Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Ringing recoveries

The lockdown and short walk from home strategy has led to three Grey Wagtail reports in quick succession - all on breeding territory - along with a misreported CR Pied Wag which will be passed on

ARB6429   Ringed  Juvenile    Heysham Nature Reserve  2/9/19
Breeding male:  River Brock, Brock, Lancs    26/3/20    22km SE

ARB7379    Ringed:  Juvenile   Middleton NR   14/9/19
Breeding male:  Teviot Haughs, Roxburghshire    20-23/3/20   170km NNE

AOA0043   Ringed   Juvenile  Heysham Nature Reserve 23/9/17
Breeding female:  River Cocker, Cockermouth, Cumbria  30-31/3/20  76km NNW
This is the location of the Cockermouth nest site - thanks Carl

Monday, 30 March 2020

We were in stasis, but now......it's slowed down!

The cold north to northeasterly winds over weekend stopped everything. They eased slightly this morning, but there was still little sign of movement.
Just a trickle of Meadow Pipits and Alba Wagtails.

The real reason for today's post was to share this picture, located near the central slipway of Half Moon Bay field.

The rock artist(s) who created this, convey the message far more eloquently than I ever could (MD).

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Change of strategy

As from now, it will be this blogs strategy to only post records of passing migrants. This is so that readers will not be tempted to leave the relative safety of their homes to locate reported sightings. 
But records of movement  will allow those watching from home or out on their daily exercise to anticipate potential  passage.
This will mean that the blog will now only be updated periodically.
The important thing is that we all stay as isolated as pratical.

For what it's worth, the only sign of passage this morning were Meadow Pipits north.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Chiffchaffs everywhere, but not much else

Light southerly wind and wall to wall sunshine meant genuine warmth. Chiffchaffs were singing in every area of the recording area checked, and many seen not singing. Butterflies also abundant, particularly Brimstone (4 male), also seen Small Tortoiseshell 3, Peacock 2.

Rock pipits - the lighthouse area bird was reported as standing guard over last year's nest site. Plus 2 birds together on Red Nab.
Wheatear 1 male Red Nab.
Felt the need for some vertibrate images today after yesterday's invertibrates, so by way of a change this is one of Wheatear taking off. It's all in the footwork!

This one of Little Egret and Wigeon at Red Nab, just because it reflects how tranquil the day felt.

Middleton Nature Reserve
Stock Dove 2
Buzzard 1
Grey Wagtail 2 - one part of the colour ring scheme

This excellent picture from Janet
Also as part of this scheme:
ARB7379 plus crs Ringed: Middleton NR 1stW Male 14/9/19
Seen: Male holding territory 20 & 24/3/20 Teviot Haughs, Roxburghshire (NT684254) 170Km NNE

The warm sun brought the local newts to life, these Smooth (Common) newts were in the small pond between the dog walk and Red Nab

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Not quite straw clutching....yet

Obviously the current restrictions have an impact on obervation opportunities. Not a hardship compared to the real problems many face. Still, every effort will be made to continue this blog albeit at a much reduced level.

Ocean Edge foreshore early morning (actual caravan site avoided)
Wheatear 3
Meadow Pipit 14 north

Heysham Skeer late afternoon 
No sign of Shag this evening, presumably already eaten.
Eider 123 recognisable blobs counted, many more distant specks almost certainly mainly Eider too.
Great-Crested Grebe 5
Red-Breasted Merganser 3

This is something that I (MD) have never seen before. A Common Whelk had somehow got its scale plate (operculum) stuck between some old mussel shells and couldn't retract to safety as the tide ebbed.
Lucky for the Whelk it was me, not one of the many gulls that found it first. I released it.

This shot shows the operculum on the foot.

When I placesd it the right way up, it "scurried" off.

Three species of Butterfly seen today, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and this female Brimstone.

Not too bad "in flight" pictures

Monday, 23 March 2020

Elusive Shag

There was not a lot happening this morning. An early check of Ocean Edge located just one male Wheatear and only 10 Meadow Pipit north.
Later, towards high water, there were no Brent geese on Red Nab, and no reports yet of any earlier birds from the north side.

I (MD) walked out onto Heysham skeer at low water, hoping to see the Shag that has not been seen/reported for a while.
Great-Crested Grebe 4 almost full summer plumage
Red-Breasted Meganser 6
Eider c50 mainly males
Some of the Eider

But no sign of Shag, then as I was about to come off (17:15) a bird resting on a rock in the water on south side looked promising and turned out to be the
Shag - very distant but profile unmistakable, unfortunately before I got within reasonable camera range it few off. Seemed to be a mature bird, but no sign of tuft.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Some movement, albeit sedate.

The east wind eased throughout the day and the temerature climbed to 11 degreees.

Wheatears a minimum of 5 male and a female on Ocean Edge foreshore rocks.
Great White Egret 1 west, out from the south sea wall 08:40
Rock pipits 1 saltmarsh plus 1 acting territorial above last year's nesting area near lighthouse.

Meadow pipit 135 (aggregate)
Wigeon the Red Nab birds are not easy to count, Shaun made the effort today and bizarrely came up with the same total as MP - 135
Red-Throated Diver 5 out

Pale-Bellied Brent goose
Shaun saw 16 out from children's play area on flooding tide, two groups of 10 and 6. The 10 flew north at 08:55, but the 6 remained and were still there at 09:25.
By 09:30 there were at least 14 on Red Nab.

Middleton Nature Reserve
Cetti's warbler - Fence pond male singing both in morning and afternoon
Chiffchaff 5 singing in the afternoon
Small Tortoiseshell 2
Comma 1

Scrub near lighthouse late afternoon
By now a gentle easterly breeze and the sun quite warm.
Small Tortoiseshell 4

Saturday, 21 March 2020

SEO tops a decent bill.

There were at least six birders roaming the recording area today, all successfully isolating themselves, Some in cars, some walking and one cycling. Occasionally, paths would cross and records exchanged at a safe (3m) distance. It was on one such occasion on Ocean Edge foreshore when Pete M, Shaun and Malcolm were exchanging notes when Shaun spotted a
Short-Eared Owl. 10:00 it flew in off the sea in a NE direction and appeared to land on the east side of the saltmarsh rocks. It couldn't be relocated visibly and the area was left undisturbed.
Managed a hasty record shot (MD)

Stonechat 1 female briefly on saltmarsh
Wheatear 1 male on Ocean Edge foreshore
Rock pipit 1 on saltmarsh
Meadow pipit - much increased low passage to NE. Aggregate of all records 530
Merlin, probably a male, children's play area
Sand Martin 1 north
Pink-footed goose 2 north
Swan spp 19 very distant heading north were likely to have been Whooper
Sparrowhawk 1 very high to NE
Stock Dove 1 to NE from Middleton Nature Reserve
Chiffchaff at least one on Middleton Nature Reserve
Thanks for the picture Janet

Pale-Bellied Brent goose
13 at the children's play area on the flooding tide, notably split into two groups of 6 and
There were 14 on Red Nab just before high water, and included the two Canadian ringed birds, which explained the separate "family" group of 6 earlier.

They seemed to be getting plenty of gut weed on Red Nab. There should be even better views on tomorrow's higher tide.
One of the original 13 must have gone its own way as 12 of the birds flew off together leaving 2 which flew off 10 minutes later.
Thanks for the pictures Kevin.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Goose fest!

Another sunny day, it started off quite calm with just a gentle norh breeze, but the breeze strengthened and shifted more to east throughout the day.
Mediterranean Gull - one 2cy on mudflats in front of rising tide, out from Ocean Edge foreshore 08:30
Wheatear - at least 2 mature males between saltmarsh and Red Nab

Skylark - 1 flushed by someone walking on saltmarsh. It flew high before floating down to the foreshore, singing all the way. A song that used to be a summer feature of this area (sorely missed).
Rock Pipits 2
Meadow pipits - numbers flying north incresed to c60/hour by 09:00. At least 50 were in the field west of the road to the recycling centre.
Redwing - one middleton Nr
Buzzard 2 again circling the highest trees between the recycling centre road and Middleton Nature Reserve

Common gull - Lunchtime. c30 of all age groups feeding on seaward side of No1 outflow and some on mud both sides of the outflow (ref and picture KE)

Greylag goose 2, unusually on the main pond at Middleton Nature Reserve (first of year), accompanied by
Canada goose 3
Pale-bellied Brent
Shaun reported 29 out from the children's play area on the flooding tide
By 10:00 on the ebbing tide the water was shallow enough for them to take advantage of the gut weed which is still plentiful between the closest inshore rocks.
These are some of them, unfortunately the preferred feeding technique, and the close proximity to passing dog walkers, kept them mainly in the water, so it was not possible to check for rings.
This is the gut weed they are feeding on. It is called gut weed bcause it consists of hollow tubes(guts), which allow it to float in water, making it look quite appetising! (MD)

A quick check from Knowsley Rd at 12:40 showed there to be at least 20 remaining, near the skeer corner. Unfortunately, there is little to eat there now and they seemed to be resting.

Also on Middleton Nature Reserve 
Gadwall 6
Tufted 2
Little grebe 3
Stock Dove 1
Chiffchaff 1 singing

Thursday, 19 March 2020

A nice, and productive day

It felt like spring today, a balmy 9 degrees, calm and the warmth of the sun very pleasant. Three species of warbler heard and good signs of passage.

Sea watching records (PM)
Brent geese
09:00 - 9 Pale-bellied out from childrens play area
10:00 - 18-19 across the bay to join the above
11:00 - 6 across the bay heading for the above feeding area

Red-Throated Diver - flock of 6, quite high
Common Scoter - flock of c20 floating out
Eider a total of c400 but some very distant
Stonechat - 1 female along north harbour wall

Middleton Nature Reserve mid afternoon (MD&JR)
Chiffchaff - There were two singing either side of the lower carpark. A short walk around less than half of the reserve revealed at least 5 singing plus 1 seen only
Cetti's warbler 2 - The "no swimming" pond male was singing both times the pond was checked. The central marsh bird was singing earlier.
Goldcrest 2
Buzzard 2 blogging to east and again settling in the high trees just east of reserve
Merlin - 1 male flew one low and fast half circuit of the main pond before disappearing to north
Small Tortoiseshell 2
Weasel 1

The third warbler is a bit of a cheat, not a new arrival, but the garden Blackcap had hung on for another day and was again singing this morning.

South shore 08:45-10:00 (MD)
Wheatear 1 (probable 2cy male) at 08:50. It quickly moved on suggesting there could have been more earlier.
Not much of a picture, but it is the first of spring and nice to see.

Rock Pipit at least two between the saltmarsh and lighthouse.
This one in hot pursuit of of an unidentified invertebrate (it got it!)

Another bird also managed to capture breakfast

But wasn't for sharing

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

General update

Possibly more later (MD).

First the logistics.
Unfortunately, but totally understandably, access to Heysham Nature Reserve office is now restricted to key personnel for vital duties only. There will be no coordinated birding activity for the foreseeable future. This means no ringing or visible migration sessions. The only records will be casual observations, so please report any sightings.

Recent records:
Rock pipits - two together below high cliffs at Heysham Head - two regularly seen at, or between, Red Nab and Ocean Edge saltmarsh, two, possibly the same two regularly near south wall lighthouse.
Meadow pipits - a gentle trickle north some mornings (eg 10 per hour yesterday)
Wheatear - none seen or reported yet, but probably missed.
Brent geese - no reports since Thursday.
Stonechat (today) - a male and female feeding together on Heysham Head. Another male on Middleton Nature Reserve. Strangely, no records recently from the road to the recycling centre.
Blackcap - the male that over wintered in my garden has been feeding frantically on fat balls for the past two days. This morning it was singing, very nice to hear. Previous (or same) over wintering males have provided a bout of song just before leaving (so long, and thanks for all the fat). No sign of the bird this afternoon.
Grey Wagtail - three on Middleton Nature Reserve today, including two feeding together.
The lower bird is one of the colour ringed scheme (see right), details submitted.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Change in weather

Calm and sunny for much of today, resulted in a bit of local blogging (MD).. Hopefully more later.

Little gull 1 1st Winter on No.2 outflow (ref KE)
Rock pipit 1 being territorial below Heysham Head high cliffs
Kott c3,000 on heliport wall, but static in the calm conditions plus our main ring readers not available today.

Raven 1 circling Middleton Nature reserve, and unusually, not being hounded by the local Carrion crows.

Buzzard 2 again, unusually, not significantly mobbed by resident birds circling the east side of Middleton Nature Reserve "mewing" all the time. They eventually landed in the highest trees between the reserve and the recycling centre.

Pinkfoot 74 + 2 west 16:10.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Little gulls back

Thursday provisional, hopefully more later.

Little gull 1 1st Winter plus the adult with damaged primaries on No.2 outflow late morning.

Brent geese - there were none out from the children's play area on rising tide. 2 flew from Red Nab towards Pott's Corner as tide flushed them (looking into sun so not possible to confirm if pale or dark bellied) a little later a loose flock of  c40 "geese" flew west from direction of Pott's, very distant but could have been Brent (MD).

Rock pipit one seen on the saltmarsh and Red Nab.

Middleton Nature Reserve
Mute 4 adult plus 5 juvenile
Coot 1
Moorhen c7
Mallard 2
Gadwall 2
Tufted 3
Little grebe 1

Pink-footed Geese - flocks of 110, 180, 19 and 15 heading north.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Webs and dogs

Like many coastal sites next to suburbia,  Heysham is a dog exercising fest with a natural wide-open space covering most of Heysham Barrows and a designated more linear open space running south from Heysham Nature Reserve.  To the north of Heysham Head, the prom, inshore foreshore and some nearby fields/grassy slopes are used.  The significant number of registered companies and unmarked vans heaving with dogs add to the mix.

It needs ONE dog to shift a roost of several thousand Knot.  This used to happen on the old Heliport seawall roost.   When it ceased to become an official heliport, deregulation allowed all and sundry to climb over gates, slide through broken fences etc and it became yet another dog exercising area.  Notices to keep out were ignored by the relatively small minority who insisted on their right to use this area.

Fortunately after several years of negotiation, we were able to establish that it was the seawall itself which was the important roost, not Peel Port's land on the old Heliport which was simply 'spreading room' when wave action led to reduced space on the seawall.   Therefore, in conjunction with the hopefully permanent walker-unfriendly beach below the seawall, secure fencing backed up by notices  has completely excluded dog-walkers

So lets look at today's WeBs between Ocean Edge and Morecambe Battery

1) West End groyne and Battery groyne - perfect conditions for wind and kite surfing - this is the designated area for them - no birds
2) Sunny slopes groyne - a 'pers comm' that dogs had been running about on the newly-created sandy shore on the northern lee side of this groyne right up to when it was covered.   When I arrived, there were just 70 Oystercatchers with no sign of the large Redshank roost with the reason explained by a local
3) Horse paddocks - secure from dog access - 80 Oystercatcher
4)  Heysham old heliport seawall.  Despite wave-action reducing the roosting area:  Knot 8300, Oystercatcher 1900 (lower than midwinter - birds returning to breeding grounds now), Turnstone 125, Redshank 120, Ringed Plover 7, Lapwing 4 and Dunlin 110 
5) Red Nab - nothing - very little roosting area but disturbed by dogs

Even in the 'open house' days on the heliport, the vast majority of dog walkers were great and avoided the area at high tide to let the birds roost in peace.  This attitude has latterly been helped by the Natural Ambassadors team from Morecambe Bay Partnership.   However, it only needs ONE dog to displace e.g. a huge Knot roost - in the case of the heliport way to the south at Middleton saltmarsh 

This is why, backed up by plenty of evidence, including 'official surveys' of dog-walker behaviour, language such as "keep it under close control within sight of you" (e.g. the xxxxx National Coastal Footpath) is seen by a significant chunk of dog walkers as simply "it can be let off the lead".   Anyone accessing "discussions" on eg Brexit on Social Media  (or e.g. been involved in teaching) know that there is a proportion of society who 'wont be told what to do' despite clear, polite and patient reasoning.   It is from among this demographic of our society that the unfortunately inevitable flushing of roosting waders happens on a virtually daily basis at any site without secure barriers to access.  This can be a fence where any gates are locked palisade or a groyne made of large juxtaposed rocks or deep water with a soft bottom but anything less than that will not work.

Other sightings
Kittiwake - distant flock of c35 swirled round and seemed to land on the sea or flew very low
Guillemot - one in wp or 2cy flew in
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - 16 were at Middleton saltmarsh at High tide with obvious implications re-earlier location(s)


Saturday, 7 March 2020

More ringed Knot

Thanks to Howard for this southport- rInged Knot - one of six read today.

Other sightings today included two northbound Skylark, two migrant song Thrush together and the wintering Chiffchaff still by Heysham NR office (no news on yesterday’s singing bird)

Friday, 6 March 2020

Chiffchaff singing

It was nice to hear a Chiffchaff singing near Heysham Nature Reserve marsh this lunchtime,  but other than that, sightings were a bit patchy.

Pale- bellied Brent goose. Just the group of 6 birds seen by PW late morning, but these flew off further north. None around at low water.
Eider 77

Small Tortoiseshell on dog walk path

Rock Pipit 2 on Red Nab

Hopefully more later

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Signs of movement

Thursday provisional, hopefully more later.

Brent geese - there were at least 26 feeding in the corner of Heysham skeer at 13:00. Only checked from sea wall, but all appeared to be Pale-bellied

Middleton Nature Reserve
Little grebe now 3, one on main pond and two on "no swimming" pond
Redwing 6 feeding then flew off north - not regularly seen in spring passage.
Swan sp 3 honking birds very distant heading north, probably Whooper (MD)
Sparrowhawk 1 high north
Pinkfoot 7 NW
Cetti's warbler 1 singing from central marsh
Raven 1 in tree
Goldcrest at least 4

Stonechat 1 male along the road to the recycling centre (euphemistically signposted "Waste Technology Park" from the bypass). This is the eastern boundary of the recording area and proved to be a regular stop over for passing spring Stonechat last year.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Brent numbers increaing again

Once again the very low neap tides are restricting the feeding areas available to the Brent geese. This, combined with the easing winds, is likely to be the reason more are being tempted from the west side of the Bay. (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose
13:20. These 20 were waiting just west of, what little of the skeer that was exposed.

13:25. There was another group of 6 a little further north. This group of two adults with four juveniles is the same ratio as the regular Canadian ringed "family". But, there will be other family groups this size.

13:30. All 26 moved towards the SE corner of skeer, but there was no weed available so they fed off broken weed along the tide line.

13:55. The geese left the tide line and headed for the rocks, where there is some remaining gut weed. At this point they were joined by a further 11 flying in from the NW. So total then 37,
This picture is taken from the sea wall and shows the "stampede" from tide line to the inshore rocks.

16:45. A quick check out from children's play area found that the 11 must have moved on again, as only 26 were feeding. At this stage of the tide, in this location, they are finding plenty of gut weed. The tide heights start to rise again tomorrow.

One of the Knot out from the children's play area is one of the Dutch ringing scheme. Details awaited.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020


Pale-Bellied Brent goose - 10:30. there were 6 feeding in the SE corner of Heysham skeer. Conditions made it impossible to check if they were the Canadian ringed group.

Eider 47. Most for a while.

Hopefully more later

Monday, 2 March 2020

Cetti's sings

 Monday provisional, hopefully more later.

Middleton Nature Reserve - mid morning
Cetti's warbler 1. Fence pond male provideded the first burst of song reported so far this year.
No sign of any Gadwall or Teal. The only ducks were 4 Mallard.
Little grebe 2
Coot 3
Buzzard 1
Common snipe 9
Grey wagtail 1
Reed bunting 1 male singing quietly
Goldcrest at least 1 plus another seen later near boundary with Ocean Edge.

There were no Little gulls on outflows at lunchtime, but the two Bar-Tailed Godwit were feeding in the same area as yesterday. Kevin managed some sharper images.

Little gull - by high water there was one 1st winter, plus the adult with the damaged primaries on No.2 outflow.
Kittiwake 1 adult was also on outflow

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Chiffchaff shows itself

A probable Chiffchaff was heard giving single calls on two occasions last week (per JR) and this morning saw it giving a series of calls and showing itself by Heysham NR office

Little Gull - ad with damaged wing on outfalls this am (MD) and a 1st W was heading south along the tideline off Knowlys Road late am (PC). By high water both of yesterday's adult and a 1st W were on No.2 outflow (MD)

The midday IOM ferry managed to miss the north roundhead as it struggled round the corner and behind it were a welcome adult Med Gull and eight adult Kittiwake, five of which continued into the Bay

A Great Skua flew into the Bay as seen from Morecambe Stone Jetty at 0805 (Juvenile Pomarine Skua off Ocean Edge on 23/2)

Stonechat 1 on Ocean Edge saltmarsh

These two Bar-Tailed Godwit had been feeding in the soft mud between the wooden jetty and No.1 outflow, till overtaken by the tide. Probably not visible on the blog resolution, but if you open this image in "a new tab". You'll see the bird on the left appearing to fire a water jet from its bill. Having a mouth wash, or just having "fun" - it certainly looks fun! (MD)