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

Thursday 3 November 2011

3rd November 2011

The early morning ebbing tide and fairly brisk winds still produced several flocks of Starlings (710, above) and reasonable numbers of Redshank (120). A single Lapwing (right) landed on the East side and two others flew down the opposing side, three Red Throated Divers, 6 Great Crested Grebes and 5 Red Breasted Mergansers were present off the North End, a solitary Rock Pipit and only 2 Purple Sandpipers were just off the slip and 103 Brent Geese were counted. The colour ringed Little Egret that has been seen a few times this year showed well in the gutter (below). The Peregrine was present most of the morning and a Merlin again made its presence felt, a nice Raven was mobbed by 2 crows over the Middle but was not in the least bit bothered! A single Song Thrush, 4 Blackbirds, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Redpoll and 9 Chaffinches (right) were noted on or over the Islands. The illusive Rabbit showed very briefly in the paddock (top right). Ringing:- 1 Chaffinch (DB,CJW) [947-46] photos CJW

Wednesday 2 November 2011

2nd November 2011

Ninety Three Brents were counted today, and they included all 3 colour ringed birds that were seen last winter, which is important for tracking their movements. Scarcest bird of the day was a Great Tit on the island together with 3 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes. The Merlin is still to be seen and the passage of Starlings also continues, 730 passed during the morning, but just 2 Skylarks. Other counts made today included:- 245 Sanderling, 250 Curlew, 70 Bar-tailed Godwits, 65 Grey Plovers at Little Eye, 30 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Red-breasted Merganers and a Little Egret.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

1st November 2011

The wet weather front had moved through by first light and the Southerly wind dropped to force 2-3. Thirteen hundred and fifty Starling were observed crossing the estuary in several flocks and the usual exodus of Cormorants headed out into the Irish sea (350). Three Grey Herons were in the gutter and later the colour ringed Little Egret joined them. Two Merlins battled briefly on the West side as 3 Wigeon flew past the bank, a single Kestrel was noted and a Peregrine harassed the waders and Brents at the North End. The Brent flock remained and another colour ringed bird was observed, 6 Mute Swans (2 ad & 4 juv) flew across between the islands. Wader numbers were as follows; Knot 6000, Dunlin 600, Purple Sandpiper 4, Sanderling 120, Bar Tailed Godwit 11, Oystercatcher 5000 and Curlew 250. The tide produced a single Red Throated Diver, 6 Scoter, 1 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Great Crested Grebe and a single Gannet. Three Harbour Porpoise swam North. Passerines included; 3 Pied Wagtail, 28 Meadow Pipit, 7 Skylark, 2 Rock Pipits, 13 Goldfinch, 1 Goldcrest and a male Blackcap. Eleven Crows were on the East Hoyle and the usual two around the islands.
Ringing:-1 Blackbird (right), 1 Robin (above), and 1 Blackcap
(DB,CJW) [946-46] photos CJW