Thursday 18 February 2021

And so it begins......Stonechats moving today

The fresh SSW winds continue. Overcast and wet early on. A slow moving clear front eventually reached us by late morning, after that sunny spells and showers.
This is the weather front, it barely moved in the hour that I was on the shore

Stonechat at least 4. Janet located a female quickly passing through Red Nab this morning. Kevin saw a female near the lighthouse, just possibly the same bird. Later Pete C saw three (2 female and 1 male) working their way along the children's play area in Heysham Village Bay, before moving off north.
This is the Red Nab bird photographed by Janet

Green Sandpiper 1 next to the pond near the gate on the west side of Imperial Way

Mediterranean Gull 2 adult. One followed the lunchtime ferry in plus one on the shore by and flying around the children's play area
Not a great picture, but it shows the location, that's the track to
Knowlys Rd behind the Med

Med on left with two Black-headed gulls.
You can see the gut weed on the mud, more on that later
Other stuff from north shore:
Eider 110
Great Crested Grebe 8, including a displaying pair
Knot c500
Turnstone at least 150. There was one flock c150 flew in from SW. later there were several smaller flocks, but just possibly part of the same lot flying around.
Just a few of the Turnstone flying by

Pale-bellied Brent Goose 2. These two arrived at 09:50, 20 minutes after the tide had started to come in. They made to the SE corner of the skeer, and ate the only weed available. Broken weed washed into the corner by the tide.
Most of the larger bits were deemed unpalatable. They didn't seem to be finding much that was. There is virtually no sea lettuce left around the skeer now. It is obviously a favoured food, as they have barely touched the gut weed nearer the play area, and no record at all yet of them feeding on Red Nab (also gut weed). 
Close to the children's play area there is lots of gut weed.
This is quite close in, but Brent have been seen feeding much closer than this.
Even quite a distance from shore there is plenty of gut weed
Presumably the Brent will start on this when their favoured food becomes harder to find.

Finally, this is interesting (well at least I think so). This male Red-Breasted Merganser was searching the pools on Red Nab. Not only does it capture a crab, but is a soft crab that has just shed its complete outer skeleton. This is early, particularly after such a cold spell. Although they can shed at anytime in theory, it was likely influenced by the warmer Power Station cooling water. When they are soft like this they are normally protected by a hard crab shielding them, but that doesn't seem to have been the case here. This would have been its final moult, it is(was) a full sized Shore crab.
The blog restricts video size so I have split it in two sections. First, the capture:

Part two - getting it eaten before it's pinched. The crab has no defence, its claws are as soft as its carapace.
You can't see in real time, but the first gull does manage to pinch some. But the Merganser managed most of it and looks pretty pleased with himself. There is an option to watch in slow motion, if you use the video menu option.