Monday 30 September 2013

30th September 2013

Weather:- wind ESE force 3/4, cloudy with mist around the coasts, sunny intervals later.
Just a few Chiffchaffs around the island this morning (right), and as has been the case over the last few days there were 2 ringed. The main feature of the day were the duck with six flocks of Wigeon totalling 78 birds with a group of 11 Pintail and 27 Teal including a flock of 25, also a gathering of 190 Shelduck south of the islands just after the early high tide. Eight Grey Herons around the islands were notable as was another group of 4 flying high west to Wales. Two Rock Pipits were seen at the north end today after singles had been in the same area on previous days. A very short sea watch produced 3 Gannets, a Merganser and several flocks of Common Scoter with a total of 56 moving east in front of the wind farms. The sun appeared at about 10.00 and butterflies noted included 4 Red Admirals, 5 Small Whites, 1 Small Tortoiseshell, and scarcest of all in a Hilbre context was a single Speckled Wood. A Migrant Hawker dragonfly flew on middle mid-morning.

Rock Pipit
 The Black-headed Gull on the marine lake that is sporting a ring (above), has been found (thanks to modern cameras), to be of Swedish origin and the ring number will now be reported to the appropriate authorities to obtain details of the movements of the bird.
Ringed:- 2 Chiffchaffs          [ 617-32 ]
 (DB,CJ,KMc, et al)           photos  CJ (Chiffchaff), KMc (others)

Sunday 29 September 2013

29th September 2013

Weather: East 2 backing South East and increasing to at least 4 later, mist clearing leaving a lovely sunny if blustery day.

It felt good this morning and observers were not surprised to find at least five Chiffchaffs in the paddocks and gardens. However, there was no hoped for Yellow-browed Warbler and migration petered out as the mist cleared and the wind picked up.

Visible migration was slow but produced an interesting mix of species including Mipits, 2 Reed Buntings, Skylark, Siskin, Greg Wagtail and a few alba Wagtails.

The highlight of the day were the insects - several butterfly species (at least 10 Red Admirals) were observed coming in off the sea during the morning including a Comma which was found later in the SK paddock (see photo).

A male Emperor Dragonfly was also seen down the West Side and was later found sheltering out of the increasing south-easterly wind a very impressive sight zooming up and down the fenceline but was too lively for the cameras!  Several other dragonflies (Common Darters) and a single blue damselfly species were noted.

During the afternoon a skein of 15 Pink-footed Geese passed over.  

(DB, NDW, SRW & TGW, later AMC & friends) photos Pinkies (AMC) & Comma (SRW) [615-31]

Saturday 28 September 2013

28th September 2013

Contender for quietest day of the autumn despite the promising wind direction again.

However, a return visit in the afternoon produced the first birds ringed for a couple of days when two Chiffchaffs were caught.

(SRW (from over) & CJ - early morning shift; DB & SRW afternoon shift) [613-31]

Friday 27 September 2013

27th September 2013

Grey Dagger caterpillar
Weather:- wind SE force 4, high cloud early, sun later
Despite scarce migrants piling in on the east coast of Britain, Hilbre couldn't even muster any of the commoner migrants in the trapping area this morning, and for the second day in succession there were no birds ringed which is quite unusual for these winds in the last part of September. A Merlin was present at first light and 2 Peregrines hunted the waders, while there were several duck sightings including flocks of 9, 5, 20, and 3 Wigeon, 15 and 1 Pintail, 7, 11, and 6 Shelduck and 3 Teal. Meadow Pipits continued to appear in off the sea though in slightly lesser numbers than yesterday, and as yesterday the only Wheatears (2) were on Middle island.The Rock Pipit was refound at the north end, but proved elusive as did 2 Grey Wagtails passing through. A large flock of about 60 Linnets roamed the islands, the only other finches were 2 Goldfinches. Waders seen today before the tide included 180 Redshank, 80 Turnstone, 60 Knot and a Grey Plover. A single Shag was noted along with the 350 or so Cormorants. Other creatures found were a Red Admiral butterfly, a Grey Dagger caterpillar and the resident rabbit.
(DB,JE,CJ,KMc,BT,CJW, et al)

Thursday 26 September 2013

26th September 2013

Weather: wind ESE force 3/4 cloudy, less mist and slightly cooler than of late
A very quiet morning considering the wind direction and time of year, the only real movement was amongst the Meadow Pipits with about 100 arriving in off the sea and passing through in small parties, also single Grey Wagtails moving over on 4 occasions and 5 Pied Wagtails and a Skylark doing the same. A Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest were present, but the latter bore a ring from yesterday and the former may also have been here for a day or two. Wigeon were the only duck of the day with groups of 18, 3 and 8.
A Golden Plover flew south west across the island, as did a Common Snipe. Linnets moved about in a flock of 22 and a single Little Egret was in the gutter and todays count of Bar-tailed Godwits numbered 35. Two flocks of 30 and 40 Common Scoter flew distantly over the sea.
(DB,CJ,KMc,CJW, et al)

Wednesday 25 September 2013

25th September 2013

Weather: wind WSW force 0/1 rain and drizzle with mist, clearing late morning, wind light and variable.
Variable wind direction made it uncertain what was going to happen this morning, and it was obviously not going to be as productive as yesterday from the start. Three Chiffchaffs and a Goldcrest were in the paddocks with a few Robins and a Whitethroat which was probably the bird from 2 days ago. Meadow Pipits still past through in small numbers but there were only 6 Swallows seen. Two Pintail duck (the first of the autumn) flew south down the east side and 11 Teal were also logged, and a Common Snipe flew over towards the south west. Single Pied and Grey Wagtails flew through but declined to stay. At about 10.00hrs after some rain 3 Willow Warblers appeared as if by magic, they were most unexpected and late migrants for this species. A common Toad was an unusual find in the SK trap. We should mention (as we haven't bothered recently) that the rabbit is still being seen early morning on the island.
Ringed:- 3 Robins, 3 Wrens, 2 Dunnocks, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Goldcrest     [ 611-32 ]
(DB,CJ et al)

Tuesday 24 September 2013

24th September 2013

Weather: wind SE force 4, mist early, later backing NE
A fine migration day with over 50 species logged by members from early morning to late afternoon. There was no large fall of migrants but a steady number to keep interest going throughout the day. Some of the first to arrive were 2 Blackcaps followed by a Spotted Flycatcher (the first ringed this year), at least 5 Chiffchaffs and 2 Goldcrests. Another Spotted Flycatcher was found later about the gardens and posed well for photos (right) and video, see A Song Thrush on the ground was the first of the autumn, 2 Reed Buntings spent some time near the obs, and 2 Wheatears were on Middle but none on the main island, while the small passage of Robins continued today with 7 being ringed. Also impressive was the number of species merely passing through (or over), including 100+ Meadow Pipits, 57 Swallows, 6 House Martins, 5 Skylarks, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Siskins, 1 Chaffinch,7 Grey Wagtails, 6 Pied Wagtails, 1 Wigeon, 3 Teal, 2 Snipe, 1 Golden Plover. Regular birds were not ignored and also featured on the log for the day:- 332 Curlew were on the east hoyle, 83 Sandwich Terns still remain, there were 7,000 Oystercatchers, 70 Turnstone and 65 Redshank but no sign of the 6 Brent present the other day.
A Kestrel (below right) that has been about the last few days was trapped and proved to be a female ringed previously by the Merseyside ringing group. It is several years since a Kestrel has been ringed at Hilbre.
 The juvenile Great Skua that was mentioned yesterday at Little Eye was still present intermittently in the same place. The pleasant weather brought out some insects on the island including 2 burying beetles, a Migrant hawker and Common Darter dragonfly, a Green Lacewing, (below) 7 Small White and 4 Red Admiral butterflies.
Ringed: 7 Robins, 5 Chiffchaffs, 3 Wrens, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Meadow Pipits, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush.    [ 601-32 ]
(DB,AEH,CJ,KMc,SRR+1,CJW+PLN, et al)

Monday 23 September 2013

23rd September 2013

Weather:- wind SSE force 0/1 cloudy and mild
female Goldcrest
The westerlies have ended for the moment giving hope of some migrant passerines, today was just a trickle but a small fall of Robins in double figures was welcome, as was a Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff, also the first Goldcrest to be ringed this autumn (and only the fourth to be seen on the island  this autumn). Other firsts of the autumn were a Rock Pipit at the north end, and a Merlin on the east of side of Middle as the tide flooded which flew off towards Wales. A small passage of Meadow Pipits, a pair of Skylarks that landed briefly on the island and a flyover Reed Bunting completed the morning migration scene. Bird of the day was a Great Skua that was found mid-morning devouring a carcass of a Cormorant on Little Eye, it is probably the bird seen intermittently over the last few days. It seemed reluctant to leave its meal even when approached enabling members cameras to be deployed (see also short video at  From the main island could be seen 55 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Little Egret in the east gutter. 


 Ringed;- 5 Robins, 2 Wrens, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Meadow Pipit,
[ 578-31 ]
(DB,CJ, et al)              photos CJ

Sunday 22 September 2013

22nd September 2013

Weather:- wind W force 3
Little migration this morning, just a few dozen Meadow Pipits, 8 Robins, 3 Swallows, 3 House Martins and a Skylark down on the island. The big surprise was of a Bonxie passing south down the east side of the island at low water, a species usually associated with sea watching in heavy seas at this time of year.A Little Egret was on the shore and a Chiffchaff remained having been ringed on a previous day.

Saturday 21 September 2013

21st September 2013

Weather:- wind SSE then WNW force 2
The wind has fallen light so no windblown sea birds were expected nor seen, however 19 Red-throated Divers was a very large count and 400 Common Scoters were also of note. Best birds seen were 2 Golden Plovers flying south west and best of a female Pochard, a scarce bird at Hilbre. About 50 Meadow Pipits and 19 swallows passed through while 40 House Martins were seen over the east hoyle bank. Not many other small migrants present apart from 2 Chiffchaffs and 2 Grey Wagtails. For the record some counts from the log were as follows:- 25 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Sanderling, 2 Wigeon, 3 Little Egrets, and 6 Brent Geese.
Ringed:- 3 Robins, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Meadow Pipit.         [ 567-31 ]

Friday 20 September 2013

20th September 2013

Weather;- wind NW force 4 with some drizzle, wind becoming light later
There was still some left over from the gales even today and 8 Leach's Petrels, 5 Skuas including 2 Arctics and a Little Gull were highlights of the sea watch which also included 7 Red-throated Divers, 23 Great Crested Grebes, 77 Common Scoter and 5 Kittiwakes. Winter birds noticed today were 6 Brent Geese and a Purple Sandpiper whilst 2 Wigeon flew west and 27 Shelduck were counted. A single Goldcrest was on the island and 3 Little Egrets on the shore.
Ringed :- 1 Robin       [ 562-31 ]
(CS+Rob Bithell and Dave Sullivan, et al )

Thursday 19 September 2013

19th September 2013

Another slow start to the sea watching improved markedly after the high tide as the wind turned back to the west and picked up (sea watchers using the Obs garden as well as the North End slipway).

20 Leach's Petrels were counted and a single Bonxie was watched coming in from Hoylake; from where Obs members were alerted of its impending arrival thanks to AMC (

The only other skuas were two Arctics which was an improvement on the previous couple of days.

Tern numbers remained good with 73 Sandwich and 10 Common recorded but only 3 Kittiwakes in which what is turning out to be a poor autumn for the species at Hilbre probably reflecting a very poor breeding season elsewhere.

A single Purple Sandpiper appeared at the North End (see below) and 4 pale-bellied Brent were present.

After the tide Mediterranean Gulls were present on the shore between Little Eye and WKML as well as at WKML.

(DB, RAE, AEH, KMc & Woolston Team, AO, CCS, CJW & PLN) photos by AEH (seawatchers) & David Bowman (remainder)

Wednesday 18 September 2013

18th September 2013

The wind was stronger than forecast as observers crossed to the islands this morning but hopes were not too high of a repeat performance from yesterday but a few lingering Leach's were expected.

Despite a slow start to the seawatch with only two Leach's Petrels seen before high tide and none at all for about three hours birds began to appear on the ebb and the final count (by 630pm) was 28 Leach's Petrels, 32 Manx Shearwaters, 9 Red-throated Divers, 28 Gannet, 5 Fulmar and two distant Skua Spp.  The highlight, apart from the petrels, was a Slavonian Grebe found by a visiting birder (DG) off the North End unfortunately it drifted west rapidly and disappeared around towards the Whaleback but not before a very poor record shot (iPhone scoped and heavily cropped) was obtained (see below).

Three Brent Geese were on Little Eye again and waders were much in evidence including 46 Bar-tailed Godwits, 150 Curlew and 3 Black-tailed Godwit noted.

As the day wore on the Leach's came closer to the North End with birds following the surf line on the edge of the East Hoyle sandbank and occasionally resting on the sand.

[DB, SRW + visitors JB, JC, DG & PO] Photos SRW (Slav) and PSW (Leach's from yesterday)

Tuesday 17 September 2013

17th September 2013

Another great day's sea watching - highlights included a Long-tailed Skua (iPhone scoped below and short iPhone video at or in slow motion at, 109 Leach's Petrels, Bonxie (the only other skua!) and 189 Manxies. 

Many of the Manxies (see below and short video at and Leach's came close to the North End and other species noted included a single Fulmar, 5 Kittiwake, 79 Sandwich and 6 Common Terns, 3 Guillemots and 5 Razorbills and 12 Gannets.

After the tide three Pale-bellied Brent Geese were found by Little Eye and good numbers of waders were seen including 84 Grey Plover, 16 Bar-tailed Godwit and 180 Sanderling.

[AEH, KMc, AW, PSW, SRW + Scott R, Liam L & Greg R] Photos SRW (Long-tailed top 2) & SRR (remainder)

Monday 16 September 2013

16th September 2013

With the wind strengthening during Sunday and backing west overnight hopes were high that today would produce a reasonable seawatch and, after a slow start, Obs members and friends were not disappointed.

The highlights were the two juvenile Long-tailed Skuas (a dark intermediate and a pale bird) - the first of which came in from the East Hoyle tip and went down the east side before crossing the island behind the hide and heading off to the Point of Ayr; see photos below and short video on You Tube -

26 Leach's Petrels past the North End during the day (in 8.5 hours) but mainly after the high tide; see below and short video at

The only other skuas were a single distant Arctic (and a distant Skua Spp) plus a Bonxie.

46 Manx Shearwaters were counted heading westwards during the day and good numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns were seen along with smaller numbers of Gannets and a solitary Kittiwake.

Observers in the hide were alerted late morning by mobile phone from Hoylake to two first winter Little Gulls being buffetted along the East Hoyle bank as they headed further up the estuary out of sight from the hide.  Later a juvenile Black Tern was seen first along the gutter on the ebbing tide then off the North End on a couple of occasions mid afternoon.

Other species noted during the seawatch included a single Peregrine and a Golden Plover.

With the wind still strong overnight hopes are high of a repeat tomorrow but perhaps with more petrels.

[DB, PSW, SRW + SR +1, RS & MT] photos by Scott Reid

Saturday 14 September 2013

Norwegian Black-headed Gull returns

The colour ringed Black-headed Gull seen distantly on the shore on Thursday was found on the pontoon at WKML on Friday evening (13th) and photographed (see below).  This bird J1CR was originally ringed at Breiavatnet, Stavanger, NORWAY, on 12th July 2012 before being seen at WKML by WBC Ranger Matt Thomas on 10th October 2012 (see blog on 12th October 2012).  It was then reported by several people (including Obs members DB, CS et al) during the Winter 2012-13 around West Kirby including at WKML and Ashton Park lake until 25th February 2013.

It was then seen back in Norway between 8th April and 5th August 2013 before being seen on the shore between WKML and Little Eye on 12th September 2013; presumably it will stay around the West Kirby area for the winter again before heading back to Norway next Spring.

Friday 13 September 2013

Gulls, terns and colour ringing

Confirmation from the Belgium and Netherlands Mediterranean Gull colour ringing scheme that the juvenile/first winter photographed at West Kirby Marine Lake (WKML) on 6th September 2013 (see below) was ringed at Valdemarslot Slotso, Fyn, in DENMARK, on 16th June 2013 as a pullus.

It was then seen at Uttoxeter Quarry, Staffordshire, UK on 27th July 2013 before being found at WKML on 6th and still there on 10th.

Two adult Med Gulls were photographed at WKML on 31st August 2013 (see blog for 1st Sep) with one adult still present yesterday on the beach between WKML and Little Eye along with a confusing second winter (sub-adult?) bird with very little black on the primaries but a pale bill on the pontoons (see below) this latter bird still present this morning on the Lake itself (see flight shot below); there have therefore been at least four Meds in the area since 31st August.

An adult Yellow-legged Gull was photographed in "the usual place" west of Little Eye between there and "the ridge" on 11th September 2013 (see below).  There have been at least three Yellow-legged Gulls at Hoylake beach (see

We are waiting for news on the color ringed Black-headed Gull (possibly from Poland) first seen on 6th September and photographed at WKML on 11th.  Another different color-ringed bird was present on the beach yesterday (12th) but like several color-ringed Sandwich Terns (see below) the lettering could not be made out but we will make enquiries anyway to see if their ringing location can be identified from the colour and sequence of the rings. We have had Sandwich Tern sightings/recoveries before from both North East Scotland and Dublin, Ireland, so it will be interesting to see if we can add to this knowledge.

Thursday 12 September 2013

12th September 2013

Weather:- Overnight rain or drizzle, clearing to sunny spells and light north westerly breeze force 2
A quiet day came to life at noon when a small grebe was seen on the sea to the north east of the island.Viewing was distant as it was low tide and it was watched from the obs balcony at the other end of the island, however it was clearly very much smaller than nearby Cormorants and was definitely a Grebe. As the bird stretched its wings there was no sign of a white patch caused by the colour of the secondaries and therefore it is assumed to be a Little Grebe. Little Grebe is a real 'mega' in Hilbre terms and is rarer than both Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe. Interesting that a Little Grebe was seen in flight over the sea from Hoylake last month (JET), almost certainly the same bird. More conventional seabirds included 2 Arctic Skuas doing their thing out towards the wind farms. Earlier excitement was caused by the arrival in off the sea on to the north end of the first Purple Sandpiper of the autumn, it will not necessarily stay to winter and may pass on elsewhere although others will arrive later. Other signs of autumn today were 2 Wigeon flying in from the north west, a Grey Wagtail over the shore and 2 Skylarks calling over the obs building. The remaining migrants this morning were limited to a dozen or so Swallows, a similar number of Meadow Pipits, a small passage of Robins and a Chiffchaff that arrived during the morning. About 25 Bar-tailed Godwits are now feeding to the east of the island and 3 Little Egrets were in the pools between the islands for a while.
Ringed:- 3 Robins, 1 Chiffchaff     [ 558-31 ]

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Black Tern Update

No sign of the "Black Tern" all day yesterday but it reappeared this morning and flew past the North End and was only observed through bins but was showing a white rump... Hopefully more news to follow.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

10th September 2013

Weather:- wind north or north north west force 4/6 but up to 7 during a sea watch
Bird of the day was a Black-throated diver on the sea together with 10 Gannets and 3 Great Crested Grebes and a single dark phase Arctic Skua but not  the hoped for petrels that occur during prolonged strong winds this month. Counts on the ebb tide included the following:- 225 Ringed Plover, 270 Sanderling, 300 Dunlin, 64 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and best of all a Greenshank at Little Eye. The recent run of Black-tailed Godwits continues with 2 more sighted today. Amazingly after no Wheatears on the island all day, no less than 5 arrived at 17.00hrs, you never know just when things can happen!
(DB, + Matt Thomas)

Monday 9 September 2013

Black Tern

The photo below is a record shot of today's Black Tern found in the tern roost east of the island taken from the Obs balcony with 50x iPhone digiscoping. The head pattern is rather 'White-winged' and the bill looked small when the bird was 'on the deck' although it is slightly turned towards the observers.  However, there is very little contrast between wings and mantle.  

Assuming it was the same bird (two Black Terns were reported off nearby Red Rocks not long after), when seen in flight from east of Middle Eye the bird's wings and mantle appear dark grey and there is a shoulder patch (although not broad). However the tail is distinctly paler (grey not white) than the mantle and wings.  Before anyone asks the flanks were white (see below)! These are very poor ipad screen grabs from iPhone digiscoping video - on the last grab the rump does look whitish but this may be just the quality of the video/grab.  An interesting bird...

9th September 2013

 Weather:- SW force 1/2 early then NW 3/4 late morning with heavy rain showers.

Fairly quiet for the last few days with little to report, but brief visits before the tide this morning found a juvenile Black tern associating with the mixed tern flock (mostly Sandwich, about 30 Common and 1 or 2 Little) on the east hoyle at the flood tide. Black terns have been particularly scarce (totally absent?) in the local area this year. There seems to have been a new arrival of terns in the estuary as 1,000 Sandwich were estimated yesterday and today.
Greylag Geese (with 2 domestic)
A Sparrowhawk flew along the island chain mid-morning and a flock of 38 Greylags (plus a couple of domestic geese tagging on) came up the east side then landed around the south west side of the island before departing west towards Wales. The only small migrants were a single Willow Warbler and 2 Wheatears, and a small number of Robins which seemed to be new in. Shorebirds at low tide included 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, 16 Sanderling and 2 Little Egrets.
Ringed:- 1 Robin                           [ 554-31 ]

(DB,CJ et al )