Sunday 30 April 2017

30th April 2017

Weather: ESE 5-6, 7/8 cloud, low vis (3miles) with some mist around estuary 

Today was just one of those memorable days on the island...

It started early this morning with a blustery east south easterly, overcast skies and low visibility - one observer who had stayed on overnight undertook the first round of the heligoland traps and greeted observers from the mainland with several bird bags with containing warblers including this fine Wood Warbler.

This was only our tenth Wood Warbler in sixty years but our earliest ever and our first in April (all previous records were in May and all have been caught and ringed).  The photo below shows the Wood Warbler (right) with a control (ringed elsewhere) Willow Warbler; the latter looking very like an 'acredula'.

It was already obvious that there had been a moderate fall but birds were arriving in waves throughout the morning.

The main species involved was Willow Warbler, as usual, and at least 120 were estimated throughout the day.  On occasion 10 at a time were caught in the Newton and SK traps.

A single Chiffchaff arrived in the afternoon as did a Blackcap, Whitethroat and several more Willow Warblers which remained around the Obs garden.

Playing second fiddle to the Wood Warbler, but not a species we catch with any regularity, was a Tree Pipit which was conveniently caught on the same round as a Meadow Pipit for nice comparison photographs.  Six other Tree Pipits were noted 'buzzing' over during the morning.

At least four Whitethroats arrived during the day (the first for the year), a single Blackcap appeared around the Obs garden during middle of the day and was also the first for the year.

A fine male Whinchat was caught amongst Willow Warblers and was also another first for the year.

The first Swifts of the year were noted along with good numbers of hirundines and a flava Wagtail over; meanwhile this Pied Wagtail sometime fighting with its own reflection on he 'Wendy Hut' window.

Meanwhile, the sea was pretty good too with a drake Eider offshore again, several Red-throated Divers, the first Arctic and Little Terns and a distant flock of summer plumage Black Terns off the East Hoyle (thanks to news from the mainland) followed by four more affording excellent views off the West Side from the Obs garden.

Dunlin flocks were roosting on the island again at high tide and good numbers of Whimbrel (28) were counted along with a stunning Bar-tailed Godwit (see above).  Other waders seen today included a singe Common Sandpiper and 5 Grey Plovers. 

Ringing: Wheatear, Whitethroat (3), Whinchat, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Wren, Wilow Warbler (70), Wood Warbler [205-24]  photos by AEH, BT and SRW

Saturday 29 April 2017

29th April 2017

Weather: SSE force 1/2  light rain early
Still very cool for this late in the spring but at least we had a south easterly. A few Willow Warblers were grounded as expected, also as many Wrens (slightly less expected). Three overhead flava (yellow type) wagtails were welcome as they were well overdue, but Redstart and all the large warblers have been still refusing to show entirely at Hilbre so far this year, until now that is, when a Lesser Whitethroat was caught for ringing in the SK trap at 14.20 this afternoon (below, KMc).

We hope this scarce warbler for Hilbre which set the seal on a better ringing day than of late is a sign that things have changed for the rest of the spring. Early this morning a very late Whooper Swan flew east over the islands and a Reed Bunting flew south over Middle.
Three Wheatears were on the island but all seemed to avoid ringing (right, JE), 5 Skylarks flew west, a single Redpoll called overhead while 2 Sand Martins tracked south down the west side, with 6 more showing in the afternoon with about a dozen Swallows. Twenty seven Whimbrel were counted today at this peak time of their passage.

Two Peregrines fought in the air above the island for an item of prey, probably a small wader, and later in the afternoon a Merlin was logged. A Harbour Porpoise swam north out of the Dee at 09.40, only 2 hours after low tide. A sea watch around high tide produced a Fulmar (scarce lately) 10 Gannets, 5 Guillemots, 1 Merganser and 300 Sandwich Terns, also the large number of Dunlin were not diminished today  with 6,000 around the island. The slightly warmer weather this afternoon encouraged a large White and a Green-veined White butterfly to take to the air.
Ringing: 5 Willow Warblers, 5 Wrens, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Linnets, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Robin.      [ 125-20 ]    

Friday 28 April 2017

28th April 2017

Weather: E force 0/1 with light rain and veering south to west force 2 later in the morning.

 The highlight of the day was the roost of some 5,500 Dunlin spread right across the top of the island rocks west to east and cutting off lifeboat station access for observers for 3 hours over the tide (above). This was a most unusual but spectacular sight for members and visitors alike.
Earlier 3 Arctic Terns and a Little Gull were noted and during the tide were seen 2 Red-throated Divers, 5 Gannets, 10 Guillemots, 30 Sandwich Terns, 2 Common Scoters, 2 Great Crested Grebes and a Red-breasted Merganser. As the tide flooded a pair of Eider (below) drifted off the east side, while about the island 17 Whimbrel roosted.
In the morning 2 Willow Warblers were around but had left by midday and other migrants included 11 Goldfinches early in the day, a Skylark passing over, a small number of Swallows and 2 House Martins passing through, and a Grey Wagtail setting down for a few moments before being seen off by a Pied Wagtail.
Ringed: Nil     photos  CJ

Thursday 27 April 2017

27th April 2017

Weather: N force 2/3
A sea watch on a light northerly today produced 18 Gannets and 15 Sandwich Terns. Twenty two Turnstone were a good count for this late in the spring, Still present are the 2 Common Scoters, the 2 late Brent and the 2,500 Dunlin that have been about the islands recently.
Ringed: 2 Linnets                    [ 108-19 ]

Wednesday 26 April 2017

26th April 2017

Weather:  N 3/4, vis 30 miles

Numerous small flocks of Dunlin were moving North up the estuary as one observer walked over early this morning, and as the tide pushed them together in the gutter there were estimated to be at least 4,000 birds.

Fifteen Ringed Plover were present and Oystercatchers only numbered 180 but other waders were all in single figures, although 6 Whimbrel was a nice record.

The incoming tide put up 63 Sandwich Terns and 4 Common Terns from the West Hoyle sandbank, also on the sea were 2 Guillemot, 6 Gannet and 5 Common Scoter.

The two Brent Geese still remain and two Little Egret were in the gutter with four Shelduck.

No migrants were expected in the Northerly but a Skylark was heard calling and found feeding on the mound, flying off east after a few minutes.

A single phylloscopus warbler called twice from the obs garden but was not seen.

Monday 24 April 2017

24th April 2017

A strong north westerly wind didn't bode well for migrants and so it proved with just one Wheatear on the west side early morning, a Chiffchaff found early afternoon in the gardens and five Swallows struggling north.

However, the wind did provide a productive sea watch with 70 Gannet (including several sitting on the sea with Cormorants), 40 Sandwich and three Common Tern, four Kittiwake, four Red-throated Diver, three Manx Shearwater (the first this year), three Guillemot, three Great Crested Grebe, one Arctic Skua and one Fulmar.

The two first-winter Brents remain around the islands.  Waders were represented by 1,000 Dunlin, most resplendent in summer plumage, eight Whimbrel but just five Turnstone.

Sunday 23 April 2017

23rd April 2017

Weather: NW 2/3    partly sunny
As yesterday, no small migrants in the trapping area and the focus was on the 2,000 or so Dunlin (above), a few dozen Ringed Plovers, 9 Turnstones and at least 8 Whimbrel moving around the islands and roosting on the exposed rocks at high tide. The 2 remaining Brent were still present, most had departed this past week, also the pair of Scoter were still off the east side.
Four Canada Geese flew west between the islands early on (above) and 2 Redpolls and a Goldfinch were noted flying over the island. A small number of Gannets and Sandwich Terns were on the sea.
Photos CJ

Late evening update: a Glaucous Gull was reported by a visiting birder late afternoon 

Saturday 22 April 2017

22nd April 2017

Weather:  NNW 4, 6/8 cloud, vis 10miles and improving

A blustery start to the day with more north in the wind meant attention today turned to the sea and it did not disappoint with 120 Sandwich Terns and a couple of Common Terns noted with a single Arctic Skua, the first of the year, seen harassing the terns.

At least 50 Gannets were feeding close inshore to the island along with over 2,000 large gulls.

Waders and in particular Dunlin (see above) were also very evident around the rising tide with 2,800 counted along with 50 Ringed Plover and 8 Whimbrel.

Migrant passerines were very thin on the ground but the local breeding birds made the most of the sunshine out of the wind with at least three singing Dunnocks noted during the breeding bird survey (which also noted Meadow Pipits, Rock Pipit, Linnets, Pied Wagtail and Wrens).

The blossom on the blackthorn this year is reminding many of us of the last time a Subalpine Warbler turned up on the island in late April 2006.

Ringing: Linnet [106-19]
Photos AEH

Friday 21 April 2017

21st April 2017

Weather: WNW 3, 8/8 cloud, 10 miles

A fox was seen in the west side garden of Telegraph House early morning and disappeared down the west side - it is perhaps this that has been flushing the gulls at the North End early mornings.

Continuing the mammal theme an adult Short-tailed Field Vole was found with five young.

Waders were very much in evidence today with a steady increase in Dunlin and by the evening tide 4,000 were counted on the gutter edge.

169 Ringed Plover were also noted and 29 Turnstone dropped in on the rocks on the North West corner of the island. 200 Oystercatchers and 22 Redshank.

'Seven Whistlers' (Whimbrel) were also passing through with between 1-3 birds noted at a time and totalling 11.

A single Willow Warbler was around the gardens but stayed clear of the heligolands.

A single Great Crested Grebe spent some time in the gutter below the Obs garden.

Meanwhile the last two Brents (first winters) were still lingering.

As we celebrate 60 years of coverage by Hilbre Bird Observatory our Environmental Officer (and founder member of our group, AAB) took time to look back at some of our old ringing logs with the Records Officer explaining some of the acronyms used.

Photos by AEH and SRW

Thursday 20 April 2017

20th April 2017

Weather:  WNW 3, 8/8 cloud, most around estuary

A few of the regulars made the treck out to the island today despite the wind direction and weather not being conducive for passerine migrant arrivals.
They were greeted with the sound of Whimbrels calling with several flocks and singles passing through (totalling 24).  A single Greylag Goose flew south west.
It was a day to remember the first entry made in the Observatory log on 20th April 1957 (see below).  Therefore we wished ourselves happy birthday for 60 years of the Obs!

The Danish scurvy grass is showing nicely on Middle providing a few photographic opportunities.

Even before the tea could be brewed and the biscuit tin could be opened cries from the balcony of 'Glaucous Gull' went up and observers watched as a first winter Glaucous Gull hung in the wind with other gulls above the North End.

The gulls, waders and Cormorants had been disturbed from around the islands and thoughts swiftly turned to the possibility of a large raptor but unfortunately nothing could be found and attention remained on the monster Glauc which drifted above the west side of the island and flew passing all observers by the Obs gate.

This is the first Glaucous Gull seen from Hilbre since a similar occurrence on 8th April 2014: April is the best time for seeing 'white-wingers' at Hilbre with three of the last four Iceland Gulls also seen during this month.

A Common Sandpiper, the first for the year, was found at the South End and afforded nice views.

Waders were much in evidence with an increase in the Dunlin flocks already with 500 counted.

It was a great few hours on the island despite the weather.

Ringed: Willow Warbler [105-19]
Photos AEH, AS and SRW /Log entry from our Archive BSB

Wednesday 19 April 2017

19th April 2017

Weather:  SSE 2, 8/8 cloud, vis c10 miles

The overcast conditions and shift in the wind worked and a small arrival of Willow Warblers occurred with a dozen counted during the morning with six and a single Chiffchaff caught and ringed.

Some vis mig was observed with small numbers of White Wagtails (7) passing through as well as Goldfinches.

A party of six Teal were noted on the tide edge but numbers of Sandwich Terns had dropped a little with 30 counted but the first Common Terns of the year were recorded.

Ringing: Willow Warbler 6, Chiffchaff, Linnet 2 [104-19]

Tuesday 18 April 2017

18th April 2017

Weather: ENE 1, 0/8 cloud clear and bright

Wheatear by Lookout (Matt Thomas)

The morning started with lovely clear skies ideal for migration commencing and skeins of Pink-footed Geese (540, 42 and  300) left the estuary heading north over or passing the island.  A short video of a smaller skein flying north passing the Obs garden can be viewed by clicking below.

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A Wheatear was present early morning on the reef south of Middle and a further eight birds were noted during the morning including a single Greenland bird caught in one of our potter traps on Wheatear Hill and subsequently ringed.

Matt Thomas (the Wirral BC Ranger for Hilbre Islands LNR) about to release a Greenland Wheatear for us

The clear skies, although conducive to some 'vis mig', did not provide appropriate grounding conditions on the islands with only a couple of Willow Warblers singing from the blackthorn in the trapping areas noted.

At sea Sandwich Terns were very evident not only calling around the islands in the calm sunny weather but also roosting in good numbers on the sandbanks as the early morning tide receded.  275 were counted although no other species of tern were noted.

Hirundines were much in evidence during the morning with a small but steady passage of Swallow (30) and Sand Martins (16) as well as our first House Martin of the spring.  

Ringing: Goldfinch, Linnet and Greenland Wheatear [95-19]

Photos by SRW & @mattthomas966 (female Wheatear)

Monday 17 April 2017

17th April 2017

Weather: ESE force 1/2    rain and drizzle
Miserable weather first thing but it is still worth checking the island in an easterly in April. Bird of the day was probably a Rook flying around and landing on the mast before being seen off by the local Crows. Rooks are truly a scarce Hilbre bird, most likely encountered at this time of year.

 Probably slightly less authentic but just as scarce was a Barnacle Goose flying west with 5 Canada Geese across the island. Four Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff were present, and several Swallows went through, some stopping to feed in the shelter of the west side, while 2 Pied, and a White Wagtail, and 8 Goldfinches also stayed briefly.

Brent are still around, 95 were counted on the whaleback this morning, and although waders are now much reduced in numbers seen today were a Grey Plover, 32 Ringed Plover, 30 Redshank, 35 Dunlin and a single Whimbrel. Four Shelduck were noted and a drake Mallard was by the pond. A look at the sea revealed 10 Gannets, some sitting on the sea and 22 Sandwich Terns.
Ringed: 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Linnets, 1 Wren     [ 92-19 ] Photos, Rook AEH,CJ. Goldfinches AEH