Sunday, 31 January 2021

A bit of Knot News

Slight overnight frost. The NE wind was not as strong as yesterday but felt even colder.

This Knot was read today so has been a midwinter move from the Sefton coast
281SR771819HP
Ringed22/09/201720174u4u




Altcar
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u29/10/201720171029
Crosby
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u19/11/201720171119
Formby
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u03/08/2018201883
Seaforth
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u11/08/20182018811
Seaforth
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u24/04/20192019424
Southport
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u13/08/20192019813
Formby
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u14/10/201920191014
Southport
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u29/11/201920191129
Southport
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u15/01/20202020115
Southport
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u23/07/20202020723
Ainsdale Beach
281SR771819HP
Sighted22/09/20172017
4u01/12/20202020121
Ainsdale Beach
Mediterranean gull - 1 adult on lamppost near Oxcliffe Rd lights

Red-breasted Merganser 3 around Red Nab
Two of the Merganser - picture by Kevin

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond on the way past.
Gadwall 1 male (unusual)
Shoveler 2 (male and female)
Teal 6 (3 of each)
Coot 4

Heysham skeer - low water 07:30
The tide was already making fast when I got there at 08:15
Eider c60 drifting north
Red-breasted Merganser 3
No sign of any Brent, but they weren't expected.
This is a nice shot of a skein of Pink-Footed geese heading east across the bay
A few Eider bottom right plus Oystercatchers flying by
I've not been recording Pinkfoot morning and evening movements to and from the feeding grounds, but they are still frequent and numerous. I'm not sure if these, apparently coming from the west side, originally started from the Fylde roost or not (MD)

This is the shell of a Razor Shell, I think it is Ensis siliqua, but possibly E. ensis. If anyone knows for sure, please advise. They are not rare, but I only know of a couple of areas this side of the bay where they are common. I'll not say where, as the same soft mud that makes it suitable for them can make it dangerous for walking (plus they are very easy to entice out of the mud, with the correct equipment, which could have a significant effect on these long lived molluscs - I'm not suggesting that any of you would remove them, but they are taken, both for food and fishing bait).
This one is about 16cm long, E. Siliqua can grow to 20cm
Their name reflects their similarity to the old "cut throat" razors

Like all molluscs, they have growth rings, but I don't know enough to separate 
annual from seasonal, but they typically live for 20 years
and do not reach maturity until at least 4 years

This is looking top to bottom, obviously empty now. 
The foot extends out of the bottom of the shell while the siphon at the top filters food.
Sometimes as you walk along the low water tide line, you can see them protruding out of the mud.
But as they sense you approaching they disappear like a periscope going down,
often accompanied by a jet of water ejected from the siphon, impressively high,
well over a metre, not to be confused with the small squirts sometimes produced by cockles.




Saturday, 30 January 2021

It's getting cold again

A very cold NE wind with no sunshine made it feel colder than it was today.

First of all, I missed some of Janet's Cormorant pictures yesterday. I particularly like this one, so decided to post it today
Cormorant with a bass on the south sea wall.
Bass are really a warm water species, and only stay here over winter in the vicinity of the Power Station cooling waters. Even so they get sluggish if they move too far from the warmer water.


The only other stuff I have so far is my check of the saltmarsh in the morning (MD)
I was too early to watch the snipe being flushed by the rising tide, but there were:
Common Snipe 11
Lapwing 190
Ringed Plover 23
Grey Plover 2
Knot 3 (1+2 - this does seem to be the area for loners - I should know!)
Dunlin 36
Redshank 15

This Herring gull was paddling for earthworms on the caravan park grass. Quite a common feeding method, but you don't often get to see it at eye level.


The Norwegian ringed Oystercatcher has not been seen/reported since the ground froze on the Cricket field a week or so ago. Still no sign today





Friday, 29 January 2021

Landslip, mayhem and carnage

Very heavy overnight rain eased to light rain by daylight and stopped by lunch. Winds started from the west and ended up NNE
South shore
Common Snipe 34
Jack Snipe 1
Both the above flushed from saltmarsh by the rising tide
Grey Plover 1
Reed Bunting 1
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Wigeon 256 were counted flying/drifting from Red Nab as the tide covered it, many more had left earlier.

Today's title sounds like a firm of solicitors, but this is part of the carnage.
Cormorant - lots feeding, Janet took these nice shots of one with a bass. Best opening these images to see the detail.


The problem a Cormorant has with a fish this size, is avoiding the other cormorants and the gulls long enough to get it in the right position for swallowing. I wonder how long a meal like this will last it before it needs to go hunting again.

A typical selection of waders on Red Nad at high water.
 Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone and Curlew.
Also by Janet

This is the landslip of the title.
This brick structure used to sit under the top of this cliff. It has slipped down overnight, purely by being undermined by rain water. It was definitely overnight as the loose soil disturbed by it had not been smoothed by the rain.
This is at the southern boundary of Ocean Edge, but these structures would have belonged to the industrial operations that once occupied Middleton Nature Reserve. The bricks to the right have been down a while, and I always thought they were an old pump house.

You can see the flattened clay where this portion slid down the slope. The remaining structure appears to be a brick lined culvert with a small pipe.
All four sides of the portion that slipped sown are solid brick, with just the small pipe at the bottom of the front and top of the back. Originally it would have been subterranean with a capped access hole at the top, presumably housing a valve. It is subterranean no more!
The very important lesson to be learned from this is how dangerous cliffs can be after heavy rain.

Heysham skeer
This is where mayhem and further carnage comes into it.
Spring tides, around here, tend to peak with high water around lunchtime and midnight. This means low water is early morning and evening. The tides are rising quickly, therefore the skeer wasn't really exposed till late afternoon. The Knot, c2,000, didn't turn up till 15:45. Within two minutes a Peregrine attacked and took one. Then Five minutes later another Peregrine turned up and a Merlin also joined in, taking advantage of the ensuing mayhem. This is what panicked Knot look like:
A decent slip fielder could have caught one!
After a few minutes they all settled again, so at least the Peregrine will have been successful. Feeding time out here on these tides isn't long with the short days, I didn't have the heart to risk spooking them again, so I turned back and left them to feed.

Knot c2000
Turnstone c25
Ringed Plover 5
Eider 158 - nice and close in so easy to count accurately 
Great Crested Grebe 3
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Peregrine at least 1 probably 2
Merlin 1


Thursday, 28 January 2021

Spring tides return

Another mild night and day, with light breeze, mainly from south. Light rain pretty much all day.

Saltmarsh area
Today's high water at 8.9m was the first tide to reach the marsh for 12 day's, although it far from covers it, these first of a set of spring tides tend to produce the maximum numbers of Common Snipe:
Common Snipe 42
Jack Snipe 2 possibly 3
Not all the snipe were flushed by today's tide.
You can just make out two Common in the centre of this shot.
I expect there were more, and almost certainly more Jacks.
Reed Bunting 1 male calling 

The Grey Seal was feeding near the outflows again
Picture by Kevin


Heysham skeer
Just a quick, distant check on the ebbing tide as the corner was just becoming exposed. No sign of any Brent geese.
Goldeneye 1 male
Bar-Tailed Godwit 3

I suspected yesterday that today's rain would restrict my camera use today, so I saved a few video clips for today.
They all fall under the category of - Diving displays:
First up - singles - the nose dive......
Goldeneye out from Heysham Head, viewed from the skeer
Not bad, but a slight ripple

Grey seal in No.2 outflow on the south sea wall
Not a sign of a ripple.

Second up - synchronised diving
Eider feeding in the first channel - Heysham skeer
Mmm... a tad more practice required

Cormorants feeding by the wooden jetty on the south sea wall
Almost nailed it, but there is always one that gets the timing wrong!

The above was just a bit of fun, and took advantage of yesterday's dry, still conditions. But the point is that there is plenty to see locally, perhaps not rare, but it can be interesting, and you never know when a rarity is going to present itself.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Looking back over 2020 - the Heysham Bird Report

 Jean has provided this link to 2020 report.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1H9AffILnhAVBRys6gyYdqA7OIM85dB4v/view?usp=sharing
(If this link doesn't work, click on image on side bar)
Normally the report is only distributed by purchasing a hard copy, but obviously, that's impractical this year. A lot of effort has gone into its compilation, full credits are inside, in a very difficult year. It would be a shame for it not to be read by as many interested people as possible. A link for future reference will remain attached to the top of the sidebar.



It was a strange day weather wise, a mild night followed by a very misty day, but once or twice the sun broke through and it was very pleasant. Very light winds starting in SW but ending E, almost breathless at times.
South sea wall
Rock pipit 2 one on Red Nab and this one getting territorial near the nest site by the lighthouse 

Grey seal 1 No.2 outflow.
Nothing on the outflow structure again. "Throbshire" sent a comment yesterday suggesting the rails may be covered in anti climb paint, which remains sticky (see link in the comment at the bottom of yesterday's post). This is certainly a possibility, although the paint does look normal from the wall. However, there was a period several years ago, when they were struggling to keep anglers off the structure, perhaps it was done then. Anyone know? Either way I'll have a good look next time - Thanks.

Heysham skeer 
I really enjoyed this walk, not so much for what I saw, but the lighting was amazing and visibility alternating from nothing in one direction to good in the other. (MD)
This may give you a flavour.
That is not a cloud starting to obscure the sun, but a mist bank coming in.

Red-breasted Merganser 3
Great Crested Grebe 1
Eider 80+
Goldeneye 1 male
Male Goldeneye feeding on the south side of the skeer
More or less straight out fro Heysham Head

Dunlin c30
I like this shot of a Dunlin, it has a tiny morsel in its bill

Knot c1,500 - again harried by a juvenile Peregrine for a while. Later another Peregrine attacked, but this was much more clinical, and effective. I couldn't tell if it was an adult or if the juvenile is getting better.
Peregrine and some of the Knot flock

Pale-bellied Brent 15 - at 14:30 there were just 3 in the corner of the emerging skeer, they made their way to the central pool on the skeer. At 14:40, 4 birds flew from the south but flew straight past further north. At 15:40, 8 more arrived and started feeding in the corner. These included a bird with two white rings, almost certainly the same one read the other day. Then at 15:45, 4 (returned?) from the north and joined the others.

Finally, when I walk on the skeer, I feel as if I own it, it's mine! But I'm not the only arrogant so and so out there, this Carrion Crow obviously feels the same way and always confronts me. It will sit on the nearest promontory (this one less than 5m away) and give me a good cawing, till I move on. I suppose, because I always do move on it believes that it has seen me off, and will continue - I hope it does.




Tuesday, 26 January 2021

A dismal day - back to puzzles

Lightish SE wind all day, rain for most of the day and no sign of the sun. At least it was a bit warmer.

Heysham Head
Just a quick walk round mid morning.
Rock Pipit 2 - one on Half Moon Bay beach, one below high cliffs
Red-breasted Merganser 2 - pair feeding just out from the Head
Oystercatcher and Knot roost
There were over 1,000 Knot and a few hundred Oystercatcher roosting on the rocks, they often start their roost here, but are usually driven off by the rising tide/waves or by the high numbers of people taking exercise on the Head. Today's weather and tides meant that these were not factors.

No ringed birds were seen

Brent Geese - A check from Heysham Head an hour after high water could not find any out from the play area. A quick look in the skeer corner at low water could only locate two groups: 4, which quickly flew off north plus 9. They all looked to be pale-bellied.

Kevin took this picture of the Black-Headed gulls on Sunday. All lined up along the rail on one of the upstands inside the harbour 
As Kevin said, it does make the question of why they never rest on No.2 outflow structure all the more puzzling (see the post 31/12/20). This year, the three regular walkers along the wall, myself, Janet and Kevin are specifically checking for any birds resting on the outflow structure, so far, not a sign. There must be some conditions that a gull would benefit from resting there. If no records are forthcoming, I may resort to bread and see what happens.


Monday, 25 January 2021

Another colour ringed Brent

Overnight frost, rain in the morning, then dry for the rest of the day with long sunny spells. Cool NW later west wind.

Mediterranean gull 1 adult on Red Nab, then later one behind the lunchtime ferry.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
The two adult and two juvenile mute have moved to the small patch of open water on the "no swimming" pond. The solo juvenile was on the main pond, but no sign of the third juvenile. All the ducks were on the main pond, presumably avoiding the swan feeders.
Gadwall 24
Shoveler 2
Mallard 6
Water Rail 1 calling.

Pale-bellied Brent goose - a check in passing from Knowlys Road at 10:00 saw 12 on the water just out from the play area.
A check in the corner at 16:00 found 42, including this adult with two white rings which is a new bird for the recording area.
Details awaited - and, yes, I was stood in the sea, the shore birds tend to ignore you when you are beyond the water line, within reason.

There haven't been many juvenile birds this year, but this one, behind the ringed bird, appeared to be accompanying it.

The two regular Red/Blue Canadian birds were also present
The unusual lighting is the from the sun setting behind me.



Sunday, 24 January 2021

And still they come....

Another overnight frost with a sprinkling of snow on top. Cool north breeze and only occasional sunshine, the temperature barely got above 3C all day.

Heysham Village Bay - Pete Crooks 
Pale-bellied Brent goose 58 - a new high count here for this winter
Dark-bellied Brent goose 1


Saltmarsh area mid morning (MD)
On these neap tides, the water doesn't reach the mud out from the saltmarsh, although there is still running water out of the creek. When it's cold, as now, the mud freezes and when really cold the saltmarsh does as well. In these conditions, Jack Snipe take to feeding in the creek, allowing clear views (they've never done it since I've been carrying a camera!). Today was no exception, probably because the saltmarsh wasn't completely frozen, plus the disturbance by the amorous foxes (see below) wouldn't have helped.
Still as I was walking around the edge I did flush:
Jack Snipe 1 - feeding where surface water was seeping onto the saltmarsh 
I walked back over the mud just beyond the creek, it was rock hard with frost. But, surprisingly, Common Snipe were still in the pockets of sea grass, they could have only have been roosting, not feeding. Unfortunately I flushed:
Common Snipe 13
7 of the Common Snipe
Lapwing 210
Rock Pipit 1
Reed Bunting 1

January is the time of year that a fox's mind turns to "starting a family". This clip, shows a dog fox following a vixen across the saltmarsh (the sharp eyed amongst you should be able to spot a Common Snipe, Oystercatcher and Curlew). This is the same dog fox that I videoed the other day, and I thought then that it was carrying a limp, although it made a mighty fine effort.....

.....but the vixen was only at a canter and easily outpaced him, although she didn't really want to escape. She ended up waiting for him at the top of the hill.
At which point, I made my excuses and left.

But it isn't just the foxes on the edges of our community, they are more common than you might imagine throughout the area. I know that my Heysham garden is regularly visited by at least one fox. These two were in a garden on School Lane at 09:00 one morning earlier this week. This is the first fox sighting in this garden, I suspect it won't be the last.
Thanks to Janet Aldren for the picture 
and Janet Packham for forwarding it to me




Saturday, 23 January 2021

First Dark-bellied Brent of the winter

An overnight frost followed by a light covering of snow, a mixture of heavy snow showers and sunshine during the day. Very light early southerly breeze veered to the west and increased slightly

South wall ferry check (KE)
Treecreeper 1 on Moneyclose Lane, near the tall anemometer - not common in the recording area
A distant white winged gull was behind the ferry. The sun and its orientation not allowing clear views of the head, but most likely a Mediterranean gull 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a very quick check to see if there were any Black-Headed gulls roosting on the ice, unfortunately the ponds were only partially covered and the gulls had opted to remain on the water.
Mute 2 adult 4 juvenile 
Coot 4
Moorhen 4
Little Grebe 2
Gadwall 28 (water level back to normal)
Mallard 7
Teal 7
Shoveler 2
Water Rail 1 calling 
Woodcock 1 accidentally flushed
I think this Reed Bunting was just wishing that it was spring, rather than thinking it actually was.


Heysham Skeer
Just a check in the SE corner at low water
Pale-bellied Brent goose 51 (highest count so far this winter)
Dark-bellied Brent goose 1 (first record this winter)
This shot shows the dark-bellied bird with two pale-bellied

Most of the birds are on this clip, unfortunately I can't see the dark-bellied one. Towards the end of the clip, you can hear the birds, about to leave the water, honking. To me it always seems a warm friendly sounding honk, unlike most geese!
Eider c50
Great Crested Grebe 1
The South Lakes hills provided a splendid backdrop.

This is something that I'm sure you have all seen, Whelk eggs masses (Seawash Balls). But the ones you normally find with the high water line flotsam are usually later in the year and are empty. This one, the egg cases are intact, the mass must have been dislodged from its anchorage, below the low water line, by Thursday's storm.
Perhaps what you may not know is that several Whelks, possibly both Common and Red, have produced this mass over several days. Each case is laid individually and glued to the others, plus any anchor point available. Every case contains hundreds of tiny eggs, but most are not fertilised and provide a first meal for the few that are, before the developing Whelks leave the empty case.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Multi-directional Brent

Another mildish night, perhaps the last for a while, plenty of weak sunshine, but the west wind was surprisingly cold.

Heysham skeer. "Low water" 12:20 (MD)
I'm not keen on neap tides, they occur when the gravitational pull of the sun is at right angles to the pull of the moon, reducing the net gravity on the tides, so they don't come up the shore very far, and they don't go out very far either. Although this can be a frustration to the likes of me, it is much more serious for shore birds that rely on the tide going out far enough to expose their preferred feeding grounds.
I've never seen the Brent feeding at Walney, but it would seem that the access to their normal feeding area is at least restricted on these tides, as this is when the highest numbers come to this side to feed.

I went down onto the skeer at 10:15, this was 4.5 hours after high water, but the inner skeer was still largely covered by water.
Pale-bellied Brent goose at least 34 - the first to arrive were a flock of 4 from the west at 10:20, they landed on the sea in an area that would later become the pool along the drain that feeds the skeer corner. Then 5 minutes later another flock of 5 arrived from the south and landed in the same location. These included the two Canadian colour ringed birds 

At 10:40 a flock of 25 arrived from the north, these landed on the sea to the west, then quickly swam round to join the others in the now formed pool.
This channel they are swimming along is the line of the drain from the pool to the corner. The blue pipe is one of the marker posts that defines the track that dinghy launching tractors follow, almost the same as the drain.

This is a shot of some of the birds feeding in the pool, the early arrivals had to feed while floating.
this includes the Canadian ringed birds, lower centre and left,
 although it's not possible to read them on this shot.
I'm not suggesting that the direction the birds arrived from is the direction they started out from, it either represents different flight lines across the bay, or they have different areas to feed before this area becomes available.
A quick look at 14:30, 2 hours after low water, and there were at still least 32 on the water/mud near the corner, I don't yet know if anyone checked them later out from the play area.


Blackcap 1 male briefly in my garden at lunchtime, I don't get one every winter, but when I do they normally hang around. So hopefully I'll be seeing it again (last winter's bird didn't leave till 18th March).


The feedback I receive about this post is rarely about birds, I'm sure that most of you know much more about birds than I do. But it tends to be comments about things that I see on the shore, it has made me realise that things that I take for granted, would be "news" for anyone who rarely visits the shore, and so it was today.
This is Spume, and really no more remarkable than a pile of autumn leaves after a storm, but it gives me the opportunity to dispel some misunderstandings about it. 
Spume is a purely natural process, it does not suggest any man made contaminants, indeed it is an indicator of a healthy and thriving marine environment.
It was formed by yesterday morning's storm. As the waves break across the Bay, they break up zooplankton and algae into protein chains, which then act as a surfactant, and, just like the surfactants in soap, bubbles are formed. These normally burst quite quickly, but some can last for days. Today's more gentle west wind has blown all the remaining bubbles ashore to form this spume line, which stretched all the way from Half Moon Bay to the skeer. This is just the last 50 m of it. 






Thursday, 21 January 2021

Ferry frustration

The forecast strong WSW to W winds materialised. Some heavy showers in the morning, but plenty of sunshine in between. The wind started to ease after lunch and the showers stopped.

A short sea watch, looking out from the inner harbour while awaiting the lunchtime ferry:
Kittiwake 1 adult out
Common Scoter 2 drakes out
Mediterranean gull 1 adult flew into the harbour
Unfortunately the Ferry had to anchor up off shore, presumably to wait till the incoming tide provided a greater depth in the channel. When it finally arrived 45 minutes late there was nothing of note behind it, presumably anything that followed it in had drifted away when it was anchored up.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A quick check of the "no swimming" pond found that the Gadwall had returned. There were 26, but not feeding just resting on the, still deep, water.
Shoveler 2
Little Grebe 1
Coot 4

Children's play area out from Knowlys Road
Pale-bellied Brett goose 29 - originally there were two groups of 22 and 7 at 14:40, but they were spooked twice by dog walkers while I was watching. Both times they all flew off north a 100m or so and then flew back when the walkers had moved on. How many times they would do this I don't know.

This is them flying back to the play area, 
Two of these birds were the regular blue/red ringed visitors 

This is a few seconds later, they are already starting to spit into two groups again
It's looking very favourable for a repeat performance tomorrow, it's a very low neap tide, which so far this winter has provided the maximum Brent numbers here over the tide cycle.

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

The wind eases...for now

The wind eased and moved more to west, it's forecast to become strong overnight. Rain pretty much all day again, but not as heavy as yesterday.
I regard myself as very fortunate to live within the recording area, everything I currently do is within its bounds, both my daily exercise walk and trips to the shops etc. On today's post, I've tried to show the location of the more regular birds of interest, for those of you who can also take your exercise in the area. Although, tomorrow's strong winds could change things.

Heysham Skeer - low water 10:20
The water was much less coloured today and the diving birds were feeding again.
Eider c50
Red-breasted Merganser 1. This bird was feeding next to
Goldeneye 1 male. The feeding partnership with the Merganser seemed genuine, whether it was just because they were both feeding where the food was or if there was some sort of benefit to one or both of them feeding together, I don't know.
This picture of the Goldeneye was actually on Monday, when it wasn't raining! This is looking from the skeer towards the heliport wall. It was in the same location today and should be easily visible, with decent optics, from many shoreline vantage points. Best time an hour either side of low water, easiest seeing when it's finished feeding, but it then drifts further out.

Pale-bellied Brent goose 23 feeding in the SE corner of the skeer at low water, but they were on the mud and not easily seen from distance. But at 14:15, when I was driving along Knowlys Road, they were easily visible, out from the children's play area.
23 Pale-belied Brent on the water with Oystercatcher on the mud.
This shot was taken from my car on Knowlys Rd with a pocket camera. The strong wind might put them off tomorrow, but the current neap tides continue till Tuesday, although not all with high water at a suitable time. This shot was 2hr before high water, 1.5 hr before is probably better for the upcoming tides, so viewing potential at least till Friday. Then all future neap tides with high water in the afternoon can provide, as long as the geese aren't spooked by dogs, weekends tend not to be good! Until they return to their breeding grounds in spring.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the "no swimming" pond
The water level is still rising. The two Shoveler were the only ducks, but it was good to see two Little grebe again. I don't know if I've just not seen them recently or if they left during the last freeze over and have returned, or for that matter, are two completely new birds.

The yellow flagged Norwegian ringed Oystercatcher was on the fenced off football pitch next to the cricket field. Usually easily seen from the SW corner of Heysham Village main car park. This shot shows today's location, when not on the football pitch, it tends to be on the cricket field.
I also like this shot as it allows a good comparison between the brownish back
of the flagged juvenile compared to the black back of the adult in front.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Lots of rain, but not a lot of wind

Very heavy overnight rain continued, more or less unabated all day. The wind swung round to SW then SSW, it was fresh, but not strong.

Heysham Skeer - low water 09:40
Not a lot! Although the wind wasn't strong, it was in the right direction to stir up the sediment close inshore, this coupled with the amount of fresh draining off the beach, and taking mud with it, meant the water was too murky for diving birds within my viewing range.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 15 feeding in the SE skeer corner, including two Red/Blue ringed birds, almost certainly the regular Canadian ringed pair.
I took this snap of most of them, just to show that I was there.....
I suppose digital images are the 21st century equivalent of a postcard.


Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look at the two main ponds on my way home (I couldn't get any wetter!)
After the heavy rain last week, the water level on the "no swimming" pond had raised c15cm, which meant the Gadwall couldn't reach the weed that is normally just below the surface, and only two Gadwall remained. There is an overflow drainage pipe from the pond to the central marsh, possibly partially blocked, as it took two days for the water to return to its normal maximum. The overnight rain had again raised the water level, and there were no Gadwall today, just a pair of Shoveler and a male Tufted.

I took this short video, more to show the conditions than the birds.



Monday, 18 January 2021

A reasonable selection, under the circumstances

Another relatively mild night, some heavy showers in the morning eased off by the afternoon. The winds still quite light and more to WSW.
The "circumstances" referred to in the title, isn't just the travel restrictions from lockdown, but also the intermediate tide height and equally intermediate weather.

North shore - low water 09:00
Difficult viewing through the rain but still:
Eider c50
Goldeneye 1 male
Pale-bellied Brent goose 7 feeding in the SE skeer corner

Janet took these shots of, another woefully under recorded bird, a Carrion Crow "making a racket" at Half Moon bay

Unlike the uniform black plumage normally perceived, if you open these images you can see some nice plumage details

Saltmarsh area high water 14:40 height 8.8m (MD)
At this height, the tide just reaches the saltmarsh and partially fills the gullies, so I wasn't expecting to see many if any snipe, so these were as bonus.
Common Snipe 4
Jack Snipe 2
Both the Jacks relocated on the marsh, whereas the Common headed towards Middleton Nature Reserve.
Rock Pipit 1 on the saltmarsh 
Turnstone 25
Grey Plover 2
Ringed Plover 16
Some of the Ringed Plover being moved on
by the quite rapid incoming tide, on this flat section of beach.


Knot 1
I almost tripped over this bird, it paid me absolutely no heed. It had a pinkish area on its lower chest, possibly a stain, possibly faded blood.

It's drooping wings suggested that something was amiss 

This clip shows it apparently trying to feed, but it looked to me to be an involuntary feeding action, there didn't seem to be anything worth feeding on.
But, other than that it seemed to be in good condition, one possibility is that it had recently been hit by a raptor, almost certainly a Peregrine. Hopefully, it was just stunned and would soon recover. I left it feeding on nothing, and there was no sign of it when I returned 20 minutes later.


Sunday, 17 January 2021

Urban Grey Wagtail

Reasonably mild overnight, the west wind continues, rain threatened all day but didn't materialise 

First, a belated record from yesterday:
Red-Throated Diver - 1 juvenile quite close in on the sea out from the north harbour sea wall.

Today's title refers to a sighting of one of the colour ringed Grey Wagtail just three miles from Birmingham City Centre (see scheme detail on side bar to the right)
Ringed on Middleton Nature Reserve autumn 2020 - distance 185km SSE

Heysham skeer- low water 08:30 (MD)
The c1,500 Knot were again flushed from their prime feeding grounds by a juvenile Peregrine falcon. I'm tempted to say that it is a nuisance, but of course it is more than that, life or death depends on it, either the prey or the predator. When the experienced Peregrines feed, a kill is almost always quick, and the remaining Knot quickly return to feeding. Today's bird failed to make a kill but managed to empty the skeer of Knot. Presumably both will go hungry and get weaker until either the Peregrine is too weak to prey or the/a Knot is too weak to escape. The law of numbers favours the Peregrine.
This is it flying round to land after the last of the Knot had gone.
It seems to have given up with the Oystercatcher (see post 19/12/20), one, reluctantly hops away as it lands. 

Great Crested Grebe 2
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Eider c60
Wigeon 3 - not common here despite hundreds just to the south of the harbour
Goldeneye 1 male
Spot, the Goldeneye. It was a lot further out than it looks


Finally, as I was leaving the skeer, I thought I would test my theory of the drain feeding the skeer corner being brackish. There has been a lot of rain recently, so plenty of ground water seeping  onto the shore. This picture shows the first pool that feeds the drain to the corner.
This is c150m from the sea wall. The ground water actually flows under the mud from the shore to this pool. It only surfaces here as the level dips, it then continues just under where I took this shot and resurfaces as flowing water in another 30m. The tide would not have covered this pool for 5 hours, and there is no sea water draining into it, so it should be substantially less salty than sea water. I tasted it, and although, you wouldn't choose to drink it, it was only mildly salty. So, theory substantiated.

The Norwegian yellow flagged Oystercatcher is still feeding on the cricket field.


Saturday, 16 January 2021

Jack surprise

Freezing temperatures for the first half of the night followed by rain. The rain stopped quite early in the morning, leaving a mainly dry day with some sunny spells. Fresh west wind.

Middleton Nature Reserve (JP)
The additional Mute swans had gone leaving the resident 2 adult plus 4 juvenile.
2 Shoveler
3 Gadwall
2 Mallard
4 Coot
This Grey Heron prefers the Main pond when it's quiet, but moves to the "no swimming" pond when disturbed.

South Shore (MD)
I left it till well over an hour past high water, as I wanted to walk around the saltmarsh to check the waders on the east shore. All of the saltmarsh was exposed, with the water just reaching it's outer edge. Even so as I walked around the edge I flushed:
Common Snipe 3
Jack Snipe 3
The good thing about flushing them when the tide is ebbing, is that they just land further inside the marsh.
Wigeon 163
Rock Pipit 1 near the rocky outcrop on the east side
Pied Wagtail 10 feeding together on the waterlogged grass behind the foreshore 
Grey Plover 5
Two of the Grey Plover

The sun was low in the sky and one of the Plovers was clearly ready for bed, but the other was still feeding up, showing the totally different feeding technique for the short billed waders.