Wednesday, 13 December 2017

No Two Days Are The Same

The past few days have been rather chilly here in Lancashire, as it has been throughout the rest of the UK. My Canadian family and friends would say "you call that cold"? And I suppose they're right, our cold snaps thankfully don't last too long.

Having said that it was still cold when I was out surveying on Monday, in fact I had clear skies and it was very frosty. There were a few birds on the short stretch of inter-tidal mud flats that I had to survey, and on the associated fields. Waders included 238 Curlews, 155 Lapwings, 28 Redshanks, three Snipe and eight Golden Plovers. There was less variety among the wildfowl and I recorded 118 Teal, nine Shelducks and five Mallards.

Little Egrets were ever-present, but I only had two, the same as the number of Grey Herons that I recorded. A brief bit of pandemonium set  in amongst the waders and wildfowl when an adult male Sparrowhawk shot along the edge of the saltmarsh before diving into a hedge!

The cold weather had brought in a few Thrushes and I had four Song Thrushes, 21 Blackbirds (13 males), six Mistle Thrushes and 47 Fieldfares. The only other raptor I had was a Kestrel, and conspicuous by their absence were Pink-footed Geese as I only had one fly over in three hours of observation!

Yesterday morning saw me joining Phil and Andy at their Linnet ringing site. We put the two single panel nets up in the wild bird seed crop and we managed to ring 13 out of what was probably a flock of 100 birds. Interestingly they haven't had a single recapture all winter even though they have ringed 250 birds so far this winter, and the flock size has never exceeded 250 birds! It just shows the incredible turnover of Linnets there must be at the site.


It's dreich outside as I type, but it's forecast to get colder and drier towards weekend again so hopefully I should be out on patch as well as surveying. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Cake, But No Hawfinch

Yesterday morning I dropped Gail off at a cake decorating workshop at the National Trust property Sizergh Castle in south Cumbria. Gail went Christmas cake decorating and I took myself off for a walk for a few hours. By the way Gail's cake looked fantastic and you can see a picture of it below. I can't wait to get stuck in to it with a bit of tangy cheese!

 Gail's professionally decorated cake; very proud of her!

It was a glorious crisp, frosty morning with clear skies. The views on my walk were superb with vistas out to the Howgills, Lakes and Morecambe Bay. Shortly after commencing my walk I walked through two large fields of unimproved grassland that were carpeted with ant hills, and sadly as you might expect they were an oasis in a Ryegrass desert! I made a note to myself to return in the summer and have a look at the profusion of wildflowers and butterflies, that I don't doubt will be there.


The Lakes

Ant hills (above & below)

As I walked across the car park a couple of Nuthatches called and I watched a male Bullfinch foraging in one of the trees. Bullfinches are scarce in the Fylde, so I always welcome the opportunity to connect with this gentlest of finches.

The two fields containing the ant hills also contained some Hawthorn scrub and thickets and I recorded one or two thrushes walking through these fields; 3 Song Thrushes, 3 Mistle Thrushes and 7 Redwings. I dropped down in to an area of woodland with some wide, recently cleared glades (management for Fritillary butterflies?) and I had a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a calling Marsh Tit. Again, Marsh Tits are scarce down in the Fylde, so it was good to see and hear. A single Buzzard later and I was back in the car park.

 Woodland path

Sadly I didn't observe any Hawfinches, but there's always another day. Today was about the walk and the views!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


I was undertaking a winter bird survey on some moss land in west Lancs yesterday and even though it was a cold grey day, I did quite enjoy myself.

As my blog title suggests Mistle Thrushes were a feature of the morning and I recorded 6 of these large, vocal thrushes. In fact one bird was singing, defending a winter feeding territory, and their singing during inclement weather in the winter months earned them their name of Stormcock!

 Mistle Thrush

Other Thrushes that I encountered during my survey were 36 Redwings, five Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and 67 Fieldfares. The Fieldfares and Redwings were associating with some finches feeding in a large field, and the finches included eleven Linnets, a Corn Bunting, 60 Chaffinches and a Yellowhammer. There was probably more of each species, but it was difficult to see into the field properly.

There was little in the hedgerows, although a flock of ten Long-tailed Tits was nice, and raptors were represented by a single Buzzard and a male Kestrel. A number of Pink-footed Geese were flying to and from feeding areas and I had 540 fly over my watch point.

On this day in 1993 I was ringing at a winter roost site we had then, in the grounds of a stately home. My notebook tells me that we recorded at least 400 Chaffinches roosting and ringed 63 birds including 53 Chaffinches and three Song Thrushes. I wish we could go back to those days!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Another Week Gone!

Last weekend the weather was horrendous; cold northerly winds both days with wind driven showers all day long! I didn't venture out as I couldn't motivate myself because of the weather. And then during the week Murphy's law kicks in and the weather is rather cold, but pleasant, and my birding is all to do with work.

Five sites surveyed during the week and to give you an idea of the habitats I was in it was mossland/farmland 4, estuary 0! So a clear victory to mossland/farmland sites, so that will give you an idea of the species I recorded.

My week kicked off with a fairly pleasant visit to some estuarine and associated habitats on a fairly overcast day, with the ever present north-northwesterly wind. This was my fourth visit to this site and my transect goes past a pond in some improved pasture, grazed within an inch of it's life and I haven't recorded anything on this pond to date. However, this time as I approached it I could hear the tinkling call of Teal and to my delight and surprise 26 of these cracking little ducks were on the pond!

I recorded one or two raptors on my survey and first up was a Merlin that I only got on as it headed high to the west across the fields. A Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk were also recorded as were eight Buzzards!

Out on the estuary a flock of 150 Lapwings and 354 Curlews was noteworthy, and I never get tired of Little Egrets, so eight in my notebook was a bonus as far as I'm concerned.

The following day I was out at first light on some intensive agricultural mossland. Pink-footed Geese were moving from their roost to feeding areas and 356 gave me a fly-past against frosty blue skies. Just thinking about the ground frost a Bumblebee that flew past me was a complete surprise!

 Pink-footed Geese

I had 14 of the Pink-feet's northern cousins, Whooper Swans, again moving from roost sites to feeding areas and like yesterday a few Buzzards, but this time just three. However, one of the Buzzards gave me a start for a quick second as it was a leucistic bird, and I had one of those "what the f*ck was that" moments as I scanned past it with my bins!

The finch flock out on the stubbles had reduced to just 41 and 10 respectively of Linnet and Goldfinch, and there was no sign of the Stonechats; presumably moved on by the cold weather. A flock of 33 Skylarks and a female Sparrowhawk rounded off the morning.

Flooded farmland

My third survey in as many days was on some more agricultural mossland. A species that doesn't usually make it in to my notebook did this morning as on some stubbles was a flock of 101 Feral Pigeons and 20 Stock Doves. I had a few Thrushes on this morning in the form of six Mistle Thrushes, nine Blackbirds and twelve Fieldfares.

I then had a couple of days surveying within some improved pasture and hedgerows, and nothing really stands out to tell you about. The coming week is full of more survey work, but I am really desperate to get on the patch now! In fact I was sorting some mist nets out on my drive this afternoon, so let's hope I get chance to use them next weekend!

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Working Week That Was

Most of my birding of late has been in order to keep the wolf from the door and I am in the middle of a number of wintering bird surveys. I'm not going to complain, but when it comes to weekend the weather hasn't played ball and I have struggled to get out. I think it's called sod's law, but I suppose I shouldn't complain as I am doing some birding!

About a week ago I was surveying inland at a farmland site, and it was fairly mundane, but as I am fond of saying there is always something to look at. On this particular morning there did seem to be good numbers of thrushes along the hedgerows and I counted 25 Blackbirds, 96 Fieldfares, two Redwings and two Song Thrushes.

Raptors were represented by a male and female Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard being mobbed by two Carrion Crows. Grey Wagtail and Siskin put in a appearance, as did six Tree Sparrows, so it wasn't all bad.

I have another survey site on some farmland adjacent to a tidal stretch of river and I was there a few days ago. Tree Sparrows were apparent here as well and I had ten going over on vis heading southwest. It never ceases to amaze me seeing these relatively sedentary farmland birds on the move in the autumn.

Thrushes weren't as obvious on this morning with 37 Fieldfares, seven Song Thrushes, five Redwings, a Mistle Thrush and another 25 Blackbirds, so actually fairly similar! Pink-footed Geese were moving between roosting and feeding sites and I had 2130 overhead in all directions. A Raven and three Siskins over made it in to my notebook as did three Little Egrets.

 Little Egret

The tide was in down on the estuary and there was limited mud available for any waders, consequently all I had was eleven Curlews, two Redshanks and eleven Snipe. A flock of ten Reed Buntings were in some Phragmites fringing a watercourse and 21 Whooper Swans flew northeast bugling away; magic!

 Reed Bunting

At the end of the week I was inland again on some mossland with intensive agriculture ranging from cereals to field vegetables. Two each of Kestrel and Buzzard flew the raptor flag and quite a number of Goldfinches were present. In total I had 64 Goldfinches and 25 of these were with 75 Linnets in some veg stubbles.

I rarely see Grey Partridge these days, so a covey of five was noteworthy, and a male and female Stonechat were still occupying a feeding territory in rank vegetation alongside a ditch and a pond. This vegetation would be harbouring over-wintering inverts, and therefore food for the Chats!


It's a mixed week weather-wise coming up, but fingers crossed I'll get out!

 The sun sets on another week of surveys

Saturday, 11 November 2017


This afternoon Ian and I headed to the reedbeds to try and ring some roosting Pied Wagtails. We had full cloud cover and 10 mph north-northwesterly wind. Whilst waiting for Ian to arrive I had a quick look on one of the pools and there was an impressive 59 Coots and the now ubiquitous calling Cetti's Warbler.

A couple of Goldcrests called from some willows adjacent to the reedbed and a female Sparrowhawk coasted across the pool. Another raptor made an appearance in the form of a Buzzard mobbed by Corvids heading towards the river.

Before the Pied Wags came in to roost we ringed a few Greenfinches that were on their way to roost in the water treatment works, and at least 30 or so showed some interest in the MP3 player. It was difficult to estimate the numbers of Wagtails roosting, but there must have been at least 180.


We ringed 29 birds as follows:

Greenfinch - 6
Pied Wagtail - 23

 Pied Wagtail

I'm not sure what to do in the morning as it is forecast for a brisk northwesterly. I'll see how many Orkney brewery beers I sample this evening and then make a decision!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

October's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of October. To date we have ringed 2,378 birds of 54 species. New additions for the year in October were Sparrowhawk, Fieldfare, Redwing and Mistle Thrush.

Below you will find the 'Top 5' ringed in October and the 'Top 10 Movers and Shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in October

1. Goldfinch - 62
2. Redwing - 54
3. Goldcrest - 50
4. Pied Wagtail - 45
5. Blue Tit - 32

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 264 (up from 2nd)
2. Linnet - 241 (down from 1st)
3. Blue Tit - 166 (up from 4th)
4. Swallow - 145 (down from 3rd)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 139 (up from 6th)
6. Goldcrest - 128 (up from 8th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 124 (down from 5th)
8. Great Tit - 96 (up from 10th)
9. Reed Warbler - 92 (down from 7th)
10. Chaffinch - 80 (straight in)