Midget gem

Posted on - In Wading through Wigeon

Early start at Hesketh hoping that some mud was showing again after a week without any tidal top ups, but its still too high for small waders. The visit started well(ish) with a pair of Egyptian Geese flew over the car as I arrived in the car park. A full patch tick even though they probably squeak if you squeeze them.

A relatively quick visit, but still 2 adult Spotted Red on Shelter Pool and another one further up the reserve, Greenshank, 2 GWE, Avocet (doesn’t look well), 2 Peregrine (ad, juv), 3 Ruff (2ad, juv), 8 Dunlin, 3 Golden Plover, 8 Black-tailed Godwit and 5 Jackdaw through. There was a lot of geese over and I half expected my first Whoopers, but they didn’t materialise.

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A quick call in at Marshside, and the 4 Cattle Egret were on Fairclough’s – part of the southern influx from last month moving north I imagine.

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On to Ainsdale for a crack at the gulls. There must have been 3-5,000 LWHG on the half a mile of beach north of Shore Road and I went through them for around 3 hours. 4 interesting birds with mantles intermediate between Herring and LBB – a sample of each one here:

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Never straight forward are they! I suspect all of these are hybrid Herring/LBB for a variety of reasons – head too streaky, legs not yellow enough, structure not robust enough etc etc. I deserve a nice easy adult YLG soon surely!

Something that was straight forward was an absolute gem of a juv Little Gull that flew over my head and landed up the beach for a short wash before it was out to sea again – the highlight of my day…..

Petrel heads

Posted on - In Wading through Wigeon

An early morning jaunt to Ainsdale today as the weather looked favourable for a few Leach’s. The wind had too much South in it, but a decent amount of West when I first got there and I was rewarded after about half an hour with a cracking juv Sab’s gull fairly close in to shore fighting its way south towards Formby and the Wirral (a juv was also picked out at New Brighton about an hour later, again close in, so maybe the same bird).

I was joined by John Dempsey and he picked out a distant Leach’s quite far down the beach towards Southport and we watched it briefly before it disappeared in the surf.

Also single Manx, 2 Kittiwake, 10+ Guillemot, another 30 or so Auk sp., a few Gannets, 6 Pintail, 7 Golden Plover + the usual waders, terns and gulls.

2 interesting LWHG’s – first one clearly a hybrid LBB/Herring, but the 2nd one looks pretty good for a small female YLG – much cleaner head and very bright yellow legs/feet. It looks similar to the bird I had there a few weeks ago. Quite distant and in poor light, the record shots give the best impression I could manage using a shaky digi-scope set up. Shame there are no LBB’s in shot – mantle colour was clearly intermediate between Herring and LBB for both (hybrid is also in 2nd picture – front left).

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Could have stayed a lot longer, but had to go to work. Wouldn’t be surprised if more is picked up this afternoon as the wind shifts towards the north and west….

The Redeemer

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After the disappointment of last weeks Semi-P debacle, messing up a probable 3rd for Lancs on patch, it was nice to somewhat redeem myself by finding a cracking moulting adult American Golden Plover at Marshside today.

Initially very distant, its very white super, slim build and constant movement made it stand out at the back of the marsh. On its own at first, I struggled to get some sort of image. The first ones are particularly grainy, but the light was perhaps better at this point.

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It was flushed about 4 times in the first half an hour so had to keep refinding it to get some better images – it gradually landed nearer, but was never really in decent image range. A cracking bird through the scope though. The strong sunlight didn’t help either.

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A couple of shaky videos too – the fresh westerly may be helping with the waders, but not the video.

Edit – Analysis of the photo’s and speaking with Pete Kinsella this evening about the bird he saw (the dusky one) – it would appear there are 2 American Goldies on the marsh. Pics of the other bird here, found after trawling through my many images!

The rest of the marsh was heaving with birds – 2 Curlew Sand, 20+ Ruff, Grey Plover, Knot, masses of Black-tailed Godwit etc at Marshside

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Banks was also superb – 6 juv Curlew Sands, 2 juv Litte Stints (these were checked thoroughly!!!) and a Turnstone the highlights.

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With these winds set to continue, what’s next……….. 1st Greater Yellowlegs for Lancs anyone?

Calidris ferruginea

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A thoroughly miserable morning at Hesketh weatherwise, but a close encounter with one of my favourite waders eclipsed the rain and the wind and was worth the early start and the drenching.

Curlew Sandpipers are a fantastic bird – stunning in their range of plumages with their elegant structure and long curved bill.

The birds today were 3 nice fresh juveniles with a lovely peachy wash on the breast; scalloped mantle, scaps and coverts; and a strong super making them stand out at long range against the duller, plainer and dumpier Dunlin.

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These juveniles were fearless, maybe I was the first human they had ever seen, and they fed right in front of me down to just a few meters. The weather and light impacted the images, but I managed a reasonable video to give a feel of the experience. The scope views were just amazing.

It’s been a pretty good year for them so far on the Ribble, and hopefully this group will increase in number over the next few weeks.

A few more images from this year below. First one is a moulting adult seen on Ainsdale beach in August – feeding with a large Dunlin and Sanderling flock on a big tide.

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Marshide in Spring had double figures, with some brick red breeding plumage birds as well as some still in their plainer, none breeding garb and a few inbetween.

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They might not be rare, but they always improve your day when you find one…….

Return of the Tringa

Posted on - In Wading through Wigeon

A early morning quick visit to Hesketh was superb today – there had been a clear fall of waders with 2 Spotted Red and min 8 Greenshank feeding loosely together on one of the first pools. Also 3 juv Ruff and a couple of Whimbrel all in the first full sweep! A Great White Egret was fishing in one of the gutters – what a difference a few days makes. A few record shots here, as most birds were distant in HOM’s usual fashion.

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This picture pretty much sums that first scope sweep up – 2 Spotted Red together, a Greenshank and a GWE.

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A Sparrowhawk caused a bit of a stir as it flap, flap, glided in and landed on one of the posts.

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The resident Avocet was still on the main pool as was a single Dunlin – as I was watching that bird I saw it look up and then I heard a Little Stint calling. The bird was in a flock of 5 Dunlin and eventually they settled in with the Ruff and Tringa from earlier. I managed a quick record shot (its to the right of the Ruff in the back area of water!) before it was off – the highlight of the morning.

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The pictures are rubbish, but the birding wasn’t……..

Ob-skua

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The usual tour around the Ribble sites this morning – felt very autumnal early on at Hesketh especially with my 1st Pintail (an eclipse male) back on patch, 50+ Wigeon and the same of Teal.

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A few waders knocking about including the singe Avocet that’s been resident for the last few weeks, 2 Greenshank, 8 Dunlin, and around 40 Golden Plover in the near fields. There was a flock of about 500 flying about by the river, but they settled in an unviewable spot.

A Wheatear was feeding along the fence line, and a Chiffchaff was calling from the hedge, but very little else in terms of small stuff.

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Finally, a fantastic juv Merlin was hunting over the marsh and then let up on one of the posts for a short while.

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On to Banks where one of the fields was full of Wagtails and Pipits. 20 or so Whites and 6 Yellow were mixed in with the Pieds, and a couple of Corn Buntings feeding with them as well.

Banks Marsh itself was very quiet, with no waders at all on the pools – hopefully it will start bringing birds in again soon or its going to be a long autumn. A feeding juv Peregrine, an adult perched up almost in Lytham, and a distant hunting Marsh Harrier were some consolation.

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Again, I skipped Marshside and headed to Ainsdale which has been easily the best local site recently and it didn’t disappoint again today even though the tide was about a mile out! Highlight of the morning was 2 dark morph Arctic Skua playing about on the tideline. They let up for a short time, chased a few Sarnie Terns and then floated off South – brilliant birds.

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The sea held a couple of thousand Scoter which although distant were in range and with the sunny conditions I was hoping for a gleaming white head patch to bob into view. No luck, and they didn’t even fly so I could check for a Velvet, but enjoyable working through them. A few were close enough to get some dodgy photos. The flocks also had a dozen Great Crested Grebe, 8 Teal and my 2nd Pintail of the day.

Nothing rare, but a really enjoyable morning…

Hokey Cokey

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An early start at Hesketh and I was greeted with a rainbow as I pulled into the carpark – I knew it was a sign that the rain was coming, but it seemed dry so I started off up the path. A minute later and I was running back down it, cursing the demise of the worst shelter in the history of shelters (but still better than none at all). The rain bounced off the car as I waited for a break in the weather.

The same thing happened the next time I ventured out, and by the third soaking I just soldiered on along the bank, squelching as I went (in, out, in, out, shake it all about). A nice Marsh Harrier was quartering the reserve, and then settled down for a short while – looked like the adult I saw yesterday.

Also a Sparrowhawk perched on the fence and best of all, a fly through Hobby – only my 3rd of the year in the Ribble area. The reserve was quiet with just Greenshank, a single Avocet, 4 Dunlin and a handful of Wigeon of note.

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On to Banks where there were decent numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover on the pools, but nothing more exciting. A single juv Ruff and a few Golden Plover mixed in with the Lapwing plus my first Merlin of the autumn drying its tail on a distant post were the highlights.

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Still a few Yellow Wags around and there had been a decent fall of Wheatear here too with at least 8 birds bouncing about including this ringed one.

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I skipped Marshside as its very quiet at the minute and went straight to the marine lake. Very few gulls, but the Cattle Egret hadn’t left the roost yet and was perched up on north island.

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Finally I went to Ainsdale for the tide. The usual mix of waders, but the tide not high enough to concentrate them so couldn’t find anything different. There were 1000’s of gulls though and I spent a couple of hours picking through them. surprisingly the only nugget was an adult Med, but at least the wind and belated sun dried me out…..

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Terned out nice again

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A midday walk along Ainsdale beach with Claire for the high tide was a real spectacle – I’d forgotten just how fantastic it is here when the waders get pushed in by a big one. A couple of stubborn dog walkers/bird flushers disturbed the birds, but the poor forecast probably put plenty off even though it actually turned warm with a haze of sunshine. Nice to see some Ribble birding regulars out as well.

The terns screeched and floated around in circles, settling on the beach when they got chance. Several hundred Sandwich, fewer Common and the highlight being an adult and juv Little – beautiful birds with such a distinctive call, it was great to watch this pair at fairly close range.

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A short video of the adult here – it was ringed, would really like to have known the origin of it.

I’d actually come looking for gulls, but apart from a distant adult Med, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary among the Herrings, Common and LBB’s.IMG_9387

As I say, the waders were superb as they whirled about with the tide pushing them ever nearer.

The undoubted highlight was an adult Curlew Sand feeding on the tide line – I wonder if this is the same bird Mark had on the 1st August? Great waders, and satisfying to find in the throng of birds.IMG_9395

Other highlights were 3 Turnstone, flyby Grey Plover, a few Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot including a flagged bird and a colour ringed Sanderling. I only got one legs worth of data, but the other one had another ring and a flag – it only flashed that once and I my brain couldn’t register the combination. I wonder if it’s the Mauritanian one Richard Du Fue had at Formby? Could watch these wader flocks all day, but we were supposed to be on a walk!IMG_9424IMG_9451IMG_9431IMG_9443

The wader species here added to the ones from Hesketh Out Marsh this morning, including Greenshank and LRP, gave me a day total of 19 – not bad! Also at least 20 Yellow Wags on Hesketh East this morning – I grilled them for a long overdue for a Citrine, but not today……

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Shear luck

Posted on - In Wading through Wigeon

Started the Dorset holiday with a 4 hour sea watch off Portland on Sunday afternoon as the weather looked good for bringing in some birds. Better than I could have expected with the highlight being finding a west bound Great Shear that gave a decent view as it shot through. Also managed to get the other 2 birders on site on to it as well, smiles all round. The Balearic Shears gave some amazing views feeding in with a close Gannet group and some close in Sooty’s added to the excitement. Final counts – 1 Gt Shear, 34 (min) Balearic, 3 Sooty, 8 Bonxie, 12 Fulmar, lost count of Meds (mostly juvs) plus plenty of common stuff like Kittewake, Manx, etc. A superb afternoon!A57530C9-5EE2-404A-BF73-FB45C71A91B8.jpeg

Yesterday I went back at dawn to see if there was anything still coming through, but the wind had died down so just a single Balearic west of any note. However there were Yellow-legged Gulls both on the deck and fishing off the point. So I watched them for a couple of hours – superb looking birds in juv plumage, really contrasty in flight.923CA581-52DC-444E-A772-DABB676D5EB85C2DF832-131C-4790-9193-145007550961C580D9BA-585E-44F3-B40E-71234C6F3140

Musical youth

Posted on - In Wading through Wigeon

A very early start at a murky Hesketh Out Marsh this morning. It felt great to bird in conditions other than “scorchio” although the reduced visibility provided by the light drizzle had a knock on effect with the photo quality!

Up to 3 juvenile Arctic Tern were perfecting their fishing techniques on shelter pool and it was very relaxing watching them dancing through the air and splashing down in an almost rhythmic motion – I managed a quick video of one touch down after learning their training route.

The other juveniles of note were 3 Yellow Wagtails using the reserve fence to bound down into the water logged grass and probe for insects. They were constantly calling, but never came close enough for good pictures. Great to know that these 2 species have both been successful in the area again this year.

Waders were represented by a single Greenshank, Common Sand, 11 Dunlin, 12 Avocet (inc. 8 juvs – maybe the Marshside birds), 5 Curlew and a decent number of Redshank and Lapwing. A few Common Terns around as well.

Singing Corn Bunting, a sizeable flock of Tree Sparrow and a Chiffchaff calling at the west end were the rest of the highlights.

Marshside was very quiet with just a Common Sand near Sandgrounders of any note. Over the last week there was 16 Knot on Faircloughs (quite a good count for the reserve proper) and the resident punk was mixing it with its cousins.

Also, a couple of adult Med Gulls near by on the shore by the pier.

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Finally headed to the docks to look at the terns. They seemed much reduced in number, but still a few chicks knocking about.

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Also a very brief fly through juv Med Gull was my first local juv of the year – a shame it didn’t land, but managed a couple of ropy record shots were you can kind of see what it is!?!

A handful of Arctics and also this presumed 2nd summer (3cy) Common (although could be an adult  non-breeder, ageing Common Terns is not straight forward!).

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Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also had Little Tern and another presumed 2nd summer Common.

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Away for 2 weeks next week so hopefully by the time I come back, the wader migration will be flowing….