Sunday 26 June 2011

26th June 2011

The day began with a south-easterly influence but the promised heat wave was slow to materialise.. Dark rain leaden clouds passed over during the morning and the very occasional spot of rain brought a passage of at least 25 Swifts (left) and more unusually 4 Sand Martins. Three Little Egrets fed in the gutter and the low tide encouraged the mid summer build up of Lesser Black-backed Gulls with 165 counted. A morning sea-watch was livened up with the lovely sight of a pod of ten Bottle-nosed Dolphins that moved slowly westwards. Other mammal sightings included a brief view of the Rabbit. As well as the mammals, insects were much in evidence including several species of butterflies (including Meadow Browns - above right) and a couple of species of damselflies.

Curlews were in evidence with 68 counted early on then small groups of 3 or 4 were seen throughout the day but other waders were thin on the ground until a Greenshank was heard from the Obs balcony. The resident Shelduck flock has reduced in number to just over twenty birds but a separate flock of 35 were seen heading high north west out of the estuary late morning.

By lunchtime it was a beautiful day weather wise with dark clouds passing over (see above left and right) between bright blue skies (above centre) and rising temperatures (see below) no doubt making it a memorable Regatta for Hoylake Sailing Club's race day and annual visit to the West Hoyle Sandbank (right). By mid afternoon the temperature had risen dramatically, especially with the wind dropping, this produced a brief possible sighting of a Hummingbird Hawk Moth 'whizzing' through the Old Obs garden mid afternoon which was later confirmed in the early evening when one was found in the Obs garden ('Southward') near the Honeysuckle. A fine way to end a lovely June day on Hilbre.

(ESCA, DB, JE, SRW et al) Photos JE (regatta), SRW (others)

Friday 24 June 2011

24th June 2011

Things have been expectedly quiet this week and today was no different. However, Curlews were much in evidence with 128 recorded, signs that return migration is under way? A solitary Whimbrel joined the fold and Oystercatcher numbers have noticeably increased. Four Grey Herons and two Little Egrets fed on the flooding tide in the afternoon and over 120 Gannets were out at sea which looked 'busy' from a distance and this was confirmed when good numbers of terns, gannets, auks and at least four Arctic Skuas and even a fine Puffin were noted from Hoylake lifeboat (whilst it was out on a service) out near the wind farm.

Back on Hilbre another school visit, this time Bebington High School, enjoyed a visit to the Obs as part of their day and saw one of two juvenile Dunnocks (second brood) ringed.

(DB, NDW, SRW) [620-39]

Monday 20 June 2011

20th June 2011

A warm morning for a survey of the breeding birds on the island with Swallows noted feeding around the islands, Meadow Pipits, Wrens, Pied Wagtails, Dunnocks, Linnets, Blackbirds, Shelducks and Mallards all in evidence but the Crows were not seen today. A visiting birder (AT) managed to get a mid-summer sighting of Rock Pipit furthering our suspicions that they have bred on the islands this year ...
Two Common Sandpipers were found (June is a good month for this species at Hilbre), although a touch early for the anticipated first autumn migrants (rather than the last of the spring). Two Sandwich Terns were on the west side of the island.

(JE + Andy Thomas)

Saturday 18 June 2011

18th June 2011

The wind had changed overnight to just north of west although it had dropped it still felt fresh (moderate force 3-4). The only 'write-on' the day-sheet was the Little Egret fishing the flooding gutter - so regular now that it won't be long before it will, perhaps sadly, be relegated from 'write-on' status.

A few terns passed the island as the tide flooded but there were no migrants seen and focus remained on the breeding birds, many of the females of which appear to have gone whilst the males were actively singing again. No doubt some will be having second broods, although the pair of rather late arriving Swallows will only be on their first.

Concerns that it was going to be another 'null day' ringing-wise were allayed when a drake Mallard was caught by hand in the Obs garden (see photos)!

Presumably the same juvenile Kittiwake had changed its preferred roost site to Middle Eye, but sea-watching was also quiet (up until high tide).

[PSW, SRW, TGW] [618-39]

Friday 17 June 2011

17th June 2011

A blusterly south-easterly and leaden skies did little to raise hopes for an improved day, but as recent events have proved ... you just never know.

A solitary Little Egret fished the gutter on the rising tide, as did two Black-headed Gulls - something of a scarcity at this time of year, and these were joined by a single Redshank. Later a Whimbrel was heard calling - arriving or returning - that is the question now for these mid-summer waders?

Desperate to cling on to the last bit of "spring" observers had a single House Martin low over the South End and although the threatened rain did not develop beyond a few drops the fronts passing down the estuary brought 8 Swifts 'batting' across the islands.

The sea produced a few Gannets, Common Terns, single Sandwich Tern and a juvenile Kittiwake spent some time roosting on Lion Rock in Niffy Bay.

Friday is clearly the day for photographing rare mammals at Hilbre (see Friday 10th June 2011). Today produced something of a surprise to observers scoping the gulls on the edge of the tide on the East Hoyle sandbank when one observer stated "This looks like a squirrel amongst the gulls!" It was indeed a Grey Squirrel amongst the gulls, who only seemed to take any interest in the little blighter when it dashed about the sand as the tide flooded. It then became disorientated and trapped as the tide flooded behind it (and the gulls) and it made a swim for it (not sure what it would have been identified as had it been seen swimming past the North End!?!). Unfortunately for the squirrel it headed south rather than east back to dry land. After a few attempts he was lost to sight and presumed lost to Davey Jones' Locker... apologies for the very poor (distant) record shots of this rare sighting.

Coverage remains high this June (as with the last few Junes) and this has already brought its rewards with the Blyth's Reed Warbler, Hobby as well as Hummingbird Hawk Moth to name just a few of the diverse highlights from the islands this month.... is it too much to ask for one more goodie before the days start getting shorter...

A Sedge Warbler seen earlier this week (Wednesday 15th June) was another sign that odd birds are still turning up.

(DB et al)

Sunday 12 June 2011

12th June 2011

The day started nicely enough with a light south-easterly promising more than it delivered. An early morning sea-watch produced a dark phase Arctic Skua (after three were seen on last night's tide along with lots of Gannets). A few passage waders were still in evidence to observers following the tide back with a few Dunlin, Ringed Plovers and Curlew seen. The last few days have seen more jellyfish washed up including many Lion's Manes (see right).

Breeding birds were again in evidence with the female Mallard making a rare appearance and a rather advanced juvenile Shelduck with adults in the gutter. Four Grey Herons and three Little Egrets were feeding on the edge of the ebbing tide.

A single Swift provided evidence of some migration but this was soon quashed when the forecast rain arrived on queue at 10am and was clearly 'set in' for the day. However, the highlights of the day, other than the earlier skua, were a female Goosander in the east gutter and the immature drake Eider was off the North End over the tide (see left).

(ESCA, DB (from over), JE, CJ, SRW) Photos to follow Lion's Mane jellyfish by JE, Eider by SRW

Saturday 11 June 2011

11th June 2011

Best bird of the day was an immature male Eider that was found as the tide receded to the east of the island and stayed in the area for most of the morning. Thirty five Kittiwakes were an unusual site at this time of year as they fed fairly closely off the north end on the ebb, more distant were 3 Gannets and 25 Common Terns, while the only 2 Sandwich Terns seen were passing west in front of the island. Heavy rain showers failed to produce any influx of birds and most of the activity took place amongst the breeding species. Wading birds are now as expected at their lowest numbers present during the year, 75 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plovers and 90 Oystercatchers are all that could be found. Two Little Egrets fed with the 3 Grey Herons in the east gutter. No sign of any rabbits today, although even the most sceptical members who had still not seen the mythical beast on the island will now have to believe after yesterdays photos ! (CJ,NDW,TGW,SRW,PSW+4) photo CJ

Friday 10 June 2011

10th June 2011

A very light south-westerly breeze and sunshine greeted observers making their way out as the tide ebbed first thing this morning. A few nice waders were present on the tide edge including 3 summer plumaged Sanderling, 2 Grey Plover and at least 17 Ringed Plover plus 28 Dunlin (see right).

Two Little Egrets (left) were present on the reef and up to 3 Grey Herons hunted the shallows including a colour-ringed bird (presumably the one that has been seen around the islands for the last three years - its ring now faded - was ringed in Cheshire as a nestling several years ago).

Attention was drawn away from ornithology with a couple of sightings of Rabbit - even providing rare photographic opportunities (top 'in flight' and left nibbling on the Hilbre grass ... it seems that there may now be two of these rare Hilbre mammals. A Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly (below )was present in the paddocks where two juvenile Meadow Pipits were trapped and ringed.

A visit by West Kirby Primary School was lead by the Ranger Service (including a history tour of the island by Matt the Ranger and rock pooling) and the Bird Observatory was able to show them one of the juvenile Meadow Pipits trapped and ringed today.

(DB, SRW et al) [617-39] Photos by SRW

Tuesday 7 June 2011

7th June 2011

A brisk south-easterly and cloud cover raised hopes again and observers arriving on the island at 7am were not disappointed with stunning views of a Hobby which flew down the east side between the islands and off south over Middle. Unfortunately the photographer couldn't keep up and only a 'record shot' (apologies!) was obtained as it promptly disappeared over the top of Middle.

Groups of Canada Geese and Greylags (8) were seen and a Swift flew over in front of approaching rain.

Another juvenile Meadow Pipit was ringed.

(DB, CJW et al) [615-39]

Monday 6 June 2011

6th June 2011

Everything was back down to earth today as there was no sign of yesterday's Blyth's Reed Warbler. In fact, despite the hopeful light south-easterly breeze the previous evening, the wind had turned back to the west overnight and the island was decidedly cold and there was not a single grounded migrant.

Once again focus turned to the breeding birds and a single juvenile Meadow Pipit was caught and ringed. The Swallows were present around the North End and the male Pied Wagtail continued to feed the solitary fledged juvenile in Niffy Bay.

A single Little Egret landed in 'Egret Flash' to feed before the tide but other than that it was very quiet - as one normally expects at this time of year...!

[MGT et al] [614-39]

Sunday 5 June 2011

Blyth's Reed Warbler video

A short video clip by CJ

Blyth's Reed Warbler

As promised some photos of today's Blyth's Reed Warbler which was found in the Old Obs garden mist net mid morning.

Immediately recognised as an 'Acro' in the net, it was extracted and realised that it lacked Reed Warblers usual rusty tones and that its wing projection was particularly short.

It was taken back to the Obs and detailed wing formula was taken confirming initial suspicions that it was in fact Hilbre's first Blyth's Reed Warbler.

Incredible when you consider that the Paddyfield Warbler was trapped on Hilbre on 5th June 2009 (see blog for that date).

Lightning does strike twice!

Some features that can be seen in the photos, apart from plumage tones (which changed depending on the light conditions) and very short primary projection, include plain tertials, rather flat crown, greyish legs and feet, slight super behind the eye, pale lower mandible with dark smudge towards tip. Wing formula included rather short second primary compared with wing tip and emarginations on 3rd, 4th and 5th (although latter less pronounced).

(Upper left CJ, Upper right and below BSB) [613-39]

5th June 2011

Incredible day today! A Blyth's Reed Warbler was trapped, ringed and released mid morning. More news and photos will follow.

(SRW et al)

Saturday 4 June 2011

Evening Update

The day continued to provide interesting sightings, as the tide ebbed four immature drake Eiders (of varying degrees of immaturity) flew up and down the gutter and momentarily landed off the east side before flying off east (see below).

Up to 75 Ringed Plovers (right) were around over the high tide period as well as smaller numbers of Dunlin. A male Kestrel hunted over the South End and Middle Eye as evening approached and several Swifts passed over the island heading west to east.

The final sighting of the day was a flock of Canada Geese (25 in total) flew west over the Obs calling (see right). The Hummingbird Hawk Moth made a brief reappearance late afternoon, but with the wind shifting to the east it was having difficulty hovering! However, the change in wind has left observers dreaming of what tomorrow might bring...

4th June 2011

The forecast easterly did not materialise, but the very light westerly breeze meant observers awoke to a delightfully warm morning.

Despite the wind direction a single, rather late, Willow Warbler was trapped and ringed mid morning. However, focus was mainly on the breeding birds with a recently fledged juvenile Pied Wagtail being fed by its father in Niffy Bay and several broods of young birds around the islands including at least three broods of Linnets (see juvenile left).

Two broods of recently fledged Blackbirds (confirming our suspicions of two nests) could be seen and three different juveniles were trapped and ringed in the heligoland traps during the day.

A pair of recently arrived Swallows spent the morning collecting nesting material from Niffy Bay (see left - 'Niffy Bay' the place to be today!) and the rest of the time basking in the sun on the day room roof (see right).

With the sun beating down and temperatures touching 20 degrees the reappearance of yesterday's Hummingbird Hawk Moth at the cliff top in 'Niffy Bay' was still a nice surprise for those who missed it the previous day (see below).

Up to seven Grey Herons appeared on the flooding tide and at least four Little Egrets fed in the gutter - a common sight these days! A single immature Kittiwake appeared flying around the North End before deciding to roost up over the tide (see below).

(CLW, SRW, CJW(f), GIW, TGW (from over), CJ+2, NDW) [611-38] Photos SRW

Friday 3 June 2011

3rd June 2011

A beautiful warm and sunny day with very little or no breeze put insects in the spotlight, especially when no sooner had the possibility of an appearance by a Hummingbird Hawkmoth been discussed when one was found feeding on the Valerian on top of the northern end of Niffy bay cliff ! No apologies for the many photos of of the moth as it fed in the style that gave it its name (above). Hummingbird Hawkmoths arrive to delight us from southern Europe and north Africa in spring and summer, more numerous in some years than others. Newly emerged from the main pond was an immature Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly (above,bottom right), possibly the first proof of breeding of this species at Hilbre, although this statement will have to be checked. Also just emerged were the first Blue-tailed Damselflies to be seen this year. Red Admiral and Green-veined White flew in the morning and more butterflies are expected as the afternoon warms up.Two bird species seen today were most unexpected in June, a Greenshank (left) was at the north end for some time with the few Oystercatchers that are still with us, and then moved east along the tide line towards the north Wirral shore. Also out of season was a Chiffchaff that was singing in various places on the island before being caught in the 'heli' and ringed. Species that seem to be increasing their visits to Hilbre showed in the form of 4 Collared Doves (left) and 3 Goldfinches (right), but the Lesser Redpoll that passed through is more of a spring and autumn passage bird.Very few seabirds early in the day in the calm conditions but 11 Sandwich Terns were noted feeding off shore. Ringed:- 2 Linnets, 1 Chiffchaff. (DB,AMC+1,CJ) [607-38] photos CJ

Thursday 2 June 2011

2nd June 2011

A light north-westerly was joined by drizzle during the morning but there were no grounded migrants, although Swifts and Swallows were seen.

Three Little Egrets appeared after the tide (as usual) and a sea-watch produced 200 Common Scoter, 50 Gannet, 20 Guillemots and a single Arctic Skua.

(DB, AMC + 1)

Wednesday 1 June 2011

1st June 2011

Light South-westerly winds today brought some modest migration with 3 Swifts, 2 House
Martins & several Swallows moving through early on. A Spotted Flycatcher was
in the paddocks despite the wind direction and also present were juvenile Blackbird and Meadow Pipit, both recently fledged on the island.
A singing male Blackbird produced hopes of a second brood. An unseasonal Goldcrest gave members the runaround in the Obs garden remaining hidden for long periods before finally giving itself up for viewing and the now regular Wood Pigeon roamed the island. A Wheatear appeared briefly in Middle.
On the shore 2 late Turnstones lingered with several Curlew, 1 Whimbrel and 30
Dunlin. 36 Ringed Plover moved off as the tide came in.
The SW winds picked up as the tide approached prompting a 2 and a half hour
seawatch which produced 300 Gannets, 9 Manx Shearwater, 4 Kittiwake, 1 Fulmar, 4
Guillemot, 50 Common Scoter & 60 Common Tern.
A Little Egret fished the gutter on the ebbing tide.
Not a bad day for June!!!