Saturday, 25 March 2023

Kitts blown in, and Stonechat movement continues

Heavy overnight showers stopped by 07:30, there were sunny spells by the afternoon. A fresh west wind eased and shifted more to SW.

Heysham Skear - low water 08:10 (MD)
Kittiwake 52 flew into the bay at 08:35
They seemed to "disappear", I knew they must have landed on the sea, but it took a surprising amount of time to find where they were, mainly as they were pretty much the same colour as the sea. By this time they had been joined by a Herring Gull and a few Black-Headed gulls.
Just after this clip, at 08:50, they flew out again towards Walney.

There were 10 "ducks" in the far channel and I couldn't make out what they were, the tide was coming in quickly so I couldn't get any closer. Fortunately they were still there when Pete and Jean arrived a little later. Jean realised that they all had their heads tucked in, she watched them till they "awoke". Revealing them to be 
Great Crested grebe 8 - perseverance resolving the puzzle. Presumably migrant birds.
Plus Red-breasted Merganser 2
Eider 12 - these are 6 shooting through the first channel on the rising tide
Definitely time to leave!

Pale-bellied Brent goose 6 - as I was coming off there were these four freshening up and drinking at the edge of one of the freshwater drains. Later Jean saw six.

Report from Pete:
In about three hours seawatching: 
Kittiwake 13 plus 5 plus c30 in, two single adults out and that’s it!!  The c30 were floating in on the sea, rest flying 

Red Nab to Saltmarsh towards high water (MD)
Kittiwake 1 second calendar year feeding on No.2 outflow
Pale-bellied Brent the six from the north side feeding on Red Nab then south
Wigeon 23
Rock Pipit 5 - 1 on Red Nab 4 on saltmarsh (plus 2 fighting on the helipad (ref Jean))
Stonechat 6 at least. So much for my suggestion that yesterday's female may be the last this spring. I saw more today than I see in total most springs! They were along both sides of the saltmarsh and in the flotsam covered corner. Pretty sure 2 moved on, so probably even more earlier.
One of the west side male Stonechats

Female and male Stonechat on the flotsam 

20:30 Pink-Footed geese passing over Meldon Rd (ref Janet)

Friday, 24 March 2023

A bit of a contrast

A dry day with a slightly fresher SW wind. 

South shore (MD)
In contrast to yesterday's fall of migrants, today was almost devoid of them.
Stonechat 2 females on the saltmarsh early on, but had moved on later
May as well have a picture, she could be the last one of this impressive spring passage
No Wheatears or Meadow Pipits
Reed Bunting 1 on saltmarsh 
House Sparrow 2 on saltmarsh (attracted by feeders near saltmarsh)
Rock Pipit 2 - one each saltmarsh and Red Nab
Pink-Footed goose 60 north at 08:20
Pale-bellied Brent goose 13 on Red Nab on the rising tide, then towards Potts Corner. Again, may as well have a clip, as they'll also be off soon.
Shelduck 2
Wigeon 45

Pete checked the waders at high water, only c150 Knot today, but he did manage to read another colour ringed bird.

Heysham Nature Reserve (MD)
It was warm in the sun and Heysham is quite a sheltered reserve so I thought I'd see if any butterflies were around - there wasn't 
Chiffchaff 3
Bullfinch 4
Greenfinch 8+
Goldfinch 10+
Chaffinch 2

Long-Tailed, Blue and Great Tits.

No butterflies but plenty of hoverflies and bees
Lots of these hovering, but could only manage a decent shot of one resting.
Think this is a drone fly, but more than happy to be corrected (MD)

Bumble Bee (Buff Tailed?)
And my favourite flowers are just beginning to bloom.
Snakes Head Fritillary - in another week they will look splendid!

Thursday, 23 March 2023

Plenty of Pipits

It rained long and hard from early morning till 09:00. After that more showers in the morning, but a dry, and later, sunny afternoon. The SW wind continues.

South shore (MD).
Same routine as the last two days, a full circuit in the morning followed by a check from Red Nab to the saltmarsh in the afternoon. 
Morning check:
It was still raining when I started, but it was easing off and many grounded birds were starting to move on.
Stonechat 5 - there were 2 males and 2 females in the NE corner of the saltmarsh, possibly including yesterday's 3 birds. The increasing height tides have pushed what was a carpet of flotsam into what is now a cliff. This clip includes a male and female Stonechat, but is really just to show the flotsam. The tides are dropping again now and won't reach this height again till the autumn, so barring storms, this vegetation will rot down and harbour all manner of invertebrates for passing, and resident bills to forage for. It stretches for 100m around the NE corner.
The fifth bird was a female near Red Nab and had clearly had a soaking!
A soaked Stonechat
Wheatear 6
Reed Bunting 1 
Skylark 1

Rock Pipits 3 - just 1 each Red Nab, Sea wall and Lighthouse (more later).
Meadow Pipit 62 - thee were 51 grounded on the grass behind the foreshore, but they were starting to move off. Another 11 flew over. This clip is some of the grounded birds getting ready to leave.
Pink-Footed Goose 20 - they initially confused me, as they flew silently, low over the sea in a straight line to the east (fortunately my shots were just good enough to confirm species)
Shelduck 2
Wigeon 45
Shag 1 immature on wooden jetty
Kittiwake 2 feeding on No.2 outflow
Linnet 2 near lighthouse 

Afternoon check
The sun was out! The four Stonechat were still in the saltmarsh corner, but no sign of the other bird. This is one of the females sorting her feathers out.

This Wren was hanging out to dry too.
Wheatear 7
Rock Pipit 8 between saltmarsh and Red Nab. One flew north from the foreshore display calling as it went
Pale Bellied Brent goose 9  - they arrived at Red Nab early in the ebbing tide and fed close in on the gutweed below the surface.

Mark Jones had a walk along the wall later in the afternoon, but the sun was still shining.
Some of the Wigeon


Female Red-breasted Merganser on Red Nab

Kevin Singleton took these shots from near the cafe
Knot, not disturbed by Kevin

Carrion Crow

Janet took this clip with her phone, of three Rock Pipit together on Half Moon Bay 
So there were at least 13 Rock Pipits today between the saltmarsh and Half Moon Bay

Imperial Rd (MD)
Just a quick drive in while passing.
Chiffchaff 3
Buzzard 2 - this is just a novelty clip, but it does show that you do not need to leave your car to see wildlife. This is one of the resting Buzzard. This is through my car window, I knew the recycling lorry was about to pass, I thought I'd see what the reaction would be......

Song Thrush, also photographed through car window

Footnote: We have received this comment (source unknown but thanks), it refers to the "mysterious fin sighting" - see post 21/03/23.
Sunfish have been known to invite seabirds to remove parasites by laying on their sides. Maybe the gulls were interested for this potential reason.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Not a lot of movement

Quite a fresh SSW to SW wind, mainly dry with long sunny spells.

Report from Jean:
Did a seawatch from Heysham Head graveyard from 0840 - 1040 

I was hoping to see some Gannets but none appeared. The visibility wasn't great, very hazy in the distance but there wasn't much movement in any case. All I saw were:

Red-throated Diver - 1 flying out of the Bay at 0945hrs
Kittiwake - 2 flying into the Bay at 0955hrs
Great Crested Grebe - 1 out
Common Gull - 13 heading into the Bay mainly in twos over the course of the 2 hours
Shelduck - 2 out
Meadow Pipit - just 2 north

Then the usual inshore Herring Gulls and a handful of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. 90 Turnstone flew past heading towards the heliport, as did several hundred Oystercatchers. 

Pete checked from further south:
Bit too clear for seabirds at Heysham this am:  flock 20 kittiwake 

Pete and Jean also checked the Heliport roost. They managed to read three colour ringed Knot from the 650 birds, despite fox trouble again.
"Cute" Fox (not Pete's (or the wader's) description!)

South Shore (MD)
A morning full circuit with just a check of saltmarsh to Red Nab in the afternoon 
Stonechat 3 - 1 male and 2 female. I was surprised to see these in the NE corner of the saltmarsh this morning, as there had been no recent showers to ground anything. I couldn't relocate them on the return trip, but 3 again in the afternoon, and they looked to be the same birds.
Wheatear 8 - there was just 1 near the slipway in the morning, but my visit in the afternoon coincided with what proved to be the only shower of the day and 7 were on the new layer of flotsam on the saltmarsh. Another 1 on Red Nab.
Rock Pipit - 9. 2 saltmarsh, 2 foreshore, 3 Red Nab, 2 near lighthouse 
Rock Pipit and male Wheatear 

Shelduck 2
Wigeon 65
Shag 1 immature, at least, on the wooden jetty (a second candidate kept its head down)
Shag, on left, with Cormorants 

Kittiwake 2 x 2nd calendar year, one on No.2 outflow plus one on their pipe in the harbour. This is the outflow bird.

It managed to find something to eat

This is a 2nd calendar year Common Gull on No.1 outflow

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

First Gannet, more Stonechats and.......a mysterious fin

The lightish SW continues, heavy showers till mid morning, then just overcast.

Pete managed a seawatch:
Gannet 2 - first records this year
Guillemot 1
Harbour Porpoise 2
Tomorrow should be more productive for seawatching.
One of our Grey Wagtails, colour ringed 08/09/22 was seen at Earlswood Lakes, near Solihull, Warwickshire today 170km SSE.  Almost certainly on spring passage but could be late wintering departee (see sidebar for scheme details).

South shore (MD)
Two visits again, a check from the saltmarsh to the harbour during the morning showers and just a check from saltmarsh to Red Nab in the fine afternoon.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 2 on Red Nab in the morning
Wigeon 47
Shag 1 immature on wooden jetty
Kittiwake 1 - 2nd calendar year on No.1 outflow (and none in the harbour)
2cy Kittiwake 

Rock Pipits 6 - 2 on Red Nab, 1 along the sea wall, 3 near lighthouse including one on harbour wall above the nest hole.
Meadow Pipits 16 - 4 north past roundhead, then on the walk back from the waterfall after a particularly heavy shower 12 lifted from the scrub near the lighthouse and continued north.
Chiffchaff 2 grounded near the waterfall by the same heavy shower (plus 1 passed through my garden early afternoon)
Wheatear 7 in the morning 4 in the afternoon could have been the same birds.
Stonechat 13 - the morning birds were being grounded by the showers then continuing north when the rain eased. 2 male and 2 female feeding together on saltmarsh before heading off. No more seen till 2 female near the lighthouse. On the return there were 2 individual females on saltmarsh and again both were seen to head off north. So 8 in the morning but none remained when I left.
In contrast, the afternoon birds just wanted to feed and showed no inclination to move on. There were 5 feeding together in the NE corner of the saltmarsh (2 male plus 3 female) they headed in front of me a while before returning to the NE corner.
One of this afternoon's males also had a white rump, but not as pronounced as yesterday's male.

There is plenty of flotsam in the corner and they seemed to be finding plenty to eat.
This is one of the females

Howard took these shots of a fox on the heliport today

This is where the "mysterious fin" comes in. During Pete's morning seawatch, a dark lump on the water was drifting into the bay and periodically sticking up a big fin attracting the attention of gulls - Description wise this could be a Sunfish, but unlikely, apart from being extremely rare, there would be no reason for the gulls to be attracted to it. Possibly a member of the shark family scavenging a floating carcass. This would explain the gulls, but not really the large fin. Tope are the largest of the shark species routinely found in the bay, they can be large, but do not really have a very prominent dorsal fin - the mystery remains (MD)

Janet's camera has packed in! She's sent it to see if it can be repaired, but either way it may be some while before her valued contribution of pictures resumes. Fortunately she will still be out and about and will report what she sees.

Monday, 20 March 2023

Impressive Stonechat passage continues

The light SW wind continues. Heavy rain in the morning eased by late morning.

South shore.
I had a walk from Red Nab to saltmarsh and back again starting at 09:30 (MD). It was misty and raining hard
Wheatear 5 all male
A sodden male Wheatear 
Stonechat 5 - 7. I think I must have been the first person to walk along Ocean Edge foreshore this morning, as there was a succession of individual Stonechats resting behind the rock edges. As I approached each they flew off to NNW. My optics were stashed from the rain, and I couldn't even wear my glasses, but I got close enough to three of the birds to confirm Stonechat, before they flew off. Two others looked to be and behaved the same but were just out of positive identification range. So all the birds had moved on and I didn't see any around the saltmarsh, but on my return I did locate a male and female near the slipway, and they didn't fly off. No others were seen.
This sorry looking male was one of the slipway birds

Rock Pipit 3  - 1 on Red Nab, 2 moving along foreshore 
Raven 1
Raven - just seemed to be blogging

Janet had a walk from Ocean Edge to Harbour and back later in the morning when the rain had eased. Even so, she did well getting these shots as she was dog walking too.
Wheatear 1
Stonechat 8. 4 on Ocean Edge and two fly throughs of two birds seen near the lighthouse.
If you open this shot you can see the fine rain at this time

Three of the Ocean Edge birds

Stonechats near the lighthouse 
Rock Pipit 2 - Red Nab and the lighthouse. This is the lighthouse bird sat directly above last year's nest hole.
Rock Pipit above last year's nest site



I couldn't resist another check of Ocean Edge  mid afternoon when the rain had cleared (MD)
Wheatear 4 - 5 so some must have arrived after Janet checked
Stonechat 4 - there was a male and female near the slipway plus an individual female and male which both moved on. So the very minimum tally today was 11, almost certainly 13 and most probably more. This really is an exceptional passage.
Female Stonechat and a Wheatear on Ocean Edge grass (plus another Wheatear zips past)

This Wren was unhappy that a female Stonechat was on its patch!
The male passing through this afternoon was particularly striking with a prominent white rump.
Male Stonechat displaying white rump
This is him, heading off to the NNW

Pete checked the Heliport - no migrants seen. I checked the Horse paddocks, also no migrants.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Dearth no more

A light SW wind was a little cooler than of late, but still mild. Overcast all day.

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

Two nets set this morning in the feeder ride at Heysham for just three hours. The wind direction (SW) was not ideal for any passage birds but we hoped that some 'left-overs' from yesterday's movement might still be around. 26 birds in total captured:

Robin 5 (almost certainly movement)

Blackbird 1

Goldcrest 6 + 1 retrap (of a bird previously caught here last Autumn and earlier this March)

Long-tailed Tit 4 retraps

Blue Tit 3 retraps

Great Tit 1 retrap

Greenfinch 3 +1 retrap

Goldfinch 1

South shore
Jonathan had a walk along the sea wall.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 23 on Red Nab
Rock Pipits 4 - 5 including one checking out the nest holes near the lighthouse 
Peregrine Falcon 1 perched within Power Station complex.
Wheatear 2 

I checked from saltmarsh to Red Nab (MD)
Stonechat 2 - male and female together near the slipway 
Male and female Stonechat 
This is the male
Wheatear 6 male and 1 female/immature male (possibly including Jonathan's two).
Likely immature male Wheatear 

Imperial Rd (MD)
Quite a lot of wildfowl active today
Greylag Goose 2 flew from the direction of Middleton Nature Reserve and landed in the field to the east of the road.
Greylag Geese
Teal 12
Mallard 1
Water Rail 1 calling

Middleton Nature Reserve (MD)
Just a very brief check of the two main ponds located:
Cetti's warbler 1 singing by "no swimming" pond
Chiffchaff 10 singing in the Alder trees between the ponds and feeding around the "no swimming" pond.

On Friday I posted a clip of a Little Grebe taking advantage of the "dearth of insect eating birds" by feeding on the insects on the water surface. Today the grebes were diving for their lunch. There were Chiffchaff all around the "no swimming" pond, picking off the midges before they landed on the water.
You can see the insects flying around in these clips.

Janet took this nice shot of Roe Deer 
Female and male Roe Deer

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Three "first of the year" and an unprecedented 25 migrant Stonechat......after a delayed start!

 Another very mild night and warm day. The light wind initially from south moving to SW late morning.

Pete and Jean made an early start, and it paid dividends, not so much for what they saw early on, but for what they didn't see.
While Jean conducted a visible migration survey from Heysham Head, Pete made a careful check of Heliport plus Ocean Edge/Red Nab. All before 07:45. No migrant passerines seen or heard, except for:
Sand Martin 2 in off at Ocean edge - first records this year
Pale-bellied Brent goose 20 at least on Red Nab.
Shag 1 immature on wooden jetty
Kittiwake 1 2cy on pipe in harbour
Redwing 2 HNR
Goldcrest 2 HNR

I arrived at the saltmarsh at 08:00 (MD). By this time Pete was back at the Heliport and was starting to see:
Wheatear 5 male - first record this year plus a trickle of Meadow Pipits.
The cloud was low and it was hazy and now the migrants were piling through.
A walk from saltmarsh to Red Nab 08:00 - 08:20 located at least
Wheatear 12 (all male)
Stonechat 8 (3male)
Meadow Pipit 32
Pied Wagtail 4
By this time the low cloud had morphed into light drizzle (which Pete identified as "perfect").
The flight line must have been narrow, nothing passed over or was grounded as I walked along the wall beyond Red Nab to the lighthouse (and no Stonechat seen in a later check at Imperial road).
On the return trip there were over 10 male Wheatear between Red Nab and saltmarsh, and they were moving through quickly. As were the Stonechat 3 male and 3 female were near the slipway and appeared to have just come in. Another male and 3 female on the east side of the saltmarsh.
Skylark 2 north
One of the 25+ male Wheatear through this morning

Female Stonechat resting on one of the "birds to look out for" notices. - No mention of Stonechat!
This female Stonechat was particularly obliging
Rock Pipit 6 - saltmarsh 1, 2 together on Red Nab, 3 between lighthouse and waterfall 
Common Snipe 35 flushed from marsh grass just south of saltmarsh 
Red- breasted Merganser 1
Whooper Swan 4 NW
Whooper Swan
Report from Jean:
Vis Heysham Head 0740-0940
North unless stated
Meadow Pipit 123
Pied Wagtail 2
Lesser Redpoll 1 (E)
Skylark 14
Chaffinch 3
Linnet 1
Stonechat 1M (NE)plus M&F grounded
Chiffchaff singing nr car park - first record of the year

I met Shaun checking out the Stonechats and Wheatears on Ocean Edge, he then continued his walk north:
Chiffchaff 11 -2 singing Moneyclose Lane + 3 singing HNR. Silent/feeding Chiffchaffs 4 Water Tank next to OBS and 2 at Dipping Pond. A decent arrival!
Wheatear 5 males & 2 females. 
Stonechat 3 females. 
Meadow Pipit 35 (grounded). 

With all the various reports Pete estimates at least 25 Stonechat were seen this morning, and, unfortunately, no one checked the horse paddocks at Knowsly Rd. Still not a bad tally, and unprecedented for the recording area.

Janet heard a Chiffchaff near the golf course but none on her walk around the east side of Middleton Nature Reserve.
Male Kestrel
Also from Janet - Brimstone butterfly - Londonderry Rd - think this is the first butterfly of the year, it's certainly the first Brimstone.

Friday, 17 March 2023

Better! In fact, warm and better

The temperature never got below 8C overnight and peaked this afternoon at 15C! (Thanks to Kevin Eaves weather station for weather details). The very light south wind continued. Just a few light showers plus one heavy one in the afternoon 

Pete advises that Wheatears were seen today just to the south between Fluke Hall and Knott End, but none seen or reported yet from the recording area, we'll see what tomorrow brings.

South shore 07:40 - 09:20 (MD)
Shelduck 25
Wigeon 150
Redshank 180
Wood Pigeon 11 on grass behind foreshore
Pied Wagtail 5 north
Skylark 1 grounded on foreshore 
Meadow Pipit 36 north. 25, 07:40 - 07:55 between saltmarsh and Red Nab. Only 8 more as I walked along the wall and only three on the return leg. These two landed briefly on Red Nab.
Rock Pipits 6 - saltmarsh, Red Nab (displaying male), seawall plus 3 between lighthouse and waterfall 
Greenfinch 8 on copse edge behind Red Nab
Male Greenfinch

Linnet pair near lighthouse 
Female Linnet
Stonechat 1 female near the lighthouse 
Female Stonechat 

Shag 1 immature flew out of the harbour towards the wooden jetty 
Shag, looks to be a 3rd calendar year (MD)

Kittiwake 1 first winter on "their pipe" near the waterfall 

Middleton Nature Reserve (MD)
Just a quick mid morning check of the two main pond's located nothing new, but this was interesting. It was already quite warm and there were lots of midges around. With the current dearth of insect eating birds, this Little Grebe filled the niche. You can see the insects on the water before it eats them. It seems easy pickings, but there won't be much fuel provided by a midge.

Imperial Rd (MD)
Last stop on the way home, and again some interest.
Common Buzzard 2 - this one has a small rodent, or possibly a frog.  I was still in my car at this point and struggled to keep my camera still.
By the time I'd gotten out and steadied myself better, it had eaten all it was going to. It cleaned its beak and flew off.
This one was calling a lot, fortunately I managed a short sequence when my camera wasn't making too much noise. You can hear it calling a couple of times.

Jackdaw 87 feeding in the field to the east of the road.