Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Valley of the Post Bird

I had half an hour or so to spare this morning on my way to see a client in Slaidburn in the Forest of Bowland, so I decided to have a short walk up the valley of Langden Brook. Almost immediately I had a pair of Post Birds or Spotted Flycatchers to you and me. They were incredibly close and if I had had my camera with me I could have got some shots like the one below that I borrowed from the web!

I noticed that one of the birds was carrying food and the other bird was 'fly catching like mad' and completely ignoring me. I watched the first bird move off and located the nest with small young; so that was a nice bit of proof of breeding for the atlas.

I continued up the valley but I didn't get very far due to my time constraints. In my short walk I had 4 Willow Warblers, 2 Goldcrests, Garden Warbler, Dipper and Lesser Redpoll. It was then time to turn back and see my client.

Driving back to the office at lunchtime along the Marshaw Road I flushed two Common Sandpipers from the side of the road, which I thought was unusual.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Northward Bound

We received details recently from the BTO of a Goldfinch we controlled at Moss House Farm on Rawcliffe Moss.

Female Goldfinch - But Not the Bird

We trapped the bird on 17th April 2010 and it had been ringed at Kintbury Farm, Kintbury, Berkshire on 31st January 2010. It had travelled a distance of 292 km and had probably been wintering in the south of England and was on its way further north when we trapped it. Alternatively it might not have travelled much further and nested somewhere in the Rawcliffe Moss area.

The Movement of Goldfinch X818575

Sunday, 27 June 2010


It was back to reality yesterday as I rolled out of my bed at 4.00 a.m. to do the late breeding survey on my atlas square near Cockerham. My first avian encounter was a Little Owl stood in the middle of the road near Hambleton. I stopped to see if it was okay and it flew off when a van went past.

Little Owl

It was warm even at 4.45 a.m. when I started my two hour timed tetrad visit. It was also one of those misty sunrises where the sun is a golden globe struggling to break through and burn the mist off below.

The habitat in my square is typical pastoral farmland in that it comprises mainly of improved pasture, hedgerows, ditches and small blocks of woodland or copses. Some of the ditches and the marginal vegetation provide some structural diversity to the habitat.

Walking besides the ditch above the sweet smell of Meadowsweet was being wafted along on the warm air. Of course in years gone by Meadowseet was used to scent the floor of cottages.


Birdwise the species I recorded were fairly typical for the area and included 4 Skylarks, a pair of Grey Partridge, Sedge Warbler, 8 Stock Doves, 91 Lapwings, 2 Song Thrushes, 4 Reed Buntings, 3 Linnets, Tree Sparrow, 3 Whitethroats, Grasshopper Warbler, Common Sandpiper and Grey Wagtail.

After I had finished my survey I decided to have a look on the pool and estuary at Conder Green.

The Pool at Conder Green

On the pool it was fairly quiet other than 13 Lapwings, 3 Wigeons, Little Ringed Plover and 3 Oystercatchers including one with a chick.

Out on the estuary there was a touch of Autumn with 4 adult Dunlin amongst the 80 Redshanks and a summer plumaged Spotted Redshank kept them company along with a Common Sandpiper.

Back home I had quite a good catch in my moth trap and of the moths that I could identify I had Brimstone Moth, 6 Riband Waves, Swallow-tailed Moth, Magpie, Figure of Eighty, 3 Green Pugs, 2 Garden Carpets, 14 Heart and Darts, 3 Flame Shoulders, 8 Common Rustics, Large Yellow Underwing, Common Emerald, Grey Dagger, 20 Marbled Beauty's, 3 Bright-line Brown Eyes, Marbled Minor and Rustic Shoulder-knot.

Figure of Eighty



Swallow-tailed Moth

Up North

I apologise for the 'radio' silence this past week but I have been on holiday 'up north'. When I say up north, I mean Northumberland. I consider that I live in the north of England, but Northumberland is a long way north!

Arctic Tern and chick

I am not going to give you a 'blow by blow' account of my holiday you will be pleased to know but I thought I would share with you some of my pictures of seabirds that I took.

Black-headed Gull

Some of these were taken on the Farne Islands and others along the coast at the numerous small seabird colonies that you come across.


If you have never been to Northumberland you should as it is a fantastic county with some fantastic birds.


More Guillemots





Wednesday, 16 June 2010


I don't think 'Swallowling' is a technical term for a young Swallow but I thought it sounded good. Mind you it does sound as though I have gone all 'Springwatch' on you and less hard core birder! Eek!

Yesterday evening Ian and I went to a friend's farm near Treales to ring some Swallow pulli. That's better; 'pulli' a proper scientific name. We found three nests with young in. We ringed 11, a brood of 6 and 5, but unfortunately the third brood were too small to ring. Based on the number of adults flying round there was probably another two nests but we failed to find them.

Swallow nest

A young Swallow

An even younger Swallow

I haven't done much birding of late as it is that funny time of year when it is hard work seeing anything. Never mind. I am away in Northumberland on holiday next week and when I come back I will be straight into the autumn ringing. That's right, I said autumn ringing as July is most certainly autumn in the bird world. Can't wait!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Last Pied Flys Of The Season

Ian and I headed off to Bowland this morning to ring the last few pulli in out boxes in the Hodder Valley. We had a brood of 5 Pied Flycatchers and a brood of 4 Great Tits. There was a third Great Tit nest but the female was incubating tiny young that were too small to ring.

Below you will find pictures of both Pied Flycatcher and Great Tits chicks and adults, to illustrate how they change from what has to be fairly ugly chicks to attractive looking adult birds.

Before - Pied Flycatcher chick

After - Pied Flycatcher - male
(courtesy of Steve Young)

Before - Great Tit chicks

After - Great Tit - male

Walking round the woodland it was very quiet and it was obvious that a good number of birds had already left the woods. There was still the odd Blackcap and Willow Warbler, and a Kingfisher called from the river.

The weather forecast at the moment for tomorrow is looking poor with rain forecast so it is very doubtful that I'll get out anywhere. I might even get a lie in! What's one of them?

Friday, 11 June 2010

'Missiles' On The Moss

It's funny that as a birder you will often give birds different names and I can think of several that I use and indeed that members of our ringing group use. I suppose you could call it a sort of birding 'rhyming slang'! One of these is 'missile' for Mistle Thrush. We named Mistle Thrush 'missile' because it sounds a bit like 'mistle' and also because of the way it flies quite fast like a missile.

Mistle Thrush (Courtesy of Simon Hawtin)

The 'missiles' in question this afternoon were feeding on some tilled land at the top of the 'big' field on Rawcliffe Moss. I had a flock of 12, which is quite a large gathering for here. Often at this time of year and throughout the summer you can often get large flocks of 'missiles' and they are a delight to watch.

A number of Whitethroats were singing on the Moss and I had 6 singing males in total along with another non-singing bird. Keeping with the Warbler theme I had 3 singing Willow Warblers and a single singing Garden Warbler.

I had three Buzzards on my walk round including a bird that was being mobbed by a Lapwing at some altitude. I didn't know Lapwings could fly so high! A few Tree Sparrows called from the hedgerows along with 5 or 6 Goldfinches.

A number of butterflies were on the wing even though it was quite blustery. I had Small White, Large White, Peacock and the male Large Skipper below. In the plantation I had a single Cinnabar moth that didn't 'play ball' when I tried to photograph it.

Up onto the potato fields and I had a flock of 50 lapwings plus a further 8 birds scattered about on my walk. Seeing Lapwings flocked like this is a sign that autumn is here. I had 4 pairs of Corn Buntings and 2 pairs of Skylarks. Two Roe Deer in the plantation finished off what was a pleasant if blustery walk.

It's Pied Flycatchers and Swallows tomorrow and perhaps some mist netting on Sunday. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Chicks and Moths

This morning Craig and I found ourselves in the Hodder Valley checking boxes and ringing pulli. The main purpose of today's visit was to hopefully ring the four broods of Pied Flycatchers and we were particularly interested to know if the brood of 9 had survived.

We ringed three broods of Pied Flycatchers; a 6, 6 and an 8. The brood of 9 I mentioned were now a brood of 8 as there was an unhatched egg in the nest. From the boxes we also ringed a brood of 7 Great Tits.

Pied Flycatcher chicks queuing up in a bird bag
waiting to be ringed

Pied Flycatcher chick

Last week a male Pied Wagtail that had given us the slip in terms of we couldn't find its nest, gave itself up this week courtesy of the owners of the site. After we had left they watched the bird and found where it was nesting. It was nesting in a wood shed along with a pair of Wrens and Blackbirds. Four large Pied Wag chicks were duly ringed.

Pied Wagtail chick

We also ringed 6 large Wrens from the nest below. The female Blackbird was brooding small young, so we left her alone. Interestingly the owners put a camera on the Blackbirds nest and live pictures are continually beamed into the education room.

Wren's nest with chicks 'peeking' out

The Blackbird nest, and if you look closely you can
just see the female sitting. Honestly!

Back at home I had quite a good haul in my moth trap and if I identified them all correctly I had 3 Brimstone Moths, Green Pug, 13 Heart and Darts, 2 Flame shoulders, 4 Light Brown Apple Moths, Grey Pug, Cabbage Moth, Garden Carpet, Common Pug, Marbled Minor, Middle-barred Minor and Dusky Brocade.

Brimstone Moth

Friday, 4 June 2010

Molten Moss

I had a walk round Rawcliffe Moss late morning and boy was it hot! It's a good job that there was a southeasterly breeze, otherwise it would have been even hotter.

It's Dry!

I set off down the 'feeding hedge' and there were 3 or 4 Tree Sparrows in the hedge along with a couple of Goldfinches. I then headed along the '97 hedge' (see picture above) and had my first of 8 singing Whitethroats; the majority of these were in the plantation.

Skylarks were singing from the 'big' and 'top' fields and I had 3 singing birds in total, which was exactly the same number of singing Corn Buntings. Of the three singing Corn Buntings I only managed to see 2 of the females.

A number of butterflies were on the wing including Small & Green-veined Whites, Peacocks, Common Blues and Small Tortoiseshells. Talking of insects the best insect I had was a male Banded Demoiselle that I had in the plantation. These amazing damselflies are usually found alongside rivers but have started to colonise ponds and where I had this individual was very close to the pond in the plantation. I didn't manage to get a picture, so I have used an image (below) from the good people at Arkive.

On the top fields Lapwings had started to flock and I had 25 along with an Oystercatcher. The Oysrtercatcher was probably the male on guard whilst a female incubated on a nest in the tilled field.

Whilst walking through the plantation I had cracking views of Brown Hare feeding in one of the net rides. It wasn't aware that I was there and managed to come close enough for me to get the picture below.

The plantation was quiet other than singing Reed Bunting, Willow Warblers, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroats. In the recently re-seeded silage field to the north of the plantation 82 Rooks fed and they were a mixture of adults and recently fledged juvs. Two Mistle Thrushes were feeding in the same field and on my way back to my car I added to the warbler tally with a Blackcap singing from the 'L' wood.

Back at home I went through my moth trap and I had caught a couple of giants! These were Peppered Moth and Lime Hawkmoth. In addition to these two species I had a Brimstone Moth, 7 Heart and Darts, 3 Flame Shoulders, 3 Light Brown Apple Moths and a Shuttle-shaped Dart.

Peppered Moth

Lime Hawkmoth