Monday, 22 December 2014

If It Wasn't For Todd It Would Hardly Have Been Worth Posting

There was a mid-morning tide today and the wind had blown quite a strong southwesterly all night, so the only option was to do some sea watching. I got to the tower just as it was coming light, a leisurely 0815 at the moment, and set out my stall. I had full cloud cover and the wind was a good 30 mph southwesterly. Just some of the ingredients required for a decent sea watch, the missing ingredient being the visibility, and the visibility was absolutely awful!

I could see no more than a few hundred metres out to sea and consequently all I had was eleven Cormorants, two Eiders and a male Red-breasted Merganser! After just over an hour of this incredible pelagic action I decided to go and try and find the Geese as Ian had two Todd's Canada Geese amongst them yesterday. Sure enough I found the 'Pinkies' pretty quickly and in the throng were the two Canada's.

I had a quick look on the Distinguishing Cackling and Canada Goose article on the 'Sibley Guides' website and they seemed to fit the description there pretty well:

"B. c. interior – Hudson Bay Canada Goose – Similar in size to canadensis, mantle somewhat browner and darker, with dark continuing uninterrupted to black of neck, feather edges on dorsum average darker, contrasting less with black of neck, breast light to medium grayish towards slaty gray."

 Some dodgy shots (above & below) of the Todd's Canada Geese. The light
was awful and they were quite a long way from the road; that's my excuse 

There was probably about 450 Pink-footed Geese in the field and whilst I was watching the Geese five Whooper Swans flew over. 

The forecast is similar for tomorrow, but not quite as windy, and high tide will be nearer lunchtime. I have to feed my Tree Sparrows tomorrow, so I'll decide what I'm going to do birding wise when I've stuck my head out of the door in the morning and had a peek at the weather.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Bird Photographers

I suppose I'm a bird photographer because when I'm out birding, if I can, I like to take photographs of some of the birds I'm watching. So based on that description a lot of us are bird photographers, or we certainly like taking photographs of birds to enrich our birding and make digital memories for a future date. The difference between my bird photography and the ignorant tosser who walked the full length of the beach today flushing waders is that I respect the birds welfare and I guess that you do too.

Ian and I were seawatching from the observation tower when we could hear waders alarm calling and we just assumed that it was yet another dog walker walking along the beach allowing their mutt to flush the roosting waders. Looking down we were surprised (or perhaps not) to see a, I don't think I can call him a birder, a 'bird photographer' perhaps, walking all the way along the beach flushing Oystercatchers, Sanderlings, Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. He had all the characteristic gear and abysmal field craft of a bird photographer. First up he had no bins, just a whopping great big lens that was covered in camouflage webbing! Of course when you get a top notch tosser flushing every avian creature within 200 yards a bit of camouflaged webbing on his lens is going to make all the difference! I don't know why these clowns don't carry bins, perhaps they don't think they need them because they like to be able to sit right next to the bird and take photographs of the birds eyelid colour with their huge penis extensions, sorry I mean lenses.

This 'character' walked all the way along the beach, perhaps some 500 metres, negotiating groynes, crunching on shingle, until he got to where he thought his 'quarry' was and then headed back. Suddenly he dropped to the deck and became a fully fledged member of the SAS and started to stalk whatever he was after. That bit of camouflage webbing on his lens would have made all the difference of course allowing him to get close to the poor wretched creature that he was trying to fill his viewfinder with. Fast forward some time and he must have been pleased with his efforts as he trotted back along the shore 'high-fiving' a fellow bird flusher! We'll re-visit this character in a bit when we had a close encounter with him and his behaviour got even worse!

It was a fairly blustery old morning with full cloud cover and a 25 - 30 mph WNW wind. It was quieter on the sea than expected and the northerly element was probably to blame, well that's my excuse anyway. Our totals included twelve Eiders, two Wigeons, 15 Pintails, 25 Teal, two Auk sp., a Great Crested Grebe, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Shelduck, two Red-throated Divers and four Kittiwakes.

After perhaps an hour and a half we headed to the Point to count the waders and seemed to have got caught up in a bit of a throng of bird photographers who were moving from the picnic area (where they could be seen  harassing the Shore Lark and our 'new friend' was amongst them) to the shore. I'm guessing they had flushed the Shore Lark after getting too close, which they do on a daily basis by the way, and now wanted to annoy it some more on the beach.

Walking out along the seafront saw our intrepid bird photographer walking the other way. We stopped to count the 50 Sanderling and 44 Ringed Plover and there feeding close in front of us was the 1st winter female Snow Bunting. Suddenly 'bird photo' saw us watching the Snow Bunting and he came running back towards us. He then stood in front of us, jumped over the sea wall and started to run along the beach behind the groyne towards the Snow Bunting. Of course the bird flushed and some half-wit with 'bird photo' shouted "it's flying, it's flying"! I thought "there's no flies on you f*ckface is there"? Before either of us killed somebody we headed back down the Point.

Unsurprisingly the Snow Bunting came 'high tailing' over our heads (obviously flushed by this by now getting seriously tedious idiot) and landed on the beach close to us. Again we were enjoying our views of this cracking little bird when the tedious idiot returned and by now I'd had enough of him. He was about to jump on to  the beach again and I gave him some advice which was basically telling him in language that he would understand that he was to get off the beach and let the Snow Bunting have a chance to feed. Did the advice work? Well it did for as long as we were there, but as we walked away he was back on the beach. What a complete and utter tosser! He needed his big lens taking off him and shoving it sideways where the sun doesn't shine!

It's forecast to be windy again tomorrow, so it will probably be some more seawatching for me, hopefully without the distractions of more bird photographers!

Friday, 19 December 2014


I didn't have time for any birding this morning, but the reason I didn't have time was birding related. I had to make a feed drop at my feeding station before heading to the West Pennines for a meeting with Huw and Ian to discuss some potential ringing projects in that area in the form of nest boxes and feeding stations.

Over the past couple of days I have noticed a few more Redwings around on the quiet and on Wednesday morning when I went in to my garden before it was light a couple of Redwings flew from my Apple tree. This morning as I headed to my feeding station I noticed a number of Redwings in the hedgerows alongside the lanes that weren't there a couple of days ago.

As I walked down to the feeding station, in cold horizontal squally rain, I kept flushing ones and twos from the feeding station hedge and then I had a flock of fifty go over. This theme continued after I left the feeding station and headed to the West Pennines. I was meeting Huw and Ian at Roddlesworth Reservoir, and in the surrounding hedgerows were a number of Redwings. So it looks like there has been a bit of an arrival of Redwings into the northwest.

Redwing - coming to a hedgerow near you!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Beating Those Birding Blues

At last my Man Flu has subsided enough enabling me to get out to the feeding station yesterday and to do a bit of birding this morning. I must admit I'm not out of the woods yet, but I had to get out to beat those birding blues.

Numbers of birds at the feeding station seem to have dropped off a little of late and I am assuming it is because of the mild weather we are having at the moment. When it was cold the apples were going down and now these are hardly being touched. Totals yesterday included four Yellowhammers, seven Chaffinches and 55 Tree Sparrows.

I had a couple of 'odds and sods' walking down to the feeding station including a Buzzard, a Whooper Swan and a Mistle Thrush which isn't overly regular here. On my way home I called at the flood and there were no Redshanks and just one Green Sandpiper.

It hasn't seemed to get light today and I can't believe that 'birding light' isn't really until nearer half past eight at the moment, mind you we are in spitting distance of the shortest day of the year now! So why I got to the Point not much after eight I'm not sure! I headed to the observation tower, found some shelter, had a coffee, had another coffee and finally it was light enough to have a look on the sea.

It was very murky out at sea and consequently it was hard work, so I only spent an hour there, and didn't see a great deal. Best of a meagre bunch was a Shag that flew in to the Bay and an adult Med Gull that flew out. Other than that I had just two Red-breasted Mergansers and ten Eiders.

After a coffee at Ian's and half an hour putting the birding world to rights, particularly those pesky bird photographer types who are continually harassing the Shore Lark at the minute, it was time to head home. The forecast isn't the best over the next few days, but on Saturday we might be able to get to the Finch roost. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Man Flu!

Once again I have been laid low these past few days with man flu and today with a temperature of 39 I felt pretty shite! In fact I didn't even have a beer last night and if I don't have a beer on a Saturday night then there is something wrong! So my reason for posting is to let you know my reason for not posting of late. You'll be pleased to hear that as I write this I am feeling a little better and I hope normal service will be resumed in the next couple of days! Mind you I don't know what that normal service will be as the forecast is pretty dire for the coming week.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Any News From The Feeding Station?

The answer to that question is not a lot really. I have been visiting every other day over the past week and it has been fairly steady with counts of ten Yellowhammers, 62 Tree Sparrows and seven Chaffinches. There's been up to two Buzzards regularly, but these have been the only raptors. I've been putting some apples down and this past week they've started going and when I called the other day two Fieldfares were feeding on them, so it would be nice to hold a few of them at the feeding station. Another couple of visitors on the same morning were two Grey Partridges and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the woodland.

Talking of feeding stations, or in this case potential feeding stations, Ian and I carried out a recce of a secure site within the Obs recording area this afternoon, with a view to a first ringing session this coming weekend. We located some potential net rides for general ringing and also an area to operate a feeding station. The beauty of this site is that there is so much cover we will be able to operate mist nets in virtually any wind direction or strength! Another plus is that the site has a decent Greenfinch roost and this afternoon we located the roost and there were at least 300 Greenfinches, 30 - 40 Goldfinches and perhaps a dozen or more Linnets coming in, so I might have some more news on that at weekend.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

November Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of November and we have ringed 3,036 birds of 56 birds. Four new species were newly ringed for the year during the month and these were Kingfisher (1), Grey Wagtail (3), Redwing (7) and Starling (1). As usual I have listed below the 'Top 5' ringed for the month and the 'Top 10 Movers and Shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed for the Month

1. Reed Bunting - 52
2. Blue Tit - 50
3. Chaffinch - 33
4. Goldfinch - 28
5. Long-tailed Tit - 23

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 712 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 284 (same position)
3. Great Tit - 193 (same position)
4. Goldfinch - 185 (up from 5th)
5. Reed Warbler - 164 (down from 4th)
6. Meadow Pipit - 118 (same position)
7. Chaffinch - 110 (up from 10th)
8. Robin - 108 (down from 7th)
9. Greenfinch - 104 (down from 8th)
    Reed Bunting - 104 (straight in)

Over the next month it is likely that the top two will remain the same, but there is a chance that Goldfinch will push ahead of Great Tit in to third place as Andy and Phil have been ringing quite a few at their upland feeding station. Reed Warbler is probably fairly safe in 5th spot, but Meadow Pipit could easily be overtaken before the end of the year by Chaffinch, and perhaps even by Robin. I think Greenfinch and Reed Bunting are likely to remain in similar positions at the bottom of the table, unless there is another species 'bubbling under' that could come straight in and usurp one of them!

By the end of last year we had ringed 3245 birds so we are just 209 birds short of last year's total. This means that there is a chance we could beat last year's total  by the end of 2014, but we will need the weather on our side.

To give you an idea what we have ringed each month, below are the totals by month for the year so far:

Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov
27     41     40       93     173     169   429  641    794   300   329

So September has been our best ringing month, in terms of totals, so far this year which isn't surprising.