Wednesday 30 April 2014

30th April 2014

Weather: calm air then light NW with drizzle and showers, misty, turning SE and brightening later.
The promising weather forecast never materialised and the observers at dawn found the island completely devoid of any migrants. It wasn't until 08.00hrs and following showers that about 3 Willow Warblers appeared with a single Wheatear, a few Swallows and 4 alba wagtails. During the high tide period a female Redstart arrived on the island (right), one of 12 already this year, 11 have been ringed. Things improved generally during the afternoon enabling several other migrants to be logged, including 2 Yellow Wagtails, 3 White Wagtails, 2 more Wheatears, 4 more Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff, 30 Swallows and 10 Sand Martins. The visiting LOC members recorded most of the species expected on sea and shore at this time including Gannet, Sandwich Tern, Great Crested Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Whimbrel and the smaller waders.

Netted Pug  (BSB)
  With the lack of birds first thing attention was focused on the overnight moth trap that produced a Netted Pug among others. The books suggest that the flight period of Netted Pug is May-June, but Hilbre often has an April record. It is only found on Hilbre in small numbers and is not annual, thus a mini twitch by local moth enthusiasts today. It's laval food plant is Bladder and Sea Campion, which is abundant on the east cliffs of Hilbre and Middle Eye.
 An unexpected creature also found in the moth trap was one of the burying beetles, Nicrophorus humator. (right)
Ringed: 5 Willow Warblers, 1 Redstart.                    [ 475-28 ]

(BSB,DB,CJ,DCT,PT,NDW, et al)    + members of the Liverpool Ornithological Club

Tuesday 29 April 2014

29th April 2014

Weather:- ESE force2/3, mist thickening to fog by 07.00hrs, clearing to warm sun before midday.
After the excitement of yesterday a normal spring morning with typical birds could only be an anticlimax. The Little Bunting was duly looked for without success leaving the members to enjoy a quiet morning high tide which was sprinkled with a moderate number of migrants. A female Whinchat was found on middle at dawn (and was joined by a male during the tide) There were only 12 Willow Warblers and 7 Greenland Wheatears recorded, and single Whitethroat, Blackcap and 2 Sedge Warblers also present, completing the warbler arrivals for the day, while a Chiffchaff ringed 6 days ago is still on the island. Passing through but not lingering were 9 Swallows and 3 House Martins, also a Tree Pipit, 5 White Wagtails and a Yellow Wagtail that landed briefly, 9 Goldfinches and 18 Lesser Redpolls (3 touched down and were caught in the Newton). The first 2 Manx Shearwaters of the year went east off the north end and 22 Gannets went through, some closely by the island in the fog.

 Twenty Three Whimbrel was the count today (above), this is the peak time for these trilling vocal waders around the shore at Hilbre. A Kittiwake rested out the tide on the west side for the second day running (bottom). A female Peregrine hunted the waders roosting at the north end of Middle, amongst them were birds counted today from all the island areas that included 750 Oystercatchers, 450 Dunlin, 15 Bar-tailed Godwits, and 35 Ringed Plovers. Butterflies that emerged in the sun later in the morning were 8 Small Tortoiseshells, 3 Green-veined Whites, 3 Peacocks, also 6 Cinnebar moths.
For the last few days Garden Tiger caterpillars have been all over the islands (left), particularly Middle Eye making it sometimes difficult to walk without looking down at the ground.

Ringed:- 7 Willow Warblers, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Greenland Wheatears, 2 Sedge Warblers, 1 Blackcap, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Goldfinch.       [ 469-28 ]
(DB,CJ,CS,DCT,PT,NDW, et al)     photos CJ

Monday 28 April 2014

28th April 2014

Weather: SE 0, 8/8 cloud, 5 miles vis, mist around the estuary and closing in at times, brightening later & wind shifting NE

The day started slowly with a couple of phylloscs around the trapping area, however it felt good and things picked up as warblers drifted in during the morning.  A Whitethroat was heard singing and was then caught and yet another Redstart (a fine 2nd yr male) was caught in the Newton.

A couple of Yellow Wagtails dropped in and the odd House Martin flew through but there was generally very little vis mig (eg a single Redpoll) however 5 Woodpigeon appeared from nowhere after the mist briefly enveloped the island.

Mid morning and an unusual sounding Chiffchaff attracted the attention of one Obs member and the local Meadow Pipits with some aspects of an Iberian-like song. It was chased by the pipits up onto the mast where it sang briefly before disappearing.

Whilst looking for the Chiffchaff a bird was disturbed from the east side garden of Telegraph House - a small bird with white outertail feathers flew up from the floor and alighted in a tree in front of the 'Heli' trap. Obviously a bunting-type bird observers were looking into the sun, as they moved around to get a better view the obvious chestnut patterning on the head was visible and the size became more apparent when a Mipit and Willow Warbler joined it in the tree.

By now suspecting it was a Little Bunting remarkably the bird began to sing!  After a short time it moved to the top of the tree and then flew over the observers heads 'ticking' as it went!

Still in a state of shock the observers refound it in the top of the trees in the Old Obs garden but after a brief foray into the bracken it disappeared. After a short while the observers approached the garden looking for the bunting but it did not materialise from the bracken - it had already caught itself in the mist net.

It was taken back to the Obs to be ringed, measured and photographed.

The rest as they say is history... but it also produced the first "boat twitch" to the island as the Chairman and another (CJW and AMC) who were conveniently placed near Hoylake Lifeboat Station (as usual!) managed to get a mini-rib over to the island (see right) to see the bird.

After release the bird was left alone for an hour or so before a brief search produced nothing.  However, a couple of hours later (as the tide ebbed) a more thorough search revealed it to have found the West Side grassy areas rather attractive and it remained in this area between the pond and the mast for much of the afternoon and evening allowing many visitors to see this superb first record for Hilbre (birders arriving and watching the bird from the mast).

Sadly the Chiffchaff from earlier was never seen, heard or caught subsequently - but it was also forgotten in the excitement of the bunting.

(DB, CJ and SRW from early, later AAB, AMC, BSB, DCT, JET, MGT, PT, CJW, NDW, PSW, TGW et al) [452-28] Photos CJ and SRW

Sunday 27 April 2014

27th April 2014

Weather :- ESE force 3
Another quiet morning, best of the day were 4 Yellow wagtails down on the island and another single overhead, a Grey Wagtail was noted, a bird more usual in autumn. Ten Willow Warblers were also down with 5 Greenland Wheatears and a Whitethroat, and passing through were 10 Swallows, 2 House Martins and a Sand Martins and 3 Goldfinches. Sixteen Whimbrel was the count today and over 500 Dunlin were on the shore.
Ringed :- 4 Willow Warblers, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Wheatear.       [ 434-27 ]

Saturday 26 April 2014

26th April 2014

Weather:- SE force 4 showers
A much quieter day with only a few Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff this morning, but a male Whinchat was still present from yesterday and 2 Yellow Wagtails and a Tree Pipit went through. Hirundines numbered 16 Swallows, 2 Sand Martins and a House Martins. A Common Sandpiper was around the island and 6 Arctic Terns were recognised off shore as well as 4 Gannets on the sea. No less than 19 Whimbrel were recorded, with 14 in one flock.
Ringed:- 5 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff.       [ 428-27 ]

Friday 25 April 2014

25th April 2014

Weather: SE 1, 2/8 cloud, 3 miles vis, mist

The weather seemed perfect for a good spring day on the island and we weren't disappointed.

Early morning produced some "vis mig" with 5 flava wagtails (at least one being a definite Yellow) and 4 Tree Pipits passed over only one landing briefly.

The first round of the trapping area produced a Blackcap and a few phylloscs, but warblers were arriving for the first few hours of daylight with 2 more Blackcaps, 3 Whitethroats, at least 50 Willow Warblers and a few Chiffchaffs.  Two more Redstarts were caught and ringed (male & female). Late morning a Garden Warbler was found in the SK mist net and is the first for the year of a species which does not always occur in spring at Hilbre. 

Three Common Sandpipers were at the South End as some observers arrived and at least 13 Whimbrel were counted.  Meanwhile a Fulmar was again prospecting the island and a Kittiwake was sat at the North End.

At least 25 Wheatears passed through again the majority of which were Greenland as was evident from the five of the six Wheatears caught being of that race.

The first Whinchat of the year appeared opposite the Obs mid morning and a second and third birds arrived and later one of these or another was present on Middle.  During the afternoon one of the Whinchats found its way into the Heli trap.

The rain arrived and that really put a dampner on proceedings but it was another excellent day on the island.

The bird information services reported a Whinchat and a Lesser Whitethroat on Middle during the afternoon; the latter would be another first for the year.

Ringing: Willow Warbler (24), Blackcap (2), Whitethroat (2), Garden Warbler, Whinchat, Redstart (2), Linnet, L Redpoll (3), Chaffinch, Wheatear (1), G Wheatear (5)

(CJW(f), CLW, FPW, GIW, SRW & TGW (from over), DB, SD, CJ & KMc [422-27]


Thursday 24 April 2014

24th April 2014

Weather: SE 0, slight mist, turning to a gloriously sunny day, before backing NE later

With the wind remaining in the SE quarter overnight and although visibility was good there was a slight mist around the estuary early morning and this produced another excellent April day on the island.

Phylloscs (25 Willow Warblers and 3 Chiffchaffs) drifted in throughout the day with a new bird caught at the end of the day.  A male Whitethroat flew in by the 'Air Raid shelter' before finding its way into the trapping area and was subsequently caught and ringed.

Wheatears were much in evidence with at least 25 birds passing though with the vast majority being Greenland race birds. Visible was a little slow but included 3 flava Wagtails over and a single Yellow down opposite the Obs (see photo) near our Potter traps (put out mainly for Wheatears).   Unfortunately it was chased off by a resident Meadow Pipit before it entered one of the traps.  A single Tree Pipit was heard buzzing over the island.

With an early morning tide sunshine and hardly any wind it was no surprise to observers to find the first Common Sandpiper of the year at the North End it's lovely high pitched whistling could be heard as it flushed around towards the 'whale-back'.

A singing Grasshopper Warbler was heard briefly mid morning and was later seen between the upper and lower trapping paddocks - thereby evading capture.

More observers were being collected from West Kirby shore when gulls alerted us to our fifth Osprey of the spring, by which time it was right above the landrover heading inland at some speed. Apologies again for the record shot but by the time the camera was retrieved from the vehicle it was an 'end-on' shot only; we might be ready for the sixth!

Other wildlife was evident today with an excellent recent count of 454 Grey Seals as well as 8 Commons, plus the Rabbit was around for much of the late afternoon and evening.

Butterflies included the first Green-veined Whites (4) as well as Small Tortoiseshells (9), Peacock (4), Small White and  a Speckled Wood.  Finally, a Cinnabar Moth was photographed near the Lookout.

(CJW(f), GIW, PSW, SRW & TGW (from over), DB, CJ - & later CLW, FPW, RTW) [379-25] Photos TGW (Rabbit) & SRW (others) 

Wednesday 23 April 2014

23rd April 2014

Weather : SE force 3, very slight mist 
Another good migration day, and once again this morning the first bird caught was a Redstart (right, [SRW]), it was followed shortly afterwards by a male Whitethroat and another Redstart.

The Willow Warblers did not start to drop in until about 07.00hrs and promptly stopped doing so at about 08.00hrs, although there were a couple of other smaller pulses later in the morning which brought the total to at least 30. Yet another Redstart (it's been a good early spring for this species) and a Blackcap were seen, also a flyover Tree Pipit and 5 Yellow Wagtails, 3 of which came to ground briefly on the west side. There was good sucess with the potters with 4 Greenland Wheatears caught and another in the newton trap. Corvids over included 2 Rooks and 3 Jackdaws, while hirundines were down in numbers today with 17 Swallows and 3 each of House and Sand Martins. There were no Redpolls today and only 5 Goldfinches were registered, also 2 White and 2 Pied Wagtails. First of the year records were 15 Common Terns and 2 Little Terns out distantly at the west hoyle, while Sandwich Terns are now building up with 150 noted today, also Gannets with 25 on the sea. Best waders were 4 Whimbrel, 16 Bar-tailed Godwits and 30 summer plumage Sanderlings. Late morning a House Sparrow was calling around the paddocks and the final surprise was a Grasshopper Warbler that starting singing at noon, presumably just arrived as the area had been assiduously covered many times during the morning. A Speckled wood butterfly was liberated from the Newton trapping box, the first at Hilbre this year.
Ringed:- 26 Willow Warblers, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Redstarts, 5 Wheatears, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Linnet.   [ 358-25 ]
(DB,CJ,SRW,TGW+1,GIW,CJW(F)) + Matt Thomas

Tuesday 22 April 2014

22nd April 2014

Weather:  ENE 3-4, dropping to 0-1 and shifting to ESE, mist first thing turning to occasional light drizzle, 3 miles vis

The day began with little hope for grounded migrants with a cold easterly with a definite northerly touch.  However, the first round produced another female Redstart and things were looking up.  The next round produced a male Redstart and a Gropper - both in the 'Heli'; only three birds caught but all quality.

Hirundines were much in evidence with groups of Swallows, House and Sand Martins chasing through for much of the morning and then in dribs and drabs throughout the day.  Final counts being 450 Swallow, 85 House and 59 Sand Martins.

The only other visible migration was a couple of Flava and White Wagtails and a few finches.

A Fulmar prospected first Middle then the main island a couple of times during the morning.  Light drizzle starting producing a few phylloscs (mainly Willows with a couple of Chiffchaffs) after 8am; a couple of hours after the first round.  A female Blackcap appeared by the toilet blocks.

Mid morning produced a third Redstart of the morning and the first Whitethroat of the year was caught and ringed.

Another Grasshopper Warbler began singing from the lower trapping paddock and was subsequently caught.

Later in the day a second unringed male Whitethroat was found in the trapping area.

Passage waders were in evidence with Whimbrel leading the way with 6 birds noted.  Meanwhile the sea was reasonably good with Gannets and Sandwich Terns well presented and on th evening tide a pair of Eider spent some time around Middle Eye.

(SRW, TGW+2 (from over), DB, CJ, CJW(f), GIW) [318-25] Photos SRW

Monday 21 April 2014

21st April 2014

Weather: ESE 0-1, 7/8 cloud, mist, 3 miles visibilty 

With the wind dropping overnight, turning east south east and with early morning mist burning off during the day, today was a great day on the island.  It started early with the arrival of a Redstart and a few Willows not long after dawn.

However, it was apparent that a moderate fall was occurring with Willow Warblers singing from most available bushes.  At least 65 were recorded with 39 caught and ringed.  

Overhead passage was limited but it was quality and felt a bit like early May of old with 7 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Tree Pipits and amongst a small passage of Swallows (105), 3 House Martins passed over at high tide.

Around 950am one observer leaving the island (DB) had the bird of the day which was heard and seen flying high west over the island being mobbed by Crows - a Chough (the first record at Hilbre since March 1980 and only the fourth ever record). Unfortunately for those present it could not be found from the island.

A small consolation for those who missed the Chough was the first Sedge Warbler heard singing in the lower trapping area around noon; it was subsequently found in the SK trap.

Dunlin (1,500) and Ringed Plover (85) were much in evidence as the tide flooded and Whimbrel moved about the islands during the day with at least 5 seen/heard.  Good numbers (156) Sandwich Terns were counted but little attention was given to the sea until ebb tide with the odd new Willow Warbler still being caught in the afternoon.

Off island a stunning drake Velvet Scoter was found off Meols and was still present this evening on the sand off Dove Point (see for details and superb photos).

Ringing: Willow Warbler 39, Chiffchaff, Sedge Warbler, G Wheatear 2, Redstart, Goldfinch 2, Linnet 2, Meadow Pipit 

(CJW(f), GIW, SRW & TGW (from over), DB, FES, TJS, CLW) [292-24]

Sunday 20 April 2014

20th April 2014

Weather:  ENE 5, some mist

The day start slowly with a brisk cold ENE breeze not filling observers with confidence for a good day. However, that changed at about 8am when a female Redstart was caught and ringed (see below) and 5 Wheatears arrived on the island, two of which were caught in Potter traps and found to be Greenland birds (as suspected - below young male & female respectively).

A couple of Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff were present but there was very little in the way of visible migration.

The Rabbit was still present on the islands.

Ringing: Redstart, Greenland Wheatear 2, Willow Warbler

(DB & ESCA (from over), SRW briefly) [243-23]

Saturday 19 April 2014

19th April 2014

Weather:- SE force 3, sunny, cool wind
Dawn following a clear night (SRW)
Osprey (picture from 16th April)
Just after 06.30hrs information was received from a member (JET) at Red Rocks marsh that a Marsh harrier had lifted off and was heading north. It was duly scoped and its progress followed from the island, becoming the second Marsh harrier of the spring. Amazingly at 08.30hrs an Osprey was seen soaring over the west hoyle bank with gulls and waders giving it plenty of attention. It drifted north and gained height and was lost to view before its final direction could be ascertained. This was no less than the 4th of the spring and still time for more yet. 
Rook (CJ)

A Raven croaked from the west side of the island and later a Rook made a close inspection before departing west. Rooks are quite rare at Hilbre, certainly more so than Ospreys this year ! 
Small bird passage may be described as moderate today, with a fair number of Redpolls (35), Goldfinches (16), and White Wagtails (15) and warblers numbered 8 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff. Four Wheatears were around quite early but again did not linger. Hirundines comprised 9 Swallows and a Sand Martin, while House Martins are still scarce with none today. Flocks of 100 and 130 Knot flew north, while 2 Little Egrets and a Whimbrel were noted. very little on the sea, just a single Gannet noted and no Sandwich Terns.
Ringed:- 6 Willow Warblers, 4 Lesser Redpolls,1 Chiffchaff, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Linnet.  [ 239-23 ]
(DB,CJ,SRW,TGW, later KMc+2)

Friday 18 April 2014

18th April 2014

Weather:- ENE force 2, haze
A flock of 470 Black-tailed Godwits were seen to exit the estuary towards the north east, while 2 Whimbrel, 2 Little Egrets, a single Bar-tailed Godwit were on the shore and a dark-bellied Brent showed at the north end. Despite the calm conditions 10 Sandwich Terns, 16 Red-breasted Mergansers and 37 Great Crested Grebes were noted on the sea. Passerine passage was light with single Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, a female Blackcap, and 12 Pied and a White Wagtail. Fourteen Sand Martins and 11 Swallows passed through during the day. A single Goldfinch was the only finch apart from the resident Linnets. The rabbit became creature of the day for one member who had not yet connected with him/her despite many visits to the island. In the evening star gazing in the dark Hilbre night sky unpolluted by lights became the thing to do and the sightings of the international space station and the just launched supply rocket were the highlights (right).

Thursday 17 April 2014

17th April 2014

Weather:- SW force 2, later in the morning WNW force 6, slight mist
Migration was naturally diminished today with no east in the wind but still 8 Willow Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs drifted through by the end of the day, and 5 Wheatears dropped in suddenly mid-morning when the wind increased and veered west but they soon passed onward. The only Redpoll recorded was the one that was trapped and there were singles only of Swallow and Sand Martin, and just 3 White Wagtails.
Ringed:- 7 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Linnet          [ 226-23 ]
(DB,CJ, et al)

Wednesday 16 April 2014

16th April 2014

Weather SE force 4/5 slight mist, cool
Grasshopper Warbler (SRR)


Following 4 firsts for the year yesterday, another today when a Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling by the 'heli' trap early morning. It evaded capture until noon, by which time it was realised there were 2 birds on the island when another was heard at the south end.

Another 'first' was the sight of a Little Egret at the main island pond in the late afternoon, something all agreed was a unique occurrence.

Little Egret by the pond
Fifteen Willow Warblers during the morning was similar to yesterday but there were far fewer finches. Of the 2 Redpolls trapped, one turned out to be a control (ringed elsewhere), the first such control this year. Two Tree Pipits called overhead soon after dawn, more regular migrants included a Greenland Wheatear, 2 Pied and 3 White Wagtails, 7 Swallows, 4 Sand Martins, 1 House Martin and a Skylark that landed briefly on the west side.

control Lesser Redpoll
 At about 7pm a chorus of noise from the gulls alerted a member to the arrival of an Osprey from the west which crossed between the islands and flew out to the distant tide to catch a fish and proceed to eat it on the east hoyle bank. This becomes the third at Hilbre this spring and more are still possible as we go through April and May.
male Blackcap (CJ)
Slightly less exciting records today were of 5 Red-throated Divers, 8 Sandwich and 1 'commic' tern, 1 Gannet, 30 Sanderling and 15 Ringed Plover. Two males and a female Mallard are now at the main island pond.
Ringed:- 10 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff,1 Greenland Wheatear, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Wren, 1 Robin, 3 Linnets, 1 Lesser Redpoll.                    [ 215-23 ]
(DB,MSC+2,CJ, et al) +SRR&LPL

Tuesday 15 April 2014

15th April 2014

Weather :- SE 3/4 slight mist
Redpoll showing some features of Common Redpoll
male Lesser Redpoll
Spring sprung into top gear this morning with 57 bird species recorded and 36 birds ringed by the end of the day. The first small fall of Willow Warblers (12), and Chiffchaffs (5), were backed up by good finch numbers (22 Lesser Redpolls, 21 Goldfinches, 2 Siskins and one each of Greenfinch and Chaffinch) a House Sparrow. Other small bird entries on the log were 5  alba wagtails and a single Goldcrest.and a wide variety of other goodies including no less than 5 firsts for the year:- 1 Arctic Tern, 3 Whimbrel, 2 female and 2 male Blackcaps (the female first caught still had pollen adhering above the bill), 2 Tree Pipits and a Yellow Wagtail passing. One of the Redpolls appeared to be a Common Redpoll type (long winged, big billed, pale undertail coverts but otherwise like lesser, however biometrics could not decide the issue). The hirundine total reached 8 Swallows, 3 Sand Martins and 2 House Martins, and while 12 Wheatears were counted it didn't seem so to observers as none stayed long enough to be much noticed (or ringed).
House Sparrow

Unexpected records today included 5 Canada and 2 Greylag geese, a Raven, a Jackdaw, 2 Woodpigeons, and 2 Buzzards over Hoylake. On the sea were 1 Red-throated Diver, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Guillemots, 2 Razorbills, and 19 Sandwich Terns in addition to the Arctic. Five thousand Common Scoters lifted off from the north west sea for no perceptible reason. Wader numbers are naturally down from the winter with 1,100 Oystercatchers, 18 Ringed Plovers,12 Sanderling, 10 Turnstone and 45 Curlew logged.

Ringed :- 10 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs,1 Goldcrest, 1 Wren, 2 Blackcaps, 3 Goldfinches, 8 Lesser Redpolls, 5 Linnets, 1 Meadow Pipit.        [ 194-22 ]
(DB,MSC +2,CJW et al )