With high tide at 10.00 am an early start was in order to reach Hilbre this morning and we duly set off from West Kirby in the dark with sea watching being the plan for the day. Expectations were high that, following the recent gale force winds, a scarce diver or sea duck would be found. First things first though and whilst it was still dark we treated ourselves to a traditional Hilbre cooked breakfast.
With a brisk S E wind temperatures were pretty low and we were glad of the relative warmth of the sea watching hide.The forecasters got it spot on and the initial rain and poor visibility cleared allowing good viewing conditions.
Highlights of a 4 hour vigil were the long staying Black-throated Diver, picked up drifting in with the tide before swimming west towards Point of Ayr, a distant Great Northern Diver and 33 Red-throated Divers.
Small parties of Common Scoter flew around and we counted at least 93. Other duck included a total of
14 Goldeneye, 10 Teal, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers and 7 Wigeon. 44 Great-crested Grebes, some of which were displaying, were also on the sea.
17 Purple Sandpipers roosted over the high tide & 3 Shags were also recorded amongst the commoner Cormorants. A huge number of gulls were seen on the East Hoyle as the tide dropped and the count of 20,000 was probably a conservative estimate.
Mammalian highlights were a Harbour Porpoise seen at high tide swimming west - there might have been 2 but the swell made them difficult to see - Common Seal and the ubiquitous Atlantic Grey Seals. Grey Seals were seen attacking Grebes on at least 2 occasions.
As the tide dropped the Brent Geese flew in and landed in the exposed reef between Middle Eye & Hilbre. 240 Pale-bellied & 2 Dark-bellied were counted.
( PSW & guests Mark Payne & Phil Oddy).