Saturday 31 December 2022

Brents end the year on a high

Overcast all day, it is a mute point as to when the low cloud/mist turned to fine drizzle. Almost calm in the morning a light east breeze by the afternoon.

South shore (MD)
It wasn't the conditions, both tides and weather, to expect much here this morning, but it was a pleasant walk along the sea wall.
Nothing of note behind the lunchtime ferry.
Shag 1 immature had been feeding on the waterfall before flying out of the harbour - thanks to birder who saw this before I arrived - sorry, I forgot to ask your name!
Red-breasted Merganser 1 female in harbour mouth
Rock Pipit 2 - this is the Red Nab bird taking a bath in the groundwater runoff stream (this clip actually from yesterday but it was present again today)

Kingfisher 1 on Red Nab
A nice splash of colour on a grey day
Pink-Footed goose 130 heading north, high, noon (actually not overly high, but it sounds good!)
Wigeon c150
Shelduck 8

Middleton Nature Reserve 
I've not mentioned here for a while, but I have been making a brief daily check of the main ponds. There has been no new wildfowl to report, just varying numbers of Gadwall, Mallard and Teal plus two Tufted duck. It was nice to see the Goldeneye last week, but we haven't had a Pochard so far this winter.

North shore 
I just went down to check out any brent amongst the rocks out from the play area.
Bar-Tailed Godwit 2
Pale-bellied Brent goose 44. There were lots of people walking their dogs close to the sea wall, but fortunately, this year, there is plenty of gutweed and sea lettuce amongst the furthest rocks. On these neap tides the brent can access this area pretty much all day, with little risk of disturbance. In this clip all 44 can be seen, you can also see the gutweed on the rocks, and hear the dogs barking behind me!

In the above clip the tide is just reaching the outer rocks, this helps the brent to graze the gutweed on the rocks and shore (the gutweed floats in water). But, for the time being at least, they do not need the tide here to feed happily. The pools between the rocks are full of gutweed and sea lettuce. This shot is one of the pools where they are feeding, I took it earlier in the week when there was nothing feeding here.
It doesn't look much to us, but to a Brent goose, this is better than a Christmas dinner!
There is certainly more weed on the outer rocks than in recent years, so a good chance of the brent numbers swelling further.

Well, here we are again, another year over! First, on behalf of the observatory team, I'd like to thank everyone who has provided records, pictures etc this year. All observations are always very welcome, see the contact details on the side bar.

I normally end with "Happy New Year", but somehow, this year, it doesn't seem enough. This is the third year in a row, when I have sat here thinking (hoping), surely next year has to be better than this one! And hopefully next year will be. As individuals we all have good and bad years, and I sincerely hope that you all have as good a one as possible. 
But what I really that everyone enjoys a better 2023 

Friday 30 December 2022

More Kits

The fresh SE wind eased by the afternoon and shifted to SW. overcast all day but it remained dry.

Pete checked the lunchtime ferry in again:
35 Kittiwake and two adult Mediterranean gull  behind Ben My Chree entering Heysham port

Also 23  Pale-bellied Brent goose visible from Knowlys road off play area

I'd walked along the south wall to watch the ferry in (MD), but by 12:15 it still wasn't within sight. The cold and hunger pangs were both starting to bite, so I headed for home. Pete confirmed that it arrived late today, I should have checked timing before setting off!
I did manage some nice views of at least one immature  Shag though.
Initially it was resting between the cross bars of the nearest platform to the harbour wall.
Unfortunately only visible at range.

Closer, the platform frame was obscuring most of it, but this clip, still has a charm.

Fortunately the tide was rising above its resting place, and it took to the water.

This clip is a Shag and a Cormorant in the middle of the harbour a little later. I'm not certain, that it is the same Shag.
(Pete confirms that these are indeed two different Immature Shag a 1cy and 2cy)

Mediterranean Gull 1 was resting behind No.2 outflow. This was long before the ferry came in. So it either flew out to meet the ferry or this is an additional bird.
Distant, grainy, shot of Mediterranean gull (left) with BHGs

Rock Pipit 3

Janet's friend, Jimmy, on Slyvan Place, is receiving increasing, and increasingly noisy visits from his fox. This is the time of year when  fox's thoughts turn to "starting a family". Jimmy's old Patterdale Terrier "goes nuts" when she hears the dog fox.

Thursday 29 December 2022

The wind provides some welcome variety

The SW wind didn't get as strong last night as forecast, but continued to increase into the afternoon.

Pete managed a quick lunchtime visit:
Associated with Ben my Chree midday arrival at Heysham: 
Little gull 1 adult into Bay with flock 4 Kittiwake, both these in front of the ferry
Mediterranean Gull 1 lingering 
Shag 1 juvenile flushed out of harbour,
Kittiwake 4 adult behind ferry
3 adult and 2 juvenile Kittiwake  Hey 2 outfall.
Juv/f common scoter off Stone jetty.  

The strong wind was pushing the tide in and Pete arrived at Knowlys just in time to catch the Brent there.
Pale-bellied Brent about 38 on shore - biggest count this winter so far.  Went out of sight along shore before accurate count 

Fortunately I was on the south wall by this time (MD) and managed to see this flock of 36 flying to Red Nab.
There could easily have been more, there is a group of three that often flies separately. On my way back along the wall I saw 29 fly towards the estuary, long before they normally leave Red Nab.

One of the outflow Kittiwakes turned out to be a 2nd winter. It's not possible to
see this detail at range, I didn't see it from the sea wall, till I checked my shots!

1st winter Kittiwake 

This is one of the 1st winter Kittiwakes with a Black-Headed gull. They were very difficult to follow, most of the time they were much quicker than this.

There was also an adult in the harbour
A slightly unusual angle of an adult Kittiwake 

Shag - I didn't see any in the afternoon, but a short check in the morning saw a 2nd calendar year bird leaving the harbour, so at least two birds in the area today

Kingfisher 1 on Red Nab 
Red-breasted Merganser 1 female 
Rock Pipit 3 (sea wall plus 2 together on saltmarsh)
Linnet 2 saltmarsh 

For the second day running I failed to read a ringed bird. This young gull was on one of the harbour platforms. It is part of the NW England gull project (see link on sidebar). Unfortunately, at the range I was, I couldn't stand steadily enough for a clear shot, and it had moved on as I got closer! Hopefully it will hang around a while.

Just out of the recording area - this from Pete:
From Fylde what’s app relevant to our area: 6 Bewick’s Jeremy lane and subadult yellow legged gull off pilling lane ends

Wednesday 28 December 2022

At least a pair of Jacks

Another miserable day, rain for much of it, and a freshening SW wind. 

Just my stuff so far (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 20 - there were three amongst the rocks out from the play area at low water (09:25). Another 12 were in the SE skear corner but quickly flew off and appeared to head north. But by 10:15 there were 18 amongst the rocks out from the play area. This clip shows the location, you can also see the gut weed on the rocks, but there is also sea lettuce in the intervening pools.
One of the birds had two white rings with black letters, but the rain meant reading was difficult and I didn't want to get any closer and risk spooking them. We have read a double white ringed bird in previous years, but still await any details. It seems that the organisation supporting this scheme is struggling.
The middle bird here has two white darvic rings - hopefully to be read another day

A check of Red Nab in the afternoon located 20 Brent, there could have been more as some were behind rocks, unfortunately all but 3 left quite early and I didn't see them go.

The only other record from the skear at low water was 14 Eider, plus Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone. Not even any Little Egret!

Plenty of Wigeon around Red Nab and saltmarsh again
Red-breasted Merganser 1 female on Red Nab
Rock Pipit 4 (Red Nab, foreshore plus two on saltmarsh)
Reed Bunting 4 around saltmarsh 
Common Snipe 1
Jack Snipe 2, probably 3 - three seen flushed by the tide, but the last one may have been one of the two flushed earlier.

At the time of writing this post the SW wind is getting stronger and is forecast to be very strong later and throughout tomorrow morning, hopefully something different will be blown in.

Tuesday 27 December 2022

It's mainly about the Brent again

A dreary sort of day. Overcast with occasional showers in the morning becoming more persistent in the afternoon. A fresh SW wind.

Pale-bellied Brent goose 10 - there were 8 (5 & 3) amongst the rocks out from the play area at low water, plus another 2 in the skear corner. Later on the rising tide there were just 5 out from the play area. At 12:00 there were 2 on Red Nab, but by 12:30 they had been joined by 5 more.
These are two of the group of five on the shore this morning, I had to wait for them to amble past before I could move on (MD)
There was little else to see from the skear, despite the tide being out further than it has been in daylight for some while.
Shag 1 immature 
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Great Crested Grebe 1

Pete and Jean checked the lunchtime ferry - Kittiwake 5 adult plus 2 first winter followed it in.
Plus minimum 40 Snipe on the Heliport grass and wall.

There wasn't much else around Red Nab and the foreshore either
Rock Pipit 1
Ringed Plover 2 
Turnstone and Ringed Plover

Wigeon c180 - This clip is just to show them grazing Red Nab rocks as the tide reaches them. The whistling calls are the male Wigeon, but there is also a short burst from the Rock Pipit early in the clip.

Janet forwarded this clip taken by a friend living on Sylvan Place near Half Moon Bay. It would be unfair to call it an "urban fox" as this area is just at the edge of the village. But it is clearly a dog fox and he seems intent on redefining his territory.

Monday 26 December 2022

Very little time today, fortunately the Brent were punctual

A cold, fresh west wind with some heavy showers, mainly of hail

Howard checked the old heliport roost at high water. Unfortunately no Knot roosting, but there was this colour ringed Oystercatcher, probably ringed in Iceland - details awaited.

I just had time for a quick walk long the south wall on the rising tide this morning (MD). The wind was fresher than of late, but the sea was quite under developed and no sign of anything being blown in.
Shelduck 15
Wigeon c150 initially along channel by No.1 outflow, then Red Nab.
Bar-Tailed Godwit 1 flew from north side with the Oystercatchers
Not much of a shot, but when there's not much around, you take what you can!

Pale-Bellied Brent geese 15 - the three that had been feeding near the play area yesterday left at 10:15. Today's tide was 50 minutes later and a similar height, but with the fresh westerly pushing it in I estimated that any Brent feeding at the play area would arrive 30 minutes later c10:45. They arrived at 10:55, if they had come from the play area, it would seem that they hadn't been flushed early by the dog walkers.
This is them arriving.

Pale-bellied Brent geese
They fed around the rock edges to begin with, but then flew onto the rocks as the tide gained height. You can see the lush covering of gutweed on the rocks.

This is where they flew to, a ravine filling with water, allowing the gutweed to float for easier grazing. Both the Brent and the Wigeon are feeding on it.

At this point a heavy hail shower cut short what was already a short visit. Hopefully there will be more variety tomorrow.

This is further out of the recording area than I normally post, but it is a slow news day, and it is a great shot! Howard took this picture of a Purple Sandpiper resting on the Groyne at Park Street
Purple Sandpiper with Turnstone and Redshank 

Possibly more to come, if so I will add later.

Sunday 25 December 2022

Inshore waders

 A showery day, mainly overcast. A fresh south breeze.

Green Sandpiper 1 - flew across Imperial Rd (to the recycling centre) - Pete
Common Snipe 1 - flushed from fields near Kingsway - Janet

Heysham Head 
I had a mid morning stroll in the rain (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 3 - they were easily visible from the Head, and in the same area as seen yesterday, although on the rising tide today. The following clip is from yesterday and demonstrates how they can also be seen from the Promenade. This is from the promenade at Whinnysty Lane.
At 10:15 they flew south past the Head. I don't think that they had been flushed by the dog walkers, the tide had reached the sea wall by that time and no weed would be within reach.

The tide was coming in quickly, I was expecting to see a Shag feeding, but not today. 
Red-breasted-Merganser 2
Female and male Red-breasted Merganser 

Waders feeding below rocks before being flushed by tide; Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Turnstone  and Curlew 
I couldn't locate a Rock Pipit, which again was a surprise 
Meadow Pipit 1
There was a mixed tit flock, mainly Long-Tailed Tits working their way through the wooded area. The following clip is from Tuesday, just after the cold snap, when the birds were too focused on finding food to worry about me. I've ben saving it for a rainy day.

Also during the cold snap I took a nice shot of a Robin surrounded by ice covered foliage. I was planning to use it today, but I managed to accidentally delete it! Fortunately, one of the many festive decorations in the Glebe Garden on Heysham Head was a nice replacement 
.......and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day.
St Peter's church, Heysham Head - the Glebe Garden is just behind me on this clip, within the church grounds. It is always worth a visit, not just for the off passage birds and the residents attracted to the feeders, but also it is filled with many and varied "treasures". 

Saturday 24 December 2022

A day to enjoy the everyday

A bright start but clouded over and a light shower in the afternoon. The south to SSE wind freshening throughout the day.

Just my stuff so far, and as yesterday, there was plenty to see but little new. It's still nice to see though. I normally pre-size my pictures so that they look reasonable on the post without having to open them, unfortunately they do lose some definition. Today I haven't pre-sized any, there is some nice plumage detail on some of them, but you will need to open the images if you want to check it out (MD)

Red Nab to saltmarsh 2 hours before morning high water
Pink-Footed goose - again a steady passage north starting around 08:00 (over my house). But these 4 were heading south at 10:30
Pink-Footed geese

Wigeon 100+ around Red Nab, many later made their way to the saltmarsh.

Male Wigeon
Common Snipe 2
Rock Pipit 3 (Red Nab, foreshore and saltmarsh)
Saltmarsh Rock Pipit

Foreshore Rock Pipit

Reed Bunting 4
Male Reed Bunting 

Redshank flying along the foreshore after leaving Red Nab

Weasel - one was hunting along the foreshore. I've never seen one here before, presumably movement as  a result of the recent cold weather. It seems to have been in the wars, with a scar over its nose and a raggedy ear.


Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just the daily (at this time of year) brief check of the two main ponds.
Mute, Mallard and Moorhen unchanged 
Gadwall 21
Wigeon 2 - this pair do seem to be in association with the Gadwall
Teal 6
Tufted Duck 2 male - one on each pond
Grey Heron 1

This clip focuses on the Wigeon pair but there are also Gadwall and a female Teal.

An immaculately groomed pair of Gadwall

This female Gadwall seemed to be having a "bad hair" day

This Heron was stalking the reed beds. These were almost completely covered when the water and ice were at their peak. Possibly it is searching for creatures that succumbed to the cold.

Pale-bellied Brent goose 3 seen in passing out from the children's play area on the afternoon ebbing tide.

I hope everyone has a very nice Christmas 

Friday 23 December 2022

Plenty around, but nothing new

The rain managed to hold off till lunchtime, then continued during the afternoon. The wind started from east then to SE

I just managed one outing today (MD)
South shore
I went down early to check the waders being pushed up the shore by the rising tide, just out from the saltmarsh. Unfortunately, the big flocks of waders were further south towards Potts, still it was enjoyable.
Pink-Footed geese 367 in 6 skeins north just after 08:30
Shelduck c150 feeding out from foreshore 
Wigeon c150 around Red Nab, they didn't go to the saltmarsh today.
Kingfisher 1 on Red Nab
Lapwing 69
Ringed Plover 1
Grey Plover 14 + Knot 1 + Dunlin 15 - there were many more of these species further south, these were just in one flock close in. These are some of them.
Solitary Grey Plover on Red Nab, peering through Redshanks legs
Redshank 30
The wind was blowing off shore, which doesn't allow the waves to develop, and these spring tides come in quickly. Several waders ended up floating before flying off. This is a Redshank 

Bar-Tailed Godwit 1 (none seen further south)

Bar-Tailed Godwit 

Common Snipe 6 - I left before the tide covered the saltmarsh 
Reed Bunting 6
Rock Pipit 2 (rocky outcrop south of saltmarsh and foreshore)

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A quick check on the way home.
Just the Mute plus 4 Gadwall and 2 Moorhen on the main pond.

The "no swimming" pond is back to its normal level. 
Gadwall 8
Mallard 2
Teal 4
Male Teal and Mallard pair

Tufted Duck 4 male

Thursday 22 December 2022

Things seem to be returning to "normal"

Light variable breeze. Showers mid morning and lunchtime, reasonably dry at other times.

Just my stuff so far (MD)
Middleton Nature Reserve 
A quick check in the morning, the "No swimming" pond level is dropping, just 25cm above normal. The level here is maintained by a level sensor and a pump to remove excess, presumably the pipelines were frozen. I expect the pond to be at normal level at time of writing.
No sign of the Goldeneye 
Gadwall 6
Tufted Duck 2 male
Teal 2 (pair)
Water Rail two squealing 

Saltmarsh to Red Nab - high water 10:00
Wigeon similar numbers to yesterday, but already leaving the saltmarsh area and heading towards the estuary.
Common Snipe 7
Jack Snipe 1, possibly 2
Skylark 1
Reed Bunting 8 - don't think they have been around all the time. There are six in this clip.
Rock Pipit 2 (saltmarsh and foreshore)
This clip is the shoreline between the foreshore and Red Nab, just Turnstone and Redshank feeding, but I took it mainly to capture the sound of the waves gently breaking on the pebbles.

Heysham skear towards low water in the afternoon 
The skear looked and sounded more like it normally does today, partly as the higher tide was draining quickly leaving plenty of, noisy, feeding opportunities.
Shag 1 immature 
Shag with a couple of Herring gulls

Great Crested Grebe 5
Red-breasted Merganser 2
Pale-bellied Brent goose 5 feeding half way up the shore.
Eider 82 - some were feeding but most were displaying. I'm always disappointed that my camera fails to capture their display calls.

Probably the big difference today was that there were obviously loads of tiny shrimps draining with the tide, they would have moved to deep water through the cold spell. Both the gulls and waders were taking advantage, these are mainly Redshank which were well over 150 today.

Still not many Curlew or Turnstone. Just 4 Dunlin and no Knot.
Bar-Tailed Godwit 10 on the shore tideline 

Wednesday 21 December 2022

So here it is.......Merry Solstice.....

The SW wind continues, a dry day with plenty of sunshine.

As a child at this time of year, I was fervently looking forward to Christmas. As I've aged, and much as I still enjoy Christmas, what I really look forward to is today, the winter solstice. This is the shortest day of the year and after today the days start to get longer. You can understand how this day caused celebrations in ancient times. (Malcolm)

Middleton Nature Reserve (MD)
I had a quick look first thing. The absence of ducks on the main pond could only mean one thing, there was open water on the "no swimming" pond.
It was 50% ice free, and still over 50cm above its normal level, not good for the dabbling ducks, but good for the diving ducks!
Goldeneye 1 female - I'm pretty sure that this is the first record of a Goldeneye this year, this pond provided another late "first of year" last year, when a Pochard turned up and stayed over new year. Hopefully a chance again this winter.
Tufted Duck 2 male
Gadwall 8
Female Goldeneye with a male Gadwall

This clip, captures all three species, just.

Saltmarsh to Red Nab - high water 09:15 (MD)
Shelduck 20 out from saltmarsh 
Wigeon 240 - 210 out from saltmarsh plus 30 Red Nab, these are some of the saltmarsh birds

Common Snipe 2
Bar-Tailed Godwit 4 - 1 roosting on saltmarsh plus 3 on Red Nab
Bar-Tailed Godwit with Redshank and Oystercatcher on the saltmarsh 

A few more passerines around today
Blackbird 1 on saltmarsh 
Reed Bunting 3 at least on saltmarsh 
Rock Pipit 2 - saltmarsh and foreshore 
Greenfinch 2 Red Nab

Pete checked the lunchtime ferry in
Kittiwake 3 adult behind the ferry
Also Pale-bellied Brent goose 3 out from the children's play area
Later towards low water, presumably the same three, flew into the SE skear corner, possibly flushed from higher up the shore. They quickly made their way back up the shore where there is more weed available. They ended up on the rocks beyond the Sunnyslopes groyne, this clip, shows the location.

Other stuff from low water check of skear (MD)
Eider 39
Great Crested Grebe 1
The waders were a bit more interesting 
Oystercatcher c1,200
Curlew 2
Redshank 50+ (Still down on the typical 100-150)
Knot 25
Dunlin 1
Turnstone 15
Ringed Plover 6
Grey Plover 2
Bar-Tailed Godwit 12
The Grey Plover and the godwits were in loose association, the Plover were resting but the godwits feeding. 
Grey Plover and a Bar-Tailed Godwit

After a while the godwits stopped feeding and started preening.

It was clear that they were getting ready to move on.
Bar-Tailed Godwits plus one of the Grey Plovers
The godwits continued south, but the plovers peeled off and headed north

This Barrel Jellyfish was stranded on the beach. It's about 45cm diameter, and about as large as you see them here. I believe that they can grow three times this size!
Barrel Jellyfish and my size 9 wellie

Tuesday 20 December 2022

The ducks have landed....

The SW wind freshened all day, it remained dry with plenty of sunshine.

South Shore (MD)
Just a single Robin and three Carrion Crows on the saltmarsh.
Rock Pipit 1 on foreshore 
Kingfisher 1 on Red Nab
Shelduck 60
Wigeon 100+
This cormorant has caught a Common Blenny (this is a fully grown fish). It was a wriggly one, but there is no escape.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
A quick look on the way home found the "no swimming" pond still covered in ice and deserted. But the main pond was 70% ice free and the ducks were moving back
Mute Swan 2 adult 5 immature 
Moorhen 4
Gadwall 14
Shoveler 2 (male and female)

Mallard 6
Tufted Duck 2 male - this clip is a slightly unusual angle as the two Tufted join the Mallard at the swan feeding area.

Heysham skear - low water 15:20 (MD)
A few more waders today, but significantly less than typical here
Oystercatcher c1,000
Ringed Plover 5
Knot 12
Turnstone 8
Redshank 10
Dunlin 15

Eider 6
Pale-bellied Brent goose 14 - I watched six fly in from the north and they joined eight already feeding in the SE skear corner. None appeared to be colour ringed.

Monday 19 December 2022

Not a lot around!

Heavy showers overnight and during the day. Much warmer (12C first thing). The fresh wind eventually shifting from SE to SW.

I managed two walks today, one in the morning and another this afternoon. Both coinciding with a period of heavy showers:
South shore
The only two birds on the saltmarsh were a Redshank and a Carrion Crow. I didn't even see/hear the resident Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks.
Rock Pipit 2 (foreshore and lighthouse)
Shelduck 60
Wigeon 114

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick look on the way home
Tufted Duck 1 male had joined the Mute, Mallard and Moorhen on the, still frozen, main pond.

The ice is melting though, and exposing something for the Moorhen to eat. The "cracking" sounds in the background are the mute walking from the feeding area to the open pool.

The "no swimming" pond is now 50cm higher than normal. The original ice surface has now floated to the top again and is effectively a pond sized iceberg!
The "no swimming" pond is again covered in ice except for open water around the edges.

The ice edge here is c10cm high, I think the whole ice raft must be tilting upwards 

Shame, there was a flock of 14 Gadwall flying around, but nowhere to land. You can't see much in this clip, but I have precious little else today!

Heysham skear- low water 14:10
The best I can say about this walk was that it was a good test for my new waterproof coat!
Waders: Oystercatcher, Turnstone and a single Knot!
Pale-bellied Brent goose 3 - circled around the skear before heading south, but I couldn't see if they went past Heysham Head

And that's it! Hopefully more around tomorrow.

Sunday 18 December 2022

Temperature and tides about to rise rapidly!

Overnight temperature didn't get below 2C and the day temperature little higher. The ground/mud is stil frozen and patches of surface ice remain. A fresh SE wind with showers, initially snow, but quickly turning to rain.
Warm Atlantic air is set to increase temperatures significantly overnight and tomorrow, yesterday was also the lowest tide for a while, we now move quickly to spring tides.

South Shore (MD)
Not a lot really 
Shelduck and Wigeon still high numbers, but not as many as yesterday 

Grey Plover 3 - one along sea wall, one out from the foreshore and one on Ocean Edge Grass
Grey Plover

Dunlin 23 out from the foreshore plus some on the grass
Ringed Plover 7 - there were five feeding on Ocean Edge grass, the ground was still frozen, but the covering of ice was gone. They must have been finding invertebrates trapped by the ice. Also in this (shaky) clip, Redshank and Grey Plover.

Black-Tailed Godwit - still one feeding in the, now ice free, creek just out from the slipway 
The only passerine seen around the saltmarsh was a single Blackbird.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
The Mute managed to keep a small ice free area open throughout the cold spell. Both adults and 5 immature birds survived, and provided space for 6 Mallard and 2 Moorhen.
I checked the gulls on the ice several times over the frozen period but no ringed birds seen.
There is an "ice free" head of water on top of the completely frozen "no swimming" pond. It is c25cm deep, so plenty of water, but no wildfowl as all the potential food is still trapped below the ice. 

Hopefully something different tomorrow, but heavy rain is likely to hamper things. 

Saturday 17 December 2022

Worst of freezing weather goes, but not without a fight!

Overnight temperatures were just about above freezing, heavy rain followed by hail immediately froze on the cold ground. The temperature eventually crept up to 3C, more rain showers in the afternoon but the ground remained frozen. The SSE wind freshened throughout the day.

South shore 09:30 (MD)
I ended yesterday's report by advising care with today's expected ice. I did heed my own advice, I set off late and chose a path over rough ground, but it wasn't enough, there was a layer of ice even covering rough ground. The advice should have been, stay at home! The only thing that saved me from falling several times was that the last shower was of hail, which left a rough, but still very slippy, surface to the ice.
I just managed to check the saltmarsh, then drove, gingerly home.
Greenfinch 6
Reed Bunting 1 - you can't see all the birds every visit but these have declined from a high count of 5.
Shelduck 293
Ringed Plover 2
Teal 2

The short stretch of the creek just out from the slipway was still supporting some feeding waders. There was more groundwater running through today, but still, this small patch has been hammered this last week. Waders feeding here today:
Black-Tailed Godwit 1
Curlew 2
Oystercatcher 1 - looked like yesterday's bird
Redshank 8
Dunlin 2

I slipped my way as far as Red Nab, but there was no chance of going any further. This is a shot of Red Nab, this isn't frost, it is a layer of ice over all but the steepest rock face.

Heysham skear - low water 11:50 (MD)
I left it till after lunch, these neap tides come in very slowly. By this time the roads were fine and the shore was ok after the first 50m. Although there was little to see. There was nothing visible on the sea, and only the regular waders. Fortunately there were....
Pale-bellied Brent geese 6 - they came from somewhere up the shore, I didn't see anyone who may have spooked them, it was probably the Oystercatcher who were particularly flighty today. This is them landing again.

A little later they started making their way up the shore again. There is more weed in some areas higher up the shore, but you can see them picking up isolated pieces of sea lettuce on the way. 

I was only out for 30 minutes, but by now the ice on the pavements had largely gone, so I decided to finish this morning's walk.
South wall
It was technically much warmer than of late, but with the freshening SSE wind it felt colder. There were 40 Cormorants roosting, but not on the draughty wooden jetty. They prefer the shore when they have the option. This peninsula is just south of No.2 outflow.

Only one bird was on the wooden jetty - it seems that they forgot to tell the Shag

Wigeon 220 - originally in channel next to No.1 outflow, but they moved to Red Nab as soon as the tide started thawing the outer rocks.
Red-breasted Merganser 1 female in the harbour mouth

Kingfisher 1 - it was perched on the edge of No.1 outflow, but it wasn't looking into the outflow, but the rising water on the outside.

By this time the rain had started. It was quite heavy by the time I'd got back to the Nature Park. The ground was still frozen so most was draining towards the road. There is a chance of a slight frost again tonight so caution should be taken again in the morning. But the worst is over.........for now.

Friday 16 December 2022

The deep freeze begins to abate

Another freezing night. A clear calm start, clouding over by lunchtime when there was a light shower. The SSE breeze freshened during the afternoon.

Just my stuff so far (MD)
Saltmarsh to Red Nab 
It was -6C when I started at 08:30, another very difficult night for the birds.
Common Snipe 3
Starling 8
Greenfinch 10
Reed Bunting 2
Black-Tailed Godwit 3 - The creek through the saltmarsh is now beyond the current tide reach. Even so the trickle of ground water draining through it had kept an ice free ribbon open. These birds were feeding as yesterday, whatever they were finding was tiny and must be depleted after three days.

Red Nab:
Shelduck c150
Meadow Pipit 1
Rock Pipit 1 - the Rock Pipit not so benign today and was trying to chase the Meadow Pipit off its patch.
Blackbird 2 - this clip is actually from yesterday, but similar tactics were being used today. They are working very hard for whatever invertebrates they were finding.

Heron and a couple of Wigeon hogging the only ice free pool on Red Nab

Heysham skear - low water 10:40
Just a short walk, the tide doesn't go out very far on these low neap tides.
Eider c50 most quite distant and diving for food, but this male was gathering what he can from an inshore rock.
Great Crested Grebe 1
Shag 1 immature 
Shag on the barely exposed conger rock at low water

No waders other than the Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone - it struck me again just how "cruel" these low neap tides are in freezing conditions, not only do they not rise far enough to thaw out the upper shore mud, but they fail to expose the lower shore feeding grounds. The only saving grace is that some shore is exposed all day.
Pale-Bellied Brent goose 3 - these arrived from the west at low water and headed to the SE skear corner to feed.
Pale-Bellied Brent geese

Saltmarsh to Red Nab
A second quick check in the late afternoon. It was above freezing now, the lunchtime rain had melted much of the standing frost, but the ground was still sub zero and the rain and melted frost had turned to a layer of ice.
Teal 4 (2 each on Red Nab and Saltmarsh ground water run offs)
Black-Tailed Godwit 1 - none in the saltmarsh creek, that larder must have been empty. This one was feeding out from the foreshore. It was finding something to eat, but again, just pea sized molluscs.
Black-Tailed Godwit with a small mollusc

Grey Plover 1
Passerines as this morning.

This wader initially confused me. At first, I could only see it in silhouette, no plumage details but it seemed to have a long slightly downturned bill and feeding in a similar fashion as the godwits. But when I moved to take the sun out of the sight line, I could see it was an Oystercatcher. It does seem to have a longer than average bill and a suggestion of down curving, possibly giving it additional feeding options in these difficult conditions.

This made me smile, it was this morning before the cloud cover. The jet leaving this contrail appears to have made a "U" turn, as though the pilot had forgotten something! (Probably just some sort of holding manoeuvre)

At the time of writing, the night sky is clear and the temperature is hovering just above freezing. But overnight rain is forecast, which will be good for the birds as it will mean a warmer night, but it may leave the roads and pavements treacherous with ice in the morning. Take care.