Wednesday 31 December 2014

31st December 2014

Weather: SSE force 2/4
There seems to have been a small movement of Wrens through the islands this morning with at least 10 present, with 2 being ringed. Three different colour ringed Brents were showing well today on the whaleback among the 175 or so birds that included a single dark-bellied individual. Colour ringed Turnstone and Oystercatcher were also recorded.

Colour ringed Brent Geese
Colour ringed Oystercatcher


 Ringed :- 2 Wrens     [ 942-38 ]

(AEH,KMc)    photos KMc (Brent), AEH others

Happy birding in 2015


Tuesday 30 December 2014

30th December 2014

Weather : S force 1, frost
At least 1794 Cormorants came out of the estuary this morning, later 3,500 Oystercatchers were on the Salisbury bank to the west, while 198 Brent geese were counted around the island. A large flock of 332 Bar-tailed Godwits flew from the south west and then alighted on the north shore. Two Little Egrets fed on the shore. Wintering birds include 6 Wrens, 3 Dunnocks, 4 Robins and 3 Blackbirds (one male, 2 females).

Monday 29 December 2014

29th December 2014

Weather : NW force 2/3
A very short visit found 208 Brent Geese present (including 1 dark-bellied). On the West Kirby marine lake were 6 Goldeneyes and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers. It seems our rabbit will survive for yet another year following several sightings this last week.

Sunday 28 December 2014

28th December 2014

Weather : no wind, slight mist
A cold night with snow showing on Snowdonia and ice on the island ponds, but some good records today. A total of 1395 Cormorants exited the estuary at dawn. Wildfowl featured prominently today with 150 Brent Geese counted, duck records included a huge flock of 320 Pintail flying out over the west hoyle, 13 and 11 Wigeon off the west side with 2 Teal and 14 Shelduck in flight. At 6pm a flock of 100 Pink-footed Geese flew over Red Rocks to the south west whilst calling ( visible due to the street lights !). Waders logged were 30 Bar-tailed Godwits flying south west, also 10 on the north shore, 45 Redshank and 40 Sanderling. A flock of 23 Linnets dropped into the wildlife pond when the ice began to break up.
(DB, later AAB,GB)

Saturday 27 December 2014

27th December 2014

Weather : NNW force 3/4, showers
Waders noted today included 40 Turnstone, 25 Redshanks, 4 Ringed Plover and 20 Bar-tailed Godwit. Wrens were noted again roosting in the hole under the obs roof.

Friday 26 December 2014

26th December 2014

Weather : S force 1, slight mist
Thirty Bar-tailed Godwits flew north, 3 Little Egrets were on the shore. Only 3 Purple Sandpipers could be found, they are very scarce this winter. Three Blackbirds are on the island. Leaves of Lesser Celandine showing at the south end, also Daffodil bulbs are emerging.

Tuesday 23 December 2014

23rd December 2014

 Weather: SW force 6, showers

Peregrine over Middle Eye
On a blustery day with threatening clouds the best of a sea watch was an adult winter plumage Black Guillemot showing off the north end. Black Guillemot is a rare less than annual visitor to Hilbre and a difficult bird to obtain for any Cheshire list. Other seabirds noted were 3 Guillemots, 30 Common Scoter, 5 Red-throated Divers, 10 Great Crested Grebes, 3 late Gannets and unexpectedly a pair of Mute Swans flying east.

A single Shag was also on the sea, both male and female Peregrines were logged, and 3 Wigeon were the only duck.

Purple Sandpiper
 Six Purple Sandpipers sat out the tide at the north end.
(AEH,KMC)               photos: Peregrine AEH, all others KMc

Thursday 18 December 2014

18th December 2014

Weather: SW force 6/7 squalls
Some counts from Little Eye on the ebb tide were 3,500 Oystercatchers, 1,600 Dunlin, 350 Knot, 180 Curlew, 20 Grey Plover and 30 Ringed Plover.  The Brent were very approachable at this state of the tide

Oystercatcher and Curlew

Purple Sandpipers continue to be scarce on the island this year with just 4 found today. Seventy Turnstones and 50 Redshank were around the island and a single Bar-tailed Godwit. Also noted were a Kestrel, 3 Blackbirds and a single Linnet.
(DB,AEH)     photos AEH

Tuesday 16 December 2014

16th December 2014

Weather: NW force 4/5, some rain
For the first time a light-bellied Brent Goose from the eastern Atlantic flyway (breeding in the Arctic areas north of Europe) has been identified at Hilbre. It was colour ringed at Limfjord Staging area, Denmark (with the code YTGR) on 3rd May 2011, and has been seen previously at Lindisfarne in north east England on 26th March 2013. Most of the Brent wintering in eastern England are from this population, whereas our birds breed in the area of northern Canada. Unfortunately the bird sat for most of the time so that the rings were not visible (below).

Ringed Canadian Brent that has been regular at Hilbre
A fair passage of 500 Herring Gulls west this morning and there was another record count of Cormorants exiting the estuary (1518). At least 1 Rock Pipit is still at the north end.
(DB,AEH)                     photos AEH

Monday 15 December 2014

15th December 2014

Weather: WNW force 4, showers
A very brief visit produced an excellent count of 261 light-bellied Brent and a single dark-bellied bird. There were 2 Little Egrets and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Friday 12 December 2014

12th December 2014

Weather: WNW force, 4 later SW 4 showers 
 Some spectacular looking clouds were seen today during a week of turbulent weather. An inspection of the island revealed very little damage except to the window on the tide gauge roof.
The best bird sighting of the day was of 130 Pintail flying out of the estuary to the north. The small number of resident Wrens, Dunnocks, Robins and at least 3 Blackbirds are probably all here now to spend the winter. Both male and female Peregrines were about today, while waders included 500 Knot and over 5,000 Oystercatchers (below). At least one dark-bellied bird was with the Brent flock. Three Little Egrets fed on the shore.

 (AEH,CJW)          photos  AEH

Wednesday 10 December 2014

10th December 2014

Wind W force 5 increasing to force 7/8 as the day progressed.
With gale force Westerly winds, a seawatch seemed a good idea so the (fool) hardy single observer hunkered down in the seawatching hide for three and a quarter hours over high tide, effectively cut off from the rest of the island by the waves lashing the North end. The reward for this was scant - one Kittiwake, three Red-breasted Mergansers and six Scoter! Only Cormorants and a few large gulls seemed at home in the conditions. Prior to the tide, several counts of the Brent Geese in the gutter produced a maximum of 130 birds. No passerine migrants were noted with just the regulars present, including the Rock Pipit between the main islands.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

3rd December 2014

Weather: SE force 1/2
A surprise as members arrived on the island following the early tide was a very late Blackcap perched in the copse at the bottom of the obs garden (below (AEH)), it was seen again later near the 'heli' trap but failed to become available for ringing.
  Just as unexpected was a Whooper Swan that was found sitting on the sand between Hilbre and shore at a point south of Red Rocks (right (CJ)), it was still present early afternoon and may just have been a little exhausted but as a precaution the RSPCA were requested by the ranger service to get involved. While the Whooper Swan sat on the shore 2 Mute Swans flew east just north of the marine lake.
 A flock of 98 Bar-tailed Godwits flew high over the island moving to the north east (left (CJ)). Very little on the very calm sea, apart from 11 Great-Crested Grebes and a few dozen Common Scoters. Still no increase in Purple Sandpipers (2) and the Brent gathered off the west side (below (CJ)), although others were too scattered to count definitively. The 4 Blackbirds seen all appear to be females, and Wrens and Robins showed well today (maybe about 6 apiece), while there were at least 3 Rock Pipits about. A pair of Goldeneyes were on the marine lake, they have so far been elusive at this regular wintering site.
Grey Herons (AEH)
Wren (AEH)
Dunnock (AEH)

Hilbre at ebb tide (AEH)

 Better views were obtained today of the new Hoylake lifeboat on manoeuvres off Hilbre (CJ)

 (AEH,CJ,KMc et al)   

Monday 1 December 2014

1st December 2014

Weather: SE 2, 7/8 cloud, mist poor vis

A brief morning visit produced some nice records not least the first record of a December Moth for the island found by the Telegraph Station Lookout steps (see below).

The Pale-bellied Brent Geese were in good number with 182 counted along with a single Dark-bellied bird.  They were between the islands as the tide ebbed in the morning but soon moved to the North End and the Whaleback feeding on seaweed.  Those at the bottom of the lifeboat station slipway were joined by four Purple Sandpiper; sadly a low number of this Hilbre speciality even by recent winter standards.

The new RNLI Hoylake Lifeboat 'the Shannon' was watched arriving in the mist with the Bird Obs chairman (CJW) on board; it has been brought from Poole in Dorset.

There were 13 Red-throated Divers and small numbers of Great Crested Grebes and Common Scoters on the sea and a pair of Wigeon flew south off the West Side.  Meanwhile the male Kestrel remains around the island.

(BSB, SRW) Photos - lifeboats BSB, others SRW

Sunday 30 November 2014

30th November 2014

Weather: WNW, cloud cover 1-3/8

A generally quiet day but three Blackbirds were seemingly new on the island. One was caught and ringed. The only other passerines present were the regular Dunnocks (see below), Wrens & Robins.

Before the island got busy with day trippers the Brent Geese showed well at the north end and once again colour ringed HSWB was picked out amongst the flock. Juveniles are pretty scarce this year so it was nice to see a family group sticking close to their parents.

The Rabbit was seen twice and seems unconcerned by the presence of people. As previously noted a Fox seems to have made itself at home on the island although it remains elusive to the photographers.

3 Purple Sandpipers were hard to pick out at low tide as they fed amongst the rocks at the end of the old slipway. The sea was very quiet with only single Great –crested Grebes and Red-throated Divers being seen.

Ringed: 1 Blackbird

(PSW) All photos PSW [941-38]

Saturday 29 November 2014

29th November 2014

Weather: SE 2, mist, 5/8 cloud

A brief morning visit was rewarded with a few nice birds.

A small flock of six Starlings flew south over the main island as the sole observer arrived, signs that migration is still underway.

Four Little Egrets were feeding in the remnants of the gutter and in 'egret flash'. Signs of changing times.

The Pale-bellied Brent Goose flock were 'lounging' about on the Whaleback with some birds feeding but most were snoozing!  The colour ringed bird 'HSWB' was present with 152 others (see below). This bird was ringed at Dungarvan Pitch and Putt Golf Course, County Waterford, on 18th December 2008 and was first seen at Hilbre on 12th November 2010 having been at Strangford Lough, County Down, that autumn until 20th October and has returned to the islands every winter since (along with the Canadian ringed bird 'HDRB' also present this autumn). Thanks, as always, to the Irish Brent Goose Research Group for the information.

A pair of Wigeon were loafing on the sea before walking out onto the East Hoyle Bank but other than a few Great Crested Grebes the sea was fairly quiet.

A single Bar-tailed Godwit (see below) fed in the gutter with Oystercatchers and Redshank and a few small flocks of Grey Plover flew south up the estuary.


Thursday 27 November 2014

27th November 2014

Weather: SE 0/1 mist
Lapwing on the shore

An accurate count today found a new peak number for the Brent Geese of 189, we expect even higher numbers as the winter arrives. No sign of any thrush movement this morning although a female Reed Bunting was very welcome. A Lapwing came down on the shore. Still only 2 Purple Sandpipers present, and today there were 11 Bar-tailed Godwits on the east hoyle.
(DB,AEH,KMc+SD)  photos AEH

Our resident rabbit still survives in its usual place near the 5 barred gate

Wednesday 26 November 2014

26th November 2014

Weather: NE force 0/1 drizzle
There seems to be at least 140 Brent geese now present, a new high for the season, very little else to report from a brief visit.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

25th November 2014

Weather: S force 0/1, low mist
Twenty four Pink-footed Geese flew south west this morning and other fly over records included a single Black-tailed Godwit (west), 220 Grey Plover (north), 225 Sanderling (north/north east). The only obvious small migrants today were 3 Siskins and a Starling, although there still seemed to be quite an abnormal amount of Wrens about. Two Peregrines put on a good show by chasing each other by the east gutter. two Purple Sandpipers were at the north end, while on the shore were 26 Bar-tailed Godwits and 5 Little Egrets.

Monday 24 November 2014

24th November 2014

Weather: WSW force 2/3
A very brief visit this morning logged 12 Bar-tailed Godwits, and at Little Eye, 4,000 Dunlin, 140 Grey Plover, and 120 Sanderling. No migration but a Blackbird and Song thrush were both present.

Thursday 20 November 2014

20th November 2014

Weather: SE force 2, later SSE force 3/4
Following the Great Northern Diver of yesterday, another scarce seabird appeared in the form of a male Velvet Scoter flying to the north east. Other highlights from the sea were 5 late adult Gannets, 62 Common Scoter, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Razorbill. A fine visible migration this morning with thrushes and Starlings coming in off the sea at the north end, logged were 12 Blackbirds, 4 Song Thrushes, 8 Redwings,10 Starlings, also 10 of that little considered Hilbre migrant, the Wren. At least one dark-bellied bird was amongst the 120 + Brent seen today, while counts from the east hoyle included 20,000 Knot, 2,000 Dunlin, 300+ Grey Plover, and 300 Sanderling. The only ducks of the day were 4 Teal that swam in the pool between the islands. Little Egrets are again in good numbers, today 8 were about the islands. Fox faeces were found at the south end, examination of which concluded that it has been feeding mainly on mice or (more likely) Short-tailed field voles.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

19th November 2014

Weather: SE 2/3, mist around the estuary
A stunning close sighting of a Great Northern Diver today when a juvenile was feeding 50 yards off the east side of the obs at 10.50hrs and later drifting out on the ebb tide at noon. Other seabirds noted included an adult Gannet, 76 Common Scoter, 38 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Red-throated Divers, 2 Guillemots and a Razorbill. Three Redwings and 2 Siskins passed over, also 21 Starlings in 4 groups. A Sparrowhawk was logged today as well as the more usual Peregrine and Kestrel. Five hundred Shelduck were in the Little Eye area.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

18th November 2014

 Weather: no wind initially, later E 2/3, mist around the coast, mild
It felt like late summer rather than late autumn this morning, and a couple of Red Admiral butterflies arrived to support the deception. The birds however were indeed 'right' for the season with groups of 3,10 and 6 Lapwings hanging about the ridge south of Middle and then over the main island, also Starlings in small parties totalling about 60 and a Raven flying over Little Eye and later seen grappling with a Peregrine over the shore. A few new Blackbirds were in but just a single Redwing which frustratingly landed at the mouth of the 'heli' trap but then flew off south without further ado. A male Goldcrest in the paddocks early on was the sole small migrant. The Brent could not be counted, but 560 Shelduck at Tanskey rocks was notable, the only other wildfowl today were a flock of 4 Wigeon. Purple Sandpipers (above) are up to 8 in number, and other waders today were 3,700 Knot and 22 Bar-tailed Godwits. Eight Little Egrets outnumbered Grey Herons (3), illustrating how times have changed in just a few years. The sea was extremely quiet, even in such good viewing conditions, the best was a single Gannet and 2 Red-throated Divers. Two Rock Pipits flew together from the south end and settled at their favourite feeding place at the north end.
Ringed:  1 Goldcrest, 1 Blackbird        [ 940-38 ]
(DB,AEH,CJ,KMc+SD)          photos AEH

Monday 17 November 2014

17th November 2014

Weather: NE force 4/5
A quick check on the island confirmed all was quiet, flocks noted were 400 Shelduck at tanskeys, 3,000 Dunlin moving over the east hoyle, 7,000 Oystercatchers and 5 Grey Plover.

Sunday 16 November 2014

16th November 2014

Weather NE force 1
Another very brief visit found 5 Blackbirds on the island (one on Middle), plus a Song Thrush and 8 Wrens and a Rock Pipit (also on Middle)

Saturday 15 November 2014

15th November 2014

Weather: SE force 2
A very brief visit produced little of note, the best sighting of the day by far was made from the mainland when a Great White Egret was seen flying from Red Rocks to Middle Eye in the morning (MGT)

Friday 14 November 2014

14th November 2014

Weather: SSE force 5, torrential rain early, no wind by noon
Driving rain in the morning prevented any chance of bird movements and observations were therefore confined mostly to the waders around the estuary. The north shore held 300 Sanderling and 120 Bar-tailed Godwits, and around the island were 65 Redshank, 35 Ringed Plover and 4 Little Egrets. Male and female Wigeon settled on the whaleback while flying were flocks of 21 and 12 Shelduck.

Thursday 13 November 2014

13th November 2014

Weather: SE force 4/5, later 6/7
News was received today from Stapley gardens rehabilitation centre regarding the Pomarine Skua taken into care (see 7th Nov), sadly it died at the centre and an autopsy revealed it had been suffering from a fungal infection of the lungs, and no amount of care could have prevented this. The obs staff were commended on all that they did on it's behalf since it was found to give it the best chance. The Brent Geese are now up to 140 strong, today they were at the north end. A flock of 150 Starlings flew west and 60 Bar-tailed Godwits were on the north shore, otherwise very little else this morning.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

12th November 2014

Weather: SE force 2/3
Another new high for the Brent Geese today when 131 were counted. Three Wigeon were logged and on the flood tide the east hoyle held 200+ Grey Plover and 4,500 Dunlin. Starlings continue to trickle through with 14 seen today.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

11th November 2014

Weather: SE force 3/4, squalls
Seals seldom haul out on the main island, however today a pale Grey seal pup was on the north end rocks with a female (parent?). Dark-bellied Brent reached a new high for the season of 6 birds, while the ring markings of 2 of the pale-bellied birds were read in the field to confirm their reappearance from previous years. Fifteen starlings went through, and 6 Pintail flew to the south west.Sixty two bar-tailed Godwits were on the north shore with 20 Grey Plover and another 21 Grey Plover were at Little Eye.

Monday 10 November 2014

10th November 2014

Weather: SSE force 1/2, later SE 2/3

Pleasing weather at the start of the day found about 8 new Blackbirds on the island and Common Snipe dropping into the east side gutter. Starlings soon came through in small parties all morning without any massive flocks, most seem to be moving west but strangely not a single Skylark was logged. At midday a Black Redstart appeared in the old obs mist net, it may have just arrived at the north end of the island as there was no sign of it earlier in the day. Black Redstart is very much a less than annual bird at Hilbre, mostly in spring, and this bird is only the third to be ringed in the last 21 years, the last being in March 2010.
The Brent could not be counted as they were too dispersed, but a bird seemed to be wearing blue and white colour rings, hopefully it may stay so full details can be obtained, also a dark-bellied individual was present. None of the huge number of divers seen yesterday were seen although Great-crested Grebes (about 75), Common Scoters (113) and a single Razorbill were noted in the sea watch.  
A previously ringed Rock Pipit was still at the north end as it has been for some time (above). A late Peacock butterfly flew in the late morning sunshine.
Ringed: 4 Blackbirds, 1 Black Redstart.         [ 938-38 ]
(DB,CJ,KMc)                photos CJ