Friday, 15 January 2021

Interesting ringing recovery news and an ice breaking party.

A heavy overnight frost froze all open water, and it didn't really get much above zero all day, despite the weak sunshine. Light SSE breeze.

Mediterranean gull 1 adult, still using the lamppost vantage point just north of Four Lane End traffic lights.

Sedge Warbler ringing recovery:
Ringed 1/07/20 Middleton Nature Reserve 
Controlled 13/08/20 Tour aux Moutons, Donges, Loire-Atlantique, France

Co-ords: 47deg 19min N -2deg -4min W. 

Duration: 43 days Distance: 747 km Direction: 176deg (S)

Half Moon Bay 2hr after high water - tide just leaving the rocks

Just to continue yesterday's theme of feeding waders, here is a Curlew catching a small lugworm. The interesting thing here is that this is only quite shallow mud above a stony bed, you can see the Curlew working its bill along to reach the worm. A possible advantage of a curved bill? (MD)

The background noise is the torrent of surface water gushing from one of the culvert gates on the Heliport wall.

Common Gulls rarely get a mention,
this one was roosting with the Black-Headed gulls

Common Snipe 1
Several Redshank, including the one legged bird. This is the first time I've seen it on the north shore.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a check of the main ponds in passing:
Black-Headed Gull c40 roosting on main pond ice, including this Norwegian ringed bird
Details awaited

Once again the wildfowl were all crowded into a small area of open water on the "no swimming" pond:
Gadwall 23
Mallard 6
Coot 1

Mute swan - The 2 adult and 3 juvenile were in a small open patch of water on the main pond, with the 4th juvenile exiled to the ice on the far side. Then 3 more adult arrived followed by another 5. The resident male was not happy and between them, more or less cleared the pond of ice. (Listen for the African Elephant towards the end of this clip)
I couldn't find the Elephant, it must have been hiding behind the breakdown lorry with a hydraulic lift.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Not even suitable for ducks!

Very heavy overnight rain left fields and roads awash. The rain continued, with some sleet till late afternoon, when it eased for a while. Light NNE breeze.

Middleton Nature Reserve
Just a quick look at the main ponds in passing.
The water level on the "no swimming" pond is 15cm higher than when it was frozen, probably explaining whey there were only 2 Gadwall remaining. The 2 Shoveler were still feeding, but they can feed deeper than the Gadwall.

The only other birds seen on the "no swimming" pond, were 3 Coot.
The 3 adult plus 4 juvenile Mute were back on the Main pond. No other wildfowl seen.

Saltmarsh as tide was covering it
Common Snipe 2 (presumably the newly flooded fields are providing alternative feeding areas)
Jack Snipe 4
Reed Bunting 3
Rock Pipit 1

Half Moon Bay beach and foreshore 
Rock Pipit 1
The beach out from Half Moon Bay has a very shallow gradient for the first 100m. This means that the ebbing tide, particularly these flood tides, very quickly exposes the mud surface, making it ideal for two different feeding techniques.
Godwits 8 - there were both Bar-Tailed accompanied by at least 2 Black-Tailed.
Black-Tailed on left, Bar-Tailed on right
These were after lugworm. The mud they are feeding on is very soft, as there is still lots of water below the surface, making it easier to reach deep into it for worms.

The other birds feeding were Oystercatchers. These were after cockles. Cockles project out of the mud when covered by sea water, then quickly burrow down when exposed by the tide. But not fast enough when they are exposed quickly and the Oystercatcher are waiting.
Watch the middle bird
The Oystercatcher has not just caught the cockle at the start of this clip, this was it's third attempt to open it, but the same soft mud that helps the Godwit, provides little leverage to prise open a cockle. But it must have cracked it that time, as it was quickly opened on, what was it's fourth attempt.

Finally, I don't think this rock sculpture was created by the same artisan that created the intricate stands below the high cliffs (they are still standing by the way - see post 21/12/20), but it had the same effect.
It made me smile, so in my book, that makes it art!
Hints of Mick Jagger? - but not quite craggy enough.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The sound of silence!

Very light east breeze, low cloud all day with the precipitation alternating between rain and drizzle.

The only stuff I have so far is from my stroll around the saltmarsh as the tide was covering it (MD). This is what today's title refers to. 
Before the caravan park first locked down last March there were c40 Starling and 12 House Sparrows "resident" around the saltmarsh. Within a week of the human residents leaving, the Starling and Sparrows were gone too, and only a few returned briefly during the temporary return of guests. They obviously rely on the many feeders to support their diet. 
But, that was fine, there was always a Linnet flock around, but since the regular visits to the area by both a Merlin and a Sparrowhawk, the Linnets are rarely seen, and there were none today.
The recent cold snap brought in a number of passerines, but they were also gone today, I didn't even see the 2 resident Robins.
It was eerily quiet. The sea was flat, so no lapping of waves, the drizzle seemed to deaden any sounds that there were, and the low visibility just added to the overall effect. There were no barking dogs, no distant sirens, the few Wigeon were subdued and even the Common Snipe only made a half heated squark as they took flight. It felt strange indeed. Anyway:
Common Snipe 19
Jack Snipe 1 - I was expecting that the recent cold weather would have encouraged more to feed here.
Reed Bunting 2

There are typically 12 Oystercatcher alternating between the Cricket field and the adjacent football field. The yellow flagged Norwegian bird is still with them. These birds feed here when the tide is both in and out, so earthworms are their food of choice - I wonder if there are others here that have made a similar journey to the flagged bird, the Norwegian ringer has confirmed that his local birds do primarily feed their young on earthworms  (only idle speculation of course MD)

Sorry no photographs today, it wasn't that sort of day.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Nice day and decent coverage

After a relatively mild day yesterday, there was an overnight frost, enough to freeze ground water and the shallower ponds, but the main ponds remained ice free. Sunshine till late afternoon when it started to cloud over. Almost no wind, what little air movement there was mainly north and west.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Mute swan 2+1 adult 3+1 juvenile - the additional adult is definitely a new bird in, it shied away from the regular feeder.
Coot 4
Moorhen 10
Water Rail 2
Gadwall 26
Shoveler 2 
Mallard 6
Little Grebe 1

Cetti's warbler - good, but brief, views near the new shallow scrapes in the SW corner of the western marsh.

South Shore
Some nice shots from Janet
Little Egret feeding on Red Nab

Grey Seal out from No.1 outflow

Two Herring gull stowaways on the incoming ferry

Heysham Skeer towards low water
Eider 103
Great Crested Grebe 3
Knot c1,500
Pale-bellied Brent goose - they were around the pool in the centre of the skeer, there isn't a great deal of weed in this pool (I checked on the way back when they had gone), so presumably the advantage is that it is underwater and so easier to crop. I counted as best I could from distance, 24, then skirted well past them onto the skeer. 10 minutes later I heard them in flight, there were actually 30, they set off west and I thought they were off to the west side for the night, but they doubled back and landed on the water just west of the skeer.
They then drifted back along the skeer edge and continued feeding from the water
I included this clip, mainly because it gives a good idea of the general activity around, what I regard as, the western edge of the inner skeer.

Finally, I like this short clip, the Eider appears to deliberately upset the gull

Monday, 11 January 2021

Not a lot, just a Little

The west winds strengthened overnight and were quite strong all day, although not gale force. Persistent rain for most of the morning with showers in the afternoon.

All I have is from my wet walk along the south sea wall to watch the lunchtime ferry arrive.
Wigeon 153 sheltering behind No.2 outflow
Some of the wigeon resting plus Black-headed gulls and Redshank shrimping 

It wasn't easy checking the gulls behind the ferry, the wind wasn't too bad, but driving rain made use of optics difficult. Still, I couldn't find anything of note, then just after the ferry entered the harbour an adult Little gull came from the direction of the buoys out from the north wall. It had either overshot or was just coming out of the bay. I followed it as far as the harbour mouth, but lost it when I switched from binoculars to my camera, but I think it must have entered the harbour. 

This Curlew was sheltering just below the sea wall, even though directly in the path of the wind, the sloping wall deflects it upwards, leaving a calm area at the base of the wall.

This Turnstone is feeding on something on No.1 outflow. I can't think what, the tide has just exposed it and you'd imagine that the rough waves would have purged it clean.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

A pretty similar tally

No overnight frost, but the larger ponds remain ice covered apart from a few pockets. The wind shifted to the west then to WSW, quite light, but starting to freshen by evening. Forecast to become strong SW by the morning. Light showers for most of the day, becoming more prolonged by late afternoon.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Mute 2 adult 3+1 juvenile 
Coot 6
Moorhen 8
Little Grebe 1
Gadwall 30
Teal 1
Mallard 2
Water Rail 3

Goldcrest 1

North shore - towards low water
Eider 71
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Knot c1,000
Pale-bellied Brent goose- at least 31 - at 14:00, as yesterday, there were about 31 feeding around one of the central skeer pools (one that then feeds the drain to the skeer corner). They are not easy to see when feeding here as this panorama shows.
By 14:45 they were all gone from the pool, possibly influenced by a motorcycle going through the area! But there were still a group of 6 on the water on the south side of the skeer. There is no way of knowing if they were part of the original 31 or additional.

Well, I doubt there are many places In Lancashire that would regard 31 Brent Goose as a "slow news day", but I've decided to show you the fruits of my "trawling" yesterday anyway (MD).
On yesterday's post I showed the tiny net I'd made (actually I only fabricated the net, I had the frame, no idea from where or when or what for!). I wanted to see just how many and what size the shrimps, that so many birds are feeding on at the moment, are.
I selected a drain that wasn't being used by any birds, I knew this would likely indicate the density would be lower than the ones being used, but I didn't want to disturb feeding birds.

I placed the net so it was touching the bottom of the drain and just covering the net. I estimated this to be the feeding depth for Redshank, indeed this is the same drain where I videoed the Redshank feeding (see post 26/12/20).
I pushed the net quickly up the drain for 1 metre.
At first I though there was nothing, I needed my glasses to see the tiny shrimps, but I had caught at least 30.
This is a detail of two of them, plus a piece of detritus, probably what they were feeding on. Doubled up like this they were about 8mm, so would be 15-16mm when flat on the mud (not including antennae). This is a very early, probably the first adult stage, they spend the first year of their life as zooplankton, then up to a year in increasing size stages of adult form, shedding their exoskeleton at each stage. It will be September before these will be the size that you are used to seeing them in fishmongers.
Small as they are, they contain a lot of nutrients, the body muscle alone is 33% of the overall weight. And there are a lot of them, there needs to be, they are the staple diet of a large proportion of the area's Black-Headed gulls at this time of year, and this year there seems to be a glut and the waders are feeding on them too.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Reasonable, albeit patchy coverage

Another overnight frost with some light snow, by morning the wind had shifted to the south and with the sunshine made it feel quite pleasant (easily said when you're well wrapped up!).

Red Nab just after the tide had left it:
Wigeon 160
Shelduck 85
Rock Pipit 1

Lots of passerines displaced from inland:
Robin 7 
Dunnock 4 
Wren 4
Reed Bunting 1
Song Thrush 4
Blackbird 2
All seemed to be finding food easily enough.
The usual large flock of Lapwing was not present, but there were a few scattered around in ones and twos
When they are close in like this, with the sun on their back,
I prefer one of their many other names - Green Plover.

North shore towards low water
Pale-bellied Brent goose 42 - at 13:00 there were 37 around one of the pools in the middle of Heysham skeer plus another group of 5 were further inshore. By 14:00 the 37 were nowhere to be seen but 5 were on the water along the southern edge of the skeer.
Eider c50
Red-breasted Merganser 5
Goldeneye 1 distant female type
Knot c1,000
Mediterranean gull 1 adult on the lamppost again - see post 4/01/21

Middleton Nature Reserve (JP)
Mute 2 adult 4 juvenile 
Coot 4
Moorhen 4
Mallard 4
Gadwall 16
The "no swimming" pond viewed from the eastern bank

This Robin was used to people throwing food.

The Pinkfoot have been feeding in large numbers in the fields next to Heysham Moss. They left early this evening and Janet took this shot from Meldon Road.

Although this picture was taken just east of the recording area, the lead birds of this flock would have already crossed over the eastern boundary.

As ever, with Janet's pictures, it's best to "open" them to see the full detail.

Finally, this is the post equivalent of a trailer, I made myself a tiny net. The next slow news day, I'll show you what I caught with it today. 

Regular post readers should be able to guess.