Saturday, 30 December 2006

30th December - Same again

Heysham Obs

Pictures taken today by Simon Hawtin. Thanks Simon!

Same again - no seawatching was undertaken during the small window of tide and wind just after dawn: Just one 1st W Little Gull visible on the outfalls (but a lot of gulls on the mud between the two outfalls), c12 Shag in the harbour, Ad & 1st W Med Gulls along the NH wall in the morning, 2 1st W Kittiwake in the harbour and the long-staying adult on Heysham 2 outfall

Skerton Weir
Adult Med Gull briefly before flying towards Lancaster

Pine Lake
No sign of the odd Aythya seen at long range, mainly asleep, latish yesterday afternoon. This appeared to be a hybrid involving Ring-necked Duck and probably Tufted Duck and resembled a 1st W male Ring-necked [e.g. the current Gibraltar Point bird - see Birdguides photos etc] but with only a faint (but broad c/p Tufted) pale subterminal band on the bill, no hint of any pale fore-flank and a brief view of what appeared to be too white a wingbar. The 'stubby & (long) stifftailed' appearance caught the attention with the head profile also suggesting a Ring-necked input. Should have persevered with it yesterday, despite worsening light and long-range - PL has a history of one-day birds, irrespcctive of the overnight weather. This bird was associating with Pochard.

Drake Ruddy Duck still present but no sign of hybrid Ferruginous x Pochard

Gressingham bridge

4 swans visible distantly looking north on the east side of the river - presumably the Whoopers

Burn Moor
Female Hen Harrier at the north end late afternoon just above Crossdale Beck.

Friday, 29 December 2006

29th December Adult Med returns

The view out at sea:
Heysham Obs
14 Shag in the harbour, adult Med Gull (returns!) and 1st W Med Gull north harbour wall, 2 1stW and adult Little Gull Power Station outfalls, 2 Kittiwake harbour mouth

Lune by Lancaster Tip/Golden Ball: Adult Yellow-legged Gull showing well

Lune Estuary: 3 Little Egret visible looking down on to Glasson Marsh from Bodie Hill (midday, therefore well after HT) also one on Conder saltmarsh

Stone Jetty: Presumably the regularly returning, but recently very elusive, Spotted Redshank visited its old haunt of the channel just to the south of the jetty at midday

Thursday, 28 December 2006

28th The usual suspects et al

Heysham Obs
12 Shag
in the SW of the harbour and the 1st W Med Gull on the north wall. At least 2 1st W Kittiwake in the harbour

Rest of the area
Hybrid female Ferruginous x Pochard and the drake Ruddy Duck reappeared on Pine Lake. Long-stayers reaffirmed on the Lune Estuary c/f 2 Bewicks Swan on the Lune by Glasson and Spotted Redshank Conder area. Two hours of 'gull grilling' on the Lune produced 2 Ad and 3rd W Scandinavian Herring Gull and an unidentified/able darkish mantled adult large gull.


2 Winter Moths in Heysham hut trap, the first moths since 14/12 (also Winter). Early Pale-brindled Beauty (see photo above) in the home trap at High Tatham

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

27th Breaded Med goes missing

Heysham Obs
No sign of the Czech-ringed adult Med last seen eating a huge piece of Russian bread two days ago. 1st W Med on the north wall as usual

Large adult Med and 1st W Little Gull Heysham 1 outfall

Just 9 Shags in the harbour but 16 counted later as all birds ended up outside the harbour

Just 3 Kittiwakes in the harbour

Two Twite on the mound late afternoon

Three Linnet on the heliport

It might be appropriate for casual birding visitors to stay away from the north harbour wall during the next day or so - it is in theory a private road and I dont know how much will be happening along there with respect to todays dreadful accident and the Centrica offices

Ringing recoveries
The following have just been received:

RW67789 adult 22.10.05 Heysham Obs
Dead 18.12.05 Montbert (Loire-Atlantique FRANCE 47 3N 1 29 W

This was ringed at the start of a rather late autumn passage and could quite easily have been in France by the following morning

TC33871 1stW F 18.11.05 Heysham Obs
Dead 07.09.06 Brookhouse 14 km

This bird was reported as sick, probably died in the recent outbreak of disease among Greenfinch [NOT bird flu]. Early September is before any long-distance autumnal movement by this species [which only a proportion, mainly young birds, actually undertake], therefore probably a Brookhouse breeding bird.

Thrushgill plantation
One hour spent here in ideal sunny calm conditions produced just 20 seconds of two 'green' Crossbill, mainly in flight. Plenty of cones but this site receives a real hammering during windy conditions and we are just about to receive another dose. Pair of Sparrowhawk displaying briefly!! also two Stock Dove on a barn which is usually only occupied during the breeding season

Lancaster Tip
Just four days to go here sadly. Couldnt find the Iceland Gull amongst the 700 or so large gulls but there was an adult Yellow-legged Gull and adult and 3rd W Scandinavian Herring Gull present. The Yellow-legged Gull was a small to medium-sized bird with a fully white head and very yellow legs - this fits with an individual seen in previous winters, albeit very intermittently. ELEVEN species of gull in this area this month!

Pine lake
An adult Med Gull spent a short time bathing and preening before returning to unknown field(s) with Black-headed and Common Gulls. No waterbirds of any significance.

River Bela, near Dallam Towers
Slav reported to Leighton reception. Ad winter Little Grebe seen on checking out report. Would suggest more thorough search in better weather. About 8 Tufted Duck also seen.

near Melling
4 white blobs in a field at exactly the same spot as the 4 Whoopers two days ago (1630hrs!)

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

26th whistle stop tour

Heysham Obs
Quick visit

12 Shag left in the harbour

1st W Med Gull north wall but no sign of the adult since it scoffed a huge piece of coriander-infused Rossisky (Russian) rye bread yesterday afternoon

Welcome 1st W Little Gull on Heysham 2 outfall on the early stages of the incoming tide

5 Kittiwake in SW corner of the harbour

Single Twite on the quay in SW corner of the harbour - a ringed bird but only metal ring seen.

From Ian Hartley: Jack Snipe flushed from Ocean Edge saltmarsh on the rising tide - please ask at reception before you cut through the caravan site to view this area


Waxwing: Bare-Slyne footpath: Original observer saw it at 1515hours (same time as myself yesterday) but not there in the morning today

Nothing of interest on Pine Lake, Skerton Weir, Lune by the tip & no Brambling on the Swarth dale road but Tree Sparrows seen after 5 seconds at Heaton village (lower) feeders.

2 Greenshank on the Eric Morecambe pool 'flood' (eastern end - best viewed from the crag road)

Monday, 25 December 2006

25th Shags slowly disappearing

Heysham Obs
15 Shag in the SW corner of the harbour. 5 Kittiwake on the pipe or harbour edge in same area.

Ad & 1st W Med Gulls along the north wall near the sandplant entrance

Nothing of interest on the outfalls

Local area
Skerton Weir
Whilst passing, noticed a lot of gulls, so checked. Lucky to connect with a juv Iceland Gull which unfortunately flew off (or circled off) high to the north-west after 30 minutes when the gulls were spooked. This site is probably best watched from by the John of Gaunt rowing club but be careful not to 'bottom out' at the (unsigned) entrance SD480631 if taking vehicle down and just watch for scallies if you are on your own with expensive gear. A very high turn-over of gulls, so suggest it could be a productive spot during especially lowish river levels. Also Kingfisher & Little Grebe

Slyne to Bare footpath
Waxwing on guelder rose at SD462653 - seen 1115hrs and 1520hrs (& not as far as I know looked for in between times so probably there all the time)

Whilst checking the wildfowl, noticed a sizeable Chaffinch flock under beech mast with at least 10 Brambling therein. Along the road on the west side. Also 2 Raven, c12 Wigeon and c8 Tufted Duck

Four Whooper Swans, presumably the 'resident Lune valley flock' visible from the layby at the high point of the road c300m south of Melling garage on A683. Look west/down.

Pine Lake
Big Z other than 9 x Goosander.....but there are so many duck and it is only a matter of time before the next 'goodie'. One of the three locations in this area I would check at least once a day if I could - soon to be reduced to two when Lancaster Tip closes

Adult Med Gull around the farm at the south end of Claughton just north of the Brookhouse road junction. Dangerous place to park - best to walk back from Claughton. This bird has been seen in surrounding fields as far away as Caton and Farleton

Sunday, 24 December 2006

24th Heysham Obs Recording Area

More disappearing seabirds

Unfortunately, the two first winter Little Gulls, earmarked for New year's Day seem to have gone.

The Shag count was down to 18 in the morning and, alarmingly, there were just three scattered birds in the early afternoon as the tide reached its height. This is the first time the 'gang' have left the harbour when the feeding area under the waterfall in the SW corner was rendered unsuitable by the tide. Fingers crossed.

Kittiwakes numbered 4 1st W and one adult in the harbour and the long-staying adult on Heysham Stage 2 outfall

The adult and 1st W Med Gulls were along the north harbour wall

Ocean Edge saltmarsh was not covered by the tide and no Jack Snipe were seen. There was a flock of 11 Linnet, 4-5 Common Snipe and a Reed Bunting unearthed as the tide covered some of the saltmarsh

Outside the obs recording area
Pine Lake and the other gravel pits produced nothing of interest for the first time this autumn - Pine Lake was given a thorough grilling.

Yesterday evenings indirect info was duff gen. I dont think observers remaining until dusk saw anything this evening, but the site is the FIRST turn on your left IMMEDIATELY after the railway bridge which IMMEDIATELY follows the turn into Waterslack Garden Centre. This assumes you are travelling from Leighton Moss direction = right at the top of the hill, past Silverdale station, STAY on the road (dont fork left into Silverdale), then you will reach the garden centre.

Follow the cul-de-sac down until you reach the last house. The bird was in scrub along a 200-300m stretch between there and the RSPB noticeboard for Silverdale Moss which is located on the left hand bend

Saturday, 23 December 2006

23rd Saturday blues


The only news was from the 'fringe'(!) of the recording area where the Med Gull bearing Darvic ring 36W was again seen along Morecambe seafront

Ringing History of 36W

Belgium E905810 (Darvic green 36W)
Ringed Zandvleitsuis, Antwerp, Belgium Pullus 9/6/02
Seen Heysham heliport 11/8/02
Seen Skippool Creek, Wyre Estuary 10/9-27/9/02
Seen Morecambe Battery-lifeboat station 7/10/02-27/3/03
Seen Eric Morecambe complex gull colony 2/4-13/7/03
Seen North Morecambe/Bare seafront 6/8/03-8/3/04
Seen North Morecambe/Bare seafront 31/7/05-26/2/06
Seen North Morecambe/Bare seafront 6/8/06-[23/12/06]

Note this was not present/recorded off North Morecambe during winter 2004/5

The hot news locally is a Firecrest found last thing this afternoon (therefore surely a roost site or very near one) by Harry Howard and Derek Scott at the entrance to Silverdale Moss opposite Gaitbarrows. No further details at present

Friday, 22 December 2006

22nd Whales, shags, ruddy ducks et al

Heysham Obs
In the absence of a geek and cheeky girl, the local press have concentrated today on a dead whale spp washed up at Red Nab/Ocean Edge. The species is currently not known but it is about 12 feet long and is decomposed. See,12762 for picture

Outfalls/Red Nab
2 x 1st W Little Gull, Ad Kittiwake

Harbour/north wall
c20 Shag and Ad & 1st W Med Gulls

One Brambling 'pished' but none at Barley Bank (nr Lowgill) nor any Xbill in fog-bound Thrushgill (upper Hindburndale)

Here is the latest from DEFRA on Ruddy Ducks. The hybridisation section is interesting.

UK Ruddy Duck Eradication Programme – Protecting the White-headed Duck
Briefing issued on behalf of the Oxyura Project Advisory Group

22nd December 2006

The white-headed duck is threatened with extinction by hybridisation with the North American ruddy duck – introduced to the UK in the 1940s. In 1992, the Government set up a task force to investigate the most effective way for the UK to help conserve the white-headed duck. Between 1992 and 2005, the Government commissioned research on a range of control methods including a three-year, extensive control trial. This showed that eradication of the ruddy duck was feasible and that shooting was the most effective means of control. Following the three-year trial, in March 2003, the then Environment Minister, Elliot Morley, announced that the Government agreed in principle to the eradication of the ruddy duck in the UK. Funding for the eradication programme was confirmed in October 2005. The programme began in autumn 2005 and is expected to last five years, with the aim of eradicating ruddy ducks from the UK. The control is being carried out by specially trained staff of the Central Science Laboratory (an Agency of Defra), with the General Directorate for Biodiversity in Spain as a partner organisation. The eradication project is co-financed by the EU-Life Nature Programme and Defra, with each providing about half of the total project cost of £3.337million.

Key briefing points
It has been suggested that there has been a great reduction in UK ruddy ducks moving to Spain. The figures describing numbers of ruddy ducks/hybrids shot in Spain do not support this conclusion. Annual numbers have never been large – in the last 10 years, numbers of ruddy ducks in Spain have fluctuated between 7 and 27 birds annually – but could easily become so should no action be taken to curb the increase in the UK population. Hybridisation occurs even at these low levels, and would increase with more ruddy ducks reaching Spain. The Spanish authorities believe their task will become progressively more difficult and ultimately impossible if ruddy ducks are allowed to increase in the UK and continental Europe.

It has been suggested that milder winters in the UK will cause ruddy ducks to become permanently resident. There is no guarantee of this. We cannot predict exactly how ruddy ducks will react to milder winters, especially in the context of an increasing population subject to no control action. Should winter food resources become limiting, for example, movements onto the continent might be expected. One major incursion could provide ruddy ducks with a foothold in Spain – which the Spanish authorities have, until now, denied them. The only sensible and sustainable course of action is to eradicate ruddy ducks from the UK and elsewhere in continental Europe.

It has been suggested that ruddy ducks arriving in Spain originate from European countries other than the UK. It is highly likely that the majority of ruddy ducks arriving in Spain originate from the UK, which holds the bulk of the breeding population. At present, the number of ruddy ducks breeding in the wild on the continent is small and may not be self sustaining. However, there is a danger that this will change if there are increasing numbers reaching the continent from the UK or if birds escape from captivity.

It has been suggested that only a few countries are taking action to control ruddy ducks. In fact, by 2004, at least 14 countries in the Western Palearctic had taken some action to control ruddy ducks (Belgium, Denmark, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK). This compares with only six countries in 1999. At least 472 ruddy ducks and hybrids have been controlled in six countries excluding the UK (Denmark – 1, France - 246, Iceland - 3, Morocco - 2, Portugal - 3, and Spain - 217) and a further three countries have indicated that attempts will be made to shoot birds if they occur (Hungary, Italy and Slovenia). Concerted eradication programmes are in operation in four countries (France, Portugal, Spain and the UK) and one is planned in Morocco.
It has been suggested that the UK eradication programme is unlikely to meet its targets. Between 1993 and 2005, the UK Government undertook extensive research to determine the most effective techniques for controlling ruddy ducks. This research confirmed that eradication of the ruddy duck from the UK was feasible and that shooting was the most effective means of control. The eradication programme began in autumn 2005. In the first year, 1,500 ruddy ducks were culled on 40 sites in England and Wales, representing approximately 34% of the total UK population. A co-ordinated count at the top 50 ruddy duck sites in the UK in December 2006 suggested there had been a significant reduction in the national population. However, this needs to be confirmed by a further coordinated count in January 2007.

It has been suggested that the Spanish population of white-headed ducks has recovered to 3000-5000 individuals. The population, which recovered from a low point in the late 1970s, is around 2,500 individuals (Hughes et al. 2006). Following a peak of 4,489 white-headed ducks in Spain in autumn 2000, peak annual counts between 2001 and 2005 averaged 2,470 birds. In global terms, it is the only expanding population, thanks to significant and sustained efforts by the Spanish authorities and conservationists leading to habitat protection and a ban on hunting. The global population is estimated at fewer than 15,000 individuals (Hughes et al. 2006). Ruddy ducks are also spreading eastwards towards Turkey and central Asia where they will threaten the largest remaining population of white-headed ducks. Local control in Turkey would probably be impossible because of the huge area of wetland. It is therefore essential that prompt action be taken to prevent ruddy ducks from becoming established in Europe.

It has been suggested that the threat posed by hybridisation with ruddy ducks is receding as numbers of white-headed ducks increase in Spain. Hybridisation remains the most important threat to white-headed ducks. An understanding of the species’ respective mating strategies confirms than an increasing population of white-headed ducks in Spain is no guarantee against extensive hybridisation. Male ruddy ducks are not territorial and many mate without forming stable pair bonds with females. Males attempt persistently to mate with females, of both their own and other species. Dominant male white-headed ducks form stable pair bonds, defending a territory containing their mate or mates. Because of these naturally differing mating behaviours there is a strong probability that, when hybridising freely, male ruddy ducks will experience much higher mating success than male white-headed ducks. The white-headed duck is in danger of becoming genetically ‘swamped’. In such situations it is well documented that extinction can result (Rhymer 2006). The mallard, which has a similar breeding strategy to the ruddy duck, now threatens seven waterfowl taxa with extinction through hybridisation and competition. Of these, the New Zealand Grey Duck is already nearly extinct. The ruddy duck’s mating behaviour means that males are likely to out-compete white-headed duck males in the mating stakes – resulting in a rapid transfer of ruddy duck genes into the white-headed duck population. Once ruddy ducks are established on mainland Europe, it will be too late to contain the problem and therefore, the precautionary principle must apply.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

21 Shags in the harbour

7 Kittiwake in the harbour

Ad and 1st W Med Gulls along the north harbour wall

per Margaret & Nicola Breaks, Lou Cross

Picture by Tom Wilmer

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

20th Heysham Obs

17 Shag in the harbour during a check in failing afternoon light
Little Gull (unaged) on LDBWS website as being on Power Station outfalls
Mediterranean Gull - Ad & 1st W along north harbour wall as usual
Jack Snipe seen on the incoming tide on Ocean Edge saltmarsh (please ask at caravan site reception re-accessing this location)

At least two Little Grebe still on the ponds at Middleton Industrial Estate

Map of area in hand!

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

December 19th

Leach's Petrel
Two dead birds were found over the weekend along Silverdale shore. Please keep a special lookout for this species if you are walking the tideline debris. The feathers are wanted for radio-isotope analysis so we can have some idea of the origin of this winter influx. Please forward any feathers to:

Dr S Votier
Marine Biology+ Ecology Research Centre
School of Biological Sciences
University of Plymouth
Drake Circus

...........but please make sure you have identified your bedraggled corpse as Leach's Petrel - the tubenose bill should help.

Heysham sightings 19/12/06
Ad and 1st W Mediterranean Gulls showing very well along the north harbour wall. The adult is ringed and the number was actually read today (or more accurately, the numbers 787 and the word 'Praha' were seen!) to make sure we ARE dealing with the same habitual bird:

Czech Republic EX78711
Ringed: Chomoutov, Olomoucky, Czech Republic Pullus 3/6/03
Seen Heysham Harbour and area 24/8/03-26/3/04
Seen Heysham harbour and area 22/7/04-9/3/05
Seen Heysham Harbour and area 20/7/05-6/3/06
Seen Heysham harbour and area 8/7/06-[19/12/06]

Still AT LEAST 20 juveniles in the SW corner of the harbour

4+ 1st W in harbour, one adult outfalls

Little Gull
One 1st W Stage 2 outfall

I was asked about Twite today by a photographer. The feeding station has ceased due to a small but persistent gang of feral pigeons eating large amounts of the food in rapid time. Bearing in mind that the maximum Twite count has only been 11 birds and draconian measures would have been needed to remove the pigeons (with no guarantee other birds would not infill), this seemed the only sensible decision. It may be possible to recommence feeding later in the winter to see if there is any early spring passage.

No moths in the trap!
18th December
No known coverage at Heysham - log will be checked on 19th.

Only interest locally = 2 Spotted Red appearing at Conder again and the 2 Bewick's Swans still in residence on the river nearby. Blackcaps seen in gardens include a ?winter record 4 together in Silverdale.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

December 17th

On an away day but, luckily, Heysham was covered by John Wood who saw 2 x 1st winter Little Gulls, 7 x 1st winter Kittiwakes and 4 adult Kittiwakes, 18 Shags.
December 16th 2006
Thanks for the coverage Stuart (Meredith). Calm weather leftovers around the harbour/outfalls/wooden jetty comprised 17 Shag, 3 Little Gull (2 1st W - typical that this age, although greatly outnumbered during the gales, comprises a majority of the lingering birds), 16 Kittiwake (50% ad).

Friday, 15 December 2006

15th December 2006
A day of continuous drizzle/rain saw just 10 minutes or so around Heysham inner harbour where there were 20 Shags and 7 Kittiwakes. There was also a small trawler working backwards and forwards in the normal feeding area for the Shags!

A Leach's Petrel off Heysham yesterday was a belated pager message - very odd, given the conditions but possibly one of Ray's birds of the previous evening (off Morecambe Town Hall) managing to exit the Bay at lastl

The famous toilet moth trap at Heysham nature reserve hut produced the first Winter Moth of the year, giving a record 204 species of macro moth therein this year. This trap is a blended 160watt (tungsten-ballasted MV) hung inside the room fairly close to the window which has been removed and the gap "prison-barred" to exclude humans but include moths. Egg packing is strewn around the floor and the toilet seat covered. A full count is made every morning. Other than during howling easterly gales and driving rain (east-facing window), this trap is operated all year. The advantage of this trap is that, apart from one accurate pebble-thrower (the window is 3.5 metres above the ground), it can be left to do its job without fear of being trashed, unlike anything left outside.

Nothing on the pager for the local area but a request for any sightings of the hybrid female Ferruginous type on Pine Lake to be posted on the Lancaster and District Website and/or phoned in to the pager

Thursday, 14 December 2006

The gales are over?

December 14th 2006
Very poor visibility today and a marked reduction in wind speed over the middle part of the day. There appeared to be a reduction in the number of Shags in the harbour with just 20 counted around the intake area. Little Gulls were lingering around the harbour mouth area and outfalls with at least 8 adults. About 25 Kittiwakes were seen around the harbour/outfalls but neither the IOM nor any of the freight ferries were checked for 'followers'.

Just some late news from Ray Hobbs who had two Leach's Petrels off the Morecambe Town Hall during the last half hour of daylight yesterday (13th) - this brings the total sightings for the 13th to four. The Glossy Ibis was on the pager for Fluke Hall area.