Sunday 29 March 2009

Migrantless Morning!

I set off to Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park this morning at 6.15 a.m. with a few chardonneret and spring traps in my boot in the hope that I could ring a few Wheatears. Hope was the operative word after I felt how cold it was, - 2 c, as I drove there. Besides the effect this would have on the chances of any migrants it would send my meal worms to sleep!

So on arrival I switched from ringing mode to birding mode. As the title suggests I didn't have a single migrant. On the pools were 42 Coot, male Ruddy Duck, 8 Tufted Ducks, 7 Little Grebes, female Goldeneye and Great Crested Grebe.

I then went on to Rossall School in the hope that some good migrant habitat on the coast might pull a few birds in, but I had nothing grounded (way too clear) and nothing moving through other than 24 Meadow Pipits and a handful of Chaffinch and Linnet. The forecast is for it to warm up in the week so hopefully I will pick up a few bits and pieces then.

Now when we get the fella below in you know that summer has arrived!

Sunday 22 March 2009

First Decent Seabird Passage of the Spring

The wind was a lot stronger than I expected this morning and upon arrival at Rossall Point at 6.20 a.m. I had to seek shelter behind the Coastguard's Tower. Consequently visible migration was virtually nil other than 9 Meadow Pipits and a couple of Goldfinch. The wind was a 15-20 mph west-northwesterly and this seemed to have the effect of opening the seabird flood gates.

The first birds on the move were Red-breasted Mergansers. I had 6 on the incoming tide and then a further 4 flew east into Morecambe Bay. In fact all the seabird passage this morning was easterly causing Howard, Ian and I to discuss land crossing by Red-throated Divers.

It is always very difficult to count Eiders on the incoming or high tide as there are always birds moving past and it is difficult to tell whether these are genuine passage birds or birds moving to and from different flocks. Today my Eider count was 44. I counted 55 Cormorants this morning and this included 17 roosting on Wyre Light. The only species that was moving out of the Bay and heading west was Common Scoter and we had 14 west and 5 east.

Three species that stood out this morning were Gannet, Kittiwake and Red-throated Diver. All 19 of the Gannets recorded were heading east and some of them were very close in giving fantastic views. It's impossible to get tired of watching this bird. Kittiwakes numbered 36 and as with the Gannets some of them were close in and both were my first of the Spring.

The real stars of the morning were the Red-throats and we had 28 flying east into 'the bay'. Some of these were flying high, well above the horizon and very close in. Interestingly only about 5 birds came out of the bay. Other birds moving at sea included 2 Goldeneyes, 2 Pink-footed Geese and 6 Auk sp. We were also treated to 5 Whooper Swans that landed on the sea and slowly drifted west. You will see an awful record shot of these birds below.

The usual pair of Stonechats were still around and the only grounded migrant was a lone Wheatear. Waders included 86 Oystercatchers, 12 Turnstones and 14 Knot.

Saturday 21 March 2009

First Sarnies Of The Spring

Two Sandwich Terns east off Rossall Point this morning were the first off Rossall this spring. Mind you that was nearly all there is to report from this morning because of the murky conditions. When I arrived at 0625 the visibility across Morecambe Bay was none existent and it didn't improve much during the morning.

The view from a murky Rossall Point

Movement on the sea and overhead was much reduced compared to recent days. In terms of 'vis' I had 6 Alba Wags, 66 Meadow Pipits and single Linnet, Starling and Grey Wag! It wasn't much better on the sea with 19 Eider, 16 Cormorants, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Common Scoters, 4 Razorbills and the aforementioned Sandwich Terns.

Grounded migrants were limited to the single 'miserable' and 'bedraggled' looking Wheatear below.

Friday 20 March 2009

Back At The Farm

It was one of those afternoons today that felt good for a raptor. It was warm with a southeasterly wind. Just as I thought this all the Gulls got up from the field that was being ploughed at Moss House Farm and I was treated to three species of raptor in the air together; Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Nice as they were, they weren't the sort of raptors I had in mind!

Newly created Dotterel habitat (I wish!)

At this point the Buzzard was flying back and forth over some woodland calling and when I got my scope on the wood I could see another Buzzard perched in the top of the tree. The displaying bird dropped onto the other bird and they mated. I tried to take a picture of the Buzzard in the top of the tree and it is only just a record shot, in fact a very poor record shot.

I had a wander around for an hour and a half and had a few bits and pieces. There were still 7 Yellowhammers in the feeding station hedge and they were hanging around one of the Pheasant feeders that still has grain in it. I had a few migrants but no 'summer' migrants.

I had single Siskin over and 19 Meadow Pipits flew north. A number of Curlew were dotted around the farm and were probably migrants on their way east; I had 22 in total. The only other migrants I had were 11 Redwings that were feeding on the ground in the plantation, presumably feeding on invertebrates.


There will be quite a lot of spring cereals going in at the farm this year and consequently every ploughed field had displaying Lapwings in. I had 18 Lapwings on my walk round. I had 4 pairs of Grey Partridge and my first couple of Stock D0ves for a while. I also had 6 of each of Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow. Let's hope that the Tree Sparrows use some of the 30 boxes that are up for them this year!

The only other thing of note for the farm that I had was a pair of Shoveler on the pool in the plantation. It's Rossall Point for me tomorrow, so I am looking forward to that. Ian gripped me from Rossall today with a Black Redstart at the Coastguard's Tower.

Thursday 19 March 2009

My First Wheatears

Why is it that when you are going to go birding you wake up at least an hour before your alarm is due to go off and then you watch the clock go round and get up earlier than you had set the alarm for. This morning was no exception I had set my alarm for 5.45 a.m. to go birding before work, woke up at 4.45 a.m. and watched the clock go round until about 5.35 a.m. when I decided to get up! I would have got up when I woke up but it was dark! You can bet your bottom dollar that if you didn't set your alarm you would sleep in.

When I set off for Rossall Point I nearly turned back as it was very misty and there was a ground frost. However when I got to the Point the mist wasn't quite as bad. It was still fairly misty in that you couldn't see across Morecambe Bay but it wasn't misty enough to stop the 'vis'.

Immediately Meadow Pipits were on the move and during the hour and fifty minutes that I was there I had 164 head east or east-northeast. The supporting cast of visible migrants included 14 Linnets, 11 Alba Wagtails (no stringy early claims of White Wags here), 4 Carrion Crows, 4 Chaffinch, single Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, 7 Woodpigeons, 2 Collared Doves and 4 high flying Siskins up in the stratosphere!

A few shorebirds were feeding amongst the shingle and I had 38 Oystercatchers, 10 Grey Plovers, 34 Turnstones, 4 Redshank and 23 Knot. The only grounded migrants I had were 3 Wheatears and Howard had a single Goldcrest. The pair of Stonechats that have been hanging around all winter were still hanging around, and whether they will stay to breed remains to be seen.

Because of the mist there really wasn't much point looking on the sea but in the murk I did have 11 Red-breasted Mergansers and a pair of displaying Great Crested Grebes.

In honour of all the Mipits going over this morning below is a a picture of one in the hand.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Mipit Passage

You might be surprised to know that even after my rant earlier I still went birding this morning to Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park. The difference being that I was there at 6.30 a.m when the site is locked up and the dog walkers can't get in!

Straight away I noticed that there was some Mipit passage but not as heavy as at Rossall School later on. The wind had dropped overnight and at first light it was only about 10 mph westerly. In addition to the Mipits I had a few Alba wags going over as well, but unfortunately no Smarties.

On the pools I had female Goldeneye, 46 Coot, 6 Little Grebes, a pair of Ruddy Ducks, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 11 Tufted Ducks and female Gadwall.

I then moved to the coast and went to Rossall School. One of the first birds I had was a male Stonechat by the all weather pitches and later I had two stonking males along one of the hedges. I had a go at digiscoping the Stonechats and the best of my pathetic efforts is below.

It was obvious that the passage of Mipits was heavier here and I had 130 north as well as 6 Goldfinch, a surprising Great Spot, 12 Alba Wags, 9 Linnets, 5 Curlew and a single Siskin.

I had a quick look on the sea but it was dead other than 2 male Eiders. Walking back towards the car I had cracking views of a Goldcrest flycatching midges from the south side of a hedge.

Fleetwood Marsh Dog Toilet, Sorry, Nature Park!

What the f*ck is a Nature Park? I think it means that it is a site where everybody can walk their dogs off the lead, scare off all the wildlife and let their dogs crap to their hearts content!

I went to Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park yesterday to plant some willows to replace some habitat lost through development work on the docks and the place was wall to wall pooches! Dogs crapping here, dogs crapping there and dogs jumping in to one of the pools encouraged by their half-wit owners!

Dog bathing pool, sorry wildlife pool!

I planted about 50 willow cuttings to form some linear habitat and also to act as a screen against the proposed development on the docks.

At least some of the wildlife is big enough to
stand up to the dogs!

A lot of the grassland on site is botanically diverse and in the summer it is a cracking spot for butterflies. A couple of pairs of Skylarks try and nest, but I am not sure how successful they are with all the disturbance from the dogs and their foolish owners.

I moved this Common Toad before it got stood
on or crapped on!

On the pools were 5 Little Grebes, 53 Coot, Great Crested Grebe and female Gadwall.

The Last Feeds

Last Tuesday and Friday I put the last lot of food down at Moss House Farm until I start feeding again in September. It's time to move onto Spring! There were still plenty of birds at the feeding station including 18 Yellowhammers and 125 Tree Sparrows. The only other birds of note were a flock of 67 Lapwing in a newly ploughed field next to the feeding station. I will be visiting the farm every week throughout the spring and summer and we will do some ringing there in the plantation in late summer.

As I haven't included a picture of a yanky passerine for a while and just for the hell of it, here's a picture of Lincoln Sparrow in the hand!

Wet Woodland

Last Tuesday I was working in Bowland near Bashall Eaves and I had my lunch parked on a layby on the road that runs through some cracking wet woodland managed as a nature reserve by the Lancashire Widlife Trust called Moor Piece.

The road through Moor Piece

After I had finished my butties I had a walk along the road through the woodland and I thought "this looks good for Marsh Tit" and low and behold a Marsh Tit started calling. Wouldn't it be great if that worked all the time! Other birds I had were Siskin, several Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Not too bad for a ten minute stroll. In fact the Marsh Tit was a year tick.

Wet woodland at Moor Piece

Sunday 8 March 2009

Last Minute Boxes

Last weekend I spent half a day building some boxes to replace the dilapidated ones at the Bowland Wild Boar Park in the Hodder Valley in Bowland. I needed to build 8 to keep the boxes at 35 in number. Below are some of the boxes before treating.

And below are some boxes that my good lady treated for me whilst I continued the production line.

Today we went to the Boar Park and put the boxes up. Below you will see a picture of box 27 in place. We then had a walk round the arboretum to see if it looked suitable for some spring/summer mist netting sessions and it did. We had a few birds wandering round, namely 2 Nuthatch, 2 Coal Tits, Grey Wagtail, Siskin and 30 Fieldfares.

Getting Towards The End Of Winter Feeding

It's funny really, at the start of the winter feeding station season in September I really look forward to it and in particular look forward to all the farmland birds that it will support and hopefully get to ring a few! However, by this time of year I am ready for a change. Perhaps it is that feeling of Spring being just round the corner and the thought of all those migrants soon to appear. So I am now in to the last week or two of feeding and will probably stop around mid March.

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks so I thought I would bring you up to date with what has been at my Rawcliffe Moss feeding station. In short, no change for the past several weeks! Well perhaps there has been some subtle changes such as lot more stuff singing, Skylarks song flighting and Lapwing displaying. Tree Sparrows have been fairly constant at about 150 birds and Yellowhammers similarly have been stable at about 4 birds, although I did have 14 on 22nd February.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are drumming from available woodland and the peak has been three birds drumming from three different small woods. The Chaffinch numbers have been quite variable at the feeding station and a recent peak was 72 on 27th February. Corn Buntings have been similar across the farm with perhaps up to 4 birds singing and then on 3rd March I had a small flock of 25 birds.

During the past week I have been seeing a male Stonechat on a couple of occasions along the main track. Over-wintering bird or spring migrant? The number of Woodpigeons have now dropped and before when I was having 3-4 thousand recently on 6th March there were only 600 birds. Pink-footed Geese are definitely moving through and I have had up to 3,000 birds just feeding to the west of Moss House Farm. Unfortunately on this particular day I didn't have my telescope with me so I couldn't go through them.

As there is a Firecrest in Stanley park, Blackpool at the moment I thought I would show you a picture of a Firecrest that we ringed in early Spring a few years ago now at Pilling Lane Ends.