9 Jan 2012

The monster of Hilbre.

After celebrating Allan Colin's 40th Saturday night and then going to another friends 60th to pick up my wife I didn't get to bed until 02.00 Sunday morning but still managed to get up before the alarm in time to meet up with Mark Payne and travel across to Hilbre in the dark so we could do a high tide seawatch. The visibility wsa pretty dismal to start with as squalls passed in from the west. After a quick low calorie breakfast of sausage & egg butties we set up in the seawatching hide for a marathon session.

It was pretty obvious birds were moving after the recent gales and it wasn't long before we picked up the first of 7 Little Gulls heading west back out to the Irish Sea. Two juveniles and 5 adults were logged.

Common Scoter were moving west in small numbers and two male Velvet Socters were picked up flying in from the mouth of the Mersey before ditching in to the sea by buoy 52. Several Red-throated Divers were seen in flight and on the sea and a Great Northern joined the party further west. A flock of distant seaduck were eventually identified as Goldeneye wit h20 birds bobbing around but a closer flock of 9 Scaup were more easily identifiable and all the males seemed to be 1st winter birds.

Highlight though was when Mark yelled 'white winger'.  To a birder that means only three things - an Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull or leucistic Herring Gull! A mild panic ensued  for several seconds until I got on the bird - A 1st winter Glaucous Gull trying to drown a sub-adult Greater Black-backed Gull. The Greater Black-backs off Hilbre tend to wait on the water and try and mug Cormorants so this one got a real surprise when it found out it was on the receiving end of some severe bullying. Eventually some adult birds came to its rescue and the Glauc was chased off.

As it came closer it looked as if it was going to settle and fly down the east side. Grabbing the camera I slithered down the steps and took position!
The bird eventually settled on the rocks between Middle Eye & Hilbre but was soon chased off and we didn't see which direction it headed. We later found out a juvenile Glaucous Gull had been seen just before high tide at Point of Ayr so this was probably the same individual.

Other highlights included 4 Shags and 1 dead one and 21 Purple Sandpipers roosting at high tide.
With the tide ebbing there was just enough time to finish the sausages and eggs before departing and taking the scenic route alongside West Kirby Marine Lake to see if the Glauc had landed there. No sign but we did pick up another very photogenic Shag and a male Red-breasted Merganser.

All in all not a bad mid-winters haul with the added bonus of a Barn Owl close to my house as we left in darkness at 07.15.


Mr Payne said...

note to self must shout its a Glauc louder next time ;0)

Phil Woollen. said...

With the distance it was first of all you did well to even pick it up! Especially as it spent half its time holding the G B B under water by the neck.