Monday 29 September 2008

Change of Wind Direction and Increased Strength Brings in the Gannets, 29th September 2008

Overnight the wind had veered to a WNW force 3-4, so seawatching was the order of the day. Unfortunately the tides weren't in my favour as high tide wasn't until 1150 and I was at Rossall Point at 0725! This meant until the tide started to run in I would have to look over a lot of sand to 'get' to the sea! Someone should dismantle the Coastguards Tower and move it further west to Rossall Scar that way you would always be looking over the sea.

Coastguard's Tower at Rossall Point giving valuable shelter
for seawatching

I knew that I would need at least another day of strong westerly winds to bring in Leach's Petrel so I was hoping for a Skua or two and looking forward to some Leach's in a few days time. No Skuas materialised but numbers of Cormorants remained fairly high at 74 and there were no Shags today.

Numbers of Oystercatchers had built up to 581 but numbers of other waders were fairly low. Although to be fair as I was stood in one place for several hours I was reliant on them flying past me. 11 Curlews were pushed off the muscle beds along with 50 Knots and 3 Snipe flew high west.

Roosting Oystercatcher at Rossall Point

'Real' seabirds were represented by 87 Gannets, 3 Guillemots and a single Manx Shearwater that battled west along the tide edge. 14 Eiders bobbed up and down on the swell and 5 Common Scoters scurried along the horizon.

Sunday 28 September 2008

Pink-foot Arrival, 28th September 2008

Overnight the wind had swung to a northerly direction and a weak front was supposed to drop south, although by the time it got to Lancashire it was forecast to have petered out and it did. No drizzle and no carpet of grounded migrants. It was very clear at first light at Rossall Point and as the wind was northerly I knew there would be some Pink-footed Geese arrivals. Unfortunately in terms of seawatching a northerly usually 'kills' it at Rossall Point.

Sure enough the first birds I saw this morning were 40 Pinkies taking off from their overnight roost on the flats. Later in the morning there would be further arrivals of 210 birds all heading high to the south.

Wildfowl would be a feature of the morning with an increase in the number of Eiders on the sea to 17. Very few Common Scoters were around and I only had a distant group of 5. Sea-watchers on the Isle Of Man probably had stonking views!

I had my first Red-breasted Merganser on the sea for the autumn and a male Scaup that flew west was nice. Perhaps the best wildfowl of the morning was the single pale-bellied Brent Goose that came in from the west and landed on the sea straight in front of me giving excellent views. It rode the breaking surf for a few minutes before taking off and heading west.

Large numbers of Cormorant were around again this morning with a total of 87 birds. There doesn't seem to be the same southerly movement at the moment but nevertheless they do seem to be building up. Not as many Shags this morning, only 2, and after yesterdays pathetic attempts at photographing them I didn't even try this morning.

Walking along the dunes I got very close to a male Kestrel perched on a post. I thought I might have a go at photographing it, but as soon as I started to lower my tripod legs it flew off! The same happened later on when I tried to photograph a Wheatear. These birds seem to know when you want to photograph them as I am sure that both birds would have been happy to let me continue to watch them!

Whilst counting the waders feeding on the muscle beds I caught sight of a Peregrine 'steaming' in. This bird made several attempts to catch a Knot. It would climb and then dive down towards a Knot feeding on the muscle beds. What amazed me was how 'un-bothered' the Knots seemed to be and there was no panic amongst them at all. Consequently it didn't take long for the Peregrine to catch one and then fly off to the flats to devour its' breakfast.

Talking about the muscle beds; out of the corner of my eye I saw an all white bird approaching from the west and as soon as I got my bins on it I could see that it was a Little Egret. It landed on one of the pools besides the rocks before flying off after a couple of minutes. I did manage to get a record shot of it before it flew off, but the picture is so awful it is for my records only!

The only grounded migrants of the morning were 5 Wheatears and the vis would be equally as meagre. Even though it was northerly I must admit that because it was very clear I would have expected a number of Pipits at least, but instead all I had was a handful of Mipits, Linnets and Alba Wags.

I mentioned counting waders on the muscle beds and totals included 334 Oystercatchers, 10 Curlews, 61 Knots and later I had a small flock of 10 Sanderling on the beach.

As I touched upon earlier the sea was very quiet and the only movement I had were 7 Guillemots and a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver.

I had to go to Rawcliffe Moss afterwards to feed 'my' farmland birds and I asked Gail if she wanted to join me. Numbers of Tree Sparrows were still the same with about 20 feeding on the seed along with a few Chaffinch.

Pinkies were still arriving and we had 364 go over very high heading south. Vis was similar here as to Rossall in that there was very little. The most notable movement was probably that of 24 Skylarks plus smaller numbers of Mipits, Chaffinch, Linnets, Goldfinch and single Siskin.

A male Stonechat was a nice surprise in the '97 hedge. We call it the '97 hedge because a couple of years ago in early autumn we ringed 97 birds out of two very short nets intersecting the hedgerow.

A couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and flying Green Sandpiper later we headed home.

Chaffinch - female

Saturday 27 September 2008

The One That Got Away, 27th September 2008

At 0755 I picked up a large Shearwater moving west off Rossall Point. I picked it up when it was straight out and didn't have long on it before I lost it out of sight. As soon as I saw it I thought "what the f*ck" and the panic set in. All sorts of thoughts raced through my mind like "why does that Gannet look like a Fulmar"! And on jizz it reminded me of a cross between a Gannet and a Fulmar. The upperparts were dark and because I wasn't thinking straight I didn't look at the tail. It had a dark cap and I thought I could see a dark shoulder mark. The underwing was pale with dark markings. I phoned my mate Ian to see if he was on the coast further south, but alas he was in the cemetery looking for grounded migrants. It will just have to go down as one that got away; but my notebook does read 'possible Great Shearwater!'

Let's rewind to first light at 0655 and the first bird I had when I got out of the car was a calling Goldcrest. The weather was cold with a 10-15 mph southerly wind and out in the bay the visibility was quite poor. The only other grounded migrants were 5 Wheatears.

I walked along the top of the dunes heading west and then came back east along the foreshore seawatching and looking out for vis. The vis was fairly slow, probably because of the blocking conditions further north. I had 15 Pied Wags over, 8 Snipe, a meagre 16 Mipits, 13 Goldfinch, 4 Grey Wagtails, 37 Linnets and a couple of Swallows. A Rock Pipit dropped in and showed very well. I tried to get a few shots of it and they are so awful that I won't share any of them with you.

Good numbers of Cormorant were on the move this morning and I had a total 58. In addition to the Cormorants we had 4 Shag that landed on the sea fairly close in and I attempted to get a few pictures. Attempted is the best word to describe the results as you will see below.

Waders were chased around by the usual bird scarers and as such there were only 215 Knot, a handful of Turnstones, 19 Sanderling and 30 Ringed Plovers.

Turnstone on the beach at Rossall Point

The sea could best be described as slow but steady. Wildfowl were represented by 14 Common Scoters, 2 male Eiders and auks by 4 Guillemots. Sandwich Terns numbered only two and I had a 1st winter Little Gull and later 2 adult Med Gulls flew east. Two juv. Arctic Skuas went west during the morning and both were close in giving cracking views. Talking of cracking views, we had a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver fly past very close in, virtually right above our heads. In addition to this bird we had another 2 and single Great Crest west.

Not too bad a morning but it would be even better if that Rustic Bunting on Walney crosses the bay tomorrow morning!

Thursday 25 September 2008

If Only West Was East......25th September

......then we would be getting the likes of Rb Flicker, Melodious, Brown Shrike, Siberian Thrush, Wryneck etc, I could go on, on this coast!

I have been out of circulation the last two days as I have been at my staff conference in Staffordshire and the best bird I could muster down there was a solitary Raven. Today one of my fellow Fleetwood birders tried his hardest in all the best migrant spots and could only manage 5 or 6 Goldcrests and 2 or 3 Chiffies. He said the best bird of the morning was a Redwing in Mount Park! Mind you did come up with the goods in the form of a juv. Hobby this evening over the ICI Pools.

On my way back from Staffordshire I called in at the feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to put some food down. Tree Sparrows had built up nicely to 20 birds and I had a Corn Bunting fly over. Other species included 57 Goldfinch, 5 Grey Partridges and singles of Common Buzzard and Kestrel. In the hedgerow adjoining Curlew Wood were 3 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.

Corn Bunting - from another day

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Plenty of Common's but no Honey's

Am I the only birder not to connect with a Honey Buzzard over the past few days?! I made a quick call to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning and had 7 Common Buzzards. In fact it was a warm morning and the Buzzards plus 3 Kestrels and a female Sparrowhawk were making use of the thermals.

I didn't have time for a proper mooch round but noted that Mipits, Skylarks, Chaffinch, Alba Wags, Goldfinch and Grey Wags were all on the move.

The only Buteo I have a picture of is this Rough-legged Hawk (Buzzard) in the hand in Canada. I know Honey isn't a Buteo but you know what I mean.

Sunday 21 September 2008

Early Promise Failed to Deliver...Again!, 21st September

At first light walking along Rossall Point I had a couple of Goldcrests in a patch of Brambles behind the dunes. The wind was southerly and the edge of a weak front lay across the bay. This could be interesting I thought. A little further on and a Phyllosc dropped out of the sky and dived into the bushes next to the Coastguard Tower. It turned out to be a Chiffchaff, but you just never know! Then in terms of grounded migrants it dried up.

Even the vis didn't really get going with only a handful of Mipits, Pied Wags and Swallows overhead. On the strength of the Crests and the Chiff I decided to have a look at a couple of other sites. Back in the car park and some tw*t had 'keyed' a scratch across the back of my car. Probably some b*stard bird scarer owner!

I had a look in Mount Park, but nothing so it was on to the Cemetery. Mipits were still moving overhead and the only grounded migrants were 6 Goldcrests. I decided that it was a little too quiet and thought that I would be better cutting my losses and returning to fight another day. I phoned 'her indoors' and ordered a bacon butty!

Back at home as I type this the Mipits are still going over and I have had my first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn with a flock of 25 south.

My mate Nigel in Canada sent me the pic below of some young Ospreys in the nest that he ringed this year and I thought that I would use the pic to brighten the page up.

Friday 19 September 2008

Raptor Fest - Day Two, 20th September

Or the alternative title could be ' dog shit!'

Joking apart it was delightful to be birding and ringing in the centre of the Fylde on a glorious morning without the continuous disturbance by bird scarers. We put eight nets up in a broadleaved plantation on Rawcliffe Moss.

At first we thought the vis would be good because quite a bit of stuff got on the move at first light, but my mid-morning it had dried up. A quick phone call to Ian on the coast confirmed that passage was light over the coast as well even though the visibility was good over Morecambe Bay. Some of the vis totals included 3 Grey wagtails, 75 Meadow Pipits, 45 Chaffinch and 8 Siskins.

The ringing was quite good and it was what I would call a 'grappling' morning as we had to grapple with a few lively birds. Grappler number 1 was the following beasty below.

Grappler no. 1 aka Jay

Grappler numbers 2 and 3 were two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and one of them is shown below.
Grappler no. 2 or was it 3?

The rest of the catch was a nice mix including 8 Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, 6 Meadow Pipits, Coal Tit, Linnet and Treecreeper.

Meadow Pipit - we had a good selection of juv.'s & adults

I mentioned in the title that today was 'raptor fest day 2' and that was because again we had a nice selection of raptors; no Honey Buzzards though! We had 3 Common Buzzards, 4 Kestrels, Marsh Harrier and a male Peregrine carrying prey. The Marsh Harrier was a long way off and viewing it you had to look into the sun. Later we had another Harrier that looked smaller and showed a white rump (possibly); but like the Marsh Harrier it was a long way off. It was probably a Hen Harrier as there has been one around for a while on Rawcliffe Moss, but we'll never know.

Raptor Fest......, 19th September

......well almost!

Another flying visit at lunchtime today to my farmland bird feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss. It was pleasing to note that a few passerines are now starting to find the food and not just the usual gang of pesky Pheasants. A handful of Chaffinch and a couple of Tree Sparrows are now feeding on the seed.

Just as I had thrown a bucket of seed down a cracking male Marsh Harrier came drifting past flushing Snipe here, there and everywhere. Awesome! This was followed by Kestrel and 2 Common Buzzards. One of the Common Buzzards was hunting over a recently cut cereal feed and at times it was hovering over the stubble. The second Common Buzzard was perched up and I had to give it close scrutiny just to make sure it wasn't a Honey! The raptor fest. was completed by a female Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a gang of Jackdaws.

Tree Sparrow - numbers should start to build up soon

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Red-backed Delight, 17th September

All I had was an hour to spare before work this morning so I nipped to Rossall Point. It was fairly murky and the wind was a fairly stiff ESE breeze. And yet again it was quiet! It was so quiet there weren't even any bird scarers out!

There was a little visible passage in the form of Grey Wagtail, 27 Meadow Pipits, 3 Linnets and 2 Siskins. Gripping stuff eh! Grounded migrants were just 3 Wheatears. All too soon it was time to go to work.

Just after 12.00 p.m. I got a phone call from my mate Ian to say he had a juv. Red-backed Shrike at Rossall School...b*stard! Myself and Andrew dashed there and we had cracking views of it as it perched on top of a hedgerow. It was active all the time and continually flew to the ground in search of invertebrates. At one stage it was rooting under the hedge! I forgot my camera so I can't show you any pictures of it. Instead to brighten the page up below is great Grey Shrike in the hand in Canada.

This is no Red-backed Shrike!

This was the first Fylde Red-backed Shrike since another bird was in Fleetwood in 1985. A former Lancashire Bird Recorder, who will remain na,eless, missed the 1985 bird because as he walked up to where we all stood watching it a female Sparrowhawk took it before he got on it. This morning as this gentleman approached as we walked back I said to him "don't worry there aren't any Sprawks about". He did see the funny side.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Wheatears and Wet Weather before Work......, 16th September

......and not a lot else! My cry of "not much" or "b*gger all" seems to becoming the norm. I need some good birds.

This morning I went to Rossall School before work. Rossall School is another coastal site in the Fleetwood area and is the only bit of farmland on the coast left in this area.

The farmland belonging to Rossall School

As soon as I got out of the car I had 2 Goldcrests calling from the plantation and very little else until I picked up 2 Wheatears towards the sea wall. Visible migration was virtually zero due to the overcast and drizzly conditions. 100 Swallows and 3 House Martins called noisily overhead as though they had just exited a roost.

I had a quick look on the sea and only had a single Sandwich Tern and my first Eider of the autumn.

I had a bit of time before I needed to get over to West Yorkshire to talk about Twites with a couple of farmers so I dropped into Fleetwood Cemetery. It was still raining and the only grounded migrants were 3 Goldcrests. Oh well there's always tomorrow.

Monday 15 September 2008

Season of Mists and......, 14th September

......virtually bugger all other than dog shit!

Why can't they take the crap home?

The forecast over night was for it to be clear with an easterly wind. Too clear to ground any migrants but I thought there might be a chance of some vis. I decided to have a look at Marine Gardens at first light to avoid the bird scarers (aka dog walkers) and all their accompanying crap (my apologies to all the considerate dog walkers out there). A case in point was when I was walking back to my car, after not managing to avoid the bird scarers, and a brainless spaniel of some kind wanted to have a look at me rather than go back to its owner. After a great deal of shouting, and bird scaring, it ran back to its owner. The owner said next time you'll have to bring a biscuit! Biscuit; a shot gun is what is required. Anyway I digress.

Marine Gardens

Marine Gardens is right on the coast at Fleetwood adjacent to some dunes. It consists of 0.75 mile length of fairly dense rose hips backing onto dunes. It looks to have potential, but I have failed to have anything decent there yet and this morning was going to be no exception. Cormorants were on the move at first light with 16 heading south and these were joined in their southerly passage by a few Meadow Pipits and 8 Grey Wagtails. The main problem was the mist that had formed in the bay and this needed to clear before anything would get on the move.

Next port of call was Mount Park. This is a small park on the coast behind a low hill, hence the name of the mount. The park has a lot of good migrant habitat and the hill provides good shelter from prevailing westerly winds. This park has a good track record for common migrants as well as producing several Yellow-browed's over the years.

The Wells Wood of Fleetwood!

I don't know why I called really as I knew there wouldn't be any grounded migrants. That wasn't quite true as I had 2 Goldcrests and the only other birds of vague interest were the 25 House Sparrows exiting a roost there.

More habitat in Mount Park

It was now starting to clear slightly and I decided to have a look at Rossall Point where I would later miss the two best birds of the morning! As I walked along the top of the dunes between the foreshore and the golf course there was some vis. A few Grey wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Swallows and Linnets moved south.

There were few waders on the incoming tide as the bird scarers had done their worst. 160 Knot and over 200 Oystercatchers roosted on the beach. Two Barwits were still around but the numbers of Ringed Plovers had decreased from two days ago.

A very distant Turnstone at Rossall Point

The bird scarers tried their best to disturb the roosting Sandwich Terns but 45 still managed to roost on the beach. The only seabirds of note were 2 Arctic Skuas west. The second pale morph bird tried its best to turn itself into a Long-tailed for a few seconds but unfortunately it didn't manage it!

I then received a phone call from 'her indoors' to say that I was needed at home to take one of our lads to enroll at university. I put my head down and started off walking to the car at a fair old lick and disappointingly for me not keeping an eye out for anything. Just I was nearing the car I got a phone call from Ian saying "did you see those two pale-bellied Brent Geese flying along the tideline?" Did I f*ck was my response and that ended the morning.

Friday 12 September 2008

Birthday Treat, 12th September

It is my birthday today and for a treat I took the day off work and went birding for the day. I couldn't get out as early as I wanted to because 'her indoors' had some presents for me. I shouldn't complain as I got a couple of bird books; 'Shorebirds of North America The Photographic Guide' and 'Petrels night and day - A Sound Approach guide'.

Rossall Point - looking east into Morecambe Bay

By 7.30 a.m. I was walking along the front at Rossall Point. Two of the regular Rossall stalwarts were there but they hadn't had much on the sea since first light other than Arctic Skua. Just as I met them a flock of 5 Little Egrets flew west high. A nice start as Little Egret is a good bird around Fleetwood.

A good selection of waders were roosting on the shingle as the tide ran in including 302 Knot, 2 Barwits, 359 Oystercatchers, 107 Sanderling and 37 Dunlin.

Ringed Plovers - Rossall Point

Unfortunately the roosting waders are continually flushed by inconsiderate b*stard dog walkers. It's time that dogs were banned from all habitat where birds are found. Rant over for the day!

Visible migration was very slow even though conditions did seem favourable. the numbers of Meadow Pipits, Swallows, Linnets etc going over were pathetically low so I won't even bother mentioning them. The only visible migrant in any decent numbers were 7 Grey wagtails south.

The sea continued to be very quiet with the highlight being a single Bonxie east. Sandwich Tern numbers had decreased from 500 yesterday to only 17 today. Common Scoters on the distant horizon (probably close in on the Isle Of Man!) numbered 43 and surprisingly the most interest aspect of the nil seabird passage were the Cormorants. In the time I was there I had 56 that either headed west at sea or headed south overland.

Distant views of adult & juv Sandwich Terns
(take my word for it!)

Grounded migrants were limited to 9 Wheatears (mainly on the golf course) and a single male Stonechat in the dunes.

Fleetwood Golf Course - behind sea wall. It can be a magnet
for grounded migrants (in a west coast sort of way!)

My next port of call was Fleetwood Cemetery where in past autumns I have seen three yellow-browed Warblers there and found two of them. It was very quiet this morning with only a family party of 7 Mistle Thrushes providing some interest and a further 3 Grey Wagtails south.

Migrant habitat at Fleetwood Cemetery

One of my patches away from the Fleetwood area and in inland Fylde is on a farm near Sowerby. The farm has several low lying areas that are prone to flooding and one flood remains wet all year.

One of the floods at Sowerby

A quick count on all four floods revealed 610 Black-headed Gulls (no Meds unfortunately), 19 Wigeon, 12 Pintail, 100 Teal and 2 Gadwall. Not a bad wildfowl count for this area at this time of year. The only other birds worth mentioning here were a singing Chiffchaff and 2 Buzzards.

Thursday 11 September 2008

A Quick Lunchtime Dash, 8th September

At lunchtime today I nipped to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to check if any of the food had gone down. It didn't appear that much had been taken, but nevertheless I put some more seed out and I will return again to check in about 4 days time.

I didn't have much time to have a look round but a calling Jay and singing Blackcap from the nearby wood got my attention. Another Marsh Harrier gave excellent views, and I say 'other' because this was a juv. It was hunting over some set-aside land before then flying low over a large wheat field and straight past me. Awesome!

There was a small flood on the field next to the feeding station, where isn't there a small flood at the moment, and 2 mature male Southern Hawkers were battling for supremacy of the pool. Well that's what it looked like to me!

I didn't manage to see anything else during my short visit other than Buzzard, Kestrel and 3 Grey Partridges.

Corn Bunting - hopefully a few will find our food this winter

It's That Time of Year Again, 5th september

The first bucket goes down.

This morning I was putting the first load of food down at our winter farmland bird feeding station in the rain. Every year I put the first food down in September as it usually takes the birds about 3-4 weeks to find it again. We use a mix of seed to attract species such as Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting etc.

After I put the food down I decided to have a walk round but unfortunately it was raining, but nevertheless I persevered. The wind was easterly and it made me think what would someone like Newton Stringer be having on his patch this morning in these weather conditions!

The first birds I had were a couple of Grey Partridges that I flushed from near the feeding station and then over a field of wheat an adult female Marsh Harrier came into view. She was being mobbed by a Carrion Crow, and unlike the local Buzzards, she only put up with this for so long before she retaliated. She pulled up sharp, the Crow couldn't stop in time and flew past her, and then she dived at the Crow driving it away. Stonking!

Further on I had the male Marsh Harrier that had been hanging around for a while so that was nice. The only other raptors I had were 4 Kestrels. It was very quiet and I carried on until I got to the plantation where there were a couple of
Goldcrests calling but nothing else.

Walking back to the car I picked up a group of 4
Goldcrests in a hedgerow and amongst them was a cracking juv Chiffchaff.

I haven't got any pictures of Marsh Harrier, so I
thought I would show you a picture of American
Kestrel in the hand taken by mate in Canada!

Lazy Afternoon Leads to Interesting Swallow Passage, 30th August

After this morning's ringing session I decided to have a little snooze in my conservatory in the afternoon. I woke up at 2.45 p.m. and I could see a steady southerly passage of Swallows over the garden and surrounding houses. I suppose at this point I should point out that my conservatory is attached to my house in Cleveleys on the west coast of Lancashire.

The passage continued until about 4.45 p.m. at the rate of about 5-10 birds per minute. If I have done my maths correctly that is between 600 and 1200 birds south during that period. There were also a few Swifts moving as well. I only recorded 4 Swifts as 'her indoors' wasn't keen on me sitting in the conservatory all afternoon counting hirundines particularly as I had been out this morning and sleeping for the early part of the afteroon!

Swift - Not one of the ones over my garden I hasten
to add!

Saturday 30th August

This morning I found myself with fellow ringers at one of our ringing sites on Rawcliffe Moss. I feel I must apologise at this point for a lack of photographs. I will sort this out shortly. I promise! The aim of the ringing session was to see if we could catch any late summer migrants in a fairly newly planted (4-5 years ago) broadleaved plantation. And we managed to catch very few birds at all. In fact all we ringed were 4 Whitethroats and 2 Goldcrests!

On the birding front we didn't fair much better. A couple of Tawny Owls were calling as we put the nets up in the semi-darkness and other raptors included a Buzzard and the sub-adult male Marsh Harrier that has been hanging around for a few weeks now. Earlier in the summer it was looking very tatty as it started to moult but now its starting to look like a cracker!

Visible migration was very slow and I think that inland Fylde is very much a black hole when it comes to vis mig! Birds are obviously concentrated on the coast at places such as Rossall Point (one of my patches) and also alongside the Bowland fells. Well that's my theory anyway.

I know I am waffling on here and struggling to tell you about good birds, mainly because there weren't any! The only other bird of note was a calling Green Sand that flew south during the morning.

Wow a photograph! - juv Whitethroat