30 Aug 2010

Long-tailed Skua, Hilbre.

A strong N W overnight on the Wirral instantly gets local birders thinking of seawatching! That was exactly my thoughts whislt waiting with Molly for Steve to pick us up in the Landrover at 07.00 on a very blustery Sunday morning. No chance of staying for the tide but after a quick walk around the heligoland traps it was off to the seawatching hide for a spot of low tide viewing.

There wasn't much moving and it appeared the force 5 -6 blowing hadn't been prolonged enough yet to move any petrels in from the Irish Sea. A solitary Wigeon sheltered off the slipway and for awhile was the best bird of the morning!

Picking up a distant skua I got Steve onto it quickly as  Iwas struck how by how small and dainty it was - when it chased a Sandwich Tern the tern looked as big as it did. With a very dainty demeanour and attenuated rear end it looked good for juvenile Long-tailed Skua. Watching it for around 30 minutes we both agreed and the news was put out. A short while later it reappeared much closer and we watched it in flight and settled on the water. This time there was no doubt and we saw all the salient features to confirm it as in intermdeiate phase juvenile.

Just as we'd got back to the Obs for a cooked breakfast I got a text from Pete Kinsella to say he'd had an adult and an intermediate phase juvenile off Seaforth / Crosby between 07.00 & 07.30!

Leaving the island  I ventured back to Leasowe Gunsites where Pod, Al Orton & myself used the landrover as a hide for a seawatch over the high tide. Once again birds were few and far between and only on the ebbing tide did we manage to see anything at all. 5 Kittiwakes and 2 Arctic Skuas were all we had to show for 2 hrs effort. No petrels were seen off the Orme or Seaforth either.

The local rape seed stubble is proving a magnet for finches and a large flock of 30 -40 Linnets has already built up with a handful of Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows thrown in. It'll be good if its left all winter but somehow I doubt it will.

The local Swans have had a successful breeding season with the adult pair on the Shropshire Union canal at nearby Stoak having six well grown cygnets. Coming out of the water to feed they weren't at all perturbed by our presence until the Cobb spotted Molly and we had to beat a strategic retreat.

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