Tuesday 18 May 2021

Bonxie attack!

West breeze early on freshened slightly during the day. Mainly sunny.

Heysham skear - low water 10:40 
On these neap tides, the water only goes out as far as the middle of the middle skear. This has the effect of concentrating the large gulls that are grazing the seed mussel beds.
This is just part of the largest group of grazing gulls, there are c400 in this frame,
plus there is a smaller group to the east and another on the northern edge of the skear

So, there were upward of 600 gulls mainly Herring on the middle skear. I've been walking on and around the skear for over fifty years, but I have never before seen what happened next! (MD).
The birds started lifting off the skear from the northern edge, not just the gulls but the Oystercatcher too. The wave quickly moved across the skear and soon every bird was in the air. I thought it must be an Osprey so I was trying to check the sky through the swathes of birds, then a Herring gull was chased over my head, no more than 5m above me, by a.....
Great Skua (Bonxie) - 10:10. suddenly it was like being in a huge spin drier with 500+ screaming (there is no other word for it) gulls swirling around me, I occasionally managed a glimpse of the Bonxie, the white wing flashes remarkably intimidating, but no chance of getting my camera on it. It probably lasted less than a minute, the Bonxie would have been chasing the gulls to get them to drop what they were eating, but most almost certainly would only have had seed mussels. 
As the frenzy eased slightly I noticed a large dark bird heading off to the east and tried to get a record shot.
This is about the "best" shot. It is slightly clearer if you open the  image
Even as it flew across the bay, it lifted the gulls resting on the sand bars
I have seen the occasional Bonxie here in the past, but nothing so dramatic as today. I suppose so many large feeding gulls concentrated like this, is a huge lure for any passing Bonxie (I'll check again in the morning, at least I can expect the "lure" to be in place again).

Eider 17
Great Crested Grebe 3
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Whimbrel 2
Turnstone c60 - well spread around the skear
Dunlin 1 with
Sanderling 8
Summer plumage Dunlin with four of the Sanderling moving to summer plumage.
Four of the Sanderling with a Turnstone in this clip.

Heysham Nature Reserve (Janet)
The warm weather brought out the insects. There were lots of Damselflies, as well as lots of "flies"
The dipping pond was covered in "flies"

There were several Common Blue butterflies 
Mainly males

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from John:

Short ringing session this morning, not ideal conditions, breezy and sunshine early on.

Only five birds caught and no moths in the trap set overnight.

New birds caught were single Sedge and Reed Warblers. 

Retraps were a Willow Warbler, Great Tit and a Lesser Whitethroat.

The Lesser Whitethroat was originally ringed in 2017, and had not been caught again until today.

No Grasshopper Warblers heard during the time there.

I had a quick look around after lunch (MD)

The aggressive male Mute had almost cleared the main pond

just two left which he had driven up the east bank.

I was surprised that the mute was tolerating this Greylag sat on the peninsula.
But as I walked away, I heard the mute fly across the pond to "see it off". But the Greylag just honked a few times, then, literally, stood up to it. The mute pretended that it had flown across the pond to do some urgent preening, then sidled off......
The female mute was still on the "no swimming" pond with her 9 cygnet. As Janet said, they may soon move to the main pond, and will be tolerated by male, but I just think he wanted the prime feeding pond back, irrespective of family.
Mallard 2 male plus 2 female one with 10 chicks.
Gadwall 1
Teal 2
Jay 2
No Grasshopper or Cetti's warblers heard

Butterflies as Sunday, but at least 4 Small Heath now.
Silver Y moth
There were several areas where damselflies were flying in clouds, but only two dragonflies seen, both Broad-bodied chaser. 
One immature flying near the small scrape near the yellow barrier - looked to be a male.
The other was probably the same female I photographed Sunday, was just east of the golf course.