Thursday 31 March 2022

Green Sandpiper adds a bit of variety

Very cold north wind all day with some light snow and hail showers, but at least the sun shone in between.

Saltmarsh to Red Nab rising tide (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 65 landed on Red Nab together.
Today's Brent coming in to land in the freshwater stream

Shelduck 58
Knot c250 - I was watching the Knot reluctantly move out of the way as the Brent fed, and wondered how many years it would take for them to be as comfortable with people, if no one ever bothered them. Probably never, but it would be nice.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the two main ponds:
Mute Swan 2 nesting pairs plus another adult. No sign of last year's cygnets. Looks like they've all been moved on. The remaining unattached adult wasn't welcome.

Canada goose 1 visitor

Coot 6
Moorhen 4
Mallard 6
Gadwall 8
Little grebe - just one seen today

Warblers, three species singing:
Cetti's warbler by "no swimming" pond
Blackcap 1
Chiffchaff 3

Imperial way (Pete and Jean)

Green Sandpiper on pond next to Imperial Way.

Pair Gadwall and pair Teal on pond at end of Imperial Way/entrance to recycle facility.

Heysham skear - low water 18:50 (MD)

Light nights and a high spring tide meant very low water (0.9m). I had a walk out to the Kent channel, it was a nice bright evening, but an icy wind.

Eider c180 - no more than recently just that the birds in the gunnel included in count

Shelduck 3 over to NW Red-breasted Merganser 5

Great Crested grebe 6

Snow on the South Lakes hills

Visibility was good, so I took this 30 second trip around the Bay. It starts at Black Combe and ends at the Alambra on Morecambe front, with a snow dusted Ingleborough behind.

This is just the final frame from the clip,above, I was panning quite quickly
so you don't really get a chance to see Ingleborough in the clip

What you may notice in the clip is how flat the mud is out there, and that what creates the potential danger. When the rising tide reaches a critical point, the mud is pretty much all covered at the same time. Not deep of course, but it hides the channels and drains. Not a walk for the inexperienced.

Wednesday 30 March 2022

More off passage ducks

The cold NE wind freshened during the day with some showers, later of sleet.

First, this is the ringing information for the Lesser Redpoll caught on Middleton Nature Reserve yesterday:

Y126748               1st W          14/10/20                Castlemorton Common (Worcestershire)

Retrapped             Ad M          21/03/22                Middleton  NR 122km N 

Tim had a lunchtime walk:

Red Nab at c. 11.40 (n) at c.12.40

38 Pale-bellied Brent goose (41) (earlier 44 had flown towards Potts from Red Nab MD)

2 Merganser (0)

19 Wigeon (19) 

1 Little Egret (1)

1 Rock Pipit (0)

Nothing of interest outflows or harbour. Considerably fewer cormorants than recently 

1 little Egret out from HMB statue. 

13.30 30+ Brent flew past towards Playground/ Morecambe 

1 Wheatear on the HMB side of Throbshaw (my first this year)

This is the Red Nab Rock Pipit

Heysham Skear low water 18:10 (MD)

Eider c150 - this is a slightly different clip of a few resting on a sand bar

Great Crested Grebe 4 

Red-breasted Merganser 3

Little Egret 6

There was a tight packed flock of c30 small ducks on the north side, unfortunately they were heading out and the tide was coming in. They took flight briefly and landed even further out. They looked to be all dark on the water and in flight, so I had assumed that they were Common Scoter. But examining my pictures and clips it became obvious that at least some were Teal.

I think these are all of them:

They all appear dark in the above clip, but this next clip reveals that at least some were Teal.

Pete has checked the above clip and is satisfied that they are Teal. It just shows how easy it is to be fooled by initial appearances (it happens to me all the time - one of the reasons I take a camera with me MD)

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Better, but hard won!

 The very light breeze continued, mainly north. Mainly overcast with some periods of light rain.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

Three nets set this morning from just before seven o'clock until eleven resulted in just six captures. However, one was a Lesser Redpoll wearing a ring fitted at another site. We will receive information on this in due course.

The other captures were singles of Meadow Pipit, Blackcap, Great Tit, Chiffchaff and a retrapped Reed Bunting. 

No movement of migrants over the site was apparent.

South Shore

Pete and Jean checked from Ocean Edge to the Wooden Jetty

31 Turnstone on the wooden jetty. 

Rock Pipit near the lighthouse plus 5 others flew along the south harbour wall. Also 1 on territory on north side.

Chiffchaff 1 also on north side

Pale-bellied Brent goose 48 (42 originally on Red Nab, later joined by 6 that had been out from Potts)

Wigeon 20

On the shore out from Ocean Edge

Bar-Tailed Godwit 62

Black-Tailed Godwit 1

Grey Plover 28

Knot 2,240

Dunlin 220

I checked from Saltmarsh to Red Nab (MD)

Shelduck 20

Meadow Pipit 3 over

Wheatear 6 moving along foreshore to Red Nab together.

A slightly better shot of the inverted black "T" on the tip of the tail

4 Wheatear on Red Nab (2 on each rock)

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Jean took this excellent shot of a Common Toad

I had a quick walk around
Chiffchaff 6
Bullfinch 8
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2 - one drumming 
Jay 1

Heysham skear - low water 17:25
Red-breasted Merganser 6
Eider c150
Teal 8 - originally just out of positive recognition range to the south of the skear. Fortunately 6 eventually flew to the skear corner. Still quite distant, and this clip is accordingly poor quality, but I thought interesting as it shows the males displaying (or arguing).

This shot from Jean is the Deo Gloria dredger working just out from the harbour mouth. It is a suction dredger. Although it does "muddy the water", it does take the bulk of the mud away to be dumped in the Lune deeps.

Monday 28 March 2022

Dramatic weather drizzled a little!

The air (and the birds) still reluctant to move. What little breeze there was today mainly northish. Some very light drizzle early on and it remain cloudy till early evening.

Red Nab to saltmarsh high water 09:10 (MD)
It was still drizzling slightly and I had hoped for some grounded stuff, but nothing grounded and nothing passing over.
Pale-bellied Brent goose 40+ So much for my prediction that they were off yesterday! To be fair, I think this is a different group, and there were none on the skear this evening. This group included the two red/blue Canadian Arctic ringed birds. It was good to see them again before their return. Hope they get home safely and return next year. They were ringed as a breeding pair on Axel Heiberg Island in 2014. It's a straight line distance of over 4,000km. Whichever route they take, they will have to fly across the Atlantic. You can see them both on this clip.

Shelduck 52
Wigeon 14
Rock Pipit 1

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Just a quick walk around the east side
Mute - now just one adult pair on the main pond, plus 5 remaining cygnets from last year. Another pair on the "no swimming" pond, the female sitting on nest again.
Gadwall 4 two pair
Mallard 6 three pair
Little grebe 7 at least - 2 pair on the main pond, another pair on "no swimming" pond plus at least one on Tim Butler pond
Moorhen 10
Coot 5

Cetti's warbler 1 singing at "no swimming" pond
Chiffchaff several singing birds
Blackcap 2 - a silent male and a female in the same Blackthorn bush. I couldn't manage to get one clip showing both, so I stuck two clips together. Male first then a female.

Female Blackcap
Bullfinch 8 

Heysham skear
Just a quick look. Nothing on the sea except Eider c150, Great Crested Grebe 2 and Red-breasted Merganser 2.
Knot c1,500

Finally this is the North West Gull Project Herring gull seen in the harbour on Friday.
Herring Gull - ringed Bowland Lancs 7/07/21
Seen at Roosebeck Cumbria 28/08/21 and 28/09/21
Seen Heysham 25/03/22

A link to the scheme is included on the sidebar, but I've also placed it here:

Sunday 27 March 2022

Still becalmed in the doldrums

The very light breezes continues mainly WSW to NW.  Plenty of sunshine in the morning, high cloud in the afternoon made the sunshine intermittent.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from John:

Set three nets this morning, which was wishful thinking given the continuing lack of bird movement. Only Lesser Redpolls were caught with an initial catch of seven, soon after setting, but only three more after.

I had also set a moth trap which only produced one micro moth a Diurnea Fagella.

South shore (MD)
Not much here either!
Shelduck 38
Wigeon 2
Linnet 2 flew north from lighthouse area, but possibly only as far as the sandworks on north wall.
Rock Pipit 4 - this one feeding on the south sloping wall seems to be finding plenty of small invertebrates amongst the recently exposed wrack.
Robin 1 near lighthouse were I haven't been seeing one over winter.

Heysham skear low water 14:55
Pale-bellied Brent goose 26 - initially there were several small groups (2-6) scattered around on the sea, on both sides of the skear. 26 was the most I could see at one time, but just after low water, 23 of them (seemingly the only ones still around) had gathered together on the north side. They looked to be posing for an "end of term" photo - so I took one.
Pale-bellied Brent geese with the South Lakes as a backdrop 

They were clearly restless, with lots of honking going on, normally only reserved for when they feel threatened. Then, just after the above shot they took flight west gaining height quickly, rather than their normal low flight to the west side. Is this goodbye till autumn? (Probably not, it's always difficult to identify the last record, until after the event, we'll see. (MD))

Eider c150 close in plus another large group, feeding further out
Great Crested Grebe 1
Red-breasted Merganser 3
Oystercatcher, Knot, Redshank, Turnstone and Curlew

Saturday 26 March 2022

Almost no movement, including the air!

Calm to very light variable breeze. Sunshine for most of the morning, more cloud in the afternoon.

Heysham Head
Report from Tim

Went onto the Head just after 06.10

Plenty of Linnet overhead first thing, but most seemed to have moved elsewhere by 06.30

Nothing interesting in the woods 

3 silent Swans flew past from west 06.50

2 Brent arrived at playground from west 7.05

2 (or the same one twice) Rock Pipit below the cliff

2 Little Egret

One female Sparrowhawk (being mobbed by 10 or so finches)

Looking north:

Merganser 8

Eider 30+


Heysham Nature Reserve 

Ringing report from Jean:

It was very quiet this morning. Only 13 birds caught between 0730-1030 (retraps in brackets):
Chaffinch 1
Greenfinch 2
Lesser Redpoll 1
Goldfinch 2
Song Thrush 1
Dunnock 1
Great Tit 1 +(1)
Blue Tit 1 + (1)
Bullfinch (1)

Only 5 Meadow Pipits, 3 Lesser Redpoll and 5 or so Chaffinches flew over in 3 hours.

Wigeon 14 on Red Nab

Heysham skear- low water 12:05 (MD)

Great Crested grebe 2

Red-breasted Merganser 9

Eider 180 close in, plus c50 feeding further out. When the Eider are close in like today, the skear reverberates with their display calls. But for some reason whenever I try to record, it seems underwhelming compared to how my ears perceive it, perhaps I'm just sensitive to the call frequency. Anyway, I had another go as the wind noise was minimal. You can just about hear their calls on this clip, but still not the all pervading sound that it seemed at the time.

Turnstone c150 - I took this clip to demonstrate just how good their current plumage acts as camouflage amongst the broken shells on the skear. You wouldn't notice the lower bird if it didn't move.

Knot c1,000 - this is some of them as the tide started to come in. Their feeding finished they were all clambering to bathe in the brackish water running off the shore. I have said it before, one thing all birds seem to have in common is that they all appear to relish a good bath!

Little Egret 4

Other waders, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin.

Finally, it's green jelly blob season again!

For non regular or new post readers, these are the egg sacs of several species of green ragworm. They start by being attached by a tendril, as this one, but they quickly become dislodged and end up all over the beach. What always makes me smile is that if you Google "blobs of green jelly on the beach", it will tell you that they are called "green jelly blobs"! (MD).

Friday 25 March 2022

Four butterfly species and a Merlin

Another day of variable light breezes. A cold start, but sunny and increasing warm in the sunshine throughout the day.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

Nothing exciting I'm afraid!

12 Lesser Redpolls and one Dunnock was total catch this morning. Three further Redpolls came down but were not trapped.

Meadow Pipits were scarce this morning with only about 20 attracted to the MP3 players but none was caught. A single alba Wagtail also came down but not trapped.

I had a walk around the eastern side late morning (MD).

Mute Swan 2 adult on "no swimming" pond but female not on the nest today. 1 adult on Tim Butler pond and 4 adult and 6 immature on the main pond - so another of last year's cygnets gone.

Coot 5 (4 on main pond, plus 1 on "no swimming" pond)

Moorhen 6 (2 each on the three ponds)

Gadwall 8 (4 pairs)

Mallard 6 

Tufted Duck 1 male

Male Tufted Duck

Little grebe 7 at least - 4 (2 pair) on main pond, pair on Tim Butler pond and at least 1 on "no swimming" pond. These are two of the main pond birds, at the very beginning of the clip you may just be able to hear one of the other pair trilling.

Water Rail 1 calling
Buzzard 3 - 2 together north plus one that soared too high to see which way it ended up going.
Sparrowhawk 1 male hunting 
Chiffchaff 10 singing males
One of today's singing Chiffchaff, this one is ringed

Brimstone 3 male and a female 
Male Brimstone 

Peacock 2 - one very worn plus this fresher looking individual 

Comma 1 
Worn Comma

Small Tortoiseshell 5
(plus Tim saw another female Brimstone and a Peacock, and there were several more Small Tortoiseshell around the saltmarsh in the afternoon)

South shore on rising tide (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 29 on the sea waiting to feed on Red Nab (earlier Tim saw 8 fly west from the children's play area, possibly forming part of this group).
Shelduck 31
Eider 4 
No Wigeon again, also Shag not seen today.
There was a marked increase (50+) of immature large gulls, mainly Herring gulls, including another of the North West Gull Project, surely there will be others.
Wheatear 1 male on foreshore 
Merlin 1 female or immature male, shot past me heading north as I was leaving Ocean Edge.

Thursday 24 March 2022

Great Northern Diver - plus an opportunity to help with a new Atlas.

Very light variable breeze. Mainly sunny.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing and vis report from John

Quiet morning at Middleton. Three nets set by 6.30am, but only ten birds caught in a four hour period, and they comprised :

Lesser Redpoll x 7

Meadow Pipit x 1

Chiffchaff x2

No obvious overhead passage, with no more Redpolls seen or heard, and only one Meadow Pipit in addition to the one caught. Apart from that, the only thing of note were two Whooper Swans flying over, mid morning, going in a north easterly direction.

Pete and Jean also managed some vis

Report from Pete:

Great-Northern Diver 1 x 2nd calendar year out from the harbour 

I checked the north harbour wall SD36V by telescoping from the back of the harbour this am.  It produced singing Robin, Wren, Dunnock, a pair of Linnet on the gorse and a rock pipit which was probably only feeding.  Good records for the Lancaster and District BWS breeding bird Atlas starting this year.  Contact me if you want to contribute to this tetrad based survey.

(More information about the tetrads tomorrow).

Heysham Head 

Report from Jean:

Here’s what I had today heading north from 07:15 to 09:00:

Meadow Pipit 78 (largest flock = 20)

Lesser Redpoll 15 (largest flock = 10)

Linnet 16 

Goldfinch 11 

Greenfinch 9 

Skylark 2

Jackdaw 3

Woodpigeon 1

Knot 250

On the skear:

Little Egret 6

Knot 1000

Plus the usual Oycs and Redshank

In the low tide channels:

Eider 177 

Great Crested Grebe 15

Red-breasted Merganser 4prs

South shore (MD)

A late evening stroll along the wall managed to locate

Pale-bellied Brent goose 4 flew quite late in the tide from Red Nab and continued west.

Shelduck 26

No Wigeon seen

Shag 1 juvenile on the wooden jetty

Rock Pipit 1 on the sea wall

Pied Wagtail 8-10 also feeding along the sea wall.

Not easy to see in the late evening sun. Rock Pipit plus 3 Pied Wagtail on the sloping sea wall

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Brents still around

Very light breeze from ENE to ESE. High cloud with plenty of sunshine, but hazy.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

I set just two nets this morning, targeting Redpolls and Meadow Pipits.

Nine Lesser Redpolls trapped and ringed.

Also nine Meadow Pipits ringed - approx 40 seen moving through on a SW to NE line.

One each of Pied Wagtail, Blackcap and Chiffchaff plus a retrap Cetti's Warbler caught.

Two Cetti's Warbler plus one Water Rail (main reedbed) calling.

Heysham skear - low water 09:00 (MD)
Swan 1 immature bird in the far channel, probably a displaced Mute
Pale-bellied Brent 29 - they flew in from the south at low water, landed on the sea beside the skear, then drifted around in a tight raft. This is them coming in to land, nothing I haven't shared before, but it does give a flavour of the skear this morning. Lack of wind helps with the sound, you might be able to hear a Meadow Pipit passing over.
They made no attempt to feed, just drifted around, still there an hour later, but presumably they moved to Red Nab as the tide rose. A similar number were feeding there towards high water.
Eider c200
Wigeon 6 - originally on the water then flew north
Great Crested Grebe 15
Red-breasted Merganser 11
Little Egret 4
Meadow Pipit a steady stream of individuals and small groups over to north. 20+ occasions.

Red Nab to saltmarsh 
Just a very quick check as the tide was reaching Red Nab
Brent geese - 20+ Pale-bellied already feeding all around the skear when I arrived. Then an individual bird swam in from over 50m out and headed to the freshwater stream to drink. Unfortunately, the light was directly behind it, but it did look like a Dark-bellied bird. I tried to get a better angle but I was rushing and when I looked back it was nowhere to be seen. 
Probable Dark-bellied Brent goose (MD)

This is a clip of it drinking:

Shelduck 4
Wigeon 35
Wheatear 1 male
Male Wheatear
A rubbish shot, but does show just how striking they are at this time of year

Heysham Head (Tim)

I spent 45 minutes on the Head and the woods behind this lunchtime.

2 Little Egret, 

1 Chiffchaff, 

6 Coal Tits - in one mobile group (very unusual in Spring)

4 Greenfinch

Heysham Nature Reserve 
Jean and Pete managed an afternoon ringing session. Report from Pete:

Afternoon feeder session using a single net by hnr office saw: 

16 Goldfinch, 

10 Greenfinch, 

2 Robin and one each of Blue and Great Tit ringed plus about 8 assorted recaptures, including birds ringed at Middleton. 

The Robins may have been migrants although there will be plenty of unringed local birds with no ringing for two years during the pandemic 

From Jean - This little Blue Tit caught today must have been feeding on willow
catkins because its forehead is yellow with pollen.

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Meds and Meadows

Light east to SE wind, plenty of sunshine and getting quite warm in the afternoon.

Heysham skear low water 08:15 (MD)
No sign of any Brent geese, both this morning and later at Red Nad - of course, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence.
Eider well scattered but probably about 200
Great Crested Grebe 13
Red-breasted Merganser 11
This clip is quite distant, but shows two GCG displaying and some of the mergansers feeding.
Little Egret 8

This clip is from an unusual angle, plus no indication of scale. See if you can identify the bird, before it reveals itself 
I've hidden the answer in this rambling text, just so you didn't accidentally see the identity before watching the clip. Obviously a godwit turned out to be a bar tailed one. I do like it when a bird is comfortable enough in my company to go back to sleep.

Pink-Footed goose 7 to SE
Meadow Pipit a steady overhead passage. Heard on 18 occasions but unknown numbers
Pied or White Wagtail 2 over

Red Nab to Saltmarsh towards high water
Wigeon 26
Wheatear 4
Male Wheatear, showing the white rump. The inverted black "T" not visible on this pose
Meadow Pipits coming in off - a 10 minute walk along foreshore saw 25. Altogether 42 counted
Brimstone 1 male in the Nature Park.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Just a quick check of the main ponds on my way home.
Mute 1 female sitting on nest. Altogether 6 adult plus 7 immature 
Coot 3 
Moorhen 4
Little grebe 2 
Mallard 6
Gadwall 10
Chiffchaff 2 singing near the car park

Pete had a look around:
Mediterranean gull 2 x 2nd calendar year briefly on the seaward end of No.1 outflow
Chiffchaff 7 heard along Moneyclose Lane between the traffic lights and Ocean Edge

Just an aside, I sometimes receive comments that I would like to answer. Unfortunately there is no way to answer a comment unless you include an email address. Alternatively email me directly, my address is on the side bar - Malcolm

Monday 21 March 2022

Garganey passing through and first Redpolls ringed

Almost breathless till about 10:30 when a gentle SSE breeze started. Plenty of sunshine in the morning, but more overcast after lunch.

Garganey 3 (2 males and a female) 11:00 out from Heysham on the incoming tide - thanks to the observer who provided this record via bird services.

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Ringing report from Alan:

John and I set nets at Middleton this morning from about 05.45 (it was cold!). A modest catch was not unexpected but we did catch the first Lesser Redpolls of the season.

Lesser Redpoll - 6 plus 1 ringed elsewhere.

Meadow Pipit - 1

Pied Wagtail - 1

Wren - 1 retrap

Blackbird - 1

Song Thrush - 1

Chiffchaff - 2

Great Tit - 2

Bullfinch - 2

Reed Bunting - 1 retrap.

The sky was clear and the sun bright to the east (the direction the birds would be coming from) so any birds overhead were high and hard to hear. Approximately 20 Meadow Pipits showed some interest in the MP3 player and 3 Carrion Crows flew purposefully north. The only Repolls seen were those captured, plus 3 others at 06.10 hr.

Janet checked the main ponds in the morning - it was very noisy again, but today it was the wildlife making the noise:

This Greylag goose was honking constantly 

The Little Grebes were trilling 

These Coot added to the ruckus 

This pair of Teal moved on

This Sparrowhawk was on Heysham Nature Reserve earlier

Red Nab - saltmarsh area on rising tide. (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 26 - again these birds drifted off from Red Nab when displaced by the tide.
Shelduck 23
Wigeon 32
Curlew c50 along incoming tide line
Grey Plover 2 as above
Rock Pipit 4
Wheatear 2 possibly 3. A mature male was seen in two locations, possibly same bird, plus this less mature looking male.
Male Wheatear not in full breeding plumage 
Probably a 2nd calendar year 
Small Tortoiseshell 6
Comma 1

Sunday 20 March 2022

Spring Equinox brings 12 hours of sunshine

Light ENE to SE wind, perhaps today's title is a slight exaggeration, there was a little high cloud mid morning.

South shore towards high water (MD)
Pale-bellied Brent goose 19 - when the tide flushed them from Red Nab they just drifted out in a raft. Unlike the typical behaviour of the regular feeding birds here, who then fly off to feed at Potts - later there were 5 resting on the skear.
Wigeon 20
Shag 1 juvenile preening on the wooden jetty. This clip is just to show its typical location on the jetty, it is just about centre on this clip. Also, a good selection of cormorant plumages.

Wheatear 1 male. He obviously has his feathers fluffed out, but there was no getting away from it, he was a large individual.
A plump male Wheatear 

Pete advises that a strong NE wind across the English Channel is blocking a lot of migrating birds, with a risk of some being blown out to sea (e.g. Osprey)

Golden Plover 1 turning to summer plumage - Pete had this bird, originally as "seen from" the recording area as it rested on the Sunnyslopes groyne. It then flew into the recording area, heading towards the children's play area before heading back north. It was later relocated near the battery. Golden Plovers are very scarce in the recording area.
Golden Plover - as seen by scope from the recording area

Middleton Nature Reserve 
Kevin braved the sunny Sunday afternoon throng, despite the disturbance managed a couple of interesting records.

Chiffchaff 3 singing

Green Woodpecker 1 calling 

Heysham skear (MD)

A lovely evening stroll, but only the regular birds to enjoy

Brent geese, 2 and 3 resting on the skear 

Eider 250+

Great Crested Grebe 8

Red-breasted Merganser 8

Little Egret 5

Swan sp 1 - just as I was arriving back at the sea wall it flew overhead from SE. It called, so not a Mute, almost certainly a Whooper, but it was quite dark by then and camera was stashed away.

So, the Spring Equinox! Sunrise 06:15, Sunset 18:24. The 9 minutes discrepancy because sunrise is timed as the moment the tip of the sun appears over the horizon, whereas sunset is timed at the moment the last tip of the sun disappears. So, according to today's figures, it must take 9 minutes for the disc of the sun to cross the horizon.