Monday, 31 May 2010

End of Spring

It was a case of 'what to do' this morning as at this time of year everything has slowed down and Spring draws to an end. Usually I am a 'first light merchant' when it comes to birding and if I can't get out at first light will often not bother. But not today. I decided to have a lazy morning and went out birding mid-morning.

My first job was to empty my moth trap and I noticed that I had caught an unusual looking fly species. After a bit of research on the 'net' I found out that it was a type of Ichneumon Wasp belonging to the Ophion genera. I tried to photograph it in the egg carton but it flew off to the willows and I could only get the shot below. It is a parasitic species and lays its eggs in the caterpillars of moths!

I only caught four moths of four species and these were Heart and Dart, Flame shoulder, Common Quaker and Spectacle. The Spectacle was a first for my garden and below are a couple of pictures of it. The first illustrates why it has its name!

Before I headed off to Riossall School with Gail I noticed that the Blue Tits in my garden box were being encouraged out by the parents. After I had returned from the 'obs' I checked the box and all had fledged. Mind you I say all as there were three dead young in the box, so actually five out of the eight managed to fledge successfully.

I knew it would be pretty quiet at the 'obs' but I wanted to take the ropes off the net rides that we had used during the Spring as it would probably be August before we are ringing again there for the autumn.

On our walk round plenty of breeding birds were in evidence including four singing male Whitethroats, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, a couple of Linnets, Swallows, a pair of Reed Buntings, 3 singing Sedge Warblers and one each of singing Grasshopper and Reed Warbler. A quick scan of the sea revealed nothing other than a male Eider.

On our way home we called at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park to see if we could work out how many young the Great Crested Grebes had. After we eventually found them we could see that they had four very small young. On the 'deep' pool there were good numbers of Coot broods from small fluffy 'red-headed' chicks to older grey and white juv.'s.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Not Too Wet

We had some more boxes to check yesterday and we were a little concerned about the forecast and how much it would rain. The forecast suggested a deluge, but as Phil, Ian and I set off to check some boxes it was fine. In fact at worst there was a little light drizzle during the morning that was short lived.

Our first port of call was an owl box that Phil had put up near Scorton. We knew that there were at least two Tawny Owl chicks in it, but we wondered whether the egg that was with the tiny chicks when Phil last looked two weeks ago might have hatched. It hadn't. The two chicks were ringed and we then went to check our Pied Fly boxes in the Hodder Valley.

Tawny Owl chicks

Out of the four pairs of Pied Flycatchers that we have, three broods had just hatched and one pair were still incubating. One of the Pied Fly boxes with 9 eggs in it had hatched all nine! It will be interesting to see if they all survive.

We checked the boxes where we had ringed young last week to monitor progress and all was well. Take a look at the healthy Nuthatches below. There was one box of Great Tits that we didn't ring last week because they looked extremely unhealthy, but this week they were all fighting fit and about to fledge!

We ringed 6 Grreat Tit and 33 Blue Tit chicks. The shot below shows some pulli Blue Tits waiting in a bird bag to be ringed.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Farmland Bits and Bobs

I was hoping to be posting this evening and telling you how I had ringed a few Lapwing and Redshank chicks whilst surveying a farm in Bowland today. However, due to the inadequacies of the dealership that service my car I am having an enforced day at home without transport! The name of the dealership shall remain nameless, except to say that they manufacture Astras, Corsas, Vectras etc. Say no more!

Yesterday I was surveying a farm in the heart of Bowland, near Slaidburn. In fact this part of the world is more or less the exact geographic centre of Great Britain, or should I say Dunsop Bridge is but that's only a few miles away.

It has taken me two days to survey this farm and yesterday I was surveying the lower (southern) half of the farm which from an agricultural perspective it is more 'improved' than the higher (northern) half which has some good breeding wader habitat.

Even on this 'improved' bit there were some nice bits of habitat and in wetter, scrubbier areas I had Reed Bunting and Willow Warblers for example. Buzzards were ever present in the skies as were 15 Swifts hawking for insects. Close to the river I had 10 Sand Martins and a Dipper shot downstream.

Entering a piece of semi-natural ancient woodland I had my best bird of the day in the form of a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Unfortunately I couldn't get on to it and had to be satisfied with just hearing it! 'Lesser Spots' are particularly rare in Lancashire these days and I would be hard-pressed to actually go to a known a site.

The River

Besides the 'Lesser Spot' I had a singing Redstart in the woodland and in a mature hedgerow close by, singing Lesser Whitethroat. Other than a few Grey Herons and a single Siskin over that was about all I had.

For something different, or quite usual on this blog, I am going to finish with a couple of pictures from my mate Nigel from Canada. These pictures have just been picked at random from some recent ones he sent me, so enjoy!

Indigo Bunting

How small is that Ruby-throated Hummingbird?!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Nearly All Moths

No birding for me today as such, although once you are a birder you bird all the time no matter where you are. I suppose what I mean is that I haven't actually been out anywhere today with the sole intention of doing some birding. From my office I could hear Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff singing from the woodland, and the office window feeders have really quietened down with the most regular visitors being Nuthatches.

Talking of Nuthatches have a look at the picture below that my mate Nigel sent me from Canada of Red-breasted Nuthatch in the hand. Awesome! Thanks Nigel.

Now to the moths. In my trap this morning, or should I say this evening when I emptied it, were Light Brown Apple Moth, 4 Heart and Darts, Bright-line Brown-eye, Miller (see picture below), 2 Common Pugs and Clouded Drab.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

46 Ringed... and they were all pulli. Ian and I checked our boxes in the Hodder Valley and on Rawcliffe Moss. It is probably worth mentioning first of all that we have another pair of Pied Flycatchers in. So within the space of 7 days they have built their nest and laid a clutch of 6 eggs and started incubation!

Pied Flycatcher nest

Of the 46 pulli ringed the breakdown was 25 Blue Tits (including 8 from the box in my garden), 9 Great Tits, 6 Nuthatches 6 Tree Sparrows. Of course, the Tree Sparrows were ringed from boxes on Rawcliffe Moss.

Blue Tit chick

Great Tit chicks

Nuthatch chick

The boxes we have in the Hodder Valley are situated at the Wild Boar Park and walking through the woodland we had singing Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and a Kingfisher flying along the river. We also found Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Swallow and Wren nests and will keep our eye on them over the coming weeks.

Ian and I couldn't resist having a look at the Meerkat enclosure at the Boar Park whilst we were looking for nests and I have included a few pictures below because they are such characters!

Back at home I checked my moth trap and I had 3 Garden Carpets, Hebrew Character, 3 Heart and Darts, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Grey Dagger, 2 Common Quakers and Small Magpie Moth. The Small Magpie Moth was quite early as they aren't usually on the wing until June.

Small Magpie Moth

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Quality Not Quantity

This morning I met Ian at 4.15 a.m. at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park to carry out some ringing in the reeds and willow scrub. Three nets were rapidly put up and we hoped that we would catch a few Acros as they can still be moving until the end of May. 'Few' would become the operative word as we only ringed 5 birds and retrapped 2. However, it was all quality this morning and not quantity.

We ringed a male Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Reed warblers, Sedge Warbler and amazingly a female Goldcrest with a well developed brood patch.

Lesser Whitethroat

I say amazingly regarding the Goldcrest as they have been so scarce this spring after the hard winter. As this bird would have been a migrant you would have expected it in March or April and not late May.

Goldcrest - female

On the birding front it was relatively quiet. As I was unlocking the first gate at 4.10 a.m. I could hear a Grasshopper Warbler 'reeling' from a patch of brambles and this was the only additional species of warbler to those ringed that we recorded.

Sedge Warbler

There was no visible migration other than 2 Lesser Redpolls that moved east and the 7 Swifts and 4 Swallows were probably local breeders.

Whitethroat - male

A quick look on the 'deep' pool revealed several broods of Coots but not a lot else. Back at home I checked my moth trap and recorded 2 Flame Shoulders, Light Brown Apple Moth, Heart and Dart, Clouded Drab, Common Pug and Bright-line Brown-eye.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Even Less Moths

The only thing in my trap this morning was a Shuttle-shaped Dart!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Just A Few Moths

At 2.00 a.m. I was running outside in my garden putting my moth trap away as it was absolutely bucketing it down. I only trapped three moths of three species which were Flame Shoulder, Heart And Dart (first for garden for year) and the Angle Shades below.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Boxes Again

This morning Ian and I went to check our boxes in the Hodder Valley and on Rawcliffe Moss. In the Hodder Valley 18 out of our 35 boxes are occupied by 8 Blue Tits, 5 Great Tits, Nuthatch, Coal Tit and 3 Pied Flycatchers. The Tits are either in the final stages of incubation or are just hatching/have small young, as in the Great Tits below.

The Pied Flycatcher have just started to incubate finished clutches and we lifted the female below from the nest. She had a ring on and we ringed her at the nest at this site last year.

The weather was fairly inclement and we didn't do any birding as such but we did pick up a calling Kingfisher.

It was then on to Rawcliffe Moss to check the Tree Sparrow boxes. Last week we had four boxes with Tree Sparrows just hatching and we were hopeful that we would be ringing them this week. However, due to the cold weather over this past week the young hadn't developed sufficiently and they were still too small to ring. Let's hope it warms up this coming week and if it does we will be busy next weekend.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Phragmites des joncs

For those of you who don't speak French (and that includes me), Phragmites des joncs is French for Sedge Warbler. Now, I haven't gone all 'continental' on you, it is just to celebrate the fact that this morning at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park we caught a French ringed Sedge Warbler! It will probably take a while for the details to come through on where it was ringed, but as soon as they do I'll let you know.

Sedge Warbler

As you will have gathered I was out ringing at Fleetwood Marsh NP this morning and the 4.30 a.m. meet was a shock to the system. With me was Craig and Ian, and I must congratulate Craig on gaining his C permit! If you're reading this Craig I'm expecting you to get out there and ring lots of birds!

Reed Bunting

We put three nets up totalling 140 feet in an area of willow scrub and reeds. We ringed thirteen birds and retrapped two and the new birds/retraps were as follows:

Sedge Warbler - 4/0
Whitethroat - 3/0
Dunnock - 1/0
Reed Warbler - 4/1
Reed Bunting - 1/0
Blackbird - 0/1

Reed Warbler

The retrap Reed Warbler was originally ringed here on 24th July 2006 and interestingly it has never been retrapped in the intervening time.


There was a northerly movement of Swifts and hirundines this morning and we probably had about 16 Swifts, 80 Swallows, 15 Sand Martins and 10 House Martins head north. Driving away from the ringing area we had a female Whinchat, but there we no other grounded chats such as Wheatear.

Back home I checked my moth trap and all I had were single Hebrew Character and the Garden Carpet below. At least the Garden Carpet was a new species recorded for the year.

When I got home I had received a notification from the BTO of a Jay recovery. We ringed it aged '3', which means it was hatched in the calendar year of ringing, at Clifton Hall on 30th November 1996 and it was found freshly dead, 'taken by a cat' in Clifton village on 11th March 2010. This means that it wasn't far short of its 14th birthday. The longest lived Jay on record in the UK was 17, so our bird was a fair old age.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

A Few More Tewit Chicks

I was surveying a farm in Bowland today and I was keeping an eye on the breeding waders on the farm in case they had young. I came across a pair of Lapwing with what just seemed like one chick and I made a mental note of where it was and walked across. I found the chick hiding behind a clump of rushes. Rings and pliers were whipped out of my pocket and a D2 ring was fitted.

I had a quick look around in case there were any more and found another trying to hide itself behind another clump of rushes. I duly ringed this bird and then retreated to a safe distance and watched them come out of hiding and continue feeding.

There were several pairs of Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank on the farm, but I didn't come across any other young. I had a cracking singing male Redstart and Lesser Redpolls and Siskins were abundant.

I treated Gail this evening to some impromptu habitat management in the form of clearing a net ride at Fleetwood Nature Park in preparation for some ringing. The pictures below illustrate 'before' and 'after' we had done the work. Isn't she a lucky lady?!





Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Water Ouzel

I was struggling to come up with a snappy title to do with Dippers so I decided to go with the theme from yesterday and look up an old folk name and I thought that Water Ouzel was one of the best. Apparently the Dipper was described by Turner, and other early writers, in literature in 1544 as 'Water Ouzel'. Other names include Bessie Ducker, Water Peggie and Bobby to name but a few.

After work Ian and I 'nipped' up to the Brock Valley to ring a brood of Dippers that he had found last weekend when out with the family. The nest was in a classic Dipper location nestled under an overhanging bank amongst tree roots.

Dipper Nest

There were three large pulli, with primary feathers emerged between a third and two thirds from the sheath, all crammed in the nest above. All three were quickly ringed and squeezed back into the nest and the adults were straight back in with food.

Afterwards we spent a few minutes watching a stonking male Kingfisher carrying a small fish back towards its nest burrow round the bend of the river upstream of where we were.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


For those of you that don't know 'Tewit' is the Lancashire name for Lapwing and today when I was visiting a client near Grimsargh I ringed a Tewit chick. I was attempting to ring two Tewit chicks but a field full of excitable youngstock meant I could only find one!

Close to the field where the young Lapwings were is a local landmark called the 'Reindeer' tree. What do you think? I think it looks a lot like a Reindeer.

Monday, 10 May 2010

At last...

...something different in my moth trap! After weeks of Hebrew Characters, Early Greys etc, this morning I got a Flame Shoulder! Nothing rare, but something different! See picture below.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Still Cold, Still Northerly, Still Crap!

It was one of those situations this morning that if I hadn't gone out birding I would have wished that I had and when I did I wished that I hadn't. My blog title sums up the morning!

I didn't get out at the crack of dawn but arrived at Rossall Point at 6.30 a.m. and the skies were clear with a brisk and cold northeasterly wind. Definitely the right decision not to go ringing!

The first 'vis' I had was a Tree Pipit flying low, calling and heading north. I only had one more 'Trepit' and again this bird was calling loudly as though it had been perhaps flushed off the golf course. The only other 'vis' I had were 10 Linnets, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 80 Pink-footed Geese, 3 Swallows, 3 Goldfinches and House Martin.

Out on the sea it was fairly quiet as well. Only 7 male Eiders this morning and 31 distant Common Scoters. Gannets were steadily moving east and I had 34 head into the bay. As usual there was a good mix of age classes and some were incredibly close. Also on an easterly trajectory were 8 Red-throated Divers, 3 Whimbrel, 13 Arctic Terns and a single Sandwich Tern. The best sea bird of the morning was a single pale morph Arctic Skua that headed east into the bay also.

Very few waders were around other than a flock 76 Dunlin, the aforementioned Whimbrel and a single Ringed Plover. I then headed off to Mount Park in the forlorn hope that there might be a few grounded migrants, and there was! Nothing spectacular, but I had 2 Willow Warblers, Whitethorat and Blackcap.

My next stop was the cemetery and here were just 3 Willow Warblers and a single Chiffchaff. I then went to the Nature Park, mainly to check out some mist net rides and whether they needed clearing or not. The first two mist net rides looked great and I will call later in the week to clear a third. I didn't venture into the reedbed proper as I needed wellies and didn't have any on.

Five Sedge Warblers sang from the reeds, as did 2 Reed warblers, and there was a supporting cast of Blackcap and Whitethroat from some of the drier 'scrubbier' areas. Three Little and single Great Crested Grebes were on the pools and 6 Wheatears fed between the rocks and the aero modellers airfield.

No photos from today I am afraid, but I thought I would brighten up this cold northerly page with some colour from Canada with a few pictures of some cracking birds in the hand sent to me by my good mate Nigel. Thanks Nigel.

Chipping Sparrow

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) - male

Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker - male