29 Mar 2011

Sun spots.

Took a walk down the Shropshire Union canal near Stoke last night on the look out for the Barn Owl. No sign unfortunately but a superb sunset. If you look closely you can make out two sun spots.

Bird-wise it was pretty quiet with only a couple of Chiffchaffs representing the summer visitors and a few Fieldfares and Redwings representing the last of the winter ones.

27 Mar 2011

Another fine day.

Saturday morning was slightly misty and the wind was in the south east. Ideal conditions for a fall on Hilbre. A full contingnet of Obs members and associated children and dogs. Almost immediately on our arrival it became clear that birds were moving with several Chiffchaffs having already been cuaght and ringed by the over-nighters.

Another great morning with a steady trickle of birds including more Chiffies (including this one with a tick above its eye), Redpoll, Greenfinch, Meadow Pipit, Robin, Blackbird and unbelievably a late Redwing being ringed.

Overhead movement continued until around 11.00 am with Chaffinches, Siskin, two Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches and several Sand Martins passing over. One female Chaffinch landed in the Obs garden and kept her beady eye on proceedings for awhile before flying off south.

Once the initial rush had died down it was time for the maintenance crew to undertake some repair work to one of the other heligoland traps before a well earned lunch. Another species of mammal added to my Hilbre list when a Wood Mouse popped out from a wood pile behind the Landrover.

After a successful morning it was time to leave and a very full Landrover (5 adults, 4 kids and Molly) headed of as the tide started to flood.

More locally Chiffchaffs have arrived in Stanney Woods and a Sparrowhawk was building its nest in an old one vacated by Carrion Crows. A walk along the lanes this morning towards the stubble fields revealed 20+ Pied Wagtails feeding amongst the recently manured field and a male Reed Bunting singing from a nearby hedgerow. Two more Chiffchaffs sung from a nearby copse. If the framer ploughs the stubble in the next week I expect Wheatears to turn up!

24 Mar 2011

Visible migration.

A great morning on Hilbre this morning and almost perfect conditions for visible migration. A slight early morning mist menat birds were dropping in as well as passing overhead. Highlights were my first Wheatears and Sand Martins of the year but included Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Siskin, Tree Sparrow, Blackbirds and Wrens! (Two new ones were ringed today suggesting a spring passage). Brilliant stuff. Coupled with great views of one of the Merlins that have been seen over the last week, Eiders and Goosanders it was a morning to savour.

As if this lot wasn't enough the Island hosted a Magpie, several Wood Pigeons, some fly over Collared Doves a fly through Swallow and plenty of Jackdaws.

A flock of Redpolls that dropped onto the feeders in the Obs garden included a stonking male Mealy. Unfortunately as all the Obs staff were having a brew no one was ready with the camera's and the birds flew off before any photo's could be taken.

20 Mar 2011

Peace & tranquility

Three consecutive days on Hilbre this weekend. Up with the proverbial Lark and over to the Island before the tide cut it off from civilisation.

Still not many  summer migrants around apart from the first two Sandwich Terns of the year. A small passage of  Goldcrests brightened an otherwise dull weekend for the ringers whilst another male Blackbird and a couple of new Robins kept us plugging away. The local Meadow Pipits have returned to breed and it was nice to recapture two birds from previous years. Star bird has to be the Islands 9th Long-tailed Tit this year. An amazing record.

Wader numbers are still good with a 11 Purple Sandpipers and 150+ Turnstone being recorded.  Seawatching Saturday was rewarded with a Black-throated Diver amongst the commoner Red-throated and 4 Little Gulls continuing the trend of recent sightings.

At least 3 of the Tunrstones are colour ringed birds from previous years and its amazing to think they breed up in the Arctic circle yet return to Hilbre for the winter. Continuing the theme of colour ringed birds this Herring Gull has been hanging around for awhile and was rehabilitated and ringed by the RSPCA in Widnes - hence its nickname on the log sheets as the 'Widnes Gull'.

Sunday was definitely raptor day - two separate Merlins and a Peregrine graced us with their presence although the local Meadow Pipits perhaps didn't agree about the gracing bit.

The only downside to a perfect few days was the antics of some local canoeists. All the canoe clubs in the area have been asked to stay away from the Islands at high tide to avoid disturbing the roosting birds. Unfortunately some people seem to think the needs of the birds are secondary to their own activities - like this group who spooked all the birds roosting on Middle not once but three times.

13 Mar 2011

Now spring has arrived!

The local pond is heaving with amphibian porn as the Common Frogs have seemingly survived being frozen and making the most of the milder weather. I've never seen so much frog spawn on this pond and last night the frogs could be heard croaking from the open bathroom window.

Hilbre have had their first spring migrants - starting with a couple of Stonechats during the week and finishing up this weekend with White Wagtail & Sand Martin. Still no Wheatear yet but they've been seen on the nearby mainland.

A sad sight on the journey over today was this dead seal pup on the sand between West Kirby & Little Eye. I'm not sure if its Common or Grey Seal yet but a real shame.
Plenty of activity on the ground today with a male Chaffinch (the 4th Chaffinch to be caught this month!), Robin and Song Thrush being caught and ringed. The Song Thrush was interesting as it seemed to show damage to its upper mandible that has managed to heal.

The stiff westerly whipped the white horses up and there was snow first thing on the hills but as the sun broke through and the wind dropped it turned into a beautiful spring day. The early breeze meant a few seabirds were see with a handful of Gannets & Little Gulls put in a welcome appearance. As usual the Brent's put on a good display even though they were disturbed by a thoughtless photographer disturbing them off the strand line trying to get closer than was necessary.

A close scrutiny recorded a winter high of 192 Pale-bellied Brents.

With the rugby on TV and visitor numbers making the island a very crowded place we departed around one o'clock and left the visitors to enjoy the rest of the day.

8 Mar 2011

Back-lit Buzzard.

Managed to get home early enough today for a walk befroe the sun went down. 5 Buzzards 'kettling' & a male Kestrel beign the highlights. Quite pleased with these shots of a Common Buzzard photographed directly into the sun.

No real spring migrants yet although one of the wintering Blackcaps still singing in the garden.

7 Mar 2011

Just like buses...........

Just like buses. No sooner had we caught one control on Hilbre this year (Long-tailed Tit) when the second turns up - a female Chaffinch bearing a BTO ring caught Saturday morning.

The misty conditions Saturday morning meant there was little overhead movement but Siskins are definitely on the move and as well as the Chaffinch a new Blackbird was ringed and a Rock Pipit retrapped. This is a different bird to the one caught a couple of weeks ago and shows there are at least 3 individuals wintering on the Island.
Not much activity Sunday due to a combination of food poisoning, a broken central heating boiler and a wrenched back! News of a Dartford Warbler in N Wales bodes well for a future occurence in Cheshire.

Waiting in for the gas engineer meant I missed nipping round to a friends to watch Liverpool deservedly beat Man Utd. Suprisingly no of my Utd supporting friends kept me informed of the score. Sour grapes or what?

Not long now and the first migrant Wheatears, Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs should be with us in the N West.........................................

4 Mar 2011

Hard graft

Two days hard graft on Hilbre this week repairing the SK heligoland trap for the spring season. Beautiful weather followed by a stunning sunset. Bird wise there was plenty happening with Greenfinch,, Goldfinch, Siskin & Reed Bunting moving overhead whilst a Merlin caused havoc for a couple of hours Wednesday morning. The return movment of thrushes has begun with two male Blackbirds being ringed.