Gone seawatchin’


And as you can see, this time we’re taking it seriously.
Back soon – but please use the comment thingy and let me know what you’ve been getting, so we can see what we’ve been missing when we return – if that makes sense.
Setting sombreros to stun…
Here’s to the wind, the rain and the waves…


And failing that, there’s always Killian Mullarney’s “doodling”!

A break from Krusty


While Krusty the Caspian Gull is undeniably a fine individual and it’s great to see him give pleasure to so many people on a daily basis (top flypast in front of the tower window today Krusty!), there’s only so long you can watch those lovely long shapely pins buckling under the weight of a relentless barrage of bread.
An early morning seawatch at Ainsdale took my mind off the Caspian Gull, but only produced a light but steady passage of Gannets, perhaps 7-8 distant Manx Shearwaters, small numbers of Common Scoter and fishing Sandwich and Common Terns.
Small numbers of Small Tortoiseshell and Peacocks on the move too.
No sign of some of the skuas that went past the Fylde unfortunately.
Needing a bit more birding I popped up to Marshside after work, enjoying Blackwits and Common Sandpiper in front of Sandgrounders, tasteless young Tufties, and growing numbers of Teal in the gutters and channels.
Quiet otherwise, apart from Snipe and Redshank, and a scruffy Little Egret down at Hesketh Road.


But at least it felt autumnal, and that means it’s all to play for over the next two months…

Before the rain


Good scope views of two young Arctic Skuas out around the low tideline at Ainsdale for most of the morning; the birds spent a fair amount of time on the deck, preening and resting before forays after the Sandwich and Common Terns.
Always nice to be able to show people skuas on one of our guided walks (even if the attendance was small but particularly select eh David?).
Wheatears around the office early on.
Still a few Swifts moving through, but nothing like the wave yesterday afternoon.
Offshore Gannets feeding and the summer scoter flock was keeping a respectful distance.
A shady-looking crew from the dark side were enjoying the Caspian Gull, which was being particularly lazy this morning, too full of bread to stand up I expect.



Bad timing


Normally I’m pleased to see a young Peregrine, but this lummox swept in spooking all the waders at HoM this afternoon nano-seconds after I picked up what looked like a Pec scurrying through the wet grass.
Everything went up in the pouring rain and when the waders landed, naturally I couldn’t relocate said Pec again.
Such is life…despite the downpour and Peregrine and dashing Merlin, I managed 80-100 Dunlin, 24 Ringed Plover, 4 Little Stint, 2-3 Greenshank, 7 Avocets, Ruff, Redshank, Curlew and a bedraggled Curlew Sandpiper in the deluge.


Multiple Little Stintage was a pleasure in spite of the lousy weather, the tiny birds appeared to be feeding in a loose group, unconcerned by the movements of the Dunlin flock.
Indulged in “angle of the dangle” with the sinensissy Cormorants and admired a young Marsh Harrier batting along in the rain, before playing “sheep shit roulette” along the sodden bank back to the car.
With the benefit of hindsight, a big umbrella may have been a good idea.
And wellies.
That or waiting till the rain stops tomorrow.

Put down the bread. And step away from the gulls.


Acutely conscious that it’s been a real gull summer locally, so I resisted the charms of a repeat audience with the Caspian Kid on Ainsdale beach and nipped down to Lunt this afternoon to look for something different.
Should probably have stuck with the laridae – the temperature was dropping and the cloud thickening, so it was more like October than August by the time I walked round to the first blind.
Two Little Egrets amongst a seedy collection of eclipse ducks (Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Tufties), Moorhen and Coot.
Five Ruff were pleasing and fed quite close, while Lapwings and Snipe were dropping in through a blizzard of down from a bazillion thistleheads going to seed.
LBBs, Herring Gulls, BHGs and 20+ Common Gulls out on the water (leave it John).
Hirundines scooting over the reeds, but way too cold for any insects other than Six Spot Burnets and Cinnabar caterpillars clinging to the Ragwort, and probably shivering their little bits off.

Caspian Gull, Ainsdale Beach: Just another tourist




With nine days of festival-mania finally concluded yesterday, I was fancying a lie-in today, but as it was I popped down to Ainsdale beach with Ralph Jones at 7am to see if we could find the long staying 2cy (look! grown-up talk!) Caspian Gull.
The tide was just about at its lowest point, and the water was probably nearer Dublin than Ainsdale, so predictably we failed to locate Mr Bignose as the gulls were scattered all along the coast.
Plenty of Gannets offshore though, and good numbers of Barwits still in full summer plumage.
I returned home for a pleasant nap, before heading back to the beach at about noon as the tide began to push in, when the place was swarming with tourists, dog walkers, swimmers, horse-riders etc etc, most of whom seemed dedicated to freaking out roosting gulls, waders and terns.
Bumped into Pete Kinsella who found this gull about five weeks back (well done Pete), and after half an hour or so he picked the Caspian up flying down onto the beach from Pontins, where the bird occasionally perches on the roof of the swimming pool with other gulls.
Huge, with really white underwings and some serious moult issues, it cruised up and down the beach looking for scraps to scavenge before pitching down with the rest of the tourists.


Its bill went on forever, a real bruiser of a bird, with long gangly legs, a nice streaky shawl and all the other terms birders use when describing this species – long primaries, sloping back, full nappy, beady dark eye, snow white head etc.
Has to be said, although pretty moulty, this Caspian Gull still looks fairly cool.
Like a lot of visitors to Ainsdale beach in summer it was startlingly white (get some sun block on), and when the heat, sand and sea got too much it went back to Pontins to take refuge.
Once or twice it started displaying like some demented albatross, throwing its head back and calling away before taking flight to survey the beach for food.
Not shy, at one point it saw off four LBBs in a dispute over some dodgy tideline morsel.


A weird week, and it’s only Monday


Painting wooden waders and poking Sand Lizards with the under-12s on Saturday; drawing Mandala sand fish on the beach at Ainsdale all day yesterday, then today I spent the afternoon in the company of a fascinating scientist who examined the skellington of a 17th century Cistercian bone by bone to try to establish the cause of death.
Yup, it’s been a strange week, and it’s only Monday.
Tomorrow it’s all about inflatable cetaceans at Crosby Lakeside Adventure Centre – say what you like about us, but our “Waders, Walks and Whales” Festival is nothing if not varied…
Busy, busy, busy, so I had to go and do the weekly shop this evening.
Clearly the only sensible thing to do was head north and try again for the Preston Ring Billed Gull, having missed it last Friday with Baz and Trops.
As a shopping strategy it seemed a winner.
However I began to seriously question the wisdom of this “grocery-lite” approach to my role as consumer, after I pulled up at Preston dock in bright evening sun to learn the gull hadn’t been seen since early afternoon.
Even the Green Frog had gone home.
Fortunately the Ring Billed materialised on the pontoons after about 40 minutes, and although the hard sun meant digiscoping was bound to be major poop, I watched the gull for 20 minutes or so as it dozed.


Showed the bird to a group of curious passing ragamuffins on battered BMX bikes that looked like they’d just been pulled out of the dock, and was informed by the most confident of ’em that the gull was “really sick” once they’d all had a scopeful.
Still not sure if that’s a positive or negative…

Pelagic tamed.


Undeniably exciting to see a Sabine’s Gull so close and in such warm sunny conditions down at Pennington Flash this morning, but it didn’t feel quite right.
These beautiful pelagic gulls are meant to come past low to the waves as you cower on a headland staring westward into a scope full of spray and salt, not dilly dally over your head in between Mallards and BHGs, at one point even photo-bombing a shot of Trops I was trying to get…


Tropical Thomason had picked me up with Bazzo in the back of his wheels already at about 1030, and once we’d established he didn’t need a SatNav we set off.
40 minutes later we were lost in Leigh, but we managed to remember where Pennington was eventually and were soon watching the long staying Sabs Gull as it swept up and down the lake bank, or loafed on the flat calm water.
I think we might be the last birders on the planet to have caught up with this one.
Gorgeous thing, if a bit incongruous so much out of its normal salty seadog context.



We decided we were clearly on form, so opted to head up to Preston for the Ring Billed Gull by the splendid Green Frog.
We arrived to learn it had flown off from the dock before we got there. Hmmmm…not so much on form after all.
As Bazzo remarked on our increasingly shambling approach to this game: “We could dip a dead Dodo in a moderately small museum”.
Timewise, we gave the Ring Billed three chicken-burgers and a revitalising Irn Bru and there was still no sign.
Having agreed cold beer in the sun was the better part of valour, we headed for the hills, happy in the knowledge the gull would doubtlessly reappear shortly after we left.

Always a worry when the rig disappears…


A Grey Seal pup* hauling out onto a sandbank at Ainsdale first thing this morning was a sign things might be rough further out, while a fine dark phase Arctic Skua harassing terns close in mid-morning was all the extra encouragement I needed to try a lunchtime seawatch today.
The Lennox rig melting into a squall offshore that never quite hit the dunes, suggested a seabird or two might be pushed in close too.
At least 100 Sandwich Terns and smaller numbers of Common Terns were roosting up at the south end of the Green Beach until a dog-walker scattered them.
Offshore there were many terns (70+), mainly Sandwich, with about 10 Common Terns and 1 Little, which kept things busy as they moved south, and at least 400 Common Scoters were out at mid-range riding the swell.
Numbers of scoters are really starting to build now.
Gannets, mostly immatures and sub-adults, were fishing offshore, but I was surprised by the lack of Manxies – they usually sweep in past Ainsdale in south westerlies this brisk.
No more skuas either – but the memory of the Arctic mid-morning was enough to keep me looking.

Ainsdale 1300-1400

(1 dark phase Arctic Skua)
Auk sp 1
Gannet 47
Sandwich Tern 150-200
Common Tern 17
Little Tern 1
Great Crested Grebe 1
Common Scoter 400 approx
Grey Plover 3 full s.p. birds

*Anyone worried about the seal pup will be relieved to know it was picked up by the RSPCA early afternoon, hauled out on the sands at the north end of the beach.