Thursday 31 December 2015

31st December 2015

Weather: W force 6
View from Hilbre at dawn this new years eve. (AEH)
A thousand Cormorants flew out of the estuary at dawn, a regular feature now to look out for at most times of year. A pair of Teal were recorded, also single Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. Two Grey Plover and a Purple Sandpiper were the best of the waders.
(AEH et al)

Tuesday 29 December 2015

29th December 2015

Weather: SE force 4
Six Wigeon were the only duck logged today, while some wader counts were 80 Curlew, 15 Grey Plover, 105 Turnstones and 30 Redshanks. Both Rock Pipit and Song Thrush were noted.

Monday 28 December 2015

28th December 2015

Weather: SSE force 7, then S force 4/5 at midday, and SW in the afternoon
A Weasel was seen on the log pile in the obs garden today, an unusual creature on Hilbre, but following a sighting several weeks ago.

High tide wader counts included 5,000 Oystercatchers, 4,000 Knot, 150 Ringed Plover, 80 Bar-tailed Godwits and 150 Turnstone. two Rock Pipits are on the island with 2 Blackbirds and a Song Thrush and a small flock of 18 Linnets.
(NDW et al +2)

Sunday 27 December 2015

27th December 2015

Weather: SW force 1/2
A high tide visit was quite productive with a Short-eared owl on Middle Eye, and a drake Long-tailed duck that flew west towards the point of Ayr. Six Wigeon and 20 Teal were other ducks present, while a boat disturbed a huge flock of about 4,000 Common Scoter that were stationed close to the wind farms. Three Red-throated Divers and 10 Great Crested Grebes were logged, also a Shag, a Peregrine, 63 Ringed Plovers, and 4 Purple Sandpipers in the high tide roost. As the tide ebbed the Brent Geese dropped in between Hilbre and Middle Eye and a count of 101 Pale-bellied and a single Dark-bellied bird was made. Two of the regular colour ringed birds were located in the flock. On the passerine front a Song Thrush was present in the SK Paddock and the resident Dunnocks, Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds were all recorded. An unusual sighting was of 6 Grey Seals hauled out on buoys HE2 and HE3.
Song Thrush (PSW)
Turnstones (PSW)
(PSW,+ Mark Payne)

Monday 21 December 2015

21st December 2015

Weather: SW force 5/6 later 7/8, rain showers
Best of the sea birds on a blustery day was a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Common Scoters and 2 Great Crested Grebes. Two Purple Sandpipers, 50 Redshank, a Grey Plover and a Sanderling were around the island. Out of the eighty Brent seen, 2 were colour ringed, while also on the shore was a Little Egret.A male Peregrine was the only raptor.

Sunday 20 December 2015

20th December 2015

Weather: SW force 5/6 rain showers.
One hundred and fifity Ringed Plover were between Little Eye and Middle Eye, other waders noted today included 3,000 Oystercatcher, 40 Turnstone and 3 Knot. A Red-throated Diver and a juvenile Shag were the highlights from the sea, while a single Starling visited the island.

Thursday 17 December 2015

17th December 2015

Weather: SW force 4, rain
A wet morning was not the best day for finding birds, even the sea was quiet with just 6 Great Crested Grebes and 50 Common Scoters found apart from the many Cormorants diving off the north end. A single Pied Wagtail arrived in off the sea (below) and a Rock Pipit was also at the north end of the island.
The Linnets continue to flock this late in the year, today 42 were present, while decent wader counts included 67 Bar-tailed Godwits, 25 Grey Plovers and 200 Sanderling. The blue and red ringed Brent and a single dark-bellied bird are still here among the hundred or so gathered together this morning.
(AEH,CJ et al)      photo CJ

Wednesday 16 December 2015

16th December 2015

Weather: W force 2/3
A very brief midday visit recorded a Little Egret, a male Common Scoter, a Great Crested Grebe, 6 Linnets and a Rock Pipit on Middle Eye.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

15th December 2015

Weather: SE force 1/2

A search of the Little Eye area failed to find any sign of the Lapland Bunting, the big surprise from yesterday's visit. A drake Long-tailed Duck rapidly flew north east passed the north end of the island, and this became very much the highlight of this morning. Perhaps the same bird from yesterday?

At least four Rock Pipits were on the island, also male and female Blackbird, a Song Thrush and 2 Starlings flying down the east side.

The Great Northern Diver (above, first found on 10th), still inhabits the north end of West Kirby Marine Lake where a juvenile Shag was found later (see below).

(DB, AEH, CJ and SRW) Photos SRW

Monday 14 December 2015

14th December 2015

Weather: SSW force 2

The Obs hosted a visit by local company Avian Ecology when 10 members of staff walked across to Hilbre and spent time over the tide on the island. The team had good weather and thoroughly enjoyed what was for many their first visit to Hilbre. They were welcomed with a log fire, cups of tea and mince pies and in return have promised a generous donation to the Obs funds.
Before they arrived a single Snow Bunting and Skylark were recorded flying south and during their stay they were treated to the sight of a fine male Long-tailed Duck flying past the north end and a Great Northern Diver exiting the estuary as the tide receded. This was thought to be the marine lake bird leaving but it turned out to be a different bird. Other sightings included 8 Purple Sandpipers roosting on the west side (below), along with a good sized flock of 22 Ringed Plover.

  Amongst the Oystercatchers roosting on Middle Eye a leucistic bird was seen and photographed (below).

Scoter were generally scarce but other notable sightings were 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Goldeneye and a flock of 21 Wigeon. Our visitors were also treated to the sight of a young female peregrine chasing the waders around Middle Eye although she did not appear to make a kill. Star bird was found by one of our visitors and a well-known figure on Hilbre, Colin Davies, who discovered a Lapland Bunting on Little Eye as he left after the tide (below).

(PSW)  photos PSW plus group photo & Lapland Bunting by Colin Davies, Oystercatcher by Peter Antrobus.

Sunday 13 December 2015

13th December 2015

Weather: SSE force 1
Good records today of 2 Ravens, 25 Pink-footed Geese flying south, a female or immature Eider and 4 Wigeon. Cormorants also featured with a total of 2,130 flying out of the estuary at dawn. Six Meadow Pipits were at Middle Eye with 11 Linnets and 5 Starlings passed through the islands. Extensive wader counts mostly from the east hoyle on the flood tide included 520 Grey Plover, 2,500 Knot, 1,000 Dunlin and 220 Sanderling.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

8th December 2015

Weather: WSW force 3, heavy squalls, later SW force 5
The unseasonably mild weather encouraged the Lesser Celandine to be well advanced in preparation for the spring. Bird sightings were few today, over 200 Brent were about the islands, also 3 Little Egrets and both male and female Peregrine. Waders included 30 Ringed Plover, 25 Redshanks, a Grey Plover and a Knot.

Saturday 5 December 2015

5th December 2015

A severe gale made bird watching almost impossible, recorded were 3 Common Scoter in the gutter and a Purple Sandpiper at the north end.

Friday 4 December 2015

4th December 2015

Weather: W force 4/5

Not a bad morning for a westerly in December. Best record was a Yellowhammer flying overhead to the south, a very rare bird for Hilbre, indeed the first of its type to be recorded at Hilbre since April 2003 (see below that bird having been caught and ringed).

The only other small visitors were 2 single Starlings followed a short while later by a flock of 15.

The Brent flock were more accessible to be counted than of late and reached a new peak for this winter of 235 including a single dark bellied form.  In the flock were no less than four colour-ringed individuals including returning birds that were ringed in Canada, Ireland and Denmark and a new bird which was ringed in Iceland this spring (May 2015).  The latter having been seen in Northern Ireland earlier this autumn (thanks as always to the Irish Brent Goose Research Group for the information).

A group of 25 Pintail were found floating on the sea off the north end and later flying to the west, while the Eider of the last few days is still present, otherwise sea watching produced little, 4 Great Crested Grebes and 70 Common Scoter. Just before noon a flock of 24 Greylag Geese flew south down the east side of the island.

(CJ and SRW)

(Yellowhammer - Hilbre, April 2003)

Thursday 3 December 2015

3rd December 2015

Weather: SSE force 2/3
On a quick visit the Brent were counted at 197 including at least 2 dark-bellied and 2 colour ringed birds. Twenty Starlings flew south west and the female/immature Eider was still present.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

2nd December 2015

Weather: WSW force 5
With no visits to the obs for some days, a quick trip over this morning to check for storm damage following the recent gales thankfully found only small problems with the buildings and heligoland traps. Best bird encountered was a female or immature Eider on the sea off the north end.

A couple of visiting Starlings flew about and the Linnet flock seems to have reassembled to about 45 birds, while Brent are at about 140 strong and 2 Purple Sandpipers were seen. A Peregrine hunted the east side and then landed on the SK heligoland trap (above), the first time some of us could ever remenber this happening.

Meanwhile the Red-throated Diver (see below) remains on West Kirby Marine Lake.

(AEH, CJ and SRW)     Photos - Peregrine on trap CJ, other SRW

Sunday 22 November 2015

22nd November 2015

Weather: ENE force 0/1    some rain early
Lighter winds brought a good day for birds with records of both Great Northern Diver and Slavonian Grebe on the sea, also 10 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 1 Red-throated Diver and 4 Great Crested Grebes. Passage birds included 15 Blackbirds and 3 Song Thrushes, while a Short-eared Owl and a Lapwing (at Little Eye) were good records for the islands. No less than 20,000 Herring Gulls were estimated on the east hoyle shore between Middle Eye and Meols, other large counts were 5,000 Knot, 3,000 Dunlin, 180 Curlew, with smaller numbers of Shelduck (90), Turnstone (85), Redshank (10), Ringed Plover (5), Grey Plover (4), Bar-tailed Godwit (1) and Purple Sandpiper (1). Grey Herons outnumbered Little Egrets 4 to 2, and a single Shag was logged. The few land birds of note not in the thrush family included a Rock Pipit and a Goldfinch. A thousand Cormorants were estimated on the east hoyle, but a single ringed bird was found dead by the main pond almost certainly as a result of a fox kill.

Saturday 21 November 2015

21st November 2015

Weather: NNW force 5/6

The high winds of the previous couple of days had eased slightly but it was still blowing force 5-6 NNW so a seawatch was in order. Virtually the first bird seen was a single Leach’s Petrel coming in from the west although distant. This was the only one seen during the three hour vigil!

The Great Northern Diver was seen on the sea again and a single Red-throated Diver flew west. A female Eider was fairly close in and spent most of the time with her head tucked under her wing.

The weather was much colder than it had been recently and evidence of cold weather movement was provided with the record of 6 Lapwings flying west towards the Point of Ayr. Two Wigeon were also seen flying west low over the sea and a party of 15 Pink-footed Geese flew over the island early afternoon. Two Meadow Pipits were also see flying low over the sea.

As the tide receded thousands of gulls gathered and fed on a huge wreck of starfish and razor clams washed up on the West Hoyle bank.

On land two un-ringed Blackbirds were at the south end and a single Goldfinch landed briefly in the Obs garden.


Friday 20 November 2015

20th November 2015

record shot of Leach's Petrel (AEH)
Weather: WNW force 6

The slight northerly element in the wind made for a good lunchtime sea watch (1115-1245hrs), the bird of the day was a Grey Phalarope that flew east close inshore (the first record since 2012). A single Leach's Petrel (see iPhone scoped slow motion video here lingered for a while although no others were seen by 1pm when Obs members had to leave but 3 Bonxies were still in the area. 600 Common Scoter, 6 Kittiwakes, a Red-throated Diver, a Guillemot and 7 Great Crested Grebes completed the typical sea birds.

(Last November Grey Phalarope was this one in 2010
Less expected but very welcome were 2 female/immature Eider, a drake Goodsander and a pair of Gadwall which are rare at Hilbre; only the thirteenth record for the Obs since 1957 (see below). A Common Snipe and a flock of 300 Starlings were the best of the rest today.

Gadwall (SRW)


Thursday 19 November 2015

19th November 2015

Weather: W force 3/4
A Great Northern Diver was off the north end, presumably the same as the bird that was seen on Monday. A Merlin posed on the rocks for the camera, while on the sea were 300 Common Scoter, 6 Gannets, 12 Great Crested Grebe and 5 Kittiwakes. A single Goldfinch was the only land bird of note.
Merlin (AEH)
Meanwhile the recent gales produced two Great Crested Grebes on West Kirby Marine Lake (WKML) today.

(AEH et al)

Wednesday 18 November 2015

18th November 2015

Weather: WSW 5-6

Another blustery day and a late afternoon tide and visit produced another good seawatch.  With the wind increasing all afternoon the North End was almost cut off by wave spray after high tide but the overcast conditions cleared to reveal a bright moonlight sky.

At least nine Great Skuas (Bonxies) were noted with 4 or 5 birds lingering in the bay and several more powering west.

Presumably the Great Northern Diver that flew close inshore yesterday was found in heavy seas off the North End and proved somewhat more difficult to photograph as it dived for long periods and continually disappeared behind the large waves.

The female/immature Eider remained also in the tide off the North End but numbers of other species were lower than on Monday with Kittiwakes (36), Gannet (22) and Red-throated Diver (4) counted.

139 pale-bellied Brent Geese and 3 dark-bellied were recorded between the islands and 600 Sanderling moved from the East Hoyle passing the North End as the tide flooded.


Tuesday 17 November 2015

17th November 2015

Weather: SW force 2
Eleven hundred and eighty two Cormorants were counted exiting the estuary in the morning, and 4 Shags were around the islands. The female or immature Eider was seen again today, and a Woodpigeon visited the island. A single Goldcrest was present and 14 Greenfinches passed through, and the local Linnet flock numbered 70. Three Little Egrets and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore. Later on the east Hoyle bank 110 Golden Plover flew north towards Formby, a good record for Hilbre, and 60 Sanderling and 20 Ringed Plover were near the tide.

Monday 16 November 2015

16th November 2015

Weather: WSW force 4/6

The wind continues to blow and today brought in the first Leach's Petrel of the year for the islands flying west at 3.30pm, also a close fly by of a Great Northern Diver earlier at High Tide.

The 5 Bonxies seen could have included at least three birds 'hanging around' from Saturday, but a couple powered through and another distant unidentified skua species was certainly a new bird as were the remarkable 360+ Kittiwakes logged after none at the weekend.

Other sea birds today included 6 Red-throated Divers,40 Great Crested Grebes, 30 Guillemots, 2 Razorbills, 1 Red-breasted Merganser and 8 Gannets. 

A female or immature Eider was another highlight of the day.

(MGT and SRW)

Saturday 14 November 2015

14th November 2015

Weather: WSW force 4

Recent gales brought sea watching into focus and the highlight today were 5 Bonxies, one of which was seen to catch and drown a juvenile Herring Gull.

Other sea-birds on the list were 16 Red-throated Divers, 120 Great Crested Grebes, 1,200 Common Scoters, 12 Guillemots, 12 Gannets and 2 Razorbills. 

A single Little Egret hunkered down behind seaweed covered rocks out of the wind as observers left the island.

The only significant passerines were 2 Chaffinches, 2 Song Thrushes and 2 Rock Pipits, one of which was photographed so well it could be seen to be the one of the breeding pair that was ringed in April 2015, occasionally the Rock Pipit was also joined by a Pied Wagtail.

It was great to see the Purple Sandpipers increasing to 16 (a good number for mid November in recent years but sadly well below historical figures of this declining species at Hilbre) and over 2,500 Knot were noted.

(PSW and SRW)

Wednesday 11 November 2015

11th November 2015

Weather: W force 4/5
Breezy from the west but still a few migrants on the island with 3 Goldcrests, 2 Siskin and a Chaffinch, also over 50 Starlings moving through including a group of 40 birds. On the sea was a Red-throated Diver, 200 Common Scoter,154 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Gannets and 5 Guillemots.
 A Peregrine sat on the sands with a kill (below,AEH).
The high tide found many waders roosting on the island including 200 Turnstones and 100 Redshank, one of the Turnstones was a colour ringed bird from 2007/2008. A selection of waders today, below (AEH).

The only duck seen today were a flock of 8 Pintail.

Friday 6 November 2015

6th November 2015

Weather: SE force 2, some drizzle
Pale and dark bellied Brent (AEH)
Colour ringed bird
A quiet morning, the only small migrants were 2 Redwings (one on middle), a Goldcrest, a Starling, a Song Thrush and a Goldfinch. The Brent were counted today at a new high of 146 birds including the red/blue colour ringed bird and 3 dark-bellied individuals, while there are 3 Purple Sandpipers.  
Little Egret (AEH)
 Other waders at the early morning high tide were: Oystercatcher 5,300, Dunlin 4,000, Curlew 450, Knot 310, Sanderling 250, Bar-tailed Godwit 47, and Redshank 35. Sea watching produced 10 Great Crested Grebes, 6 Guillemots and a Razorbill. Feeding around the islands today were many egrets/herons with 5 Little Egrets and 7 Grey Herons.
Shelduck are still in good numbers, mostly to the south and east of the islands, today there were 290.
The season remains very mild and many plants are still flowering including Thrift, Yarrow, Red Campion, White Clover, Red Valerian and Wood Sorrel.
Grey Heron
(DB,AEH,AS,CJW et al)

Thursday 5 November 2015

5th November 2015

Weather: SE force 3/4

A check of the island mid-morning just before the rain arrived found a Short-eared Owl flying around the west side and then moving towards the north end,(below) where it landed in the bracken before finally flying high off to the north east.

Equally impressive for the observers were a pair of Peregrines calling whilst displaying over the island for some ten minutes (below).

Sadly the run of successive days with thrush movements came to an end and only a single Blackbird could be found, likewise small migrants were equally missing with no Goldcrests present and the sole finch being a Goldfinch perched in one of the gardens (above).

Counts today included 118 Brent Geese, 120 Turnstones and 2 Purple Sandpipers. An interesting Oystercatcher with a colour ring was at the north, but on this occasion we were unable to read the ring (right).

(AEH, CJ, CJW)           photos CJ