Friday 31 August 2018

31st August 2018

Weather:  SE 2-3, 1/8 cloud, good vis

It was just too clear this morning to produce much but the promising wind direction did produce several first records for the autumn and an interesting mix of species for late August.

The first Chiffchaff of the autumn joined a single Willow Warbler in the Obs garden.  Small numbers of Meadow Pipits moved through and the first Grey Wagtail was noted along with 5 ‘alba’ wagtails.  A single Wheatear was seen along ‘Pete’s Path’ (the west side path) and the much anticipated August Greenshank was heard calling around the gutter at the South End.

The immature Eider was as expected around the ‘whaleback’ and the North End, much less expected was the Mute Swan which flew out the estuary up the west side and landed off the whaleback where it swam for some time before later, presumably the same bird, was seen on the beach west of Little Eye before it flew off south towards the Tanskeys.

A single Raven headed north west before reappearing flying low over the Cox’s and Whitely’s bungalows.

A huge female Sparrowhawk caused some concern when it was seen only briefly by observers in the trapping areas but fortunately it was seen better by another over Middle Eye as it too flew off south.

The highlight of a lovely day at the Obs was the discovery and rescue of a Curled (or Lesser) Octopus found on the tideline by a member and released in tidal rock pools between the islands where it recovered very quickly.  Clearly, these quite remarkable creatures can survive ‘out of water’ for quite some time (as long as they are moist) by using diffusion through their skin.

Once back in saltwater however its gills quickly activated and no doubt its three hearts were pumping away as it changed colour a couple of times before settling on the sandy colour of its background where it blended in - a true master of disguise.

The photo below shows how small the Curled Octopus was with a one penny piece (over-exposed) next to it - a video of the Octopus can be found here:

Ringing:  Robin, Meadow Pipit [480-31]

Thursday 30 August 2018

30th August 2018

Weather:  W 0-1, 3/8 cloud, good vis

Early morning produced a lovely summer plumaged Grey Plover for one observer approaching the islands and there were a few more waders around today including more Curlew.

At last a few migrant passerines appeared with 6 Wheatear noted throughout the day between the main island and on middle.

A single flava (presumably Yellow) Wagtail flew around the islands for quite some time early morning but was not seen to alight at any point before it flew off south ‘tsewing’ away! 

A few more Meadow Pipits and 4 ‘alba’ wagtails were also noted moving overhead and a Kestrel was seen on several occasions and two new Dunnocks and a Robin were caught and ringed.

A single Teal was seen firstly on the East Hoyle sandbank and then briefly pursued by a Peregrine (which soon gave up the zig zag chase) and is perhaps the first signs of arrival of wildfowl into the mouth of the Dee estuary.  The day ended with a typical Hilbre sunset.

Ringing:  Dunnock (2), Robin [478-31]

Photos AS and SRW

Wednesday 29 August 2018

29th August 2018

Weather:SW force 1, light rain
Once again the Bonaparte's Gull was present early also a Mediterranean Gull, but the island was generally quiet. Swallows were here in good numbers again, 85 today but very few other migrants. A single Willow Warbler was about and the first passage Robin of the autumn was ringed, a first year bird.
 also a Meadow Pipit.

The Eider stayed with us again, and the usual waders included 3 Bar-tailed Godwit and 3 Whimbrel, while tern numbers seemed to be down.
Ringed: 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Robin, 2 Linnets       [ 475-31 ]
 photos JE

Tuesday 28 August 2018

28th August 2018

Weather:  SW 1-2, 8/8 cloud, good vis

Overnight the blood red moon was observed and photographed by members staying over on the islands.

Once again the star of the day was the Bonaparte’s Gull showing from the Obs garden on the east side of the gutter before and after the tide.  Again it was joined by an adult winter Mediterranean Gull but slightly decreasing numbers of Black-headed Gulls with only 550 counted today.

The immature drake Eider remained around the islands and is ever increasing in its ‘whiteness’.  Only a single Arctic Skua was noted on the sea watch, a little surprising considering 350 Sandwich Terns were counted.

A few waders were counted but the most noteworthy aspect was the continued lack of Dunlin with only 29 seen today.  Surely they won’t be long arriving?

Other aspects of natural history were recorded by the Obs as always with 450 Grey Seals counted on the West Hoyle sandbank and three Comma butterflies noted (including by one of our next next gen observers who also found a frog!).

Monday 27 August 2018

27th August 2018

Weather:WNW force 4
The wind increased again overnight turning hopes towards another sea watch similar to Saturday. It turned out to be not quite so productive in terms of Bonxie and Black Tern (there were none of either) although good numbers of Manx Shearwater (30), Gannet (60),  Kittiwake (22), and 15 Arctic Skuas chasing the terns was some compensation.
 Also logged were 12 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Guillemots, 2 Fulmars, 200 Common Scoter, a summer plumage Red-throated Diver and 13 Razorbills.

 The many terns included 12 Little Terns seen fishing mostly after the tide.
The Bonaparte's Gull was present briefly early as the tide flooded and again late afternoon on the ebb for 45 minutes. Very few small birds on the island, a single Willow Warbler and about 6 Swallows flying around were noticed, but a Peregrine was over north shore and the Eider floated passed the obs late afternoon after not being seen beforehand. Waders were also scarce apart from the Oystercahers, seen were 150 Dunlin, 12 Curlew, 2 Whimbrel, 22 Redshank and 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, one in summer plumage.

photos AEH

Sunday 26 August 2018

26th August 2018

Weather: S 4, 7/8 cloud, moderate vis

Despite the wind turning to the south overnight, there was no passerine migration noted at all today.

The focus was therefore predominately on gulls, terns and waders.  The Bonaparte’s Gull was still present off the east side on the gutter edge early morning and an adult winter Mediterranean Gull was also seen early morning (before the tide).

The afternoon was beset with heavy rain but observers were not deterred and the ebbing tide tern roost remaines impressive (and could be watched from the relative shelter of the Obs veranda) with 800 Sandwich estimated along with 120 Common, 12 Little and 5 Arctic Terns were noted.

The highlight of the day was two Ruff seen flying over the Obs heading south west.  A scarce sighting but a typical time of year for this species at Hilbre Islands LNR.  A single Peregrine rested on the sandbank opposite the Obs.

Photos AEH and SRW

Saturday 25 August 2018

25th August 2018

Saturday 25th August 2018

Weather: NW 3, 8/8 cloud, good vis
The day started well with the early morning appearance of the Bonaparte’s Gull just on the east side of the gutter on the east of the island. It then flew and landed in the gutter right below the Obs garden where it bathed and preened for a couple of minutes before promptly disappearing and was not seen for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately, the Bonaparte’s was not the pre-cursor to another good seawatch and there were absolutely no skuas for the visiting RSPB group to enjoy. However, there were a couple of lovely Kittiwakes that gave great views as well as a Fulmar that flew right over the North End.
At least 20 Manx Shearwaters were noted but they were all distant today.
A few waders were noted today including Ringed Plovers around the islands over high tide and along the reef before the tide.
 Insects were few but at least two Commas were still present.
 Three Little Egrets were around the island.

The immature drake Eider was still present and a Yellow-legged Gull was found mid afternoon.
photos BT,SRW

Friday 24 August 2018

24th August 2018

Weather: WNW 4-5, 6/8 cloud, squalls
The westerly blow overnight and heavy showers persuaded some observers that it was worth a seawatch today and they were proved right.

The morning started well again with the Bonaparte’s Gull showing in its ‘usual place’ on the east edge of the gutter before the morning tide flooded the gutter and it was lost to view. However, it was refound late afternoon after the tide had receded.
As observers from the mainland travelled over theee Arctic Skuas moved menacingly up the estuary passing Little Eye and up the reef occasionally turning to harass a Sandwich Tern.
The seawatching began from the Obs balcony when two Fulmars glided past the North End - two more were seen during the seawatch.

35 Arctic Skuas were counted for the day (and this included several harassing the terns off the North End for some time) and 4 Bonxies (Great Skuas) powered through including a bird first spotted from the Obs who alerted the seawatching hide allowing observers to watch it fly over the old lifeboat slipway below the hide!

56 Manx Shearwaters were noted along with 490 Common Scoter, 5 Razorbill and 9 Kittiwakes.

Terns were well represented with c1,000 Sandwich again noted, along with 35 Common, 25 Little and the first six Black Terns of the autumn. For a brief video see Including one roosting late afternoon on the East Hoyle sandbank.
Some of the Sandwich Terns were colour ringed.
A couple of Willow Warblers defied the weather (including one bird singing in the Obs garden!) but there was little else of note passerine wise.
Small numbers of waders were noted including 8 Whimbrel, 14 Redshank and 3 Bar-tailed Godwit and the immature drake Eider remained around the islands during the day. 
The day ended with a stunning sky ... a great start to the bank holiday weekend at the Obs.
 photos AS,SRW