Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Last post of 2013..........

..........and it's not very exciting either! First choice would have been the Point this morning for a seawatch, but I had to go and feed my Tree Sparrows. The weather was appalling this morning and there was no chance of a walk round. Driving on to the site the Green Sand was on the flood and as I was trying to get some shots of it when a car drove up behind me and I had to move on. It's a single track private lane and there is nowhere to pull over.

I walked down to the feeding station with my bucket of seed, apples and peanuts and there were 162 Tree Sparrows and 17 Chaffinches..

It's forecast for strong southeasterly winds for us tomorrow with rain moving in by 0900. As it will be the start of the New Year I'll make the effort to get out and have a bit of a sea watch.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2014 and let's hope it's a great year for wildlife!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Seagull Hawk

I had a change of plan this morning because I needed to go to my feeding station to feed the ravenous Tree Sparrows and therefore didn't get to the Point to seawatch. It was a glorious morning for a wander on the Moss and I was joined by Gail in the clear sunny skies.

Driving on to the Moss we passed the flood where the Green Sandpiper has been semi-regular and sure enough it was on the flood this  morning. I reversed my car so I could get my camera out of the boot without flushing it as I wanted to take some pictures in the perfect light conditions. However, when I pulled forward again the Green Sand had gone! I did have a bonus though in the form of a calling Chiffchaff from some leylandii.

At the feeding station the number of Tree Sparrows weren't at their peak and all we had were 74 plus six Yellowhammers, eight Chaffinches and four Reed Buntings.

 Reed Bunting

As we headed up the '97 Hedge' two Buzzards flew from the woodland and 61 Pink-footed Geese flew overhead in three small skeins. Two Brown Hares made an appearance and we also had another mammal species in the form of three Roe Deers.

 Pink-footed Geese

 Roe Deer

As we headed towards the plantation I picked up a male Hen Harrier to the east. It was 'hawking' over some permanent pasture alongside a reed fringed ditch. On several occasions it would land in the field before taking flight again. Eventually it shifted gear and belted west across the fields. Unfortunately it was always fairly distant and the two shots below are just record shots. A little point about record shots as mine really are record shots. I read some blogs where the author/photographer will say "below is a record shot of the blah-blah-blah bird" and low and behold is a full frame, pin-sharp shot!

The plantation didn't reveal much other than a Jay and on the walk back to the car we had a family party of eight Whooper Swans that headed south, then east and then back west towards where we first picked them up.

It's forecast to be fairly wet and windy tomorrow morning, but I still might have a look on the sea as there's a morning tide.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Starfish Wreck

I headed to the Point this morning but due to an episode of trying to make a flask of coffee with frozen milk I didn't get there quite as early as Craig and Ian and consequently missed a Bonxie by three minutes!

The wind had dropped from yesterday and this morning it was a steady 20 mph-ish west-southwesterly with about two oktas cloud cover. High tide was at 0645, so it was a case of watching the sea over the falling tide.

It wasn't a bad winter morning's seawatching, but I must admit I did expect a few more Little Gulls and Kittiwakes than the 14 and 17 that I had respectively. Auks numbered just a single Guillemot flying out of the Bay and two Auk sp. flying in to the Bay. I had a respectable nine Great Crested Grebes flying out of the Bay, but only two Red-throated Divers flying in.

One of the most interesting sightings was that of an adult Gannet flying west close inshore that had some dark patches on its belly as if it was slightly oiled. If it wasn't for the fact that I had a full cup of coffee in my hand I might have been able to grab my camera from my rucksack and taken a picture!

Wildfowl were represented by seven Eiders (all male), 30 Teal, a Wigeon, three Red-breasted Mergansers and six Common Scoters (two males and four females). The only waders that I counted were the 46 Oystercatchers, 250 Sanderlings, Grey Plover and ten Turnstones that included one of our leg-flagged birds. A juv. female Merlin flying just over the surf stirred the waders up a bit and Ian informed me that she has been around for a few weeks taking waders! She must have acquired a liking for Sanderling!

After the storms of the past week or so and particularly after the strong winds of yesterday large numbers of Starfish were wrecked as the tide dropped and the Gulls were having a feeding frenzy on them. Mostly they just swallowed them whole and some times washed them in some water first before knocking them back; presumably to provide some lubrication. What was interesting was the fact that there seemed to be more juv. Herring Gulls feeding on the Starfish than adults. The Gull species involved were Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and Common Gulls. Just directly in front of us were at least 400 Herring Gulls on a relatively small area of shore and looking in the wider area there must have been four or five times as many as this.

 Herring Gulls feeding on Starfish. If you look carefully at the Herring Gull
centre top, you can see it carrying a Starfish.

The forecast is for it to be fairly dry and a touch breezy (too breezy for ringing unfortunately) tomorrow, and as there's a morning tide it'll be some more seawatching for me.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

A Few Boxing Day Birds

After a few days cooped up inside it was good to be out this morning even if I had to defrost the car first! I headed to the southern end of the obs recording area that includes the private grounds of a public school that I have permission to walk round to survey birds and other wildlife.

Even though there had only been one night of freezing conditions I got the impression that there had been a frost induced movement of birds this morning. As I set off on my circuit I had two Fieldfares heading south. This was unusual because there just aren't any Fieldfares and Redwings around here at the moment as there are no berries for them to feed on, so these were definitely moving birds.

Then when I was walking along side the reed fringed edge of the old athletics's track I flushed two Snipe. This isn't an area I have recorded Snipe before, so I can only assume they were trying to find somewhere to feed that wasn't too frozen. The final sighting that gave me the impression of some frost induced bird movement was a single Song Thrush feeding in the Japanese Rose behind the sea wall. No frost tomorrow, just more wind and rain!

The rest of my walk was fairly quiet and the sea was quiet too as it was very hazy. Other minor highlights were six Blackbirds, 12 Jackdaws, seven Meadow Pipits, 37 Oystercatchers, 17 Shelducks, a Great Crested Grebe and a Red-breasted Merganser. I hope you didn't get too excited there!

I need to feed the Tree Sparrows tomorrow, but I have the feeling that I'm going to get wet!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Too Early For Tree Sparrows

Roll on Boxing Day so that I can get out birding properly again; I'm like a caged beast at the moment desperate to escape! With all the family round for a meal tomorrow her indoors is finding me chore after chore preventing me from getting out!

I had a quick visit to my feeding station yesterday but the weather was horrendous and I was there in the half-light just as the Tree Sparrows were arriving so I can't report anything meaningful. I will get to the feeding station tomorrow, but it will be a short visit before everyone descends on our house and eats and drinks us out of house and home! Thankfully it's only once a year and what a miserable old b*stard I am!

See you Boxing Day!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Return Of The Light

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my blog readers a 'Happy Solstice' and a wonderful New Year. From now on the nights get shorter and the light returns! I for one will be having a few beers this evening to celebrate.

In case you were wondering Tree Sparrow numbers didn't beat the 237 from the other day but were still at a respectable 208, with a supporting cast of five Yellowhammers and 21 Chaffinches. I didn't record anything else as the weather was atrocious with strong winds and near horizontal rain! The forecast doesn't look much better for tomorrow, but if there is an opportunity to get out I'll take it!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Mid Winter on the Estuary

It was dry this morning and quite cold so I decided to spend an hour or so on the estuary before returning home to wrap presents!. I had very little as I walked down to the estuary other than a Grey Heron that lifted from the field in front of the pools.

The wind was southwesterly and quite strong, perhaps 25 mph, as I walked across the saltmarsh to my vantage point where I could see up and down the river. Even though high tide wasn't due for another four hours the tide was 'running in' and gently 'lifting' some of the waders and wildfowl.

 Sunrise over the estuary

Lapwings totalled 416 and Golden Plovers 290, and as the tide continued to run in huge numbers of Lapwings were pushed from the far northeastern side of the estuary too far away to count accurately. On the water and mudflats were 566 Teal and 113 Wigeon, and on the saltmarsh fringes 717 Pink-footed Geese. In addition to the Golden Plovers and Lapwings the only other waders that I had in any decent numbers were 200 Dunlins.

 Golden Plovers

Passerines were few and far between with just two Rock Pipits and four Goldfinches encountered on the saltmarsh. I headed back to the embankment and had a look on the pool and widlfowl numbers were restricted to three Goldeneyes, eight Tufted Ducks, three Little Grebes, a Pochard, 17 Coot and two Mute Swans. The only raptor I had this morning was a Kestrel.


I'll be back at my feeding station tomorrow and I wonder if I can better my count of 237 Tree Sparrows from yesterday; I'll be sure to let you know. Only one more day until the return of the sun!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

And Still They Come

A quick visit to my feeding station revealed two Buzzards, two Roe Deer, 11 Fieldfares, 237 Tree Sparrows (highest total for the winter so far) and six Yellowhammers. It might be dry in the morning and if so I might be able to have a look on the estuary.

Only two days until the return of the sun!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


I always think the word 'pricked' is a poor, bordering on cold casual, word to use for a bird suffering with a shot gun wound destined to die a slow lingering death from starvation if it isn't finished off by a predator first! At my feeding station today I could see a 'pricked' Pink-footed Goose in the adjacent field that was running along a hedge, flapping it's damaged wings in the futile hope that it might get off the ground.

Now I'm not anti-shooting per se and have friends that shoot, but as in all walks of life there are some 'cowboys' out there that don't do things properly, and when this is applied to shooting some poor creature reaps the consequences and suffers at the hand of some 'cowboy's' incompetence! They shouldn't be taking the shot unless they are 100% confident of killing the bird outright.

Other than the aforementioned pathetic creature it was quiet at the feeding station mainly because it was bucketing it down and blowing a hoolie, and all I had were two Yellowhammers, 53 Tree Sparrows, six Chaffinches and five Blackbirds. Driving home as I crossed the bridge over the estuary I had a Peregrine fly over which raised my deflated spirits after the episode with the 'Pinkie'!  


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

They're Not Turnstones!

Craig, Ian and I attempted a last catch of Turnstones for 2013 this morning, but they weren't playing ball. We couldn't even blame dog walkers for flushing them as the disturbance wasn't too bad. It's just a fact that they have become wary of three hairy blokes sat in a car with a whoosh net set up! We will try again in the New Year as it is such an exciting, important and interesting project.

There were probably about 150 Turnstones around with a single Purple Sandpiper.

We didn't draw a complete blank, because instead of Turnstones we ringed fourteen Starlings!


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Two Hundred Plus

No real ale last night just that awful Tetley Crapflow, but it was an enjoyable evening, and hence not an early start for me this morning. I had to feed the Tree Sparrows at my feeding station and was pleased and surprised to find that there were 202 there! In addition to the Tree Sparrows were 22 Chaffinches, six Blackbirds and six Yellowhammers.

No birding for me tomorrow, but hopefully I'll have a Turnstone catch to report to you on Tuesday. Only six days now until the return of the Sun!

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Passage Before the Storm

I joined Ian at the Point this morning for a couple of hours seawatching and it wasn't too bad. It was a bright day with a 20 mph southeasterly wind and there was a little bit of passage, mainly east into the Bay. In fact the movement of Red-throated Divers east made it feel more like March and we wondered whether these birds could detect the 'mucky' weather that was due in later today, perhaps by being able to detect some pressure change. Who knows!

The sea yielded 24 Cormorants, a Pintail, 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, six Eiders, an adult Mediterranean Gull, 23 Red-throated Divers (17 east), six Little Gulls, 39 Kittiwakes, 15 Auk sp., four Great Crested Grebes, 12 Common Scoters and two Pink-footed Geese.

Waders on the shore were 73 Oystercatchers, 300 Sanderlings and 19 Ringed Plovers. On my way home I had look on the Marine Lakes and there were 70 Turnstones, eight Red-breasted Mergansers and a pair of Goldeneyes. Hopefully we'll have a catch of Turnstones next week on one of the higher morning tides.



I'm off to a party this evening and depending on whether there is any real ale on offer will depend on how early I am out tomorrow!

Friday, 13 December 2013

November's Ringing Totals

As per usual at this time of the month I have updated the group's ringing totals over on the right and you will see that up until the end of November we have ringed 3,200 birds of 62 species. We are 336 down on this time last year which is pretty good considering the awful October we had. Two new species were added for the year and these were Coot and Pied Wagtail. Below I have listed the top five species ringed for the month and the usual top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed in November

1. Reed Bunting - 47
2. Pied Wagtail - 41
3. Great Tit - 41
4. Tree Sparrow - 36
5. Goldfinch - 34

Top Ten Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Swallow - 761 (same position)
2. Chaffinch - 168 (same position)
3. Blue Tit - 166 (up from 6th)
4. Goldfinch - 163 (down from 3rd)
5. Greenfinch - 162 (same position)
6. Willow Warbler - 132 (down from 4th)
7. Great Tit - 131 (same position)
8. Tree Sparrow - 130 (up from 10th)
9. Reed Bunting - 128 (straight in)
10. Reed Warbler - 108 (down from 8th)

I called at my feeding station today but the weather was awful so it was a quick 'splash and dash' and a rainy count of 15 Chaffinches and 73 Tree Sparrows.

There's a tide in the morning so I'll probably have a look on the sea and there's only eight more days until the return of the sun!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Feeding Station Update

I apologise for not posting for a week and that is partly due to not having a great deal to say and I have been busy with work. As per usual I have been going to my feeding station every other day, that's all I seem to do at the moment, and even then I haven't had time for a proper walk round.

I seem to have been timing it recently when there has been low numbers of Tree Sparrows and good numbers of Fieldfares, and recently my highest count of Tree Sparrows has been 63 and Fieldfares 266. Chaffinches have been around the ten mark and over the last couple of visits I've only had a couple of Yellowhammers.

 A distant view of four of the 266 Fieldfares

A couple of days ago I decided to have a walk through the woodland close to my feeding station and it was quiet other than a Treecreeper. However, I was really pleased to see Treecreeper as they are virtually absent from my usual coastal birding locations. below are a couple of views within the woodland.

I'll be back at the feeding station tomorrow morning, so I'll let you know if anything has changed, and hopefully at the weekend a mooch round the obs.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

From Moss to Marsh to Moss

On Tuesday I called at my feeding station on the Moss, on my way to measure some hedges to be restored in the Wenning Valley. It would have been a good morning for a good mooch round but I only had half an hour to spare, so I fed the Tree Sparrows and then had a quick walk round a section of the farm I don't normally cover.

At the feeding station were 28 Chaffinches and 164 Tree Sparrows. There has been a number of Thrushes feeding on Hawthorn berries around the feeding station but this morning I only had twelve Redwings, eleven Blackbirds and six Fieldfares. Walking back along the track I had my highest count of Yellowhammers so far for the winter with a total of 15.

Buzzards were fairly numerous this morning as I had four, but I didn't record any other raptors. I headed across the field to a patch of maize sown as game cover and pushed four Song Thrushes and five Grey Partridges out of it. These Grey Partridge seemed very wary (as they should be!) and I don't think they were some of the tame 'released' birds I have been seeing recently.

Driving off the Moss I noted that the Green Sandpiper was back on the flood and two Corn Buntings flew over head.

 Green Sandpiper

Yesterday I spent the morning birding with my good friend George from Northumberland. George had stayed the night with us as he had a meeting over in this part of the world and we sank a few pints of real ale,leading to a later start birding than planned!

We headed Over Wyre to watch the tide come in on the saltmarsh and as it was 9.7 m I knew that it would cover most of the marsh. There were huge numbers of Teal with lesser numbers of Wigeon and Pintail, but we didn't attempt a count at all, instead we just soaked it all in. The only wildfowl we did count were the 400 Shelducks and a party of seven Whooper Swans.

As the tide ran it lifted a number of Meadow Pipits, but at least five Rock Pipits were present as well. Snipe were being pushed out of the creeks and then George spotted a Jack Snipe crouched on the green saltmarsh carpet. The tide came in and flooded underneath it and it still sat tight pushing itself down to try and conceal itself, when in reality is stood out like a sore thumb. The tide eventually lifted it and it flew off giving cracking flight views in the crisp, bright light.

I was back at my mossland feeding station this morning but it was blowing a gale literally and I just 'legged' it down the track and back. All the birds were sitting tight in the hedge because of the strong winds and all I had were 100 Fieldfares, 90 Tree Sparrows, ten Chaffinches, ten Blackbirds and ten Redwings. New in were 2,500 Pink-footed Geese feeding on stubble in the 'big field'.

On my way off site the Green Sandpiper was on the flood again.

Monday, 2 December 2013

In case you were wondering..........

..........we didn't manage to catch and ring a single Turnstone this morning! We had a few near misses when the birds came in and we were about to fire the net but they got spooked. It's a very frustrating business this Turnstone ringing and we probably have a 50/50 hit rate in terms of successful catches.

However, we remain undaunted and will return in mid-December to try again on the morning tides. I would like to thank the volunteer from Wyre Borough Council, Peter, who did an excellent job of marshalling dog walkers and interested members of the public!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Feeding the Terries

With an impending Turnstone catch tomorrow I headed to the Lakes to put some extra food out for the Terries. Ian has been doing a sterling job feeding them daily and fingers crossed we should be able to fit some more leg flags tomorrow!  There were about a hundred birds present and amongst them were at least four (there will have been many more) leg-flagged birds and four metal ringed birds without flags. I'll let you know how we get on.


Also on the Lakes were a pair of Goldeneyes and six Red-breatsed Mergansers. I then headed to the Point to have a look on the sea. It was very quiet with just 45 Cormorants, 26 Common Scoters, five Eiders, five Auk sp., two Great Crested Grebes and a Red-throated Diver that flew west close in shore!

Roosting waders included 34 Oystercatchers, 25 Ringed Plovers, six Turnstones and 66 Sanderlings. Twelve Linnets also fed amongst the tidal wrack.

I'd better shoot and get all my gear ready for tomorrow.