Sunday, 31 July 2011

From Acros to Hirundines

Ian and I spent the dawn and dusk periods in the reedbeds at Fleetwood yesterday targeting warblers in the morning and Swallows in the evening. At first light it was surprisingly cold and I even had to put on a woolly hat whilst putting the nets up. This was short-lived as it soon warmed up.

Walking back to the cars Ian picked up a Kingfisher calling and it headed to the area where we had some nets up but unfortunately we didn't catch it. It was very quiet with little moving over head other than a few hirundines and Swifts. Two Stock Doves and a singing Grasshopper Warbler were probably the best birds seen or heard during the morning.

We managed to ring only 19 birds as follows:

Reed Bunting - 1
Goldfinch - 2
Whitethroat - 3
Chaffinch - 1
Reed Warbler - 6
Blackcap - 1
Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Wren - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1


We were back in the evening to 'work' the Swallow roost and we managed to ring 131. Only three of these were adults and we also caught a leucistic bird that was a beige colour. We caught a single Sedge Warbler and when I got it out of the net I could see that it had a French ring on it! A cracking end to a cracking day.


Leucistic Swallow

Friday, 29 July 2011

Responsible, or should that be Irresponsible Behaviour?

I felt I had to contact the 'webmasters' of Fylde Bird Club recently to ask them if they thought it was a good idea to publish the exact site details of a Schedule 1 breeding bird in the area. I am not going to mention the species but I will say that they were feeding young and birders were being encouraged to twitch and photograph them. I was hoping, as a member of the club, that they would heed my advice and decide that it was reckless to do such a thing. They have chosen to completely ignore my advice, so by their actions I can only conclude that they think they know more than me and that it is absolutely fine to disturb a Schedule 1 species. A very sad state of affairs for a club that does actually do some good work for bird conservation locally (hence the reason for being a member), but they obviously think that they are above the law!

Apparently, the young have now fledged and are being fed by the adults out of the nest, but it is also an offence to disturb dependant young of a schedule 1 species.

On a more positive note I am looking forward to getting out birding and ringing this weekend and hopefully I will have something interesting to report here.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Blame It On The Northwesterlies

A hoped for second morning of ringing was cancelled due to the stiff northwesterly wind, so I headed for Rossall to watch the tide. I knew it would be poor because of the wind direction but it was the fact that it was a morning tide that had me heading out. It wasn't as early a start as it would have been if we had been ringing but a 5.15 a.m. alarm call was early enough!

As expected there was very little on the sea and all I had were 22 Common Scoters, a Gannet and 6 Sandwich Terns. After about an hour of 'nothingness' Ian said there had been a nice selection of returning waders in the week, so we went to have a look at the small, but increasing daily, number of waders roosting on the shingle. We were treated to stonking views of 68 Sanderling, 13 Ringed Plovers, 46 Turnstones and 3 Dunlin.



On the way home I called in at the Nature Park and had a quick look on the pools. Totals included 33 Mallard, 5 Little Grebes, 35 Coot, 8 Tufted Ducks and 4 Pochards. A flock of 29 Goldfinch were feeding on site and that was about it. I've got a busy week this week at work so pre-work early morning sessions will be limited, but as ever I will try and squeeze one or two in!

First Day Back

Yesterday was the first autumn ringing session at the 'obs' for Ian and I and we caught quite well. The day dawned with clear skies and it was absolutely flat calm; perfect for operating mist nets. Well, except for the glare on the nets from the sun I suppose. We processed 43 new birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Robin - 3
Whitethroat - 8
Dunnock - 3
Blue Tit - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
House Martin - 1
Swallow - 3
Greenfinch - 11
Wren - 5
Blackbird - 1 (1)
Goldfinch - 5

 Blue Tit

The ringing was good and it was a great start to the autumn, but the birding was relatively slow. A singing Grasshopper Warbler at first light was one of the better birds and any 'vis' was limited to around 17 Swifts and a single Crossbill.


There was a good sized flock of 130 Goldfinch, that kept getting flushed by a male and female Sparrowhawk that were on the prowl. It was easy to locate the presence of the 'Sprawks' or indeed the Kestrels by the alarm calling Swallows and House Martins, that were feeding low over the meadow on insects.

House Martin

Brown Hawker

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Where Did All The Swallows Go?

For the past two evenings there had been at least a thousand Swallows coming in to roost in the reeds at the Nature Park, so Ian and I decided that last night we would have a go at catching and ringing some. The weather had been good all day yesterday and usually this helps to build the roost up, but not tonight! We put 120 feet of netting up in a good spot and on went the Swallow MP3. We retreated to the ringing table with high expectations but it was soon clear that it wasn't going to happen.


The Swallows were very late coming in and in the end I only counted around 150 flying in to roost. This of course meant that we caught very few and we only ringed 8, with four of these being adults. In addition to the Swallows we ringed three Reed Warblers. A male and female Sparrowhawk came in towards dusk to 'work' both the Swallow and Starling roost. Several thousand Starlings were roosting, but thankfully they stayed well away from our nets!

 Reed Warbler

A Little Egret was a nice distraction whilst waiting for the Swallows and 4 House Martins and a single Sand Martin fed over the pools. We will leave it a few days before checking the roost out again prior to another ringing attempt.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Taking It Easy

After yesterday's 3.30 a.m. alarm call to head off to Merseyside to join Peter and Tineke for a ringing session in the Rimrose Valley (thanks Peter for a great morning), Ian and I had a lie in and didn't meet at the Nature Park until 5.00 a.m. We put up just 130 feet of netting and caught quite nicely.

 Blue Tit

When we arrived over a thosand Swallows were exiting from their reedbed roost and about 4,000 Starlings followed shortly. It was interesting to note as we drove past the 'artificial pools' to our ringing area that 10 Tufted Ducks and 2 Pochard were taking advantage of the queit before before the doggy walkers would descend and push them off onto the main pool.

 Great Tit

There was no visible passage this morning although about 20 Swifts and 4 Sand Martins fed over the pools and later in the morning we heard a Green Sand but couldn't locate it. We processed 31 new birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Whitethroat - 10
Reed Warbler - 6
Sedge Warbler - 3
Reed Bunting - 1
Blue Tit - 5
Willow Warbler - 6 (1)
Great Tit - (1)

 Sedge Warbler


After our ringing session Ian and I cleared a 180 foot net ride in the reeds in preparation for some (hopefully) Swallow roost ringing in the week. A quick look on the pools on the way out showed that Coots have had a good breeding season as 45 birds were present on just the main pool.

Willow Warbler

Friday, 8 July 2011

Updated Ringing Totals

I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that I have updated our ringing totals up until the end of June; you can see these in the panel on the right. Five new species for the year were ringed in June and these were Oystercatcher, Curlew, Barn Owl, Little Owl and Swallow. I can't take credit for any of these as they are due to the hard work of Phil and Will.

Other notable species and totals include Kestrel of which we ringed 7 pulli in June thanks to Ian's ladder and tree climbing skills. Paul has ringed good  numbers of Tree Sparrows and increased the total for pulli to an impressive 239.

So I think a pat on the back is deserved for all members of Fylde Ringing Group!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Keystone Cops

Ian phoned me and said he had found another brood of Ringed Plovers at Rossall. So I went up to Rossall and joined Ian, and we quickly found the brood of two very large Ringed P chicks. This is where the Keystone Cops antics began as we chased the two Ringed Plovers chicks until they were firmly in our grasp. When wader chicks are large, their instinct is to run rather than crouch and this can lead to a lot of running about!

So for the second year running Ringed Ps have raised chicks at Rossall after an absence of 10 years; excellent!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Desert Warbler

Now, that's got your attention. Yesterday morning when Ian and I were ringing at the Nature Park we caught this '3J' Whitethroat below. It was obviously a leucistic bird, but if it had been late October it would have made us give it a bit of a grilling!

 Above and below: a Whitethroat in Desert warblers clothing!

We just put three nets up in area of willow scrub and processed 21 new birds (recaptures in brackets):

Sedge Warbler - 3
Whitethroat - 10
Dunnock - 3
Blackcap - 2
Reed Warbler - 1 (3)
Reed Bunting - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Great Tit - 1


Sedge Warbler

All the new birds except for one of the Blackcaps, the Willow and Reed Warbler were juveniles and this is what you would expect at this time of the year. To get a true picture of how successful a breeding season it has been we will have to wait for a few weeks yet and see what the ratio of adults to juveniles caught is.

On the birding front it was quiet. At first light Starlings were exiting their reedbed roost and we had a Siskin head south. My first autumnal finch movement.

This evening Ian and I were at Rossall clearing the net rides in preparation for the autumn season. So all we need now is some decent weather and we'll be out. Bring it on!

Sunday, 3 July 2011


I am now back after a weeks holiday 'with her indoors' on the spectacular and beautiful Isle of Skye. It wasn't a birding holiday as such, but of course being a birder and being outdoors all day everyday meant that I was always birding.

I am not going to bore you with details of days out but some of the interesting stuff (well to me anyway) I saw is as follows.

Hen Harrier - just one 'ring tail' seen driving to our remote cottage in the poring rain on our first day.
Hooded Crow - ever present and cracking birds; I wish we had them 'down south' in the north of England!
Wheatear - breeding birds on the mountain side behind our cottage. It was great to see fresh out of the nest streaky juvs! By the time we get them in the autumn they have undergone a body moult and lost their streakiness.
Red-throated Diver - even though they breed on Skye we only had one bird and that was in full summer plumage, as you would expect; awesome!
Black Guillemot - we saw these virtually everywhere around the coast and never tired of seeing them.
Manx Shearwater - large rafts of these were off the northwest coast; one of may favourite birds.
Raven - they were quite numerous and vocal practically everywhere; particularly along the rocky headlands. Watching a family party of seven 'playing' on the updrafts was particularly memorable.
Cuckoo - heard singing every morning from the cottage garden.
Golden Eagle - we saw three birds; two togeether along the northwest coast and then one over the cottage one evening. I wonder how many visitors to Skye string Buzzards into eagles? Unfortunately we didn't connect with any White-tailed Eagles; damn!
Bonxie - just two birds close in when I managed to do some sea watching.
Dolphin sp. - three viewed from our restaurant table as they swam into Broadford Bay on our last evening on the island.

I didn't manage to take any pictures of the birds but I have included a few landscape pics below to give you a flavour of Skye if you've never been.