Wednesday 31 March 2021

Quite a bit moving through, plus an early Red Admiral!

The light breeze started SE shifting to west by lunchtime. Plenty of sunshine again.

Visible migration report from Jean:

Heysham Head 0740-1100 All north unless stated.

Pink-footed Goose 1345 in 9 flocks 

Whooper Swan 14 floating in. 

Meadow Pipit 86 in mostly ones and twos.

Skylark 2

Lesser Redpoll 3

Siskin heard but not seen

Linnet 3 plus 5 in the gorse areas.

Chaffinch 1 

alba Wagtail 10

Carrion Crow 4

Goldfinch 2

Sparrowhawk 1 - May have been a local bird spiralling upwards till lost from view.

Grey Heron 3 together high going south

Chiffchaff 3 singing in the wood.

South shore
Wheatear at least 3
Rock Pipits 4

Middleton Nature Reserve - mid afternoon 
Mute swan 9 on the main pond plus one pair nesting, the second pair that had been nesting not seen today.
Mallard 3
Coot 2
Moorhen 4
Jackdaw 27 (22, hopefully, moving through - they devastate the emerging dragonflies)

This clip of a male Bullfinch calling, also includes two other bird songs.
Bullfinch, Great Tit and Chiffchaff 

The remaining buds on the tree that the Bullfinch was eating have emerged (see post 18/03/21)
Showing them to be Blackthorn. You can understand how there would have been plenty of
sustenance in the buds - lots of pollen on the flowers.
Chiffchaff were everywhere, this is the easiest time of year to see them.
Plenty about and still very little plumage on the trees.

Between, Kevin, Alison, Janet and myself we managed:
South shore: 
7 spot Ladybird 1
Comma 1
Brimstone 2 (male and female)
Peacock 3
Small Tortoiseshell 5

Middleton Nature Reserve:
Peacock 2
Small Tortoiseshell 4
Brimstone 1 female
Red Admiral 1 - this species is not supposed to over winter in the UK. Spring arrivals from the continent do not usually arrive till May. Janet managed a couple of record shots:

Although in good condition it doesn't look fresh.
So it's either over wintered or arrived very early from the continent (MD)

Finally, the Palmate newts in the pond behind Red Nab are "active". This is a male

Tuesday 30 March 2021

Everything was waiting for wind to stop!

After several days of strong SW winds today it was almost breathless with what breeze there was starting from south and making its way around the compass clockwise. Sunny and pleasantly warm.

Report from Middleton ringers by Alan:

Caught this morning:

Chiffchaff  6

Goldcrest  2

Blackcap  1 (first of year)

Greenfinch  1

Reed Bunting  2

Dunnock  1

10 Swallows north (first of year)

13 meadow pipits down to mp3

Pete checked the north side, including the morning low water channels:
Great Crested grebe 16 
Red-breasted Merganser 39, including one group of 15
Eider 323 
Sandwich Tern 1 out along Kent channel (first of year)
Whooper 24 on sea
Pink-footed goose 170 in one flock north (distant)
Pintail pair on the sea
Swallow 2

Jean did a visual migration check from Ocean edge 08:30 - 10-30

Meadow Pipit 178 (including a sudden “fall” of 120 just after 09:00.

Skylark 2 

Pied Wagtail 6

Swallow 13

Linnet 14

Carrion Crow 15

Chaffinch 1

Wheatear 8 female, 2 male

The rest of the south shore located:

Wheatear 8 male 2 female (different birds to Jean's)

Rock pipit 6 

This young Herring gull was ringed in the Isle of Man - details awaited 
Located near the Harbour waterfall by Gareth and Leslie Powley.

Janet checked Heysham Nature Reserve:

One of the several Chiffchaffs
Brimstone 1 male

John Dent checked Heysham Head foreshore:

Rock Pipits at the usual nest site were carrying nest material as I arrived, then were feeding as the tide dropped.

The pipits were chasing off a pair of wagtails. This happened last year but they still had nests very close to each other.

Further North along the shore were two more Pipits feeding on the tideline- this is one of them

Wheatear 1 on the cliff.

Greenfinch 3 singing around the old go cart track area.

Heysham skeer evening low water (MD)

It was a very pleasant evening stroll, but I was grateful that Pete had conducted a thorough count this morning, there were too many birds for an easy count, so I didn't bother. But I can demonstrate why the Great Crested grebe and Red-breasted Merganser are around in large are the fish!

These are five Great Crested grebe fishing. The technique is to let one bird scout, as soon as it finds the fish, they all go hunting.

Everything I know about fish here at this time of year, tells me what they are catching are either large Whitebait or small Whiting. But they don't look right, they look like very small Bass, which historically should not be here. But on the back of the large number of fingerling Bass I saw last year, perhaps the times, they are a changing!

Monday 29 March 2021

Little Gull tops an otherwise, mediocre bill.

The strong SW wind continued till mid afternoon when it started to ease off. Largely dry with just a couple of showers.

Little gull 1 adult was out from the harbour mouth mid morning, in association with the dredger. Unfortunately, it disappeared after the dredger left to discharge its mud.
Nothing else reported from the sea.

Wheatear 3 males on Red Nab
Janet managed to get two of them on this shot. They had been bickering,
it looked to be about who could have the best  rock to shelter behind.

Rock pipits 6 (2 Half Moon Bay beach, 1 Red Nab, 1 sea wall, 1 lighthouse and 1 waterfall)
This is a slightly different angle of the lighthouse bird,
worth opening to see the detail.

Wigeon 8
Shelduck none seen
Red-breasted Merganser 3 on/around Red Nab

One of the two male Mergansers, sorting its feathers out

Yesterday I discussed flotsam, today jetsam gets a mention. Although at one level this is nothing to do with nature, things like this make me try to understand what's going (gone) on and understanding the nature of the sea is partially required (MD)
I was walking towards the low water line out from Half Moon Bay. In the distance, something was lumbering out of the water (Walrus was my first thought/hope!). Optics revealed it to be an old 40 gallon drum!

It has clearly rolled many miles in its time, the raised ridges that drums roll on are largely warn away.
It is also riddled with holes, many of which look like bullet holes. The hemp ropes tided to it are still
available, but are only used for specialist purposes these days
My first thought was that it had been rolling back and forth on the sea bed for many years,
but two things suggest that that is not the case. The hemp ropes were frayed, but they would
 have been much more frayed after years rolling about on the sea bed. But most telling,
no crustaceans. The inside and bottom at least would be covered in barnacles etc.

The final, strange thing is that there is no wear on the rope knots. The ropes must have been tied to drum after it was worn, or whatever was wearing the middle of the drum, didn't reach as far as the knots. Intriguing, I've said it before, but I do like a mystery!  I have two theories, neither provable. Unless someone out there knows something.

Sunday 28 March 2021


Strong SW winds throughout the night and continued throughout the day, although easing slightly by the afternoon. Driving rain in the morning made conditions difficult and visibility poor.

Nothing of note has been reported from the sea as yet.

Rock Pipits 3 (Red Nab, Lighthouse and Waterfall)
Wheatear 1 Red Nab, seen both in morning and afternoon.
Shelduck and Wigeon, low single figures for both in the morning, none seen in the afternoon.

No snipe were flushed from the saltmarsh, by the rising tide. It wasn't 100% covered when I left, but I would have expected to see at least some Jack Snipe flushed if they had been present.

Southwest winds inevitably bring in lots of flotsam.
These young gulls in the harbour mouth were fighting over a cluster of Whelk egg cases. 
I didn't think they bothered with these, but this is the second occasion recently I've seen them fighting over one. Presumably they need to find "fresh" clusters, the ones on the tide lines will have already been examined and anything edible already consumed (MD).

Cuttlebone - These are the bone (inner shell) of the Common Cuttlefish. When they come ashore it is often in large numbers, not just because a large number all died at the same time and place (females die shortly after egg laying). The effects of tides and wind tend to congregate items of similar buoyancy and wind resistance. You get the same effect with human rubbish, e.g. all the part filled plastic bottles together one day, empty ones another day, nappy liners a different day (fortunately these are not quite as common or extensive as 20 years ago - perhaps the wind is finally starting to turn!).
Anyway, back to Cuttlebone - today they were everywhere.
This is just a small patch of flotsam near the saltmarsh.
This is how last night's tide left it, each of the white pieces are Cuttlebone 
This is the same patch, but with the Cuttlebones placed on top.
Four small ones, three medium sized and two portions of larger ones
This is one of the medium sized ones, oriented as it would have been in a Cuttlefish
If you want to check them out, or collect for your budgie, I noticed there were lots in the tide line in the small bay between Red Nab and the beginning of Ocean Edge. If you do intend to use them for your pet bird, make sure you wash them in fresh water and leave them somewhere warm until completely "bone dry" (the cuttlebone, not your bird!).

Today was never going to be good for photography, so I held back this one of Janet's from yesterday.
I think a male Chaffinch, in breeding plumage, is as fine as any bird.

Just one final observation - myxomatosis - I usually see just one or two rabbits a year suffering with this disease. Today I saw two, one at either side of the saltmarsh. I'll spare you the images. Apart from the physical effects, this disease changes rabbit behaviour and makes them much less timid. There are plenty of local foxes that will take advantage of that, but it seemed strange to see two, I was wondering if some domestic dogs also cull the sick rabbits, there has been a distinct lack of domestic dogs around the saltmarsh this year. I'll keep an eye on things (MD)

Saturday 27 March 2021

Some wind blown stuff and a visitor from Devon

Very strong overnight SW wind eased slightly by morning and was more WSW. The heavy overnight rain also stoped just after first light.

Early morning sea watch (JR.PM)
Gannet 6
Kittiwake 55
Little gull 1 2nd calendar year bird was disturbed off sea by outgoing ferry, then flew out and relanded.
This Devon ringed Oystercatcher was roosting on Near Naze, details below.







28 Sep 2019

Dawlish Warren, Exe Estuary, 

Devon, UK

Colour marks read

30 Sep 2019 


03 Jan 2020

Dawlish Warren, Exe Estuary, 

Devon, UK


0y 3m 6d

Colour marks read

21 Jan 2020

Exe Estuary (off Exmouth), 

Devon, UK

1km NNE

0y 3m 24d

Colour marks read

01 Feb 2020 


14 Feb 2020

Dawlish Warren, Exe Estuary, 

Devon, UK


0y 4m 17d

Colour marks read

25 Feb 2020

Exe Estuary (off Exmouth), 

Devon, UK

1km NNE

0y 4m 28d

Colour marks read

03 Mar 2020 


19 Nov 2020

Dawlish Warren, Exe Estuary, 

Devon, UK


1y 1m 22d

Colour marks read

27 Mar 2021

Near Naze, Heysham, Lancs, UK

383km N

1y 5m 27d

This map shows the resighting and recapture history for the Oystercatcher ringed with metal ring FJ28629. At ringing it was aged as a fourth calendar year or older, but with some immature plumage (EURING code 6I).

South shore
Wheatear 2
Rock Pipit 3 (Red Nab, foreshore and sea wall)
This shot from Janet is actually one of yesterday's Rock Pipits near No.1 outflow
Raven 2 
Two Raven battling north
The wind had eased from overnight, but it was still very strong. This Wheatear sheltered behind a rock, the wind is coming from the right.

Even the Magpies were struggling!

North shore
Low water channels 
Eider 70+
Great Crested grebe 9 in one raft
Red-breasted Merganser 10 (8+2)

Janet took these shots of the Heysham Head Rock Pipits

Finally, a bit of good news. I'm pretty sure that this Knot is the one I showed on 21st March, it was very approachable then, but not feeding. I've seen it every time that I have checked the south side since then. Each time it has been more stationary and looking more pathetic. Three days ago it was grabbed by a Carrion Crow and only just managed to escape. I wasn't expecting it to survive. But today, in the area I normally see it, this bird was at least trying to feed, despite being blown back by the wind. It wasn't the only one being blown by the wind, I was too, sorry about the video quality (MD)
I was really pleased to see it looking healthy. I guess it had some avain ailment and was now feeling better. Hopefully it will find enough food to build up its strength.

Friday 26 March 2021

Plenty of Chiffchaff and a belated Comma

The quite fresh SW wind continues, the sea is already quite well developed and the winds are forecast to be much stronger overnight. Rain early on stopped by mid morning, after that plenty of sunshine with the odd shower.

South shore
Chiffchaff  2 singing in the wooded area behind Red Nab 08:15
Wheatear at least 3. One on Red Nab at 08:30, but not at 09:30. One in the corner of foreshore at 09:45 and 10:15 (same bird) and another on Red Nab 10:30. Kevin saw two on Red Nab at lunchtime, one of these had brownish wings, not the clean black of the morning birds, so definitely at least one additional bird.
This is the slipway Wheatear showing tail detail
This one on the rocks (concrete) just south of Red Nab
Rock Pipits 3 (Red Nab, Lighthouse and Waterfall)
Shelduck 27
Wigeon 16
Grey Plover 1, presumably the lame bird, resting on the saltmarsh 
Jack Snipe 1. This was at high water, but today's tide of 8.4m isn't enough to cover the marsh. I accidentally flushed it, but it was on the track around the saltmarsh, where ground water is seeping through. But the tides are rising quickly now, Sunday (9.6m) should be high enough, then more or less all next week.
This is Fishers building in the inner harbour. Its roof was extensively used by
gulls for roosting and nesting. I say "was" as the roof and wall panels are no more.
I don't know if the whole building is to be dismantled or if the panels are to be replaced.
Watch this space, perhaps literally!

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Mute swan 9 on the main pond including 3 juvenile, plus two nesting pairs on other ponds.
The aggressive male has cleared the "no swimming" pond of everything except a Moorhen.
It came over to challenge me, so I took this shot of his ring 4BAT (I've got his number now! MD)
No Coot seen today
Moorhen just 3 individuals seen
Mallard 3
Common Snipe 1

Chiffchaff at least 6
Goldcrest at least 1

This over wintering Comma is actually from Wednesday.
Kevin saw it along the dog walk path.

Thursday 25 March 2021


The fresh SW wind continues. Overcast for most of the day with a few light showers. A few sunny spells towards evening.

Pete managed an hour sea watching 07:20 - 08:20
Avocet 2 - flying south over the sea with a small flock of Curlew. Avocets are not recorded here every year.
Gannet 1 adult
Red-Throated diver 2
Common Scoter 4

South shore 
Wheatear 1 male on foreshore then Red Nab at 10:00. Later Alan Larsen saw 1 male on Red Nab then the rocky foreshore to the south, possibly the same bird.
Rock Pipits 6 (1 foreshore, 1 Red Nab, 2 lighthouse, 2 waterfall - the lighthouse birds not seen earlier, but were on territory when Alan checked)
Nothing else on the roundhead scrub reported today.
Shelduck c60
Wigeon only 4 seen

Heysham skeer - low water 15:45
Eider were well spread but at least 50
Wigeon 4 (2+2 both pairs left quickly south)
No Great Crested grebe seen
Red-breasted Merganser just 2 seen

Redshank routinely swim across the pools, but these were different. One actually flies in to land on the water. I presume it's more to do with finding a partner than finding food (MD)
They are not the most graceful swimmers!

This Knot looks like it's having a bath in the sea, but this is actually one of the drains fed by fresh water seeping from the water table. It won't be fresh at this point, but certainly brackish. This must be the best bathing spot, and this one is taking its time, there's quite a queue forming, but at least they are maintaining a social distance!

Wednesday 24 March 2021

More Wheatears and Whoopers

The quite fresh SW winds continue, overcast at times but long spells of sunshine.

Pete managed quite a bit in a quick morning check:
Whooper swan 55 resting on the sea plus 4 north
Red-Throated Diver 1
Canada goose 2 south over Red Nab
Black-Headed gulls 60 2nd calendar year birds on Red Nab and outflows

Lighthouse area (MD)
Rock Pipits - two birds on territory near lighthouse and waterfall. A third bird appeared to be on passage

Wheatear at least two, probably three between 09:10 and 09:30. All mature males.
One was there when I arrived and immediately flew off north. Another arrived 10 minutes later, fed for a short while then disappeared. I thought it had gone, and it probably had. But on my return from the waterfall there was another one.
Male Wheatear on the final sea defence wall before the lighthouse 
They can afford to move through quickly, the scrub here, although not a large area, is clearly full of invertebrates. Presumably the hard packed surface and scant vegetation provides few decent hiding places. At least not from Wheatears, they fill up faster than a Formula 1 car!
This one catches two decent sized morsels in less than 10 seconds, although you will have to select the slow motion mode to see them.
No Wheatears have yet been reported from the normally productive foreshore south of Red Nab.

This male Stonechat was also feeding on the scrub. 

Again, this bird seemed to catching invertebrates, almost at will. 
It repeated this feeding method several times from this and other promontories. But at least it had the decency to hang around. It was here at 09:00 and seen again in the area at 14:00.

Blue Tit 1 - Blue tits rarely get a mention, but I can't recall ever seeing one here before. Must be some sort of movement.
Meadow pipits c5 - just the occasional bird moving over to north.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

The first Wheatear arrives

Lightish SW wind for most of the day, but becoming quite fresh by evening. Overcast with light drizzle.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the two main ponds while passing this morning:
Mute 6 adult + 3 immature on Main pond. 2 adult on "No swimming" pond 
Moorhen 4
Mallard 2 male
Gadwall 2 male and female
Canada goose - just one on the main pond, initially it was honking, but stopped as soon as it saw me.
I wanted a clip of it honking but didn't have time to get it in focus before it stopped. Even so, I posted it below as it does capture the quite impressive honks

I managed to get it in focus, just too late, but it did think about having another honk or two, either that or it's heaving sighs!

South shore 
A bit of north morning movement 
Meadow Pipit 4
Raven 1

A stroll along the sea wall late afternoon located:
Wigeon 45
Shelduck 66
Mediterranean gull 1 third calendar year bird 
Med on right with young Black-Headed gull
A couple of wing detail shots as it was flushed by tide

Rock Pipit - none seen anywhere on the south side today!
But this fine male Wheatear was briefly on the small area of scrub near the lighthouse. This is the first record this year
After leaving a, possibly exotic, deposit on this rock, it quickly flew off north.

Finally, the last word (possibly) on Green jelly blobs. Pete managed to drag their "correct" name out of his extensive memory - Green-leaf worm (Eulalia viridis) egg sacs.
I placed correct in inverted commas, as although I am happy that yesterday's egg sacs were from this species of green ragworm, I still suspect some of the more vivid egg sacs could be produced by other green ragworm species, plus I like a mystery, and to me they will remain forever "green jelly blobs"! (MD)

Monday 22 March 2021

The return of the Blob

Low cloud all day, but dry and the visibility remained good. Light west winds.

Middleton Nature Reserve - report from Pete
Very odd record: lesser Redpoll ringed as 1st Winter on passage 11:10:20 retrapped today on return passage at Middleton along with one unringed bird.  One unringed goldcrest caught

South shore.
Rock pipit - just a Red Nab bird seen. The lighthouse area not checked.
Swan sp - 5 distant to NW 09:45 - possibly Whooper, based on recent sightings 
Wigeon 30
They were in the channel next to No.2 outflow, then took off and flew north.
I took a picture in case they weren't planning on coming back

Shelduck at least 130, but they also look to be ready to move on. Quite a lot of bickering and displaying going on. These two Sheldrake were displaying to the Shelduck (right). She seemed to have chosen one.

North shore
I went down before the water reached the rocks out from the children's play area. I wanted to see how the gut weed was doing (I know how to enjoy myself! (MD)).
No sign of any Brent but they may have arrived later.

I thought this was interesting, not as interesting as watching gut weed grow......but what is?
This flock of fancy(ish) pigeons dropped down on this small patch of rocks.
There is nothing for Pigeons to eat here, so I presumed they had a favoured 
surface water spring emerging here, to drink from

But, they didn't drink and appeared to be eating.
It was only later that I realised, they were probably collecting broken barnacles to act as grit in their crops. Presumably the birds are from a local coop and know the area well.

Back to the object of the trip. The gut weed is not only still available here, it is much more abundant than when I last checked about a month ago. It is clearly growing quickly in the warmer weather.
This is the typical growth on the rocks furthest out from the play area.
This is about 100m out, well away from most dog walking activity 

This is closer in, but still well within previous feeding range for the Brent.
Here the weed is c20cm long and growing on the mud as well as the stones
Hopefully, before the Brent head back, they will feed here more often and in greater numbers than of late.

Finally, forget Black Redstarts and Roe Deer, the subject that seems to have generated the most interest recently is Green Jelly Blobs (see posts 6th and 7th of March for details). So by popular demand:
A walk along the low water line on the south shore located several, but these were not washed up, they were still attached to their anchorage. Although the anchoring didn't look up to much and you would expect a decent wave would easily break it free. Perhaps it works on the same principle as a sapling bending in the wind.
This is in just a few centimetres of water and is being dragged back and forth by the gently lapping waves.

Warning! - the mud on the southern shore can be dangerous. Most of it is flat and firm and easy to walk on, but if you walk too far you can find deep, wide gullies of quicksand can be between you and safety. Not a walk for the inexperienced.

Sunday 21 March 2021

Mist thwarts early start

The wind was from SW early on before moving more due west. A mist descended early and didn't clear completely till mid morning. The sun broke through in the afternoon and remained sunny till evening.

Pete and Jean were in the area early on, but the descending mist quickly put an end to observations.
Eider 156
Pale-bellied Brent 2
Both the above from Knowlys Road.

Visible migration report, albeit truncated, from Jean:
4 Meadow Pipits, 
1 Siskin 
1 Pied Wagtail. 
It became foggy so no chance of seeing Whoopers or anything over the sea. Couldn’t even see the top of the power station. 
The Rock Pipit kept an eye on me at the Roundhead.

South shore
Skylark 1 was singing briefly over the old Pontins land. Once a common summer sound around the area, but now only heard from off passage birds. Perhaps, there's a chance this year.
Rock pipit - at least 4 (2 near the rocky outcrop on east shore, 2 Red Nab, 1 on foreshore, could have been one of the Red Nab birds - plus Jean's lighthouse bird earlier)
Wigeon only c25 seen, but tides weren't ideal
Shelduck at least 75
A few of the Shelduck near Red Nab

I like this clip, watch the one paddling in, it seems in quite a rush, just so it can "hang around" doing nothing! Apart from the Shelduck, this clip includes: Wigeon, Common and Black-Headed gulls, Redshank and Oystercatcher.

I assume this Knot is the same approachable bird photographed by Kevin earlier in the week. It appears to be healthy, but I've never seen a Knot walk so far without pecking at something.
Still, it's always nice when wildlife walks towards you. (MD)

Pale-bellied Brent goose - an update from Pete Woodruff 

A leisure walk today, parked at Knowlesly Road, watched 10 Brent Geese off play area for about 15 minutes until they took flight at 14.35 towards Heysham

Saturday 20 March 2021

The vernal equinox

Today is the official beginning of spring.
The wind started quite light from NW, but freshened as the morning went on. A few sunny spells, but mainly overcast.

Middleton Nature Reserve early morning - ref Alan

13 Whooper Swans flew north west towards the bay at 07.35

Two or three pairs of probable Meadow Pipits flew across the reserve SE to NW.

Three Canada Geese using the recently cleared area on North side of reed bed.

North shore - low water 09:35
A walk along the low water line from Half Moon Bay to the skeer.
Meadow Pipits, increased movement from yesterday, when there were very few away from the shore line. Not all the birds seen were heard, but at least 25 were Meadow pipits in about 30 minutes.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 6 on the south side of skeer
Goldeneye 3 - 1 male and two female type birds swimming together near the skeer

Eider, Great Crested grebe  and Red-breasted Merganser were well spread and not easy to count in the choppy conditions, but numbers looked similar to yesterday.

A walk back along Heysham Head foreshore
Rock Pipits - a very minimum of four birds and two territories between the Head and the high cliffs.
I wasn't welcome and was led away from the area, presumably by the respective males.
This Rock pipit escorted me away from the territory below the high cliffs.