Saturday 31 January 2009

Bits And Bobs, 31st January 2009

I have been out recently but I haven't seen anything very exciting to report on any one day or at any one site. I had a site visit with work at Newton Marsh and had 4 Little Egrets and 'a lot' of Wigeon which were both additions to my year list.

Every day I am treated to some fantastic views of common woodland birds feeding on my office window feeders. The best of these or the most interesting to watch is the regular flock of 9 Long-tailed Tits that descend on to the peanut feeder. They are not bothered at all that I am working away on my laptop only 2 feet away from them.

As I reported earlier Grey Partridges are now pairing up at Moss House Farm and on the 29th I had 4 pairs and interestingly today at Sowerby I had 2 pairs. Tree Sparrows remain in good numbers and today at the feeding station I had 147.

Before I went to feed on Rawcliffe Moss I called in at a clients farm at Sowerby and had a look on the floods. The only wildfowl of note were 2 Pintails and 16 Teal, and 13 Fieldfare fed in the adjacent pasture.

Continuing with the Yank fest., below is a Black-throated Green Warbler that I took at Tommy Thompson Bird Research Station in Toronto in 2005.

Year list = 76

Sunday 25 January 2009

What A Buteo-full Morning, 25th January 2009

No I haven't suddenly developed a Norfolk accent nor have I forgotten how to spell beautiful! But I am referring to the number of Buzzards I had this morning at Moss House Farm. Thinking about it, it was a classic morning for soaring Buzzards. There was plenty of sunshine and a moderate wind to also create lift from buildings and blocks of woodland. I had the first two Buzzards just after I had put some seed down at the feeding station and I was walking north along the '97 Hedge. I could hear Buzzard calling and over to the southeast two birds were circling and calling to each other. I scanned round and picked up a hovering bird and then another two circling over some woodland on the next farm. So that's 5 so far. Later on as I was walking south down the track I had three birds interacting with each other over the L Wood and I could see a further 2 Buzzards thermalling to the south. So in total that made 10 Buzzards! Incidentally that is the most I have seen from Moss House Farm.

A number of Pink-footed Geese were on the move this morning, when I say on the move, I mean local movements between feeding stations or when they were flushed. I had a total of 1,638 and also I had similar movements of Lapwings and these totalled 466. All of the Lapwings I had were flying so had probably been flushed from feeding sites locally but I did think that maybe some of these birds were continental birds that were flocking before dispersing east.

I recorded 6 Song Thrushes this morning and most of these were within the L Wood. Interestingly I didn't have any other thrushes other than 9 Blackbirds. I didn't have as many Woodpigeons today only 1,500 which is nothing compared to the 4,200 Phil had here yesterday afternoon. Mixed in with the Woodpigeons were a number of Starlings and Corvids, and the majority of the Corvids were Jackdaws.

At the feeding station itself there was some seed left from when I fed last on Thursday so increasing the feed is working and consequently I counted 116 Tree Sparrows here. I didn't have any Corn Buntings or Yellowhammers with the Tree Sparrows only 9 Chaffinch and 2 Reed Buntings.

In the field to the north of Curlew Wood the Linnet flock had built up to 80 birds and the associated Goldfinch that were around a couple of weeks ago have now moved on. As I walked up the '97 Hedge I flushed 3 pairs of Grey Partridge and 5 Brown Hares were active in the Big Field.

I had my first Skylarks of the morning in this field and ended up with a total 29 by the end of my walk. It was a cold blustery morning but the sun was shining and it was fantastic to hear Skylark singing away. Just after I had seen two Kestrels I flushed a Short-eared Owl that gave stonking views as it flew across Curlew Field and straight into the front garden of Curlew Farm!

I only had 3 Roe Deer this morning walking out of the Plantation and the Plantation itself was dead other than a single Blackbird and single Teal on the pool. On the way home I stopped off to look over the River Wyre from the lay by at Townend and had 41 Teal on the incoming tide.

Once again struggling to find a relevant picture, here is a picture of a male American Redstart I took at Long Point Bird Observatory in 2005. Now that would be a cracking bird to get out of a mist net over here one morning. The first American Redstart that I ringed was at Long Point Bird Observatory in April 1989. I was in the 'chair' in the banding lab and was working my way at fast pace through the large number of birds in bird bags hung up on the pegs around the banding lab walls. I was pulling out Magnolia Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Empidonax Flycatchers, Thrushes, Sparrows etc, I think you get the picture, and I pulled out my first male Yanky Start and had process it as quickly as possible! Thankfully I got several more that I could take my time over!

Friday 23 January 2009

The Ups And Downs Of A Feeding Station, 20th January 2009

As I mentioned last time the birds at my feeding station at Moss House Farm are getting through more than a bucket of seed every other day. When I fed last Tuesday I put a bucket and a half down and there were only 18 Tree Sparrows present. When I went on Thursday (22nd) there were probably in excess of a hundred so the extra feed is working. The only problem is the cost!

When I fed on Tuesday I didn't have much else other than a female Sparrowhawk, 2 Corn Buntings and 3 Yellowhammers.

I always find that at this time of year I start to get fed up with winter birding and I start longing for Spring. So to warm everyone up I have included some very cold winter pics sent to me today from my mate Nigel of a sequence of shots of a Snowy Owl in the hand and subsequent release after ringing. It's a cold scene but the bird certainly warms you up!


Sunday 18 January 2009

More Of The Same, 18th January 2009

More of the same this morning as I continue my slavery feeding my ravenous horde of Tree Sparrows. At the moment I am putting a full bucket down every other day and I noticed today that this wasn't enough and as I arrived birds were leaving. I am now going to up the feed to 1.5 buckets every other day and see if that is enough.

It was a pretty horrible morning with regular blustery showers of hale or rain and not very conducive to a walk round. Over 2,500 Woodpigeons were feeding as per usual in some unharvested Oats and were constantly flushed by some Roe Deer. There were 10 Roe Deer in the group and it was interesting to watch how they crossed in to the field of oats. Between the field they were in and the field of oats there is a large ditch and in the corner of the field is a foot bridge across it. The deer wandered over to this corner, hopped the fence and crossed the bridge! They were obviously very used to crossing here.

At the feeding station Tree Sparrows numbered 157 and other than a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker that was just about it. On the way home I had cracking views of a Kestrel dropping on a small mammal. I could see the Kestrel hovering by the side of the road, getting lower and lower as they do when they have 'locked-on' to something, and then just as I was alongside it, it dropped on to the verge. I could see it momentarily wrestling with its prey and it was trying to concentrate on the job in hand whilst keeping one eye on me at the same time. It took off from the verge with a small mammal safely caught, did a quick shuffle to re-arrange its' 'cargo' and off it went. Superb!

Nigel sent me the two pictures below of some Pine Siskins in his garden and I hope you agree with me that at first glance they look a lot like Twite, particularly those feeding on the ground.

Friday 16 January 2009

Magical Mossland, 13th January 2009

I'm not talking about mossland in the true sense of Lowland Raised Bog, and that is truly magical, I'm talking about the mossland on Rawcliffe Moss as being magical especially just before dusk. I called at Moss House Farm to put some food down and had the last hour before it got dark having a wander round. As per usual the numbers of Woodpigeons remained high at 2,938 and I wondered when they would start to disperse. I suppose the numbers could actually build up even more before they start dispersing. In the same field as the Woodpigeons were 4 Roe Deer that are very confiding at the moment.

The feeding station revealed 85 Tree Sparrows, and I suppose it is possible that some had already gone to roost. Other birds at the feeding station were a handful of Chaffinch and 6 Yellowhammers. A small flock of 10 Linnets zipped over and I counted 10 Blackbirds on my walk round. As I walked down the track I could see a group of 5 Swans approaching me flying fairly low and they didn't look a great deal bigger than the Pinkie that was accompanying them. They started to call and straight away I realised they were Bewick's and they then passed straight over head giving stonking views. Bewick's is quite a good tick in my notebook as numbers wintering in the Fylde in recent years have reduced.

I decided to have a walk through the 'L' Wood to see if I could flush any Woodcock and low and behold I flushed one almost immediately. I then headed north along the track towards the new plantation and as I passed a pile of stones I thought to myself "this is where a Little Owl hung out all summer" and then one flew from the stones and back towards the L Wood.

The walk through the plantation revealed little other than two Grey Partridges and I started heading back along the track. Grey Partridges are very active at dusk and I did record 7 in total which is more than recent weeks. As I headed back along the track I caught sight of a Short-eared owl perched up on a post. I got quite close before it flew further east along the ditch and perched up on another fence post. Magic! I had been wanting to see this beasty for several weeks now as my mate Phil had seen it on a couple of occasions and so had the farmer.

When I got back after my walk round it was virtually dark and still some Tree Sparrows called from the hedge by the feeding station. These birds were obviously roosting on site. I think some of them move off site to roost and others remain. As I unlocked my car the noise flushed something from the field next to where I was parked and I could see 'patches' of white bobbing away from me. As I lifted my bins for a closer look I could pick out 6 Roe Deer in the gloom. As I took my hat and coat off I could hear the haunting calls of Whooper Swans as they headed to their roost.

I called very briefly to feed again today (16th) and I had 5 Redshank feeding on the flood just before the barn. In the adjacent field were 600 Black-headed Gulls and about 60 Common Gulls. I had a good look through them but couldn't turn any Med Gulls up. 130 Tree Sparrows were at the feeding station and a calling Tawny Owl ended this quick visit.

Some of the latest pictures sent to me by Nigel in Canada include this American Kestrel below.

Year list = 71

Friday 9 January 2009

Passer montanus On The Peanuts, 9th January 2009

A quick dash late afternoon to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss revealed 65 Tree Sparrows with a large number of them feeding on the large peanut feeder I put up to increase our catch when ringing here for training purposes! I wasn't on the farm long and the only other things I had of note were 3,500 Woodpigeons, 3 Song Thrush and 16 Fieldfares.

Forgive me if I have showed you the above picture before of a Hawk Owl taking a mouse from the hand. Many thanks to Nigel for the picture.

Year list = 65

Tuesday 6 January 2009

The Tresp's Are Back, 5th January 2009

A quick dash to my feeding station this morning before dashing to Freckleton with my job. It was pleasing to note that the numbers of Tree Sparrows were once again respectable and I had 143 feeding on the seed. I didn't really have time to record much else other than 15 Chaffinch, 2 Corn Buntings, 2,000 Woodpigeon and 2 Yellowhammers. Three Buzzards were making the most of the sunny conditions and were riding a thermal above Curlew Wood.

Have a look at the cracking shot of a Northern 'Baltimore' Oriole from my mate Nigel. Awesome, as they say across the pond!

Year List = 63

Sunday 4 January 2009

Gulls, Waders and Wildfowl 2 - Ringers 0, 4th January 2009

This morning Craig and I ventured forth to Fleetwood Marine Lakes in attempt to ring some Black-headed Gulls by catching them by hand. A tall order you might think, but it does work, but not today! The Gulls were not interested and refused to play ball. Catching the Mute Swans however would not have been a problem but this was not our aim. I tried in vain to entice some Turnstones into one of my traps but no amount of enticing was going to make them go in.

We then switched sites and went to Stanley park in Blackpool where we tried again to catch some of the above Black-heads that were roosting on the frozen Lake. The picture below shows Craig valiantly attempting to tempt some Black-heads in with some lovely fresh 'value' bread from you know who.

Attempt was the operative word and no Black-heads came close enough, so we switched our attention to the Coots and wildfowl but to no avail. It was just one of those days that you put down to experience.

Year list = 56

Saturday 3 January 2009

Perfect Conditions, But Very Few Birds, 3rd January 2009

This morning the conditions for mist netting were absolutely perfect; overcast and flat calm. However, the birds weren't playing ball and Craig and I only ringed 13 birds at Moss House Farm. However it did include the cracking Fieldfare pictured below.

It was very difficult to assess properly the number of Tree Sparrows at the feeding station because of the effect of the mist nets, but I have a figure of 40 in my notebook that seems just about right. Other finches and buntings were in good numbers and the Yellowhammers had increased again today to 8. The usual flock of 40 Linnets were mobile and a walk along the 'Reed Bunting ditch' revealed 21 Reed Bunts. Only 2 Corn Buntings were perched on the telegraph wires sometimes joining the Starlings and Fieldfares.

Woodpigeons were again feeding in large numbers on the unharvested Oats to the west of Moss House Farm and today numbered 4,000. When they took off the noise from their wing beats was incredible. A few Fieldfares, 21, flew into the hedge by the feeding station to feed on rose hips in the hedge and apples on the track. The only raptors were Buzzard and Kestrel, whilst 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers brought the morning to a close.

On the way home I had a look on the River Wyre at Town End and added a few birds to my year list including Green Sandpiper, a pair of Goosanders and 2 Ravens.

Year list = 44

Friday 2 January 2009

New Years Resolutions, 2nd January 2009

I never make New Years resolutions because I think it is a load of bollocks and also because I would never keep them. However, the thought of New Years resolutions made me think about one or two things regarding my birding in 2009. As usual I will do next to nothing or no twitching at all and work hard at my local patches; I will also attempt to get a few new ringing projects off the ground, particularly Wheatear ringing in Spring and for a bit of fun I am going to keep a year list in 2009 for the first time in literally decades! It won't be one of those all consuming, must twitch everything year lists, but just one based on my local patch birding and ringing activities. I suppose this has come about as a result of my office year list challenge with work colleagues in Northumberland and Derbyshire.

So on the 2nd January my year list stands at 32 based on a visit to Moss House Farm this morning to feed and a few bits and pieces in my garden. I put a large peanut feeder up at Moss House Farm this morning, not because I am desperate to ring Tits, but more for ringing training purposes to ensure that when I have a ringing session here we catch some birds for trainees. I also investigated the possibility of putting an extra short net across the track and into the hedge to intercept birds flying up and down to and from the feeding station. I'll keep you posted as to how these things work out.

I walked a different route around the farm this morning and had a walk along the 'Reed Bunting ditch' and up the hedge towards Curlew Wood. The 'Reed Bunting ditch' produced 13 Reed Buntings, 50 Chaffinch, 12 Linnet and 32 Tree Sparrows so it was worth having a look. In total between this ditch and elsewhere on the farm I had 58 Chaffinch, 67 Tree Sparrows and 22 Linnets.

It seemed that a few more Yellowhammers were around and I had 5, which is a few more than recently. Often in the new year they build up. It was difficult to tell exactly how many birds were at the feeding station because as I was counting them a male Sparrowhawk shot through and dispersed everything, putting 20 Skylarks up from the 'big field' as it went.

Fieldfares just got into double figures at 12 and Woodpigeons numbered 3,502. A single Great Spotted Woodpecker flew from Curlew Wood and that was about it. I nipped to my office at Myerscough College and topped up my window feeders and recorded Nuthatch for the year list.