Friday 30 December 2011

30th December 2011

A post- Christmas visit this morning found that mostly the traps had survived the gales and things were in fairly good order for 2012. An accurate count of the Brent was not possible but they seemed to be in excess of 250 off the west side of the island. Only 4 Purple Sandpipers could be found but no doubt more could have been seen nearer to high tide. A male and 2 female Pintail flew west passed the north end mid-morning as a Shag floated on the tide edge. Bird of the day was undoubtedly a Twite recognised by call amongst a flock of 18 Linnets that went back and forth over the obs to and from Middle, a very rare record for Hilbre. Land birds included 5 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes, all probably staying for the winter, also a Robin (right) that was trapped and seemed to be in very good condition judging by the weight and fat stored on the bird. Most of the regular waders were present, and several flocks of Knot were noted, also 5 Bar-tailed Godwits.
(JE,CJ+1,CJW,PSW, RTW,DGW)     photo Danny Burnett

Thursday 29 December 2011

29th December 2011

A quick visit found 3 Peregrines hunting the main island, a juvenile Kittiwake on the sea and a Shag.

Saturday 24 December 2011

24th December 2011

Christmas eve produced 2 flocks of Pintail, 43 flying south and later 105 south west, and travelling in the same direction 5 Wigeon. Four Golden Plover was a good find at this time, but a less pleasant sight were an oiled Gillemot and Common Scoter found dead on the shore.Purple Sandpipers were counted at 18, while watching the north shore produced 10,000 Knot and 400 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Sunday 18 December 2011

December 2011 Blog Updates

The blog is being updated with sightings since 4th December 2011 - please see below. Apologies to our readers it has been a busy time for the bloggers. Coverage as ever has been tremendous and good records continue to the year's end ... perhaps our best ever? News of some more ringing recoveries to follow soon.

18th December 2011

Very brisk wind force 5 to 6 greeted observers this morning and the island was fairly quiet with not many passerines about but a new Blackbird was caught and ringed (see below left); showing that new birds are still arriving on the islands.

The Inshore Lifeboat spent some time carrying out exercises off North End (see right) which was a welcome distraction to observers from the cold wind (as were the mince pies back at the Obs!).

Only 112 Brents today but they included two Dark-bellied birds. A juvenile Herring Gull was also photographed cracking mussels by dropping them onto the rocks - not untypical behaviour at Hilbre.

(JE & PSW) Photos by PSW

Wednesday 14 December 2011

14th December 2011

A brief visit produced an excellent count of 630 Curlew in the Little Eye/Tanskey Rocks area on the flood tide. Up to 7,000 Knot and 4,000 Dunlin were also counted along with 7 Grey Herons, 25 Pintail and a single Black-tailed Godwit passed west meanwhile a single Peregrine occupied the large numbers of waders on the East Hoyle sandbank.

(DB briefly)

Tuesday 13 December 2011

13th December 2011

2,000 Cormorants were counted today no doubt the continuing gales is having an impact on their numbers in the estuary. Sadly the gales produced one casualty found on the East Hoyle sandbank in the evening - a dead Great Northern Diver. A single Peregrine battled against the wind but it was generally a quiet day but 3 Red-throated Divers, a single Gannet, 60 Common Scoter and 4 Guillemot were also seen. A single Little Egret was again present.


Monday 12 December 2011

12th December 2011

Three hundred and eighty five Cormorants flew out of the river at first light but a realistic number seen during the day was at least double this with birds seemingly everywhere. The birds fishing close in appeared particularly successful, despite the blustery westerly wind, but were less so in defending their catches against the marauding Greater Black Backed Gulls. The good fishing also attracted 10 late Gannets (all adults), along with the more expected 19 Red-throated Divers and 18 Great Crested Grebes. Brent numbers were difficult to count accurately due to birds being so well spread out before the tide but the best count made was an impressive 216. Some 500 Scoter were constantly taking flight in the vicinity of the wind farm, with some closer in, but no sign of yesterday's Velvets. Four Kittiwakes & three Guillemots passed by. One Little Egret fished the gutter prior to the tide. At least eight Purple Sandpipers appeared at the North end rocks after the tide. Passerines were few & far between with a couple of unringed Blackbirds possibly new in and an unidentified lark flying towards Point of Ayr creating an unsolved mystery!

Sunday 11 December 2011

11th December 2011

2000+ Common Scoter (see left) were congregating off the west side between Hilbre and Point of Ayr, the highlight of the morning was a pair of Velvet Scoter which flew west then just before midday 3 more drake Velvets were spotted. Other birds included 6 Red-throated Divers, 38 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Gannets on the sea (below left). The Shag (above) was roosting on cliffs below the light and 9 Purple Sandpipers included 2 roosting above the tide gauge (below right) and 7 in Niffy bay.

(PSW) All photos PSW

Friday 9 December 2011

9th December 2011

The first real feel of winter today with lightning, hail and sleet along with a north westerly gale force 8 at times. Early morning highlights so far include drake and duck Long-tailed Ducks in the gutter on the flooding tide and a female Velvet Scoter flew west off the North End. However, the good records continued throughout the day with seawatching prominent - 6 Red-throated Divers, 40 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Gannet, 50 Kittiwakes, 200 Common Scoter, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers and 3 Wigeon noted and later a single Little Gull appeared below the Obs.

Waders were also notable with 14 Purple Sandpipers, 230 Turnstone, 75 Redshank, 75 Bar-tailed Godwits and 14 Grey Plover counted around the islands being harassed by a single Peregrine. Other noteworthy records included s single Little Egret and a dawn flight of 1,975 Cormorants out of the estuary.


Thursday 8 December 2011

8th December 2011

Waders were much in evidence today with at least 9,000 Knot, 6,000 Dunlin and 376 Curlew counted as well as a good count of 35 Grey Plover and 10 Purple Sandpipers. It is interesting to note double figure counts of the latter along North Wirral (particularly New Brighton) and the North Wales coast.

Other birds of note today included 30 Great Crested Grebes, single Gannet and Shag, two each of Kittiwake and Guillemot and 5 Red-throated Divers. Finally the Snow Bunting was still present.


Tuesday 6 December 2011

6th December 2011

The highlight of the day was a record count of 209 Pale-bellied Brent Geese (despite being disturbed by a helicopter!). On the sea 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Shag and a single Gannet were seen and a nice adult winter Mediterranean Gull flew north east off the North End. An unringed Rock Pipit was present as was the Snow Bunting still in the South Cove. An impressive count of 1,857 Cormorant added to a good day all round with a single Peregrine making an appearance.


Monday 5 December 2011

5th December 2011

A westerly gale and driving sleet and rain showers produced more good records for the time of year. Undoubted highlight was another late Leach's Petrel passing the North End other highlights included 22 Gannets, the Shag again off the North End and 6 Golden Plovers.


Sunday 4 December 2011

4th December 2011

The Snow Bunting was still present on a rough morning which produced yet two more Bonxies which passed west together off the North End. Other highlights included a single Pintail and 2 Little Egrets.


Saturday 3 December 2011

3rd December 2011

There is always something to see and do at Hilbre even in December which brings its own surprises ... A blustery day started well with 7 Pintail passing by (see below right) and a sea-watch producing 30 Kittiwakes (juvenile below left), 3 Red-throated Diver, a single female Scaup and a Shag (below centre)

which spent some time just off the North End. Frustratingly a shearwater species was seen at distance but could not be specifically identified (any species of shearwater is very rare at Hilbre in Winter). A Snow Bunting appeared briefly near the 'Khyber Pass' but was not relocated until later in the afternoon (see below). A good count of 138 Pale-bellied Brent Geese plus 3 Dark-bellied birds added to the good wildfowl day but attention again turned to sea-watching around lunchtime with the wind increasing and the tide on the turn. A late Fulmar battered in from the direction of the Mersey followed by some more Kittiwakes and then a Pomarine Skua flew in from the West, harrassed some gulls that were milling about off the North End and then headed back west before ditching in and being lost from view (left and right -you can just make out the double wing flash on the righthand shot). This was soon followed by a Bonxie, again heading west, and an increase in Gannets with at least 32 seen today. The Snow Bunting was then relocated at the South End were it fed in the South Cove on the tideline debris for the rest of the afternoon.

However, despite all this excitement the highlight of the day for all present were the appearance of visitors Rachael and Chris (who unknown to Rachael had brought surprises)...whilst the blustery wind brought seabirds close in off the North End and the Brent Geese and a couple of Purple Sandpipers fed happily on the slipway below, Chris proposed to Rachael at the North End - fortunately she said "yes" - and the sun came out and produced a beautiful rainbow above their heads (see below). Surely a good omen for their future.

Congratulations from everyone at the Obs! They even had time for a quick look at the Snow Bunting on their way off the island to tell their families and friends their wonderful news.

(CJ, NDW, PSW, SRW +MP) Photos PSW (Shag, Pintail, Snow Bunt - top) and SRW (remainder)

Tuesday 29 November 2011

29th November 2011

With the wind strengthening yet again thoughts turned to sea-watching and the single observer present was not disappointed. The highlight was a late Leach's Petrel but other good birds seen included single juvenile Pomarine Skua, single Bonxie and a Great Northern Diver.


Monday 28 November 2011

28th November 2011

There was a gentle breeze from the south so we expected a gentle wader roosting day. We were not wrong. Fourteen Purple Sandpipers roosted at the north end for the whole high tide period (right); and the Turnstones were there after the tide waiting for the rocks to clear. The middle island was full of Oystercatchers, 6000 between there and the south of the main island, but there were only 3 or 4 Curlews, there was no big flock roosting on middle.The picture below is of the middle island when the Short-eared Owl turned up. The owl showed again after the tide (below right) 
Some sea watching took place and was very good. Three hundred Cormorants and 200 Great-crested Grebes feeding off the north end meant that there was always something going on. There were 25 Red-throated Divers, it must be winter despite the mild weather, and 30 Common Scoters. Three Razorbills and 2 Guillemots were a bonus and there was a complete selection of gulls(BH, LBB, GBB, H and Common). Later a Bonxie appeared as a reward for persistence.
Also noted today were over 100 Brents, Pale and Dark, and a selection of passerines from Crows through 4 Blackbirds to Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens.
(DB,JE,MGT)      photos JE

Sunday 27 November 2011

27th November 2011

A Little Auk was seen c100m off the North End at c1.30pm it landed in the sea before battling its way against the gale force westerly (see below).

The island has taken a battering over the last few days with gale force winds and high tides - but on the plus side this has produced some good late sea-watching records; the North End can be very treacherous at these times (see below).

(ESCA, DB from over, BT) Photos by BT

Saturday 26 November 2011

26th November 2011

A brief afternoon visit produced another Bonxie which was loafing on the sea off the North End before flying off West. Other than that the sea (with the tide well out) was fairly quiet apart from a few Gannets. A couple of Dark-bellied Brent Geese were in the pool between Middle and Hilbre as afternoon turned to evening and a Skylark took shelter in the Old Obs garden from the strengthening wind.


Friday 25 November 2011

25th November 2011

The first strong westerlies for some weeks pushed in some good late autumn sea birds:- 6 Bonxies, a Little Gull, 24 Red-throated Divers, 2 Razorbill, 55 Guillemot and 192 Gannets.

Monday 21 November 2011

Black Redstarts on Wirral

Black Redstarts have turned up recently at nearby Red Rocks and Caldy and both were photographed by observatory members.This species is not quite annual at Hilbre and has not been recorded this year.

Black Redstart, Red Rocks (SRW)

Black Redstart, Caldy (PSW)

Sunday 20 November 2011

20th November 2011

House Sparrow (PSW)

A misty start to the day saw the Merlin continue to hunt the islands area, but no sign of the Short-eared Owl. Four Lapwings flew low over the rocks south of Middle, but few birds were about the paddocks, just a Chaffinch and a new Blackbird, although later a few finches came in to check out the feeders. Two Greenfinches were ringed also a House Sparrow which is a scarce bird at Hilbre and is the only one ringed this year. Other migrants were hard to come by, a couple of dozen Starlings, 2 Pied Wagtails and 2 Skylarks were the meagre ration until near midday when a Snow Bunting flew in from the north, circled a couple of times calling and then went off south.
Common Seal (CJ)
The best feature of sea-watching today was the number of fish jumping out of the sea over a very large area, there seemed to be thousands, does anyone know what they are likely to be ? A Common Seal was out on the whaleback, we have not seen one for some time as the seals at Hilbre are Atlantic Greys as regulars will know. Ringed:- 2 Greenfinches, 1 House Sparrow
(DB+ESCA,JE,CJ,PSW)    [1025-48]     

Saturday 19 November 2011

19th November 2011

Strong south easterly winds gusting to force 5 -6 met the single observer on the island at first light. A few birds were grounded with a female Greenfinch (below right )and male Chaffinch (bottom right) caught in the Newton. At least two more Chaffinches (below right) were present but weren't caught. A Merlin chased one Chaffinch around the old lifeboat station and it ended up seeking refuge up the chimney whilst a Peregrine terrorised the waders. Rock Pipits were seen at both the north and south end and there was a small passage of Starlings overhead with a single Skylark also being logged.
A group of Salford University students led by Scott Reid came over around 10.15 and had a talk by an Obs member and a tour of the Observatory. Although there wasn't much to show them in the way of ringing there were plenty of birds to be seen with the Brent's showing well off the north end and at least 5 Purple Sandpipers (left) being logged. The now regular Short-eared Owl was flushed from long grass just north of the Old Obs garden and flew out to sea being pursued by gulls before heading back towards the mainland.
One of the recently ringed Blackbirds was found predated by a Merlin at the north end but the regular pair were both accounted for. A brief sea-watch resulted in a a few Guillemots and a Red-throated Diver but whilst the Obs member present was having a well earned cup of tea he received a phone call from Scott that had him dashing north! Scott had seen a Little Auk in flight past the north end ( four photos top) but lost it as it headed down the west side. After a frantic search it was relocated but unfortunately flew before it could be twitched from the mainland.
(PSW,SRW) [1022-47] photos PSW( little Auk bottom left and others) & Scott Reid (other Little Auk photos)

Wednesday 16 November 2011

16th November 2011

The first Snow Buntings of the winter on the ground were found on Middle island from just before the tide, feeding on the shorter grass area of the west side (left), hopefully they may stay a while as others have done. After a quiet start with very few birds about log 'write-ons' began appearing during the morning, beginning with a Bonxie that flew from the west close to the north end and then unsettled the birds on the east hoyle tide edge before continuing away north east(right). A single Wigeon also made a flying visit(left) after a couple of Teal rested briefly on the sea, and a Golden Plover flew south off the east side. At the south end 4 Common Snipe flew west and 2 Little Egrets (including the ringed bird) fed in the gutter. Later in the morning 3 Redwing(right) arrived but failed to find the traps attractive, neither did the 3 visiting Blackbirds and the sole bird ringed today was 1 of the 2 Chaffinches on the island. Overhead several flocks of starlings, the largest being a group of 180, passed through, also a single Grey Wagtail. A Peregrine was seen to catch a wader on the shore and carry it away despite the attention of the Crows. Not a bad day for the middle of November!
(DB,CJ,KMc) [1020-47] photos CJ

Tuesday 15 November 2011

12th - 15th November 2011

On the 12th a Greenland Wheatear was ringed, the latest ever to be ringed at Hilbre by 3 weeks (right). The Merlin showed again, also seen were 2 Greylags, a Reed Bunting, a Redwing in the afternoon and quite a few Great Crested Grebes and a close Red-throated Diver on the sea. Ringed;- 1 Wren, 1Wheatear, 1 Chaffinch.
The 13th was a good day with records of Short-eared Owl, 4 Goosander, 5 Shoveler, 3 Fieldfares, a Snow Bunting flying south and 10 Blackbirds on the island. Ringed:- 3 Blackbirds, 1 Chaffinch.
On the 14th the Short-eared owl was still around, presumably the same bird as yesterday, also the Merlin and 3 Little Egrets.
(DB, et al)
A Sparrowhawk went through the obs garden on 15th and a female Blackcap was ringed. Eighty one Starlings were logged overhead.

Friday 11 November 2011

11th November 2011

A very brisk south-easterly and mist greeted observers and it was rather quiet first thing. However, soon after the first of several flocks of Starlings was seen passing over the shore between Little Eye and West Kirby with the final count of 1,860 for the day.

No doubt attracted by the passing Starlings a Merlin appeared and picked out a single bird and began a long pursuit which conclusion was not seen as both birds disappeared into the mist.

Four Wigeon were in the gutter on the rising tide and it was a good day for wildfowl with a single Teal seen later, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers but the highlight was a flock of six Shoveler (above left)which flew between the islands; not to mention the Brent Geese flock which was a little more scattered than yesterday making an accurate count difficult (146 yesterday).

Also following the same flight-line as the Shovelers were two Lapwing (above right).

Migrants were struggling through against the strengthening wind with 3 Redwings passing over (including one on Middle), 3 Skylark, 4 Chaffinch as well as at least 8 grounded Blackbirds (of which four new birds were ringed).

The colour-ringed Little Egret and one of the colour-ringed Pale-bellied Brent were both present and a single Short-eared Owl was flushed from the bracken near the Old Obs garden and was later seen down the West side (probably the same bird that has been seen on the island on several dates recently - photographed on 4th November 2011).

(DB, NDW et al) [1,011-47]

Thursday 10 November 2011

10th November 2011

The sea today was graced by 25 Great Crested Grebes along with two Guillemots. However, good counts of species included 1,000 Cormorant, 250 Shelduck, 9,000 Oystercatchers, 8,000 Knot, 250 Curlew and 150 Turnstone and 11 Purple Sandpipers. But more impressive was the count of 146 Brent Geese which is high for so early in the 'winter'.

Passerines included singles of Pied Wagtail, Song Thrush and Chaffinch as well as 5 Linnet and 6 Blackbirds.

The highlights of the day were a Little Egret which came 'in off' the sea, the first Woodcock of the autumn on Gropper Ridge (South End) and a Bonxie over the sea opposite the Obs.

A single Red Admiral was another indication of how mild the temperatures are at the moment.


Sunday 6 November 2011

6th November 2011

First light brought a cold start, however that quickly transformed into a warm sunny day (left). The brisk early wind and tide produced 8 Red Throated Divers, 53 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Gannets, 31 Guillemot, 15 Red-breasted Merganser and a movement of Gulls including 150 Black-headed, 18 Lesser and 41 Greater black backed. A rock Pipit was present at the North End and the now regular Merlin caused havoc with the waders and Blackbirds, the Brent flock remained at around 100 and wader counts were as follows; Oystercatcher 4000, Ringed Plover 21, Grey Plover 1, Purple Sandpiper 5, Curlew 45, Turnstone 120 and Redshank 120, Two Little Egrets (inc the colour ringed bird) patrolled the ebbing gutter. A single Skylark and Starling moved through as well as 26 Meadow Pipits, 4 Blackbirds, 2 Goldfinch and a single Blue Tit that turned out to have been ringed at Meols on 31st October (right). Blue Tits are rare enough at Hilbre, so one already with a ring is extra special even if it hasn't travelled far.
(JE, CJW, NDW, RTW, EKW, NLW) photos JE (view), CJW, (Blue Tit)

Friday 4 November 2011

4th November 2011

Much lighter winds today but still from the south east overnight, made for typical November records with passage of a Brambling with the several Chaffinches, 3 Lesser Redpolls and later many Goldfinches, some of which dropped in to the obs garden to take advantage of the feeders (below left). After hundreds of Starlings in recent days, none today, but 15 Skylarks went through including a group of ten. On the ground a male Blackcap and a Goldcrest were ringed, also a Song Thrush, while 5 Blackbirds included 4 new birds passing through together during the afternoon. Early in the morning a Merlin again moved around the island and slightly later a Short-eared Owl was disturbed from Niffy bay and was mobbed by the shorebirds as it moved off east (above and right), it later returned to the island as the tide flooded in the afternoon. Following on from the very late Common Tern seen a week ago, an equally surprising record today of a Sandwich tern found hanging around on the east hoyle tide edge! Five Purple Sandpipers were the most seen so far this season, and 60 Bar-tailed Godwits and 50 Redshanks remain on the shore. Seven Wigeon early in the day and 300 Common Scoters off to the north were the only duck, but more interesting were the 2 Dark-bellied birds noted amongst the Brent Geese. Two Little Egrets included the colour ringed bird seen yesterday. Quite a few Great Crested Grebes were visible on the calm sea together with 2 Red-throated Divers and a couple of Guillemots. Not to be outdone by the Sandwich tern, the insect world produced a Painted Lady butterfly flying about the obs garden, the only butterfly of the day and another exceptionally late record. This has been a very poor year for this species at Hilbre and the number logged could be counted on one hand. Ringed:- 3 Goldfinches,1 Blackcap, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Song Thrush (DB,CJ,KMc,CJW,PSW, et al) [953-46] photos CJ