Thursday, 12 May 2016

Nightjar, Hilbre Island

News of a nightjar roosting in a stunted birch tree in the observatory garden on Hilbre Island was too tempting to resist this evening. However a quick look at the tide table revealed that it wasn't going to be easy, with high tide at West Kirby being 16:10 and both of us needing to be back home by 19:30 at the latest. Still it was only an 8m tide so the theory was that if we got to West Kirby at 16:30 we could probably safely start walking with the tide receding before us, driven back by an easterly wind. At least that was the theory.....

Wellies were not an option, the water was too deep, so we needed to wade across. We got to Little Eye with no difficulty, it was about knee deep and at least we were walking on sand, and it was a similar story for the first half of the crossing to Middle Eye. Then it became more difficult. To avoid deeper water we needed to stay close to the rocks, and they were either very slippy in places or barnacle encrusted and very painful on bare feet. With a few thousand pounds worth of optics and phones about our persons, we really didn't want to end up on our backsides, even if the water was only up to our knees. Finally we were off rocks and onto pebbles and shells, still painful but at least we could walk without fear of falling, and then we were on Middle Eye. Now the crossing was a lot easier, and the water was almost gone between Middle Eye and Hilbre, and we were able to enjoy the birds. Around 20 whimbrel and four or five little egrets were the stars.

Once on Hilbre we were faced with a final dilema. Where was the bird? We were the only birders present. However there are not that many birch trees on Hilbre and those that there are, are only stunted forms, so finding it was easy enough, and almost immediately we saw the bird sitting still and silently on a lower branch of one of the trees. Yes I know that you can see nightjars a lot easier than this, and I know that there is a lot to be said for seeing and hearing them at dusk on a heath, but they are usually only silhouettes in such places and the opportunity to get close to one and see it really well in such a beautiful location was too good to miss.

I certainly wouldn't recommend anybody else attempting such a crossing in future, but we got away with it and what an experience on a glorious day.

Earlier in the day I called in at Carr Lane Pools and had a reasonable view of the elusive Temminck's stint.

Year: 222 (Nightjar, Temminck's stint)

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