Saturday, 31 March 2012

31st March 2012

Very quiet for the observers today, but in the afternoon a single Goldcrest was on the island. The wind swung from north west to north east and then late in the evening to south east, promising better things tomorrow.
(DB+ESCA,SRW,TGW,AW)       [ 295-19 ]

Friday, 30 March 2012

30th March 2012

The wind in the west as expected did not do any favours for the observers hoping for migrants. There were no Goldcrests or any other warblers and only a limited number of finches on the island. Two of the 3 Goldfinches seen were ringed, but neither of the 2 Greenfinches nor the Siskin joined them. A massive 20,000 Knot flew north out of the Dee, there has been a long series of such records lately and surely they cannot be birds that have been wintering locally. A single Merlin was on the ridge between Little Eye and Middle before the tide.
(DB,AEH,KMc)        [ 294-19]   

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

28th March 2012

The breeze stayed in the south east overnight but veered to west late morning and for at least the next few days with the prospect of less visible migration on the island, we still await the hoped for Ring Ouzel or Black Redstart, while the first Swallow and Sandwich Tern are surely not far off. The second Mealy Redpoll of the spring was ringed together 5 Lessers, also a control bird (ringed elsewhere), amazingly the second such Redpoll control this spring; about 30 others called as they passed through, although Siskins were harder to come by today with only 3 being heard during the morning. Twelve Goldfinches (right) and 6 Greenfinches were about but no Chaffinches today. A very small fall of Goldcrests (8), and Chiffchaffs (5) were the only warblers with a single male Wheatear at the north end that failed to trapped for ringing. Meadow Pipit passage was almost nonexistent today, and only a very few Pied Wagtails with a single White made it to the island. The Merlin was joined by another as they flew down the west side today (or have there been 2 all along?). Single Wood Pigeon and Little Egret showed, some Canada Geese were heard in the dark before dawn, also heard only was a Pheasant (presumably the regular bird at Red Rocks) whose voice can carry in still conditions.
The great majority of Redpolls (left) ringed over the last  week have been caught in the Newton heligoland trap, but today all preferred the obs gaden mist net which was very still in the light breeze ( right)
The Mealy Redpoll can be seen below, it is the right bird in both pictures.
Ringed:- 5 Lesser Redpolls, 1 Mealy Redpoll, 4 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Linnets, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Robin.
(BSB,DB,CJ, et al)              [292-19]         photos BSB

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

27th March 2012

Conditions were similar to yesterday with perhaps less breeze, bringing similar birds to the island. Finches were slightly less numerous, about 20 Lesser Redpolls, 10 Goldfinches (left), 4 Siskin and 2 Greenfinches. A good record on the sea was a group of 5 drake Goldeneyes flying west at the north end, but no other significant sighting off the island, although 4 Canada Geese again showed at dawn over the sands. Repeat performances from previous days came from the Merlin (top left), a Wood Pigeon flushed from various places, but no sign today of any Magpies. A first year male Wheatear was ringed today (top right), the first of its kind to show for a few days, and warblers were represented by 6 Chiffchaffs and 5 Goldcrests. Very little else to report migration wise except 3 Pied Wagtails, a Skylark and 5 Starlings, some of which stayed some time around the island (right).
Afternoon sightings include a male and female Peregrine, 8 thousand Knot south of Tanskey,130 Sanderling, 4 Little Egret (3 roosted the tide on Middle), and 4 Peacock butterflies.
Ringed:- 7 Lesser Redpolls, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, 1 Wheatear, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Linnet, 1 Robin, 1 Wren.
Picture left of 3 Lesser Redpolls showing a variety of head colour from red to gold !
(DB,CJ,KMc,PSW)         [ 276-19 ]         photos  CJ, PSW (Wheatear, and Redpolls)

Monday, 26 March 2012

26th March 2012

The favourable weather continues to provide the islands with birds although this morning there was less mist and the migrants would fairly clearly see the mainland on both sides of the Dee, resulting in fewer birds dropping in during the morning. Finches still provide the majority of interest with 27 Lesser Redpoll and 20 Siskin over and a couple of House Sparrows and 2 Greenfinches were grounded, although 6 Chiffchaffs and the second Willow Warbler of the year and a new Goldcrest were also in the paddocks. A Redwing (left) and 2 new male Blackbirds were ringed this morning. There were no Wheatears for the 3rd day running. A Magpie was seen early and was then joined by 4 others to make a group of five that soon scattered with some seen flying very high and appearing to be looking for a better place. Whether the 4 Magpies from yesterday were the same individuals is a matter of conjecture, as all but one seemed to have gone yesterday afternoon. More records of Wood Pigeons this time only 3, and a lone Canada Goose made it onto the log. Thirty bar-tailed Godwits were seen to fly off to the north, and another 2 were still feeding on the tide edge.
Ringed:- 8 Lesser Redpolls, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Blackbirds, 1 Redwing, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Greenfinch. One of the Redpolls was an interesting bird in that it was in all other respects a normal looking Lesser Redpoll but with a wing length of 76mm which is well out of range for a British bird (especially for a female) but comparable to some northern Redpoll races.
(DB,JE,CJ,KMc)        [259-19]         photo   CJ

Sunday, 25 March 2012

25th March 2012

No new Goldcrests to report today but there were a number of Chiffchaffs, although today was very much a finch day with a very large passage through the morning of 110 Lesser Redpolls (left), 70 Siskins, 50 Goldfinches and a few Chaffinches. The crow family featured with 10 Carrion Crows, 2 Jackdaws, 4 Magpies that stayed a while (bottom left), and 2 Ravens flew around the south end (bottom right) and landed briefly on the west side. The doves were also represented by 14 Collared Doves and 12 Wood Pigeons. Grounded for a period were 4 House Sparrows, a Redwing and a Blue Tit which is scarce enough at Hilbre to merit a photograph (right), but continuing through were 7 Pied Wagtails, 6 White Wagtails, a Starling and a Skylark. A Common Pipistrelle bat was detected last evening, the first this spring.
Ringed :-5 Chiffchaffs, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Greenfinch, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Linnet, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Robin, 1 Wren.
(DB+ESCA,JE,CJ,KMc,CJW,SRW,PSW)       [ 241- 18 ]      photos  CJ, CJW

Saturday, 24 March 2012

24th March 2012

Not mainly Goldcrests or Chiffchaffs today but both ! Twenty Chiffchaffs and 22 Goldcrests were logged but birds of the day were a Mealy Redpoll (above left) ringed with the Lessers, and at noon when all the migration seemed to have ceased came the first Willow Warbler of the year (above right), an unexpectedly early date even for the ever optimistic crew in the obs. Siskins and Lesser Redpolls showed in some numbers although Meadow Pipits were well down on yesterdays figure. A dozen Goldfinches went through with 6 Greenfinches and 4 Chaffinches, 7 Pied Wagtails, a Skylark, a new Song Thrush and a Blackbird. There were not a great many scarcites about today, just a flock of 10 Wood Pigeons, 4 Jackdaws and a Magpie, but the 43 birds ringed on a misty morning more than compensated. The Merlin has not yet had enough of Hilbre and a Little Egret flew in between the islands after the tide. 
Ringed:- 15 Goldcrests, 14 Chiffchaffs, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Mealy Redpoll, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Greenfinches, 2 Chaffinches, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Linnet, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush.
(CJ,SRW,PSW)            [ 226-18 ]             photos    CJ

Friday, 23 March 2012

23rd March 2012

The first Sand Martin of the year passed a member crossing to Hilbre early morning as it flew over the sand, and was an indication of another good migration day. A subtle change of weather meant there was only a single Goldcrest to be seen but in compensation at least 12 Chiffchaffs were on the island and an amazing 1,000 or so Meadow Pipits passing through. Lesser Redpoll became a new species ringed this year when 4 of 27 logged were captured, although none of the 29 Siskins made use of the feeders provided. Three Fieldfares were present early on with a Redwing, 2 Reed Buntings, 11 Pied and 10 White Wagtails, 4 Goldfinches and a Greenfinch.Other records today included a Gadwall flying west between he islands, which is quite a rare bird at Hilbre, a single Wigeon, a flock of 17 Wood Pigeons, a Skylark,and a Wheatear, a Little Egret, a Gannet on the sea, plus of course the regular Merlin.
Ringed:-4 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Meadow Pipits,7 Chiffchaffs, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Goldcrest
(DB,AAB,RAE,AEH,THM,KMc, et al)       [ 183-16 ]

Thursday, 22 March 2012

22nd March 2012

 At 11.15am information was recieved of a Red Kite passing Leasowe and travelling west and 10 minutes later it was seen from Hilbre over the houses on the Hoylake shore, it was then 'twitched' by members at Stanley Road (AMC,CJW) before it gained height over the golf course being mobbed by Crows and after decending again it continued inland. The bird was seen over Black Horse hill West Kirby and later by 2 members at Bidston tip. (AEH,AO). This is the first Red Kite recorded at Hilbre since 2001 and the 5th record ever, the first was in 1994. The above superb photo of the Red Kite is by Steve Round who was on the spot at Leasowe as it passed overhead. 
 This was just the icing on the cake of a number of good Hilbre birds today following an overnight south easterly. Scarcities for the island included 2 and then 3 other Magpies (below), a Woodpigeon, 2 Lapwings,a total of 8 Jackdaws, a fine Tree Sparrow (above) and a Collared Dove. Passage overhead was good early in the morning but had somewhat died by 10.00am, likewise grounded migrants were mostly in the first few hours after dawn. Meadow Pipits were in medium numbers, Goldcrests again featured with 25 on the island with 6 Chaffinches, 5 Goldfinches, 25 Siskins but just 4 Lesser Redpolls also 4 Wheatears,7 Pied Wagtails, 2 Starlings and 2 Skylarks. The 30 bird ringing day also featured a Chaffinch control (ringed elsewhere). The trusty Merlin was a Little Eye first thing and later around the main island. The best count of Curlews for some time was made as the tide ebbed when 430 were noted. The Common Seal that has been here for a while lazed about at the south end, yawning ? (above).
Ringed:-17 Goldcrests, 4 Goldfinches, 3 Chaffinches, 2 Robins, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Wren, 1 Wheatear.
(DB,JE,CJ,NDW et al)          [168-15]     other photos  CJ

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

21st March 2012

The wind steadfastly refused to come around from the south west this morning despite the forecast, resulting in a very quiet visible migration day. As the breeze died altogether late morning a bonus was the calm sea that enabled distant views of at least 60 Little Gulls out towards the north west, the first seen from Hilbre this spring. Also out in the direction of the wind farms were 6 Red-throated Divers, 40 Great Crested Grebes and groups of Common Scoters, totalling 150 in the short period of watching. A Goldeneye flew west between the islands. Counts from the shore included flocks of 180 and 100 Sanderling, 12 Purple Sandpipers, with the Brent at 164 pale and 2 dark-bellied birds.

Twenty Carrion Crows were south of Middle on the flood tide, a Little Egret towards the West Kirby shore, and 3 Peregrines hunted the waders while the Merlin did its usual patrol around the cliffs (right). Two Goldcrests were in the paddocks, one of which was ringed a few days ago, but a male Chaffinch (top right) was new today and showed adult features of dark spots at the tip of the central tail feathers (above). Nothing else was on the ground, and overhead was not much better, just 3 Pied Wagtails, 3 Greenfinch, and a single Skylark.
Ringed:- 1 Blackbird, 1 Chaffinch
 (BSB,DB,CJ et al)              [138-14]      photos  CJ 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

20th March 2012

Ten thousand Knot flew out of the estuary soon after dawn and other waders are now declining in the area, Oystercatchers were down to 2 thousand today and only 15 Redshank were counted, although turnstones are holding up well at 225 birds.The sea was quiet, just 2 groups of 7 and 25 Common Scoters were logged until bird of the day, a female Goosander flew in from the south west and went off north after showing to the observers on the island. The Merlin was present again but this time showed well several times and chased pipts and waders after perching in the south cove. Two Pied Wagtails were the only passerine migrants, although a ringed Goldcrest lingered from 2 days ago. A female Blackbird was nest building, likewise some Linnets and Meadow Pipits. The seal count at 187 was a high for the year, numbers have been down recently. A Small tortoiseshell butterfly came out in the sunshine.
Ringed:- 1 Wren, 1 Linnet.
(DB,KMc)              [136-14]     

Monday, 19 March 2012

19th March 2012

A brief mid afternoon visit allowed an accurate count of 173 Brent Geese to be made as most birds roosted on the shore, with a few others feeding on the rocks at the North end. A Little Egret fed in the pools. A Chiffchaff & Goldcrest were noted in the Obs garden.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

18th March 2012

A beautiful morning on Hilbre with sunshine but a cool northerly breeze.
Observers were treated to a Magpie that spent a bit of time at the north end before departing towards N Wales. Signs of spring passage included a male House Sparrow caught and ringed (above) whilst a female was also present. Single each of Goldcrest & Robin were ringed along with an unusual adult male Blackbird with a partially white head (right).
At least 20,000 knot headed north whilst the Brent's remained feeding on the tide line with 2 Little Egrets for company (bottom).
Two Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies were only the second record for the spring whilst the pond in the old Obs garden is full of mating frogs and spawn (above).
Ringed: 1 Blackbird, 1 Goldcrest, 1 House sparrow, 1 Robin
(JE, KMc,PSW)            [134-13]              photos JE,KMC,PSW

Friday, 16 March 2012

16th March 2012

After the elation of yesterdays passage this morning was back to normal with up to 10 Goldcrests on the island, some of which were almost certainly stayers from yesterday. Although 3 Wheatears were present, one was a ringed individual also from yesterday. A few finches passed over with a Chaffinch and a Greenfinch staying to be ringed. A Peregrine was on the ridge south of Middle early in the day (left) and was hunting the waders on the east side later, whilst the Merlin was again in the area in the morning.
Also seen this morning were a Grey Wagtail moving south low over the island, and a Rook flying south west. A Rock Pipit was at the north end today after also being seen late yesterday. The sea was again quiet, 11 Common Scoter and a Red-breasted Merganser were logged, and the Brent were counted at 145 including 3 dark-bellied.
Ringed:- 3 Goldcrests, 1 Robin, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Greenfinch.
(DB,JE,AEH,CJ,KMc+SD,CS,PSW et al)       [130-12]          photo    CJ

Thursday, 15 March 2012

15th March 2012

Possibly the best March migration day that any of the observers could remember, certainly concerning the number of birds ringed. Goldcrests were seen passing along the shore from dawn and came in a steady stream all morning, with another pulse after midday just as we thought it had slowed to a trickle, and were not only in the trapping paddocks but all over the island including the cliffs and grassy areas (above). A conservative estimate was of 200 birds but there may have been many more. Two of the 80 Goldcrests trapped turned out to be controls (ringed elsewhere)(left), a very high percentage return for such a small migrant. The first 3 Wheatears of the spring arrived on the west side (below), which would have been exciting in itself on any other day; two entered the potter traps and became the joint holder of the title of the earliest ever ringed at Hilbre together with a bird on the same date in 2003. Another species ringed for the first time this spring were 5 Chiffchaffs, hopefully the first of many in the next few weeks (below right). Unfortunately not staying on the islands were 2 Snow Buntings that flew south calling, another exciting record for the ringers and helpers who were very busy but still managed to see then fly towards Little Eye from the observatory veranda. Meadow Pipit passage was smaller than yesterday, but still comprised some 150 birds, whilst other migrants included 8 White Wagtails, 7 Pied Wagtails, 4 Siskins, a Reed Bunting, a Chaffinch, a Skylark and a Wood Pigeon. Obviously there was little time to watch the sea or shore today, nevertheless also noted were the Merlin, and 2 Teal (bottom). The Brent were counted at 151 including 3 dark-bellied.
Ringed:- 78 Goldcrests, 5 Chiffchaffs, 2 Wheatears, 4 Robins, 1 Chaffinch.   

(DB,AEH,CJ,CJW et al) [124-12] photos CJ

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

14th March 2012

A significant passage of Meadow Pipits today (above) with 230 moving through in small to medium parties helped by the south easterly breeze off the coast. The Merlin was again hunting the shore early but as in the last few days not seen later in the morning. Ten Pied Wagtails went through, also a Grey and a single White Wagtail that was the first of the year. Not too many finches today just 3 Goldfinches, 3 Siskins and a Chaffinch singing on the island but not being trapped for ringing (top left). Three Goldcrests followed the recent small arrivals that are earlier in the month than is normal. A Song Thrush was the first new present since the departure of the wintering birds. Most unexpected bird of the day was probably a Rook that flew south down the island just after mid-day (left). There are still at least 142 pale and 2 dark bellied Brent still on the shore.
 Ringed:- 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Goldcrests, 1 Wren
 (BSB,DB,CJ,CJW,PSW et al)         [34-10]       photos CJ (Rook), BSB others

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

13th March 2012

The Merlin showed again today, 2 pairs of Wigeon and a single female Teal were noted, and a small fall of 8 Goldcrests were about the island.

Monday, 12 March 2012

12th March 2012

Early morning migration was similar to yesterday in many respects, today 4 Goldcrests, 2 Chaffinches, 3 Pied Wagtails and the odd Skylark overhead (with one grounded later), but in addition 2 Fieldfares flew through early in the morning and 2 new Blackbirds, one being ringed. The Merlin was seen on the cliff on Middle and 5 Canada Geese flew west between Little Eye and Middle. A large flock of Eider, one of the biggest ever seen at Hilbre of 22 birds, including 12 drakes, rested on the sea north west of bird rock after high tide. The only other duck was a pair of Wigeon seen several times flying around the islands, although about a thousand Common Scoter were noted through telescopes way out towards the wind farm.The sea watching was again poor with 2 Red-throated Divers the highlight but with a bonus of brief glimpses of a Harbour porpoise out to the west.The Pale-bellied Brent were well scattered again, the best count available was 135 in addition to 2 dark-bellied individuals.
Ringed:-3 Goldcrests, 2 Chaffinches, 1 Blackbird
(BSB,DB,CJ,KMc,AO,MGT+KD,CJW,AW)          [29-9]

Sunday, 11 March 2012

11th March 2012

Surprisingly, given the wind direction, there were a few grounded birds on Hilbre this morning but these soon dispersed before a slight mist rolled in. The first round of the Heligoland traps resulted in 3 Goldcrests (below right) and a female Greenfinch (right) being ringed and there were 20 -30 Meadow Pipits present. A Skylark flew over and tried to land before continuing on towards Middle Eye. Highlight of the morning was a male Eider that drifted rapidly down the east side as the tide flooded (below left). It, or another, was found as the tide ebbed on the west side where it was joined by a female before they both flew off towards Point of Ayr. A Chiffchaff was seen on Middle Eye and later heard  in the Obs garden but couldn't be relocated. A Rock Pipit was briefly seen at the north end at high tide before flying out to sea directly north.
Apart from the Eider the sea was remarkable quiet with only 2 Great-crested Grebes being seen although a Puffin was seen by one observer flying up the West Hoyle from between Little & Middle Eye as he drove off.
Wader numbers were good with a maximum of 14 Purple Sandpipers being seen.
  (DB+ESCA, JE, PSW, AW)     [23-8]      photos PSW

Friday, 9 March 2012

9th March 2012

An uneventful day even by what is expected with the wind in the west and only just over a week into March. A Merlin sheltered in the south cove until disturbed and then failed to return for the remainder of the day. Four Pied Wagtails were the only passerine migrants apart from a Starling on Middle first thing, and the sea was equally disappointing with just a single Red-throated Diver, 15 Great Crested Grebes and about 50 Common Scoter in addition to the bird which kept close to the island throughout (above). The only firsts for the year were a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (the first butterfly of any sort this year) and a Seven-spot ladybird, also the first of its kind. A Peregrine gave a fine display of wader chasing this afternoon and then rested on the shore. Better things are expected shortly when the wind turns to the south.
(DB,CJ,KMc+SD,CS,NDW)                photo   CJ

Thursday, 8 March 2012

8th March 2012

A female Sparrowhawk flew west from the island in a strong north westerly. Noted later on the north shore/ east hoyle were approximately 8,000 large gulls.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

7th March 2012

A work party came across in a force 6/7 north westerly and gallantly spent some time straightening the large fence by the public path, and then repairing the 'Heli' trap. They found a male Shoveler in the east gutter, a decidedly scarce bird for Hilbre.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

6th March 2012

Whereas migrants have been going through in the last few days on a south easterly, there were virtually none today in similar conditions, we suspect the wind was north or south west overnight until dawn. The meagre total today was 3 Pied wagtails and 2 Skylarks. There were no finches, even the resident Linnets were reluctant to show until noon. Highlight of the day was undoubtedly a Hooded Crow that flew west over the obs garden at about 07.40 and seemed to continue to Wales (top, record shot). More photogenic were four Eiders that stepped out on the east side of the island but did not stay too long (above), another pair were later seen flying off the west side. The sea was otherwise very quiet, just 2 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and wader counts at high tide of 220 Turnstones and 14 Purple sandpipers.
Ringed;- 1 Meadow Pipit 
(DB,CJ)       [19-8]      photos CJ 

Friday, 2 March 2012


Paul Brady, Visitor Development Officer for RSPB Dee Estuary, about to release a Great Spotted Woodpecker at a ringing site near to the reserve (South Wirral), watched by John Elliott of Hilbre Bird Observatory.

Hilbre Bird Observatory has worked with the RSPB Dee Estuary on a number of occasions and is looking forward to the organised joint RSPB/Wirral Rangers visits to Hilbre and the Observatory later this year (see dates below). Visitors will be able enjoy a low tide birdwatch as well as see the day-to-day operations of the observatory and hopefully watch some birds being trapped and ringed (photo BSB).

The dates of these events are 14th April 2012 and 8th September 2012 - however, booking is essential. Please telephone 0151 648 4371 to book your place.

2nd March 2012

The south easterlies continued and brought another Goldcrest to the island also a small number of finches (4 Siskin, 4 Greenfinch, 1 Chaffinch and a Goldfinch) and 7 Pied Wagtails. The Merlin was still present, also 3 of the Blue Tits from yesterday, but new today was a Rook flying south and 4 Jackdaws travelling south west. The first Gannet of the year was found on the sea together with 18 Common Scoter and 9 Great Crested Grebes, but more of a surprise floating off the west side of the north end was an immature Mute Swan.
Ringed :- 1 Goldcrest, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Robin, 1 Blackbird
(DB,CS et al)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

1st March 2012

Good migration today with a light south easterly bringing an amazing 8 Blue Tits and a Great Tit to the island together with the first Goldcrest of the year. A Raven flew south west, and a Merlin was present. Varied migrants included a Grey Wagtail, 6 Pied Wagtails, 6 Skylarks, 2 Starlings, a Collared Dove, with finches represented by 11 Goldfinch, 5 Siskin and a Greenfinch.
Sixteen Carrion Crows were on the east hoyle bank and later 2 Golden Plover flew from there north over Hilbre. One hundred and sixty Sanderling flew north east, obviously on the way to their breeding grounds.
Ringed :- 7 Blue Tits, 1 Great Tit, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Blackbird.
(DB,CJW et al)