12 May 2014

Another day, another Island

After the long trip to Fair Isle it was time to visit another fair island with a trip to Hilbre. With the high tide being very early we decided to go on after the tide so didn't arrive until around 07.30. There were a few grounded migrants knocking around and we managed to keep the annual ringing list ticking over with a selection of species including a fine Swallow that ended up in the Obs mist net before the sun had really got up.

One of the birds we caught was an obvious 2nd calendar year Chiffchaff showing a moult contrast in the greater coverts. As Willow Warblers have a complete moult on their wintering grounds 2nd calendar year birds can't be identified whereas Chiffies only undertake a partial post juvenile moult.

 Another interesting Chiffchaff was this re-trap bird that had hung around for a few days. It had a well developed pollen 'horn' caused by the bird sticking its head into flower and getting wet pollen stuck to the feathers on its forehead.

Another bird nice to see in the hand as we don't get many on Hilbre was the Sedge Warbler above. It toured the Island singing from several locations before ending up being caught in the Old Obs garden.
 Spring is certainly in full swing with young Short-toed Field Voles beginning to explore away from their nests and clumps of Thrift dotting the cliff tops.

This time of year there are regular moth catching nights and I was pleased to catch up with one of the Hilbre specialties - Netted Pug. its widely distributed in the UK but classed as 'local' and Hilbre is one of the local hot spots. It was a new species of moth for me!

Local patch birding took a bit of  a back seat during the first part of April although I 'adopted' a local patch for awhile during my Australian jaunt. Once I'd returned the list started increasing with a vengeance. As with the last couple of years a local farmers decision to keep a couple of fields under stubble over the winter and cultivate them for spring barley has paid birding dividends. I've not only had a number of Wheatears on these fields but also my 2nd ever Yellow Wagtail and 1st Ring Ouzel with a female showing briefly before hurtling over the nearby railway embankment and being lost to view.

Another good local bird was a female Redstart that popped up whilst I was doing a breeding bird survey for our local Marks & Spencer superstore whilst a brief singing Lesser Whitethroat in the garden during a rain shower was a garden first. All this and the 1st Swifts of the year means I'm on 87 species and 96 points for the 2014 patch challenge and all on foot. Not bad for an inland semi-rural / suburban patch. The trick is knowing where the birds are likely to be and reading the weather signs to know when best to venture out. A nice SE with a drop of rain works wonders.

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