Friday 31 October 2008

Turdus pilaris, 30th October 2008

First it was the Redwings and now it was the turn of the Fieldfares to arrive in numbers. I visited Moss House Farm late morning on my way back from seeing a client to put some food out at the feeding station. One of the most obvious additions over recent days was the increase in the number of Fieldfares.

Approaching the site in my car I could see mixed flocks of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling flying over with the biggest numbers in the flocks belonging to Fieldfare. At the farm they were feeding in sprayed off potato fields and stubbles, presumably feeding on invertebrates. There were 313 Fieldfares with 70 Redwing and 100 Starlings. This was a minimum count and I suspect there were a lot more.

Around the tailing's outside the barn a number of Chaffinch fed, about 20, and single Grey Wagtail ran around on the 'tailing mountain' looking for invertebrates. A number of Pink-footed Geese were moving over the farm looking for favourable feeding sites and in total I recorded 1,480 birds.

At the feeding station itself Tree Sparrows had increased to 145, perhaps as a result of the cold weather. I will be at the Northwest Ringing Conference on Saturday 1st November, so it will be Sunday 2nd before I am out again. let's hope it will be a good day.

Soup and a Sandwich, 28th October 2008

I had a day off today and went walking with her indoors. We did a walk around the Silverdale area, and nice though it was it wasn't exactly hard core birding! The bland title refers to the lunch we had at Leighton Moss and that was about as exciting as it got all day. Whilst having lunch with my Zeiss 10x40 Victory's and notebook at my side, I took a look at the other clientele in the tea room to try and see whether they were all birders or not and or not was the case to be! The tea room was full and other than myself I don't think there were any more than 4 or 5 birders in there; shocking!

I suppose to say that lunch was about as exciting as it got is a bit unfair because at this time of year the woodland around this area does look good with the leaves changing colour.

Walking through the woodland we did have a good number of woodland birds. Jays were fairly numerous giving their raucous vocalisations and this contrasted with the soft plaintive whistles of Bullfinch. The Bullfinch were particularly abundant in the coastal scrub around Heald Brow. Other 'callers' in the woodland included Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Nuthatch.

The coastal scrub at Heald Brow was full of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes feeding on Hawthorn and Holly berries, and no doubt included some continental birds. But of course you know what it's like when you are walking, you don't stop long enough to check everything out. So all in all a pleasant walk, but it wasn't birding!

On our way home we called in at Moss House Farm to feed the Tree Sparrows. I counted 114, which is a slight increase on recent days. My mate Phil had been here earlier and he had Short-eared Owl which is a first for the site! A Yellowhammer was in the hedge next to the feeding station and 15 Whooper Swans flew low over my head honking away. And where was my camera? In the car!

Sunday 26 October 2008

The Wrong Trousers, 26th October 2008

I certainly had the wrong trousers on at Rossall Point this morning and I probably had them on a couple of days too early. For some reason I had it in my head that it would be cold seawatching off Rossall this morning so I put my fleece lined winter seawatching trousers on and combined with fleece lined shirt, scarf and hat I slowly cooked!

It was very slow at first and after about an hour I nearly packed in and then Howard arrived so I decided to give it a bit longer, probably so I didn't get gripped off. I was about to pack in again and leave the sea to Howard and Ian arrived and decided to give it a bit longer, again probably so as not to be gripped off. Anyway I spent over 3 hours not seeing a great deal, there were a few bits and bobs, but it was rather quiet on the whole.

As the tide came in the waders as usual tried to roost on the beach but the usual tossers with their four-legged bird scarers did their utmost to prevent this happening. It's about time that dogs were banned from all public spaces and then we wouldn't have this problem. Okay that might be a bit extreme, because there probably are 1 or 2 responsible dog owners, so dogs should always be on a lead in public spaces. Anyway back to the constantly flushed waders that included 235 Oystercatchers and 45 Sanderlings.

I suppose the main feature of the sea this morning were the Kittiwakes. In total we had 126 move out of the bay. Most were quite a long way out and following ferries out into the Irish Sea. One or two did come close in like 2 cracking first winters that gave us stonking views as they flew through the surf.

The supporting cast included 3 Eiders, 11 Auk sp. (at Starr Gate these would all be positively identified!), Red-throated Diver, Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebe and 3 Pintail.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Predator Prey, 25th October 2008

As I walked along the track towards my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss I thought the Tree Sparrows were a little reluctant to leave the hedge. Normally I walk to the end of the hedge and the Tree Sparrows fly around me and back to the hedge and this gives me the opportunity to count them. Today though they were sticking very tight to the hedge. It was a bit windy and this can make them stick close to the hedge, but there was something else. Then a little brown head popped up and a Weasel was up on it's hind legs watching me in the curious way that they do. Ah, I thought that's why they were behaving peculiarly. Then there was a flash of slate-grey past my left side and an adult male Sparrowhawk whipped down the track and turned sharply round the edge of the hedge better than an F1 car around La'Source hairpin at Monaco. It then flipped over the top of the hedge causing pandemonium amongst the Tree Sparrows and shot only feet above my head and across the field towards Curlew Wood. That's why the Tree Sparrows were twitchy!

I put some food out and left the birds in peace and went for a short walk round. There were approximately 112 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station. I have included some pictures below of the seed and the feeding station.

This is what the Tree Sparrows are after

The feeding station

There were a few thrushes around, nothing like the numbers last weekend but I had 55 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thushes and 10 Fieldfares. A few Chaffinch were going over and heading south into the strong southerly wind as were a few Starling and a few was 13 and 14 of each respectively.

Pink-feet were moving around this morning and I had 561 in total moving from field to field trying to find a suitable and disturbance free feeding area.
'Pinkies' in flight (honestly they are!)

Similarly two flocks of 30 lapwings were moving to try and find a good feeding site. Raptors were represented by 3 Buzzards and a single Kestrel. Interestingly during the recent Honey Buzzard influx some local observers were commenting that the corvids were mobbing the Honey's and leaving the local Buzzards alone. They never do on Rawcliffe Moss and it is very rare to watch a Buzzard for any length time before it gets mobbed by corvids.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Turdus iliacus, 18th October 2008

This morning I got up late and decided to go and feed my Tree Sparrows at Moss House Farm. As I left the house just before 9.00 a.m. 24 Redwings dropped out of a cloud, circled round and headed north! B*stard I thought, as I had obviously missed part of a Thrush movement this morning. I picked up a voice mail message from my mate Phil who was at a different feeding station and he said he had had hundreds of Redwings and a few Fieldfares heading northwest. I arranged to meet Phil at Moss House Farm as I had some A rings for him. As soon as I got out of the car Redwings were going over and they were nearly all heading NW. Between 9.30 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. we had 867 go over with only 7 Fieldfare.

Looking at all the reports coming through via the Vismig group there had been a huge movement of Redwings nationally over the 17th and 18th October. We had a walk round and other Thrushes included 5 Mistle Thrushes and 3 'continental' type Song Thrushes. Interestingly few Finches, Pipits or Wagtails were on the move and all we had were 7 Chaffinch, single Grey Wagtail, 24 Skylarks and 8 Meadow Pipits over.

Another feature of the movement were Pink-footed Geese. Wave after wave kept arriving from the north. It was difficult to tell being so far inland whether these were freshly arriving birds or whether they were coming off the roost out in Morecambe Bay and moving inland to feed. In any case the numbers involved were spectacular and we estimated that at least 10,000 birds were involved!



The 19th October was the Big Vismig that had been arranged by Dave Barker who leads the Vismig group and the idea was to have as many people out in the country recording vismig to compare results from a UK perspective. I was supposed to be recording at Rossall Point and I say supposed to as I never made it. On the Saturday (18th) night I was returning from a Queen and Paul Rodgers gig in Liverpool, which was absolutely f*cking awesome by the way, and my car suddenly died on the M6. I had to dive onto the hard shoulder and call the AA. It had lost all its water and over-heated. The AA man thought it was the car's head gasket and towed me to the garage I use and then on home. I tell you what, if it had happened on my way to the gig I would have blown my head gasket! Anyway the car is in hospital and I am waiting to hear the prognosis. It's on occasions like this that I don't mind getting taxed more for a company vehicle as I suspect it could be expensive!

Birding Over the Border, 16th October

I had a meeting today at Lake Vyrnwy in Wales just on the eastern edge of Snowdonia. The site is a jointly run nature reserve run by the RSPB and Severn Trent Water. On my way to the meeting I had a couple of Ravens over the A5 almost as soon as I crossed the Welsh Border. I didn't know at the time that this was as good as it was going to get! I arrived early for my meeting and had an hour to spare so I asked an RSPB volunteer who was repairing some feeders in front of a feeding station hide what would be the best thing to do birding-wise in an hour. He recommended a woodland walk that would take about an hour so I took his advice and set-off and saw nothing!

Well, I say nothing bit I did see a number of common woodland species. I looked hard through the Tit flocks trying to find a double wing barred Phyllosc from Siberia but to no avail. In fact the only bird I have recorded in my notebook was a single Kestrel! Anyway it was nice to have a walk before several hours in a meeting.

On the way home I recorded a couple more Ravens from the road. I have included below a picture of the area; the scenery is very nice and the lake is spectacular.

Splash And Dash, 15th October 2008

I did a quick splash and dash feed at Moss House Farm today on my way home from work. It was a fairly blustery afternoon so I didn't hang around too long. Approximately 80 Tree Sparrows were feeding at the station. I say 80, because they are difficult to count at this location. The feeding station is on track that runs along the north of an east-west running Hawthorn hedge. Seed is dumped onto the track and the birds can feed and then fly into cover if need be. As you walk down the track to feed you are constantly flushing the birds and this gives you the opportunity to count them. However, you can only count the birds that go straight up or fly north out of the hedge to cross a small field to an adjacent hedge. Any birds that 'drop out' of the back of the hedge and fly along it are missed. Therefore the counts I record are bare minimums and in reality could easily be at least half again or sometimes double.

The only other birds of note were a Grey Wagtail near the barn where I store the food, 13 Skylarks, 9 Long-tailed Tits and a lone Whooper Swan.

I must take some pictures of the site so you can see for yourselves what the habitat is like.

Tree Sparrow

Sunday 12 October 2008

A Few More Tree Sparrows, 12th October 2008

Just a quick update from today. Yet another ringing session on Rawcliffe Moss and some more Tree Sparrows. It never ceases to amaze me the turn over of birds that ringing demonstrates. At the moment I have estimated that there are about 90-100 Tree Sparrows using the feeding station at Moss House Farm. So far this week we have ringed 37 Tree Sparrows (10 today) and retrapped a further 7, that makes 44 processed in total. If my estimate of numbers is correct and if the estimate of 90-100 remained constant it would mean that approximately 44% of the flocked are ringed and therefore the retrap rate at a catch would be similar, when the actual retrap rate at the moment is 15%! This demonstrates the turn over of birds within the flock. That's a bit heavy for a Sunday evening!

In addition to the Tree Sparrows we ringed a continental type Blackbird, Robin, 9 Chaffinch and 2 Blue Tits.

The first bird I had this morning in the darkness when I went to collect a bucket of bird food from the barn was a Barn Owl perched on a fence point. A nice start to the day I thought. Wintering wildfowl continue to arrive and I had 100 'Pink-feet' and 9 Whooper Swans.

There was some visible migration until the weather closed in and it went quite misty with a light drizzle. 59 Meadow Pipits moved south along with 17 Skylarks, a handful of alba wags, 4 Swallows, 2 Redwings and 134 Chaffinch.

I haven't any bird pictures from today so I thought you might like to see a picture of my guitar's instead!

Friday 10 October 2008

Knot Much On the Strong Southerlies, 10th October 2008

I apologise for the pun but it was exceedingly quiet at Rossall Point this morning on the strong southerly wind and the only birds I recorded in any numbers were 882 Knot's on the rising tide. I imagine sea watchers in the Channel will be excited about these southerlies but at Rossall this direction is coming off the land.

The only other birds I had at sea were an auk sp. west and 8 Common Scoters west. Oh well there's always tomorrow!

As there's a number of 'yanks' around at the moment I thought I would have a look at my archive of pictures and find something colourful to brighten up this dreary October day and came up with this Indigo Bunting. I remember the first time I hauled one of these bright blue gems out of a mist net, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! I'm easily pleased.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Tree Sparrow Fest., 9th October 2008

This morning we (that is some members of Fylde Ringing Group) went ringing on Rawcliffe Moss at our farmland bird feeding station. Phil and Will worked the plantation hoping to tape lure diurnal migrants and Craig and I worked the actual feeding station in the hope of a few Tree Sparrows and we weren't disappointed as it turned out to be a Tree Sparrow fest!

At first light I noticed, a little disconcertingly, that the Tree Sparrows were roosting in the Hawthorns next to the feed. I was concerned because I thought putting the nets up would flush them and they might not return for an hour or two, but how wrong can you be. Two nets were erected and when we did our first round the nets were bulging with Tree Sparrows. I only had 25 bird bags on me and these were soon filled. By the end of the morning we had ringed 27 Tree Sparrows, 15 Chaffinch and singles of Great Tit and Reed Bunting.

Tree Sparrow

Reed Bunting

Great Tit

Chaffinch - female

Phil and Will had all sorts of technical problems with their sound system and only managed to ring 5 or 6 birds.

It was obvious that a few birds were on the move this morning but it was difficult to concentrate on the ringing and keep an eye skyward for vis. My notebook read 40 Meadow Pipits south but this is a definite under-estimate. Likewise similar for 30 Chaffinch, 2 Grey Wagtails, 3 Redwings, 33 Skylarks and 2 Siskins.

Four Mistle Thrushes dropped in and they were very noisy and agitated perched on some telegraph wires and were very probably migrants as indicated by their behaviour. One of the features of the morning were the number of Snipe and we had 108 fly north along with a lone Whooper Swan. A few Pink-feet were around and raptors were represented by 2 Buzzards and a single kestrel.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Not A Yank In Sight......, 8th October 2008

......Well apart from the picture of Barred Owl later on that is! That front that whipped across the Atlantic yesterday certainly did the business in the southwest and in Ireland but not in the avian desert of the Fylde. I suppose that's a bit harsh; the chances of a yanky passerine turning up here because of the geography is very slim! Mind you I wouldn't like to be those Cornish birders trying to sort out that Empidonax flycatcher. I remember from my days at Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada in the 80s those flycatchers were hard enough to separate in the hand!

Anyway I digress, back to this morning. At first light at Rossall Point it was clear with a W 4-5 wind. I decided to have a look on the sea taking into account the wind strength and direction, but surprisingly I was having to try and look skywards as well as there was some vis. The most notable vis of the morning were the Skylarks; I had 48 go south, including a flock of 28 and 9. Other species moving were 40 Meadow Pipits, 10 Alba Wagtails and singles of Brambling (my first for the autumn), Siskin, Reed Bunting and Swallow.

Common Scoters numbered 11 this morning with cracking views of a female circling round over the beach, before heading off west. I had a male Pochard west that was unusual and the usual Eiders numbered only 5 males.

Cormorants numbered 21 and I had a single Shag fly west. I had a few auks; namely 5 I couldn't identify that went down as auk sp. because basically they were just off the Isle Of Man!, and I had a single Razorbill east. Red-throated Divers numbered 5 and I had a surprising 5 Great Crested Grebes as well.

I had one or two late seabirds including single Common and Sandwich Tern, Manx Shearwater and 2 Gannets. Grounded migrants were represented by male Stonechat and that was it.

Ian had been to Mount Park and had Goldcrest, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Coal Tits and Brambling so I decided to have a look in Fleetwood Cemetery on my way home. I had 6 Godcrests, 4 Coal Tits and a single Blackcap. I tried my hardest to find a Yellow-browed but it just wasn't going to happen today.

As I mentioned at the beginning I have included below a picture sent to me of a Barred Owl in the hand taken in Ontario last night. at least it brightens the page up.

Monday 6 October 2008

Vis Way Too High, 6th October 2008

I'm doing well in keeping my promise of going birding on every available day. I actually went out to see a band last night and still got up to go birding! Mind you it wasn't a rock band and there was no real ale involved so that's probably why.

My first port of call, as usual, was Rossall Point at first light. It was clear with a moderate SE wind. The problem was the murk out in the bay and the very clear conditions above. This meant that for the hour that I was there very little crossed the bay and the Chaffinch's that were moving were beyond the range of my ageing eyes! I could hear them but couldn't see 'em! Later in the morning when it cleared there was a constant movement of Meadow Pipits over my house.

Consequently my vis totals were rather pathetic including 3 Grey Wagtails, 25 Mipits, 3 Linnets, 8 Chaffinch, 10 Alba Wags, 7 Snipe, 20 Starling, 2 Reed Bunts and 3 Swallows. Are you asleep yet?

Grounded migrants, not that I expected any in these conditions, consisted of a Wheatear and male Stonechat.

A quick look in Mount Park revealed very little other than 2 Goldcrests and a male Stonechat perched on top of a poplar!

Fleetwood Cemetery was equally quiet with a party of 4 Long-tailed Tits dragging along a Coal Tit and Goldcrest. And that was it.

I had to go to Leyland in the afternoon to Bamfords to pick some bird food up for my feeding station and I dropped the food off and put some food out and had a quick look. It was interesting to note that the Tree Sparrows had built up to at least 88 birds. Nice!

Sunday 5 October 2008

Tree Sparrow Numbers Increase, 5th October 2008

The number of Tree Sparrows coming to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss have now increased to at least 65 and these numbers mean it is now worth a ringing session there. Of course the weather has first got to be right and for this site it needs to be virtually calm! Not a big ask then on an open farmland site!

It was probably the best day of the week this morning and I was a bit annoyed with myself for not getting up earlier and going to the coast first. I made myself one of those promises that I have made a thousand times which is "from tomorrow I am going to get up early every available day to go birding". We'll see! When you factor in real ale and rock music I can't help but think that I am going to break that promise a few more times yet!

A few raptors were around this morning with 3 Buzzards, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. One of the Buzzards gave cracking views as it flew from a birch tree close by. Talking of raptors, well owls really, I have included a couple of pictures below of Northern Saw-whet Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl in the hand in Canada sent to me by my good mate Nigel. Have a look at these and then we'll get back to Rawcliffe Moss!

Northern Saw-whet Owl

Eastern Screech-Owl (I think!)

Aren't they cracking pics? I digress and dream of North American birds. It looked as though Lapwings and Golden Plovers were on the move this morning as I had 64 Lapwings go over and a couple of Golden Plovers. Pink-footed Geese were on the move in small numbers with 3 skeins totalling 105 birds.

There was also some vis mig with 35 Meadow Pipits south, smaller numbers of Chaffinch and Pied Wagtail, and a single Lesser Redpoll. There were good numbers of Skylarks around as well, with a total of 88 birds, but none of them were obviously moving. They were moving around the farm in small flocks and feeding in areas of stubble.

A few Swallows, 10, moved south and the only other birds of vague interest were 3 Song Thrush and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The great thing about birding is that you always look forward to tomorrow and everything is re-set!

Friday 3 October 2008

Northerlies and Brass Monkeys, 3rd October 2008

Plenty of brass monkeys around this morning looking for welding torches, but very few birds. I knew it was going to be northerly and hoped for some arriving wildfowl etc, but I didn't realise how strong!

The visibility was great with cracking views across to the lakes with even some snow on top of one of the mountains! But I had f*ck all birds! I counted 229 Oystercatcher on the shore and had a Red-throated Diver and a Cormorant fly past and that was it. I was even gripped off by one of the Rossall regulars, Chris, when he told me he had had a Wheatear and Meadow Pipit!

I gave it 45 minutes and decided to have a look on the pools at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park. There was a handful of birds including 34 Coot, 7 Pochard, 4 Ruddy Ducks, 12 Tufted Ducks and 2 Little Grebes. The best bird was a Jay that flew over the road as I was driving away.

As I have taken a couple of weeks off work to go birding lets hope that it improves as I am now at the end of my first week off!

Thursday 2 October 2008

Pesky Northwesterlies......1st October 2008

......although Merseyside birders wouldn't agree when 107 Leach's were recorded past Seaforth today and I had zilch off Rossall Point!

Yesterday was the day to be at Rossall and fellow Rossall stalwart Ian had 5 west in the afternoon on the falling tide. Unfortunately I was full of a cold and was busy preparing a presentation on the BTO Ringing Scheme for a talk I gave last night.

When the wind swings from westerly or southwesterly to northwesterly it turns off the Leach's passage off Rossall Point. I spent 4 hours at Rossall in the forlorn hope that perhaps just 1 Leach's might buck the trend, but had no such luck!

I did have a few seabirds including some cracking views of Gannets extremely close in. Gannets totalled 9 and Manx Shearwaters totalled 2, although like the Gannets I did have 1 that shot past over the beach. Beautiful! A Bonxie also whizzed past east in the strong WNW wind and it too was very close in. 7 Guillemots battled out of Morecambe Bay against the wind and a single adult Little Gull moved west also.

Talking of battling against the elements it was interesting to note Meadow Pipits moving west out at sea. I had a total of 70 go west and one of them fell victim to a Merlin attack as I had 3 sightings of Merlin heading west amongst the waves and one of the sightings the bird was carrying avian prey.

It was difficult to count the waders as I was sheltering behind the coastguard's tower but I did have 270 Oystercatchers and 14 Sanderling. Cormorant numbers were a little down on recent days and totalled only 37.

These blustery conditions always bring in some wildfowl so a female Teal bobbing up and down in the surf wasn't a surprise bit it soon got fed up of its rollercaster ride and headed off west. 20 Pintail high to the west were a welcome site and Red-breasted Mergansers and Eiders numbered 3 and 2 respectively. All that's left to report is a single Red-throated Diver.