Sea Wall Shadows

Sea watching in late Autumn / Winter can be challenging with the best weather conditions for bringing in and observing good birds also being the worst conditions for standing still outside with not much cover / protection. October and November have certainly had their fair share of named storms with Agnes, Babet, Ciaran and Debi barrelling in from the Atlantic in what felt like a conveyor belt of wet and windy weather. Indeed in Storm Debi, Blackpool recorded its strongest gust of wind for more than 10 years, peaking at 118kmh / 73mph on 13th November. The names of future storms for 2023/2024 are already named and we can only hope that we don’t have to experience them all, up to and including Wallid! The full list of names is available here – Met Office Storm Names

Tides, cloud cover / light conditions, wind direction, precipitation and visibility also play a huge role in determining what birds are moving and visibility determines whether can see and more importantly, positively identify them – there is nothing more frustrating than ‘knowing’ that you are looking at something out of the ordinary or different, but not being able to confirm its ID – This usually happens at least once every session and if we don’t get a positive ID, we don’t record it.

Just to show how different the sessions can be, below are two screenshots from the Trektellen website that detail the birds recorded during those sessions.

Both sessions were over a similar duration (2.25/2.75 hours) and the difference between the two dates is exactly why we keep turning up because you just never know what will fly past or drop in! You can view the above records for Starr Gate along with records from all across the globe by following this link to the Trektellen site:- Trektellen, Starr Gate

Target species for the winter periods tend to be wildfowl (Ducks, Geese and Swans) with Diving Birds (Divers, Cormorants, Grebes etc.) sometimes passing in their hundreds being expected and with wading birds, passerines and the occasional raptor being the supporting cast – again many of these movements of birds will be due to cold / poor weather conditions further North in the UK and also across in Scandinavia and North-Western Europe. If cold weather does grip these areas, we can expect what are know as ‘irruptions’ of birds such as Winter Thrushes (Fieldfare (Turdus pilardis), Redwing (Turdus iliacus), continental Blackbirds and Song Thrushes etc.), along with less frequently seen birds such as Bohemian Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus), which only tend to reach the UK in large numbers a few times per decade. The UK is currently experiencing one of these Waxwing irruptions and these lovely birds have been observed in the Fylde Recording area and across Lancashire more generally in good numbers.

Whilst its always good to observe lots of species during the sea-watching sessions, each of one of us has personal favourites across each of the seasons. There have been several of these ‘favourites’ over the course of this month and my personal top ten for November, in no particular order, is as follows and a gallery of stock images for these birds can be found below:-

Whooper Swan, Cygnus cygnus
Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula
Merlin, Falco columbarius
Goosander, Mergus merganser
Snow Bunting, Plectrophenax nivalis
Rock Pipit, Anthus petrosus
Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator
Pintail, Anas acuta
Brent Goose, Branta bernicla
Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis

As seasoned sea-watcher Len says, “every day you see a Goosander is a good day”!

And finally, have you ever wondered what happens when you lick really cold metal with your tongue? Fellow sea-watcher Steve Swift demonstrates perfectly why you should not try this at home 🙂
Thankfully, there was enough warmth in the winter sun to allow him to detach himself without any lasting damage…

Thanks for taking the time to read the latest Makepeace with Nature update and please come back soon for further posts.

Sea-watching – November – Weathering the Storms

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