"Red Midday Sun" by Malcolm Downham
The day was notable for two things a) a Pochard turned up at Middleton, almost the only one in the whole area and b) the unusual weather courtesy of the outer edges of Hurricane Ophelia.
Early doors the skies were "normal" and a bit of vis got underway with alba wagtails and the odd Siskin and Reed Bunting then a huge yellow blob formed over Heysham and it went dark enough for the security lights to come on again. It felt rather threatening. Luckily the Saharan dust + Spanish forest fire smoke sucked up by Hurricane Ophelia stayed up in the atmosphere and moved off north. Eventually the skies went grey and rain lashed down for a short while, birds dived for cover. Late morning the clouds thinned enough to reveal a spooky red sun that just about everyone in the UK commented on. Finally the clouds broke up, it became very breezy but balmy with temperatures of 19C.
Chaffinch - 5
Snipe - 1
Golden Plover - 1 (unusual for here)
Redwing - 3
song Thrush - 6
alba wagtail - 2
Grey Wagtail - 1
Siskin - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Long-tailed Tit 1
Song Thrush 1
Coal Tit - 4, Goldcrest 1, Chiffchaff 2, Robin 2, Long-tailed Tit 1
One of the Robins was first ringed in 2013 so at 4 years old it's pretty ancient for a Robin whose average lifespan is just 2 years. It's escaped the clutches of the local marauding Sparrowhawk as well. What a survivor!
Mediterranean Gull 1 x 1CY
A male Pochard has joined the 18 Gadwall on "No Swimming" pond - no sign of Little Grebe today.
1 Redwing grounded
5 Alba Wagtail & 14 Meadow Pipit to east
1 Water Rail calling
Pochards, which winter here from northern and eastern Europe, are now classed as "vulnerable"/globally threatened by Birdlife International and are Red-listed in the UK as a species of high conservation concern. Across Europe they have declined by a whopping 60% since 1980.
Here is what the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have to say about the reasons for the decline:"Researchers have found that the decline is related to gulls, mink and nutrients.
Pochards build their nests among black-headed gull colonies for protection and there are fewer black-headed gull nesting colonies across a number of European countries, including Norway, Germany and Latvia.
Explosions of plants and algaes in wetlands and waterways, caused by nutrients washing off farmland, has prevented pochards and other birds from diving for food.
The American mink has become a major wetland predator. The species was originally introduced and farmed in Europe for its fur, but escaped and is now considered to be an invasive species in many countries.
Despite the decline in migrating pochards, the number of them breeding in the UK has actually increased and the latest estimate is 653 pairs"