Saturday 31 March 2018

31st March 2018

Weather:  N 2-3, 8/8, rain all morning clearing later

A very wet morning cleared in the afternoon but with the wind shifting to the North and later North East it became cold and the last day of the month was very quiet.

The three Eiders (two immature males and a female) were off the Whaleback and small numbers of Pale-bellied Brents and waders were present.  Hardly any passerines were found on the island apart from Meadow Pipits.

Friday 30 March 2018

30th March 2018

Weather: ESE force 2, mist around the estuary after some rain overnight, vis 3 miles

A fairly quiet start in promising conditions slowly improved, especially as a band of cloud came through bringing typical late March birds to the island.  A Chiffchaff  on the main island was joined on the ground by another, plus two on Middle, 2 Goldcrests, a Chaffinch, a Reed Bunting, also a Great Tit, the second this year of this Hilbre scarcity. All these appeared in the space of an hour or so, as did a flock of 8 Woodpigeons, 2 Starlings and 2 Magpies, while a more steady during the day included 3 Goldfinches, 15 Pied and 3 White Wagtails and up to a hundred Meadow Pipits but no Wheatears.

The sea was busier than of late featuring 15 Red-throated Divers, 20 Great Crested Grebes, 4 Red-breasted Merganser, 30 Guillemots and 5 Razorbill, and best of all, the first Sandwich Tern of the year (found by visiting birder Ian Coote), also the second Gannet of the year.

A total of 4 harbour Porpoises showed off the west side in nice calm sea conditions, we have been honoured with quite a few sightings so far this year.  Always difficult to photograph but this is handheld iPhone scoped.

The Brent are still here in big numbers although only 3 Eider seem to remain with us.

Two Purple Sandpipers roosted the tide on the west cliff, 8 Bar-tailed Godwits fed on the north shore and 2 Grey Plovers unusually sat on top of the west side.

Photos by CJ (Grey Plovers) and SRW (others)

Ringed: 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, 1 Meadow Pipit [51-12]

Thursday 29 March 2018

29th March 2018

Weather: SE 2, 4/8 cloud, mod vis, a few rain drops; backing E 2-3 later, good vis before rain in the evening

The day started with much promise with the wind direction and overhead conditions near perfect and a few spots of rain promised to down some migrants.  Observers were not disappointed with the sound of a Goldcrest at the South End of Middle as they approached the islands just before dawn.  Another one or two Goldcrests were calling in the Obs garden early on too but these soon passed through.

A single Chiffchaff was found in the 'heli' trap and was the first to be ringed this year.

As the tide flooded a stunning male Wheatear was found between the light and 'Wheatear wall' but it only hung around the area for 15 minutes or so before heading off south down the island and was not seen again.

A few Meadow Pipits flew in off the sea and single Siskin was heard passing over during a sea-watch which produced 4 Little Gulls and a single Red-throated Diver.  Later a red-head Goosander was noted flying east.  A pair of Eider (adult male and female) were off the North End at lunchtime (three immatures were seen earlier) and the Pale-bellied Brent Geese flock numbered an impressive 199 on the whaleback late afternoon and included two colour-ringed birds.

Late morning a Magpie appeared on the bungalow roof before moving to the chimney of Telegraph House and then flying off high north having first headed south! This is the first record of this species this year but is bang on time, as late March/early April is the prime time for pica pica at Hilbre.

Ringing:  Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Dunnock [46-12]

Wednesday 28 March 2018

28th March 2018

Weather:  WNW 2-3, 7/8 cloud, moderate visibility, showers

Observers were not optimistic considering the weather forecast and attention soon turned to the sea with the first 7 Razorbills of the spring recorded along with an adult Kittiwake, a single Red-throated Diver and 8 Red-breasted Mergansers.

Two Canada Geese took up temporary residence on Middle Eye - a regularly occurring species at this time of year but a rare sight ‘down’ on the islands.

The semi-resident 6 Eiders we’re temporarily joined by an adult pair just off Middle Eye over the tide.

Mid morning a Wheatear was discovered at the North End and provided observers with good views between rain showers for the remainder of the day including by the light and on 'Wheatear wall'.

Photos:  Canada Geese by SRW, Wheatears by @mattthomas966

Tuesday 27 March 2018

27th March 2018

Weather:SE  3  poor visibility

Observers arrived on the island in drizzle which soon turned into heavy rain, but the day brightened when the first Wheatear of spring for the island was found on the west side by the light. We have waited so long for the first Wheatear this March there are no apologies for multiple photos of the bird.

Meadow Pipits were moving with 45 noted, over half of them on the smaller two islands, 10 pied wagtail passed overhead but two more were exploring the buildings.
A single chiffchaff was heard and then found in the heli garden.
Also logged were 2 Goldcrest, 12 Linnet, 3 Robin and a female Blackbird.
At least 150 Brent Geese were present along with the 6 Eider, 3 Shelduck were on the east side and a fourth was seen flying west as observers left the islands. To the west a male Goosander was spotted flying towards Point of Ayr and 2 Gannet (first of the year) were feeding in the Swash. As the tide ebbed 345 Curlew were counted around Little Eye.
A Merlin was seen briefly at the North End, flying along the west cliff.
Ringed: 2 Goldcrest, 3 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Linnet, 1 Wren     [ 43-10 ]
 photos AS & AEH

Monday 26 March 2018

26th March 2018

Weather:  SSE force 1  sunny and fairly warm
A lovely day on the islands with top coats shed for the first time this year as many typical March birds arrived. Very much the highlight of the morning was a fly past of 14 Whooper Swans trumpeting their way out of the estuary towards the north west, always an inspiring sight and sound.
Other wildfowl today included 4 Greylag Geese, 2 Canada Geese (below), 5 Eider, 14 Red-breasted Merganser (mostly towards the west hoyle bank), and of course the Brent Geese which this afternoon were counted at 159.
High over and calling were 3 Jackdaws, and a Raven. Down about the island for a while was a Woodpigeon, some of the 10 Goldfinches and a House Sparrow that circled around a few times then departed the obs garden and eventually off to the south.

Two Siskins and 12 Pied Wagtails were among other small passerines noted, also some of the 45 Meadow Pipits seen would be passing through. Linnets are now on territory in various places on the island.

Little Gulls featured again on the sea, 24 today, most being off to the north west and distant, while 20 Great Crested Grebes and 200 or so Common Scoter were the only other reward for sea watching. A flock of 1,500 Knot flew about the north shore but other wader sightings were unexceptionable. A Little Egret arriving in the east gutter usually causes little excitement these days, but the one today was the first since the very cold weather, maybe the sun encouraged it out here to feed.
 Ringed: 2 Linnets       [ 34-9 ]
 photos SRW & CJ & AS

Sunday 25 March 2018

25th March 2018

Weather: W force 1, cool but sunny  vis 20 miles

Not a bad day for a westerly at this time of year bringing some typical spring Hilbre 'migrants' our way, but still no sign of a Wheatear! A Goldcrest was heard calling in the obs garden early and later 2 others were in the paddock, one of which turned out to be a bird from yesterday. Passing through were 15 Pied and 1 White Wagtail and a Starling, while larger species 'over' included 2 Jackdaws, a Woodpigeon and a Stock Dove. A Raven settled on Middle for a while and then flew off to the west.

There were more Linnets in breeding mode present than since the beginning of this year, many were singing and one became the first to be ringed.

A Guillemot was noted on the sea (unusually the first seen for a little while), also 3 Red-throated Divers and 200 or so Scoters, while off to the north 18 Little Gulls were scoped typically feeding far out as normal. The 'resident' 6 Eider are still here around the islands. Mid-morning a Peregrine flew west across the island and photographs show it may have been carrying a rat (presumably picked up from the mainland)!

Ringed Plover
 Ringed: 1 Linnet         [ 32-9 ]
photos AEH

Saturday 24 March 2018

24th March 2018

Weather: N force 1,  showers

A fairly quiet morning with several finches logged including 10 Goldfinches, 1 Greenfinch, also 10 Pied Wagtails, a few migrant Meadow Pipits and a Skylark, then during the morning 2 Goldcrests dropped in and were both ringed.

A female Scaup flew pssed the North End while other wildfowl noted were the 6 Eider (2 immature males and 4 females) around the islands and then 6 birds (3 adult drakes and 3 females) flew passed the North End over the high tide seen by a visiting birder, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers by the West Hoyle sandbank and 2 Greylag Geese flying west between the islands.

Four Purple Sandpipers headlined the waders at high tide, with 11 Bar-tailed Godwits and 12 Sanderling while 12 Great Crested Grebes were counted on the sea.

Ringed: 2 Goldcrests          [ 31-8 ]

Friday 23 March 2018

23rd March 2018

Weather: SW  4 with good visibility and 6 degrees
A quiet day with 137 Brent Geese on the Whaleback including three colour ringed birds, two immature male and four female Eider........

..and a single male Wigeon off the North End plus 5 Great Crested Grebe.
Waders included 2 Ringed Plover below the obs, 74 Curlew, 32 Bar Tailed Godwit, 100 Turnstone, 3 Purple Sandpiper and 76 Sanderling.
As well as the usual passerines there were two Dunnock singing and 6 Linnets present.
photos AS

Thursday 22 March 2018

22nd March 2018

Weather:  South 1 (backing West and increasing later), 8/8 cloud, moderate visibility

The weather was a surprise to observers first thing with very light southerly wind increasing anticipation but generally failing to deliver!  Attention soon turned away from land migrants and a nice pair of Shoveler were found on the calm sea off the East Hoyle sandbank with the Common Scoter flock (numbering 166) feeding and displaying in the area.

13 Red-breasted Mergansers were found off the West Hoyle with two more the gutter at high tide and later four Wigeon were found from the Obs balcony again on the flooding tide.

A single Jackdaw was heard calling as it flew over the recording area near Little Eye and later our first two Ravens (presumably a pair) of the month were heard and then seen as they did a tour of the main island before heading south to Middle.  March is a very good month these days for a species that was once a rarity at Hilbre.  Adding to Rook yesterday and Jackdaw on both days these are typical March records of corvids on the island.

The six Eider remained around the islands and a pair (including an adult male) passed the North End during the afternoon.

There were large numbers of waders again including several large flocks of Knot that flew low over observers which made for a stunning sight and sound as the 'swoosh' of their wing beats could be heard.  Over 10,000 Knot were estimated with good numbers of both Grey Plover (minimum 350) and Bar-tailed Godwit (238).

Wednesday 21 March 2018

21st March 2018

Weather:  WSW 2 (backing WNW and increasing later), 1/8 cloud increasing 8/8 by 1pm.  Good visibility.

The day began well with some overhead movement including a few Goldfinches (8) and 2 Jackdaw, later a Rook flew overt the south end, a scarce bird at Hilbre but March is an excellent month for corvid species on the islands.

Another Stonechat was found early on in the SK paddock but soon disappeared but was found late afternoon on Middle Island.

Once again the rising tide produced excellent numbers of waders and included in the 7,500 Knot were several colour-flagged birds below the Obs garden including the Icelandic ringed Knot first seen yesterday on the Whaleback and two new UK-ringed birds.  Meanwhile a Peregrine was about the main island in the morning before roosting up on Little Eye for the afternoon keeping and eye on the vast flocks of waders feeding in the area during the ebbing tide.

Nine Little Gulls were seen before the tide out off the West Hoyle, a typical location and date for this species at Hilbre we hope to see increasing numbers in the next couple of weeks.

Five Eider were present in the morning increasing to six birds later and these were temporarily joined in the ebbing gutter by a pair of Gadwall - a scarce, but possibly increasing, species at Hilbre.  This is the sixteenth record since the foundation of the Bird Observatory in 1957 but the fourth since 2015.

The Brents were in reasonable numbers around the island but separate groups made accurate counting difficult but it was nice to see the Canadian ringed bird still present.

Song Thrush and Rock Pipit were the highlight of the other passerines present on the island although it was nice to see and hear some of the Linnets back on the island during the morning sun.