Sunday 28 February 2021

Whoopers on the move

Another overnight frost, but it quickly warmed in the sun. Almost breathless again, what little breeze there was came from the NW.

South shore
Whooper swan c33 - at 10:30 a flock of 27 came in from the south. There is no wind noise on this clip, if you turn the volume up you can hear them calling.
They landed on the sea out from Red Nab, they didn't call as they were landing

They were a long way out...
So not much detail visible 
Stephen Dunstan also picked them up from Cockersands and tracked them after they landed. They drifted out towards the middle of the bay, by the time they took flight again they must have picked up another small group as there was now c33. They headed NW and disappeared from view between Barrow and Ulverston.

Whoopers were not the only swans on the move,
these three Mute were heading north

Grey seal 1 out from the outflows
But too far out for Janet to check its markings

No reports yet of any land bird movement 

North shore on the ebbing tide
Red Throated Diver one in distant channel as viewed from the north wall. It flew in then landed before drifting out.
Black Headed Gull - German ringed A690 near children's play area (not 690 count as per original post)
Eider c100
Red-breasted Merganser 6
No Knot on the skeer, perhaps they were waiting for the outer skeer to become exposed.
Little Egret 4
This one was fishing and eventually managed to catch something small, probably a goby.

There were 5 Black-headed gulls on No.2 structure today. Wind, or the absence of it, is clearly a key factor. On new year's eve I set the challenge to resolve this, erstwhile, conundrum by the end of the year, two months in and headway is being made, but some of the magic of the mystery has gone!

Saturday 27 February 2021

Still the Stonechats come

Very light breezes starting SW ending WNW, often breathless in between. Overcast for most of the day but the sun came out at 15:30 and made it a very nice evening.

South shore
Wigeon 232 floating around Red Nab towards high water, before starting to fly off towards the estuary.
Rock Pipit 6
Stonechat at least 4. A male on the saltmarsh, another male on Red Nab, seen by several observers at different times and could easily have been more than one bird. Male and female together near the pond just north of Red Nab.
Male on the gorse behind Red Nab beach - by Kevin

The female and male near the pond - by Janet

Janet has been doing some good work with the regular "seal", she was confident that her last two sightings were of different seals. Walney Nature Reserve have confirmed that her images do indeed represent two individuals. Today's seal is different again. So three individuals in three sightings - Janet is on the case now, watch this space!
This is today's Grey seal, it has just caught a bass, unfortunately quite a long way out. The sea is getting warmer and the bass are not as dependent on the outflows as they were.

It doesn't take long for the gulls to turn up!
I like this shot of a Cormorant just starting to dive

The Priorslee, Telford (Shropshire) wintering male Grey Wagtail  starting to sing and presumably getting ready to move north (see post entry 20/12/20 for details).

Thanks to Edwin Wilson for the information and picture 

Juvenile Buzzard on lamppost west of Imperial way
This is the same lamppost that Pete photographed one on 15/09/20

Heysham skeer late afternoon (MD)

It was absolutely beautiful out on the skeer this evening. I left my coat and pullover near conger and completed my walk in a T shirt! (Although by the time I got back to my coat at 17:00 it was getting cooler quickly).

Nothing unusual about:

Eider c150

Red-breasted Merganser 3

Great Crested grebe 2

The sea was like a mirror, if the Goldeneye had been feeding I would have seen it.

Here's another unusual angle shot.

Cormorant just taking flight

When I said the sea was like a mirror......

....I meant, it was literally like a mirror!

We've had some great images recently, thanks to all contributors (and please, if you are in the area, any records and photographs are always welcome). But this is my favourite so far this year!
Kevin managed this shot of a Black-headed gull on the "forbidden rails" 
on the structure over No.2 outflow. Originally there had been two, but one chickened out!

The above relates to the observation that we never see sea birds rest on this structure (see post 31/12/20). Obviously one factor must be the wind, it was almost breathless today, but I've seen it deserted on many a previous wind free day. And gulls regularly use the rails on the wooden jetty in quite fresh winds. We'll see if this is a one off or if this bird is going to break the mould.

Friday 26 February 2021

Dark-bellied Brent and fed up Stonechat

All of today's images, except mine (MD) are high resolution and should be opened to see the superb detail.
First a report and pictures by Howard from yesterday:

Here are a few images from my visit to the Heliport and the Lighthouse.

The heliport was very quite with no Knot present maybe due to the Peregrine patrolling the area.

A female Stonechat was seen on the Helipad but to far off camera to snap.

I had a visit to Red Nab and the Lighthouse snapped the Turnstone on one of the outflows.

The Rock Pipit at the Lighthouse area, I watched it for a good hour 

and enjoyed listening to its Pavarotti impersonation.

It dug this grub out from under the rope before beating it to death, 

took all of 3-4 minutes to finally despatch it.

(Looks like a leather jacket - crane fly larvae MD)


Today - A overnight ground frost and clear and sunny for most of the day. Pleasant in the light SSW wind.

An interesting day with several birds seeming to ignore observers, allowing some nice close ups. Not so the Stonechats, which often do provide decent close viewing opportunities, but not today (that's not why they were "fed up", more on that later).

Pale-bellied Brent goose - 22 out by the children's play area 09:00. But none moved on to Red Nab. On Wednesday the group of 7 moved to Red Nab, but didn't return. Yesterday the group of 15 tried it out, it obviously didn't impress them either. Perhaps the warmer weather will allow the gut weed to grow, faster than it's currently being cropped by the Wigeon.
Dark-bellied Brent goose - 2. In the SE skeer corner at 15:30. 
They were the only Brent geese around the skeer
There is absolutely no weed remaining here, and they quickly moved on
All the way back to the west side of the bay, I think. I tracked them west until they were out of sight.

Heysham Nature Reserve 
This reserve is woefully under recorded since Covid restrictions and new volunteer guidelines have prevented ringing and routine visible migration checks. Shame, it is a good reserve and does produce some excellent records.
Reuben has the first recording area butterfly record this year - Small Tortoiseshell 1
Janet took these shots:
Mallard pair - looking serene 

Male Bullfinch - easily visible at the moment, before the leaves burst out.

South shore
The Wigeon are feeding nearer the sea wall, partly because of lower than usual human activity, but mainly because that's where the gut weed is slightly longer.
Allowing Kevin the opportunity for this "portrait"

This Polish ringed Black-headed gull is a regular in the harbour,
but this is is the first record for 2021

Rock pipits 7. This is one of the two lighthouse birds. It totally ignored me. At one point in this clip it was less than 2m away. I had to zoom out to keep it in frame, you can hear the click of the motor, the pipit also heard it, looked at me, carried on, then came even closer!

Similarly, this juvenile Cormorant was resting on the sea wall and refused to take any notice of me. I don't think there was anything wrong with it, when I looked back later, it had taken to the water and was swimming away.

Stonechat 2 - a male and a female were on/around the saltmarsh. Basically, the female was on the saltmarsh 
This was the best shot I managed of the female
The male was catching food and taking it to her.
This looks like a grub. It took her two of these.
It then caught and took two worms
I couldn't see if she ate any of these, but either way after this the feeding stopped, presumably both fully "fed up", and they rested together on the saltmarsh perimeter.

Finally, it was a bit hazy this afternoon, the low dew point and the low light made the water vapour in the StenaLine's exhaust make it look like an old steam ship.
I certainly wouldn't want a return to steam power, but it makes for a nice picture.
Well, at least I think so.

Thursday 25 February 2021

Shovelers on the move

Mild SW wind and a largely sunny day meant it was ideal for walking. Also ideal for flying, any paserines passing over must have continued as none were reported today.

Not quite true - late news: Stonechat 1 on old heliport - ref Howard.

South shore - high water 10:05
Pale-bellied Brent goose 15 arrived at Red Nab 09:00 and flew north at 11:40.
Some of the Brent, nibbling the bowling green quality gut weed growth.
Picture by Kevin

Heysham skeer 2hr before low water
Pale-bellied Brent goose 19 (15+4)
They were waiting on the water until the few remaining pockets of weed came within reach. This video is to show the feeding technique, but also the wealth of bird life. As well as the Brent there are: Red-breasted Merganser (not obvious in the strong contrasting light), Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone and Knot. Not to mention the gulls.

Eider 80+
Great Crested Grebe 2
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Turnstone - there were a lot again today, apart from typical numbers feeding on the skeer, c30. This flock came from the south and continued north over the skeer.
This is about 75% of the flock and there are 150 in this frame.
You'll have to open the image to see any detail.

Shoveler - at least 8
These 2 male and 3 female were squabbling in the SE corner before flying off north.
A check at distance found three more with the Brent geese, but these had also gone by the time I was close enough to check the detail, but they looked like 3 female.

10 minutes later a male with two female flew from the middle of the bay and landed near the green marker post. Probably three of the earlier birds, but possibly an additional three.
Not a great picture, and you'll have to take my word for it, but I like the context.
That's 3 PB Brent in the middle on the water, with a male and 2 female Shoveler
flying above them, in front of Heysham Head.
Pete confirmed that this is "duck migration time".

Anemones are common in the shallow inner skeer pools throughout summer, but this is the first one I've noticed for a while. I don't think they stop feeding in winter, I just think the shallow pools are too cold for them in the winter and they don't open when the tide is out. But this one is just opening, you can see the tips of its tentacles emerging. 
A sign of spring?

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Territorial dogfight

Very heavy and continuous overnight rain eased, but never quite stopped, this morning. Light SW winds and varying degrees of rain all day.

South shore high water 09:20
Pale-bellied Brent 7. This is the first record of them on Red Nab this winter. This picture shows five of them, these were not ringed. Unfortunately, the other two's legs were obscured, but it is very likely that they would be the experienced red/blue ringed Canadian birds.
There is lots of weed on the rocks, but perhaps the Wigeon are keeping it too
close cropped for the Brent. They flew north at 10:45.

Rock Pipit 7 (1 on saltmarsh, 2 Red Nab, 2 near lighthouse and 2 near the waterfall)
Janet took this shot of the lighthouse bird with the distinctive white feathers. Even wet they are discernible.
Let's hope that it stays identifiable and that it stays as a breeding bird.
This is an exceptional shot if you open it and see the detail.

The two birds from the waterfall area, must have moved too close towards the lighthouse male's breeding territory. So it confronted them, at a point roughly halfway between the lighthouse and the waterfall. This is what today's title refers to. I expect the bird which largely stays on the wall is the female. The "dogfight" is fast, even viewing it frame by frame they are difficult to see. (MD)
Eventually the waterfall male settled far enough back along the wall to satisfy the lighthouse bird. Later, as they made their way back towards the waterfall the male did a couple of short display flights.

Stonechat 2. A male and female bird were quickly moved along Red Nab by the Rock pipits.
Just a record shot of the male Stonechat 

A selection of the birds that you can always expect to see here at this time of year, by Janet:
A Dunnock singing its heart out! In trees before Red Nab.

Wigeon, responsible for keeping the Red Nab gut weed short cropped.

Turnstone - stone turning 

These two mature Cormorants in breeding plumage, were accompanied by two younger birds. You can only speculate about the relationship, if any.

North shore - low water 16:10
Pale-bellied Brent 22 (two groups 15 & 7)
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Eider 80+
Goldeneye 1 male

This male Blackbird was taking advantage of the waterlogged ground. It has a nice juicy Lob worm. Perhaps not one to watch if you're planning spaghetti.

Tuesday 23 February 2021

More Stonechats

Strong southerly wind. The rain held off till lunchtime, after that the showers became heavier and more prolonged.

So far the only records are from the south shore in the morning.
Rock Pipits 7:
1 on west side of the saltmarsh flew over to the rocky outcrop on the east side 
1 feeding along the foreshore. No sign of any hostility today. I realised that the area that they have been squabbling in, is a territory that has been held by a Robin over winter, perhaps the Robin's section was acting as a buffer zone between two lots of Rock Pipits, or perhaps another Rock pipit tried to fill the now vacated Robin territory. Either way, it would seem the Robin moving out was the cause of the conflicts (MD).
1 feeding on Red Nab
1 on sea wall between the outflows
2 near lighthouse 
1 near the waterfall 
These two shots by Janet are one of the lighthouse birds. It has white flank feathers showing on the edge of each wing, it was like this the last time it was seen. It was windy today, but this was the only bird of the 7 to have flank feathers showing like this. Probably just a coincidence, but it would be nice to have a distinguishing feature on one of the birds (or just wishful thinking? MD)

If you open these images, you can see the feather detail

Meadow Pipit 3 near Red Nab
Meadow Pipit having a brief rest before moving inshore

Stonechat 3 - all came in off Red Nab. 1 female 10:20 plus 1 male and female 11:20. Who knows if/what in between. Moving quickly inland.
Male Stonechat
It didn't hang around

Grey Wagtail 1 - again inland quickly from Red Nab
Song Thrush 1 resting out of the wind in the inner harbour
Raven 1 over the trees behind Red Nab, quickly moved on by the resident Carrion Crow
Raven flying over Red Nab trees, didn't see which way it came from

This shot by Janet shows the detail of the Cormorant's breeding plumage 

Monday 22 February 2021

Nothing new, but still plenty of good stuff to see and hear

The low cloud in the morning continued getting lower until it became a mist by lunchtime, after that the sun broke through making it feel very warm in the afternoon. Light winds mainly SSW.

Foreshore east of Red Nab
Rock Pipit 3 - there appears to be a territorial boundary about 50m west of the slipway. With 2 confronting 1 several times here today as well as a couple of occasions yesterday (MD).
This clip is during a lull in hostilities. The Rock Pipit catches a small White Ragworm (Nephthys honbergii). In the clip it appears to drop it, but watched in slow motion you can see that it was eaten. It then leaves a small token of its appreciation, before leaving.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Mute 6 adult 3 juvenile 
Gadwall 22
Mallard 6
Little grebe 1
Water Rail 4 calling

Common Buzzard flying low on the eastern edge
Cetti's warbler 1 singing from the central marsh

Pale-bellied Brent goose 24 in Heysham Village bay
Mediterranean gull 1 near the children's play area
Goldeneye 1 male in low water channel
Eider 80+

Janet took these nice shots while out for her stroll:
Oystercatcher on the wet mud near Red Nab

Male Kestrel near Half Moon Bay

The detail on this Blue Tit's ring can be clearly read
unfortunately not enough characters visible to identify 

Janet leaves pockets of food as she walks out, then checks them  when she 
returns. A good idea! Good for the birds and for anyone passing.
This Blackbird appears to be taunting the Great Tit

Great Spotted Woodpecker 2. These are much more common than most people (not birders) realise. There were two females feeding near the small anemometer. This is one of them. Apologies for the jerky nature of this clip, it was an awkward angle to keep my camera still.

Sunday 21 February 2021

A spot of rock climbing

The wind was still from the south but quite gentle today. Some sunshine and light showers.

Meadow Pipit 1 on the foreshore rocks near Red Nab
Rock Pipit 3 at least, on the same rocks, one was torn between chasing off the Meadow Pipit and displaying.
This picture isn't up to much, but there won't be many locations in Lancashire 
were you can watch a Rock Pipit "parachuting"

This one is "striking a pose", I don't know if it the male displaying or a female responding (MD)

Kevin managed another Stonechat near the harbour Lighthouse 
A male today

This report from Jeff Butcher (curtesy of the LDBWS website)

My first visit to Heysham this year. Knowlys Road at 09.40 there were at least 17 pale-bellied Brent geese and at least 59 eider.

Later, 39 greylag geese flew over going south along the coast, seen from Heysham Head.

Chaffinch, dunnock both in full song. House sparrows visiting roof sites in the village.

Heysham skeer - low water 12:30
I say low water, but the tide doesn't go out far on these low 6.7m tides, just a small section of the inner skeer exposed.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 7 - this is what today's title refers to. I wasn't really expecting any here today, as I knew there is virtually no weed to feed on. But, as ever, the birds know better than me (MD). The only remaining weed was attached to the rocks and they were climbing on top to feed on it.
Not just an isolated incident, they were all at it.

Unfortunately, not a limitless supply

Eider - I didn't try to count, most were out of range, but there were some small groups of unattached males trying to woo the few unattached females.
Not a particularly dignified process!

Looks like the males we're trying to establish a pecking order