Sunday, 31 October 2021

Starlings top a, not so, star studded bill!

A strong SSE wind. This morning's forecast said showers, only technically correct. What we had was steady rain interspersed with some showers of extremely heavy rain. By late morning the showers had become more traditional and continued for the rest of the day with short periods of sunshine.

I got a good soaking twice! (MD)

I had planned to check the south shore this morning, but thought I would look at the two main ponds at Middleton first "while I was still dry".
Nothing on the main pond except.
Mute 2 adult + 9 cygnets
Mallard 5
Coot 1

In the 200m round trip to check the "no swimming" pond, the heavens opened, by the time I'd got back to my car, there was nothing for it but to head home and get dry. Was the trip worth it? Only in the sense of better understanding the vagaries of the wildfowl here, there was nothing on the pond! 
The water level was up about 10cm, perhaps that is enough to prevent the dabbling ducks reaching the weed.

After lunch the sun was shining so I tried the skear as it moved to low water. But by the time I got to the skear there was a big black cloud overhead. The sun was shining all around the bay, but the black cloud followed me around like a pet camel (I say camel as it was constantly spitting at me). 
Starlings c70, you do sometimes get small groups of local Starlings on the skear edge, they come for broken barnacle shells for their crop. But these were at the water's edge on the south side, then flew over to the water's edge on the north side of the skear. So I suspect these were off passage migrants (Pete advises that they were on the move inland today).
Eider 6
Red-Breasted Merganser 8
Little Egret 11
Knot three small groups totalling 95
Dunlin 6
Redshank 100+
Oystercatcher c1,000
Turnstone c30
Curlew c40
Ringed Plover 16
Cormorant - this one was snorkelling, this sort of feeding behaviour I normally associate with Mergansers looking for crabs, but I can't recall ever seeing a cormorant with a crab. More likely looking for Flounders, which can come in very close when the tide is slack. I watched it like this for a few minutes, but didn't see it catch anything.

After this my pet cloud got fed up of playing games, and dropped all of its contents on to me (well, that's what it felt like!). Time for home again. More of the same forecast for tomorrow but with strong westerlies.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

It, at least, tried to be a decent day!

Very heavy rain started c05:00 and continued to mid morning. After that just a few showers with sunny spells. The wind mainly WSW and quite fresh.

I only had time for an afternoon stroll around the inner skear (the only part of the skear exposed on these neap tides) this afternoon (MD). It felt like something was going to happen......and it almost did!
There was plenty of stuff heading south, but I only managed relatively common stuff.
A distant flock of 10 large "white" birds turned out to be Shelduck.
There were several low flying lines of small "white" looking waders. I think the whiteness was just an effect of the, then bright, sun, and size is difficult at range. Probably Knot or Dunlin.
This flock of 13 birds arriving quickly from the north initially looked promising.......
.......only to turn out to be Wigeon. Nevertheless, they are not seen regularly on the north side.

At 13:30 something lifted all the waders and gulls that had been just south of the Stone Jetty, I searched the skies, but couldn't see anything, but I was expecting it to come south towards me. But everything settled down, and the gulls and waders near the skear didn't react. So whatever spooked the birds near the jetty must have flown east overland. This is just a sense of the commotion when everything is lifted.

There were more Knot around than of late at least 50. Watch the bird on the right, it is teasing out small seed mussels and swallowing them whole. All of today's Knot were feeding this way.

This is just a still from the above clip, you can see the mussel being swallowed whole.
Other waders included, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone, Curlew and 1 Dunlin.
Mediterranean gull 1 adult
Great Crested Grebe 1
Red-breasted Merganser 2 (1 male)

Kevin sent this nice shot of a regular juvenile Sparrowhawk in his garden, within the recording area.

My garden Sparrowhawk is getting wise. It has worked out that it can hide in the rose bush next to my feeders. Luckily for the visitors it regularly gets disturbed by passers-by.


Friday, 29 October 2021

A bit of selection, but nothing exciting

South wind alternating from just east to just west. Long dry spells with some sunshine, but showers in between some quite heavy, luckily easy to see them approaching from the south side.

South Shore late morning.
No Mediterranean gulls seen today
Wigeon 75
Shelduck 6 south
Pink-Footed goose 79 south 11:45 - a bit early for returning to roost, but they were quite low.

Some of today's Pinkfoot 

Common Snipe 8 on saltmarsh 
Linnet none seen again, it is almost a week since the last sighting here, the Samphire must be exhausted (as in run out, not worn out!).
Greenfinch 3 seen on saltmarsh, foreshore and Red Nab, possibly all same birds, but suspect at least two lots.
Rock Pipits minimum 4, probably 5, possibly 6 - 2 on foreshore, 1 on Red Nab, 1 near waterfall and 1 near No.1 outflow possibly same bird, another on sea wall near No.2 outflow may have been additional.

Cormorant - there were three feeding at the waterfall, three more at the bottom of the upstand, with at least one looking like it had already fed. Three more at the top of the upstand, looking like they were waiting their turn.
One first calendar year and two adult Cormorant near the harbour waterfall 

Peregrine Falcon 2 hanging on the updraft above the Power Station 
Peregrine Falcons

The sun brought the Common Darters out, I counted 8 between the Nature Park pond and the small anemometer. I think the latest record we have here is 18/11, so they have to hang on for another 3 weeks!
Male Common Darter


Heysham Nature Reserve 
I just did a 20 minute circuit at 16:00 (MD).
Didn't manage to locate the Green Woodpecker, but there was plenty going on, including 
Sparrowhawk hunting 
Goldcrest at least 1
Bullfinch 5 - this morning, I was talking with Kevin about symbiosis in nature, but Bullfinch don't seem to have read the script. Earlier in the year I showed them feeding on unopened Blackthorn flower buds. Today they were feeding on Hawthorn berries. Hawthorn berries have evolved so that the birds eat the fruit, then later deposit the seeds in a potentially new habitat, with a nice dollop of fertiliser. But the Bullfinch were removing the seed from the fruit and just eating the seed, presumably they can digest the seeds, perhaps some get through unscathed.






Thursday, 28 October 2021

The rain eases, and actually something to report! (Albeit not much)

South wind all day, some showers, but also plenty of gaps in the rain.

Middleton Nature Reserve mid morning (MD)
The initial objective was to remove a rope that was entangled around one of the cygnet's legs, thanks to Richard, Janet and Phil for turning up. All the mute came quickly to the water's edge to feed, but we couldn't tempt them out. But close up views of 18 cygnet legs eventually confirmed that the rope was no longer entangled. The reluctance of the, normally bold, mute to come out of the water, possibly suggesting that someone had already done this earlier to capture and free the entangled bird. Anyway, all 9 plus the 2 adult were fine.
Gadwall 8
Mallard 6
Little grebe 1 (first sighting for a few visits)
No Coot seen
Moorhen 8
Water Rail 3 at least

Redwing 15 in small groups (3,5,3 & 4) milling around
Cetti's warbler 1 - Tim Butler pond male singing
Goldcrest 1

South shore mid afternoon 
Mediterranean gull 2 adult on Red Nab - both on this clip with Black-Headed gulls plus feeding Wigeon.
Wigeon 83
Rock Pipit 2 - one on Red Nab, one on sea wall near No.1 outflow
Pintail 5 out
Distant Pintail through the rain
Shelduck 5 out, just behind the Pintail 

This Herring gull has a full crop!

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Good weather for foxes!

 The wind underwhelmed, it blew hard during the night and pretty hard during the day, but there was only a bit of west in it, SSW at best. The rain on the other had didn't disappoint, it lashed it down all day.

I just managed a couple of short visits to the south shore (MD). Nothing seen on the sea and little inshore.
Just the normal Oystercatcher, Curlew and Redshank. 
Wigeon c40
There were plenty of Black-Headed gulls on No.2 outflow, but none on Red Nab, perhaps related to the following.

Foxes are generally hated by farmers. If one gets into a chicken run, it doesn't kill one and take it off, it tries to kill all the chickens. The commotion generally stirs the farm dogs and the farmer, so the fox is invariably scared off leaving a run full of dead chickens. This seems wanton, but the fox's instinct is to kill as much as it can, while it can, before taking it's kills somewhere to stash,  till it or it's family can eat it. This is the same instinct that drives a pet dog to burry excess food for a later time. In nature chickens aren't corralled, so most would have time to escape. But even in the wild there are sometimes opportunities to make multiple kills, and last night was one of them.
There were two headless Black-Headed gulls in the lee of the foreshore, this is classic fox kill. The severe wind and rain last night must have seen the gulls roosting here. Why they didn't all fly off when one was killed I don't know, perhaps they did and then returned. There were likely more than the two gulls killed, once the spree was over, the fox would have set about taking the gulls away to stash somewhere, only stopping when it felt unsafe, probably when I turned up at first light. It would have returned later or this evening for the remaining two gulls, nothing will be wasted.
A further dead Herring gull on Red Nab might have been coincidental, it was too far out to inspect for injuries.

The only other record I have for today is Pink-Footed goose, decent size low flock south, just after dark.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Not much today, but the SW wind is increasing.

The SW wind freshened all day and is forecast to get very strong overnight, unfortunately easing a bit by morning. The rain isn't looking promising for tomorrow though! More or less dry today after a wet start.

South Shore
Mediterranean gull - just a 2nd calendar year bird seen flying towards Red Nab on the rising tide
Lots of gulls on No.2 outflow, but all Black-Headed
Wigeon 93 were in the channel next to No.2 outflow. Later, these 60 were just out from the saltmarsh.


Heysham Head - high water 15:00
I didn't relocate the Stonechat, but it was very windy by that time.
Rock Pipit 1
There were 6 Greenfinch and 10 Turnstone feeding on the tideline.
Two of the Turnstone with three Greenfinch in the background 
The Greenfinch were a bit flighty, but the Turnstone ignored me!

Finally, the rock balancer has been busy again. These artworks are by nature ephemeral, but the tides are waning at the moment and this one was just beyond this afternoon's high water line. So it should be around for a week, if it holds out against tonight's strong winds. I thought this clip with the rough sea behind it, is a nice way of viewing it (MD).

Monday, 25 October 2021

Today was about dodging the showers.......unsuccessfully!

WSW winds plenty of sunshine, but some very heavy and localised showers. 

Heysham skear - low water 09:00 (MD)
The sun was shining and barely a cloud in the sky when I set off, so didn't bother with my waterproofs (big mistake!).
Little Egret 11
Eider 4
Knot 18 (plus the regular Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone)
Great Crested Grebe 2
Red-breasted Merganser 14 - I took a couple of in flight shots for comparison with yesterday's Goosander.

Red-breasted Mergansers
I'd reached the point on the skear furthest from my car, the sun was still shining, but the heavens opened! 

It had stopped when I got back to my car, so I thought I'd check Ocean Edge foreshore to see if the downpour had grounded anything, but when I got there I wasn't sure that it had even rained there.
Anyway:
Rock Pipit 3
Greenfinch 3
Kestrel 1
Mediterranean gulls 2 - 1 adult plus 1 2nd calendar year resting on mud.

Heysham Head - high water 14:30
A shower had just finished when I set off, this time in full waterproofs. This proved to be another mistake, albeit a fortuitous one!
It was a very pleasant walk around the head, the sun shone all the time. Unfortunately I'd seen nothing, and I was getting very hot. I'd just checked the pebble beach below the high cliffs and couldn't even find the normally regular Rock Pipit here. The tide was in, the only way off was up a steep incline, so I decided to strip off my waterproofs and pullover first. Then, just as I was setting off I heard the Rock Pipit, it was agitated, another quick look around revealed why, a Stonechat on its patch. I'd have missed them both if I hadn't stopped to remove excess clothing.
Greenfinch 3
Rock Pipit 1. 
Stonechat 1 male. It was quite mobile feeding at the top, middle and bottom of the cliff face. I don't know if it had just come in or if I'd missed it first check. I might have another look tomorrow to see if it is still around.
Male Stonechat 


This from Kevin:

A Pink-footed Goose on Ocean Edge. I think it must have been sickly or injured because it didn't fly away. It looked like someone may have picked it up later and put it in the boot of their car. Hopefully taking it to a wildlife rescue place.




Sunday, 24 October 2021

A bit more interest, including a passing Goosander

SSE wind to start with moved round to SSW by afternoon. Light showers with occasional sunshine.

Just my mid morning stroll stuff so far (MD)

South Shore
Raven 1 chased east from Ocean Edge by resident Carrion Crows
Kestrel 1
Shelduck 56
Wigeon 63
Rock Pipits 3  (one each on Red Nab, sea wall and inner harbour)

There have been a lot more gulls on No.2 outflow for the last few days, mainly Black-Headed gulls but today joined by this 2nd calendar year Mediterranean gull, but not for long before it returned to the mud.

Goosander are not common in the recording area, this is only the second record this year (two were seen on 26th April). 11:00 this female or immature bird flew south past the wooden jetty.

Hard to see detail, both on this clip and in real time, their wing beats are so fast. These are screen shots from the above clip, still not clear, but at least still.

Goosander 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the two main ponds on my way home
Mute Swan 2 adult with 9 immature 
Coot 1
Moorhen 6
Mallard 11 (10 on main pond)
Gadwall 27 (11 on main pond)
Coot on main pond




Saturday, 23 October 2021

Not a great deal today

 A south wind with the odd light shower. Overcast all day.

Just my mid morning check of Red Nab and saltmarsh area so far (MD).
Mediterranean gull at least 4 - 2 adult and a 2nd calendar year on Red Nab. Another adult on the mud out from the saltmarsh. Another flew east, but that may have been one of the Red Nab birds.
Common gull with a yawning Mediterranean gull, just out from the saltmarsh 
There were no Linnet on the Saltmarsh today, there were still 16 Greenfinch, but today, they were feeding on something on the saltmarsh itself and out of sight. So I'm posting this clip taken yesterday when they were feeding on bracken seeds.

Rock Pipit 2 - one on Red Nab and another flying south over the mud.
Common Snipe 2
Dunlin 60
Ringed Plover 21
Both the above, just out from the saltmarsh 
Kestrel 1
Little Egret 7
Grey Heron 1
Wigeon 66 initially on Red Nab but headed to saltmarsh when the tide reached it
Mallard 3

Geese sp 2 - probably Pink-Footed very high to south
Swan sp. 5 flying north in land

Long-Tailed Tits - 18+ - as I approached Red Nab the bushes just behind Red Nab were full of them. At one point there were 18 hovering over the closest bush to the gate, and there were more calling from other bushes (unfortunately I hadn't got my camera out). There were no other tit species with them. Pete confirmed that this area is a classic irruptive dead end. At this time of year they have been observed here before, and subsequently seen flying high towards Knott End. Unfortunately I didn't hang around to check which way they left, and they were gone when I returned.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Sanderlings best of a mixed pot

West wind with heavy and constant rain till 10:30. After that the gaps between the showers became more prolonged.

First an interesting update from yesterday, provided by Phil Simpson.

Guillemot still present in Heysham Harbour Thursday to 1350 when it flew out strongly into the sun.


Today

South shore (MD)

I started at the saltmarsh at 10:30, just as the rain stopped and the sun came out, unfortunately briefly, there were more showers to come!

Linnet 30

Greenfinch 14 

Both the above feeding on bracken seeds around the saltmarsh

Wigeon c30

Mallard 4

Little Egret 8

Grey Heron 1

Common Snipe 5

Rock Pipit 4 (2+1 battling near saltmarsh slipway, 1 near the waterfall)

Sanderling 2. Unusually for me I heard them before spotting them (heard, but I didn't know what I'd heard till I saw them). They either came from the saltmarsh or had flown overland from the north side. They flew past me and rested briefly on the waterline out from Ocean Edge foreshore. Pete said that it is getting late for passage. They didn't stay long and flew off low to south. This clip is rubbish, but they were a distance out, fortunately it is just good enough to confirm species, but you may need to watch in slow motion.


This is just a blown up still from the above clip

Mediterranean gull 1 adult/3rd calendar year was all I could see on Red Nab as I went out, but by then it was lashing down again. On the return the tide had covered the rocks.


Cormorant - there were six resting on the upstands near the waterfall, but this 1st calendar year bird elected to rest on the harbour wall.

1st calendar year Cormorant 

I knew it was going to move off, so took this clip
.


North shore
I had a walk from the children's play area to the emerging skear early in the ebbing tide, late afternoon (MD). By this time the showers were much less frequent but the dark skies made for some spectacular lighting!

Spectacular lighting over the skear

Early in the tide like this is good for the shore birds which tend to be concentrated, but not good for birds on the sea.
Eider 9
Great Crested Grebe 2
Red-breasted Merganser 3 - all males, although at first I thought this was a male in pursuit of a female.

As soon as the first bird took flight, it was obviously a male, so I assume the chasing bird was a mature male seeing off a younger bird (but I have been known to be wrong (MD))

This still from the above clip, as they take flight, clearly shows 
the large white wing panel on the lead bird


Later, what I took to be the young male and another appeared to be practicing displaying.


Little Egret 9

Ringed Plover c30
Grey Plover 1 - not so common on the north side
Plus Curlew, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Turnstone 



Thursday, 21 October 2021

Snow Bunting.......also on cue!

The NW stiff breeze was icy. The sun shone for most of the day, but the temperature never got over 10C. An odd shower by evening.

Heysham Head 
Last night, Pete advised that this morning's conditions should provide Whooper Swan and possibly Snow Bunting, so this morning Jean braced the cold wind for a vis check from Heysham Head and managed both!
Jean's report:

It was quality rather than quantity over Heysham Head this morning from 0825-0920

Whooper Swan 2

Brambling 1

Snow Bunting 1

Siskin 4

Skylark 4

Chaffinch 4

Jackdaw 2

There were 20 Carrion Crows on the skear.


Pete's comprehensive low tide channel wildfowl count this am from Knowlys:

71 Eider

21 or 22 Great Crested Grebe 

13 (7 plus 6) Red-breasted Merganser 


South Shore on morning rising tide (MD)
Linnet 45 on saltmarsh 
A few of the Linnet 
Shelduck 93
Wigeon 26
Meadow Pipit 1
Rock Pipit 1 - both pipits on foreshore
There were hardly any gulls on outflows or waterfall 
Mediterranean gull 1 2nd calendar year flew south past the end of the wooden jetty. None feeding on the beach.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A nice walk in the afternoon sun
Mute 2 adult with 9 moulting immature 
Coot 1
Moorhen 10
Gadwall 27
Mallard 14
Teal 2

Cetti's warbler 1 calling from Tim Butler pond
Redwing 15+ at least 2 feeding on hawthorn near Tradebe with 5+ Blackbird. Groups of 3 and 10 blogging on the east side.
Buzzard 1 to south
Sparrowhawk 1 feeding

Insects:
1 Large dark underwing butterfly could only have been Red Admiral or Peacock, but not seen a Peacock for some while.
Common Darter 13+ all but one male
This is the only female seen, she is eating a large fly, although most of the actual eating is hidden from view.



Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Green Woodpecker shows up on cue

Light WNW breeze, rain early on then fine till late morning when the rain started, becoming increasingly intermittent showers by the afternoon and a bit of sunshine by the evening.

Only my stuff so far, but not a bad day. (MD)

South shore 
Mediterranean gull 1 2nd calendar year on Red Nab (probably missed others)
Wigeon 54 - feeding out from the saltmarsh till the Samphire was out of reach, then most moved towards Potts
Mallard 2 on saltmarsh 
Linnet 46 on saltmarsh 
Common Snipe 3 on saltmarsh (long before the tide covered it)
Jackdaw 13 south
Rock Pipit 1 on Red Nab
Wheatear 4 (one on saltmarsh plus three together on foreshore)
Again, today's Wheatears were large birds
But not large enough to deter one of the territorial Robins from seeing them off!

There were lots of small birds between the lighthouse and waterfall, probably seeming more than there were as three Robins were battling it out and stirring everything up.
Robin 3
Dunnock 1
Wren 2 
Goldfinch 12
Greenfinch 2
Linnet 2
Meadow Pipit 1

Just a few Black-Headed gulls feeding on the outflows
Guillemot 1 first winter bird diving close in along the sea wall


Guillemot diving
I didn't see it catch anything, but last seen making its way to harbour mouth. If it finds the waterfall, it should also find plenty to eat

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look in the late afternoon, primarily to see if I could relocate the Green Woodpecker seen by Alan on Monday
I'd had a quick look yesterday afternoon (it really was a quick check, it only takes 2 minutes from the car park to the top track were the dead trees are), but no sign of it then. Today it showed nicely, I wouldn't say "confiding" but definitely obliging. I'd just reached the top track where I could see the dead tree tops at 16:20. The Green Woodpecker called loudly as it flew from the east side of the reserve and landed in the dead tree, in a position that from where I was, would be one of the few lines of sight. It hung around a few minutes before heading to the north of the reserve, later I heard it from the east side again.
Female Green Woodpecker 
Sorry about the swaying in this clip, it was me not the tree swaying, I had to balance on tip toes to see the woodpecker. It seemed to be scraping the loose bark off with the edge of its beak.

Also on the reserve:
Mute Swan 1 over to east
Moorhen 4
Wood Pigeon were everywhere, no movement, just milling around. 10 was the the most seen at one time, probably double that.
Bullfinch 2
Chiffchaff 1
Jackdaw 25 over to east 
I walked back past the dead trees on the way back, and there was a woodpecker in the same same tree, but this time a female Great-Spotted Woodpecker, it would seem that these trees are worth keeping an eye on.

To get to this area, leave the car park by the gate near the offices, walk up the hill, just before the top there is a gate on the right, this is the top track. The dead trees are about 150m from the gate.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Rufous rain........right.

A fresh SE wind heavy and constant rain through the morning, turning to showers in the afternoon.

Red Nab to Saltmarsh - high water 11:30 (MD)
Mediterranean gulls 4 adult/3rd calendar year plus 1 x 2nd calendar year - none visible through the rain on the first visit, but on the return the tide was almost full. Three adult were just flying off leaving one adult and the 2nd calendar year on the last of the rocks.
Adult Mediterranean gull with a more typical mask than yesterday's bird

2nd calendar year Mediterranean gull with Lesser Black-Backed gull

Little Egret 6
Grey Heron 2
Wigeon 106 flew from Red Nab to saltmarsh 
Redwing 3 - they appeared to come in off over Red Nab, but suspect they were heading out and changed their minds.
Rock Pipit 2 on Red Nab
Robin 2 now defending winter territories on the foreshore - same areas as last winter, one on the corner nearest Red Nab, the other towards the saltmarsh slipway.
Linnet 45 on saltmarsh 
Wheatear 1. This is what today's title refers to. So, not an obscure Prince song, or an American singer (apologies if you got here by searching for either!). This is quite a late bird, large and rufous which is typical of the northern (Greenland) race which tend to come through late. But a morning in the heavy rain made it look even darker (it looked like a Kingfisher at distance!).
Wheatear - even more rufous in the rain
This was a very flighty bird and it took me ages to get in a position to be able to get a decent shot. Fortunately, the rain eased for a while and the fresh wind meant that I could shield my camera with my body. Even so I only managed this short bumpy clip.

Harbour Waterfall
Just a quick check from Fishers side, showed that the waterfall is currently very productive. I watched the cormorant in this clip for a few minutes, in five dives it caught four fish. In this clip it caught two in three dives. Watch it exit stage right with a small whitebait at the end of the clip. These fish are perfect Shag sized and Shag have been regular visitors in previous years.
These are a couple of stills from the above clip
Cormorant with, probably, a Weaver fish or Goby.

Cormorant with what looks like a Whitebait 

The gulls were catching too, this Lesser Black-Backed also has, what looks like
a small Whitebait - this frame is not from the above clip
After this the Cormorant flew off. Hopefully the abundance of fish here will be reflected by increased activity on the outflows. I'll have a look tomorrow.

Heysham Village bay
I stopped in passing at Knowlys Road, just to check if there were any Brent Geese. No Brent, but a distant Canada goose. I couldn't resist walking out to get a better view - just a word of caution, it is fine walking out from the Village, but stay on the rocky sections, the mud further out can be treacherous. If you were stood where this Canada goose was, you would soon be stuck! (MD)
I walked out on the rocky shore till the goose became fidgety, took this quick clip and left it in peace, it was still there when I got back to my car.

 


Monday, 18 October 2021

Green Woodpecker showing well........at last!

SE breeze. Overcast all day with the occasional light showers.

Red Nab to saltmarsh - high water 11:00 (MD)
Mediterranean gull 1 on Red Nab at high water- this looks like the same adult, with a pale mask, that I showed yesterday, but closer today. It had no qualms about clipping an Oystercatcher behind its ear!
This short clip is just to show how close to the sea wall the med was.

Little Egret 6
Grey Heron 2
Lapwing 66
Mallard 4 out from the saltmarsh, but living harmoniously with the two feeding Wigeon today.

Wigeon, originally just two out from the saltmarsh but the Red Nab birds flew to the saltmarsh as the tide rose - at least 120. No wonder the Mallard were tolerating them!
Having just realised yesterday that the older plants of Samphire are providing seeds, it seems that it isn't just the Linnet taking advantage. This is one of the original two feeding Wigeon. You can see the tops of the fresher Samphire out of the water, but the Wigeon appears to be feeding on older growth just below the surface. 

Linnet 41 - but by the time I reached the saltmarsh, their favoured feeding area was already underwater.
Meadow Pipit 2 (no Rock Pipit seen or heard)
Grey Wagtail 1 SE
Common Snipe 8, only two flushed from saltmarsh, the others possibly flushed from Red Nab.
Kestrel 1

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Alan had a quick walk around in the afternoon and was rewarded with:  a confiding Green Woodpecker making good use of the dead willows along the top path (previous sightings this year have just been fleeting, mainly on Middleton).

Heysham skear - late afternoon - low water 17:45
Not a lot
Great Crested grebe 2
Red-breasted Merganser 11 (2, 8 and 1)
Eider 1 
Knot c60 





Sunday, 17 October 2021

Sea "turf" wars and samphire

Light SSE breeze all day, the rain alternating between drizzle and quite heavy.

Red Nab to saltmarsh area - high water 10:15
First an update from yesterday, a check by Pete located:
Mediterranean gull 7 - 5 adult plus a 2nd and 1st calendar year 

Today (MD)
Little Egret 7
Grey Heron 1
Pink-Footed goose 16 low to south
Wigeon 87 - most on Red Nab
Mallard 6 - this is where the "turf wars" come from, the Mallard cleared away the few Wigeon that were out from the saltmarsh. Not sure why the Lesser Blacked-Backed gulls joined in, they probably thought the affray was over food.

Lapwing 78 on the saltmarsh 
Kestrel 1

There was only one flock of mixed waders on the mud out from the saltmarsh, mixed both in species and habit, some feeding some just resting.
Knot 250
Grey Plover 12
Dunlin 40+

There were a scattering of gulls on the mud, with equally scattered Redshank.
Mediterranean gulls 3 adult or 3rd calendar year - in this short clip a Mediterranean gull is at the back with a Common and a Black-Headed gull in front. This individual has an under pronounced "mask", making its face look similar to a BHG. But the white wing tips and distinctive bill give it away (apologies to the birders out there, but many post readers ask about identifying Meds, particularly in winter plumage MD).

Linnet at least 35 - it was raining quite heavily at this time and there could easily have been more. Yesterday there were at least 50 and I will share a video of them shortly, but I was a bit confused yesterday (plus a bit embarrassed at my ignorance), here's why.....
Marsh Samphire (known as "samfer" to locals) - I have known this plant since I was a child, and I have just regarded it as a delicate tasting succulent. But yesterday this is what the Linnet were feeding on, so today I went to have a closer look. The picture below shows the three stages on Samphire out from the saltmarsh at the moment.
The plant on the left is most reminiscent of the Samphire I'm familiar with, but in summer the
stems are also succulent. I now realise that the remaining green at this stage are seed pods.
The pods have withered further on the middle plant, but it is the stage on the right where the
seeds must become available, and this is what the Linnet are feeding on.
The size difference of these specimens is just coincidental, all sizes of each stage are available.

There isn't much Samphire on the saltmarsh itself, it grows around the fringes. This clip shows some of the Linnet landing  just out from the saltmarsh and start to feed.

In this next clip, you can see all the three stages of Samphire that I have pictured above. It is clear that the Linnet are feeding on the third stage.
So, you live and learn. I'd never even thought of Samphire providing seeds, but what else do plants do! When I looked into it, Samphire seeds are listed as a favourite of Twite, perhaps the vagaries of Samphire could be part of the shift in local Twite behaviour? (MD)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
I just checked the main ponds on my way home, mainly to see if the saltmarsh Mallard could have come from here. Sure enough, six Mallard were "missing".
Mute unchanged
Mallard 4
Gadwall 27
Coot 1

Kevin had a good moth in his moth trap last night:

An uncommon migrant moth - Palpita vitrealis.


I say uncommon but it's the third I've had in consecutive years! My site seems to be a magnet for them.






Saturday, 16 October 2021

Not bad, despite the drizzle

SE light breeze, very low cloud occasionally turning to drizzle.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

After a night that was clear until around midnight and then clouded over I was expecting that there might be few birds present this morning.

The catch turned out to be rather poor however. It was calm with a very slight drizzle at times and very few birds were moving around the reserve. No Grey Wagtails seen and only single figure numbers of Redwing roaming about.

Wren 1

Robin 1

Song Thrush 1

Cetti's Warbler 1 retrap

Chiffchaff 2

Goldcrest 1

Blue Tit 3

Bullfinch 1

Lesser Redpoll 5 (all adult except for one)


Vis report from Jean:

Only a little bit of vis today at Middleton 07:00-09:00

Pink-footed Goose 110 NE, presumably from the roost at Pilling, 55 S 

Jackdaw 28 S, 103 N

Rook 5 S

Redwing 5 S

Mistle Thrush 3N

Song Thrush 3 NW, 4 grounded

Blackbird 6 grounded then 2 S

Chaffinch 5SW

Goldfinch 5 W

Reed Bunting 2 SE

Skylark 2 SE

Grey Heron 1 NE

Pied Wagtail 2

Linnet 2 SE

Siskin 1 heard but probably more

Chiffchaff just 1 heard on the reserve

Coal Tit 1

Bullfinch 2 heard - probably local


I just did a quick check of the two main ponds (MD)
Mute unchanged 
Moorhen 8
Coot 1 on main pond - new in
Mallard 10 on main pond
Gadwall 27 all on "no swimming" pond, unusually for this autumn when their numbers increase, no accompanying Mallard or Wigeon.
Teal 2


Red Nab to saltmarsh area high water 09:15 (MD) 
Wigeon 80+ on Red Nab
Shelduck 82
Pink-Footed goose c80 seen heading north, many more heard just above the low cloud.
Rock Pipit 2
Meadow Pipit 1 grounded on foreshore 
Stonechat 1 female or first winter on foreshore near Red Nab. It was being harassed by a Robin, but seemed determined to stick around.
Robin and a Stonechat 


Linnet 50+ feeding on saltmarsh - a marked increase, more on this tomorrow after I've had a closer look at what they are feeding on. 
Lapwing 64
Carrion Crow 24 together on beach just out from the saltmarsh.

The remaining records are waders out from the saltmarsh. There were a lot close in and many more passed by towards Potts. Unfortunately, visibility was poor with the drizzle and a number of walkers out with their dogs was a constant threat.
Bar-Tailed Godwit 53
Grey Plover 15
Knot 250
Dunlin 1,300 resting plus c200 feeding
Sanderling 2
Also present but not counted, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Redshank 

This clip is just to show where we are, and what was going on. There are Oystercatcher, Curlew, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Knot, then I pan up to show the foreshore behind.

The tide was going out now and allowing easier access to the beach, but to be fair I had longer with the birds than I had expected, but an approaching dog finally spooked the feeding birds, at least allowing an in flight clip.

All that remained was a large (1300) resting flock of mainly Dunlin, this is where the winter plumage Sanderling were. Both at the back of the flock, partly obscured and head firmly tucked under their wings. I knew the walkers would soon spook these too, so I focused on one of the Sanderling, hoping for a clear head shot before they moved off. But it was the last bird to react!
Sanderling top centre 
 This is a still from the clip below and the best view provided before they all took off.
If you watch in slow motion you can see it was the last bird to take off, but no detail possible.







Friday, 15 October 2021

Enough moving through, on a clear day, to be interesting

It started cold and calm. The air temperature never really got above 10C but the sun made it feel warm. The breeze started light from the east and briefly switched to NW for a period in the afternoon. Before returning to SE.

First, this excellent shot of a Little Egret taken yesterday by Kevin Singleton 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Report from Jean:

I’ve gone and left the ringing book in Pete’s car and I don’t know what John ended up with (apart from the 10 Redpoll). As far as I remember I only caught 2 Wrens, a Robin and a Reed Bunting.


The vis from 07:30-10:30: 

Mainly corvids.

Jackdaw 235 south, 10 NW - largest flock size was 80

Carrion Crow 10 south, 2 NE 

Pink-footed Goose 82 north, 67 south

Grey Heron 4 SE

Little Egret 1 North

Redwing 39 north

Song Thrush 1 

Blackbird 6 

Woodpigeon 18 south

Grey Wagtail 1 caught

Pied Wagtail 2 north

Chaffinch 1 south, 3 north

Finch sp 10 NW 

Redpoll 1 SE plus 10 caught

Bullfinch 3 south

Skylark 4 SE

Linnet 2 


I had a look around mid morning (MD)
Mute unchanged 
Mallard 11
Gadwall 18
Moorhen 12
Little grebe 1
There was a large mixed tit flock feeding near golf course 30+ birds. I've tried merging a few short videos, not sure if it will work, to convey the general activity. It starts with a Long-Tailed Tit watching the others go by, then a Blue Tit, not sure what it is picking off a leaf. There was at least one Chiffchaff and three Goldcrest, but not certain the crests were actually moving with the feeding flock, or just feeding in the same area.

Dragonflies 
Migrant Hawker 3
Common Darter 6
(One each of the above were seen by Pete, quite early in the morning when the air temperature was still very cool).
This is a clip of a female Common Darter, first landing then visibly "relaxing" in the warmth of the sun.


Out of recording area - Heysham Moss
It was a very nice walk around this under visited reserve. The recent rains have refilled the pools between the peat. (MD).
Teal 4
Mallard 1
Grey Heron 1
Green Sandpiper 1 (heard only)
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 at least
Mixed tit feeding flock c25 birds
Sparrowhawk 1
Raven 1
I couldn't decide if the Sparrowhawk was seeing off the Raven, or vice versa. The Raven ended up heading north.
Ravens and a Sparrowhawk 

Insects - this was my main reason for a visit, it was warm in the sun and I wondered if there were still Black Darters around. I didn't see any, but at times the number of Common Darters around the pools was more like midsummer than mid October!
Common Darter 55 - most in  100m square in the NW corner of the peat pools. Unlike Middleton Nature Reserve where many of the remaining Common Darter are mature female, the Moss darters were all, but one, male. The only female seen was already coupled with a male.
The above was c14:00. On my return to this area c15:00 the breeze had shifted to NW and it was cooler, resulting in only a handful of Common Darters seen, and only when flushed.

Surprisingly no Migrant Hawkers

Presumably third generation Small Copper in the heather