Saturday, 9 December 2017

Cake, But No Hawfinch

Yesterday morning I dropped Gail off at a cake decorating workshop at the National Trust property Sizergh Castle in south Cumbria. Gail went Christmas cake decorating and I took myself off for a walk for a few hours. By the way Gail's cake looked fantastic and you can see a picture of it below. I can't wait to get stuck in to it with a bit of tangy cheese!

 Gail's professionally decorated cake; very proud of her!

It was a glorious crisp, frosty morning with clear skies. The views on my walk were superb with vistas out to the Howgills, Lakes and Morecambe Bay. Shortly after commencing my walk I walked through two large fields of unimproved grassland that were carpeted with ant hills, and sadly as you might expect they were an oasis in a Ryegrass desert! I made a note to myself to return in the summer and have a look at the profusion of wildflowers and butterflies, that I don't doubt will be there.

 Howgills

The Lakes

Ant hills (above & below)



As I walked across the car park a couple of Nuthatches called and I watched a male Bullfinch foraging in one of the trees. Bullfinches are scarce in the Fylde, so I always welcome the opportunity to connect with this gentlest of finches.

The two fields containing the ant hills also contained some Hawthorn scrub and thickets and I recorded one or two thrushes walking through these fields; 3 Song Thrushes, 3 Mistle Thrushes and 7 Redwings. I dropped down in to an area of woodland with some wide, recently cleared glades (management for Fritillary butterflies?) and I had a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a calling Marsh Tit. Again, Marsh Tits are scarce down in the Fylde, so it was good to see and hear. A single Buzzard later and I was back in the car park.

 Woodland path

Sadly I didn't observe any Hawfinches, but there's always another day. Today was about the walk and the views!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Stormcock

I was undertaking a winter bird survey on some moss land in west Lancs yesterday and even though it was a cold grey day, I did quite enjoy myself.

As my blog title suggests Mistle Thrushes were a feature of the morning and I recorded 6 of these large, vocal thrushes. In fact one bird was singing, defending a winter feeding territory, and their singing during inclement weather in the winter months earned them their name of Stormcock!

 Mistle Thrush

Other Thrushes that I encountered during my survey were 36 Redwings, five Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and 67 Fieldfares. The Fieldfares and Redwings were associating with some finches feeding in a large field, and the finches included eleven Linnets, a Corn Bunting, 60 Chaffinches and a Yellowhammer. There was probably more of each species, but it was difficult to see into the field properly.

There was little in the hedgerows, although a flock of ten Long-tailed Tits was nice, and raptors were represented by a single Buzzard and a male Kestrel. A number of Pink-footed Geese were flying to and from feeding areas and I had 540 fly over my watch point.

On this day in 1993 I was ringing at a winter roost site we had then, in the grounds of a stately home. My notebook tells me that we recorded at least 400 Chaffinches roosting and ringed 63 birds including 53 Chaffinches and three Song Thrushes. I wish we could go back to those days!

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Another Week Gone!

Last weekend the weather was horrendous; cold northerly winds both days with wind driven showers all day long! I didn't venture out as I couldn't motivate myself because of the weather. And then during the week Murphy's law kicks in and the weather is rather cold, but pleasant, and my birding is all to do with work.

Five sites surveyed during the week and to give you an idea of the habitats I was in it was mossland/farmland 4, estuary 0! So a clear victory to mossland/farmland sites, so that will give you an idea of the species I recorded.

My week kicked off with a fairly pleasant visit to some estuarine and associated habitats on a fairly overcast day, with the ever present north-northwesterly wind. This was my fourth visit to this site and my transect goes past a pond in some improved pasture, grazed within an inch of it's life and I haven't recorded anything on this pond to date. However, this time as I approached it I could hear the tinkling call of Teal and to my delight and surprise 26 of these cracking little ducks were on the pond!

I recorded one or two raptors on my survey and first up was a Merlin that I only got on as it headed high to the west across the fields. A Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk were also recorded as were eight Buzzards!

Out on the estuary a flock of 150 Lapwings and 354 Curlews was noteworthy, and I never get tired of Little Egrets, so eight in my notebook was a bonus as far as I'm concerned.

The following day I was out at first light on some intensive agricultural mossland. Pink-footed Geese were moving from their roost to feeding areas and 356 gave me a fly-past against frosty blue skies. Just thinking about the ground frost a Bumblebee that flew past me was a complete surprise!

 Pink-footed Geese

I had 14 of the Pink-feet's northern cousins, Whooper Swans, again moving from roost sites to feeding areas and like yesterday a few Buzzards, but this time just three. However, one of the Buzzards gave me a start for a quick second as it was a leucistic bird, and I had one of those "what the f*ck was that" moments as I scanned past it with my bins!

The finch flock out on the stubbles had reduced to just 41 and 10 respectively of Linnet and Goldfinch, and there was no sign of the Stonechats; presumably moved on by the cold weather. A flock of 33 Skylarks and a female Sparrowhawk rounded off the morning.

Flooded farmland

My third survey in as many days was on some more agricultural mossland. A species that doesn't usually make it in to my notebook did this morning as on some stubbles was a flock of 101 Feral Pigeons and 20 Stock Doves. I had a few Thrushes on this morning in the form of six Mistle Thrushes, nine Blackbirds and twelve Fieldfares.

I then had a couple of days surveying within some improved pasture and hedgerows, and nothing really stands out to tell you about. The coming week is full of more survey work, but I am really desperate to get on the patch now! In fact I was sorting some mist nets out on my drive this afternoon, so let's hope I get chance to use them next weekend!

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Working Week That Was

Most of my birding of late has been in order to keep the wolf from the door and I am in the middle of a number of wintering bird surveys. I'm not going to complain, but when it comes to weekend the weather hasn't played ball and I have struggled to get out. I think it's called sod's law, but I suppose I shouldn't complain as I am doing some birding!

About a week ago I was surveying inland at a farmland site, and it was fairly mundane, but as I am fond of saying there is always something to look at. On this particular morning there did seem to be good numbers of thrushes along the hedgerows and I counted 25 Blackbirds, 96 Fieldfares, two Redwings and two Song Thrushes.

Raptors were represented by a male and female Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard being mobbed by two Carrion Crows. Grey Wagtail and Siskin put in a appearance, as did six Tree Sparrows, so it wasn't all bad.

I have another survey site on some farmland adjacent to a tidal stretch of river and I was there a few days ago. Tree Sparrows were apparent here as well and I had ten going over on vis heading southwest. It never ceases to amaze me seeing these relatively sedentary farmland birds on the move in the autumn.

Thrushes weren't as obvious on this morning with 37 Fieldfares, seven Song Thrushes, five Redwings, a Mistle Thrush and another 25 Blackbirds, so actually fairly similar! Pink-footed Geese were moving between roosting and feeding sites and I had 2130 overhead in all directions. A Raven and three Siskins over made it in to my notebook as did three Little Egrets.

 Little Egret

The tide was in down on the estuary and there was limited mud available for any waders, consequently all I had was eleven Curlews, two Redshanks and eleven Snipe. A flock of ten Reed Buntings were in some Phragmites fringing a watercourse and 21 Whooper Swans flew northeast bugling away; magic!

 Reed Bunting

At the end of the week I was inland again on some mossland with intensive agriculture ranging from cereals to field vegetables. Two each of Kestrel and Buzzard flew the raptor flag and quite a number of Goldfinches were present. In total I had 64 Goldfinches and 25 of these were with 75 Linnets in some veg stubbles.

I rarely see Grey Partridge these days, so a covey of five was noteworthy, and a male and female Stonechat were still occupying a feeding territory in rank vegetation alongside a ditch and a pond. This vegetation would be harbouring over-wintering inverts, and therefore food for the Chats!

 Stonechat

It's a mixed week weather-wise coming up, but fingers crossed I'll get out!

 The sun sets on another week of surveys

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Waggies

This afternoon Ian and I headed to the reedbeds to try and ring some roosting Pied Wagtails. We had full cloud cover and 10 mph north-northwesterly wind. Whilst waiting for Ian to arrive I had a quick look on one of the pools and there was an impressive 59 Coots and the now ubiquitous calling Cetti's Warbler.

A couple of Goldcrests called from some willows adjacent to the reedbed and a female Sparrowhawk coasted across the pool. Another raptor made an appearance in the form of a Buzzard mobbed by Corvids heading towards the river.

Before the Pied Wags came in to roost we ringed a few Greenfinches that were on their way to roost in the water treatment works, and at least 30 or so showed some interest in the MP3 player. It was difficult to estimate the numbers of Wagtails roosting, but there must have been at least 180.

 Greenfinch

We ringed 29 birds as follows:

Greenfinch - 6
Pied Wagtail - 23

 Pied Wagtail

I'm not sure what to do in the morning as it is forecast for a brisk northwesterly. I'll see how many Orkney brewery beers I sample this evening and then make a decision!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

October'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 October. To date we have ringed 2,378 birds of 54 species. New additions for the year in October were Sparrowhawk, Fieldfare, Redwing and Mistle Thrush.

Below you will find the 'Top 5' ringed in October and the 'Top 10 Movers and Shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in October

1. Goldfinch - 62
2. Redwing - 54
3. Goldcrest - 50
4. Pied Wagtail - 45
5. Blue Tit - 32

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 264 (up from 2nd)
2. Linnet - 241 (down from 1st)
3. Blue Tit - 166 (up from 4th)
4. Swallow - 145 (down from 3rd)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 139 (up from 6th)
6. Goldcrest - 128 (up from 8th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 124 (down from 5th)
8. Great Tit - 96 (up from 10th)
9. Reed Warbler - 92 (down from 7th)
10. Chaffinch - 80 (straight in)

Friday, 3 November 2017

More Thrushes

This is just a quick post to report on yesterday's ringing activities at the Obs. Ian and me were back in the reedbeds at first light with full cloud cover and 5 - 10 mph northerly wind.

Other than the ringing details I have recorded very little in my notebook. There was a good movement of Pink-footed Geese and several skeins were leaving their estuarine roost, and as a couple of days ago others were arriving from the north.

There was probably 70 grounded Redwings and 15 - 20 Fieldfares, and they featured prominently in the ringing totals for the morning. We ringed 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Fieldfare - 2
Wren - 1
Redwing - 13
Reed Bunting - 8
Greenfinch - 4

 Fieldfare

 Redwing

It's looking more of a seawatching kind of day tomorrow, with the possibility of some thrushes Sunday morning.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Some Ringing At Last

Yesterday morning at the Obs I headed to one of the reedbeds just before first light to do my first ringing since September! In fact it was the first morning that I had seen a frost this autumn, but it wasn't that heavy, just a light and brief dusting. Skies were clear and it was calm, something that it hasn't been for some time!

Being a birder of a certain age I still have to pinch myself every time I hear a Cetti's Warbler, and I hear them an awful lot now, and this morning was a classic example, a Cetti's calling from a frosty reedbed in Lancashire!

There was quite a few Pink-footed Geese moving around this morning in all directions, some obvious arrivals from the north and other birds moving from their roost site to feeding areas. The 5-600 logged in my notebook is probably a gross under estimate, but I was quite busy ringing this morning so couldn't always look up!

When I was putting the nets up a number of Fieldfares and Redwings were moving amongst the reeds and willows, perhaps 30 and 15 of each respectively, and I did wonder whether I would catch any, and I did. In total I ringed 31 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Fieldfare - 2
Wren - 1
Redwing - 4
Song Thrush - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 2
Goldfinch - 5
Greenfinch - 13 (1)
Blue Tit - 1
Goldcrest - (1) 

 Redwing

In addition to the Pinkies there was some vis involving Fieldfares, Redwings, Song Thrush, Jackdaws, Woodpigeons, Brambling, Greenfinches, Meadow Pipits, Carrion Crow and Linnets. However, my counts are woefully low as I said earlier, so I haven't bothered to report them here.

 Fieldfare

It's looking okay for some ringing later in the week at the Obs so hopefully I'll be out again. Twice in one week, what's going on?!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Big Skies

I was surveying on some deepest, darkest mossland this morning and it was the first morning that you could say that it was actually cold. When I arrived at my survey site there was a ground mist and lateral visibility wasn't brilliant to say the least, but vertically it was crystal clear which meant birds were still on the move.

 That orange ball soon cleared all the low lying mist

The mosslands aren't everybody's cup of tea as in Lancashire they are usually used for intensive agriculture, mainly field salad and veg, and where I was today was no exception. However, it is the big skies that lend these areas some wildness. I also like the habitat islands that you find. When I say habitat island it could be a group of Birch trees for example surviving along a track, and they are indeed islands in their position and richness within the surrounding agricultural landscape.

 An island of Birch in a mossland sea

The main theme of the morning was the 'vis' but this was a tad limited, or the birds were so high they were out of my sight and hearing range. Skylarks were a good example; I could hear them calling, but often I couldn't see them. They were somewhere coasting in the stratosphere.

A few flocks of Pink-footed Geese were on the move, scribbling across the sky like a spider dipped in ink and running across the page, a page of crystal clear cobalt blue! Continuing the wildfowl theme I had three parties of Whooper Swans (10/4/4) heading south, announcing their presence by their loud bugling calls. Magic!

As I said before there was some vis. Interestingly some of the Skylarks were heading north into the light northerly wind. My vis totals, irrespective of direction, were as follows; six Tree Sparrows, four Alba Wags, 68 Woodpigeons, two Chaffinches, a Magpie, 45 Skylarks, 161 Jackdaws, a Linnet, 85 Starlings, four Meadow Pipits, a Reed Bunting, six Carrion Crows, 11 Goldfinches, four Redwings and a Greenfinch.

The only raptor I had this morning was a female Sparrowhawk that coasted over a small area of wild bird seed flushing 45 Goldfinches and 15 Linnets in the process. I thought I might have had a few more thrushes this morning, but other than the Redwings all I had was seven Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, three Song Thrushes and three Mistle Thrushes.

I came across a flock of 13 Lapwings on a small flood and there was no way of approaching them without flushing them, which was a shame because the light was perfect in my head I thought I could have got a cracking photo. The problem there is that it was all theoretical and I hadn't factored in my lacking photographic skills!

It was nice to hear a Corn Bunting singing from, where else, some telegraph wires and that brought to an end a pleasant job of work!

 Big skies

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Farmland Vis

Yesterday and today I have been doing some bird surveys, yesterday in the Fylde and today in the Lune valley. The vis hasn't really been part of the surveys, but I record it anyway for my own interest, and after the stormy weather earlier in the week the flood gates opened. 

The day dawned with clear skies and very little wind, perhaps just a tad from the east, and birds were on the move straight away. My totals below don't really justify the true numbers of the birds involved, as I was having to concentrate on other things, but the species make-up is accurate. So a flavour of yesterday morning included 654 Pink-footed Geese, 49 Skylarks, 4 Woodpigeons, 13 Meadow Pipits, four Redwings, a Snipe, a Tree Sparrow, 44 Jackdaws, a Lesser Redpoll, five Alba Wags, two Grey Wags, a Brambling, a Greenfinch, a Siskin, a Raven, a Fieldfare and nine Lapwings.

 Some of the Pinkies yesterday

This morning the vis was a lot quieter and as I said before I was in the Lune valley. I was preoccupied with looking at hedgerows, but the vis was so light I am pretty sure I recorded most of it. My totals included a Siskin, 23 Meadow Pipits, two Reed Buntings, three Goldfinches, 122 Redwings, a Fieldfare, three Chaffinches and 16 Skylarks.

 A typical hedge that I was surveying today

I had a few other bits and pieces, non vis related, when I was surveying the hedges, and this included two Mistle Thrushes, two Grey Wagtails, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 16 Blackbirds (some continental birds), a Stock Dove, five Song Thrushes, a Goldcrest and two Bullfinches.

I had two Sparrowhawks during the morning, an immature male and a female. I watched the female mobbing one of the two Buzzards that I had.    

I've got another work related bird survey tomorrow and then at weekend it looks like more sea watching based on the forecast.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Birding Highs and Lows of Ophelia

The press has been full of reports of the damage and sadly loss of life that ex-hurricane Ophelia wreaked upon the UK, particularly Ireland, Wales and southwest Scotland. Luckily here in northwest England we escaped the full force of the storm, but when I went out sea watching at the Point yesterday it was still a force 9 southwesterly!

I was at the tower for first light and was soon joined by IG and GH, and later AD. The first bird I had was a dark morph Arctic Skua shearing west, but sadly it was some way out. We had another two Arctic Skuas, and these were followed by both Great and Pom. We had three Bonxies head west and then at 1140 whilst I was on the phone to my Doctors I heard IG shouting for me to get back up quick. Two gorgeous Pom Skuas were heading west and they were close in. Both were adults; one was in winter plumage and the other was a full summer bird with spoons! Stunning!

As might be expected we had a few Leach's Petrels heading out of the bay and we had 2, possibly 3. We weren't sure whether the third bird was the second bird that had gone into the bay and was coming out again or not. The best of the rest included 13 Common Scoters, four Red-breasted Mergansers, nine Kittiwakes, an adult Med. Gull, a Little Gull, five Whooper Swans, two Auk sp., 13 Shovelers (yes 13 Shovelers - we don't get anywhere near that number at the Obs all winter!), eight Pintails, three Eiders and a Guillemot. Sea watching never ceases to amaze me, what were 13 Shovelers doing heading west in to a force 9 storm?!

 Pintails (honest)

These were the birding highs. The birding lows were represented by a mystery Petrel that flew west at about 0815. I picked it up about half way out, tracking west, and getting closer all the time. I called it as a Petrel sp. as I didn't think it looked like a Leach's, but I wasn't sure what it was! IG and GH were soon on to it and we watched it for about 3 - 4 minutes, before we all lost it. It was struggling to fly against the wind and kept being blown back before pushing on again. It could only be either a Storm-petrel or a Wilson's Storm-petrel! Factors against it being a Wilson's were that we couldn't see the toes projecting beyond the tail and we couldn't see any short pale panels on the upper wing. Having said that, I couldn't see the long pale panels on the upper wings of any of the 2/3 Leach's we saw either, as we were viewing in pretty horrendous conditions. The main and only factor for it being a Wilson's was that we couldn't see a broad white band on the under wing, which it would have it was a Stormie. And we saw it well enough to see this feature if it was there, as we have all seen numerous Stormies in varying conditions and have always been able to see the under wing bar. It had a broad white rump and a square cut tail, and that was it. It wasn't a Leach's, I don't think it was a Stormie, so what was it?

The only other interesting thing was that even in the gale force winds I picked up two Meadow Pipits coming across the bay and they made it, making landfall on the golf course!

It was a vis kind of day this morning and I did a bird survey for work, but more of that later.

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.

Pinkies

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.........

..........it'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!

 Oystercatchers

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

 Robin

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

 Whitethroat

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.

 Before

 After

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!

 Starlings

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!