Monday, 21 October 2019

Greenfinch City

At weekend Alice and I had a ringing session at the Obs in the willow scrub and reedbed of one of the wetlands. The morning dawned with clear skies and there was very little wind, perhaps just the hint of a northeasterly.

We got there in the dark with the aim of trying to catch and ring a few Thrushes. We did ring one continental thrush, in the form of Blackbird, but unfortunately the Fieldfares and Redwings weren't playing ball. A handful were attracted to the MP3 players, but that was it.

Greenfinches were the main ringing feature of the morning, and I commented that it was "Greenfinch city", and Alice said is that going to be the title of your Blog, and it is! Because of prior engagements in the afternoon that we both had (me making final arrangements for Gail's birthday party that night), we had to pack up whilst we were still catching, but nevertheless we managed to ring 54 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Cetti's Warbler - 4 (1)
Reed Bunting - 3
Robin - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Greenfinch - 39 (1)
Blackbird - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Wren - (1)


From a birding perspective because we were busy ringing we didn't see a great deal other than 65 Jackdaws, 580 Pink-footed Geese and a female Stonechat.

I was in north Cumbria carrying out tree assessments all day at several sites and it was obvious that there was quite a large arrival of thrushes as I was seeing mainly Redwings and smaller numbers of Fieldfares at all of the five sites that I visited from Penrith to the Solway to the Northumberland border, and everywhere in between!

Fingers crossed I'll be out for a couple of hours tomorrow morning at the Obs.

Friday, 18 October 2019


It was a good vis morning this morning, or should I say it was on the coast where Ian was located, but even over the Nature Park where I was, there was quite a bit of vis, or at least I was hearing a variety of species even though I couldn't see them high up in the stratosphere. More of that later!

Ian and I have been working with Lancashire County Council at the Nature Park, within the Obs recording area, advising on some habitat management works to help improve the biodiversity of the site. Yesterday morning contractors started working on one of the shallow pools, with the aim to open it up by removing the non-native invasive New Zealand pygmyweed Crassula helmsii and areas of encroaching Common Reed. This will make the site more suitable to passage waders and wintering wildfowl.

I visited the Nature Park to see how the contractors doing the work were getting on, and they are doing a cracking job. It should all be finished by the weekend, and then it will be a case of monitoring and seeing how the birds utilise the newly created pools. I've included a few pictures below of the work in progress.

I was only on site for just over an hour and I mentioned that there was some vis. I had lots of registrations of calls, but as the birds were so high I couldn't see them, so the totals produced here are actually quite meaningless, but nevertheless on vis I had eleven Skylarks, four Greenfinches, seven Meadow Pipits, nine Reed Buntings, seven Chaffinches, 730 Pink-footed Geese, six Siskins, 163 Jackdaws, a Rook, a Snipe and three Goldfinches

 Some of the Jackdaws (above & below)

I counted the wildfowl and allies on the pools and there were 45 Coots, ten Tufted Ducks, 23 Mallards, three Mute Swans, three Moorhens and a Little Grebe. Other bits of interest included a Goldcrest, a Water Rail, a Raven and a singing Cetti's Warbler.


 Tufted duck

The forecast is looking okay for ringing this weekend, and next week high pressure is building and hopefully bringing in more calm conditions suitable for the arrival of some more autumn migrants. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Immersed On The Merse

Earlier this week I had some tree assessments to do in Red Kite country in Dumfries and Galloway, and if you were to draw an imaginary line from Dalbeattie, to Castle Douglas to Balmaclellan at the top of Loch Ken, all of my tree assessments weren't far from this line. And this is well and truly Kite country! In fact driving between my site visits I probably had in the region of 15-20 sightings of Red Kite.

Gail and I had a lovely overnight stay at our regular B & B, Douglas House, that we stay at in Castle Douglas, and the following morning we headed off to Mersehead RSPB for a mornings birding immersed on the merse! As we set off to explore one of our favourite reserves, we had 7 oktas cloud cover with a brisk southwesterly wind.

We headed along the path to the shore on the Solway first of all, and the path takes you between the merse and some extensive grazed pastures frequented by Barnacle Geese, for which the reserve is very important for. If it had been a less windy morning there would quite possibly have been a few migrants in the Gorse hedgerow between the merse and the pasture, but this morning we had to make do with thirteen Long-tailed Tits and a couple of Goldcrests.

Below are a few shots of what is my favourite goose, the Barnace Goose!

In the extensively grazed wet pasture were 609 Barnacle Geese, 140 Lapwings and 400 Teal on the floods. I read later in the day that at the moment there are 700 Barnacle Geese at Mersehead. The path then headed across the merse to the shore, and it was quiet here except for 15 Skylarks, 16 Meadow Pipits and a Reed Bunting. Fly-overs as we walked along were a single Swallow, a Buzzard and a pair of Goosanders.

It was quiet along the shore, but the views along the white shell beach and the Solway were gorgeous and there wasn't another soul other than Gail and I. We reached the woodland that runs from the middle of the reserve to the coast, that always looks good for migrants, but it always seems to be windy when we're here and all we could muster were two more Goldcrests and a couple of Chiffchaffs.

 The Solway shore

We headed to the first hide overlooking the main pool and counted an additional 200 Teal, plus 55 Wigeons and six Pintail. Below are some pictures of the views overlooking the pool from this hide.

We then headed back to the visitor centre, with three Red Admirals along the way, to have a look at the feeding station outside the main viewing window. It was alive with Chaffinches (20) and Tree Sparrows (15), with lesser numbers of Greenfinches (8-10) and House Sparrows (5).

So, nothing amazing, but it was nice to be out on a great reserve in a lovely part of the world.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Quieter Than Quiet

I was hoping that there would have been a few grounded migrants around yesterday morning, based on the previous night's Redwing movement and on the forecast. During darkness on Friday evening I kept periodically sticking my head outside to have a listen, and noted that Redwings were on the move. Combine that with easterly winds, clear skies and with cloud rolling in pre-dawn it looked like a recipe for a few grounded migrants, not the quieter than quiet morning that ensued!

I called at the Cemetery first of all and it was a tad cold with 7 oktas cloud cover and a 10-15 mph south-easterly wind. I mention the fact that it was a tad cold because sometimes it has to warm up a bit for migrants to start 'jumping about'!

So far so good, except the wind was south-easterly rather than easterly, but that wouldn't matter. Was there any grounded migrants? Answer; not really! A few excitable Robins, 8, and Dunnocks, 5, but that was it. I then headed to the coastal park, and met Ian, and again that was quiet other than three Goldcrests and a flock of six Mistle Thrushes that dropped in.


Over both sites there was a little vis and this included six Meadow Pipits, three Chaffinches, three Redwings, a Song Thrush (with the Redwings) five Goldfinches, four Linnets, 460 Pink-footed Geese (all NE), two Grey Wagtails, and an Alba Wag. An immature male Sparrowhawk shot through the vegetation of the Coastal Park and that was it!

 Pink-footed Geese

Lots of observers in the northwest have been commenting on the low numbers of vis and a lack of grounded migrants. Along the east and south coasts of the UK birders are recording large numbers of birds, and it has been a record breaking year for Meadow Pipit numbers at many sites, but not here. We can only speculate as to why this is, and probably more of the Autumn needs to unfold before we can make any informed guesses as to what is going on.  

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Slipped Up......Maybe?!

I had checked three forecasts for yesterday morning and they were 2-1 against it being fit for ringing at the Obs. Yesterday morning dawns calm and bright! Had I slipped up? I thought so at the time, but maybe not. I used to rely on the BBC weather forecast and when they got their data from the Met Office they were pretty good. Now they get their weather data and forecast information from a Dutch firm, I think, and it has never been the same. However, the one forecast yesterday morning that suggested it would be fine for ringing was that of the BBC! So, what do I know?

Like I said before, yesterday morning dawned clear and flat calm, although the wind did pick up to a well, err, 5 mph NNW after about an hour! On my way to the Point I called in at the Cemetery, although the weather indicated that it might be more of a 'vis' kind of morning I thought there might be half a chance of a Yellow-browed Warbler, but there wasn't. From a grounded perspective all I had were nine Robins and a couple of Goldcrests.

At the Point I was hoping for a decent passage on vis, particularly after the 'blocking' rain that we had yesterday. It was as clear as a bell out in the Bay, as you can see from the pictures below, but there was very little movement. Without doubt there would have been some movement high up, beyond the range of my hearing and sight, but even still I would have expected to pick up some of the lower birds if there had been a good movement. 

My poor vis totals included nine Meadow Pipits, a Magpie, 545 Pink-footed Geese, two Chaffinches, a Greenfinch, two Siskins, thirteen Skylarks, two Alba Wags, nine Carrion Crows and 32 Jackdaws.

 Pink-footed Geese

The sea was actually quieter with just seven Eiders and an Auk sp.! What's going on? A pair of Stonechats in the dunes were a pleasure to watch as always, and that was it!

I then went to the old Quay to see if there was any butterflies about and I had a Red Admiral and three Painted Lady's. A Little Egret, Peregrine and another Goldcrest filled a handful of lines in my notebook.

 Painted Lady

Fingers crossed for some decent weather over weekend!

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Out Again At Last

I probably don't need to tell you that the weather has been awful just recently, and this has resulted in a lack of posts from me, basically because I haven't been out. It's when we have weather like this, persistent rain for days, that I wish that my patch had a hide overlooking some lovely, muddy freshwater pools. That way, you can spend all day in the hide watching passage waders dropping in on to the lovely mud! That's probably about the only time that I enjoy hides! But, that isn't the case so you just have to make the most of what you've got.

After several days of rain, yesterday dawned fairly bright, 4 oktas cloud cover, with a light west-northwesterly wind. I headed to the Point at the Obs, mainly to watch and record any 'vis' as the high tide wasn't until lunchtime, and as the tides are at the higher end of high, it means that at low water the tide is a long way out. Nevertheless, I did look on the sea as well, but it was pretty dire!

 The sky this morning

Along the edge of the golf course, where the path runs from the road to the sea front, is a line of Japanese rose that House Sparrows roost in. Sparrows, both House and Tree, always exit their roost noisily climbing in to the air, circling round several times, and then they fly off in a straight line, heading to wherever it is they are heading! It's as if they are getting their bearings, before they decide where they are going to go. This morning I stopped, stood and watched ten House Sparrows do that very thing; lovely!

I mentioned above that my main aim this morning was to monitor the vis and I was both disappointed and not disappointed at the same time. It was crystal clear this morning, Walney only looked a stones throw away across the Bay, and I could nearly read the time on Barrow's Town Hall clock! Under about 4 oktas of cloud cover, that waxed and waned a bit, there were huge chunks of clear blue sky and this is where the disappointment fits in. Meadow Pipits were on the move, most heading straight south after crossing the Bay, and I suspect they were moving on a broad front. So if you moved a km east or west, you would be recording different birds going over. More often than not I could hear Meadow Pipits, but couldn't see them as they motored through the stratosphere (well, nearly), and when this happens all you can do is record 'a' call as a single bird, when in reality there could be, two, three, eight, fifteen...who knows! So, 150-ish Meadow Pipits south, was a gross underestimate!

Other species on vis included a single Linnet, nine Starlings, four Goldfinches, three Alba Wags, six Reed Buntings, five Swallows, two Grey Wags, three Chaffinches, five Skylarks, 104 Pink-footed Geese and a female Sparrowhawk. The same caveat applies to these species too. Oh, and the direction of movement; anywhere from east round to south to west, and at all points between.

 Pink-footed Geese

It didn't feel like a grounded morning, and from a grounded migrant perspective all I had were three Wheatears and a male Stonechat.


Returning to the sea, I said earlier how dire it was and it has been poor all year, all I had were 19 Cormorants, 22 Eiders, seven Common Scoters and a single Auk sp. I mentioned before how on big tides, the tide is a long way out at low water, and this uncovers feeding areas that aren't normally available to birds. A long way out on some muscle beds that are rarely exposed were a huge number of Gulls, literally thousands, but sadly they were just too far away to go through. As the tide started to run in it lifted the Gulls from the muscle beds and this caused a steady stream west of mainly Herring Gulls with smaller numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and Black-headed Gulls.

Because the tide wasn't concentrating the waders at a roost I had small numbers whizzing about including 165 Oystercatchers and 30 Sanderlings. A Little Egret feeding in a tidal pool and a Rock Pipit on one of the groynes was best of the rest.

There's a slim chance that I might be able to do some ringing in one of the scrubby reedbeds at the Obs tomorrow, so later on in the morning Gail and I went to check the net rides to make sure they weren't flooded after all this rain. Thankfully, they were absolutely fine, not even marginal. So I'll have a detailed look at the various weather forecasts I look at later. We had a Chiffchaff and a Cetti's Warbler in the scrub, and Skylark, Grey Wagtail and Siskin over. On the saltmarsh there was a largish flock of eighty Goldfinches. We'll see what tomorrow brings, if anything!

There's a few Yellow-browed Warblers around at the moment and a few are making it over to this side of the country now, and in fact one was ringed at Middleton NR near Heysham yesterday.

This reminded me of an elusive bird that I had in the Cemetery at the Obs on 1st October 2007. I'd covered a few sites at first light, but there didn't seem to be anything obviously grounded, in fact it was looking more like a vis morning with species such as Fieldfare and Grey Wagtail on the move. It wasn't until 8:00 am that I arrived in the Cemetery. Again it was more of a vis morning with Swallow, Skylark, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Grey Wagtail, Jackdaw and Reed Bunting over in varying numbers, but five Jays over made it seem more interesting! A singing grounded Redwing was a bit more like it and then I heard that loud, strident stsooweest call of a Yellow-browed. I just got on to the bird as it moved and it disappeared into the surrounding gardens never to be see again. In 2007 they were a fair bit scarcer than they are now, but they are still always a pleasure to see. So hopefully we'll have one or two at the Obs later this week!

This is a Yellow-browed Warbler that I had the pleasure of ringing in Ian's 
migrant magnet of a garden last year!

Friday, 20 September 2019

A Mid-week Ringing Session

I am up to date with all my survey work at the minute, and the weather Wednesday morning was suitable to do some ringing at the Obs with 7 oktas cloud cover and a light southerly breeze. The forecast for this coming weekend on, with perhaps the exception of Monday, doesn't look very good at all for ten days or more, so it was an opportunity not to be missed.

From first light there was quite a bit of 'Pinkie' action with Pink-footed Geese departing their roost on the river, birds arriving from roosts further east and birds arriving and heading south. I tried to distinguish what each flock was doing, but it will suffice for the Blog to say that I had 1,851 during the morning.

 Pink-footed Geese

I couldn't really say that I had any grounded migrants, other than the birds that I ringed, but two explosive calling Cetti's Warblers were, and are, always good to hear.

There was some vis but it was fairly slow and it involved Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Grey Wagtails, Linnets and Alba Wags, but we're only talking a handful of each.


Greenfinches are always interesting at this time of year and I always have Greenfinch on my MP3 player for ringing, particularly during October. I never really see or hear many going over, but the MP3 certainly pulls them in, and often like the individual pictured below their bills are covered in the husk of Rose hips, providing evidence of one of their major autumn food sources.


I ringed 27 birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Chaffinch - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Great Tit - 4
Linnet - 1
Robin - 3
Goldfinch - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 9
Wren - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - (1)


After I had packed up ringing I had quick look on the pools and recorded 26 Coots, a female Shoveler and a male Pochard.

It's going to be a bright day tomorrow with quite a stiff easterly wind, so a spot of 'vis' might be the order of the morning.

Corbie Country

On Tuesday I was undertaking one of the regular surveys that I do for a client on the wetland section on one of his farms. This particular farm is in Bowland, and is very much 'Corbie country' or it certainly was this morning.

A Corbie is a local name in the north of England for the Raven. Other names include Corbie Crow (Scotland), Croupy Crow (northern England), Fiach (Ireland), Marburan (Cornwall) and Ralph!

 Distant Raven - honest!

On my walk along the 'wetland corridor', under 4 oktas cloud cover with a light northwesterly wind, I recorded seven Ravens, or perhaps I should say made seven sightings as one or two sightings could have been of the same birds. I watched one particular individual flying along, calling away, and every few seconds it would do a complete roll, and keep on repeating the process until out of sight! My gut extinct was +that it was doing this out of sheer exuberance, but I suppose it might have been displaying to a bird that I couldn't see.

It is now Friday as I write this, and as usual I am behind with the Blog, but I have just had to run outside from my office because I could hear a Raven calling! I looked up and there it was heading south and trying to shake off a Carrion Crow that was mobbing it. There were two other Carrion Crows too, but they were leaving the Raven alone. An addition to the house list, I think! I say I think because I don't actually keep a house list, and perhaps I should, but I certainly can't remember having Raven from the house before. 

I was intrigued as to how many species of birds I have recorded from my house and I have just added up and the Raven was number 65. I don't think that is too bad, although I am not sure what I am basing that on, and I am fairly certain that I have missed one or two.

Anyway, back to my 'wetland corridor' survey in Bowland. The only vis that I could detect were a few Meadow Pipits and Alba Wags heading north into the wind.

I had a few Brown Hares this morning, and it was a few, being just three. On this farm in the Spring I can easily see 20-30 over a relatively small section of it.

 Brown Hare

The wetland corridor that I survey consists of about a dozen ponds, of varying size, all forming a line through the centre of the farm. And I suppose they from the boundary between the higher unimproved area of the farm and the lower more improved section. The ponds are surrounded by different vegetation/habitat types at different successional stages, and some are relatively easy to view over and others very difficult.

Over all the wetland area I recorded four Moorhens, two Teal, 47 Mallards, three Mute Swans, a Cormorant and Little Grebe.

Best of the rest were a single Siskin over, a Chiffchaff, two Goldcrests, a Buzzard and a Roe Deer.

It was certainly a very slow morning, but a pleasure to be out as always!

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Woolly Hat Weather

Over the past two days it has most certainly been woolly hat weather first thing in the morning, an indication that it is getting cooler. On Friday I was carrying out a hedgerow survey in the Wenning Valley for a client and it was woolly hat weather then, and yesterday down on the estuary at the Obs it was again woolly hat weather!

This particular farm straddles both side of a road. On the northern side of the road the farm is flat and all the land runs alongside the River Wenning. On the south side the land rises and overlooks the valley, and the picture below was taken from this vantage point when there was a mist first thing covering the land down by the river.

A misty Wenning valley

At this time of year bird activity in the hedgerows reduces, or becomes more localised at least, a quiet period between departing summer migrants and the arrival of continental migrants and winter visitors. The only warbler species I recorded were a single Blackcap, two Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff. A nice flock of 19 Linnets were flying up from feeding in a field of fodder crop to the hedge if disturbed, and four Long-tailed Tits moved from a line of Ash trees to the hedge I was surveying, before turning round and heading back to the Ash trees to join the other larger group of extended Lottie family and friends! 

During the two hours that I was surveying the hedges a number of Pink-footed Geese headed over and I had 30 NW, 85 S and 90 SW. I guessed that they were just arriving as they were very high, and were re-orientating themselves to head to feeding areas.

 Pink-footed Geese

A few butterflies were on the wing, namely Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell. I recorded a few (13) Goldfinches along one of the mature hedges. They were feeding on a stoned area surrounding a gateway and livestock drinking trough, that was vegetating over with lots of pioneering seed bearing plants. And like the Linnets above, would fly to the hedge if disturbed.

 Painted Lady


I've mentioned this before but it's been a good Autumn for berry and nut crops, and the hedges here were full of Hawthorn, Rowan & Guelder Rose berries, as well as lots of Hazel nuts! When our wintering Thrushes arrive there will be plenty of food for them!

 Guelder Rose

Yesterday I decided to have a walk down to the estuary at first light, and just like Friday is was nippy, woolly hat weather in fact, with clear skies and a cool southeasterly wind. Walking along the Hawthorn tunnel to the estuary I must have counted a dozen ticking Robins along with a good splodge of Woodpigeons and Chaffinches.

 The Hawthorn tunnel

The Hawthorn tunnel passes a reedbed and a Cetti's Warbler could be heard giving that explosive call. Just like the Little Egret, being a birder of a certain age, Cetti's Warblers still give me a thrill when I hear one. The only other warblers I heard were Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest and a Lesser Whitethroat.

Pink-footed Geese were a feature of the morning here too and various 'Pinkie' action was going on with birds leaving their estuarine roost as the sun rose and other birds arriving to bathe and feed from roosts out in Morecambe Bay. These too would depart eventually and head off south.

 Pink-footed Geese

Waders feeding on the mudflats were few and far between and all I had were two Curlews, 22 Redshanks and 47 Lapwings. Other birds on the river included three Little Egrets, two Grey Herons, 263 Black-headed Gulls and seven Shelducks

The first bird I saw on the reservoir by the river was a Kingfisher! I was just about to press the shutter on my camera and it flew off! Seven Little Grebes and 36 Tufted Ducks made it from the surface of the res into my notebook. On my walk back to my car a few Swallows, a couple of Grey Wagtails and four Skylarks headed south.

 Tufted Ducks

Talking of woolly hat weather, I've had our wood burner on a few times recently as well!

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Working Out The Vis On The Eastern Solway

Earlier in the week I was birding at what has become a semi-regular local patch for me on the Solway near Rigg, in Dumfries and Galloway. As I have hinted at previously, I hope that in the not too distant future it will become a more regular local patch! It's always interesting, even exciting, finding new local patches and trying to work out the dynamics of the site. A point in question is the 'vis' at this site.

 The Solway

There was a bit of vis on this morning, the majority of it heading east/southeast. Birds seemed reluctant to cross the Solway, and I wondered if this is always the case, or is it bit like Morecambe Bay at the Obs and is weather dependent. On clear days birds will head south from Walney, completely missing landfall at the the southern mouth of the Bay where the Obs is, as we pick birds up at sea heading south. On less clear days, perhaps the majority of days when birds are on the move, we record birds heading east or west, in essence heading in and out of the Bay. The Solway is of course a large bay too, and maybe the majority of birds head in and out here as well. Hopefully time will tell!

I had four oktas cloud cover, with a light westerly wind when I parked my car overlooking the Solway near Rigg. I like to set my scope up first and have a look at the birds feeding on the shore, or drifting in and out on the tide. A number of Snipe were on the shore and I counted 25. I'm used to seeing Snipe flying away from me at the Obs as I put them up from one of the wetlands, so it was a pleasure to watch them feeding away.

The most numerous wader species was Lapwing and I counted 237 in total. Other wader species included two Curlews, four Oystercatchers, 126 Redshanks, five Greenshanks, two Golden Plovers, two Curlew Sandpipers and 51 Dunlin.

Returning to the vis I had a few bits and pieces, moving mainly easterly as I stated above. Species on the move were two Grey Wagtails, 21 Meadow Pipits, eight Skylarks, four Swallows and a Tree Pipit.

There was a number of butterflies about either feeding from flowers on the edge of the merse, or on flowers on the merse itself. I counted three Red Admirals, seven Painted Lady's, a Green-veined White and two Small Tortoiseshells. Looking at these figures I can see that I didn't count everything, I was probably just enjoying watching them too much!

 Painted Lady

After a quick call to a local supermarket to purchase some Orkney Brewery ales it was time to cross back over the border.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Which Morning?

On Friday evening I was faced with a dilemma as to which morning over the weekend to do some ringing at the Obs, as the forecast was reasonable for both Saturday and Sunday. In terms of wind strength and direction, it was marginally better for Sunday with a forecast 5 mph southeasterly wind, and for Saturday morning a 9 mph northerly! Normally I would have gone for Sunday, but Saturday morning would be the first morning for several days when it would be fit for some vis, and maybe the vis dam would burst!

I was at the Obs early Saturday morning unlocking and then locking the three gates that give us access to the ringing area in one of the reedbeds and Willow scrub. I was there a tad early, as I had to use my head torch to see to unlock the gates and to find the guy ropes to put up the nets! The day dawned with three oktas cloud cover and a 10 mph northerly wind.

A few Alba Wags went over heading north, rather surprisingly, until I realised that they were probably dispersing from an overnight roost at a chemical plant to the south of the site. I didn't hear any Swallows exiting their reedbed roost alongside one of the pools, probably as a result of the poor weather during the week breaking up the roost and preventing any further movement. The Starlings exited their roost in their customary late fashion, considerably later than sunrise, and they numbered at least 6,000.

There was some vis, but it didn't really start until a couple hours after first light, when it had warmed up. As it's early September the passage wasn't heavy, and as I was situated between the coast and the estuary the vis isn't always as obvious here. I had no more than a hundred Meadow Pipits head south and 46 Pink-footed Geese (my first of the Autumn), with a handful of House Martins, Linnets, Grey Wagtails, Skylarks and Swallows.

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground, and with the exception of a single Goldcrest, are probably reflected in what I ringed. I ringed sixteen birds (no recaptures) as follows:

Blue Tit - 2
Blackcap - 3
Linnet - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Reed Warbler - 2
Robin - 2
Wren - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Blackbird - 1



Not much else made it in to my notebook 27 Coots, four Little Grebes, seven Tufted Ducks, two male Pochards and a Cetti's Warbler.

I'll hopefully be birding on the Solway in Scotland on Tuesday after one of my surveys in north Cumbria. So I'll let you know if I do.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Minor Changes

I've made a few minor changes to my Blog description, and also to the introduction to my profile, to reflect more the area that I now spend my time immersed in Natural History. I tend to be spending less of my time recording and observing wildlife in the Fylde area of Lancashire, but more of my time in Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway. Partly because of my work, but partly because I like those areas. In fact either or will hopefully become home in the not too distant future.

A week ago now I was at one of my survey sites in the North Pennines, in the upper Eden Valley in fact, on a glorious sunny day with a light south-southwesterly wind. It is quite a bleak site in it's position in the landscape, and whenever I view it in my mind's eye it always seems cold and overcast. But today was one of those days that proves it can be a beautiful spot when the sun shines!

As I drove along the farm track to the plantation woodland (seven compartments here) I had to move some very stubborn sheep from the track. I was about to say that they had obviously roosted on the track (bird parlance) overnight, but what I do mean is that they had obviously slept on the track overnight. They weren't for moving, not even when sounding my horn or revving  the engine; I had to get out and 'encourage' them out of the way. 

Driving to where I park my car I had a first record for the site in the form of a female Wheatear. Nothing unusual, but even common species can be patch megas, and that's the beauty of getting to know a site intimately. 

Willow Warblers were yet again a feature of the morning, as they have been during all of my surveys recently, and I recorded a respectable 16 birds. Other warbler species included four Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff. I always record a few Song Thrushes at this site and this morning was no exception with four making it in to my notebook. The best of the rest included four Grey Wagtails, 13 Lesser Redpolls (including a juv.), three Meadow Pipits south (my first on vis for the Autumn), 42 Goldfinches, 33 Swallows, two Siskins, a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk.

On Monday I had another survey not too far from Kendal. Gail accompanied me this time with the promise of a walk on Foulshaw Moss, and breakfast with retail therapy at Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop & Cafe; I think it was the latter that encouraged her out of bed before first light!

 Rowans looking like Christmas trees with a heavy load of berries and a 
silvery dew on their leaves

This is one of the few sites where I regularly record Bullfinches, and we had two this morning. Other bits and pieces included a male Sparrowhawk that flew very low over our heads, four (more) Willow Warblers and a Song Thrush; a fairly quiet one.

We then headed to one of our favourite sites, Foulshaw Moss, before a breakfast barm beckoned! We spent about an hour and a half on the Moss dodging the showers that were driving in. In Cumbrian terms Foulshaw Moss is a popular place with visitors and it is a site that Cumbria Willdlife Trust try and sign up members at. I like going there because it is a wonderful place for wildlife and compared to the reserves I'm used to in Lancashire, it is quiet!

There are two feeding stations in operation at Foulshaw Moss and this morning they were busy as always. Numbers of Blue and Great Tits were visiting constantly, as were about 20 Tree Sparrows, 20+ Goldfinches, a few Greenfinches, the odd Reed Bunting and a few Chaffinches. Apologies for the not very accurate or scientific counts, but it really is hard to tell how many birds visit feeders, unless you are catching and ringing them of course.

 One of the feeding stations

A Tree Sparrow on a feeder at the other feeding station

A few Chiffies and Willow Warblers hung on, and we had a few Tree Pipits over heading south before the rain showers came in. Probably the best bird of the morning was a juv/female type Marsh Harrier that was putting all the wildfowl up as it quartered the moss.

I've mentioned before the local amenity woodland that I walk to and around to stretch my legs when I am in the office all day, well yesterday I had another mega on one of the ponds in the form of a Cormorant! Again, like the Great Crested Grebe I had recently, not a scarce bird at all, but the first that I have recorded at the site, so a little bit of patch magic!

The weather has been appalling of late, but there is a window of opportunity tomorrow morning for me to get a survey in under the shadow of the mighty Blencathra in the north Lakes, and fingers crossed some ringing on Sunday!

Friday, 30 August 2019

Season Of Mists...

...and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

As you will probably know the above is the first verse of one of my favourite poems, 'Ode To Autumn', by John Keats. It is so evocative of Autumn, which of course it is meant to be, and I love all the bird references contained therein. On Bank Holiday Monday morning as I drove to one of the reedbeds at the Obs it most certainly was season of mists as one of those low autumnal mists carpeted the farm fields. I was meeting Alice and Ian at 5:30 am, and it didn't bode well for our impending ringing session.

I was there first and as I waited for Alice and Ian to arrive I could hear Swallows exiting their reedbed roost giving that exquisite twittering that I think sounds more urgent in Autumn, or is that just me thinking about the season? It was impossible to tell how many because of the mist, but there was a fair few.

Next up were the Starlings and they were visible and numbered at least ten thousand. The noise from their wings always reminds of waves rolling on to the shore. Superb!

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

The mist certainly did have a negative impact on our ringing session, and indeed on any migration monitoring at the Obs at all, by way of preventing any vis. It certainly 'felt' very quiet in the reeds and scrub as we put the nets up. We did manage to ring twenty birds, which was a bit of a bonus considering the conditions. The twenty ringed were:

Reed Warbler - 3
Blackcap - 7
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Great Tit - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Whitethroat - 2
Wren - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 1

 Cetti's Warbler

Lesser Whitethroat

A few bird calls drifted through the mist including Sandwich Tern and Whimbrel, but how many? After a couple of hours we decided to cut our losses and call it a day.

I'll leave the final words to John Keats!

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.