Sunday 8th June - Hilbre Island

The forecast of heavy rain and thunderstorms resulted in a last minute change for this visit from Saturday to Sunday, which in fact was a very pleasant, sunny day.

On previous visits to Hilbre Island we had stayed on Hilbre during the high tide, but on this occasion we visited during low tide, allowing access to coastal areas previously inaccessible.

With its special location just off the Wirral coast, Hilbre Island is known for some unusual plants. It is also an important feeding ground for migrating birds in spring and autumn - although these were, unsurprisingly, not in evidence during early June.

Two of the specialities liking coastal and rocky environments are Rock Sea Spurrey, a member of the Pink family:

Rock Sea Spurrey(Spergularia rupicola)
Rock Sea Spurrey (Spergularia rupicola)
and a subspecies of Rock Sea Lavender, a member of the Leadwort family not related to lavenders (the Mint family). This was only just starting to flower.

Two others, which prefer the freshwater margins of the pond on the main Hilbre Island are:

Brookweed (Samolus valerandi)
Sea Milkwort (Glaux maritima)
Brookweed, a member of the Primrose family, and Sea Milkwort (no relation of the common milkwort) which perhaps surprisingly is also member of the Primrose family (although along with some other members of the Primrose family it may be grouped within the Myrsinaceae).

A speciality of the interdidal zone is the Honeycomb Worm, which is a reef forming annelid (ringed) worm:

Honeycomb Worm (Sabellaria alveolata)
Honeycomb Worm (Sabellaria alveolata)

Its common name is derived from the honeycomb-like pattern it creates when building its tube reefs.

Unfortunately the large numbers of bluebells had now finished flowering, but much else was seen: Bird's-foot Trefoil, Sea Campion (particularly on Middle Eye), Thrift, Danish Scurvygrass, one small Sea Holly, Sea Beet, Knotgrass (possibly the rarer Ray's Knotgrass), Buckshorn, Sea and Ribwort Plantains and Sea Club-rush. Spear-leaved Orache and Bracken were widespread on Middle Eye. White Campion and Common Mallow were found near the gardens of the buildings on Hilbre, with the attractive Yellow-tail Moth caterpillar on mallow leaves:

Yellow-tail Moth (Euproctis similis)
Garden Tiger Moth (Arctia caja)

Equally appealing were the many Garden Tiger Moth caterpillars near the Bracken on Middle Eye.

While migrating birds were not present, there were large numbers of Oystercatchers, along with Herring Gulls and a couple of Herons. Meadow Pipits were the most visible, and vocal, birds on the islands..

From early on in the day on reaching Little Eye, the Atlantic Seals on West Hoyle Bank, could first be heard and then seen - probably well over 100 of them beached on the sand, 'enjoying' the sunshine.

An excellent day. Far more was seen than reported here, particularly the less colourful sedges and grasses, and a great variety of sea-shore flora and fauna - leaving great scope for future visits.

For further information on Hilbre see the book: Hilbre - Islands in the Dee Estuary by Margaret Sixsmith (who gave us a talk on Hilbre last December), and the Friends of Hilbre website:

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