2 Dec 2014

Brent's & Blackbirds

I managed a quick trip over to Hilbre Sunday after the early morning high tide. A beautiful morning with clear skies and a dazzling sunrise and hardly a breath of wind although it clouded over a bit later.
As  I drove up the south end slip I disturbed our resident rabbit. This venerable old beast has been a solitary resident for at least three years now and has adapted with a thick furry coat. Later he or she came out to enjoy the last rays of sunshine by the 5 bar gate and seemed unperturbed by the day trippers that passed on the main track.
There seemed to have been a small fall of Blackbirds with at least three unringed birds flushed from bracken by the air raid shelter. One of these was caught in the Newton heligoland trap and seemed to have accidentally lost its tail which was regrowing. I can't believe it would still be growing it from its post breeding moult.

Brent Geese are one of my favourite birds. I remember when  I was around 8- 9 being taken by my parents to Mersea Island off the Essex coast and seeing my first Brent's. They undertake astonishing migrations and over the years Hilbre's flock of Pale-bellied Brent's has grown to around 200 birds and colour ringed birds have been present that have been coming to the island for several years such as HSWB below:
The history of this bird is well known and is taken from the Hilbre blog here.

 This bird was ringed at Dungarvan Pitch and Putt Golf Course, County Waterford, on 18th December 2008 and was first seen at Hilbre on 12th November 2010 having been at Strangford Lough, County Down, that autumn until 20th October and has returned to the islands every winter since (along with the Canadian ringed bird 'HDRB' also present this autumn). Thanks, as always, to the Irish Brent Goose Research Group for the information.

So for at least 6 years this smallest of our geese has been flying backwards and forwards from arctic Canada, probably via Iceland, to N Ireland and then across to Hilbre. A journey of around 3,500 miles one way! Awesome.

As with other geese and swans Brent's migrate in family groups and these often stick together on the wintering grounds. It was nice to see such a family group comprising of 3 juveniles and a par of adults on the whale-back. The juveniles are easily picked out by the pale fringes to their mantle feathers.
As the morning progressed more people ventured out from West Kirby and the Brent's were disturbed and flew off to a quieter place.
Passerines  were scarce and apart from the Blackbirds only the resident Robins, Wrens and Dunnnock's were noted.
Dunnock basking in the winter sun
As the crowds grew it was time to leave and already by early afternoon the sun was beginning to get lower in the sky towards the south east.

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