Wednesday, 31 October 2012

31st October 2012

Another (or the same) Merlin was seen again but best record of the day would probably be the 3 Mute S that flew south west passed the island. There were still some Starlings going through but not as many as yesterday, the largest flock being one of 50 birds. A male Chaffinch was in the paddocks but little else. Fifteen Grey Plovers were more than we usually see near to Hilbre.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

30th October 2012

A record count of 1542 Cormorants took part in the regular flight out of the estuary after dawn this morning, and fly-overs of Starlings included a flocks of 200 and 120 travelling west. A Dark-bellied Brent sighted today is the first this winter amongst the many pale-bellied birds. About 9 thousand Knot flew about the north shore, while a good count of 200 Turnstones was made. A single Goldcrest was on the ground.

Monday, 29 October 2012

29th October 2012

It was a lovely day on Hilbre today, not much wind and sunny, and looking at the forecast probably the most pleasant day of the coming week. The best birds of the day were undoubably the flock of 3300 Starlings flying from Red Rocks to North Wales early in the morning, nice to see Starlings in such numbers from Hilbre. There was a steady movement of Meadow Pipits, 45 were counted but there may have been more. A Rock Pipit flew along the mist net ride in the Old Obs garden but did not catch itself. A new Dunnock and Robin were ringed, while a Wren, an adult Dunnock and a female Blackbird that was ringed on the 31 August this year were re-trapped. Wigeon continued their recent set of sightings, with a flock of 5 on todays log. Still no sign of the Purple Sandpiper of a few days ago, but the Brent reached a new high count this winter of 176 from Hilbre.

Ringed:- 1 Dunnock, 1 Robin             [ 1063-31 ] 

(DB,JE)     photos JE

Saturday, 27 October 2012

27th October 2012

Wigeon with Cormorants
A very cold northerly wind greeted observers today and although the sun shone throughout it never felt warm. Again there was no movement of thrushes, just a single Song Thrush and possibly only 1 out of the 4 Blackbirds was new in. A flock of 200 Starlings flew west over the island followed some time later by another 8. A group of 8 Wigeon flew low over the sea out of the Dee in the morning with Cormorants for company, and another 3 were noted later. Two Goldfinches were down for a while, 1 checking the feeders, also the long staying Chaffinch has put on weight during its stay, perhaps due to the provision of seed. Turnstones settled in Niffy bay for the high tide and 82 were counted with 21 Redshank, although the Purple Sandpiper found the other day could not be located. Two Razorbills around the island and 9 Great Crested Grebes flying east in ones and twos were the only sea birds of note, and sighting of the day was a harbour Porpoise that breached a couple of times out to the west at about 11.00hrs.The change to cold weather does not seem to have affected ' thumper' the rabbit who was seen scampering rapidly passed the bungalows.
(CJ +VB,KMc,PSW)         photo  CJ

Friday, 26 October 2012

26th October 2012

Despite the many records of thrush movements around Wirral today the single Song Thrush that was trapped  and 4 Redwings over seemed to be the only thrushes moving in our direction this morning. Carrion Crows however totalled 70 including a group of 54 together, a very large number to be found in this area. Best of the sea sightings were 1 male and 2 female Eiders, there were also 15 Guillemots, 5 Great Crested Grebes and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers. The male Chaffinch of recent days is still here, but for the first time for a while there was no sign of the Merlin. Three Rock Pipits were noted and a single Starling passed over. Good counts from the shore included 170 Redshanks and 55 Curlew.
Ringed :- 1 Song Thrush       [ 1061-31 ]

Thursday, 25 October 2012

25th October 2012

A light easterly this morning but no bird movement to speak of, although 70 Lapwing flying south west was a good record in Hilbre terms, a Woodpigeon was a day visitor, but apart from a single Goldcrest all other passerines were not new including the male Chaffinch that has been here for a few days now. The Merlin was seen also 2 Rock Pipits and as many as 8,000 Knot were about the Little Eye area.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

24th October 2012

Some breeze today from slightly north of east cleared the mist from around the coast and produced a very quiet day with mostly single migrants, 1 each of Starling, Skylark, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Rock Pipit but 2 Pied Wagtails and 2 Siskins. The Chaffinch was the bird ringed yesterday that has been here for a while and 3 of the 4 Blackbirds were probably island birds. One of the two Little Egrets was the colour ringed bird (see 12th October), the Merlin was also our old friend of recent weeks and there was another appearance by 'thumper' the rabbit who is now a resident. Two Guillemots and 2 Great Crested Grebes were the sole sea bird representatives although 3 Wigeon were logged, while the Brent were once again counted at 171, equally spectacular was the sight of 5,000 Knot at the Tansky rocks just before the tide.
Ringed :- 1 Wren                       [ 1060-31 ]

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

23rd October 2012

 A misty day with almost no breeze made it pleasent walking about but dull for observing or photography. Three Redwings were seen on the island this morning and there were also 2 Song Thrushes through with a few Blackbirds. A flock of 20 Starlings were grounded briefly and 1 or 2 others flew over, also a Skylark and 3 Pied Wagtails. A Chaffinch which was about the island yesterday was finally ringed, likewise the only Goldcrest present today. The Brent were counted at 171, ten Common Scoter were noted on the sea, also a Razorbill and a Guillemot. The Merlin was joined on the island today by a Kestrel.
Ringed:- 2 Blackbirds, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Chaffinch.      [ 1059-31 ]

Monday, 22 October 2012

22nd October 2012

The first Purple Sandpiper of the winter has arrived, it was found this afternoon at the north end and is about the expected date although in some years odd birds have appeared in summer and early autumn but have seldom stayed for very long. Several Blackbirds were about first thing in the morning but another visit in the afternoon found 10 more in the paddocks. A large flock of 78 Starlings landed in the old obs trees, while a Reed Bunting was in the trapping area with 2 Chaffinches. Apart from the regular Merlin other birds noted were 5 Little Egrets, 2 Wigeon and a Skylark.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

21st October 2012


The fog around Wirral cleared over the shore at dawn but about 09.00hrs a thick blanket crossed the Dee giving visibilty on the island down to 50 yards. Even before the fog it was a good morning with migrants on the ground, Song Thrushes in particular with 9 today, also 7 Blackbirds, 10 Goldcrests and a Chaffinch. Two Reed Buntings were on Middle after dawn, but did not make it to the main island, although a wandering Wood Pigeon did so. 
Short-eared Owl

The Short-eared Owl from yesterday was surprisingly still on the island and was flushed from the bracken at the south end, and of course the Merlin still made the island its own, this time without any opposition from another of its kind. Counting of any shore or sea birds was almost impossible although the fog did lift later as the sunshine broke through.
Ringed:- 7 Goldcrests, 4 Song Thrushes, 2 Blackbirds, 1 Chaffinch      [ 1054- 31 ] 
A party from Wirral Advocacy was able to enjoy some of the day with us.
(DB+ESCA,JE,CJ,KMc)   photos   JE (Chaffinch)   CJ (others)

Saturday, 20 October 2012

20th October 2012

Very little happened in the first 2 hours this morning and then 2 Ravens were seen to be mobbing something at the south end of the island and on investigation a Short-eared owl was found around the bracken area. The Merlin was joined by another and they were later observed over the island to be exhibiting the 'grappling' behaviour often noted in raptor species, possibly in this case connected with territorial rights. Two adult Whooper Swans flew south, there has been quite a few records of Whoopers moving this way over the last week or so. Passerines were scarce, 3 Goldfinches, a single Goldcrest, a Song Thrush and 1 or 2 new Blackbirds were all that could be found.

Friday, 19 October 2012

19th October 2012

Song Thrush
Two Canada Geese flew west across the shore at dawn, they probably come from the local park. The island gave a hint of the thrush movements that we expect at this time as 6 Blackbirds and 2 Song Thrushes were present. A Song Thrush was the first to be ringed this autumn, indeed it may even be the first seen. Three Starlings flew in from the north over the sea and a White wagtail was in the obs garden and perched on the roof before departing north. A small number of Goldfinches were about and apart from an abnormal number of Robins little else was found. The Merlin chased the waders around the north end.
Ringed:- 2 Blackbirds, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Meadow Pipit      [ 1040-31 ] 
(DB,CJ,CJW,DGW)             photo  CJ

Thursday, 18 October 2012

18th October 2012

A quiet start to the morning with just the Blackcap ringed yesterday in the paddocks and for the first time recently no Goldcrests at all, although 5 Chaffinches were noted about the area. Things improved mid-morning when 6 Whooper Swans flew down the east side and away to the south west. Twenty nine Starlings passed through and overhead a party of 5 Jackdaws and then 2 Ravens and then another one travelled east from Wales. The Merlin is still about the islands but the Snow Bunting at Little Eye seems to have gone. Oystercatcher numbers are still rising with an estimated 4,500 present today.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

17th October 2012

rainbow over the obs
The heavy overnight rain stopped at 07.00hrs giving way to a day of sunshine and showers leading to some stunning rainbows.The Snow Bunting was still feeding on the tide wrack on Little Eye, giving great close up views to those with a camera. 

Snow Bunting
An immature male Blackcap was in the trapping area at dawn, a real bonus after the rain and especially pleasing following the extreme scarcity of sylvia warblers at Hilbre this autumn, also a Goldcrest was heard, possibly the single bird recorded yesterday. 

 Four Skylarks were over the shore and 3 Starlings later arrived over the sea from the north west, a single Chaffinch was in the garden briefly and a Lesser Redpoll was heard overhead. It seems there are 3 Rock Pipits present at the moment, although we suspect different birds move through at this time of year.
 As one of the highest tides of the year approached a Sparrowhawk flew across the shore and a Merlin was found sitting on the rocks west of the old lifeboat house.

Grey Plover

A brief sea watch was mostly uneventful, just a distant Arctic Skua , 5 Great Crested Grebes and a Guillemot, while waders on the log included 350 Sanderling, 100 Knot, 40 Dunlin and 76 Grey Plover.


Video above of the tide joining behind Little Eye to finally cut off the islands
Ringed :- 1 Blackcap.       [ 1035-31 ] 
(DB,AEH,CJ,NDW,SRW,+ Phil Collins (LOC member))
Photos:- CJ (rainbow and Blackcap), SRW (Snow Bunting, Grey Plover, Sanderling and video) Phil Collins (Merlin)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

16th October 2012

One member braved the storm this morning to do a sea watch. The westerly gale suddenly became a force 9 and then gusted to force 10 for a while which sent the occassional wave crashing against the sea hide. Reward came in the form of a Black-throated diver on the sea, a Bonxie and small numbers of other seabirds including 8 adult Kitiiwakes, 4 Gannets and 4 Razorbills. Three Golden Plovers flew west, a female Goosander was sighted and a Snow Bunting was briefly on the ground on the esat side before flying off, probably the bird which was on Little Eye yesterday. A single Goldcrest appeared to be the only migrant about the island.

Monday, 15 October 2012

15th October 2012

Snow Bunting at Little Eye
 Observers arriving at first light had high expectations, particularly with an easterly wind, and although the frequent showers did ground some passerines, the hoped for rarity didn't materialise! About 8 Goldcrests arrived with the first shower, 5 of which were caught and ringed, but most seemed to move off fairly quickly. Many of the 10 Robins were new in, as were several Wrens and most of the 75 or so Meadow Pipits. 4 Skylarks moved through as did 6 Starlings and a House Sparrow. Raptors were noticeable with an adult Peregrine chasing the Knot early morning, a Merlin darted through and a male Kestrel was present for the duration.

Storm approaching


  At least 150 Brent Geese were off Little Eye at high tide and then near Middle after the tide but more were probably out of sight; about 150 Shelduck flew in late afternoon. A brief sea watch produced 17 Common Scoter, 3 Great Crested Grebe and 2 Razorbills. 3 Little Egrets included the colour ringed bird seen recently. The highlight the day was a Snow Bunting glimpsed briefly on Little Eye as the tide came in and then relocated after the tide in the same place.

Dawn at Hilbre

  Ringed:- 5 Goldcrest; 3 Wren; 2 Meadow Pipit; 2 Robin.    [ 1034-31 ]
 (CCS,CJW,SRW)       photos  CJW (storm) others SRW

14th October 2012

Another fairly quiet day but in October there is always something to see and this morning was no exception. The wind backed from south east to north west in the early part of the day. A small passage of Wrens was noticeable with 9 on the island, 4 Goldcrests were in the gardens but apart from Robins and Dunnocks and 3 Rock Pipits found along the west side very else on the ground. A female Sparrowhawk flew in from the south but failed to take a liking to the island and was not seen again. Overhead a single Jackdaw was heard and 2 House Sparrows flew in circles around the island for an hour or so, a Grey Wagtail was heard and 10 Starlings and 16 Skylarks were totalled in 3 separate parties, just a single Goldfinch and Greenfinch made it on the log. Four Harbour Porpoise were showing distantly off to the north for a few minutes at about 12.00 hrs. The reward for watching the sea was 5 Red-throated Divers, 20 Great Crested Grebes, 52 Common Scoter and a single female Red-breasted Merganser that flew between the islands. A Little Egret was in the gutter and over 100 Shelduck in the Little Eye area.
Ringed:- 3 Goldcrests, 3 Wrens.           [ 1022-31] 

13th October 2012

Variable winds with heavy rain and hail showers was the order of the day, but a few good records resulted, chief of which was a Firecrest that was heard and seen to fly passed observers and off to the south, unfortunately not to return. An adult Whooper Swan flew west across the north end of the island and continued south west towards Wales. Two late Swallows were part of a small movement of migrants during the day which also included 10 Goldcrests, 3 Goldfinches, 3 Greenfinches,2 Starlings and a Grey Wagtail. Four Wigeon were noted also 3 Little Egrets, one of which was the colour ringed individual mentioned recently (see below). The Merlin was seen again. A Convululous Hawk Moth was found dead by the Buoy-masters house.
Ringed:- 5 Goldcrests, 1 Blackbird       [ 1016-31 ]

Friday, 12 October 2012

Colour-ringed birds from East, West and closer to home

With the early arrival and increase in number of Pale-bellied Brent Geese (up to 148 have been counted already and we are not half way through October yet!), we have already seen the return of two colour-ringed birds from previous winters.  The famous "HDRB" (see above right on the 'whaleback') was ringed on Axel Heiberg island (Arctic Canada) on 2nd August 2007 and he first arrived at Hilbre on 24th December 2008 and has been returning each winter since.

A second colour-ringed bird ("HSWB") was ringed at Dungarvan Harbour (Northern Ireland) on 18th December 2008 and first appeared around Hilbre on 12th November 2010.  He returned to the island soon after HDRB this autumn.  Perhaps more birds will follow this winter.  Thanks to the Irish Brent Goose Research Group ( for information about these birds.

Waders have been arriving back since August including one of our Turnstones colour-ringed in the winter of 2007/08 on Hilbre and possibly the bird seen on passage in Iceland in spring 2008.

A Little Egret seen on Tuesday and Wednesday 9th and 10th October 2012 (see right) was colour-ringed and had similar sequences from those seen previously at Hilbre (eg see blog entry for 3rd January 2011) that have been ringed along the North Wales coast as chicks.  We have just received news back that this bird was ringed as the eldest of a brood of two on 25th June 2012 at Penrhyn (Bangor).  Thanks to Tony Cross for the information (
Finally, Wirral Ranger Matt Thomas, of "From the muddy banks of the dee" Dee birder blog fame ( spotted a colour-ringed Black-headed Gull at West Kirby Marine Lake pontoons last Sunday but he could not quite read the lettering.  Just before a trip to Hilbre on Wednesday 10th October 2012 he managed to get a photo (see below).  Matt has since found out that this bird was ringed at Stavanger in Norway on 10th July this year - it had been caught by hand with a food lure and Matt's sighting is the first sighting since it was ringed in Norway.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

11th October 2012

 To cross before the early tide meant leaving in the dark, and as the dawn broke the rain started and never really relented. It didn't take long to check the trapping areas as there were no birds present and it seemed that none would be arriving after the rain had started, but then looking out of the obs window with cups of coffee in hand an unringed Chiffchaff was seen feeding in the shelter of the pittosporum bush (left).
 Another sally into the field during a slight lull in the rain found a late Swallow hawking over the north end. The Merlin showed again west of the obs, and an even more regular friend the rabbit was in its usual position near the SK paddock gate. As members departed the island 6 Wigeon were on the sand just south east of Middle, and a group of 100 or so Sanderling were running on the shore east of Little eye (right).
 (CJ,KMc+SD, et al)                   photos CJ (Chiffchaff), KMc (Sanderlings)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

10th October 2012

A completely different day to yesterday with practically no visible migration, and although the wind was still in the south east the morning felt cold under the overcast sky. A Chiffchaff appeared in the old obs garden and 2 Goldcrests also turned up to be ringed despite neither being previously seen or heard. A single Chaffinch was the only other grounded migrant. Birds of the day were 5 Golden Plover that flew south west initially accompanied by 2 Wigeon. Six Skylarks were heard over the shore, a late Whimbrel was seen and 2 Rock Pipits were on Middle. For the third day running a Merlin flew down the west side ( the same bird ?). One of the 2 Little Egrets seen today was colour ringed, it was also present yesterday afternoon and attempts will be made to find out the ringing details, it may be from a welsh colony some of which are known to have been ringed.
Ringed :- 2 Goldcrests, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Meadow Pipit.          [ 1010 - 31 ]
(JE,AEH,CJ,KMc,NDW,et al)     photo  JE

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

9th October 2012

male Lesser Redpoll
 The sky was clear last night but there was quite a lot of mist around the coasts and despite only 7 birds being ringed today visible migration in the south-east breeze was happening most of the morning.
House Sparrow
 Passerines over included 120 Meadow Pipits, 4 Skylarks, 6 Lesser Redpolls, 9 House Sparrows 2 Goldfinches, a Greenfinch, 8 Pied and a Grey Wagtail, while 2 Collared Doves flew around for a few minutes. Two of the House Sparrows and a male Redpoll dropped in to the obs garden, the Redpoll staying to be ringed. On the ground about 5 Goldcrests, 2 Chaffinches, a Reed Bunting and later a single Chiffchaff stayed to feed in the paddocks, but there were only 3 Blackbirds present and also fewer Robins than yesterday. 
Pink-footed geese

 A feature of the morning was the appearance of a number of corvids floating over the island, firstly a group of 7 Crows, then another group of 9 Crows, and then a large party of 50 Jackdaws (scarce at Hilbre) accompanied by a few more crows, all joined together and drifted south east towards the mainland. Two Jackdaws later landed briefly on the mast.

Not to be outdone wildfowl was also well represented by 6 Wigeon on the sea and a flock of 12 others flying north, while 3 Teal stayed some time on the tide edge on the east side. A skein of 49 Pink-footed geese flew north-east over the island towards the Lancashire mosslands, while the Hilbre Brent are still at a high level, 145 were counted today.
Pale-bellied Brent, including a colour ringed bird
As yesterday a Merlin flew across the north end and down the west side. Two Rock Pipits were seen on the main island, 4 Little Egrets were on the shore and 6 Great-crested Grebes on the sea.
Ringed:- 3 Goldcrests, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Robin, 1 Wren      [ 1006-31 ]
 (CJ et al)           photos CJ etc.



Monday, 8 October 2012

8th October 2012

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting
Things looked more hopeful with the wind back in the east and a period of drizzle soon after dawn, and so it proved with about 10 Blackbirds, 5 Goldcrests, a Chaffinch and a Reed Bunting on the ground. The Reed Bunting hung around all morning before being trapped and ringed. Overhead 2 Siskins were heard and small parties of Starlings inspected the island, a single Skylark came in low and another 5 flew over in a group. Robins seemed everywhere but there were probably only 8 or so showing conspicuously as Robins do. 
A Merlin flew low over the sea on the west side, a regular autumn/winter visitor, a Common Snipe was noted briefly to the east of the island and a Rock Pipit at the north end.

The Brent are so many now that they are becoming difficult to count especially when scattered in many places but the flock of Knot was down to a few dozen today. Three Little Egrets were again off the east side.
Ringed:- 3 Goldcrests, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Wrens, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Robin, 1 Meadow Pipit.   [ 999-31 ]
 (CJ et al)       photos  CJ

Sunday, 7 October 2012

7th October 2012

With the wind going around to the north east and falling light, there was a small amount of movement today in the very pleasant continuous sunshine. The Brents (above) were counted at 148, an amazing total so early in the autumn as the peak in usually in January, surely a record will be reached this winter. A Sparrowhawk flew about the island after dawn, possibly the same individual that did the same thing on Thursday, then 3 House Sparrows were found in the bushes in the obs garden and later 3 Greenfinches were attracted to the garden feeders. Four Goldfinches were also logged and a flock of 60 Linnets which were certainly not all island breeding birds. Other late autumn species included a Grey Wagtail down on the ground, 15 Starlings and 6 Skylark fly-overs. Several Goldcrests called in the bushes and there were more than usual Robins and Wrens indicating a small passage through the island. Three Little Egrets were feeding in the east gutter with a good number of 110 Redshanks and 11 Bar-tailed Godwits. 'Thumper' the Rabbit again broke cover briefly early in the day. 
 Ringed:- 3 Goldcrests, 2 Wrens, 1 Robin         [ 989-30 ]
 (DB+ESCA,JE,CJ)      photos  CJ

Friday, 5 October 2012

5th October 2012

A very brief visit in a strong westerly with little expectation found a single Goldcrest still on the island, also seen were a Rock Pipit, 250 Knot, 9 Bar-tailed Godwit and a Little Egret. At 11.00hrs a Raven flew up the ridge south of Middle mobbed by Crows followed a few seconds later by another Raven (right).
(JE,CJ, et al)        photo   CJ

Thursday, 4 October 2012

4th October 2012

Although the wind was still in the west there were 8 Goldcrests on the ground today, and  movements of  40, 15 and 10 Meadow Pipits through on passage, also 11 Goldfinches. On the shore were 20 Sanderling and a flock of 130 Bar-tailed Godwits flying north east. A Sparrowhawk flew between Red Rocks and hilbre and continued west of the islands.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

2nd October 2012

One of the largest ever flocks of Goldfinches at Hilbre was between Middle and Little Eye today when 68 were counted flying by. The regular movement of Cormorants at dawn produced 573 birds going out to sea to feed this morning. A single Goldcrest was on the island but there were 2 Rock Pipits and a Whimbrel.

Monday, 1 October 2012

1st October 2012

With the wind dropping overnight observers were slightly more optimistic than recently, but rain during the night and the wind still just west of south meant that migrants were hard to find.
However, a Chiffchaff was new in and a late Yellow Wagtail was seen along with a small passage of Meadow Pipits, a couple of Alba Wagtails and a few Goldfinches one of which was trapped and ringed (left).
As the tide flooded 52 Pale-bellied Brents were counted between the islands (all adults and none with colour-rings - presumably there were more elsewhere?) A call from the Dee Estuary Voluntary Wardens at West Kirby beach at high tide resolved the issue as at least 92 Brents appeared just off Little Eye (counted from the Obs).
A Sandwich Tern called and flew past the Obs just before high tide and a Whimbrel was heard amongst numerous other waders mainly roosting on the undisturbed Middle Eye.
A Rock Pipit remained elusive around the main island. Hirundines moved through as the tide reached its peak with 12 Swallows and 3 House Martins seen.
Ringed:- 1 Goldfinch [ 983-30 ]
(DB et al)