Saturday 21 February 2009

The Avian Delights of SD45K

This morning I carried out my late winter visit to my atlas square SD45K. As I have said before this square is centred around the Moss Edge/Gulf Lane/Crimbles Lane area of Cockerham. It comprises mainly of improved grassland, some hedgerows, managed ditches, small areas of broadleaved plantation woodland, River Cocker and saltmarsh. I must take some pictures and then you will have a better idea of the type of habitat within the square.

I parked up just off the A588 in a layby at the top end of Crimbles Lane overlooking the River Cocker and set off on my walk. Corvids were very numerous this morning and I had 44 Carrion Crows and 138 Rooks feeding in permanent pasture. I had plenty of Skylarks and the total by the end of my survey was 64. About 50 of these were feeding in some damp pasture and maize stubble adjacent to the 'Water Pipit' ditch. However, there wasn't a Water Pipit feeding in the 'Water Pipit' ditch today! The bank sides of the ditch had been cut and it was no longer suitable.

A number of Pink-feet were moving from the saltmarsh and heading to feed inland. They were feeding in some pasture on Moss Edge just outside my square. I counted 1,060 flying over to join other birds already there. Unfortunately when I am doing this type of survey I don't carry my scope with me so I couldn't give the geese a 'grilling' because they were too distant.

Numbers of Starlings were feeding in various places and one group held 17 Fieldfares with them. I had two flocks of 13 and 12 Teal that I flushed off one of the ditches but they weren't in the same numbers as my early winter visit to this square. I had 7 Tree Sparrows in exactly the same spot that I had the last time, in a hawthorn hedge adjacent to some pasture that has been rooted up by pigs. And that was about it in terms of the highlights of my walk!

During the past week I have still been feeding every other day at Moss House Farm and the Tree Sparrows still remain fairly numerous at about 165 individuals. I thought the food that I had was going to last but I had to buy some more from Bamfords during the week.

Going back to the 80s when I used to bird this area regularly one of the species that I used to see in the winter was Corn Bunting, but alas this species doesn't occur here anymore. We still have a localised population of Corn Buntings in the Fylde but their range in this part of Lancashire has certainly contracted. So in remembrance of how common and widely distributed they used to be I have included a picture of one below.

Friday 13 February 2009

No Corn Buntings- Again! 12th February 2009

I had lamented the lack of Corn Buntings a few blogs ago and then had 70 last weekend and when I went to feed at Moss House Farm yesterday there weren't any again. So that scuppered my plans of ringing a few of them!

I didn't have long when I fed yesterday as I had called in between jobs. It was noticeable that there were a few more Blackbirds and Song Thrush around as I had 15 and 6 of each. Ten Yellowhammers dropped into the hedge as I put on my wellies which was nice and for a short while 72 Linnets were where the Corn Buntings were supposed to be before they flew to feed in the 'big' field.

The numbers of Woodpigeons remained high with at least 4,000 birds and Jackdaws numbered 800. There were 85 Tree Sparrows and that was it other than 9 Roe Deer.

Earlier in the week I had the good fortune to call at my Pied Flycatcher nest box site as part of my job, so it gave me the opportunity to have a walk round and check the condition of the boxes. I have 35 boxes up at the Boar Park in the Hodder Valley and 8 are in need of replacing, so I had better get building! On my walk round I got Dipper for my year list and was hoping for Marsh Tit at the feeding station but I couldn't locate any.

On the subject of boxes one of the species besides Pied Flycatcher that I get in the boxes is Blue Tit and they have been struggling these past two years to get any decent sized broods off, so I have shown a picture of a Blue Tit in the hand below.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Red Sky In The Morning - Ringers Warning, 8th February 2009

After Phil and I had put the nets up in the dark we were greeted with a fantastic morning sky and it was indeed a ringers warning as we caught very little! It has been over a month since we did any ringing at Moss House Farm and surely the Tree Sparrows would have forgotten what a mist net and poles looks like?! Wrong. Not a single Tree Sparrow caught and only 13 birds ringed. However, our catch did include Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Chaffinch and err Starling; all nice birds - sort of!

A couple of shots of one of the male Chaffinch we ringed this morning.

Song Thrush and a couple of pictures of a first winter female Starling showing its juvenile tail.

After mentioning yesterday that I had only had a total of 3 Corn Buntings over the past couple of weeks it was pleasing to note a flock of 70 perching on top of a hawthorn hedge and feeding in some spoiled crops with 40 Reed Buntings! What else can I say that we haven't had much of recently!

Back home I had a Chiffchaff in the garden this afternoon. Gail found it and said to me "what's that funny little small bird flitting around in the grass?" I looked up expecting it to be a Dunnock, but was surprised to see it was a Chiffchaff. It then moved into some Willows and flew off next door. A nice way to end the day.

Saturday 7 February 2009

What Snow? 7th February 2009

Whilst most of the UK has been at least ankle deep in snow, here in the Fylde we haven't had any other than a flake or two! However, it has made a difference at my feeding station as there has been an increase in birds there.

As per usual I have been putting 1-2 buckets of seed down every other day at Moss House Farm and over the last few days there has been a few birds about. Thrushes have increased in numbers with up to 10 Blackbirds & Song Thrushes and 8 & 65 Redwings and Fieldfares respectively. Raptors have been thin on the ground with only single figure counts of Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

At the feeding station itself I have had up to 142 Tree Sparrows, 128 Chaffinch and today 15 Yellowhammers. Corn Buntings have been conspicuous with their absence with only a maximum of 3 recorded on the 3rd. In the stubble field to the north of Curlew Wood I have been seeing a flock of 75 Linnets and these have also been feeding in the 'big' stubble field.

The large numbers of Woodpigeon and Jackdaw remain with 3,500 and 340 respectively being the maximum count over recent days. A male Stonechat in the sunshine in the horse paddock next Curlew Wood was a nice sight and my first here for a couple of weeks. The 1st male I had was with a female, but this bird was definitely on its own and it looked a smarter male than the previous one.

The forecast is looking reasonable at the moment for the possibility of some ringing tomorrow, so I'll let you know how I get on if indeed I get there. The forecast has a habit of changing when you make a last check before getting all your ringing gear together!

I have shown a few pictures of American Kestrel in the past, but this female in the hand from Nigel is so good I make no apologies for showing it.