Thursday, 22 March 2018


No sign of the Chough again 😢

3S Iceland Gull at the “waterfall” in the inner harbour again.

Ad M Velvet Scoter in the low tide channel with 306 Eider as were
8 Red-breasted Merganser and
1 Great-crested Grebe
4 Wigeon

Little gull - adult briefly off the outfalls then out as freight ferry leaving

10-11 Pale-bellied Brent and 1Dark-bellied Brent flew in from the north to the north side of Heysham Head early am

1 Meadow Pipit on Heysham Head.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Iceland Gull remains

Iceland Gull 3rd S on waterfall mid-am
NO Chough
Velvet Scoter ad drake drifting in with tide 0940.  Why is it easier to find now we have been asked.  Fine-tuning its routine and indeed those of the Eider helps, especially noting that the main channel starts moving quite quickly four hours before HT.  Clearer and colder weather post-new year as opposed to a lot of poor visibility westerlies pre-NY with daylight at a premium.  Finally the difference between it being 0.06% of the ducks in late November compared to about 0.3% now!
Brent Goose - 6 PBB by half moon bay.  They then flew south and joined up with one DBB on Red Nab where there were also two PBB staying separate (the originals).  The flock of 7 (one DBB) headed south to Potts corner, with the two PBB later moving from Red Nab to OE saltmarsh.  Do watch out for colour ringed birds

Middleton NR
Goldcrest - 2
Great Tit - 4 appeared to be moving through north
Pink-footed Goose - 80+13 N

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Rampside rejects pile across

No sign whatsoever of the Chough unless some visiting birders can contradict here.  Predicted by two of us to be a day to go if it was going to do

The Brent Goose situation is getting out of control as regards nice neat documentation!   It does appear that the original two went (back?) across after a lengthy stay on this side and dragged all sorts of odds and ends over, some of which may have subsequently done their own thing.  However we really do have no idea how many Pale-bellied there have been, especially after today, but Dark-bellied remain at a maximum of two, reflecting their respective ratios over the Bay

No overhead passage of even the slightest note today

Brent Goose - flock of 12 Pale-bellied flew in from the north to Red Nab late am, then 15 (at least 13 clearly PBB) flew north at 1450hrs
Velvet Scoter - drake with the Eider on arrival at 0920 after which they slowly started to drift into the bay with the tide
Iceland Gull - 3rd S on waterfall early am
Eider - 377 (excluding those way north of the head at low tide (c50??)
Great-crested Grebe - 5

Middleton NR
Buzzard - two circling high on east side of unknown status as regards migrant or nearby residents, probably the latter
Little Grebe - trilling birds on two of the ponds
Reed Bunting - influx after a noticeable absence with minimum of 5
Water Rail - squealing western reedbed
NO Cetti's warbler heard
Chiffchaff - 2

Goldcrest - at least one

Grey Seal offshore and three donkeys showing well near Middleton NR entrance

Monday, 19 March 2018

Last day of freezing cold??

A few bits and bobs today as well as all the old favourites bar the Iceland Gull where the tide and dredger activity was unfavourable.  Thanks to Janet for the pics

Chough - mobile in the half moon bay area and last reported on the pager from there at 1600hrs
Velvet Scoter - ad drake picked up with the Eiders on the float in off the stone jetty but still too distant for any pics
Brent Goose - 6 pale and one dark Red Nab but kept splitting up and regrouping as they move to other sites to the south with the tide

Stonechat - passage female on the gorse Heysham Barrows

Middleton NR
Mute Swan - 6
Coot - down to 2
Gadwall - 24
Mallard - 4
Teal - 5
Tufted Duck - 3
Little Grebe - one on Tim Butler pond
Little Egret & Grey Heron - one each
Snipe - 1
Redwing - c40 grounded along eastern edge of golf course
Meadow Pipit - 8 grounded

Goldcrest - one at least

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Early Greenshank

I was hoping to find out the date of Allan's funeral today but still not sure - will post when I can find out.  Allan was a mainstay of the Heysham Observatory in the very early days in the early to mid-1980s when we were initially operating amongst the scrub and lupins on the old railway storage area.  This is now the lorry park.  When this area became unavailable at the end of 1983, we switched to what is now Heysham Nature reserve.  At that time the power station site was a mass of bright lights with a few areas of screening planting, apple trees planted by a power station worker and gorse bushes.  The theory was that the lights attracted down the migrants, especially in spring following overnight south-easterly winds and poor offshore visibility.   Because there was so little vegetation, the birds landed 'amongst the lights' and (especially perhaps spring Willow Warblers) raced inland to find somewhere to feed.  So the name of the game for the ringers was to have the nets set by civil twilight and, on many occasions, most of the birds were caught before the sun appeared over the eastern horizon.  As already mentioned, poor offshore visibility was an essential component of a decent fall and Allan was the first to mention that "If you can see the lights of Barrow on the approach road to Heysham you might as well turn round and get an extra hour or twos sleep"!   This holds true even to this day as a night migrant numbers guideline.

Allan was absolutely vital to the continuity of the observatory after personal tragedy in early 1983 and lack of transport made it very difficult for me to continue.  Allan chivvied me along, got me going again, and helped by others such as Shaun Coyle, Andrew Cadman and Tom Wilmer, we more than ticked over.  It is almost impossible to visualise this now, as it is well-established 'old hat', but the likes of extensive Robin migration from late August throughout September at that time was just not 'something which happened on an inland headland on the west coast' with any changes in distribution were just a bit of local post-breeding dispersal.  Allan was really enthusiastic about this as well as the appearance of the likes of Barred Warbler and Wryneck.  Yellow-browed Warbler was a real west coast rarity and not on our radar in those days and it was one of the broadest grins I have ever seen when Allan appeared with a bag containing the first one ever located in a mist net.  

Many of these early morning sessions were prior to Allan having to circumnavigate Lancaster and be at work at the Castle by 0800!  This says an amazing amount for his dedication and also the lack of early morning traffic problems in those days!  These were also operations undertaken from the boot of the car in the early days and Allan's battered but reliable car certainly had character, especially the contents of the rarely visited bottom of the boot!  There were no sheltered comfortable chairs to cover the vis mig in between mist net rounds! 

More than anything else though it was the friendly companionship whether at daft o'clock morning mist net rounds or equally daft o'clock overnight expeditions to see rare birds or seawatching from the north harbour wall watching our first and only Balearic Shearwater cursing because it was only a subspecies in those days and why couldn't it be a Sooty!  I last saw Allan at an Askam Twite-ringing session last year and I will really miss him.  Rest in peace.

Brent Goose - 5 pale and two dark, then 8 distant 'Brent Geese' Middleton sands late afternoon at or very near the same time there were 4 pale and one db on Ocean Edge saltmarsh
Iceland Gull - back on waterfall 1640
Greenshank - one with Redshank off OE saltmarsh (NFY)
Wheatear 1 male OE salt marsh
Chough - first field HMB at lunchtime
Meadow Pipit - trickle south - c20


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Plastic bottle bombardment for the Oystercatcher roost

Wish I had videoed this late morning as the Oystercatcher roost was bombarded by flying objects with one being bowled over by a whack from a 2 litre milk carton.  This was the accumulation of rubbish which had dried out after being trapped under the vegetation until the heliport was recently cut and the blustery easterly gale did the rest with a lot of swirling about below the seawall.  The Oystercatchers either departed or moved on to the grass at the top.  No wonder the seas are full of plastic and other rubbish

Pale-bellied Brent Geese - all pale-bellied today
7 of them but only two remained on Ocean Edge as the tide was nearing full.  Photos in sequence as the tide came in showing the north to south movement, presumably because the original two adopting this strategy with the tide have returned bringing some mates (Knowlys, off the village, fly round to red nab, oe saltmarsh, potts corner area).  Thanks Malcolm.

Chough - Ocean Edge and over the HN reserve today - not looked for at half moon
Iceland Gull - no sign but no one has had chance to look at low tide
Quite a few birders around half moon bay area but no known postings of anything else of note

Friday, 16 March 2018

The sound of spring

Middleton NR
Chiffchaffs - 6 calling and seen feeding in the willows around the model boat pond.
None at all on Heysham NR but didn't arrive until mid am.
Chough - flew over then flew back over Heysham NR then presumably back to Half Moon Bay. It's getting desperate to find a friend now but it will have to range a lot further to find one, unfortunately. It has been visiting the "undercliff" near the old Pontin's site
Brent Goose - one dark and eight pale Red Nab pre-tide but some uncertainty over one of these from the long range shot.  Unfortunately not there when other observers arrived

Velvet Scoter phantom
For the second day running the Ad drake recorded off Heysham Head mid pm by a mystery observer.  Great - certainly saves me a lot of eye strain!

Ocean Edge
Wheatear - 1 male on the rocks
Little Egret - 1 on the salt marsh

Great visibility now as all the bushes and brambles have been cut down. But best to use the car as a hide as the birds aren't used to people stopping at the fence and I scared off hundreds of Oystercatchers while trying to check for rings.
Plus scared off:
Snipe - 7

NNEW Iceland Gull