Friday 30 September 2011

30th September 2011

The sun continues to shine and the migrants trickle in during the daytime as they did yesterday. Not quite so many Chiffchaffs, but a Garden Warbler at dawn and a female Blackcap during the morning was fine compensation. A steady passage of Meadow Pipits floated through throughout the day, finches were few but the first migrant finch of the autumn to be ringed was a Chaffinch (left) which was one of 2 passing through, also 2 Goldfinches hopefully fortelling a good passage of finches in the next few weeks. Other late autumn species present today included 2 Common Snipe between the islands early in the morning, a Wigeon, a Reed Bunting overhead, a Song Thrush and 2 Skylarks, while 4 Swallows were a reminder of summer (as was the weather). A Peregrine sat on the beach off the east Hoyle, and a Kestrel made a short visit to the island plunged into the nearly dry island pond and pulled out a large Short-tailed Field Vole (right). Twenty eight Sandwich Terns still remain, other sea birds logged were a few Guillemots and Great Crested Grebes and a Razorbill. After the lunacy of yesterday the inconsiderate behaviour of visitors today was confined to a kayak flushing the entire wader roost on Middle (left). Ringed:-4 Chiffchaffs, 3 Meadow Pipits,1 Goldcrest,1 Garden Warbler,1 Chaffinch,1 Blackcap, 1 Song Thrush. (DB,AAB,CJ,KMC,AS,NDW,AW, et al) [861-43] photos CJ

Thursday 29 September 2011

29th September 2011

The chairman was interviewed by representatives of radio 3 for a forthcoming programme about the Dee estuary (above), and showed the work of the observatory and the bird ringing while they enjoyed a cup of tea ! It was a beautiful day in the sunshine and as the wind dropped it became very warm indeed. Signs were not good after dawn when only a single Chiffchaff and a Wheatear seemed to be present but it was one of those days when birds trickled in throughout the day. Chiffchaffs reached 12 by the middle of the afternoon, meanwhile a female Blackcap arrived in the morning and later a new Blackbird and the only Goldcrest were found. The star migrant arrived in the afternoon when a Spotted Flycatcher was found in the Newton trap (above right). This must surely be one of the latest ever seen on Hilbre, and is certainly the latest of the over 180 of these birds ringed on the island over the last 54 years. Just as rare or even rarer on Hilbre is Blue Tit and we were privileged to see one arrive in the obs garden, land on a bush by the fence and immediately take off again to the south (left). Another scarce Hilbre bird was a Lapwing which was briefly by the east side soon after dawn but flew off to the east. Other birds on todays log were 6 Wheatears ( at least one of which has been present for 2 days), 6,000 oystercatchers, 3,000 Knot, 3 Wigeon, 7 Guillemots, 5 Razorbills, 6 Common Scoter, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Red-throated Diver, 2 Sandwich Terns, 8 Pied Wagtails, a Skylark and a Pergrine that gave a good show chasing the knot at the tide edge. The fine weather seemed to bring out the worst in the visitors to the estuary and the silly season was definitely in full swing today. Visitors were stranded on Middle, but thankfully did not disturb the wader roost, but that could not be said for the four people and 14 dogs ! that decided it was a good idea to stay the very high tide on Little Eye despite requests for them not to do so. Bad enough as this was, and it meant the waders had less roosting options, at least their lives were not in danger unlike the couple who stayed on bird rock and had to be rescued by the inshore lifeboat as the waves lapped about their feet (right). Thinking we had now seen everything, 2 canoeists disturbed the huge roost on Middle much to the annoyance of the obs members, and then to finish off the alarms a visitor decided to have a swim off the south of the main island as the tide ebbed and was lucky to be able to recover the south cove and not be taken out to sea. We are supposed to be here to record birds ! On a more sane note the boat showing the paying visitors around the area (left) did not disturb anything, but the representative present was fully aware of the drama going on all about. Back to the natural history, 4 Common Darter dragonflies were noted, along with 2 Migrant Hawkers (right, briefly detained for identification purposes), also a few Red Admiral butterflies graced the island. Ringed :- 8 Chiffchaffs,1 Goldcrest, 1 Wren, 1 Blackcap, 1 Blackbird, 1 Spotted Flycatcher.(DB,AEH,CJ,KMc+1,CJW) [849-43] photos CJ

Wednesday 28 September 2011

29th September 2011

Not quite the day hoped for, with no Goldcrests calling in the gardens and only 2 Chiffchaffs during the day but as always there was a few things of interest. The Wheatears again numbered 5 even if they were slow to arrive this morning, and passerine of the day was a skulking larger warbler that was eventually seen to be a Garden Warbler (above left). This has been a good year at Hilbre for Garden Warblers which have always been a scarce bird on the island. Ducks seen were 11 Pintail (top right) and 3 Wigeon (above) also 2 Eider flying past the north end at midday, but there was no sign of yesterdays early Brent Goose. A Sparrowhawk cruised round the middle of the island for a short period (above). There were not many other visitors to report, just a single Grey Wagtail, a Greenfinch and 4 Swallows. Waders packed the whole of Middle at the height of the 10 metre tide, especially pleasing was to see 2 Grey Plovers (right), only the odd sighting of this medium sized wader has occurred this autumn. Ringed:- 1 Wheatear, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Meadow Pipit. (DB,CJ,KMC,CJW, et al) [836-43] photos CJ

Tuesday 27 September 2011

27th September 2011

With the wind back in the south east and the temperature rising hopes were high for more autumn migrants and possibly a rare bird this week. There were 5 late Wheatears (above), none of which were ringed, also 7 Goldcrests and 5 Chiffchaffs and a few other movers that did not stay including some Meadow Pipits, 7 Skylarks, 3 Grey Wagtails, a couple of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and a single flock of 6 Swallows. One of the major news stories of today was the appearance of the first Brent Goose of the autumn on the east side which was later seen to fly away some distance, possibly not to return, tomorrow will tell. A Sparrowhawk scattered the waders roosting the very high tide on Middle, and was the only unexpected bird of the day. The sea in these calm conditions was quiet, just 8 Gannets, and 3 Guillemots (right), also not many Sandwich Terns remaining, 13 were counted. Ringed :- 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Goldcrests, 2 Meadow Pipits, 1 Dunnock, 1 Blackbird. (DB,CJ,KMc,CJW, et al ) [832-43] photos CJ

Monday 26 September 2011

Best birds 16th to 26th September

16th Sept. 5 Goosander, 2 Teal and a Golden Plover. (DB,KMc, et al) 17th Sept. 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Golden Plover, 1 Greenshank (right, CJ), 4 Pintail. (DB+esca,ME,BT,FD,AEH,CJ,KMc,AO+PS,PSW,SRW) 18th Sept. An Osprey from the north east, over the obs veranda and off to the south west. 17 Barnacle Geese ! circled to the west of the island, over the island and off to Wales. (DB+ESCA,AEH,AO) 20th Sept. 3 Common Buzzards. (DB, et al) 24th Sept. 1 Garden warbler, 1 Blackcap (DB+ESCA,PSW,TGW,SRW)25th Sept. 6 Goldcrest, 3 Chiffchaffs,2 Greylag Geese, 3 Pintail (DB+ESCA,JE,PSW,CJW,RTW,EKW,NLW.RJW,SRW,

Thursday 15 September 2011

15th September 2011

After the winds this week an Indian summer arrived, just for the day! light breezes and warm sunshine encouraged movements of Meadow Pipits (about 400) and a small passage of Robins, with other typical autumn migrants including 3 Grey Wagtails, 9 Skylarks, 2 White Wagtails and the more usual fare of 10 Swallows, 3 Wheatears, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Whitethroat (above left), 1 Willow Warbler and 3 Goldcrests. Star passerine of the day was a Lapland Bunting flying south between the islands at 09.45hrs. and calling, another large influx this year of these birds would be most welcome. Another Golden Plover (or the same as yesterday) was seen and a brief visit by a Purple Sandpiper to the north end was most fortunate to be noticed as it immediately flew off towards Wales. The Rock Pipit trapped yesterday was caught again (above right), this time at the opposite end of the island, both places seen to be suitable feeding territory for these birds. A Sparrowhawk flew west and never returned to the island (right). The sight of the 'Queen Mary' passing the island came as a diversion for the observers today (left). The most outstanding sight among the waders was the flock of 2,000 or so Knot that wheeled about the islands especially when a Peregrine took some interest, the other waders were in numbers similar to earlier in the week but 7 Whimbrel was a definite increase, and the 2 Greenshank seen separately on the shore before the tide was noteworthy. The sea was very calm but as expected there were leftovers from the gales to be seen if searched for, 2 Bonxies ( right, both came close to the island), 2 Arctic Skuas, 12 Gannets and 12 Guillemots, together with the less wind blown Great Crested Grebes (80) and 8 Red-throated Divers. Ringed:- 6 Robins, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff. (DB,AEH,CJ,KMc, et al) [794-43] photos CJ

Wednesday 14 September 2011

14th September 2011

With the wind continuing strong from the west but easing later, sea watching was still to the fore, resulting in similar sea birds but in lower numbers than yesterday. Two Great Skuas and 6 Arctic Skuas were logged with 10 Leach's Petrels and 3 Manx Shearwaters. Gannets were down to 40, Great Crested Grebes 10, Kittiwakes 2, and a single Red-throated Diver, but new on the sea today were 2 Fulmars, a species not seen this week, and indeed seems almost rare at Hilbre this last few years. A couple of late Willow Warblers were on the island, a Goldcrest, a Wheatear and a Rock Pipit that was trapped at the south end and ringed. The sole Whimbrel is still on the shore, while Dunlin made a comeback to 150 from zero yesterday, and 2,500 Knot were seen, also 25 Bar-tailed Godwits. Two juvenile Shags still showed on the water close to the island. Ringed:- 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Rock Pipit.
(DB,KMc) [785-43]

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Death of a Dunlin

This stunning photograph of a Peregrine having just 'hit' a Dunlin was taken by Obs member Brian Tollitt off the North End of Hilbre on 4th September 2011 - it is one of a sequence which has now been added to the blog for that date. Click on the photograph above to enlarge this superb image (warning - not for the squeamish!)

13th September 2011

Evening Update:

By the end of the day in addition to the Pomarine seen earlier, Arctic Skuas were totalled at 26 including 5 dark phase, with 4 Great Skuas, 35 Manx Shearwaters, 15 Leach's petrels and a Storm Petrel. Other sea sightings today were 120 Gannets, 20 Kittiwakes, 15 Common Scoter, 20 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Red-throated Divers, also 3 Razorbills and a Little Tern. It is hard to understand how the sea could be so much more prolific than yesterday with the wind being somewhat less strong and almost exactly from the same direction. Such is the unpredictability of birding at Hilbre. On the shore were 42 Bar-tailed Godwits, a good count of 20 Redshank, 13 Sanderling and 550 Knot, and intriguingly amongst the 5,000 or so Oystercatchers was one sporting a new looking ring on the left leg, surely the bird rescued and released on 18th August (see blog for that date). A Golden Plover flew from the direction of Niffy bay across the top of the island and off to the south west, a nice record of this scarce Hilbre bird. Three juvenile Shags were present and a Peregrine stood on the east hoyle as they often do. Terns were counted at about 150 Sandwich and 25 Common, not forgetting the Little Tern mentioned earlier. Considering the westerly airstream 5 birds ringed was a fine total;- a Blackcap in the morning followed by a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff at noon, and then 2 Robins later. Linnets were in good numbers, with a count of 64 birds while a single Wheatear and 11 Swallows battled the gale to reach Hilbre. All in all, a memorable September day.

Mid morning update:

A Pomarine Skua was reported to the Obs early morning and by 1030am three Leach's Petrels were seen passing the North End (from the Obs garden) along with 10 Manx Shearwaters.

More news to follow....

(DB,KMc) + Mark Feltham, Matt Thomas [783-42]

Monday 12 September 2011

12th September 2011

A strong south westerly strengthened as the day went on reaching force 9 in the afternoon, despite which the west hoyle wind farm seemed to be not operating to take advantage. Observers however took advantage of the sea watching opportunities and although being stranded in the sea watching hide for 3 hours because of the wind and spray, managed to record 20 Gannets, 2 Bonxies, 4 Arctic Skuas (including 2 pale phase), a single Common Scoter, 250 Sandwich terns and 40 Common Terns ( an increase in numbers compared to yesterday). Manx Shearwaters were again much scarcer than expected with just 2 seen. Passerines kept their head down in the conditions and only a few Meadow Pipits were up and about, but later a Willow Warbler was found in the paddocks and a Robin was ringed. (KMc +1) [778-42]

Sunday 11 September 2011

11th September 2011

The wind increased considerably from the south west during the morning until it was strong enough to encourage observers to spend some time watching the sea. A Bonxie spent a good part of the high tide foraging the area viewed from the north end (above), even trying to steal food from birds as large as Gannets and Cormorants. Arctic Skuas were plentiful, at least 15 seen, but none of the rarer skuas could be identified, nor were there any sightings of petrels etc. Other seabirds logged included 40 Gannets, 25 Common Scoter, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 15 Guillemots, 6 Razorbills, 200 Sandwich Terns, 2 Common Terns and just a single Manx Shearwater. Earlier in the day before attention turned to the sea, a few migrants were found, namely 6 House Martins, 8 Swallows, 4 Chiffchaffs, and a female Blackcap (right), with a Wheatear arriving in the afternoon. A single Whimbrel seems to be the lone individual still around the shore, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits (above) fed on the east side but small waders were extremely scarce around the islands today. Ringed:- 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap, 1 Meadow Pipit. (CJ,KMc,DCT,PT,NDW,PSW,SRW) + plus cawos members [777-42] photos PSW,& CJ(Blackcap)

Friday 9 September 2011

9th September 2011

A mild southerly airstream dropped in 5 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler this morning but no larger warblers and just a single Wheatear. A Mute Swan flew across Little Eye on its way to Wales at 07.30 (above left), other notable sightings were scarce until 2 Curlew Sandpipers saw out the tide with the Turnstones on the sandstone blocks east of the slipway (left and above). Increased numbers amongst some species were counted today as we head towards late autumn and winter, including over 400 Cormorants, 340 Curlews, 22 Bar-tailed Godwits, also 68 Shelduck, the most yet this autumn plus another 9 flying north. Notable singles on the log were a Grey Wagtail, a Razorbill, a Rock Pipit at the north end, and an adult and juvenile Shag (right) which have been scarce this year.Ringed:- 5 Chiffchaffs, 1 Greenland Wheatear. (DB,AAB,CJ,KMc,DCT,PT,NDW) [770-42] photos CJ
Further brief details from earlier this week appear below

Thursday 8 September 2011

8th September 2011

Winds have dropped but Manx Shearwaters and an Arctic Skua were still to be seen from the north end. A late Willow Warbler was in the paddocks but today also had a touch of late autumn with records of Grey wagtail, Rock Pipit and the catching of a Song Thrush for ringing. (DCT,PT,NDW,CJW,et al ) [764-42]

Wednesday 7 September 2011

7th September 2011

A juvenile Long-tailed Skua passed the island today, but only a single Arctic Skua was logged although there were records of a Storm Petrel and 40 Manx Shearwaters. Also on the sea watch were 12 Gannets, 27 Common Scoter and a Kittiwake. (DB,DCT,PT,NDW)

Tuesday 6 September 2011

6th September 2011

In a south westerly force 4/5 the sea bird list included 7 Manx Shearwaters, 10 Arctic Skuas, 14 Gannets and a Kittiwake. (DB,DCT,PT+VT)

Monday 5 September 2011

5th September 2011

The return of strong westerlies resulted in records first thing this morning of a Pomarine Skua and 5 Arctic Skuas. Also seen on the island was a Peregrine, a Goldcrest, 2 Wigeon and the first Little Egret for some time. (DB,DCT,PT+VT,et al) [763-42]

Sunday 4 September 2011

4th September 2011

A light south-easterly produced some optimism amongst members present but very little happened before 930am. After which a trickle of Chiffchaffs (including a couple caught) arrived and a fine male Greenland Wheatear was caught (left) along with a male Blackcap which had flown in off the sea from the west and landed in 'blackcap bowl' before finding its way into the Obs mist net. A Pied Wagtail caught in a potter trap added to the nice mix of species caught today.

Highlight of the day for one photographer was the Peregrine which knocked a Dunlin out of the air into to the sea before recovering it from the water and making off with its prey. Here is a short selection of a series of superb photos by Obs member Brian Tollitt.

As the tide flooded small waders were gathering and at least twelve Curlew Sandpipers (some of which below - 'iPhone scoped') were found in a loose flock with Dunlin and Ringed Plover.

Eight Teal were recorded and 12 Carrion Crows, incidentally the local breeding pair have been missing lately.

The highlight of the overnight moth trapping was this 'Old Lady' (right). However, the penultimate highlight of the day was a stunning full length dive catch by an Obs member in a 'non-competitive' cricket match in the Obs garden...certainly one for Wisden!

Finally a beautiful sunset (below) finished a fine day on the island.

(BT,DCT,PT+VT,NDW,SRW & family) [762-42]

Saturday 3 September 2011

3rd September 2011

Many of the large contingent of members present today spent most of the morning trying to keep themselves and their optics dry. Before the rain started a Sparrowhawk flew down the west side scattering the waders between the islands. A few Swallows took advantage of the brief interludes in the precipitation to move through and 2 Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler were found in the paddocks but none of the larger warblers showed during the morning. A Wheatear arrived in off the sea at 11.00hrs and sat on the north end slipway for a while looking as though it was not sure where it was at the same time a Curlew Sandpiper was seen flying with a group of Knot up the east gutter but conditions were not good for re-finding it immediately. Two Wigeon flew across the south end giving a touch of late autumn to the day. The first Grey Plovers of the autumn were found south of Middle Eye early in the day, they were in stunning summer plumage (right). Bar-tailed Godwits were counted at 14, and 2 Redshanks were in the east gutter after being so scarce in the last few weeks. Ringed :-2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler.

Friday 2 September 2011

2nd September 2011

A Wheatear perched on top of a furled mist net at dawn in the paddocks lifted spirits that this was to be a good passage day, but it proved to be a false dawn as this was the only Wheatear of the day and all that could be found was a single Chiffchaff. At 07.00hrs a Marsh Harrier (right) flew across the east hoyle tide line and off towards Red Rocks whilst being mobbed by the shorebirds, apologies for the distant photo in poor light. A Whitethroat dropped in at about 08.00hrs and another later on, somewhat compensating for the lack of migrants in the apparently ideal conditions. The difference in appearance between a first year bird and an adult male could clearly be seen (above). A party of 6 Teal arrived off the whaleback but immediately took off and disappeared to the north (below), another group of 3 were sighted just before noon. A single pale phase Arctic Skua flew in from the west and robbed a tern of its lunch, the sea was otherwise very quiet, only 3 Great Crested Grebes being of note. Wader counts from before the tide included 5,000 Oystercatchers, 450 Knot, 150 Dunlin, 15 Sanderling, and an improved number of Bar-tailed Godwits at 24 birds. A Peregrine gave a fine display of wader chasing by the obs at noon and a Kestrel was present briefly this morning, Kestrels have been rather more scarce this year. Ringed :- 2 Whitethroats, 1 Robin (DB,JE,CJ,DCT,PT,NDW) [751-42] Photos CJ

Thursday 1 September 2011

1st September 2011

A beautiful warm sunny day with a light south easterly was a fine way to begin September and although there were no great numbers of migrants, some quality was the order of the day. First thing a male Blackcap (left) and 2 Goldcrests (right) were present together with a Chiffchaff which was the first of 3 ringed during the day, one Willow Warbler was seen but did not stay, neither did the only Wheatear of the morning. Swallow numbers were modest but in addition were 3 House Martins and 4 Sand Martins to add variety. Five Teal flying north east after dawn were the only ducks of the day. Leading up to high tide the small waders were examined around the north end and a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper (right, with Ringed Plover) was found with the Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Knot on the rocks. Oystercatchers were very agitated and noisy at the high tide roost on the north end of Middle as a visitor managed to get himself stranded on that island for the duration of the tide. Knot gathered in a flock of about 2,000 flying about which is more than usual so close to the islands. A single Whimbrel was all that could be found, although there were several Bar-tailed Godwits. Shortly after noon a Spotted Flycatcher (left) landed at the bottom of the garden briefly and then gave the members the run-around visiting just about every part of the island, but favouring the area of the top paddock fences and the west side, it was still present at 17.00hrs but remained unringed. Sea birds today were mostly distant as expected with a southerly element in the wind, the best being a dark phase Arctic Skua, 12 Guillemots, a Razorbill and 3 Great Crested Grebes. Ringed:- 3 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Linnet.
(DB,CJ,KMc,DCT,PT,NDW,et al), LOC members RK +2,VMcF, MNA member DB. [748-42] photos CJ et al