Monday 31 August 2020

31st August 2020

Weather: SE 1, 4/8 cloud reducing to 1:8, good vis becoming very good

The day began early with members staying on the island and another joining from the mainland.
A single Snipe flushed from near the North End soon after dawn.
The change in the weather with light south easterlies brought the hoped for phylloscs with 3 Willow Warbler (one caught) and the first 3 Chiffchaffs of autumn proper (two caught and ringed). 

Up to 7 Rock Pipits were present around the islands and 4 Wheatears again passed through.
Twenty Swallows appeared around the entrance of the ‘heli’ trap and another flock of 60 birds appeared between Middle and Little Eye mid morning.
The Kestrel remained around the main island for much of the day and 12 Shelduck were noted leaving the estuary in two flicks (8 and 4).
Three Shags were off the east side as the morning tide flooded.
Photos SRW (chiffchaff), AEH (others)

Sunday 30 August 2020

30th August 2020

Weather: ENE force 1

Nine Pale-bellied Brent were found on the west side between the islands this morning, these are the first arrivals of the autumn. Just a single Willow Warbler was present but there was a minimal movement of 2 Grey and 4 alba wagtails, 5 Wheatears and 6 Robins on the island. A Razorbill again was noted, possibly the same as recently and 2 Kittiwakes, 5 Common Scoter and 2 Shags were also on the sea. A large number (estimated at 520) Curlew were at Tanskey rocks but wader numbers were generally small apart from 3,000 Oystercatchers, although 2 Whimbrel and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits were notable. Both Peregrine and Kestrel hunted the area. For once Grey Heron outnumbered Little Egret 3 to 2. Five Rock Pipits were logged, while among the insects flew 3 Red Admirals, a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell.

Saturday 29 August 2020

29th August 2020

Weather:  N  force 4 

Best bird on a quiet day was a Raven, a regular visitor lately. Tern numbers are now declining here as the autumn approaches and today there were 25 Sandwich and 4 Common Terns logged. Some waders seen included 2 Whimbrel, 22 Curlew, 45 Turnstone and a Bar-tailed Godwit, but Oystercatchers are by far the most numerous with about 3,500 today. Given the northerly wind it was no surprise there were no small migrants present. What will tomorrow bring?

Photo SRW

Friday 28 August 2020

28th August 2020

Weather:  NE force 4    drizzle later

On a brief visit 6 Gannets showed close in to the island and an Arctic Skua was seen, also a Razorbill off the west side. Eight Little Egrets was a good count.

Thursday 27 August 2020

27th August 2020

Weather:  SE force 1/3  rain later

After sea watching following the gales, lighter winds made for more normal birding. The moulting Yellowhammer popped up again after a couple of days, two Willow Warblers and a Whitethroat were around, also a Reed Bunting making us think autumn cannot be far away. Five Wheatears were present and a small movement of a dozen or so Swallows and 3 House Martins passed through. Three Kittiwakes and 12 Guillemots were the aftermath of the gales. The stand out count of the small waders were 230 Sanderling. A Shag was noted and 6 Little Egrets were on the shore. Plenty of Linnets today, 48 flew around the island.

Wednesday 26 August 2020

26th August 2020

Weather:  WNW 6, dropping, 8/8 cloud (clearing later), early drizzle, poor becoming good

Gale force winds overnight meant that seawatching on the early morning ebb tide was the order of the day.

Kittiwakes and terns streamed passed the North End close inshore, often 'below the beam' during the first hour or so of daylight.  116 Kittiwakes were counted during the day along with 615 Common, 420 Sandwich,  74 Little and 8 Arctic Terns all moving west.  Later many of the terns appeared to return to the East Hoyle sandbank to roost on the evening tide when the wind had dropped.
Gannets numbered 47 including some birds that were very close in around the main island in the morning and afternoon.
Up to four Arctic Skuas were noted but only one came close loafing on the water during the morning and afternoon tide a single Great Skua was noted heading towards the Mersey.  Two Manx Shearwaters were noted and an adult Yellow-legged Gull flew past.  However, the highlight of the morning was an early Leach's Petrel which made its way westwards off the North End; possibly our earliest ever (see below iPhone scoped video grab).
The male Yellowhammer remained around the island but there was little evidence of any other passerine movement apart from a couple of Robins.
The Kestrel remained for much of the day in the sheltered 'Niffy Bay'. 

Waders were very much in evidence with plenty of all the regular species as well as 3 Whimbrel, a summer plumaged Grey Plover in off, 2017 Knot and a huge flock of Black-tailed Godwits on the evening tide south of West Kirby Marine Lake (c3,500).
A Peregrine was noted around the North End during the morning tide and another was noted harassing the waders and tern flocks on the evening tide.

Photos CJW (majority) and SRW (Leach's Petrel)

Tuesday 25 August 2020

25th August 2020

Weather:  ESE 5-6, 8/8 cloud, rain, poor vis

A poor day weather-wise but not a bad day for observations began with pouring rain and a Teal just off the North End.

A single Raven appeared over the South End, no doubt one of the regular pair that have been seen recently presumably from the breeding pair at Hoylake.  

A redhead Goosander flew up the gutter as the tide flooded and the Yellowhammer remained on the island but was only seen a couple of times between rain showers.

The afternoon tide proved fruitful with good numbers of Common and Sandwich Tern as well as 24 Little and 3 Arctics, as well as 5 Manx Shearwater and 3 Arctic Skuas.  

A single Common Sandpiper was noted at the south end in the drizzle early evening. 

Monday 24 August 2020

24th August 2020

Weather:  NW 1-2, 2/8 cloud, good vis

A stunning morning greeted observers on the island this morning with wall to wall sunshine for the majority of the day.

Things were much quieter on the sea and the light north west wind and clear blue skies did little to produce many grounded warblers with just a single Willow Warbler noted.

However, Wheatears were moving through with 8 birds counted today including 4 on Wheatear hill at any one time.  Unfortunately they were being kept away from the potter traps by the resident Rock Pipits with two birds (an adult and a young one) retrapped (from March and July respectively).

The moulting Yellowhammer was still present but still being fairly elusive.

A few waders were noted including 5 Whimbrel and terns were less noticeable but there was a large Sandwich Tern roost after the tide in the evening.

The juvenile Robin was still present.

Ringing:  retraps only Rock Pipit (2), Robin (1)

Sunday 23 August 2020

23rd August 2020

Weather:  WNW 3/4, increasing 5/6 over the tide, occasionally squall

The day began with a nice record of Golden Plover and the first Teal (4) of the autumn.  The promised gale force winds did not materialise but observers were still hopeful for a good seawatch.

Intriguingly the male Yellowhammer, which had not been seen since Thursday, was caught in the heli trap.  Only the second to be ringed at Hilbre in the last 20 years.  It was found to be moulting and may remain on the island for a while longer to complete its moult. 


After the excitement of the reappearance of the Yellowhammer - two Kestrels were found fighting in a bramble bush outside the Obs gate.  They were distracted by their fight and ignored the photographers.  Perhaps an indication of how the recent moribund bird came to a sad end?

Seawatching was better than expected given the moderate wind and only occasional rain squall.  Highlights included two Great Skuas, 5 Arctic Skuas, 50 Manx Shearwaters, 65 Kittiwakes, 75 Gannet and good numbers of terns with 600 Common, 333 Sandwich and 26 Little Terns counted.

Six Razorbills were also noteworthy as was a lovely first winter Mediterranean Gull which came in off at the North End and past close inshore to the slipway.

Waders were also well represented today with 2 Purple Sandpipers notes, 7 Whimbrel, 64 Ringed Plover and a single Grey Plover.

A juvenile Robin caught and ringed was perhaps further evidence of successful breeding of this species at Hilbre this year and likewise another Rock Pipit was caught.  Meanwhile, amongst other natural history sightings a male Common Blue Damselfly was noted.

Photos:  CJW, PSW, SRW
Ringing: Yellowhammer, Rock Pipit, Robin

Saturday 22 August 2020

22nd August 2020

 Weather: SW 2/4 

The wind had dropped a good deal from yesterdays blow but nevertheless sea birds still in good numbers for the observers at the high tide. The first Bonxie of the year was the chief prize although 100 Manx Shearwater, 150 Gannets, 50 Common Scoter, 6 Kittiwakes, an Arctic Skua, a Fulmar, and a Razorbill and Guillemot, were close behind. The lighter breeze encouraged 4 Willow Warblers and 3 Wheatears to the island. The single Purple sandpiper was still present and a moulting summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper was found, although it was a different bird from that of 2 days ago. Amongst the waders were 25 Ringed Plover  5 Whimbrel.

Friday 21 August 2020

21st August 2020

Weather: SW force 6 rain

The highlights of  a sea watch in response to the strong winds arriving were a count of 175 Manx Shearwaters passing and a single juvenile Black Tern, the first here this autumn. Almost as impressive were 200 Gannets counted with 2 Kittiwakes, 2 Guillemots, 28 Common Scoter and 25 Little Terns among the over 1,000 terns seen. Also about the island were 2 Shags, 7 Whimbrel and 4 Little Egrets. There are still 2 Kestrels. The only 'migrants' as such were 2 Starlings and a Swift.

Thursday 20 August 2020

20th August 2020

 Weather: SE force 3, mist around the estuary.

The Yellowhammer was again flitting about the island all morning, never staying long enough in one place to pose for pictures, before disappearing this afternoon. It is far from certain that it has gone for good as it was not seen at all on Sunday despite observers being present most of the day. A Spotted Flycatcher took a liking to the east side of the island, first appearing in Niffy bay and then spending most of it's time in the rangers east side garden.

A very high tide at this time of year meant attention was paid to the roosting small waders around the rocks which duly paid dividends in the form of a Curlew Sandpiper and a Little Stint being found amongst them. They were hard to pin down as the flocks of 1,200 Dunlin and 200 or so Ringed Plovers kept rising when disturbed and the Curlew Sandpiper was quite elusive (even though it was in partial summer plumage) but the juvenile Little Stint was eventually located for pictures. 

 With Dunlin for size comparison.

The Curlew Sandpiper in partial summer plumage.

A less expected arrival on the north end was a Purple Sandpiper which moved with the Dunlin flock to the west side to roost. Normally a winter resident a single Purple Sandpiper (centre of picture) often makes it here in mid-summer, they are thought to be just  passing through from elsewhere.

Besides the Dunlin and Ringed Plover, other waders today included 5 Whimbrel, 700 Knot and 6 Sanderling. A Red-breasted Merganser flew passed the island but sea birds in the fresh southerly breeze were at a premium apart from the Sandwich and Common Terns.

 Only 3 Willow Warblers were about the paddocks today, and possibly just 2 Wheatears, with a few extra Swallows passing through. Two Kestrels  hunted the island and a Peregrine flew across between the islands.

Insects included the odd Common Blue butterfly, a Red Admiral and best of all a Painted Lady, a nice record for today, while 2 Migrant Hawker dragonflies were near the 'heli' trap.

Ringed: 2 Willow Warblers, 1 Linnet, 1 Meadow Pipit 

photos SRW

Wednesday 19 August 2020

19th August 2020

Weather: ESE force 2

Highlight of the morning was the reappearance of the Hilbre MEGA: yellowhammer (from Saturday!) spending time around the light, heli and SK paddocks.


The rare status of Yellowhammer at Hilbre was not always the case, One member recalled how 21 were recorded on 15th February 1969 during a cold weather movement of hundreds of birds. See his notebook entry below! 

 About 15 Willow Warblers arrived today, with 5 being ringed,


 also 6 Wheatears and a notable count of 8 Rock Pipits were present. A single Swift went through and a few dozen Swallows joined the local birds. A Black-tailed Godwit flew south 


Eight hundred Dunlin were among the smaller numbers of other waders. A sea watch was not that rewarding, only yielding 3 Gannets, 14 Common Scoter and a Guillemot. Six Little Terns were noted with the Sandwich and Common Terns. An Eider drifted in at the north end after the tide.


 Ringed: 6 Willow Warblers, 5 Linnets.

photos PSW & SRW

Sunday 16 August 2020

16th August 2020

 Weather: E force 3, rain and drizzle

The rain as forecast duly arrived and it was hoped it may drop some migrants in, a few Willows arrived and a little later a trickle of Wheatears moved down the West side together with a few Meadow Pipits. Two Common Sandpipers bobbed about the north end before heading east, Terns and  Waders were again evident as the early tide flooded although numbers had dropped possibly due to the large numbers of people across the beach and banks yesterday. A nice flock of Dunlin fed along the gutter on the flood including a colour ringed bird, a Grey Plover showed well and Ringed Plovers numbered 125 in a single flock. The resident Linnets are doing very well this year with several broods I successfully adding to the population, Wrens, Meadow and Rock Pipits have also had a successful year, even while being monitored by the Kestrel.


Despite the showers and increase in wind speed the moth traps again caught well, see list below;

Copper Underwing, Vines Rustic, good numbers of Setaceous Hebrew characters, several Spectacles, Brimstone Moth and the ever present Silver Y were amongst the catch.




As the tide dropped a second Hilbre mega for the weekend in the form of a Cuckoo flew past Middle, circled and headed out towards Wales, a great bird to see and increasingly rare especially on the islands.



  photos CJW

Saturday 15 August 2020

15th August 2020

 Weather: ESE force 2, later S force 2

The easterly produced a few early Wheatears and a handful of Willow Warblers, a small movement of Meadow Pipits and small numbers of Greenfinches. Willow Warblers maintained a small but steady passage with 45 being noted and 28 ringed throughout the morning. Bird of the day was a nice calling Yellowhammer, a very scarce bird on the islands, which alerted observers by calling at the south end and remaining around the paddocks for a few hours. No apologies for including this record shot of what in recent years has become a rare Hilbre bird.

 At least 3 Rock Pipits are here at the moment.

and 48 Linnets were counted today including many young juveniles. 

Two photogenic Collared Doves stayed awhile.

Waders and terns continue to surround the islands with 420 Sandwich 180 Common and 45 Little being counted. Turnstones are also building up, some in their splendid ruddy plumage, unlike this bird.

800 Dunlin fed on the shoreline and 26 Sanderling joined them on the East Hoyle. Gull counts are increasing with a notable increase in Black-headed later in the day, with a Mediterranean Gull present among them. Twenty Eight Swifts screamed over the island as a weather front threatened to move in later, 26 Swallows were counted including the residents.

Small Tortoiseshell (10) (see below), Red Admiral (6) Small white (14) Green-veined white (8) Gatekeeper (1) and Common blue (6) butterflies were noted and at least 3 Migrant hawker dragonflies.


 The moth traps did well including Yellow Straw and the beautiful Angle Shades being recorded.

 Ringed: 28 Willow Warblers, 1 Linnet

photos CJW