Monday, 26 January 2015

Coast To Coast

I started off on the Irish Sea coast in the west this morning and by mid-morning as I was on the North Sea coast in the east, as I had a site visit in Northumberland. I didn't see much during my site visit in Northumberland other than a Peregrine, Goldcrest and a couple of Tree Sparrows.

On my way back I called in at my feeding station at dusk. All the Tree Sparrows had gone to roost but I did have twelve Corn Buntings and seven Yellowhammers.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Here And There

It was a mixed bag of birding sites for me yesterday from the estuary, local woodland, feeding station and then on to the water treatment works. It was cold at first light as I headed to the estuary from the quay, with a 15 mph northwesterly wind and six oktas cloud cover. I made a school boy error and forgot my notebook and had to improvise with the back of last year's Schedule 1 licence!

On the mud in the quay were just 41 Redshanks and two Black-tailed Godwits. I walked round to the estuary and on the exposed mud of the river had 183 Lapwings and 20 Golden Plovers. It was really exposed where I was standing so I decided to retreat to an area of woodland.

Early morning on the estuary

The woodland borders some allotments and it was here that most of the birds were, including 20 House Sparrows, three Chaffinches, six Greenfinches, twelve Long-tailed Tits, two Goldcrests and two Goldfinches.

 Standing deadwood that has received the attention
of the local 'Great Spots'.

I then had to go to my feeding station to feed and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Jay called from the woods. At the feeding station were 144 Tree Sparrows, 15 Chaffinches and two Yellowhammers. Walking back to my car I had a nice flock of 25 Fieldfares and 50 Redwings go over.

In the afternoon Ian and I headed to the water treatment works to top up our feeders there. Surprisingly it seemed calm enough to put a couple of nets up, but we were soon to take them down after the wind picked up and we only ringed a Redwing, Chaffinch, Great Tit and Blackbird.

 Redwing

About three hundred Greenfinches came in to roost along with about ten Goldfinches and a hard to determine number of Chaffinches. A Buzzard, Goldcrest and two Stock Doves graced the pages of my notebook here.

It will be difficult to fit in much birding this week as I have site visits in Northumberland and inland upland Lancashire, but if I see anything interesting on my travels I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Two's Better Than Nowt!

This morning Andy, Ian and Me made our first attempt at catching and fitting leg flags to Turnstones in 2015. The conditions were right in as much as there was a high morning tide and it has been quite cold of late. Only three Turnstones came in range of the whoosh net and we managed to catch two of them. So another two Turnstones are now carrying leg flags and we look forward to hopefully numerous re-sightings of them.

I didn't really have time to have a look on the lakes as most of the time was spent in the car waiting for Turnstones. However, I could see there was a small group of Tufted Ducks with a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers and a lone Whooper Swan flew south.

Fingers crossed for some decent weather this weekend so I can get out birding!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Northerly Pinkies

At last I got out birding this morning and it was a glorious frosty morning with a light northeasterly wind. I headed to the Point and positioned myself at the end of the dunes to have a look on the sea. The sea was actually very quiet and not as clear as you would expect for a cold frosty day, as there was quite a bit of murk, particularly in the eastern portion of the Bay.

The main feature of the morning was the northerly movement of Pink-footed Geese. In total I had 310 go north across the western portion of the Bay. The only likely destination for these high flying birds was the Solway Estuary in north Cumbria/south Scotland. In addition to this an adult and a juv. Whooper Swan headed north, but half way across the Bay they 'pitched' on to the sea.

 Pinkies Solway bound?

The only other bits and pieces on the sea were 16 Eiders, three Common Scoters, eight Cormorants, a Red-breasted Merganser, an Auk sp. and a Great Crested Grebe.

Ian and I had to laugh at four birders who appeared looking for the Shore Lark. They asked us if we had seen it and we said that we hadn't been looking for it. Then we heard one of them say "there's only one thing for it we'll have to walk along the beach"! Walk along the beach, the beach had roosting Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Sanderlings on it!

Anyway, we watched them walk off and they were stood on the low wall scanning the shingle beach when we heard the Shore Lark calling. It flew directly over their heads calling loudly, and giving a call we hadn't heard before, and they didn't even flinch! Nobody looked up at all! Now, I'm not expecting them to know the call, as I didn't until this bird turned up late last year, but even if you didn't know the call it would certainly stand out as something different and it would make you look up. Not these guys, obviously they weren't tuned in to bird calls at all.

We then headed to the water treatment works to check our feeders at our recently established feeding station and they were virtually empty, so some birds have found them, so fingers crossed for a ringing session soon.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Still Here and it's Still Windy

The weather is still appalling up here and I still haven't really been out birding other than to top up my feeding station. I know I should just quit moaning and get out there, but because of the weather I haven't had the enthusiasm! Things have been ticking over nicely at the feeding station with about 130 Tree Sparrows, 15 Chaffinches, six Yellowhammers, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and two Grey Partridges being regular visitors. On the way home today in the rain/sleet/snow I called in at the flood and there was a single Green Sandpiper and nothing else.

As I pulled up outside my house, when I got back, to reverse into my drive a Gull dropped to the pavement to pick up a food item and to my pleasant surprise it was an adult Med. Gull! I did have an adult Med.Gull winter round my area last winter and I saw it change into full summer plumage. Hopefully it is the same bird and it will do the same as last year.

I ran a workshop earlier in the week near Penrith in north Cumbria on behalf of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) on farmland bird identification. The aim was to hone farmers bird identification skills to help them take part in GWCT's 'Big Farmland Bird Count' in February. Although the intensification of agriculture is to blame for the decline in farmland bird populations, this count gives farmers the opportunity to deliver messages about the good work that is undoubtedly done by some farmers on their farms to encourage birds. All the farmers that came along to the workshop were very positive and interested in birds, and it was good to see.

The weather is going colder and calming down a bit over the next few days so some birding for me is definitely in order and I can't wait to get out there!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Beleaguered Buzzards In The Firing Line Again

My alternative blog title was "Is Richard McMorn An Idiot"?, but I am far too polite to say that. Who is Richard McMorn you may ask, and indeed you should ask! I was dismayed to read under 'News and Comment' in British Birds - January 2015 that a self-employed gamekeeper who has repeatedly applied to Natural England (NE) to 'control' Buzzards (what an idiot), has been granted permission for a judicial review of NE's decision to refuse him. And the name of this numpty is Richard McMorn.

Unsurprisingly his High Court action is backed by the National Gamekeepers' Organisation (NGO) and as BB states "no doubt bankrolled by the shooting community". Going back to that question of who is Richard McMorn I will quote directly from BB.

"In July 2013, Natural England received an application (presumably from Mr McMorn) under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act for a licence to cage-trap and shoot 16 Buzzards at four sites (I can think of somebody that requires cage-trapping and shooting!) where he rears Pheasants. The applicant also wanted to kill three Eurasian Sparrowhawks. The application was refused but the NE assessor accepted his claim that he was suffering predation from Buzzards and this was seriously affecting his livelihood".

A little bit more on Mr McMorn from the same piece in BB.

" Mr McMorn - or another gamekeeper called Richard McMorn and also from Ancroft in Northumberland  - previously appeared in these pages in November 2007 (Brit. Birds 100:687) when he was fined £600 by Berwick magistrates after he pleaded guilty to four pesticide offences. Two of the products involved were banned pesticides. One of these, carbofuran, was banned in 2001 and has consistently been the most regularly abused product for the preparation of illegal poison baits. The next bit is the best bit! McMorn claimed he had used this product for killing wasps, although this former agricultural pesticide was never approved for that purpose".

Killing wasps my arse! I think this gives a flavour as to the type of character that Mr McMorn is! I am not anti-shooting per se, but the antics and actions of idiots like McMorn will soon make me become anti-shooting and I guess that it is the same with a number of conservationists who currently tolerate legal shooting.

To quote BB again.

"It is this apparent inconsistency in the licensing process which led Mrs Justice Thirlwall to grant McMorn leave to bring a judicial review later this year. Another inconsistency in NE's stance towards Buzzard control is that the first-ever licence to destroy Buzzard nests was granted in the spring of 2013 to an applicant believed to be (you've guessed it) Mr McMorn. 

The NGO made a typical response and said:

"This case is about a gamekeeper who is trying to do the right thing within the law (really!) to address a real and serious threat to his livelihood". My heart bleeds!

So let's get this right. This numpty runs a business releasing large numbers of semi-tame non-native Pheasants for people to come along and blast for a giggle. And he wants to be able to shoot a legally protected native bird because they have taken a poult or two! Maybe he would like to shoot all the motorists that run over tens of thousands of Pheasants on the road every year?

I think it is time that some serious research is carried out into the effect of Pheasants on native fauna and flora. And not just Pheasants either, Red-legged Partridges too. A quick glance in Bird Atlas 2007 - 11 tells you that "it is estimated that 6.5 million Partridges (Grey and Red-legged) were released across the UK in 2004" and around 35 million Pheasants are released for shooting annually. Yes, that's 35 million! You can't tell me that they aren't having an effect on native fauna and flora.

The Bird Atlas states that there has been little research on the impacts of released birds on native species, but there is some evidence that shooting operations based on large-scale releases of Red-legged Partridges could be implicated in local extinctions of Grey Partridges. In addition to this high densities of Pheasants potentially have negative effects on native species, but again these have been poorly studied. 

I would also be interested to know what the cost is too the insurance industry annually from motorists claiming after damage to their vehicles from collisions with Pheasants, and I imagine there are a fair few motorists who have left the road and damaged their cars after swerving for Pheasants too.

I don't really want to say any more on the subject because it is making my blood boil. But I will say that I think the shooting industry is now under serious scrutiny and if it values its future it needs to clean up its act. I don't think the general public will tolerate such nonsense for much longer.

By the way I still haven't gout out birding this weekend. We are still subject to continual winds of 35 - 40 mph with heavy showers, which makes birding unpleasant and almost pointless as it is a struggle to see anything. Unfortunately the high tides are in the afternoon, otherwise I would have done some sea-watching. It is possible to sea-watch at low tide at the Obs, but it involves standing at a spot without any shelter at all and I think you'd soon give that up! Let's hope for some better weather soon.

Friday, 9 January 2015

End Of Year Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the final ringing totals of 2014 for Fylde Ringing Group. Only one new species was added this month and this was seven Coot ringed by Craig and Huw. Below you will find the top five ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers'.

Top Five Ringed In December

1. Blue Tit - 65
2. Goldfinch - 55
3. Chaffinch - 32
4. Great Tit - 27
5. Greenfinch - 10

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 712 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 347 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 240 (up from 4th)
4. Great Tit - 220 (down from 3rd)
5. Reed Warbler - 164 (same position)
6.Chaffinch - 142 (up from 7th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 118 (down from 6th)
8. Greenfinch - 114 (up from 9th)
9. Robin - 112 (down from 8th)
10. Reed Bunting - 108 (same position)

I apologise for a lack of posts of late, but the weather has been appalling up here in the northwest with near constant wind and rain! I have been going to my feeding station every other day, but all I have been doing is dashing down to it, making a feed drop and dashing back to my car. Tree Sparrow numbers seem fairly stable at about a hundred, with lesser numbers of Chaffinch and Yellowhammer.

The forecast for tomorrow looks equally grim with showers and a 30 - 35 mph westerly wind. It looks like it might brighten up for a while mid-morning before rain comes in again in the afternoon. I'll see if I can get out somewhere during that mid-morning windy, but hopefully dry spell.