Wednesday 30 June 2021

The bigger boys (and girls) move in

Steady west light wind all day. Occasional cloud but mainly sunny.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Wildfowl - as yesterday, except two additional adult mute were on the main pond

Warblers - no Cetti's heard today, but there were singing: Garden (just 1), Willow, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Reed, Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat (just 1).

Butterflies - Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath, Small White, Large and Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Common Blue.
Meadow Brown

Small Skipper drinking nectar

Dragonflies - Emperor, Brown Hawker, Four-Spotted Chaser, Broad-Bodied Chaser, Black-Tailed Skimmer (now the dominant species on the main pond), Common Darter.
Male Broad-Bodied Chaser - this is one of Kevin's pictures from the other day,
I've added it today for comparison to Black-Tailed Skimmer below

Male Black-Tailed Skimmer, at least 7 on the main pond today, plus two females ovipositoring 
but there are also Broad-Bodied Chasers vying for territory with them.

South sea wall
Mute Swan 2 adult on the sea out from Red Nab, possibly the two birds that were on Middleton earlier.
Mute on the sea out from Red Nab

Lighthouse Rock Pipits - only two seen, the male displaying and the female carrying food. She didn't go to the nesting hole while I was there, but appeared to be calling for a young one (not another spider Mum!). She reminded me of a barrow boy selling vedge on a street market.

The Mullet were feeding again, but today they were generally larger and most feeding just below the surface. Even so they are not very big, the biggest here is about 35cm so likely to be similar  numbers of male and female. Female fish tend to grow to be the largest specimens, as there is a big evolutionary advantage of producing huge numbers of eggs, but even a small mature male can produce more than enough milt to fertilise them all.

Tuesday 29 June 2021

Mullet there for the taking

Almost still again first thing but again the breeze freshened from the west, by evening it was quite brisk. Some cloud, but plenty of sunshine.

Heysham skear - low water 10:15
Great Crested Grebe 7
Curlew c40
Little Egret 11
Grey Heron 2
Quite a striking shot of a Grey Heron

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

John's ringing session yesterday morning produced 21 birds of various species featuring the first real catch of a few juvenile warblers.

This morning was on another level with 63 captures from my three nets. Juvenile Blue Tits, Common Whitethroats and Long tailed Tits made up the bulk of the catch. The conditions were fairly similar on both mornings, perhaps with less clear sun today.

Dunnock 2

Song Thrush 1

Cetti's Warbler 1

Grasshopper Warbler 3

Sedge Warbler 1+1 Retrap

Reed Warbler 1 Retrap

Lesser Whitethroat 3

Common Whitethroat 14

Blackcap 1

Chiffchaff 4

Willow Warbler 2

Long-tailed Tit 7 + 5 Retrap

Blue Tit 15

Great Tit 1

Chaffinch 1

I tried to do a full check of wildfowl (MD)
Mute Swan two pairs with 9 and 2 cygnets 
Coot 6 adult 1 immature - this is the immature bird just starting to develop adult features.
Moorhen 5 adult 1 immature 
Mallard just two adult seen but I expect the 10 young birds plus the female with 10 small chicks are still around.
Gadwall 1 female 4 chicks
Gadwall with chicks

Little grebe, two immature birds on the "no swimming" pond, plus two adult with at least two small chicks (second brood) on Tim Butler pond.
This is one of the immature Little Grebe 

This clip shows the pair on Tim Butler pond taking food to at least two chicks hiding in the margins. 

Grey Heron 1
Cetti's warbler 2 - again the "no swimming" pond and central marsh males singing, but not as frequently as recently.

Dragonflies included:
Four-Spotted Chaser
Broad-Bodied Chaser
Black Tailed Skimmer
Brown Hawker
Hawker sp - likely Southern

Small Heath
Common Blue
Small White
Speckled Wood
Large Skipper

Mother Shipton

While we are on moths, Kevin had this nice one in his light trap yesterday 

Blackneck moth. 

These are very local and not very common in Lancashire.

South wall -early evening 
Rock Pipits
1 feeding near the waterfall, not seen one here for a while.
3 near the lighthouse (male, female and juvenile). The female is still taking food to the nest hole.
Can't say I'd fancy this snack!

Grey Seal 1 between the outflows

These are Grey Mullet, this is just below the sea wall between Red Nab and No.2 outflow. They are only young fish c25cm long. There must have been over a 1000 in several shoals. They are not gasping for air, they are feeding on algae dislodged from the sea wall. They normally do this when the tide heights are increasing, each tide dislodging algae from further up the wall. The tide heights at the moment are decreasing, but it was a lot choppier than of late today, so presumably more algae was being stripped from the wall. A few were jumping out of the water, probably under threat from a large bass, but they had not been spotted by the cormorants (MD).

Monday 28 June 2021

Rock pipit survives first flight!

Early on the breeze was very light and from NE, but it freshened slightly and shifted to west by lunchtime. Mainly sunny.

Heysham skear - low water 09:25
Great Crested Grebe 11
Little Egret 7
Curlew c40

South shore.
Pete struggled checking at range due to the strong heat haze, but managed:
Mediterranean gull 1 2nd calendar year on the mud out from Ocean Edge.

Later in the afternoon.
Raven chased off by the Power Station gulls

Rock Pipits
1 on Red Nab
The male near lighthouse still on guard duty
The female near the lighthouse is still taking food to the nest, but also to one young bird on the harbour wall, that succeeded in its first flight from the nest.

Newly fledged Rock Pipit

The nest hole is circled, not only is it on a vertical wall, the entrance is quite 
restricted, not allowing any room for the young birds to test their wings.

The youngster was spending some time sorting its feathers out. Hopefully, it will be joined by siblings.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the main pond
Cetti's warbler singing from "no swimming" pond
Emperor 6
Black-Tailed Skimmer 4 including one ovipositoring female
Broad-bodid Chaser 3
Common Darter 1

This is a clip from this morning. It was quite calm, in these conditions on a spring tide, which comes in very quickly, you can both see and hear the tide coming in (this effect is lost when the dominant factor is the waves lapping in). What most people don't realise, is that the tide comes up below the sand/mud, not just over it. That's one of the reasons vehicles become stuck, they are driven out on firm mud, but when the tide comes in below, it liquifies the mud and the wheels sink in.
Anyway, on this clip you can see the water moving in over the mud, and hear the water coming up below the mud, as it is forcing the air out of the tubes dug by the invertebrates between the tides, in this case mainly blow lugworm, creating bubbles. (MD)

When the tide comes in less quickly, the water rising below the mud has time to vent the air from the worm tubes, before the water covers them, so no bubbles.

Sunday 27 June 2021

Ringlets emerging

NNE to NE fresh breeze, sunny first thing then overcast for most of the day, but still warm.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Janet had up to 5 Ringlet. This species has only recently established itself in the area and are still very localised.
Ringlet butterfly 
Other butterflies included:
Meadow Brown (also first record this year)
Small Heath
Small Tortoiseshell 
Plus severl each:
5-Spot Burnet and Burnet Companion moths

Black-tailed Skimmer
Broad-bodied Chaser

Warblers - eight species singing
Cetti's warbler 2
Lesser Whitethroat 1
Common Whitethroat several
Chiffchaff  4+
Willow warbler 3
Reed warbler 2
Sedge warbler 1
Blackcap 2

Large Skipper 4
Small Tortoiseshell 3
Emperor 1

Red Nab
Rock Pipit 2
This one caught a sea slater, I was waiting to see where it took it, but it ate it itself! (MD)

Curlew c230 flushed by paddlers.

Lighthouse area
Rock Pipits - there were four in the area. The nesting male and female, plus two together and possibly another individual. The female was trying to entice the young from the nest hole. Unfortunately, although a very safe place to nest it is a very precarious first flight. One didn't make it, hopefully at least one already had and possibly more to come.

On a lighter note - this moth,  Kevin advises likely "unbanded form of Riband Wave", was prostrate in one of the steep sided pools on Red Nab. 
There was no movement and it appeared to be daed

I placed my finger under it and lifted it out - still no sign of life

But as soon as I managed to transfer it to a patch of grass it started moving, it was fine! This clip is less than a minute after the picture above. 

Saturday 26 June 2021

First adult Med returns

Very light north breeze to start with, it freshened slightly later and moved more NNE. Overcast till mid afternoon then increasing periods of sunshine.

Heysham skear - low water 07:45
Great Crested Grebe 15 - there are eight in this clip

Curlew c20
Grey Heron 1
Little Egret 8 - this is unusual behaviour, I'm not totally certain what's going on (MD). The Egret and Large gulls appear to be shrimping, and if the tide had been ebbing, I wouldn't have given it another thought, but the tide is coming in and has just reached this pool. The shrimps would not have come in with the tide, all I can think of is that there is a lot of fresh ground water running off today, perhaps the pool became too brackish on the ebb tide and the shrimps buried into the mud, the returning sea water prompting them to emerge from the mud and be eaten - it's a tough life being a shrimp!

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Cetti's warbler 2 - "no swimming" pond and central marsh birds singing
Not a lot of dragonflies but the following seen:
Black-Tailed Skimmer
Broad-Bodied Chaser
Common Darter

Mediterranean gull 1 summer plumage adult flew east over the reserve.

Mediterranean gull

Janet took this shot of 5 spot Burnet near Heysham Moss, but on the observatory side of the railway line.
There are 5 x 5-spot Burnet on this shot

Swollen Thighed Beetle 1 reported from Heysham Nature Reserve - via Pete

Lighthouse area
An evening check
Great White Egret 1 at 18:40 flying south towards the estuary 
Linnet - pair feeding at least two fledged young.
Rock Pipits 4 + young in nest
Two birds feeding together on sloping wall were chased off by the ringed male
The lighthouse nest female was taking food to the nest hole while the ringed male stood guard (I don't know if he helps when no one is around (MD))
The female found this grub, it looks like a Cinnabar caterpillar, I wonder if she tastes one
before feeding them to her young. She then flew over to the harbour wall above the nest.

The male tried to distract me from watching the female, he came 
up close and gave me a good shouting at!

They don't normally fly to the nest hole when they are being watched, but the female's instinct to feed overcame her caution. Even so she aborted the first flight, but went into the hole on the second flight. She didn't go too far in, so I suspect the young were out of the nest and waiting near the entrance.

The only butterflies were a Painted Lady and a Small Tortoiseshell. No dragonflies 

Kevin had this splendid moth in his light trap
Eyed Hawk-moth

Friday 25 June 2021

Watching plants grow!

The wind had moved north. Heavy overnight rain eased by mid morning, but never really stopped all day.

Red-Nab and Ocean Edge
Even fewer birds than yesterday and no insects in the rain.
Little Egret 1
Lapwing 1
Linnet 4
Pied Wagtail 6
This is what today's title refers to. A sunflower has germinated in the flotsam of the saltmarsh. It's currently about 20cm tall, but this weekend's spring tides will reach this area. But this is also where the water table seeps onto the saltmarsh, so its roots should be in fresh water. If it gets through this weekend, the tide won't reach this far again till the end of July. It would be nice to have a sunflower on the marsh!
Pretty sure this is a sunflower, hopefully time will tell.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just the briefest of checks (I forgot to put my leggings on!), but the warblers were quite vocal, 7 species heard around the two main ponds:
Willow Warbler 
Reed Warbler 
Sedge Warbler 
Common Whitethroat 
Lesser Whitethroat 
Cetti's Warbler 

There are very few House Sparrows on the reserves, if any, but there are plenty in the surrounding areas. Janet took these shots of a pair with young in the nest, just across the road north from Heysham Nature Reserve.
Male House Sparrow, with a bill full of food

Not sure what's going on here (MD)
The female appears to have both a fecal sac, but also a bill full of food.
Perhaps she was trying to entice the young out of the nest.

I took this clip a couple of days ago, it is my favourite grass (......I know, you could spend hours discussing your favourite grasses). It's Quaking grass, not sure which sub species, it is a native UK grass and there have been pockets of it on Middleton Nature Reserve since I started walking here in the mid '90s. That said, it could easily have been introduced with garden waste. It is an unobtrusive grass, but its flower heads "dance" in the breeze like so many marionettes. 

The weather is looking more favourable tomorrow, so hopefully I'll not have to resort to my favourite paint drying clip! (MD)

Thursday 24 June 2021

New moth for the region

The westerlies continue, mainly overcast with a few sunny spells. Showers by evening.

Red Nab and Ocean Edge
Not many birds on show, but plenty of insects.
Little Egret 1
Lapwing 3
Linnet 10 
Pied Wagtail 8
Rock Pipit 1 - this one was feeding on Red Nab, it seemed to be finding food, but eating it straight away.

Small White 6
Small Tortoiseshell 3
Large Skipper 10
I know we've had lots of large Skipper pictures, but this male is striking the
classic skipper pose with the fore-wings raised and the hind-wings horizontal 

Cinnabar moth 2

A small blue and black Hawker flew in off the saltmarsh, I don't think it came in off the sea, as the wind was wrong. It was probably just flushed off the marsh by the tide. Unfortunately, too fleeting a view to identify.

Middleton Nature Reserve mid afternoon 
Cetti's warbler 2 - both the central marsh and "no swimming " pond males singing.
Little grebe 1 adult on Tim Butler, behaviour suggested it was taking food to another bird out of the water.

Dragonflies - not many around at 14:30, but after a short sunny spell there were several active. Including:
Emperor 3+
Hawker 1 large blue/green and black, probably Southern
Brown Hawker 1
Broad-bodied Chaser 3
Black-Tailed Skimmer 2+
Female Black-Tailed Skimmer

Male Black-tailed Skimmer - a slightly clearer shot than yesterday's effort.

Two moths from Kevin's light trap last night.

This moth has been confirmed as Anania fuscalis, which appears to be the first record for the north of the county since 1994. It's not the most attractive of moths, but it's a welcome addition to the local list.

Anania fuscalis

A bit more striking, a Lime Hawk-moth

Finally, this faux castle is at the southern edge of the shore recording area. There were five crows, presumably a family group, "playing" on it. 

Carri On, up the castle........sorry (MD)

Wednesday 23 June 2021

Rain affected play

It was generally fair till about 09:30 (Alan was unlucky getting a shower at Middleton) after that the rain started and never really stopped. Wind from the west.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

A ringing session this morning was interrupted by a fairly heavy rain shower between 06.40 and about 07.30, during which time the nets were were closed to avoid catching birds in the wet conditions. After Monday's poor catch of 3 juvenile Robins, one juvenile Willow Warbler, a retrapped Chiffchaff and one unringed Grasshopper Warbler, this morning was only a little better.

Sedge Warbler - 1 juv +1 retrap

Reed Warbler - 2 + 2 retraps

Reed Bunting - 1 adult + 1 juvenile

Dunnock - 1 juvenile

It would seem that either the warbler species have yet to fledge their young in any numbers or it has been a poor breeding season. Hopefully things will improve and dispersing young will be trapped in good numbers in the next few weeks.

I checked Ocean Edge towards high water (MD). I was a bit late and the tide had already covered the mud. The only "records" were:

Pied Wagtail family of 6 on the saltmarsh.

The Sea Slaters, at least, were grateful for the rain, the rocks were covered in them!

Nothing else for today so filling in with a few pictures that didn't make the cut yesterday. These were on Middleton Nature Reserve.

Male Four-spotted Chaser

Male Black-tailed Skimmer

Female Emperor ovipositoring 

Female Common Blue

This Large Skipper was Ocean Edge foreshore 
The hooks on its antennae can be seen.

Kevin took this shot of a Small Skipper on Heysham Nature Reserve 

Hopefully more topical news tomorrow.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Like a kid in a sweet shop - plus a word of caution

Fresh westerly breezes, mainly sunny.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Grasshopper warbler 1 unringed male was part of yesterday's ringing capture.
Cetti's warbler 1 male singing from "no swimming" pond this morning
Dragonflies around main pond comprised:
Broad-bodied Chaser
Four-spotted Chaser
Black-tailed Skimmer.
A nice selection of shots from Janet:
Broad-bodied Chaser

A worn and faded Green-veined White

Small Heath - also worn

Silver Y moth - at least this looks fresh

Male Reed Bunting, also looking fresh....
well, at least he looks like he's just had a bath.

Ocean Edge - high water 09:40 (MD)
Lapwing, the flock of returned birds has now swollen to three
Lapwings with an Oystercatcher 

Black-headed gull c110 resting on the last patch of uncovered mud c300m past the saltmarsh. But this juvenile was having none of it.
Juvenile Black-headed gull

This is where "like a kid in a sweet shop" comes in (do we still have sweet shops?). We are moving to spring tides, it will have been over a week since the tide last reached the rocky outcrop just south of the saltmarsh, and it was flushing out Sea Slaters. Sea Slaters are like wood lice on steroids, not just bigger but much faster. But not fast enough to escape this young gull, it catches three in this clip, the last one actually runs through the gulls legs before meeting its fate!
Nutmeged by a sea slater, but I think this gull has potential!

Heysham skear - low water 16:50
I actually went down early (14:30) to see the birds before they moved on to the outer skear, but the tide was ebbing quickly and the outer skear was exposed before I got to the middle skear. Even so the mix of birds was the same, hundreds of large gulls, mainly Herring, plus Oystercatchers and c30 Curlew.
Great Crested Grebe 6 (2 pair plus 2 individual birds)
Little grebe 4
Eider 1 - quite a striking male in eclipse 
Male Eider in eclipse, with an equally striking backdrop 
This is just a clip of the Eider when it took to the water.

This is the word of caution - it is becoming increasingly difficult walking on the skear, the old honeycomb worm beds, always weak, have now lost their structure under the mussel beds. It's like walking over rhubarb crumble half a metre deep. The top is crunchy but you just sink through it. Plus half a metre is only because I pick my path carefully, there are areas where the crumble is over a metre deep. It's not dangerous as such, but it makes walking slow and hard work and very few places where you can actually stop without sinking down. I wouldn't want to be walking off with the tide coming in quickly.
This is towards the end of the middle skear, where the sea is claiming back the beds.
The top of this bed is the level of the surface beyond, this is over half a metre above 
the pool I'm standing in, the pool is half a metre deep and the skear bottom another
half metre below that. You can see the tide action is peeling back the mussel carpet.
I suspect the next storm is going to change things radically.

If you are going out to the skear, go when the tide is ebbing and stick to the skeer edges which tend to have less sediment build up.

Monday 21 June 2021

A change of diet

Quite a fresh breeze between NEN and NE. Overcast, but dry all day.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look around the main pond mid morning. 
Cetti's warbler - male singing from "no swimming" pond
House Martin 3 feeding low over the main pond

Heysham skear - low water 15:50
It was unusually quiet today, as the bulk of the gulls and Oystercatchers were on the outer skear, which hasn't been exposed for over a week.
Curlew c20 were the only other waders.
Great Crested Grebe 3
Eider 3 - female/immature 
Little Egret 4 - this is what today's title refers to. They have been catching shrimps and common gobies in the shallows, but today it was young flatfish. This one caught c10 as I watched, the elongated body suggests Dover Sole. Young Dover Sole have always been common in the bay, but adult fish are quite rare, although they seem to be more regular in recent years.
Even so, it is unusual for them to be in such shallow water when the water is clear (it's clear as this was on the south side with the wind coming from the north). Presumably the labyrinth created by the honeycomb worm reefs delayed them leaving to deeper water with the quickly ebbing tide.

Kevin sent me this nice shot of a Bee Orchid a few days ago. I know I posted one from Jeff yesterday, but they are an attractive flower, and won't be in bloom for much longer.
Bee Orchid Heysham Nature Reserve
A walk around the central plateau should locate one.

Sunday 20 June 2021

A bit of a mixed bag

The light wind mainly from NE till late afternoon then started shift towards the west. Some long sunny spells, but cloudy by evening.

First an update from yesterday - (Report and pictures from Jeff Gorse)
Heysham Nature Reserve

Five-spot burnet and Burnet Companion moths. Small and Large skipper and Common blue butterflies on the wing.

Narrow-bordered Five -spot Burnet moth

Burnet companion
Common Blue

Male Small Skipper - (first record this year MD)

Bee and spotted orchids amongst the flower species.

Bee Orchid

A walk to the harbour past the power station - at least one and possibly two grey seal showing at the mouth of the outflow channels

Grey Seal

Rock Pipits three foraging 

Rock Pipit

Back to today - this report from Pete Crooks:

Red Nab – Heysham Harbour (8.10 – 9.30 am)

1 2nd CY Mediterranean Gull roosting with 52 Black-headed Gull (including 1 juvenile) on Red Nab at high tide.

Also 2 female Eider and 112 Curlew on Red Nab

12 Cormorant roosting on the Wooden Pier

2 Rock Pipit (including ringed bird) around Harbour mouth

2 Grey Seal off the outfalls

I went down to the lighthouse area early afternoon hoping that the warm weather and NE breeze was bringing the insects in. The tide was out so conditions were as good as we've had this year, but very little coming in, just Small Tortoiseshell 8, Painted Lady 2. Perhaps I was a bit early for any dragonflies. (MD)

Middleton Nature Reserve 

A couple of checks by myself and Kevin failed to relocate the Beautiful Demoiselle but the central marsh Cetti's warbler was singing.

This Ghost moth was from Kevin's light trap on Thursday 

Ghost Moth and, although fairly common, is a very attractive moth.