Saturday 14 January 2023

Kittiwakes everywhere (well, on the south side)

The wind eased overnight and the rain stopped by mid morning (apart from a heavy evening squall). The relatively light west wind in the morning strengthened throughout the day and was very strong by late afternoon.
Just my stuff so far (MD)
Heysham skear - low water 10:00
We're back to neap tides now, they don't go out very far!
Pale-bellied Brent geese 28 (none ringed) initially out from the play area, they must have been spooked and flew to the skear corner. But they soon made their way back up the shore. The bulk of the easy picking weed is among the rock pools where the rocks edge onto the shore.
Eider 2 male
Waders: Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Turnstone, plus
Knot 180
Dunlin 3
Common Snipe 2 (on inner skear)
Bar-Tailed Godwit 1

South wall - high water 15:40
Pale-bellied Brent goose 49 (almost certainly including this morning's 28)
Dark-bellied Brent goose 1
All on Red Nab, again no rings seen.
Today's tide was 25cm lower than yesterday's, but with 45 minutes flood left it was already higher than it reached yesterday. This is partly as the strong west wind was blowing it in, but mainly due to a significant drop in atmospheric pressure 1009 millibar yesterday 989 millibar today. 20 millibar lower, 1millibar is roughly equal to 1cm of water so with just atmospheric pressure today's tide would be 20cm higher than forecast. Forecast tide times and height are always just a guide. 
This is the tide moving the Brent and Wigeon closer to the sea wall.

This is the Dark-bellied (left)
Relatively easy to pick when its belly is exposed, not so easy when swimming. This is it (centre) in the same place but with the water a little deeper.
The white foam is a perfectly natural spume, formed when the wave action creates bubbles from the natural proteins in the seawater. The white foam turns brown over the shore as it picks up particles of mud, but is always white in open water.
The tide became too high for the Brent and they flew off south.
Some of the Brent leaving. The dark-bellied is in the middle of the leading birds,
and probably is the lead bird. Once again quite easy to pick in flight.

Kittiwakes - a walk along the sea wall saw Kittiwake all along it, although mainly focused around the outflows. I estimated at least 30 walking out, with another 3 in the harbour. But walking back it was easier to count as they were basically feeding by moving north along the wall then swinging back further out. So I counted all the birds passing me going north, and subtracted 1 for each one flying south, ending up with a very conservative 35, so 38 with the harbour birds.
I'd got back to Red Nab when I noticed the StenaLine coming in. It was already 15:35, but the light was holding and I couldn't resist popping back, when I reached No.1 outflow the sun came out briefly so I took these two clips. First, this shows the gulls, mainly Kittiwake, over No.1 outflow.

This clip,shows Kittiwake feeding along the sea wall

I reached the lighthouse just in time, the sun was still shining (although not for much longer), but a heavy squall was coming in with the StenaLine, the wind increased and the driving rain started. It was almost impossible looking out to,sea, but Most of the following gulls were driven into the harbour. In this clip most of the action happens below the sea wall, but if you watch carefully, best in slow motion, you can see a Kittiwake has a fish too large for it to swallow easily. It is pinched by a Herring gull, then a Great Black-backed tries to grab it. I can't  tell if the Herring gull managed to swallow it first.

This is the stern of the ship, followed by a cloud of gulls, not really much to see, but it does show the driving rain.

I remained sheltered behind the lighthouse for another 10 minutes, in that time 117 Kittiwakes drifted out of the harbour past me. There were still a few milling around, but there were three before the StenaLine arrived. So, 117 behind the StenaLine plus 38 already along wall and in harbour, 155 minimum total!

Heavy winds are blowing as I type and forecast to continue overnight.