Thursday, 9 December 2021

What a difference a day makes!

After yesterday's washout, today was very pleasant with a moderate WSW wind, largely overcast to start with, but some sunny spells later. A little light rain by evening.

I managed two nice walks and a detour today, nothing else so far  (MD)

Heysham skear low water 09:20
Great Crested Grebe 15
Red-breasted Merganser 2 (pair)
Eider 100+
Pale-bellied Brent goose 19 (at least) - at 09:15  these 15 flew in from the west and landed quite high up the shore to feed. You can hear their soft "grunts" as they fly towards me.
There were also 4 feeding in the SE skear corner, these included the two Canadian ringed birds. On the return leg, the 4 were still in the corner plus 4 feeding close in just north of the children's play area, and another 2 further out on the outer rocks. Don't think I missed the 15, I assumed they had moved on, but perhaps not, more later.

Mediterranean gull 1 also just north of the play area resting with Black-headed gulls. In this short clip there are three species of gull (Med first, then BHG and Lesser Black-Backed) plus 4 Brent Geese. Not a bad selection so close to the promenade.

The face mask and bill pattern on today's bird looks very similar to the one that over wintered here last year, and was regularly seen on the lamppost just past Four Lane Ends traffic lights. These are today's bird and the lamppost bird for comparison.
Last winter's overwintering Mediterranean gull 

Today's Mediterranean gull

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look on my way home provided three "surprises":
1. Only the Mute and Moorhen on the main pond, no ducks, not even a Mallard.
2. Perhaps, this wasn't really a surprise - the water level was higher on the "no swimming" pond, not by much, but enough to make reaching the weed difficult for the Gadwall, so most had gone, only one bemused looking male remained.
3. Shoveler - I could make out the unmistakable marking of a male amongst the margin vegetation, there was a female with it, but it wasn't possible to tell if it was a Shoveler or a Gadwall. So this picture shows the sum and total of todays ducks, 1 male Gadwall, you can just make out the colours of the male Shoveler, top right, there is a Moorhen there too, but you can't really make out the female bird, my guess is that it was a Shoveler too, hopefully see it tomorrow.
Today's duck tally!

South shore early afternoon 
Kestrel 1 on saltmarsh, I was thinking the other day that I hadn't seen it here for a while, presumably it has expanded its territory.
Kestrel hunting over the saltmarsh 

Common Snipe 2 on saltmarsh 
Rock Pipits 3 - Red Nab, waterfall area and sea wall
Wigeon c120
Pale-bellied Brent goose 23 - here they are flying from the north side past the wooden jetty towards Red Nab. They were not on Red Nab on the return leg, but a passing birder confirmed that they did land there (thanks Dave).

Shag 1 juvenile resting on the end of the wooden jetty.

Red-Throated Diver 1 adult moulting from summer plumage was showing well in the harbour.
Red-Throated Diver
I haven't pre sized any of my pictures today, so more detail is visible if you open them.

I'm not very familiar with divers (they are not often close in enough for me MD), so it took me a bit to be sure, but the remnants of a red throat and constant diving were pretty good clues. Although, to be fair, the throat wasn't obviously red from a distance.

And a close up.....

They are an elegant diver aren't they! But it didn't catch anything in the dives I watched.

Finally, it was a good day for ringed gulls in the harbour. This is a Black-Headed gull ringed in Poland as a nestling 13/06/17, and has been recorded in Heysham ever winter since
Black-Headed gull ringed in Poland

This next one puzzled me, I knew by the ring format that it was part of the North West England Gull project, but I didn't think the project included Great Black-backed gulls. But on checking their webpage they were pleased to have ringed some nestlings for the first time this summer.
First calendar year Great Black-backed gull - details awaited
You will be able to see the ring details if you open these images

There is a link to the North West England Gull project on the side bar, but I've also put it here. If you open it, there is their 2021 ringing report of where and how many of each species of gulls were ringed. 500+ ringed this year, so there should be plenty around.