Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Normal Service Resumed - Well Almost, 31st December 2008

The plan was to do some ringing at Lee Farm near Myerscough College this morning but as soon as we met on site we decided to call it off because of the freezing fog. I called at Moss House Farm on my way home as I was a little concerned at the lack of Tree Sparrows yesterday. It was early when I called, (0815) in terms of light and I also thought that the fog may have prevented some of them from flying from their roost to the feeding station. So I was very pleased to note 40 birds feeding on the seed.

Interestingly Will went back to Lee Farm later in the morning to do some habitat management work and there were large numbers of Chaffinch (which he had noted earlier flying in from a roost at Myerscough College) and no Tree Sparrows. I think this just confirms the fact that if they are roosting off site they are not prepared or can't fly from roost to a feeding area that is any distance away when it is foggy.

Even though you have seen the picture below before I thought I would include it again.

I would just like to wish all my readers, fellow bloggers and birders everywhere a prosperous and above all bird-filled New Year!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

From Moss To Mere, 30th December 2008

This morning I was meeting an old friend at Marton Mere for a morning's birding at 10.30 a.m., so it gave me just enough time to get to Moss House Farm on Rawcliffe Moss to feed before I had to meet him. I should have gone yesterday to Moss House to feed but couldn't because there was a shoot on. As I walked down the track to the feeding station it was obvious there were very few birds about, probably a combination of me being here early before the Tree Sparrows arrived and not getting to feed yesterday. What I normally do when there is a shoot on is go the day before to feed, even if it is only the day after I last fed, to make sure the food doesn't run out, but this time I forgot! I only had 12 Tree Sparrows on the seed with a similar number of Chaffinch. I had another 60-70 Chaffinch as I left the farm feeding in a stubble field close to the barn.

As you know I have been putting apples out as well as seed and it was interesting to watch a Fieldfare this morning defending a single apple from a Blackbird! Talking of Fieldfares I had an additional 34 feeding in a damp area of stubble in the 'big field'. The soil in this field is peat and as it was quite damp I imagine the Fieldfares were managing to find invertebrates. Over a thousand Starling were feeding in the adjacent field which has a similar soil type with wet conditions.

There were still plenty of Woodpigeons about, but only 892 instead of the several thousand there has been recently. I had single Buzzard and a 1st winter male Sparrowhawk that flew along the track in front of my car skimming the ground as I drove off site. In addition to the Fieldfares in the 'big field' there were also 22 Skylarks representing a mini influx probably due to the hard weather.

Three Corn Buntings, 39 Goldfinch and the usual pair of Stonechat made up the rest of a brief visit.

Next stop was Marton Mere to meet an old birding and school friend of mine. We had a mooch round for a couple of hours and saw a few of the Mere winter specialities including single Bittern, 2 Water Rails and 4 Long-eared Owls. A good selection of wildfowl were on a patch of unfrozen water close to the island and included approximately 300 Teal, male and female Ruddy Duck, 8 Gadwall and 14 Shoveler.

As we saw Long-eared Owl I thought that I would show you the picture below of one in the hand from my good friend Nigel in Canada.

Monday, 29 December 2008

No Purple Sands Yet, 29th December 2008

This morning I had a very chilly birding session at Rossall Point. The wind was coming from the southeast and it was bitterly cold. I was very grateful for the fact that I was wearing what I call my 'winter sea watching pants' as they are fleece lined and very warm. In fact I shall be wearing them when out birding tomorrow. It was very much a case of the right trousers today.

It was low tide when I arrived at Rossall and quite a few waders were feeding out on the shore or on the shingle and included 41 Turnstones, 27 Redshanks, 17 Grey Plovers, 391 Oystercatchers, 1,403 Sanderlings, 500 Dunlin and 21 Ringed Plover. The group of 500 Dunlin were my largest flock for some time and these flew very quickly east with some Sanderling.

It was obvious that the numbers of Eiders had increased and this morning I counted 132 'bobbing' on the sea. A flock of 10 passing Common Scoters were attracted to them and they dropped in with the Eiders for a few minutes before continuing west. Three Red-throated Divers were about as were 9 Red-breasted Mergansers, single Great Crested Grebe and Razorbill. Two Teal looked odd, as they always do, when they flew in and landed on the sea.

The usual flock of Linnet were feeding amongst the tidal debris and today they numbered 11. I then went to the Marine Lakes when the tide was in to see if I could get a roosting Purple Sandpiper with the Redshank and Turnstone on the island. I counted 161 Turnstone and 118 Redshank, but no Purple Sandpiper. Below is a photograph of the Redshank and Turnstone roosting on the island.

Blackbird Bonanza, 28th December 2008

This morning I was ringing at a site near Lancaster where fellow member of Fylde Ringing Group Will has been operating a feeding station over the past two winters. The site holds good numbers of Blackbirds and as well as feeding there the habitat also looks good for a roost. We managed to ring 17 Blackbirds and retrap 7. The range in weights and wing lengths of the Blackbirds was incredible from a minimum of 96g to a maximum of 121g weight and a minimum 122mm to a maximum 140mm wing length. We also caught a good variety of woodland species but of interest were 2 Nuthatch and I have included a picture of one below.

Birding is fairly difficult at the site as in places it is quite enclosed but 2 Bullfinch were good.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Distraction from 'Her Indoors', 27th December 2008

It's always very difficult to bird properly when 'her indoors' comes with you and this morning was a classic example. I went to Rawcliffe Moss to feed and Gail (see, she does have a name!) decided to come with me for "the walk". Now, immediately you can see how it is all going to go wrong. Instead of birding it has become a 'walk' which means that a constant steady pace will be undertaken on a route around the moss. No pishing along a hedge; no stopping every 10 yards and straining your ears to see if you can catch the call of that over-flying passerine; no stopping to count every bird in that flock of 'Pink-feet'. I could go on, but I think that you have got the message. So below are some of the brief highlights from our walk.

A few Pink-feet were moving around this morning but not as many as in recent weeks, but I still had 1,225. I don't think there is anything better than the call of Pink-feet to evoke the feeling of wildness other than the call of Whooper Swans and we had both this morning as 15 Whooper Swans went over.

In the 'big field' we put a few Snipe up from a wet 'hole', 13 in total, and put another 5 up from another wet field. I made a mental note of where the Snipe were and I will check to see if they build up or not. There could be a ringing opportunity possibly.

Three Buzzards were around this morning as was a single Kestrel, but that was it on the raptor front. Now the point I was trying to make with regard to being distracted by 'her indoors' concerned my counting of the Tree Sparrows. Instead of stealthily working my way along the hedge and stopping every few yards to count departing birds we were down the track like an express train because she was cold and needed to warm up! So I had to try and count them as they exited the hedge enmasse! Therefore the figure of 130 in my notebook is definitely an under estimate.

Corn Buntings haven't built up as yet and today we only had 5. Forty Linnets were still feeding in the field to the north of Curlew Wood but the Goldfinch seem to have left them and all I had was two groups of 8 and 3 feeding elsewhere. The male and female Stonechats were still remaining faithful to the margins of the track and ditch and could be seen perched up on posts before forays to the ground to look for invertebrates.

The Woodpigeons are still around and today's count of 1,160 is more a reflection of birds feeding and not being countable rather than any reduction in numbers. It was pleasing to see covey's of 10 and 2 Grey Partridge as they have been rather scarce this autumn and winter.

Today's seasonal picture is of a Great Horned Owl in the hand in Canada of course!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Two Shags Christmas Morning..., 25th December 2008

...And they were both adults flying west. I know what you were all thinking; you thought that I had gone all school boy humourish on you didn't you? I sort of wish that I could have had the Shags on 1st January as it would have been a good start for my year list as I don't always record them every year at Fleetwood.

I had to get out this morning as it always gives me satisfaction to get 25th December in my notebook. I think the reason for this is that it almost conveys a sense of normality at a time when the world seems to go mad with the nonsense of Christmas. Thank f*ck it's over for another year!

It dawned quite murky at Rossall Point this morning. One of those mornings where it was difficult to differentiate the sea with the sky and birds on the sea looked as though they were swimming in the sky! Most surreal! Anyway because of this murkiness I didn't see a great deal other than the two Shags of course.

A few waders were on the shore including 379 Oystercatchers, 66 Sanderlings, single Turnstone and 29 Ringed Plovers. You will see below the results of my efforts to photograph Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. As the usual the 'bird scarers' were out. One guy said good morning to me, climbed over the sea wall down across the beach and walked his dog straight through some roosting Oystercatchers. Bastard!

On the sea it was very quiet, or should I say that I could see knob all because of the mist. However, I did have 2 Eiders and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers. The morning was completed by 17 Linnets feeding along the tidal wrack. I did attempt a few photographs but they were even more awful than those above!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Last Ringing Session Before Christmas, 24th December 2008

Today four of us had a last ringing session at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss and only managed to ring 10 birds! However, one of the ten was a new ringing record for the site and a ringing tick for our trainee Will. I have included a picture of said beasty below. The Magpie, not Will!

The Tree Sparrows were as usual successful in avoiding the nets and other than the Magpie the 10 birds were mainly made up of Chaffinch. There were still large numbers of Wood Pigs around and numbered 4,500.

It only remains to wish all my readers and fellow bloggers a Happy Christmas and I hope you have a bird-filled New Year. There will be more of Fleetwood Birder before the end of the year and I hoping to be out tomorrow, Christmas Day. Mind you her indoors doesn't know yet!

Atlas Square Leads To 'Nearly' Bird, 23rd December 2008

I was doing my bit today and surveying a square for the bird atlas. The square I was surveying is centred around Cockerham Moss and what an avian desert it was! It did have its moments in one or two pockets, but generally it was rye grass monoculture with no features. I can't wait for my second winter visit and summer visits! Not!!

Anyway the 'nearly' bird in question was a possible/probable Water Pipit. I was walking next to some birdless maize stubble with a ditch along side it and I flushed a bird along the ditch. I didn't get anything on it and all I could say was that it was a passerine. It was very flighty and I couldn't get any closer than about 50 yards. Eventually I could see that it was a Pipit with white outer tail feathers, pale supercil and plain greyish upperparts. It continued to stick to the ditch and flying everytime I got within 50 yards. It didn't call either, which made it even more frustrating. When the ditch ran out at a gateway, it flew out across the field, silhouetted against the sky, didn't call and dropped back in the ditch behind me. And from there I lost it. Oh well, at least it brightened up a fairly uneventful survey.

I did have a few highlights during my two hour walk round that included 46 Teal, 16 Mute Swans, 23 Tree Sparrows, 2 Grey Wagtails and Little Egret.

As Christmas is nearly upon us I thought I would include some pictures that are vaguely Christmasy, well they have snow on them, and they are some cracking pictures sent to me by (you guessed it) my mate in Canada, Nigel. They are some cracking shots of Northern Hawk Owl in the hand taken by a mate of Nigel's, Mike Blom. Thanks Mike! Just look at the frost on the eyelashes!

And Still The 'Wood Pigs' Cometh, 22nd December 2008

Rawcliffe Moss again today and the 'Wood Pigs' had increased in numbers to 6,635 only 4,000 + more than the 2,118 Pink-feet I had! I suppose it becomes the 'same old', 'same old' this time of year, but the important thing is that I am getting out. I finished work on the 19th and it was my intention to get out every day between then and 5th January. I failed and didn't get out on the 21st, but so far so good!

Tree Spadgers numbered 176 today and single Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting were amongst them. I dod have another 5 Corn Buntings elsewhere on the farm. Other finches included 16 Chaffinch, 43 Linnets and 40 Goldfinch. As I have said before I will definitely have a go at catching the Linnet and Goldfinch sometime over the Christmas holidays.

Skylarks had increased in numbers today as I had 25 which is the most here for some time. Raptors were represented by male Sparrowhawk and single Kestrel, and surprisingly I didn't have any Buzzards. The male and female Stonechat were still feeding along the track towards the plantation and next time I am up there I must drop a spring trap and meal worm or two down.

My random picture this week is again from my good pal in Canada, Nigel, and is of a Great Grey Shrike he caught recently whilst out ringing Red-tailed Hawks and Snowy Owls!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

The Woodies Keep Coming, 20th December

I had a bit more time this morning when I went to feed at Moss House Farm and I had a good walk round. As soon as I arrived on site I could see that there were masses of 'Pinkies' moving round and my count of 2,364 was probably an underestimate. Likewise the numbers of Woodpigeons, or Cooshat, as they are sometimes referred to in Yorkshire was high and I counted 2,305. Apparently they are feeding on some unharvested Oats just to the west of Moss House Farm and on unharvested Oats near Garstang Golf Club. This will account for the large numbers that arrive from the east during the day. Large westerly movements in the morning will be birds coming from their roost in the Bleasdale area.

There were 31 Chaffinch around this morning and these included a handful at the feeding station as well as birds scattered around feeding on natural food. A number of finches including a few Chaffinch, 40 Linnets and 40 Goldfinch were feeding in stubble to the north of Curlew Wood. There were also 27 Fieldfares and 6 Redwings in the area too. I will probably put a couple of nets up in the week along these hedges and see if I can catch a few of the Linnets in particular.

Buzzards were very noticeable this morning and I had 4 individuals dotted around the farm. Tree Sparrow numbers at the feeding station were as I would expect and numbered 180. None of them were with the Linnets and Goldfinch at Curlew Wood.

In the 'big field' towards the wild bird seed mix I had 3 Roe Deers that kept a careful eye on me. Its as if these animals can sometimes be curious and want to find out who you are. I imagine it is more of a case that they are trying to work out whether you are actually a threat or not.

I only recorded a single Yellowhammer and 2 Corn Buntings at the north end of the farm. One of the Corn Buntings was singing from a willow along the ditch. Along the track towards the plantation I had a male and female Stonechat. I was enjoying close views until someone with a couple of four-legged bird scarers came along and flushed them.

In the plantation it was quiet, as you would expect at this time of year, apart from a couple of Grey Partridges, 5 Reed Buntings and 3 Snipe. Walking back towards the car I bobbed into the L wood and flushed a Woodcock. The only other birds of note that I had here were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper and Goldcrest.

As I stopped off at the barn to drop my bucket back at the feed bin I flushed 400 Starlings from some stubble and 15 House Sparrows were lurking round the barn.

The random picture today is of a Cooper's Hawk taken by my mate Nigel in Canada. What a cracker!

After I left Moss House Farm I went to Light Ash Farm, which is farmed as part of Myerscough College, to check some game cover crops that we have permission to ring in. The cover crops weren't exactly jumping with birds but there were 8 Reed Buntings, 8 Blackbirds and 85 Chaffinch moved through the hedge adjacent to the crop. I will probably return in the week and cut a ride and give it a go.

Myself and colleagues in Northumberland and Derbyshire have set up a competitive year list next year for birds recorded from our office and the immediate area and birds recorded when we are on farm visits. It will be a bit of fun but I think I will probably receive a thrashing from my mate in Northumberland!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Now I Know Where the Copper Heads Go, 15th December 2008

For a while it has been puzzling me where the Tree Sparrows go when they fly off from the feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss. They usually head northwest and I have assumed they have been going to another feeding station such as Bradshaw Lane. That might still be the case for some of them but I now know that some are just moving to a stubble field to the north of Curlew Wood.

After I fed today I had a walk across the stubble field to the north of Curlew Wood and there were 60-70 Tree Sparrows in the hedge alongside the field and they were dropping into the field to feed and so were about 30 Linnets. At the feeding station today I had 169 Tree Sparrows so numbers are remaining fairly stable.

Woodpigeons were back in force again today and I had 3,148 feeding in various bits of stubble dotted around the farm. At one stage 6 Roe Deer flushed a flock of 2,000 from stubble into the tree tops of adjacent woodland. Walking up the '97' hedge I flushed 10 Snipe off some flooded stubble and 2 Buzzards went over calling.

After I had discovered the alternative Tree Sparrow feeding site I had 4 Yellowhammers perched on top of a Hawthorn hedge and back at the car I had a male Stonechat.

Today's random picture is of a 'smokey' 1st winter male Blackbird that is very likely of continental origin.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Copper Heads in the Rain, 13th December 2008

I have a book in my library at home that I rarely look at called 'All the Birds of the Air - The Names, Lore and Literature of British Birds' by Francesca Greenoak and it gives local names for all British species. Out of interest I decided to look up Tree Sparrow and the first name it gave comes from Cheshire and is Copper Head, which I think is quite apt. Others are Red-headed Sparrow (Yorkshire), Rock Sparrow (Cheshire) and Tree Finch.

Well, the Copper Head's were still around in force this morning at Moss House Farm and so was the rain. The weather men got everything right for today except the timing. They said the wind would drop and it did; they also said the rain would clear eastwards after 0900 and it didn't! Back to the Copper Heads; I counted 162 this morning, although they were difficult to count because they were sticking close to the hedge. There were a few Chaffinch, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting amongst them.

As it was raining the whole time that I was there my walk round was shortened, although I still had a number of birds. Pink-feet were very much in evidence this morning and I counted 3,198 moving between feeding sites. A few days ago I talked about all the Woodpigeons disappearing and perhaps moving to Ireland; well I was a little premature in my assumption/theory as today I had 519 flying from the L wood to feed on some adjacent arable land to the west.

A few more Thrushes were around this morning and I had 34 Fieldfares, 22 Redwings and 4 Song Thrushes. Some of the Fieldfares were in with a group of Starlings at the feeding station. There were a number of Finches away from the feeding station including 40 Chaffinch, 30 Goldfinch and 40 Linnets that were feeding along the hedge, ditch and margin between Curlew Farm and Curlew Wood.

My random picture for today is of two Black and White Warblers in teh hand taken in Canada. These flying 'humbugs' are absolutely brilliant and behave rather like black and white Treecreepers foraging for invertebrates on bark. In the hand they are awesome and they have the best under-tail coverts of any bird I have handled!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Tree Sparrows Are Ruling My Life, 9th & 11th December 2008

Well, they are certainly taking all of my time up at the moment as I am feeding every other day. But then again it's worth it to supplementary feed these enigmatic, if sometimes frustrating, red listed species.

When I went to feed last Tuesday (9th) it was late afternoon and not the usual time that I call. It was about 3.45 p.m. when I started to walk down the track to the feeding station. The 'moss' is a magical place at dusk and species are observed that you might not ordinarily see earlier in the day or observations made of behaviour that you might not normally observe.

As I approached the feeding station the Tree Sparrows were having a last minute feed before flying off in small groups to roost. They would leave the hedge, climb and head southwest to wherever they roost.

To the east of Moss House Farm is Turnover Hall Farm and close to the boundary with Moss House is a large pond dug by the farmer for wildfowl. As dusk fell numbers of Shelduck and lesser numbers of Teal were flighting to the pond to roost. Normally on a visit here I wouldn't see many Shelduck and very few Teal. Magic.

A late morning visit today showed that Tree Sparrows were still around in good numbers despite the cold weather and I counted 204 at the feeding station. Chaffinch and Yellowhammer were mixed in with them but I couldn't tell how many. Going on the calls there seemed to be more than the recent 1 or 2 Yellowhammers that I have been seeing. I wouldn't normally expect the numbers to build up until after Christmas but maybe the cold weather has brought a few in.

I forgot my apples this morning but luckily there were still a few uneaten ones for the Blackbirds that were feeding on them. Around the feeding station were 10 Blackbirds and a couple of Fieldfares all interested in the apples. Woodpigeons had reduced in numbers dramatically and today I only recorded 36. Although my mid-week visits are short, nevertheless I have still been recording large numbers of Woodpigeons. Interestingly back home in Cleveleys I had a flock of 43 on the 7th heading southwest and presumably on out to see and over to Ireland. Perhaps the cold weather has moved some birds on.

American Goldfinch. One of those random pictures again!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Lottis, Red Kites and Trogs, 1st - 6th December 2008

Over recent days I have been getting a party of Long-tailed Tits on my office window peanut feeder. There are 9 birds in the party at least, and I have had all 9 squashed onto the feeder on occasions. Below is a murky picture of 6 Lottis on said feeder.

On Wednesday (3rd) I was working in West Yorkshire in Wharfedale not far from Harewood House and I had 5 sightings of Red Kite. I really enjoy working in this area as I know I will get stonking views of this fantastic raptor. It was a cracking day when I got there but because of the snow it took me over 3 hours to get there and the same to get back.

On the 4th I only had time for a quick dash to my feeding station to put some food out, but as always I made sure that I recorded everything I saw. I am a habitual note taker and I often think that I would be more without my notebook when out birding than my bins! Raptors were represented by single Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawk was again by the barn and my guess is that it is hanging around there and catching finches that are feeding on the tailing's and spilt grain. Talking of raptors I have included a picture below of a second year male American Kestrel that my mate Nigel from Canada sent me.

Tree Sparrow numbers seem to be hovering around the two hundred mark and today I counted 198. Chaffinch's numbered 31 and I had 2 Yellowhammers. Numbers of Blackbirds down the track are remaining fairly constant and as I have said before are probably feeding on a combination of apples that I put down and hawthorn berries on the hedge. Today I had 13 and I also had 15 Redwings fly high south.

I was working in the Lytham area on the 4th and driving across the moss I noticed a flock of Swans and Shelducks on a flood and I stopped to have a look and a count. I was expecting them to be Whoopers but was surprised when they were 23 Mute Swans with 70 Shelducks.

This morning I went ringing to Moss House Farm and it was a glorious frosty morning. Unfortunately the Tree Sparrows are getting 'net shy' and I only ringed a total of 10 birds. It was very difficult to count the Tree Sparrows today as they were coming and going in small parties and my total of 101 in my notebook is a gross underestimate. Chaffinch numbers were up with 63 recorded, including 3 ringed. Other finches/buntings included 3 Yellowhammers, 2 Reed Buntings and singles of Brambling and Corn Bunting.

There were large numbers of Pink-footed Geese around this morning and later in the morning towards lunchtime a light aircraft was practising 'touch-and-go' landings on the moss and flushing them. A total of 4, 162 'Pinkies' is recorded in my notebook and there were also large numbers of Starling and Woodpigeon, which numbered 8,650 and 1,612 respectively.

To the west of Moss House Farm I had 46 Whooper Swans in three small groups. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers could be heard calling from two different woods and 4 or 5 Skylarks headed northwest high early on. The only raptors around today were Buzzard and Kestrel and I had a Grey Heron drop into the field to the west of the ringing station which was quite a good record for here.

I have included some pictures below that I took today of some birds in the hand.

The above picture shows a 1st winter male Chaffinch showing the old retained tertials with pale fringing.

And above is the fella who was obligingly showing us his juvenile retained tertials!

Above is the wing of a male Greenfinch showing the outer webs of the 3rd - 5th primaries as being almost entirely yellow.

And this is the guy whose wing it was!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Largest Winter Count of Tree Sparrows So Far, 1st December 2008

I visited my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning to feed and boy was it cold! The first bird I had was the usual Grey Wagtail running around on the tailing's outside the barn.I then went down the track to put some food out. The numbers of Tree Sparrows had definitely increased and I had a cracking total of 257! There were a few Blackbirds feeding on the apples and in total I had 9. The only other thrushes I had were single Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush.

Raptors were represented by two each of Buzzard and Kestrel. I tried calling to one of the Buzzards that was very close, but this time it didn't respond. The prize for the most numerous bird today went to Starling with 1,447 counted and second Woodpigeon with 1,148 counted. Most of the Starlings were moving through on their way to feed and the majority of the Woodpigeons were roosting in Curlew and the 'L' Wood.

Other finches and Buntings included 14 Chaffinch, 2 Yellowhammers, 8 Corn Buntings and 4 Reed Buntings. Skylarks had increased in numbers to 16, probably brought in by the cold weather.

On my office window feeders this afternoon besides the usual suspects I had 9 Long-tailed Tits crammed on to the peanut feeder!

Below are a couple of pictures of...well I don't think I need to tell you what they are...of Snow Owl in the hand, sent to me by mate Nigel from Canada. I really like the close up of the eye on the first picture. One of those one morning when out birding would certainly brighten things up a bit!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Friday Afternoon and Freezing Fog, 28th & 29th November 2008

On Friday afternoon I finished early to go and feed at you know where; Rawcliffe Moss. Besides seed feed I have been putting apples down at the feeding station from my garden and these are now starting to pull a few thrushes in. There were 21 Blackbirds in the hedge next to the feeding station and I think it was a combination of the Hawthorn berries and the apples. A lot of the apples have been half eaten and by the marks it is possible to tell that they have been eaten by avian feeders rather than mammalian.

Tree Sparrow numbers remain similar and I counted 217 today. Yellowhammer and Corn Buntings are now joining them and there were 4 and 1 respectively.

Saturday morning dawned with freezing fog and I had arranged to meet Craig at Moss House Farm for a ringing session. We went in the hope that when the sun got up it would 'burn' the fog off. Unfortunately it just froze the nets and we packed up after a couple of hours. We managed to ring 18 birds including 10 Tree Sparrows, 4 Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird and 2 Redwings. A picture of the Blackbird we ringed can be found below. It is a 1st winter bird based on the contrast between the new inner and old brown greater coverts.

As it was so foggy very few birds were recorded from a birding perspective. We could hear 'Pink-feet' calling but couldn't see them and it was very difficult to estimate the number of birds present at the feeding station, because again we couldn't see them!

At least we managed to get out and ring some more Tree Sparrows. At the end of the year I will report the ringing totals for the site here.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Lunchtime Feed, 25th November 2008

Roll on Spring. It's only November and I am already looking forward to Spring. I can't wait for those light early mornings when you can get out birding before work and I think what's also making me have this whinge is being gripped off by mate Ian this morning. I'm sat at my computer writing a report when my phone beeps with a text message; it's from Ian. "Black-throat feeding close in off the Coastguards". Bastard! An hour later my phone beeps; it's Ian, again. "Three Long-tailed Ducks west off the Point; 1 male and 2 female/immatures". Bastard, again!

I have to go to the farm at lunchtime to feed my Tree Sparrows so I try and console myself with "at least I'm getting out". Some poor birders will be indoors 9-5, Mon-Fri with their jobs, so I should look on the bright side.

The first bird that greets me as I drive past the barn is a male Sparrowhawk. By the way if you haven't seen it or read it there's a cracking article in this months BB on Sparrowhawks by Ian Newton. Thrush numbers, or more to the point Blackbird numbers, have dropped since Sunday. Although in the short walk round I had 19, which wasn't a bad count for here. Fieldfares and Redwings numbered only 3 and 5.

Perhaps the most notable and spectacular site of the morning were the large numbers of Woodpigeons. A large number were feeding to the west of the farm and then a second wave flew in from the east. In total I estimated 1,300 birds.

Tree Sparrow numbers were similar to recent days and I counted 209. Other related finch/bunting numbers included 6 Yellowhammers, 2 Reed Buntings and 4 Corn Buntings.

To brighten my page up I am going to include a photograph or two every time. This might be of something taken during a particular visit or something completely random and today is something completely random. Above is a picture of an adult Blue Tit. Now, the none ringers amongst you might say "how do you know its an adult". Well the answer is easy. If you look at the greater coverts you will see that they are all uniform blue showing no contrast in colouration or wear, which means that they have all been renewed at some point as part of a full moult meaning this bird is an adult. Told you it was easy!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Northern Invaders, 23rd November 2008

I paid a very quick visit to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning on the way to taking one of my lads back to uni in Leeds. The weather was attrocious but it was obvious that over night there had been an arrival of Thrushes, particularly Blackbirds. Later on last night it calmed and cleared, and Redwings were on the move. At first the calmness took me by surprise and I had a few hopes that I would get out ringing, but a quick check of the forecast put paid to any such thoughts.

Anyhow, as I drove down the track this morning in the rain I was pushing Blackbirds out all the time. And as I walked down the feeding track towards the feeding station I was again pushing Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares out of the hedge. I estimated that there were 50 Blackbirds, 30 Fieldfares and 20 Redwings. Tree Sparrow numbers remained high at 250.

Gimme Shelter, 22nd November 2008

No I am not referring to the classic Stones song but the fact that on a northerly wind it is very difficult to get shelter at the Coastguard's Tower at Rossall Point. The Coastguards Tower faces due north and when you are watching birds off Rossall Point they are generally moving east or west. A mistake by visiting birders is that they record movement as north or south thinking that it it the same as elsewhere on the Fylde coast. Thankfully this morning there was a touch of easterly in the northerly and I could get a little shelter on the westerly side of the tower. This made the difference from being absolutely f*cking freezing to just absolutely freezing! And as that awful large supermarket chain would say "every little helps".

The first bird I had this morning as I staggered along the front to get in position to spend a few hours watching waves was a Rock Pipit that soon disappeared as the first of the 'bird scarers' appeared.

On the sea numbers of Eider had built up since I was here last and totalled 51. Seven Red-throated Divers headed in to the bay as did 11 Red-breasted Mergansers. I had a few Auk sp.'s heading into the bay and it was only a few as I had 5. Forty six Pink-footed Geese headed north towards Walney and on a few occasions a flock of 38 were attempting to land on the sea but thinking better of it.

There seemed to be a few more Great Black-backed Gulls around this morning or it might just have been the fact that I decided to count them and I had 14, mainly on the beach. In fact you will see below an awful attempt to photograph one.

As I was just stood in one location I didn't really get to grips with any waders other than 100 Sanderlings, 32 Oystercatchers and 12 Redshanks. As I was stood seawatching I caught a movement to my left and a male Stonechat was perched up on the dunes.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Invasion Of The Trogs, 21st November 2008

I finished work early this afternoon and called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to have an afternoon walk and to put some food down. As I walked down the hedge and track towards where I put the seed down I could see a flock of 70-80 Tree Sparrows flying from the hedge down to the track, and back when they were disturbed. However, long before I reached them I could hear a number of Tree Sparrows calling from within the hedge and I thought "there's a lot of Tree Sparrows here this afternoon". These birds then flew out of the hedge and as I approached the feeding station Tree Sparrows exploded out of the hedge in all directions. My conservative estimate was of 250 birds but I think there could possibly have been 50-100 more than this. It was certainly the peak count of the winter so far.

With the Tree Sparrows were 17 Chaffinch's and 6 Corn Buntings that split of from the Tree Sparrows and flew off northwest. There were a number of Blackbirds in the 'feeding station' hedge and on my complete walk round I had a total of 12.

As I started to walk up the '97' hedge I flushed a Buzzard that flew a short distance and perched in some willows giving me stonking views as we both remained still and watched each other! It then took off and I started to call to it and immediately it started circling round over me and coming lower and lower. It was then joined by a second bird and both of them circled round as I called to them before they realised I wasn't another Buzzard and started to move off. The original bird was still curious and moved only a short way and dropped into the stubble. I don't think it was convinced that there wasn't another Buzzard around! Further up the 'big field' I could see a different bird hanging in the wind in the distance.

Other than the Blackbirds I had no Thrushes other than 4 Song Thrush's in the hedge near Curlew Wood. Back at the car I saw a huge flock of birds get up way to the west and when I looked I could see that it was a huge flock of about 10,000 Starlings. I say about, because how can you accurately count birds in these sort of numbers. There must have been a raptor about because then a flock of around 300 lapwings got up as well. Birds conspicuous by their absence were 'Pink-feet' and Redwings and Fieldfares.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

More Tree Sparrows, 19th November 2008

First of all I just want to moan about the fact that work gets in the way of birding. Now I am not trying to say that in these days of 'credit crunch' (whatever that is!) that I would like to find myself unemployed with plenty of time on my hands, just...well I wish I had more time to get out birding. I think what I am saying is that I want my cake and..., you know what I am saying. The reason for this moan is that at the moment the only time I am finding for birding is a quick dash during the day to my feeding station to feed the ever increasing hordes of ravenous Tree Sparrows.

I had been working in the Out Rawcliffe area this morning so on the way back to my office I called in at my feeding station to put a bucket of seed down. The Tree Sparrows had definitely increased and the 239 I counted was the highest count for the winter so far. The forecast for the end of the week is for it to go northerly and get quite cold. Hopefully that will bring a few more birds into the feeding station so I will have to make sure that it is kept stocked up.

I trimmed a few sticking out hawthorn branches to prevent them snagging my nets next time I am out, said a prayer to the 'God of calm weather' and headed back to work. In my flying visit the only other thing I had of note were 2,450

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Tree Sparrows Just Get 'Cuter'!, 16th November 2008

We had another ringing session today at our feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss and the Tree Sparrows were definitely not playing ball! Numbers were similar to recent weeks and I counted 128 birds flying away from the feeding station after we had put the nets up. All we ringed were 2 Tree Sparrows and a single Chaffinch. The weather didn't help much either as it was a little breezy and from a northwesterly direction so we had to have the nets a fair way from the hedge to prevent them snagging on the Hawthorns. This meant they were a little more visible and probably had an adverse affect on the catch. Looking at the forecast for the next week we won't get there to ring anytime soon so hopefully the next time we put some nets up the Tree Sparrows will have forgotten what a mist net is!

Despite the lack of ringing this morning the birding was good and a number of birds seemed to be arriving from the north. In fact over the previous evening every time I went out to my garage to get a bottle of liquid refreshment from my beer fridge Redwings were on the move and so were a few Snipe. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to estimate numbers based on contact calls so all I do is when I hear a call I stand and wait for a minute and count the number of calls during a minute and record the time and number of calls per minute in my notebook. For example last night over my house in Thornton Cleveleys, Redwings were calling at a rate of 12 calls per minute at 1930, 1 call per minute at 2020 and 3 calls per minute at 2300. I think you get the idea. At least it gives some idea of the density of passage if nothing else.

Anyway, back to this morning. Thrushes were certainly on the move and as I put nets up in the dark Redwings were calling along with the odd Snipe. As dawned arrived we had 50 Redwings and 484 Fieldfare fly between south and west. A number of the Fieldfares were also flying high with Woodpigeons. Pink-footed Geese were also on the move this morning and continually moved south. Numbers totalled 3,219, but there were a lot more further west that were impossible to count because of the distance involved.

Whooper Swans were also a feature of the morning. We had a group of 7 and 9 go southwest and then we had a larger group of 23 go west. Raptors were represented by singles of Kestrel, Merlin and Buzzard. The Merlin was my first on the farm this autumn. In the past I have witnessed some fantastic 'dog-fights' here between Merlin and Skylark, including on one occasion when the Skylark dived into the woodland to try and escape the Merlin and the Merlin followed it in and shot out the other side minus the Skylark.

Driving off the farm Phil and I stopped at the south end to look at a flock of birds feeding in a potato field and then flying into the hedge. The loose flock included 12 House Sparrows, 10 Blackbirds, 40 Chaffinch, 5 Song Thrushes, 2 Corn Buntings and a resplendent male Brambling. Nice.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A Pleasant Interlude, 14th November 2008

I had a meeting today at Seaforth NR and over lunchtime I had a quick hour look round with Andrew and Steve. The most impressive site were the flock of 18 Scaup close in on the nearest pool. They were a cracking mix of males, females, first winters etc and looked absolutely fantastic in the perfect light we had at the time. I only wish that I had my camera with me.

There were large numbers of wildfowl, particularly Teal, and my count of 300 would have been a huge under-estimate. Eight Goldeneyes and 10 Gadwall were nice as were the flock of 230 Redshank. Something was continually putting the wildfowl, waders and gulls up, but we couldn't detect what it was. As Steve said at the time if you can't see it, it is most likely a Sparrowhawk and I have to agree.

Just as we were about to return to the office to continue our meeting Andrew picked up a cracking adult Med Gull on the far pool. Not a bad way to while away an hour 'at work'!

You will see below a picture of a Great Horned Owl that my mate Nigel from Canada sent me. If you have read my blog before you will know that I do like to show some of Nigel's pictures from Canada because he does catch some impressive beasts!

You can see why it is called a Great 'Horned' owl in this shot.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Eating Me Out Of House And Home, 10th November 2008

I can't remember whether I have mentioned the feeders on my office window before or not. Anyway, my office is on the first floor and I look out on to some semi-natural ancient woodland with a bit of rhododendron under cover. I have two feeders on my office window; a seed feeder that I put sunflower hearts in and a peanut feeder. The sunflower feeder has two feeding ports and boy do they get used. At the moment, the Coal Tits mainly, are emptying this feeder in half a day! There is just constant traffic of Coal Tits to and from the feeder to the woodland. Other species using the feeders include Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Of the course the Nuthatch and Great Spot only use the peanut feeder.

I called at my feeding station today and put some food out. At first I thought there were no Tree Sparrows there, but the wind was quite strong and the birds were sitting tight in the hedge. They were difficult to count and I had a t least 120. A few Chaffinch, Reed Bunting and Great Tit were feeding there as well.

As I had just popped out from work I didn't really have time for a proper walk round but I did have 2 Buzzards, 16 Skylarks, 1,400 Starlings and 639 Pink-footed Geese.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Right Trousers and Back In The Land Of The Bird Scarers, 9th November 2008

I was at Rossall Point at first light this morning for the second outing of the autumn/winter in my fleece lined winter sea watching trousers and today they were very much the right trousers! The wind was SSW and at times probably gusting up to 45 mph, particularly when some squalls came through. High tide was at 0745 and for the first hour a good number of Common Scoters moved west out of the bay and totalled 159.

After the Common Scoter passage things quietened off a bit and I had 2 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Guillemots, 2 Eiders and single Auk sp. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flock of 30 Turnstone flying low over the shingle with a Golden Retriever running at full pelt in hot pursuit. It's at times like this when I wish I could magic up a .22 rifle to 'take care' of the bird scarer! As a consequence of the bird scarers wader numbers were low with 51 Oystercatchers, 18 Sanderlings, 3 Grey Plovers and 44 Turnstones.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Soggy Seed, 8th November 2008

I sometimes wonder whether I should have called this blog Rawcliffe Moss birder as most of my entries are from here at the moment! I was at Moss House Farm again this morning to 'top up' at the feeding station and I did manage to have a walk round in between the blustery showers. There was plenty of seed left at the feeding station but it was very soggy after all the rain and a fresh supply was required. I only counted 60 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station today, but when it is windy they are very difficult to count as they stick close to the hedge. Also, the time of day makes a difference, as I know that some of 'my' birds fly off northwest, presumably to another feeding station on Pilling Moss.

At first walking round, as it was so blustery, it was difficult to get an idea of exactly what was about, but with a bit of patience and perseverance birds appeared. At first I thought Thrush numbers were down but by carefully walking a number of hedgerows and wooded areas numbers increased and I ended up with 23 Redwings, 18 Blackbirds, 4 Song Thrush and 50 Fieldfares.

'Continental' type Blackbird

I don't know what possessed me to do this but I decided to count the Pheasants as I walked round the farm. Yes, I know, I can hear you all screaming "what on earth for"! Anyway, I did, and counted 41. What that means I am not sure! Other than there are one or two Pheasants around.

Back to proper birds and one of the main features of recent walks round the farm have been the number of Skylarks and Starlings and this morning was no exception. I counted 52 Skylarks feeding in stubble in different fields and 5,141 Starlings in different groups. Pink-footed Geese were very much in evidence, but the majority of the birds were getting up in the distance from Pilling Moss, and I counted 2,504.

I had two more Woodcock in the 'L' wood. The second bird that I flushed gave cracking views. It was very close when I flushed it and it had to really power vertically upwards to clear the bramble that it was feeding amongst and for a few seconds I could pick every feather detail out on the bird. As soon as it cleared the bramble it flew round and dropped down again. Superb!

Friday, 7 November 2008

'Cute' Tree Sparrows

I took the morning off work today to do some ringing at my feeding station on Moss House Farm. The forecast for this coming weekend wasn't good, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to ring some Tree Sparrows. I always forget how 'cute' Tree Sparrows are in both meanings of the word. There is the 'cuddly bunny' attractiveness of them but their most frustrating 'cute' side is their uncanny ability to avoid mist nets!

'Cute' Tree Sparrow

And this morning was to be no exception. Although there were 195 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station I only managed to catch 15 of them! In addition to the Tree Sparrows I ringed 3 Chaffinch, Robin, 4 Blue Tits, Reed Bunting and 5 Long-tailed Tits.

Aadult Blue Tit

The numbers of Buzzards, sorry Common Buzzards (don't get me started!), were far less today and all I had was a single bird along with two Kestrels. Thrush numbers were perhaps up a little from a few days ago and I had 37 Redwings and 25 Fieldfares. Finches and buntings included my first Brambling of the winter, 9 Yellowhammers and 23 Corn Buntings.

The prize for the most numerous species this morning would have to go to Starling as I had 15,399. One flock alone I estimated at 12,000 birds and to be honest with you it was very likely to be half as big again! Numbers of Pink-footed Geese couldn't compete with this and I had 3,723 during the morning. The only other wildfowl I had were 6 Whooper Swans.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Buteo Air Supremacy, 2nd November 2008

This morning at Moss House Farm the (Common) Buzzards were very much in evidence and at one point 4 were thermalling together over the 'L' wood. I have put 'Common' in brackets because these prefixes that we attach to a number of bird species now really annoy me. I can only assume that we are doing this for the benefit of the Americans who can't name their birds properly anyway. American Robin! What Robin, it's a turdus! So we now have 'common' this, 'northern' that and 'european' the other and it drives me mad! Mind you if someone from the BOU taxonomic committee is reading this they would probably tell me that this is based on a sound scientific basis!

Anyway enough ranting and back to the Buzzards, just plain old simple Buzzards and what a spectacle they were as they circled round and round gaining height. It was as if they were in some sort of gliding competition and were attempting to out soar each other. I called at the farm to feed and my mate Phil had got there just before me. Now I like bumping in to friends for a walk round and a natter, but it is the nattering that's the problem and it is down to me. I think because in my job I work alone all day in the main and when I am in the company of fellow humans I tend to talk too much and today was no exception. So that's why I prefer to bird alone so I am giving it 100% concentration. This morning walking round with Phil we probably didn't see as much as we should have because I was talking too much by telling Phil what a fantastic Northwest Ringers Conference he had missed the day before.

There weren't as many thrushes around this morning and we only had 33 Redwings knocking about and most of these we had flushed from some thick cover along a ditch on the edge of Curlew Wood. Numbers of 'Pink-feet' were around and we had 2,310 moving around.

In addition to the Buzzards the only other raptors we had were single Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. I don't know whether it is me or not, but I have seen a good number of Kestrels this year and not as many Sparrowhawks. Perhaps the Kestrels have had a good breeding season.

As usual the feeding station was dominated by Tree Sparrows and 140 were feeding on the seed along with a handful of Chaffinch and single Reed Bunting. Skylarks were still evidence in the stubble in the 'big' field and 16 were getting up and down from there.

The 'big' field

From the plantation we flushed a Woodcock from a clump of Alders and that was my first of the autumn. The only sighting of minor note was a flock of 300 Starling feeding in stubble. Numbers of Starlings have increased in recent days.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Turdus pilaris, 30th October 2008

First it was the Redwings and now it was the turn of the Fieldfares to arrive in numbers. I visited Moss House Farm late morning on my way back from seeing a client to put some food out at the feeding station. One of the most obvious additions over recent days was the increase in the number of Fieldfares.

Approaching the site in my car I could see mixed flocks of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling flying over with the biggest numbers in the flocks belonging to Fieldfare. At the farm they were feeding in sprayed off potato fields and stubbles, presumably feeding on invertebrates. There were 313 Fieldfares with 70 Redwing and 100 Starlings. This was a minimum count and I suspect there were a lot more.

Around the tailing's outside the barn a number of Chaffinch fed, about 20, and single Grey Wagtail ran around on the 'tailing mountain' looking for invertebrates. A number of Pink-footed Geese were moving over the farm looking for favourable feeding sites and in total I recorded 1,480 birds.

At the feeding station itself Tree Sparrows had increased to 145, perhaps as a result of the cold weather. I will be at the Northwest Ringing Conference on Saturday 1st November, so it will be Sunday 2nd before I am out again. let's hope it will be a good day.

Soup and a Sandwich, 28th October 2008

I had a day off today and went walking with her indoors. We did a walk around the Silverdale area, and nice though it was it wasn't exactly hard core birding! The bland title refers to the lunch we had at Leighton Moss and that was about as exciting as it got all day. Whilst having lunch with my Zeiss 10x40 Victory's and notebook at my side, I took a look at the other clientele in the tea room to try and see whether they were all birders or not and or not was the case to be! The tea room was full and other than myself I don't think there were any more than 4 or 5 birders in there; shocking!

I suppose to say that lunch was about as exciting as it got is a bit unfair because at this time of year the woodland around this area does look good with the leaves changing colour.

Walking through the woodland we did have a good number of woodland birds. Jays were fairly numerous giving their raucous vocalisations and this contrasted with the soft plaintive whistles of Bullfinch. The Bullfinch were particularly abundant in the coastal scrub around Heald Brow. Other 'callers' in the woodland included Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Nuthatch.

The coastal scrub at Heald Brow was full of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes feeding on Hawthorn and Holly berries, and no doubt included some continental birds. But of course you know what it's like when you are walking, you don't stop long enough to check everything out. So all in all a pleasant walk, but it wasn't birding!

On our way home we called in at Moss House Farm to feed the Tree Sparrows. I counted 114, which is a slight increase on recent days. My mate Phil had been here earlier and he had Short-eared Owl which is a first for the site! A Yellowhammer was in the hedge next to the feeding station and 15 Whooper Swans flew low over my head honking away. And where was my camera? In the car!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

The Wrong Trousers, 26th October 2008

I certainly had the wrong trousers on at Rossall Point this morning and I probably had them on a couple of days too early. For some reason I had it in my head that it would be cold seawatching off Rossall this morning so I put my fleece lined winter seawatching trousers on and combined with fleece lined shirt, scarf and hat I slowly cooked!

It was very slow at first and after about an hour I nearly packed in and then Howard arrived so I decided to give it a bit longer, probably so I didn't get gripped off. I was about to pack in again and leave the sea to Howard and Ian arrived and decided to give it a bit longer, again probably so as not to be gripped off. Anyway I spent over 3 hours not seeing a great deal, there were a few bits and bobs, but it was rather quiet on the whole.

As the tide came in the waders as usual tried to roost on the beach but the usual tossers with their four-legged bird scarers did their utmost to prevent this happening. It's about time that dogs were banned from all public spaces and then we wouldn't have this problem. Okay that might be a bit extreme, because there probably are 1 or 2 responsible dog owners, so dogs should always be on a lead in public spaces. Anyway back to the constantly flushed waders that included 235 Oystercatchers and 45 Sanderlings.

I suppose the main feature of the sea this morning were the Kittiwakes. In total we had 126 move out of the bay. Most were quite a long way out and following ferries out into the Irish Sea. One or two did come close in like 2 cracking first winters that gave us stonking views as they flew through the surf.

The supporting cast included 3 Eiders, 11 Auk sp. (at Starr Gate these would all be positively identified!), Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe and 3 Pintail.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Predator Prey, 25th October 2008

As I walked along the track towards my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss I thought the Tree Sparrows were a little reluctant to leave the hedge. Normally I walk to the end of the hedge and the Tree Sparrows fly around me and back to the hedge and this gives me the opportunity to count them. Today though they were sticking very tight to the hedge. It was a bit windy and this can make them stick close to the hedge, but there was something else. Then a little brown head popped up and a Weasel was up on it's hind legs watching me in the curious way that they do. Ah, I thought that's why they were behaving peculiarly. Then there was a flash of slate-grey past my left side and an adult male Sparrowhawk whipped down the track and turned sharply round the edge of the hedge better than an F1 car around La'Source hairpin at Monaco. It then flipped over the top of the hedge causing pandemonium amongst the Tree Sparrows and shot only feet above my head and across the field towards Curlew Wood. That's why the Tree Sparrows were twitchy!

I put some food out and left the birds in peace and went for a short walk round. There were approximately 112 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station. I have included some pictures below of the seed and the feeding station.

This is what the Tree Sparrows are after

The feeding station

There were a few thrushes around, nothing like the numbers last weekend but I had 55 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thushes and 10 Fieldfares. A few Chaffinch were going over and heading south into the strong southerly wind as were a few Starling and a few was 13 and 14 of each respectively.

Pink-feet were moving around this morning and I had 561 in total moving from field to field trying to find a suitable and disturbance free feeding area.
'Pinkies' in flight (honestly they are!)

Similarly two flocks of 30 lapwings were moving to try and find a good feeding site. Raptors were represented by 3 Buzzards and a single Kestrel. Interestingly during the recent Honey Buzzard influx some local observers were commenting that the corvids were mobbing the Honey's and leaving the local Buzzards alone. They never do on Rawcliffe Moss and it is very rare to watch a Buzzard for any length time before it gets mobbed by corvids.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Turdus iliacus, 18th October 2008

This morning I got up late and decided to go and feed my Tree Sparrows at Moss House Farm. As I left the house just before 9.00 a.m. 24 Redwings dropped out of a cloud, circled round and headed north! B*stard I thought, as I had obviously missed part of a Thrush movement this morning. I picked up a voice mail message from my mate Phil who was at a different feeding station and he said he had had hundreds of Redwings and a few Fieldfares heading northwest. I arranged to meet Phil at Moss House Farm as I had some A rings for him. As soon as I got out of the car Redwings were going over and they were nearly all heading NW. Between 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. we had 867 go over with only 7 Fieldfare.

Looking at all the reports coming through via the Vismig group there had been a huge movement of Redwings nationally over the 17th and 18th October. We had a walk round and other Thrushes included 5 Mistle Thrushes and 3 'continental' type Song Thrushes. Interestingly few Finches, Pipits or Wagtails were on the move and all we had were 7 Chaffinch, single Grey Wagtail, 24 Skylarks and 8 Meadow Pipits over.

Another feature of the movement were Pink-footed Geese. Wave after wave kept arriving from the north. It was difficult to tell being so far inland whether these were freshly arriving birds or whether they were coming off the roost out in Morecambe Bay and moving inland to feed. In any case the numbers involved were spectacular and we estimated that at least 10,000 birds were involved!



The 19th October was the Big Vismig that had been arranged by Dave Barker who leads the Vismig group and the idea was to have as many people out in the country recording vismig to compare results from a UK perspective. I was supposed to be recording at Rossall Point and I say supposed to as I never made it. On the Saturday (18th) night I was returning from a Queen and Paul Rodgers gig in Liverpool, which was absolutely f*cking awesome by the way, and my car suddenly died on the M6. I had to dive onto the hard shoulder and call the AA. It had lost all its water and over-heated. The AA man thought it was the car's head gasket and towed me to the garage I use and then on home. I tell you what, if it had happened on my way to the gig I would have blown my head gasket! Anyway the car is in hospital and I am waiting to hear the prognosis. It's on occasions like this that I don't mind getting taxed more for a company vehicle as I suspect it could be expensive!

Birding Over the Border, 16th October

I had a meeting today at Lake Vyrnwy in Wales just on the eastern edge of Snowdonia. The site is a jointly run nature reserve run by the RSPB and Severn Trent Water. On my way to the meeting I had a couple of Ravens over the A5 almost as soon as I crossed the Welsh Border. I didn't know at the time that this was as good as it was going to get! I arrived early for my meeting and had an hour to spare so I asked an RSPB volunteer who was repairing some feeders in front of a feeding station hide what would be the best thing to do birding-wise in an hour. He recommended a woodland walk that would take about an hour so I took his advice and set-off and saw nothing!

Well, I say nothing bit I did see a number of common woodland species. I looked hard through the Tit flocks trying to find a double wing barred Phyllosc from Siberia but to no avail. In fact the only bird I have recorded in my notebook was a single Kestrel! Anyway it was nice to have a walk before several hours in a meeting.

On the way home I recorded a couple more Ravens from the road. I have included below a picture of the area; the scenery is very nice and the lake is spectacular.

Splash And Dash, 15th October 2008

I did a quick splash and dash feed at Moss House Farm today on my way home from work. It was a fairly blustery afternoon so I didn't hang around too long. Approximately 80 Tree Sparrows were feeding at the station. I say 80, because they are difficult to count at this location. The feeding station is on track that runs along the north of an east-west running Hawthorn hedge. Seed is dumped onto the track and the birds can feed and then fly into cover if need be. As you walk down the track to feed you are constantly flushing the birds and this gives you the opportunity to count them. However, you can only count the birds that go straight up or fly north out of the hedge to cross a small field to an adjacent hedge. Any birds that 'drop out' of the back of the hedge and fly along it are missed. Therefore the counts I record are bare minimums and in reality could easily be at least half again or sometimes double.

The only other birds of note were a Grey Wagtail near the barn where I store the food, 13 Skylarks, 9 Long-tailed Tits and a lone Whooper Swan.

I must take some pictures of the site so you can see for yourselves what the habitat is like.

Tree Sparrow

Sunday, 12 October 2008

A Few More Tree Sparrows, 12th October 2008

Just a quick update from today. Yet another ringing session on Rawcliffe Moss and some more Tree Sparrows. It never ceases to amaze me the turn over of birds that ringing demonstrates. At the moment I have estimated that there are about 90-100 Tree Sparrows using the feeding station at Moss House Farm. So far this week we have ringed 37 Tree Sparrows (10 today) and retrapped a further 7, that makes 44 processed in total. If my estimate of numbers is correct and if the estimate of 90-100 remained constant it would mean that approximately 44% of the flocked are ringed and therefore the retrap rate at a catch would be similar, when the actual retrap rate at the moment is 15%! This demonstrates the turn over of birds within the flock. That's a bit heavy for a Sunday evening!

In addition to the Tree Sparrows we ringed a continental type Blackbird, Robin, 9 Chaffinch and 2 Blue Tits.

The first bird I had this morning in the darkness when I went to collect a bucket of bird food from the barn was a Barn Owl perched on a fence point. A nice start to the day I thought. Wintering wildfowl continue to arrive and I had 100 'Pink-feet' and 9 Whooper Swans.

There was some visible migration until the weather closed in and it went quite misty with a light drizzle. 59 Meadow Pipits moved south along with 17 Skylarks, a handful of alba wags, 4 Swallows, 2 Redwings and 134 Chaffinch.

I haven't any bird pictures from today so I thought you might like to see a picture of my guitar's instead!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Knot Much On the Strong Southerlies, 10th October 2008

I apologise for the pun but it was exceedingly quiet at Rossall Point this morning on the strong southerly wind and the only birds I recorded in any numbers were 882 Knot's on the rising tide. I imagine sea watchers in the Channel will be excited about these southerlies but at Rossall this direction is coming off the land.

The only other birds I had at sea were an auk sp. west and 8 Common Scoters west. Oh well there's always tomorrow!

As there's a number of 'yanks' around at the moment I thought I would have a look at my archive of pictures and find something colourful to brighten up this dreary October day and came up with this Indigo Bunting. I remember the first time I hauled one of these bright blue gems out of a mist net, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! I'm easily pleased.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Tree Sparrow Fest., 9th October 2008

This morning we (that is some members of Fylde Ringing Group) went ringing on Rawcliffe Moss at our farmland bird feeding station. Phil and Will worked the plantation hoping to tape lure diurnal migrants and Craig and I worked the actual feeding station in the hope of a few Tree Sparrows and we weren't disappointed as it turned out to be a Tree Sparrow fest!

At first light I noticed, a little disconcertingly, that the Tree Sparrows were roosting in the Hawthorns next to the feed. I was concerned because I thought putting the nets up would flush them and they might not return for an hour or two, but how wrong can you be. Two nets were erected and when we did our first round the nets were bulging with Tree Sparrows. I only had 25 bird bags on me and these were soon filled. By the end of the morning we had ringed 27 Tree Sparrows, 15 Chaffinch and singles of Great Tit and Reed Bunting.

Tree Sparrow

Reed Bunting

Great Tit

Chaffinch - female

Phil and Will had all sorts of technical problems with their sound system and only managed to ring 5 or 6 birds.

It was obvious that a few birds were on the move this morning but it was difficult to concentrate on the ringing and keep an eye skyward for vis. My notebook read 40 Meadow Pipits south but this is a definite under-estimate. Likewise similar for 30 Chaffinch, 2 Grey Wagtails, 3 Redwings, 33 Skylarks and 2 Siskins.

Four Mistle Thrushes dropped in and they were very noisy and agitated perched on some telegraph wires and were very probably migrants as indicated by their behaviour. One of the features of the morning were the number of Snipe and we had 108 fly north along with a lone Whooper Swan. A few Pink-feet were around and raptors were represented by 2 Buzzards and a single kestrel.