Saturday 31 August 2019

31st August 2019

Weather:  SSW 5-6, 8/8 cloud, good vis

With the weather being the way it was, hardly surprising that this was a very quiet day on the island.

The most noteworthy records being four Gannets, four Little Egrets, a few waders including 8 Bar-tailed Godwit and 55 Turnstone but hardly any passerines.

Friday 30 August 2019

30th August 2019

Weather: SW 3-4, 8/8 cloud, moderate visibility

Fresh evidence of fox was found at the South End (i.e. footprints) - which is a shame as we thought we'd seen that last of the fox; beautiful animals but on our tiny island they decimate the resident bird and mammal populations.

A single Wheatear was noted but there were hardly any other migrants today.  A day spent by one member and a volunteer cleaning up the mess left by disastrous structural works which had by now washed into the tide gauge and surrounding the north end.

One advantage of spending a lot of time at the North End was the re-sighting of presumably the same Black Guillemot seen twice off the North End over the tide.

Meanwhile a dor (or dung) beetle was an interesting find.

Ringing: Robin [633-30]

Thursday 29 August 2019

29th August 2019

Weather: SW 3, 7/8 cloud, moderate visibility

A quiet day on the islands but a single Goldcrest was caught and ringed which is always nice in late August, whereas a single Willow Warbler was more usual.  A couple of Wheatears added to the rather meagre migrant list.

Terns were still well represented with 250 Sandwich and 35 Common and a couple of Arctic Skuas kept them on their toes.

Ringing: Goldcrest, Willow Warbler  [632-30]

Wednesday 28 August 2019

28th August 2019

Weather: SSE 2 backing W 3, 7/8 cloud, good vis

What started as another quiet day with hardly any migrants improved during the tide with the sighting of a winter plumaged Black Guillemot seen off the east side as it flew into the bay before ditching and diving, when it was lost to view.

A scarce bird at Hilbre but August-October are particularly good months for this species here and we are hopeful it will get seen again.

The Magpie was seen a couple of times briefly around the islands and heard calling.   A single Teal and then a flock of six birds were noted and a good sign of the autumn wildfowl starting to arrive back into the estuary mouth.

Tuesday 27 August 2019

27th August 2019

Weather:  NW 1, 2/8 cloud, poor vis with mist around the estuary at dawn

Despite the 'wrong' wind direction the light mist produced a nice small fall on the island involving 8 Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff and an early male Goldcrest (which was caught and ringed).  A single Wheatear graced the island but there were few other migrant passerines,

The Magpie was noted as was a Greenshank - a typical late August record.

Three Arctic Skuas were noteworthy on the seawatch.

Ringing:  Robin, Willow Warbler (3), Chiffchaff, Goldcrest [630-30]

Monday 26 August 2019

26th August 2019

Weather: SSE 0-1, 8/8 cloud, low vis with mist reducing visibility to 3 miles

A lovely late August morning produced a small fall of Willow Warblers (10 birds present) along with a single Goldcrest and 2 Wheatear down on the island.

The highlight of the day was a Spotted Flycatcher which was noted first in the Old Obs garden, then briefly around the 'construction site' before moving to the Heli where it was trapped and taken back to the Obs to be ringed.

A flava Wagtail called and was seen heading over the island off south and the Magpie was recorded again.

With no public visitors to the island (because of it being shut following the fire) 30 Cormorants had taken to roosting at the North End undisturbed by day trippers.

It was the quietest August bank holiday ever on the main island with it being shut to the public.

Ringing:  Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler (3), Meadow Pipit [624-30]

Sunday 25 August 2019

25th August 2019

Weather:  ESE force 1, slight mist then sunny and warm, wind veering north with heavy sea mist in the afternoon.

A small drift of migrants arrived this morning, chief amongst which was a Spotted Flycatcher around the gardens for a while and a Whinchat which quickly disappeared. A dozen Willow Warblers feeding was the best number for a while.  Three Reed Buntings were noted also a couple of Wheatears, while the Whitethroat that has been here for some time was retrapped. An immature Sparrowhawk was flushed from the wall behind the lookout and was seen a few times in the next hour, the Kestrel was also present. An unusual sight was a flock of 10 Grey Herons flying west, although the 7 Little Egrets is now normal for this time of year.
The tern flock still is numbered in the hundreds, more than 4 out of 5 of them being Sandwich Terns. The lovely weather brought out a massive number of butterflies, many attracted to the Apple Mint where clouds of Painted Ladies, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals made a spectacular sight in such close proximity.
  Also an Emperor Dragonfly and a Wheatear were noted.

Ringed: 5 Willow Warblers [ 619-30 ] Photos SRW,AS

Saturday 24 August 2019

24th August 2019

Weather: SE 2-3, 2/8 cloud, low with slight mist around the estuary

A nice morning for migration started with both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler being ringed with two and four birds respectively present around the gardens.  80 Swallows passed through during the morning and a single Skylark flew over calling.

Willow Warbler (left) with Chiffchaff (right)
It was day for insects and particularly butterflies with Painted Lady (20) and Small Tortoiseshell (10) and Common Blue (4) all noted as well as a single Peacock.

Painted Lady
A single Kestrel showed well around the islands during the morning.

Just before observers left the island for the remainder of the day an Osprey was watched flying in from the north over the North End and then flying off West over the Lookout towards the Point of Ayr; the first record this autumn.

The island was assessed again and the decision made was that it remained closed to the public for the foreseeable future, following yesterday's fire in the cave below the light at the North End, with daily assessments being undertaken by the Fire Services and Wirral Borough Council (photo below from yesterday evening).

Ringed: 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Wren, 3 Robins  [ 613-30 ]
Photos BT and SRW

Friday 23 August 2019

23rd August 2019

Weather:  W 4, 2/8 cloud, good vis

The day began quietly enough with just three Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat on the island.

It was a stunning day weather wise but a fresh westerly meant that a seawatch was in order with an early morning Bonxie followed by another during the afternoon and a day count of 13 Arctic Skua.

It was during the tide in the afternoon that observers noted smoke emanating from the cave works at the North End.  At first it was taken to be part of the curing process for the expanding foam that had been used to fill the cave behind the wall works that were being undertaken.  There was a small amount of yellowish smoke seeping out..  Our members who were present kept an eye on the situation and over the next few hours it became apparent that there was a problem with the smoke beginning to billow out of the cave and drift down the estuary as the wind had dropped almost completely.  There was hardly any visitors on the island over the tide and members advised one couple to stay away from that area of the island.

It was at this point that members decided to contact the mainland for assistance and after the tide the contractor, police, fire and coastguard all came out and the fire service took over the situation and the island.

Members were told to evacuate the island once the wind changed direction and the island began to get covered in black smoke.  This is the first time that members have been evacuated from the island since the foundation of the Observatory in 1957.
The island was then closed to visitors for the foreseeable future with daily assessments to be undertaken.

We do not comment on the cause of the fire whilst investigations are ongoing into the cause of the fire and the also into the works being undertaken by the contractor are investigated by the fire investigation officer and Wirral Borough Council respectively.
Meanwhile the migrant Willow Warblers are oblivious to the drama.
 Photos SRW& AS

Thursday 22 August 2019

22nd August 2019

Weather:  SW shifting W 4, moderate vis
A Black tern was identified sitting in the roost among the 650 terns opposite the obs in the evening.

Also in the evening 22 Swallows drifted across the east hoyle to roost somewhere on the east cliffs of the island.
The regularly appearing Magpie was present earlier but no other significant land birds, although the sea produced 13 Arctic Skuas, 4 Gannets, 3 Kittiwakes, 5 Guillemots and 12 Common Scoter.
 below: Sandwich Tern,Oystercatcher and Turnstones.

 There was evidence of Fox. A few butterflies included 4 Common Blues.
photos AS

Tuesday 20 August 2019

20th August 2019

Weather: NW 3, 8/8 cloud, poor vis, rain

A moderate north westerly breeze did not promise much in the way of a seawatch however with good numbers of Sandwich Terns (300) and a few Common Terns (25) noted it was not surprising that a decent passage of Arctic Skuas was observed with 18 birds counted.  However, the highlight of the day was an adult Pomarine Skua seen flying over the tide edge and then landing distantly on the East Hoyle sandbank.  Observers, including several members of the Obs, on the mainland were alerted and some managed to see the bird well from the Lifeboat Station at Hoylake or from their houses along the promenade.

A single adult Mediterranean Gull in with Black-headed Gulls in the gutter was expected for August, less so was a pair of Tufted Duck seen flying west passing the North End; a scarce sight at Hilbre at any time of year.

The Magpie appeared briefly late afternoon.  Record shots of the Pomarine Skua taken from iPhone-digiscoped video grabs.

Linnet [605-32]

Monday 19 August 2019

19th August 2019

Weather:  Wind WNW 3-4 increasing to 5-6. Bright with sunny spells.
Following a strong overnight blow and with wind speed increasing as the day progressed, a sea watch was in order.  This lasted four and a quarter hours over the high tide period.  From the outset it was clear that birds were moving through with skuas, shearwaters, terns, Gannets and Kittiwakes all being seen in good numbers.
120 Gannets were out by the wind farm with a few moving closer.  Manx Shearwaters totalled 40 during the day, mostly in small groups but with one party of 23.  400 Sandwich, 100 Common and just one Little Tern fished off the North End and 30 Kittiwakes were noted with numbers peaking after the tide.
Eighteen (18) Arctic Skuas harassed the terns but the bird of the day appeared just before high tide when a sub-adult Long-tailed Skua was found.  Fortunately for the observers, this bird was watched over a fairly prolonged period, albeit spending quite a bit of time sat on the sea, but allowing essential identification features to be clinched whilst in flight.
Other seabirds included 6 Great Crested Grebe, 50 Common Scoter and 2 Guillemot.
The only passerine of note was a Wheatear along the west side of the island.
Some pictures from today: Bar-tailed Godwit
 Ichneumon fly
 and evening light
 photos AS

Sunday 18 August 2019

18th August 2019

Weather:  W 5-6, increasing 7, good vis

Despite the promising conditions the seawatching was a little disappoining with just a single dark phase Arctic Skua, 10 Gannet but good numbers of terns particular Sandwich (800) as well as 4 Common and 10 Little.

However, passerine migrants were a little surprising with a single Goldcrest, Whitethroat, Wheatear and 3 Willow Warblers present.
Numbers of  Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank and Turnstone are now building up.
On the insect front a Banded Demoiselle damselfly was noted along with 20 Painted Lady butterflies, 3 Red Admirals and a single Common Blue.

  photos AEH

Thursday 15 August 2019

15th August 2019

Weather:  NW 7, rain

The strengthening north westerly wind produced a reasonable seawatch with the highlights being 70 Manx Shearwaters, 25 Gannet, 5 Kittiwakes and 9 Arctic Skuas.

One hundred Common Scoter passed through and a couple of Whimbrel were noted as were six Little Terns amongst 70 Sandwich and 10 Common Terns.

Sunday 11 August 2019

11th August 2019

Weather:NNW force 3/4  Rain early
A Mediterranean Gull was still present to the east of the island. Other records included 2,500 Oystercatchers, 400 Dunlin, 65 Ringed Plover, 58 Turnstone, 20 Redshank, 29 Curlew and 6 Whimbrel. On the sea were 24 Common Scoter, 2 Guillemot and a Great Crested Grebe with 2 Arctic Skuas looking for the terns, among which were 11 Little Terns, while on the shore were 6 Little Egrets and 11 Shelduck. Only 2 Swallows were seen over the island in the generally poor weather.

Saturday 10 August 2019

10th August 2019

Weather: SW force 4/5     blustery, heavy showers, brief sunny intervals.

Not the best weather today for the annual BBQ, the members (above) and friends spent much of the time indoors but did manage to record a number of good birds including 2 Greenshank in the gutter early on, a brief view of a Ruff, an Arctic Tern on the sand, Common Sandpiper and an adult Mediterranean Gull in the east gutter and then a Black Tern amongst other terns as the tide pushed in.
Previously several Little Terns were fishing the gutter on the ebb tide and close views had been obtained of a couple of Arctic Skuas flying up the Dee and additionally 2 dark and 1 pale phase flying across just south of the main island.
Two Wheatears migrated south along the island ridge in the morning and a Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler were present in the trapping area, while a single Swift went through. Also recorded this morning were 13 Gannets, 5 Little Egrets, 5 Whimbrel and 13 Sanderling.
Ringed: 1 Willow Warbler      [ 604-30 ]
photos CJ, SRW