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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: 2018-01-15T20:52:13.318+00:00


Brent logistics


The two wintering Pale-bellied Brent Geese (note also a third bird south towards Potts Corner on at least two dates) have been difficult to locate.  Malcolm has worked out a pattern:

It is clear that the lowest high tide resulting in a sighting on south side was 8.4m.
The northern side is less well reported, but 3 of the 5 records were for tides less than 8.0m. The "anomaly" being the record on skeer just to north of HH on 31/12 on 9.05m tide. However I suspect this would have been quite a while before high water, as this skeer is covered early.

In summary: it appears that the north side is favoured, until tides are sufficiently high to force the birds to the south, for the duration of high water at least.

Todays sightings
Brent Goose - two PB on OE saltmarsh at HT
Stonechat - female still around OE saltmarsh
No sign of yesterday's singleton Twite on OE

Elusive chat reappears


Thanks to Janet for today's pics

The female Stonechat to the south of the harbour reappeared today along OE:
The HMB female Stonechat was also seen today

Chough - three reports this afternoon - sheep field and area

Brent Goose - two in flight from south wall - heading N but presumably THE two returning to the north side of harbour?  We'll see

Twite - one OE saltmarsh

Lots of Knot and Oystercatcher on the heliport seawall

Brent hide out


Two areas covered today by Malcolm: north side of Heysham Head and Middleton NR.  Presumably the Chough was somewhere on the south side of Heysham Head but no reports on pager etc

Heysham Head north side just on early dropping tide
This is where the two Pale-bellied Brent Geese were today:

Middleton NR
Another overcrowding of Mute Swan in the offing with pairs covering all ponds
16 Gadwall
12 Mallard
c10 Teal
No Cettis but windy

200 Pinkfoot over to south

A fine specimen


And the award for Chough picture of the day goes to Dave Bickerton:

Usual suspects still around


NOTE - north wall closed until further notice - no easy checks of Fishers roof - need to do it from Heysham Head at long range or by the lighthouse on south harbour wall (some classic white wing weather next week).........not sure at the moment whether you can still walk down.  Obviously seriously affecting angling if you cant and I've phoned Gerry's

THURSDAY 11th January
Chough not easy to connect with but still frequenting places around Heysham Head - the horse paddock in the morning and the cliffs below the Head later on.

Female Stonechat rooting about in the tide wrack near the slipway in Half Moon Bay along with a few pals - Rock Pipit and 3-4 Meadow Pipits

5 Snipe flushed from Near Naze

In the low tide channel:
Eider - 400 (290 males,110 females ie 72% male)
Great-crested Grebe - 2

67 Wigeon at the end of Heysham 1 outfall at low tide (62% males)
2 Little Egrets

Middleton Nature Reserve
Model Boat Pond partly frozen but 15 Gadwall on it (10 males/66%) and a Grey Heron.


WEDNESDAY 10th January
Stonechat - female eating loads of ?Ruby Tiger larvae along 1/2 moon bay beach
Chough - by cafe early pm (per pager)

Forgot about the star:

Pochard - drake model boat pond per Justine

Dogged Chough


The Chough was chased by mutts today as it tried to feed along the shore at Half Moon Bay fields - short visits were recorded there at 1000 and 1320hrs.  Hopefully this helps visitors and of course it can also be 'on the other side' in Knowlys road horse paddocks, but by all accounts not very often recently

Snipe - 53 plus on rocks below heliport seawall
RT Diver - still in harbour
Stonechat - female along half MB shore

Thanks for the info Malcolm (pm Chough sighting from page service - please do keep posting it)

Eider crash


Just enough time spent on site by me for three different tory party chairmen today, but Malcolm paid two visits and obtained some nice close Red-throated Diver shots.  A few other birders around and the Chough played ball today

Offshore low tide
Whooper Swan - one adult in second channel
Great-crested Grebe - 3
Red-throated Diver - one second channel
Eider - 620 - the big flock missing unless it was north of Heysham Head?

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - 2 Red Nab late pm at least
Red-throated Diver ad winter in harbour

Thanks Malcolm

Chough - on HMB fields on and off until at least early afternoon
Stonechat - present along shore
Meadow Pipit - at least one along shore
Bar-tailed Godwit - bird with leg flag along tideline off NH wall - should have two characters on flag if anyone reads it.  Please let us know.  Ta 

Chough back on the cliff top


Chough seen on the cliff top and sides below the chapel 1030-1200ish - thanks to David Morris (RSPB staff) for this great pic

The Pale-bellied Brents were not reported today as far as I know but here is a great pic from Janice Sutton yesterday.  Thanks Janice

Malcolm covered the harbour and south side briefly

Stonechat - no sign
Rock Pipit - 2 HMB shore
Red-throated Diver - in harbour

Bits and repetitive bobs


The Chough has a habit of being awkward when it is dry and lots of birders are around so please don't "sit on it" if you come across it - it was apparently on the horse paddock area mid pm before Jeff had it presumably coming in to roost along the low cliff edge late afternoonAny visiting anglers reading this.  Please note that the right hand sidebar asks birders to respect the fact you want to use the seawall for your hobby.  In return, please don't be pig ignorant and self-righteous like the anglers from elsewhere who blocked access along the seawall today - yes we know you 'got there first' but that is not the point.  All the transit van had to do was bring his mirror in to allow access, but the other vehicle required completely movingMiddleton NRMute 4 - no sign of juvenile. One pair on model boat pond and, bizarrely, one pair on "new" small ponds on western scrape.Gadwall 12Mallard 2Tufted 1 (Tim Butler)Teal c50Moorhen 4Water Rail 1Heron 1Common Snipe 1Stock Dove 1 - flew from Golf club area across reserve in direction of Middleton (new for year)Med Gull - adult on sea near Red NabGrey Heron - one roosting on wooden jettyPale-bellied Brent Geese - Red Nab on the incoming tideChough - see above - otherwise searched for in vain by quite a fewStonechat - female near cafeRed-throated Diver - one touring the harbour again - opportunity for an artistic shot!!Cormorant - 87Wigeon - c302[...]

Pipits resurface for the year


Quite a bit of stuff today but needed to go outside the area (Stone Jetty) to get a proper handle on stuff floating into the bay from the area!  No Chough reported though and there were a fair few birders around.  Thanks to Matt, Janet, Malcolm and Jeff for contributions

Rock Pipit - at least one around - seen half moon bay shore
Meadow Pipit - at least one heliport grass and at least one along the shore
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - as yesterday, two seen OE saltmarsh on incoming tide then flew towards Potts Corner

Stonechat - female performing well along HMB shore - probably a Ruby Tiger moth caterpillar

Eider - 1410 offshore & possibly some more in the c100 distant duck dots
Scaup - three female/imms, probably all female offshore
Red-breasted Merganser  - 11
Great crested Grebe - 4
Med Gull - ad Fishers roof HT - probably Czech bird
Pink-footed Goose - c100 SE

Another tricky Obs area year tick


Merlin - female OE saltmarsh on incoming tide
Jack Snipe - 3 OE saltmarsh
Snipe - 17 OE saltmarsh
Pale-bellied Brent - two as above
Chough - sheep fields area at 1330, resting on road drying wings!

Med Gull - Czech bird north wall
Pink-footed Goose - 200 SE
Nothing offshore at HT on flat calm sea!!

Stormy day


Couldn't manage the early incoming stages of the tide and both Malcolm and I arrived to find the tide where it normally would have reached...........but still with 1.5 hours to go!

Kittiwake - flock of 11 out and one poss two ads on outfalls
Twite - one along OE saltmarsh tideline
Jack Snipe - one OE tideline
Snipe - two OE tideline
Med Gull - 2 adults horse fields roost and one on Fishers roof
Chough - flushed from sheep field area by fire engine activity . then seemed to fly over houses.  No other sightings which suggests it was hiding in 'dead' ground on the sheep field most of the day

Foul weather birding


Jean missed Chough and Stonechat yesterday and opted for a walk from the cafe to the tall cliffs as the seemingly clearing weather produced a nasty sting in the tail.  A birdless soaking.  As soon as the weather cleared, up popped the female Stonechat along the same route and a short detour produced the Chough in the sheep fields.  Earlier coastal coverage saw a few waders counts and a couple of Meds

From now onwards, the onus will be more on visiting year-listing birders to find and "put out" the Chough.  It can be quite time-consuming to locate and we (Malcolm, Jean and Pete) seem to have spent quite a chunk of the last month or so doing that and there are now other things to do!     So if it is not visible on our usual quick circuit: drive by check of the horse paddock, check of the fields next to Half Moon Bay, scoping the southern headland fields from the Near Naze if visibility permits, it wont be further looked for.   However, if there is negative news for more than three days, at least one of us will make an effort and try and find it again.  Birders need to check:

a) horse paddock - favours the fence line along footpath down from Knowlys but has been all over here, albeit not staying long at any of the other parts of this area
b) half moon bay fields just north of cafe (worth sitting and watching with a cuppa!)
c) all along the undercliff between half moon bay cafe and the headland but make sure you are not cut off on incoming spring tides
d) sheep field - can be a bit awkward to check but can be scanned along with the rest of the headland at long range, as can a big chunk of the area, from the Near Naze (south end of ex heliport area)

Med Gull - adults on the sea at Heysham village bay and the usual Czech bird along the north wall
Stonechat - usual female on tall vegetation along the top of the beach about 100m north of the 1/2 moon bay cafe
Chough - feeding well on sheep field along with an increase in Oystercatcher early pm
Ringed Plover - 18 out of the area on SS groyne flew to the horse paddock over HT
Turnstone - 70 on heliport seawall and 5 on wooden jetty
Knot - 150ish heliport seawall
Eider - scan not possible due to tidal state

New Year’s Day surprises


Brent goose - the three are back with the two pale-bellied together and the third bird a bit further away as seen in tricky light looking south from OE.  So the third bird still hasn’t been seen well enough to belly-specify
Red-throated Diver - one in the harbour
Chough - visiting all its usual haunts except perhaps the sheep field
Stonechat - female near OE cafe
Med gull - Czech ad north wall
Kittiwake - 1cy following iom ferry turned back quite early but ad followed the ferry into the harbour mouth
Sea too rough to carefully check eider

31st December


Happy new year everyone

31st December
Velvet Scoter  - drake seen flying towards Heysham from Stone Jetty then relocated with Eider flock off Heysham Head
Chough - seen around horse paddock at least 1115
Pale-bellied Brent Goose - two found as the tide dropped off Heysham Head on the skeers
Med Gull - adults on Fishers/north wall and on red nab
Linnet - 15 north wall
Red throated diver - one offshore
Kittiwake - 31+2 out

Low key


Kingfisher red nab
Med gull ad harbour mouth

No reported sign of the chough and the Brent geese were not on the disturbed skeer area off the children’s play area

Chough returns to its old habits


A quick one-two or two-one with the Brents and Chough along Knowlys road this lunchtime, but it really felt "white wing" with a strong westerly and showers and snow on the hills.  Weather reminded of Ullapool in winter in the early 80s when there were proper communists and proper factory ships and Odessians trying to buy my Lada Riva with some obscure currency.  40 'white winged' gulls was not unusual.  Not so here: every nook and cranny, offshore sandbank and skeer, Eider 'attenders' and rooftop was checked with just the Czech Med to show for it

Brent Goose - two pale-bellied visible from Knowlys road on the skeer off the childrens play area
Chough - on the sheepfield at 1145 and then along the fence by the footpath in the SW corner of the horse paddocks at least 1200-1215 but not at 1415.
Med Gull - Czech adult along the north wall
Stonechat - female along cliff edge half moon bay
Eider - about 830 but sea rough
Great-crested Grebe - 2 offshore

Brents relocated


Chough - no sign today despite extensive searching therefore the only two sightings in the last four days were on Christmas morning and late yesterday afternoon when it was below the tall cliffs being mobbed by two Carrion Crow.  If anyone did see it today, please make contact.  Thanks

Brent Goose - the two Pale-bellied on the shore off the children's play area visible from eg Knowlys road

Med Gull - Czech adult north wall and another adult at seaward end Heysham 2 outfall

Elusive Chough


Seen 3pm below the high cliffs (thanks John) but not earlier by people scouring the place

Med Gull - ad following IOM ferry
Eider - 810 offshore - scattered with four main concentrations
Great-crested Grebe - 2 offshore and one harbour mouth
Stonechat - female below low cliffs
Snipe - one flushed from Heysham barrows!
Jackdaw - at least 8 horse paddocks

Anyone year listing on NYD!!  The one time it might be worth hugging a hide or better still car potatoing eg afternoon seawatch?  Heysham (thanks XC):

Whooper in harbour!


Bit of a novelty, especially this time of year - usually a spring and autumn passage migrant.  No obvious sign of the Chough today in the southern section at least.  One of the adult male Eider which was almost certainly off here earlier was seen floating in the choppy water past the Stone Jetty and was flashing an orangy bill as it bobbed up and down whilst floating in but there was no evidence of any 'sails'.  Watch this space when it goes calm.

Whooper Swan - adult in the harbour mouth
 Stonechat - female still half moon bay
Meadow Pipit - one half moon bay
Thanks to Janet for the second and third, no prizes for guessing who took the first

Christmas Day aerobatics


The Chough was doing figure of eights and generally enjoying itself along its territory along Heysham Head this am

Female Stonechat also there

Thanks Malcolm for the info

Shag reappears?


Either one very elusive 1cy shag around this last month or a scattered series of day trips from the 'pool' around walney

Chough - seen 0840 and 1230 above half moon bay
Shag - flew south close inshore past near naze at 1230

Brents reappear


Another dull misty day

Med Gull - Czech-ringed adult on the NHW
Brent Goose - Presumably the missing two flew past Caroline and Nick at 1/2 Moon Bay and I located them on Red Nab - one definitely pale-bellied, the other a 'shampoo view'
No reports of Chough despite Malcolm doing a dawn undercliff walk to try and locate the roosting site

Frantic Fog


A few bits were seen as it cleared, including the Chough location below the tall cliffs

Snipe - possibly as many as 56 on the rocks between Near Naze and the café
Chough - located below the tall cliffs (see 16/12 posting) during the mid afternoon and it certainly did not visit the other more open sites prior to that
Stonechat - mobile female along the barrows/headland
The first (and last?) Magpie of the year was ringed by the office!

Yaffling consolation


Wet and warm and misty again today and the Brent Geese seem to have been spirited away and the Chough presumably/hopefully having a day off from the spotlight 

Middleton NR
Green Woodpecker - calling
Cetti's Warbler - western marsh bird singing
Water Rail - 3+

North wall
Czech Med Gull - ring seen and confirmed

Heliport roost
Snipe - 15
Ringed Plover - a creditable 42
Turnstone - similar to the other day - 69
Little Egret - 2
Redshank - 390
Oystercatcher - 5500
Dunlin - 18

Red Nab and area
Redwing - lost bird on rocks below wooden jetty - misty confusion rather than a cold weather movement!
Wigeon - at least 250