Thursday 31 March 2016

31st March 2016

Weather: NW force 2
A good early spring day with plenty of varied records to keep the observers happy. A Magpie (a scarce Hilbre spring migrant) flew west over Middle Eye, 2 Ravens over Hilbre also went off west, a male Eider was on the sea, a Common Buzzard (very unusual at Hilbre) and a Sparrowhawk both moved across the island and then flew eastwards towards the shore. Five Wheatears and 7 Sand Martins were the more expected of the visitors, while others local to the island this morning were 2 Goldcrests, 6 Goldfinches, a Greenfinch, a White Wagtail, a Reed Bunting and 4 Skylarks, one of which was down on the island. A Merlin was again perched up looking for prey. Many of the waders are now thinking of the breeding season and 8,000 Knot were noted today flying off to the north.
Ringed: 1 Goldcrest         [ 40-9 ]
Reed Bunting (AEH)

Merlin (AEH)

Wheatear (AEH)

Wednesday 30 March 2016

30th March 2016

Weather: SW force 3, sunshine, cool

The first multiple arrival of Wheatears occurred this morning which was well overdue. At least 2 of the 6 birds were females, which in itself is unusual for the early comers to the island. The pale looking Merlin was sheltering amongst the rocks on the ridge south of Middle where a Skylark rose from the grass and the first Wheatear of the day was on the pathway.

Newly arrived Wheatear bathing (CJ)
 A Goldcrest and 2 Chiffchaffs were already present before the other Wheatears arrived mid-morning but they moved through quickly and the only other movement involved about 50 Meadow Pipits, 3 Pied Wagtails, 5 Goldfinches and a Greenfinch. At midday a Stonechat was found at the south end of the main island. One of the Rock Pipits present (right,CJ) was retrapped this morning adding to our knowledge of these birds which we hope will breed again this year.
The Weasel was seen to take several swimming excursions into the main pond, undoubtedly the same creature as has been around for the last few months.

At 1255hrs a Spoonbill was seen flying past Middle Eye (AAB) and is our fourth record ever but the earliest of all four Spring records.  Photo below (by BT) is of the last bird (an immature) on 13 April 2012.

Ringed: Nil       [ 38-9 ]

Tuesday 29 March 2016

29th March 2016

Weather: SSW force 1, light rain
Fairly quiet this morning, the best bird was a Stonechat found in the rangers garden area, apart from which 2 Goldcrests early on and a couple of Chaffinches and Pied Wagtails together with a few Meadow Pipits comprised the sum total of migrants today. The Pheasant which has become somewhat intermittent in appearances was in the old obs garden today.

Monday 28 March 2016

28th March 2016

Weather: WNW 4-5, showers

A blustery start to the day did not provide migration-friendly weather but nor did the sea produce much.  150 Common Scoters flew East towards the Norfh Wirral in small flocks during the morning and a Red-breasted Merganser battled westwards.

The male Pheasant was found sheltering in the Old Obs garden.  A single Goldcrest heard calling in the Obs garden was the only grounded migrant of note. 

The Pale-bellied Brent Goose flock were all huddled on the mud on the north shore of the East Hoyle which enabled an accurate count to be made; 233 birds is an excellent number for late March when the majority will soon be making their way back to arctic Canada.

Sunday 27 March 2016

27th March 2016

Weather: starting SSW backing WSW and strengthening, rain late morning (see photo of Little Eye below as Storm Katie approaches)

The highlight of the day was a Stonechat found early morning near the public toilet block.

A Merlin was around Middle Eye early morning and 2 Canada Geese were a typical late March record.

Four Goldcrests were noted around the gardens and there was a small number of finches passing over.

Two Sand Martins were seen from the Obs balcony but there were no Wheatears seen again.

The weather was changeable throughout the day with heavy rain passing through quickly and turning into a stunning evening at Hilbre Islands LNR. 

Saturday 26 March 2016

26th March 2016

Weather: SE 4-5, overcast, rain from midday and wind backing SW and increasing 

The day started well with a male Peregrine showing exceptionally well sat on the island for one observer.  A Chiffchaff in the Obs garden first thing was the first of the year and boded well for the rest of the morning.

At least 5 Chiffchaffs were present (with 3 ringed during the morning) with birds feeding in the Blackthorn bushes including this bird in 'Subalp hedge' and 2 Sand Martins passed over Telegraph House were also the first sighting for the year.

There was a small Robin passage which became evident as the morning progressed with five new birds and a retrap from 2015 caught.  A single Chaffinch ground feeding in the SK trap became the first to be ringed this year.

A new Song Thrush appeared on the lawn of the Obs garden mid morning and presumably the same bird was caught and ringed in the 'Newton' trap later.

The Pheasant remained strutting around the main island today.

The afternoon was a brief washout with an extensive front passing over the UK and the wind backed to south west and increased significantly in the evening.

Friday 25 March 2016

25th March 2016

Weather:  WNW 4, dropping to nil by midday then NW 4 by 6pm; little cloud sunny

A glorious day on the islands today weather wise but the wind direction did little to lift observers spirits that any migrants would be found.

However, the first Sparrowhawk of the spring drifted low over the island not long after dawn and single Merlin and Peregrine were all noted in the first hour of daylight.

Small numbers of Meadow Pipits (34), Alba wagtails (9) and finches, including 22 Goldfinch, passed through.

The highlight of seawatching, from the Obs balcony, was a drake Long-tailed Duck which flew West.

After high tide a Short-eared Owl was disturbed from the bracken North of the Lookout and flew south over the tide being harassed by gulls before alighting on Middle (it was later seen heading towards North Wales with gulls still in hot pursuit).

Pale-bellied Brent Geese number in excess of 200 and small flocks loafed on the ebbing gutter below the Obs garden. See short video here:

It was such a nice day that the first butterflies appeared and included this Peacock in the Obs garden and two Small Tortoiseshells swirling around each other in the paddocks.

The male Pheasant reappeared on the island and had presumably been hiding somewhere in scrub in the intervening few days.

Finally, visiting birder from North Wales (Marc Hughes) covered the island for a few hours whilst Obs members were off-island and had a superb adult summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull fly over. 

Thursday 24 March 2016

24th March 2016

Weather: WSW force 3, drizzle early
The first Wheatear of the year was found by the south end slipway at 07.40hrs this morning, this is 13 days later the the first last year (which in turn was a few days earlier than expected). Two Merlins were present including one on Middle Eye, also 2 Peregrines this morning and 2 Ravens over. Grounded were 5 Goldcrests and a Fieldfare (above) with over 100 Meadow Pipits passing through, Meadow Pipit passage has been very slow so far this March. Three Rock Pipits are still here, it looks hopeful for another successful breeding this year. Also logged today: 2 Pied Wagtails and a Goldfinch and wader counts of 250 Curlew, 150 Turnstone and a single Purple Sandpiper.
Ringed: 2 Goldcrests.      [ 25-7 ] photos AEH
Redshank roosting with Turnstones

Wednesday 23 March 2016

23rd March 2016

Weather: Still air
A Merlin was on the west side of Middle, and 5 Swan species were seen entering the estuary from a distance. On the sea off the north end were a pair of Pintail and 2 female or immature Scaup, while a pair of Wigeon preferred the lagoon between the islands and 500 Common Scoters were distantly off to the north. Other sea birds logged were 3 Red-throated Divers and 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and 6 Great Crested Grebes. Passerines were scarce but 4 Goldcrests, 6 Pied Wagtails and 20 Meadow Pipits made it to the island, while some of the resident Linnets seemed to be carrying nesting material. Amongst the waders a flock of 110 Knot were at the north end with 2 Purple Sandpipers while on the shore were 16 Sanderling and a Bar-tailed Godwit.
Ringed: 1 Goldcrest     [ 23-7 ]

Tuesday 22 March 2016

22nd March 2016

Weather: NW force 3
Waders counted on the flood tide included 220 Curlew near Little Eye, 380 Knot on the east hoyle and 60 at the north end, 30 Dunlin,10 Sanderling, a Grey Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit. Ten Shelduck were local around the islands and another 62 were at Tanskeys.

Monday 21 March 2016

21st March 2016

Weather: NW 3
A Merlin was still present this morning, flying passed the east side of the obs and landing on the south end. Four Pied Wagtails travelling west were the only migrants, with the single male still prospecting the buildings as it has for a few days now. High tide found 4 Shelduck between the islands and 2 Scoter resting just off the obs. Off the north end were 3 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers flying east. Ten Meadow Pipits and 7 Linnets were probably all local birds.

Sunday 20 March 2016

20th March 2016

Weather: still air, later NW force 1, cloudy then sun breaking through and becoming warmer
Very little migration this morning, and although 5 Goldcrest were present (above, CJ) at least one and maybe more were here from yesterday. Wagtails featured again with 3 Grey and 6 Pied passing through, also 2 Greenfinches but we still await the first Wheatear, now being the prime time for the initial sighting. While a Merlin was being watched reguritating a pellet on the hill west of the obs another flew in front of the observers towards the south end. Which bird (if any) was the one present over the last few days was not determined.

Merlin and pellet (CJ)

The good run of duck records this early spring continues, today there were 17 Wigeon, 2 Pintail and in addition to the 500 or so distant Scoters, small parties flew around about the islands frequently. Since the advent of the increased Scoter numbers out towards the wind farms, it is now quite normal to see individuals close within naked eye range of the islands.Good counts today included 94 Shelduck, 212 Brent and 155 Turnstones, while on the sea were 25 Great Crested Grebes and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers.
Ringed: 1 Goldcrest, 1 Robin      [ 22-7 ]

Saturday 19 March 2016

19th March 2016

Weather: NNE    force 2
Limited movement this morning, but a Fieldfare was a good bonus, not a common regular at Hilbre even at times of thrush passage. The Merlin was still present, sometimes a Merlin will hang about for a while in early spring possibly anticipating a supply of small migrants to be arriving, although today 4 Goldcrests and a Pied Wagtail was all that was available. Nine Canada Geese were on the sea together with the more expected single Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe, also 10 Common Scoters.

Common Scoters

A Weasel was seen in the obs garden and later near the 'heli' trap, and Fox faeces in several places and some observers have made the connection between these sightings and the lack of much breeding activity by Shelduck, only 6 birds were seen today.
Ringed: 1 Goldcrest     [ 20-7 ]
All photos AEH

Friday 18 March 2016

18th March 2016

Weather: ENE force 1, mist

The lack of south in the wind meant there were few hopes of many migrants this morning and so it proved with the notable exception of about 10 Goldcrests, which in previous experience often fail to follow the normal 'rules' for expected arrival at Hilbre.
A Merlin stood on the ridge south of Middle and later sat on the west cliff of the island (for a short video click on this link was seen at one stage to chase one of the Goldcrests with an unknown outcome.

Merlins seem to be regular visitors to the the islands in March/April and perhaps unsurprisingly seem to match the main Meadow Pipit migration period.  Eight Redwings had also been down on the island early in the morning but soon moved on, a couple of Blackbirds stayed, with the only other small migrants logged were 2 Starlings, and a single Chaffinch and Siskin. Regular geese visitors at this time of year were 2 Greylags and 2 Canada Geese, while duck featured in the form of 2 Tufted Duck (possibly two of the three birds recorded on Tuesday), 3 Wigeon and 2 Teal. The Pheasant still struts around the areas with cover.

If you click on the following link and turn the volume up on this short video taken from the island today you hear some of the sounds of Hilbre at this time of year as the Pale-bellied Brent Geese are calling frequently in readiness for their imminent departure to Arctic Canada (via Northern Ireland and Iceland), Redshanks and Oystercatchers can be heard all around the islands and Goldcrests call (and sing) from the scrub in the trapping areas

Ringed :  2 Blackbirds, 1 Wren, 1 Goldcrest [19-7]

Photos AEH and SRW

Thursday 17 March 2016

17th March 2016

Weather: S force 1  near freezing point early, warm later in the sunshine.
Iceland Gull

The best bird this morning was an immature Iceland Gull that passed down the west side of the island, another less than annual bird to occur this early spring on a typical date.
Eider with Brent

Two males and a female Eider swan off the north end with the Brent Geese and then went south.
 A good selection of other typical early spring birds arriving today included 2 Collared Doves (first of spring), 3 Woodpigeons, 3 Jackdaws, 2 White and 2 Pied Wagtails, also some finches including 3 Siskins, 2 Goldfinches, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Chaffinch, and 14 Linnets.
Some of the 14 Shelduck seen today showed some signs that they may breed. A Peregrine arrived in off the sea from a considerable distance with a very large kill. The Pheasant still makes a colourful addition to the Hilbre avifauna.
All photos  AEH

Wednesday 16 March 2016

16th March 2016

Weather: ESE force 1, clear, lake district visible

A quiet day with a few Wagtails (4 Pied and 2 White) and a Greenfinch passing through but little else. Two Canada geese were noted. Other records included 5 Shelduck, 52 Common Scoter, 5 Great Crested Grebe, 80 Curlew, 60 Dunlin and a Little Egret. The Pheasant is still on the island.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

15th March 2016

Weather: Still air, later light northerly, sunny.

Tufted Duck is a less than annual occurrence at Hilbre, so three birds including two drakes on the sea just off the east hoyle was a very pleasant surprise this morning. They stayed in the area for some time enabling them to be seen even from Hoylake. Earlier the first 2 White Wagtails of the spring landed on the rocks at the north end and later quite a few Pied Wagtails passed through, but overall passage was sparse this morning, no Skylarks or Starlings etc, and just a single Goldfinch, a Greenfinch and a Woodpigeon.

The sea also produced 3 Eiders and 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 13 Great Crested Grebes, while the Brent Geese gathered nicely for a surprisingly high count of 243. Flocks of 1,500 Knot and 2,000 Dunlin flew up the west side at low tide. Still on the island are 2 Rock Pipits and the Pheasant, while the fine weather encouraged many Meadow Pipits into display flight.

Monday 14 March 2016

14th March 2016

Weather: SSE force 1, later ESE force 3

Just before 11.30hrs this morning much excitement ensued when a Red Kite was seen soaring to the east of the islands and was followed for 10 minutes as it circled and drifted over the Wirral shore towards Hoylake (above). March and April are good months for this raptor to appear at Hilbre, although this is only the sixth record and earliest spring sighting for the Obs. Prior to this the highlight had been a pair of Shoveler at the north end with 4 Wigeon (below,CJ), Shoveler is a very scarce bird on the islands, although becoming less so recently.
Shoveler flying with Wigeon (CJ)
Overall the day had been slightly quieter in terms of migrants than yesterday, although good sightings included a Reed Bunting, 3 Siskins, 10 Pied Wagtails, a Lesser Redpoll and 7 Goldfinches over with another 6 down on the island, also 5 Skylarks with another 2 on Middle, while 2 Starlings rested for a short time (below, CJ). Three Canada Geese flew through early with another single later. Yesterday's Pheasant was still on the island.

Ringed: 1 Blackbird             [ 15-6 ]

Sunday 13 March 2016

13th March 2016

Weather: still air, then SE 1/2 warm and sunny
Stonechat (SRW)
A calm and beautiful morning brought plenty of early spring 'Hilbre specialities' including a brilliant male Stonechat on Middle Eye, 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Stock Doves, a Jackdaw, a Redwing, and best of all a Great Tit landing mid-morning in the obs garden briefly. Others making a visit were 2 Skylarks, 5 Starlings, 3 Grey and 10 Pied Wagtails, and for the first time this year 5 species of finch; 9 Goldfinch, 3 Greenfinch, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Siskin, and 10 Linnets.
Woodpigeon (CJ)

Greenfinch (CJ)
Pheasant (CJ)
An elusive Goldcrest was in the old obs garden, but less than elusive was the most unlikely bird to appear this year (and the rarest in that sense, and only the third Hilbre record) in the shape of a male Pheasant that was positively tame and even posed on the roof of the buildings for a photo.
Wigeon (CJ)
Early in the morning 650 Pinkfeet Geese flew in 2 flocks out of the estuary towards the north, duck did not dissappoint either with 27 Wigeon, and 8 Teal  loafing around the island and a drake Eider and 4 Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea off to the north.
Ringed : 1 Blackbird, 1 Robin            [ 14-6 ]

Saturday 12 March 2016

12th March 2016

Weather: ESE force1 slight mist

Redwing (PSW)

A beautiful spring morning greeted observers as they travelled across to the island for the WeBs count. Overhead spring passage was evident immediately with two alba wagtails flying parallel to Middle Eye and heading south down the estuary. Skylarks, Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail were also logged. A Stonechat was found at the south end of Hilbre and later relocated to Middle Eye. A pile of Pheasant feathers found near the north end suggested a Pheasant had been disturbed by the ongoing scrub clearance at nearby Red Rocks and had made it across to Hilbre and attacked by something. Meadow Pipits were displaying and the resident Rock Pipits were chasing each other round the north end. The early morning mist resulted in a few birds being grounded with the first Goldcrest of the year trapped and ringed followed by new Robins,  Dunnock, Song Thrush, Blackbird and star bird – Redwing!
 A male Eider was seen along the west side and two Velvet Scoters were picked up in flight from the north end. Only four Red-throated Divers were recorded with one in full summer plumage.
 Six Purple Sandpipers roosted over the high tide on the west side (left) but unfortunately other roosting waders were disturbed by sea kayakers landing on the south end at high tide and then disturbing all the roosting birds on Middle Eye.
 The Obs hosted a visit by a Salford University wildlife group who were given a talk on our work and were shown a Robin being ringed.

male Goldcrest
Ringed: Goldcrest, Robin (2), Song Thrush, Blackbird (2), Dunnock & Redwing      [ 12 - 6 ]
All photos PSW