Thursday, 28 April 2016

When the north wind blows......... generally see b*gger all, especially in Spring! It has been cold this past week in the UK and yesterday was no exception when I was out surveying at a site in the north Pennines. I had virtual full cloud cover with a northerly breeze and it was cold. The picture below encapsulates how bleak it was!

It was quite a surreal experience hearing a Fieldfare calling at the same time as Willow Warblers! I didn't record a great deal but the best of very little included five Willow Warblers, a Fieldfare, a Siskin, a Linnet, two Lesser Redpolls, a Blackcap and a Buzzard.

Hopefully normal spring weather will return soon!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Wild Island

I've just finished reading 'Wild Island A Year in the Hebrides' by Jane Smith and I didn't want it to end!

If you're a fan of great wildlife art, the landscape of western Scotland, and descriptive and evocative writing this book is for you! The book is about the year in the life of a Hebridean island called Oronsay that is an RSPB nature reserve. The wildlife, farming and the people that live and work on the island feature in the book. I can't recommend this book highly enough. As a friend said to me today it is a book to escape in to when things in life are going pear-shaped! I couldn't agree more.

Below are just a couple of samples of the artwork to be found in the book. It's therapy for the soul; enjoy!

A Few For My Patchwork Challenge

I actually had a lie in until 5:45 a.m. this morning, so that was a bit of luxury, which meant I wasn't at the Obs until 6:15! It was a cold morning with clear skies and a 10 mph northeasterly wind.

For the first hour or so the only summer migrant I had encountered was a singing Lesser Whitethroat, but that changed when I added Tree Pipit, Swallow, Whimbrel, Sandwich Tern, House Martin, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler!

There was some vis this morning and I had 22 Linnets, nine Meadow Pipits, eleven Goldfinches, a Tree Pipit, two Alba Wags, twelve Lesser Redpolls, 16 Siskins, six Swallows and a House Martin.

 Meadow Pipit

A brief look on the sea produced two Great Crested Grebes, three male Eiders, seven Whimbrels north and 37 Sandwich Terns. Although not on or over the sea, a Little Egret fed briefly in a tidal pool on the beach until flushed by a....., you've guessed it,......a dog walker!

Little Egret

I had a look on the pools and this is where I had three singing Sedge Warblers and one each of singing Cetti's and Reed Warbler. The area surrounding the pools was infested with dog walkers and I was glad to get away!

There's some rain about tomorrow morning and if I have one less beer tonight and set my alarm a little earlier I might get an hour or so before it rains. It's still going to be cold and northerly though! 

Friday, 22 April 2016

Redstart Country

For the past few days I have been working in Cumbria and the majority of that time has been towards the north of the county. I've been lucky with the weather as it has been glorious most of the time, although most mornings have started off with a ground frost.

 Some of the views I have enjoyed this week (above & below)

Living on the Fylde plain of Lancashire Redstarts are a species that I only connect with during migration periods, so it has been nice to see several singing males on my travels. I haven't seen anything particularly outstanding during my surveys but lumping all the sites together some of the highlights have been 13 Willow Warblers, six Siskins, two Tree Sparrows, 21 House Sparrows, four Blackcaps, two Song Thrushes, two Chiffchaffs, three Stock Doves, twelve Lesser Redpolls, nine Redstarts (all males), two Green Woodpeckers, a Yellowhammer, 22 Linnets, four Buzzards, a Grey Partridge, 78 Sand Martins, a Sparrowhawk, a Wheatear, five Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Goldcrest.

Pied Wagtail

I'm back on the patch again tomorrow but I'm going to treat myself to a 5:30 a.m. lie in so I can have a couple of beers!

Monday, 18 April 2016

Clear Out

When Kim and I did some ringing at the Obs yesterday we had clear skies, a ground frost and no wind. It was obvious it was a 'clear out' morning and we didn't expect any grounded migrants, and in that respect we weren't disappointed. Any ringing we did would be linked to playback calls on the MP3 players.

Where we have our nets is only 0.5 km from the coast, but it is enough to reduce the volume of vis and due to the crystal clear conditions any vis we had was very high. Therefore the vis totals were both disappointing and unrepresentative, and just included six Linnets, four Meadow Pipits, 13 Siskins, a Short-eared Owl, 15 Lesser Redpolls and a Swallow.

We only ringed five birds and all were Lesser Redpolls!

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Pecker

Saturday morning saw me heading north to north Cumbria for a bird survey and on the way I had great views of a snow covered north Lakes and then cracking views over the Solway to Scotland from the site itself. It was cold with four oktas cloud cover and a 5 mph north-northwesterly wind.

 Uldale Fells 

The Solway and Scotland

The breeding bird survey didn't show up anything spectacular but I did have a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, five Tree Sparrows, three Buzzards, a Song Thrush and two Stock Doves.

Tree Sparrow

House Sparrow 

The best bird of the morning was just as I was taking my boots off and about to leave, and I heard a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It was calling from the top of a few mature trees between me and some very nice woodland. As I lifted my bins it stopped calling and I couldn't see it. Unfortunately it must have flown at the exact moment I lifted my bins; I think it's called sods law! This was the first 'Lesser Pecker' I had seen for a few years, but it was a typical date and also in a typical location!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Wot No Migrants!

I've had a busy week this week with early starts and late nights and this morning was my first opportunity for a bit of leisurely birding. I decided to see if there were any migrants around and first went to the cemetery. The cemetery is a good barometer of whether there are any migrants about and often that first impression is correct and my first impression this morning was that it was very quiet. No calling phylloscs, oh dear I thought!

 Dunnock; one of the resident breeders.

I trawled round the cemetery without any results other than the usual resident breeders. I decided to have a look in the coastal park just in case the quietness of the cemetery was a fluke. And it wasn't with the only migrant being a single Goldcrest!

It's going cold and northerly this weekend, particularly tomorrow, but the wind is easing into Sunday so this might briefly unblock things, we'll see!