Thursday, 27 April 2017

Beyond Those Mountains

The one thing that can be said about this week, and it's the same nationwide, is that it has been bl**dy cold! I have been doing bird surveys beyond those mountains in the middle of Cumbria and with 4:00 am alarm calls the the thermometer has been showing a negative figure! After I had finished a survey in north Cumbria yesterday I had to see a couple of clients in Bowland and driving over the top from Bentham to Slaidburn it was like driving through the tundra! I should have stopped and taken a few shots of the snowy landscape but I couldn't spare the horses to make sure I was at my meetings on time!

 Looking back towards those mountains.

The cold spring has been having an impact on migration, and still there are only dribs and drabs of summer migrants coming through. Also, when it is weather like this birds just seem to appear quietly on the breeding grounds, and the two surveys I have completed this week are a case in point. Some of the species I have recorded are summer migrants and they have been my first sightings of the spring, completely bypassing coastal hot spots, and appearing at historic nest sites.

My surveys have been in new-ish plantation woodland and I have lumped the interesting sightings together for both sites as follows; four Willow Warblers, two Tree Sparrows, three Reed Buntings, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Stock Dove, seven Lesser Redpolls, two Redstarts, a Blackcap and a Song Thrush.

 Plantation Woodland

It's going to be wet in Cumbria tomorrow morning so I haven't got a 4:00 am alarm call so I might just have a beer or two this evening!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Full Spooner

I headed to the Point first thing this morning and joined Ian and Howard, and boy was it cold! The skies were clear and the wind was a sharp 15 mph northwesterly! It was a toss up between standing on the bank and in the wind, but with the sun on your back, or standing behind the tower out of the wind, but with no sun; I opted for the windier but sunnier option.

There was some vis this morning and the direction of passage was anywhere between north and east. My vis totals were 25 Goldfinches, 165 Pink-footed Geese, 248 Meadow Pipits, nine Swallows, 19 Linnets, two Sand Martins, four Carrion Crows, eleven Lesser Redpolls, four Siskins, three Tree Pipits, two Alba Wagtails, a Rook and amazingly a Blue Tit that came high over the dunes and was lost from sight as it headed out to cross Morecambe Bay!

The best bird offshore was undoubtedly the 'full spooner' adult pale morph Pomarine Skua that I picked up heading in to the bay. As it progressed east it was gaining height and I don't doubt that it was going to 'over land' to the North sea!

In addition to the Pom the sea produced 16 Red-throated Divers, a Peregrine, eight Sandwich Terns, 67 Auk sp., five Gannets, three Shelducks, four Razorbills, ten Manx Shearwaters, 20 Common Scoters, 20 Whimbrels, ten Arctic Terns, nine Eiders and a Guillemot.

Two hundred Dunlins and 99 Ringed Plovers attempted to roost on the shingle at high tide but were continually disturbed. The only grounded migrants we had were five Wheatears.

Back home all my moth trap produced was a single Common Quaker, which wasn't surprising given the low overnight temperatures. Talking of back home I need to rewind to late yesterday morning when I heard all the Gulls at the rear of my house alarm calling and generally going berserk! I thought I was going to record my first Osprey over the house, but it was two migrant Buzzards making their way north!

Friday, 21 April 2017

A Hoodie and a GNOD

The weather has been a bit mixed this week, or perhaps more to the point I haven't been able to get a forecast I could rely upon for my breeding bird surveys in north Cumbria, so there hasn't been any more birding north of the border for me this week sadly!

This morning I headed to the Point for a bit of sea watching and 'vis mig' at the Obs. I had full cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph west-northwesterly wind. It was just about warm enough, or not too cold, to stand on top of the dunes to count vis and look at the sea. The vis was really quiet with blocking low cloud to the south and to a certain extent out in the bay. Nevertheless I did record a bit of vis in the form of a Meadow Pipit, nine Swallows, six Linnets, 19 Goldfinches, a Kestrel that headed due north across the bay until out of sight and a Lesser Redpoll.

The sea was relatively quiet, although I did have a Great Northern Diver heading east in to the bay, but sadly at some distance. It was virtually my last scan of the sea before heading back to my car when I picked it up flying in to the bay and slightly away from me; always good to see though! The GNOD supporting cast included five Red-throated Divers, 103 Common Scoters, 16 Gannets, 20 Eiders, a Guillemot, two Cormorants, a Kittiwake and seven Sandwich Terns. An Atlantic Grey Seal was also bobbing up and down just offshore.

Just as good as the Great Northern was a Hooded Crow that I have to thank AB and JS for putting me on to. I was just heading off to have a look at the waders on the beach when AB and JS shouted me to say there was a Hooded Crow on one of the fairways on the golf course. I popped back up on top of the bank and sure enough there it was strutting it's stuff! It was quite a distance away and kept getting flushed by golfers.

Roosting waders comprised of 76 Sanderlings, nine Dunlins and 53 Turnstones. The only other sighting of interest was a cracking male Sparrowhawk that flew low over the dunes as I headed back to my car.

We've got the mighty Joe Bonomassa tomorrow night, so I'm looking forward to that, and I'm determined to get out ringing Sunday morning even though it will be a late night. But tomorrow will be more vis miging and sea watching at the Obs!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Both Sides Of the Solway

Yesterday morning I did get up before first light with the intention of ringing at the Obs as I said in my previous blog posting, but it was raining! I waited and waited, and it didn't stop. I drifted off to sleep and awakened again at 7:00 am and still it rained; so I tried!

It was an even earlier start this morning, but for some reason I had a spring in my step when the alarm went off at 0345! Maybe it was because I was heading to the Solway! I had a bird survey to do for work in north Cumbria overlooking the Solway and afterwards it was my intention to spend a few hours birding the Scottish side. As I headed over Faulds Brow the thermometer on my car read a chilly minus 4! However, as I dropped down to my survey site thankfully the temperature lifted, but it was still hat and gloves weather this early in the day!

I was surveying some newly planted woodland on improved pasture and therefore the species range was limited. Of interest I had seven Goldfinches, two Song Thrushes, a Jay, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Stock Dove, two Chaffinches, two Greenfinches, three House Sparrows, a Blackcap, a Buzzard, a Siskin, three Lesser Redpolls, two Tree Sparrows and two Linnets.

After I had finished my survey I crossed over to the Scottish side of the Solway and had a walk from Browhouses to Torduff Point. A little bit of cloud had rolled in by now, but it was still a glorious morning and it had warmed up.

 Coastal Scrub

As soon as I got out of my car I could hear Blackcap and Willow Warbler singing, and in total I had two Blackcaps and eleven Willow Warblers. I love Willow Warbler song and it certainly raises the spirits.

 Willow Warbler

I had a look on the mudflats and river. On the river were five Goldeneyes, 21 Wigeon and a male Goosander. A selection of waders were on the mudflats including 20 Whimbrels, 29 Redshanks and eleven Black-tailed Godwits. In addition to the waders two Little Egrets were also feeding on the mudflats.  

I then headed west towards Torduff Point walking through the mature hedgerow and scrub. I had two Lesser Redpolls and a Siskin head east, but I also had six Lesser Redpolls feeding in the tops of the trees amongst the scrub. Three Reed Buntings, two singing Chiffchaffs, a Linnet, four Song Thrushes, two Chaffinches and twelve Goldfinches were also recorded in the coastal scrub.

The only raptor I had was a single Buzzard that was hunting over the adjacent grassland. Also on that side in the grassland habitat was two Stonechats and a buck Roe Deer that hadn't seen me, well for a while anyway. I took some pictures of him, but sadly they aren't as good as they should have been as I was 'shooting' through a chain link fence!

 Roe Deer

Stonechat

As the sun warmed the morning air a few butterflies were on the wing including two Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock. I've got another survey in this neck of the woods again tomorrow, and depending on the weather I might just cross the border again for some more Scottish birding! 

  Small Tortoiseshell

Sunday, 16 April 2017

March 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 March. As you will know we were unable to carry out any ringing within 10 km of a recent avian influenza outbreak and this suspension has only recently been lifted, so we are just getting back in to our stride. This means that our ringing totals so far this year are 319 behind where we were last year; hopefully we can catch up!

In March twelve new species were added to the list of species ringed so far in 2017 and these were Meadow Pipit, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch and Reed Bunting.

Below you will find the top three ringed during March and the top seven 'movers and shakers' for the year:

Top 3 Ringed in March

1. Goldfinch - 27
2. Meadow Pipit - 14
    Siskin - 14

Top 7 Movers and Shakers

1. Linnet - 59 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 36 (straight in)
3. Lesser Redpoll - 24 (straight in)
4. Blue Tit - 18 (down from 2nd)
    Siskin - 18 (straight in)
6. Meadow Pipit - 14 (straight in)
    Chaffinch - 14 (straight in)

At the moment the forecast is looking okay to do some ringing at the Obs tomorrow with 5 mph ESE wind forecast, so fingers crossed!

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Cold Northwesterly

I set off at first light with my fold-up chair in hand to a spot where it is possible to sea watch at the Obs even at low tide. I hunkered down in a sheltered spot and prepared myself to not see a great deal in the cold northwesterly! The skies were clear so it gave the impression of being a nice day.

Amazingly there was some vis, mainly I think because birds have been held up. Some birds went east, others northeast and even some went north straight across the bay. Visibility was good so even those taking the direct northerly route would have no difficulty in keeping the first land fall of Walney Island, some 17 km away, in their sight. My vis totals were 73 Meadow Pipits, 73 Linnets, five Carrion Crows, an Alba Wag, five Swallows, 50 Goldfinches and a Lesser Redpoll.

The sea was pretty quiet too, but then it was a northwesterly wind. I am expecting the first Arctic Skuas anytime soon, but it wasn't going to be today, but I did have my first Whimbrels of the Spring with three birds heading rapidly east in to the bay. The supporting cast offshore included two Whooper Swans, ten Cormorants, two Red-throated Divers, 12 Common Scoters, eight Eiders, ten Gannets, an Auk sp. and a Sandwich Tern.

The only grounded migrants were three White Wagtails on the beach. The forecast is grim for tomorrow, so a few pints of real ale and a rare lie in are in order. The wind is dropping off on Monday, so I'm hoping to get some mist nets up at the Obs. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

Not This Morning

It was forecast for some light rain round about first light this morning, so I thought I would check a few coastal hot spots at the Obs for some grounded migrants. But it wasn't to be this morning! The rain had obviously had a blocking effect preventing any migrants getting through from the south.

It was actually quite depressing after checking two good coastal sites and drawing a blank! It wasn't until I walked the dunes that I recorded a soggy male Wheatear! There was a little bit of vis, mainly in the form of Meadow Pipits, and they were setting off across the bay in a northwesterly direction. Some of them were turning round and coming back, and others were continuing on as Walney Island was just visible. I had 43 Meadow Pipits and two Swallows that headed west.

It's going to be a better day tomorrow weather-wise, but still northwesterly. My aim is to get out at first light and have a look on the sea. I'll let you know how I get on!

Close To Home

It made a change to be doing a bird survey close to home yesterday morning and my alarm call was still early, but not ridiculously early as it often is! It was still very cold and for me at least this has made the Spring very slow so far. I had 7 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph northwesterly wind.

I am surveying an area of farmland with associated hedges and ponds. It's not an area that I have ever birded in the past, and it's always interesting to go somewhere new. Talking of the slow Spring, there were a few migrants around during the four hours I was on site, but they were thin on the ground. Highlights included five Lapwings, four Reed Buntings, three Buzzards, two Willow Warblers, three Chiffchaffs and a Stock Dove. This isn't my complete list of course, but just a few bits and pieces that were moderately interesting.

We're on day one of a four day weekend and the weather doesn't look amazing for birding over the four days, and even less so for any ringing!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Velvet Morning

I was at the Obs for first light again yesterday morning and perched on top of the dunes it was still cold until the sun was high in the sky. I had clear skies with a 10 mph southeasterly wind.

There was a good selection of vis and I had my first Tree Pipits of the Spring. My vis totals (all northeast) were four Tree Pipits, 46 Lesser Redpolls, 49 Linnets, seven Goldfinches, 91 Meadow Pipits, a Chaffinch, 24 Carrion Crows, a Wheatear, five Alba Wags, a Sand Martin, a Siskin, two Swallows, a Tree Sparrow, a Grey Wagtail and a Reed Bunting.

This morning was just the same as the past few mornings in terms of my levels of frustration because of the high flying vis, particularly the Redpolls. Once again they were so high that I couldn't see them, only hear them!

As the tide pushed in there was a few waders on the beach including 79 Ringed Plovers, 42 Sanderlings and 31 Dunlins. There was a steady passage of Knot west, and I presume these birds are heading to the Ribble Estuary to roost; in total I had 460.

The sea was fairly quiet, although I did have my first couple of Sandwich Terns head in to the bay. Other totals included 23 Eiders, eight Cormorants, a Red-throated Diver and eight Common Scoters. Mid-morning I picked up what I thought was a group of five Eiders heading southwest across the bay. I say 'thought' as they were a long way off, but the two males stood out even at that distance. A few minutes later I picked them up again and I could see that it wasn't five Eiders, but three Eiders and a pair of Velvet Scoters! The Velvets came a little closer and then headed west out of Morecambe Bay and into Liverpool Bay.

As expected given the clear conditions grounded migrants were thin on the ground and all I had were six Wheatears and four White Wagtails

Back home in my moth trap I had six Early Greys, a Light Brown Apple Moth, four Common Quakers, two Plume Moth sp. and a Hebrew Character.

It's looking a mixed bag weather-wise this week and I have nine breeding bird surveys to get in before mid-May, no panic at the moment but I do need the weather to improve to make me feel more comfortable!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Registrations

At first light at the Obs there was a ground frost and I also had a heavy dew in my beard! The skies were crystal clear and it was flat calm. From the outset it was obvious that Redpolls were on the move, but sadly they were up in the stratosphere. It's difficult recording the vis when conditions are this clear as what you are really recording is just registrations. You hear a bird calling high up, you can't see it, so it is just a registration; it could be a single bird, but it could also be a small flock.

There was a supporting cast to the Redpolls and my totals were 100 Lesser Redpolls, 29 Meadow Pipits, seven Goldfinches, eight Linnets, two Woodpigeons, two Carrion Crows, a Greenfinch, five Alba Wags, two Swallows and three Siskins.

The most surprising observation of the morning was two Red-legged Partridges, that were a new species to be recorded at the Obs for me. In fact shortly after I had seen them I caught one of them in a mist net, but it got out before I got to the net. There is an absolute ban on ringing Red-legged Partridges by the BTO so even if I had managed to extract it, it wouldn't have been ringed.

On the subject of ringing I ringed 26 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 19
Blue Tit - 4
Dunnock - 1
Wren - 1 (1)

 Lesser Redpoll (above & below)



It wasn't a grounded morning and in fact I had no grounded migrants at all. The only other observation of interest I had was a female Sparrowhawk that slowly headed north. I couldn't decide whether it was a migrant or not, or just the female of a local breeding pair.

When I got home I checked my moth trap and all I had was a single Hebrew Character, mind you it was cold last night.

I'll be out again in the morning recording any migration, but without mist nets as it looks like it will be a tad breezy for the relatively exposed net rides at the Obs.

Friday, 7 April 2017

A Quick Scamper

I only had time for a quick scamper around the Obs yesterday morning, so I had a quick look on the sea and a search of a couple of spots for grounded migrants. The weather was 4 oktas cloud cover with a west-northwesterly wind about 10  - 15 mph.

Stood on top of the dunes so I could look over the sea and keep an eye out for any passing migrants there was a little bit of vis going on, and everything was heading northeast. I only watched for about an hour and a quarter, so my totals only included a Siskin, 172 Meadow Pipits, eight Carrion Crows, a Goldfinch, five Linnets, four Alba Wags and a Sparrowhawk.

The sea was equally as quiet, or a combination with me not spending long enough, anyway my totals were 25 Common Scoters, four Red-breasted Mergansers and two Whooper Swans. At first I couldn't get a feel as to whether it was a 'grounded' morning or not, but after a while it was obvious that it wasn't as all I had was a Wheatear and a White Wagtail.

Waders were conspicuous by their absence and roosting at high tide were just 101 Turnstones. The forecast is looking good for the next couple of days as the wind swings round to the south and warm air is forecast to surge northwards from Africa. Hopefully it will open a few migrant floodgates and amazingly it looks like the winds will be light enough to get nets up both days over weekend at the Obs! 

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

In the Footsteps Of The Premonstratensians

A 4:00 am alarm call yesterday morning was a bit tricky, particularly after just three hours sleep! I had my first of a series of breeding bird surveys to complete in Cumbria and I headed to the top of the county not farm from Carlisle. Driving up there it was quite wet and I did wonder whether I was going to have to call the survey off when I got there, but the BBC forecast was spot on and as the sun rose the rain lifted!

I had three small areas of plantation woodland to survey and for the purposes of the blog I have lumped together the more interesting sightings, or least uninteresting depending on how you look at, and recorded two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, eight House Sparrows, thirteen Fieldfares, three Chiffchaffs, a Song Thrush, two Blackcaps, a Linnet, two Buzzards, seven Siskins, four Stock Doves, a Yellowhammer, a Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest.

 There was plenty of evidence of small mammal activity within the newly
planted woodland

The Blackthorn flowering in the hedgerows looked resplendent as did the Primroses in the adjacent woodland and hedge bottoms.

 Blackthorn

 Primrose

On my way home I called at Shap Abbey to combine my love of natural history with the historic environment, and I always enjoy dropping in to this late 12th century religious house that belonged to the Premonstratensian order of canons. English Heritage look after the abbey with its impressive 15th century tower and other remains. It lies on the coast to coast long distance footpath and is adjacent to the River Lowther, and an area of semi-natural woodland.

 Shap Abbey

The wind had picked up as I set off for my walk around the Abbey, and I expected a few warbler species to be singing from the woodland but all I had were two Goldcrests. The river just held a single Grey Wagtail and Dippers were notable by their absence. A handful of Meadow Pipits and Siskins headed north overhead and that was pretty much everything that I observed of interest.

Fast forward to this morning and on my way to see a client in Bowland I had a Red Kite fly over the road. The bird was heading north and I only saw it for a few seconds, but nevertheless a nice bird to see in Lancashire!  

Robin

Monday, 3 April 2017

Low Level Vis

Yesterday morning dawned with clear skies and a strongish northwesterly wind. As you will know I have a considerable distaste for northwesterly winds as it usually means few or no birds, but this morning was an exception.

From the off it was clear that birds were urgently on the move as they were powering north in to the strong wind. The strong NW wind forced the birds to fly low as wind speeds would be less closer to the ground. Normally in such clear conditions the birds would be very high. Pipits and finches were moving on quite a broad front and I observed them over the farm fields, the beach and even out at sea when I was looking through my scope.

The following totals are really a minimum as it is difficult to count everything. Anyway, I had 165 Linnets, 161 Goldfinches, a Carrion Crow, three Alba Wags, five Siskins, a Redpoll sp., four Swallows, a Sand Martin, two White Wagtails and 835 Meadow Pipits.

It wasn't a grounded morning so two Wheatears and three Goldcrests were acceptable. The sea was quiet, or maybe I wasn't giving it enough attention because of all the vis action, and all I had was two Gannets, a male Eider and a Red-throated Diver! A female Peregrine heading southwest over the fields was also noteworthy.

I then headed to the water treatment works mainly to take down my feeders from the feeding station but also to see if there were any migrants in there as it is away from the coast and sheltered. All I had was three singing Chiffchaffs, and although not migrant birds it was nice to record my first Speckled Wood butterflies of the year.

 Speckled Wood

My garden moth trap this morning held just eight moths; six Hebrew Characters, a Common Quaker and my first Early Grey of the year. It's north Cumbria for a bird survey tomorrow morning for me with a very early start!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Willow Planting

Every year I harvest Willow stems from the Willows in my garden,drop them in a bucket of water for a week or three and then plant them out at the Obs to bulk out some of the net rides, and yesterday was my planting day. I hadn't realised just how many there were in my bundle, but let's say I was planting Willows for some time!

After I had finished planting as it was quite warm and sunny I decided to have a wander around the farm fields to see if there were any migrants about. First up were a pair of Stonechats working their way along the fence posts and also perching up in the dry Phragmites reedbed.

I didn't have any more migrants until I was back along the main hedge and here I managed to 'pish' two Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. I couldn't see the Blackcap, but just hear it's hard Sylvia 'tack'.

A number of Woodpigeons were flying out of this hedge and I noticed that one of the birds had left a nest. A quick scan and I could see two eggs, which is an average clutch size for a Woodpigeon. Talking of nests and eggs, I noticed that a female Blackbird is sat on a nest in the hedge in my garden, so I'll have to keep an eye on her and hope that none of the local cats get any of the young.

Woodpigeon nest

Before heading home I bobbed in to the cemetery and added three Goldcrests and two Chiffchaffs to my morning migrant tally!

Singing In The Rain

The forecast was for it to be a bit mixed last night with some cloud, rain, clear periods and most importantly of all a southerly wind. With thoughts of migrants in mind I headed to the cemetery after breakfast. I had to sit in my car for a while as the rain was quite heavy. It's not that I'm bothered about getting wet, it's that when the rain is really heavy birds aren't very active. If the rain is light, then they will feed away, and of course the rain does drop migrants in.

So sat in my car just to prove me wrong I could hear a Chiffchaff singing away and the contact calls of Goldcrests! The rain eased and I set off to do my usual circuit. I had a single Goldcrest first of all and then two together further round. I clocked the singing Chiffchaff and then had a further three working their way through the trees. On the other side of the cemetery I had another singing Chiffie taking my total to five.

 Chiffchaff

At last a decent view of a Blackcap, compared with my calling only bird yesterday, and this was a female feeding and flitting through the tree tops. She kept shaking herself to remove excess rain from her feathers, but was obviously on a migration mission and she was actively feeding.

A Turdus moving rapidly from tree to tree and silhouetted against the sky lead me a merry dance as it wasn't calling. Anyway, I eventually nailed it down and it was a Redwing that then rapidly left to the east.

I joined Ian in the coastal park where five Siskins were amongst 40 Goldfinches, and an immature male Sparrowhawk flushed a few Woodpigeons as it 'burst' out of the pines. Ian had heard a Chiffie and a Goldcrest, but it was certainly quieter than the cemetery.

Monday, 27 March 2017

More Moths

Three moths again in my trap this morning, but this time they were three Common Quakers and a Hebrew Character.

Hebrew Character

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Moths

I trapped my first moths of the Spring in my moth trap last night and when I checked the trap this morning I had three Common Quakers. Nothing amazing, but then that's not what it's about, it was just good to kick start the mothing season!

Common Quaker

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Pollen Horns

It was my first ringing session at the Obs this morning for the Spring after the lifting of the ringing suspension in the area due to the avian influenza outbreak at HyFly hatcheries near Pilling. At first light I was greeted with clear skies, a ground frost and it was calm. It felt quiet and I wondered whether it was too clear!

The first birds on the move were a hundred Pink-footed Geese that headed north and they were high, positively stratospheric! This would reflect the rest of the vis (all north) that I would record and all I had was two Carrion Crows, a Woodpigeon, two Linnets, 31 Meadow Pipits and three Siskins.

I didn't detect any grounded migrants other than the Chiffchaff that I ringed. Talking of ringing my totals were as follows:

Meadow Pipit - 8
Robin - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 1



The Chiffchaff that I ringed had 'pollen horns' (see picture below) which are feathers that have become encrusted with pollen whilst the bird is foraging for insects or pollen on flowers. Research carried out at Portland Bird Observatory in Dorset showed that pollen from 19 plants was found on species like Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, with the most pollen coming from Eucalyptus and citrus plants. Presumably the birds were picking this pollen up at plantations in North Africa, Spain or Portugal. Amazing stuff!

 Chiffchaff

The forecast is looking okay again for tomorrow so I'll try some more ringing at the Obs!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Vis - the Variety of (Bird) Life

I headed to the Point this morning for a couple of hours birding, and based on the weather I predicted that there would be quite a lot of vis this morning and there was! The weather has been pretty awful these past few days with strong winds and rain, and this morning was the first decent morning for a while and the flood gates were certainly opened. I joined Ian before seven (Ian had been there since six), and spent a pleasurable couple of hours. We had 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph east-northeasterly wind.

All of the birds moving on vis were heading between east and northeast and we had 502 Meadow Pipits, 51 Carrion Crows, six Linnets, 40 Whooper Swans, three Jackdaws, nine Alba Wags, eleven Goldfinches, a Rook, a female Sparrowhawk, 32 Woodpigeons, a Pied Wagtail, a male Kestrel (at sea), a female Merlin (at sea), three Magpies, a Siskin and a Stock Dove! As I said before Ian was there before me and I left him there, so I imagine the final Obs totals will be considerable and you will be able to find them HERE later.

Rook

In comparison the sea was very quiet with just a Cormorant, two Red-throated Divers, four Eiders, two Red-breasted Mergansers and an Auk sp. There was a steady passage of Gulls heading in to the bay, but sadly I had my ears and eyes full counting everything else, so didn't count the Gulls.

I didn't have any grounded migrants until I got home where I had a cracking male Siskin in the garden and a Goldcrest. So it is likely that a few grounded migrants could have been found in a sheltered, sunny spot.

I had a walk at lunch time in the local woods and had a queen Bumblebee sp. on the wing as well as the Red Admiral below.

 Red Admiral

The forecast is looking reasonable over the next few days so I'll try and get out tomorrow morning again and fingers crossed Saturday morning I'll get some ringing done at the Obs! I'm at Hawkshead brewery beer festival tomorrow, but just in the afternoon so it should give me plenty of time to recover for a 5:00 o'clock alarm call Saturday morning!

Monday, 20 March 2017

In Only Seven Days...

...is a brilliant song by Queen, but it also only a short period of time when your blog can become out of date! In the past seven days I have been busy with lots of things 'birdie' but haven't seemed to have the time to update my blog!

Last weekend I had a look on the farm fields on the coast hoping for an early Wheatear, but that wasn't to be. In fact grounded migrants were a bit thin on the ground and all I could muster was a male and two female Stonechats and a single Goldcrest. I suppose I would class the Meadow Pipits that had gathered on the fields as grounded migrants too, as they were certainly migrants and weren't going anywhere at present; in total I had 66!

Vis was virtually non-existent as well with just two Alba Wags north. It was murky out at sea and as a result was very quiet other than the 25 Whooper Swans that I picked up on the sea. They rested there for a while before taking off and heading north.

 Whooper Swans (honest) above & below



The only raptors I had was the male Kestrel from the resident pair and an adult male Sparrowhawk that shot through.

Earlier in the week Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley to make sure that our boxes were 'ship shape' for the coming breeding season. A few numbers needed re-painting and one or two boxes needed replacing, but over all they were in fine fettle! On the way home we noted a few fields that had been recently been spread with slurry with large numbers of newly arrived, pristine, Lesser Black-backed Gulls. At this time of year they look absolutely fantastic!

This past weekend we found ourselves in Dunfermline for the joint British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Scottish Ornithologists Club (SOC) Scottish Birdwatchers' conference, and what a cracking conference it was!

The conference was opened by Norman Elkins of 'Weather and Bird Behavior' fame, who talked about the new Fife atlas and picked out a number of winners and losers since the last atlas to highlight population changes within Fife. This was followed by a presentation by Allan Perkins called 'Developing conservation solutions for Scotland's Corn Buntings', and the conservation solutions proposed could be applied to Corn Bunting populations anywhere in the UK. I was particularly surprised at how much the Corn Buntings in the Outer Hebrides are struggling and it really is the eleventh hour to prevent them from becoming extinct here.

Gavin Siriwardena from the BTO was up next with 'Farmland birds - problem solved after 15 years of agri-environment?'. I was particularly interested in Gavin's presentation as I have a keen interest in farmland birds and professionally have put together a good number of agri-environment scheme agreements. The positive and negative association with scheme options and population declines and increases of farmland birds was both uplifting and vexing at the same time!

I'd heard of Professor Will Cresswell, but had never seen one of his talks before and it was brilliant. He reminded me of a young Professor Ian Newton in as much as he is a boffin, but managed to present scientific information in an easily understandable way. His research into african-palearctic migrants was fascinating.

David Steel, formerly head ranger at the Farne Islands, but now warden on the Isle of May gave a highly entertaining and informative talk on the Tern populations on the May, and what he is doing to increase their breeding population there. Considering he had the 'grave yard' slot straight after lunch he captivated the audience.

Owen Selly from the RSPB talked about White-tailed Eagles in eastern Scotland, and what amazed me was the distances these birds travelled. Several birds from the eastern Scotland population flew over to Mull in the winter and associated with Eagles there before returning in the spring!

John Calladine from BTO Scotland gave a presentation on the results of the 2007-11 Atlas from a Scottish perspective and looked at what could be done with the data to provide sound conservation science. To finish we were treated to some stunning photography from Fife birder John Anderson. His shots of a North American Mink attacking a juvenile Gannet had everybody on the edge of their seats! What a way to end what was a brilliant conference and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

We have recently been notified that the ringing suspension that was affecting us because of a 10 km surveillance zone around an avian influenza outbreak has now been lifted! So I just need some decent weather to get out ringing again!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Yesterday

It was a tad cool on the coast yesterday as there was some northerly in the westerly, and with full cloud cover no sun to warm things up! It was also murky out at sea and as a result the sea passage was even slower than the day before, and the vis was nearly non-existent!

The sea produced six Common Scoters, eleven Eiders, a Red-throated Diver, seven Shelducks, a Great Crested Grebe, three Red-breasted Mergansers and two Cormorants.

Grounded migrants were restricted to three males and a female Stonechat, but it won't be long until the first Sand Martins, Wheatears and Chiffchaffs appear! Roosting waders included twenty Sanderlings, eleven Oystercatchers, eight Ringed Plovers and three Turnstones (all the Turnstones were at the Marine Lakes).

 Stonechat

sanderlings

The near non-existent vis was just a single Alba Wagtail, a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail; early days yet!

I then had a look at the Marine Lakes and counted 148 Turnstones, including at least four of our leg-flagged birds that I managed to read. The beauty of the Marine Lakes for the Turnstones is that they can continue to feed over the high tide if they wish to do so, but if there is too much disturbance they will roost on the island.

 Turnstone

It's deepest, darkest Merseyside for me this afternoon for my last winter bird survey, so more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

It's All In The Flex!

It was a beautiful spring-like day yesterday when I headed to the Point for a sea watch. I had 3 oktas hazy cloud cover with a 5 mph westerly wind. High tide was about an hour before I got there and the tide was just starting to turn.

Spring seawatching is one of my favourite disciplines within the broader umbrella of birding, and I particularly like the spring Red-throated Diver passage when birds are travelling in to the bay at height to cross over land to the North Sea! There was some diver passage this morning with five 'Red-throats' in and two out, but none of the birds moving in to the bay were high. Some of the divers were close in and I always enjoy watching them 'motor' along with that long neck of theirs flexing up and down; superb!

The supporting cast on the sea included twelve Eiders, 28 Common Scoters, a Shelduck, a Great Crested Grebe, 20 Whooper Swans heading northeast, four Cormorants and two Red-breasted Mergansers.

Vis is starting to trickle through now and this morning I had three Meadow Pipits, a Skylark, a Carrion Crow and a Siskin head east. Grounded migrants were just represented by two male and three female Stonechats, and the males looked particularly resplendent in their black and burned orange attire!

 Stonechat

It was soon time for me to head home and chain myself to the desk, but some early morning birding before work doesn't half set you up for the rest of the day!

Linnet

Monday, 6 March 2017

Chiffie

It was a glorious spring-like day today with lots of warm sunshine. I went to the water treatment works to top my feeders up and the first bird I had was a fly-catching Chiffchaff! It is likely that it is an over-winterer as we've had Common Chiffchaff and Siberian Chiffchaff wintering close by. Nevertheless it made it seem even more spring-like!

The feeders were empty so they are obviously busy at the moment. We still have ringing suspended because of the avian influenza outbreak and I hope it gets lifted soon because March can be quite busy ringing wise at the Obs!

The willows where moments before a flycatching Chiffie delivered 
it's sorties from!

It's Starting To Get Early

My latest survey in deepest, darkest Merseyside required a 4:00 am alarm call to enable me to get on site one hour before sunrise and I thought to myself "it's starting to get early"! On the morning in question I had three oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph south-southwesterly wind.

It was probably one of my quietest surveys to date at this site and there wasn't really any highlights. Of moderate interest I recorded four Song Thrushes, 21 Goldfinches, a Kestrel, eleven Chaffinches, nine Lapwings, ten Skylarks, three Goldcrests, two drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a female Sparrowhawk, eleven Blue Tits, eleven Blackbirds, 226 Black-headed Gulls and 19 Carrion Crows.

I tell a lie there was a highlight, well for me anyway, and that was three Red Squirrels! Always a pleasure to see!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Garden Mega!

This is just a really quick post to say that I had a 'mega' in the garden this morning in the form of a Tree Sparrow, yes a Tree Sparrow! I can hear you all saying that they're not that rare and that you get them in your garden all the time, but round here they are scarce!

The nearest population is some miles away, so I can only assume that this bird was a migrant. Every spring we get a few birds moving over the coast on vis. This 'smart dressed individual' was associating with the House Sparrows, but wasn't a full member of their gang as it was always on the edge of the group.

Funnily enough my sister-in-law, Kim, was visiting last Saturday and over breakfast she said to me "is that a Tree Sparrow"? Now I have to admit that I didn't look up and said "no it'll be a House Sparrow". Whoops! So, who knows it might have been around since weekend!

Monday, 27 February 2017

Tyto

I recently completed one of my wintering bird surveys in Merseyside and it was probably the quietest of the winter so far. The weather was fairly good with four oktas cloud cover and a 10 mph southwesterly wind, so it was probably just the time of year influencing the results.

Of interest I had 34 Goldfinches, a Kestrel, 14 Linnets, ten Long-tailed Tits, five Buzzards, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Stock Doves, five Song Thrushes, seven Lapwings (including a displaying bird), two Barn Owls, two Goldcrests, a calling Tawny Owl, 48 Woodpigeons, 32 Carrion Crows, eleven Robins and 14 Blue Tits.

The Barn Owls were of most interest as I had expected to record Barn Owl at the site but hadn't all winter until this survey, when I had two. One bird came flying towards me and then dropped on to a vole quite close to me! I managed to get a shot of it, but the light was pretty poor, so it wasn't as good as expected considering how close it was!

 Barn Owl (above & below)



I am still busy operating my feeding station but can't do any ringing there yet because of the avian influenza outbreak, but I am hopeful that the suspension will be lifted as soon as this week; fingers crossed!

White Winger

High tide was in the early hours yesterday morning so I decided to have a look at the river at first light. As I set off along the edge of the saltmarsh I had 7 oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph southerly wind. A number of 'Pink-feet' were leaving their riparian roost, 174, and I also had 280 go over high north; some early vis.

As I walked, or should I say slid, along the muddy path a flock of 19 Twite flew over my head calling away, and I soon reached my watch point over the river. There were large Gulls coming and going to bathe and their numbers were quite spectacular, in fact my counts didn't represent the true numbers. I counted 990 Herring Gulls, 17 Great Black-backed Gulls, 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (starting to move through now and looking immaculate in breeding plumage) and 115 Black-headed Gulls. In reality there is probably 3,000 large Gulls at the site at the moment.

After some time going through the Gulls I picked out the 2CY Glaucous Gull that has been around for a number of weeks. I'm not a huge Gull fan, but even I can appreciate this giant white winger! There wasn't much wildfowl on this stretch of the river, but a flock of 110 Lapwings was nice. Walking back across the saltmarsh I added Rock Pipit and a male Reed Bunting.

I had a look on the pools next and there was two Shovelers (male & female), seven Tufted Ducks, six Mallards, 38 Coots and a Great Crested Grebe. I had a wander in to the reeds to check out some of our net rides in preparation for the lifting of the suspension of ringing within the 10 km surveillance zone for the relatively local avian influenza outbreak. All looked well and in fact I got to some net rides that we haven't managed to get to for two years due to high water levels, so that shows what a dry winter it's been.

All I had in the reeds was another Reed Bunting plus a Snipe and a singing Cetti's Warbler. So all in all a pleasant couple of hours! 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Above The Wenning

I was up above the Wenning earlier this week measuring various habitat features.It wasn't a bad morning with 3 oktas cloud cover and a warm southerly breeze.

I walked from the huge old barn which has been sympathetically restored to be still used for agriculture. This is great as a lot of these old barns don't fit in with modern farming practises and are either converted to housing or left to fall down. The barn has also been restored with the colony of House Sparrows that occupy it in mind and lots of holes, nooks and crannies have been left in the external skin of the building for the Spadgers! The twenty or so knocking around the barn seemed happy!

I headed up to the Iron Age hill fort and with such warm weather lots of Buzzards were on the wing and in total on my walk I counted seven. Song Thrushes were singing and I had a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the woodland. A singing Skylark and three Brown Hares added to the mix.

 Measuring wheel parked on the hill fort!
 
In one field I had a feeding flock of 24 Redwings and 57 Fieldfares which was nice. Along the track at different positions I had two Stoats pop out of the hedge to investigate what the noise was coming from my measuring wheel, but sadly they vanished before I could get a photograph. Three Siskins overhead and a Little Egret down by the river and that was me finished for the day. Not bad for some non-birding work!

Herdies But Not In The Hills

Valentine's Day found me continuing with my wintering bird survey in deepest, darkest Merseyside. It was dark when I set out and pretty cold in the 10 mph southeasterly wind. Close to where I am surveying is an area of dunes that are grazed in the winter with some Herdwick sheep, which I think are amongst the bonniest of our native sheep breeds.

 Herdwicks

Nothing stood out during the survey, and as usual a good range of species were recorded including two Sparrowhawks (an immature male and a female), two Song Thrushes (merrily singing away), 1672 Pink-footed Geese, three Goldcrests, 13 Chaffinches, five Long-tailed Tits, three Coal Tits, seven Stock Doves, five Buzzards, 24 Goldfinches, 16 Curlews, a Grey Wagtail, 43 Carrion Crows, 136 Black-headed Gulls and eleven Blackbirds.

All my birding seems to be birding for work at the moment, but I mustn't complain as at least I am getting out! Hopefully I'll be on the patch this coming weekend. I do apologise for saying that as the weather will be awful this weekend now! 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

January'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 January. The only thing worth noting is the sterling work Phil and Andy are doing on Linnets with 59 ringed during the month. With a number of our ringing sites falling within a 10 km avian influenza surveillance zone, the totals for February will be even more meagre; roll on spring!

I called at my feeding station yesterday and all I had of note was a single Grey Wagtail. I've sacrificed birding this morning for some post beer festival recovery and to get my bird records for 2016 in order for the county recorder!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Up The Wenning

I spent a pleasant morning today up the Wenning Valley in northeast Lancs close to the Cumbria and North Yorkshire border, before 'rain stopped play' shortly after lunch. I was carrying out some land surveying and wandering round with a land wheel measuring various features and structures, which of course presented the opportunity to do some birding at the same time!

 The Wenning

I had two Skylarks head northeast this morning high up, and I'm pretty certain that they were moving; my first 'vis' of the year. I had three more Skylarks on some maize stubble along with 13 Redwings and 45 Fieldfares. I also had a few more Thrushes in the form of seven Blackbirds and five Song Thrushes in various sections of hedgerow.

Out on some of the pasture were eleven Lapwings, but they weren't setting up territory yet, and keeping them company were three Brown Hares. The only raptor I had was a calling Buzzard from the woodland across the river.

 Lapwing

On the river I had a Grey Heron and Little Egret, and then I pushed off twenty-ish  Teal. On this section of river there is a decent sized Sand Martin colony and I thought it won't be long before they are back.

I finished the day off with a pint of Stanley's in the new Kirkby Lonsdale brewery in the Royal Barn in Kirkby, and very nice it was too!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Starting To Sing

Over the past week or so on my travels one thing has been obvious and that has been bird song! A number of species are starting to sing including Dunnock, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Great Tit etc, etc, etc! It's great to hear, and makes you look forward to spring! But, there's still a good bit of winter to get through first and Feb can be a tough month.

It's been fairly quiet at my feeding station and the food I am putting out is lasting 5-6 days, which is unusual at this time of year. There hasn't been anything notable but counts of some species included 21 Magpies, two Buzzards and 15 Goldfinches.

There has been some Pink-footed Geese within the Obs recording area and peak counts have been 800, but sadly I haven't had anything else amongst them despite giving them a good grilling!

 Pink-footed Geese

I have been back to my winter bird survey site in Merseyside for an afternoon count and perhaps of interest recorded 114 Curlews, 26 Goldfinches, 279 Pink-footed Geese, a male Sparrowhawk, a Coal Tit, six Long-tailed Tits, 304 Jackdaws, a Jay, nine Stock Doves, two Buzzards, two Goldcrests, 21 Magpies, 36 Carrion Crows, eleven Blue Tits and 108 Black-headed Gulls.

At one section of the survey area I caught a flash of reddish-orange and saw a Red Squirrel running ahead of me. It climbed up into a Scots Pine tree and was at one stage upside down clinging to the underneath of a major bough! Sadly the sun was behind the tree and my pictures aren't good to say the least, but you can tell it's a Red Squirrel!

 Red squirrel (above & below)



At weekend I had a look at the southern part of the Obs recording area around the farm fields, and this was my first look at this bit of the Obs since Christmas. On my walk round I had a Long-tailed Tit, a singing Song Thrush, 14 Woodpigeons, a pair of displaying Kestrels close to their nest site, a male Sparrowhawk, 34 Herring Gulls and a Mistle Thrush.

The sea was quiet with just 18 Eiders, nine Cormorants, two Great Crested Grebes and two Red-throated Divers.

The weather isn't looking bad for the remainder of the week. I've got a site visit tomorrow and then I'm relatively free for the remainder of the week. Hang on, I've just remembered, it's Fleetwood Beer festival Thu - Sat, and I like to go on at least two days so birding could be intermittent!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Wot No Birding

Life has been getting in the way of birding of late, but I'm not complaining, well maybe a bit. I've helped three family members move house lately and I was in Norfolk earlier this week for a couple of days attending the funeral of an old friend; may you rest in peace Steve! When you add in the days of bad weather as well, it has left very little if any time for birding, that's my excuse anyway!

So to get out birding yesterday, even though it was for business rather than for pleasure, was a treat! I was at my wintering bird survey site in Merseyside and it was a tad chilly to say the least. I had clear skies, ground frost and a cold 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind. Rather than giving you a 'why and wherefore' of what I recorded I had the following bits and pieces of nominal interest; two Song Thrushes, 34 Long-tailed Tits, a Tree Sparrow, eleven Linnets, four Buzzards, 1248 Pink-footed Geese, three Goldcrests, 23 Goldfinches, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Coal Tits, four Stock Doves, 69 Curlews, a singing Mistle Thrush, a female Sparrowhawk, 220 Woodpigeons, 36 Carrion Crows, 12 Blue Tits, 152 Black-headed Gulls and 111 Jackdaws.

 Curlews

 Pink-footed Geese

The only other news is that I won't be doing any ringing locally anytime soon, as the Obs falls within a 10 km surveillance zone surrounding an outbreak of Avian Influenza at Hy-Fly hatcheries near Pilling. Hy-Fly rear Pheasants, Red-legged Partridges etc and the H5N8 virus was found in some Pheasants at the site. The surveillance zone generally stays in place for 30 days, so at the earliest it will be 24th February before I can ring again within the Obs recording area; so it's just birding for the next 30 days presuming life doesn't get in the way again!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

December's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group for the year. We ended up ringing 3580 birds, which is 406 down on last year. Two new species for the year were ringed during December and these were Great Black-backed Gull and Twite. In fact Great Black-backed Gull was a first ringing record for the group.

Below you will find the top four ringed during December and the 'Top Ten Movers and Shakers' for the month.

Top Four Ringed During December

1. Blue Tit - 48
2= Goldfinch - 28
     Linnet - 28
4. Great Tit - 17

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 826 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 312 (same position)
3. Blue Tit - 255 (up from 4th)
4. Meadow Pipit - 209 (down from 3rd)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 193 (same position)
6. Great Tit - 182 (up from 7th)
7. Linnet - 162 (up from 8th)
8. Goldcrest - 155 (down from 6th)
9. Chaffinch - 132 (same position)
10. Reed Bunting - 113 (same position)

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Little Gulls

I headed to the Point this morning at first light for, as it turned out, a short sea watch as I got rained off. Prior to the rain front coming in I had full cloud cover with a 25 mph westerly wind. Shortly after arriving I was joined by Ian.

It didn't seem overly windy and it hadn't been that windy overnight, but there was certainly some Little Gulls moving out of the Bay and in total we had 32. They were mainly all adults with just a few second calendar year birds mixed in. Other than the Little Gulls we just had three Eiders and seven Red-breasted Mergansers.

In front of our sea watching position a few waders roosted on the beach including 78 Oystercatchers, 141 Sanderlings, 29 Ringed Plovers and 27 Turnstones.

It's going to be a lot more windier tomorrow with perhaps a hint of northerly in the westerly, which isn't good, but I'll give it another go and see what I get.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Drink A Penny

I decided to have an hour and a half on the river this morning before strapping myself in to my home office to do some work. I had clear skies with a cold 15 mph north-northwesterly wind.

Walking through the 'Hawthorn tunnel' or 'Thrush alley', as I sometimes refer the path to the estuary as, I flushed 22 Blackbirds, two Redwings and a Fieldfare. Some were feeding on the Hawthorn berries and I think some were exiting their roost that seemed to be in dense vegetation on the ditch side.

At the end of the path I walked on to the saltmarsh so I could look down the river and on to the mudflats. Walking across the saltmarsh I put up 19 Snipes and four Rock Pipits. I counted 230 Pink-footed Geese leaving the roost and sat down on a log to have a coffee. Even though the wind was cold it was clear and the visibility was good. Similar to yesterday the numbers of waders and wildfowl were towards the mouth of the estuary, which was too far away to make any meaningful counts.

After my coffee I headed over to the pool to have a loot at any wildfowl on there. In a quiet corner were eight Little Grebes feeding and it was a pleasure to watch them. Once they dived, and the rings of wavelets had dispersed, I could follow them feeding under water by tracking their air bubbles rising to the surface; beautiful!

Little Grebe - Going...

 ...Going...

 Gone!

On Facebook Kane posted today to say that he was working at Castle Espie on Strangford Lough in Ireland, and Strangford Lough is one of my favourite places anywhere. I suppose I am biased as that's where a lot of family come from! Why am I telling you this? The local name for Little Grebe in the Strangford Lough area is 'Drink A Penny', hence my blog title and hence telling you this wee tale!  

Besides the Little Grebes the pool held three Coots, three Moorhens, five Goldeneyes, 11 Tufted Ducks and two Teal.

 Teal

My walk back didn't reveal much else other than a Song Thrush, two Reed Buntings, a single Goldcrest and a Water Rail calling from the small reedbed.

On my way home I stopped off at the dual carriageway to see if there were any Waxwings and there was just a single bird. Where all its mates were I don't know! My last port of call on my ten minute drive home was the geese fields which just held 27 Pink-footed Geese.

 Waxwing

I won't be out again until weekend, so fingers crossed for some decent weather!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Saltmarsh Sunrise

The days are starting to lengthen a bit already and this is more noticeable in the evening rather than the morning for some reason, so first light still isn't that early, but nevertheless I was out at first light on the estuary watching the sun rise. It was cold with a ground frost, clear skies and relatively calm with just a hint of a northerly

 Sunrise

As I walked along the edge of the inward edge of the saltmarsh I pushed a few Skylarks from the creek edges and there were eight in total. There was also good numbers of Reed Buntings and I had respectable count of 31. There was also a mixed flock of Linnets and Twite with a split of perhaps 40/20. From the reedbed I had a calling Water Rail and a few more Reed Buntings.

 Reed Bunting (above & below)



There were a number of Gulls flying to the river to bathe and loaf on the exposed sand banks. I picked my way across the marsh putting four Rock Pipits up in the process and set my scope up at the edge of the saltmarsh. The gull flock contained 271 Herring Gulls, 46 Great Black-backed Gulls, 85 Black-headed Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Common Gull and best of all an adult Yellow-legged Gull.

 Pied Wagtail

There was a few wildfowl on the river including 35 Wigeons, 75 Teal, 30 Mallards and 7 Shelducks. Waders were less represented with just 80 Lapwings. Towards the mouth of the river I could see more waders and wildfowl, but they were realistically beyond the range of my optics.

I had a look on the pools on my way back and was pleased to see that there was still at least five Bearded Tits. Coot numbered 64 and Tufted Ducks 20.

On my way home I had a look in the woodland and allotments and was pleased to count 40 House Sparrows! The woodland was quiet other than a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a good winter count of seven Goldcrests.

I'd better do some work tomorrow before heading to my feeding station to do a seed drop!