Saturday, 8 May 2021

First (possibly only) Spotted Flycatcher of the year

Strong early ESE wind with heavy rain, the rain eased off by early afternoon as the wind moved more to the south.

Heysham Head - report from Dan:

A number of us were there at six for the LDBWS seabird spectacular that wasn’t!

Two Swifts, two Harbour Porpoise and a Guillemot was the best we could manage looking seawards, but a walk in the wood looking for night migrants paid dividends with an off-passage,

Spotted Flycatcher (these have been barely annual in the recording area recently)


Incidentally, Shaun totted up the species list for last Sunday’s session in that area: a grand total of 83.


South shore.
First a couple of records from yesterday (I was expecting a washout, at least picture wise, today so held a couple back, just in case (MD))
At the moment, there seems to be many more Whimbrel around than Curlew, but this group of 15 Curlew were out from the saltmarsh again.
They had the decency to wait till the SeaTruck was in frame before flying south.
The previous day there were 14 here which then flew north

When the mud hasn't been covered for a few days it is effectively barren of accessible food. This has been the case with the recent neap tides, but as soon as the tides start to rise and wets it again, the invertebrates return to the surface. These, mainly 2nd calendar year, Common Gulls waited till the tide was ebbing back before taking advantage. These are just some of the 34 birds in this group.

Back to today.......this wasn't here yesterday morning!
This is just beyond the slipway from Ocean Edge, the car is actually in the creek that
drains the saltmarsh. Hopefully they will be able to tow it out with a tractor. I'm sure 
the vehicle will already be a right off, but there will be oil and fuel that will leak out!
Whimbrel 6 on Red Nab
Sandwich Tern at least 6, including two on Red Nab.
Two Sandwich Tern with a Curlew and Oystercatchers

Linnet 4 on Red Nab plus a male over nest site near lighthouse.
Rock Pipit 3, probably 4 (1 on Foreshore, 1 fending off Wheatears near lighthouse and two between the outflows, one of which could have been the lighthouse bird)
Wheatear at least 7. One on foreshore may have also been one of the two on Red Nab. Five near the lighthouse.
One of the lighthouse area Wheatears. All today's birds looked plump and dark,
suggesting Greenland race, but it might just be down to the wind and rain (MD)

As the rain eased in the afternoon I did a quick circuit of both reserves.
Heysham Nature Reserve 
Singing warblers in order of abundance:
Chiffchaff  6+
Willow Warbler 4
Reed Warbler 1
Sedge Warbler 1
Common Whitethroat just one female seen

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Willow Warbler 
Common Whitethroat 
Lesser Whitethroat 
Chiffchaff 
Blackcap 
Sedge Warbler 4
Reed Warbler 2
Cetti's Warbler at least 1 ("no swimming" pond bird heard at close range, later one sounded like it came from central marsh, but just possibly the NW extent of "no swimming" pond bird's territory)

Swallow 5 
Swift 1
House Martin 2
All the above feeding 

Little Grebe 3 adult plus 2 chicks - there are two adults feeding two separate chicks on the Tim Butler pond. Another adult on the main pond.
The chicks are growing fast


Otter signs:
This rock, half way along the western edge of the main pond, has been used while eating a Signal Crayfish. 
There are broken crayfish remains, bottom right of the rock, and three droppings.
Unfortunately heavy overnight rain had pretty much leached the droppings.

I picked up one of the droppings, the colour and structure was right for an Otter. Possibly a bit small, but I think most of it was washed away. Otter spraints are supposed to have a distinctive odour. "Between new mown hay and rotting fish" (quite a range to be defined as "distinctive"!).
Anyway, I smelt it....it smelt of, well....hand.
On a personal level I am satisfied that at least one Otter is feeding here after dark.
But, not quite enough evidence to be conclusive yet. I'll keep checking (MD)


Friday, 7 May 2021

Little Tern, best of the early morning rush hour

Light SSW breeze moving round to west later. Mainly sunny, but quite a heavy shower at 08:15, which effectively marked the end of the earlier movement.

Early morning report from Pete:
Everything moved earlier than or during the frontal edge of the weak weather front. Nothing afterwards.
 Sea 0640-0840: 
Whimbrel 1
Shag 1 2nd calendar year flew north across the bay
Sandwich tern 19 in and 7 blogging
Little  tern two in then out closer to shore
Arctic tern 12 and 14 in
Gannet 8 and 1 and 1 in
Kittiwake - 15 in, 42 in at same time as distant c40 out
Swallow at least 200 in
House martin 2
Sand martin 2
Two whimbrel and 4 Dunlin red nab

Middleton Nature Reserve - report and pictures from Janet
A quick visit to MNR at 07.30 this morning.

The Gulls were back and forward to the industrial site with nesting material, 
There was a Cetti's warbler singing, but as usual it stayed hidden!! 
Grasshopper warbler not heard
This Sedge warbler was ringed

There were two Shelduck which flew over from the sea. 

At least 6 Swifts flew over.

 I couldn't hear the dawn chorus at one point because of the Song Thrush!!

Female Roe Deer

Some pictures from the north shore today, provided by Kevin Singleton
Just out from Whinnysty Lane:
Summer plumage Turnstone 

One of eleven Little Egret on the north shore this evening 

Lesser Black-Backed gull

Also further out on/around the skear
Eider 13
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Whimbrel 14

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Osprey double

A WNW breeze freshened slightly and moved to NW. mainly sunny in the morning but showers in the afternoon.

Report from Pete:
Osprey 2 - one very distant north at 0735. Another first seen heading north over sunny slopes, then Battery/Aldi at 09:10
 Sea 0700-0830: 
4 Common scoter, 
1 Red Throated Diver 
4 Whimbrel
1 Gannet  
2 Guillemot
9 Sandwich tern
1 Common Buzzard across bay then ESE
45 Dunlin (two flocks) north across Bay
About 10 Dunlin roosting red nab

South shore:
Wheatear 1 on Ocean Edge foreshore 
Shelduck 4
A couple of sitting ducks.
This is the mud out from Ocean Edge, it doesn't get wet on these neap tides.

Curlew a flock of 14 was also resting on the mud before flying off to the north.
Whimbrel at least 8 mainly individuals 

Janet took some nice shots today, as always with high resolution images you should open them to see the detail.

Two shots showing upper and lower wing detail of a Whimbrel 


This male Rock Pipit was displaying near the waterfall,
other shots clearly show that it is not the ringed bird.
So at least two males in this 100m length of harbour wall.

Heysham skear - low water 15:30
Eider just 16 seen
Red-breasted Merganser 2 (male and female)
Whimbrel at least 3
Now the seed mussels are forming, the Herring gulls gather to feed on them. I've no idea why the very closely related Lesser Black-Backed gulls seem not to (MD). At the current seed mussel size, the gulls don't even bother to open them, just prise them off their anchorage and swallow them whole. Today there was c200 birds a few 1st and 2nd summer, but most in adult plumage, they graze the mussels, like so many sheep in a field. In the coming weeks, the Herring gull numbers are normally swollen with more young birds, presumably just learning how to harvest this food crop.
These are a few of today's birds feeding:

This is a still from the above clip, you can see the middle bird swallowing a seed mussel.

Middleton Nature Reserve
There are some very nice stands of Cowslips around the scrub just west of the water treatment plant.
Not just appreciated by me. I think this is a Common Carder Bee, if you know differently, please advise.




Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Snow tops the bill - we have had busier days!

A cold fresh west wind all day, but the sun shone for most of the day.

Snow covered the South Lakes hills. This shot from the harbour

It wasn't just a light dusting but a serious covering, it was still laying 
thick on the ground in the afternoon, this shot is from the skear.

Pete and Jean managed a few more birds on this morning's seawatch:
Sandwich Tern 6
Guillemot 2
Harbour Porpoise 1

South shore 08:00 - 09:30
Sandwich Tern 1, possibly one of Pete and Jean's 
Whimbrel 5
Wheatear 2
Rock Pipit at least 3 - the ringed male near the lighthouse was feeding itself,  another bird towards the waterfall was displaying and calls, that sounded as if they came from the lighthouse nest hole. It still isn't cut and dried what's happening here.
Linnet 8 including one taking nest lining to nest site near the waterfall.
Goldfinch - it's always good to hear the Goldfinch twittering away as they forage, but this bird was having a sing.


Heysham skear - low water 14:20
Eider c20
Great Crested grebe 1
Red-breasted Merganser 4 (2 pair) - these were together then disappeared, I think they moved on. I'm not sure if these male gestures are a cordial "hello" or a less than cordial "go away" (MD)

Whimbrel 5

These two Dunlin flew in, settled on the skear and made no attempt to feed.

Middleton Nature Reserve (I'll leave the time for you to "deduce" (MD))
I just checked the main pond for Otter spraints
Mute swan - just 3 adult 
Mallard female still with 10 chicks 

I did a full circuit of the main pond and found no sign of Otter spraints, but as Janet said yesterday there is evidence of Signal Crayfish being eaten, but not much, so presumably it has only just resumed.
In a complete circuit of the pond, I only came across one "head case"
(I know......begging for a comment.....but I'll let you make your own up!)

However the only other remains I found were fresh, certainly no more than a few days old. This is how I found it, an almost complete front end, upside down.
It was still attracting flies, one circled

This is a clearer view of the under side. This section was 11cm long, so quite a large specimen.
The right side legs have been cleanly bitten off, strongly suggesting Otter

This is the top side, this one's head case is missing, but the earlier one was
 too small and on the opposite side of the pond

Having checked the full perimeter, I will be able to tell if any future Signal Crayfish remains are new. And, I'll be checking regularly for spraints. If anyone sees likely droppings on a prominent stone or feature, please take a picture or advise me where it was seen - Thanks.






Tuesday, 4 May 2021

The wind turns and the Terns turn off!

The wind switched round to the NW during the night, and stayed there all day, quite fresh early on, but easing slightly as the day progressed. Mainly overcast with some showers.

The only things seen on the sea this morning by Shaun and Pete were:
Gannet 1, Whimbrel - 1 north

South shore 07:30-08:30
Wheatears 2 on Ocean Edge foreshore and 1 on Red Nab
Linnet 4 on saltmarsh, 4 on Red Nab and 2 near Lighthouse (still collecting nest material (feathers))
Rock Pipit 1 near lighthouse 
This solitary Dunlin, in almost full summer plumage,
was sheltering from the wind below the foreshore.

Whimbrel 4 on Saltmarsh 2 + 1 flying north

Heysham skear low water 13:00
Just a quick check
Eider just 23 and they were already moving off north.
This female, I took to be an immature bird 
Based on the lack of an obvious speculum........
......and the lack of attention. The mature females tend to have a retinue of multiple males.
I could easily be wrong of course, but it gives me a reason to post this shot,
it's one that I quite like (MD)

Great Crested grebe 3
No Mergansers seen
Whimbrel 3
Turnstone c150
Again, some are now in almost complete summer plumage.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A quick afternoon check by Janet found
House Martin c8 feeding over both the main and the "no swimming" ponds.

Also some crayfish remains. So hopefully the otters are back feeding at nighttime. I'll see if I can find any spraints tomorrow.

Monday, 3 May 2021

The sea still providing interest

SE wind freshened during the day to almost gale force by evening, by then almost due south. The rain graciously held off till mid morning then increased in intensity with the wind. By later evening the wind was easing and the rain eased, but it's forecast to be a strong northwesterly by the morning.

Two seawatch reports from Pete on north wall and Nick on Stone jetty. The times are similar so there will be some duplication of birds that went right through.
North wall 0645-0845
Guillemot 13
Razorbill 9
Auk sp 8
Gannet 5
Arctic Skua1 dark morph
Common Scoter 1 
Swallow 38
House Martin 2

Near Naze Rock pipit displaying 
Harbour Porpoise 2 (quite a good day for marine mammals, a Grey Seal also seen later).

Stone Jetty 6.30 - 8.40:

Common scoter 1 in

Red-throated diver 2

Black guillemot 1 out 8.28 

Razorbill 3

Auk sp 5

Kittiwake 30 out 2 flocks

Sandwich tern c. 35

Whimbrel 9

Rock pipit singing male


I managed a surprisingly dry walk along the waterline out from Half Moon Bay and saw nothing not covered above (MD). Several of the Sandwich Terns were blogging and settling on the beach to preen.

A slightly different shot with the edge of Heysham Head as a backdrop 

Four Sandwich Tern preening on the beach

They weren't just preening on the beach. These two were definitely thinking about starting a family!
The female didn't seem overly overwhelmed, just after this clip she flew off, leaving the male preening himself. 


By mid afternoon the storm was reaching its peak. I couldn't resist it I donned my waterproofs and set off along the south wall (only to discover that my lightweight waterproof jacket needs reclassifying, as just a lightweight jacket!).
Rock Pipit 1 on Red Nab
Nothing of note on the outfalls.
There were two Sandwich Tern feeding in the harbour 
By this time I'd reached the shelter of the lighthouse, it was possible to use my camera without it being soaked. 
This is a rubbish shot of one of the terns, but does give a sense of the driving rain

As does this one

This Grey seal popped its head up in the harbour mouth, then quickly went back under.
I think it must have been too wet for it!

Footnote - the distant dark birds I showed yesterday and thought were probably Common Scoter, were also picked up by the group on Heysham Head, who identified them as Pink-Footed goose. Whoops! It just emphasises that you can't identify birds, or anything for that matter, by what you expect to see (MD).

A footnote, and now a postscript...... Golden Pheasant male seen and photographed near Sulby Tate kennels. The origin of the bird, not the record, must be regarded as "dubious".
Thanks to Tia via Middleton Facebook site 






Sunday, 2 May 2021

More Arctic Skuas and Terns

Light SSW breeze freshened and drifted more west. A mixture of overcast sunny spells and the odd hail shower.

The following records are some of the sightings from today's LDBWS open event (thanks to Nick, Jean and Pete)
Arctic Skua 3 - 4
Arctic Tern 41 in 4 flocks
Sandwich Tern 15
Red-Throated Diver 3
Gannet 4
Kittiwake 38
Mediterranean gull 1 second calendar year 
Common Scoter c60
Pink Footed goose 49
Shelduck 4
Whimbrel 4

Overhead and grounded:
Lesser Redpoll 2
Tree Pipit 1
Swallow 2
Lesser Whitethroat by Half Moon Bay cafe

These c40 dark birds coming into the bay are too far for my optics to resolve any detail, but thought they must be Common Scoter (MD) (subsequently Dan advises me that they too picked these birds up and were 99% confident that they were Pink-Foot - I'll leave the clips as a reminder of how easy it is to misidentify distant stuff) Not really anything to see, but it gives a sense of the movement. On this clip at 09:35 they fly in and land on the sea.
After five minutes they take off again and head north along the Kent Channel. These shots were from the lighthouse on the south wall, and presumably part of the 60 recorded above.


South shore
The ringed male ringed  Rock Pipit was keeping guard near the lighthouse 
Common Sandpiper 1
This Common Sandpiper was near Ocean Edge slipway, just after a 
particularly heavy hail shower.

Whether it was there before the shower or forced down is unknown. Either way it decided to do a bit of feeding 

Middleton Nature Reserve
Ringing report from Alan:
Yet another frosty start. We had expected an better catch this morning than recently but it was not to be.  Six nets were set but only 8 birds were ringed, 8 retrap were were also caught:
Lesser Redpoll  2
Sedge Warbler  2 plus 3 retrap
Willow Warbler  2 retraps
Blackbird  2 retrap
Great Tit  1 retrap
Blackcap  1
Reed Warbler  1
Greenfinch  1
Reed Bunting  1

I was slightly surprised that no Whitethroats were caught but the individuals present appeared to be behaving territorially rather than moving around the reserve.

Just a quick check in the afternoon (MD)
All the regular warblers except Grasshopper and Garden heard. The only Cetti's was again the "no swimming" pond bird. 
There are several patches of Marsh Marigolds on Middleton 
The brightness of the yellow flowers was stunning in the sunshine.