Sunday, 15 October 2017

Some Migration At Last

First of all I need to apologise for a lack of recent updates. This isn't for the want of trying, but mainly it's because most of my birding in October so far has been work related (start of wintering bird surveys), and it's been uninteresting or site confidential, so it's great to be able to report some migration at last! Generally the month has been dire here on the Lancashire coast, whilst north, south and east of us have been having good birds!

This morning I headed to the Point at first light with 6 oktas cloud cover and a force 3 south-southeasterly wind. The first entry in to my notebook was sadly a dead Harbour Porpoise washed up on the beach. By the chunks of flesh missing from it's neck, I would guess that it had been hit by a boat's propeller.

The skies cleared to probably 3 oktas soon after and by 0945 had become 8 oktas. The clear skies got some 'vis' going and a feature was the number of Pink-footed Geese coming across the bay. Due to the fairly brisk southerlies that they were flying in to, they were often coming in low and in total we had 2,523. I say we as I joined Ian on top of the dunes where we could monitor the vis and look out to sea. Mind you with murk in the bay sea passage was next to nothing.


The other vis records included four Chaffinches (probably a lot more than this), eleven Reed Buntings, 44 Meadow Pipits, eleven Skylarks, three Magpies, 25 Alba Wags, three Rock Pipits, 64 Greenfinches, 21 Linnets, 17 Starlings, 18 Goldfinches, 53 Carrion Crows, two Mistle Thrushes, three Swallows, a Woodpigeon and six Rooks (could have been more). Some of the birds were coming in off the sea, such as Linnet and Starling; migration in action!

There was even a few grounded migrants with four 'agitated' Dunnocks, a Wheatear and a Chiffchaff that dropped out of the sky into some vegetation in front of us! As I said earlier the sea was very quiet and the best of next to nothing was a female Scaup that flew west. Other than that it was a single Red-throated Diver, ten Eiders and five Shelducks.

I had a look in the cemetery on my way home and was treated to a bizarre site of a Song Thrush being mobbed by a Grey Wagtail. The Songie had come out of Sycamores and was circling to gain height before heading off south no doubt and the Grey Wagtail was giving it a serious mobbing. I've never seen that before! A few continental Blackbirds and a party of eleven mobile Long-tailed Tits that had started at the coast and worked their way inland was all I could add.

The weather conditions are not fit enough for one of my wintering bird surveys tomorrow, so I might just get out for a couple of hours first thing.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

September's Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of September. To date we have ringed 1952 birds of 50 species and we are 640 down on this time last year. Two new species for the year were ringed in September and these were Grey Wagtail and Pied Wagtail.

The top 5 ringed for the month and the top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year are as follows:

Top 5 Ringed in September

1. Meadow Pipit - 102
2. Goldcrest - 52
3. Goldfinch - 49
4. Blue Tit - 31
5. Linnet - 23

Top 10 'Movers and Shakers' for the Year

1. Linnet - 227 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 202 (same position)
3. Swallow - 145 (same position)
4. Blue Tit - 134 (same position)
5. Meadow Pipit - 121 (straight in)
6. Lesser Redpoll - 112 (straight in)
7. Reed Warbler - 92 (down from 5th)
8.  Pied Flycatcher - 79 (down from 6th)
9. Goldcrest - 78 (straight in)
10. Great Tit - 73 (down from 8th)

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

When the Northwest Wind Blows.........'s hard to find any shelter at the Point and the sea watching isn't so good either! It was a northwesterly when I joined Ian at the Point yesterday morning. The only shelter we could find was alongside the western elevation of the tower, and that wasn't brilliant. There was a near complete cloud cover and squally showers periodically raced in to the bay.

I only saw the male Stonechat as I walked towards the front. He was trying to forage in an open area but was continually getting battered by the wind. I'm guessing he's left over from a fall of migrants a few days ago, as was probably the Wheatear that I had on the beach as well.

As I hinted at earlier, and as I have said many times before, a northwesterly isn't any good on this stretch of coast for sea watching, although this morning there was one or two highlights, including the first Brent Geese of the autumn. The sea produced seven Common Scoters, 79 Cormorants (including 40 on the offshore island), two Red-throated Divers, eight Gannets, three Brent Geese, three Guillemots, seven Kittiwakes, seven Eiders, two Canada Geese and an Auk sp.

 This male Eider was struggling to stay off the shore and it looks to have some 
oil on its head and neck. fairly recently there was an oiling incident along this 
stretch of coast that required cleaning up.

There was a few waders on the shore including 395 Oystercatchers (190 on the offshore island), 15 Turnstones, 13 Sanderlings, three Ringed Plovers and eight Knots. Surprisingly there was even a bit of vis in the form of 15 hardy Meadow Pipits that bravely battled west against the strong northwesterly!


I've got a couple of site visits for work tomorrow, so it could be Friday before I'm back out on the patch again.

Monday, 2 October 2017

When the West Wind Blows

It was blowing a hooley this morning and as such I headed to the tower for a sea watch. I suppose in the back of my mind I was perhaps expecting a Leach's or two, but thinking about it the 'blow' picked up too quickly and blew its self out just as quick. The depression was a rapid affair that had speedily crossed the Atlantic, and it looked better for an American vagrant than a wreck of seabirds. The former has already proved correct with an American Cliff Swallow on Scilly this morning!

It's not very often that you write wind WSW force 8 - 9 in your notebook, but that's what it was this morning and with full cloud. Squally showers kept dancing across the bay, some making landfall and causing a brief replacing of lens caps on Scopes until they passed, and others just skated across the angry sea.

 The view from the tower this morning

As I walked along the eastern edge of the golf course heading for the front I heard a Goldcrest calling from the scrub! And on my return walk as I headed home I had a male and two female Stonechats in more or less the same place. It certainly wasn't a morning for passerines, but Skylark and Meadow Pipit also made an appearance trying to head west, whilst being pushed quickly backwards!

There was some movement on and over the sea including 28 Gannets, 9 Kittiwakes, 26 Common Scoters, two Red-breasted Mergansers, thirteen Cormorants, six Auk sp., a Sandwich Tern, two Little Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, a Guillemot, an Eider, two Arctic Terns and a lone Pink-footed Goose!

Walking, or should I say being blown back, to my car a few waders were trying to shelter over the high tide behind some of the shingle ridges and there was a group of 40 Turnstones, 80 Sanderlings and 27 Ringed Plovers.

The wind is easing overnight to a 25 mph northwesterly. Not an ideal wind direction off this part of the coast, but as there's a morning tide I'll have another look.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Dark to Light

At this time of year it isn't a chore to get up to be out by first light. My alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. and by just after 6:30 I was ready to go out and it was still dark. So I picked up my latest copy of Scottish Birds and sat down to read for a bit waiting for it to come light. The next time I looked out it was virtually light and it had gone from dark to light by what seemed like a flick of a switch!

I headed to the Point to have a look at the sea on the incoming tide and record any vis. It was murky out in the Bay to the north and this had the effect of more or less curtailing any vis. Ian was already in position in front of the tower, and I joined him to shelter from the keen south-southeasterly wind.

As I mentioned before the vis was nearly non-existent and all we had was 45 Meadow Pipits and an Alba Wag! The sea was nearly as quiet with just five Shelducks, six Red-throated Divers, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Gannet, five Auk sp., 18 Cormorants, two Guillemots and an Eider.

 Meadow Pipit

There was quite a passage of Black-headed Gulls west out of the Bay and when I joined Ian he said that he had already recorded at least a thousand! All I manged was 116!

A male Stonechat on the edge of the dunes was the only thing that resembled anything grounded. On my way home I had a look in the cemetery, but conditions were challenging searching for grounded migrants in the blustery weather and all I could find were five Goldcrests and a single migrant female Blackbird.

So the plan for tomorrow morning is to get up five minutes later, then I won't be tempted to read something, and I'll be out earlier. That appeals to me, that does!

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Chiffies and Crests

I had a couple of hours to spare this morning, well perhaps not to spare, more rather hard won, and I decided to see if there were any migrants around at the Obs. At first light I had full cloud cover with a strong southeasterly wind.

The wind was a bit of a problem actually as it was moving the vegetation around to some considerable degree, making searching for passerines difficult at two of my favoured spots. Because of this it was difficult to tell whether it was quiet, or whether it was the viewing conditions making birds seem thin on the ground.

My first port of call was the cemetery, and the Sycamores along the west side so favoured by Yellow-browed Warblers resembled windmills rather than trees in the strong wind. The south side was more sheltered and this is where five Goldcrests and three Chiffchaffs were hanging out. An immature male Sparowhawk and a few Meadow Pipits overhead made it in to my notebook.

 Chiffchaff. I didn't take any pictures this morning and this shot of a Chiffie
 in the hand was the only picture I had taken at this time of year!

Next port of call was the coastal park and this was slightly more sheltered with actually slightly less birds! Three Goldcrests and just a single Chiffie was all I could muster.

The weather synopsis for this evening in to tomorrow morning looks interesting with a band or rain moving rapidly through from the west, that peters out in the early hours. There's a chance that it could drop a few migrants in, but the chance of me rolling out of my pit early is slim as I'm out for a few beers this evening!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Primaries Flash 'Silver' in Sunlight

I birded the farm fields at the Obs this morning and sadly because of looming end of September deadlines with work I didn't have time to operate any mist nets. Although with the beauty of hindsight I wouldn't have caught much! The day dawned with a hazy single okta of cloud cover and a 10 mph southeasterly wind that would have troubled the nets if I had put any up!

The vis was very slow to start this morning, and even when it peaked it was little more than a trickle, and then it was all over by 9:00 am. My meagre totals were twelve Alba Wags, four Reed Buntings, three Grey Wagtails, a Chaffinch, 21 Meadow Pipits, eight Swallows, a Linnet, four Carrion Crows and 50 Pink-footed Geese.

Grounded migrants were equally as thin on the ground, although five Stonechats was nice, but just a single Goldcrest was best of the rest. A Fox brightened things up that crossed the path and stopped in the middle of the path, stared intently at something and moved on.

It was also quiet on the sea with just 23 Sandwich Terns, five Shelducks, a Gannet, two Eiders, a Red-throated Diver, thirteen Common Scoters, three Guillemots and an Auk sp

I've downloaded the Collins Bird Guide app. to my phone and it looks good. I was having a look through it and comparing it with the book version and I opened Common Scoter where it described the males primaries as flashing 'silver' in sunlight, and that is exactly what I was seeing this morning. The two groups of Common Scoters that I saw had mainly males in the flock and their primaries did indeed flash 'silver' in the sunlight.

I pulled one of my 2012 notebooks off my book shelf and on 23rd September 2012 Ian and I were ringing in the coastal park. In fact we only ringed one bird, a Goldcrest, and just like today the wind was southeasterly. Of interest my notebook, and not my memory, tells me that a Great Spotted Woodpecker (migrant) dropped in to the trees and we had a Marsh Harrier go east. I do remember the Marsh Harrier and it was high over the bay. Where it had come from I'm not sure, but it had certainly arrived high over the sea!

It's similar weather tomorrow, so I'll do a similar thing, but I hope the birds aren't similar!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Pintails and Pinkies

It was chilly yesterday morning at the Point with a 15 mph northeasterly wind, nearly full cloud cover and occasional showers. Ian and I took shelter on the western side of one of the buildings overlooking the dunes.

The first bird I recorded before I got to the buildings was a Kittiwake that flew along the tide line as I walked along on top of the dunes, and this was the only Kitti of the morning. A Grey Wag over calling was the first of four, and due to the weather conditions (blocking cloud to the north) the vis only consisted of two Skylarks and five Meadow Pipits!

I purposefully left out the arrival of Pink-footed Geese from the above vis totals as they were the main feature of the morning, besides some limited action on the sea. Pinkies were continually moving south and southwest all morning in generally quite small skeins. Some were very high, others low, and some looked truly spectacular with the Lakeland fells as a backdrop! I counted 1,116 in a couple of hours.

 Some of the Pinks arriving

The sea was the other feature of the morning, and despite the winds being northeasterly there was always something to keep us interested. We had eleven Sandwich Terns, four Shelducks, four Red-breasted Mergansers, six Common Scoters, 16 Red-throated Divers (some in full summer plumage), three Guillemots, 13 Pintails, two Gannets and a Great Crested Grebe.

 Looking across the bay to the Lakes

I've got another busy week ahead of me in the office I'm afraid, but once I get to next weekend things should be slackening off and hopefully it will be a month long period of daily birding!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

August's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of August. At 1523 birds ringed we are 690 down on this time last year. Let's hope for a good autumn to catch up!

Four new species for the year so far were ringed in August and these were Kingfisher, Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler and Garden Warbler.

Below you will find the top 5 ringed during August and the top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in August

1. Linnet - 145
2. Swallow - 94
3. Goldfinch - 63
4. Reed Warbler - 42
5. Goldcrest - 21

Top 10 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Linnet - 209 (up from 6th)
2. Goldfinch - 153 (same position)
3. Swallow - 145 (up from 7th)
4. Blue Tit - 103 (down from 1st)
5. Reed Warbler - 90 (up from 8th)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (down from 3rd)
7. Sand Martin - 67 (down from 5th)
8. Great Tit - 56 (up from 9th)
9. Blackcap - 40 (up from 10th)
10. Willow Warbler - 35 (straight in)

The forecast is looking reasonable for the weekend, so fingers crossed I'll get some birding and ringing in at the Obs.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Crests Not Leach's

The 'Hairy Birder' is stuck indoors at the moment up to his eye-balls in Countryside Stewardship Mid-tier applications that have an end of September deadline to be submitted to Natural England by, so today's brief blog entry is about grounded Goldcrests from yesterday, before all the Leach's and Sabs Gulls of the past couple of days!

 Goldcrest on a sunnier day than today

And to add 'insult to injury' I'm stuck indoors all week! However, my master plan is to have the decks cleared by the end of next week and take the remainder of September and all of October off to bird...bring it on!

The forecast Saturday night was for a brief ridge of high pressure to nudge in to the west and then for rain showers in the early hours after midnight. Unfortunately, it was forecast for the wind to pick up rapidly during the morning with a rain front rolling in by mid-morning. So sadly there was no chance of mist nets, but I did have a blustery ramble around the farm fields at the Obs. At first light I had full cloud cover with a 15 - 20 mph west-southwesterly wind.

First up were some 'ticking' Robins and the first of my dozen Crests. My first Goldcrest was calling from the copse and then another from the herb garden, which isn't unusual as there is usually always a couple in autumn knocking about these areas. However, what sparked my interest was that the other ten were from the farm hedgerows that were quite wind-battered with their exposed location, and even odder were a couple calling from the dry reedbed behind the sea wall. Interestingly, I didn't have any in the migrant habitat in the dunes and also the Crests were the only grounded migrants I recorded.

I had a brief look on the sea and all I had were 66 Sandwich Terns south and a couple of male Eiders. The vis was similarly unproductive, understandably so, with three Alba Wags, a Chaffinch and ten House Martins south. The walk back across the fields to my car was also unproductive other than a male Sparrowhawk working the hedge and ditch.

That's me signed off until weekend!

 Leach's Petrel - this is what I should have been watching this week and 
getting some better shots than this!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

First Mipits Of The Autumn

I had my first ringing session at the coastal farm fields at the Obs this morning and at 5:30 am I had clear skies with a light southeasterly wind. It had been clear overnight, so I did wonder what the morning would bring when it got light. I got the nets up in the half-light and poured a coffee, waiting for the dawn.

There was a little vis this morning, but it was slow, and I suppose typical of early September. My meagre totals included 15 Meadow Pipits, four Grey Wagtails, ten Swallows, four House Martins, one Alba Wagtail, one Goldfinch and 30 Linnets (single flock).

I ringed ten birds as follows:

Wren - 4
Robin - 3
Meadow Pipit - 2
Blue Tit - 1


As it warmed up later in the morning there were a few butterflies on the wing and I recorded four Red Admirals and two Speckled Woods.

 Speckled Wood

The only grounded migrant I had this morning was a single Goldcrest calling from the conifers, but there was a good number of Blue Tits around and I had eleven in total which is unusual for such a coastal location.

It's going to be too windy for ringing tomorrow, but as there is a morning tide I'll try and have a look on the sea before the rain comes in.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Too Late Cloud Cover

We were back in the reedbed this morning and at first light it was somewhat chilly with clear skies and a 10 mph SSE wind. The weather synopsis had looked good for an overnight arrival of migrants with a forecast southerly wind, clear skies and then cloud cover rolling in around midnight. The cloud cover did roll in, but not until about 0900, so it actually became a clear-out night with few grounded migrants.

The Starlings were spectacular as they exited their reedbed roost with a 'mini reversed murmuration', and they numbered somewhere in the region of 15,000! Similarly Alba Wags were exiting their roost on the marina, but in nowhere near the numbers of the Starlings, in fact only 16 came south over us. There will have been more than this but they disperse in all directions.

The only other thing of note in my notebook was a flock of 60 Goldfinches that are at the moment feeding on the plentiful thistles.

Due to the too late cloud cover (you have to have a theory as to why you didn't catch!) we ringed just seven birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 1


When I got back home I enlisted Gail's help to clear the net rides at the coastal farm fields area in the Obs recording area. I have to say she was a great help and did a magnificent job. Below are before and after pictures of the 60 foot ride in the Hawthorns.



It's going to be a touch too windy for ringing tomorrow so I am going to treat myself too a few beers this evening and a lie-in as I've got 4:00 a.m. starts Tuesday - Friday next week!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Sprinkling Of Migrants

At first light Ian and I had our nets up in one of the reedbeds at the Obs and it didn't half feel quiet, but as it turned out there was a sprinkling of migrants. We had full cloud cover with a 10 mph wind that veered between westerly and southwesterly.

There was actually a bit of vis this morning in the form of three Grey Wagtails, a few Swallows (I didn't count them properly!), eight House Martins and two Swifts. The Swifts were getting late and once we cross over in to September they will be scarce indeed.

A few oddities included a Raven that headed vaguely north and a Kingfisher that 'zipped' through. If I was a betting man I would bet that it was the young female that we ringed a couple of weeks ago. There was a nice flock of 40 Goldfinches feeding on thistles, and when the sun came out for a bit later there were Speckled Woods and Brown Hawkers on the wing.

There was obviously a few migrants grounded as our ringing totals testify and we ringed 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Reed Warbler - 6
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 10
Robin - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Wren - 3
Dunnock - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1

 Grasshopper Warbler

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, as a group we've ringed more Cetti's Warblers than Grasshopper Warblers at 35 and 25 respectively!

We'll be trying again in the morning and I'll let you know how we get on.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Pishing Amongst The Trees

It's at this time of year, and throughout autumn, that the art of 'pishing' comes into it's own when out birding. This technique of making a 'pishing' noise to attract birds started in North America and spread to the UK, and now most birders will deploy this technique at some point, during the autumn particularly, if not often!

I was doing one of my plantation woodland bird surveys this morning and my 'pishing' amongst the trees paid dividends with a number of birds coming to investigate the noise and therefore showing themselves! Which is what 'pishing' is all about, it's a tactic to enable you to be able to see the bird by attracting it to you through this veritable art! One of the purposes of these bird surveys that I am carrying out is to look at bird usage of the plantation woodland in late summer/early autumn in terms of species and total bird numbers, and 'pishing' does give a helping hand.

Two paragraphs on 'pishing' is enough now, so I'll move on! When I arrived at my survey site in north Cumbria at first light I was greeted with full cloud cover and a light SSW wind. I had wondered weather it might be raining when I got here because it was certainly raining when I picked a coffee up at Tebay and as I drove over Shap Fell. Thankfully the rain kept away and I managed to complete the survey.

 Berries and blossom on the same Rowan

Of the 120 individual birds I recorded of interest were three Song Thrushes, two Chiffchaffs, seven Willow Warblers, thirteen Swallows, three Coal Tits, 26 Goldfinches, a Bullfinch, a Goldcrest, two Reed Buntings, thirteen Mistle Thrushes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Blackcap, three Grey Wagtails, a Siskin, a Snipe and a Buzzard.

 Mistle Thrush

So, all in all 'pishing' amongst the trees was a pleasurable way to earn a buck on a dreich Friday morning! The forecast is looking reasonable at weekend, so fingers crossed for two days of birding and ringing at the Obs!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

D & G

Earlier in the week I had a couple of days in Dumfries and Galloway with Gail. On the first day I was working at a couple of sites assessing tree condition and growth in a couple of newly planted woodlands, whilst Gail mooched around Dumfries spending money!

It's the third year that I have assessed these sites and for the past two years it has been dry at the first site and rained at the second site (further inland and higher), and this year it was just the same! The first site isn't far from the Criffel and a surprise on this visit were four Tree Pipits that I put up in my walk round. It does look like good habitat for Tree Pipits, and it obviously was! The only other thing of note was a flock of 30 - 40 Linnets feeding on the weed seed that is in abundance amongst the trees. I wouldn't be surprised if this flock gets larger as we get further in to autumn.

The drive to my second site usually produces some Red Kites and today I had at least three. I had a fourth one at the site, I love their call, but not a lot else because it poured down! So it was the third year running that I was walking round clipboard in hand and soaked to the skin!

A late afternoon visit to one of my favourite breweries, Sulwath in Castle Douglas, was in order before we retired to our B & B. The following morning on the way home I took Gail to one of my favourite birding spots on the Solway only a mile or two west of Gretna. Saltmarsh, mudflats, freshwater and plenty of coastal migrant habitat make this a cracking little spot. Oh, and the views across to the land of the Sassenachs and those pointed hills in the Lakes is quite special!

Out on the estuary were Curlews, Lapwings, Osytercatchers, Redshanks and four Goosanders. But it was the butterflies that were most noticeable due to the lovely sunny weather that we had. There was at least 15-20 Red Admirals, 10-15 Peacocks, perhaps five Walls, 20-25 Small Whites and just a single Large White. A number of Common Darters were about too, over some of the small pools.

Talking of invertebrates I managed to get a shout of a Hoverfly species that is almost certainly Helophilus pendulus, which is a common species but also a cracker! A handful of Siskins, Linnets, Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush and a Tree Pipit south almost wrapped up the bird sightings, except for a cracking immature Sparrowhawk with prey back at the car. A bag full of blackberries that we picked, and field mushrooms given to us by a kindly elderly gentleman, ended a lovely morning. The only downside was going home!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

A Small Arrival

Conditions overnight were clear and at 11:00 pm last night I was watching the Perseid meteor shower in the garden with Gail when I suddenly realised I needed to get to bed as I was up in less than five hours! The clear conditions led Ian and I to believe that it would be a 'clear out night', and it was to a certain extent, but there was definitely a small arrival this morning.

At first light we had clear skies with a 5 mph NNW wind and it was cool, a definite nip in the air! We put the nets up in one of the Obs reedbeds and retired to our cars for a coffee. About a dozen Alba Wags went over after exiting their roost, but their numbers were dwarfed by the twelve thousand (well about that anyway) Starlings that came out of another reedbed roost.

A Little Egret went over one way and a young female Sparrowhawk shot through the other. There was even a bit of 'vis' this morning with eight Swallows, two Swifts and 25 House Martins drifting south. A couple of calling Willow Warblers that avoided the nets were new in, and it was the ringing that gave us the real feel of there being a small arrival.

We ringed 16 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 11
Whitethroat - 3
Wren - 1
Song Thrush - 1

 Reed Warbler

Yet again I'm playing catch up with work this week, and my plan is to try and clear everything by mid-late September and take the whole of October off to give the Obs a serious grilling for a month. But don't tell Gail!

Friday, 11 August 2017

July's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of July. We are 444 down on where we were last year, which will take some catching up. 

Four new species were added to the species ringed for the year in the form of Song Thrush, Lesser Whitethroat, Treecreeper and Starling.

 Song Thrush

The top five ringed for the month of July and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year are listed below.

Top 5 Ringed in July

1. Sand Martin - 57
2. Swallow - 49
3. Reed Warbler - 34
4. Blackcap - 18
5. Greenfinch - 14

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Blue Tit - 91 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 90 (down from 1st)
3. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (same position)
4. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (same position)
5. Sand Martin - 66 (up from 9th)
6. Linnet - 59 (down from 5th)
7. Swallow - 51 (straight in)
8. Reed Warbler - 48 (straight in)
9. Great Tit - 41 (down from 6th)
10. Blackcap - 58 (straight in)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Fisher Queen

A second day ringing on the bounce has been a rarity so far this Autumn at the Obs, but this morning Ian and I were back in the reedbed for the second morning in succession. At first light we were greeted with 6 oktas cloud cover and a 10 - 15 mph W wind.

Like yesterday, it was fairly quiet on the birding front. The Starlings were still late up from the other reedbed but this morning there was about 8,000; I probably missed half of them yesterday! A Little Egret overhead and a Kingfisher that zipped past and in to a mist net, was the best of the rest.

We ringed twelve birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 5
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 1
Kingfisher - 1

 Kingfisher - 1CY female

It's likely to be next weekend before I am back out on the patch again as I've a lot of work to get through this week, some of it entails site visits, so there might be something to report.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back In The Reedbed

I had the nets up this morning by 5:30 a.m. and conditions were okay, but not perfect. I had one oktas cloud cover and the wind was 10 - 15 mph northwesterly.  However, it was good to be back in the reedbed ringing.

The view from the ringing table early this morning

Starlings are late risers I've noticed, not for them up and feeding at the crack of dawn! It's a good hour after first light before they make an appearance, rising from their reedbed roost in more or less one large wave. From where I was ringing I could see approximately 4,000 Starlings exiting another of the Obs reedbeds to the south. Swallows are just the opposite and they leave their reedbed roost in the half-light. In fact they both differ when they come in to roost as well; Starlings arrive early and Swallows late. So to sum up, Starlings go to bed early and get up late, whilst Swallows go to bed late and get up early! I know a Hairy Birder who's a bit like a Swallow!


During my ringing session of a couple of hours I didn't see anything of real note. Of course my notebook is full of details of sightings of about thirty species, as I like to record everything I see and hear, but there wasn't anything that really stood out.

I ringed 20 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 5
Great Tit - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 3
Greenfinch - 9

 Lesser Whitethroat

Where are all the Sedge Warblers? We ring twice as may Reed Warblers as Sedge Warblers these days, so something is going on.

I'm out again in the morning with Ian, so fingers crossed for a few more birds!

Friday, 4 August 2017

MG6 or is it MG7?

The problem of surveying MG6 and MG7 type grassland habitats for birds, is that by their nature they tend to be in impoverished agricultural landscapes where Lolium perenne  or Perennial ryegrass dominates! And I had one such survey to complete earlier in the week.

It was a bit touch and go with the weather, but I managed to squeeze the survey in before the forecast rain arrived from the south. I was in Lancashire in a landscape of intensive grassland, with fairly heavily trimmed hedges and the odd mature hedgerow tree. Some heavy overnight rain had lead to some splashy conditions in one of the fields that attracted a few birds. Ten Mallards sailed around on the flood, and an attendant flock of 108 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 11 Common Gulls and 62 Black-headed Gulls searched for any ground invertebrates that found themselves close to the surface.

I recorded nothing out of the ordinary in this bright green, nitrogen fuelled landscape other than ten Stock Doves, four House Sparrows, 23 House Martins, a Tree Sparrow, three Swifts, a Willow Warbler and a Whitethroat. I did record other more common species of course, but nothing worth troubling you all with.

It's looking like I might actually get some ringing in over the next couple of days in one of the reedbeds at the Obs, so fingers crossed that the wind continues to decrease overnight!  

Monday, 31 July 2017

Old Cut

I apologise for the lack of postings of late and this has been down to a combination of poor weather and all my birding being site visits for work, and I am sure you are fed up about hearing of these! So by way of keeping the blog going I picked an old notebook off the shelf from 1989. I am fortunate in having all my field notebooks from when I started birding in 1976 and they are a great source of nostalgia. They also highlight the changes in the fortunes of some bird populations; some good, but mainly bad!

In 1989 I was fortunate enough to spend nearly a year volunteering at Long Point Bird Observatory near Port Rowan in southern Ontario, Canada. On this day, 31st July, in 1989 I was at the Old Cut field station preparing for a period of daily recording at the end of Long Point known as the Tip. Old Cut was the field station at the base of Long Point, which is the promontory that stretches 20 miles in to Lake Erie from it's northern shore line. In addition to the two field stations already mentioned there is Breakwater that is about five miles out along the spit. It's a bit like Spurn Point on steroids!

Old Cut is surrounded by summer cottages and other residential buildings close to the lake shore, and the main habitat at the field station is scrubby woodland associated with marshes and wetland.

The majority of the day on 31st July 1989 was spent procuring provisions for a two week stint at the Tip. Our task was to open the field station at the end of Long Point for the autumn season. This would entail clearing the mist net rides, putting up the mist nets and carrying out any repairs on the Helgoalnd trap there. So the birding at Old Cut on this day was limited.

My notebook tells me that it was warm with two oktas cloud cover and just two birds were banded (ringed); a Least Flycatcher and a Barn Swallow. The most interesting bird was an immature Bald Eagle that flew over during the morning and Caspian Terns were flying over the field station to various feeding areas on the lake, and I counted 15 (the following day I counted 65). Thirty Black Ducks wasn't unusual and neither was the ten Cedar Waxwings. It always felt most odd encountering Waxwings (although not our waxwing the Bohemian in North America) on a warm sunny day, when we usually associate them with winter birding!

Other bits and pieces from my notebook that day were four Pine Siskins, a Forsters Tern, four Green Herons (Green-backed Heron then) and two Black-crowned Night Herons.

Firmly back in the 21st Century the forecast isn't great for the week ahead with the position of the jet stream leading to a conveyor belt of westerly weather systems. Oh well, I might have to look at an old notebook again!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Back On The Patch Via Cumbria

I seem to spend all my time apologising for not posting too much recently, and my usual excuse is that I have been busy. I suppose I'm lucky in that when I am busy it means that I am busy with conservation related work, so busy, long days at work are days out in the field generally observing and recording wildlife!

I've been in Cumbria these past ten days. Earlier during this period I was in the southwest along the Furness peninsula. Highlights at this newly planted woodland site included a Grey Wagtail, eight Linnets, two Chiffchaffs, two Stock Doves, four Siskins, three Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blackcap and a Sedge Warbler.

Later in the ten day period I was in north Cumbria not far from Wigton, and I had Gail assisting me with my bird and tree survey. Highlights here included a Yellowhammer, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Lesser Redpolls, two House Sparrows, a Chiffchaff, four Willow Warblers, five Stock Doves, a Buzzard and a Tree Sparrow.

As the morning warmed up a few butterflies were on the wing, including the Comma below, that was one of a group of five nectaring on some Thistles; gorgeous!


This morning I was back out on the patch at the Obs. I headed to the Point under five oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph southeasterly wind. Out in the bay it was both murky and the sea surface had a heat haze over it, not overly conducive to sea watching!

There was just a smattering of vis with three Swallows and a Sand Martin east. Also on the mover were 16 Whimbrels and eight Curlews. Other waders included 31 Oystercatchers, nine Ringed Plovers, two Turnstones and a couple of Sanderlings.

At sea were nine Gannets, 12 Cormorants, 14 Sandwich Terns (including seven on the shore), two Common Terns, four Common Scoters and two Atlantic Grey Seals.

 Distant Sandwich Terns

With the overnight rain there was plenty of snails around and I must admit I do find them interesting. One day if I have time I'll tell you about my mark and recapture scheme in my garden, but in meantime below is a photograph of one of the beasties. It's a bit of a mixed bag in the morning with rain forecast both sides of dawn, so just a little unpredictable to chance any ringing sadly.  

Friday, 21 July 2017

June's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group until the end of June, and we are still playing catch-up after the various ringing suspensions that I have blogged about previously due to Avian Influenza outbreaks locally. We are 370 birds down on where we were last year and need some good weather through autumn to catch up.

Twelve new species for the year were ringed in June and these were Kestrel, Curlew, Woodpigeon, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Sand Martin, Swallow, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Carrion Crow.

The top four ringed during June and top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year were as follows:

Top 4 Species Ringed during June

1. Pied Flycatcher - 54
2. Goldfinch - 31
3. Reed Warbler - 14
4. Great Tit - 13

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 81 (up from 4th)
    Blue Tit - 81 (same position)
3. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (up from 6th)
4. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (down from 2nd)
5. Linnet - 59 (down from 3rd)
6. Great Tit - 40 (down from 5th)
7. Chaffinch - 25 (straight in)
    Siskin - 25 (straight in)
8. Meadow Pipit - 19 (down from 7th)
9. Sand Martin - 18 (straight in)
10. Nuthatch - 15 (down from 9th)

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Common, King and Spotted

As I suspected would be the case, I didn't make it out early this morning after my real ale tour of some Scottish islands last night. Instead Gail and I headed down to the estuary for a walk mid-morning. And what a pleasant walk it was.

Heading along the path through the Hawthorns and reed-fringed pools an assemblage of singing Warblers greeted us, and amongst these insectivore songsters were Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. Basically, representatives of Phylloscs, Acros and Sylvias, all with instruments of varying pitch and tone!

The tide was running in as we got to the estuary and it wouldn't be long before it started to lap up against the saltmarsh, so the ribbon of mud holding the feeding waders was getting thinner and thinner. Time was of the essence, so a route march was in order to get to the 'spit' and anything on the reservoir could wait until the walk back.

The highlight of the 'mud larks' was a gorgeous summer plumaged Spotted Redshank showing exactly why black is the colour! Sadly it was a little distant, and therefore I haven't got any photos to show what a cracking looking wader this is in this plumage; try 'Googling' it! I think it was the first Spotted Redshank that Gail has seen, but she took the lifer in her stride without showing too much birding emotion!

The Spot Reds supporting cast included 50 Lapwings, two Grey Herons, 55 Redshanks, two Little Egrets, five Oystercatchers and two Curlews. And I've just remembered that I forgot to count the Shelducks!

Back to the reservoir for the return journey and we bumped in to Ian. That's the spotted of my blog title out of the way, and the reservoir gave us the common and the king. We could hear a number of Common Sandpipers calling and in total there was three interacting with each other, and then cutting across the Common Sands calls was a Kingfisher that Ian picked up flying along the far side of the reservoir. It perched up in a dead tree over the water and we watched it for a good few minutes until a Grey Heron also landed in the tree and flushed it! Again no pictures I'm afraid as the Kingfisher was a tad too far away.

 About the only thing I could photograph this morning was the Sea 
Lavender on the saltmarsh!

It could be next weekend before I'm out on the patch again, but I've got plenty of site visits this week with a few surveys thrown in so hopefully I'll have something to report.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Reedbed Ramblings

Ian and I were out ringing at the Obs this morning in the reedbed and we had to give the net rides a trim first before we could put any nets up. We had clear skies with a 5 mph northerly wind.

As I arrived on site Starlings were exiting their overnight reedbed roost,and there was probably somewhere in the order of 3,000 birds doing some morning murmurating! Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were all singing from their respective reed and scrub territories, whilst half a dozen Swifts screamed overhead.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker looked odd alighting in some rather flimsy Poplars, where moments earlier a party of Long-tailed Tits had moved through. An early Siskin moving south and an alarm calling male Stonechat were best of the rest.

We ringed thirteen birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 2 (1)
Whitethroat - 3
Blue Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Wren - 3
Blackbird - 1

 Reed warbler

I'll attempt to get out in the morning and I say attempt because I have some lovely Scottish ales to sample this evening!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Good To Be Back Out

It's been a while since I posted due to a combination of poor weather and lots of indoor work generated by lots of outdoor work. Fingers crossed I'll be out ringing at the Obs this weekend. It's all planned but as I write it's raining and it's not forecast!

Yesterday morning saw me surveying another plot of recently planted woodland in south Cumbria and funnily enough it wasn't forecast to rain then either, but I had frequent showers. They were light, however, and didn't affect the outcome of the survey.

Damp woodland!

I had nothing amazing, but it was just good to be back out again. The bits and pieces that I feel are worthy to jump from my notebook to this blog include a Raven, a Whitethroat, two Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, two Buzzards, a Blackcap and a Tree Sparrow.

I hope that you all will forgive me when I admit that I have just discovered the superb Scottish nature writer Jim Crumley after he has written thirty plus books! I am currently reading 'The Nature of Autumn' and I can't tell you how good it is, and how he paints the landscape and the beasties within, with words. He even manages to out 'Robert Macfarlane' Robert Macfarlane, which just blows me away as he is my favourite naturalist/landscape writer!

As a taster here are a few words from Jim describing an encounter with a male Hen Harrier from his car as he climbs the road from Kylerhea on Skye through Glen Arroch (it helps to be able to picture a male Hen Harrier in your mind's eye). 

"Halfway up, a male Hen Harrier flashed across my bows, a poem in silver-grey and black...It's shadow-into-sunlight starburst was the most distant of echoes of the Green Woodpecker in far-off Glen Finglas". He then goes on to describe the Harriers hunting flight action..."slow as thistledown and one-yard high, searching for vole tremors or a passing cloud of finches on the move. Then with that streamlined absence of fuss that is the badge of all its tribe, it might soar fifty feet, bank and turn in its own length and tilt the whole mighty seaboard of the West Highlands through forty-five degrees in the process".
Crumley, J (2016) The Nature of Autumn Saraband, Glasgow 

Now that's how you describe a Hen Harrier!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Chicks and Juvs

On Sunday afternoon I found myself at my good friend's Robert and Diana's farm near Nateby with a brood of Kestrel chicks to ring. I'd checked them about a week earlier and they were just too small to ring, so hopefully after a week they would be big enough.

One of the diversification enterprises that Robert and Diana have on their farm is a small camping and caravan site and when we went to ring the Kestrel chicks we were joined by a small group of keen, wildlife enthusiast campers. I climbed the ladder and looked into the box and I was greeted to the sight of five healthy Kestrel chicks. They were still covered in grey fluffy down, but had started to grow tail and primary wing feathers. The other thing I noticed straight away was the number of mammalian prey items in the box and it was obvious that the parents birds were finding plenty of food and the chicks couldn't keep up with supply! It is a good vole year this year so fingers crossed it should be a good breeding season for Kestrels nationally and also Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl etc.

I haven't any photographs of the Kestrel chicks I'm afraid as I was too busy ringing the five chicks and also letting the enthusiastic group of campers quickly get some photographs before returning the chicks to the box. They all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing the Kestrels ringed and the opportunity of seeing the birds close up, which is privilege that we as ringers sometimes take for granted.

We then had a walk down to the wetland and on the way along the woodland edge we noticed quite a few Red Admirals. In the immediate area there was a lot of nettles that are the food plant for Red Admiral caterpillars.

 Red Admirals

There was nothing on the wetland other than a few House Martins and Swallows hawking over it for aerial insects, so we headed in to the woodland to have a look at the outdoor classroom in the woods. One of the other things that Robert and Diana do is to facilitate school visits to the farm where the children learn about the link between farming, food production and the environment, but they also learn some basic outdoor survival skills and are encouraged to identify some of the wildlife found in the woodland. Great stuff!

As you might expect a woodland in late June in the middle of the afternoon is going to be quiet, but a singing Chiffchaff, a confiding Treecreeper and a Jay found their way into my notebook!

The following day I had a 4:00 am alarm call (ouch!) to carry out a plantation woodland bird survey in the North Pennines not far from Kirkby Stephen. It was a glorious morning with clear skies and calm conditions. Nearly everything I recorded during the survey was a juvenile; spotty Robins, gingery Song Thrushes, more green than blue Blue Tits and short-tailed Swallows!

Other bits and pieces included six Goldfinches, a Linnet, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, four Willow Warblers, a Siskin, a Buzzard, a Grey Wagtail, a Lesser Redpoll and a Stock Dove. Oh, and at least seven Brown Hares!

Since then it has rained and I've remained indoors, but I've got another bird survey Friday morning before hopefully some birding on the patch at weekend!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Back In Bowland

Tuesday morning saw me take to the hills in Bowland to carry out a site visit to look at the condition of two areas of species rich grassland. My client's farm is full of breeding waders as he farms exceedingly sympathetically to cater for them; he's amended some farming practises to reduce any potential impact on eggs and chicks, created habitat features such as scrapes to provide additional habitat and adjusted stocking densities to create the correct sward heights. He's a great bloke!

Walking between the two fields that I had to survey it was obvious that most of the waders had finished breeding. Nearly all of the Lapwings had gone and just a few pairs of Curlew and Oystercatcher were still about. I had an interesting first wader breeding record for the farm in the form of a Common Sandpiper. I can't claim any credit for discovering this as it was one of the farm staff that alerted me to it's presence. She told me that every time she drove past this particular stone edged pool she saw a wader species she couldn't identify. She also went on to say that she had seen the bird with chicks.

One of the fields that I had to check was adjacent to this pool and as I parked up in the gateway and got out of my car I heard Common Sandpiper alarm calling. And sure enough, at some distance, it was perched up on the fence. I suspect that the other bird was somewhere around the pool with the chicks. This is the first time in Lancashire that I have recorded Common Sandpiper breeding on a farm away from a water course. Great stuff!

 Common Sandpiper

In addition to the waders a few Willlow Warblers were still singing from some of the woodland plantings and a Cuckoo was calling from an area that I had one or it earlier in the spring. The same pool where the Common Sandpiper was also had two broods of Tufted Ducks on and there looked to be at least four ducklings in each brood.

So a very enjoyable visit and I wish that all of my work could be like that!

First Moths For A While

I ran my garden moth trap for the first time a few days ago and had a pleasing little catch, well for me anyway. I don't like to catch too many as it takes me quite a while to go through them, mainly because I don't run my trap often enough to get my eye in. However, I caught 21 moths of eight species as follows:

Brimstone - 2
Sallow Kitten - 2
Garden Carpet - 4
Riband Wave - 1
Heart and Dart - 4
Dark Arches - 3
The Flame - 2
Large Yellow Underwing - 3


 Sallow Kitten

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Holiday Snaps

I've had to hit the ground running this week with work, with lots of site visits and today is the first time I have had time to post anything since getting back from Scotland at weekend. Gail and I had a week in a holiday cottage on the Kilninver Estate south of Oban overlooking Loch Feochan. When it wasn't raining we had cracking views to Kerrera, and Mull beyond that. I say when it wasn't raining because we had quite a dreich week!

We didn't see a huge selection of birds, but you know what it's like as a birder you're always birding wherever you are. Highlights included lots of Siskins everywhere we went, Hooded Crows a plenty, Cuckoos, a couple of Golden Eagles, Goosanders, lots of Song Thrushes outnumbering Blackbirds, Spotted Flycatchers, breeding Wheatears, Stonechats, Peregrine, Ravens and Rock Dove (not sure how genuine they are here).

Below are a few holiday snaps in no particular order with no particular reason for the selection either:

 Bon Awe Iron Furnace

English Stonecrop (in Scotland)

Gylen Castle on Kerrera

Heath Spotted Orchid

Inverary Castle

Northern Marsh Orchid

Signs to the tea garden on Kerrera (above & below)

Spotted Flycatcher

Inside Kilmory Knap Chapel


Loch Feochan from the cottage

Thursday, 8 June 2017

May Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of May, and they haven't increased that much. This is because of a ringing suspension due to a local avian influenza outbreak, which thankfully was lifted on 7th June. So we need to hit the ground running now and get some birds ringed!

Three new species for the year were ringed during May and these were Lapwing, Pied Flycatcher and Nuthatch. Below you will find the top three ringed during May and the top nine 'movers and shakers' for the year:

Top 3 Ringed In May

1. Blue Tit - 51
2. Pied Flycatcher - 24
3. Great Tit - 20

Top 9 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Blue Tit - 74 (up from 4th)
2. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (down from 1st)
3. Linnet - 59 (down from 2nd)
4. Goldfinch - 49 (down from 3rd)
5. Great Tit - 27 (straight in)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 24 (straight in)
7. Meadow Pipit - 19 (same position)
8. Willow Warbler - 14 (same position)
9. Nuthatch - 13 (straight in)

 Pied Flycatcher

This will probably be my last post for over a week as I am off to Scotland for a weeks holiday shortly, so I will post again when I get back!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Big Boxes

Gail and I had a second day of checking boxes on Sunday, but this time it was at our good friends Robert and Diana's farm near Nateby. We had three 'big boxes' to check; two Owl boxes and a Kestrel box. It was positive news for the box in the barn as it contained four healthy Barn Owl chicks ranging in age from 16 - 25 days, ish! The Barn Owls were duly ringed and we moved on to the other Owl box.

 Barn Owl

This box contained an old Stock Doves nest from last year. In fact I think in most years since it has been up it has been used by Stock Doves.

The Kestrel box in the wet woodland was certainly active and from a vantage point in the field we could see the female Kestrel sitting in the box. It is likely that she was brooding small young rather than incubating eggs, and as such we didn't disturb her. We will return in a week or so's time to ring the chicks.

Walking through a section of open woodland a Banded Demoiselle flew past which was a great sighting. Banded Demoiselles like slow-flowing, mud-bottomed streams and rivers with open banksides and adjoining meadows, and that description fits perfectly with this part of the farm.

Since we ringed the Barn Owl chicks on Sunday, today (Wednesday) is the first day that it hasn't rained and I must admit to be being a bit worried about them as the parents will have found it difficult, if not impossible, to hunt during the wet weather. Let's hope that they have managed to find enough food to feed the chicks today, as I do wonder about the survival prospects for the youngest chick!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Last Pied Fly Gig Of The Year

On Saturday morning Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley to carry out the final check of our next boxes here for the year. We knew we would have a few Pied Flycatchers to ring and in total we ringed 47 pulli. Quite a few of the chicks hadn't developed much during the week because of the cool changeable weather leading to a struggle for the adults to find food. And I must admit I am worried about them now after two full days of constant rain. If it wasn't for the fact that I go away to Scotland this weekend I would go back and check to see how they are getting on. Probably the first thing that I'll do on my return is go and see if they have managed to fledge okay; fingers crossed!

Pied Flycatcher