A frost early morning for the walk to the island but the mist cleared and the sun came out to herald a lovely day that was both calmer and warmer than of late. Some of the birds may have also felt the coming of spring as a trickle of movement was detected, two parties of 4 and 6 Jackdaws floated south east across the island, 3 Grey and 1 Pied wagtails called as they flew through while 2 Greenfinches and a Chaffinch descended to take advantage of the feeders in the paddocks. Three Meadow Pipits passed through and a single Linnet was on the island, more pipits are expected to migrate through over the next month and more Linnets will return to breed. Just before high tide flocks of 33 and 210 Pink-footed Geese flew in a northerly direction out of the estuary and a massive flock of 20,000 Knot was also seen passing Hilbre side of Red Rocks in addition to the 500 or so that were around the islands all day. A ringed Rock Pipit which has been around for some time showed well on the north end of the island. The main pond water level is still so high that a Redshank was using the overflowed margins as a new feeding area. A Little Egret was present early morning and a male Kestrel in the afternoon. The sea was quiet, 4 Great Crested Grebes, 20 Common Scoters and 6 Red-breasted Mergansers were the best that could be found.
Ringed:- 1 Greenfinch, 1 Blackbird [ 11 - 6 ]
(DB,AEH,CJ,KMc+SD) photos CJ, (except for sunset, AEH)
Wader counts of 5,000 Oystercatchers, 2,000 Dunlin, 8,000 Knot, 600 Sanderling, 470 Curlew, 350 Grey Plover, 170 turnstone, 110 Redshank and 6 Bar-tailed Godwits. On the sea, 5 Red-throated Divers and 10 Great Crested Grebes. One Little Egret and 1 Rock Pipit.
A mid-morning tide necessitated a dawn walk to the island with the temperature at 1 c but feeling more like - 5c in the northerly wind that later reached force 5. Even the waders felt it and many sheltered in Niffy bay for the high tide as the wind backed slightly. Not all will manage to survive the cold and the roost of 3,000 or so Oystercatchers and others also suffered repeated attempts by 3 Carrion Crows to find a meal amongst them on Middle island. The three dead birds found seemed to have succumbed to predation however, a Meadow Pipit on middle, a Turnstone at the north end and a Knot on the beach. A female Sparrowhawk that was seen to fly by the island (CJW) may have been one of the culprits, or else possibly a Peregrine. A sea watch failed to produce any of the scarcer species nevertheless 4 Red-throated Divers, 26 Common Scoter, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers and 71 Great crested Grebes were logged. A single female Chaffinch was the only passerine that was definitely new today.
23rd February :- 3 Red-throated Divers, 25 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Little Egret, 2,00 Knot at Little Eye and 200 on the main island, 13 Purple Sandpipers. (DB,JE) photos JE
22nd February :- good flypasts of a pair of Goosanders east, 2 Mute Swans south east and 2 drake Eiders north. Still 185 Brent present including 1 dark-bellied bird, a flock of 110 Sanderling, 380 Curlew on the east hoyle bank,10 Common Scoter, 15 Great Crested Grebes, 65 Turnstone and 45 Redshank.
(DB,CJW et al)
20th February :- 1 Dark-bellied Brent, 3 Robins + 1 on Middle, 1 Red-breasted Merganser. (DB,AAB,AS)
It was a nice day on Hilbre today, felt like the start of March not the middle of February. 2 Rooks flew over and a Magpie turned up. There was a movement of birds that included 10 Meadow Pipits, some Wrens, some Robins, some Blackbirds, 2 Siskins, 1 Starling as well as 3 or 400 Knot feeding at the north end. A male Snow Bunting turned up during the morning. The local Dunnocks were in good voice. It was warm and pleasant and a new Wren, Blackbird and Robin, all adults were ringed and a Blackbird and Dunnock were re-trapped. The re-traps were both adults and the Blackbird was a female. Two Little Egrets were on the shore.
15th February :- 1 Little Egret (DB)
14th February :- 2 Common seals, another at Little Eye, 1 Ruby Tiger caterpillar, and 'thumper' the rabbit still surviving the cold weather. (DB)
12th February :- 1 Black-throated Diver, 3 Red-throated Divers, 50 Great Crested Grebes, 4 |Common Scoters, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, 13 Purple Sandpipers, circa 20,000 Herrings on the north shore / east hoyle area. (DB, + Matt Thomas and party)
With high tide at 10.00 am an early start was in order to reach Hilbre this morning and we duly set off from West Kirby in the dark with sea watching being the plan for the day. Expectations were high that, following the recent gale force winds, a scarce diver or sea duck would be found. First things first though and whilst it was still dark we treated ourselves to a traditional Hilbre cooked breakfast.
With a brisk S E wind temperatures were pretty low and we were glad of the relative warmth of the sea watching hide.The forecasters got it spot on and the initial rain and poor visibility cleared allowing good viewing conditions.
Highlights of a 4 hour vigil were the long staying Black-throated Diver, picked up drifting in with the tide before swimming west towards Point of Ayr, a distant Great Northern Diver and 33 Red-throated Divers.
Small parties of Common Scoter flew around and we counted at least 93. Other duck included a total of
14 Goldeneye, 10 Teal, 8 Red-breasted Mergansers and 7 Wigeon. 44 Great-crested Grebes, some of which were displaying, were also on the sea.
17 Purple Sandpipers roosted over the high tide & 3 Shags were also recorded amongst the commoner Cormorants. A huge number of gulls were seen on the East Hoyle as the tide dropped and the count of 20,000 was probably a conservative estimate.
Mammalian highlights were a Harbour Porpoise seen at high tide swimming west - there might have been 2 but the swell made them difficult to see - Common Seal and the ubiquitous Atlantic Grey Seals. Grey Seals were seen attacking Grebes on at least 2 occasions.
As the tide dropped the Brent Geese flew in and landed in the exposed reef between Middle Eye & Hilbre. 240 Pale-bellied & 2 Dark-bellied were counted.
( PSW & guests Mark Payne & Phil Oddy).
A north westerly with squalls produced records of a Great Northern Diver and 2 Mute Swans flying west. Brent Geese are still around the 200 mark and 140 Shelduck were logged. Wader counts included 3,500 Oystercatchers, 5,000 Knot, 3,500 Dunlin, 450 Curlew, 130 Turnstone, 150 Sanderling, 90 Redshank, 13 Purple Sandpipers and 10 Grey Plover. Also noted was a Peregrine, a Common Scoter, a total of 18 Carrion Crows (including those on the east hoyle) and a dead Razorbill down the east side. Land birds present on the island were a typical example of what is expected on a mid-winter day, 6 Wrens, 2 Dunnocks, 3 Robins, 3 Blackbirds and a Song Thrush. Twenty Linnets were on Hilbre with 2 at Little Eye ,but only a single Meadow Pipit could be found. The first Snowdrops and a Crocus gave hope that the spring is not far away.