Monday, 30 November 2020

Hen Harrier passes (chased) through

The wind freshened and had moved first SW then West. Heavy showers with, mainly, light rain in between.

First, a few earlier records from Pete(M)
Twite - 5 small birds flew past heliport on Friday. The only calls heard were Twite, so at very least one.
Cetti's warbler at least two singing on Middleton - Sunday
Grey wagtail 3 together on Middleton - Sunday

Merlin 1 female ruined the attempt to read more Knot rings on the heliport. All the Knot flushed to the south.
Pintail 6 out
Kittiwake 1 adult behind the ferry.

South shore (MD)
Hen Harrier - 09:45. Unfortunately it was raining and my optics and camera were stashed away. I'd just reached the slipway to the saltmarsh, two Carrion Crows were chasing a brown raptor east along the northern boundary of the saltmarsh, then SE over the caravans and out of sight. I just managed to get my binoculars out and on it in time to confirm it was a ring tail. 
Linnet 5 - they have been scarce since the small raptors have been active
Rock Pipit 2
Common Snipe 25 lifted from the saltmarsh, probably by the marginal tide.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look at the "no swimming" pond
Mute 1 adult
Coot 5
Moorhen 2
Little Grebe 1
Gadwall 26
Tufted 1 male
Shoveller 2 male
Both Shoveller were constantly preening,
but this one is pretty much out of eclipse now

Sunday, 29 November 2020

A grey day

It was one of those days when it never seemed to get light. Gentle southerly wind with low cloud/mist all day.

Report from Pete(C)

A visit in this morning’s anticyclonic gloom:

Near Naze / Helipad

2 Rock Pipit 

and Richard Du Feu reading Knot colour-rings

Not just Knot. This picture by Richard.
An Icelandic ringed Oystercatcher.

Red Nab

1 Rock Pipit

290 Wigeon

Wooden Jetty

63 Cormorant and 1 Grey Heron at high tide

South Harbour Wall

3 Rock Pipit 

3 Whooper Swan (flying south offshore)

South shore high water (MD)

Not as many waders close to the saltmarsh as yesterday.

Lapwing 190

Dunlin c500

Knot 80+

Redshank c50  (including the one legged bird, feeding with others)

Grey Plover 20

Pink-Footed goose 12 low (to be under the cloud) 09:45

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Peripheral Black Redstart

It started off damp but quite bright, but by 10:30 it was quite dark, the rain started about 11:00 then light rain on and off after that. The east breeze shifted to NE during the day.

Black Redstart 1 female/immature - Pete(M) managed to scope this from the saltmarsh slipway. It flew up the pretend castle like structure to the south of Ocean Edge, flashed its tail and landed about half way up (n.b. This is a correction from the original post when I thought it was seen on the shore). This is the very edge of the south shore observatory area. Also:
Merlin 1 female
Sparrowhawk 1 1st calendar year male
Mediterranean gull 1 adult behind the ferry.

There were 11 colour ringed Knot read on the heliport. Hopefully some histories later.

South shore either side of high water (MD)
I don't know what the Redshank are feeding on at the moment, but both yesterday on the skeer and today on Red Nab, birds were taking to the water to feed.

But this is the first time I've seen one upend to feed!

At 8.6m today's high water just about covered the mud out from the saltmarsh. There were still mudflats exposed further south towards Potts Corner. These were "full" of waders. But as the tide ebbed more and more of these moved to the mud in front of the saltmarsh (suspect Pete's raptors might be a factor). I started with accurate counts, then as more and more came in it became impractical. These are the approximate numbers by 10:30 (just 30 minutes after high water)
Grey Plover 80
Dunlin 1,360
Ringed Plover 10
Bar-Tailed Godwit 200
Redshank 30
Strangely no Knot
This is the point were c100 Bar-Tailed Godwits arrived.

Earlier individual Grey Plovers roosted on the rocks.
No sign of summer plumage now.

Pink- Footed geese were active in both directions 
09:31 - 23 south
09:33 - 68 north
09:43 - 57 NE
10:35 - 74 south
11:30 - 120 south 

This Redshank has only one leg. It isn't just resting one.

I'm posting a short video of it feeding, not for entertainment, but as a demonstration of the adaptability of nature, and of this particular bird's tenacity. (If the video doesn't open first time, try again later)

It seems accustomed to feeding this way, and is obviously successful. Whatever happened to its leg, must have been a while ago, possibly it was born with only one leg. It may struggle in cold weather though, they normally keep their feet warm by alternating which they stand on and warming the other under their feathers. But I'm sure it will have developed its own way.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Lots of water line activity

A  very gentle easterly breeze. Overcast all day, but no rain.

These intermediate tides between neap and spring can be interesting. They are not high enough to flush the birds from the upper beach, particularly in areas of reduced human activity. And they don't go out far enough to expose all the low water feeding grounds, so the birds are more concentrated.

South shore - high water 09:30 - 8.3m
Mediterranean gull 1 on Red Nab (thanks to Phil and Neil for this one)
Rock Pipit 1

The tide didn't quite cover all the mud out from the saltmarsh and I was the only person around.
This the typical concentration of birds

The following were all feeding within 30m from the above shot:
Shelduck 35
Redshank c100
Dunlin c50
Knot c80
Common Snipe 1
Reed Bunting 2 on the edge of the saltmarsh 
Reed Bunting 

Heysham skeer - low water 16:15
Checked 14:00 -15:00
No sign of the Brent geese today.
In fact, nothing unusual, but feeding was frantic. There is only a short feeding window on the skeer on these short days and lowish tides.
Great Crested Grebe 6
Red-Breasted Merganser 2
Knot c500
Redshank c300
Turnstone 10
Curlew 50+
Plus the ubiquitous Oystercatcher 
Little Egret 6
Pink-Footed goose 184 south 14:50
Eider 71
The Eider are already practicing their courtship displays/calls. I've attached two short video clips.

This first one gives you an idea of the general level of activity on the skeer. Above the general commotion you can just hear the Eider's Frankie Howard impersonations.

This one is further out, but you should still be able to hear the Eider calls - watch out for the Great Crested Grebe

Much as I enjoy sharing the skeer with so many birds, I am very aware that the feeling is not mutual. What to me sounds "frantic", is in fact a desperate race to feed up before a long winter's night. Although I move slowly and keep my distance it is inevitable that I disturb some birds. Just something to bare in mind if you go out there for a walk (MD).

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Day trippers

Very light variable breeze during the morning, almost breathless in the afternoon.

South Shore
No sign or reports of Black Redstart
Rock Pipit 1
Lapwing 208 resting on mud out from the saltmarsh, then flew towards the estuary 
Knot 4

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Roe deer 2 - ref Janet

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Report from Jean - late morning to early afternoon.

Pink-footed Goose 26 N at midday then a similar number S at 14:30. 

On the deck:

Meadow Pipit 1, 

Grey Wagtail 1, 

Reed Bunting 1, 

Cetti’s Warbler 2 singing, 

Water Rail 2 squealing. 

Had a ringing session at the new feeding station at Middleton NR. The Blue Tits love it! Out of a total of 46 birds caught, 32 were Blue Tits.

Blue Tit 32 (half from this year and half from previous years,  the oldest being 4 years old)

Great Tit 7 (1 from this year and 6 from previous years, the oldest being 6 years old)

Coal Tit 2 (both new birds)

Blackbird 1 (an adult female ringed as a youngster in 2019)

Greenfinch 1 (ringed as a youngster in 2019)

Chaffinch 3 new adults 

All the retrapped birds had been ringed at Middleton and some had been caught each year, so they are very site faithful. Using a formula known as "Single Session Mark/Recapture Method" it suggests that the total number of Blue Tits on the site is around 240. I couldn't work it out for the other species as none were caught in the same session.

Heysham skeer late afternoon (MD)

Pale-Bellied Brent goose 4 - including two Canadian ringed birds. This is what the title refers to. There are almost 300 Pale-bellied Brent over wintering at Walney, some, particularly later in the winter, fly over to feed at Heysham. The only other sighting so far this winter was 11th November. That was a 2.53m low water, today it was almost identical at 2.57m. Both sightings in the same location, the SE corner of the skeer.

This is the clearest shot of both ringed birds together.

VDRB and VTRB ringed as an adult on Axel Heiberg island, Canada 2/08/14. This is their third successive winter visit to Heysham

Something spooked them into flight, but they just did a short circle and landed back, quite close to me (it's an advantage when the sun is behind you).

I like this shot with 5 Bar-Tailed Godwit walking past

Other stuff:

Eider 60+

When it's this calm there is no hiding place on the sea.
This is a distant raft of c50 Eider

Great Crested Grebe 6

Red-Breasted Merganser 2

Little Egret 5

Knot only c200

And finally, for the more romantic amongst you

Dredger at sunset

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Much ado about (almost) nothing!

Light west wind and largely sunny.

There were a few visiting birders around today, but, so far, no reports of Black Redstarts 

Low tide channel from Knowlys 
Eider 62
Great Crested Grebe 7

South Shore (MD)
Rock Pipit - just one
Common Snipe - I looked closely at the small islands of sea grass to the south of the saltmarsh (see yesterday's post).
I eventually managed to locate 5 snipe, I'm sure there would have been more, as per yesterday. They were all resting and very difficult to see. These following pictures are more to show the effectiveness of, what is not always obvious, camouflage.

This is the only obvious shot, and also the only bird that actually moved.

It didn't move far, but now the straw lines on its back
can be seen to replicate the blades of grass around it.

This is a different bird. This angle shows the crown and eye stripes
also helping to merge with the background 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond before darkness descended (15:50!)
Cetti's warbler - male singing from the central marsh
Gadwall 16
Teal 4
Little Grebe 2

There are some quite large Mullein plants on the southern boundary. I'll be checking for Mullein caterpillars next year.

As I was leaving the moon was rising. I took this shot and posted it, just because I love the name of this moon phase, and seldom get the chance to use it.
A waxing gibbous moon

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Another brief guest appearance by BRS

The fresh wind from the south continues. Overcast all day with a few light showers.

Black Redstart 1 briefly on Red Nab mid afternoon. It flew off north towards the Power Station non operational land - Report from Shaun.

South shore - mid morning (MD)
I cut across the mud, just out from the saltmarsh. I don't normally do this, so as not to spook any resting birds. But the beach looked empty. 
This is this area of shore. The saltmarsh is on the left, the patches of sea grass to the right of the creek, have increased quickly over the last few years. As I walked across 13 Common Snipe were flushed from these islands of vegetation, these in turn flushed another 6 from the saltmarsh itself. And with them 1 Jack Snipe. It's very unusual to see them on these neap tides, I'm not sure if the large number of Common Snipe on these islands is because the vegetation is increasing, or the lack of walkers from the locked down caravan park. Probably a bit of both.
Rock Pipit - a group of 4 flew from the saltmarsh towards the rocky outcrop to the east. Another bird was on the foreshore.
Linnet just 2

Heysham Skeer- low water 13:50
There isn't much of the skeer exposed by these neap tides, and there wasn't much on the sea.
Eider 22
Red-breasted Merganser 1 male
Knot c500 - no rings seen
Turnstone and Redshank c20 each
Curlew c50
Ringed Plover 2
Oystercatcher everywhere.

When there is nothing unusual to enjoy, you have to enjoy the usual.
This Oystercatcher has a smallish mussel, it then "hides" it in the water, but as another bird approaches it quickly retrieves it. It places it in another pool of water, and when the second bird moves on resumes foraging (it seems that this blog only allows you to watch embedded videos when no one else is, if it doesn't work first time, try again later - I'll try and sort out some muzak).

They fly off with mussels to eat them in private, it must have either been looking for a larger one or just another to take with it.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Fly tops the bill - on an otherwise quiet day

Wind constantly from the south. No sun, but surprisingly, the rain held off.

Found on beach at half moon bay, Heysham today

Orygma luctuosum - first record for VC60.

Never would have guessed that this was Sepsidae

Report and picture from Nicola Garnham 

Eider 72 in the low water channel out from Knowlys Rd. 63 in one distant flock, the remainder scattered.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond at dusk.
Mute 1 adult
Coot 5
Moorhen 4
Gadwall 18
Shoveller 1 male
Teal 4
Little grebe 2

South shore
Rock Pipit 1 plus another bird on the Heliport 

Wigeon c160 waiting in the channel near No.2 outflow. 
They usually drift along this channel until it reaches the feeding area on Red Nab, but it was getting dark quickly and a breakaway faction decided to waddle across the mud to Red Nab.
This photograph fails to convey the urgency of the waddling. So I've attached a video. It all got too exciting for some of them, who flew the last 50m.

The background noise comes from the wind and the Power Station, but you can still hear the ducks whistling.

When I reached the edge of Red Nab, the early Wigeon were feeding on the gut weed. This would have been available all the time the tide was out, but it is easier to eat in shallow water as its hollow tube structure means that it floats. I guess the last minute rush depended on how hungry they were.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Back to standard fare

A fresh westerly wind and largely sunny.

Only my stuff so far (MD), there were a few birders in the area, but no reports so far. We seem to be alternating between feast and famine, with regards to the rarer birds. Let's hope that continues tomorrow.

South shore
Rock Pipits 2
Ringed Plover 22
Knot 1 ( it looked so lonely I thought it deserved a mention)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Gadwall 14
Shoveller 1 male
Little Grebe 1
Water Rail 1 squealing plus 1 contact calls
Common snipe 3
Grey Wagtail 1

Just a couple of snaps of locally very common birds. But both very striking, particularly in the sunlight.
Shelduck on south shore

Goldfinch on Middleton 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

More BRS and feeding Shag

The day started with strong SW wind and heavy rain, but the wind eased as it shifted to west and by lunchtime the sun was shining.

A good selection of birds today, but they were not easy and involved at least 4 observers.

Black Redstarts 
Lunchtime Pete (M) had one female/immature along the single track road to the, now locked, gate to the harbour waterfall. It was being harassed by a Robin and flew out of sight in the Power Station grounds.
15:00 - a visiting birder managed a brief view of female/immature on the rocks just east of Red Nab.

Mediterranean Gull 1 adult behind the lunchtime ferry, plus
Kittiwake 2-3 adult

Just 210 Knott on heliport wall - none ringed
Common snipe - at least 68 amongst rocks in front of heliport.

Shag - 1 juvenile feeding near the wooden jetty as the tide was flooding 14:45

Report and pictures from Kevin.

Great White Egret
14:20 - 1 flew in from the estuary area and landed on the mud out from the saltmarsh. I've never seen one land here before, hopefully a change of habit, rather than it just taking advantage of the caravan park being locked down (MD)

Unfortunately the sun was low and made seeing difficult 

This Black-Headed Gull had found a chicken egg, I suspect it may have been boiled.

This video clip shows it trying to swallow it

It tried several more times, I've no idea what would have happened it managed to swallow it, I doubt its stomach acid would have broken the shell down, but they do digest whole crab, leaving just the external skeleton.
Eventually a second bird flew over and this bird flew off with its prize.

Friday, 20 November 2020

Ah well - back to duck counting

The wind was back SSE first thing, then worked round to SW. showers in the morning, becoming more prolonged in the afternoon.

South Shore
A first light check to see if Black Redstarts could be relocated, didn't even manage to find a Rock Pipit. The only small birds seen were just 3 Linnet. A brief glimpse of a small brown raptor, almost certainly a Merlin, was probably a contributory factor.
This is actually one of yesterday's Linnet,
when the weather was a bit more suited to photography.

Lapwing 175 took flight briefly, and there were still some scattered around the beach.
Woodpigeon 26 east 08:30

A second check in the afternoon did manage to locate 2 Rock Pipit, but little else.
Hopefully the Black Redstarts are still around somewhere.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
This was also very quiet, the tit feeding flock not found, it is very mobile.
Mute 3 adult 3 + 1 cygnet
Coot 11 (7 on "no swimming" pond)
Moorhen 10
Gadwall 14
Teal 4
No Shoveller or Little grebe seen/heard. Also the second visit without hearing a Water Rail.

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Sunshine, Starts, Swans and surprises - what a day!

 The wind had eased and shifted towards NW. After early rain it was mainly sunny.

Heysham Skeer - from low water 08:30 (MD)
Eider 40 seen, but many more heard from the outer channel
Great Crested Grebe 8
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Knot c500
Dunlin 12
The Dunlin just seemed to stop off for a rest

Whooper Swan 7 from NW crossed overland just north of Knowlys Rd 09:25.

This front and probably third Whooper is a juvenile
 (3rd and 5th birds in the line of 7)
2 more Whooper, later on same line seen by PW

Pinkfoot 31 + 33 south, very high, didn't look like local movement.

From Pete (M) - Grey Wagtail in Dorset - Just had one of our colour ringed Grey Wagtails from this last autumn’s Ringing at Middleton NR, North Lancs seen here! Ringed on 30/8/20 and first seen in Dorset about a month ago. 

South shore.
Surprise 1:
As the tide started to flood, this Guillemot was in the shallow channel next to No.1 outflow. Later it waddled out of the water to rest on the beach

Report and pictures from Janet

Towards high water a visiting birder reported 2 female/immature Black Redstarts on Red Nab, which had then been flushed along the wall by walkers. Myself (MD) and Pete Woodruff were in the area, we split up, and after an hour, relocated them just 30m from the original sighting, on the rocks east of Red Nab. They were very mobile and kept disappearing then reappearing, sometimes two together other times a single bird. By this time we had been joined by Kevin Eaves, and between us managed some record shots.
These two by Kevin

Surprise 2:
Kevin had "both" birds together at Red Nab and looked over to me and Pete who were photographing another 100m away - there were three Black Redstarts! That's why, sometimes we were only seeing a solitary bird.
This first  picture, plus Kevin's above, show how "plain" they can look when stationary 
But this one, although rubbish quality, just shows how "startling" they are when they take flight.

Surprise 3 - at one point just before high water, there were 6 Rock Pipit on and around Red Nab.
Kevin took this shot of one.
This video allows you to hear, one calling in response to other calls. - at one point it appears to be counting all the birds flying around - the background noise is the sea behind me.

And the final surprise:
This video shows just how quickly nature reclaims, what is rightly theirs, when left alone.
This fox casually strolled along the high tide line, out from Ocean Edge, checking for carrion. Ocean Edge has been locked down for two weeks, so only minimal disturbance. It knew I was there, but paid me no heed. Much to my delight! You can tell how close it was, you can hear its footsteps through a wet patch.

I imagine that by tomorrow, it will be back to taking pleasure from a walk in the rain.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

A "snipe" treble

It wasn't a nice day! Strong SSE winds in the morning with driving rain. The wind strengthened and shifted westwards, ending up almost due west by evening. Less rain in the afternoon and the sun almost made guest appearance late afternoon.

South shore mid morning
Little presented itself through the rain.
Rock Pipit 2
Wigeon c150

Middleton Nature Reserve - mid afternoon
I managed an, almost, dry walk.
No swimming pond
Mute 1 
Coot 4
Moorhen 4
Little Grebe 2 ( still in association)
Gadwall 27
Shoveller 1 male
This panorama doesn't show any detail, but does provide a sense of wildfowl density on this pond.
Although, tomorrow there may be only a few. They are very mobile.

Other stuff on reserve:
Jack Snipe 1
Common Snipe 3
Woodcock 1 (honorary snipe - for the sake of today's title)
Grey Wagtail 1 - not ringed.

There was a large mixed tit feeding flock. No sign of any warblers, but a Treecreeper was with them.
Treecreeper - not common here

By 15:15, the sun was making a valiant effort to shine
But this single small cloud thwarted it!

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Better than expected, but not by much!

Still quite a strong SSW wind, a few light showers but mainly dry.

Today was one of those days, when you feel you could walk around all day and see nothing. Then I realised, that is nonsense! There is lots to see, perhaps not rare or unusual, but I don't go for a daily walk to find the unusual, I go because I enjoy all nature (MD)

Ben my Chree followers at midday
Kittiwake - 2 adult
Med Gull - ad seemed to appear from within harbour (Fishers roof?)

Just my stuff from the south shore so far, mid morning towards high water.
Rock Pipit 3
Linnet 22
Ringed Plover 18
Dunlin 2
These are some of the plover plus the 2 Dunlin
I was wondering why the small waders were so mobile today. Then a female type Merlin provided the answer when it whooshed past me. It was actually below me along the foreshore, so I only saw its back, and much to quick to get a picture.

Jack Snipe 1 - strangely no Common Snipe, perhaps the Merlin had already flushed them.

Wigeon c150
They were well spread, but driven close in by the wind. A good proportion of them are on this video. Unfortunately, the wind drowned out most of their calls.

Spot the Mallard

Eventually, it was time to head toward the estuary. 
One of the lead birds here, kindly left a deposit towards a future visit.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Just bits so far

Strong west to SW wind a few bright spells in the morning, but largely overcast with a few showers in the afternoon.

Some interesting detail from one of yesterday's Knot

84NRingedSkogranes, SW ICELAND 64 46N 22 36W24/05/20171st summer
791996SeenSkogranes, SW ICELAND 64 46N 22 36W17 & 20/5/18
SeenHeysham old Heliport02/02/2019
SeenHeysham old Heliport03/02/2019
SeenHeysham old Heliport11/01/2020
SeenHeysham old Heliport26/01/2020
SeenHeysham old Heliport07/02/2020
SeenHeysham old Heliport08/02/2020
SeenHeysham old Heliport09/02/2020
SeenHeysham old Heliport11/02/2020
SeenAinsdale, Merseyside13/02/2020  
SeenSnettisham, Norfolk27/07/2020  
PhotoHeysham old Heliport15/11/2020 

South shore - mid morning
Rock pipits 2 on Red Nab 1 near the waterfall 
Linnet 25
Several Common Snipe plus at least 1 Jack Snipe
Wigeon 100+
These Red-breasted Merganser were waiting for the tide on Red Nab

I hadn't realised just how large their feet are

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond
Gadwall 34
Mallard 2
Little Grebe 2
Coot 4
Plus the solitary, aggressive, male adult Mute swan

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Eleven ringed Knot read!

The wind shifted back to SW and strengthened significantly. Some very heavy showers, some of hail.

Kittiwake 1 adult offshore
Mediterranean gull - 2 adult followed the ferry into the harbour. Later 1 was on No.2 outflow, but only for the duration of a particularly heavy squall.

Med seeing out a squall on the outflow

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Gadwall 32
Mallard 2
Shoveller 1
Little Grebe 2

Richard Du Feu and Howard Stockdale managed to read 11 ringed Knot roosting in the heliport area.
Howard managed top quality images of 10 of them. The selection below shows the various ringing schemes, plus some preliminary history from Richard. Many thanks to Howard for these images:

N3GYNN - this bird is also fitted with a transmitter 

KX - last seen on the Wash in August.

CHL - Ringed 18/10/2020 at Terrington St Clement, 

SR19202 as a moulting adult.

Unfortunately the image resolution of the blog isn't sufficient to do these images justice. You really should "open" them to see the superb details.