Friday 30 April 2021

30th April 2021

 Weather: E force 0/1  NW 3 in the afternoon

Our few records of Garden Warbler each year typically arrive in May or September but today one made it here before the end of April.

The Garden Warbler turned out to be the only warbler of the day, Greenland Wheatears however just made double figures.

  A flava Wagtail flew over the island heading south, together with a dozen or so Swallows, while 22 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Siskins and 4 Goldfinches completed the small migrants seen passing through.

 No Brent nor Purple Sandpipers were logged, but good numbers of Whimbrel (37) and sea birds were around such as 25 Gannets, 15 Red-throated Divers, 125 Common Terns (for once exceeding the 42 Sandwich Terns sighted) 18 Great Crested Grebes and 6 Guillemots. Six Shelduck were seen about today.

 photos AS, SRW

Thursday 29 April 2021

29th April 2021

Weather:  NE force 2, later N 3

Much work was done today to repair the SK trap, it's a never ending task, also a new weather station was installed and preparation was made for other projects.

Some time was taken out to bird watch however, the highlight being the second Common Sandpiper of the year feeding on the rocks east of Middle. Single migrants of Reed Bunting and Yellow Wagtail passed through,  and as did 2 Goldfinches and a Siskin, and 11 Wheatears made it to the island.

Seen on the sea were 9 Gannets.

also 11 Red-throated Divers (mostly in the swash, some in summer plumage), 4 Guillemots, 2 Great Crested Grebes, also a Harbour Porpoise. Eighteen Whimbrel, 230 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover and a small number of other waders were around.

 A large total of 2,300 Herring Gulls were about the shore. Three Little Egrets, a Grey Heron, 4 Shelduck, a Canada Goose and a Kestrel need also to be mentioned.
photos AS

Wednesday 28 April 2021

28th April 2021

 Weather: NE force 3/4   cool and cloudy

 The Pinkfeet are still flying north out of the estuary, can't be so many left now but 132 were counted away soon after dawn. 

 Migrants were scarce again this morning, today it was a north easterly, not especially favourable at this time but at least 2 Greenland Wheatears and 5 Goldfinches made it here. The breeding birds became a focus of interest and 2 Meadow Pipits were retrapped from 2 years ago, both were large males. It is important that experienced birds like these are part of the breeding population of Meadow Pipits. 

Apart from the regular breeding Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Wrens, other hopefuls in the breeding stakes this year include a pair of Pied Wagtails, a pair of Blackbirds, the Rock Pipits and possibly a pair of Robins. The day was good for Whimbrels, there were at least 43 roosting over the tide. They were probably the most noticeable birds during the day. Two summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwits saw out the tide on the west side with the Whimbrels and a few of the smaller species. 

A pale phase Arctic Skua was seen chasing the terns, the first recorded here this year, while other sea birds included 24 Gannets, 2 Red-throated Divers, 14 Guillemots, 1 Razorbill, 7 Common and 60 Sandwich Terns.

 The single Brent and the pair of Eider still remain.

photos JE, AS

Tuesday 27 April 2021

27th April 2021

Weather:  NW force 2, later NNE 2/3

On the sea 68 Gannets were feeding, as were the 230 Sandwich and 2 Common Terns, a Red-throated Diver and 20 Guillemots. The single Guillemot that has been close about seemed to be prospecting the cliff under the light. 


A Harbour Porpoise was also chanced upon. The pair of Eider are still here. A Raven was chased by the Crows south down the island, landing briefly above the slipway. 


Three Swallows were on the island, while a Siskin and 3 Wheatears passed through despite the unfriendly migration weather. Over 20 Whimbrel are now to be seen and a summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit persists in associating with them. Two Purple Sandpipers are postponing their northward flight at the moment, staying about with 42 Turnstone. Four Sanderling were seen also 250 Dunlin. 

The male Pied Wagtail on the island is now in pristine plumage.

Just 1 Brent around the island today but the 2 Canada Geese seem settled.

photos AS

Monday 26 April 2021

26th April 2021

 Weather: SE force 1/2  

The weather was much the same as yesterday but some of the birds were quite different and a little strange for the time of year. After 20 Willow Warblers yesterday, none today and just a single Chiffchaff was new in among the phylloscopus warblers. The 3rd Grasshopper Warbler of the year was trapped in the 'heli' and was more expected at this time.

The most unexpected find for a long time also found its way into the 'heli', no other than a Common Snipe, not a rare bird but to see one sitting in the paddock in front of the trap was mind boggling as they are mostly seen in autumn or winter on the shore. This became the first ever to be ringed at the observatory in its over 60 years existance.

A few Yellow and White Wagtails made the log with 10 Redpolls and 8 Goldfinches also more mundane fare in the form of a Woodpigeon. Hirundines came through to the tune of a single House Martin, a dozen Sand Martins and about 40 Swallows. A pale-bellied Brent was on its own today and the 2 Canada Geese still stay by the pond until disturbed. Pinkfeet continued out of the Dee early morning, 220 flew today. A pair of Eider was floating off the west side of Middle, and we speculated on their breeding status, as we also did with the Shelduck, a total of 10 were seen. A distant Raven came into view at one stage. Gannets again fed off the west side on the rising tide with about 100 Sandwich Terns, and 18 Guillemots and a Razorbill were logged during the day. Among the waders 2 Purple Sandpipers hid on the cliff with the Turnstones.


A total of 22 Bar-tailed Godwits flew about, while a single summer plumaged bird roosted the tide with some of the 19 Whimbrel. 

Two groups of Sanderling flew towards the north shore from Wales, about 40 in total. In the early afternoon a Sparrowhawk flew into the rocks below the obs. 

photos CJ, BT, SRW

Sunday 25 April 2021

25th April 2021

Weather:  ESE force 1/2       clear sky, sunny

Early start, clear sky overnight

A scattering of Willow Warblers again this morning, about 20 coming through all told with 12 ringed, also 4 Siskins and a couple of dozen Lesser Redpolls, with 2 more ringed. 

A Sedge Warbler was heard first round in the SK paddock but it took until near midday before it showed itself and was also ringed. This was the first record this year.

A House Sparrow (scarce on Hilbre) was both heard and seen, however unlike the Sedge Warbler it failed to stay about and was gone fairly quickly. A Merlin chased a Willow Warbler over the south end, and later a Peregrine flew off east pursued by gulls when carrying a large prey item, probaly a wader. 

Wheatears started the day with 4 and then a hiatus until 4 more arrived late in the morning. 

Sadly no Yellow wagtails today and just a single White represented the family (apart from the resident pair of Pied Wagtails). The single Blackcap present proved to be the bird ringed here 3 days ago. There were also no martins this morning, but a dozen or so Swallows arrived in off the sea. Whimbrel again featured with a new high estimate of 33 around the islands during the high tide period.


Pick of the other waders were 2 Bar-tailed Godwits flying west and 350 Dunlin, not forgetting the often overlooked Oystercatchers.

Members leaving the island mid-morning identified a Spoonbill over the West Kirby marine lake area flying in a southerly direction. Three Greylag Geese flew west across the top of the island, passing over the now 2 'resident' Canada Geese by the pond,

 The drake Eider was at the north end early on. A single Jackdaw flew east and was the sole visitor corvid. Over 200 Gannets were off the west side, some feeding with the terns, some loafing on the water, while the sea otherwise was quiet but 4 Guillemots showed well. 

 Four Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons were in search of food on the shore.

 An Orange Tip butterfly among a few others enjoyed the sunshine.

photos AEH, CJ, SRW

Saturday 24 April 2021

24th April 2021

 Weather: SE force 1/2   

A Grasshopper Warbler was singing on Middle at first light, unfortunately it transpired that was the sole bird present on any of the islands. Pink-footed Geese duly exited the estuary north (350 birds) after dawn and soon a Greenshank called along the east side and 1 was later seen near Little Eye. Four Wheatears were at the south end of the main island, but promply left and none appeared again until much later when another 3 at Middle flew to the main island. A Tree Pipit was down on the island and was heard singing. A commotion of gulls made us aware of a large distant raptor off to the north which was flying towards the east hoyle, it turned out to be a Marsh Harrier, still a scarcity at Hilbre although not so much further south down the Dee nowadays.

One of the memorable features of today was the arrival of 6 Yellow Wagtails which stayed around the islands and gave delightful views of these colourful birds.

Whimbrel were in record numbers for the spring, 21 roosted together on the shore at one stage. Two Purple Sandpipers roosted with the Turnstones 

and also noted were 13 Bar-tailed Godwits on the east hoyle, 44 Ringed Plover and 110 Dunlin.

 In addition to the Yellow Wagtails a Tree Pipit called over and 7 White Wagtails arrived, while finches today included 16 Goldfinches, 5 Siskin, a Greenfinch, and 12 Lesser Redpoll, with one ringed.


In contrast to yesterday at least 10 Willow Warblers were present (6 were ringed) and 3 Blackcaps (also a Blackcap ringed 2 days ago). Hirundines flew through in small numbers, about 40 Sand Martins and 20 Swallows flew in off the sea and headed over the east hoyle towards the mainland, a few others crossed the island including our 3 first House Martins of the year. A Jackdaw flew overhead, and 2 Eiders went south down the east side, also a male Goosander passed the north end travelling east. The Brent that was with the Canada Geese and the Mallards near the pond was still there today, but sadly died during the morning, we had suspected it was ill due to its unusual behaviour. There were 4 others and a Black-bellied bird remaining. Dozens of Gannets fed off the island this morning, also recorded were Sandwich and Common Terns, 12 Great Crested Grebes, 14 Common Scoter and two each of Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated Divers and Razorbills, also 16 Guillemots, with one out on the rocks and showing particularly well.

 The Linnets are now looking fine in their breeding plumage.

Early butterflies on the wing today were singles of Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White. All in all it was a very good migration day in which 55 bird species were recorded.

photos CJ, BT,  CJW, SRW