Sunday, 15 July 2018

Sylvias Still Dominate...Just

This morning I met Graham and Ian at 5:30 a.m. for another ringing session at one of the pools at the Obs. We were greeted with 6 oktas cloud cover and a 10 mph southeasterly wind. The cloud cover gave some welcome cool relief to the recent hot weather, but within an hour or so the sun dispersed the cloud and it was a tad warm again!

There were a few more signs of autumn this morning including the first few Pied Wagtails flying over, dispersing from their overnight roost. On the subject of Wagtails a single Grey Wagtail over was another autumnal sign, as was the single Snipe that left the pools to head out towards the river/saltmarsh to feed.

From a birding perspective the pickings were slim and trying to pick out some highlights from my notebook isn't easy. Grasshopper Warblers always delight and a distant 'reeling' bird brought a smile to my face, as did a Great Spotted Woodpecker that dropped in to some Willows. Formerly scarce at the Obs, they still turn my head because of this!

We ringed thirteen birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 3 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (1)
Blackcap - 3
Whitethroat - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Wren - 1
Song Thrush - 1


 Cetti's Warbler

Last weekend it was a real Sylvia fest with 57% of the catch being Sylvia warblers. This week the percentage of Sylvia had dropped to 46%, but they still dominated...just!

Work and a beer festival in The Lakes towards weekend will curtail my natural history outings this week, but I do have a bird survey or two to do in north Cumbria so hopefully there will be something to fill my notebook with and ultimately make it on to here!

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Garden Inverts

Sadly I haven't been birding this week, but fingers crossed that will be remedied tomorrow. During the week on various excursions into the garden to look for invertebrates I spotted a humble Greenbottle Fly that looked reasonably photogenic i.e. it would remain still long enough for me to snap it! I grabbed my camera and took a few shots and below is the result of one of the better cropped pics!

Greenbottle Fly

I ran my moth for the first time in a while last night and out of the catch managed to identify fourteen moths of nine species as follows:

Dot Moth - 2
Common Wainscot - 1
Common Rustic - 4
Buff Arches - 1
Large Yellow Underwing - 2
Riband Wave - 1
Heart and Dart - 1
Garden Carpet - 1
True Lover's Knot - 1

 True Lover's Knot

The True Lover's Knot was a first for my garden and totally unexpected. They are usually found on lowland heathland and upland moorland, so basically acid habitat with heather sp. A quick conversation with Pete informed me that there had been a few records recently in lowland Lancs probably caused by easterly/katabatic winds. These are winds that blow down from higher ground out on to plains or valleys. I did wonder that whether some of these fires on moorland areas of Greater Manchester and Lancashire, combined with easterly winds, had displaced them from their upland habitat. Whatever the reason for its occurrence it was a nice addition to my garden fauna!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Reedbed Monitoring

It was great to be back in the reedbeds at the Obs this morning, albeit very early! This was our first ringing session in this habitat of the autumn, yes it's autumn in the bird world now, and when I met Ian at first light we were greeted with clear and calm conditions. The idea was to have a couple of hours ringing before the temperatures got up.

As you all know it was a very cold and late spring and large numbers of migrants either didn't make it back to the UK or started very late with their breeding cycle. It is going to be interesting to see what sort of results we have in terms of our catches, particularly the ratio between adult and juvenile birds. Of course after just one ringing session it is impossible to draw any conclusions.

We had a reasonable catch of 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Wren - 2
Chiffchaff - 2
Willow Warbler - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 8
Reed Warbler - 2 (1)
Blackcap - 8
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Goldfinch - 1


So out of the 28 birds ringed 21 were juveniles and the rest adults, which is what you would expect at this time of year.

The birding was quiet other than a flock of twelve Lapwings that we put up driving through the site, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, a group of twelve Swallows (exiting a roost?) and a distant Green Sandpiper calling from the river.

That was the first early morning out of the way, so I am looking forward to more early starts over the coming weeks. Honestly!

Sunday, 1 July 2018

First Moths For A While

Friday into Saturday I ran my garden moth trap for the first time in a couple of weeks and caught thirteen moths of nine species. Well, I actually caught more than that but I don't attempt to identify many of the micro moths; shame on me I know!

The moths I recorded were as follows:

Angle Shades - 1
Buff Ermine - 1
Large Yellow Underwing - 2
Gothic - 1
Bright-line Brown-eye - 1
Heart and Dart - 2
Dot Moth - 2
Green Pug - 1
Common Marbled Carpet - 2

Buff Ermine

 Angle Shades

Saturday, 30 June 2018


Tuesday evening found Huw and Me at our good friends Diana and Robert's farm to hopefully ring a brood of Kestrels from a box that Robert put up on the edge of his woodland. We have ringed the Kestrel chicks from this box for the last two years, so fingers were crossed on Tuesday evening.

Prior to me going away on holiday we had checked the box and the female Kestrel was sitting, so we had high hopes that when I got back there would be chicks and that they would be big enough to ring. Huw went up to the box and there were three chicks, plus one egg. The chicks were probably somewhere in the region of 10-12 days old so there was no chance of the egg hatching. The three chicks were duly ringed and placed back in the box.


We headed up to the yard to check the Barn Owl box that Robert has up in the barn. We've ringed the Barn Owl chicks from this box for six years now.Prior to me going on holiday we had checked the box and there was just two small young, perhaps just 3 - 4 days old, and we did wonder whether there was some more yet to hatch. When we checked the box on Tuesday evening we found it empty!

It was obvious that the box had been predated, but by what? A few culprits sprang to mind with Jackdaw being top of the list. In the same barn as the Barn Owl box a pair of Jackdaws were nesting and they are more than capable of taking eggs or small chicks. Other possibilities could be Little or Tawny Owl, both of which are found on the farm. It's very sad as this might be this pair's only nesting attempt this year.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Eyed Hawkmoth

Earlier in the week, Monday to be precise, Gail and I were giving our two Oriental cats one of their daily walks in the garden when Woody (see picture of Woody below) found an Eyed Hawkmoth close to the Apple tree.


 Eyed Hawkmoth

Eagle eyed Stewart in Northumberland contacted me to say that the Eyed Hawkmoth was a female based on the width and pointed end to the abdomen; thanks Stewart!

On Tuesday morning Gail went out into the garden to have a look at the Apple tree to see if the Hawkmoth was still there, after me saying that it wouldn't be as it would have moved on during the night. A delighted shout from Gail at the bottom of the garden saying that there wasn't one, but two Eyed Hawkmoths now! Mrs Hawkmoth had presumably now been joined by a Mr!

 Eyed Hawkmoths

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Castles And Old Kings

Gail and I have just got back from a weeks holiday in Aberdeenshire on the edge of the eastern Cairngorms. We had a fantastic week and the weather remained dry throughout. Normally we go to western Scotland, but this year we fancied a change and the chance of some better weather perhaps. Having said that my heart still belongs to western Scotland!

Our first port of call on the Sunday following our rain soaked journey north was to Craigievar Castle. This castle is the castle that Walt Disney based his castle on. This is really a trivial fact of a castle so full of history, but our guide did make us laugh when she said on one tour an American lady said to her that the Walt Disney castle must have been the inspiration for the building of Craigievar! She obviously wasn't listening to the guide when she was told that Craigievar was built in 1570! Americans!

 Craigievar Castle

In this part of Aberdeenshire there is a lot of arable land and it was quite different to see arable crops growing in what was quite hilly land. As a result of this Tree Sparrows were around in good numbers and so too were Yellowhammers. We had a number of Tree Sparrows and Yellowhammers at Craigievar and one pair of Tree Sparrows were nesting high up on the side of the castle. House Martins nested all over the castle as well, and in the woodland surrounding the castle we had a Spotted Flycatcher.

On the Monday we visited Kinnaird Head Lighthouse and Scottish Lighthouse Museum. There was a constant passage past the lighthouse at sea of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Sandwich Terns. Most of these species would be from Troup Head a few miles further west where Scotland's largest mainland Gannet colony is located.

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse. Robert Stevenson built a lighthouse tower 
through the medieval castle!

Troup Head was spectacular and the Gannets even more spectacular. Below are a few pics to give you an idea of the atmosphere of the place, but the one thing you won't get is that characteristic smell of a seabird colony!

Close to Troup Head is the beautiful former fishing village of Pennan. Driving down the narrow road from the top of the cliffs to the village, with lots of hairpin bends, reminded me of some of the fishing villages in Cornwall.

During the week we visited Brodie Castle and having cake and coffee outside in the late afternoon sunshine the cheeky wee male Chaffinch below stole cake crumbs from our plates!

 Brodie Castle

One of Gail's passions is history and when we are on holiday we try and indulge in as much history and archaeology as we can. On a dreich afternoon (the only one) we visited Whitehill Stone Circle that is set in a Forestry commission forest clearing. The walk up to the stone circle was along a track through the forest and along the forest edge there is always an element of the natural woodland that would occur in this area, and this is where any birds will be found. We encountered two Blackcaps, two Goldcrests, three Coal Tits, two Willow Warblers, a Siskin, a Lesser Redpoll and a pair of Bullfinches.

 Willow Warbler

Whitehill Stone Circle

On our last full day in Aberdeenshire we spent the morning at Muir of Dinnet NNR. At the heart of the Reserve are Lochs Davan and Kinord, with their near pure water and associated bogs and fens providing ideal habitat for a wide mix of species; from rare water beetles to the elusive Otter, feeding and breeding on the reserve. During winter, the lochs are an important roost site, attracting migrating geese and other wildfowl.

Dry heaths, including the internationally important Bearberry heath, thrive on the drier hummocky ground. The heaths support rare moths, such as the Netted Mountain and cousin German, and in summer are home to ground nesting birds, such as Curlew and Meadow Pipit. Young pine and birch now cover large areas of the reserve and provide an interesting transition from open heath, young scrub to pine and Birch woodland. These woodlands also support a rich variety of invertebrates and breeding birds including, the Kentish Glory moth, Wood Warbler and Chaffinch.

Gail and I did a circular walk from the visitor centre through the woodland, around the lochs and back. Just to rewind before we arrived at the visitor centre we passed a recently cut silage field and a Red Kite was flying low over the field, presumably looking for carrion. Later on our walk we saw the Red Kite again.

Walking through the woodland we had a number of birds including two calling Cuckoos, one of which we got fleeting views of as it flew through the open woodland.

Birch and Pine Woodland

Other species we recorded included five Siskins, a Goldcrest, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, eight Willow Warblers, a singing Garden Warbler, two Coal Tits, a Song Thrush, a Lesser Redpoll, six Long-tailed Tits, a juvenile Yellowhammer, four Reed Buntings, 170 Lapwings in a field adjacent to the woodland and two Goldeneyes on the loch.

 Amongst the 170 Lapwings were some large flying young, like this one

There was a number of invertebrates abroad including lots of Chimney Sweeper moths and Common Blue Damselflies.

 Common Blue Damselflies

Along the woodland path we came across this Oak Eggar Moth caterpillar below that proceeded to demonstrate that it could cross anything in it's path!

I'll finish with a few miscellaneous pictures of places we visited that I haven't covered above.
 Acorn Bothy; the cottage we stayed in
 Celtic Cross at Muir of Dinnet NNR
Howe of Cromar