18 Jul 2011

Winter is upon us.

Winter is here. That's what if felt like yesterday afternoon as we drove across to Hilbre for a brief visit after the high tide. With winds gusting to Force 8 and torrential rain it was never going to be easy!

Plenty of terns and gulls sheltering in the lee of Little Eye - including 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls and an adult Med Gull. The terns weren't budging and we were able to get good views through the open Landrover windows until the rain forced us to close them again!. Its nice to see so many juvenile Sandwich Terns - they've obviously had a good breeding season.

Sea watching was a bit disappointing with no Skuas being logged but we did get a few Manx Shearwaters past and a couple each of Great-crested Grebe & Kittiwake. At least we had the chocolate biscuits to keep us going.

17 Jul 2011

Squally weather

Saturdays weather forecast was pretty grim but with the possibility of a bit of seawatching I decided to head to Hilbre. For once the forecast was spot on and no sooner had I arrived then the heavens opened. Visibility was so poor at one point that West Kirby was shrouded in drizzle or low cloud - I couldn't tell.
The journey over was enlivened by the discovery of this adult Yellow-legged Gull on the edge of the advancing tide between Middle & Little Eye.

With several Med Gulls being seen recently and gull numbers building up I'm pretty sure something else will be found soon. Sandwich Tern numbers are also on the increase with 6 - 800 on the edge of the tide. Scanning them all for  something with a yellow or red bill was unsuccessful but I did pick out a couple of metal ringed birds.

The weather improved slightly about an hour before high tide - just enough to make a dash for the seawatching hide! Almost as soon as I opened the flaps Manx Shearwaters careened past in front of the next incoming squall. 3 Arctic Skuas hunted as a pack harassing the terns (and each other). Highlight was undoubtedly the adult Pomarine Skua with full spoons chasing 2 Arctic Terns. Seen heading towards Wales it must have either given up or won its pirated meal as about 20 minutes later it flew fast towards the mouth of the Mersey.

Not many passerines on the island but a Rock Pipit flew past the north end at high tide and a juvenile Common Whitethroat lurked in the Old Obs garden before settling in the SK paddock fly-catching when the sun came out. Two juvenile Linnets were ringed seemingly proving that the Linnets have had second broods as did the presence of two very juvenile Blackbirds.

11 Jul 2011

Loxia curvirostra.

A beautiful but breezy morning on Hilbre Saturday. Not many birds around but wader numbers are building up with 500 + Oystercatchers, plenty of Curlew and a smattering of Redshank feeding along the tide edge. Bird of the day was a Common Sandpiper seen on the Whaleback before the weather brought the crowds out from the shore. The sunshine meant there were plenty of butterflies on the wing in the sheltered paddocks away from the westerly force 3. Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Small White, Green-veined White and a single Greyling were all logged. A close examination of the ragwort revealed the first Cinnabar moth caterpillar amongst myriads of Soldier Beetles.

The islands resident birds were all seen including one of the recently ringed juvenile Blackbirds and of course, the ubiquitous Linnets.

Rock Sea Lavender is flowering all along the cliff tops.

Saturday evening JE met me at my house and we drove to Catterick army camp where we enjoyed the hospitality of Tony Crease at the fantastic ringing station they've built within the confines of their very own nature reserve. This must be the only reserve in the country where you have to  pass though an army checkpoint and drive through the barracks to get to it. See link below:

We were there to help with one of their constant effort ringing sessions as part of a long term study on population trends, survival rates and breeding success. After around 4 hours fitful sleep interrupted by the noise of military vehicle on manoeuvres on another part of the site we were up at 03.45 ready to start a full 10 hours ringing.

A highlight for me was ringing this juvenile Crossbill.

8 Jul 2011

Bath time.

Not much to report this week as the dreary weathers meant I haven't got out much. Our local female Blackbird has been making good use of the bird bath and I managed t oring 9 Swallow pullus and 3 adults with JE at a farm on the Wirral. Amazingly one of the pullus we ringed last year was controlled at Leighton Moss later the same year and birds from this site have been recovered in S Africa.

Signs of impending autumn are all around us now with the Rowan berries beginning to ripen and attract the attention of the Blackbirds. Two juvenile Chiffchaffs have appeared and taken up temporary residence by the pond adjacent to the house and Hilbre caught a (very) juvenile Redstart and  a juvenile Blackcap. Another 3 months and we'll be heading for Shetland. Before then theres a couple of pelagic trips to look forward to on the Scillies with Joe Pender and the Sapphire.

3 Jul 2011

Return migration?

AN interesting day on Hilbre in beautiful sunny weather yestersay. It seems as i summer has finally arrived this last week but for some birds maybe its already autumn?

The first returning Greenland Wheatears & Willow Warblers were logged whilst a solitary Song Thrus his another bird normally associated with a Hilbre autumn / winter!

A juvenile Stonechart was a good July bird and must have surely been fledged somehwere nearby on the mainland. It spent the afternoon in and around the Old Obs garden and canoe club bungalow happliy feeding on flies and occasionally perching on one of the potter traps set out but resolultely refusing to go in to any.

Family parties of Linnets and Meadow Pipits are still the commonest birds on the island and at least some are still feeding either late first broods or second broods.

With clear blue skies, high temperatures and a beautiful azure sea the Mediterranean feel was even more enhanced when the Hummingbird Hawkmoth put in another brief appearance on honeysuckle outside the Obs window. Not easy to photograph with a 500 mm lens!

1 Jul 2011

A frustrating week.

Frustrating because I've not been able to drive until my stitches are out. Actually its not been bad. An enforced 'holiday' during the warmest week of June! For the last couple of days I've put a small mist net up in the garden and caught just short of 40 birds. Interestingly l lot of the adult Blue  & Great Tits have almost finished their summer moult but the finches don't appear to have started yet.

Best bird though must be this stonking adult male Greenfinch. A beautiful bird and really bright colours. It's nice to see a healthy one after a few with trichomonosis were found in the garden earlier in the year.  Another interesting aspect is the numbers of Great Tits in relation to Blue Tits - a ratio of 6:1 in favour of the bigger bird and the same ratio applies to both adults and juveniles. It will be interesting to see if this is replicated at other garden ringing sites we use.

Sitting in the garden has meant I've kept one eye to the skies for visible migration - 6 Crossbills, a Peregrine and quite a few Curlew being the weeks highlights.