17 Nov 2018

Eider, Hilbre

I forgot about these photo's of Eider on Hilbre! One of the features this year on Hilbre has been the number of Eider loafing around the island. On quiet days sitting in the Obs we specualte as to whether these birds are from the population at Walney in Cumbria or Puffin Island, Anglesey. Puffin Island is probably closer and the population there is increasing.

These photos were taken back in September and show a sub adult male and a juvenile - probably a male from the whit beginning to show through on the breast although that may just be misplaced feathers.

Wherever they come from they're always a nice addition to the Hilbre day list!

9 Nov 2018

Pied Wheatear - a potential first for Cheshire & Wirral

When Richard Ashford took some photos of a late Wheatear at on the sea defences at  Meols on Monday and Tuesday this week and forwarded them to Richard Smith little did he know what he'd found. Richard circulated them and Steve's  immediate reaction was 'shit, thats no Northern'

Other photos showing the tail pattern confirmed it as potentially Cheshire and Wirrals first Pied Wheatear.  Potentially as one of the Hilbre Bird Observatory founder members recalls finding one with the late John Gittins but it was never submitted.

Steve put the news out on the local WhatsApps group Tuesday night and cue much angst amongst the Wirral and Cheshire birding fraternity. A major rarity on our doorstep for two days and nobody had realised. Would it be there the next day? With a trip to Somerset later on the Wednesday I set the alarm for 6 am and aimed to get to site just after 1st light.

Tuesday night was wet and miserable so it was hoped the bird would have roosted and still be there in the morning. Luckily it was and Al C, who lives within a mealworms throw of the site, put the news out the bird was still there as I was driving up the Wirral peninsula.

Expecting the bird to have moved further along the coast, perhaps into the dunes or pony paddocks, I put my wellies on only to pull up behind a line of other cars and have the Pied Wheatear land on the seawall next to me. That was the pattern for the next hour or so. The bird was completely unconcerned by its growing crowd of admirers, dog walkers, cyclists or parents walking their children to school. It would flit over the sea defences to reappear a few metres away. As the light improved slightly so my photos got slightly better.

It was feeding well on small black flies that were probably hatching from the rottens seaweed on the beach just below the sea defences. It was also seen catching wasps.

My only concern when I viewed the photos was that the tail pattern (see out of focus shot below) was closer to the illustration of Eastern Black-eared Wheatear in Collins but I think everyone is happy that it is a Pied Wheatear and looking closely you can see the scaly mantle feathers.

Amazingly the Wirral hasn't had a Desert Wheatear! Now we've had something even rarer. Over the years I've seen Desert Wheatear on the beach at Crosby, on the beach at Rhyl and an adult spring male at Irlam, Greater Manchester. All around us but not yet here. Surely that must be a good bet soon.