Saturday, 30 April 2016

26th - 30th April 2016

Northerly cold winds did little for encouraging migration of any sort and despite daily coverage in this period there was very little of note seen apart from the odd Willow Warbler or Swallow and 4 White Wagtail on 28th and a good count of 35 Bar-tailed Godwit on 29th.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

24th April 2016

With the wind in the North observers didn't expect much visible migration today or many grounded migrants. They weren't disappointed!

However, an increase in wader numbers kept the interest going with good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover roosting on Middle Eye. These were joined by 12 Bar-tailed Godwits including two summer plumaged birds and a flock of 18 Sanderling. Most were in winter plumage but there were a few transitional  birds and one summer plumaged individual. Meanwhile on the West Side 12 Whimbrel roosted over the high tide. 

Of interest on the sea was a single Red-throated Diver, 2 distant Gannets and just a solitary Sandwich Tern.

On the passerine front there were a few Swallows after the high tide and two Siskins passed over.  A single House Martin was also logged.

The Obs hosted a visit from a local wildlife group, led by Jeff Clarke and the visitors were given a talk by the Secretary about the Obs and its work.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

23rd April 2016

Weather: ENE 2, backing NW 3 (by mid afternoon) 1/8, good vis, sunny all day but cool breeze

Bright skies and North in the wind is not normally conducive to good passerine migration at Hilbre and so today proved, although 3 Wheatears passed through as did 3 Willow Warblers.

Visible migration was marginally better with a single flava Wagtail heard and 5 White Wagtails, 4 House Martin, 5 Sand Martin and 12 Swallows (including the 'summer residents') all noted.

Waders were again much in evidence with the Dunlin (650), Ringed Plover (35), Whimbrel (9), Sanderling (105) and Bar-tailed Godwit (19) counted; the latter included three summer plumaged individuals - a fine sight indeed. Amongst the Dunlin flock a partially albinistic bird was found.

Highlights of the day included a single summer plumaged Scandinavian Rock Pipit, complete with pink suffusion, seen briefly at the North End of Middle early morning, but it could not be relocated despite searching.

A telephone call early morning from the mainland prompted telescopes to be trained above the Old Nursing home at Red Rocks from the Obs balcony and prompted the second highlight of the day.  Remarkably the migrant Nuthatch present at Red Rocks could be seen first circling above the building and the lone observer at Red Rocks but then landing on the chimney stack.

Of course almost as soon as it was seen the discussions ensued as to whether it could be counted for the Obs; whilst it was seen (and could be identified) from the recording area it was at that point not in or over the recording area...then it took flight again and flew some distance SW out over the shore towards Middle before turning back and re-landing on the chimney.

Nuthatch is an extremely rare bird at Hilbre with only two previous records - the first on the near coincident date of 22nd April 1962 and the second, another spring bird, on 6th May 2009 (

Photos: Nuthatch @ Red Rocks (JET) Dunlin (SRW)

Friday, 22 April 2016

22nd April 2016

Weather: ENE 2-3, 5/8 cloud, sunny afternoon

The day started well with another stunning male Whinchat seen early morning on the walls and fences along the West side.

A few Wheatears also arrived and small numbers of Willow Warblers (6) moved through.  Visible passage was a little lighter than the last couple of days but still included a flava Wagtail, White Wagtails and 3 House Martins (although they were seen late afternoon).

The Whinchat found its way into the potter traps on the West Side mid morning as did a female Greenland Wheatear.  

Whimbrel were much in evidence today with flocks of up to 9 birds seen and a total of 18 estimated.  A fine summer plumage Bar-tailed Godwit joined a non-breeding plumaged bird on the tideline and Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover were well represented today.

Later a Short-eared Owl was watched being pursued by gulls between Hilbre and Red Rocks and finally a drake Goosander flew over the island right over an observers head before heading off North.

The hard work of our maintenance team continued today with gates and doors being mended along with the Obs balcony and roof.


Thursday, 21 April 2016

21st April 2016

Weather: ESE 2, 3/8, slight mist around estuary

One of the first birds noted this morning was a Grasshopper Warbler which moved along between clumps of daffodils in the top paddock before briefly alighting in 'Little Bunting Bush' before being trapped in the Heli.  The first to be caught and ringed this year.  It had a fairly high fat score so could have been yesterday's bird having fed up.  Later in the afternoon a Gropper was heard singing down the east side but was not seen so we do not know if there were two birds present.

Willow Warblers were a steady trickle today with 9 recorded but the only Chiffchaff was a retrap from yesterday.

The potter traps proved their worth today with a single first year male Greenland Wheatear caught and a similarly aged and sexed first White Wagtail of the year caught at the North End (five were recorded today).

The first flava Wagtail of the year for the islands was heard calling as it passed overhead and there was a smaller finch passage than yesterday but a single Lesser Redpoll was caught and ringed.

Waders were much in evidence today with good numbers of Dunlin and smaller numbers of Ringed Plover around the main island and 11 Whimbrel were noted including this flock on the Whaleback with a single Bar-tailed Godiwt.

As the day wore on Swallows began to pass over West to East perhaps in front of advancing cloud with 35 noted as well as the 'local' pair.  A single House Martin was only the second of the year.

Again the evening produced some suitably nice spring skies. [147-19]

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

20th April 2016

Weather: SE force 2, clear overnight, slight mist

A south easterly at this time in spring always brings anticipation of an arrival of birds to the island and today this was indeed the case. First thing this morning saw several Wheatears pass through rapidly, with a male Whinchat (the first this year) accompanying them and 7 White Wagtails were also early comers. In the paddocks a small fall of Willow Warblers occured, about 15 through the morning with 6 Chiffchaffs, with the Chiffchaffs mostly arriving slightly later.

A Woodpigeon was on the island, and another in the afternoon, and a Sparrowhawk flew off the west side (above), then a Grasshopper Warbler was heard and not seen (also the first this year) and a male Redstart was found in the SK mist net.

There were quite a few finches today including a Chafffinch, 24 Goldfinches, 2 Siskins, and 27 Redpolls, one of the Redpolls trapped seemed in appearance to resemble a Common Redpoll, although that could not be confirmed by biometrics.

Hirundines were sparse today, only 10 Sand Martins, 1 House Martin and 9 Swallows including the local breeding pair (right)

On the sea 15 Sandwich terns and 2 Common Terns were recorded along with 2 Great Crested Grebes and
9 Common Scoter. On the shore 25 Ringed Plover were notable and Whimbrel reached a new peak of 17 birds (right).

Ringed: 6 Willow Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs, 1 Redstart, 6 Redpolls, 3 Wrens, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Robin, 1 Dunnock.          [ 134-17 ]  photos CJ & SRW

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

19th April 2016

Weather:  NW 2-3, 5/8 cloud clearing to 2/8, good vis and sunny

Despite the bright sunny conditions, the North Westerly wind, albeit quite gentle, failed to produce any grounded migrants today. However a Merlin flew South early morning, as did a few Swallows and Sand Martins later in the day.

On the sea, the first four Common Terns of the year appeared, as did two Little Terns, two Sandwich Terns and three Kittiwakes. A late Red-throated Diver was noted with just five Common Scoter and 10 Great Crested Grebes. 

Two Harbour Porpoise were noted off the West side in the afternoon.

The afternoon turned to evening which was stunning on the islands as always.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

17th April 2016

Weather:  W 3, 1/8 cloud

Sunny but a cool westerly breeze greeted observers this morning and it became apparent that sea-watching would be more productive than searching for grounded migrants although a few Swallows trickled through (albeit at least two were hanging around the island) and a single Wheatear was noted.  Overhead a single Jackdaw was noted as were a couple of White Wagtails.

On the sea the first two Little Terns of the year were seen - unusual for this species to be seen before Common Tern at Hilbre.  More expected were 32 Little Gulls counted all heading west.

Small numbers of waders were in evidence including three Whimbrel and small flocks of Ringed Plover and Dunlin were below the Obs as the tide ebbed and 150 Sanderling were noted on the East Hoyle tideline.

The highlight of the day was found by visiting birder Andy Thomas who informed members at the Obs of the presence of an Iceland Gull on the rocks at the North End of Middle Eye.

News was tweeted out (how times change!) and this was fortunate for three more observers who were already approaching Middle as the tide ebbed and so were able to 'mini-twitch' the Iceland Gull from Middle.

As a Grey Heron drifted between the islands the Iceland Gull moved from the rocks onto the sea off the west side before taking flight and flying north up the West side of the main island with other gulls.

A short video of the Iceland Gull can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

The bird flew right past one lucky observer as he left the main island.

The second Iceland Gull of the year for the Obs (with the first seen on 17th March 2016) but at an absolute classic time for records on the islands and North Wirral.

Photos by AEH & SRW

Friday, 15 April 2016

15th April 2016

Weather: E force 1/2     mist
Late news of a Spoonbill seen by a member flying north east from the direction of Little Eye at 08.00hrs. A flock of 21 alba Wagtails (nearly all White Wagtails) landed near the north end at the start of the day, and a Merlin was also seen early on. Swallows began moving soon after dawn, about 100 passing through during the morning, but unlike other days they far outnumbered Sand Martins(10), and again no House Martins. Eight Wheatears arrived scattered throughout the island, and there was a small fall of 6 Chiffchaffs and 4 Willow Warblers. A Greenshank attached itself to other waders flying about the island, also a group of 6 Bar-tailed Godwits flew east passed the north end and on the shore there now are 2 Whimbrel to be seen. Highlight of the morning came when a Short-eared Owl erupted from the bracken near the old obs and flew south being mobbed by the gulls. It was again flushed off the cliff by the slipway onto the island and flew off to the west (below).

There was a lot of wildfowl to be seen today for so late in the spring: in addition to the single Brent and a pair of Common Scoter, 6 Canada geese landed on the sea off the whaleback (below) and 4 Teal loafed off the east side, only to be joined in the afternoon by 2 Gadwall (a very scarce bird at Hilbre).
 Finches today included 4 Siskin, 2 Chaffinches (in the paddocks), a Goldfinch and a Redpoll.

Observers today were treated to the summer sound of at least a dozen Sandwich Terns calling and forming a group on the east hoyle as they do post breeding in the autumn (right).

Ringed: 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Wrens.    [ 110-16 ]     photos  CJ

Thursday, 14 April 2016

14th April 2016

Weather: NE force1  haze
Brent  (CJ)
A disappointingly quiet morning all things considered with little or no overhead visible migration and next to nothing in overnight on the ground. In contrast to the last few days just a single Swallow represented the hirundines and only 2 Wheatears were present, although at least about a dozen alba wagtails made it to the island. A few Goldfinches and a Siskin were the only finches apart from the resident Linnets, while warblers were singles of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. A Sparrowhawk flew high towards the shore and 3 Greylag geese called by, they were probably the same birds as seen yesterday. Things improved considerably in the afternoon with 2 Skylarks and 11 Swallows passing through and good sea watching including 11 Little Gulls, 2 Red-throated Divers, 6 Great Crested Grebes and 6 Sandwich Terns flying east. Late afternoon 60 Bar-tailed Godwits landed on the shore. The sole remaining Brent still swims around the island. Four Little Egrets were counted this morning.
Ringed: 2 Wrens, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackbird.       [ 104-16 ]

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

13th April 2016

Weather: S   force 1/2 distant haze
The morning commenced with a passage of White Wagtails (13) while on the ground were a few Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, about 6 of each and several Goldcrests. Unlike yesterday Meadow Pipits were not moving and Wheatears were few in number nevertheless 3 Greenland race were ringed (below).
Once again Sand Martins passed in large numbers (151) and Swallows (57) did not disappoint but house Martins were entirely absent. 

The highlight of today for many was a beautiful male Redstart found in the Newton trap (right), a bird which had been much anticipated these last few days. The first Sandwich Tern of the year was the pick of the sea birds while 7 Little Egrets and a single Whimbrel were on the shore and a pale-bellied Brent swam alone on the water, perhaps all the others have left, time will tell. Other geese today were wandering Greylags(2) and a Canada Goose, and a single Magpie flew in and landed on the mast.
Ringed: 3 Greenland Wheatear, 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrests, 1 Redstart, 1 Wren. [100-16 ]
Photos CJ

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

12th April 2016

Weather: calm with mist around coasts
A great day of migration started with a male Ring Ouzel which was found on the east side and moved towards Middle Eye, and continued during the morning with a large arrival of Wheatears (57 logged) and passage of Meadow Pipits (330), also many hirundines, including 125 Swallows and 69 Sand Martins, but no House Martins. Warblers were less impressive today, with just 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Goldcrests on the ground. Other small migrants today were 5 White and 4 Pied Wagtails, 3 Goldfinches and 4 Siskins, while a Woodpigeon was less expected.  Also visiting today were 2 Canada and 3 Greylag geese.
 The rarest bird of the day was undoubtedly a Little Ringed Plover that flew north to the east of the island at 10.30hrs, a species that is possibly increasing at Hilbre but is far from an annual occurrence. The first Whimbrel this year appeared this morning on a typical date for Hilbre and another came in to the island later. Sea birds noted today were 11 Common Scoter, 1 Red-throated Diver and 1 Gannet, the best sighting being a Harbour Porpoise swimming off the west side.
Sand MartinPhotos AEH

Ringed: 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Wren, 1 Linnet.      [ 89-15 ]

Monday, 11 April 2016

11th April 2016

 Weather: ESE force 2  then 1400 ENE 3 
 After a noisy night of gales and rain observers had 2 Collared Doves flying over going east when the rain stopped. A steady passage then commenced of Meadow Pipits (52),1 Chiffchaff, at least 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Goldfinch, 8 Swallows and 1 Sand Martin spread through the day. A peregrine flew through the SK trapping area close to observers. Six Little Egrets roosted with a heron on the north end of middle but were disturbed by a jet ski twice. In the afternoon were was a small fall of 6 wheatears and a striking Greenland wheatear which an observer said was one of the best he had ever seen.
On the sea was a  male Scaup, 9 Common Scoter, a Red-breasted Merganser flying west and 13 Great Crested Grebes off the north end . There was also is single Dark-bellied Brent goose off the west side – possibly the last?

Sunday, 10 April 2016

10th April 2016

Weather: SE force 2
The first 4 Willow Warblers of the year arrived this morning (right) along with 6 Chiffchaffs including a control (a bird ringed elsewhere, below), 7 Goldcrests and just a single Wheatear.

Another first for the year was a House Martin passing through mid-morning (the only hirundine of the morning, although 7 Swallows drifted through in the afternoon).
 Some visible migration was evident with 14 Goldfinches, 5 Siskins, 5 Pied Wagtails and a Skylark passing through, while 2 Magpies (typical early spring birds at Hilbre, right) stayed for an hour or so to have a look around.
Ringed: 4 Goldcrests, 3 Chiffchaffs, 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Wrens, 2 Goldfinches, 1 Robin.  { 85-14 ] Photos CJ, PSW

Saturday, 9 April 2016

9th April 2016

Weather: NW force 1/2
Signs of birds moving to the breeding grounds today with many skeins of  Pink-footed geese seen flying north at dawn (right, about 260 birds in total) and again at noon (1,500 birds), while waders now seem to be down in numbers around the islands. A small drift through of small migrants this morning included 2 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs, 8 Pied Wagtails, 1 Sand Martin, 17 Goldfinches, a Greenfinch, and 3 Wheatears on Middle Eye (below). A Merlin and 4 Canada Geese were also logged.

Ringed: 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldfinch.         [ 71-13 ]
Photos AEH