Wednesday 28 February 2018

Big three in place

Velvet scoter - seen 1400
Iceland gull - on waterfall mid pm
Chough - mid pm
Rock pipit - three scattered along coast

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Heat haze from the east!

Velvet Scoter - fortunately wing-flapped late afternoon as the heat haze was bad from the north wall!
Chough - second field above the café mid am at least
Iceland Gull - south end of harbour lounging around most of the day
Stonechat - the females at Ocean Edge saltmarsh and half moon bay shore were still present
Rock Pipit - one Red Nab
Bar-tailed Godwit - 30 both yesterday and today off the north side

Pleas don't send in Black-headed Gull yellow TM1C which is hanging about the Iceland Gull area to the BTO or Polish ringing headquarters - its a Polish ringed bird and if you let me know you have seen it I'll pass on the ringing details and give the Poles a list of observations and recorders at the end of the winter when it will presumably clear off.  Thanks for the pic and latest report, Mark

Monday 26 February 2018

Coastal coverage rewards

A great selection in a Lancashire context between Ocean Edge saltmarsh and Heysham Head today for visiting birders and indeed locals, Janet, Pete and Malcolm.  South to north:

Stonechat - female OE saltmarsh (thanks Malcolm)
Shag - its back or another identical bird with identical habits.  Easy to miss when its in this location 'below' the wooden jetty remains (thanks for pic Malcolm)

Iceland Gull - 3rd W south end of harbour

 Thanks Janet
Stonechat - female along shore half moon bay
Chough - second field above half moon bay café and general area

Thanks Janet - fleeing an over-inquisitive dog, not the photographers!
Velvet Scoter - a new element to the strategy with this tricky bird.  In the very final stages of the dropping tide, the Eider often readjust their position by flying back north as they are slowly drifted south of the feeding area.  Therefore at about 1155hrs, the Velvet Scoter flew about 500m to the north in the same mode as the Eiders.  First time I have seen it fly and a whole lot easier to locate!!
Med Gull - Ad coming into summer plumage on the beach off the childrens play area as viewed from Knowlys road

Sunday 25 February 2018

Another suitable Velvet viewing day

Velvet Scoter - present off Heysham for much of the day on the neap low tide see n from Knowlys Road mid am (80x best!), from the chapel at 1300hrs (good views with 50 x), then long range views from Knowlys at 1500hrs (30 x)
Iceland Gull - 3rd W waterfall area late am
Chough - on and off in the first field during the day
Pochard - 2 drake Middleton

Skylark - 1 south
Whooper Swan - flock of 19 north over the sea
Water Rail - 1+ Middleton
Coot - still one at Middleton
Gadwall - 17
Teal - 25
Tufted Duck - 3
Diver spp - one distant but probably Red-throated Diver

Saturday 24 February 2018

Productive morning

Velvet Scoter - Ad drake seen off SJ early am then off Heysham Head from just before 1000 at least.  It was as easy to see as it could be at that range from the lower section of Knowlys road, turn down towards Heysham village and look over the rusty barbed wire fence (out of character with this nice area) through the gap and over the green ex-sewer post to the eider flock beyond.  As yesterday, it was favouring the northern end of this flock.  At the same time as being viewed by people from the old ruined chapel; perhaps they were fractionally closer.  A cheeky visiting birder asked why we hadn't nailed it more regularly during the rest of this winter - how much clear sunny weather have we had at the correct tidal stages without rough westerly wind seas!  Someone must have some fancy optics and/or a (slight) heat haze filter as the Velvet Scoter was reported as visible from the half moon bay café at lunchtime!
Iceland Gull - 3rd W.  A quick check at 10ish saw it feeding below the waterfall
Chough - In quick succession found out it was seen in fields yesterday pm and again at at least 1115 today but I don't think earlier on.  See comments made yesterday
Great-crested Grebe - 4 offshore, including pair
Med Gull - ad Knowlys road with BHG gang as usual - getting near full sp
Goldeneye - the ad drake again inshore off the north side of the headland

Friday 23 February 2018

Velvet Scoter on a plate...................from at least 30 x

Easy to see from the VP at Heysham Head Chapel this morning as it fed with the Eider flock at low tide and the very beginnings of tidal flow.  Hopeless in the afternoon off the Stone Jetty today - a long way out with the sun 'too far round' to pick it up before it floated past

Chough - seen pm but more elusive with the fields being drier and colder and food presumably more difficult to obtain.  This is going to get worse in the next few days if not fortnight
Iceland Gull - 3W on waterfall/harbour am, then on Red Nab for second day running late afternoon
Pink-footed Goose - 120 south
Siskin - heard Heysham Head

Thursday 22 February 2018

First hints of the beast

A bit colder this am but the Chough still in field feeding mode as opposed to grovelling around at the cliff base.

Velvet Scoter - not looked for in the Heysham feeding area but distantly (more so than yesterday by all accounts) off the Stone Jetty on the float-in at c1240
Chough - second field late am
Iceland Gull - waterfall at least 1100hrs
Redwing - 3 grounded Middleton
Pochard - two drakes still
Tufted Duck - pair
Nothing singing or calling in colder weather at Middleton

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Distant Velvet tracking and Cetti's at last

Chough - first two fields north of café, but a bit mobile
Iceland Gull - 3rd W SW corner of harbour am at least
Goldeneye - drake again seen inshore from Knowlys Road
Velvet Scoter - in the recording area with the most southerly Eider gang off the north wall before the tidal flow, then in a 'fast lane' twice as far out as yesterday, overtaking some more inshore birds off the Stone Jetty, then surprisingly ended up not floating into the middle of the Bay, but heading towards Teal Bay, albeit equally distantly and it was seen from there near high tide.  Beware a drake Common Scoter just beyond the first gang of distant Eiders off the SJ, but not seen at Heysham
Eider - 680ish
Cetti's Warbler - contact calling in one of the usual locations near the Middleton 'fence pond'
Siskin - 5 off-passage by Knowlys road - feeder?  IOY
Reed Bunting - singing male Middleton
Water Rail - 1+
Goldcrest - one golf course edge
Coal Tit - golf course edge
Skylark - 1 N

Wildfowl as yesterday, including the two drake Pochard

No sign Green Woodpecker

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Velvet record shot time and Green pecker joins the year list

The strategy had to be to go out of the area to the Stone Jetty.  Perusal of the low tide Eiders off Heysham saw nothing in the first 400 but the 200 furthest out were very tightly packed and if it was still about, it had to be in the middle of that lot.  So it proved as it appeared about 2/3 of the way along the Eider float-in, found by Eric as he watched the flock approach the jetty, so I was primed ready with phone-scoping 'gear'.  Thanks Eric.  Feel rather ashamed though.  If I had read the late Martin Garner's excellent paper properly, I should not have been surprised by bright pink legs on an adult male

Velvet Scoter - see above

Iceland Gull - 3rd W on platforms next to the waterfall at least 0930
Chough - around the cafe area (on factory roof next door at one stage) and first field mid-pm
Med Gull - adult Knowlys road
Green Woodpecker - mobile around the gold course and Middleton western marsh

Middleton NR
Gadwall - 19

Coot - 1
Mute Swan - 6
Moorhen - 9
Mallard - 6
Pochard - 2 drake
Tufted Duck - 3
Teal - 44

Monday 19 February 2018

Local paper time

The Chough and Iceland Gull were not quite so easy to see today, especially the latter with a midday high spring tide covering the main food source.  The Chough ended up in the sheep fields late morning

They are both in the local Morecambe Visitor on line after emailing the newsworthiness on Sunday

A flock of 5 Blackbirds on Heysham NR may have been early migrants dropped by the morning fog

Med Gull : Knowlys road bird seen

** beast from the east on most forecasts coming up

Sunday 18 February 2018

Skylark passage and Velvet Scoter appearance

Velvet Scoter - the drake was picked up floating in with Eider off the Stone Jetty at 1015 - it certainly a pain to see and seemingly not always with the main Eider gangs when they have sometimes been comprehensively counted!   In this respect, there could easily be a spring tide factor, as with Eider numbers which are higher in the feeding area on low spring tides
Skylark - c40 over Middleton mid-am, not sure whether any over Heysham NR during coverage earlier on.  Other seen heading south over Middleton sands during webs
Iceland Gull - 3rd W harbour
Chough - first and second fields
Pochard - 2 drake Middleton
Mute - 3 pair plus 4 adult flying around
Coot - 1
Moorhen - 6
Mallard - 2
Gadwall - 19
Tufted - 3 (2m)
Teal - c30

Saturday 17 February 2018

Chough shunned by the media

Given the fact that it has been seen and/or known about by more people than possibly any other bird ever seen in North Lancashire i.e. the whole of Heysham for a start, attempts to get Lancaster and Morecambe Newspapers and BBC Northwest to do a feature have failed miserably.  Weird - no doubt for wildlife issues they are presumably used to dealing with e.g. RSPB or Wildlife Trust press officers and anyone who contacts them privately is filed under 'oddball- use as last resort'

Chough - mainly in the second field north of half moon bay cafe all day.  I wonder how many pics are in existence!
Iceland Gull - 3rd winter on the incoming tide then had returned to the waterfall at 1515hrs.  Advice to birders tomorrow - go and see this first on the incoming tide before the Chough

Thanks to Mark and Margaret Breaks

Black-tailed Godwit - think its a year tick for here! - one on Red Nab incoming tide
Med Gull - Czech adult north wall/Fishers, Ad Knowlys road.  Czech bird should be off soon so please let me know of any further sightings.  Thanks

No sign of Brents off Knowlys road on incoming tide or on the south side later in the tide cycle

Friday 16 February 2018

Brents back and extra Iceland near miss

Pale-bellied Brent - returned to skeer off horse paddocks by 1400
Thanks Matt

Chough - first two fields all day
Thanks Matt

Iceland Gull - 3rd W SW corner harbour (and juv last seen heading for Heysham from Battery Groyne early pm)
Med Gull - ad fishers roof, ad off horse fields

Thursday 15 February 2018

Brent failure

Cant find them on their usual high spring tide routine!

Iceland Gull - 3rd W harbour area on and off all day
Thanks Matt for the mobile phone pic

Chough - seemingly ever-present (dangerous word or two!) in the first two fields north of half moon bay cafe 
Med Gull - ad Knowlys road
Jack Snipe - two OE saltmarsh edge
Snipe - 6 OE saltmarsh edge
Stonechat - female OE saltmarsh edge
Kittiwake - didn't actually see any as there was no seawatching carried out, but it was typical Kittiwake flock weather in the morning tide and John Webb intercepted about 120 off JBP which would have come past here

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Snipe revealing tide

Jack Snipe - one OE saltmarsh edge
Snipe - 6 OE saltmarsh edge
Chough - first two fields am and pm
Iceland Gull - 3W around SW corner harbour - it also appears as a still and as a video in RBA's weekly summary
Stonechat - female OE saltmarsh edge in corner
No sign Brents - not unusual during higher tides

IOM Ferry - clipped the corner of the north harbour wall as the strong southerly and gaps in the wooden jetty drifted the boat over, despite rounding the end of the wooden jetty as close as possible

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Still in winter mode

A contrast between two sites today - here and the Snab.  Here was an 'as you were' with everything seen seemingly in habitual winter mode, whilst the Snab produced a whole heap of things starting to move: e.g. three Ringed Plover, 4 Golden Plover, a Dunlin and a gang of 5 pristine Lesser Black-backed Gull inland, joining the winter fare.  Just a reminder that all pics are from the day in question unless stated otherwise - we don't dig things out of the library to decorate daily postings where no pics are available - this is a 'diary blog'

Chough - first two fields all day by the look of it!  Thanks Janet:

Iceland Gull - e.g. around the SW corner of the harbour at least some of the time over the tide today
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - the two awol at HT (under Heysham Head??) but back on the skeer off the horse paddocks from about 1320 on as the tide was well down
Stonechat - female OE foreshore along saltmarsh

Nothing other than Eider on the sea despite a fair few 'sweeps'

Monday 12 February 2018

High tide displacement

Iceland Gull - 3rd W only after c1250 when tide had dropped low enough for waterfall to be visible - absent earlier but couldn't see whole of Fisher's roof
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - two off the children's play area at north end of horse fields, visible from Knowlys road i.e. usual place, but again only on the dropping afternoon tide
Chough - 2nd field this am
Med Gull - adults Fishers roof (Czech?) and at Knowlys road skeer near the Brents
Stonechat - female OE saltmarsh
Eider - at least 420 but nothing with them
Great-crested Grebe - 2 offshore
Green Sandpiper - again on the shallow flood by the first roundabout on the bypass - seen from eastern fringe of recording area c1430hrs
Kittiwake - 2 +5 out (bit unexpected)
Coot - Equal first rarest bird in the area on Middleton:
Gadwall, Teal and Oystercatchers also taken by Janet on Middleton:

Thanks for these great pics Janet

Sunday 11 February 2018

Nothing lost nothing gained

Iceland Gull - 3rd W waterfall and area most of day at least
Chough - very easy to see in first field north of half moon bay cafe at least mid-pm and implicitly earlier on (per cafe)
Pale -bellied Brent Goose - Exactly the same place on the skeer as yesterday!
Stonechat -  OE bird seen today
Pochard - at least one Middleton NR

Belated Saturday

NOTE: Heysham Obs report can be obtained from Leighton Moss - ask at reception

Lunchtime and early afternoon quick visit but looked like birder(s) had just beaten me looking at the pager messages.  Dog walker message from yesterday indicated a few people with cameras wandering around the first two fields but 'not seeing anything' so Chough presumably further round

Iceland Gull - 3rd W waterfall from late am to early pm at least
Chough - reported on pager just before seen by me from Near Naze viewpoint in second field early pm
Stonechat - female along beach half moon bay
Pale bellied Brent Goose - two in usual place off childrens play area end of horse fields on skeer near gull roost
Med Gull - ad in above gull collection
Rock Pipit - Near Naze on beach
Pochard - two drakes Middleton
Coot - its back!

Friday 9 February 2018

Mysterious Chough no show/report

Plenty of birders around today but no Chough on any info services

Iceland Gull - 3rd W waterfall am at least:
Thanks Malcolm

Stonechat - female on Ocean Edge saltmarsh corner
Pochard - two drakes Middleton - it seems that their absence is related to presence or absence at Glasson marina - same?
Tufted Duck - 5
Gadwall - 10
Teal - c50
No sign Coot!
NNEW Brents or Chough or Shag

Thanks Malcolm

Thursday 8 February 2018

Ice and rain

Horrible day!

Quick check for the Iceland Gull saw it in the SW corner area of the harbour but not on the waterfall

No obvious sign of the Chough in the first two fields or the sheepfields or indeed the horse paddock but visibility prevented a quick scan of the whole southern section of coastal grassland from the Near Naze

Couldn't see the shore where the Brents hang out from Knowlys due to rain and murk

Launderette pick up, fuel and home!

No reports from anyone else

Help with coverage please this next three days as at least two of us are out of action.  Thanks.  
Please use RBA text at 07520634324 to report the 'big four' local pager qualifiers: Chough, Brents, Shag and Iceland.  Thanks.

Worth checking behind/above midday IOM ferry for Glaucous long-shot although it seems to have moved on.  Always worth checking the low tide channels if visibility/sea conditions allow 

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Offshore vigil sees one gain, one pull back, one loss

Perfect for the offshore low tide channel today except for the tide now being a neap and, to follow the previous pattern,  the Eider flock was depleted and missing what would have been pretty good views of the Velvet Scoter.

Some excellent pics received today from Craig Bell and Pete & Jack Morris plus some more land-artish type stuff - this time in the sand

Goldeneye - adult drake close inshore - very welcome record of a species which has really nose-dived in this age of clean seas off here
Shoveler - a nice second chance after missing the Middleton female - frost-displaced drake with one of the Eider flocks
Eider - 466 'only'
Great-crested Grebe - c10
Red-throated Diver - 2
Wigeon - 4 in Kent channel
Red-breasted Merganser - just two
Rock Pipit - one north harbour wall
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - two in usual place off northern end of horse fields on inshore skeer.  The stuff they are eating is called Enteromorpha intestinalis (thanks to Dave Allan and David Dunlop for help).  This is what the PBB (and Wigeon) eat in Strangford Lough when the eel-grass is depleted
Iceland Gull - 3rd W on waterfall at least all morning
Chough - elusive below the cliffs in am, but easy to see from mid-pm as the fields thawed
Snipe - 82 feeding on heliport grassland
Stonechat - female along half moon bay upper shoreline

Middleton NR
Pheasant - at least 3
Teal - at least 37
Everything else frozen out other than 3 pairs of Mute Swan

Tuesday 6 February 2018

Ice in snow

Iceland Gull - 3rd W present at the waterfall in heavyish snowfall at about 0950 at least
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - two feeding on skeer off the horse paddocks - apparently eating this stuff - more on this later:

Not sure whether this is eelgrass or something like cladophora cupestris - we'll find out!
Med Gull - adult horse paddock beach
Chough - no sign in what were snowfields with little or no feeding opportunity - hard to see on beach unless walk along

Monday 5 February 2018


Behaviour by photographers around the Chough has been pretty good with eg favourable comments from locals.   Not this morning.   A single individual followed and kept flushing the Chough all over the first two fields by half moon bay 1000-1030ish.   It just couldn’t settle down and feed and this was observed and commented on from eg the cafe.  In this respect, it takes a bit of time to locate and extract its main current prey item - earthworms.  Later photographers showed how it should be done.  Can you please remember that you are in a very public place here and your conduct will be being observed by the many locals who are aware of this bird.  There is a big difference between a single flush by a passing dog and being chased around the field!

Iceland gull - third winter by waterfall in the morning and perhaps surprisingly by all accounts over the tide in the afternoon
Pale bellied Brent Goose - now three birds feeding on skeer off the horse fields north of Heysham head (low tide), one of these flew south on its own 1100ish - presumably the extra one.  This then disappeared and the usual two were on Red Nab on the later incoming tide and again (flying from south) as the tide dropped
Chough - in the first two fields north of 1/2 moon bay café
Med Gull - Czech bird on the north wall railings; it or another harbour mouth late pm
Velvet Scoter - drake accompanying the second and last Eider gang offshore but quite distant
Great-spotted Woodpecker - drumming on Heysham Head
Eider - about the same numbers and distribution as yesterday
Red-throated Diver - one offshore
Great-crested Grebe - c5 offshore
Red-breasted Merganser - just 3 offshore
Scaup - as is absolutely typical of this species - no sign of what looked like a 'settled' flock!
Shag - juv seen around wooden jetty early pm:
Pink-footed Goose - 250 NE and 255 NW
Stonechat - female OE NE corner and the half moon bay female also seen
Greenfinch - small influx (at least 10) around office with four new birds caught and ringed

Sunday 4 February 2018

Perfect conditions, perfect 'new' vantage point

Knowlys roaders are going to have to get used to walking past telescopes scanning the low tide channels.  This is a really good spot, the only disadvantage being that any bird you see is going to go progressively further away.......assuming you are watching the incoming tide.  Today from tennish to half elevenish was rather good:

Eider - 720 - 410 in loose flocks at varying distances, then a gap of at least half a mile of birdless water, then a single gang of 310 at medium/long range
Velvet Scoter - drake with the most distant and fast moving of the Eider flocks (channel tidal flow) - a small gang of Eider and the scoter could easily have been missed but for a wing-flap
Scaup - gang of five close inshore (the other drake hidden behind)
Thanks Malcolm - taken from the edge of the skeer 

Red-throated Diver - 2
Great-crested Grebe - c5
Duck spp - seen by Malcolm at skeer level but missed by Knowlys observers (not female Eider).  Answer hopefully tomorrow after a repeat effort!
Whooper Swan - three distantly on the sea as seen from NH wall (thanks Pete)
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - two flew into Red Nab from the north suggesting they had been feeding off the horse paddock fields but inshore skeers not checked this am
Iceland Gull - 3rd W under the waterfall from at least 0800 (Malcolm) and was seemingly seen for most of the rest of the day plus a visit to Fisher's roof (thanks to Andrew & Jack for updates)
Chough - e.g. per dog walkers in the second field north of Half Moon Bay
Rock Pipit - one north harbour wall
Negative news by all accounts on Shag
NNEW Stonechats

Ring reading
Icelandic Oystercatcher and Knot ringed last autumn at Formby read at the Near Naze (details soon)

Saturday 3 February 2018

Warning to photographers please


All photography around the harbour, which is continuously monitored on camera by either the harbour or power station security cameras (I was watched for over an hour today by both harbour and power station cameras plus the mobile patrol as I was seeing what the Iceland Gull was doing!) must involve cameras being pointed away from the EDF Power Station land e.g. quite ok pointing down at the harbour waterfall for anything feeding there or pretty pics of incoming ferries!

No good for scanning the Eider run looking for the Velvet Scoter today - 'orange cloud' silhouetted everything in what was already poor light

Attempts to read ring/flag numbers on Knot were just about to be successful when a 'large fat dog' ran/waddled down on to the near naze and plonked itself there sending all the Knot to Middleton.  Ring reading can be very frustrating eg garish lycra-clad cyclists along the Sunderland point road just as you are trying to clinch the details:-)

Iceland Gull - 3rd winter on the waterfall/harbour wall/platforms trying to chase every other gull off for most of the morning.  Some pics from Janice Sutton this am - thanks Janice:

Chough - eg first field north of half moon bay 1015
Pale bellied Brent Goose - the usual spring tide routine - Red Nab then Ocean Edge saltmarsh area
None of the rest of the 'shopping list' stuff was looked for ie Stonechats, Meds and Shag

Middleton fare (thanks Malcolm)
Mute Swan - 6
Coot - 1
Moorhen - 6
Tufted Duck - 3
Pochard - 2 separate males
Gadwall - 15
Mallard - 5
Teal - 33 seen others heard
Grey Heron - 1
Goldcrest - 1