Sunday 31 May 2009

Atlasing in SD45K...25th May

I carried out my early season breeding visit to my atlas square SD45K today. I think I have previously stated that my square is a bit of an avian desert, but nevertheless it is important that as many squares are covered as possible. The photos below give you a flavour of the habitat found in my square.

Saltmarsh at Cockerham

Improved grassland on Cockerham Moss


River Cocker

From my starting point the first piece of habitat that I come across that isn't rye grass desert is some broadleaved plantation woodland. It was here that I had singing Blackcap and Spotted Flycatcher. Whether the Spot Fly was a migrant I am not sure as the woodland does look suitable as a breeding site.

I then notched up a few red listed species including Skylark, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Song Thrush and Grey Partridge. Walking across a recently cut silage field I had a flock of 32 Lapwings. Lapwings flocking; it can't be autumn already! We always say that there is no summer in the avian world, just Spring, Autumn and Winter!

A few more red listed species were added in the form of Starling, House Sparrow and a couple of Tree Sparrows. Warblers were further represented by more Blackcaps and also Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat.

When I started my saltmarsh section I had a female Great Tit perched on a fence post and I could here some birds calling that sounded very close, but I couldn't see them. I then realised that the calls were coming from the steel gate post below and it had a family of Great Tits within!

Back home I checked my moth trap and all I had was the Brimstone Moth below plus a couple each of Light Brown Apple Moth and Garden Carpet.

Sunday 24 May 2009

Nest Box Update

I apologise for not posting much recently but at the moment nest boxes are taking my time up at the weekend. I thought that I should update you on what was been happening in the boxes at the Boar Park over the past couple of weeks. The latest checks were carried out on 16th and 24th May.

On 16th May we managed to ring 2 broods of Blue Tits of 8 and 9 each, a brood of 9 Coal Tits, 2 broods of 7 each of Great Tits and we successfully lifted 2 female Pied Flycatchers off two nests. One bird was new and we ringed her and the other was a retrap. The retrapped female Pied Flycatcher, N806880 (picture of her below) was ringed at the Boar Park as a chick in June 2002 and we lifted her off her nest in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008. Because we ringed her as a chick we know exactly how old she is and on 16th May it was her seventh birthday almost to the day. Amazing!

Coal Tit pulli

Great Tit pulli - 1-2 days old

Happy 7th Birthday!

Blue Tit pulli

Updates on other nests are that the Chaffinch in the leylandii is incubating 3 or 4 eggs; the Chaffinch's in the children's play area have fledged; female Goldfinch sitting and the Dunnock is incubating 5 eggs.

As we walked round checking the boxes we had at least two each of singing Blackcap and Garden Warbler with a supporting cast of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. On the river were Common Sandpiper, Kingfisher and 2 Grey Wagtails.

Today when I went to the Boar Park to check the boxes I was assisted by 'her indoors' and joined by two photographers from Liverpool who wanted to photograph Pied Flycatcher. We checked all the boxes and amazingly we had a new Pied Flycatcher. Box 23 was empty last week and today it had a complete nest with 5 cold eggs, indicating that the female hadn't finished laying yet. So in 8 days they have built a nest and laid 5 eggs; incredible!

We ringed 2 broods of Blue Tit; an 8 and a 4, and two broods of Great Tit; a 5 and a 5. There are now 4 Pied Flycatcher nests and two of these have warm eggs, as mentioned before one clutch isn't complete yet and in one box 4 eggs had hatched that morning out of 8 eggs. So hopefully by the end of today the other 4 eggs in this nest will have hatched.

The remaining Chaffinch nest had 3/4 small young in and the Dunnock was till incubating 5 eggs. Interestingly one of the photographers, Steve, found a pair of Spotted Flycatchers in the woodland and one of the birds was ringed!

Stonechats...11th May 2009

Later in the year we are going to give a ringing demonstration at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park and this evening we went to the Nature Park to decide which net rides to use and to get them cut in readiness. After we had a look round and decided on the best area we then went to Rossall Point to try and find a nest of Stonechats.

After much observing the adults bringing in food we found the nest and ringed 5 cracking chicks that were a good week old and it wouldn't be too long before they fledged. Unfortunately I left my camera in the car and didn't get any pictures.

Sunday 10 May 2009

More Pied's, But Not All Flycatchers

It was another trip to the Boar Park and Barnacre for Gary and I today. At the Boar Park we were greeted with the usual symphony of Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher but not Sedge Warbler this week! So the bird we had by the river was obviously a migrant.

The occupancy of the boxes has changed slightly since last week, mainly because of Pied Flycatchers prospecting certain boxes and the occupancy looks like the following; possible Pied Flycatcher 5, Blue Tit 5, Great Tit 5, definite Pied Flycatcher 2, Tit sp. 1, Coal Tit 1 and empty 16. A number of the Tits will be ready to ring next week as in some boxes we had naked and blind chicks; namely Blue, Coal and Great Tit.

Great Tit chicks

Coal Tit chicks

We checked the Pied Wagtails that had a nest in a pig building and there were five large, healthy young that we ringed. See below.

We also checked two additional nests. A Chaffinch with a nest in some leylandii that had 2 cold eggs (not finished laying yet) and Goldfinch with small young that the owner of the Boar Park told us about in a Bay leaf bush. I will go back in the week to ring the Goldfinch.

Goldfinch nest

Chaffinch nest

We also checked the Chaffinch nest in the children's play area and the female was still sitting.

Saturday 9 May 2009

Pied Flycatchers...2nd May

This morning we did our first check of the Pied Flycatcher boxes in the Hodder Valley and at Barnacre. We have 35 boxes up at the Wild Boar Park in Bowland and 40 at Barnacre. Our first port of call was the Boar Park.

River Hodder

Semi-natural Woodland at the Boar Park

As we got out of the car we were greeted by the descending notes of Willow Warbler and the scratchy song of Garden Warbler. Out of 35 boxes we had 4 boxes occupied by Blue Tits, 4 by Pied Flycatchers, 5 by Great Tits, 2 Tit sp., single Coal Tit and the remainder were unoccupied. Blue, Great and Coal Tit females were incubating eggs and the following pictures show Blue and Great Tit females on eggs.

Great Tit nest

Pied Flycatcher nest

This was the first year for 3 years that we haven't had a Nuthatch in a box at the Boar Park, however later on when we were at Barnacre we had a box occupied by Nuthatch and below is a picture of the nest with an egg or two poking through the leaves.

Along the river we had a first for us for the site in the form of singing Sedge Warbler. It could well have been a migrant passing through, but it was singing from an area that looked suitable for a nest site. If it is still there next week we will know the answer. Shortly after hearing the Sedge Warbler singing we heard a Kingfisher calling and it landed on an overhanging branch and gave cracking views. The bird below is obviously a different bird!

Besides Garden Warblers we had at least two singing Blackcaps and are hopeful of finding the nest of one pair. Besides nests in the boxes we found a female Pied Wagtail on a nest in one of the animal sheds and a Chaffinch on a nest in the children's play area.

It was then on to Barnacre for more of the same.

The occupation rate here was a little lower than at the Boar Park, particularly for the Tits, probably as a result of two poor consecutive breeding seasons and a coldish winter this past year. Also notable by its absence was Wood Warbler as we always have a singing bird here. In fact in previous years we have found the nest and ringed the pulli.

We did have a Green Woodpecker calling which was nice and a flock of 25 Lesser Redpolls as well as Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

On the way back we called in at Moss House Farm to check some boxes that I put up a couple of years ago on mature trees in hedgerows in the hope of getting Tree Sparrow. Out of 10 boxes we had 2 Blue Tits, single Tree Sparrow and single Tit sp. Checking the boxes as we walked past a ploughed field we had three Wheatears and driving away we had a flock of 20 Whimbrel.

The First Boxes...24th April 2009

This afternoon Phil and I checked some of his boxes for Tree Sparrows over Wyre. One site only has 7 boxes and another has 20. At the first site we found 2 boxes out of the seven were occupied by Tree Sparrow. in one the nest was complete and in the other the female had started laying her clutch.

The second site was Moss House Farm and Phil put 20 boxes up here in Curlew Wood three years ago. They were soon occupied by Tits, but not by Tree Sparrows. However, of late I had been having Tree Sparrows hanging round close to Curlew Wood and suspected that they might be using some of these boxes. A quick check revealed that at least 3-4 boxes were occupied by Tree Sparrows.

Monday 4 May 2009

Whimbrels and Whitethroats...23rd April

I called at Moss House Farm today to drop some seed off and had a walk round in the hope that I might have a few migrants. It felt like one of those late afternoon spring overshoot sort of days as it was warm, humid and the wind was from the south. Unfortunately it didn't turn out to be one of those spring overshoot type of days!

Walking round I had a few Corn Buntings on territory as I noted 3 singing birds. As last year, one of them was using a large mole hill for a song post. Tree Sparrows were still present and I had 8 birds around Curlew Wood. It is certainly worth checking the boxes in Curlew Wood and the other 10 boxes I have put up away from Curlew Wood.

As I don't often walk the farm at this time of year it was surprising to see some of the pastures covered in May flower with attendant Orange-tip Butterflies of course. I did have a few migrants in the form of singing Blackcap in the L Wood, 18 Whimbrel feeding in spring crops, 4 singing Willow Warblers in the plantation, 4 singing Whitethroats in the plantation, 6 Wheatears on a ploughed field with a single White Wagtail.

Dodgy record shot of Whimbrel

Later in the afternoon I had to collect someone from Poulton station and as I waited for the train to arrive I had a female Bullfinch in some scrubby woodland opposite the platform. So what, you might ask, but in the Fylde Bullfinch's aren't that common. Interestingly about 20 years ago we ringed a few in some scrub in a disused railway cutting not far from here, so it looks like they are still hanging on.

Still Velvet...22nd April

I was birding at Rossall Point again this morning with an old friend of mine and the two Velvet Scoters were still present. Very twitchable if you are sad enough to keep a Fylde list! Wildfowl and associated families were to feature again this morning as we had 196 Eiders and 3 Great Crested Grebes.

The visible migration was contemporary with recent days and in just under 3 hours we had my first Yellow Wagtail of the spring, 9 Linnets, 74 Meadow Pipits, 11 Tree Pipits, 14 Lesser Redpolls, 32 Swallows, 3 Chaffinch, 3 Goldfinch, Sand Martin and Grey Wagtail.

Seabird passage was limited to 12 Gannets, 12 Sandwich Terns, Peregirne (honourary seabird!), pale and dark morph Arctic Skuas, 2 Auk sp., Guillemot and 40 Arctic Terns. The Arctic Skuas approached together from the west and worked as a team harrying Sandwich Terns until they headed off to the east.

I haven't mentioned passage waders of late but today we had 1,000 Knot, 7 Whimbrels and 30 Turnstones. A quick look in Fleetwood Cemetery produced single Siskin and Lesser Redpoll, and 2 Willow Warblers.

The highlight at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park, if you can call it that, was a Grey Heron swallowing an adult Little Grebe. When we caught up with the action the Grebe was about half swallowed with the lower half of its' body and legs sticking out of the Heron's bill. The Heron repeatedly kept swallowing water in attempt to flush the Grebe down and after about 5 minutes it finally got the Grebe down! Interestingly my trainee ringer, Craig, was helping to ring some Heron chicks in Greater Manchester this week and one of the chicks spat out a duckling!

I had my first Coot broods out at the Nature Park and we had broods of 4, 3, 1 and 1. The only bird of note, other than the singing Reed and Sedge Warblers, was a single reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

Back at home emptying my moth trap was getting a bit predictable with 3 Hebrew Characters and an Early Grey.

One of the most evocative species at this time of year that sums up migration is the Swallow. There is nothing more that represents migration than Swallows zipping low along the coast heading north. The picture below was sent to me by fellow ringer Kane from Greater Manchester who managed to catch this cracking bird by hand!

Smooth As Velvet...21st April

The highlight this morning at Rossall Point were a male and female Velvet Scoter that Ian picked up drifting east with the tide. There had been 2 birds of Heysham lately and it is likely that these were the same birds. They would drift east on the incoming tide, take off and fly a few hundred metres west and drift back on the tide again.

In fact it would be a morning for wildfowl as Eider numbers were at a respectable 249 accompanied by 9 Red-breasted Mergansers, 18 Common Scoters and a male Scaup was on the sea for a while as well. Vis mig was good with 57 Lesser Redpolls, 8 Tree Pipits, 30 Linnets, 7 Siskins, 7 Goldfinch, 192 Meadow Pipits, Sand Martin and 30 Swallows.

The sea was quiet for Terns with only 14 Sarnies, but numbers of Gannet at 10 were reasonable for this time of year. Red-throated Diver numbers were low at only 2 east and a few auks were around including 6 Guillemots, 2 Razorbills and 12 Auk sp. We do have auk sp. off Rossall, unlike another seawatching location off the Fylde that I could mention! Proper seabirds included 2 Manxies east and both pale and dark morph Arctic Skuas.

The moth trap back home was very predictable with single Hebrew Character and Common Quaker.

We have had a number of Siskins on vis at Rossall this month, but below are a couple of pictures of some Pine Siskins Carduelis pinus sent to me by my good friend Nigel in Canada. In late winter/early spring these birds can be seen coming to niger feeders, not unlike our own Siskin.

More Of The Same.....20th April 2009

...but I'm not complaining!

It was back to Rossall Point this morning and still I am in winter plumage; four layers plus hat and gloves. It was clear this morning with a light south-southeasterly wind. As usual Lesser Redpolls were first on the move and 18 went north hotly pursued by 23 Linnets, 3 Alba Wags, 9 Tree Pipits, 4 Goldfinch, 13 Swallows, 110 Meadow Pipits, 3 Sand Martins, Rook, 2 Siskin, 4 Jackdaws and a Pied Wagtail.

On the sea I had 10 Shelducks, 39 Eiders, 19 Sandwich Terns, 13 Common Scoters and 10 Little Gulls. Other than that it was very quiet and after 2 hours it wasn't worth staying any longer. Back at home I emptied my moth trap and all I had caught were 4 Early Grey and 2 Hebrew Characters.

I got a phone call from my mate Ian later in the day to say he had found a male Ring Ouzel at Rossall Point. Some desperate year listers apparently tried to twitch it...sad!

Keeping up the raptor theme from yesterday below is a photograph of a juvenile Peregrine that had recently fledged from a nest on a farm I know well. The bird could only half-fly and this gave Andrew the opportunity to photograph it.