8 Apr 2021

A long overdue trip to Hilbre

 With the easing of lockdown restrictions I'd hoped to get to Hilbre last week but a leaking radiator pipe beneath the floorboards upstairs at home and the need to wait in for a plumber put paid to that. However, I managed to get across yesterday for the tide. An early tide meant an early start and it was still dark at 05.45 when I drove off the ramp and onto the beach art West Kirby. The weather wasn't conducive to passerine migration with a strong NNW blowing and -2C  temperatures and the forecast of snow and hail flurries! 

It was still dark when I arrived at the Observatory and I had a brew before waiting for the dawn to start breaking before doing a tour of the island and the heligoland traps. Reaching the north end there were quite a few gulls feeding on the edge of the rising tide including a couple of Kittiwakes and three Little Gulls. I'd left my camera back at the Obs as it was still to dark to be able to photograph anything but I hurried back to get it to try and photograph the Little Gulls. By the time I returned they'd moved further out.

First glimmer of sunrise looking east towards West Kirby

View looking south from the air raid shelter 

The old Lifeboat station reflecting the rising sun at the north end

An adult Kittiwake seemed to be doing circuits of the island and was seen flying down the west side and then between Middle & Hilbre before flying back up the east side.
Unfortunately it was seen on the rocks below the east side cliffs as the tide receded and looked moribund.

It appeared that the strong northely winds had displaced quite a few seabirds and as the tide rose they started leaving the Dee estuary up the west side of Hilbre. Six Red-throated Divers (including three together), a number of Common Scoter, several Razorbill, a Guillemot and an adult Gannet were all watched heading out and into the wind.
Common Scoter

Red-throated Divers

As the tide fell a large party of Turnstones flew into the rocks at the north end and were joined by six Purple Sandpipers. One of the Turnstones was ringed on the right leg with what appears to be a BTO ring. As we haven't ringed any Turnstone for a number of years and we ring on the left leg, this is probably a bird ringed elsewhere in the UK.

Turnstone - lower picture shows metal ringed bird.

As usual the Purple Sandpipers were very photogenic and it won't be long before these, and the Turnstones, start departing for their Arctic breeding grounds.

Most of the resident passerines are beginning to think about the breeding season and a pair of Rock Pipits were displaying at the north end whilst a solitary Meadow Pipit was bravely doing its display flight and running the risk of getting blown off the island! 

Rock Pipit

Meanwhile the resident pair of Carrion Crows were seen breaking of branches from the few trees on the island to repair their nest.

A male Eider has been hanging around the island for awhile. With the first recorded breeding of this species confirmed last year there are hopes they'd do the same this year. I didn't see it around Hilbre but as the tide dropped it appeared on the rocks to the east of Middle Eye. 
Fantastic birds and at one time quite a rarity on the N Wirral coast.  Interestingly it appears to be in wing moult.

Despite the atrocious weather it was good to get out and although there weren't any spring migrants theres always something to see around Hilbre. 

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