Saturday 31 May 2014

Early morning fare

Heysham Obs
Now May is behind us, the worst migration month I can remember here, a murky calm morning at High Tatham seemed to suggest a session at Middleton might just produce something, as well as getting another tedious early season CES out of the way.  So as soon as I arrived the skies cleared and a northerly breeze set in!

Middleton NR 0515-0900
Highlight was the return of V901330 - a Reed Warbler which was first encountered here as an adult male in 2010 and has bred every year since.  Three un-ringed presumed male Sedge Warblers were a bit unexpected - presumably on foraging trips from elsewhere, not late migrants

Otherwise three Greylag flew over, a couple of Jackdaw were seen and Pheasant were high profile compared to recent years with at least two calling.  No Grasshopper warbler sang this morning

A decent night, but sun blazing into the window and many were certainly lost.  Nothing bettered the "usual" Shaded Pug and Treble Bar, however.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Brief check of Ocean Edge and outfalls

Heysham Obs

Outfalls/Red Nab/Ocean Edge
Med Gull - black-headed 2CY - again could not see legs properly for rings - seen in flight or right on the low tide edge
Common Tern - one seaward end of Heysham Two outfall
Wheatear - smallish female near slipway

Marbled Minor agg new for the year and two Shaded Pug of note

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Marsh Harrier

Heysham Obs

Marsh Harrier - one with some cream on the crown headed across the bay from the SSE to NNW about 745ish this morning
Wheatear - 'enormous' female on the north wall sandworks
Swallow - 6 NE

Actinic in SD36 produced two new 10k square records: Common Swift and Cyclamen Tortrix and three yet to be identified micros....also a Tawny Shears of note

Monday 26 May 2014

Mostly insects

Heysham Obs
A few insect-dominated observations from the past few days

Wall Brown butterfly by the bottle dump on Middleton (ex Tim Butler area) - really rare around here at the moment, but this area seems the best!
Elachista argentella also seen Middleton
Reed Warbler - a newly-arrived singing male at Middleton was ringed elsewhere (Y954 sequence)
No vis mig (e.g. hirundines) observed
Sedge Warbler singing by Heysham NR office was new in, I think

Yesterday (with Anne Smith and Mike Bloomfield)
Bioblitz of Heysham SD36V part two
Common Blue butterfly - at least 12
Small White - at least 4
Wheatear - one passed through rapidly - seemingly came in-off
Swallow - at least 24 in 1.5 hours north
Cauchas rufimitrella - this seemed to be an out of habitat puzzle, but communication with Steve Palmer indicated that it does occur in this sort of area (e.g. by the sandwinning plant at Marshside) with the larval foodplants also including Scurvy Grass spp.
Celypha lacunana was new for 10km square!!!
Grapholita compositella new for 10k square
Triangle Plume (the coltsfoot one) - four of these were found and were new for the 10k square

Thursday 22 May 2014

Although there have been several Four-spotted Chaser so far this month, as might be expected (the other widespread early species, Broad-bodied Chaser, is scarce here), this appears to be a teneral Black-tailed Skimmer which is very early (Thanks Janet)

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Very late Little Gull flock

Heysham Obs
A bit of sea coverage this morning - not ideal as the tide was dropping but.........

Little Gull - flock of 11 'in' - 9 ads & 2 2CY - at 0615hrs
Black-headed Gull -  flock of 38 2CY in
Arctic Tern - flock of 16 'in'
Swallow - c20 NE

possibly more to come from the early morning watcher

Ocean Edge
Wheatear - 2

Middleton NR
Little Ringed Plover still on territory
Stock Dove - 2 seen
House Martin -2

Common Heath moth female found on Middleton along with Triangle Plume (the coltsfoot one)

Monday 19 May 2014

Another good morning missed

Heysham Obs
Bits and bobs from post-lunch coverage suggested quite a bit was missed earlier on, as did the weather synopsis and the 'fetch' on the SE wind.  Highlighted numerically by a heavy Swallow passage.

However, the "worst coverage of potentially the best mornings (in May)" since I can remember continues - a mixture of unavailability (especially of one key observer) and bad decision-making (on my part!) and too much turning up early doors in clear useless weather and getting disheartened.  The problem is that simplistically the best mornings were down as "wet", but in reality there were early morning weather windows available suitable for extra-careful mist-netting.  This unavailability is unfortunately going to be much worse for  the remainder of the month.  Therefore the pretence to be covering migration this month ends here and any future postings will not be a poor attempt to try and present "coverage", but will just be random odds and ends of interesting sightings.  Hopefully this will be a temporary blip, but it really brings home how much we e.g.  especially rely on one unavailable individual for the seawatching & associated vis

North wall on and off lunchtime-mid afternoon
Swallow - 27 N in 5 minutes, then 75 N in 30 minutes
House Martin - 2 north
Garden Warbler - one in sea buckthorn allowing i.d. as it moved between two clumps
Wheatear - 4 (3 on heliport)

Heysham NR
A trawl round produced:
Spotted Flycatcher - two together in NE corner sycamore

Ocean Edge
Med Gull - black-headed individual again along tideline towards Potts corner
Wheatear - 7 (11 YESTERDAY here plus 4 on heliport)
Whimbrel - 2 on outer Red Nab

Green-veined White female, 4 Common Blue (3 male, one female). YESTERDAY: Small White, 3 Common Blue, Light-brown apple moth
Heysham NR
Burnet Companion - at least one along the entrance road bank (thanks Janet)

Middleton NR
Interesting micro - more later!
Interesting Micro!!

Sunday 18 May 2014

Common Tern at last

Heysham Obs
The early morning migrant coverage has been awful so far this month - just the way it goes with observer availability and there really has been no incentive at all for any seawatching.

There is some really tasty weather coming up this week - perhaps more likely to produce a rare wader somewhere where they wont be chased off by Avocets, or hirundine/tern over an inland water, but also the possibility of a decent passerine. 

North wall 0645-0730
Common Tern - one on the seaward end of Heysham one for 5 minutes or so
Med Gull - black-headed 2CY as above but only for two feeding 'sweeps'
Gannet - adult out
Swallow - 17 in
House Martin - 4 in

Middleton NR
Wall Brown butterfly

Heysham NR
Elephant Hawk-moth

17th May

Heysham Obs
A near-miss with a Red Kite and a Shaded Pug in the moth trap

The Mute Swans have waddled across to the model boat pond and the cygnets have had their first taste of (albeit quality) bread - apparently apple and beetroot infused!

Other Middleton sightings included a Grey Pug and singing Skylark

Friday 16 May 2014

Cuckoo a very welcome addition to year list

Heysham Obs
Very few recent records of Cuckoo from here. One calling male lingering on Middleton NR and adjoining golf course until at least midday

Three migrant Willow warbler ringed this morning, but the only other morning migrant evidence was three Wheatear on Middleton and a 'possible' with respect to at least one of the three Blackcaps ringed

Some murk came in late morning prompting a thrash round:
Spotted Flycatcher - two on fence at southern end of tank farm near the big tree and one 'behind' the dipping pond on hnr
Reed Warbler - one HNR NE corner - new arrival or migrant?
Willow Warbler - one presumed migrant tank farm
Wheatear - 5 power station non-op land
Great Black-back Gull - nesting pair on grey store

Small Copper new for the year and 2-3 4-spotted Chaser seen Middleton

A plague of micros around the gorse on the 'tank farm' proved to be Cydia ulicetana - at least 200 seen!

No known coastal coverage today!

Common Blue at MNR

Thursday 15 May 2014

Drizzle drop

Heysham Obs
This post keeps self-deleting so I'll cut the waffle and:

Ocean Edge/outfalls
Wheatear - 21 including at least 8 small males
Med Gull - 2CY
Whimbrel - 4
Little Egret - 2

Middleton NR
Blackcap - one presumed migrant
Grasshopper Warbler - at least 3
Gadwall - 2 males and one female

A fair selection including the first Heart and Dart, Coxcomb and Pebble Prominents

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Insects to the fore

Heysham Obs
There are nine cygnets on Middleton and a pair of Gadwall with 10 young.  This is seriously the birding highlight today with zero obvious migrants in a crystal clear full-moon north-westerly - what a waste of space this month has been so far compared to what it could have been like!  

Crambus lathoniellus kicked off its year in the company of Latticed Heath alongside the HNR entrance road

The trap held a tricky highflyer spp which might well be Ruddy (confirmed track record here) - it needs a really good look.  Also new for the year in the trap were Clouded Bordered Brindle & Brimstone.

Four spotted Chaser seen yesterday at Middleton NR  
Add caption

Tuesday 13 May 2014

New moth and a swan hatch

Heysham Obs
Early morning CES at Middleton characterised by a virtual lack of grounded migrants and a trickle birds, including returning summer migrants, already bearing rings.  This is exactly what CES should be about, but a little bit more excitement in the form of a few migrants would have made the early start a bit more interesting

The most popular topic for the vast majority of Middleton residents is the progress of the Mute Swan pair which bring their young on to the model boat pond.  Good news - they hatched at 0845hrs this morning after the female had been sitting tight during the whole of the early morning. 

Justine found a new moth for the area in the form of the small but distinctive Grapholita jungiella
in the grassland on Middleton. 

Otherwise it was rather frustrating.  A "very large bird" spooked the gulls at exactly the wrong moment when I was tied up with vehicle movement to let a tanker into the sewage works.  A dog walker said it was "big with a long neck and wings like an eagle" (splayed), but it had gone east over the crown of the hill and was not visible by the time.  Number two was an almost certain Hobby sighting by Pete C as it targeted northbound Swallows over Middleton (as seen from the model boat pond area), but not in the direction I was looking at the time.

Middleton NR
Grasshopper Warbler - intermittent very early song from three sites
Whimbrel - two north
Swift - three north
Grey Heron - one high and purposefully north
Kestrel - one high and purposefully from the south-west, then heading east (quite a bit later than the abovementioned falcon)
Swallow - 54 NE
Sedge Warbler - no evidence of any females arriving, with seemingly all the males in continuous song, including regular song-flight.  One female (on wing length) was caught at the end of the CES session , presumably (the only?) newly arrived migrant of the morning
Greylag - 2
Mute Swan - see above; didn't see how many young but 5+

Sea 0600-0700
Sandwich Tern - flock of 6 out

Heysham NR
Presumed migrant Willow Warbler ringed

See above


Monday 12 May 2014


Heysham Obs
Did anyone cover the sea this early morning, please?

Two Small Square Spot were new for the year

Sunday 11 May 2014

A day to get on with some paperwork

Heysham Obs
Early morning seawatcher(s) produced a meagre selection with at least a bit of variety in conditions which were too clear and a wind which was 'too far round' to the west north west

05:15-08:30 (thanks Mark)

Arctic Skua - 1 dark in at 06:20
Gannet - 2 in, 4 out
Kittiwake - 5 in, 1 out
Red-throated Diver - 3 in, 1 out
Guillemot - 1 in
Razorbill - 2 in
Common Scoter - c30
Eider - 6 in, 2 out
Grey Plover - 2 out
Dunlin - 6 in
Swift - 1 in
Swallow 7 in

Red Nab - Whimbrel 4, Wheatear 1

Subsequently just two extra Gannet

Middleton NR
Lesser Redpoll - one flying about, but not display flight calls
Reed Warbler - at least 4 singing males
Gadwall - 3
Little Ringed Plover - pair

Common Wave and Flame Shoulder in Heysham toilet.  Muslin Moth and Poplar Hawk-moth in Middleton actinic

Saturday 10 May 2014

Fifteen minute cameo

Heysham Obs
About an hour was spent watching the sea just after high tide as per the forecasted change in wind to SW.  It appeared, however, to have hanged a bit earlier than that and some stuff may have been missed as the action was all in the first 15 minutes.  In order of appearance 0915-0930:

Sea 0912-1010 intermittently
Black Tern - singleton slowly but rather distantly 'in'
Common Scoter - flock of 9 'out'
Gannet - flock of 7 'in' at the same time as two more distant birds 'out'
Great Skua - one out at a rapid rate of knots low over the sea down the 'shipping lane'

Outfalls area/Red Nab
LOTS of large gulls but nothing of interest
Little Egret - 3 around
Whimbrel - 4 Red Nab

Brown House Moth

Friday 9 May 2014

Routine seabirds

Heysham Obs
The early morning sea-watch was quite entertaining if you like going to Bempton Cliffs, but not a lot of cutting edge fare

Sea 0700  (too late?)-0820
Gannet - 57 out plus at least 5 others heading in which had not u-turned - some very close views of all ages
Arctic Skua - two dark morph together messing about just beyond the red buoy but either went in behind the wave troughs or didn't pass during the 45 mins subsequent to sighting
Fulmar - one out
Shag - 2CY on the water then flew in and across in the direction of Grange - most unusual this time of year
Razorbill - 2 together in
Guillemot - one in
Auk spp - 4 distant together in
Kittiwake - one 2CY in
Arctic Tern - 3 out together

Evening sea watch
Manx shearwater - 35 out
Great skua - 2 out
Little gull - ad out
Whimbrel - 1
Young Coots on MNR

Thursday 8 May 2014

Effort produced minor rewards

Heysham Obs
With the sea it was a case of 'better have a look just in case' and the answer, after an early Arctic Skua, was negative until the inevitable decent record per four-five hours of dross (for the third observer-shift) materialised in our second Dark-bellied Brent Goose flock of the spring - presumably SW Furness departees.  Thanks Andrew.

The other 'decent' record involved a rather large and grey Willow Warbler.  This was caught during some guying-up of mist net rides at Middleton which had been flooded out during the winter.  Unfortunately the mobile phone pic did not come out (three hands needed!).    

Dark-bellied Brent Goose - flock of 7 NE into the Bay (thanks Andrew)
Whimbrel - 3 NE
Arctic Skua - dark morph on, then in
Swallow passage - virtually zilch - 5/hr

Wheatear - 6 Ocean Edge and area
Whinchat - female Middleton NR late am
Willow Warbler - large grey bird ringed along with two other presumed migrants
Sedge Warbler - 'impression' of migrants at Middleton with four ringed in a short time

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Evening skuas enhance the day

Heysham Obs
Managed to negotiate the outfalls seawall barrier to be moved back to Heysham 2 outfall (thanks to Mark for most of the work here), therefore viewing from the region of Heysham 2 outfall will now be possible.  There will be no access, however from Gate 38 (see sidebar) or any further along the seawall as this is a construction site as they repair Heysham One outfall (which might also send all the birds on to Heysham 2 !)

A bit of poor-quality "windy weather" seawatching this morning in conditions which were too clear, better later on

Sea 0630-1030 on and off, on and off during the day then 1745-1845
Gannet - at least 40
Manx Shearwater - 3 (IOY)
Sandwich Tern - 3
Fulmar - 1
Sanderling - 2 heading south accompanying about 35 Dunlin (IOY)
Swallow - 4 NE
Great Skua - 2 out then perhaps on 1835 hrs
Arctic Skua - dm in 1825hrs

Ocean Edge/non-op land
Wheatear - 8
Little Egret - 3 on Red Nab

Middleton NR
Little Ringed Plover - no sign of yesterdays mating pair in poor weather

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Purple patch on the sea

Heysham Obs
The period 0735 to 0805 was either the back end of a spell of a decent un-watched early morning seawatch or just hitting the right time.  It was absolutely dead from 0805 onwards as the dropping tide started to expose sandbanks   Beware: both the Kittiwake flock and the Pomarine Skuas MAY have been missed by people using telecopes on 'half horizon' whilst seawatching.  I never use a scope when on my own in spring and regularly scan the sky with the scope at ready.  Ok you may miss some low over the sea distant small stuff, but can you identify it anyway & you certainly do not miss any flying skuas/Gannets etc?

Sea 0735-0835
Pomarine Skua - three full-tailed lm adults were on view for 'ages' from about 0802hrs as they slowly circling round gaining height until lost as tiny dots with tails over Morecambe.  I'm assuming they went overland but inland conditions were not perfect with low cloud around e.g. Ingleborough
Arctic Skua - in contrast the three birds were in blogging mode.  Dark and light morph got up off the sea and flew into the bay and landed again (0740).  Five minutes later another dark morph flew low into the bay further out and again landed on the sea.  Unusual behaviour in what were good migration conditions over the bay and no obvious food source in the absence of terns
Kittiwake - flock of 35 high in the sky and spiralling around heading north up the centre of the bay but not gaining any further height
Whimbrel - 5+1 'in'
Common Scoter - 18 out
Gannet - singleton out at the same time a flock of 9 were heading in
NO terns!

Middleton NR
Pair of Little Ringed Plover displaying and mating in suitable habitat
Wall Brown - one by model boat pond - looked like male

Rustic Shoulder Knot was new for the year

Monday 5 May 2014

Low-key May continues

Heysham Obs
Struggling with any semblance of proper coverage so far this month - at least the forecasted weather this week points towards just one thing - seawatching - instead of making the wrong early morning decision during 'not quite right' easterlies, as has been the case on two occasions recently based on events nearby.

Sea intermittently mid-morning
Sandwich Tern - 3
Arctic Skua - dark morph out
Swallow - c20/hr north
Swift - one north (IOY)

Little Egret - one Red Nab - why are there so many hanging around the Lune Estuary and up to here?
Wheatear - 13 Ocean Edge and area

Least Black Arches good for here

Sunday 4 May 2014

Isolated quality!

Heysham Obs
No early morning coverage seemed justified when a half hour seawatch 1000-1030 produced nothing to trouble the notebook.  Pete Crooks then put in 1.5 patient hours and had three sightings:

Common Scoter - 33
Black Tern - one in (the only tern!!)
Pomarine Skua - light morph on the sea, then got up and flew out, climbing all the time

Then a phone call from elsewhere suggested we had missed some early morning landbirds.......................

Then later on the blog title became even more appropriate - summer plumaged AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT at nearby Cockersands - found by Stuart!   

Male Muslin moth was a nice less than annual visitor

Saturday 3 May 2014


Heysham Obs
Gave up any coverage and started work at 0630! (thanks Pete for rest of stuff)

Gannet - 2 in Cumbria
Common Scoter - 2 in Cumbria
Swift - 3 Middleton model boat pond lunchtime (IOY)
Common Sandpiper - one Middleton model boat pond
Whimbrel - 5 seen
Lesser Redpoll - flocks of 6+4 north but no nets up!
Goldfinch - 2 obvious migrants NE
Greylag - 2 flew over the HN reserve
Sparrowhawk - female - 'in-off', then high to NE - the most interesting sighting of the day!
Wheatear - 6 Ocean Edge
Willow Warbler - one ringed

Friday 2 May 2014

Very slow going

Heysham Obs
Bad news: Due to refurbishment of Heysham One outfall, the WHOLE of the seawall is likely to be closed and this includes locking Gate 38.  Imminent. 

A bit of effort on the sea today gave the usual sum of the parts looking rather better than actually being there staring at a largely empty sea

Sea 0700-1115
Arctic Tern - 9+21+47+29+33+5+1 'in'
Black Tern - flock of 5 'in' 1030ish
Swallow - 86 NE
Sand Martin - 1 NE
Cormorant - flock of 4 N
Little Gull - adult summer offshore early morning
Med Gull - 2CY blogging early morning

Wheatear - 9 Ocean Edge early on

Just one Lesser Redpoll reported by the reserve office and nothing suggesting any migration in the mist nets

Thursday 1 May 2014

Early morning Sedge Warblers

Heysham Obs
In conditions which the rainfall radar suggested was just about ok, the rather minimalistic 3 hour CES at Middleton was attempted this morning, prompted by conditions which looked pretty good for a Sedge Warbler arrival.  It was a good job it was only a three hour session and the nets could be whipped down fairly quickly before the heavens opened.   The problem was not rain, but a niggling F2/3 ESE wind which is not a good direction for here but at least the nets were spared direct sunlight.

Apart from the life-changing experience of putting a B ring on a Dunnock, there were a good number of Sedge Warblers around as the nets were being set, before the wind got up, and 12 were caught.  Wing length suggested all were males.  The only ringed bird was one of ours from last year - this species seems second only to Lesser Redpoll for producing birds ringed elsewhere - an average of about 1/10 of spring birds

Middleton 0545-0900
Meadow Pipit - one in song flight (absent for a year or two on territory)
Skylark - 2 singing males
Gadwall - two males and female flying around
Common Sandpiper - singleton heard
Sedge Warbler - 30+
Grasshopper Warbler - 3-4 singing males. all intermittent
Reed Warbler - 4-5 singing males
Willow warbler - again no evidence of any migrants
Whinchat - female passed through
Hirundines - not one seen!
Greylag - three

Ocean Edge
Wheatear - 11

No birds of interest in a 30 minute watch mid-morning - tomorrow looks better for tern passage

Dark-barred Twin-spot, Flame and Common Carpet............& Parsnip Moth