Nothing to sea here.

When the wind comes from the north east it tends to have a flattening effect on the sea off Ainsdale, which can be good for looking out for smaller cetaceans, so I gave it a crack on the rising tide for 45 minutes at lunchtime.

With cloudy periods taking out the shimmer, conditions were good and I was hoping for a repeat of last week’s three Bottle-Nosed Dolphins which breached and moved past me just offshore on Monday last (one of the adults pictured below).

No repeat of last week’s blubber, although the ribbon of Common Scoter was impressive – dozing black blobs in a broad band from halfway up the Green Beach to the north down to the bend of the coast above Fisherman’s Path (and probably beyond) in the south.

I’d estimate 3,000+ birds out there today.

Not much else though – one Red Throated Diver north, six Great Crested Grebes and 12 Gannets between 1230 and 1315.

Only small numbers of Sandwich Terns fishing offshore too – I suspect the majority are still north of the Alt and roosting off Albert Road in Formby.

A few Wheatears through in the last week, with pulses of southward bound hirundines and growing numbers of finches and alba wags around the office.

Had my last Swift locally over Formby last Friday (26.8.22).

Bug hunters

The young Cuckoo was performing rather well around Sandgrounders this afternoon – snatching caterpillars off the path down to the hide before it saw me and zipped over the bushes to perch on the fenceline beside the lagoon.

Good views of the Cuckoo from Sandgrounders Hide too, before it dropped back into cover again. Been around for awhile now, I suppose it must have found a reliable food source.

I’d done a bit of bug hunting myself earlier, calling in to admire a nearby colony of Small Red-Eyed Damselflies (it’s the little things don’t cha know), with Migrant Hawker, Emperor and Brown Hawker dragonflies and Blue-Tailed Damselflies sharing their shrinking pond in the hot afternoon sun.

Back on the marsh, Buzzards and Kestrels were circling over the Ribble, but the heat shimmer was wicked.

A young Merlin was on the fenceline behind Polly’s Pool, which held good numbers of Blackwits, while the sandplant lagoon was infested with feral geese, obscuring roosting gulls, Ruff, Pied Wags and Lapwings.

The Spoonbills were away off on a jaunt somewhere.

Out on Plex the Common Buzzards and Kestrels were joined by two young Marsh Harriers, quartering and circling over the stubble, but reasonable numbers of hirundines failed to draw in a Hobby.

Mmmm, good cuckoo though.

Club Med

Many thanks to Andreas Zours in Germany and Sean Kingston in the UK for sorting me the ringing details of this nine-year-old female Med Gull I watched on Crosby beach on Wednesday this week.

No shortage of colour-ringed Med Gulls these days, but this bird was close enough to clearly read the green “ALHJ” colour ring as it fed on the incoming tide between Mariners Road and the Burbo Bank car park.

Here’s a nice big blurry leg crop…

And here’s a spot of blurry YouTube video of it feeding here.

I’ve attached a full PDF below (courtesy of Andreas) of its travels in western Europe, from the day it was ringed as a pullus in Stade, Germany on July 13th, 2013, through travels in France, Germany, a visit to the Hayle in Cornwall last year and Crosby this week.

Thanks Andreas. Thanks Sean. A fine bird.

Great to see the wanderings of a true European.


41 fine Turnstones in the high tide roost during today’s count at the Alt, with good numbers of other waders on the sandbanks until they were pushed off by the rising water.

Brick red Knot and Bar-Tailed Godwit jostled with crisp Grey Plover, Oycs, Dunlin, Sanderling and Curlew.

At least four Whimbrel were about, before moving off to the south, while the modest Sandwich Tern gathering was peppered with Med Gulls (all adults today), before they drifted off north up the Alt estuary.

The Turnstones were a tortoiseshell treat.

Belligerent little birds, the adults often put their heads down, lowered their tails and barged into others to get a better spot in the roost, “chirricking” away all the time.

The younger birds wisely kept their heads down, superbly camouflaged in the rubble of the Blitz Beach.

If they were rare, folk would go mad for ’em.

Rising tide

With a group in tow, the Alt estuary was still a beguiling place to be as the tide seeped over the sandbanks in the drizzle today.

Less oppressive heat than the last few days certainly, which made trips to the marsh shimmery difficult, if full of autumn promise, with Golden Plover, Snipe etc arriving amongst the moulting hordes and hunting Marsh Harriers.

None the worse for the lower temperatures at Hightown today though, and the sandbanks were carpetted in Curlew, Knot, Oycs and Barwits.

Closer in the gull roost was peppered with smaller waders and Med Gulls, but no more than 200 Sandwich Terns. Numbers seem to have dropped in recent days – perhaps they had moved over the Alt to roost off Albert Road?

Three Arctic Terns were a good opportunity to go through Arctic-Antarctic migration schtick and share ‘scope views of these world travellers.

Into the dunes the damp weather meant butterflies were a tad on the sluggish side, but Red Admiral, Common Blue and a well-worn, but well-received Wall Brown went down just fine.

Flocks of Swallows hawking over the water, families of Stonechats and Ringed Plover and a few Swifts brought down by the cloudbase to zoom through low over the boatyard.

As Monday shifts go, it was just the ticket.

Cape Crusaders

Mid-morning pandemonium as phones went beeping crazy country-wide, then mild chaos as I struggled into my bilstons, grabbed bins, water, ‘scope, Tropical Thomason and Pete Allen (although not necessarily in that order).

All aboard.

The gardening would have to wait for another day – now it was all about getting to Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire as quickly as possible (although safely and sensibly of course occifer) to connect with the Cape Gull loafing around the dam wall there.

I had us there for about 2.30pm, give or take, south down the M6 and through the heat-seared and bleached fields of the eastern Yam Yam territories before dropping out of warp in Cambridgeshire.

Mercifully the gull was still at the reservoir and moved up and down the dam wall as we watched it alongside a couple of hundred other birders.


Video clips of the beast on the water (check out the trailing edge of the wing at the end) and at the water’s edge on YouTube here and here.

Small squished flat head, piggy eye and a dirty great conk that would make a GBB blush, the Cape Gull was long legged and superb, but in a seedy way, like the bastard offspring of a GBB and the Bempton albatross.

A long time coming though.

Lots of folk to say “howdy” to as you’d expect when a first falls on a Sunday morning on the mainland, with at least five Yellow Legged Gulls too (was their summer arrival here a vector for the Cape Gull?), Yellow Wags, Red Kites surfing the Yam Yam aerial soup on the way home and big smiles all round.

I’ll be paying more attention to rangy looking GBBs with small heads and huge bulbous bills in the future.

Kelp Gull still sounds better than Cape Gull though.