5 Jan 2014

A couple of good birthday birds - Hilbre 4th Jan

What better way to spend your birthday than on Hilbre sea watching with a roaring fire and whiskey laced tea to fall vack on in the Obs. With the recent gales it was hoped a few misplaced divers & grebes might still be lingering in Liverpool Bay and with a high spring tide they'd surely be pushed closer to Hilbre? That was the theory anyway and plans were hatched for Mark to arrive at mine in good time to beat the incoming tide as we drove to Hilbre. With the recent storms the sand was extremely rutted by the wave action and severely tested the Landrovers suspension. Even 2.5 hours before high tide the track between Middle & Hilbre was underwater.

First things first. With all the recent rain the Obs needed a good airing so the wood burner was lit and a few windows opened. Sitting in front of the fire almost proved fatal as we soon began nodding off. Only a Herculean effort forced us out into the chill and into the sea watching hide. 

Once settled it soon became apparent we'd bade the right decision. First up was a distant winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe. This had us scratching our heads for awhile as we went through all the features separating Slav from Red-necked. After watching the bird for about 30 minutes we"'d agreed on Slavonian & put the news out. 

The high speed jet boat used for maintenance work on the wind turbines forced birds off the water in front of if as it powered across to Mostyn. An incredible flock of 73 Red-throated Divers passed through the scope view and soon after I found a a Great Northern Diver drifting past. 

During the high tide lull we counted the roosting waders - 16 Purple Sandpipers was a good count. Manga birds were displaced from their usual roosting spots as the high tide was lapping over them.
A flick of 20 Ringed Plover was found high up on one of he west facing cliff ledges and the access track at the south end was covered in roosting Oystercatchers.

Following a traditional Hilbre fried brunch we returned to sea watching and continued logging sightings until the cold gig to us & we returned to the Obs for a final brew and write up the log before leaving in a beautiful sunset.

A great day. Final totals were:

Red-throated Diver  84
Great Northern Diver 1
Great-crested Grebe 60
Slavonian Grebe 1
Common Scoter 200
Guillemot 3
Razorbill 2
Cormorant 850
Shag 3
Red-breasted Meganser 3
Brent Geese 199
Grey Plover   2
Sanderling 200
Knot 8000

It was great to find out later our mates Allan C & Frank Duff had picked up both the Slav Grebe and Great Northern Diver from their eyrie known as Western House. 

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