Dropping in.

Far too nice with far too light a wind to spend time staring at the sea and sands at Ainsdale today after yesterday’s two sessions, but the sunny conditions were good for a stroll at Marshside.

Skylarks and Mipits called away over head in the blue, with plenty of Pinks commuting either side to Marine Drive.

Apart from Robins, the Sandplant scrub was quiet, but up above Common Buzzards seemed to be passing through – I noted a few singletons and groups drifting south, and later I met up with Graham Clarkson who had counted nine from Crossens.

Mainly going through at height, it was tempting to call it passage, although it could just as easily have been local Lancs birds enjoying the warm sun and thermals.

Higher than normal numbers for the marsh though.

We logged a further two as we chatted and scoped the geeses on the outer marsh.

A single Barnacle Goose was with Pinks fairly close in and a fine Peregrine circled off to the south east with what looked like prey.

I headed off in roughly the same direction with lunch and fuel in mind.

Windy app addicts

Two days at Spurn were just the ticket to get into the autumn mood, and while strong West/North Westerlies are not the best recipe for success there, it was still great fun birding with Neill and Trops again.

Arriving just before lunch yesterday we walked round to admire a stealthy Wryneck in one of the splendid wild gardens on the banks of the Humber – good views although it did keep shuffling off into the long grass in its pursuit of ants.

The westerly strengthened throughout the day, but the shelter of Kew Villa’s tall trees and hedges meant a Yellow Browed Warbler was calling intermittently and even showed itself briefly there once or twice – after 2021’s poor showing it was good to get my first of the year under the belt.

A party of Redwings dropped in at the Triangle, despite the adverse winds.

An inevitable evening in the Crown and Anchor last night (who knew we all understood so little about blancmange?) saw a growing autumn obsession with wind direction and speeds, and by last orders we were all full-blown Windy app addicts again.

It will rule our lives and the direction they take for the next few weeks.

Rain and the Westerly’s attempt to achieve hooley status greeted us this morning so the usual circuit was fairly quiet, bar a few more Redwings and the odd calling Chiffy.

Ignoring the wind direction and falling tide I tried a two hour seawatch this afternoon just north of the Blue Bell – predictably quiet, but still rewarding enough to see a few Arctic Skuas giving Common Gulls and Arctic Terns plenty to think about.

Spurn seawatch 26.9.22 , 1445-1630, WNWly f4, cloud, sunny spells and showers: Arctic Skua 6; Red Throated Diver 19; Gannet 63; Common Scoter 1; Common Tern 5; Arctic Tern 13; Guillemot 5 (plus GBBs, Common Gull, Grey Seal etc).

I’m back on the west side of the Pennines now, lured home by the persistent westerlies which promise Leach’s Petrel action tomorrow. Tide’s high at noon.


The remnants of the Forest of Bale surfaced from the dawn mist in the most alluring way above the Sandplant at Marshside this morning.

Mmmm autumnal.

I gave it a good look after completing my daily dawn survey for the roadworks just down the coast to the south of Hesketh Road, but for all the “migrant trap” feel I could only rustle up a Goldcrest and a few early-rising Migrant Hawkers, taking advantage of the first sunbeams as they hit the uppermost branches.

Finches, Meadow Pipits, Blackcap and Skylarks were on the move in modest numbers, but the big blue skies above told the real story.

Big blue sky – most birds way too high!

Chiffchaffs occasionally broke into feeble autumn song along the bank during the week, and there’s always the chance of a surprise or two.

The surveys are great fun of course – if only to watch the first forays of the day by Merlins and Marsh Harriers, as thousands of roosting Pink Feet take flight from the sands out past the saltmarsh and head inland before it gets really light.

Blackpool Tower looked good this morning too….

Surveying further down the coast south of the Alt Navigation Wall earlier in the week revealed thousands of waders feeding at low tide, with good counts of Knot, Barwits, Sanderling and big numbers of returning Shelduck.

A trawl around the Sands Lake boardwalk at Ainsdale in the afternoon sun could only yield a singing Chiffy, Common Darters and more Migrant Hawkers, but the place always looks so damn tasty at this time of year it’s hard to resist.

With Crane and Purple Heron locally over the last few days, it’s all to play for – why not let me know what you’re seeing?

Buttonweed birding

The two young Curlew Sands were feeding right in front of Sandgrounders Hide when I called into Marshside this afternoon – mighty obliging of them.

They scampered about the muddy edges and up into the buttonweed, usually staying very close together.

Ropey video on YouTube here and here.

Plenty of them around this autumn of course, but they are still charming waders, although a nearby Snipe didn’t see it that way…

Two Cattle Egrets strutted about amongst the Canada Geese close in, looking as mad as ever, and right at the back of the marsh a carpet of Pink Feet were grazing like there was no tomorrow.

I was tempted to give the Pinks a good grilling but wanted to visit Hesketh Out Marsh in case the squally showers brought in a wader or two and anyway I’m not ready to get in touch with my inner winter goose spotter just yet.

HOM East was disappointingly quiet at first (not counting Greenshanks and a local Kingfisher), but then the lingering Osprey came in from the north and got its angler on, hovering high above the lagoons despite the strengthening NWly and heavy showers.

The bank is exposed at the best of times at HOM, but in the squalls and breeze it was hard keeping my P900 steady as rain clouded the lens – didn’t stop me shooting some VERY shaky vid though – on YouTube here.

If you watch the video at quarter speed it is marginally less awful and the sound goes all trippy.

The Osprey took seven dives from height and made seven big splashes before the bird emerged from the grey water with a fish, ignoring the yelping Greenshanks and Redshanks as it flew off to the fenceline to the north to scoff dinner in a tangle of tide dumped branches.

Three local Carrion Crows flew in to check things out, but didn’t hassle the distant Osprey.

Marsh Harrier, Merlin, Great White Egret, Golden Plovers and a few more regular waders on HOM West, but I decided the “sheep-poo” roulette stroll further down the bank wasn’t for me today and headed back home.


The Cattle Egret was a good start to the week in grey and drizzly dawn light as another week of surveys began between Fairways and Hesketh Road, 7-8am.

The bird was feeding with 23 Little Egrets, drawn to the area of marsh flooded by the rains and last night’s tide. Presumably it dropped in with the Littles for breakfast having left the Marine Lake roost in the gloom.

A light, but steady passage of Mipits and Swallows, with the Peregrine early morning preening at 0650 on its fave tide-stranded branches, and a calling Greenshank.

The rain largely held off for a guided “Give Birds A Break” walk north from Ainsdale as the 9.5m tide edged in at 11am.

At least 5 Wheatears along the tideline as we headed north, and despite the grey, murky light, a young Little Stint looked fresh as it scampered along the tideline, dwarfed by Sanderlings.

No more than 80 Sandwich Tern, with Oycs, Barwits, Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plovers.

Best of all, a young Little Gull dropped into the roost, hooking up briefly with the terns at the water’s edge.

A bit distant, but it’s always a treat seeing one on this stretch of the coast in autumn, although it didn’t hang about…

Grey Plumber

A pleasant enough morning at Burbo Bank for the first “Give Birds A Break” guided walks on the coast, giving visitors the opportunity to see what Green Sefton et al are asking folk to respect.

At least six Wheatears south of the Alt navigation wall, with roosting waders watched from a discreet distance and the usual Stonechats and Mipits.

My favourite description from one of the guests on the walk was of the spectacular summer plumaged “Grey Plumber” we watched through the scope, one of several adult birds in the usual roost.

Sanderlings, Sandwich Tern, Turnstone, Wigeon, Peregrine, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, and before the tide swept in, about 70 Pink Feet on the sandbanks of the outer Alt.

A Kingfisher that treated us to three flypasts and a few brief perched up views was too fast for me, but a drake Common Scoter was oddly accommodating, flying in low across the bay to pitch down amongst the more usual local Mallards that hang out around the navigation wall.

Made a change from the ribbon of distant black blobs off Ainsdale.

Up there a few brief seawatches this week have revealed small numbers of Razorbills and Guillemots starting to appear for the winter, but scoter notwithstanding, not a great deal else in the unsuitable easterlies, apart from pulses of Gannets and Sarnie Terns.

A return to dawn survey work between Hesketh Road and Fairways this week revealed plenty of Merlin and Peregrine action, a light passage of Swallows and Mipits, juv Marsh Harriers and four Goosander heading north on Wednesday.

A bit further up the road the young Starlings continue to gorge on Blackberries around the Sandplant lagoon.

This evening started well with my sixth Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year buzzing about the last Valerian flowers at Dempsey Towers.