Friday 31 December 2021

A respectable end to the year.

 Very heavy overnight rain stopped quite early. SW wind with occasional sunny spells.

Saltmarsh area - high water 08:50
Rock Pipit 2
Lapwing 80
Wigeon 180 along saltmarsh 
This clip shows two things, first the activity on the saltmarsh edge, but also how much of the saltmarsh remains exposed on these 8.6m tides.
Even so, these early spring tides do tend to flush more snipe than you would expect:
Common Snipe 39
Jack Snipe 1 - this was actually flushed by me as I walked around the outer saltmarsh edge. It landed again almost immediately in the middle of the saltmarsh.
Peregrine Falcon 1 (almost inevitable with the predictable snipe movement)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
The overnight rain has raised the "no swimming" pond water level by 30cm! Even so the Gadwall seemed to be still reaching some weed, but they had deserted the main pond:
Mute 2 x 2 adult 3 + 6 cygnets 
Moorhen 8
Coot 1 moved to main pond.
Mallard 5 on main pond
Gadwall 35 all on "no swimming" pond.
Tufted Duck 5 male
Shoveler 1 mature male
No sign of Teal, Wigeon or Pochard.
A distinct lack of female Tufted so far this winter!

The diving ducks of course can still reach their food, the Gadwall appeared to be feeding around where the Tufted were diving. Presumably the Tufted were breaking some clumps of weed free to float to the surface (MD).

Pete and Jean managed to check some vantage points but the mid distance haze ruled out any distant searches.
Mediterranean gull 1 adult behind the dredger
Shag one feeding near the green marker post.

North shore
Brent geese
So far no reports from other observers. The following are just my observations (MD). There could have been more as the area was very busy and the birds were in at least two groups.
A walk out to the skear from Four Lane Ends at 13:35 saw only 2 Pale-bellied Brent fly in to the children's play area.
On returning at 15:00 there was a group of 13 on the outer rocks north of the play area, these included 2 Dark-bellied Brent. There was another group of 22 Pale-bellied Brent, including the Canadian ringed birds much closer to the play area. So at least:
Pale-bellied Brent 33
Dark-bellied Brent 2
Very similar to Pete C observation at the same time yesterday.

Heysham skear 
Great Crested Grebe 2
Eider c100
Shelduck 4 out
Knot c150
Redshank c200 (Redshank numbers here always increase when we move to spring tides and more shore is exposed each tide)
Shag 1 juvenile feeding in shallow water. When feeding like this both Shag and Cormorant often snorkel to see what's around, before diving. This one does a bit of snorkelling early in this clip - note how its profile changes after wetting its head.

Well, here we are again....another year over.......another year older! This time last year, I said "at least we can now see some light at the end of what has seemed an endless tunnel" - I must have been using some remarkable optics! Although to be fair we did move into a brighter area for a while, so much so that I had resumed other activities and had planned to use this post to say that my ability to cover as much as I have been doing will inevitably reduce in 2022. But, for now I'm back to being, a self imposed, recluse! So, walking the area will remain my main activity for some while yet. Thanks for all the contributions that have helped me to compile the daily posts. The Observatory team of course, but several post readers have also sent me records and pictures. These are always welcome, and not necessarily of rare sightings, this post is partly about showing what can easily be seen in the Heysham area. So all information is of value, either via any member of the team or directly to me, my email address is on the side bar - Thanks. Malcolm.

Also last year I posed the question as to why the sea birds do not rest on the superstructure of No.2 outflow, and promised, some sort of answer by this year. We have all been watching more intently this year. There were two periods of extended calm weather when a few gulls rested on the upper rails, but not for long. The general consensus is that the outlet water surging around the hollow vertical supports causes vibrations that resonate around the structure, which must somehow be unpleasant to rest on. I am happy that is certainly part of it, but doesn't really explain why in two periods of calm weather the resonance was at least tolerable. 
Black Headed gulls resting on the railings of No.2 outflow, where you would expect them to rest
constantly. This was during the second calm period this year in mid December, when it was also foggy!
I did notice that even when the gulls rested here this year, "resting" wasn't the correct term. They were restless! (MD)

So all that remains is to wish everyone a 
Happy New Year 2022!

Thursday 30 December 2021

Brent numbers increasing again.

A fresh SSW wind all day. Very low cloud in the morning with some light showers. The rain becoming heavy and persistent by the afternoon.

South Shore mid morning
Lapwing 232 on mud out from the saltmarsh 
Common Snipe 5 seen in the sea grass patches just out from the saltmarsh, there were almost certainly many more, but they are difficult to spot and I didn't want to disturb the Lapwing by getting too close. These images were taken on Tuesday when I managed to locate 18. Not great shots but do show where to look, even so, you have to believe they are there before you can spot them (a bit like Fairies! MD).
Just 1 Common Snipe visible here

There are 3 Common Snipe visible in this clump
They remind me of Pheasants, their camouflage is so good that if, in the correct terrain, they remain motionless you invariably wouldn't see them. But long before you get close to them, they take flight. In contrast, Jack Snipe totally trust their camouflage and you almost need to tread on them before they take flight.

Shelduck 78 on mud out from foreshore 
Wigeon 201 - today the tide was ebbing and they flew from Red Nab to the channel along No.2 outflow. It was raining at this point, so again a clip from Tuesday. On this clip, the tide was rising and they were trudging their way towards Red Nab. These are only some of Tuesday's Wigeon.

Rock Pipit 3 (1 on Red Nab plus 2 together on sea wall)
No sign of any Shag in the harbour 

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look on the way home:
No sign of the Pochard today, which is a shame, I was hoping it would hang around till Saturday! Perhaps it will return.
Mute Swan the 2 new adults were still on the main pond, separate from but not bothered by the 6 cygnets. 2 adult plus 3 cygnets on the "no swimming" pond.
Mallard 4 on main pond
Gadwall 39 (24 on main pond)
Wigeon 2 (pair)
Tufted Duck 4 male
Teal 2 (pair)
Shoveler 1 mature male
Coot 1
Moorhen 8

North shore
Brent Geese 
Report from Pete Crooks:

34 Pale-bellied Brent Geese (including the two regular Canadian colour-ringed birds) and 

2 Dark-bellied Brent Geese close to the promenade off Whinnysty Lane at 3.00 pm.

I had a look from the promenade a little later, even so it was almost dark with the heavy rain. Unfortunately just as I arrived a particularly boisterous dog managed to flush everything, from both sides of the play area, resulting in a flock of 45 Brent geese. Most were Pale-bellied, it was not possible to pick out any dark-bellied as they flew further out, with their backs towards me. Brent numbers here tend to peak on the neap tides, we are moving back towards spring tides now. Anyway, it should  be better viewing weather tomorrow afternoon. (MD)

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Dark-bellied Brents - first of winter

A fresh SW wind, rain in the morning eased before lunch, then mainly dry.

Harbour waterfall
Just a quick check from Fishers side 10:10.
Rock Pipit 1
Shag 1 juvenile - this isn't my picture, it's another of Craig's great shots from yesterday. As ever with these high resolution images, please open to see the detail.
Juvenile Shag

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just another quick check
Two new adult Mute swans were on the main pond, the six cygnets were not happy and were trying to drive them off. This adult looks like it has already received a peck on its neck.
The original 2 adult and the other three cygnets were on the "no swimming" pond 
Another cosmopolitan list of wildfowl on the two ponds:
Moorhen 8
Coot 1
Gadwall 41 (20 on main pond)
Wigeon 2 
Tufted Duck 5 male (2 on main pond)
Mallard 10 (main pond)
Teal 4 (2 on main pond)
Shoveler 3 (female plus 2 male, 1 not yet in breeding plumage)
Pochard 1 male
This clip is not very clear, it was still raining. It starts with the Pochard, then the female and mature male Shoveler, then pans across to the other male Shoveler, via the Wigeon pair.

North shore 
Brent Geese:
A walk out to the skear started at Four Lane Ends at 12:40 (MD). A scan from the promenade couldn't locate any Brent geese. When I got to the bottom of the steps, I scanned again, nothing. Then 30 Pale-bellied Brent landed right next to me, no more than 10m away. They came in from the north, I don't know if they had just arrived from the west side of the bay or returning from the skear after being spooked. Either way, when they moved off a bit I backed away and left them to it.
By 12:50 I was approaching the waterline when 3 Dark-bellied Brent flew in from the west side. They were obviously Dark-bellied in flight, this clip shows them circling back and landing on the inner skear just out from Sunny Slopes groyne.
At 13:00 they must have noticed the Pale-bellied birds near the play area and flew over to join them. But it wasn't really the play area today, the gut weed there must be becoming depleted, as I was walking back, they were directly in front of the steps to Four Lane Ends where they landed beside me earlier. Someone was walking down the steps with a dog, so I took this clip to show just how confiding they are here, as long as walkers and their dogs keep to themselves. Most of the geese just continued feeding.
It took me a while to walk towards the play area, then back along the sandy strip that the dog walkers tend to use. In that time four lots of dog walkers passed the geese without spooking them, including a group of three walkers with four dogs. When I got back to the bottom of the steps, I took this clip. It includes the dark-bellied birds and ends with the Canadian ringed pair.

Three Dark-bellied Brent geese with a Pale-bellied bird on the right

Other than the Brents there wasn't a lot going on.
Eider 4
Great Crested Grebe 2

Pete and Jean were also checking from Knowlys Rd. and got the same Brent count as me (always reassuring) but in addition managed:
Mediterranean gull 1 adult near play area.
Plus checking south side
Kittiwake 1 adult briefly at the end of No.1 outflow

No sign of the Black Redstart just out of area

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Pochard joins the year list, with just four days to go!

Light WNW wind, the morning rain stopped earlier than expected and the sun came out for a while.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
I didn't have time for a walk this morning, but was planning on my daily quick check of the two main ponds as I was passing. The rain stopped and the sun came out just as I arrived at 10:20 (MD).
Mute, Coot and Moorhen unchanged.
Mallard 12 (all on the main pond)
Gadwall 39 (30 on main pond)
Wigeon 2 
Tufted Duck 3 male
Teal 4 (2 pair)
Shoveler 1 male
The above were on the "no swimming" pond as was:
Pochard 1 male - Pochard have not traditionally merited a bold highlight, but this species has become increasing rare in the area. This is the first observatory record since 27/11/19, 2020 was the first blank year. With a bit of luck, today's bird will hang around to be included in 2022 list.
Drake Pochard
There were no Mallard on the "no swimming" pond, even so an impressive tally of 6 duck species - Pochard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Tufted, Shoveler and Teal. There are five of them on this clip, although the female Teal towards the end is barely discernible 

Children's Play area
Just a quick lunchtime check in passing from Knowlys Rd
Pale-bellied Brent geese 14 (at least)

South shore - late afternoon on rising tide
Common Snipe 18 amongst the patches of sea grass just out from the saltmarsh 
Wigeon 207 were making their way on the rising tide to Red Nab
Not enough water before dark for either the Brents or Kingfisher 
Rock Pipit 3 (Red Nab, sea wall and lighthouse)
Shag 1 juvenile again near the waterfall. 
The waterfall is a return for fish etc from the Power Station cooling water inlet. As such most fish will be alive, albeit disoriented, when they fall down the waterfall. The gulls really need the waterfall outlet to be above the water line, so that they can catch the fish as they hit the water. It is therefore better for the diving birds when the outlet is below the waterline as this prevents the gulls from catching the fish, leaving more for them to catch. The outlet is covered by the tide about 3 hours after low water, this works for all height tides.
I arrived at the harbour 15:20, low water was 12:15, just over 3 hours. The waterfall outlet was covered, gulls were still feeding there, they can still catch stunned fish. The Shag looked like it had already fed as it was just cruising around the upstands, not diving. This clip ends by zooming out, you can see the two upstands and the waterfall is out of sight to the right.

Eventually, it returned for another helping:

I was quite pleased with my shots today (MD), and still am, but these pictures from Craig Bell, are in a different league. These are high resolution images and must be opened to really enjoy the detail.

Juvenile Shag by Craig Bell

Little Egret
Thanks Craig.

Monday 27 December 2021

A decent variety

Light east wind, mainly overcast but a few sunny spells.

Just my stuff so far (MD)
Heysham skear - low water 11:00 
Pale-bellied Brent goose - at least 25 amongst the rocks out from the children's play area - only checked at distance looking back from the skear.
Shag 1 flew from south side to the north west of the skear and began fishing with the Cormorants 
Red-breasted Merganser 4 (2 pair)
Great Crested Grebe 4 individuals
Eider c130
Teal 1 female - I could see a small duck off the west end of the skear, always promising! Fortunately, it waited till I could get close enough to identify it, before it flew off north. Unfortunately, it was the "least exciting" of the small duck options that I had considered. Still, nice to see out here. At the end of this clip I zoom out to allow size comparison with a couple of male Eider.
Oystercatcher c2000
Bar-Tailed Godwit 3 briefly on water line to south of skear
Curlew c50
Knot c200
Redshank c200
Turnstone c30
Dunlin c30

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just the usual 5 minute check - hoping for a Pochard before the year ends, not today!
Mute, Coot and Moorhen unchanged
Gadwall 41 (24 on main pond still)
Wigeon 2 (pair)
Mallard 11
Tufted Duck 3 male
Shoveler 1 male
Teal 2 (pair)
A nice size comparison shot: Wigeon, Coot and Shoveler 

South Shore "late" afternoon on rising tide
Pale-bellied Brent goose 33 - 15:05. They flew from the north side right over my head, then on to Red Nab

You can see from the above clip that I was stood by the lighthouse. This next clip was shot from the same spot, but looking towards the waterfall.
Shag 1 juvenile feeding alongside 3 Cormorants at the waterfall. This clip starts with the Shag underwater, watch for it surfacing on the right hand side near the harbour wall. It has a reasonable sized fish, but wastes no time in swallowing it today. The Cormorants would have tried to pinch it, if it had faffed around as much as the bird I filmed on 16th December. 
Easy pickings, I suspect it will be back for more.
So, not a bad viewing spot at the lighthouse. I only stayed here for 5 minutes today.

Wigeon c100 arriving at Red Nab as I walked out, there seemed more on my return.
Shelduck c20
Kingfisher 1 - it was fishing today and caught one as I walked back
Peregrine Falcon 1 cruising around
Rock Pipit 2 along sea wall

Just out of recording area, information from Pete:
Mediterranean gull 1 adult on lamppost just north of Oxcliffe Rd traffic light junction mid afternoon 
Black Redstart still near blue building mid morning

Sunday 26 December 2021

Still some of the "good stuff" left over

SE to ESE light wind, overcast with some light showers.

Pete and Jean managed a morning visit and located four key species (including the Black Redstart and Mediterranean gull, just out of the area - see bottom of post).
Pale-Bellied Brent goose 25, including the Canadian ringed birds, near the children's play area.
Shag 1 feeding near the green marker post

A quick look on the skear - low water 10:00 (MD)
Eider 100+
Great Crested grebe 4
Red-breasted Merganser 7 - including this distant group of 5, with the 2 males beginning to display (not a great clip, but I have little else different today).

An even quicker look at Middleton Nature Reserve 
Pretty much the same as yesterday, except no Shoveler 
Mute, Coot and Moorhen unchanged
Mallard 13
Gadwall 39 (26 still on main pond)
Tufted Duck 2 male
Wigeon 2 (pair)
Teal 4 (2 pair)

A dusk check of Red Nab
The tide was almost at high water, but at 8.1m it only reaches the outer rocks.
Pale-bellied Brent 25, clearly the birds from the play area this morning, as these also included the Canadian ringed birds. They don't always fly from the north side on this height tide, but they seem to have located a relatively rich vein of gut weed on the SW corner of Red Nab.

Shelduck 58 
Wigeon c80
Kingfisher 1 resting on rock beside the freshwater stream. Not close enough to be fishing though.
Greenfinch 36 - a strangely silent flock flying around, presumably preparing to roost (MD)

Just out of the recording area:
Mediterranean gull 1 adult on lamppost just north of Oxcliffe Rd traffic light junction with Heysham Rd.
Black Redstart 1 female/immature seen by several observers both on the promenade rocks and private gardens by the blue building near Stanley Rd.
Andrew McCafferty has posted a nice shot of it on the Lancaster and District Bird Watching Society blog. This link will take you there if you want a look.

Saturday 25 December 2021

The sounds of Christmas present

A very cold and quite fresh east wind. Sunny spells and showers in the morning mainly dry after lunch.

North shore
Just a quick check of the children's play area to the waterline and back.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 15 close in just north of the play area. I took this clip hoping to catch the sounds of Christmas from here, St Peter's church bells were ringing and a background of dogs out with their new squeaky toys - I seem to recall Christmas mornings were always busy with children with their new toys, still it was a cold wind! Unfortunately the cold wind also proved a noisy one. You may just be able to hear the bells tolling during part of this clip, but you'll have to imagine the squeaky toys. Still, the Geese weren't disturbed. (MD)

Mediterranean gull 1 adult, also near the play area
Mediterranean gull foreground with Black-Headed gull
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Great Crested Grebe 1

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just the two main ponds checked, but it was quite interesting, not so much for the bird content, but the distribution. It at least answered one question from earlier in the winter.
When I arrived there was no one there, and no wet tracks out of the car park, so there had been either no or very little earlier disturbance. Most of the Gadwall were happily feeding on the main pond. This is obviously their pond of choice, and explains why it was this pond where they maintained a pocket in the ice when the ponds froze last month. But Gadwall (and Teal) are more flighty than the other duck visitors, and the main pond is normally quite busy.
Main Pond
Mute Swan 6 cygnets
Moorhen 3
Mallard 12
Gadwall 37
Tufted duck 1 
These are some of the feeding Gadwall, they appear to be reaching the weed more easily here than on the "no swimming" pond.

No swimming pond
Mute Swan 2 adult 3 cygnets 
Coot 1
Moorhen 4
Gadwall 4 (so 41 total again)
Wigeon 2 (pair)
Tufted Duck 3 males, later joined by the bird from the main pond.
Shoveler 2. We now also have a female, but I would hesitate to call them a pair yet. This is the female, with a couple of Gadwall and a Tufted.

The male wasn't too far away, there can't be many ponds around here where you can capture four duck species on one frame.
All males! Shoveler, Wigeon, Tufted and Gadwall 

Out of the recording area: information via Pete:
Black Redstart 1 female/immature. Showing on at least two occasions on the rocks opposite the blue house (by Stanley Rd).

Friday 24 December 2021

Festive felicitations

An east wind all day, mainly rain in the morning but largely dry in the afternoon with occasional weak sunshine.

First this greeting from Howard:
A sentiment shared by everyone in the Observatory team
Jean also sent me this amusing greeting, perhaps not as professional as Howard's but it does have a charm all of its own.
We know that many families are facing another difficult Christmas, hopefully the above will make you smile, as it made me smile (MD)

South shore - high water 14:10
Wigeon 100+
Shelduck only 8 seen
Pale-bellied Brent Goose 24 - these pictures from Kevin
The advantage of feeding on the gut weed in water is that it is easier to crop
as it floats, and by floating the remaining longer strands reveal themselves 
Pale-bellied Brent geese with a male Wigeon

Rock Pipit 2 (one Red Nab and one on saltmarsh)
Reed Bunting 1 on saltmarsh 
Kingfisher 1 on Red Nab, along the freshwater stream from the culvert. I managed some similar shots to yesterday, but opted to post this more enigmatic silhouetted clip (MD)

The Polish ringed Black-Headed gull is still around the harbour 

This is a bit of a puzzle. There were two Pied Wagtail feeding along the harbour wall. They were both constantly picking up something tiny to eat. I can't think what, in summer I would be thinking ants, but not this time of year. I've watched this clip frame by frame and can barely make out a dark "spot" in some of the picks. So no idea what they were finding, but there was lots of it!

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a check of the two main ponds
Mute Swan still split between the two ponds
Moorhen 6
Coot 1
Shoveler 1 male - back in time for Christmas! This time on the main pond.
Mallard 14
Gadwall 41 (7 on main pond 34 on "no swimming" pond)
Wigeon 2 (pair)
Teal 1 male
Tufted Duck 4 male on "no swimming" pond
The Tufty club - you'll need to be of a certain age for that phrase to resonate!
I think this clip captures all the ducks on the "no swimming" pond, except the Teal

Just out of the recording area:
Black Redstart 1 female/immature - again located by Nick Godden along the same rocks near Grovenor Rd, see post 12/12/21 for more details. Nick's comments today - Still present in the same area 13:45, moving between the rocks and adjacent gardens

Thursday 23 December 2021

As promised......something different

Light SE wind, quite a lot, and quite heavy rain in the morning, but mainly fine in the afternoon.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a brief check of the two main ponds (MD)
Mute 2 adult plus 9 cygnet, again split into 6 cygnet on the main pond with the 2 adult and 3 cygnet on the no swimming pond. The mute normally either try to chase you off or come begging to be fed, but these blithely ignored me and were just chuntering to each other. I do like it when wildlife, or in this case semi wildlife, ignores me. I didn't even warrant a second look!
Gadwall 37 a new high count for this year, I think
Mallard 13
Tufted duck 4 males (3 on "no swimming" plus 1 on main pond)
Wigeon 2
Moorhen 6
Coot 1

Brief as my visit was, I still managed a soaking, so I just did a quick check of the Brent near the play area before heading home.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 21 close in by the children's play area, including the Canadian ringed pair.

Red Nab and saltmarsh - high water 13:30
Wigeon 150+
Shelduck c30
Pale-bellied Brent goose 24 - almost certainly including the 21 from this morning.
Common Snipe 26 flushed from saltmarsh - this was a bit unusual as the water only just reached it, but one lot of 5 and another flock of 21 took flight, although the latter returned to the same area they originally lifted from.
Rock Pipit 1
Kingfisher 1
Kingfisher on a favourite fishing rock, note the guano behind it. I'll show the location later.

This is a nice height (8.7m) to watch the birds on Red Nab at high water, although just a bit high as most of the birds moved on before high water, tomorrow's tide at 8.5m should be better. These are just a couple of clips to show the activity not far out from the sea wall.
This first one is just a few of the Wigeon

This clip shows some of the Brent feeding with the Wigeon. It shows just how small a goose the Brent are compared to the Wigeon, which are only a middling sized duck.

Back to the Kingfisher. This is its favourite fishing spot, just at the entrance to the freshwater culvert. The droppings behind it are its, I could show you a clip of it contributing, but I thought you would prefer to take my word for it. Unfortunately, I didn't see it catch any fish today.

It is clearly very familiar with the feeding opportunities on Red Nab. As soon as the tide reached the large western rocks, it moved over to fish from the largest one.

Finally, I promised something different. This is new for me, and I suspect for many of you too, although it may be a common sight where Kingfishers are regular, I don't know, but it's definitely different for here. Like most predatory birds, Kingfishers get rid of their indigestible waste by producing pellets. This clip shows it expelling one, quite some distance (MD).
So it's clearly feeding well, a rock covered in guano and a waste pellet!

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Mainly web footed news today

Contrary to the weather charts that I saw today, the light breeze started from NW then round to NE by early afternoon. After that it drifted more to the predicted ESE. Mainly overcast with a few light showers.

Just a bit of my stuff again so far (MD)
North shore:
I thought I'd have a look at the mid point between low and high water, mainly to see what was on the water at that time (nothing!). But it proved impractical, as there was nowhere to walk without disturbing either the Brent or the waders, so just a walk to waterline and back from Four Lane Ends.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 16 - a group of 12 was making its way along the shore to the outer rocks from the play area. Another 4 flew directly in and landed on the middle rocks. These are the 12, led by the two Canadian ringed birds.

Oystercatcher 1,000+
Knot 150
Dunlin 30
Turnstone 15

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A short shore walk meant I had time to Check the Tim Butler pond as well as the two main pond. Didn't gain much just 5 Mallard and a couple of Moorhen on Tim Butler.
A bit of excitement though, I thought the Mute Swan status had changed, there were only 6 cygnets on the main pond, but the 2 adult and the remaining 3 cygnets were on the "no swimming" pond.
Moorhen 9
Coot 1
Mallard 20
Gadwall 36 ( including 8 on main pond)
Teal 2 (pair) probably more hidden from view
Tufted duck 3 males
Wigeon 2 (male and female). At first they were at opposite ends of the "no swimming" pond, but they made their way towards each other, both with the same romantic "runny nose" look!
First the female
Now the male

They eventually met in the middle. It seems strange to be so interested in these two when there are over a hundred on Red Nab. But a female Wigeon was with the Gadwall over the 2019/20 winter period, perhaps the same female as now. If so, she obviously has some affinity with the Gadwall, but has still managed to attract a male Wigeon, which also now seems to be part of one of the groups of Gadwall.
The Wigeon "pair"

The Tufted had been feeding, but I just managed to catch the last dive.

Lapwing 250 heading SE towards the estuary, at a time when the tide would have reached the saltmarsh 
Sparrowhawk 1

I'll try and find something different to report tomorrow!

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Midwinter Day

 Light SE breeze, mainly overcast, but still reasonably clear.
So, we've reached the winter solstice, tonight is the longest night of the year. Tomorrow, the days slowly start to get a little longer.

I only had chance for one quick walk this morning, plus a stop off at Middleton Nature Reserve (MD).
Mute 2 adult 9 cygnets 
Moorhen 7
Coot 1
Mallard 7
Gadwall 36
Wigeon 1 male,1 couldn't find the female
Tufted duck 3 male
Teal 4 (2 pair)
One of the two pairs of Teal with a male Gadwall in foreground 

This is a nice clip of the male Wigeon plus a male Teal preening. The increasing clamour in the background is the Mallard becoming restless then taking flight. Nothing spooked any of the other ducks, so it must just have been time to move on.

Red Nab and saltmarsh area
Pale-bellied Brent goose 18 on Red Nab
Wigeon c100
Shelduck c40
Rock Pipit 3 (one on Red Nab plus two on the western end of Red Nab/sea wall)

Great Black-Backed gull, we have now had an update on the green ringed juvenile first seen 9/12/21 (thanks Colin). It was ringed as a nestling at South Walney on 06-Jul-2021.

Pete has received news of a female Common Scoter seen in the harbour on 13th December 

Just out of the recording area:
Mediterranean gull 1 adult - 14:45. again resting on the 2nd lamppost north of the traffic lights junction between Oxcliffe Road and Heysham Road. It's the lamppost on the east side of Heysham Road.

Monday 20 December 2021

Colour returns to the world......shame the birds were black and white!

Initially calm, still quite cool, but no mist today, later a very light NE breeze. Overcast but it remained largely dry.

At least Pete and Jean could conduct their WeBS today - of interest:
Guillemot 1 inshore by the Sunny Slopes groyne.
Mediterranean gull 1 adult on the lamppost near the traffic lights junction of Oxcliffe Rd. This was a regular roost last year, but mainly around high water.
Wigeon 190 on Red Nab
Jean took this shot of the Cormorants feeding by the wooden jetty, this is the same "view" as the shot I posted yesterday!
Cormorants feeding by the wooden jetty

I only had time for one walk this morning (MD)
Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just the two main ponds checked.
Main pond:
Mute Swan 2 adult 9 cygnets 
Mallard 8
Moorhen 4

No swimming pond:
Gadwall 34
Wigeon 2 (pair) in association with the Gadwall
Tufted duck 2 male
Coot 1
Moorhen 4

South shore
Rock Pipit 3 one on Red Nab plus two squabbling near the waterfall 
Shelduck 80
Pink-Footed goose 93 - I was just thinking how quiet it sounded today without the constant honking of the last two days, when these flew over towards the Lune estuary. But they were the only ones this morning.
Pale-bellied Brent 26 on Red Nab - this flock of 7 arrived at 10:10, very early for birds coming from the north side, but perfectly timed to arrive just as the water reached the gut weed covered rocks. I suspect they came directly from the west side.

A further flock of 19 arrived at 10:30, these definitely came from the north side, probably from the children's play area.
Some of the 19 Brent flying along the sea wall towards Red Nab
This clip was later in the tide, it shows how close cropped the Wigeon keep the gut weed on the rocks, but there are pockets of longer weed as the last Brent on this clip shows. 

Great Black-Backed gull 4. The green ringed juvenile was present again, this time in the company of 3 adult. 
It's not possible to make out from this shot, but this is the same green ringed juvenile
first seen 9/12/21. Ringing details still awaited, but it is part of the NW gull project

Sunday 19 December 2021

Brents take advantage of the mist

Calm, cold an misty, all day. The mist was actually worse than yesterday for most of the day.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
This was actually the opposite to yesterday, it wasn't possible to see much of the main pond, but more of the "no swimming" pond was visible, just.
Mute Swan 2 adult 9 cygnets on main pond, rest of stuff from "no swimming" pond.
Gadwall 29
Tufted duck 3 male
Mallard 1 male
Coot 1
Three male Tufted Duck on the very edge of visibility 

South Shore
Rock Pipit 4 ( one on Red Nab, two together of sea wall and one near the waterfall)
The Red Nab Rock Pipit, standing guard after chasing off the two Pipits on the wall.

It was supposed to be WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) day today, Pete and Jean normally cover Heysham, but it was impossible today. I'd, naively, hoped to help a bit by getting a shot of the Cormorants on the wooden jetty, but when I reached the roundhead, I could barely see the land side of the jetty!
You can just make out the start of the wooden jetty from the edge of the
roundhead - not much help for the WeBS!

This first calendar year cormorant was perched near the waterfall. The Rock Pipit calls a few times on this shot, but not easy to hear with the Power Station noise behind.
Sorry, I've just listened to this from the post, and can't hear the Pipit at all, it must lose some sound quality when posted.
Wigeon c80 on Red Nab, probably more out of sight.
Pink-Footed goose - again, several skeins flying around low in all directions. At 10:30 I could hear one such skein seeming to be travelling east over the sea out from the sea wall, then there were other goose calls with them, Brent. I don't know if it was coincidence or if the Pinkfoot were following the Brent. I imagine it would be easier for the Brent to locate their shoreline feeding grounds than the Pinkfoot to find their inland fields. Either way the Brent found Red Nad.
Brent geese - all that were seen were Pale-bellied, and they probably all were. It wasn't possible to get an accurate count, but when I got back to Red Nab there were 14 feeding very close in, just below the wall. Peering into the mist it was obvious that there were many more further out, so over 20 birds. The Brent don't normally feed this close to the wall, but the gut weed is lusher here, possibly their experiences near the Play area is emboldening them, but the wall was quiet today and the mist making it seem more so. Even just below the wall, they weren't easy to see, this clip is just a few of them feeding with the Wigeon.

After lunch on the ebbing tide I had a look at Half Moon Bay. It was very busy (noisy!) with families out for a walk, many with dogs, but the mist was keeping most close to the sea wall. The gut weed here, as per the play area, flourishes best near the ground water drains close inshore. The main area being just out from the boat statue. The Brent normally move on when this area is no longer covered in water, but today, at least 11 were feeding long after, shielded from sight by the mist, but not shielded from the noise! If I had wings, I would have gladly flown away! But, then again, I'd already had my lunch. 

I left them to it. Not having wings, I walked along the waterline to the Children's Play area, there were just 8 Brent on "view" here, so possibly the 11 were still defying the walkers on Half Moon Bay. Although there were many rocks that remained out of sight out from the Play area.

A similar day forecast tomorrow, but a bit warmer. I hope the mist has gone! (MD)

Saturday 18 December 2021

Mist out!.......all day!

Calm and cool, it was a mute point if we had, mist, fog or very low cloud, the upshot was visibility down to 20m over water all day.

I made an effort in the morning, but the mist was worse than it appeared from home (MD)
Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the two main ponds - yep, they were still there!
A lot of, mainly Black-Headed, gulls on the main pond with the Mute Swans and 6 Mallard.
But the "no swimming" pond was almost hopeless. I could hear Gadwall but could only make out the occasional white speculum drifting through the mist.
The male Tufted duck and the Coot were occasionally just visible.
Pink-Footed goose - their overhead calling was a constant background noise, they were moving in all directions trying to locate their feeding areas.
This clip gives a sense of what it was like, I was trying to make out the other pale duck in the background, but decided it was probably, just a male Mallard.

Red Nab an hour before high water
No Brent geese. I would have been surprised if they had ventured across the bay today.
Shelduck c20
Wigeon 2
Rock Pipit 1
Heron 1
Little Egret 2
One benefit of the mist is that it works both ways. This Little Egret was oblivious to me, as it fed just within visible range, in the large pool in the middle of Red Nab. It's catching quite large shrimps, you can see it disturbing them from the pool bottom with its feet. 

This next clip is shorter but a bit better view of the prey. You can see the shrimp wriggling in the Egret's bill. It's that "wriggling" that gives it away as a shrimp. A shrimp can't wriggle in the proper sense as its segmented body only allows it movement along one axis, much like your fingers and exactly like this catch.
Did you hear the Rock Pipit at the start of this clip?

Let's hope the mist clears for tomorrow, but I'm not optimistic!

Friday 17 December 2021

Shag and Brent behaving as expected.......well, almost!

Calm to very light NE breeze. Sunshine for most of the day

First of all, a day in the life of a Brent. These tides are much better for them, and I didn't see them spooked once by dog walkers, when they were near the children's play area. I know some regular post readers have passed on the message to their friends, thank you for that.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 35
Red Nab - today's high water at 8.6m is ideal for them here. The water is high enough to float the gut weed, but doesn't get high enough to flush them off (tomorrow's tide at 8.8 is similar, although might eventually force them off). At 09:50 there were 27 feeding including the Canadian ringed birds, they are at the end of this clip.

Half Moon Bay - 11:50 Janet saw these 27 fly in from the south, presumably when they left Red Nab.
Brent coming in to Half Moon Bay rocks
They headed for the rocks with gut weed

Children's Play area north of Knowlys Road. There was a 20+ group feeding just out from the play area when I went out on the skear at 14:00.There were two in the skear corner for a while, but on my return they had gone. I didn't see any instances of the birds being flushed from the play area. When I was walking back (15:30) they were closer to the wall than I have ever seen them. Even so they held their ground on three occasions when I saw dog walkers passing by between them and the wall, with their pets to heel. When I got closer, I managed to count 35, this clip shows just how close to the promenade they were. The blue/red ringed birds are at the beginning of this clip, and you can see how, in certain lights, the white lettering on the blue ring makes it appear to be a white ring.

There is no reason not to expect a similar pattern tomorrow, although they will do very well not to be flushed from around the play area on a dry mild Saturday. But if they do, they won't go far.

Second - part of the day in the life of a......
Shag 1 juvenile, probably 2
This report from Tim Woodward:

I spent just over an hour either side of high tide at Throbshaw this morning. The Shag arrived and hung around for a little more than 5 minutes close in front of the rocks (I saw 3 dives), then flew off towards Sunny Slopes. The phone photo is timed at 10.23. Sorry it’s so poor, but the others are no better. A pair of merganser drifted past and into the Bay at around 9.30. Otherwise very quiet 

Although Tim's shot does not show the Shag very clearly,
it does provide a clear view of the location, this is the very
northern tip of Throbshaw Point

I had a walk past just after Tim's sighting and located (another?) Shag much further south near the rocks on the north side of Half Moon Bay at 09:45, again it didn't stay long, but I missed which way it flew off. It may have been the same bird, having returned from Sunny Slopes. Anyway, there is another opportunity around tomorrow's high water (10:45), but you may need to be patient, but also keep an eye on the whole stretch from Half Moon Bay to Throbshaw Point, not easy with just one pair of eyes. Any records tomorrow will be interesting, even if you check and see nothing (MD)

14:26. 1 was resting on Conger Rock with a Cormorant, the Shag is always the lower bird.

14:30. 1 fishing west of the skear, conger rock now deserted.

Other stuff from the skear 

Great Crested Grebe 6 - these are four of them, although two quickly disappear 

Red-breasted Merganser 2 (pair)
Eider c150
Little Egret 5
Oystercatcher 2,000+
Knot c500
Redshank c130

Curlew c30

Turnstone c40

Dunlin 35+ there was this small group of 35 plus several individuals. One of the two birds at the end of this clip has a metal ring.

Thursday 16 December 2021

Is, or are, the Shag becoming predictable?

Very light SW to WSW wind, low cloud all day but it remained fine.

Heysham Head - high water 09:30 (MD)
Rock Pipit 2 - 1 Half Moon Bay 1 below the high cliffs 
Red-breasted Merganser 2 (pair)
Shag 1 juvenile feeding just out from the rocks.
This is it diving:

It managed to catch a Common Blenny. It didn't seem overly proficient at handling it, but eventually managed to swallow it. This clip starts almost a minute after it first surfaced with the Blenny.

This is just a zoomed in still from the above clip

In this clip it has moved out a little further, so gives an opportunity to show the location a bit better.

These rocks are part of a group called Throbshaw Point. If you are not familiar with their location a Google search will pinpoint it. The answer to the question in the title is, yes it it is predictable, as I am about to make a prediction. The real question should be, how accurate will the prediction be?
I am confident that it will return to this general area sometime around high water tomorrow, but exactly when and for how long I couldn't say. The clips above were approximately 45 minutes after high water, but I don't know when it arrived, or if it left just after. In theory it could be feeding at any point 2 hours each side of high water. Common Blenny are a resident fish, in that they seldom move more than 10m from their home. When the tide goes out they stay in rock pools, so they will be available as soon as the tide reaches the rocks. I'll probably have a look at some point, but if you go and see one, or possibly more than one, then please let me or Pete know.

Red Nab to saltmarsh mid morning (MD)

Just a quick check of the foreshore really. Not much around except plenty of Wigeon and Shelduck around Red Nab, but a high count of:

Lapwing 220 - there were about 100 resting on the mud out from the saltmarsh then another flock came in from the NE, I thought they were going to join those on the mud, but instead the resting birds joined the new birds. After flying around a while they eventually settled again but much further out. This is the arrival of the second flock.

Common Snipe - slightly unusually, Janet flushed one from grass at the junction of Meldon Road and Kingsway.

Middleton Nature Reserve 

Just a quick look at the two main ponds in the afternoon 

Mute, Coot and Moorhen unchanged 

Gadwall 36

Mallard 5

Tufted 1 male

Shoveler 1 male

Heysham skear - low water 16:20

The light was already fading as I walked out, still it was nice to see a bit more of the skear exposed. The clamour was even more pronounced than yesterday, at times almost deafening. This clip shows the Eider joining in, as new beds become exposed. This year, the mussels eventually won out over the honeycomb worms, on the west side of the middle skear where this clip was taken.

Eider c170
Great Crested Grebe 4
Red-Breasted Merganser 2 (pair, probably the same two out from the Head earlier)
Pale-belied Brent goose 37 at least. As I was walking out I saw a flock of c30 fly from the rocks out from the village to closer to the play area. At 16:00 a flock of 3 flew off west. As I was coming off the skear, now quite dark, I could see a number in the skear corner, although there is very little for the Brent to feed on there at the moment. This clip gives an idea of how dark it was getting, I was impressed at how light my camera made it look.

I could see there were more Brent further up the shore, but couldn't make out how many. I was just wondering how to get past them without spooking them, when they all took flight. Nothing spooked them, it was just "time".

There are 34 in this flock (don't they sound nice). I assumed that they were heading back to the west side of the bay to roost, but instead they circled round and landed on the water on the north side of the skear. I'm not aware of any weed in that area, available for them on this height tide, but, much as it pains me to admit it, they know the area much better than I do! (MD)