Tuesday 31 May 2011

31st May 2011

The westerly influence continued (perhaps we can dream of a yank!?!) but at least there was no rain. However, birds remained thin on the ground. Highlights of the day were 2 Grey Plover and 2 Whimbrel between the islands on the rising tide. At least a dozen or so late Swallows passed through during a lovely sunny day.

With a shift in the wind forecast for later in the week we will 'keep going'...


Monday 30 May 2011

30th May 2011

Incessant rain first thing certainly put a dampner on things and the birding was very slow as well as being wet and rather colder than one would expect for the end of May. After good numbers of terms over the last few days it was rather disappointing that a survey yielded just one Common Tern. Even Gannet numbers had dropped off considerably and there was no evidence if passerine migrants again. Even the breeding birds (such as Pied Wags, Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Robins and Linnets) were keeping low.

At least by mid afternoon the sun came out and a couple of Swallows appeared. The rising evening tide produced a couple of small groups of Sanderling in varying plumages below the Obs which brightened up an otherwise quiet day all round.

(SRW et al (from over), JE)

Sunday 29 May 2011

29th May 2011

The wind battered the island overnight but had dropped to force 6 by the morning. Seawatching remained the order of the day and the species list had a familiarity about it ... 68 Manxies (see below), 300 Gannet ('the' species of the last week - see above), 5 Arctic Skua, 2 Fulmar, 17 Guillemot and Common and Sandwich Terns were present although the terns were distant.

(SRW et al (from over), CJ, PSW) Photos PSW

Saturday 28 May 2011

28th May 2011

Early morning update (live from the island):

Overnight strong westerlies had dropped by first thing but a seawatch still produced 150 Gannet, 70 Common Tern and 2 Manx Shearwaters as well as 6 Guillemot, Great Crested Grebe and an adult Kittiwake. There were no grounded migrants. The wind began strengthening again by 9am raising hopes for more seawatching later...

Midday update:

Over 300 Gannet now, 200 plus Common Terns, single Fulmar (see above). Waders on the receding tide included 7 Whimbrel (see right 'phonescoped' with iPhone 4) the obligatory Little Egret has just reappeared in the gutter.

(SRW et al)

Friday 27 May 2011

27th May 2011

A very strong north westerly greeted observers staying over on the island this morning and this produced 95 Gannet, 20 Manxie and an Arctic Skua on the sea. The only migrants noted were a couple of Swallows. Later in the morning a pair of Eiders appeared in the gutter before spending some time on the sand. A single Little Egret fed in the gutter on and off all day.

The evening tide produced 7 Whimbrel, 6 Curlew, 650 Dunlin, 120 Ringed Plover and 85 Oystercatcher on the tide edge and 35 Manxies loafed about off the North End and a single Arctic Skua harassed large numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns that appeared. Eight Canada Geese flew over the south end as the day drew to a close.

(CJW, DGW, RTW, NLW, EKW from over, DB, KM, TM, AMC, MGT et al)

Thursday 26 May 2011

26th May 2011

With the wind in the southerly quarter and slight drizzle early on, observers could be forgiven for being 'optimistic' for a change recently. However, migrants, as expected, were very thin on the ground with single Wheatear, Willow Warbler (caught) and House Martin during the first few hours.

A Fulmar sheared around the islands on and off during the morning and a Little Egret was in the gutter.

Rain set in about 9.30am. More terns seem to have appeared today and there were flocks of Common Terns off the North End and several Sandwich were bathing on the rain drenched East Hoyle bank.

Ringed: Willow Warbler and Robin

Remaining optimistic in the forecast westerlies for the next few days may be difficult - but as we all know good birds do appear at this time of year, usually on their own, and Hilbre has had Nightingale, Bluethroat, Spoonbill and of course the Paddyfield Warbler in recent years at this time ... so we'll keep going and you never know your luck...

Evening update - an evening sea-watch from the Obs veranda produced 105 Manx Shearwaters and 75 Gannets.

(DB, CJW et al) [604-38]

Wednesday 25 May 2011

25th May 2011

The wind eased overnight and this morning found a south easterly and a clear sky at dawn, although soon clouding over making it feel quite cool. A Whitethroat was caught which is probably the bird seen over the last few days, but more of a surprise was a Woodpigeon which also ringed (left). A dozen or so Gannets were on the sea early with a few seen later in the morning, also 6 Sandwich Terns which were the only other seabirds today despite the large numbers noted in the strong westerlies of the last few days. A few hirundines were passing with House Martins outnumbering Swallows by 9 to 7. The shore still held several hundred Dunlin and 50 Ringed Plover, with a single Whimbrel and a Little Egret. Find of the day was a pair of Buff-tip moths mating on some Ragwort at the south end, looking for all the world like a twig of birch lying on the plant (right). Buff-tips are at the very start of their flight season and their caterpillars are noted regularly on Hilbre but a mating pair is a rare sight. Ringed:- 1 Linnet, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Woodpigeon. (DB,CJ) [602-38] photos CJ

Tuesday 24 May 2011

24th May 2011

The left-overs from the gales yesterday were logged today but the seabirds were not as numerous even though the winds had only slightly eased and veered to the north west. The 200 Gannets seen were mostly soon after dawn and few were still feeding later. Other totals today included 3 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Kittiwakes, 6 Common Terns, 2 Sandwich terns, 8 Guillemots, 5 Common Scoter and a single Red-throated Diver. Eighteen hundred Dunlin were counted with 150 Ringed plover, while 4 House Martins and a Swallow braved the wind.

Monday 23 May 2011

23rd May 2011

Early morning update - a Cuckoo was present on the island first thing this morning (always a scarce bird on Hilbre). It was seen on a couple of occasions being harrassed by some of our local resident Meadow Pipits...perhaps we can look forward to a juvenile later in the year...!

Other news - 150 Gannets passed by, surely a good day for a sea-watch...

Late afternoon update:

Sea-watching on the island has so far (by 4.30pm) resulted in counts of 700 Gannet, 300 Manx Shearwater, 2 Arctic Skuas and 2 Bonxies.

Evening Update: Final counts on the sea-watch included 850 Gannets, 350 Manxies, 2 Arctic and 3 Bonxies.


Sunday 22 May 2011

22nd May 2011

The rain had cleared overnight leaving a bright but blustery morning, with the westerly wind freshening throughout the day. As expected very few migrants were on the move but a Wheatear was seen first thing on 'the reef' south of Middle Eye. There were no passerines around the paddocks other than the breeding birds including the recently ringed male Pied Wagtail.

However, a male Whitethroat sang from various bushes in the Obs garden but even he gave up as the wind strengthened! A few Curlew, Whimbrel and plenty of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were trying to shelter in the gutter as was a solitary Little Egret in 'egret flash'.

Predictably attention was drawn to sea-watching as the tide began to flood and there were at least 35 Gannets and a single Manxie struggled west before observers left the island for the afternoon. The sandswept shore bearing testament to the near gale force wind (see above).

[AAB+friends, SRW] Photos SRW

Saturday 21 May 2011

21st May 2011

The first Spotted Flycatcher (left) of the year arrived overnight as the wind backed to the south east in the early hours and was found in the SK trap, but as expected there were few other migrants this late in spring. A Whitethroat warbling in sub-song was elusive and may have been the bird present yesterday although yesterdays small number of Wheatears were completely absent. Swallows continue to pass in ones and twos and there are still 3 Whimbrel and a Little Egret on the shore. Ringed :- 1 Spotted Flycatcher.(DB,CJ+VB,PSW,SRW,TGW) [599-38] photo CJ

Friday 20 May 2011

20th May 2011

With winds continuing from the west migrant birds are still at a premium, the only warblers on the island were a Willow Warbler (above right) and a Whitethroat (above left) both seen in the obs garden. Juveniles born on the island and present today were a Dunnock, a Robin and a Blackbird. About 10 Swallows went through, also a Swift just before the heavy rain came in the afternoon. Little else to report other than 2 Goldfinches visiting, 6 Whimbrel still on the shore and 2 Sandwich Terns feeding in the gutter to the east of the islands after the tide. A male Pied Wagtail was ringed which seems to be from a breeding pair (below left, that is white paint not snow !).

A Lions Mane jellyfish (above right) was between the islands this morning after the night tide. Ringed:- 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Robin (juvenile) (BSB,DB+ESCA,CJ,KMC,CJW et al) [598-37] photos CJ

Saturday 7 May 2011

7th May 2011

With rain in the early hours observers could have been forgiven for thinking precipitation had arrived too early and 'mainlanders' arriving early morning took their time watching a rather late Merlin on the ridge south of Middle Eye (see below).
Arriving at 5.45am they were greeted with news that there were many warblers on the island and the ringers set about a 'first round' of the heligoland traps which produced a Redstart, many Willow Warblers and the first of many Whitethroats. Ringers have been very fortunate over the last week with regular falls of migrants (see right).

A Garden Warbler was then heard singing near the SK and when one was found in the mist net everyone assumed that was the bird in question but another was caught later in the Newton; the third record of this Spring on Hilbre of a species more often associated with autumn here (see left).

Visible migration was mainly related to Swallows with at least 350 passing over during the day accompanied by the occasional House Martin and 25 Swifts, however, earlier in the day a Tree Pipit and a couple of Yellow Wagtails passed overhead.

Later in the morning a couple of Sedge Warblers were caught in quick succession but it was a day for Whitethroats with at least 15 birds present on the island and an incredible 12 caught and ringed. A typical view of a Whitethroat (male above) on Hilbre today with plenty of insects around for migrants to feed up on.

However, not to be outdone was the bird of the day - a Willow Warbler (see left) ... this time a control of a bird ringed elsewhere trapped in the Old Obs garden mist net. Amazingly its first three digits were the same initials as one of our most senior and longstanding members who has been present on the island for the last two weeks.

A Whinchat appeared late morning but remained unusually elusive only being seen a couple of times at the South End. Whimbrel numbers were impressive with at least 33 bird counted around high tide, when tern numbers were slightly down on the last week or so.

Heavy rain arrived around midday and ringing activities were suspended. However, with sunshine bursting through midway through the afternoon a new Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler were caught. This has been one of the best Springs in recent memory on the islands for common migrants ... and it is still only the 7th May!

Ringed: 28 Willow Warblers, 12 Whitethroats, 2 Garden Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, Goldfinch, Redstart, Robin

[RA +5, CJ, DCT, PT, NDW, PSW, SRW, TGW] [584-37] Photos by SRW

Friday 6 May 2011

6th May 2011

Some rain showers overnight did not bring the hoped for fall and little was to be seen apart from a Willow Warbler or two. Swallows were going through all morning in many hundreds with 2,000 estimated by 10.30hrs, also about a dozen Swifts and 60 House Martins. Not as many Yellow Wagtails as yesterday but 6 were heard and a few alba wagtails were at the north end. The morning seemed to get better as the sun tried to break through, especially when a Lesser Whitethroat started singing in the rangers garden. This was the first Lesser Whitethroat for the year (above) and it was trapped in the 'heli' very shortly after and minutes later a Common Whitethroat was also caught enabling a comparison photo to be taken (above right). These warblers had undoubtedly just arrived and later 3 Whitethroats and 2 Sedge Warblers were recorded. A Short-eared Owl was seen distantly over the sea being mobbed as it flew east across the north end and along the north Wirral shore (right). Just before 11.00hrs 2 Common Sandpipers were around the north end rocks, and although regular in spring these are the first since one in March. Also on the shore were 21 Whimbrel and 8 Curlew, 1,200 Dunlin, 3 Little Egrets, a Tufted Duck and 2 Canada Geese flew east across between Little Eye and the mainland. Ringed:-6 Willow Warblers, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Common Whitethroat, 1 Goldfinch.(BSB,DB,JE,ME+HW,CJ,DCT,PT,NDW,CJW, et al) [536-37] photos CJ - blog updated at 17.20

Thursday 5 May 2011

5th May 2011

A visitor could imagine that the dull and windy morning could be in late autumn, but a look at the species list would tell regular birders that we are in the peak of spring migration. The main feature soon after dawn was the extensive passage of Swallows numbering at least 300 keeping low to the east side and across the shore, and later not to be outdone up to 30 House Martins (above left) mostly in ones and twos crossed south east into the wind breaking the dearth of records in the last few days. Swifts went through in small groups totalling 25 birds and 4 Sand Martins were also logged. Bird of the day was caught very early in the SK trap - a Whinchat, the first ringed this year (top right). No large numbers of Willow Warblers, just 6 today but quality birds continued to be found during the morning :- 2 Whitethroats, continuing the good numbers this spring, a yellow morph Grasshopper Warbler (right), the second Garden Warbler this year (above right), and a Sedge Warbler. It was a good day for Yellow Wagtail (above) with at least 12 over, a pair and then a group of 4 alighting near the north end to give a rare photo opportunity. One or 2 alba wagtails were also on the ground (right). Tree Pipits also returned to form as well as the wagtails and 6 were noted today, a few Meadow Pipits also seemed to be moving. Only a single Wheatear today, while finches were only represented by 2 Chaffinches and 3 Goldfinches. A Greenshank was found feeding in the east gutter (above), we have been short of scarce waders recently and it was a pleasing addition to the 14 Whimbrel on the shore. Not much sea watching done but 12 Common Terns were off the north end.

The first bird to be hatched this year on the island (as far as we can be sure) was a juvenile Robin that was ringed today (right).

Ringed :-5 Willow Warblers, 2 Whitethroats, 1 Whinchat, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Robin. (DB,CJ,ME+HW,DCT,PT,NDW,CJW) [525-36] photos CJ

Wednesday 4 May 2011

4th May 2011

A very cold south easterly greeted the observers this morning and it was obvious from the start that there had not been any large Willow Warbler fall last night. Three Blackcaps, 3 Whitethroats, 3 Willow Warblers and a single Sedge Warbler were found early in the day, all of which were later ringed apart from one of the Whitethroats that was singing vigorously in the paddocks (left). This fine bird when photographed was seen to be carrying a ring on its right leg, and as Hilbre ring the birds on the left leg by convention, it was assumed it was a 'control' (ringed elsewhere), which proved to be the case when it was eventually trapped. We eagerly await news of its origin, as a Whitethroat 'control' does not happen often. Three Yellow Wagtails went over calling, also a Grey Wagtail was seen. Swallows were moving as usual and a late Sand Martin flew east mid-morning. Swifts sightings are now increasing, 6 today some passing low over the obs (right). Only a single Wheatear on the island, but 3 others were seen on the rocks south of Middle and on Little Eye. Two Goldfinches were the only passing finches today. There are 8 Whimbrel (left) now while unexpected guests included 4 Jackdaws flying south, a Pheasant on the shore just Hilbre side of Red Rocks, and the 2 regular Greylags also put in an appearance.
A flock of 50 + Common Terns were feeding off the west side and the north end and some were seen to catch Sandeels, which have become a very scarce food for birds in some sea areas in the last few years and there is some concern for the species that rely on them. Those who have clicked the above photo will have noticed that the Common Tern is also ringed, probably at Shotton where they bred regularly until recent problems. Ringed:- 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Blackcaps (male and female right), 2 Whitethroats, 1 Sedge Warbler. (BSB,DB,CJ,DCT,PT,NDW,CJW) [512-35] photos BSB - Whimbrel, Blackcaps and Tern, CJ others

Tuesday 3 May 2011

3rd May 2011

After yesterdays huge (for Hilbre) fall of Willow Warblers, this morning saw about half that number which is still a very good day on the island. The 500th bird ringed this year (left) was appropriately a Willow Warbler, bringing up a number which has seldom been achieved before the end of the spring. Two Grasshopper Warblers were suspected of being present but neither was ringed although 4 of the 5 Whitethroats and 2 Sedge Warblers (right) were more obliging.

Soon after dawn a Marsh Harrier flew over Middle Eye (distant photo left, centre of picture, harassed by gulls) then after approaching Little Eye it made off towards the shore.

Swallow passage was slightly more evident than of late, (but no House Martins), and mid-morning 2 Swifts flew low over the centre of the island. Only 2 Wheatears, a female and a male were noted all day.

Common Tern sightings are now increasing with 25 today, while on the shore were 800 Dunlin, 10 Sanderling and 3 Whimbrel. Ringed:- 34 Willow Warblers, 4 Whitethroats (male,right), 2 Sedge Warblers, 2 Linnets. (DB,CJ,DCT,PT+1,) [503-35] photos CJ

Monday 2 May 2011

2nd May 2011

The best spring fall of warblers for many years occurred this morning with over 150 Willow Warblers on the island. More news and photos later but 81 birds were ringed including 73 Willows, 5 Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap and male Redstart.

[DCT et al] [461-35]

Sunday 1 May 2011

1st May 2011

A very good day for warblers following an east south easterly overnight, the larger species were 2 Whitethroats (top right), a Redstart (bottom right), a Sedge Warbler (top left), a female Blackcap (bottom left) and a Grasshopper Warbler. Willow Warblers also arrived with 25 to 30 on the island and 17 being ringed today. Another Swift was over and other aerial visitors included 6 House Martins and 50+ Swallows, while 5 Wheatears made it after a few blank days. Other visible migration was quiet but there were 4 Yellow Wagtails. The wind once again got up to force 5 or 6 later in the morning just as it did following a similar wind on Saturday, but the larger warblers did not arrive. Ten Whimbrel were around today and there were still 800 Dunlin to be found. Another scarce Hilbre moth was in the light trap this morning a 'Treble Lines' (right). Ringed today:- 17 Willow Warblers, 2 Whitethroats, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Redstart, 1 Blackcap. (CDT,PT+1,NDW,SRW) [380-35] photos SRW