Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Lighthouse Rock Pipits feeding young in nest

Light SE wind, high cloud with plenty of sunshine and the odd light shower

Nothing moving on the sea this morning, Pete had a single "Cabbage White" trundle past in an hour's check!

Heysham skear - low water 07:25 (MD)
I watched the tide come in and cover the outer skears. If there are any feeding waders on the outer skears, they often fly to the inner skear before moving on. But the only waders today, apart from the Oystercatcher, was a single Whimbrel and a Bar-Tailed Godwit, still in winter plumage. This is the Godwit, it doesn't matter how long your bill is, it isn't always quite long enough.
Little Egret 6
Grey Heron 1
Eider 36
Great Crested Grebe 5
Herring gulls - are still harvesting the seed mussels, strange that the Lesser Blacked-Backed gulls don't bother with the seed mussels, there are some around, but only feeding on crabs or dropping large mussels to open them. I took this clip of the Herring gulls as the outer skear was being covered. The clip was slightly longer originally, I counted 1,700 gulls on it and many had already flown off and many more were on the sea at either side of me, so at very least 2,000 birds.
The foreground birds are on the middle skear, the background birds being pushed off the outer skear.

Heysham Head 
Just a quick check on the way home, really to see how the previously territorial Rock Pipits were doing. Unusually, I didn't see any, but suspect that they were around somewhere.
Swift 3 feeding over the wood.
Swift - I don't often get an half decent shot of a swift (MD)

South shore late afternoon 
Wheatear 1 on saltmarsh 
Whimbrel 1 on Red Nab
Rock Pipit 3. The Red Nab bird was feeding and appeared to take food into the Power Station grounds.
Both the lighthouse birds were taking food to the nest.
This is the female, just above the nest site, but she will never fly to it 
when she knows she is being watched.

This is the male, you can't see it on this shot, but this is the ringed bird.
Unfortunately, he was limping. Hopefully just something temporary, but I
suspect it the same problem developing that the other lame bird has. (MD)

In this clip, I am sat on the low wall next to the lighthouse, looking back to the wooden frame over the steps. The male leaves the nest hole carrying a faecal sac. I then pan out to show the location of the hole.

If you go to watch them feed their young, please give them plenty of space, certainly 
no closer than this, I was sat on the lighthouse wall, almost behind the lighthouse.

Monday, 16 May 2022

Fly day......and a Spotted one to order

Light east wind shifting to ESE by late afternoon and south by evening. The threatened overnight rain didn't materialise but heavy showers in the morning and some thunder showers early evening. Sunshine in between.

Sewatch report by Pete:
Sea this am 0810-0910.  
Good vis until 0850 yet no Scoter!  
Only saw 6 swallow, Great crested Grebe and Razorbill fly in

South shore (MD)
The rain had held off till 09:15, just before I set off. My forecast said "light showers", turned out they were light showers of biblical proportions! It chucked it down all the time I was out, only stopping when I got home about 11:00.
Little Egret 4
Wheatear 5 - too wet to use my camera today, this clip is from Saturday. Don't watch the Wheatear, watch the floor around, you can see it is covered in flies.

Today's Wheatear were all towards the slipway side of Ocean Edge foreshore, which is a little unusual as they normally favour the Red Nab side, where the above clip was taken. The answer presented itself as I approached Red Nab
Sparrowhawk 1 grounded on foreshore.
Rock Pipit 3 (Red Nab, sea wall and Lighthouse)
Linnet 4 between lighthouse and waterfall 
Willow Warbler 3 together, making their way along the brambles between lighthouse and waterfall 
Sedge Warbler singing near the small anemometer - there isn't usually one here.

Pete advised that Heysham Head for a Spotted Flycatcher was definitely on the cards today. So, mid afternoon, on my way to the skear, I stopped off briefly at Heysham Head, and wasn't disappointed.
Spotted Flycatcher 1
Spotted Flycatcher feeding above the wood on Heysham Head

By this time it was hot and sultry. This clip again shows the abundance of flying insects, the Flycatcher was spoilt for choice!

Heysham skear 
It was very pleasant on the skear the sun was shining and warm but the light breeze making it feel fresh. Unfortunately thunderstorms were forecast and you could see and hear them getting closer. I reluctantly cut short my walk. It's never a good thing to be the highest point for miles around in a thunderstorm!
Eider 42
Little Egret 7
Great Crested Grebe 1
Shag 1 feeding
Whimbrel 3
No Sanderling today
Black Headed Gull 34 - working hard to try and catch shrimps. They were in the right place, close to the shore near the mouth of a drain pouring sediment into the sea. I've shown clips before when shrimps are plentiful, the gulls heads bob up and down like a sewing machine, it wasn't like that today.

The term "drain" in this context, just means a natural channel draining water from higher up the shore into the sea. In this case markedly increased in volume with this morning's heavy rain. So, more sediment equals more shrimps and the gulls turn up.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Plenty of distant Scoter and a LRP bonus

East winds all day, freshening slightly in the afternoon. High cloud with sunny spells.

Seawatch report from Pete Crooks:

Three hours over the incoming tide (7.15 – 10.15 am) produced:
1 2nd CY Kittiwake
c.200 Common Scoter – numerous distant groups of 10 – 20 flying in or out so probably some duplication; largest group = c.35
c.55 Pink-footed Geese – 3 distant groups
34 2nd CY Black-headed Gull – flying into the Bay in a single group
4 Sandwich Tern
1 Arctic Tern
2 Red-throated Diver
c.20 Swallow & 1 House Martin – low over the sea in ones and twos
1 Harbour Porpoise

Red Nab (PM, JR)

Little Ringed Plover 1 flew from Red Nab to the Power Station non operational land (this area was checked recently, but this species can easily be missed)

Middleton Nature Reserve 

Ringing report from Alan:

The wind was variable in strength this morning and not great for mist netting. A small selection of species was caught including the 100th Lesser Redpoll for 2022.

The catch comprised:

Wren 1

Robin 1

Blackbird 1

Sedge Warbler 1 plus 1 retrap

Reed Warbler 1 plus 1 retrap

Lesser Whitethroat 1

Common Whitethroat 1

Chiffchaff 1

Blue Tit 1 retrap

Lesser Redpoll 5

Heysham skear (MD)

I walked the morning tide in then just did another quick check of the inner skear in the afternoon, before the outer skears were exposed.

Eider 55

Red-breasted Merganser 4

Great Crested Grebe 6

Shelduck 6 out ( morning)

Little Egret 4

Grey Heron 1

Shag 1 feeding (afternoon)

Swallow 3 (morning) 7 (afternoon)

Dunlin 1

Turnstone 6

Sanderling 2 (afternoon)

Sanderling - the one on the right is moving towards summer plumage,
but the one on the left is still, pretty much, in winter plumage 

Kevin took this shot yesterday on the south sea wall, its a gull pellet. Interestingly it includes what looks to be the claw of a small Edible Crab. A gull would not eat a crab this size whole, they normally remove the claws first, and when eating Shore Crabs, the claws are often discarded. I suppose the extra meat in an Edible Crab claw makes it worth swallowing. 

Gull pellet made up largely of  crab (looks to be an Edible Crab)

Saturday, 14 May 2022

More Puffins and interesting Grey Wagtail record.

Light variable breeze early on settles to WSW by 08:00, and remained there till evening when after a breathless period it moved to NW. high cloud with plenty of sunshine.

First, a record from the Grey Wagtail colour ringing scheme (see scheme details on the side bar)
Grey wagtail AXH0615 ringed on autumn passage at Middleton on 15/9/2020 is currently a breeding male at Newburgh, Aberdeenshire next to the Ythan Estuary.  The most northerly of our birds found in the breeding season

Seawatch report by Pete:
Sea 0745-0915:
Puffin 3 (one flying in and across then two floating in on line just beyond yellow buoys) 
Guillemot 4
Razorbill 2
Kittiwake 13 (7,1,4,1)
Gannet 9
Swallow 17
Sand Martin 1
Everything flying or floating in cf yesterday.
Harbour porpoise 1-2

None of the Auks got as far as the Stone Jetty. The following is Nick Godden's report from Stone Jetty, as posted on LDBWS web page - obviously there will be some overlap:

14/5/22 6.15-9.50

Skua sp light morph in at 7.55 too distant to ID

Gannet 24

Eider 112

Kittiwake 15 out

Red-throated diver 1 out

Whimbrel 1

Sanderling 2

Swallow 53

Sand martin 2

Red Nab and Ocean Edge (MD)
Just a very brief check towards high water.
Wheatear 4
Little Egret 3 
Linnet 4
Goldfinch 2 (collecting grit)
Greenfinch 2

Heysham skear - low water 17:50
I went down early at 14:40 before the outer skear became exposed and any feeding waders had moved on.
Eider 33
Great Crested Grebe 3
Little Egret 6
Sanderling 8 - I found a group of 5 feeding amongst the Oystercatcher, unfortunately someone less stealthy than I, was also walking out. (in truth less stealthy than a camel! But never mind). At the end of this clip, all Oystercatcher and the Sanderling took flight. There are only three Sanderling visible on this clip.

On the Plus side, the pictures I took of them flying off revealed that there were actually 6 Sanderling.
Sanderling with Oystercatcher 

The chap left (think he was lost) and I managed to get closer to another 2. Watch the top bird at the start if this clip. It regurgitates a pellet before continuing to feed.

The only other waders were 4 Whimbrel

This pleased me. I normally do a piece on Hermit Crabs as they frantically seek out new (larger) shells in spring. This year I was prepared with an empty Common Whelk shell, in case I found a crab like last year in a woefully undersized shell. But although I saw lots of Hermit crabs this spring, there was nothing new to show, perhaps I'll do something next year (for any interested new readers, the search function on this blog works pretty well).
Anyway, there was a particularly active Hermit Crab in a barnacle covered Dog Whelk shell, so I thought I would film a clip. But I was distracted, watch the "eel" disturbed by the crab.

I knew it wasn't an eel, it's a Butterfish. They used to be the most common small fish around the skear, but I've not seen one since c1975. I'm sure they must have been about in reduced numbers.
Butterfish - nice to see an old friend (MD)

"Excitement" over I took a clip of the Hermit crab, you should be able to spot a small shrimp too.

These are tracks left by a Hermit crab, you can see the groove
in the mud where its shell has bobbled along 

Friday, 13 May 2022

First Sanderling moving through

WSW to SW fresh wind all day, mainly overcast, but a bit of evening sunshine.

Seawatch report from Pete:
A load of medium/low cloud, as opposed to the ideal sharp showers mixed with clear spells probably put the lid on seabirds.  It seems like what there was piled into the bay on the very early stages of the incoming tide and, for eg, all but three Raz/Guille off Heysham 0635-0845 were outbound - quite astonishing given the wind direction and speed were favourable: 
23 Gannet
1 Sanderling
5 Razorbill
1 Guillemot
1 Great crested grebe 
15 Dunlin and the three Raz/Guille
2cy Shag roosting wooden jetty high tide.
Off the Stone Jetty 
flocks of 30 plus 40 Kittiwake 
Red-Throated Diver early on.

South shore mid morning (MD)
Curlew flock of 12 flew from saltmarsh towards Potts corner.
Wheatear 5 - the 3 seen close by were large birds
Rock Pipit 1 on Red Nab, later along sea wall.
Linnet 18 feeding on Ocean Edge grass/foreshore plus 6 between lighthouse and waterfall - Some of the Ocean Edge Linnet feeding on dandelion seeds.

Male Pied Wagtail about to take a bill full of insects into the Power Station grounds.

This young Wood Pigeon was getting pecking lessons on Ocean Edge grass,  sorry about the misty effect, I had salt from sea spray on my camera lens!

Heysham skear - low water 17:00 (MD)
Great Crested Grebe 1
Eider 61 
There are some Eider in this shot, but the reason I am posting it is to show just how clear 
and blue the sea still is after two days of strong SW winds which typically stir up the sediment 

Little Egret 4 - not actually on the skear, but fishing/shrimping along the shoreline where the water was suitably coloured (shrimps need coloured water before coming close inshore, both for cover and the detritus they eat).
Large Gulls, mainly Herring c700 - more spread out now.
Oystercatcher c1000
Whimbrel 1
Curlew 1
Turnstone 1
Dunlin 1
Dunlin - this shot just to show how effective their camouflage is in this terrain 

Sanderling 4 - two pairs of birds.
Sanderling in partial summer plumage - these were just resting 

This pair were actively feeding, they are close to the shoreline so possibly finding shrimp there. I hope so, as it was the large numbers of shrimps here last year that the high numbers of Sanderling were feeding on (MD).


Thursday, 12 May 2022

Seabird movement early again, but some closer in

Wind not so fresh today and pretty much due west. High cloud with some sunny periods.

Seawatch report from Pete:
Sea 0630-0830- last 1/3 virtually birdless! 
Pomarine Skua light morph out 0710, quite probably the same in at 0740 but couldn’t be sure of identity at range/heat haze
Arctic Skua 1 dark morph close to shore 0711
min 72 Raz/Guille
8 Razorbill 
5 Guillemot 
85 Kittiwake (flocks 30 and 27)
1 Manx Shearwater 
17 Gannet
15 Common Scoter
Great White Egret northbound
2cy Shag harbour mouth. 
Swallow 20
Swift 2
Great Crested grebe
Watched from back of harbour

An hour's evening check:
Red-Throated Diver 1 summer plumage 
Kittiwake 23

South shore high water 09:10 (MD)
Shelduck 8
Little Egret 4
Whimbrel 2
Rock Pipit 2 - one each on Red Nab and Lighthouse 
Linnet just 1 male at saltmarsh plus 3 male and a female between lighthouse and waterfall 
Wheatear 3 large birds

Large female Wheatear 
Not only larger than typical, but also much more confiding, probably rarely encountered humans. The northern birds head to remote parts, as far as Greenland and Iceland, hence the need for extra bulk.

Heysham skear low water 16:15 (MD)
Just a quick check, I really just went down to see if there were any shrimps around after a couple of days of SW-W winds. 
Eider 63
Great Crested Grebe 2
Little Egret just 1on the actual skear, 4 more feeding in the rock pools near the promenade. I watched the skear bird feeding. The area it was in would normally be full of shrimps at this stage of the tide, and typically up to 12 Egret feeding on them. This one did make a few catches, not shrimps though, but tiny flatfish.

This is a blown up still from the above clip, you can see the small flatfish in its bill.
Little Egret with a small flatfish 

Despite the lack of shrimps, today was a "wader fest" with six species, but only accounting for 12 birds excluding the Oystercatchers!
Whimbrel 1
Curlew 1
Turnstone 4
Dunlin 1
Ringed Plover 5  - on inner skear.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Another Pomarine Skua

A fresh SW wind moved to west after lunch. Plenty of sunshine with just the odd light shower.

Seawatch report by Jean:

Seawatch from the North Harbour Wall

06:30-08:30 (high tide at 08:27hrs) 

SW F4, cloudy

A bit slow this morning with birds rather distant. The wind was a few degrees more southerly than forecast.

Pomarine Skua - 1 into Bay at 07:35

Arctic Skua - 1 dark morph in at 08:12

Gannet - 2 into Bay, 6 out

Common Scoter - 8 in, 25 out

Grey Plover - 22 out

Small waders - 5 in, 30 out

Guillemot - 3 out

Razorbill - 3 in

Auk sp- 11 in, 3 out

Arctic Tern - 5 in

Goosander - 1 out

Red Nab

Pink-footed Goose - 2

Wooden jetty

Shag - 1

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Janet had a look in the morning 
The "no swimming" pond female Mute Swan with 9 cygnets 

Small Heath - first of the year

I had a look in the afternoon (MD)
The two adult mute from the main pond had gone. Both the male and female with their chicks were back on the "no swimming" pond, the aggressive male looking the dutiful father today.

He wasn't the only attentive father, these two Coot were feeding 5 chicks. Presumably Mum and Dad, but not necessarily. Coot parents independently feed "half" of the chicks, so in theory, these could be from two different broods.

Warblers included:
Cetti's Warbler 
Willow Warbler 
Sedge Warbler 

The Orchids are starting to emerge
Early Purple Orchid (I think MD)

This stand of flowers in the NW corner of the main pond looks good.

A pretty flower, with the less than flattering name.......

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

The earlier seawatch paid off

A fresh SW wind all day, high cloud with periods of sunshine.

Seawatch report from Pete:
Sea HeySham 0630-0830: 
Razorbill 18
Guillemot 46
Razorbill/Guillemot 52
Puffin 1
Gannet at least 23
Common/Arctic Tern 2 very distant
Kittiwake 1 2cy
Sandwich tern 8
Arctic Skua 3 dark morph 1 light morph
Manx Shearwater  2
Grey Plover 8
Red-breasted Merganser 3
probable Slavonian Grebe 1

Plus an evening session:
Sea 1800-1900 north wall:
1 outbound dark morph Arctic Skua
1 Guillemot
1 Sandwich tern 
1 Manx Shearwater
2 Gannet
7 Raz/Guill

Heysham skear - low water 14:00 (MD)
Very little, the only waders apart from Oystercatcher were:
Whimbrel 3
Turnstone 1
No Little Egret on the actual skear, but 3 feeding in the inshore pools.
There seems to be no small shrimps around, hopefully just a consequence of the prolonged period of offshore winds. The return of inshore winds may help restore the balance.
Eider 45
Great Crested Grebe 1

Middleton Nature Reserve (MD)
Just a quick check of the two main ponds to see how the mute situation resolved itself. It seems that the aggressive male was not coveting his neighbour's pond, but his neighbour's wife!
His mate with her cygnets was back on the "no swimming" pond. The main pond nest was deserted apart from broken eggshells.
The deserted main pond nest, you can make out broken eggs.
The female was sitting here yesterday 

The main pond female was now on the water accompanied by the aggressive male from the "no swimming" pond. The main pond male had at least survived the onslaught and was watching from high up the pond bank.
The original main pond male, now only tolerated at a distance. I was fearful for
his life yesterday, he could have flown away, but chose to remain with his mate.
It's tempting to make a comment, but it's not appropriate. It may seem terrible behaviour to our eyes, but it is only one of nature's ways of ensuring the survival of the fittest.

The sun was shining while I was there and there were clouds of, largely immature, "blue" damselflies amongst the vegetation along the west bank of the main pond. I'm not great at immature damselflies (MD) but most seemed to be Common Bluetail. Not all immature though, this pair were mating.
Pair of Common Bluetail damselflies 

There were some Blue Damsels as well, the only ones I managed a decent views of were Azure blues
Almost mature Azure Blue damselfly

Not sure about this one, other than it is immature 

Just out of the recording area - Heysham Moss Nature Reserve 
Janet had a look this morning

Some of the four Roe Deer - these are female

Male Reed Bunting
No Grasshopper Warbler heard today but there was a Reed Warbler singing

Monday, 9 May 2022

The early bird...........probably should have been a bit earlier!

The quite fresh wind initially from SE later moving to south. Plenty of sunshine till late morning then overcast. Steady rain starting by early evening.

Seawatch report from Pete:
Sea HeySham north wall 0650-0800.  
Most in the first 25 mins - should have started earlier: 
1 Little Tern
2 plus 6 Manx Shearwater
51 outbound Sandwich Tern (no bloggers)
5 Gannet
14 Guillemot
11 Razorbill
15 Common Scoter
5 Kittiwake
Nice to get Razorbill and Guillemot all in identifiable range.  Tomorrow hopefully multiple skuas

South shore late morning (MD)
Wheatear 2 male and female, both large birds (larger size at this time of year suggesting "northern" birds)
Female Wheatear 

Linnet 6 each on saltmarsh and near lighthouse 
Rock Pipit 3 - 1 on Red Nab, 2 near the lighthouse.

Middleton Nature Reserve - mid afternoon (MD)
I managed a full circuit, hoping to see some insects, but the sun steadfastly refused to shine.
Mute Swan - oh dear, this isn't good...... on the outward leg there were two adult on the main pond, the female sitting. Another two adult near the nest site on the "no swimming" pond, and a single adult on the Tim Butler pond. But the "no swimming" pond pair have hatched their chicks, and the male had decided that he wanted to return to the main pond. On my return the aggressive male had the main pond male pinned down, while his mate waited with her cygnets. The main pond female was still sitting, but I doubt the aggressive male will tolerate her for long. 
The "no swimming" pond female with her cygnets (at least 7) now on the main pond.
I'll spare you the images of the main pond male being attacked by the aggressive male
Moorhen 5
Coot 5 adult plus 2 young chicks - as fluffy balls of feathers go, you have to say that Coot chicks spectacularly fail to be "cute". Mum really puts them through their paces here.

Gadwall 1 male on Tim Butler pond
Mallard 6 male on the Main pond plus 1 female with at least 7 chicks on Tim Butler pond. She was watching them carefully and encouraging them to remain in the cover of the reeds, hopefully these chicks will not go the way of the early clutch on the main pond. 

Little grebe 1

The warblers weren't overly vocal but I did manage to hear:
Willow Warbler 4+
Chiffchaff 4+
Reed Warbler 1
Sedge Warbler 4
Cetti's Warbler 2
Blackcap 2
Common Whitethroat 1

Insects were even thinner on the ground
Speckled Wood 4
Orange Tip 1 male
Large Red Damselfly 2
Large Red Damselfly

This moth had managed to land upside down on a pool.

I didn't watch it struggle for long. It was easy to rescue. Turned out it was a Mother Shipton. It quickly shook off most of the water, and I left it in vegetation, away from the pools to completely dry.
Mother Shipton moth

Finally, this Herring gull was looking for nesting material, when it hit the jackpot!
"Never mind the quality........feel the width!"

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Still some good stuff, but not easy

The wind shifted from east to south over the day, quite fresh at times. High cloud with sunny spells.

Seawatch report from Pete (M):
Sample hour seawatch 0620-0720 Heysham 
Really tricky with 1/2 horizon scope maybe not the best strategy. Eg dark Arctic Skua picked up right at the top of the field of view then circled up in situ then NE, 12 Arctic tern only noticed heading inland high above the harbour on a short rest from the scope.  
In the scope view: 
6 distant Gannet
1 Red Throated Diver 
4 Guillemot
two distant auk which may have been yet more Puffin but too far away.
13 Sandwich tern (4 blogging)
5 Common Scoter
After that 2cy Shag fishing on dropping tide by yellow buoys
c15 swallow 
2 house martin N.  
750 large gulls and 3 Great Crested Grebe  skear area

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

Nets set on both East and West sides this morning. A modest catch comprised the following:

Reed Warbler  1 plus 1 retrap

Willow Warbler  1 retrap

Reed Bunting  1 retrap

Sedge Warbler  2 plus 1 retrap

Lesser Whitethroat  2

Goldfinch  3

Long tailed Tit  1 retrap

Lesser Redpoll  8

A trickle of Swallows flew northwards through the reserve.

Heysham skear - low water 11:20 (MD)
The most notable thing today was the complete lack of small waders, apart from the Oystercatchers there were only Whimbrel 1, Curlew 4
Eider 33 - numbers are reducing now, the few remaining mature females are receiving plenty of "interest", the single female in the lead group here surrounded by 10 males.

Red-breasted Merganser 3
Plus the large gulls - a little earlier, Pete Crooks managed to count 790 large gulls (mainly 2nd CY Herring Gull) feeding on the mussel beds on the falling tide