Monday, 30 April 2012

30th April 2012

April redeemed itself on the very last day of the month with a splendid fall of warblers on the island. It was obvious to those staying on the island and arriving early that it was going to be a good day when numerous Willow Warblers were seen on Middle first thing and then soon afterwards on Hilbre where a stunning male Redstart appeared near the Lookout.  The mainland was alerted and several Wheatears floated across the sands against the strong easterly breeze. Bird of the day for the team was one of the 50 or so Willow Warblers present that was trapped and carried a ring from the Spanish ringing scheme (left and above left). A warbler control from southern europe is a very unusual event, much rarer than finding a bird that was ringed elsewhere in Britain. If that wasn't enough excitement, a Lesser Whitethroat appeared in a mist net (above right), a scarce arrival at Hilbre, we average about one a year if we are lucky, early May being the best time to find one. Three Redstarts were on the island, 2 males (below) and a female, also the first Sedge Warbler of the year (below right), a Whitethroat, 20 Greenland Wheatears (mostly going through soon after dawn) and 2 Chiffchaffs. Other than a dozen Goldfinches there was also 2 Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll flying through. Overhead 3 House Martins and 13 Swallows made low passes to avoid the wind, also 2 Swifts hawking around the top of the island (bottom left). The sea was quiet with a strengthening south easterly, but 20 Sandwich Terns were noted, while Whimbrel were only in low numbers, possibly 1 or 2.

 Ringed:- 38 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Redstarts, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Greenland Wheatear, 2 Robins, 2 Meadow Pipits, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Linnet.
(DB,CJ,DCT,PT, et al)           [ 411-24 ]         photos  CJ

Sunday, 29 April 2012

29th April 2012

The few intrepid members who stayed on the island during the monsoon today were rewarded with a sighting of a Short-eared Owl dropping in to the bracken at the south end, but slipping away without being seen again. A beautiful adult Little Gull was close in to the north end as 42 Gannets were counted on the sea.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

28th April 2012

A cool north easterly did not feel hopeful this morning but at least it did not rain. A single Chiffchaff was ringed and a Willow Warbler and Blackcap from Thurs were still on the island. Three Greenland Wheatears rapidly moved south along the ridge very early and another appeared later on the island. Swallows also showed in small numbers (8) before 7.00am but just another single before noon. Fifteen Goldfinches were the only other small migrants. Two newly fledged Blackbirds were ringed, the first from one of the island nests (left), following the adults recently being seen to be carrying food. No dedicated sea watch today but single Sandwich Tern, Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser were logged. Up to 12 Whimbrel and a Little Egret were on the shore.
Ringed :- 2 Blackbirds, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Chiffchaff
(CJ,DCT,PT,NDW,PSW,SRW)    [ 360-21 ]    photo  CJ

Friday, 27 April 2012

27th April 2012

A near gale from the north today and as expected very little arrived, although there were 2 Greenland Wheatears, a count of 10 Swallows, 2 Willow Warblers on the island and a single White Wagtail, with 7 Gannets and 60 Sandwich Tern son the sea.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

26th April 2012

Light drizzle and a drop in the wind strength produced more quality than quantity today with good movements of swallows early on. Several Wheatears moved through including two Greenland race that were trapped and ringed (above right), the first Swift of the year moved through about 0730 followed by another later. Several phylloscs were present along with two male Blackcaps (above) and the first Whitethroat (right) which came straight in to the obs garden from the West, a Tree Pipit was heard over head and several White Wagtails were also moving through. A few small flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were noted along with 40 Bar Tailed Godwits, 6 Whimbrel and good numbers of Knot. The weather deteriorated by lunch time as the tide flooded.
Ringed:- 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, 2 Greenland Wheatears, 1 Whitethroat
(DB,CJW, et al)     [ 356-21 ]

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

25th April 2012

Repairs were made today to the 'heli' trap and despite the very strong and lots of rain, today was also quite productive form a birding perspective. Rarest of the day ( from a Hilbre point of view ) were 4 Shoveler duck that were seen flying south west, closely followed in the rarity stakes by a Black-tailed Godwit on the shore. A small fall of phylloscopus warblers saw 8 Willow Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs in the paddocks, a Blackcap was ringed, while passing through were 3 Greenland Wheatears, 2 Greenfinches and 22 Goldfinches and a Reed Bunting. Oddities included 2 Wood Pigeons and a Canada Goose. A sea watch was also productive, listing amongst others 340 Sandwich Terns, 11 Common Terns, 7 Manx Shearwaters, 18 Razorbills, 24 Gannets, 5 Kittiwakes, and a Red-throated Diver.
Ringed:- 6 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap
(DB,CF,CJW,PSW)        [ 348 - 20 ]

Monday, 23 April 2012

23rd April 2012

A south easterly overnight gave members greater enthusiasm for the day and they were rewarded with the best ringing day so far of a generally poor April. Twelve Willow Warblers (left) and a Chiffchaff in the gardens this morning was a distinct improvement and a superb male Redstart (right) located around the obs garden was nevertheless quite elusive, disappearing for long periods, before being captured in the garden mist net. The Redstart when examined had somewhat malformed legs and so it was decided not to ring the bird, even though it appeared in perfect health and had just returned from Africa. Small migrants were few apart from the Willow warblers, only 4 Swallows, 2 Pied wagtails and 12 Goldfinches, but a notable bird was a trapped Wren (below left) that was ringed elsewhere, proving what we all knew that not all Hilbre Wrens are residents and many are migrants at times of passage. Another first for the year after the Redstart were 2 Tree Pipits heard calling as they flew overhead, and to complete the trio of new species 4 Little Terns flew west across the island in the afternoon, presumably having just arrived in the area and ready to breed at Gronant. Other seabirds today included 15 Sandwich Terns, 25 Gannets, 1 Kittiwake, 5 Razorbills, 4 Common Scoter and 4 Red-breasted Merganser. Four hundred Knot flew north east past the north end while 2 Whimbrel called around the island. A Rook flying over from Wales towards red Rocks was an unusual visitor (left). The Breeding season is now well under way with Meadow Pipits, Wrens and Linnets all doing their stuff, and there seems to be at least 2 pairs of Dunnocks, also 2 pairs of Blackbirds, which were seen to be feeding young (above right).

Ringed:- 9 Willow Warblers, 1 Chiffchaff. 3 Linnets, 1 Blackbird.

(BSB,DB,JE,CJ et al) [ 339-20 ] Photos BSB (Wren and Blackbird), others CJ

Saturday, 21 April 2012

21st April 2012

The early morning approach to the island found a sub-adult Yellow-legged gull with other gulls on the east side. A cold westerly gave little hope of migration and so it proved although a Yellow Wagtail calling over was the first record this year. Seven Swallows passed through, also 10 Goldfinches, a Siskin and a White Wagtail but it was otherwise very quiet. On the ground a single Chiffchaff represented the warblers and 2 Wheatears stopped to feed. Eight Gannets and 2 Razorbills were logged.
Ringed:- 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Linnets
(DB+ESCA,CJ,PSW,SRW) [ 325-20 ]

Friday, 20 April 2012

Spoonbill 13th April 2012 - more photos


A selection of superb photos of the recent Spoonbill by Brian Tollitt

20th April 2012

The weather this morning was slightly less unpleasant, yet still from the west with little or no migration, just a single Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Wheatear on the island. The Wheatear was of the nominate race, we expect most Wheatears passing through from now on to be of the Greenland subspecies. Not content with eating the meal worms provided in the potter trap the first time around the Wheatear returned twice more to continue its juicy meal and when re-weighed it had gained 1.2 grams (about 5% of its body weight) in not much more than 2 hours. Six Swallows floating through and 4 Goldfinches was all the overhead migration, even Pied wagtails did not appear today. A juvenile Peregrine sat on the west cliff of Middle early in the day and later an adult was on the sand east of the island. Seabirds seen were mostly Gannets (50+) and Sandwich Terns (100+), Whimbrel (2) are still in short supply for this late in April, but 80 Sanderling was a nice total. The resident Rabbit showed on the path by the paddocks early this morning (above), it certainly seems to be happy on the island alone for all this time.
Ringed :- 1 Wheatear, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff
(DB,CJ et al)            [ 322- 20 ]            photo  CJ

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

18th April 2012

All of a sudden lot of auks on the sea today, 60 Guillemots and 20 Razorbills, also 150 Sandwich and 15 Common Terns, 100 Gannets and 10 Common Scoter. A Greenshank was a good spring record, while the Brent were counted at 62 birds still present. Just 2 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff (which was ringed) on the ground.
(BSB,DB,CJW)              [ 319-20 ]

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

17th April 2012

Unpleasant weather for the visit of David Hussell from the Longpoint observatory in Canada (the oldest of its kind in North America, David pictured left releasing a Wheatear), we were however lucky enough to ring 3 Wheatears, all males, 2 of which were of the Greenland race, that breed closer to his home than ours, plus a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. The north westerlies with showers blew in good numbers of sea birds including lots of Gannets and Sandwich Terns, a few Common Terns, 4 Manx Shearwaters and very many auks.
(DB,JE+1,CJW) [318-20] photo JE

Monday, 16 April 2012

16th April 2012

There was a small passage of Wheatears today with 7 birds, 2 of the Greenland race, also 6 Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff, 12 Sand Martins and 39 Swallows. Two adult drake Eiders were at the north end and 56 Sandwich and 2 Common Terns feeding on the sea.
(DB,CF,CJW,et al)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

15th April 2012

A very bright morning on the island with very good visibility (you could see the Lake District and Blackpool tower to the North and the Great Orme and the North Wales coast to the West) and a fresh north east breeze meant that there were no grounded warblers today.

However, a Wheatear sneaked through early on and there was a small amount of evidence that there was some migration overhead with single Siskin and a couple of White Wagtails over. When the sun warmed the island up mid morning a few Swallows arrived and by midday the count had reached 16. The Brent Geese flock seems to have reduced in number and 50 were counted on the way off the island at lunchtime.

On the sea good numbers of Sandwich Terns were counted and could be heard around the islands (over 100 were present) and a couple of Common Terns were found.

Three Little Egrets could be seen hunting the gutter and the final noteworthy record of the day was a fine drake Eider which flew north.

(DB, JE, SRW and TGW)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

14th April 2012

The obs hosted a joint RSPB/Wirral Rangers arranged visit this morning in which the visitors were given a tour of the observatory and an explanation of its work, and fortunately despite it being a quiet bird day they were able to see 2 birds ringed. Both the obs members and the visitors enjoyed each others company on a cool but sunny start to the day. A lone Willow Warbler was on the island this morning, the first warbler to arrive for 5 days at a time when favourable weather conditions can sometimes produce the best Willow Warbler falls of the spring. The Blackcap is still around and 3 Wheatears today were an improvement on recent days, although Swallows (10) were down on yesterday and there were no Sand Martins. A small number of Goldfinches , a Lesser Redpoll and a few Pied Wagtails went through as the only small migrants until just after noon a Blue Tit (below, scarcest Hilbre bird of the day) appeared by the 'heli' trap following a squall but refused to be trapped for ringing. Fleeting larger visitors today included 2 Wood Pigeons and a Magpie. Sandwich Terns numbered about 200, and the first 4 Common Terns of the year were noted amongst the passage, also a small number of Gannets and 10 Great Crested Grebes. The Merlin showed well for the RSPB visitors, as did 3 Purple Sandpipers. Sanderling on the shore are always pleasing little waders to see and 40 were noted today. Only about 50 Brent were found today but there may be more still about. Ringed:- 1 Linnet, 1 Willow Warbler. (DB,AEH,CJ,PSW, Colin Wells et al) [ 313-20] photos CJ

Friday, 13 April 2012

13th April 2012

At 08.35hrs this morning a Spoonbill flew up the west side and across the north of the island and settled to feed for some time with 2 Little Egrets in the east gutter, staying long enough for a couple of members to twitch it from the mainland (above). This is only the 3rd record for Hilbre and the second that bothered to stay and feed. Earlier a drake Eider floated slowly in from the east and sat on the rocks but did not linger more than a few minutes (bottom left). Still no warblers on the island apart from the Blackcap that was ringed yesterday and has now been here for 3 days, obviously feeding well, increasing in weight by a gram and a half and showing yellow pollen from the blackthorn on its bill (right). As the morning warmed and the breeze dropped almost to zero, hirundines passed through totalling 23 Sand Martins and 33 Swallows and a Wheatear appeared at the north end. Goldfinches (19) again were the main finches, although a couple of Lesser Redpolls and a flock of 4 Siskins also went through. A few Pied Wagtails including 4 Whites were noted but no Yellow Wagtails or Tree Pipits have yet made the log sheet. A calm sea made for easier vision and 16 Little Gulls fluttered out towards the windfarms, also 60 Sandwich Terns and 50 Gannets. Quite surprisingly there are still 104 Brent (including 2 dark-bellied) on the shore, as we expect the majority to be gone within about a week. Later in the afternoon the hirundine passage continued with an extra 35 Swallows, 25 Sand Martins and 2 House Martins, the first this spring. Ringed :- 2 Linnets. (BSB,DB,AAB,AEH,CJ,THM+3,BT, et al) [311-20] photos John Ball (top Spoonbill) CJ (rest)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

12th April 2012

The male Blackcap seen yesterday was trapped and ringed, but no further warblers arrived during the night. Twenty Eight Goldfinches were noted, now the commonest finch species that moves through Hilbre reflexing their increase in recent years all over the country. Two hundred Sanderling were off the west side of Middle, 12 Sandwich terns were logged with 4 Gannets and the Brent were counted at 100 birds , including 2 dark-bellied. Two Swallows and 8 white Wagtails were the best of the migrants. Ringed;- 2 Goldfinches, 1 Wren, 1 Blackcap.
(DB,CJW) [309-20]

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

11th April 2012

Apart from the 95 Brent, there were 3 Canada and 2 Greylag geese today on the shore. A male Blackcap was the only warbler but even that managed to evade capture. A small passage of 14 Sand Martins and 12 Swallows braved the strong westerlies, while 28 Sandwich Terns and 40 Gannets were blown within sight of the island. A Dunnock was ringed which was a little unusual in that all the resident birds are already ringed and this was therefore a stranger !
(DB,CJW) [308-19]

Saturday, 7 April 2012

7th April 2012

Lighter winds today but still with a northerly element and no overnight migrants on the ground. As the island was surrounded by the very high tide the first Whimbrel of the spring was found, also the second Swallow of the year. Fifteen Little Gulls were noted on the sea along with a Harbour Porpoise and the Brent were counted at 92 by Little Eye as the tide flooded. Two Linnets became the first birds to be ringed this month, an unusually quiet first week of April after an outstanding total ringed during March.
(JE,CJ,CLW,SRW,TGW,CJW,GIW)      [301-19]

Friday, 6 April 2012

6th April 2012

The Merlin and a Wood Pigeon were on Middle first thing but again with a fresh cold westerly just a few Goldfinches were the only new birds on the island. A sea-watch fared better logging a total of 65 Little Gulls, 25 Kittiwakes, 65 Common Scoter,23 Gannets, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Red-throated Divers, a Guillemot and 2 more Sandwich Terns. Purple Sandpipers today numbered 6, one or two could hang around for a few weeks yet.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

5th April 2012

After yesterdays strong north easterlies observers were greeted this morning with fences down across the main pathway (left), but as there was very little bird activity there was plenty of time to get out the hammer and nails. The Merlin was on the obs fence this morning seeming to look for prey amongst the pittisporum bush, but it didn't appear to have any more luck than us in bird finding today (pictured above through a salt sprayed window). Most pleasing bird of the day only arrived after noon when the first Swallow of the year flew north over the obs. Other migrants were scarce indeed this morning, 1 Goldfinch, 2 Pied Wagtails were about the extent of it. The sea was also quiet although a Little Gull was identified distantly towards the north west and 2 more Sandwich Terns showed along with 22 Common Scoter, 9 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Guillemots and a Red-throated Diver. A group of 150 Sanderling were on the flood tide edge west of middle, 170 Turnstones still remain with at least 3 Purple Sandpipers (there may be more). Both Kestrel and Peregrine appeared at some stage during the day, and 2 Little Egrets were west of the islands at noon. Two or three Small Tortoiseshell butterflies flew as the wind dropped later in the morning.
(DB,AEH,CJ,CS+1,CJW et al)        photos  CJ

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

3rd April 2012

A sea watch in a moderate north westerly produced 27 Gannets travelling west and a surprisingl;y large group (for this time) of 20 Sandwich Terns also flying west, a single Red-throated Diver and a single Great Crested Grebe were also logged. Sixty Sanderling flew north east and a good count of 380 Curlew was made between the east hoyle bank and Little eye.

Monday, 2 April 2012

2nd April 2012

A short visit of only an hour and a half, managed to log quite a few birds, the best of which was 2 drake and 1 female Goosander flying south west, a good record of this scarce species at Hilbre. On the sea were 6 adult Gannets,10 Common Scoter,a Red-breatsted Merganser, while on the shore 25 Grey Plovers, 20 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Little Egret and 650 Redshank near the Tanskeys. A Common Seal was out on the east side of Middle Eye.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

1st April 2012

The south easterly overnight failed to produce the goods with not a single warbler to be seen this morning, and finches were not much better, 10 Siskin, 8 Goldfinch, 6 Redpoll, 1 Greenfinch and just single Pied and White Wagtail. The mysteries of migration sometimes baffle even those who study weather patterns etc. Following the large fall of warblers and others at some south coasts hotspots yesterday we at least hoped for better than this. Some consolation was the finding of the first 2 Sandwich Terns this year as they moved down the west hoyle bank calling (very distant record shot, right). More of a surprise was a flock of 21 Gannets flying east in a tight group very close to the north end, these were the only Gannets of the day. More Knot were seen this morning to exit the estuary when 10,000 moved out north and later 800 followed them up the west side. A single Magpie on the island did not stay  more than a few minutes, but the 2 Merlins were seen a couple of times.
(DB+ESCA,JE+1,CJ,NDW,TGW,SRW,PSW)           photo PSW