CAR TRIP TO HILBRE – 12 SEPTEMBER 2010

It was a fine morning as our group of nine set off from West Kirby to cross to Hilbre Island, to be followed a little later by a similar sized party from Macclesfield RSPB. With the tide still well out, there was little to see as we made our way to Little Eye, but as we approached Middle Hilbre, we got much closer to the flocks of waders, gulls and terns which were following the tide line. Large numbers of Oystercatchers formed dense groups, with a few Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew mixed in with them, while further out several Sandwich Terns could be picked out amongst the Black-headed, Common, Lesser black-backed, Herring and Greater black-backed Gulls. To the west of the island, a number of Grey Seals were hauled out on West Hoyle Bank, a low sandbank soon to be covered by the incoming tide, while one or two Grey Herons fed among the seaweed-covered rocks.

Arriving on Hilbre, there were few passerines to be seen, Meadow Pipit, Jackdaw and Pied Wagtail being the only species found as we made our way from the south end of the island to a vantage point near the old Lifeboat station. Here we settled in to wait for the tide and to see what it would bring! A few Cormorants were fishing offshore and occasionally a Great Crested Grebe would pass close by, but the other birds flying past were mainly gulls and terns, displaced as the tide rose. A small party of waders landed on the rocks behind us, and as the numbers increased, we soon had excellent views of Ringed Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin and Turnstone. Guillemot was the only auk seen, as ones and twos appeared and then disappeared in the waves. One individual, which seemed to be very tired, made its way ashore on to the rocks just below us, and having rested awhile, engaged in an extensive preening session before inelegantly re-entering the water again. However, it gave brilliant views, and it kept the photographers busy as they tried to get that perfect shot.

As the tide started to fall, a Great Skua made its way up the estuary, flying between Red Rocks and the island and causing many of the gulls and waders, which had begun to return to the shore, to take to the air in panic. It was to be our only unusual seabird of the day.

Soon the tide had fallen, and we started the walk to shore, adding Redshank to the day’s total as they took advantage of the receding rock pools. Those with wellingtons happily waded through the channels of water, while those with less robust footwear picked their way as best they could, or paddled with gay abandon! The fine weather made for a nice day out, but the conditions weren’t suitable to be able to see some of the birds for which Hilbre is justly renowned.

P.S. What a difference 48 hours can make! On 14th September, following overnight north-westerly gales, one observer undertook a six hour sea-watch from the point where we watched just two days earlier. The highlights were 140 Leach's Petrels, a superb adult Long-tailed Skua and a Sooty Shearwater, and this was bettered the following day when 335 Leach's Petrels,148 Manx Shearwaters, 119 Kittiwakes, 1 Sabine’s Gull, 45 Arctic Skuas, 15 Great Skuas and 1 Long-tailed Skua were recorded in the observatory’s log. Still, I bet the observers of those birds didn’t get such a good sun tan ………
BRIAN

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