Sunday, 25 April 2010

Mountain Blackbird

I mentioned at the end of my blog yesterday that the weather synopsis for today was potentially quite interesting and it was. I awoke at 4.00 a.m to hear rain battering the conservatory roof and ran into the garden to put my skinner moth trap in the garage. I climbed back in bed at 4.15 a.m. and waited for my alarm to go off at 5.00 a.m Why I bothered getting back in bed I don't know!

A quick bowl of corn flakes and I was off in the direction of Rossall. It was obvious that the only thing to do this morning was to look for migrants. After all it is late April, the wind was southerly and it was raining! The only slight negative was that the rain front had come up from the south, rather than down from the north to meet any northward bound night migrants. Nevertheless I was confident that I would have some grounded migrants. I believe that some daft souls were trying to sea watch off Rossall Point with zero visibility and the whole of the bay 'locked out' with murk. One of the dangers of planning today's birding based on yesterday's news without reading the conditions. Mind you that's what happens when you are a slave to a year list race!

My first port of call was Rossall School and I thought that it was one of those mornings where you need to hit lots of sites fairly rapidly and not spend too much time trying to conjure something up from empty bushes. The 'obs' revealed two 'reeling' Grasshopper Warblers, 'Greenland' Wheatear, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. As you can imagine in the wet conditions vis was virtually zero but I did have two Tree Pipits over, Lesser Redpoll and eighteen Swallows.

My next port of call was the Mount. As soon as I stepped out of my car I could hear a Tree Pipit calling loudly and there feeding in a tree by the side of the road was the bird. My first decent grounded migrant of the morning. A quick walk round all the suitable habitat only added a singing Willow Warbler.

What could have been lurking in the Mount?

Next stop was Fleetwood Cemetery and one of the first birds I had was a singing Sedge Warbler from a privet hedge! Not normal Sedge habitat. It was then that I began to think that something good could be found. I got a phone call from Ian to say that he had walked the golf course and had put up a few grounded migrants such as Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and that he would join me in the cemetery shortly.

I was half way round my circuit when Ian arrived and together we carried on 'working' the best area. Suddenly lots of Herring Gulls to the east over the houses started alarm calling and we knew that a raptor was about. Ian then locked on to a bird flying more or less towards us fairly low and then I got on the bird. You know what it's like when a bird is flying towards you and it's out of context, it takes a moment or two for the 'old grey matter' to register what it is. Anyway, within a few seconds Ian shouts "Hen Harrier" and there flying over Fleetwood Cemetery heading west is a female Hen Harrier! Awesome. It drifted over the trees between the houses towards the coast.

We continued birding and added Chiffchaff and a male and female Blackcap. We were just finishing off the circuit when Ian picked up a male Ring Ouzel flying left (south) across the gardens that back on to the cemetery. We gave chase and the Mountain Blackbird landed in some Willows. A Song Thrush was feeding on some open short grass and this seemed to give the Ring Ouzel confidence and it joined the Song Thrush and actively fed, finding plenty of earth worms.

Unbeknown to us Len was in the cemetery watching a male Redstart and he had seen Ian and I suddenly run across the cemetery. Len came over to join us and enjoyed this stonking tame Ring Ouzel.

Len left and then shortly afterwards three cars 'steamed' into the cemetery and four 'year listing' birders leaped out to claim their prize, but unfortunately for them with their 'Starsky and Hutch' (showing my age there) antics they had flushed the Ring Ouzel! Luckily for them it did reappear, but I must admit that this local year list fiasco does cause some unwelcome mayhem at your local patches when you are trying to bird quietly!

We decided to have a second circuit of the cemetery and added a calling Cuckoo that flew north (the third good bird of the morning) and three Willow Warblers. Who would have thought, say twenty years ago, that a spring sighting of a Cuckoo would go down as a 'good' bird.

Next stop was the Memorial Park and we had three Blackcaps, two Chiffchaffs, two Willow Warblers, three Lesser Redpolls and another Tree Pipit. Just as my first Tree Pipit this one was grounded and was feeding on the lower branches of a Beech tree.

We returned to the Mount for a second look and added three more Willow Warblers, female Blackcap and two Siskins. All in all it was a cracking morning's birding and I must thank Ian for most of the Ring Ouzel shots above.

In case you're interested my moth trap only contained six Hebrew Characters and three Early Greys.

What will the rest of the week bring? Some seawatching I hope, although I wouldn't mind another morning like today!


Newton Stringer said...

A great days birding there !

Yep year listing is a pointless activity usually carried out by morons who are incapable of finding their own birds..... and these people are WAY too competitive for my liking too !

I think you have found the right balance Seamus, dedicated local patching and ringing. Its greener than racing around after lots of birds, and finding your own birds is a lot more satisfying than driving up and ticking off someone else’s.

You might want to remind me of those sentiments next time a big rare turns up and I drive overnight to stand in a flock of sheeple hoping to see it !!

Fleetwood Birder said...

I couldn't agree more Gary. The local bird club is now in its second year of a year list 'challenge' and it means that even more idiots are runing around like mad chasing birds that aren't all that rare so they don't lose their standings in the table! They now try and put you under pressure to put common migrants out on the grapevine so everyone has a chance to 'tick' them! It's all got rather silly and those involved can't see it.