Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Hilbre Island and West Kirby Marine Lake

With high tide not til 4.30pm, Nick and I made the walk across to Hilbre Island on Sunday morning. This lies off the south tip of the Wirral, and is walk-to-able at low tide via a big expanse of soggy sand. There was snow overnight in Warrington but this hadn't made it to the Wirral - it was, however, a dull grey day.

To get here, you park at Morrisons in West Kirby, and then walk out past the Marine Lake. there were a couple of birds bobbing about on it which proved to be a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers. We had plans to walk all the way around the lake later, as there was supposedly a Great Northern Diver on it, but for now we headed out towards the island.

Halfway across, with half of my face numb from the crosswind, I paused to admire the crazy landscape of rippling flatlands, stretching across to the straggly hump of Hilbre Island itself. It's the seaside, Jim, but not as we know it.

We didn't see much on the way over. A Knot flew by at a distance, a Golden Plover very close. Once we could see the shore beyond the island we found a few waders there, including a Bar-tailed Godwit. Approaching the main island via seaweedy rocks we were soon among Turnstones and Oystercatchers.

Flyby Turnstone. Shoulda used a faster shutter speed. But then there woulda been more noise. But there is already a lot of noise. I don't think I'm getting the best out of this camera yet... mind you it was a grey old day.

Once you reach the 'Little Eye', the nearest bit of the island, you head sort of north-west along the low ridge that separates the Little Eye from the island proper, and when you get to the island proper you join a proper tarmaced path that brings you past the bird observatory and eventually to a walled but roofless building that gives views out to sea. Here we stayed for a while and found (well, mostly Nick found) various goodies including Grey Plover on the rocks (not a cocktail), and three or four Slavonian Grebes and a single female Scaup on the sea.

Most of this stuff was out of range though. So here's a Herring Gull fight, with spectators...

... and a young Cormorant coming in to land and showing off its totipalmate feet.

On the shore was one of the birds we'd particularly hoped to see, though it was odd to see just one on its own - Pale-bellied Brent Goose.

The walk back to the mainland was really hard-going - FIERCE cold wind in our faces, and conversation died completely as we put our heads down and concentrated on making it back to dry land. Then it was time to do a clockwise lap of the Marine Lake.

The Marine Lake is large, though much longer than it is wide. At the northern end the wind was whipping the waves up and over the path but the further we went the calmer it became. This subadult Herring Gull plunge-dived into the lake to obtain a mussel, which it then dropped on the footpath to try to break it. What a perfectly timed photo (sadly it's a bit of a disaster in all other respects!)

We got to the far end without finding the diver, and then carried on along the road back towards our starting point. There is a little jetty thing here with rocks around it, and on these rocks were roosting waders.

Most were Redshanks.

But there was also this gorgeous little Dunlin.

While I was taking lots of photos of the waders, Nick was more constructively engaged and managed to find the diver. It looked like it was nearer to the far shore than to us so we retraced our steps for closer views, but that didn't really happen.

A distant pic but I thought it was worth showing as you can see Hilbre in the background.

We had to get back to the car then but there was time for a few more gull photos.

Herring Gull who had grown tired of me taking its photo.

From here we went down to Parkgate but stayed only briefly because the cold was getting ridiculous. We saw a Marsh Harrier here, also Little Egret, but not a lot else.

When I got home yesterday I added up my year-list - 105 so far. And still lots of obvious and embarrassing gaps!

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