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

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.