Weather: E force 1/2, ESE 2 in the afternoon, some mist around the coast.
It is not often that a fall of about 150 Willow Warblers was not the headline event of the day, that was still to come. The first round of the traps soon after dawn yielded about 14 of the delicate warblers for ringing and the subsequent visits did not see any slackening in the numbers of birds arriving. The ringers were obviously very busy and had not had time to survey the island for other species. Not long before 10.00hrs whilst approaching the Newton trap on yet another round, a larger species caught immediate attention as it flew towards the catching box. It was obviously not a warbler as it appeared more the size of a small thrush with white outer tail feathers. Excitement escalated as it was realised that it was a large species of pipit.
Richard's Pipit is a rare but regular vagrant from Siberia in Britain, usually in autumn and is the first to be seen at Hilbre in spring and obviously the first to be ringed here, as this is an uncommon event even on a national basis where an average of less than one per year are ringed. The pipit stayed about the west side of the island for a while after release but was very mobile and refused to pose for photos in the field. It was not seen after midday.
As the pace of migrants arriving slowed several larger species (than Willow Warbler) appeared that were new for the island this year, starting with Whinchat that was glimpsed briefly first thing but made itself scarce until later in the morning.
Also a first, a male Whitethroat was also ringed,
While another first was an early Sedge Warbler that was in the paddocks before being ringed,
A Grasshopper Warbler was also caught and ringed, however it was not the first this year as one was heard singing near ‘Gropper ridge’ when the Ring Ouzel was here two weeks ago.
Three Yellow Wagtails called whilst passing and 8 Wheatears would normally get a lot of attention but today they went almost unnoticed.
Likewise a slow passage of 25 Swallows and 8 House Martins and 8 Goldfinches became incidental to the main show today. Other sightings today included 11 Whimbrel on the shoreline with 14 Shelduck, 12 Little Egrets and 32 Sandwich Terns calling around the island. So ended such a magical day that we all hope for in spring and which keeps us all going the rest of the year.
Ringed: 65 Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcaps, Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, 4 Linnets, a Robin and of course a RICHARD'S PIPIT!
Photos CJ, SRW
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