Saturday, 22 January 2011

Innumerate foggy geese

Heysham Obs
Skylark - at least two SE over reserve but couldnt see them
Pink-footed Goose - either hundreds, thousands or tens over the reserve but couldnt see whether the same ones were going round in circles, or work out the direction!
Twite - 46 early morning, 45 later
Brambling - two office feeders early morning but flew off
Med Gull - two adults (including Czech bird) hanging around the anglers
Rock Pipit - one flew over the heliport towards Heysham Head c1230hrs

Cannon-netting at the heliport
This was an extremely well-organised operation by Richard du Feu and included many local ringers, including the Fylde Ringing Group.

207 Oystercatchers cannon-netted on the heliport late morning.  The weights generally appear to be very good and the number that had not completed their primary moult was very low. This ties in with the low numbers of birds found dead in the bay this winter which are normally birds that have failed to complete their moult (c/p 15 in just 4.5km of shoreline checked following a later spell of severe weather in early 2010).  The lack of a national increase in wader ringing recoveries (BTO pers comm) and a detailed intertidal study off Ocean Edge just prior to Christmas suggested that the waders were able to cope with frozen inner shore (or indeed snow-covered on the (neap tide) morning of 18th Dec).  There was some obvious displacement to (at the very least) nearby intertidal areas which were further from the shore and subject to longer 'defrosting' by tidal incursion  (similar 'evacuation' also noted by the observers in the Glasson area of the Lune estuary), but neither large-scale mortality, nor observation of excessively tame, 'arthritic' waders.  The obvious logic is that early winter severe weather, when birds are theoretically 'stronger and fitter', does not impact as greatly as post-New year spells.

Back to the Oystercatchers:
Out of ten birds already bearing rings, one was a Grampian bird. Ringed as an adult on 27/3/10 at an inland spring roost near Tarland and, as the date suggests, this is inconclusive as to whether it was a prospective local breeder or a migrant heading further north (presumably not an overshoot from a more southerly breeding site!).  Thanks to Richard & Raymond Duncan for this info.

Other retraps were ringed at Heysham as follows
2x 01/02/2006

4x 01/02/2010
3x 12/12/2008

The 207 birds were made up of:  181 were full adults, 9 hatched in 2009, 17 hatched in 2010

Short ringing session by the office (whilst finishing off the abovementioned intertidal report!) produced very little other than two unringed Robins and a very active welcome retrap Wren

Other sightings.
Pinkfoot were constantly calling from just above the mist between 9am & 1pm above Middleton Nature Reserve and Harbour South Wall area. The impression was that this was largely the same flocks trying to find a suitable place to land. Caught a few glimpses through the gloom, the largest flock seen was c250. There were c150 on the mud off Ocean Edge calling to the overhead birds.
Also on Ocean edge:
14 teal (come here when ponds are frozen)
2 bar tailed godwit
2 black tailed godwit
Stoat – This appeared to be moving young to safe ground (rocks on foreshore) ahead of the rising tide. But it seems too early in the year, it could have being moving an earlier kill (rat?).
Middleton Nature Reserve (only small pockets of open water and limited visibility due to fog)
2 mute
5 coot
2 moorhen
4 mallard
18 redwing