Monday 31 May 2021

Canada Goose moult migration gathers pace

Very light SE breeze early on freshened slightly during the day. Hot and sunny.

Cetti's warbler - central marsh bird singing on Middleton Nature Reserve 

A shot from Kevin. Male Linnet, treading carefully near the lighthouse.

Heysham skeer - low water 10:25 (MD)
Greylag goose 5 south
Canada goose 95 - as mentioned yesterday Canada goose movement has been increasing at this time of year, as non breeding birds fly north to moult sites.
Some have already started moulting 

09:40 a flock of 23 must have been resting on the outer skear, then flew low past me and carried on overland to the east.

Scanning the distant sand bars two more groups could be seen, at least 51 and 15
This is the larger of the two groups

At 11:15, five more flew in from the south and landed where the above birds would have been, but now behind the sand bar.

Great Crested grebe 4
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Curlew 16
Sanderling c200 only two individual birds on the middle skear, but flock of c200 seen flying to the outer skear.

This is the same species of jellyfish photographed by Steph the other day. That one had settled dome up, but this one had been rolled over, revealing why it is called a Medusa (postscript - I've always known these as Medusa, but the correct name is Barrel jellyfish, I will call them such in future MD)
The tentacles resemble a head of snakes

The one Steph saw high and dry at the top of the beach would have had no chance of survival, but this one has. As with all jellyfish the dome is safe to touch, and the Medusa's tentacles are only short..... it is safe to handle them like this - this is only a small specimen.
Sometimes you need both hands, and some strength!

I placed it dome side up in a pool that would remain till the tide returned.

Jellyfish go with the flow, they can propel themselves, but mainly it is just to alter their depth. The direction of travel is at the mercy of the tides and currents. Some years you hardly see any, other years you see them every visit. I'll see if I can find a big one!

Sunday 30 May 2021


Very light west wind turning round to the east by early evening. Hot and sunny.

Middleton Nature Reserve mid morning (MD)
Mute swan - 3 adult plus pair with 9 cygnets
Mallard - 2 male 2 female, one with 10 well grown young
Little grebe 1 adult with growing chick, expecting to be fed, on the "no swimming" pond. The detail of the birds isn't great on this clip, but I like the willow fluff blizzard 

Cetti's warbler - the "no swimming" pond male singing.
Cuckoo 1 male singing in the corner of Tradebe and the golf course. Cuckoos have just about been annual for the last few years. It was singing intermittently, but at least three "observers" managed to hear it, as yet no reports of a sighting. The attached clip shows nothing, but does allow you to hear it. I know everyone knows what a Cuckoo sounds like, but the last time I just showed an empty clip of a bird singing, the following day I managed good views.

Not so many butterflies just Small Heath, Orange Tip, Green Veined White and Speckled Wood.
Just two species of dragonfly
Broad-bodied Chaser  
Males 3 mature 1 immature - Females 2 (one above)

Four-Spotted Chaser 8

South shore
Just a quick walk along the sea wall early evening
Rock Pipit 3 - 1 on Red Nab. Ringed male displaying near No.1 outflow. Another male displaying on inner harbour wall. No birds seen yet carrying food. The ringed bird may have done if it had managed to catch any. It was after flies, not very productively!

Grey Seal 1

Saturday 29 May 2021

Versatile Sanderlings and another nice moth

Very light west breeze all day with hazy sunshine.

Heysham skear (MD)
Two checks today, the first just after low water and again just as the skear was becoming exposed on the ebb tide. Totals are the highest count of the two visits:
Canada goose 12 in the far channel in the morning - this is the time of year when we get passage of birds on their moult migration.
Sandwich Tern 1 feeding in the evening.
Eider 9
Great Crested Grebe 13 (2 pairs displaying)
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Curlew 9
Whimbrel 1
Dunlin 1
Turnstone c20
Watch the bird on the left, it picks up three honeycomb worms in quick succession, from just below the silt. The force of the ebbing tide here is very strong and presumably had destroyed a section of honeycomb. The worms would have built new protective tubes, if they had escaped detection.

Sanderling at least 250
These are some of the morning birds feeding on the "sand" for a change. They are extremely mobile, partly because the tide is coming in quickly.

It was a different story in the evening as the tide was ebbing. Once again, the tide is going out so quickly it was leaving shrimps in the shallow water. Quite a few of the Sanderling were catching them. This one misses the first shrimp, then drops the second before catching it again. Still, quite a reasonable sized reward for the effort.

This is a nice shot of the plumage detail 

You can't look this good without plenty of grooming

Some nice shots from Kevin:
One of the Rock Pipits.
It had just finished performing its display flight. Harbour entrance.
Great Black-Backed gulls on Red Nab
The female looks like she is "thinking of England"!

Another nice moth. An Alder Kitten.
 It has a scattered distribution over the Southern half of the UK:
 Lancashire being at the Northern limit of its range.

Friday 28 May 2021

Very high Sanderling record plus picture problem resolved.

Light winds mainly overcast with some light showers.

First a few of the images that I couldn't post yesterday - these from Janet:
Mother Shipton
Large Red Damselfly 
Empty Damselfly nymph case (exuvia)

This one from Steph - Medusa jellyfish on beach
below Knowlys Rd
The next few are mine (MD)
Mature male Broad-bodied Chaser
Female Broad-bodied Chaser
Now the horticultural section: 
The Orchids are stating to bloom on Middleton 

Best I can attempt is Marsh Orchid sp
But I'm happy to be corrected if wrong (MD)

The smell of Hawthorn blossom was overpowering on Middleton 
All the bushes were covered in blossom. It bodes well for holding
the winter thrushes later in the year.

The only records I have for today is my short evening walk. Recent visits to the skear have shown that the Sanderlings were choosing to feed on the outer skear, so today I went down early when just the inner skear was exposed and any birds concentrated - it paid off!
Great Crested Grebe 7
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Little Egret 15
Curlew 4
Whimbrel 2
Turnstone c25
Dunlin 6
Sanderling - absolute minimum 266. They were all over the inner skear, but the two main concentrations were on the western edge and along the north side. I counted 266 from a point in between these concentrations, but many would have been out of sight.
This flock is the core of the western birds, there are at least 125 in this flock.

This is less than half the birds along the northern edge

The status of Sanderling in the Observatory report is "A scarce and erratic passage migrant......" Not scarce this spring! I'm normally lucky to see one bird here at this time of year.
Sanderling - I like this shot
As well as the large numbers feeding and moving west along the skear, there was also a trickle of ones and twos flying in off from the west.

Kevin had some nice moths in his trap last night:
A nice variety of moths for the first time this year:
A Marbled Coronet
(which is quite locally distributed in Lancashire)

Elephant Hawk-moth

A beautiful Green Silver-lines, which is a first for me in Heysham.

Thursday 27 May 2021

System problems!

There must be a problem with Google blog, it won't allow me to upload images today, which is a shame as I have some interesting ones. Bizarrely it will allow me to upload videos. Hopefully the problem will soon be resolved, I'll try again later.

Almost breathless early on with what breeze there was from the south. It drifted round to west and freshened slightly. Sunshine pretty much all day

Seawatch report from Pete:
Just one hour of flat calm: 
2 Gannet in
25 Sandwich tern out
20 plus 1 Common Scoter out
2 Harbour porpoise
2 Grey seal
Cinnabar moth in-off!  

Heysham skear - low water 07:10 (MD)
Eider 9
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Great Crested Grebe 16 - there were 13 feeding in the channel run offs on the south side plus 3 on the north side. 
Curlew 4
Whimbrel 3
The only small waders I saw on the middle skear were 6 Turnstone and 3 Sanderling, but as the incoming tide flushed the birds off the outer skear there were more!
Turnstone - two flocks 11 and 18 both flew east inland
Sanderling - three flocks 41, 14 and 48 so 106 in total. These headed north into the bay

The largest flock had a rest before setting off north


Middleton Nature Reserve 
Janet did the morning shift, and I checked in the afternoon.
Mute swan - pair with 9 cygnets on "no swimming" pond, 1 adult still hiding in reeds on main pond plus 2 on Tim Butler.
Coot pair with 2 chicks on main pond + two others
Mallard 2 male 2 female one with 10 chicks
Little grebe 1 adult on "no swimming" pond
Cetti's warbler - central marsh bird singing

Lots of Damselflies including: Common Blue, Azure and Large Red.

Four-spotted Chaser 2
Broad-bodied Chaser 1 mature male, 2 female

Common Blue
Small Heath
Green Veined White (this was the most common species)
Speckled Wood
Orange Tip

Mother Shipton

Marsh sp

Wednesday 26 May 2021

The wind eased, as did the sightings - still, not bad though!

The wind had eased slightly today, still largely from the west. A few sunny spells and the odd shower.

Seawatch report from Pete:
Heysham 0715-0915: watching from back of harbour as yesterday for shelter.  All birds heading in unless specified: 
2 dark morph Arctic Skua early on up the Kent channel
1 Common Tern blogging in harbour mouth
3 Sandwich Tern
5 Common Scoter
11 Sanderling
22 Swallow. 
Last hour like watching paint dry so didn’t stay for tide

A nice shot of a Sedge Warbler from Janet 
On the hedgerow Middleton Rd yesterday 

Heysham skear low water 18:50 (MD)
Arctic Skua 1 dark morph 
Eider c25
Great Crested grebe 6 - these two were displaying
Curlew 6
Turnstone 6
Sanderling 11 (wonder if they were the same 11 that Pete saw coming in this morning)
Little Egret 8 - these four were shrimping
On these very high spring tides the water ebbs so quickly that shrimps and small fish become stranded in shallow pools.

No sign of an Osprey this evening.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Excellent morning seawatch and an Osprey encore

The wind was quite fresh from the west to NW and back again. Some sunshine and showers

Seawatch report from Pete:
Heysham sea totals 0715-0945 with little after wind went NW around 0900.  Plenty of action but nothing scarce: 
Great Skua (Bonxie) 1
Arctic Skua one light morph and two dark morph birds together 
Razorbill/Guillemot  16
Sanderling 4
Gannet 105 in, many immature  
Kittiwake 10 plus 24.
Then one Fulmar and one Manx Shearwater 1025-1055 

Many of the birds including the skuas were close in, unfortunately no one available with a camera.

Heysham skear - low water 18:00 (MD)
Eider 5
Great Crested Grebe 2
Whimbrel 1
Turnstone 7
Sanderling 131 in 14 groups ( single bird to 35) moving west along the north edge of the middle skear, most moved on to the outer skear, which wasn't checked.
Most were in "Spring" plumage
But the lead bird here is almost in Summer plumage

Osprey 1.
This is, on the face of it, an unremarkable clip of Black-headed gulls and a Grey Heron shrimping. But it marks the arrival of the Osprey 17:40. Towards the end of the clip, you can hear a few gull cries and then the BHGs lift and join in the calling.
All the gulls went up and I managed to locate a distant black spot. At 17:47 I took this clip it was still high and distant, so much so that the gulls had returned to feeding:
When I looked back again, I couldn't find it. Then at 17:55 it hauled itself and a fish onto a sandbar. I got the impression that the fish was too heavy for it to fly with (it turned out to be a large flatfish so probably not too heavy so much, but it would difficult to lift out of the water)
You can see the channel that it was feeding in behind the Osprey. It is the main drain that flows into the shallow "lake" on the north side of the skear. After a while the gulls stopped mobbing it and it got on with eating its catch.

This shot shows the channel more clearly 

By 18:20, it had removed the guts and flew to the skear with the, now lighter,  fish.
It looks like a decent sized Plaice or Flounder. I hadn't thought yesterday that
the fish might have been partly eaten, that one too could have been a flattie..

This channel is only exposed on the current spring tides, last one probably Saturday. Saturday morning might be worth a look, low water 08:45. Meanwhile, I'll check again tomorrow evening.

Monday 24 May 2021

Osprey fishing....(actually, fished)

West winds, sunshine and showers.

Seawatch report from Pete:
Watch 0600-0911 with a few  gaps.
Surprisingly poor on sea with just one ‘highlight’ - flock of 60 ad Kittiwake flying in. 
Two small very distant Scoter flocks
4 Gannet
3 Sandwich tern
4 Grey Seal.  

Some pictures from Janet from her morning stroll
Four-Spotted Chaser - Middleton Nature Reserve 
Common Carpet moth - Middleton Nature Reserve 
Linnet with nesting material on Heysham Head
Not sure what the purple "fungi" is to its left (MD)

Heysham skear - low water 17:20 (MD)
A lot more going on tonight.
Eider 20+
Great Crested grebe 3
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Little Egret 7
Curlew 12
Turnstone 9
Dunlin 1
Sanderling at least 50 - c33 in one feeding group, 9 in another and 8 came in mixed flock with Turnstone.
They are in varying stages of plumage between winter and summer, but all well camouflaged on the skear when they are stationary 
There are 14 on this frame, you may need to open the image to find them all
They are easier to spot when they move, these are part of the group of at least 33 birds

Mixed flock of Sanderling and Turnstone coming in from the south

Osprey 1 - 16:10. If I'd had been a few minutes earlier, I would have probably seen it fishing, as it was I just saw it chased off the skear towards the Stone Jetty. It had a decent size fish, the best I can tell is that it is probably a Lesser-spotted Dogfish. If so it must have been caught in shallow water as these are bottom feeders. It most likely caught it in the shallow "lake" just north of the skear. If so, another chance tomorrow? (It's a similar height tide and conditions forecast to be similar. The trouble with evening feeding opportunities is that it depends on what else has been caught during the day. Plus a fish that size would last me two days! Even so, I'll be checking)
This is just a location shot

A bit more detail on this one

Dogfish have very thick tough skin, not easy to sink talons in to.
On this shot, the Osprey has only hold of one pectoral fin.

The gulls continued chasing it till it was lost from my sight, by that time it was passing quite low over the Stone Jetty.

Sunday 23 May 2021

Pomarine Skua

The fresh breeze oscillated between SSE to SSW. Mainly overcast with some protracted showers.

Seawatch report from Pete (M)
Sea 0603-0803.  Slow but some quality in first hour - 20 mins of second hour in poor vis and rain and zilch seen: 
Pomarine skua - one out 0608 then landed possibly next to another ‘bird spp’ (a dark wing appeared to be raised), then floated in with tide
Arctic Skua 1 dark morph mid range heading in at 0658 
10 Gannet
1 Sandwich Tern
9 Guillemot
c15 Common Scoter
22 Dunlin
1 Swift

Pete Crooks checked a little later:

Heysham North Harbour Wall (8.20 – 10.50 am) – Just about enough interest to persevere given that I’d missed PJM’s early morning Pom and Arctic Skua.

5 Gannet (flying out of the Bay)

7 Common Scoter (flying in, landing on the sea, then continuing into the Bay)

1 Red-throated Diver (flying out)

6 Razorbill (5 + 1 flying out)

29 ‘auk sp’ (5 + 11 + 3 + 10 flying in very distantly)

20 Kittiwake (10 + 5 + 1 + 1 + 3 flying out, mostly distantly)

3 Sanderling (flying out)

4 Sandwich Tern

Not much else today
Whimbrel 1 on Red Nab
Linnet 5 Red Nab + 3 near lighthouse 
Rock Pipit - it was strangely quiet near the lighthouse, just the ringed male silent on the harbour wall. Still no birds seen carrying food.
Even a metal ring is easily seen, if not read.

Saturday 22 May 2021

More Skuas and a top moth

The wind was quite fresh and swung from north early on NW mid morning and west by the afternoon. Steady rain first thing but brightened up later in the morning, then mainly sunny.

Report from Pete:
Sea 0610-0740 north wall: niggling rain straight into optics, even with extension pulled out a nuisance for the window clamped scope so may have missed something wiping the lens:  
three Arctic Skuas flew in at 0630.  The first was picked up chasing a Sandwich Tern before heading in when it was joined by two more (getting up off sea?). The first bird was a dark morph. The views available did not allow confirmation of morph type for the other two.
The rest was all during the early period before the wind swung NW from N:   
Guillemot 4
Razorbill/Guillemot 4
Kittiwake flock of c7 in
Sandwich Tern 6
Gannet 4

A quick check of the south shore:
Whimbrel 1 on Red Nab 
Grey Seal 1 out from outflows

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A mid morning report from Janet:
The Cygnets are doing well, still all 9 on the main pond.
There was another Swan hiding in the reeds.

The Mute are tolerating the Mallard. 
The ducklings are almost full size now

When there's bread to be had....full speed ahead!

Phoebe (Russell) spotted this Roe Buck before I did!!!

Heysham skear - low water 15:30
My only contribution today was what I didn't see! (MD)
Eider 3
Little Egret 6
Apart from the omnipresent Oystercatchers, the only other waders were:
Curlew 2
Whimbrel 2
Not a sign of the Turnstones.
Also Great Crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser not seen, but I might just have missed them.

Kevin only had one moth in his trap this morning but it was a very special one!
It's the first county record North of the Ribble for Chocolate-tip.

Friday 21 May 2021

Pleasant Siskin surprise

Very light SE breeze in the morning switched to NNW and became fresher after lunch. Rain pretty much all day, but lighter than yesterday.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
The aggressive male and his family have now abandoned the main pond, now, apparently, empty of other mute and were sat on their "no swimming" pond nest site this morning.
The Mute family back at the family home
The main pond isn't quite bereft of Mute though,  this one was still "hiding" on the NE corner
Even with the aggressive male on a different pond, it was still not prepared to come out of the reeds
Two more adult Mute on the Tim Butler pond

Mallard 2 male 2 female + young
The Mallard and her young were hunkered down on the peninsula 
Gadwall 3
Coot 2
Moorhen 3
Little Grebe 1 adult seen on both Main and "no swimming" ponds, just possibly the same bird

Main pond fish:
For the past few years, there have been large numbers of goldfish/Rudd or Roach hybrids shoaling at this time of year. I have seen none so far this year, plus the number of Cormorants feeding on the pond has declined significantly. The laws of predator/prey relationships would suggest that all the fish will have not gone (eventually the low numbers of prey means they are not worth hunting for). So unless another factor is involved there will be some fish to continue breeding, presumably a more natural balance will now be maintained.

Everything seems more businesslike at the moment. Plenty of warblers to be seen feeding, but not as many singing males. Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Sedge and Reed warblers were the only species heard.
Reed Bunting 1

Roe deer 1 female

I know fungi isn't of many people's interest,
but I think this fresh Yellow Fieldcap has an elegant beauty
(At least that's what I think it is! MD)

South shore
Plenty of large gulls feeding at the seaward end of No.1 outflow (No2 outflow is on reduced capacity at the moment).
Grey seal at least three
By the time I took this clip, many of the feeding large gulls had moved on, it pans from them towards where the seals were feeding and resting. Just two seals visible on this occasion. 

Rock Pipits 2 feeding on the south wall, including the ringed male. A third bird was stood over the lighthouse nesting area.

I'd just settled down for the evening and was about to download today's images from my camera when two Siskin, very kindly, started feeding on my feeder. Two visits 17:30 and 18:30. I do get occasional passage in my garden, not quite annual, but the previous latest spring record was on 12th March 2018 (MD)
Male Siskin

Female Siskin 

This is a clip of both of them feeding, they ate a lot of seeds!

On this one the female gets moved on by one of the regular House Sparrows
Presumably, wherever they came from, they are accustomed to feeding from feeders. This feeder is directly in front of my living room window, not a natural flight line.