An afternoon visit by relatives of founder member John Gittins, led by John's brother Chris and organised by his nephew Tim, would have made John proud as the blustery south westerly wind and intermittent rain didn't put anyone off. John being renowned for walking out every Sunday morning with big rucksack on his back in all weathers!
Chris at John's plaque (photo SRW)
A look around the Obs reminded everyone how much of an influence 'JCG' had on Hilbre Bird Observatory and it's members and he still does.
A Wheatear greeted the visitors on the Obs gate but a look around the traps and particularly the 'heli' (the first trap built on Hilbre by John in 1957) produced an unringed Robin - one of John's favourite birds.
Earlier the wind had decreased since yesterday and a 2 hour sea watch was uneventful, the chief sightings were a Red-throated Diver, 15 Common Scoters, 2 Red-breasted Merganers and 3 Great Crested Grebes.
Two Swallows were seen but there were no migrants on the ground. The normal waders were on the shore including the now regular flock of about 300 Knot, and 19 Brent on the tide edge with the Oystercatchers (below, photo JE).
Hilbre today hosted a sea watching event organised jointly by the RSPB, the Wirral Ranger service, the Sea Watch Foundation and the Hilbre bird observatory. For once the gods were with us as a force 6 plus westerly greeted the 60 or so of all ages that ventured across before the tide. Most of the good sightings were before the tide when the wind was at its strongest including 2 Leach's petrels within 2 minutes, 1 distant and 1 close and another close bird just before high tide. A Great Skua made a near approach in good light while the 4 Arctic Skuas were more distant. A single Manx Shearwater came close in but the most numerous sea birds today were Common Scoters with small parties being constantly seen..Other records included 2 Red-throated Divers, 7 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Kittiwakes, 3 Gannets, 3 Fulmars, 12 Guillemots, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers with a few Sandwich Terns floating by. No birds in the trapping
area as expected and just a single Swallow to represent the small migrants. Earlier 25 bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore and a flock of 8 Wigeon were flying off the east side, while after the tide 37 Brent appeared between the islands. On the whole a very successful and enjoyable day for all.
(CJ,PSW), Thanks to Colin Wells, Lynne Greenstreet, Scott Reid, Colin Davis, also PSW for speaking to the visitors at the obs.
The Rabbit was in the obs garden when members arrived this morning, its been on the island a long time now, and has been christened 'thumper' by one regular (must ask him to explain why, hold on just googled it, thumper was the rabbit in 'Bambi'). All the Goldcrest and Chiffchaffs from yesterday had disappeared in the fresh westerly this morning and the trapping areas were almost desolate. A small passage of Swallows were moving through from the north east and that seemed to be the sum total of migration. A flock of 22 Teal flew south down the east side, likewise 5 Wigeon did the same a short time later. A Rock Pipit was found at the north end and was seen several times during the morning, it is the first record of this autumn period when small numbers are known to pass through the islands. Only 4 Brent were seen, the others would have been elsewhere in the area. Other records today were 13 Scoter, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits,14 Shelduck and a Little Egret.
(CJ et al)
The wind is back in the west but it is still light and 4 Chiffchaffs and 3 Goldcrests made it to the island this morning but only a single Swallow was present. Large counts from the shore were 195 Shelduck ( 182 of them at Little Eye), 330 Curlew, and 388 Cormorants with 3 Whimbrel and a new high of 60 Brent Geese. Two Wigeon was a typical autumn sighting and 300 Knot still flew around the islands. Just the odd sea bird seen:- 1 Gannet, 1 Red-throated Diver, 4 Scoter and 2 Great Crested Grebes.
Another brief visit this time shortly after the early tide and with the rain more intermittant located 2 Goldcrests, about 8 Robins and a movement of 30 Swallows, and also established the presence of a Chiffchaff ringed on Sunday last which unsurprisingly had not find the conditions for moving south to its liking since then. A Red-throated Diver in summer plumage was feeding within a few feet of the whaleback and at least one Whimbrel flew about. The Brent did not settle to be counted although an estimated 35 + were seen.
Ringed :- 2 Robins [ 981-30 ]
(CJ et al)
A brief visit in the afternoon in constant rain by one intrepid member, found as expected no new migarnt arrivals during the monsoon of the previous 42 hours, however the Brent flock was counted at 42 including the red and blue colour ringed bird, a Red-throated Diver and 3 Great Crested Grebes seen and a Little Egret was present.
A possible American Golden Plover flew west passed the light and continued towards the west hoyle bank this morning. The call of the bird was heard and photographs taken which are being closely examined to see if they show the critical points for identification. If confirmed it would be a first record for Hilbre. The Brent Geese reached a new high for the autumn with 38 birds present, including the individual first seen here in 2008 with a red colour ring on the right leg and a blue ring on the left which was ringed in Canada by an Irish ringing group. This many Brent at such an early date is unprecedented. A rarer species of wildfowl for Hilbre appeared in the form of 2 Shovelers flying up the east side at dawn. There were as many Chiffchaffs as Goldcrests today (6 of each) but no larger warblers. Up to 40 Swallows were logged today and more typical autumn birds included a Siskin, a Grey Wagtail, 6 Skylarks and a small passage of 8 Robins. A Pied Wagtail that has been seen about the island over the last week with a ring on its right leg (most on Hilbre are ringed on the left) was trapped and as thought was definitely ringed elsewhere. The large flock of Knot still wheels at the north end, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore and 65 Common Scoters and an Arctic Skua were noted on the sea.
Ringed :- 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Robins, 2 Goldcrests, 1 Wren, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Blackbird. [ 979-30 ]
An immature male Stonechat (left) became the first of its kind to be ringed this year when it found itself in the 'heli' trap after touring the island for a while. Other visitors today on a clear morning with a very light easterly and lovely autumn sunshine included a male Blackcap, about 10 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs and a few Robins which have been arriving in small numbers this last couple of days. Two Skylarks passed overhead, a single Redpoll called in flight and about 20 Meadow Pipits flitted about the grassy places. Extra Swallows to the breeding birds with family joined them hawking about, while a Wheatear was again on the west side. The Knot flock was up to 2,000 again and rested on the 'whaleback' until disturbed to othe parts at the north end. Two Little Egrets moved about early in the morning. Following the Grey Squirrel on the island on 9th Sept, another was on the shore today west of Middle and seemed to be making towards Red Rocks, presumably from where it came.
As many as 15 Goldcrests about this morning despite the westerly element in the wind, although it had swung easterly by midday. A Reed Bunting was true autumn bird for the island, with 40 Linnets present, some of which will not be island residents. A few Swallows lingered with 8 House Martins passing through. A large flock of 2,300 Knot was a feature of the day at the north end, chattering away amongst themselves, as many as this on the islands have not been seen for a long time. A single Wheatear was present, and a family group of 5 Blackbirds which was the pleasing outcome of a late brood. Thirty five Bar-tailed Godwits and 3 Whimbrel were on the shore, while 210 Sandwich terns had not yet left us to travel south.
Ringed:- 3 Robins, 2 Goldcrests. [ 956-29 ]
(DB, et al)
Obs member Allan Conlin found an american sandpiper (peep) just after midday today off Hoylake promenade. The news was released promptly as a Semipalmated Sandpiper. It remained until 1230pm when it flew with other waders (Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Knot) but was fortunately relocated (again by Allan) off Curzon Road at c1.15pm where it remained occassionally flushed with the other waders until c3pm at least being seen by many observers.
The slightly long-billed appearance and rufous-toned scapulars caused some discussion between Obs members on site. However, when the photos were downloaded and circulated amongst other 'experts' and loaded on the internet further debate ensued as to whether it was in fact a Western Sandpiper... see for yourselves.
Superb sea-watching over the last week including today (with over 80 Leach's Petrels by 3pm) will be updated on the blog soon. Highlights over the last week include several juvenile Long-tailed Skuas, several Sabine's Gulls, good numbers of other skuas and small numbers of Leach's Petrels.
Convolulus Hawk Moth - with 10p coin for size comparison
A day seldom passes when there is nothing of interest for the observatory even when, like today, birds were scarce again. The moth lamp was out last night and obtained records of a small number of species, but the best find was a Convolulus Hawk Moth, a scarce migrant, found resting in the 'heli' trap mid-morning. It may have been there since dark but because of the clever camouflage was not noticed until late morning. Our moth enthusiast was most pleased as he was just leaving after spending 2 weeks on the island. Another unexpected find was a Grey Squirrel that appeared around the obs garden fences, a rare visitor indeed as few make it to the island and we suspect even fewer make it back to the mainland. Birds today were less compelling, a single Willow Warbler was the sole grounded migrant, with no Wheatears present but about 12 Pied and a Grey Wagtail went through and Swallows totalled 75 birds, Meadow Pipits also passed in small groups with 35 during the morning. A Goldfinch was the only non-Linnet finch. The 2 Pale-bellied Brent showed again late morning at the north end, and 5 Bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore. A quick look out to sea from the slipway found
a juvenile Arctic Skua quite close in. Not so many Small Tortoiseshells today, perhaps 15 with a Red Admiral and a Migrant Hawker dragonfly.
Ringed:- 1 Willow Warbler [ 944-29 ]
in the lamp trap last night- thought to be a White-line Dart
The 2 early arrival Pale-bellied Brent seen intermittingly over the last week or so were out by the east hoyle tide edge at low tide this morning before later flying south. A Yellow-legged Gull was also on the east hoyle where it sat preening for a short while as 9 Bar-tailed Godwits were counted feeding close by. Two Chiffchaffs were around briefly before moving on, while a single Wheatear was on Middle early and another was on the main island all morning. A Grey Wagtail flying north gave a touch of late autumn and 2 Pied wagtails were seen several times. Hirundines today were mostly Swallows, over 20 by midday, but a small flock of 6 house Martins fed high over the obs late morning. A Peregrine gave a fine display chasing a pigeon but did not seem to be sucessful as it spent a lot of time sitting on the east hoyle sand bank or flushing the terns. An RSPB/Rangers group visited the observatory and were given a talk by PSW. Ringed :- 1 Wren [ 943-29 ]
Not many birds about at the moment but the sunshine at least brought out the butterflies today, nine species were recorded with 35 Small Tortoiseshells on show. Tortoiseshells seem to have made a good recovery this year despite it being a poor year generally for lepidoptera. A single Willow Warbler and a Wheatear were found on the island and a Great Crested Grebe on the sea, also 8 Bar-tailed Godwits were on the shore.
With the wind stuck in the north west again hopes were not high for any migration this morning, so the first Chiffchaff of the autumn was a pleasant surprise together with about 6 Willow Warblers, four of which travelled together down the sheltered east side of the island. The 2 Wheatears seen were also taking advantage of the gardens away from their usual habitat on the open ground on the west side. Best bird of the day was a Stonechat found initially in the paddocks and showing frequently perched on the bungalow fences etc. A flock of 40 House Martins erupted from the east side gutter and disappeared although 1 or 2 more passed with a Sand Martin and 32 Swallows. Terns were well down in numbers with only a dozen or so Sandwich and about 100 Common on the shore. A brief sea watch was unproductive with no Skuas or Gannets showing and just a single Razorbill on the sea, although 62 Sanderling flew by in small groups. Two Whimbrel were noted and 6 bar-tailed Godwits fed in the flooding gutter before the tide but there was no sign of the 2 early arrival Brent which have been seen from Friday and over the weekend.
Migration again at a premium today, about 20 Swallows and a single Wheatear is all that could be found following the early drizzle. All the damp Autumn weather has one advantage in so much as it produces fungii, some edible, see the pictures of two different species below. The usual Linnets and Meadow Pipits were about including a juvenile just finishing its moult that was caught for ringing. Plenty of the usual waders with a Bar-tailed Godwit feeding just under the obs as the tide came in.
Very quiet start to the month with no migrants, but another interesting moth, the Canary-shouldered Thorn, Ennomos alniaria was in the light trap last night. Although it is fairly common throughout Britain in the right habitat it is only the second record for the island.