Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Emboldened Brent

A fresh warm(ish) west wind, overcast all day but only the occasional light shower.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick early check of the main ponds to check the gulls for rings, before the ice melted......to late, all the ice had already completely gone,
Mute 2 adult 9 cygnet 
Mallard 9
Gadwall 34 (30 back on "no swimming" pond)
Moorhen 5

North shore
Pete and Jean had a look from Knowlys Rd in the morning's ebbing tide.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 30 - none with colour rings
Shag 1 juvenile 
Eider 167
Pintail 1 out
Single figures Great Crested grebe and Red-breasted Merganser 

I had a check at low water in the afternoon (MD)
Didn't see anything on the sea, not covered above. 
Waders were mainly Oystercatcher, Curlew and Redshank with a few Turnstone but no Knot.
Pale-bellied Brent goose now 33, but it wasn't obvious what was going on. As I was walking out they were all in the skear corner, but looking agitated. Then, without being spooked they flew towards the children's play area, this group of 12 first then the others in smaller groups.
The above clip was 13:45, it was 14:40 by the time I was heading back. Still no Brent in the corner, so I scanned the rocks around the children's play area, the Brent were feeding just out from the promenade on the north side of the play area. This despite dog walkers regularly passing by. As I walked a bit closer three different dog walkers passed. The geese stopped feeding but stayed where they were. This clip is really is just to show the location, n.b. I don't think many of these would have been visible from Knowlys Rd, as they were so close in,  but great views from the promenade.
This is the point when they were finally spooked, I saw another dog walker approaching but didn't see exactly what tipped the balance this time, presumably the dog came too close. They all flew back to the skear corner.
By this time it was 15:05, so they had been feeding here for an hour and 20 minutes. At least it gave me an opportunity to have a close look at the feeding area.
This is the lowest point on the land side and lots of ground water seeps out onto the rocks. When I checked this area at the end of autumn there was very little gut weed here, now it was quite lush and lots floating in small pools. Obviously the lack of ground water in late summer had resulted in a dearth of weed, but it is good to see it can still grow in winter conditions.
This is the gut weed growing where the Brent were feeding.

That said, it is a bit of a worry that the Brent are having to feed so close in, so early in the winter, I called them emboldened in the title, I hope it is just that and not just hungry! As I walked away I saw all 33 birds returning to the same feeding area. It has to be a good viewing opportunity here from the promenade, my advise would be to choose a wet weekday when dog walking will be at a minimum.


Monday, 29 November 2021

A fragmented day

Freezing overnight and into mid morning, despite being overcast. But as the east breeze switched to SW it started warming and light rain began after lunch.

Nothing went to plan today, every time I set off for a walk something else cropped up and foreshortened my walk. Still it was very pleasant in the cold dry morning (MD)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the main ponds, primarily to see if any of the gulls resting on the ice were ringed....they weren't.
The "no swimming" pond was completely frozen over, but the ducks and swans maintained an open patch in the middle of the main pond. That would be fine for the Mute and Mallard that are happy to waddle over the ice to the bank to be fed by visitors. But the weed here wouldn't support the Gadwall for long. Fortunately, the current freezing temperatures are over for the time being.
Some of the wildfowl maintaining an open area on the main pond.
Meanwhile the gulls are happy to stand on the ice

Gadwall 21
Mallard 11
Moorhen 2
Think they're all on this clip
I hope if we get another cold snap, they do as they did last winter and keep a patch of the "no swimming" pond open, there is so much more weed available there for the Gadwall.

South shore
Just time for a look at Red Nab and foreshore at low water.
Wigeon c100 - it's unusual to see so many on Red Nab at low water. They were feeding in the fresh water run off when something spooked them all, allowing a rough count. They only went to Red Nab rocks, but would have returned to the fresh water soon as the gut weed on the rocks was frozen to them.
Shelduck c130 feeding out from foreshore 
Lapwing 55 resting on the frozen mud
Common Snipe 1 flew from slipway
Greenfinch 2 at Red Nab
Rock Pipit 2 on foreshore 
Song Thrush 1 near slipway 

North shore late afternoon 
I had planned to walk down to waterline, but didn't have time, so just a quick check from the promenade at Four Lane Ends
Pale-bellied Brent goose 5 (at least)
Red-breasted Merganser 5 (at least)

Mild and wet tomorrow, and again I haven't much time, I'll have to plan more carefully!

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Skearing in the snow

 Light ESE breeze till lunchtime moved to ENE in the afternoon. Snow started late morning, but quickly started to melt away by mid afternoon.

First an update of the Pale-bellied Brent on the north shore yesterday. Initially we thought there were two new colour ringed combinations, but in fact it was just the low bright sun highlighting the white letters on a blue ring, making the ring look white. Fortunately, Howard's photographs cannot be fooled. If you open these images you can clearly read all three of the ringed birds.
Some of yesterday's Pale-bellied Brent near the rocks out from 
the children's play  area
These are the regular Canadian arctic ringed pair
We are awaiting the history for this white ringed bird

Today:
Heysham skear low water 11:50, 3.2m! (MD)
This "height" of tide barely exposes the skear, and the snow storm started when I reached the shore. To begin with the snow was very cold and dry and just bounced of my camera and binoculars, so I went for a couple of atmospheric shots. But it quickly turned to the more typical wet soft Heysham snow, so all optics stashed (unless something special had turned up)
Pale-bellied Brent 7 in the skear corner - all seven in this clip.

Red-breasted Merganser 8 (6 + 2)
Great Crested Grebe 3
Eider c60. The snow in this clip looks like rain, but it was very dry snow, you can hear it bouncing off my camera. The male Eider are in full display mode now and are trying to woo the available females. You can clearly see the pink flush on their breasts.
Knot c500

There isn't much skear to walk around on these tides, particularly when you are avoiding half of it so as not to disturb the Brent. It was a short walk, so I checked the two main ponds on Middleton Nature Reserve on my way home.
This was the no swimming pond at lunchtime, two odd things, one fairly easy to explain, the other requiring a bit of thought.
A deserted "no swimming" pond

The first oddity is in the caption - deserted! It is easy to explain at one level, as all the birds were on the main pond
Mute 2+9 cygnets 
Gadwall 21
Mallard 14
Moorhen 6
The main pond was also largely covered in thin ice (not thick enough to support the Black-Headed Gulls who rest on it when it is thicker). But there was plenty of open water, but there was also a corner of open water on the "no swimming" pond, and last winter it was that corner that all the wildfowl worked together to keep open.

The other puzzle is that there was no snow covering the ice, on both ponds plus my garden pond at home. Most times when it snows the pond ice is the only surface that holds the snow. What was different today?

The only answer that I can come up with was that today's snow was so cold, perhaps it changed directly to clear ice in contact with the pond ice, rather than remaining an opaque snow ice crystal. It's the only theory I have, any other thoughts/knowledge would be welcome (MD)

The snow here today wasn't much more than a distraction, but inland it was much worse. Pete was snowed in at home. So there may be some displaced birds around.


Saturday, 27 November 2021

Brents defy the wind

The very strong overnight NW winds continued throughout the morning, easing over the afternoon. Again, a surprisingly dry day, with plenty of sunshine, but bitterly cold.

South shore
I did a couple of quick checks in the morning and again when the wind had eased somewhat in the afternoon. A marked shift in behaviour, in the morning all the shore birds were sheltering in the lee of something. Some feeding but most just waiting out the storm. By the afternoon, there was a frantic clamour to feed before the quickly approaching night.
Morning shift:
Shelduck c100 feeding just in front of the foreshore, unfortunately too close for their comfort when I walked along, as they took flight, the wind caught them and lifted them high.
Shelduck caught by the wind, fortunately they landed further
out and continued feeding in a "sheltered" shallow drain
Wigeon, just a few sheltering behind No.2 outflow
Rock Pipit 1 on foreshore
Mediterranean gulls 2 adult sheltering amongst the rocks on the seaward side of the beach near wooden jetty.

You really need some south in the wind to drive seabirds into the bay, even so, with such a strong overnight wind, there is always a chance of something unexpected. But I wasn't expecting this unexpected land bird (MD)
Kingfisher 1 briefly on Red Nab, before flying west along the sea wall, I suspect it then flew into the Power Station grounds.
Kingfisher - it flew off just after this shot

The afternoon look didn't find anything new apart from a lot more Wigeon. This short clip demonstrates how frantic the activity was around No.2 outflow. Most of these are Wigeon and Black-Headed gulls, but also a few waders.

As ever when there are plenty of birds around, the predators aren't far away. This young Peregrine was searching for opportunities.


North shore 
Howard checked the north shore, and despite my assertion yesterday, that Brent are reluctant to come over in high winds, he located 21, although at least some of them did not arrive until the wind had dropped. 
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 21. Initially 12 in the channel out from Heysham Village, later joined by 9 more. They all then made their way towards the rocks near the children's play area. They were still there at 16:00.
Three of the birds were ringed. Hopefully pictures and possibly some details for tomorrow's post.

Finally the first snow picture this winter, it looks nice, but I wouldn't want to be up there today, although I know that some, hardier souls, would.
Snow on the South Lakes hills

Friday, 26 November 2021

Time to hunker down!

The strong overnight west wind eased slightly and shifted to NW. it became strong again by evening and forecast to become very strong overnight. Surprisingly, it remained dry today, with quite a lot of sunshine.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a brief check of the two main ponds showed little change.
Mute 2 adult plus 9 cygnet 
Moorhen 5
Mallard 10
Teal 1
Gadwall 36 (34 on "no swimming" pond plus 2 on main pond.
These are some of the Gadwall, still having to upend to reach the weed.

South shore
A walk along the sea wall at low water, isn't the best time to visit, but it was the only time I had (MD).
Greenfinch 10 near Red Nab
Shelduck 121 feeding on mud out from Red Nab
Wigeon, just a few starting to gather near No.1 outflow, c40
Mediterranean Gull 1 adult on shore near No.2 outflow - this first clip is just to show the location plus the amount of gulls currently feeding on No.2 outflow (there were none feeding on No.1).

The drain it is in, is fed by the freshwater culvert from Red Nab, and although it will be brackish at this point, it is still better than bathing in sea water.

By the time I was heading back, it had switched to the unsheltered side for a blow dry!

Mediterranean gull, with Black-Headed gull in foreground 

North shore
Just a quick check of the Children's play area in the afternoon, failed to locate any Brent Geese, not a surprise, they tend to stay on the west side in harsh winds. Plenty of waders trying to avoid both the wind and the increasingly close walkers.
Oystercatcher c2,000
Knot c400
Redshank c100
Dunlin 20
Turnstone 20
Grey Plover 1
Ringed Plover 10
If you look closely at the Knot at the start of this clip, you can see  one with a yellow flag (you may need to watch in slow motion). I had thought there were two with white rings too, but probably just a trick of the low light.  No chance of me reading rings at this range in these conditions.

Unfortunately, they were all flushed by a blissfully unaware walker just after this clip

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Another old visitor pops by again (perhaps)

Cold WNW winds, overnight frost and a mainly sunny day (albeit a short one!)

First, these shots from Howard, when the Peregrine chased the Knot from the Heliport on Monday. These, and Janet's below are best viewed by opening the images.
Peregrine Falcon......
......and the prey - Knot

Janet took these shots during her walk around Heysham Nature Reserve this morning
Female Kestrel 
Jay
Goldfinch feeding on seeds from Alder cones
Moorhen 
You can expect to see all the above species, and more, during a walk around the well maintained footpaths. A very pleasant walk on a day like today.

Heysham skear - low water 08:45 (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 4 (2+2) none ringed.
Pink-Footed Goose 58 very high to south at 09:15
Eider c60
Common Scoter 1 juvenile feeding near conger rock
Great Crested Grebe 4
Red-breasted Merganser 1 male
Knot c150
Dunlin c60

South Shore
Not a lot today
Shelduck and Wigeon in similar numbers to recent visits.
Lapwing 33
Reed Bunting 1 on saltmarsh 

This is today's "old visitor". A Black-Headed Gull with a toe growing out of its left knee was on the upstands in the harbour 18/09/20. This is the picture I took then.
I called it Toe Knee (Tony for short)

This is it, or a very close relative, today, again on the upstands in the harbour.
The toe growing from the left knee does look identical to the previous picture,
but I suppose all Black-Headed gulls toes will look pretty much identical.

But there is a difference, seen from behind there is another growth on the right knee, which appears to be a truncated or possibly broken off toe. So this has either happened since last September or it is a different bird.
 Tony Two?

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Purple Sandpiper and good news from Canada!

A fresh west wind, overcast all day with plenty of showers.

Heysham skear - low water 08:00 (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 6 in the SE corner - this is the good news from Canada. On 12th November There were four adults including just one with red and blue rings. The two regular red/blue ringed birds from Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian Arctic were ringed as a breeding pair in 2014, and I have never seen one more than 2m from its mate. Today, there were six adult birds including both the ringed birds. I don't suppose we'll ever know if the solitary red/blue ringed bird was a different individual or if somehow the two had become separated in transit, then reunited. Either way it's nice to have them back! Although this is the second year when they haven't had juveniles with them.
This is today's six, they were drinking from the groundwater run off as well as picking up the bits of sea lettuce. You can make out one of the ringed birds in the middle.

The light wasn't good, and it had started drizzling, I needed to get a little closer to check the letters on the rings. If you move slowly and keep quiet Brent will let you approach quite closely, but if you encroach into their comfort zone they sound warning "honks". It's a nice warm sound, not like the normal harsh goose honk. The other birds stop to see what the danger is, but if you remain still, they return to feeding. And so it was today, at the beginning of this clip you can hear four soft honks from of a couple of the Brent as I came "close enough". After a fifth honk, two ringed birds stopped feeding, unfortunately, one behind an Oystercatcher.

But, no matter, I was close enough, and managed to confirm both birds. This is a still from the above clip it shows the male bird VDRB (VD are the letters and RB the ring colours)
Canadian ringed Pale-bellied Brent goose

There wasn't a lot else around and the rain was getting harder.
Eider 13
Knot c500
Dunlin 15

Later Pete and Jean checked some key areas, and located some key birds! - report from Pete:
All 6 Pale-bellied Brent out from Knowlys Rd at 11:35
Mediterranean gull 1 adult behind the lunchtime ferry
Shag 1 juvenile exited Heysham Harbour late morning then headed north
Purple Sandpiper - 1 on Sunny Slopes groyne 13:30 - technically, this is a "seen from" the recording area, even so Pete managed this phone/scope shot.
Purple Sandpiper centre, flanked by Redshank and Dunlin 

After Pete sent me this shot, I went down for a look (MD). It was more or less in the same place at 14:45, but the beach was becoming exposed and the waders had started to drift off. The Purple Sandpiper was one of the last to leave at 15:00. Even then it only went further out along the groyne. 

All in all, quite a satisfying day.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Great White Egret duo

Calm and sunny initially after another cold night. Then a slight southerly air movement brought in the clouds. The breeze freshened slightly and moved to west.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A quick check of the main ponds confirmed there are still 38 Gadwall, although no sign of the Wigeon today.

Red Nab and saltmarsh area (MD)
Wigeon c120 on Red Nab
Shelduck 143 most out from the saltmarsh 
Rock Pipit 1 on foreshore 
The plan was to check the mud out from the saltmarsh for waders on the incoming tide, unfortunately, someone else also had plans for this area. Someone exercising a horse quickly cleared most of the birds.
Curlew 48
Lapwing 20
Knot c100
Grey Plover 12
Redshank 20
Oystercatcher c30
Dunlin 8
Ringed Plover 41
Both the above were feeding together and appeared to be finding plenty to eat.
I checked the area where they were feeding after the horse had flushed them. I couldn't see anything to eat, certainly nothing moving. I can only think they were finding tiny molluscs, although the way they were feeding it did look like they were "catching" their food. Presumably the molluscs quickly retreat under the mud and my heavy tread gave them ample warning to get out of sight.

Greenfinch just one near Red Nab, none around the saltmarsh. It looks as though the mustard bonanza is over, although all the plants still have some pods.

Great White Egret 2 together 13:30. I was surrounded by trees near the small anemometer when they flew directly over me to the west. I didn't see them coming so had very little time to get my camera out, so only managed this hasty low magnification shot of one of them.
By the time I'd got to a clearing, they were quite a distance away and had turned north towards Heysham Nature Reserve. Again I only managed a soft focus shot of one of them, but it does show their impressive wing span.
One of two Great White Egret 


Pale-bellied Brent Goose 3 11:30 - seen from promenade below Heysham Village - seen by a visiting birder, Phil Byle via Pete

Out of recording area - just north of the Stone Jetty.
Purple Sandpiper 2 at Bare pool, where Seaborn Road meets the promenade - ref Jeff Butcher


Monday, 22 November 2021

Gadwall numbers continue to increase

Overnight frost left thin ice on the shallowest pools. The very light breeze varied from NE to NW with some calm periods in between. Sun for most of the day.

Heliport area
Unfortunately, a very active Peregrine Falcon flushed the Knot from the sea wall. Today's tide was the last in this set of spring tides. The next set starts in 10 days and are higher, so hopefully further opportunities for the ringed Knot to be read.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
I had a short walk around (MD)
Mute Swan 2 adult plus 9 cygnets 
Moorhen 11
Mallard 14
Gadwall 38 - I think this is the highest count this year and equals the peak for 2020. 32 on the "no swimming" pond plus 6 on the main pond.
Wigeon 2 - this pair were feeding with the three pair of Gadwall on the main pond. This clip has the Wigeon pair on the left with a pair of Gadwall on the right. The drakes are easy, the bills on the ducks are the best separator.
Little grebe 2 on "no swimming" pond

Thrushes - a few more feeding on Hawthorn berries today.
Song Thrush 2
Blackbird 37
Redwing 28

Redwing 

Grey Wagtail 1 - finding small insects 

As ever when there are lots of birds, the bird predators turn up (as per Peregrine on Heliport this morning). 
Here a more modest Sparrowhawk 
Juvenile Sparrowhawk 


Red Nab
Just a quick check on the way home. No sign of the Brent goose today, but the tide had only just reached the outer rocks.
Wigeon c150
Shelduck 127 - most on mud out from the foreshore 
Grey Heron 1
Little Egret 3
Greenfinch, just a couple flitting about

Finally, just a couple of images to show how much the light, particularly low winter sun, and location affect the appearance of a bird. This clip is the Grey Heron resting on the peninsula of the main pond at Middleton. The ripples of light reflecting across its back give it a very serene appearance.

In contrast, the Grey Heron resting on Red Nab rocks had its back to the light, and looks, for all the world, to be straight out of a Dracula movie! 
Grey Heron on Red Nab, looking very black!
Oh..... is that a 1971 type Grab Hopper Dredger in the background

Sunday, 21 November 2021

Solitary Brent knows the ropes

 A very cool NW wind, sunshine all day.

Pale-bellied Brent goose 2 - Contrary to today's title, Pete Crooks saw two out from Knowlys early morning when the tide was still low. But this was the only multiple sighting of the day.
10:30 - 1.5 hours before high water this individual was just out from Red Nab. This is the first record on Red Nab this winter and I can't recall seeing a single Brent here before. But it seemed to know what it was doing, there is gut weed available on the outer rocks of Red Nab, but it is cropped close by the Wigeon. This bird was biding its time.

11:40 - it was still on Red Nab, but now close to the sea wall feeding on the slightly longer gut weed, now floating in the rising tide. I don't know how long it remained on Red Nab, possibly throughout high water. 

15:10 What I took to be the same solitary bird was floating on the water on the south side of the skear, directly above the rocky area with some gut weed patches. By 15:15 it was reaching down and feeding on the gut weed.
15:30 The rocky area was now exposed, this is the Brent amongst the Oystercatchers

It was still feeding here when I left at sunset (16:00!). I suspect that this was not one of the two seen earlier by Pete, but it obviously knows the area from an earlier visit, strange that it was alone. I wouldn't be surprised if it were on Red Nab again tomorrow lunchtime (MD)

Other stuff:
South Shore
Wigeon c100
Shelduck 44
Knot c600 Red Nab
Common Snipe 15 flushed from saltmarsh, just after the tide reached it.
Rock Pipit 1 on Red Nab
Song Thrush 1 on saltmarsh 
Greenfinch 15 on saltmarsh 
Guillemot 1 in harbour near waterfall 
Guillemot 
Guillemot doing its Penguin impression

As I walked down from the lighthouse, the Guillemot was feeding, but by the time I'd reached the waterfall area it was just preening.


Heysham "skear"
It was such a lovely afternoon that I couldn't resist a walk on the shore, the inverted commas reflect that darkness fell before the skear was really exposed (MD).
Apart from the Brent there were:
Eider c90
Oystercatcher c2,500
Knot c2,000
Turnstone c40
Curlew c30
The low bright light was adding a warm colour to the birds, these clips are no different to ones I've shown before, apart from the unusual light.
Eider flying in from the north of the bay, the distant hills are not really covered in snow!

Eider taking to the water, the females looking a very warm brown in the nearly setting sun.

Finally, Howard managed to read several more Knot on the Heliport wall, despite some disturbance from dog walkers. He also managed this shot, please open it to fully appreciate (it reminds me of the shot of Vinnie Jones and Gazza, although the Knot is getting off lightly!)
an aggressive Oystercatcher on the wall today with Knot on the receiving end.


Saturday, 20 November 2021

Just a quick check, but a reasonable variety

SW wind drifting more westerly by the afternoon. Mainly overcast with some light showers.

Just my morning high water check of Red Nab and Saltmarsh area and Howard's check of the Heliport so far (MD)
Chiffchaff 1 near small anemometer 

Wigeon c120 initially on Red Nab then to saltmarsh and Potts corner 
Shelduck 35 out from saltmarsh 
Pale-bellied Brent 4 flew from west towards the estuary 
Little Egret 4
Grey Heron 1
Rock Pipit at least 2 - one on foreshore and one one both sides of saltmarsh 
Greenfinch 36 around saltmarsh 
Reed Bunting 2 saltmarsh 
Common Snipe 39
Jack Snipe 3 confirmed, likely there were more.
Both the above flushed as the tide covered the saltmarsh 

Heliport area:
Howard managed to read some more of the ringed Knot in the brief sunshine at high water. This one was ringed in Iceland
Knot on the Heliport wall at high water
It is very important that these Knot are not disturbed here as they
roost on spring tides, as disturbance not only prevents them being from
being read that day, but it may deter the flock from returning another day.


Friday, 19 November 2021

Plenty of berries to go round

A fresh west wind, dry all day with plenty of sunshine 

Half Moon Bay to Heysham Head - high water 11:00
Howard managed to read two ringed Knot from the Heliport wall, unfortunately two others has damaged/dirty flags and couldn't be read. 

I particularly like this dynamic shot, by Howard.
You'll need to open the image to appreciate the detail (MD)
A walk along the shore line located three Rock Pipit. 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Brimstone butterfly 1, seen by Janet in the morning. Quite a distant shot, but fortunately of a very distinctive species.
Late Brimstone butterfly 

I had a good walk around in the afternoon, but failed to see any butterflies or dragonflies (MD)
Mute 2 adult 9 cygnet 
Moorhen 4
Mallard 12
Gadwall 32
Tufted duck 1 male
Teal 2 (on Tim Butler pond)
Little grebe 2 (one on both main ponds)
Water Rail 1 calling from Tim Butler pond

Green Woodpecker 1 - unfortunately flew into the low sun and I lost it
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 female

There were surprisingly few winter thrushes around considering the amount of Hawthorn berries still available. The following are my best estimates in excess of resident birds:
Blackbird 15
Song Thrush 4
Redwing 13
All were gorging on Hawthorn berries:
Blackbird 

Redwing 

Also Chaffinch, although I wasn't clear exactly what they were eating. This still from the clip below, suggests they were eating partially withered Hawthorn berries.
Male Chaffinch with what looks like a withered Hawthorn berry


Even a Long Tailed Tit was having a go, obviously not feeding on the berries, but seeming to be finding plenty to eat amongst them.

Wood Pigeon 20 north plus 7 west at 14:30 - presumably local movement 
Roe Deer 1 female


Thursday, 18 November 2021

Lots of Snipe, including Jack

WSW to west wind, mainly overcast all day with occasional showers, mainly in morning.

Howard had a look at the Heliport Wall. Fortunately, today there were c2,000 Knot with the Oystercatchers. Unfortunately, today's tide was not high/rough enough to push them to the top of the wall where the ringed ones can be seen and hopefully read.
Knot tucked in with the Oystercatchers on the sloping Heliport wall.

South Shore (MD)
Wigeon c150 on Red Nab, later c80 went to the saltmarsh and the rest towards Potts Corner.
Greenfinch 2 on Red Nab plus 34 around the saltmarsh 
Rock Pipit 4. One on Red Nab, two together on sea wall followed by a third when they flew into the Power Station
Guillemot 1 in harbour near the waterfall 
Guillemot 

It wasn't feeding, but looked in good health, so I presume it had just finished feeding, as it did have a vigorous bath.

Today's tide was 9m, not quite high enough to cover the saltmarsh completely. But high enough to flush the Common snipe which invariably feed near the middle and outer edges of the marsh.
Common Snipe 38
Jack Snipe 2 - these were a bonus as they tend to move out to the inner edges of the marsh, as the spring tides develop. These two were flushed from the middle of the marsh, but landed back on the marsh nearer the inner edge.
Tomorrow's tide looks promising, unfortunately I'm elsewhere.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the two main ponds found the wildfowl to be as yesterday, including the male Tufted duck. I was pleased about that, as I'd saved this clip from yesterday (I wasn't sure if I'd have time for a walk this morning). Tufted duck, looking bored with the Gadwall:

Heysham skear - low water 16:50
Just a very brief check in the fading light at 15:30
No Brent geese
Red-breasted Merganser 6, at least, feeding together 
No Great Crested Grebe seen, but almost certainly present 
Eider c50 close in
Common Scoter 1 juvenile, also close in
Knot c1,500


Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Lots of waders

Wind started SSW but moved to WSW by the afternoon. Overcast to begin with, but the sun broke through late morning and it remained largely sunny in the afternoon.

Just my stuff so far (MD)

Red Nab and Saltmarsh - high water 10:00
Wigeon 120 on Red Nab with some moving to saltmarsh - these are on the saltmarsh, I don't think it is the marsh grass they are eating but gut weed that grows on the mud between the grass. They would prefer to eat this when covered in water so it floats upwards, but today's tide was not high enough.
Shelduck 14
Lapwing 40
Redshank 48
Grey Plover 2
Grey Plover near Saltmarsh - I'm always drawn to taking a picture of Grey Plover,
I think it's because they always seem to "strike a pose" 

Rock Pipit 1 on east side of the saltmarsh, the returning Robins defining their winter territories seem to have pushed the regular birds out.
Greenfinch 27 + 6 around the saltmarsh feeding on wild mustard seeds.
Chiffchaff 1 near small anemometer 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look,at the two main ponds on my way home.
Mute 2 adult 9 cygnets 
Moorhen 6
Mallard 11
Gadwall 30
Tufted 1 male
Little grebe 1

Heysham skear low water 16:50
Checked from 14:00 to 15:30
I couldn't work out what was attracting these gulls and crows as I went down the sea wall steps, it is typical behaviour when being fed bread, but no sign of anything to eat! It is only when I looked back from the shore that the reason became obvious. This is two clips from different angles merged together.
Someone had left a handful of seeds on a rock, presumably intended for the House Sparrows, who feed around the rocks.

Pale-bellied Brent goose 8 - the first two arrived at 14:20
On my return there were 8 feeding along the ground water run off channel, so I had a look at the rocks where I left them feeding yesterday. Not very impressive, no sea lettuce and no large amounts of gut weed, just the occasional gut weed covered rock.
A few gut weed covered rocks were the 20 Brent were feeding yesterday 
Little Egret 10
Eider c70
Great Crested Grebe 11
Red-breasted Merganser 8 - these are some of the Merganser feeding, watch the bird on the right, early in the following clip.it has just surfaced with a small fish, and immediately a young Herring gull swoops down, but is nowhere near quick enough!
This is a still from the clip below, the Merganser on the right has just surfaced with a small fish.

There were a lot more waders around today, no doubt waiting to get onto the outer skear that would become exposed a little later in the tide, this will be the first time it has been exposed for a week.
Oystercatcher 2,500+
Knot c1,500 estimated on ground, including however many there were in this undulating flock.
There were no Knot seen on the Heliport wall at high water this morning. It is likely that the increasingly regular instances of dog walkers trespassing onto the Heliport grass is causing them to roost elsewhere, significantly impacting on the important reading of international schemes involving colour ringed Knot. The port authorities have been notified of the trespassing.
Curlew 88 counted, almost certainly many more missed
Redshank c50
Turnstone c40

Finally, it was a bit misty this afternoon and the west side of the bay was largely obscured. But the bright low sun picked out the white limestone of Sir John Barrow Monument (Ulverston lighthouse). Making it look like the launch of a Space Shuttle, albeit without rocket smoke.
Sir John Barrow monument atop of the 138m Hoad Hill





Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Brents moving up the beach

SSW wind, overcast all day, but mainly dry.

I only had time for one quick check of the skear late afternoon, and so far, no reports from elsewhere (MD).

Heysham skear - low water 16:15
Checked around 15:00
Pale-bellied Brent goose 20. It was quiet on the shore today and when I started the Brent were already moving up the freshwater run off where the sea lettuce grows. This clip is actually looking back from the corner where they are normally found at this stage of the ebbing tide. It follows the line of the run off to the lead birds who were already some way up the shore.

When I returned 30 minutes later, they were even closer to the sea wall. I thought the rocks where they are feeding here only held gut weed, I'll have a look when they are not there. I couldn't decide if they were moving up the beach, just because they weren't being disturbed or whether the sea lettuce along the drain is too depleted.

Eider 100+. These are a few flying in, and then landing like bricks!

Red-breasted Merganser 6
No Great Crested Grebe seen, but it was choppy 
Little Egret 10
Knot 1,000+ actively feeding today
No sign of the Shag, so much for predictions! (Although feeding opportunities at the end of the day always depend on how successful the rest of the day has been). 
But I like this shot of a Cormorant on conger
Cormorant on conger rock with the harbour lighthouse in the background 


Monday, 15 November 2021

Shag becoming predictable

 Very light mainly SE breeze. Low cloud all day, precipitation almost constant, ranging from mist to heavy drizzle.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Report from John:

Short ringing session this morning, ending with the arrival of heavy drizzle just after 9am. Birds caught prior to this comprised :

Redwing x 7

Blackbird x 1

Cettis Warbler x 1 retrap

Wren x 1 retrap

Log-tailed Tit x 1 retrap



South shore high water 08:45 (MD)
Just Red Nab to saltmarsh checked
Chiffchaff 1 in scrub behind Red Nab
Greenfinch 13 on Red Nab + 11 on saltmarsh 
Peregrine 1
Wigeon c80 on Red Nab
Shelduck c20 on Red Nab + 62 feeding out from saltmarsh 
Little Egret 6
Grey Heron 1
Lapwing 35 out from saltmarsh + 43 south

Heysham skear - low water 15:30
Checked an hour before low water, it was already dark enough!
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 8 - in SE skear corner. I managed a close look at 6 on the way out none ringed. A distance check on return saw 8 together.
Eider 97
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Great Crested Grebe 3
Almost certainly more of the above three species, but visibility range was very low.
Dunlin 2
Knot c900 flew in from the north and the rested on the middle of the skear.

Shag 1 juvenile - I could see it from a distance on conger rock with two cormorant. This shot is from the waterline and conger was just within visibility range. Even at that distance, with cormorant to compare with, you can pick the Shag by size and general shape (better birders than I would not require a comparison bird (MD).
Conger rock looming out of the gloom, with Shag on left

Fortunately, by the time I was on the skear, and closer, the Shag had moved to the north side of conger, making for better viewing. This rock gets some "fertiliser", just as well it is washed down twice a day! Shag now on right side of conger.

Not long after this clip all the birds started leaving to feed, the tide was still ebbing, but the water was at a similar height to when they left the other day. So perhaps, at least for the Shag, it is the depth of water here that counts. This is it flying off to feed, not the most graceful of efforts! Unfortunately, the drizzle increased at this point and I couldn't get a decent clip of it diving.


Sunday, 14 November 2021

Lots of Pinks and Brent numbers increasing

Calm to light SSE breeze. Sunny spells turning to overcast by mid afternoon.

There were a lot of Pink-footed geese around today. Janet reported the fields behind Meldon/Oxcliffe roads full of noisy geese at first light. The various records below record 6,000+ heading NW to NE, the latest at 15:10 - which seems late to be heading north.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Report from Alan:

With clear skies and calm conditions, there was a grass frost this morning although it didn't feel too cold except for the hands whilst setting nets. Ringing was very slow with only 9 birds caught by ten thirty. There were 20+ blackbirds grounded around the ringing area and small groups of Redwing and the odd fieldfares moving about the reserve feeding on Hawthorn berries. By 08.30 there was less movement with ones and twos of blackbirds and redwings quietly feeding in hawthorns all around.


The highlight was just after sunrise when lines (possibly 2500) of Pink footed Geese came from the Fylde area flying NE - they filled the sky almost from horizon to horizon and sound of their calls was wonderful. A second, slightly smaller flock followed half an hour later (possibly 1500) and a further 250 + 70 followed them.


Ringing:

Redwing 3

Goldcrest 1

Chiffchaff 1

Single retraps each of Wren, Long tailed Tit and Great Tit.


Up to three Water Rails calling in the reeds.


Shaun managed another visit this morning:

Half Moon Bay & Heysham Head 07:30 - 10:30

Pink-footed Goose - large group of c1300 heading North and NE at 07:35 + c130 NE at 07:45

Shag juv feeding close in just off the northern tip of Heysham Head at high tide

Little Egret 11

Lapwing 84 roosting next to Helipad with some spooked and heading north

Golden Plover group of 36 heading in to the bay

Ringed Plover 4 roosting Heysham Head

Knot c900 in several flocks heading south towards harbour

Snipe 5 flushed off Helipad by a dog walker 

Peregrine pair over power station

Rock Pipit 4


Heysham Nature Reserve 10:30 - 11:30

Did a circuit from the reserve car park to the NE corner via Dipping Pond

Very few birds besides c25 Blackbird, c15 Redwing, 3 Robins and a pair of Bullfinch! 


Small Tortoiseshell 1 seen later by Kevin.


Heysham skear - low water 14:30 (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent geese 23 - initially 21 in the SE corner with 2 more feeding further up the surface water run off. Unfortunately the track the surface water takes down to the corner is the same track used by the tractors to launch and retrieve dinghies, and one operating today temporarily flushed them to the NE corner, but they quickly returned after the tractor left. I had good views of all the birds, none were ringed. 
This shot is actually from the sea wall at Rydal road. This is 30x magnification, so probably not practical for binoculars, but a scope from the sea wall will provide better views. I would not advocate Rydal road though, as if the water had been further out the geese would be out of sight, but anywhere to the south of the skear is fine.
Pale-bellied Brent feeding in the SE corner of skear

This clip is when they all went to the NE corner, you can easily see the Stone Jetty behind, so presumably the geese would be visible from there, but they don't stay there long on calm days, as there is nothing to feed on (West to SW strong winds can drive broken weed into this corner).

Eider 155
Common Scoter 1 juvenile 
Great Crested Grebe 9
Red-breasted Merganser 3 (2 male)
Little Egret 15
Grey Heron 2
Knot - yesterday there was about 1,500 smeared along the centre of the skear, just resting, not feeding. Today there were just a few flocks of 4 - 12 birds. These 4 were also taking advantage of the fresh water run off, they appear to be having a drink.

Pink-Footed goose c600 one flock to NW at 15:10, presumably they had been flushed from wherever they had been feeding. 600 is one of the smaller flocks recorded today, even so, it is quite impressive.