Wednesday 15 December 2021

Brent appear to be getting desperate!

Light SW wind largely overcast but with a few sunny spells

First of all, a somber note. I do try to keep this post as light as possible, but the shortening days are causing a significant conflict between feeding/resting birds and people exercising their dogs. One key area is the old Heliport. This area is private property and anyone walking on there is trespassing and could be prosecuted. But more importantly this is a high water roost for thousands of waders. They don't want to roost in daylight during these short days, they need to feed, but feeding opportunities on the upcoming spring tides are very limited for them. The last thing they need when they are trying to conserve energy is to be flushed from their roost, sometimes repeatedly. I know none of the regular post readers would go onto the Heliport, but if anyone knows someone or sees someone that does please pass on this concern. We are not just talking about the health and survival of the birds, there is also a potential health risk for the dogs. As Pete points out, so far this year, there have been c4,000 Barnacle Geese known to have died of the highly transmissible Avian Flu on the not too distant Solway. And we already have more than enough transmissible viruses around!
The second area is the current feeding area for the Brent Geese around the rocks near the children's play area. This area is open for people to exercise their dogs, and dogs do need to be exercised. But the geese again today were regularly scattered, but they kept returning, closer and closer to the wall. This goes against all the instincts of a wild goose, particularly ones that spend their summers in the wilderness of the Canadian Arctic! To venture so close to the sea wall, and brazen out walkers passing so close by, indicates just how scarce their food is this year, and they need all the time they can get to eat it during these short days. If you exercise your dog(s) around this area, or know someone who does, please suggest that in the vicinity of these rocks could they walk their pets on a lead. I have regularly seen walkers with dogs to heel pass within 10m of the Brent without them taking flight. And don't forget the concern about the Avian Flu!
The third area is the other main wader roost on the Sunny Slopes groyne, this was again flushed of all birds today. It's only the occasional frantic dog, so again, keeping your dog to heel in this area is all that is required, there is plenty of beach to go round. Thank you (MD)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
I managed a decent circuit today, but saw little more than I do during my regular 5 minute checks! (MD).
Mute swan 2 adult 9 cygnet
Moorhen 6 (none in field to east of Tim Butler)
Coot 1
Mallard 11
Gadwall 29
Tufted duck 1 male
Shoveler 1 male
Sparrowhawk 1
Kestrel 1
Redwing 1 - I saw a Redwing and a Blackbird between my car and the main pond, so I started a tally sheet! Didn't see another Redwing and the few Blackbird were probably resident.

North shore 
Pete and Jean had a look, report from Pete:
Shag 1 juvenile, north side Heysham head close inshore 
Pale-bellied Brent goose Circa 40 off play area north of Heysham head including Canadian ringed pair and presumably the same intermittently recorded white ringed bird we haven’t been able to obtain a life history of

Later, I had a look on the skear and saw the groups of Brent flying out from then returning to the children's play area (MD). This first clip shows three things.
1. It starts with the white ringed bird
2. It shows the location, this is a third choice area along the groundwater run off, the slipway in the background is the one out from Rydal road. shows the point I made on Saturday about how, at range, the Brent can be confused with the Oystercatcher. This is particularly evident towards the end of the clip when the birds are more distant.

As I was leaving, I noticed a small group really close to the sloping wall between the children's play area and Heysham village. You can't really see much on this clip, other than how desperate the Brent must be!
N.B. You wouldn't be able to see any Brent here from Knowlys Road.

I like these tides, we are moving away from the neap tides, this means that each tide goes out a bit further than the last. Which in turn means that each tide exposes a bit of shore, that hasn't been exposed for a week or so. The waders and gulls clamour to be the first to exploit the new food sources. In this c5m band along the south side of the skear there was
Oystercatcher c2,000
Redshank c200
Turnstone c30
Curlew 15
Knot 10
Dunlin 5
The sun made a brief appearance, so I took this clip, not all the waders are represented, but there are Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone and Curlew.

When the tide stopped ebbing, the clamouring ended.
They seemed to have found enough food for another day.
Left to right: Dunlin, Redshank and Knot

Eider 100+
Great Crested Grebe 2
Shag 2 juvenile, presumably one was the same bird seen feeding earlier off Heysham Head. This short clip shows one of the Shag diving, with an Eider diving behind it.