Thursday, 22 June 2017

Back In Bowland

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

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

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

 Common Sandpiper

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

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

First Moths For A While

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

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


 Sallow Kitten

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Holiday Snaps

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

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

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

 Bon Awe Iron Furnace

English Stonecrop (in Scotland)

Gylen Castle on Kerrera

Heath Spotted Orchid

Inverary Castle

Northern Marsh Orchid

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

Spotted Flycatcher

Inside Kilmory Knap Chapel


Loch Feochan from the cottage

Thursday, 8 June 2017

May Ringing Totals

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

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

Top 3 Ringed In May

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

Top 9 Movers and Shakers for the Year

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

 Pied Flycatcher

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

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Big Boxes

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

 Barn Owl

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Last Pied Fly Gig Of The Year

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

Pied Flycatcher

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Birding Doldrums?

It's at this time of year that a lot of birders almost hang their bins up! Some switch their attention to dragonflies or moths, and some just go in to complete hibernation until autumn. However, there is always something of interest and it's just a matter of being out there to chance upon it. I have a broad interest in natural history, so being out in the field is just, well being out in the field and enjoying whatever you are looking at or listening to.

I completed two bird surveys this week to earn a crust. One was to do with planned development and the other was conservation based. But, both were equally as enjoyable! My planned development related survey was in lowland Lancashire on some fairly ordinary farmland, whatever that is?! I was stopped at one of my vantage points when I heard a Raven calling from behind me. It's loud croaking call got closer and closer until I picked it up flying directly over me. It then proceeded to do a roll as it flew away from me, followed by a 'stall' and it was away in the distance. Magic!

I had a few bits and pieces in addition to the Raven including two Buzzards, 27 Magpies, two Reed Buntings, ten House Sparrows, a Sedge Warbler, two Whitethtoats, eight adult Lapwings plus three chicks, 21 Jackdaws, two Song Thrushes, a Blackcap and a Stock Dove. And I also had plenty of Red Admirals, Small Whites and Small Tortoiseshells on the wing.

My second survey was another survey of plantation woodland in the Eden Valley. The highlight of this survey was finding a Buzzard's nest with at least two chicks in it! The best of the rest was eleven Tree Sparrows, seven Willow Warblers, two Blackcaps, three Redstarts, a Jay, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sedge Warbler and a Stock Dove.

 River Eden

Buzzard nest, although the chicks aren't visible.

So, birding doldrums? I don't think so!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Continuing Pied Fly Fest

I make no apologies at all for posting some more on Pied Flycatchers as Gail and I checked our boxes again in the Hodder Valley yesterday. A few boxes no longer needed checking because they were still empty or hadn't progressed from a half completed nest for example, but we had a few birds to ring so it still took us a couple of hours.

 Pied Flycatchers

In total we ringed 49 birds made up of 32 Blue Tits, 14 Pied Flycatchers and three Great Tits. All were chicks from the boxes, and next week we should have something like 60 Pied Flycatcher chicks to ring! The clutch sizes of the Tits have been very small and this is certainly a phenomenon of recent years, and perhaps indicates the difficulty the adults are having finding food for their chicks. Climate change is certainly playing a roll in this with the hatching of young out of sync with the hatching of foliar feeding caterpillars. In addition to this cooler, wetter springs are reducing the number of invertebrates available as well.

 Pied Flycatcher

On our walk through the woodland checking the boxes we picked up a Tawny Owl flying through the treetops, and judging by its laboured flight we assumed it was a young bird. It was given a hard time by numerous woodland birds as it moved from tree to tree!

I received a bit of bad bird related news yesterday when Ian phoned me in a state of shock to tell me that the local tip was being moth-balled for a couple of years at least! Being much more of a 'Laruphile' than me Ian really was gutted to say the least, and we both lamented the prospect of a Gull, particularly 'white wingers', light winter at the Obs this winter! I suppose it's only a birder that could mourn the closure of a landfill site!   

Friday, 26 May 2017

Up North

I have had a full week of 'stupid o'clock' alarm calls to head up north to Cumbria to complete the second surveys of the plantation woodlands that I am surveying for birds. On Monday Gail joined me at an upland site where there are tremendous views of the Solway and over to the Criffell in Dumfries and Galway.

These second surveys tend to be the quietest of the three as they are at a time where a good percentage of breeding birds are feeding young. This site was no exception and the few highlights included a Song Thrush, a Chiffchaff, a Stock Dove, two Siskins, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap.

An early start, means an early finish, so afterwards we had finished the survey we headed over to the Scottish side of the Solway to have a look at the seabird colony at Balcary Point. We did a four mile circular walk and we started the walk in the rain and finished it in glorious sunshine!

The sea cliffs held breeding Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags. And on our walk terrestrial bird species included Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Rock Pipit and Stonechat.

 Loch Mackie; part of the circular walk.

I completed three more bird surveys 'up north' and I have lumped the relatively interesting sightings together as the three sites were fairly close together; eleven Willow Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, a Yellowhammer, four Lesser Redpolls, two Skylarks, two Blackcaps, a Stock Dove, a Mistle Thrush and a Redstart.

Blencathra peeping out of the mist.

We've got some hefty showers forecast for most of the day tomorrow, but if I can drag myself out of my pit at just a bit later then 'stupid o'clock' then I might get some birding in before the rain!  

Thursday, 25 May 2017

More On Pied Flycatchers

Earlier in the week Gail and I checked our nest boxes in the Hodder Valley and it is looking very good for Pied Flycatchers. We definitely have eleven occupied boxes and they are all incubating completed clutches. I lifted a further three females off the nest and one was one of ours (ringed as a chick last year), and the other two were controls.

I was very interested in the good numbers of Pied Flycatchers occupying our boxes and through social media I asked other nest recorders if they were finding similar. Interestingly one local scheme reported average numbers as did a recorder from Wales, but mainly it would seem that most observers are reporting increased occupation. Several reasons have been put forward for this and include good over-winter survival, increased survival during spring migration and poor breeding success for Tits last year leading to less competition for nest sites. Interesting stuff!

A few chicks in our boxes were ready to be ringed and we ringed seven Nuthatches, 17 Great Tits and seven Blue Tits. Next weekend we will have more Blue and Great Tits to ring and hopefully I'll be able to record the remaining Pied Flycatcher females!


Saturday, 13 May 2017

April's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of April. We are 375 down on where we were this time last year and this has been mainly as a result of avian influenza outbreaks. Talking of avian influenza outbreaks there has been another two in the Fylde at Hambleton and Thornton and we currently have another ringing suspension within the 10km surveillance zone! So that doesn't bode well for our totals going forward.

Three new species were added for the year during April and these were Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler and Tree Sparrow. Below you will find the top three ringed for April and the top eight 'movers and shakers' for the year so far.

Top 3 Ringed in April

1. Lesser Redpoll - 48
2. Goldfinch - 13
3. Willow Warbler - 12

Top Eight Movers and Shakers

1. Lesser Redpoll - 65 (up from 3rd)
2. Linnet - 59 (down from 1st)
3. Goldfinch - 49 (down from 2nd)
4. Blue Tit - 23 (same position)
5. Chaffinch - 21 (up from 6th)
    Siskin - 21 (down from 4th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 19 (down from 6th)
8. Willow Warbler - 12 (straight in)

 Tree Pipit

Friday, 12 May 2017

Pied Fly Paradise

Before I get to the 'Pied Fly Paradise' a quick rewind to earlier in the week is required where I carried out some bird surveys in two different parts of Cumbria. My first survey was in the north Pennines not too far from Kirkby Stephen. The site is in a gorgeous location, but for some reason (third year now) it is always cold, and this particular morning was no exception! These surveys that I am carrying out are on common woodland/woodland fringe bird populations so the highlights of these common birds included seven Goldfinches, three Linnets, four Lesser Redpolls, a Stock Dove, a Song Thrush, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler and three Siskins.


After I had completed the survey I had to see a client near Barrowford so my drive took me along the A65 through Kirkby Lonsdale, Settle and at Long Preston I turned off and headed towards Gisburn following the River Ribble. As I got close to a little place called Swinden the river is particularly close to the road and as I glanced out of my side window my eyes feasted upon an Osprey perched in the top of a dead tree next to the river! Typically I was motoring along over 50 mph and there was nowhere to stop! I'm guessing it was a bird that had roosted in the area overnight and it was contemplating carrying on north as the sun warmed up; cracking!

My second and third surveys were in the west of Cumbria close to some of the Furness peninsula mosslands. I've lumped the two totals together as both sites were fairly close to each other. The best of the common birds I recorded included three Tree Sparrows, two Willow Warblers, two Mistle Thrushes, eleven Goldfinches, two Blackcaps, a Goldcrest, two Lesser Redpolls, two Chiffchaffs, a Stock Dove, a Garden Warbler, six Linnets, two Sedge Warblers and a Reed Bunting.

This morning Gail and I headed in to Bowland to do the first check of our boxes in the Hodder valley. We have 39 boxes at this site and we are targeting primarily Pied Flycatchers and I think you can guess from my blog title that we found a few! We had eleven boxes definitely occupied with eggs and incubating females, and also a twelfth with a complete nest that could still come to fruition. This means that we have 28% occupation of the boxes by Pied Flycatchers and this is the best year yet for occupation. Of course these eggs all need to be converted in to chicks and we need the right weather conditions for the adults to find food and fledge all the little fellows. So we have a way to go yet!

 Pied Flycatcher nest.

I managed to lift five female Pied Flycatchers off the nests. Three of these were already ringed; two weren't from our site and were controls (ringed elsewhere by another ringer) and the third was ringed last year as a chick from one of the boxes. So she has returned from her natal site after making two crossing of the Sahara! The other two were un-ringed so Gail and I ringed them.

Pied Flycatcher

In addition to the Pieds we had one box with eight recently hatched Nuthatches in and the rest was a split of seven Blue Tits and four Great Tits. In the woodland we also recorded singing Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Goldcrests.  

Its forecast for heavy rain tomorrow morning, so I might just get a rare lie in and an extra ale this evening! 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Few Arrivals

Sunday morning saw me wandering around the farm fields again at the southern end of the Obs recording area. I had clear skies and it was calm at first but a 5 mph NE wind picked up from 0805.

The usual Chiffie and Whitethroats were holding territory, but it did seem as if there had been a few arrivals just based on the increase in the number of singing Sedge Warblers. On my walk round I recorded 16, and there certainly isn't enough habitat to support this number of breeding pairs in this area. One of the Sedge Warblers was doing some mimicry throwing Reed Warbler, Linnet and Goldfinch in to his set list! Three Wheatears by the sea wall added to the feeling that I had of there being a few arrivals.


Conditions were suitable for some vis and I recorded (all north) a Goldfinch, thirteen Lesser Redpolls, 99 Swallows, two Swifts, a Sand Martin, two Tree Pipits, five House Martins, a Linnet, two Siskins, a Yellow Wagtail and an Alba Wag.

There was a bit of movement over the glass like sea, but the murky conditions/heat haze didn't help. Of interest entered into my notebook were 1200 Knots, five Shelducks, eight Sandwich Terns, eight Gannets, four Whimbrels, four Dunlins, ten Kittiwakes, six Sanderlings, two Ringed Plovers, 102 Common Scoters, a Common Tern, twelve Eiders, two Canada Geese, four Arctic Terns, three Red-throated Divers and five Auk sp. I also got good 'scope views of a Harbour Porpoise slowly heading north. At times it was very active and you could see that it was chasing prey close to the surface!

 Canada Goose

I joined Ian mid-morning in the coastal park where he had found a singing Wood Warbler. I don't know how many pictures I took trying to get just one half decent shot of this very showy bird, but I failed! In addition to the Wood Warbler were a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Garden Warbler and a Whitethroat.

 Wood Warbler (above & below - honest!)

We then both had a look in the cemetery where there was another Wood Warbler! This bird too was very showy and I failed yet again to get any record shots even! There was also a Spotted Flycatcher, another Garden Warbler and three Willow Warblers. So definitely a few arrivals this morning!

Meadow Pipit

Saturday, 6 May 2017


This northerly air stream all the way from the arctic is getting wearisome and it makes it unseasonably cold for May! This morning Ian, Howard and Me had to take shelter behind the tower once again to record the migration at the Point. Normally at this time of year we would be stood on top of the bank with great views out to sea and a clear view to the west to pick up easily any vis, but not today!

We had clear skies at first, but cloud slowly built during the morning, and the wind was a keen 10 - 15 mph northeasterly! The one good thing about Spring is that it is an 'urgent' passage and birds are pretty much on the move whatever the weather conditions, within reason of course!

Straight away from first light Lesser Redpolls were on the move and their totals and the other vis is as follows (all east); 25 Lesser Redpolls, eight Tree Pipits, one Rook, 21 Swifts, one Meadow Pipit, one House Martin, 48 Swallows, one Sand Martin and two Carrion Crows.

The main feature offshore was the passage of Arctic Terns that were steadily heading east in to the bay, but some were doubling back and heading east again. They were constantly moving up and down, and were presumably feeding on a large shoal of fish. Offshore totals included 361 Arctic terns, six Sandwich Terns, 19 Auk sp., 14 Red-throated Divers, 14 Eiders, ten Gannets, 16 Whimbrels, 131 Common Scoters, four Mute Swans, a Guillemot, a Velvet Scoter, a Bar-tailed Godwit and four Common Terns. There was also an Atlantic Grey Seal bobbing around just offshore.

There was a few waders roosting on the shore and the most unusual in terms of habitat was a Common Sandpiper running around on the shingle! In addition to the Common Sand were 704 Dunlins, 141 Ringed Plovers and 102 Sanderlings.

 Roosting Dunlins, Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers.


Ringed Plover

I'm not sure what I'm doing in the morning, other than I will be out birding or ringing :) 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Woodland And Waders

I completed another plantation woodland bird survey in Cumbria yesterday morning, and this time it was in the northeast of the county in the Eden valley. This particular site is one of my favourites and usually produces some half decent results.

At first light, which is getting a tad early now I have to say, I had five oktas cloud cover with a cold 10 mph northerly wind. I had three small blocks of plantation woodland to survey raging from recently planted to woodland planted about eight years ago. For ease I'll just give a list as follows of the more interesting species that I recorded; eight Willow Warblers, five Redstarts (four males & a female), a Mistle Thrush, eleven Shelducks, four Tree Sparrows, a Siskin, a Stock Dove, a Sedge Warbler, a Yellow Wagtail, a Song Thrush, a pair of Bullfinches, a Blackcap, three Coal Tits and a Buzzard

Adjacent to one block of plantation woodland that I was surveying was an existing small area of woodland and in a dead Ash tree a pair of Redstarts were prospecting a potential nest site. The male kept going in to the hole and then singing from the entrance to the cavity, and the female would come over and have a a look. On two occasions whilst the male was in the hole a Blue and Great Tit went in to the hole and the male Redstart chased them out. Then another male Redstart came over and the two males were chasing each other around the trees and only a few feet from me; stunning!


Breeding waders were the target for my work this morning in Bowland. I was surveying one of my client's farms and checking that the habitat creation/restoration that he has undertaken is proving attractive to breeding waders. The main aim is to improve the habitat for Curlew and Lapwing, and if we can attract any other species that would be a bonus. I checked the eight fields where he has created scrapes, specifically manages the sward height and manages the amount of rush cover and found five pairs of Oystercatchers, 17 pairs of Lapwings, a pair of Snipes and seven pairs of Curlew.

 One of the Lapwing chicks that I ringed.

Of course I was seeing other species on my walk round and I had at least four singing Willow Warblers and five Lesser Redpolls. One pair of Lesser Redpolls were displaying close to me whilst I got all of my gear together before setting off.

Over the fell at the back of one of the wader fields I had a Buzzard and a Peregrine, and later three Ravens. One of my best sightings was a male Cuckoo. I heard Lapwings and Meadow Pipits alarm calling and the Cuckoo flew over the hedge and landed in a tree adjacent to the stream. I could see him well with my bins, but sadly he was just a little distant for a photograph. I then saw a flash of red and a male Redstart dived into the hedge and shortly afterwards a female Wheatear bobbed along a stone wall.

 The fell at the back.

It was a pleasant morning's work and tomorrow I was supposed to do another survey in the north Pennines but unfortunately it is going to be a bit too windy. It does mean that I can have a beer tonight and I won't be too tired when I go to see Genesis six string wizard Steve Hackett tomorrow evening!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Where Did That Rain Come From?

I set out at first light to walk the farm fields at the southern end of Fleetwood Obs and it started to rain as soon as I set off. I wasn't too bothered about the rain whilst checking for grounded migrants, but I knew that where I looked at the sea at this part of the Obs it didn't afford any shelter, but thankfully it had stopped by the time I got round to that bit! After the rain had stopped I still had full cloud cover with a 15 mph ENE wind.

The first migrant I had was a Chiffchaff singing from the herb garden and this was quickly followed by a Willow Warbler singing from the copse. It was obvious that there had been a bit of an arrival overnight as I soon added five Whitethroats, five Sedge Warblers, two Grasshopper Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat to the grounded migrant tally.


Even though it was a bit drizzly and murky at first there was some visible migration (north) and I had a Linnet, 16 Meadow Pipits, 48 Swallows, a Tree Pipit, 17 Lesser Redpolls, two Alba Wags, six Sand Martins, five Goldfinches and a House Martin.

The most curious bird was a Great Spotted Woodpecker that I put up close to the central hedgerow, that then flew north and I lost it over the houses. There is a lack of woodland within the Obs recording area and 'Great Spots' are relatively scarce, so I am guessing it was a migrant as there is still other early stuff on the move such as Meadow Pipits.

I had brief-ish look on the sea and had the following; two Whimbrels north, 19 Arctic Terns south, 200 Knot south, seven Eiders, three Red-throated Divers north, 30 Common Scoters north, six Cormorants, 70 Pink-footed Geese north, an imm. female Peregrine north, two Sandwich Terns north and a Shelduck.

Before heading home I bobbed in to the cemetery and had three grounded Willow Warblers. I've got bird surveys and site visits every morning this week, so won't be able to get back on the patch until weekend.

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


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


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.