the east hoyle bank.
Another obs member was seen wading in the tide today (right) - this time the quest was for scientific knowledge of marine biology rather than a flock of Goosanders !

(photos Shrimp left and Plaice right)
Ringed :- 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Dunnock.

(BSB,DB,CJ,CJW) [405] photos CJ, BSB - insects and marine creatures.

Thursday 26 August 2010

26th August 2010

A very short visit was made early this morning to see if the change of wind direction to the north east had produced many migrants. It was obvious right away that there had not been a 'fall' but the second time around the traps saw a Willow Warbler in the old obs mist net and a male Common Redstart (left with Willow Warbler) fly into the 'heli'. Redstarts appear more often in spring than autumn at Hilbre, in fact a check revealed that this is the first ringed at this season since one in October 2005.
There was very little else to report from this brief visit, no Greenshanks, Whimbrel or Wheatears seen although there were 5 Little Egrets and a few Swallows passing through.
Ringed :- 1 Redstart, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Dunnock
(CJ,CJW,SRW) [402] photo CJ

Wednesday 25 August 2010

25th August 2010

After yesterdays blow, the wind dropped overnight to a very light westerly, and a before tide visit found 2 Greenshanks (left) in the gutter east of Middle instead of the one that has been logged for the last week or so. Later on the flood tide 3 Greenshank flew in from the Red Rocks direction, landed briefly with the Oystercatchers and then went off to the south west.
A Garden Warbler was elusive in the south end bracken and failed to be ringed but at least it was the first record this year on Hilbre. Three Willow Warblers likewise were not co-operating but 2 new Robins in today were more accessible. Six Swallows were logged up to midday.
Shorebirds included 6,000 Oystercatchers, 2 Whimbrel, 5 Little Egrets, a large count of 30 Bar-tailed Godwits, and 4 Sanderling.
Two Greenland Wheatears were only seen early in the morning and so it was a huge surprise when 9 were on Little Eye just before the tide, the shift of wind direction at that time from west to east may have had a bearing on the arrival.
Ringed:- 2 Robins, 1 Wren
(BSB,DB,CJ,MGT) [399] photo CJ

Tuesday 24 August 2010

24th August 2010

The wind got up to force 7 by the middle of the morning and so sea-watching was the order of the day. The hoped for Storm Petrels did not materialise, probably we need a longer blow for them to appear. Best of the seabirds were 6 Arctic Skuas, 1 Bonxie, 50 + Gannets, 21 Common Scoters, 3 Little Terns and 1 Arctic Tern, also 5 Kittiwakes and 3 Fulmars (these last 2 species have been missing over the last few sea-watches). Manx Shearwaters as yesterday were not as numerous as seen previously with only 26 being noted today.
A Greenshank was again on the log sheet with 4 Little Egrets and a single Greenland Wheatear was on Middle Eye.

Monday 23 August 2010

23rd August 2010

With rain on and off all day, but mostly on, birding was fairly restricted in terms of getting around to see what could be found. Despite the promising north easterly overnight and a Skylark down on Middle, only 2 Willow Warblers were about the trapping areas and single Wheatears on both Middle and the main island.
A Black-tailed Godwit was on the east side in the morning, and the recent Greenshank was seen both before and after the tide. A group of 5 Little Egrets roosted the high tide at the north end of Middle (above).
The conditions meant more time was spent sea-watching than usual, but the large gatherings of Manx Shearwaters of the last few days were not observed and only 6 could be found. Others seen from the north end were 4 Arctic Skuas, 2 Shag, 3 Guillemot, 70 Gannet, and 15 Great Crested Grebes. After the tide an adult winter Mediterranean Gull was on the shore by the marine lake.
Highlight of the sea-watch however, was a Peregrine that hunted around the sea hide for a while, often swooping within a few feet of the observers who looked on in astonishment from the open hide window, it was far too close for photographs !
Ringed :- 1 Willow Warbler
(CJ,CS+1,KMc) [396] photo CJ

Sunday 22 August 2010

22nd August 2010

A check of the log sheet at the end of the morning looked quite impressive, but the day was somehow unsatisfactory in that the views of significant birds were brief or in the case of the Green Sandpiper completely lacking as it was heard calling along the shore but not seen. Others deciding not to display themselves were a Bonxie which was on the sea close to the west side for a few seconds then disappeared, a Greenshank (right) seen just once in the east gutter, a Stonechat (probably yesterdays bird) that flew over the obs garden into the bracken and was not seen again.
At least an increase of Wheatears (below) took place with 5 on the main island in the usual places, but only a single Willow to represent the warbler family. Ten Swallows only was the total for the morning.
Manx Shearwaters were again very distant with 300 estimated off to the north west sometimes whirling in feeding flight, 6 Guillemot and 21 Common Scoter were a little closer with 50 or so Gannets that never approached the island. Four Arctic Skuas were chasing the numerous terns over the high tide period.
No birds ringed

(AMC+1,CJ,PSW,SRW) photos SRW

Saturday 21 August 2010

21st August 2010

Just before high tide an unprecedented group of 31 Goosanders were found off the east side of Middle Eye (left and above). The flock floated slowly south and were then hidden from view from the obs, but one intrepid member waded across to Middle (below left) and stalked them commando style in the bracken to obtain good views and photos at the south end of the island. Some of the birds came out on the sand before they departed together towards the Welsh coast (below)

Up until that point the main attraction was a juvenile Stonechat (right and below) that appeared in the obs garden and spent the next few hours touring the paddock areas and avoiding the mist nets. This is the first Stonechat this year, normally at least one is seen in early spring on Hilbre.

A short sea-watch proved there were still some Manx Shearwaters (50) in the area but distant (see yesterday), along with about 35 Gannets and a single distant Arctic Skua.
Later a Greenshank was found in the east gutter.
Hirundines were again scarce with just 5 Swallows noted all morning, and the other regulars were also in small numbers:- 3 Little Egrets, 3 Whimbrel and 1 Wheatear.
A juvenile Mediterranean Gull was on the West Kirby marine lake with the Black-headed Gulls after the tide (below). The bird was bearing a colour ring (right, click picture to enlarge) and enquiries are on going but initial thoughts are that it may be from Poland.

Considering the wind was from the west/south west, all in all not a bad day but no birds ringed, so a picture of a Cormorant at the north end instead.
(AMC,JE,CJ,SRW) photos CJ, SRW (Goosanders and others)

Friday 20 August 2010

20th August 2010

A thoroughly wet night was followed by an equally wet morning and so no migrant were expected, nor did any arrive, although the phylloscopus with the unusual call was ringed and found, as expected, to be a Chiffchaff.

A Greenshank was in the gutter early morning and was possibly the same bird from yesterday (see below).
Squally west /south west winds made the sea interesting especially when a massive amount of Manx Shearwaters were seen feeding distantly to the north west. An estimate of 750 was in line with the large number present on a similar date in August last year. Gannets were counted at 150 and Great Crested Grebes 25, whilst among the commoner terns was a Little and an Arctic Tern.
A second winter Mediterranean Gull (see right and below left) was on the East Hoyle sandbank after the tide and was probably one of the birds seen at West Kirby beach recently, there were also six Little Egrets in the gutter after the tide.

(DB,PSW, et al) [395]

Thursday 19 August 2010

19th August 2010

A Sparrowhawk (probably the same as yesterday) spent most of the morning around the island before flying off towards Wales, finch feathers in the entrance of the SK trap were evidence of its stay. Two Peregrines made a brief appearance over the south end, two Collared Doves (left) flew around the island avoiding the mist nets and settled for long periods on the fencing, but birds of the day would be the 2 Black-tailed Godwits that flew west separately down the Dee (below) and the Greenshank that appeared in the east gutter. The Little Egret count today was 5, while Redshanks increased to 90.
No warblers were to be found first thing but later a phylloscopus warbler with an unusual call was heard and briefly seen in between bouts of diving into bracken. It appearance however seemed normal and it was thought to be one of the Chiffchaff races from Northern Europe. Later a Willow Warbler dropped in to keep it company. Two Robins were fresh in today but the only Wheatear was on Middle before the visitors arrived. Twenty six Swallows were counted and a group of 35 House Martins flew south west between Middle and Little Eye.
Ringed:- 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Robins, 1 Linnet.
(DB,CJ) [394] photos CJ

Wednesday 18 August 2010

18th August 2010

A male Sparrowhawk arrived on the island today, but not much else of note, just 1 Wheatear and a Willow Warbler. Four Little Terns were seen, these have been very scarce around Hilbre this year despite the good breeding season at Gronant. An Arctic Skua and 3 Gannets were on the sea, and an adult Mediterranean Gull was on the shore with the Black-headed Gulls.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

17th August 2010

A Grasshopper warbler was in the paddocks, possibly the same as the one ringed on Sunday, and a Wheatear was identified as the Greenland race on passage south. A thorough count of Sandwich Terns was made and the total is 676 which backs up recent estimates. Fifty Gannets were on the sea despite the wind being a moderate force 3.

Sunday 15 August 2010

15th August 2010 continued- Hover flies

Large numbers of hover flies were noted at Hilbre on 15th, and it will be of interest to record the following comments by observatory member and insect specialist Dr. Gavin Broad verbatum :-
The invasion was of Episyrphus balteatus – often called the Marmalade Hoverfly (left). There were also quite a few of two other species, Syrphus ribesii (below) and Scaeva pyrastri. Both Episyrphus balteatus and Scaeva pyrastri are well known migrants as well as residents. On the East coast there are sometimes huge arrivals of E. balteatus and one year when I was working at Monks Wood they filled the countryside for many miles. I guess ours were probably migrants but it’s interesting that there were a lot of individuals of an ichneumonid, Diplazon laetatorius, which is a parasitoid of E. balteatus (and other hoverflies). It can lay eggs in the egg or young larva of the host hoverfly. That there were so many of the ichneumonid suggests that the hoverflies could have been home-grown (or a mix of a large emergence and an immigrant swarm). Or that the ichneumonids also move along with the hoverflies. The latter would be really interesting.
Keep an eye out for hoverflies!
photos BSB

15th August 2010

A big team assembled this morning in anticipation of the fine weather and the migrants that may arrive on the north easterly breeze; they were not disappointed with about 10 Willow Warblers on the ground and a Tree Pipit (left) in the garden mist net first thing. Tree Pipits are heard calling overhead occasionally in spring and autumn but this is the first ringed for 5 years. Even in the hand they are very similar to Meadow Pipits and to check the species measurements are needed such as the wing formula (right) and the length of the hind claw. Later in the morning a Grasshopper Warbler (left) was trapped in the 'SK' heli, a species that is more often ringed in spring than autumn.

Although the date is typical for Greenshank on Hilbre the sight of 7 calling as they flew across the island (right) is certainly however the event of the day in terms of there being a group as large as this of this scarce Hilbre bird.

Other birds moving this morning were 3 Collared Doves (left), 2 Grey Wagtails 34 Swallows, 2 more Tree Pipits and 2 Wheatears.

Two Peregrines flew about, one was an adult in heavy moult (right) which landed on the radar mast for a while, and the other was a juvenile bird.

The sea was remarkably quiet and no Gannets, Shearwaters, Skuas or Scoters to be seen this morning, just 4 Great Crested Grebes and a small number of terns, perhaps observers staying for the afternoon high tide will fare better.

When the warmth of the sun really brought out the visitors to the island, it also encouraged many varied species of butterfly to fly including the Painted Lady (left) which has been very hard to find this year.

Moths from the light trap last night are, left to right, Rosy Minor, Willow Beauty, Lime Brindled Pug

Ringed:- 6 Willow Warblers, 3 Linnets, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Grasshopper Warbler.
(GB +1,JE,CJ,SPL,CJW,NDW,PSW,SRW,TGW) [390] photos CJ , JE (moths)