Friday 30 November 2012

Mainly Harbour fare and more Waxwing

Heysham Obs
North harbour wall and south harbour
Twite - 21, including at least 6 unringed, probably more
Goldfinch - 16
Linnet - 2
Meadow Pipit - 1
Rock Pipit - 1
Med Gull - 2 adults
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - 2
Wren - 1

Thanks Janet - taken south harbour today

Heysham Nature Reserve
Pink-footed Goose - flock of 485-495 NW at 0745hrs
Goldcrest - 3 by the office early morning
Meadow Pipit - 3 by the office again as yesterday

Borrans Lane
Waxwing - 4 feeding on hawthorns by the road works

Thursday 29 November 2012

Short-strawed Field Vole

Heysham Obs
A Short-tailed Field Vole was running about on top of the north harbour wall mound in bright sunlight this morning looking rather lost.  Obviously the prestige of being a new dot on a mammal atlas (is there one?) was worth the effort and the serious predation risk (SD36V, the rest of this 10km square is under the sea/intertidal)

Adult Med Gull north harbour wall.  Thanks Janet

North harbour wall SD36V blitz
Twite - 14
Goldfinch - just 2
Rock Pipit - 1-2 (seen on both harbour and seawall side)
Meadow Pipit - 2
Med Gull - 2CY conspicuous, two adults
Red-throated Diver - 2 sat on water together offshore in "heat" haze
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - 2 (one mound, one sandworks)
No Wren or Dunnock seen/heard

Heysham Nature reserve
Meadow Pipit - flock of three around - probably wintering birds from non-op land

Frst known record of ST Field Vole for SD36V

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Cold but fairly productive

Heysham Obs
A walk around the north wall circuit was quite bracing - need to get the woolly hat, coat and gloves out

Purple Sandpiper - TWO on the seawall below the gate then flushed and flew towards the wooden jetty with about 5 Turnstone
Med Gull - adult and 2CY together
Rock Pipit - 1
Meadow Pipit - 2
Robin - 2 including the usual bird in the mound gorse
Song Thrush - one mound gorse - elusive returning wintering bird at this strange location?
Twite - at least 6 with 2+ unringed at lunchtime
Goldfinch - just 3 early am, 14 at lunchtime

Tuesday 27 November 2012


Heysham Obs
North harbour wall
A Twite-ringing session saw 6 new birds, 7 retraps and two ringed at Machrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre, one a new bird, the other a regular visitor during both this (so far) and last winter period

Also a decent number of Goldfinch but just 3/14 were unringed birds as you would perhaps expect at this time of year

Rock Pipit - 1
Meadow Pipit - 3
Linnet - at least one - one unringed bird was caught
Med Gull - adult

Monday 26 November 2012

minimal stuff

Heysham Obs
North harbour wall
Goldfinch - 20
Twite - 2

Reserve circuit late pm
Blackbird - 5
Song Thrush - 1

Sunday 25 November 2012

Med masterclass and more Waxwing

Heysham Obs
Red Nab high tide
Med Gull - 1CY, 2CY and 2 adults

North harbour wall
No finches at 1040hrs

Reserve circuit
Song Thrush - 2
Blackbird - 11
Redwing - 1
Waxwing - flock of 6 flew into the tank farm at 1400hrs, seemingly from the direction of the power station, then headed across the golf course just to the south of the 'cream store' 

Another single Winter Moth was a bit of a surprise, given the conditions

Saturday 24 November 2012

Twite increase

Heysham Obs
North harbour wall circuit
Robin - 2
Twite - c37, 11 unringed at least
Linnet - 2
Goldfinch - 12
Med Gull - Czech bird on the railings
Rock Pipit - one by Near Naze

South harbour/wooden jetty
Dunnock 1!

1 Winter Moth

Friday 23 November 2012

Slimming pickings

Heysham Obs
After yesterday's couch-potato weather, a power walk around the coastal circuit was the order of the day

Harbour/outfalls/Red Nab
Grey Wagtail - 1 Red Nab
Rock Pipit - one Red Nab
Med Gull - ad Red Nab

North harbour wall
Goldfinch - c20
Twite - 6
Linnet - 2

H N Reserve circuit
Blackbird - 8

Thursday 22 November 2012

Barmy Blackbird

Heysham Obs
The most interesting thing this morning was behavioural.  A cursory glance out to sea from the north wall saw a dark bird battling its way in towards the shore at right angles to the howling southerly.  It transpired to be a female Blackbird which flopped down right next to the car.  A microcosm of what happens on a very much larger scale at the likes of Spurn during October/November easterly gales and rain approaching from the south (and deceptively nice departure weather for this latest of the regular migrants over Scandinavia).  That scenario you can understand, but what was this bird doing over the sea at 0845hrs on the west coast?  It flew into the centrica compound where there is cover of sorts

North harbour wall
Blackbird - see above
Twite - 4 in short visit
Goldfinch - 12 as above

Red Nab
Med Gull - large adult and 2CY

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Species heading in different directions

Heysham Obs
Two pics taken by Janet today.  Little Owl used to breed in the Obs recording area until very recently and still occurs in the adjoining tetrad SD45J.  This pic was taken within 1km of the recording area but it is about 8 years at least since one was last seen on Middleton NR.  Jays on the other hand have colonised over the last few years which has been a bit of a nuisance as it is more difficult to discern any migratory movements.  Ideally you dont want any resident birds at a Bird Observatory! 

Thanks Janet

Smithy Lane
At least 10 Waxwing early to mid-pm but not later

North wall
c25 Twite, 'some' Goldfinch plus on Rock Pipit

Absolutely dead around the mound/south harbour/in the harbour/outfalls with the best being a Robin on the mound and a Wren by the wheel!

Lot of mossies in the moth trap but no moths

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Stoatally quiet

No moths to report, but superb view of a stoat from the office window mid-afternoon- briefly investigating rabbit burrows in the sandy bank

North harbour wall: Twite (c20), Linnet 2, Goldfinch (c6)

Thanks Steve & John

Monday 19 November 2012

Bits of coverage

Heysham Obs

North harbour wall
Twite - 14 on the first visit, including a Machrihanish-ringed bird from 2011 (metal over green/white right leg, red/white left leg).  18 on a midday food top-up which didnt include the Mach bird, but there were 8 unringed birds!
Goldfinch - 16, several unringed
Linnet - one

Red Nab
2CY Med gull

Rapid reserve circuit
Blackbird - 17
Redwing - 1
Goldcrest - 2

No moths

Sunday 18 November 2012

Possibly more later

Heysham Obs

North harbour wall
Med Gull - adult (Czech-ringed) and 2CY
Finches - mobile flock with the ratios approximately 10 Goldfinch, 20 Twite, 2 Linnet.  Not helped by a photographer loitering far too close to the feeding station - his presence a direct result of pics being published elsewhere yesterday.  The reason for his location, on the far side of the feeding station, was obviously due to the time of day and blinding sunlight when trying to look from the car.  In other words, this site is not suitable for photography during the morning on sunny days as it is not possible to get 'on the other side of the birds' without disturbing everything

Middleton NR
Snipe - 12
Pochard - male
Tufted Duck - 13

Waders roosting at high tide between Potts Corner and Ocean Edge
Redshank - 175
Grey Plover - 13
Dunlin 2
Knot 5

Mottled Umber

Saturday 17 November 2012

..........and even more Waxwings!

Heysham Obs
At 1050hrs, 24 Waxwing appeared in the sky from the east and then swung to the north-east and appeared to land in the region of Smithy Lane.

North harbour wall circuit 0900hrs
No food, no birds but 8 Twite and 2 Goldfinch were located near the met mast.  Food put out.

Ocean Edge saltmarsh
Twite 26
Linnet 5
Jack Snipe 2
Snipe 27

Fisher's Roof (Harbour)
Mediterranean Gull 2 adults (including Czech ringed bird), 2CY on North Wall

Wooden Jetty
Purple Sandpiper 1

Reserve circuit 1030-1100hrs
See above
Blackbird - c15
Redwing - 1
Chiffchaff - heard but not seen in reeds/willow NE corner (collybita-like calls)
Bullfinch - 4
Goldcrest - 2

One Winter Moth

Brambling 3 Thrushgill

Friday 16 November 2012

More Waxwings

Heysham Obs
A circuit of the reserve was going very quietly migrant-wise with, for example, Longtailed Tit flocks just that and hardly any grounded thrushes, notably the north-east corner, until the area below the now ex-obs tower was checked.  This produced 5 Waxwings and a good collection of continental Blackbirds

Reserve circuit early morning
Waxwing - 5 below the obs tower feeeding on hawthorn, then flew into the tank farm area where they could still be heard calling
Blackbird - c30, with 25 of these below the obs tower/tank farm
Song Thrush - 3
Redwing - flock of 18 SW
Fieldfare - 7 SW with above
Goldcrest - just one found

Single very worn Red-line Quaker and Mottled Umber

Thursday 15 November 2012

Of moths and a few birds, notably late vis Meadow Pipit

Heysham Obs
Counted 145 moths this morning in two traps with one still to go at home.  The office trap produced: Agonopterix heracliana, December Moth, Feathered Thorn, 2 Mottled Umber, the first Winter Moth and a perhaps surprising 2 late Red-line Quaker

Vismig by the office
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 56 mainly SW
Meadow Pipit - an amazingly late 11
Chaffinch - 12 SW
Greenfinch - 4 SW
Goldfinch - 3 SW
Blackbird - a few grounded early morning

North harbour wall
Rock Pipit - 1
Twite - 11 - 6 new ones ringed and the four already ringed contained a Machrihanish 2011 bird - this individual has been caught here on three previous occasions (twice in autumn 2011, once in February 2012).
Goldfinch - single-figures ringed

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Early morning finch flurry

Heysham Obs

Vis mig/eating breakfast/topping up feeder 0730-0800hrs
Chaffinch - 47 SW
Brambling - 2 SW
Siskin - heard heading S
Goldfinch - 15 SW
Greenfinch - 11 SW
Redwing - 2 S
Song Thrush - 1 S
Blackbird - c15 around office first thing
Woodpigeon - flock of 11 S
alba wagtail - possibly a late migrant headed SE

Later stuff by the office
Pink-footed Goose c450 south in one flock
Ringing by the office saw a surprising unringed Robin, 4 Blackbird (3 continental), one Chaffinch and low single figures of Green and a heap of retraps, including Goldfinch from the whoosh netting on the north wall

None in the office trap - perhaps surprisingly but the wind was a little too south and blowing slightly into the window.  Just the one December Moth in a portable trap in SD46A (thanks Justine)

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Same routine - a few more birds

Heysham Obs
A bit of an overcast morning saw a few grounded thrushes with double-figures of Song Thrush a bit of a surprise.  No obvious'vis' other than Redwing heading inland

Heysham NR early morning circuit
Blackbird - 25-30, including behaviour, typical of continental migrants, of forming small flocks - 8 were in one small isolated hawthorn
Song Thrush - minimum of 12, perhaps up to 20
Redwing - 9 - flew inland
Goldcrest - 5, including very mobile and noisy flock of 3 which looked like new arrivals
Chiffchaff - 'collybita calls' heard from near the dipping pond but bird not seen
Water Rail - 1+

North harbour wall
Dogs accompanying anglers were a problem, but there were at least 20 finches, including c8 Twite (thanks John)

Light-brown Apple Moth surprisingly the only candidate after a mild night

Monday 12 November 2012

Pre-work minima

Heysham Obs
Just a quick walk round the reserve pre-rain and a very quick check of the noth wall

Grounded on reserve
Blackbird - c15 - more than yesterday!
Redwing - 7 - flew inland
Goldcrest - 5 (4 more than yesterday)
Chiffchaff - one NE corner - a silent rather brown bird but not looking very siberian

North harbour wall
Med Gull - 2CY patrolling - very intermittent bird this one, also 1CY
Twite - 6 - flew off before rings could be checked for
Goldfinch - 14
Linnet - 2

Single December Moth, Feathered Thorn and two Mottled Umber is above average for November!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Same place, same time?

Heysham Obs
Two Waxwings dropped in, again at 0745hrs, before flying east, then another singleton arrived at 0930hrs and ate a few hawthorn berries.  Good late-season vis today:

Vis  mig dawn(ish) to 0930hrs unless stated
Waxwing - 2 circled down from height at 0745hrs, landed briefly, circled around then flew high inland at about 0755hrs, perhaps those two seen later in the morning on Brier Drive, Heysham village (thanks Susan).  Another 'appeared' on top of a bush at 0930hrs and remained until about 1000hrs, eating some hawthorn berries before seemingly heading towards the power station
Fieldfare - flock of 85 grounded, then 76 of then flew inland
Redwing - c15, including 3 with the above
Chaffinch - at least 55 SW
Goldfinch - 6 SW
Bullfinch - 2 SW
Meadow Pipit - 3 SE high
Twite - 2 S
Woodpigeon - flocks of 32+27+4 south
Pink-footed Goose - 85 SE at about 1030hrs

North harbour wall
No food and no finches early morning - nyger seed put down
1CY Med Gull patrolling
Afternoon saw:
Goldfinch - c15
Linnet - up to 4
Twite - at least 6 individuals, including Machrihanish-ringed bird from autumn 2011

Angle Shades and Feathered Thorn

Saturday 10 November 2012


Heysham Obs
Noisy flock of four flew south-west over the office and appeared to land at the southern end of the tank farm at 0745hrs

Vis mig until 0900hrs
Waxwing - 4 SW
Redwing - 11 SW
Meadow Pipit - 2 SE
Chaffinch - 42 SW
Goldfinch - 15 SW
Woodpigeon - flock of 32 south over golf course
Greenfinch - prob a few moving

North harbour wall
After several days of a small but steady increase in Twite, today saw a big step backwards, possibly due to the morning high tide and disturbance but a birder encountered by the heliport just as I was leaving came out with the statement that "there didnt seem to be any food and 5 Goldfinches were pecking around for a few seconds but didnt seem to be finding anything".  This immediately followed taking two people new to the area down there and similarly drawing a blank.  Something must have really hammered the food between late morning and early afternoon - rabbits?  Perseverance saw a brief visit by 15 Goldfinch and 3 Twite late afternoon (thanks Kevin)

Office area grounded
Very brief ringing session included a continental male Chaffinch with wing of 94mm

MothsNo moths in the trap but a Nettle Tap moth was in the mist net ride

Friday 9 November 2012

Pre-rain whistle-stop tour

Heysham Obs
Waxwings: Two out of a flock of 15 located by Janet this morning at SD447634 (Westgate cycle track old railiway bridge) in appalling weather conditions.  Do let us know if you see any, please.

Heysham N Reserve circuit
A bit of a thrush arrival
Blackbird - c30
Redwing - c15
Song Thrush -  2
Goldcrest - 5

North harbour wall
Just one quick check of the feeder
Linnet - 3
Twite - 9 (including Machrihanish bird)
Goldfinch - 24
Rock Pipit -1
Meadow Pipit - 5
Purple Sandpiper- one at base of seawall

Two December Moth in one night may be unprecedented - certainly scarce here.  Also late Pink-barred Sallow, Feathered Thirn and Parsnip Moth

Thursday 8 November 2012

North wall exercise and a few moths

Heysham Obs
Seen leaving Red Nab.  Thanks Janet

Didnt get chance to scope the finches today, just a quick exercise circuit:

Twite - 13 at least
Linnet - 5
Goldfinch - at least 10
Song Thrush - one mound, then flew over harbour
Med Gull - 1CY along wall, ad in harbour mouth

Single Epirrita, Feathered Thorn and Light-brown Apple Moth

Wednesday 7 November 2012

End of an era and a returning Machrihanish twite?

Heysham Obs
The Observation Tower, built to observe the construction of the power station, is no more.  Also no more of Britains most frequently asked question: "Why is the tower not open?"   "Why has the tower been knocked down?" will hopefully have a short shelf-life.  It has been the victim of risk assessments and 'unsafe design' for years, but knocking it down at an earlier stage was not straightforward.

North harbour wall
Twite - 14, including a Machrihanish-ringed bird from autumn 2011 which may have been one which wintered in 2011/12 - hopefully it will be caught and the number checked.  6 were unringed, one ringed bird was pre-2011/12 winter, but the rest seemed to be either from earlier this autumn or last winter period
Goldfinch - a cohesive flock of 25 made two visits to the feeder, displacing the Twite.  A minimum of 7 were unringed, probably more
Linnet - 4 - 2 unringed
Med Gull - 1CY 'working' the seawall
Purple Sandpiper - one on the rocks at the base of the seawall by the red gate

Heysham Nature Reserve
A lot of banging and clattering (see above),but two Goldcrests were heard calling by the office

Parsnip Moth

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Purple Sandpiper and a much better ratio

Heysham Obs
Taken today along north harbour wall.  Thanks Janet

A few wintry bits today including a returning Purple Sandpiper and a welcome reduction in the multi-coloured 'nyger seed rats' (Goldfinch) and a proportionate increase in Twite to double-figures at last.  Please note that the nyger seed feeding station is part of a ringing study of Twite.

North wall
Purple Sandpiper - 1 (thanks Janet)
Twite - 11 (6 unringed)
Linnet - 3
Goldfinch - 5
Med Gull - ad & 1CY

Red Nab
Med Gull - ad
No sign of any Little Gulls on outfalls 

Monday 5 November 2012

A coastal passerine day

Heysham Obs
The hoped for Snow Bunting was not found but a rather unexpected Chiffchaff consorted with Wrens in the bits and pieces of bramble around the harbour waterfall.  Pity the winter atlas isnt still in operation as it would have been new for SD35Z!   Part of the moning was also spent addressing the niger seed with a whoosh net and hoping the Goldfinch hordes would move on and leave the food for the Twite.  A control Goldfinch of the Y484 sequence was of interest

Thanks Janet for these,all taken by the waterfall on the south harbour

North wall
Twite - 4 flew in-off, but didnt linger, 3 new ones were ringed along with four retraps
Linnet - 2 ringed
Goldfinch - 21 new ones and a few retraps plus the abovementioned 'control'
Med Gull - 2 adults

Feathered Thorn in the trap   

Sunday 4 November 2012

Few birds but more wasps!

Heysham Obs
Amazingly, today saw the highest registration this year on the nuisance index by worker social wasps.  One appeared in the office and blundered around the computer screen, two visitors were buzzed, one visited the ringing (or ringingless (see below)) station outside the front door.  A belated nest must be breaking up.  This all provides a rather feeble attempt at creating interest on what was a pretty birdless, mothless and butterflyless day.  Normally Red Admirals brighten things up on sunny early November days, but there have been hardly any this year and no late ones

Heysham NR office area
Vis mig comprised two late Meadow Pipits heading SE together and 6 Chaffinch heading SW.  Ringing was fairly dismal with virtually nothing on the feeders and new birds amounting to about one per hour (Dunnock, Greenfinch, Goldfinch)

North harbour wall
Goldfinch - c40
Twite - 4-5
Med Gull - 2 adult

Saturday 3 November 2012

Not a great deal

Heysham Obs
First of all two alerts today where visitors were warned that this site was unsafe to visit because of the Fatbirder web link.  I googled this and found the Cornwall bird society site had faced this problem a few months ago.  Most odd.  If anyone can explain, please email me privately on  In the meantime, I've removed the link. 

Thanks go Ian for inshore stuff which was unfortunately limited to the two adult Mediterranean Gulls

A short tour of the reserve was similarly quiet with just 10-15 Blackbird and 6 Redwing of note

No moths

Friday 2 November 2012

Unstable polar air

Heysham Obs
Thundery hail-showers are not the best recipe during the rush hour and conditions remained wild and woolly for the rest of the day.   Whether or not the weather caused my computer hard drive to fail is uncertain buit probably pure coincidence.  Winter fare bird-wise

Coastal sites
Little Gull - 2 ads offshore and an ad-type on the outfalls, the latter looked too pale under-winged to be the moulting adult present on and off since the end of July
Med Gull - 2 adults roosting on Fisher's roof by the harbour
Twite - 3
Goldfinch - 15 with above  (45 on feeding area at around 15.30 keeping their distance from a large Rabbit also taking the nyger)
Linnet - 1 with Goldfinches
Ringed Plover - 24 Ocean Edge
Inner harbour/waterfall and wooden jetty checked & nothing of note

Eddie Maguire was kindly in touch yesterday informing that all his Twite had left Machrihanish, 300 of them bearing rings

Ringing totals for October reflect several things, notably the massive Coal Tit irruption where the behaviour of many of the birds did not bring them anywhere near the mist nets - in this respect, the ringing total "only" equalled the maximum day count.  The rest of it was all a bit negative other than the coverage being rather good thanks to John Mason's availability, although Middleton was too wet and messy and the wind was rarely light enough.  Perhaps the most negative specific thing was the awful passage of Reed Bunting as determined by the lack of birds in early morning mist nets at Middleton and also the paucity on vis mig. More generally, there was not one single morning comprising a nice mixture of easterly wind and poor visibility - all the easterlies involved 'useless' medium-high cloud.  Therefore Chiffchaff and Blackcap just about struggled into double figures, the Goldcrest total was an accumulated trickle, Robin numbers were low and nothing unusual was found in the nets.  Totals for October in order of magnitude:  Coal Tit (161), Greenfinch (108), Goldfinch (95), Goldcrest (57),  Lesser Redpoll (39), Blue Tit (36), Chaffinch (32), Redwing (23), Long-tailed Tit (22), Wren (20), Robin (18), Blackbird (15), Blackcap (13), Great Tit (12), Twite (12), Chiffchaff (10), Dunnock (9), Song Thrush (8), Bullfinch (6), Grey Wagtail (5), Reed Bunting (5), Meadow Pipit (3), Linnet (2), Great-spotted Woodpecker (1), Treecreeper (1)

Thursday 1 November 2012

More northbound pink-feet and a November wasp

Heysham Obs
Social wasps have been almost mega-alert status this year and to find one (late worker) making a nuisance of itself in the office this lunchtime was most unexpected.  A loose flock of c420 Pinkfeet headed over at lunchtime and looking at postings elsewhere there was a much larger gang heading similarly over the Lesser Yellowlegs site on the Lune estuary earlier in the morning.  What is happening?

Office area
Mostly work this morning, so just about 15 minutes of vis mig before a heavy shower put the lid on it
Chaffinch - 8 SW
Lesser Redpoll - 1 SW
Hardly any thrushes in the bushes and no obvious vis mig
Post-rain, a short spell of mist-netting saw a huge "foreign" male Chaffinch, a similarly large and long-winged female Blackbird and a handful of Green and Goldfinches

North wall
45 Goldfinch, 7 Linnet, 6 Twite, 4 Meadow Pipit

At least 18 Tufted and 2 male Pochard