3 Apr 2011

Ringed Ouzel.

Weather conditions looked promising for a few migrants on Hilbre Saturday wit ha south easterly overnight and rain early morning. Sure enough I was woken at 04.00 by thunder and lightning. Not quite the spring showers I'd anticipated. Eventually hauling myself out of bad at 6.00 I gave a disgruntled dog her breakfast and a quick walk before loading her in the Landrover to pick up the rest of the days team in West Kirby. Not before I'd got a new garden bird for the year with a flyover calling Oystercatcher unseen in the dark.

Leaving the foreshore it started raining again and on arrival to the Obs it became apparent there were a few phylloscs around with my first Willow Warbler amongst several Chiffchaffs in the garden and Wheatears on the cliff tops. A Tree Pipit (the first of the year) buzzed overhead and a few hirundines flew through

 Quickly grabbing binoculars we set off for the first round of the morning and hadn't even shit the garden gate behind us when Steve was off and running. He'd seen a thrush sized bird with a long tail disappearing over 'Bluethroat Ridge'. I saw a dark shape drop out of the corner of my eye and the unspoken message was 'Ring Ouzel'.

We couldn't find the bird at the south end and reasoned it may have darted below the cliffs up the east side. Reaching the first of the heligolands it was clear we'd had a fall and it was all hands as we caught Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrest, Blackcap and Wren.

There were plenty of Wheatears around sheltering in the paddocks on the east side away from the wind which had now veered to a brisk west. It was as we were walking through the paddocks that Colin picked up a bird flying up from near one of the heligolands - as it flew towards us I saw the white crescent! As Steve was out of sight I yelled as loud as I could 'Ring Ouzel overhead' hoping he'd pick it up. He did and there were congratulations all round. A Ring Ouzel in spring is a star bird anyhwere but on Hilbre its extra special.

Continuing our work the Ring Ouzel was seen several times in paddocks or gardens but was very flighty. We'd hoped it would enter one of the helgoland traps but as the morning turned to afternoon and the sun came out it appeared we were going to be out of luck. There were a few birders on the island - the scouting party for the main group who'd miscalculated the tides and were stuck on Middle Eye for the duration - and we were able to show them a few birds in the hand.

The best was yet to come though. We'd just started walking through the SK trap on top of the east cliffs when I saw a black bird shoot out and down over the cliff. 'Oh dear' I uttered loudly but it was indeed a Blackbird and unbeknown to me Steve had heard a bird in the catching box and raced forward. Like a magician with a rabbit he pulled a Ring Ouzel from the sleeve! I'd never seen a Ring Ouzel in the hand and even better Steve & Colin allowed me to ring it! What a stunning looking bird. (Sorry John). We informed the birders present and let them have a look at the bird befroe we released it in one of the more inaccessible spots.

There was a steady trickle of birds through and we caught a few more warblers along with a Blackbird and Songthrush. Eventually two Wheatears were trapped and colour ringed as part of a long term Hilbre study. A pair of nice 2nd calender year birds. An estimated 25 passed through during the day.

By now the trapped birders had made it across and were mortified to have missed the Ring Ouzel having been shown pictures by the rest of the group. Luckily a few got to see it as it seemed to settle down and enjoy the sunshine.

Another great day and the first real fall of the spring.

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