Monday 28 May 2012

28th May 2012

Sea passage had increased significantly over recent days with a small but interesting passage of 41 adult Kittiwakes down the west side as well as 12 Gannets, 85 Common Terns and 25 Sandwich Terns.

Four Sanderling was a nice sighting and Dunlins appeared as the tide rose with up to 300 present along with a few Ringed Plovers.

Visible migration was slow but 4 Swift flew over, a single Skylark (over south end) and obligatory Redpoll, and 8 Goldfinches appeared and spent some time around the Obs fences and garden where a male was eventually caught.

Two Chiffchaffs were caught during the morning - where are these Chiffchaffs going?  We get a small passage in late May each spring...

A school party arrived from Manor School (on the Ford Estate) and seemed thrilled to be shown a Swallow in the hand, which had been caught in the mist net in the lower paddock.  Its bill was covered in red sandy mud so is possibly the island female which arrived recently and is thought to be nest building.
Ringing:  2 Chiffchaff, Swallow, Goldfinch

Insects are now high on the agenda and the first Four-spotted Chaser of the year was found - once again showing the benefits of the new pond and associated wildlife garden.  Seven-spotted Ladybirds increased to over 200.

With the excellent coverage continuing we are eeking out the last of the spring and are still hopeful that the next big one is just around the corner...
(DB et al) [668-29]

Sunday 27 May 2012

27th May 2012

The wind had dropped overnight and was slightly south of east and slight mist had observers once again dreaming of ‘the big one’.  However, the big one turned out to be a rather unwanted visitor at this time of year (breeding season) with a single Magpie harassing the local Meadow Pipits and Linnets on the West Side, however, it was soon seen off the North End by the local breeding birds.

A Chiffchaff was caught and ringed along with five new adult Linnets, like most species on the island they have been late arriving at breeding this year.  A Cuckoo was heard mid-morning from the east (no doubt at Red Rocks) and this prompted the usual debate about whether such records count for Hilbre...

Late morning a female Blackcap appeared in the Obs garden mist net, but things went very quiet during the middle of the day with no wind and temperatures rising to 27 degrees C, which brought the 'grockles' out in force.

The nets were re-opened mid afternoon and soon after a Sedge Warbler appeared again the Obs garden net followed by another in the Old Obs net; clearly both arriving as the tide pushed in this afternoon.

Seven-spotted Ladybird numbers increased to at least 100.

Ringing:  Chiffchaff, Blackcap, 2 Sedge Warblers and 5 Linnets

(SRW, CLW, TGW, CJW(f), GIW (from over), JE) [664-29]

Saturday 26 May 2012

26th May 2012

The wind remained in the east but soon picked up to brisk force 5 which seemed to put a stop to grounded migrants but the ‘vis mig’ was very impressive. It started early with 50 Swifts passing low over the island before 6am. It soon became apparent that this was not a one off and Swifts continued to "bat in" over the island traveling low battling against the wind in waves until around 10am when the larger numbers started to tail off. An impressive count of 2,100 was supplemented by 310 Swallow, 72 House Martin and 9 late Sand Martins.

A single Yellow Wagtail down and a Tree Pipit over were also noted. Later during the morning the same, or another, Short-eared Owl was found high over Little Eye it was watched struggling into the wind towards the English mainland whereupon it dropped into the saltmarsh between West Kirby and Red Rocks (where there have been two reported over the last few days).

A single Willow Warbler was caught and there were also two Chiffchaffs present (one singing in the paddocks early on and another arrived at the North End late morning feeding around the sheltered west side of sea-watching hide).

Insects were much in evidence despite the wind with a Cockchaffer (or May-bug) found, at least 20 Seven-spot Ladybirds, 2 Peacock and single Painted Lady and Holly Blue butterflies (the first of the year).

(PSW, SRW (from over) + CLW, TGW, CJW(f), GIW) [656-29]

Friday 25 May 2012

25th May 2012

A light south-easterly greeted observers with slight mist and balmy temperatures increasing the anticipation levels. However, it is late in the spring and at this time of year it is usually quality, not quantity, in terms of migrants.

Collared Doves passed over the island early on with small flocks totaling 21. Two Yellow Wagtails spent some time around the North End of the island and there were small numbers of hirundines (30 Swallows and 4 House Martins) along with 3 Swift and a single, late, Skylark.

Grounded migrants were, as expected, few – but single Chiffchaff and Whitethroat were found and caught.

Small numbers of waders were present around the islands including 16 Sanderline, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit (flying over) and 4 Whimbrel. A single Little Egret fed in the gutter and a Sparrowhawk flew east late afternoon.

The highlight of the day was a Short-eared Owl that drifted high over Middle being mobbed by gulls before circling off high towards the Welsh coast.

(CJW+EKW, NLW (from over), DB, PSW et al)  [655-29]

Thursday 24 May 2012

24th May 2012

Just a small trickle of migrants today, for which we are grateful as anything at all following a north westerly overnight (however light) is a bonus. Another Spotted Flycatcher for the spring was the pick of the bunch, but there was also a male Whitethroat singing its head off all over the island, and a female Goldcrest that was a bit of a surprise at this late date in spring. A Wheatear was on Middle early on and a male of the nominate form (i.e. non- Greenland) was ringed on the main island. Two of the 4 Willow Warblers during the morning stayed to be ringed. Swallows numberered about 50 with a single Sand Martin but no House Martins, a Collared Dove flew around several times during the morning and 4 Mute Swans including 3 juveniles flew from the Red Rocks direction across the north end (above). Two Common Terns circled over Middle and a Bar-tailed Godwit in summer plumage stood out on the shore.
Ringed:- 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Wheatear, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Goldcrest.
(DB,CJ)          [ 653-29 ]                    photo  CJ

Wednesday 23 May 2012

23rd May 2012

Thick fog made observing difficult but brought a small fall of Willow Warblers, about ten, in over the high tide. A Whitethroat and a Wheatear were already on the island, a few Swallows went through and 102 Sandwich terns and 800 Dunlin were counted. The rabbit proved it is still surviving on the island.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

22nd May 2012

The Partridge made another appearance on Middle, where does it come from ? where does it go to when not on the islands ? A male and female Eider were off the west side for a short period. Single Willow Warbler, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff  were all in the trapping areas at some stage, while another Collared Dove roamed about and 27 Swallows were counted. A Whimbrel was still present with 760 Dunlin and 100 Ringed plovers for company. Five Common Terns were noted.

Monday 21 May 2012

21st May 2012

A Tree Sparrow was the star bird of the day, but there were also a few warblers of note, a Sedge warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler. Logged today were 58 Swallows, 2 Collared Doves, 4 Little Egrets on Tanskies, a Wheatear on Middle and the famous rabbit.

Sunday 20 May 2012

20th May 2012

Although there was nothing spectacular today there was always something of interest to see, with hirundines continually in flight over the islands, with 500 Swallows (left), 40 House Martins and 25 Sand Martins to entertain the observers along with 12 Swifts. A few warblers arrived during the day including 3 Whitethroats (one on Middle) a Sedge Warbler (also on Middle), a Blackcap, 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, and a small passage of 20 Lesser Redpolls in the first half of the morning. Two Skylarks inspected the island, reviving a memory of when they used to breed, likewise a Fulmar (above right) did several laps of the islands as is traditional in May, while a male Pied Wagtail on the island may be looking for a mate. Four Greenland Wheatears were logged although they were mostly elusive today, and late morning a Spotted Flycatcher made a very brief appearance on the west side before completely disappearing (below). Other single visitors today were a House Sparrow (below), a Yellow Wagtail, a Starling, and 4 Goldfinches.Noted off the island today was a Gannet, 15 Common Terns, 20 Sandwich Terns, 3 Whimbrel, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, 30 Knot and 15 Ringed Plover.

A burying beetle Necrophorus investigator (right) was identified in the obs garden, it was seen well, but not pictured well, It seems to be unusual at Hilbre, if not unrecorded, but further investigation is needed  to acertain its status.
As the morning progressed the sun broke through and it became quite warm for  a change, and the thrift and Bluebells showed out in all their glory, it felt like May !

Ringed:- 3 Lesser Redpolls ( below, one showing no red on the head ! ), 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Greenland Wheatear (right,with some replaced tertials and greater coverts in one wing only, presumably as a result of a traumatic episode, below right), 1 Whitethroat, 1 Blackcap, 1 Swallow, 1 Linnet.
(DB+ESCA,JE,CJ,CJW,SRW,EKW,NLW,RTW)     [ 647-29 ]    photos Wheatear JE, others   CJ

Friday 18 May 2012

18th May 2012

Peculiar weather with rain spotting all morning and a cool east/north easterly made it difficult to guess what would occur, but as it turned out the answer was very little. The chief feature of the day was a regular passage of Swifts travelling east, mostly in small groups but totalling 39 before the end of the morning. This may not seem many but those that know Hilbre will realise that it is a good count for a species that always seems to appear in dull threatening weather. Hirundines however, were in smaller numbers today, just 18 Swallows and 4 House Martins. Another passage to the east were 97 Common Terns moving across Liverpool bay, with the more usual Sandwich Terns (above) numbering 84, and 92 Gannnets diving at medium distance. Two Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler were the only warblers and the 4 Wheatears included a female ringed yesterday. Very little else to report except for 2 Pied Wagtails and a brief appearance of a Peregrine. The 4 Whimbrel are still present as are 8 Turnstones in summer plumage together with 3 Little Egrets today although 7 Bar-tailed Godwits seemed to be new in this morning.
Ringed :- 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler
(DB,CJ)          [ 634-29 ]      photo CJ

Thursday 17 May 2012

17th May 2012

With an overnight south easterly, rain and drizzle soon after dawn, and the middle of May date, it was decided on the way to the island that Spotted Flycatcher would be a certainty this morning, and for once the speculation proved correct. Two were found on the first round of the traps (left); another new species for the year. Large numbers of warblers are not expected after the middle of May, but quality rather than quantity is hoped for, nevertheless there were 5 Willow Warblers , a Chiffchaff and a Whitethroat present. Greenland Wheatears were seen in many places including 3 by the marine lake, and 12 were on the island, mostly females plus a stunning adult male, some staying throughout the tide. The hirundine passage was good for this late in May, 250 Swallows, 39 house Martins and 7 Sand Martins were counted. Other passerines included 5 Goldfinches, 3 Lesser Redpolls, a Pied Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail that circled the island for a while, and an out of season Skylark down low over the island. There are still 1500 summer plumaged Dunlin,150 Ringed Plover and 4 Sanderling on the shore, also 4 Whimbrel (right) and 3 Little Egrets. Seven Sandwich Terns were the only significant sea birds.Ringed:- 3 Greenland Wheatears, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 4 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Redpoll
(DB,CJ et al)    [ 631- 29 ]     photos (Whimbrel - CJ)

Wednesday 16 May 2012

16th May 2012

Waders were the main attraction today with 3,500 Dunlin, 100 Knot and 300 Ringed Plover on the shore and identified amongst this great crowd was a single Curlew Sandpiper, a very scarce wader more often seen in autumn. Even more rare now than the Curlew Sandpiper was a Wall brown butterfly, found in the obs garden, probably the first for many years at Hilbre ( although it used to be more common ), and an excellent find in a poor butterfly spring on Hilbre (and everywhere else). Twenty five Swallows went through with a single House Martin and 6 Greenland Wheatears were on the island.

Monday 14 May 2012

14th May 2012

The Green Flag award judges and the head countryside ranger visited the obs today and they were shown the workings of the observatory and given a talk by member Derek . With a strong north westerly it was not a big bird day as these items from the log will testify:- 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Gannets, 3 Whimbrel, 2 Little Egrets, 6 Greenland Wheatears, 7 Swallows, 2 House Martins and a Peregrine.

Sunday 13 May 2012

13th May 2012

A small drift of 8 Willow Warblers arrived this morning following a south westerly overnight, although the southerly element in the wind soon disappeared and strenghtened from the west towards noon. There were no wagtails or other warblers today and only a few finches, 2 Goldfinches, a Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll. Similar to yesterday 50 or so Swallows were in evidence with 3 House Martins, a Sand Martin, a Swift and only one new Wheatear, while the large Greenland was also still on the island.  A male and female Eider were off the west side early in the morning and a total of 4 Little Egrets was a return to the numbers expected in recent times. Quite large numbers of Dunlin are now passing through, nearly all in summer plumage, 500 were estimated with 100 Ringed Plover.
Ringed:- 5 Willow Warblers,1 Goldfinch, 1 Blackbird (breeding female)
(DB,CJ+Val,DCT,PT,NDW,PSW,SRW,TGW)         [ 619-28 ]

Saturday 12 May 2012

12th May 2012

Not quite so windy but still from a northwesterly direction, it became quite pleasant in the sunshine later in the morning, but migrants were again sparse in number but at least there were a few! Over 40 Swallows and a late Sand Martin passed through, some staying to feed over the island. The very bulky Greenland Wheatear from 4 days ago was re-trapped and it had gained half a gram in the last 2 days, and was the only Wheatear seen. A Grasshopper Warbler was heard singing briefly by the obs, and a Whitethroat was in the wild life garden, but no new birds were ringed. Passing through rapidly were 2 White Wagtails, 4 Goldfinches and a Blackcap that was found on Middle around noon. On the sea 3 Eiders (2drakes) were noted with 3 Gannets and 6 Sandwich Terns. Shore birds logged included 500 Dunlin, 25 Ringed Plovers, 2 Whimbrel and a Little Egret.
The Secretary gave a talk concerning the working of the observatory to a study group that stayed on the island last night, we were also able to show them a Greenland Wheatear in the hand.
(CJ,DCT,PT,NDW +4,SRW,TGW), also Paul Brady (RSPB)    [ 612-28 ]

Friday 11 May 2012

11th May 2012

Very unlike a day in May, west/northwest gales force 7 to 8, cold with showers, unsurprisingly was not conducive to migrants arriving, just a single Swallow and Pied Wagtail all day. Twenty two Whimbrel was probably the best record today with 13 Gannets and 1 Red-throated Diver on the sea. No birds were ringed.

Monday 7 May 2012

7th May 2012

May continues to live up to past glory.  A south-easterly breeze (backing south and increasing significantly by lunchtime to force 5) produced more grounded migrants this morning including the first Tree Pipit to be trapped and ringed this year, along with probably 20 Willow Warblers, 3 Whitethroats, 2-3 Blackcaps and a few Greenland Wheatears.

Visible migration was excellent first thing but petered out mid morning - 5 Tree Pipits were heard overhead, at least 5 flava Wagtails could also be heard (and seen) passing over and finches were evident with Goldfinches and Redpolls noted.

Two Whitethroats were trapped and one was found to be a control (ringed elsewhere) as was one of three Lesser Redpolls caught.

A Short-eared Owl appeared over the Obs (unbeknown to the occupants) being mobbed by gulls it headed over the island and 'ditched in' somewhere north of Wheatear wall.  A quick search of the area located it and it promptly left the island towards Red Rocks it then turned and headed south.  Later on it, or another, was found again at the North End of Hilbre and headed east across the sea towards Hoylake Lifeboat Station.

A single Greenland Wheatear was trapped in a potter trap after lunch which weighed an incredible 45.5 grams (fat score '50') - surely preparing for its next mammoth migration 'leap'.

Ringing:  Willow Warbler (8), Lesser Redpoll (2), Tree Pipit, Whitethroat, Robin, Blackcap (2), Greenland Wheatear.
(AEH,DCT, PT, NDW, PSW, SRW, TGW +VT) [599-28] Photos to follow

Saturday 5 May 2012

5th May 2012

A gloriously sunny morning on the Island today but a bitterly cold north east wind meant that there were few migrants to be found. However, three Whinchats and a Willow Warbler were discovered on Middle Eye early on but promptly flew off south down the reef.

On Hilbre itself  three male Blackcaps were the only migrants found so attention turned to the seas and skies!  Six Eider flying north along the west side were a good find (see bottom left) but the highlight of the day was an Osprey that flew in from the west and caused panic amongst the roosting birds on Middle Eye before rapidly disappearing east over the Wirral peninsula (above and below left and right).

The spring wader passage is well underway with flocks of Ringed Plover and Dunlin roosting alongside the Oystercatchers and 75 Sanderling flew through as the tide rose.  A summer plumage Knot was amongst a small group of Knot that saw out the tide roosting on Middle Eye and about twelve Whimbrel roosted on the sheltered west side (above right).

Ringed: juvenile Dunnock, Blackcap, Meadow Pipit

(DB, DCT, PT, NDW, PSW, SRW) Photos PSW [571-24]

Wednesday 2 May 2012

2nd May 2012

What an incredible day!  Today saw almost certainly the largest ever fall of migrants recorded at Hilbre since the Bird Observatory was established in 1957.  It soon became obvious to members of the Obs who were staying on the island and those who had made it over before the early tide that there had been a big spring fall of migrants.  Numerous Willow Warblers and a couple of Redstarts were around the paddocks and Wheatears 'bombed' through (with an incredible 72 seen at West Kirby Marine Lake Car Park alone before the tide - see right).

With none of the ringers on due to work commitments an early morning phonecall to the absent secretary resulted in meetings being rearranged and two ringers from the mainland were rallied who upon hearing the news were desperately waiting for the tide to drop and made it to the island by which time the members present had already recorded several hundred migrants.  However, the birds continued to push through and by the time the ringers had to depart by early afternoon an incredible 137 birds had been ringed. The majority were Willow Warblers (see left) but the first Grasshopper Warblers of the year were ringed along with a handful of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Redstarts, Sedge Warblers and Wheatears.

Whilst the ringers were busy at work (spending much of their time ringing) - other members were able to record the incredible events with the peak estimate of Willow Warblers being 800 for the day (only four birds were retrapped all day and double figure unringed birds were still present late evening).  The estimate for Wheatears (mainly Greenland) was 200+ and Chiffchaffs were estimated to be c40 with the very impressive supporting cast including 6 Redstarts (see left), at least three singing Grasshopper Warblers (and how many more skulked through unrecorded?), 6 Blackcaps, 2 Whinchats (first of the year), 5 Whitethroats and 5 Sedge Warblers (below right).
Visible migration was also impressive with a massive hirundine passage all day with counts of over 3,000 Swallows, 250 House Martin but only single Sand Martin and five Swifts as well as 140 Goldfinches, but only two Tree Pipits were heard overhead along with single Yellow Wagtail.

Not to be outdone, yesterday's star bird - the Grey Partridge - put in an even better show today and was photographed on the West Side (see left).  Other notable records of a remarkable day were 8 Little Egrets counted in the gutter as the tide receded and a Mediterranean Gull (picked up on call over the East Hoyle).  Waders were also in evidence with 450 Dunlin and 10 Whimbrel (see below) being the pick of the counts.

Coverage remains superb and members are being rewarded for their efforts - with easterly winds forecast for the next week or so will they have time to draw breath after a superb start to May?

Ringed: 105 Willow Warblers, 7 Chiffchaffs, 9 Wheatears, 4 Redstarts, 3 Common Whitethroats, 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Linnets and 1 Robin

[548-24](BSB, DB, AEH, DCT, PT, NDW, PSW + John and Liam - voluntary coastal wardens) Photos BSB and PSW

Weather and Migration Study

Today's superb fall on the island was, as always, a consequence of the weather which plays such an important factor for bird migration observed at Hilbre.  The weather chart below shows the weather map for 0.00hrs on Wednesday 2nd May 2012.  A high pressure over the North Atlantic and a low pressure to the south west of the UK producing south easterlies up the country and high pressures centred over Southern Europe encouraging south easterly airflow and migration northwards up the UK.

The weak occluded front travelling north to south down the UK (running across from Northern Island to the Wash) no doubt encouraged many migrants to be grounded and this can be seen in the weather maps below (left 1200noon on 2nd May and right 0000hrs on 3rd May 2012) showing the movement of the decaying occluded front and how it breaks up over Hilbre during 2nd May 2012 before moving south during the afternoon leaving behind sun soaked birders and numerous grounded migrants.

Weather maps courtesy of

As always we continue to study the weather - which is always easier with hindsight!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

1st May 2012

The easterly influence to the wind continued and produced another great spring day on the island. A diverse array of species were recorded today including Goosander, a moderate fall of warblers, including the first Grasshopper Warbler of the year (singing near the SK during the afternoon) but the undoubted star of the show was a Grey Partridge (the first for many years) found initially on Middle Eye by voluntary Coastal wardens John and Liam, before being seen by Obs members it then moved briefly to the South End of the main island. More details on other sightings will follow. (BSB, DB, DCT & PT)