Monday 28 February 2022

All the regulars on show

SSE fresh wind in the morning swung round more to west in the afternoon. Light showers in the morning, but pretty consistent rain after lunch.

Just my morning check of the south shore so far (MD)
I started at the saltmarsh at high water. Todays 8.45m tide barely reached the saltmarsh, even so it flushed:
Common Snipe 12
Reed Bunting 2
Male Reed Bunting 

Skylark 1 flew in from the north and flitted around the Ocean Edge grass for a while, before moving off south.

An interesting looking "blob" out from the foreshore proved to be a Pink-Footed goose.
Presumably separated from its flock

Pale-bellied Brent goose 30 - it was quiet this morning with no one walking along the sea wall. The Brent stayed over high water, despite only the rocks near to the wall being still exposed. Most are actually between the rocks and the wall on this clip taken from the foreshore.

Wigeon c100
Shelduck 7
Little gull 1 first winter bird was the only bird feeding over No.1 outflow when the tide was still quite high. Later it had been joined by other gulls.
Shag 1 2nd calendar year - it flew into the harbour from the direction of the wooden jetty, again while the tide was still quite high. Presumably it was waiting till the tide was lower to feed on the waterfall, as it settled on one of the adjacent platforms. The young gulls looked like they were sizing up their gape to see if they could manage a whole Shag. The Great Black-Backed on the right looked like it fancied its chances! (Only joking of course....I think. MD)

Rock Pipit 4 (saltmarsh, sea wall and two between lighthouse and waterfall, again no ringed bird)

Hopefully more tomorrow.

Sunday 27 February 2022

It's not spring yet..... but it did feel a bit like it today.

A SSE wind with sunshine, pretty much all day.

Short term weather prognosis from Pete:

A minibeast from the east is forecast after a couple of quiet days at beginning of March - possible snow inland at least, so not a clear cut start to the spring by any means.

South shore - high water 08:20 (MD)

Pale-bellied Brent goose - at least 20 on Red Nab (later a similar number were seen scattered around the skear at low water).

Shelduck 57 - most on the water out from Red Nab

Wigeon c150

Rock Pipit 5 (saltmarsh, Red Nab, sea wall 2, and harbour) today's birds didn't include the hopping individual, but I did see that bird yesterday near the lighthouse.

Stonechat 1 female feeding amongst the flotsam on the small beach between Red Nab and the foreshore.

Female Stonechat 

Little gull 1 first winter on No.2 outflow. It was feeding close in at high water, the bright sun made for some nice pictures.

First winter Little gull

Jackdaw 6 came in off the sea near the lighthouse, then continued west
No sign of the Shag on this visit, but the water level was still quite high for the waterfall.
Grey Seal 1 female
Female Grey Seal near No.1 outflow

Imperial Rd 
Just a quick check on my way home
Teal 2
Stonechat 1 female 

Heysham skear low water 15:20
Brent geese - see above
Eider c200 close inshore, many more feeding in long lines further out
Wigeon 26 - these were in a tightly packed raft just resting on the water. They are seldom seen around the skear,
Great Crested Grebe 3 - including one pair displaying 

Saturday 26 February 2022

Stonechat movement begins!

A very cold SSE wind early on freshened a bit during the day. High cloud with plenty of sunshine.

Pete(M) said this morning that today's conditions looked right for Stonechat movement, an hour later Pete Crooks reported the first sighting for the reporting area this winter.

Full report from Pete Crooks visit this morning:

Red Nab – Heysham Harbour (9.30 – 10.45 am)
1 2nd CY Little Gull – Heysham Stage 2 Outfall (it was still feeding on the wall side of No.2 outflow as it was going dark at 18:00 (MD))
1 2nd CY Shag – Heysham Harbour
4 Rock Pipit – 2 Heysham Harbour, 1 Heysham Stage 1 Outfall, 1 Red Nab
1 male Stonechat – Red Nab – early spring migrant?
90 Pink-footed Geese – high across the bay heading north

Knowlys Road, Heysham
42 Pale-belied Brent Geese – widely spread along the outer edge of the foreshore off Royds Avenue
540 Eider – just offshore, spread along tideline between Heysham Head and Sandylands Promenade

Earlier, the Little Gull was on the seaward end of No.1 outflow. This clip just shows the location, probably favoured when the water level is low.

Janice Sutton also visited the area again today.
2nd calendar year Shag in the Harbour 

2nd calendar year Shag flying out of harbour

1st winter Great Black-Backed gull

Rock Pipit at Half Moon Bay

Middleton Nature Reserve (MD)

A lot of the wildfowl had returned

Mute Swan 3 adult plus 7 immature on main pond, 3 adult on "no swimming" pond.

Moorhen 4

Mallard 3

Gadwall 27 (5 on main pond)

Tufted Duck 1 male

Pochard 1 male 

Male Gadwall with male Pochard 

Pochard with male Tufted Duck on "no swimming" pond

Friday 25 February 2022

First Winter Little Gull lingers

The SW winds eased overnight, by afternoon is was little more than a SSW breeze.

Please note the 2021 Annual report is now available - see side bar

Heysham skear - low water 12:10
Pale-bellied Brent goose  40 - again spread out around the skear feeding on patches of broken weed from the storms. Most along the southern edge of the skear but 8 along the northern edge.
Eider c360 - there were at least 190 close in to the skear plus a distant feeding group of at least 170.
Great Crested Grebe 1
Red-breasted Merganser 2 male
A better variety of waders today. Oystercatcher the most numerous, plus Knot (c200), Redshank, Turnstone, Curlew and Dunlin

Dog walk path.
Siskin 3 - ref Kevin

South shore late afternoon
This was on the rising tide, but we are back to neap tides now and they don't raise far!
Pale-bellied Brent goose 30  (almost certainly some of this morning's birds). They arrived from the north side at 16:30. They often do not come to Red Nab on this height tide, but these arrived early, before the tide had reached the rocks. It was notable that they landed in the fresh water stream and began drinking. This suggests two things:
1. They had come directly from feeding on broken weed in sea water (as opposed to feeding on the gutweed in the freshwater run offs).
2. The gutweed on Red Nab is now sufficiently lush to allow reasonably easy feeding early in the tide (MD)

Wigeon c150 were waiting in channel before going to Red Nab, almost certainly joined by others later
Shelduck 14
Rock Pipit 3
Shag 1 juvenile feeding at the waterfall.
This is a nice sequence to demonstrate both its size compared to the gulls and its unique diving style.

Juvenile Shag diving
Don't watch the Shag in this clip, watch the two young Lesser Black-Backed gulls top left. They are having a tug of war over a small fish.

Juvenile (2nd calendar year) Shag

Little Gull 1 first winter - yesterday I suggested that they may be gone by today, but Pete advises that it's typical for first winter birds to hang on a day or two after a blow. So just a chance tomorrow?
There was no sign of it when I walked out but it was showing well when I walked back at 16:00. 
A deliberately distant shot of the first winter Little Gull,
really just to demonstrate today's flat sea.

Finally, this was a puzzle. I'm not normally unsure about fish, but this one confused me (MD). This cormorant catches an "eel" in No.2 outflow. Only a short clip I'm afraid.
But it is much too early for eels. Perhaps the warmer Power Station water could explain it, but eels this size are immature and should be both yellow in colour and, at the moment, be hibernating under the mud in fresh or brackish water. I watched the above clip frame by frame and blown up. I decided that not only was the fish not yellow, its back appeared to be covered in dark spots. The only thing I can think of that fits that description is a Lamprey. I've never seen one, and I've never seen signs of them feeding on other fish (they suck blood like a leech). I spoke to Linda Renshaw regarding local populations, she advises that River Lampreys are reasonably common in our local rivers. I've looked into River Lampreys and the size is right, and this is the time of year to expect them to move into rivers to spawn. 
This is a blown up still from the above clip.
Suspected River Lamprey (MD)

Thursday 24 February 2022

Last Littles for a while?

The strong SW to WSW winds continued all day, but they are forecast to ease overnight and then become variable in direction. Heavy hail showers punctuated the day.

Pete and Jean had a lunchtime check.
Shag 1 juvenile in the harbour - yesterday I made the comment that fishing at the waterfall is easy at the right times. Just to show that we don't just pick glib comments out of a hat, this is a clip I took of a Cormorant feeding at the waterfall earlier in the week. It catches three small fish in just three short dives. The young Shag also makes a brief appearance in this clip (you may need to view in slow motion to see the fish).

Black Redstart - 1 female/immature on the fence in the security sensitive area along the single track to harbour (this bird cannot be searched for here, but it is sometimes seen in transit to or from the harbour).
Little Gull 1 adult
Kittiwake 1 adult
Both the above on the Power Station outflows

Later in the afternoon, towards high water, both myself and Tim had a walk along the south sea wall.
Pale Bellied Brent goose 42 flew from the north side to Red Nab at 15:05
Wigeon c200 - Tim took this short clip with his mobile as a wave of Wigeon approached Red Nab on the rising tide.
Rock Pipit 2
Kittiwake 2 adult at least patrolling the sea wall
Little Gull 1 adult plus 1 first winter on No.2 outflow
In this clip the adult finds a fish, or piece of fish.

Upper and lower views of a first winter Little Gull
This Black-Headed gull also found a fish

Kevin Singleton had a brief look around Half Moon Bay and took these nice shots of a Curlew:

Curlew, neat feathers, but a muddy bill

It was a lot colder than it looks on these shots!

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Last minute Little Gull

The wind started WSW but moved more to SSW by lunchtime. Mainly overcast with a few light showers and the odd sunny spell.

Heysham skear - low water 10:00 (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 27 (of c45) - Once again they were scattered on and around the skear in small groups, feeding on the broken weed left by the storms. 27 was all that I located, but at 13:40 c45 flew from the north side to Red Nab.
This is typical of the patches of broken weed and grasses etc, left all around the skear. In this patch there are several pieces of sea lettuce, which I know the Brent like, but they probably eat much of the other green stuff as well.
Patches of broken weed like this are strewn around the skear edges.

Eider 171 (counted by Pete from Knowlys, I'd estimated 160+, which is close for me!)
Someone asked me the other day, what the black ducks with a white throat are. The answer was a  2nd calendar year male Eider. This one was just sorting out its feathers (clip actually from yesterday).

No Knot today, but there seemed more than usual Turnstone (80+)

South shore
Once again, excellent and very thorough coverage all day provided by at least 8 observers. Unfortunately, for most of the day there was little to see.
Female Eider in the Harbour seemed to top the bill! But I managed a final check in the fading light an hour after high water and was fortunate enough to be rewarded with:
Little gull 1 adult feeding along the sea wall just west of No.2 outflow. Located at 16:50 and still feeding on my return from the harbour at 17:25.

Today's adult Little Gull

The Pale-bellied Brent geese were already feeding on Red Nab. Perhaps they didn't leave at high water. This clip shows how close they were to the sea wall an hour after high water.

Shag 1 2nd calendar year feeding on the waterfall - sightings of Shag are becoming more erratic, the days are getting longer and, at the right times, fishing at the waterfall is easy, so presumably it quickly finds enough to eat before resting in the many secluded areas around the inner harbour

This Curlew was having a bad "hair" day!

Cold strong winds tomorrow, wrap up well!

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Four Little Gulls!

A fresh west wind all day with sunshine and (inevitably mistimed) showers.

Heysham skear - low water 09:15
Pale-bellied Brent goose 39 minimum - they were again feeding on the broken weed from the recent storms. They were scattered around, most in the SE corner but also in the NE corner plus twos and threes along both skear edges and the shoreline.
Later there were at least 22 on Red Nab.
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Great Crested Grebe 1

South shore 
Excellent coverage today paid dividends. Pete and Jean scoping from range, plus myself, Tim, Kevin and Janice Sutton covering the sea wall and surroundings.
Little Gull 4 (2 adult plus 2 1st winter) - Pete first reported a 1st winter lingering out from the harbour after the arrival of the lunchtime ferry, but it may well have already been already present.
At 12:45, myself and Janice were checking No.2 outflow, there were lots of gulls feeding, including an adult plus first winter bird,  but eventually it became apparent that there were two first winter birds, presumably including the harbour entrance bird. Kevin checked a little later when the outflows were covered and empty, but still located an adult in the harbour. I returned on the ebbing tide in the evening, one adult started feeding as soon as No.2 outflow became exposed. Later, another adult was feeding towards the seaward end. This was joined by the first bird and then both disappeared. The wind is still in a good direction tomorrow albeit not as fresh.
There are some good shots today, particularly from Janice and Kevin, so I have not pre-sized any of today's pictures, all are best seen by opening them.

No.2 outflow adult Little Gull by Janice

A shot of mine was about the best we managed of a 1st winter bird.
I did manage a reasonable clip though:

This is the inshore evening adult bird, think it is the same one that was feeding on the flood tide.

Kevin's shot of the adult in the harbour towards high water

Comparison shot of a Black-Headed gull above
and adult Little gull below

Janice's picture showing Black-Headed gull detail

Kittiwake 1 behind ferry, 15 floating in/lifting/landing again seen by Pete - later,  all observers saw birds on both outflows between the outflows and in the harbour. 
Adult Kittiwake on outflows - Janice

Adult Kittiwake in harbour - Kevin

Kittiwake with 1st winter Little Gull on No.2 outflow - (MD)

Shag 1 flew out from harbour - ref Tim
Red-Throated Diver 1 distant out ref Pete

Just a final thought, reference yesterday's puzzle of what the crow had found to eat. When I restocked my feeders this morning, I realised that the partly eaten fat balls looked very similar to what the crow had. Visitors here regularly leave food out for the small birds, perhaps someone left some loose fat balls?

Monday 21 February 2022

Little Gull hangs around

Very strong WNW wind in the morning eased during the day. A few showers early on but dry and sunny for much of the day.

Redshank - Pete and Jean didn't locate a single bird during yesterday's WeBS count, covering the shoreline from Sunnyslopes Groyne to Ocean Edge. The storm must have driven them inland. Anyone know where to?

Heliport wall
Two interesting pictures from Howard:
First Knot to display partial summer plumage

But they didn't hang around for long,
 this Sparrowhawk cleared everything again.
Middleton Nature Reserve 
There is a change with the Mute. All the remaining 7 immature birds were on the main pond, with 3 adult, the other 3 adult now on the "no swimming" pond
Mallard 2 pair on "no swimming" pond
No other ducks or Coot seen.
Moorhen 4
Little grebe 1

South shore 
Kevin checked it out this afternoon, quite early in the ebbing tide:
Pale-bellied Brent goose 20+
Wigeon c200
Kittiwake 1 adult
Little Gull 1 adult
Both the above on No.2 outflow.

Black-Headed Gull left with Kittiwake right

Little Gull

I arrived not long after Kevin had left, but didn't see either of the above on No.2 outflow. I did see an adult Kittiwake heading south from No.1 outflow. Then on the return leg, I just managed to catch the Little Gull flying down No.2 outflow. The sun was low and bright, making this clip over exposed. Resulting in the gull, particularly its underwings, looking paler than they actually were.

Rock Pipits 4  - still no sign on the lighthouse ringed bird

Finally, I couldn't decide what this was, perched on the guy ropes for the large anemometer. I eventually realised that it was a Carrion Crow, with what looks like an egg (or a very degraded golf ball). If it was an egg, it looked a bit battered so possibly hard boiled? So, the bird identified, but the object not, I'll leave it for you to decide.

Sunday 20 February 2022

Lots of wind.......Little gull

Strong SW wind all day with some very heavy rain showers.

Fortunately Pete and Jean were in the area late morning conducting this month's WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey). Today's count included:
Pale-bellied Brent goose 37 on Red Nab
Wigeon 225 at Ocean Edge saltmarsh
Oystercatcher  5005 on heliport and 1680 on Heysham village bay field (below Knowlys Rd)
Knot 600 on heliport plus 56 Turnstone and a Snipe. 
Ringed Plover 15 on Ocean Edge grass and 3 on Heysham Village Bay field.
Little gull 1 adult on the seaward end of No.1 outflow

I had walked along the south wall earlier, but the Little Gull was not there then, so I had another look in the afternoon as the outflow became exposed again. The good news was that it had remained dry as I walked out, and that the Little Gull was now feeding on the mid section of No.1 outflow. The bad news was that as soon as I relocated it, the heavens opened driven by an even stronger wind. I just managed a few record shots. Some of these images show No.2 outflow in the background, but the bird was feeding over No.1.
There was a dark line on the primaries of the right wing,
but it appears to be a displaced feather

I also managed this brief clip, but the image quality is poor (it's not easy when both you and the bird are moving erratically!)

The only other pictures I have today are of two flocks of the Pale-bellied Brent geese heading towards Red Nab this morning.
Brent flying along the sea wall 

A different flock of 8 Brent flying between the wooden jetty and the roundhead 

Saturday 19 February 2022

'Sno Fun!

The wind started from SE, light rain turned into sleet, then wet snow, then a full on snow storm. By lunchtime the sun had come out, the light wind from NW. it remained sunny till evening.

First, Howard managed to read some more Knot on the old heliport wall yesterday, before the storm, and human disturbance became too disruptive. These are two of his excellent pictures.

Middleton Nature Reserve (today)
Most of the wildfowl had moved on. 
Mute 6 adult 7 immature 
Moorhen 4
Coot 1
Mallard 2 (pair)
Gadwall 3 male
Tufted Duck 1 male
Little grebe 1

South shore (MD)
I checked twice today, hoping to resolve the Rock Pipit status near the lighthouse, but didn't succeed. Over the two visits I only located 4 birds, none ringed and none near the lighthouse.
I set off this morning in light rain and returned in a blizzard!
Pale-bellied Brent goose 30+ morning and afternoon - this clip is from this afternoon, it shows them on Red Nab, long after the tide had left it. Up till now they have been leaving before the water left Red Nab. I take this to mean that the gutweed is now growing faster than it is being cropped, allowing easier feeding even when it's not floating. Although they were getting ready to leave and flew to the north side, not long after this clip.

Goose sp c60 SE in the afternoon (almost certainly Pinkfoot, but high and out of hearing range)
Wigeon c150
Turnstone 24
Reed Bunting 3
Common Snipe 8
Jack Snipe 1
No sign of any Shag today
Grey Seal 1
When the snow started, I reverted to being a big kid and sought every opportunity to photograph the snow on the flimsiest pretext!

More Oystercatchers (and lots more snow!)

Male Reed Bunting

Female/immature Reed Bunting

Grey Seal - feeding again and only surfacing periodically to breathe 

Finally, this is the end section of the wooden jetty. You can see the snow building up on the backs of the cormorants. You can imagine what I looked like!