Facing a race against the incoming tide,we completed the journey in a record 22 minutes and somewhat out of breath, we staggered into the obs to be greeted by a number of the regulars. The strong wind meant that the only bird we caught in the Heligoland Traps was a Wren but persistence with the potters at the North End saw us catch a smart first-winter Greenland Wheatear and 2 Rock Pipits. The latter, a ringing tick for Scott, were the first individuals caught on Hilbre for over two years and both species were an absolute pleasure to see in the hand! Below are a few shots I got of the birds once they had been ringed.
While we were on the island news came through from the mainland of a Yellow-browed Warbler on the nature trail Leasowe Lighthouse, found by Wirral stalwart Alan Conlin. The bird appeared to be hanging round and as this is a rare and difficult to twitch bird in Cheshire, Scott and I decided to go for it as soon as we got back to the mainland. After getting a lift off in the Lannie we quickly drove round to the lighthouse car park. After meeting Austin on the walk down, we arrived at the spot to find Alan Conlin and a few others watching the bush where the bird was present. It had showed well a couple of minutes prior to our arrival but the strong winds meant that it spent the majority of its time feeding deep within the foliage out of sight, accompanied by a Chiffchaff. After a short wait we heard it calling and both birds shot out of the bush before what was presumably the YBW shot back in. Definitely not a tickable view. After a further wait, Scott picked up the YBW low down amongst the branches and I picked it up as it flicked across to another branch. BOOM! YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER in Cheshire! The bird then proceeded to show well against the main trunk for half a minute before flicking left and out of view. As ever an absolute gem and an incredible bird to see so well in the Northwest! Seeing this bird has led me to take stock of all the rare birds I've seen in Cheshire and has encouraged me to start keeping a Cheshire list. Although I technically live in Greater Manchester, I do all of my local birding in Cheshire and the county itself is a much more pleasant place to go birding. In the next few days I'll add up my Cheshire list and seek to catch up with a few easy targets over the Christmas vacation.
The rest of the day was a huge anti-climax as we dipped the Lapland Buntings on the Great Orme before visiting Conwy where we saw what was almost certainly the pale Snipe reported by Marc Hughes which turned out to be a Common. Unfortunately there was no sign of the Jack Snipe which was seen earlier in the day, when will I catch up with on of those bastards!?! A disappointing end to the day but it was worth getting out in to the field just to see the cracking Yellow-browed Warbler. Hopefully I'll look back on it in a few years as the bird that motivated me to become a serious Cheshire birder. Thanks as always to Scott for the great company and for driving, I'm back to Oxford on Sunday and these regular birding trips will be sorely missed when I'm snowed under with work! Still there's time for a mega to break before then; Red-flanked Bluetail at Spurn would do nicely!