Sunday 30 October 2011

30th October 2011

The wind was variable in the Southerly quarter all day, 7 Red Throated Divers, 9 Great Crested Grebes and 60 Common Scoter were observed on the tide and the Brent Goose flock had increased to 105 birds. Waders included 4 Purple Sandpipers, 10000 Knot, 10000 Oystercatcher, 12 Ringed Plover, 35 Curlew, 100 Turnstone and 25 Redshank. Migrants and other passerines included 79 Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 White Wagtail, 13 Goldfinch, 3 Chaffinch, 6 Wren, 4 Dunnocks and 4 Robins. 3 Rock Pipits were present and the Coal Tit remained. Ringed:- 1 Chaffinch, 1 Wren.
(CJW) [943-46]

Saturday 29 October 2011

29th October 2011

Very little to report today in a cool and blustery south easterly that did not allow mist nets to be used, indeed there wasn't a lot in the trapping area anyway apart from 5 Chaffinches, a single Goldcrest heard on the east cliff and the now seemingly resident Coal Tit. Passage was just as meagre, a flock of 22 Starlings flew west, and a Greenfinch called overhead. Another (or one of yesterdays ) Porpoises was off the north end several times in the morning. The largest count possible of the Brent was 65, but some probably were missed as the flock is scattered most of the time. A Peregrine chasing the waders was the only raptor of the day.
Ringed :- 3 Chaffinches, 1 Wren.
(RA,CJ,NDW) + Tony Duckels and party [941-46]

Friday 28 October 2011

28th October 2011

A beautiful sunny day but with minimal migration began with a Starling being ringed (the first this year) (left), also a Goldfinch, but later little overhead apart from a few Meadow Pipits in off the sea, 3 Skylarks, 2 Pied Wagtails, a Reed Bunting and the odd Chaffinch and Goldfinch passing through. The Coal Tit still stayed in the trapping area (above right), a Blue Tit briefly visited the obs garden and 4 Blackbirds were about. A large arrival of Brent happened when about 40 flew in from the north and joined the existing flock, making 84 in total. Amongst this group was an old friend, a colour ringed bird (blue'D' left leg and red 'H' right leg) that has been seen now for the last 3 winter seasons at Hilbre. Also building up were Purple Sandpipers now numbering 4 seen at the north end. A single Wigeon was at the tide edge on the flood, and later at high tide a drake Eider flew west (right). Also at high tide 2 Porpoises swan off the north end and were seen several times in a half hour period. Seabirds noted included 8 Red-throated Divers, 11 Great Crested Grebes,17 Guillemots and a Razorbill, and saving the best till last a exceptionally late Common Tern flew over the observers heads (below) , thought about landing on the island, and then made off towards Red Rocks. This is the latest date some of us can remember seeing this species at Hilbre. Ringed:- 1 Starling, 1 Goldfinch. (DB,CJ,KMc,NDW,CJW,DGW+1,) + party from Liverpool Ornithologists Club [937-46] Photos CJ

Thursday 27 October 2011

27th October 2011

The predicted drop in wind had not come about by this morning however the early seawatch provided 2 Red Throated Divers, 20 Great Crested Grebe, 35 Gannet and a single Arctic Skua.
Two Purple Sandpipers where observed with the Turnstones on the flood and flocks of Knot and Dunlin moved throughout the afternoon, wader numbers where as follows: Oystercatcher 6000, Ringed Plover 20, Grey Plover 6, Knot 1800, Dunlin 800, Bar Tailed Godwit 10, Curlew 45, Turnstone 120 and Redshank 50. The Brent Goose flock provided easy counting off the West side and again totalled 45, Shelduck came into the estuary later and the count came to 38, a solitary Little Egret searched the rock pools by Middle.
Passerines included a Blackcap early morning (above), 13 Meadow Pipits, 7 Skylark, 50 Starling, 3 Blackbird, a single Pied Wagtail, 4 Chaffinch and 5 Goldfinches (right) followed by a late afternoon flock of 30.
Ringing: Blackcap 1, Chaffinch 1, Goldfinch 2, Blackbird 1. (CJW+JW,DGW,RTW,NLW,EKW) [935-45] photos CJW

Wednesday 26 October 2011

26th October 2011

With quite a drop in temperature the insistent wind felt cold today, the flood tide provided 5 Red-throated Divers, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 25 Common Scoter, 30 Shelduck and only a single Gannet. A yellow legged Gull flew past the north end and ended up roosting on Bird Island towards Red Rocks.
The Pale-bellied Brent numbers increased to 45, wader numbers where more difficult to count (especially with a ridiculous individual spending the 9.7 metre tide wandering around Middle with his dog) but were as follows:
Oystercatchers 6000, Ringed Plover 20, Grey Plover 5, Knot 225, Dunlin 60, Curlew 90, Turnstone 100, Redshank 30.
Other movement/passerines continued with 88 Starlings, Meadow Pipit 20, Pied Wagtail 5, Wren 6, Robin 4, Blackbird 6, Song Thrush 3, Goldcrest 2, Greenfinch 3, Goldfinch 12, Linnet 26 and a single Redpoll. The Coal tit was again present and a Merlin visited after the tide.
Ringing: Goldcrest 2, Wren 1, Robin 1. and several nice retraps.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

25th October 2011

Early evening yesterday it was windy Force 7 but Redwings could be heard overhead during the night. The wind varied throughout the day but the early flooding tide brought 42 Gannets close off the north end, as a nice Great Northern Diver flew east giving good views, 10 Great Crested Grebes and 14 Common Scoters where also present.
A Hen Harrier was observed, from Red Rocks, over Middle and down over the West side, meanwhile two Peregrines gave good views during a tussle near the mast on the main Island. Wader numbers where as follows: 6000 Oystercatchers, 20 Ringed Plovers, 75 Curlew, 150 Knot, 120 Turnstone, 40 Redshank and 85 Dunlin, also 31 Pale -bellied Brents and 24 Shelduck
Migration/passerines was as follows:
Skylark 11, Meadow Pipit 33, Pied Wagtail 5, Goldcrest 1, Blackbird 4, Redwing 1, Starling 84 (several flocks) Chaffinch 2, Greenfinch 4, Linnet 26, Coal Tit 1 (am) Rock Pipit 1.
Around 16:00 a Short-eared Owl was observed quartering the gutter on the East side towards the north end, it then flew across the shore and landed on a seaweed/mud outcrop where it remained until at least dusk, a Merlin flew down the east side at 17:00 chasing Turnstone.
Ringing: Blackbird 2, Greenfinch 1, Chaffinch 1, Wren 1, Linnet 1
(CJW et al) [926-45]

Saturday 22 October 2011

22nd October 2011

Another quiet day, or does it just seem so as we are all feeling a Red-flanked Bluetail hangover? A passage of Blackbirds was expected in the fresh southeasterly but only 2 arrived with a single Song Thrush, although a flock of Redwings were seen to fly off the west side later. A steady trickle of Chaffinches passed in ones and twos, also 12 Starlings (left), a Reed Bunting, a Goldfinch, 2 Rock Pipits, a couple of Skylarks and 2 Pied Wagtails. Yet again the Merlin showed and the Coal Tit (right) remained and was retrapped revealing that it is very happy here as it had put on half a gram since 2 days ago. Counts from the shore were difficult because of the very low tide, however 18 Bar-tailed Godwits, and 12 Shelduck were noted. A single Pintail flew between the islands and a Little Egret was on the shore. Thirty nine Brent stayed mostly near Little Eye. Ringed :- 1 Blackbird, 1 Robin. (CJ,PSW) + C Wells and RSPB party [920-45] photos CJ

Thursday 20 October 2011

20th October 2011

Although the westerly continued today the wind was lighter, and first thing the rain showers dropped in 11 Goldcrests, which are often the only regular autumn migrants on Hilbre with this wind direction. Two new Blackbirds were ringed, together with the Coal Tit (left, a very scarce bird at Hilbre) which was still present from yesterday. A Merlin, presumably the same bird that has been around for the last few days, showed for the first hour after dawn, and slightly later a Sparrowhawk landed briefly on the buoymasters house garden wall (right), making 4 raptors for the day after both Peregrine and Kestrel had made an appearance earlier. Very few Meadow Pipits were seen today, certainly no migrants, and the only land birds passing through were 15 Starlings. A single Gannet on the sea was the only seabird of note in the calmer conditions today, but pleasing was the build up of Brent to 38 birds, which may have had a good breeding season judging by the number of young amongst them (above). Ringed:- 8 Goldcrests, 2 Blackbirds, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Robin. (CJ,KMc) [918-45] photos CJ

Wednesday 19 October 2011

19th October 2011

The westerlies continued and an afternoon high tide visit was meant to focus on sea-watching. However, the most unusual sighting of the day was a Coal Tit that was heard and then found in the trapping area although it was not caught. Other migrants included a Goldcrest, which likewise avoided capture, although a new Wren was ringed. A Merlin hunted the islands again today.

Seawatching did produce a couple of Leach's Petrels, 6 Kittiwakes and 2 late Arctic Skuas along with a single Red-throated Diver, 10 Great Crested Grebe and 25 Guillemot. However, the highlight was four Whooper Swans that flew in and landed on the sea off the North End. Waders included 3,000 Oystercatchers, 300 Knot and 150 Dunlin.

(CJW + J Coupe) [906-45]

Monday 17 October 2011

17th October 2011

Back down to earth sign of the Red-flanked Bluetail.

A Merlin was seen and a Goldcrest graced the blackthorn.

(MGT, CJW et al + CD) [905-45]

Sunday 16 October 2011

Red-flanked Bluetail - messages

Twitchers look on as the Red-flanked Bluetail is about to be released back in the paddock. Great views of this little gem were had by all who made the effort to trudge out across the mud as the tide gradually ebbed. A younger Obs member (right) is sent round to rattle the donations tin...

The news of the Red-flanked Bluetail was relayed to one Obs member staying on St Agnes (Isles of Scilly) who passed on his hearty congratulations to the team on the island. Soonafter a phonecall was received on Hilbre directly from Fair Isle where a previous Hilbre warden was staying for a birdwatching holiday ... he also passed on his congratulations, although he noted the irony of him being on Fair Isle whilst a Red-flanked Bluetail graced the tiny tidal island of Hilbre.

There is a video clip of the bird here:

An incredible day

The end of an incredible week on the island. Sunday started with a brief naked eye view of a Robin-sized bird ('without a red breast') on the Obs fence in the half light as observers arrived, but with no further sign of anything other than Robins and Dunnocks in the Obs garden nothing more was thought of it and other birds took over... Incredibly a new Firecrest (a fine male - see left) was trapped in the SK along with two Blackcaps and a retrap Redwing. Obs members were delighted with the second Firecrest of the week especially when a Short-eared Owl (right) passed overhead and off towards Middle where it landed. As the regular crew headed for another trip round the island one member (John Elliott) received a phonecall from work which meant he had to stay behind at the Obs (luckily as it turned out). As the others were returning from the North End back towards the trapping area a phonecall from John alerted them to a bird he had found on the Upper Paddock west side fence which showed a bright eye ring and orangey flanks!!! The bird had flown back towards the Newton trap and observers met at the entrance but a quick check revealed nothing. Mild panic ensued. JE provided a brief description of the bird which to all present sounded just like a Red-flanked Bluetail - the incredulous observers split up with mobiles at the ready. Fortunately it was not too long (although it felt like longer) that the bird was relocated down the east side feeding along the sandstone cliff edge ... relief for all present and congratulations all round particularly to John.

The stunning little bird then showed superbly well down the east side and observers kept their distance as news was put out immediately allowing some to arrive even before the tide flooded.

It was watched on and off over the next hour and half before it found its way into the SK trap and was extracted, taken back to the Obs ringed, processed and photographed before being released back in the paddock after which it promptly flew back down to its favoured feeding areas (East side of the island including Niffy Bay).

The bird remained into the afternoon and many twitchers began arriving as the tide ebbed and they congregated in Niffy Bay. Around mid afternoon it again found its way into the SK trap and was taken back to the Obs were it was shown to the gathered crowd before being promptly released back in the paddock. It then remained showing on and off down the East side until 545pm at least.

Photos - Short-eared Owl (CJ), Red-flanked Bluetail (PSW in field, CJW & SRW in hand), Firecrest (SRW)

Red-flanked Bluetail

The first of many (photos by Phil Woollen).

16th October 2011

RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL !!! more news and photos will follow.


Saturday 15 October 2011

15th October 2011

Yet another great day on the island. More details will follow but highlights included:

Firecrest still present from yesterday.
Good visible migration including starlings, thrushes, finches and pipits.
A Richard's Pipit found with Meadow Pipits on the West side relocating to the South End briefly before flying off towards Red Rocks calling.
Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Peregrine seen again.
Shoveler (scarce at Hilbre) along with other wildfowl seen today.
An immature Pomarine Skua on the sea.
The first Short-eared Owl of the autumn flew south.
The colour-ringed Little Egret fed in the gutter as the tide ebbed.

Ringed: Blackbird (4), Redwing, Chaffinch, Linnet, Chiffchaff, Robin and Wren

(SRW, TGW from over, BH + KB&S, CJ and CD) [910-44]

Friday 14 October 2011

14th October 2011

Another great day on the island started with a brisk south-easterly breeze, slightly less mist than yesterday but still overcast ... observers were hopeful of a good day and they were not disappointed.

A crest was heard just after the net was opened in the Old Obs Garden and as suspected it was found to be a Firecrest - the first of the year. It was soon caught, ringed and released and then spent the rest of the day moving between the stunted sycamores on the island feeding actively and even visiting 'Pallas's Privet'.

There was some good visible migration with large numbers of Starlings (318) passing over and higher up a couple of large flocks of finches mainly Chaffinches (160) migrating over (although much larger numbers were seen down the Wirral coastline as is expected at this time of year). Several Redwing were seen or heard and two of these stunning thrushes were also trapped and ringed (see above left), along with a single male Blackbird and the first Fieldfare of the year flew low over the island mid morning and was followed by a further two later in the day.

Amongst the finches and a few Skylarks a single Lapland Bunting was heard and seen briefly flying high west over the trapping area. A Merlin hunted the islands again today as did two Peregrines (an adult and an immature) as well as a male Kestrel.

A single Lapwing flew East towards West Kirby (RLGC) and small numbers of duck were recorded including 18 Wigeon and 3 Pintail.

On the sea a single Razorbill was noted again as was a late Arctic Skua. But attention was mainly on passerine migration and a single Chiffchaff appeared in the Newton trap and a pair of Chaffinches were also caught (below left) along with a Greenfinch (centre), which was found to have already been ringed; a control. Tentative enquiries suggest this bird was actually ringed at nearby Meols.

The final bird caught today was a Goldfinch (above right) making it a trio of finch species. Ringed today: Firecest, Wren, Chiffchaff, Redwing (2), Blackbird, Chaffinch (3) and Goldfinch.

News of a Yellow-browed Warbler found at Leasowe (near the lighthouse) this afternoon had observers on the island dreaming of what tomorrow may bring.

The day ended with the moon low in the sky with the clouds gradually clearing promising migration friendly weather tonight, observers on the island were left wondering whether there will be sufficient mist or cloud cover to bring more birds to Hilbre in the morning ...

(AAB, TM+2, CJ, KMc, NDW, TGW et al) [900-44]

Thursday 13 October 2011

13th October 2011

Lots of visible migration today as the wind backed to the south east again. Meadow Pipits went
through throughout the day and were estimated at about 330, also 15 Pied Wagtails, 22 Skylarks, 7 Starlings, 8 Chaffinches (above), 2 Greenfinches, 2 Reed Buntings, a Siskin, a Redwing overhead Middle, another late Wheatear (middle right) and a smart looking male Lesser Redpoll (left). Eight Goldcrests filtered through and many were still present in the afternoon as was a fine male Stonechat that dropped in to the trapping area mid-morning and was ringed (top left). Four raptor species visited the island today starting with a Sparrowhawk that stayed a while, followed by a Merlin, 2 Peregrines, a Kestrel, also an unexpected visit by a Raven that touched down briefly after appearing at the south end (right). The Kestrel no doubt appreciated the very large number of field Voles that seem to be present in the grassy areas at the moment. The members who dedicated themselves to a sea watch (unfortunately not the photographer) were rewarded with the sight of a juvenile Pomarine Skua taking fish off a Great Black-backed Gull and later a Bonxie gave a good show off the north end. The list of sea birds included 23 gannets, 18 Great Crested Grebes,2 Red-throated Divers,61 Common Scoter, 1 Kittiwake, 20 Guillemots and a Razorbill (left). The only wildfowl logged were 5 Brent and a single Wigeon. A Little Egret arrived in the afternoon and brought the species total for the day to 52. Ringed :- 6 Goldcrests, 1 Stonechat, 1 Chaffinch, 2 Linnet, 1 Robin.
(CJ,CS+RB,KMc,et al) [890-43] photos CJ

Tuesday 11 October 2011

11th October 2011

An unexpectedly strong westerly reaching force 8 early in the day called for another sea watch, and a five hour effort again provided a full list of sightings. A juvenile Sabines Gull showed well after arriving from the east at 10.15hrs and later made two other approaches to the island, finally flying off to the north west, while 7 Leach's Petrels were counted during the morning, but a single dark phase Arctic proved to be the only skua species observed today. The main feature of the sea watch was probably the amount of Kittiwakes with 36 adult and 44 juveniles, most noted after high water; also on the log were 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Little Gulls, 18 Gannets, 69 Common Scoter, 3 Red-throated Divers, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 20 Guillemots, 4 Razorbills, 10 Sandwich Terns and 7 Common Terns. The Brent have increased to 10 birds, possibly 2 family groups, while Curlew reached a massive count of 580 birds. Despite the strong wind a few migrants arrived with 16 Meadow Pipits and 6 Lesser Redpolls in off the sea and a flock of 250 Starlings seen over the east hoyle bank, also 3 Golden Plover flying west. A single House Martin flying through was the only hirundine, and a Rock Pipit and a Chaffinch the only significant passerines down on the ground. Both Little Egret and Peregrine made an appearance, bringing the species total for the day to an impressive 47.

Monday 10 October 2011

10th October 2011

A brief visit in the morning found a late Wheatear on the island, also a Goldcrest, a Chaffinch and the 5 Brent. The highest count of Shelduck this autumn was made when birds including those on Tanskey rocks totalled 280. Also at Tanskey rocks an excellent record of a flock of 32 Golden Plover flying west and then north over Hilbre.

Sunday 9 October 2011

9th October 2011

A fresh westerly (force 5-6 at times) greeted observers this morning and focus was thought to be on seawatching yet again. However, the high pitched calls of Goldcrests could be heard from the trapping area and up to ten of these tiny birds had arrived on the island despite the wind. Six Goldcrests were caught and ringed along with two new Robins and a Chaffinch on the feeder in the 'Heli' was assumed to be the ringed bird, which was still present yesterday, however when caught it was found to be a new bird too.

The seawatching was a little less interesting although very small numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns were still noted along with a few each of Great Crested Grebe, Guillemot and Common Scoter and a late summer plumaged Red-throated Diver and 7 Swallows flew 'in off'.

A single Skylark passed overhead calling and at least three Rock Pipits (all unringed) were present and a Wheatear appeared at the South End as observers left the island. Five Grey Herons had obviously been roosting on Middle and a single Little Egret again appeared in the gutter on the Ebb although this bird was unringed.

Members and friends present today included long-time member Brian Henshaw with partner Kim and baby Simon visiting from Ontario, Canada.

(BH+2, NDW, SRW, TGW) [879-43] Photos to follow

Saturday 8 October 2011

8th October 2011

After two long days of almost dawn to dusk coverage, Saturday morning started with no Obs members present ... how times have changed! However, with two days of gales and the wind dropping to West force 5 the only real expectation was some lingering seabirds....

An afternoon visit produced a couple of nice surprises in the form of a new Wren (right) and a fine male Goldcrest (left) both trapped and ringed and the Chaffinch from yesterday was still present making use of the bird feeders.

There were plenty of gulls and waders along the North shore with Knot being the main species (up to 4,000 have been around the islands recently - see below).

A scan of the tide edge for lingering seabirds revealed a first winter Little Gull dancing along the surf (see above). It was watched as it made steady progress past the North End slipway.

Waders numbers included 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1,500 Oystercatcher, 25 Sanderling and an increase in Redshank with at least 85 counted in the gutter. Also in the gutter was the colour-ringed Little Egret (also seen last Sunday and first seen at Hilbre on 17th September 2011 - see above; details of where and when it was ringed to follow shortly), as well as single Grey Heron and three drake Mallards. Not a bad afternoon considering the intermittment drizzle.
(SRW) [870-43]

Friday 7 October 2011

7th October 2011

As yesterday's westerlies backed to the north west, a sea watch from dawn until late afternoon produced the goods to satisfy the members who ventured across in the dark to beat the early tide. There were not as many skuas seen today, only 2 Arctics and 2 distant birds not identified but 6 Bonxies and a superb pale juvenile Long-tailed Skua were fine compensation. The Long-tailed Skua was found after being located from Hoylake (thanks, JET), and gave good views at medium range for several minutes and again a little later. If skuas were fewer then petrels were definitely many more than yesterday, totalling 54, most coming after the high tide in a steady stream from the east (middle right). A single late Storm Petrel joined the procession and showed closely off the north end. The other star bird of the day was a juvenile Sabines Gull (above and below left) which appeared from the west and then stayed in the general area to give close views on several occasions spanning 3 or 4 hours. Others noted on the sea watch were 3 Fulmars (which have been scarce lately), 5 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Kittiwakes, a Little Gull, 30 Guillemots, 25 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Razorbills, 18 Common Scoters, 12 Common Terns, 2 Sandwich Terns, and just a single Gannet. Most of that list was expected, but slightly less so were 3 Wigeon, 5 Pintail, a Teal and 5 Pale-bellied Brent that flew in from the north (bottom right), obviously freshly arrived. The only notable passerines were a constant arrival of Meadow Pipits in small numbers off the sea and a single Chaffinch that made it to the island to be the only bird ringed. In the afternoon more excitement as a female Goosander and then 6 Barnacle Geese flew past, bringing the species total to 48 for the day, which is excellent for Hilbre at this time of year. (DB,CJ,KMc,et al) + John Coupe [868-43] photos CJ et al

Sea-watching today was from dawn to an hour before sunset (c10 hours) - the sand still blowing across the beach and the sun dropping in a typical Hilbre autumn sky (see below).