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Preview: Heysham Bird Observatory

Heysham Bird Observatory

The observatory was set up in 1980. It involves ringing,'vis mig' counts (including seabirds) and general monitoring in the Heysham Nature reserve/power stations/harbour area. The statutory moth trap is in place and also a daily log for butterflies, dra

Updated: 2018-04-22T11:46:49.179+01:00




More later - some arrivals with the rain!A welcome addition to the already impressive year list when Pete Crooks had an Avocet fly south at 0810 over the wooden jettySome decent ringing recoveries just receivedOystercatcher4117552       Nestling  12/06/16          Fijatshlid, Iceland  67 7 N 19 8WSighted                         17/04/18         Heysham Near NazeBlackbirdLA28964       2CYM       16/03/15          Heysham NRDead                                28/03/18          Royknes (Vest-Agder) Norway 58 19N 7 52E 821km NE Lesser RedpollZ836197         2CYF          06/05/2015      Heysham NRRecaptured                   25/3,30/3&8/4/18  Hope under Dinmore Leominster (Herts) 208 km GoldfinchAAC0223        5M          10/01/18          Dunton (Buckingham)Recaptured                      07/04/18          Heysham NR   275 km NNW Sea on and offGannet - two horizon Ads north by the windfarmAvocet - one south along the coast at 0810Shag - 2CY wooden jetty areaLittle Gull - 3 ads together inCommon Scoter - flock of 5 outPink-footed Goose - 55 and 22 NSandwich Tern - 1VisLesser Redpoll - one grounded then northMeadow Pipit - 2Grounded Willow Warbler - four caught in an hours ringing with a single net 0700-0800[...]

Too clear


 It was too clear overnight for night migrants to stick around and too clear during the day for diurnal migrants to fly low so today's list is short:

Heysham Nature Reserve
Lesser Whitethroat - 3 were caught and ringed

Vis 0730-0930:
Redpoll sp - 22
Linnet - 20
Goldfinch - 3
Meadow Pipit - 3
Swallow - 1
House Martin - 2
Pink-footed Goose - 8

Kittiwake - 31 (also seen past Stone Jetty) in
Common Scoter - 1 out then on
Sandwich Tern - 27 in
Great-crested Grebe - 2 on

Middleton NR
Sedge Warbler - 3 singing
Lesser Whitethroat - 2 singing
Cetti's Warbler - 4 singing (1 near No Swimming Pond, 2 either side of central marsh, 1 west end of western marsh reedbed)

Winter favourites reappear


The start was perhaps about 30 minutes too late this morning but a few migrants were caught and ringed during the first hour or so with later rounds producing the first two Common Whitethroat of the year

Goldcrest - female ringed, male heard singing
Wheatear - 1
Robin - unringed bird
Green Woodpecker - heard distantly early on HNR
Chough - flew over HNR heading SW at 0611 and was relocated having flown in from the SE at Half Moon Bay in early evening

Whitethroat - IOY - two ringed but none heard singing - usually the other way round with this spp!
Shag - 2CY wooden jetty area late pm

Common Quaker in trap

Two more Black Redstart


There were a lot of Wheatears moving through today, associated with one mobile group of about 15 birds was a particularly ghostly female/immature Black Redstart, see snap below (it actually is on this picture). They were on the rocks and sea wall around Red Nab before drifting inland about 12:30.

A second, also female/immature, Black Redstart was on the south wall roundhead. This was a more striking bird, but no sign of white wing patches. It initially flew to north wall, but quickly returned, unfortunately to the inside of the Power Station confines (so no pictures) 13:15. It was relocated at 14:50 by Jeff on the roundhead.

Sandwich Tern - 29 offshore
Rock Pipit - still around lighthouse area. Record shot below is slightly overexposed making it appear pale.

Wheatear - minimum 27, between 11:30 & 13:30, most moving through.
Whimbrel - 1

Small White on Ocean Edge salt marsh

Middleton Nature Reserve
Cetti's warbler - 2 singing
Lesser Whitethroat - c10 singing

(report MD)

The calm, hopefully before the storm!


A quieter day, by recent standards, but still not bad.

Redwing ringed on HNR

Great Crested Grebe - 6 seen from Knowlys Road

Rock Pipit, sitting quietly on steps near lighthouse on south wall roundhead (see yesterday's post). But as soon as a Meadow Pipit landed on roundhead it saw it off. It appears to be "on territory".......

Arctic Tern on No.1 outflow. Arrived about 2hr before high water.

Whimbrel 1 on Red Nab, another, or same mobile bird, on Ocean Edge salt marsh.

Wheatears - minimum 4

Middleton Nature Reserve
1 Cetti's warbler and 2 Lesser Whitethroat singing
Tufted 2
Teal 3


Ring Ouzel leads another decent haul


A southerly wind didn't promise much but there were definite signs that we perhaps should have put at least one net up in the shelter before the rain hit after 0845

Ring Ouzel - female on top of bush by office late am - flew towards tank farm via mist net ride!
Arctic Tern - one outfalls

Razorbill - one in sp flew out
Med Gull - 2CY outfalls but very mobile
Rock Pipit - still hanging around south harbour
This is a favoured resting location between the lighthouse on roundhead and the steps to the east of it. Please do not go down the steps, they are perilous! (MD)

Chiffchaff - one south harbour
Wheatear - at least four

Black Redstart


New for the year today:  Black Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat

Black Redstart - a very elusive and secretive female/imm, spending large amounts of time in dark crevices between boulders at Red Nab - found by Malcolm late am

Thanks Janet
Lesser Whitethroat - one started singing next to HNR office midday, two on MNR in afternoon.
Wheatear - 4 Ocean Edge
Little Gull - two adults flew in off the sea on to the outfalls near high tide
Shag - on the large skeer with Cormorants pre-tide then flew towards harbour
Eider - 175
RB Merg - 9
Great-crested Grebe - 9, including flock of 4 - all sp (north European birds??)

Presumed fence-hopping Snake's Head Fritillary on HNR now in flower

Grey Seal

A colourful day


New for the year: Firecrest, redstart and common sandpiper

Thanks for the pic holly 

Firecrest - singing Male found by holly page in willows alongside the alder copse boardwalk.   Couldn’t be found later but searches impeded by difficult terrain in the NE corner
Redstart - Male ringed 0800
Common sandpiper - one
Little gull - two adult and 3cy at various times
Shag - 2cy wooden jetty
Common scoter - one offshore
Sandwich tern - two early am
Wheatear - 5
No apparent sign of any Brent’s today

A steady trickle of chiffchaff, willow warbler and blackcap in the two nets set in the shelter below the old obs tower

Vis 07:30-10:00
Meadow Pipit 110
Linnet 34
alba wagtail 3
Redpoll sp 4
Siskin 4

On the sea
Eider 72
Great-crested Grebe 1
Red-breasted Merganser 2

Black headed day


An early flurry of blackcaps in the mist nets, the superb adult summer little gull and later today a colourful black headed wagtail just up the road in fields next to the em pool

Shag - Juv near naze over tide
Little gull - probably three different adults
Cetti’s warbler - two singing males middleton
Whimbrel - one North
Brent goose - five pale bellied

The shag is one of the few pics of mine I’m not too embarrassed to claim - the little gull is a very brief visitor  to the outfalls in the afternoon.  Thanks to Janice Sutton

Black and white things emerge from the mist


Very poor visibility today, but the wall to wall overnight rain had failed to drop any night migrants eg Wheatear during the morning at least.  A search of the grassy areas for the potentially 'grounded' Chough also failed to produce.  However, Red Nab and the outfalls provided some publishable material, notably a pink-flushed ad summer Little Gull:

Little Gull - three - probably the recent on/off adult winter and new adult summer and a 3CY at Red Nab/outfalls at various times during the am
Brent Goose - todays lottery number was five pale-bellied (multiple observation of just four yesterday!)
Sandwich Tern - 13  came into Red Nab
Rock Pipit - petrosus type still lingering around the south lighthouse area - record shot later
Wheatear - 1
Cetti’s warbler - singing central marsh middleton

Cumbrian feeding frenzy


A couple of things over and above the routine today, most notably two Barn Owls briefly on Middleton NR

Gannet - two adults diving distantly in Cumbria
Barn Owl - two feeding on Middleton briefly during early am
Thanks Janet
Sandwich Tern - 14 similarly with the Gannets - no others seen!
Rock Pipit - one fairly 'dark' bird near the south lighthouse
Brent Goose - 4 pale-bellied today - on Red Nab throughout
Cetti's Warbler - two singing males at the same time on Middleton
Wheatear - just one
No notable vis (two each of Swallow and Meadow Pipit!)
No serious searches for the Chough we are aware of and not visible during a casual scan of the first two fields and sheep field 

Brent reconnection


Pale-bellied Brent Goose - 5 Red Nab
Little Gull - new adult on outfalls
Sandwich tern - 6 on outfalls railings, 38 in during 30 mins seawatching on dropping tide
Meadow Pipit - 26 recorded heading north
Swallow - 3 north during seawatch
Chough - no known reports today BUT was seen 'all yesterday afternoon' around the headland
Chiffchaff - two new birds with pollen above bill
Blackcap - one new bird
Goldcrest - one new bird
Sedge Warbler - one probably two Middleton
Cetti's Warbler - at least two Middleton but only one singing

Moth trap held Chestnut as well as the usual orthosias



Observatories, by virtual of the usual locations, are not Nuthatch-fests and despite decent habitat at Heysham Head, this is isolated and only the occasional bird makes it through, sometimes staying for quite a long time.  Noisy one this morning in the churchyard trees on the Head

Chough - heard this early morning by a pre-work dog walkers who is well used to it!  No sign later
Sandwich Tern - 42 sitting on the railings at the end of Heysham two outfall with a further 10 offshore - 24 were still there two hours later.  Not seen this before here
Red-throated Diver - one seen offshore
Little Gull - flying about off the end of the outfalls - ad in partial sp - but only there early am
Nuthatch - one Heysham Head at least 0900-0910

Fogbound rubbish then a very welcome sighting


Nothing seemed to move early on during the fog this morning, epitomised by the lack of any Chiffchaff/Willow Warbler in the nets at Heysham and the nets at Middleton either definitely or probably picking up returning breeding birds.  In this respect, three Willow Warbler males ringed in previous years were caught.Nothing overhead of note either until:Jean (at the nets) and myself (by the office) simultaneously uttered the word 'Chough' at 1109hrs as calls were heard high in the sky to the SW.  It flew over the top of the pylon line and spiralled down towards Half Moon Bay area.  It was not followed up immediately and could not be located later but it is clearly (assuming it is not a one-off passing through) seeing Heysham Head as a familiar 'clocking in location' whilst wandering about looking for a mate.  It does beg the question that surely it can be turning up any where within a thirty or so mile radius of Heysham, including its presumed former haunt of one of the Blackpool golf courses.  It does seem highly unlikely that it has flown as far as the Sefton coast with its observer saturation, but a key potential observer is currently absent from the Rossall area and the rest of the Fylde coast south of there is tricky to cover unless it goes inland over Marton or as far as Fairhaven.  As previously mentioned, it definitely flew over Knott End mid-am on 20th MarchGoldcrest - three ringed at Heysham with at least one other thereRaven - one flew over Middleton - hard to find these days and mostly high-fliersChough - see above (not the pic, that's the Raven!)Sandwich tern - 6 on or around the buoys off the north wall pmBrent Goose - none seen in several checks off KnowlysRed-throated Diver - 2 offshoreCommon Buzzard - four seen soaring high to the east of Middleton (and four fighting over Heysham Moss in pm)  Sparrowhawk - one probably migrant northMeadow Pipit - just 10 recordedSwallow - just twoCetti's Warbler singing central marshButterfliesEarly Orange Tip seen nearby on Heysham Moss.  Otherwise the 'big four' hibernators were at large:Thanks for all the pics Janet[...]

An odd day plus a predictable afternoon Osprey


Every so often a migration day throws up the unexpected epitomised by six |House Martin (its only 8th April in a 'late' year) and up to 100 Swallow sitting around in bushes at Middleton!
all six house martin are on here - thanks Malcolm

Masses of Meadow Pipit and other odds and ends of vis mig flying north past the Stone Jetty yet no vis records whatsoever over Heysham NR

Lets go back to the other day when a mass of Meadow Pipits were grounded on Heysham head and the horse paddocks but very few were moving south over the reserve of sites to the south.  I wonder if this explains 500+Meadow Pipit over the Stone Jetty this am?

Going back to the hirundines, this was unprecedented in spring and Malcolm suggested that these were a product of overnight roosting, some in the reed mace as they had "fluff" stuck to their feathers equating to the friable reed mace seed.  They were reluctant to head north in the murky weather but gradually moved on in dribs and drabs with others arriving from the south similarly

The dropping tide received very little coverage at Heysham but as usual we trawl in any seabird passage and publish it here

Kittiwake - 5 out flock 41 in off SJ
Red-throated Diver - 7 SJ, just one Heysham
Guillemot - 2
Common Scoter - one in SJ
Brent Goose - 9 pale-bellied off horse paddocks early am presumably joined by the three dark-bellied seen flying south at SJ mid-am

Cetti's Warbler - one singing by no-swimming pond surely not same as central marsh bird?
Blackcap - 3 ringed plui at least 4 in field
Willow Warbler - one ringed, at least 10 in field
Chiffchaff - 3 ringed
Goldcrest - 2 ringed

OSPREY - south over Middleton 1530hrs (thanks Mario) 

Black-throated Diver


Coverage pre-dawn to c0910

This was just about within record shot range but with the light so bad and the bird diving most of the shots were fresh air and sea with the record shot being deemed to resemble an elephants trunk sticking out of Loch Ness.  Available to view on request

Black-throated Diver - not quite in full summer plumage but a nice bird!  Floating out on the tide and fishing
Red-throated Diver - two together floating out in the am  and Nick had 8-13 on the incoming tide off the SJ in the afternoon
Guillemot - one in winter plumage floating out
Meadow Pipit - 38 N before cloud arrived
Mute Swan - flock of 5 north
Goosander - three females flew north over Hey NR early am - rare here
Brent Goose - flock of 8 pale and two dark with two additional pale
Barn Owl - quartering Middleton early am
Cetti's Warbler - one burst of song from Midd central marsh
Great-crested grebe - at least three poss four pairs
Eider - much reduced (Nick had 130) and no Velvet Scoter
Kittiwake - 18 floating in past SJ in afternoon
Wheatear - 3
Single Blackcap and Willow Warbler ringed and control Goldfinch AACxxxx  

Migrant Trickle


Two fairly sheltered nets saw two overdue year ticks in the form of single (surprisingly female) Blackcap and Willow Warbler along with three Chiffchaff and two Goldcrest.  A single Sand Martin was an even more overdue year tick and the late afternoon hirundine movement recorded elsewhere brought two Swallows to the model boat pond

Velvet Scoter - Ad drake again off Heysham head north side readjusting its position in the outgoing tide race
Brent Goose - today's lottery number was five pale-bellied!
Gulls - masses of all shapes and sizes on the outfalls with the exception of anything remotely unusual.  Watch this space

Meadow Pipit - about 40 recorded in total overhead
Great crested Grebe - about 5 offshore (6 yesterday)

Grey Seal - two offshore - also seen yesterday

Pics posted tomorrow - thanks Janet

Osprey, Swallow and a returning Velvet Scoter


A piece of carelessness on my part not carefully checking what was a spike in the numbers of Eider at low tide but was distracted by an Osprey and an incoming phone call!  Thanks to Nick for picking out the Velvet Scoter on the dropping tide

Osprey - one flew up a central channel at c0930, hovering briefly over the centre of the channel before progressing north.  Cant understand why these innocuous fish-botherers cause so much mayhem - everything was up in the air, including large gulls and Oystercatchers, unless a Peregrine was targeting the high swirling Knot flock at the same time
Guillemot - the only auk seen today was a non-breeding plumaged Guillemot on both the incoming and dropping tide
Velvet Scoter - drake relocated on the dropping tide late afternoon - definitely been absent recently
Eider - at least 290 with an "additional" raft at low tide c/p the last week or so
Swallow - one north Middleton (IOY)
Coot - now 3
Gadwall - 7
Tufted Duck - 2 pairs
Teal - 3 pairs
Lots of Pheasant Middleton!
Chiffchaff - 5+ singing male Middleton
Wheatear - 2
Brent - 13 pale bellied today ( or strictly speaking 12 pale bellied together at low tide and one thought to be pale bellied joining them on the incoming tide

Razorbill influx and concentrated Meadow Pipit movement


Wheatear - 3
Meadow Pipit - 820 NE/grounding on Knowlys fields, many flushed from Heysham head grassland, others heading past out to sea. All just after heavy rain ceased and most passing in a continuous stream over 30 minutes.   Not replicated on the south side of the harbour with just 37 in same time period
alba Wagtail - just 4
Greylag - one north along coast
Shag - 2CY on rocks at base of wooden jetty at seaward end
Sandwich Tern - three fishing at yellow buoy range
Razorbill - 12 in (3, 2 or singletons) on sea
Guillemot - one in on sea
Great-crested Grebe - 6
Red-throated Diver - three together in on sea but distant
Goldcrest - 3 below obs tower
Green Woodpecker - one in non-op land
Chiffchaff - singing along dog track and at Middleton
Eider - 202
Red-breasted Merganser - 5
Little Gull - ad type outfalls

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - 7 at Red Nab (but only a gang of four seen off Knowlys earlier)
Siskin - one heard Heysham head

Tuesday 3rd April


Sorry someone else was supposed to be posting for Tuesday!

Little Gull - adult briefly stage two outfall
Brent Goose - 7 pale and one dark on the usual routine, initially feeding on the skeer off the horse paddocks
Eider - 194
Shoveler - pair on the sea off Heysham Head - what a good year so far for here!
Razorbill - 2+1+1+2 floating in on the sea
Guillemot - 1 floating in on the sea
Raz/Guilli - distant one floating in
Meadow Pipit - c60 grounded or north
Pied Wagtail - 6 grounded or north
Goldcrest - one Heysham head
Chiffchaff - two singing EDF land
Wheatear - 3

Two Sandwich Terns


Malcolm braved the elements to do the whole south shore area today with the reward of just one Wheatear.  Its really hard work at the moment but it all looks to change tomorrow onwards with a corridor of sorts for stuff trying to reach us from the south.  Again its going to be wet and hard work but hopefully eg the first B Redstart for a couple of years will materialise

Two Sandwich terns materialised out of the gloom and landed on Red Nab where they were joined by a small number of Brent Geese from about 1135hrs
Brent Goose - 6 pale and one dark-bellied arrived at Red Nab about 1135
Wheatear - one
 It was wet and horrible and this was taken through gallons sorry litres of rain
A new combination "photo" for here!!

Very little small bird migration for the time of year


Shag - Presumably the regular 2CY reappeared in the usual routine on rocks below the jetty
Kittiwake - 11 + c100 + 38+ 29 in, the last spiralling up and inland
Black-headed Gull - about 100 in in dribs and drabs plus c70 outfalls at low tide
Common Gull - 270 on outfalls at low tide, mostly 2CY as usual
Large Gulls - 180 on outfalls and area at low tide but no sign of yesterdays bird of interest
Brent Goose - 12 Pale-bellied off sunny slopes pre-tide along with three dark-bellied, just 8 of the PBB made the usual late stages of the incoming tide journey to Red Nab along with all three DBB, then the subsequent high tide move to Middleton saltmarsh "left behind" one of the dbb presumably remaining around Red Nab/OE saltmarsh!  Per LDBWS site
Eider - c280
Red-breasted Merganser - three flying quite high into the bay

Robin - three unringed birds caught at HNR, the only semblance of night migration
Meadow Pipit - c70 north, including loose flock of 18
Siskin - 2 north
Sparrowhawk - one north-east
Cetti's Warbler - one singing central marsh Middleton

Three little gull


A flock of three little gull flew out rather distantly mid am

Eight pale and two dark bellied Brent Geese on the usual routine

2Cy Gull photographed which looked interesting but couldn’t get close enough before it was displaced by the tide.  It was definitely a 2CY and the (escape) flight view suggested Caspian or hybrid but by the time I had driven to the closest point to Red Nab it had already taken off as I was driving and I couldn't swing the car round fast enough to get a phonescope of escape flight.  I'll have a look for it tomorrow



Whooper - flock 17 North
Red throated diver - 4 North
Pale bellied Brent - flock of 10
Dark bellied Brent - 2
Meadow pipit - c10
Med gull - 2cy near red nab by pipeline
Snipe - 8 on heliport seawall ht
Robin - two lightweight birds ringed
Cetti’s warbler - one southern end central marsh
Buzzard - two over middleton prob local

Little Gull


A few bits and bobs from a fairly early start this am, most of them in these better pics - original deleted!   Thanks Janet - Red Nab; some of the pale-bellied Brent plus the Little Gull Brent Goose - Two dark-bellied and eight pale-bellied Red Nab on the incoming tide (with 6 (of these??) off the children's play area as seen from Knowlys road earlier)Little Gull - adult winter on outfalls then on Red Nab then around rest of dayBlackcap - male Red Nab bushes - first of yearRed-throated Diver - 3 sp birds inRock Pipit - 1Meadow Pipit - no more than 26 overheadSiskin - 2 northGoldcrest - 2 ringedNo sign Iceland Gull first thing despite loads of gulls on waterfall and area Grey Seal - one offshoreNags are back in the paddocks off Knowlys road  [...]