Wednesday 17 May 2023

Off passage Sanderlings

A light NW wind to begin with, fresher and more to the west after lunch. Mainly sunny.

Red Nab
I didn't have much time today so just a very brief, but enjoyable, check an hour before high water (MD)
Whimbrel 1
Bar-Tailed Godwit 95

They were making a right racket, out doing the Oystercatcher! Fortunately I had my quiet camera with me. These are less than half of them.
They left in three groups, east at first then north over the caravan site. This is the largest group leaving.

Pictures from Janet:
Holly Blue on Middleton Nature Reserve. Just a mobile phone shot
but it clearly shows the different underwing pattern to a Common Blue

Chiffchaff on Heysham Nature Reserve 

One of two Rock Pipits near the lighthouse 

Rock Pipit nearer the waterfall 

One female plus six male Eider flying past the roundhead 

One of two Kittiwake on their pipe in the harbour

Heysham skear - low water 17:30 (MD)
Eider 25+
Great Crested Grebe 4
Curlew 2
Whimbrel 5
Sanderling 12 (flocks of 9 and 3) - unfortunately I was late in getting out and the outer skear was already exposed. The Sanderling were flying out to it, too distant for a shot. I'll try again tomorrow!

This picture tells two stories:
First you can see that the last tide has deposited some fresh mud, partly covering some and completely coving other seed mussels. The seed mussels will rise above the mud again, a process called layering. This can eventually lead to mussel beds sat over a metre or more of mud. Which leaves them vulnerable to storms.
The second more immediate story can be seen by the tracks leading to the Whelk Shell, it appears to have rolled down the slope, suggesting that this is a hermit crab, not a whelk in the shell. The second set of tracks are a gulls, that obviously fancied its chances, but not for long as there are only a few tracks. 
I didn't need to pick it up to see if it was a Hermit Crab, but I did anyway!
Quite a small hermit crab for a shell this size. It's good for two more shedding in this shell. At the moment, its small size allows it to move deep inside the shell for safety. But it also makes it cumbersome to move, probably why it became exposed. In two more sheddings they are at their largest stage, they can then block the opening with their large armoured claw.
Even though the gull obviously didn't stay for long it seems to have pecked off a piece of shell, it probably did this elsewhere then carried the crab here before giving up.

Grey Seal 1