Sunday 31 March 2019

31st March 2019

Weather: ENE force 3
Three male Wheatears landed this morning in what was otherwise a quiet day.

Birds of passage were 5 Pied Wagtails, 3 Goldfinches plus larger species that are regular at this time in spring, namely a Woodpigeon and a Canada Goose.
The sea fared somewhat better with 6 summer plumage Red-throated Divers, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers and 12 Great Crested Grebes. Two Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were on the shore.

One hundred and twenty eight Brent were located, more than yesterday but still well down on a few days ago; other wildfowl about are 3 Eiders and 3 Mallards.
Ringed: 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Wren.       [ 46-9 ]
photos KMc

Saturday 30 March 2019

30th March 2019

Weather: SW force 3, mist
The first Sand Martin of the spring arrived this morning, a little later than is the norm. A small scatter of other migrants included 3 Goldcrests, 5 Goldfinches and 2 Chiffchaffs.
 Five Wheatears were also on the ground.
A Fieldfare was found on Middle Eye.
On the sea the usual Little Gull spring gathering started today with 25 seen off the west side of the island. Other seabirds were 9 Red-breasted Mergansers and 18 Great Crested Grebes, while only a single Purple Sandpiper now seems to remain. Wader counts included 86 Curlew, 68 Redshank and 33 Turnstone. The best count today of Brent was 93, and unless they are being very elusive possibly half the flock have departed in the last 2 days. Three Eider including the male still stay about here.
A Merlin showed again, it is difficult to know many individuals are involved with the recent sightings.
Ringing: 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Wrens, 1 Meadow Pipit.     [ 44-9 ]
photos AEH

Friday 29 March 2019

29th March 2019

Weather:  SE 0, mist (fog at 8am clearing), then NE 2 (sunny)

Strange weather of a cold and clear dawn becoming sunny followed by thick fog for an hour and then a change of wind with bright sunshine made for uncertain expectations.

The day as a whole turned out to be a very pleasant early spring day on the island. There were about 10 Goldcrests down in the paddocks, also a Reed Bunting and a single Chiffchaff. Good visible migration this morning included about 150 Meadow Pipits, 15 Goldfinches, a Chaffinch (both below), 4 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Siskins and notably two Brambling which are scarce at Hilbre in spring.

A Merlin was on the main island, 2 Woodpigeons flew through, while special spring birds today were a Rook and a Golden Plover, both flying over, the Golden Plover called continuously.

The Rook (scarce at Hilbre) arrived with a Jackdaw and later a flock of 19 Jackdaws flew very high across the island.  

There were two possible missed opportunities this morning: firstly a bunting was heard briefly with a Lapland Bunting type call but could not be seen or located, secondly gulls, waders and geese were all spooked at the north west end of the island but the probable large high flying raptor could not be found... we await the first Osprey of the Spring.

Brent were totalled at 209 pale and 2 dark bellied, but most interesting sightings was of a flock of 10 flying north passed the island and continuing out over the sea until vanishing in the far distance. They are probably making their way off to the breeding grounds in Canada.

Little Egrets returned to form with a group of 6 feeding with the 82 Redshank in the gutter on the ebb tide.

A pair of Teal was on the north shore tide edge at midday, while two female and a male Eider are still about.

Ringing: Goldcrest (4), Chiffchaff, Wren [39-9]
Photos CJ and SRW

Thursday 28 March 2019

28th March 2019

 Weather:  SE 0-1, 7/8 cloud, good vis

A few small migrants arrived this morning including 6 Reed Buntings, 5 Goldcrests, 4 Goldfinches, 5 Pied Wagtails, 2 White Wagtails, a Redpoll, Chaffinch, Blackbird, but no Chiffchaffs nor the first hirundines of the year. Many of the 50 Meadow Pipits recorded today will not be resident breeding birds and there seemed to be more Linnets about than normal.
Larger spring visitors to Hilbre were a total of 38 Canada Geese, most settling on the sea, also a Greylag and 9 Woodpigeons. Birds of prey appeared to entertain us, firstly a male Merlin was briefly sighted over the island, followed by a Peregrine over the sea and a Sparrowhawk (the first in March) flying over the island then off to the west.
Waders were scarce at the low tide although 400 Knot were seen, some of which rested at the north end and 93 Redshank were in the gutter. Not many of the Brent seemed to have departed yet, 211 pale and 2 dark bellied were counted, while 2 male and 2 female Eider are still here, 8 Shelduck were seen in flight and 3 Mallard were about. Two Mergansers and 2 Great Crested Grebes were the only significant seabirds. Two Little Egrets and a Grey Heron just about completed the main list of birds logged.
A new Linnet that was ringed together with a re-trap illustrated nicely the difference in tail feather shape of the first year (top) and an older individual.

Two butterflies flew in the sunshine, a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Ringing:  Goldcrest, Linnet, Meadow Pipit [33-9]
photos SRW

Wednesday 27 March 2019

27th March 2019

Weather: NNW 2-3, 8/8 cloud, good vis

A single Reed Bunting was first heard then seen in the Obs garden before later the same or another bird appeared in the trapping area.

The day started with a fresh cool northerly airflow and a large flock of Brent Geese were sat sleeping at the North End.  As the tide flooded they awoke and began to feed - it was almost like they were getting themselves ready for departing on their mammoth journey to Canada probably via stopovers in Northern Ireland and Iceland...

The Canadian-ringed Brent (HDRB) was present (see above), continuing the theme of the week, as were at least two other colour-ringed birds with a total of 196 Pale-bellied birds.  Interestingly, the whole flock included four Dark-bellied birds today consisting of three adults and a first winter (these birds being from Siberia) however these birds did not closely associate with each other.

A Merlin was first seen heading off the main island before sitting a while on the North End of Middle - this is a very good time of year for Merlin at Hilbre, coinciding with pipit movements and a new Meadow Pipit was trapped along with a returning bird.  Six Pied and a single Grey Wagtail were noted during the day as was a single Goldcrest in the blackthorn.

The weather improved during the day and by high tide it was bright blue skies but there was no sign of the colour-flagged Turnstone from yesterday...perhaps it has moved on further north on its return migration to Canada?  A single Purple Sandpiper remained with a small number of Turnstones around the North End rocks and two pairs of Eider appeared on the flooding tide.

A skulking Song Thrush appeared flying across Niffy Bay - where has it been hiding?  Or perhaps it is a new bird migrating.  It was a fine end to the day and with the wind dropping we are intrigued, as always, as to what tomorrow might bring...

Ringing: Meadow Pipit [30-9]

Colour flagged Turnstone from Canada

News came through during Tuesday evening of a colour-flagged Turnstone seen and photographed by visiting birder Stephen Simpson (see below) over the high tide on Tuesday 26th March 2019.

Fortunately, Stephen sent his photos to Richard Smith (of who forwarded them to us and onto Richard Du Feu (@RichardduFeu).  It was quickly realised that this bird could be Canadian and emails were sent and the following morning (27th) details were already circulated.

Incredibly this  bird has been ringed and flagged at Alert, Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada by François Vézina’s team (Université du Québec à Rimouski) on 31st May 2018.

Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place on the planet! (According to Wikipedia).

Obviously, everyone involved is very excited about this sighting. 

It seems very likely that this bird was just moving through Hilbre on its return passage north (having not been seen prior to yesterday and with very low numbers of Turnstone currently on the islands).  It will be interesting to see if it is seen again before it moves on.

We have had sightings of our own colour-ringed Turnstones seen in Iceland before and one of our own ringed birds caught there in May (presumably on passage).  We have also had one of our own Purple Sandpipers found in Greenland (but that was back in 1964!).

Many thanks to Stephen for his fantastic sighting and photographs, to Richard Smith for forwarding them on, to Richard Du Feu for obtaining the details so quickly and of course to François (and his team) for colour-flagging this bird and replying and providing details so quickly.

We are all wondering where '5TA' has been between being ringed in Canada on 31st May 2018 and being seen at Hilbre on 26th March 2019 and where it may turn up next ...

Tuesday 26 March 2019

26th March 2019

A brisk NW wind was blowing across the island this morning but despite this a new Goldcrest was caught and ringed along with a re-trap from yesterday. Although there weren’t many grounded migrants overhead finch passage continues with 33 Goldfinches, 2 Greenfinches and a solitary Siskin being logged. Linnet numbers are increasing with 18 being recorded. 

For the 2nd day running a Reed Bunting passed over the island. 7 Pied Wagtails were logged including 2 males that dropped in briefly at the north end. 

157 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were counted along with the solitary juvenile dark bellied individual.
 A separate count of rents on WKML by an obs member resulted in a further 29 pale bellied  and a single adult dark bellied bird. Wader numbers were generally low as the tide was at its lowest point around 09.00 but two Purple Sandpipers were picked out at the north end along 23 Turnstone. Oystercatcher numbers are reducing with only 800 birds being recorded. Small parties of Bar-Tailed Godwit (17) and Knot (38) were seen leaving the estuary and flying high north. The sea was very quiet with a single male Common Scoter, a single Great-crested Grebe and a female’s Eider being seen.  
Dunnocks and Meadpow Pipits are among the birds breeding on the island at present.

Mammals were represented by a single Short-tailed Field Vole and the haul out of Grey Seals numbered 86.

Ringed: 1 Goldcrest, (Re-trapped Goldcrest, Robin and Dunnock)   [29-9]

 photos PSW

Monday 25 March 2019

25th March 2019

Weather:  NNW force 5   sunny
Not many seals hauled out but they looked comfortable enough in the sun.
The wind was strong enough, presumably over night as well as this morning, to have stopped any real migration. There were no groups of birds moving through, although there was a Wheatear and a Goldcrest.
However some typical spring birds did turn up as the morning moved on. There was a House Sparrow,
 .............also a Reed Bunting and 2 Magpies.
 Brent were counted at 185 and there were 5 Eiders present.
 Sixty Sanderling were noted amongst the few waders around, also 53 Turnstone and single Dunlin.

Somebody’s prize white dove/pigeon, turned up. We presume it will get home on its own.
 On our last go round the traps we ringed a Robin.

Ringed 1 Goldcrest, 1 Robin    [28-9] 
photos JE,AS