Thursday 30 May 2019

Windy warm south-westerly

First of all a decent ringing recovery after Craig was alerted about a local colour ringed Grey Wagtail.  Fortunately that means on territory at this time of year and a few mealworms borrowed from an angler produced these excellent pics:

These are nesting at Crawshawbooth, Rossendale (SD8125) and this is the first time this adult male has used this territory which might be rather surprising, given its age.  One assumes it has been nesting at least nearby during the interim

Z835266   1stCYM  Middleton NR     0800      20/9/15
Breeding male: Crawshawbooth, Rossendale, Lancs SD810255 documented 29/5/19  51.7km SE

It might seem surprising that a bird first recorded on 1CY vis mig on a seeming NW to SE heading over Morecambe Bay should originate or subsequently breed to the east or south-east of Heysham/Middleton.  However, the only already-ringed bird was a Roeburndale pullus and subsequent breeding season territories have been in Upper Hindburndale, Marbury Country Park, Cheshire and now this  

Todays action on the sea didn't seem up to much to begin with given a lighter wind and more southerly direction than hoped for but it livened up as the wind went fractionally round to the SW and increased 
0730 on and off to 1030
Manx Shearwater - c31
Gannet - c15
Razorbill/Guillemot - 11
Arctic Skua - one dark morph in c1015
Manx Shearwater - 1
Gannet - 1
Razorbill - two flocks of four out in quick succession

Guillemot - long staying 2CY in harbour

Rock Pipit - end of the road as regards the nest-site and no sign of any surviving young with adult(s) not behaving territorially

Shaded Pug the best of a small catch



2CY Guillemot still in harbour

Wednesday 29 May 2019


Sea 0730-0800
Common Scoter - 2
Sandwich Tern -1
Grey Seal - 2

Harbour -evening
Just one feeding visit of Rock pipit to nest. One adult just feeding itself. Things not looking good, but at least one young bird must still be in nest. It is a precarious fledgling flight.

Guillemot still present

Moths included Shaded Pug

Monday 27 May 2019

Typical westerly hooley

Some rather inefficient seawatching due to periods of poor visibility and distant birds obscured by wave action suggesting Knowlys Road might have been better

Sea from back of harbour 0735-1000 (latterly joined by Alastair)
Manx Shearwater - 70 out (biggest flock 12)
Common Scoter - 3 in
Razorbill/Guillemot - at the very least 18 in
Guillemot - 5 in
Fulmar - one out
Gannet - 17 out, 14 in prob mainly different
Arctic Skua - lm east then out between showers
Kittiwake - adult plus flock of 16 adult in
Sanderling - flock of 18 in
Unidentified seabirds - c50; all bar two thought to be Manx or auks

Rock Pipit seen with food but not entering nest hole (people within view?)

Sunday 26 May 2019

Nicely timed!

Something resembling the cutting edge at last after being distracted by moth traps.  Setting off for Heysham in zero visibility and driving rain was all based on the rain alarm, suggesting some breaks after about 0745 and just about enough tide left to justify a visit.  An arrival at 0750 was only just in time! 

Sea 0750-0920
Pomarine Skua - three light morph adults, one seemed to have a 'broken spoon' or may not have been a full adult, headed in quite close inshore at 0758hrs.  These skuas appeared as the first short-lived clear slot appeared
Arctic Skua - at the same time as the above, two more distant skuas needed identification and they transpired to be a dark and light morph Arctic. 
Gannet - 5 out
Manx Shearwater - two out in the gloom
Sandwich tern - one in
Shag - a near adult flew out very close as the tide was dropping.  The same routine as the long-stayer but that hasn't been seen for ages.  A puzzle, no doubt resolved by any further sightings or otherwise

Harbour area 14:00
Both Rock pipits are taking loads of food to nest near lighthouse.

This bird with the more pronounced supercilium is presumed to be the female, as this was the one that collected the nesting material (MD)
N.B. They will not fly to nest entrance if they see anyone in the vicinity of nest. Best viewed at least 30m past steps towards waterfall, then look back towards lighthouse.

Guillemot still by waterfall, no sign of Shag.

Saturday 25 May 2019


Rock Pipit - a quick visit to the harbour saw a faecal sac being removed from the nest, the food had already been delivered before I raised the scope

Recent ringing recoveries
KTA420   1st W      27/9/18  Durlston Country Park, Dorset
Caught                     17/4/19   Heysham     389km NW

Lesser Redpoll
ADA3086  1st W     20/10/18 Whixhall and Fenn's Moss, Wrexham
Caught                     19/4/19   Heysham  125km N

Reed Bunting
S387264   1st W M  8/1/17  Chelmarsh Res, Bridgenorth, Shrops (winter roost)
Caught                     25/7/17 Middleton NR   174km N
Caught                     3/5/19   Middleton NR       
Clearly breeding near to ringing area

Friday 24 May 2019

Clutching at clutches!

Middleton Nature Reserve - evening quick check (MD)
All three nesting pairs of Mute swan now have young:
Main pond  - pair plus 7 chicks. This is impressive, as at least one egg was destroyed from inital nesting attempt.
No swimming pond - pair plus 4 chicks
Tim Butler pond - pair hatched 4 chicks last week, only 3 visible today, but there could easily have been 4.
So, minimum of 20 mute in residence. This is the most here, that I am aware of.

Jackdaw - numbers growing. At least 20 around today. They take the emerging dragon/damselflies from pond margins.

Stock dove - at least one flying back anf forth between golf club area and SE.

House martin 2
Swift 1
Swallow c20

Cetti's warbler 1 singing

Thursday 23 May 2019

Wednesday - Same as, but with pics

Rock pipits still feeding young near south wall lighthouse, but portions are getting bigger.

Guillimot still feeding near waterfall in harbour.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Short seawatch

A short seawatch from the back of the harbour late morning

Common Scoter - 2
Dunlin - 15 in
Sanderling - 3 in
Sandwich Tern - two fishing

Rock pipits feeding young at harbour, single rather furtive bird at the other site

Mottled Pug in trap

Monday 20 May 2019

Reduced NW wind covwrage

Tidal state early am didn’t help

Sea for 15 mins
Sandwich Tern - 1
Common Scoter - 5
(Two Razorbills off JBP high tide)

Rock Pipits Still feeding young in nest

Nothing new Moth wise but another Pale Prominent - a darker individual than yesterday

Sunday 19 May 2019

Bits and bats

At least one possibly two Spotted Flycatcher in the Royal Hotel woodlands today.  A perhaps surprising SW wind flock of Arctic tern and an even more surprising male Teal out in the low tide channel.  Pete Crooks, Malcolm and Nick.

Arctic Skua - blogging dm off Heysham probably that going in off the SJ later
Arctic Tern - one flock of 37
Common Scoter - at least 450
Sandwich Tern - 5
Great-crested Grebe - 8 in low tide channel
Red-breasted Merg - 5 ditto
Little Egret - 8 ditto
Teal - male
Common Sandpiper - one on skeer

Spot Fly - at least one prob two Heysham Head
Rock pipits intensively feeding young, two further birds loitering along the north wall

Grey Seal 2+

Pale Prominent, Green Carpet (rare here), Heart and Dart, Common Wave, Lime-speck Pug new for year

Saturday 18 May 2019

Black Guillemot, skuas and scoters

Pleasant seawatching conditions today with a light north-easterly, calmish seas and a background of cloud resulting in the following being seen from the harbour and later from Half Moon Bay:

Black Guillemot - 1 whizzed out past the wooden jetty at about 1010h
Common Scoter - many milling about near the turbines then they all took off and headed NW as the sky cleared. Minimum of 600.
Arctic Skua - 2+ 2 (see phonescoped photos below - Thanks to Chris Vaghela) These appeared nearer to high tide.
Arctic Tern - 64 in, 1 out
Sandwich Tern - 18 in, 1 out
Swallow - 4. Worryingly low numbers this year.
Red-breasted Merganser - 1 in
Grey Seal -4 floated in

The Guillemot was still floating about.
Rock Pipit(s) busy feeding young in the nest.

Returning Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat caught on the CES (Constant Effort Site - a scheme to assess adult survival rates and abundance of adults and juveniles). Will check ages and report later, most only survive for 2 years but the oldest recorded Whitethroat (which winters in west Africa) was 7.7 years and the oldest recorded Lesser Whitethroat (which winters in east Africa) was 9 years.

Now for the stars of today’s show as they progressed along the Bay:

Friday 17 May 2019

Hanging in there pays off

A first for Lancashire today - a Rock Pipit observed carrying a faecal sac!   Next best were a couple of Pomarine Skuas sitting out the rain on the incoming tide and lifting and heading north east as it lifted.  Doesn’t get much better than that on a routine local patch day!

Sea 0620- 0820
Arctic Skua - dark morph up the close channel before the heavy rain at about 0635
Pomarine Skua - two light morph as described above about 0740
Gannet - 6 in
Common Scoter - 3 out, 7 in
Sandwich Tern - one (!) out
Swallow - 16 in
Red-breasted Merganser - two in

Rock Pipit - attending best with food and see above

A few nets left up and produced migrant-wise a couple of long winged Willow Warbler and a passage Lesser Whitethroat

Two Grey Seal

First Small Copper

Thursday 16 May 2019

Puffin and other bits on the sea, blazing sunlight and very little on land

Sea 0615-0730
Puffin - two floating in 0710ish, then flew out and away towards the turbines and south end of Walney
Razorbill/Guillemot - 1+15 distantly out
Arctic Tern - flock of 11 early on and that was it
Sandwich tern - two first thing only
Common Scoter - 4 out
Gannet - about 13, possibly as many as 16
Carrion Crow - two in-off
Knot - 15 north
Swallow - 22
Whinchat - one flew through the seawatching field of view and landed on mound = female

Rock Pipit - seen once feeding young

The first rugrat of the season in the mist nets - a Blackbird!

The localised Ruddy Highflyer was in the moth trap yesterday ie a 14/5 record.  This is an easy one where eg the three streaks running from the apex of the forewing are in a 'line' and not overlapping -melanistic ones (common) are a different ball game as regards separation from May Highflyer

Wednesday 15 May 2019

Bits and bobs over the sea

Some pics from yesterdays firsts of the season on Heysham NR: Thanks Janet

Nothing to dissipate the premature end of spring season feeling - we need some heavy showers - but at least the sea offers a visual opportunity for the dribs and drabs as opposed to trying to find the one decent bird in the bushes when there is so much vegetation here

Sea 0700-0830
Arctic Tern - flock of 10 in
Gannet - 7 in, one out
Razorbill/Guillemot - 3 out
Common Scoter - 42 in, one out
Sandwich tern - at least 11 flying backwards and forwards
Swallow - 15 in

Rock Pipits still feeding young in the nest

Red Nab/Ocean Edge
Pink-footed Goose - single on Red Nab
Mute Swan - 4 x 2CY sitting on mudflats
Little Egret - 4

Beasties on seawatch
Grey Seal - 2
Harbour Porpoise - 1

Middleton Nature Reserve - mid afternoon (MD)
Dragon flies:
Four-spotted chaser 3

Broad-bodied chaser 1

Damselflies - several of each
Common blue
Large red

Butterflies and moth:
Orange tip - lots
Peacock 6
Green-veined white 10
Small heath 3

Mother Shipton 1

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Dangerous weather

This feels like the soporific days of summer where the migrant-related incentive is seriously blunted and alarm settings get later and later when the opposite should be the case.  Mainly unidentified auks on a seawatch are not going to change that, even though there are surprisingly limited opportunities to see them here.   Nailing a Puffin on a seawatch, currently the most likely new species for the year, does not encourage a daft o'clock start.   A bit of cloud cover and showers and either a continuing easterly or a south westerly hooley is needed to restore the early morning cutting edge

Sea 0640-0745
Razorbill/Guillemot - 36 out
Guillemot - 26 out, I on
Sandwich tern - at least 24
Swallow - 8
Sand Martin - 1
Common Scoter - just one flock of 6

Rock Pipit - young still being fed in nest

Ocean Edge/Red Nab
Common Sandpiper - 1


Monday 13 May 2019

Auk day

Pleasant seawatching conditions for once with calm seas, a very light variable wind and warm sunshine.
Today it was the turn of auks to provide the main highlight of the watch.

Auk sp 74 into Bay and 106 out of the Bay
plus definite Razorbill 18 in and 8 out
plus definite Guillemot 4 out
Common Scoter 253 in and 22 out (a tiny fraction of the count off Walney yesterday - see Walney blog)
Gannet 5 fishing and probably same 5 out
Kittiwake 1 in, 5 out
Manx Shearwater 1 out
Arctic Tern 4 in
Little Tern 1 in
Sandwich Tern 4 in, 3 out and 10 blogging
Little Egret 1 out
Swan sp (presumably Mute) 9 headed towards Grange
Pink-footed Goose 3 north

Ocean Edge
Black-tailed Godwit 2
Dunlin 65
Grey Plover 1

Heysham skeer - low water (MD)
A total of 54 Godwit including Islandic Black-tailed

Mute swan 1
Sandwich tern 2

South wall roundhead - evening
Rock pipits - both birds feeding young in nest
Guillemot- still near waterfall
Common sandpipier 1 on sloping wall near wooden jetty

Sunday 12 May 2019

Early morning seawatch

Heysham North wall  (Pete Crooks) 0525 - 0830 - 83 Arctic Tern, 17 Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern c6, 19 Gannet, c120 Common Scoter, 1 Mute Swan, 1 Black-T Godwit, 1 Rock Pipit just tootling around on its own - the ‘mythical’ spare bird?!

1 Grey Seal

Saturday 11 May 2019

Sea so far hasnt included any albatrosses!

Not too bad this morning and Nick has just texted to say the Arctic Tern passage has 'flurried' with 80 in last 15 mins 0900-0915

Sea 0615-0930
Arctic Tern - 200 counting Nick's latest 80 (one gang of 40 high inland over Heysham Head just prior to the first DM Arctic S doing the same)
Black Tern - one on its own close inshore heading in
Common Scoter - 80ish mainly going out
Manx Shearwater - unusually tight flock of six in (IOY)
Kittiwake - high flock of 6 adults in
Arctic Skua - one DM high NE over Heysham Head 0625, one int/DM in 0750
Sandwich Tern - counting distant birds well over 60 blogging, gradually reducing as the morning went on
Swallow - c40 in
Sand Martin - 2 in

Rock Pipit - both parents seen with food for the harbour wall pair

Guillemot - still in harbour near waterfall, often sitting on structures (has been reported as a 'penguin'!!)

Friday 10 May 2019

Thats more like it - Morecambe Bay hosts a major passage

 Coverage was by Nick Godden (SJ), Malcolm Downham on Heysham Skeer, Pete Marsh and Jean Roberts at Heysham sites. 0600 to 1515 at one site or another. This is the combined effort with duplication almost certainly avoided unless some birds went high inland but then returned to the sea to the south  behind observers - highly unlikely.  The cloudy and sometimes wet conditions seemed to lead to many birds hugging the sea although it was noticeable from mid afternoon that more birds were climbing high.  Thanks for the pics Malcolm

Arctic Tern - c2910 in
Black Tern - 65 in, most during the heavy rain when Nick absent - biggest flocks 28, 13, 8
Arctic Skua - 19 in - as far as I am aware all were dark or darkish morphs and all ones or twos heading in
Pomarine Skua - two light morph together early pm - no observers at Heysham at the time
Little Tern - one in 0655 only seen SJ
Roseate Tern - one in 0712 only seen SJ
Sandwich Tern - c20 blogging
Common Tern - 12 scattered amongst the Arctics - easy to pick out!
Hobby - adult in low over the sea then up over Heysham
Swallow - c35 in
Whimbrel - c18 in
Kittiwake - 146 in two flocks - only seen off SJ

Trickle of landbird migrants but limited coverage

Thursday 9 May 2019

Not a lot of yesterdays birds left

Still to do another check but the early morning round suggested no a lot new had arrived and a lot had disappeared from yesterday despite unhelpful night migration weather overnight

Wheatear - 7
Whinchat - 1
Arctic Skua - lingering dark morph which then disappeared towards Walney was the only seabird seen - no terns
Red-throated Diver - 2 on
Great-crested Grebe - one flew over from Barrow direction and landed off Heysham head in the usual GCG channel - new bird [clutching at straws for interest today!]?

A single net was put up for a bit and caught three Willow Warbler, a new Lesser Whitethroat and strangely an unringed adult male Great Tit!

Stock Dove appear to be breeding on Middleton this year.  Recently they have been an erratic visitor to eg the rubble mounds on Middleton after when we first started here in the 1980s being a quite widespread breeding bird in eg rabbit burrows

Thanks Malcolm and here is Dan's Portland Bill-style Tree Pipit vis mig shot from yesterday!

Wednesday 8 May 2019

East coast style fall

Thanks Dan

Worked Heysham with Dan this am with Malcolm out on the skeer.  Contact with Ian and our own observations saw that the weather was not conducive to sea passage into the Bay.  Plan B was a landbird search and the bits and bobs of isolated bushes were a productive starting point including Grasshopper Warblers lurking on both the South Qusy and North harbour wall.  One isolated buddliea along the north wall held at least three Willow Warbler (one cold coloured bird), grasshopper Warbler  and two Wheatear.  Unfortunately there was a mixup over who was available for ringing and it was impossible to get any real handle on eg Willow Warbler numbers

Coastal grounded
Willow Warbler - 10 plus
Wheatear - minimum 40 in gangs of up to nine
Whinchat - 3 (one Male)
Whitethroat - one heliport seawall
Garden warbler - one Heysham Head
Tree pipit - one in off
Grey Wagtail - late migrant in off
Arctic Tern - Singleton spiralling high and 10 in distantly

Knot - 1300
Dunlin - sev thousand south

Grey Seal - at least 5 (3 juvs)

 A few of today’s other birds from coastal coverage from Dan and Malcolm - thanks for these

Tuesday 7 May 2019

Very unhelpful band of rain

A belt of rain completely blocked passerine migration this am but a few Arctic Tern managed to slip through

Arctic Tern - c134 in
Red throated Diver - 5 in
Common Scoter - 2 with Eider in low tide channels
Great crested Grebe - 8
Knot - 500 on skeer
Willow Warbler - greyish bird ringed

Monday 6 May 2019

Mixed Bag

A seawatch whilst waiting for the cafe to open reminded me of an incident when I was with an American tour group at a Putple Martin-less Burt of Lewis.  A WA (Wallace Arnold) driver appeared with half a dozen people who is his words were like the living dead from the neck upwards. Whilst I was rabbiting on about coastal erosion I suddenly realised my group were staring at the driver and his unfortunate punters with a mixture of pity and macabre fascination.  He simply ushered them off the bus pointed his hand in one direction, acknowledged the array of hearing aids and screamed “Sea”. Then he pointed in the other direction and bellowed “Seals” before sitting down and lighting a fag.  This 30 min seawatch  consisted of a lot of incoming sea and four Grey Seal.  Prior to that the morning had been a bit better

Cuckoo - one calling Heysham Head North side
Pomarine Skua - in the almost certain category was one sitting in the Kent channel which was then lost changing vantage points.  It was probably the 0655 from Fleetwood but has to stay as light morph spp here
Wheatear - gang of 7 on rocks below Heysham heliport
Arctic Tern - flocks of 16 and 5 fishes and then climbed and headed NE
Sandwich Tern - 4
Red throated Diver - two in
Great crested grebe - 10

Grey seal - at least four

Malcolm’s pics:
Nine of the Great cressted grebe plus two Red-brested merganser
A bit of sandwich sharing
Last Dunlin on the skeer
White wagtail on south harbour wall

Sunday 5 May 2019

Common Scoters and Grey Seals top the bill

Another mediocre May morning at peak migration time although an earlier seawatching start should have added Arctic Skua and Tern to the mix (per Rossall)

Sea 0750-0930
Common Scoter - c106 in several flocks of up to 30
Red-throated Diver - 3+3 in very high, one out - all sp
Kittiwake - at least one of c20 in a tight distant bunch floating in on the sea was this species courtesy of wing flap (sometimes Common Gulls are mixed in Kitt flocks). 
Common Sandpiper - one flew across the harbour mouth (IOY)
Knot - 200 in summer plumage flew out, c500 very distantly heading north
Wheatear - two
Whimbrel - one OE saltmarsh
Rock Pipit - male on guard near the nest
NO eg hirundine passage

Grey Seal - record count of an absolute minimum of four, probably five floating in with the tide and perhaps none of these the usual loitering one which stays by the outfalls

One male Muslin Moth in trap

Saturday 4 May 2019

Poor but little perseverance!

Coastal coverage
Gannet - one
Sandwich Tern - 6
Whimbrel - 4
Great crested Grebe - 8
Wheatear - 2
Immature gulls building up on skeers but nothing obviously good amongst them

Grey Seal - 1

Friday 3 May 2019

Cold clear and dead

.....text from Ian at Rossall and it applied here with the sea being especially dead

Red throated Diver - one on
Sandwich Tern - two on no 5 buoy
Whinchat - female near half moon bay cafe
Wheatear - 7
Swallow - 2 North
Guillemot - in harbour
Nothing in the mist nets of note

Grey Seal off outfalls

No moths

Thursday 2 May 2019

North-westerly seawatch

A bit of cloud cover with the odd smattering of rain and clear visibility suggested the only option this morning was the sea and it wasn't too bad but I do like summer plumaged Red-throated Divers!  Just noticed that we are equal with North Ron on 143 species for the year with a combined list of 177, but I think the missing quality is on North Ron's side - we would gladly swop Blue Tit for Mourning Dove!

Sea 0715-0830
Gannet - 2 in
Sandwich Tern - 27 blogging off the horse paddocks, 15 'in'
Common Scoter - distant gang of 20 in, 7 out
Red-throated Diver - 2, 2, 1, 3 and 5 high in (13 in total)
Great Skua - One out and seemingly across towards Walney 0800hrs
Swallow - 31 in
Kittiwake - distant gang of c15 in

Guillemot still in harbour

Heysham skeer evening low water
Eider c100
Great Crested grebe 5
Whimbrel 7
Bar-tailed godwit 14 (1 turning to sp)
Dunlin 3
Knot 12 (3 almost sp)

Common Pug was new for year

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Wrong kind of weak front

A Little Tern heading into the Bay with bouts of hovering was the stand-out from an otherwise fruitless early start although an 'owl', thought to be small, in poor light below the old observation tower could have done with being specified as there are no resident species there.  Intensive searching failed to relocate but the back-only views suggested a rounded earless head as it shuffled along a branch out of sight before definitely leaving that area

This pic sums up the morning - one of those where it was difficult to focus the scope with a flat calm featureless murky sea and faint Cumbrian outline.  Used the yellow buoy and here is the best of the rest after the Little Tern; Sandwich Terns and a Grey Seal floating past!
seal and sarnies

Sandwich Tern - 30-35, mainly blogging
Little Tern - one 'in' about twice as far out as the yellow buoys
Red-throated Diver - sp on - floating in
Whimbrel - 4 in and heard from OE saltmarsh creek
Wheatear - one big and one very big male OE grassland plus three others
Linnet - 21
Guillemot - still in harbour

Very little ringed - the hoped for fall not materialising - the office produced Sedge & Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat in conditions which were watched carefully but ok.....which it certainly wasn't just south and west.  Then four migrant Lesser Whitethroat were found in the net together and these were the last birds in the nets

Grey Seal - one - same as yesterday

Water Carpet might be new for here - will check - and Oak Tree Pug notable (photos below).  Less notable firsts were  Flame Shoulder and Dark Barred Twin spot Carpet;  also ran: Brown Silver Line