Wednesday 28 February 2018

28th February 2018

Weather:  NE 4, vis  35 mls, minus 4.5 degrees (without the windchill factor!), becoming E  5-6 with snow later

The coverage of the island during February 2018 by Obs members has been the most by the Obs since we started the blog (in 2008) and is possibly the best covered February ever (certainly since 1985).  This coverage has resulted in some great recording and today was no different despite the rather mixed weather conditions!

A very cold day on Hilbre with the temperature not rising above freezing all day, the first sign of cold weather movement were 39 Lapwing flying into the estuary in four small groups and going between the islands; three of the groups during horizontal snow in the afternoon.

Lapwings heading up the estuary after coming in off the Irish Sea
Many waders were on the shore between West Kirby and Little Eye after the tide, including 350 Grey Plover, 800 Knot, 1,500 Dunlin and 70 Sanderling. Other waders noted were 3,200 Oystercatcher over the tide, 4 Golden Plover flew west  over the island by the lookout,  2 Purple Sandpiper, 9 Ringed Plover, 2 Bar Tailed Godwit and 80 Turnstone.

Grey Plover - abundant species around the islands recently (350 counted today on the ebbing tide)
A pair of Red-breasted Merganser flew down the Swash then passed the North End, 11 Great Crested Grebe and 137 Common Scoter were on the sea and 27 Shelduck were south of Middle Eye.  Over 200 Brent Geese were present around the islands and a single Grey Heron was seen, also a Little Egret over by the West Kirby saltmarsh.

Pale-bellied Brent Geese (a pair at the North End)
Apart from 3 Wrens all the passerines noted were singles, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit.

Rock Pipit in the snow

An adult male Peregrine was seen to drop into the SK trapping area, but was unsuccessful.

Hilbre and Middle from Little Eye

Snow Storm approaching from Wirral


Huge icicle Middle Eye (see 50p piece for size comparison - icicle c1m long)  

Tuesday 27 February 2018

27th February 2018

Weather:  WNW 3-4, backing ESE 2-3, 8/8 cloud and snow

The islands had a rare covering of snow at first light as did the shore which was a wonderful sight as the tide flooded.  The dusting of snow allowed extensive evidence of the fox to be found and its prints could be found all around the main island. 

The six Eider remained around the islands as did 130 Common Scoter in small flocks off the North End along with 6 Great Crested Grebes.

As the tide receded it left frozen sea leaving incredible shapes but also thousands of waders around the tide edge including 4,500 Dunlin, 3,500 Knot, 950 Sanderling and over 500 Curlew.  No doubt the wader numbers encouraged two Peregrines to be in the area including an immature female and an adult male.

Knot (including orange flagged bird - see below) feeding in front of snow covered Little Eye (SRW)

As the day progressed the dark grey snow clouds were replaced by blue sky until further snow arrived later.

A few passerines braved the snow but the only 'migrant' was the first Siskin of the 'spring' which alighted briefly in the Obs garden before heading off south.

Meanwhile, on nearby West Kirby Marine Lake a pair of Goosanders were present early morning including a fine drake and later 10 Pale-bellied Brents were present there.

Photos AS and SRW

Monday 26 February 2018

26th February 2018

Weather:  ESE 2-3, 3/8 cloud, good vis (light snow late morning)

It felt decidedly wintry today both weather wise and bird wise.

Around 200 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were noted around the islands with two colour-ringed birds recorded, a single orange-flagged Knot (ringed at Altcar, Lancashire) was present at the North End along with the 'pale' bird.  Small numbers of other waders were noted including only two Purple Sandpipers but with small numbers of Grey Plover and Sanderling on the tide edge.

The six Eider were still present and a single Peregrine was noted drifting south over the main island and middle.  Mid morning the first light sprinkling of snow appeared.

Photos by SRW

Sunday 25 February 2018

25th February 2018

Weather: E  3 increasing to 4 later, vis 4 mls with some mist, temp -1 degree c

When a faint Sparrow like call was heard from the obs balcony, more Tree Sparrows were hoped for, but instead 3 House Sparrows were found around the old obs area. After they left, (flying south) a fourth bird was found in the old obs garden.
A Reed Bunting flew over and a flock of 63 Starlings flew from west to east over an observer arriving on the island just after tide, with 6 more going over as singles during the morning. A single Goldfinch was in the Pittosporum briefly and a Greenfinch was seen to land on the obs fence. Other passerines were 3 Robin, 2 Linnet, 2 Meadow Pipit, a Dunnock, Song Thrush and female Blackbird.
Only 120 Brent Geese were at the North End with the 6 Eider, 98 Common Scoter were counted with
4 close in.
Seven Shelduck flew up the Swash, a group of 3, then 4.
Not many waders were evident but there were 3 Purple Sandpiper, 3 Bar Tailed Godwit, 28 Grey Plover, 12 Knot and 50 Dunlin. Four Sanderling flew low over the island.
A Peregrine flew between Middle and Hilbre.
A Grey Seal was hauled out on the east side of the lagoon and a fox was seen to go over the east wall in Telegraph House garden, too quick for a photo ! 
photos AS

Saturday 24 February 2018

24th February 2018

Weather:  SE force 3, vis 5 miles. freezing point

Another day of different passerines was hoped for, just like the last two days on the island. There was a Starling lurking in the obs garden, however the wind was a bit stronger than the last two days and the only other passerines were a Wren, a Robin, two Carrion Crows and a Song Thrush. A very quiet morning. The 140 Brents counted were sheltering from the SE wind all along the West side of the island. There were also 3 Wigeon, 10 Great Crested Grebes, a Common Scoter and 6 Eider, the one below seems to be a moulting first year male.
It was a nice enough day, the sun was out and it did not feel as cold as the thermometer showed. There were a reasonable selection of waders one of which was the yellow and green Turnstone first ringed here about 10 years ago.

photos JE

Friday 23 February 2018

23rd February 2018

Weather: SE   2/3 increasing to 3/4   vis 2mls and temperature of   - 2

The first trip of the day to the North End had a Tree Sparrow fly over and up the island, it was later located in the Heli garden where it was just visible for long enough to take a couple of poor photos, it then dropped further into a bramble patch and was not relocated again. Tree Sparrow is a very scarce less than annual visitor to the island.

Also on the island were a Greenfinch, 2 Dunnock,  a Song Thrush, 2 Meadow Pipit and a Rock Pipit.
Six Eider are still present and 76 Common Scoter were on the sea, Brent Geese numbered 242 with 3 colour ringed birds noted.
Among the waders were 46 Grey Plover, 1 Ringed Plover, 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, 90 Dunlin, 50 Knot and a Purple Sandpiper.
photos AS

Thursday 22 February 2018

22nd February 2018

Weather: ESE  force 2, increasing 3/4 later  vis 6 miles
A very quiet start to the morning was brought to life later with the finding of 2 species of Tit on the island. A Long-tailed Tit arrived in the SK paddock just before noon and was caught for ringing and just as it was being released from the obs balcony a Great Tit was seen in the trees in the corner of the garden. It also was subsequently caught in the Newton trap. Any species of Tit is a scarce bird for Hilbre, sometimes neither of these are seen in a year, so both in one day in the midst of winter is quite exceptional.
Prior to that event the main interest were the several flocks of Pink-footed Geese flying north in the first hour after dawn, counts were 200, 100, 105, 155 and 250.
Skylarks were not seen passing overhead this morning but 2 were flushed from the bracken at the south end, and 2 Starlings paid a visit, briefly dropping in on the shore at the north end with the Brent (252 today, including 3 colour ringed).
Neither Blackbird nor the wintering Song Thrush could be found, but there was a suspicious looking heap of brown feathers by the mast. The 6 Eiders are still here with a good variety of waders about the shore, but no Purple Sandpipers at that stage of low tide. The calm sea produced nothing but 89 Common Scoter and 3 Great Crested Grebes. No Little Egrets this morning but a Grey Heron stayed about the island.
Eight Meadow Pipits were back looking about although the 3 Linnets logged flew high and seemed not to want to stay.
Ringed: 1 Long Tailed Tit, 1 Great Tit           [ 7-5 ]
photos CJ & AS

Wednesday 21 February 2018

21st February 2018

Weather: ENE   0/1  vis 10 mls

Three small flocks of Pink-footed Geese totalling 124 left the estuary early this morning (below) and the Brent Geese were counted at 245 including a colour ringed bird.
The 6 Eider were at the North End, 4 Shelduck flew up the estuary over the tide and 395 Common Scoter were on the sea along with 9 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Red Throated Diver (below).
Before the tide 12 Bar Tailed Godwit were on the East Hoyle along with 170 Grey Plover with a small number at the North End, along with a few Dunlin and Knot. After the tide c. 14,500 Knot and 3,500 Dunlin were on the sands between West Kirby and Hilbre, seven Purple Sandpiper roosted over tide.
There were some returning breeding birds present on the island with 14 Meadow Pipits (one displaying over the top paddock) and a Dunnock (singing in the SK paddock),
One each of Blackbird and Song Thrush were seen, 2 Pied Wagtails went over, 3 Linnets and a Rock Pipit were also present.
A Peregrine was on the sand east of Middle in the morning and seen to land on the top of Middle (west side) after putting the roost up over tide. A single Raven flew over the North End mid morning going towards Hoylake, and 2 Grey Heron were south of Middle after the tide.
Two Harbour Porpoise were seen in the Swash in perfectly calm conditions, there have been a good number of sightings this winter.
photos AS

Sunday 18 February 2018

18th February 2018

Weather SE force 2, vis 5 miles mist around the coast
The weather stayed relatively calm for a pre-tide visit this morning and unlike yesterday waders were in small numbers, even as the big tide approached mid-morning. Some of the Brent were on the whaleback including 2 colour ringed birds, the Red/Blue HDRB which first appeared here in December 2008 after being ringed in Canada the previous summer, and the Blue/Blue XJ/BB individual ringed in Iceland last year.

Other ringed birds were 2 colour flagged Knot from the recent Altcar ringing catch which were feeding with 46 others and 10 Dunlin at the north end.
The poor showing of waders at low tide included a single Purple Sandpiper, 5 Grey Plover and 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, while a majority of the Oystercatchers rested to the west of Middle.
The Eiders have been averaging between 5 and 6 birds now for a while but today there were 7 present.
A Reed Bunting flew over the obs, as did a Siskin while 9 Skylarks were logged including singles down on the south end of the main island, and on Middle.
Regular passerines present included a Pied Wagtail, 5 Meadow Pipits, 2 Robins and 4 Wrens.
On the sea 3 Red-breasted Mergansers flew over the west hoyle and 3 Great Crested Grebes and 20 Common Scoters were off the north end.

Ringed: 1 Robin.      [ 5-3 ]
photos CJ