Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hilbre Ringing Session

On Monday I was invited by Scott, with the kind permission of Steve Williams, to spend a day at the obs on Hilbre watching the members ring migrants. Having developed somewhat of a penchant for twitching over the past few months I was unsure how much I would enjoy a day birding when the prospects of anything scarce or rare was relatively low. Thankfully these doubts were completely unfounded and it turned out to be one of my most enjoyable days in the field this Autumn.

Upon our arrival the island was shrouded in mist and there was a light south easterly breeze; optimum conditions for migrants! We were given a lift over by Steve in one of the Lannies just after 06.30, stopping on route to walk Middle Eye before heading on towards Hilbre itself. While we failed to flush the much desired "biggie" I did capture a rather atmospheric shot of the sunrise over the estuary.

Once we arrived upon the island the mist nets were set up in the observatory garden and the garden of the old obs at the north end and we were ready to go. A preliminary drive down the hedge of the obs garden met with instant success as a Robin and a Blackcap were flushed into the net. Over the course of the day I watched 22 birds being ringed, the highlights of which were a Spotted Flycatcher and a control juvenile Common Kestrel, both of which were caught in the mist nets in the old obs garden. The Kestrel in particular was a stunning bird and it was a real treat to study the intricate plumage at such close quarters. A second Spotted Flycatcher turned up in the afternoon but despite our best efforts managed to evade capture! There was also a constant southerly trickle of Meadow Pipits throughout the day and scrutiny of the modest gull roost over the tide produced a presumed argentatus Herring Gull. Below are a selection of iPhone pictures I took of the some of the birds captured over the course of the day.

Juvenile Common Kestrel




Song Thrush
Spotted Flycatcher

Juvenile Whitethroat
This was one of the few full scale ringing sessions I've ever witnessed and it was an absolute pleasure to study familiar birds, such as Chiffchaffs, closely in the hand. I also enjoyed the strategy and teamwork involved in working birds into the Heligoland traps, an activity that I believe should be used regularly as a team-building exercise. I'm extremely grateful to Steve Williams for allowing me to spend a day in the obs and to all the other obs members, particularly Kenny McNiffe, for going out of their way to make me feel so welcome. It was a fantastic experience and has made me seriously consider training to get my C permit. Hopefully, if the forecast doesn't change, I'll get out there again with Scott on a couple of occasions next week before I go back to Oxford.

The day had one final treat in store with an extremely showy juvenile Great Skua which was hanging around Little Eye feeding on the carcasses of a Cormorant and an Oystercatcher. We saw it from the Lannie on the drive back and after Scott grabbed his memory card from the car, we jogged back out there for another look. The bird was still hanging around and allowed very close approach to within 10ft before it flew a short distance down the beach. Some people have suggested that the bird is moribund and unable to fly but the fact it wasn't there on the way out or later when Steve had a look for it, suggests that it may be healthy and simply unwilling to leave a good feeding territory. Either way it was an incredible opportunity to observe the species at close quarters and allowed Scott to capture a series of stunning shots, some of which I hope to display here later in the week. Below are a couple of shots of the argentatus Herring Gull, cheers to Steve for sending them over!

Presumed argentatus Herring Gull (c) Steve Williams

No comments:

Post a Comment