Friday, 6 November 2009

The Office

I didn't get time to update my blog yesterday, so what I talk about today refers to yesterday. I hope you can follow that. It will be even more amazing if I can follow that!

I suppose I am quite lucky in that 'my office' is basically all the countryside throughout Lancashire! Or perhaps, to put it more accurately, that is my metaphorical office. My true office, in terms of 'bricks and mortar' is a square box I rent in a modern building at Myerscough College. However, it does overlook some nice woodland and I have a couple of feeders on my window that attract a good range of birds. So I can be typing some relatively uninteresting report with a Nuthatch for company two feet from me! Not just Nuthatch; Coal Tit, Great Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Greenfinch, Blue Tit etc, the list goes on.

Of course Myerscough College is itself in a rural location and therefore the chances of 'bumping into' a few birds are increased. Yesterday as I got out of my car and walked across the car park towards the office block I could hear some Whooper Swans calling and looked up and there were seven birds winging their way south. Presumably just exiting a roost and on their way to a feeding area. Then a Grey Wagtail went over calling too. Maybe I should start a car to office list and see how many species I can record!

Talking of lists, I am trailing behind in the year list challenge against my colleagues. My colleague in Northumberland has recorded 135 species on company business, in that metaphoric office and I am 5 species behind on 130 in second place. The only other two entrants in the east midlands and Staffordshire are on 113 and 101 respectively.

On my way to see a client I called in at Moss House Farm to put some food down at the feeding station. A Grey Wagtail patrolled the tailing's mountain in search of invertebrates and 30 'Pink-feet' went over. There is an awful lot of water around at the moment and a number of fields here were flooded with a few species taking advantage of the glut of invertebrates that will have been forced to the surface. No camera with me today so you'll have to imagine the wet fields. 147 Lapwing fed on the drier bits within the floods and 435 Black-headed Gulls bathed and fed alongside. As time wasn't on my side I couldn't give the Black-heads a grilling to look for something a little bit more unusual. You know what I was looking for; all white wings, heavy red bill etc.

The other species taking advantage of the floods to feed and bathe were the Starlings and there was thousands of them; literally! In my notebook I have put down 6,306, but there were probably a great deal more.

Along the hedge to the feeding station a number of birds fed. Thrushes were feeding on the berries and I had 5 Fieldfares, 5 Blackbirds, 20 Redwings and single Song Thrush.

I have now started to put some soft fruit out at the feeding station for the Thrushes, including apples, pears and quince. The only problem is that it attracts Starlings. What's wrong with Starlings you might ask; they're on the red list so they are good to ring, but have you ever extracted one from a mist net? If you have you'll know exactly where I'm coming from. Far better to catch and ring them in 'drop traps'. Although, either method they still crap all over you just as much!

Numbers of Tree Sparrows had increased to 180 and they were joined by about a dozen Chaffinch and a single vocal Brambling. Definitely a few more Bramblings about this autumn. Five Corn Buntings perched on top of the hawthorns above the seed and these were the first Corn Buntings I have had at the feeding station this winter. As I walked back to my car I had a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling.

It was then off to another bit of my 'office' near Pilling. Nothing too exciting here other than a cracking Barn Owl coming out of an old stone barn and 60 Curlews feeding on a wet field. Note to self to put a box up for the Barn Owl.

And that was my day in the office yesterday.

Looking back to bonfire night in 1983, I spent a couple of days winter birding in Norfolk. My notebook back then was always more brief and to the point than it is now. The day started at Weybourne cliffs at 05:35 according to my notebook and it was dull and misty! How on earth we expected to see anything at 05:35 on a November morning I'm not sure. If my old grey matter serves me correct we were twitching a female Pied Wheatear, that disappeared the day before, but at the time we weren't to know that. We had a female Snow Bunting and that was it, but I suppose it wasn't a bad start.

We then moved on to Arnold's Marsh at Cley and unfortunately the weather hadn't improved much as it was still dull and misty. However, we did have a more respectable 80 Snow Buntings along with a female Hen Harrier and 3 Bearded Tits. We then went to Wells Wood and had stonking views of 4 males and 2 female Parrot Crossbills drinking from a pool in the car park. Awesome! There were no other records of Parrot Crossbill in Britain that year, so the consensus of opinion is that the Wells birds were birds left over from the 1982 invasion.

Back towards the Cley for the afternoon and we had a male Shorelark in a field behind the sea-wall with a Black-throated Diver and Black Guillemot on the sea. We stayed overnight and birded again the following day (6th) and we found ourselves back at Wells at 08:00, and still it was misty. We spent some time at the 'drinking' pool trying to catch up with a possible Olive-backed Pipit that was allegedly seen late the day before, when we were at Salthouse. However, the bird never got accepted and we didn't see anything other than a pair of Parrot Crossbills.

We went back to Weybourne in the vain hope that the Pied Wheatear might turn up but all we were rewarded with was a late juvenile Yellow Wagtail and a partial summer plumaged Black-throated Diver. Desperation had us back at Wells in the afternoon but by four o'clock all we had logged were 50 Brent Geese, so it was time for the long drive home.

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