(Humming)bird of the day

The latest appearance by a Hummingbird hawk-moth drifting around one of the buddleia at Dempsey Towers delayed birding for a bit today.

I usually manage one here annually now, but this year they have already visited several times and this critter hung around long enough for me to go and get my camera as it weaved amongst the flower heads, nimbly side-stepping White-tailed Bumblebees and Cabbage Whites.

Good numbers have been recorded this year locally of course – the more the merrier…

“Blink and you miss it” video clip on YouTube here.

When I did finally get down to the marsh, three of the Spoonbills were feeding at the back of the Sandplant lagoon, where they remained sieving the silty water and throwing daft shapes until about 2.30pm then they flew off south, presumably for a snooze on the Marine Lake’s northernmost island.

Shaky video on YouTube here.

With rain rolling in from the south east a few of the commoner waders were around the parched area – Dunlin, LRPs, Snipe, Lapwing, Common Sand, Blackwits and Redshanks, but it still felt a bit slow.

Mad as the Spoonbils were, Hummingbird hawks are always fun, especially on home turf – clearly the “summer lull” bugs v birds debate remains unresolved.

The ragged bit of summer

After the lolly-melting heat at the start of the week, it felt decidedly chilly for a survey at the old Alt navigation wall today in light rain.

Even so, a Gropper was still reeling away just north of the Coastguards at Burbo Bank and up to seven Med Gulls were loafing around on the sands, including an adult with a pale colour ring, too far away to read.

Whitethroats and Stonechats were looking late summer raggedy though.

The growing numbers of returning waders held three Whimbrel and an Avocet, with 600+ Dunlin, 1500 distant Knot, Barwits, Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers and 94 dozing Curlews.

Small numbers of roosting Sandwich Terns were a long way out on the low tide.

A few Sand Martins zoomed south, while back at the office at Ainsdale in the heat of Monday and Tuesday two dropped in to join the late summer Swallow gathering on the wires outside my window, and out on the reserve, the first returning Wheatears are on the move.

An ill-advised walk south through the dunes in the scorching heat on Tuesday revealed clouds of Gatekeepers, Common Blues, Grayling and a showy Dune Bee Fly fidgetting on the baking sand.

A remarkable beastie with an amazing lifestyle.

Phil Smith tells me it has been a very good year on the coast for this engaging insect.

Little else was on the wing apart from one of the local Kestrels too hot to fly as I approached.

The Stonechats around Pontins’ perimeter fence remain as showy as ever, and nearby a second brood is now on the wing.


Careful study of Met Office records shows that some of the lowest temperatures on the planet have been logged at Hesketh Out Marsh.

Only Hide A at Seaforth has experienced lower (even Tom Crean would get his long johns on for a visit there in January or February).

So it seemed the smart place to go on a day when the mercury began to climb steadily, and I thought I’d check the marsh on the rising tide to see if anything was pushed in.

But even HOM was baking hot today – melting Lapwings, three panting young Yellow Wags and reasonable numbers of Dunlin.

200+ of the latter as temperatures rocketed.

The Arctic Terns were cool as ever though, wafting around with grace in the face of 30˚ heat (according to my car dashboard anyway).

These conditions must be odd for a bird with a preference for northern and southern extremes! At least two youngsters and 8 adults at HOM today.

Seawatches in the week off Ainsdale were difficult, not due to the growing numbers of human visitors, but to the wibbly wobbly heat haze offshore.

That won’t be getting better anytime soon.

Small numbers of Manxies on feeding expeditions moving south, 2cy Gannets hugging the waves and a few Great Crested Grebes, which tend to come here midsummer to moult.

Common Scoter numbers, although rising, still seem a bit low for this time of year off Ainsdale.

Tern numbers climbing now, with a couple of hundred Sandwich Terns (including an orange colour-flagged bird from Cemlyn), roosting alongside the usual waders and smaller numbers of Common Terns feeding offshore.

Positively energetic

The young Spoonbill was a blur of activity at the Sandplant Lagoon this afternoon – this behaviour always seems odd for a species capable of Olympian bouts of snoozing, especially at Marshside.

Perhaps even more deserving of the “Galoot” label than the big lad at Bempton, but always fun to watch, usually scoring a 10 in the comedy bird scores.

With three adults knocking about the area too looks like we are in for another Spoonbill summer – wonder if they will all start to roost together on Southport Marine Lake?

Video clip on YouTube here.