Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Spanish sun

Posted on - In Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)
"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.
Heysham NR
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
New birds:
Greenfinch 3
Long-tailed Tit 1
Wren 1
Goldcrest 4
Chiffchaff 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!
Red Nab
Wigeon 65
Mediterranean Gull 1 x 1CY
Middleton NR
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"

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)


Posted on - In Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)
Another little bit of Heysham Nature Reserve history disappears.
This is all that is left of the old classroom. But, kids, never fear - there is a more modern classroom at the Reserve in the new building.

Went up onto Heysham Head for an hour to see if anything was migrating. The light southerly wind was OK but the generally murky cloud didn't seem to augur well. But out of the murk came a few pulses of birds as follows:

(in order of appearance and south unless stated)
Grey Wagtail - 1
Pink-footed Goose - 60 N, 38 S
Chaffinch - 33
Greenfinch - 4
Goldfinch - 4
Mistle Thrush - 5
Reed Bunting - 2
Starling - 13
Brambling - 22 (two flocks of 6 and 16)
Linnet - 4

Goldcrest - 5
Coal Tit - 2
Robin - 3 (excludes the singing birds)
Blackbird - 3

Then went on to Heysham NR 1020-1120
Vis - alba Wagtail 1, Chaffinch 4
Blackbirds (9) were targeting the berries, 4 Song Thrushes were "ticking" and eventually one was seen to head off south, Goldcrests (7) were scattered around the reserve.

Report by JR

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

A visit from Merlin

Posted on - In Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)
It was a very mild day (15C) with thick cloud, apparently full of dust from the Sahara, and a force 4 wind from the SW. Disappointingly for National Moth Weekend there were no moths in the trap at Heysham but there is another night to go. At least 4 Goldcrests could be heard below the obs tower where it was relatively sheltered so I put a few nets up to try and catch them and in the hope of catching a Yellow-browed Warbler. Sadly, the latter species was still not around, nor any other warblers.

Heysham NR
Ringing (new birds):
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Goldcrest - 3
Coal tit - 1
Treecreeper - 1 (see mugshot)
Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Goldfinch - 2

Coal Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 1 (first caught on 18 July as a juv)
Great Tit - 1 (first caught on 30 June as a juv)
Goldcrest - 1 (first caught on 10 September as a young un)

The Goldcrest that has been around for a month was lighter in weight than the new birds (5.3grams cf 5.7 or 5.8 grams). Whether this means the heavier birds are about to migrate and the lighter bird is going to stick around longer, I don't know but it was interesting to note the difference. All the Goldcrests were males. The average weight for a Goldcrest is 5g (same as a 20p coin) and the heaviest weight is 6g (just less than a 10p coin).

The Long-tailed Tits were heavier than average as well, the lightest was 8g (same as a 50p coin) and the heaviest was 8.6g compared to the average of 7g (per BTO data).

Ocean Edge
A Merlin paid a visit to the saltmarsh and perched on some driftwood for a while, no doubt hoping to catch one of the gang of 25 Linnets that frequent the marsh or perhaps a Meadow Pipit.

Mediterranean Gull - 2

Middleton NR
A Little Grebe was on the No Swimming Pond - first time one has been seen for over a month

Report by JR.

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Out of the blue

Posted on - In Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)
A bit of coastal birding in bright and breezy conditions degenerated into texting Lou Cross to see if I had just seen his van going along the Barrow coast road at the other side of the Bay...................then on the same text theme Malcolm informed of a vocal Yellow-browed Warbler near the steps on the SE side of the model boat pond.  No sign of it later but very little was actually calling and it was rather breezy with several potential corridors the bird could have made its way along

Middleton NR
Yellow-browed Warbler - see above
Chiffchaff - 2
Mute Swan - 7
Migrant Hawker - at least 7
Common Darter - 6+

Early stages of incoming tide & ferry
Med Gull - 3 x 1CY, 2 x 2CY and a minimum of 6 Ads (inc 8 birds behind ferry as it entered port).  One of the 2CY has a lot of solid black on the outer primaries - not one which has been previously recorded
Little Gull - Ad
Guillemot - one in harbour

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Passerine migration gives it a miss

Posted on - In Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)
Almost unbelievably bad this morning with not a single bird flying over heysham NR which could be deemed a migrant.   Typically this was the one day we could leave nets up from about 0900 to 1600.  This saw the grand total of obvious migrants limited to two Goldcrest and a 'three o clock' Chiffchaff with a small unringed LTT flock.   Amazingly, thanks to the bottomless trickle of unringed Greenfinch, the ringing produced about 20 new birds, or about 2.74 per hour

Outfalls/ocean edge etc two hours pre tide
Little stint - juv with 85 Dunlin and 49 ringed plover
Med gull - two ads but many gulls had left the area
Rock pipit - one by slipway

At least three migrant hawker

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Better than staying in bed

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It was a shame the SW wind kicked in before dawn (certainly the upper wind) as there was obviously some eastern promise trying to reach this side overnight, led by quite a few redwing flight calls.   In reality night migrants were thin on the ground - probably mainly the final leftovers from the fall on the 1st and a few subsequent 'tricklers'.   At least rock bottom numbers highlight any new influxes!

Coverage was very good today with dan putting in a stint around heysham head.   Most of the sightings will be added later:

The night migrant possibilities lacked so little prospect that jean went and recorded the first Short-winged Coneheads from ocean edge saltmarsh whilst also checking what the tide kicked off

Red nab and area mudflats
Med gull - 5 ad 2 2cy
Little gull - ad

Harbour wall
Rock pipit - 2

More to add

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Under a cloud

Posted on - In Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)
A mass of cloud hung over the Heysham area till late morning putting a bit of a dampener on the vis and ringing.

Pink-footed Goose - at least 335. Groups moving south throughout the morning
Sparrowhawk 1
Redpoll sp 2
Siskin 1
Meadow Pipit 5
Alba Wagtail 9
Chaffinch 4
Raven 1
Grey Wagtail 7
Snipe 2
No sign of the Redwing heading NW from the Pennines.

Ringing at Middleton NR consisted mainly of Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaff, Goldcrests, Reed Buntings, Pied Wagtails and a surprise Willow Warbler.

Two Cetti’s Warblers still on site at Middleton NR

Source Heysham Bird Observatory (LWT)

Seawatching cameo

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Did the webs count a day early knowing that all the waders south of the harbour would be on their way to Garry at middleton on both today and tomorrow so no problem with double counts

Did a bit of a seawatch from the back of the harbour and the first five minutes were amazing by heysham standards in breezy but not particularly promising weather:

Sea 1255-1315
Guillemot - 1
Razorbill - 2 together
Gannet - adult out
Med gull - adult out
Then the rest of the seawatch consisted of a few large gulls

Med gull - 1cy outfalls
Little gull - ad outfalls
Cormorant - 122 wooden jetty
Redshank - 670 heliport wall
Oystercatcher - 6950 heliport
Ringed plover - 18 heliport,  30 south of oe on incoming tide
Little stint - probably two different individuals ( one definitely a juv )
with other waders south of ocean edge on incoming tide