Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Much ado about (almost) nothing!

Light west wind and largely sunny.

There were a few visiting birders around today, but, so far, no reports of Black Redstarts 

Low tide channel from Knowlys 
Eider 62
Great Crested Grebe 7

South Shore (MD)
Rock Pipit - just one
Common Snipe - I looked closely at the small islands of sea grass to the south of the saltmarsh (see yesterday's post).
I eventually managed to locate 5 snipe, I'm sure there would have been more, as per yesterday. They were all resting and very difficult to see. These following pictures are more to show the effectiveness of, what is not always obvious, camouflage.

This is the only obvious shot, and also the only bird that actually moved.

It didn't move far, but now the straw lines on its back
can be seen to replicate the blades of grass around it.

This is a different bird. This angle shows the crown and eye stripes
also helping to merge with the background 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond before darkness descended (15:50!)
Cetti's warbler - male singing from the central marsh
Gadwall 16
Teal 4
Little Grebe 2

There are some quite large Mullein plants on the southern boundary. I'll be checking for Mullein caterpillars next year.


As I was leaving the moon was rising. I took this shot and posted it, just because I love the name of this moon phase, and seldom get the chance to use it.
A waxing gibbous moon





Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Another brief guest appearance by BRS

The fresh wind from the south continues. Overcast all day with a few light showers.

Black Redstart 1 briefly on Red Nab mid afternoon. It flew off north towards the Power Station non operational land - Report from Shaun.

South shore - mid morning (MD)
I cut across the mud, just out from the saltmarsh. I don't normally do this, so as not to spook any resting birds. But the beach looked empty. 
This is this area of shore. The saltmarsh is on the left, the patches of sea grass to the right of the creek, have increased quickly over the last few years. As I walked across 13 Common Snipe were flushed from these islands of vegetation, these in turn flushed another 6 from the saltmarsh itself. And with them 1 Jack Snipe. It's very unusual to see them on these neap tides, I'm not sure if the large number of Common Snipe on these islands is because the vegetation is increasing, or the lack of walkers from the locked down caravan park. Probably a bit of both.
Rock Pipit - a group of 4 flew from the saltmarsh towards the rocky outcrop to the east. Another bird was on the foreshore.
Linnet just 2

Heysham Skeer- low water 13:50
There isn't much of the skeer exposed by these neap tides, and there wasn't much on the sea.
Eider 22
Red-breasted Merganser 1 male
Knot c500 - no rings seen
Turnstone and Redshank c20 each
Curlew c50
Ringed Plover 2
Oystercatcher everywhere.

When there is nothing unusual to enjoy, you have to enjoy the usual.
This Oystercatcher has a smallish mussel, it then "hides" it in the water, but as another bird approaches it quickly retrieves it. It places it in another pool of water, and when the second bird moves on resumes foraging (it seems that this blog only allows you to watch embedded videos when no one else is, if it doesn't work first time, try again later - I'll try and sort out some muzak).


They fly off with mussels to eat them in private, it must have either been looking for a larger one or just another to take with it.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Fly tops the bill - on an otherwise quiet day

Wind constantly from the south. No sun, but surprisingly, the rain held off.

Found on beach at half moon bay, Heysham today

Orygma luctuosum - first record for VC60.

Never would have guessed that this was Sepsidae

Report and picture from Nicola Garnham 


Eider 72 in the low water channel out from Knowlys Rd. 63 in one distant flock, the remainder scattered.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond at dusk.
Mute 1 adult
Coot 5
Moorhen 4
Gadwall 18
Shoveller 1 male
Teal 4
Little grebe 2

South shore
Rock Pipit 1 plus another bird on the Heliport 

Wigeon c160 waiting in the channel near No.2 outflow. 
They usually drift along this channel until it reaches the feeding area on Red Nab, but it was getting dark quickly and a breakaway faction decided to waddle across the mud to Red Nab.
This photograph fails to convey the urgency of the waddling. So I've attached a video. It all got too exciting for some of them, who flew the last 50m.

The background noise comes from the wind and the Power Station, but you can still hear the ducks whistling.

When I reached the edge of Red Nab, the early Wigeon were feeding on the gut weed. This would have been available all the time the tide was out, but it is easier to eat in shallow water as its hollow tube structure means that it floats. I guess the last minute rush depended on how hungry they were.


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Back to standard fare

A fresh westerly wind and largely sunny.

Only my stuff so far (MD), there were a few birders in the area, but no reports so far. We seem to be alternating between feast and famine, with regards to the rarer birds. Let's hope that continues tomorrow.

South shore
Rock Pipits 2
Ringed Plover 22
Knot 1 ( it looked so lonely I thought it deserved a mention)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Gadwall 14
Shoveller 1 male
Little Grebe 1
Water Rail 1 squealing plus 1 contact calls
Common snipe 3
Grey Wagtail 1

Just a couple of snaps of locally very common birds. But both very striking, particularly in the sunlight.
Shelduck on south shore

Goldfinch on Middleton 


Saturday, 21 November 2020

More BRS and feeding Shag

The day started with strong SW wind and heavy rain, but the wind eased as it shifted to west and by lunchtime the sun was shining.

A good selection of birds today, but they were not easy and involved at least 4 observers.

Black Redstarts 
Lunchtime Pete (M) had one female/immature along the single track road to the, now locked, gate to the harbour waterfall. It was being harassed by a Robin and flew out of sight in the Power Station grounds.
15:00 - a visiting birder managed a brief view of female/immature on the rocks just east of Red Nab.

Mediterranean Gull 1 adult behind the lunchtime ferry, plus
Kittiwake 2-3 adult

Just 210 Knott on heliport wall - none ringed
Common snipe - at least 68 amongst rocks in front of heliport.

Shag - 1 juvenile feeding near the wooden jetty as the tide was flooding 14:45

Report and pictures from Kevin.

Great White Egret
14:20 - 1 flew in from the estuary area and landed on the mud out from the saltmarsh. I've never seen one land here before, hopefully a change of habit, rather than it just taking advantage of the caravan park being locked down (MD)

Unfortunately the sun was low and made seeing difficult 

This Black-Headed Gull had found a chicken egg, I suspect it may have been boiled.

This video clip shows it trying to swallow it

It tried several more times, I've no idea what would have happened it managed to swallow it, I doubt its stomach acid would have broken the shell down, but they do digest whole crab, leaving just the external skeleton.
Eventually a second bird flew over and this bird flew off with its prize.


Friday, 20 November 2020

Ah well - back to duck counting

The wind was back SSE first thing, then worked round to SW. showers in the morning, becoming more prolonged in the afternoon.

South Shore
A first light check to see if Black Redstarts could be relocated, didn't even manage to find a Rock Pipit. The only small birds seen were just 3 Linnet. A brief glimpse of a small brown raptor, almost certainly a Merlin, was probably a contributory factor.
This is actually one of yesterday's Linnet,
when the weather was a bit more suited to photography.


Lapwing 175 took flight briefly, and there were still some scattered around the beach.
Woodpigeon 26 east 08:30

A second check in the afternoon did manage to locate 2 Rock Pipit, but little else.
Hopefully the Black Redstarts are still around somewhere.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
This was also very quiet, the tit feeding flock not found, it is very mobile.
Mute 3 adult 3 + 1 cygnet
Coot 11 (7 on "no swimming" pond)
Moorhen 10
Gadwall 14
Teal 4
No Shoveller or Little grebe seen/heard. Also the second visit without hearing a Water Rail.


Thursday, 19 November 2020

Sunshine, Starts, Swans and surprises - what a day!

 The wind had eased and shifted towards NW. After early rain it was mainly sunny.

Heysham Skeer - from low water 08:30 (MD)
Eider 40 seen, but many more heard from the outer channel
Great Crested Grebe 8
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Knot c500
Dunlin 12
The Dunlin just seemed to stop off for a rest


Whooper Swan 7 from NW crossed overland just north of Knowlys Rd 09:25.

This front and probably third Whooper is a juvenile
 (3rd and 5th birds in the line of 7)
2 more Whooper, later on same line seen by PW

Pinkfoot 31 + 33 south, very high, didn't look like local movement.

From Pete (M) - Grey Wagtail in Dorset - Just had one of our colour ringed Grey Wagtails from this last autumn’s Ringing at Middleton NR, North Lancs seen here! Ringed on 30/8/20 and first seen in Dorset about a month ago. 

South shore.
Surprise 1:
As the tide started to flood, this Guillemot was in the shallow channel next to No.1 outflow. Later it waddled out of the water to rest on the beach

Report and pictures from Janet

Towards high water a visiting birder reported 2 female/immature Black Redstarts on Red Nab, which had then been flushed along the wall by walkers. Myself (MD) and Pete Woodruff were in the area, we split up, and after an hour, relocated them just 30m from the original sighting, on the rocks east of Red Nab. They were very mobile and kept disappearing then reappearing, sometimes two together other times a single bird. By this time we had been joined by Kevin Eaves, and between us managed some record shots.
These two by Kevin



Surprise 2:
Kevin had "both" birds together at Red Nab and looked over to me and Pete who were photographing another 100m away - there were three Black Redstarts! That's why, sometimes we were only seeing a solitary bird.
This first  picture, plus Kevin's above, show how "plain" they can look when stationary 
But this one, although rubbish quality, just shows how "startling" they are when they take flight.


Surprise 3 - at one point just before high water, there were 6 Rock Pipit on and around Red Nab.
Kevin took this shot of one.
This video allows you to hear, one calling in response to other calls. - at one point it appears to be counting all the birds flying around - the background noise is the sea behind me.


And the final surprise:
This video shows just how quickly nature reclaims, what is rightly theirs, when left alone.
This fox casually strolled along the high tide line, out from Ocean Edge, checking for carrion. Ocean Edge has been locked down for two weeks, so only minimal disturbance. It knew I was there, but paid me no heed. Much to my delight! You can tell how close it was, you can hear its footsteps through a wet patch.


I imagine that by tomorrow, it will be back to taking pleasure from a walk in the rain.