Wednesday 30 September 2009

An Improvement

The wind had changed directly slightly this morning from a straight westerly to west-northwesterly and maybe this was the reason that there were a few more species around, notably wildfowl.

As usual I was sheltering behind the Coastguard's Tower at Rossall Point as dawn broke eagerly awaiting the sea passage that would unfold before me. First up were Oystercatcher. They're nearly always the first birds to be entered into my notebook at Rossall and this is because as I climb up on to the dunes and look down to the shore there are always a number of them feeding. I had a few more than yesterday and counted 137 along with 10 Curlews. The only other waders I had or should I say wader was a single Ringed Plover roosting on the shingle beach.

As I mentioned before it was a 'wildfowl morning' this morning and first on the list were Shelduck. I had a total of 21 and most of these were heading east into Morecambe Bay. One group had 2 Pintail with them and another 2 Wigeon. Its interesting what other species flocks of birds will carry. The Shelducks were doing a good job of hosting other species and in addition to the Pintail and Wigeon, I had one group of 4 Shelduck with a Cormorant with them!

Common Scoters were about as usual this morning and I had a total of 106 which was less than yesterday, but today they had a different feel about them. Over the past few days I have thought that the flocks of Common Scoters have been birds 'loafing' about and today there was more of a feel of urgency and I was under the impression that birds this morning were on the move.

A few more Eider this morning with 22 in total. Talking about flocks of birds hosting other species, the Eiders were a group in question. At one point I had a female Tufted Duck fly over the Eiders, wheel round and drop in with them. I had a second female Tufted go west and a cracking male Scaup fly east close in. Nice!

Red-throated Divers totalled four this morning and all of them were heading west or out of the Bay. As in recent days the vis was non-existent other than Grey Wagtails. I had 4 go west and a flock of 10 off passage Linnets fed on the beach.

I briefly called at my office at Myerscough College to top up the window feeders and it was on to my feeding station at Moss House Farm. All of the seed had gone so I put another bucket down. At the start of the feeding station season it takes a week or two for the birds to build up and also to get the frequency of 'feeding' visits right. My next call will be in three days to check again if the seed has gone in that time and if it has the frequency of feeding visits will be increased.

I had 4 Swallows go over and 7 Tree Sparrows in the hedge as the rain forced me back to my car. I had planned to have a walk round, but instead I drove up to the plantation because I wanted to collect the ropes from our mist net rides before they inadvertently got left there all winter.

Twenty-nine Skylarks were in the stubble field to the east of the track and a calling Buzzard went over. By this time the rain had stopped but I got soaked walking through the long grass of the plantation. I managed to find all the ropes but it took me a good 30 minutes as some of them had totally disappeared into the vegetation.

A Song Thrush and 4 Grey Partridge were notable red listed species and I had a flock of 60 calling Goldfinch go overhead. A couple of Reed Buntings called and a flock of 52 Lapwing headed southwest. As I walked out of the plantation 2 Jays headed towards the 'L' wood and I had another just past Curlew Wood.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

It Doesn't Get Any Better

Or perhaps an alternative title could have been 'when is it going to get better'! It was the usual again this morning; Rossall Point at first light to watch the in-coming tide and the sea. I spent nearly two and half hours at the 'point' and didn't have a great deal to show for it other than Common Scoters. During that time I had 181 Common Scoters which equates to 1.2 Scoters/minute! Mmmm!

Waders were represented by the ubiquitous Oycs and today I only had 75 with a supporting cast of 25 Sanderlings, 5 Ringed Ps and 589 Knot moving in all directions. Eiders numbered 5, Cormorants 20 and I had a single Red-throated Diver east. And that was it!

Wanting to make the morning even more painful I called at the Nature Park to try and bore myself rigid by counting a handful of wildfowl. I was successful in my quest and had a 'staggering' 28 Coots, 18 Mallards, 15 Tufted Ducks and 2 Little Grebes. Oh, and 2 Grey Herons on the 'main' pool.

Grey Heron nearly looking as bored as I was!

Monday 28 September 2009


This word, if indeed it is a word, probably sums up this morning and also the past week. It was yet again one of those in-between grey days when the conditions aren't right for anything. We don't half like to moan, us birders, don't we?

It was the usual pack drill this morning; Rossall Point for first light and it was dire, even worse than yesterday. Definitely no Leach's today. It was that bad that I am struggling to say what I did have. There were very few waders on the shore other than 30 Oystercatchers and a nice flock of 19 Sanderlings. I like Sanderlings and would probably go as far to say that theye are one of my favourite waders. They are always so active and are interesting to watch.

If it wasn't for the Common Scoter there would hardly be anything in my notebook at all. I had 112 this morning in various flock sizes. I noticed that there is a 'domino' effect in Common Scoter flocks because you will get a group flying low over the sea that will put up another flock, this flock will then put up another flock and so on.

There were very few Eider on the sea this morning with only 3 counted. I had an auk sp., 4 Shelducks, a close in Red-throated Diver, 2 Gannets and 24 Cormorants and that was it after one and half hours of watching. It was very nearly literally 'sea watching'!

Shelduck courtesy of Simon Hawtin

I won't even mention the vis, or should I say lack of it, other than to say that I had Grey Wagtail over and although it has been a crap autumn so far for vis, Grey Wagtails have still featured.

Let's hope the weather improves although I am not holding out any hopes after just looking at the met office website. More grey and more 'not so strong' westerlies I'm afraid.

Mid-morning Update

I have just received a phone call from my mate Ian to tell me that he was at Rossall School and the first bird he saw was an adult Pomarine Skua flying towards him. Jammy bastard! Mind you I say jammy, but Ian puts in an awful lot of time birding around Fleetwood and deserves everything he finds. He told me that the Pom then 'twatted' (his words) a Herring Gull and dragged it down on to the sea and continued to put the boot in, before flying off north and dropping on to the sea out of sight!

It just goes to show, like yesterday, that a grey nothing day can be lightened up with a good bird or two. I suppose the moral of the story is just to get out there and you will get your rewards!

Sunday 27 September 2009


It was clear last night as I wandered across the garden to my fridge in the garage to bring a bottle or three of real ale into the house, and I hoped it would remain clear until morning and at least there would be some vis.

As I got into my car this morning before first light I noticed that the pesky westerly was still blowing, not as strong as yesterday, but still blowing nevertheless and it was overcast. Damn! As I headed north up Amounderness Way towards Fleetwood I had a Barn Owl perched on the wooden fence beside the side of the road. I thought that might be a good omen, as Barn Owl is a very good bird in Fleetwood.

Dawn broke and I set off walking along the top of the dunes towards the Coastguards Tower. Not a bird did I see until I reached the Coastguards Tower and looked on the beach. A few Oystercatcher, 42 in total, with a group of 5 Great Black-backed Gulls. In fact I had very few waders all morning apart from a flock of 9 Sanderling and 40 Knot. Suddenly the Oycs and Great Black-backed's got up and I thought raptor, but should have thought Grey Heron as one lumbered east flushing everything as it went.

Generally the sea was very quiet this morning with 108 Common Scoters, 5 Shelducks, 17 Cormorants, single Gannet and the bird of the day Leach's Petrel. I had got to the point where I turn round at Rossall Point and head back towards the car park stopping frequently to scan the sea and listen for vis overhead, when I decided to have a last scan. Low and behold there was a Leach's heading west. It was flying quite purposefully and then it would pause, flutter as if to feed and then fly on. A few minutes before I had the Leach's I had noticed Ian coming along the top of the dunes, so I gave him a bell and said that I was watching a Leach's. It was too far left for Ian to get on it from where he was so he decided to run down to where I was. In the meantime I had lost the bird, but luckily Ian managed to get back on it!

It was down hill bird wise all the way after that. No grounded migrants, only the male Stonechat that has been hanging around for a while and the off passage flock of 16 Linnets and 40 Greenfinch. Vis was virtually non-existent other than 4 Grey Wagtails, Reed Bunting and a handful of Skylark and Meadow Pipits.

It was obvious that it wasn't worth searching for grounded migrants anywhere so I headed home but called in at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park on the way. It was quiet here also with just 26 Coots, 2 Little Grebes, 14 Mallards, 15 Tufted Ducks and 4 Pochards on the main pool.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Right Decision and Too Early!

Recently I managed to negotiate access to do some ringing at Rossall School which is right on the coast. This is in fact an old ringing site of ours when we used to ring breeding Lapwing and Ringed Plover there! Now that's a long time ago and before that, one of the biology masters used to ring at the site in the 1970s and 80s. Anyway, we are quite keen to ring there because of its coastal location and it will be perfect for tape luring Meadow Pipits. All this week the met office have been under forecasting the wind, which is most unusual, because after the hurricane in 1987 they have always over forecasted it! This morning was no exception and the wind was a good 15 mph west-northwesterly when the met office had forecast anywhere between 6 and 8. Based on our experience during the past week we decided not to believe them and decided not to arrange to go ringing this morning. Right decision!

I suppose I am quite lucky in that I never have any problem getting up early to go birding. In fact I would go as far as to say that I have to be out by first light or not at all! Occasionally in my over eagerness I get it wrong and this morning was a classic example as it was still quite dark when I got to Rossall Point! I won't make the same mistake tomorrow! In fact I'll be able to have an extra 5 minutes or so in bed...yippee!

Even though it was just half light as I left the car and walked along the top of the dunes I carried on, perhaps in the vain hope that I might kick out a grounded migrant or two from the brambles. No chance! The weather was just awful; not windy enough for seawatching, too windy for vis and the wrong conditions for grounded migrants.

As always Oycs were on the beach and numbered 179. Amazingly this morning there wern't too many dog walkers about and they had quite a peaceful time feeding on the falling tide. The only other shorebirds around in any numbers were Knot. I had just under 600 birds fly east in to the bay in groups of 40-60.

The sea was quiet other than 179 Common Scoter, which is quite good for Rossall, 21 Cormorants, 12 Eiders and a Guillemot close in just beyond the surf.

The blob above is a Grey Seal. Honestly!

The first true migrants I had of the morning were from the chat family and I had 2 Wheatears and a single male Stonechat. Vis was very slow with 2 Grey Wagtails, 20 Swallows and a handful of Mipits. A flock of 45 Linnet roamed everywhere, causing me to scratch my head wondering whether they were different birds or not.

In fact I was so bored I took the picture below of my scope and tripod. I must be losing it!

I don't why I went into Fleetwood Cemetery afterwards as I knew there would be no birds and guess what, there were no birds! Unless a couple of Robins count! I did have some Skylarks over and they must have been high because I could hear them but not see them.

This afternoon I had to go to Lancaster and on the way back I called at Conder Green for a quick look. On the pool were three Little Grebes and on the estuary amongst the 20 or so Redshank were two Spotted Redshanks. I then called at Moss House Farm to put some food out at the feeding station. The number of Tree Sparrows had increased to 18 from a few days ago and the only other birds I had were a flock of 30 Goldfinch and three Kestrels.

Above and below are Conder Pool and the Conder Estuary just to prove that occasionally I do get out of Fleetwood to look at birds!

Monday 21 September 2009

Tree Spadgers Are Back

I made a quick call to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss for the third feed of the season and it was pleasing to note that the first Tree Sparrows were back. There was only 6 of them with similar numbers of Chaffinch and a couple of Reed Buntings. All the seed had gone so I am now increasing the frequency of my feeds. It won't be long before I am back there every other day putting two buckets of seed down!

They're back...

Sunday 20 September 2009


I decided to see if 'Ian's' Long-billed Dowitcher was still about this morning and after a long trudge across a very muddy and slippery salt marsh I wished I hadn't bothered because it wasn't. I suppose there might have been a chance when the tide came in as it was a 10 metre tide and would completely cover the marsh, but because of this you wouldn't be able to walk down to view the pools! Ah well, some you win some you lose.

After Ian and I had put the birding world to rights we went our separate ways to make sure we covered as much of the Fleetwood area as possible. It was very clear this morning so it was obvious it was going to be a vis morning and not a grounded migrant morning. Talking of vis I forgot to mention that whilst searching forlornly for the Dowitcher I had a Tree Pipit over. Anyway I digress. Ian went off to the Mount and I went off to Fleetwood Cemetery.

Migrant habitat - Fleetwood Cemetery

As soon as I stepped out of the car birds were going over heading south. This included 4 Grey Wagtails, a few Alba Wagtails, Linnet, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit and Swallow. An immature male Sparrowhawk was darting in and out of the sycamores along the western edge of the cemetery hopefully not catching anything rare before I found it. The only phylloscs I had weren't of the 'stripey' kind but were nevertheless two very fresh looking Chiffchaffs.

Chiffchaff by Simon Hawtin

I had a few butterflies in the cemetery sunning themselves on headstones including the Painted Lady and Speckled Wood below.

Next stop was Rossall School. The first couple of birds I had were two Chiffchaffs, again both birds looked lovely and fresh. Good numbers of birds were on the move including over 100 Mipits, 50 + Swallows, Chaffinch, Sparrowhawk, Linnet, Grey Wag and Alba Wags.

Scrub at Rossall School. What's lurking in here?

Other than the Chiffchaffs, there wasn't really any other grounded migrants other than perhaps 4 Reed Buntings and a handful of Robins. I had a look on the sea and it was as calm as a mill pond.

Eiders on the 'mill pond'

Consequently it was very easy to pick out Common Scoters as they weren't hidden in wave troughs. I had a respectable 369 along with 21 Eiders, but I suspect there were a lot more Scoters than this.

It looks like we will drop into a westerly airstream for the first few days this week before high pressure takes charge again from mid-week. I am not sure how much I will be able to get out this week, but I will try. However from 25th September I am off for two weeks so it will be 16 consecutive days of birding no matter what the weather will be like!

Saturday 19 September 2009

Quiet Morning - Pleasant Afternoon Interlude

It had one of those 'feels' to this morning, you know what I mean, it felt like it was going to be a classic autumn morning. It had been clear overnight at first, cloud cover had developed and there was a light southerly wind. I thought that Phil and I were going to be in for a good morning's ringing and birding at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park but how wrong could I be.

A couple of nets were erected in some willow scrub on the edge of a reedbed; tape lures were selected and surely it would just be a matter of time before birds would be going over and dropping into our nets. Well, not exactly. An early Reed Warbler and a Meadow Pipit got our hopes up, but it didn't get much better.

By about 9.30 a.m. all we had ringed were 7 birds comprising of a Robin, Meadow Pipit, Reed Warbler, Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch and a Blue Tit.

There was very little vis over the Nature Park and I even phoned Ian up, who I knew would be on the coast, and it was quiet there which made me feel a little better. When I say there was very little vis, there was some and this included 10 Grey Wagtails, 63 Meadow Pipits, 12 Alba Wags, 14 Goldfinch, 3 Skylarks, 40 Pink-footed Geese, 36 Swallows and 3 Linnets. Grounded migrants were probably limited to what we caught plus 3 Reed Buntings and a calling Goldcrest.

Out on the pools the usual bits and pieces were present with 31 Coots, 2 Little Grebes and 30 Tufted Ducks. I did however, have a site tick, in the form of two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. I couldn't decide whether these were migrants or whether they were a pair that had perhaps bred around the water treatment works. But when I had a Jay go over it made me think that they were perhaps migrants.

Just after lunch a message came through of a probable Yellow-browed Warbler in a garden at Rossall, followed by a phone call from Ian saying that it was a definite Yellow-browed Warbler as he was watching it in David and Jackie's garden! Fifteen minutes later I was doing the same. It was a bit elusive but I got stonking views of it as it fed in some sycamores at the bottom of the garden. Excellent! I counted up and this was mu sixth Yellow-browed for the Fylde.

I wasn't planning to go birding tomorrow but after the Yellow-browed and the fact that Ian has just phoned me to say that he has found a juv. Long-billed Dowitcher on Fleetwood Tip I think I will have to!

Thursday 17 September 2009

Mipit Floodgates Open

Perhaps 'floodgates' is a bit strong but there was a noticeable passage of Mipits this morning and I was in the vis mig 'Bermuda Triangle' of Over Wyre! I was working at several sites this morning and I my first port of call was in the Cocker's Dyke area. As soon as I got out of my car at 0815 Mipits were on the move. It is very difficult counting vis when you are trying to survey hedgerows! You tend to have both ears trained skywards with one eye and the other eye looking at the hedge! Within a few minutes I had logged 60 in my notebook, but there was easily 2-3 times as many as this. A few Skylarks and Chaffinch were also on the move with the Mipits and the Chaffinch were my first true vis birds of the autumn.

On Terra firma I had a flock of 31 Collared Doves hanging around some pheasant pens hoping to be able to get access to some hand-outs. I had 2 Tree Sparrows in a hedge early on and then 24 of their House cousins at a different location later on. Four grey lumps in a willow bush materialised into 4 1st winter Grey Herons and in an adjacent field 63 Curlews fed. The only raptor I had here was a single imm. male Sparrowhawk.

Next stop was some farmland close to Preesall and Mipits continued to move south and were joined by some other northern arrivals in the form of 67 Pink-footed Geese. My only Grey Wagtail of the morning flew over here and 25 Goldfinch fed in a weedy field.

I had lunch in the car park on top of the sea wall at Lane Ends. I was doing my usual trick of trying to do two, no three things at once. One eye on the salt marsh and the other reading 'British Birds' whilst eating my sarnies. I was reading an article on the 'Ageing and sexing of Asian chats: Siberian Rubythroat, Siberian Blue Robin, Rufous-tailed Robin and Red-flanked Bluetail'. I gave up half way through as I couldn't concentrate on the paper and get all those moult nuances in my head! Instead I put both eyes on the marsh and had 2 Little Egrets and 80 Pink-feet south.

Lunch over and it was on to Scronkey and all I had here was an obliging Wheatear feeding around some rubble. I was just about to take a picture of it when it was flushed by a guy on a quad bike. Mind you even if I had 'snapped' it the picture would probably have been crap!

My final location of the day was on Broad Lane on Rawcliffe Moss. A few Mipits were still going over, but these were probably 'off-passage' birds moving around as were the 15 Swallows and 12 Linnets. In addition to 1 or 2 Kestrels that I had during the day, my third raptor species were 3 Buzzards that came out of a piece of woodland on the moss.

I also had three of the characters below. Apparently they are Reeve's Pheasant, although you probably already knew that, and they didn't half look out of place running across a grass margin and disappearing in to thick cover.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Across the Parishes

I covered a few sites briefly today by means of a mixture of 'pre-work' feeding at Moss House Farm and then surveying various bits of farmland for work. My first port of call was Moss House to put some food out at our feeding station. The feed I put out a week ago had gone and the peanuts had gone down in the feeders so something has started to use the feeding station.

I wondered whether there was much vis on the coast today as I had a few Mipits, Skylark, Swallow and Chaffinch over. It really was a flying visit so other than a calling Great Spot that was it.

My next stop was up the Lune Valley on the Newton Hall Estate again to finish off a survey I started last week. Again there were a handful of Mipits, Skylark and Linnets going over, but not in any numbers. New in from last week was a Chiffchaff singing from some woodland and Buzzards had dropped to just 3 sightings. Presumably the 14 I had last week included some migrants. The only other birds just worth mentioning were two Great Spots and a couple of Song Thrush.

I now had to go back to the Fylde and do some survey work around Fluke Hall. On the way I stopped off at the Conder Pool and the only birds on it were 3 Little Grebes. There was very little on the creeks by the road and as I was working I didn't have time to walk over the bridge and look in the creeks there for any Greenshank of Spotshank.

Walking down to Ridge Farm I had a flock of 51 Tree Sparrows and 51 Lapwing were feeding in a potato field. In the same field as the Lapwing were a flock of 90 Linnets and 80 Goldfinch. Along the gorse hedge that divides this field in two I had 3 Whitethroats showing well in the warm sunshine.

Walking across the arable fields to the east of Fluke Hall I had a Green Sandpiper go over calling. I had bumped into Bob earlier and he had one on the pool at Fluke Hall, so there is a good chance that this was the same bird. As I headed east just behind the sea wall I had two flocks of 58 and 60 Pintail head north flying high. Quite an early date I thought for this number of Pintail, although you can get fairly large flocks on the Ribble in September. In fact I did wonder whether these were some birds from the Ribble based on their direction of flight.

I see there was a Blackburnian Warbler on St. Kilda, lucky bastards, so I thought I would end with a picture of a Blackburnian Warbler. This is in the Spring, so the St. Kilda bird wouldn't have looked like this, but nevertheless what a crippler!

Sunday 13 September 2009

Lightning never strikes twice...

...well, not 'migration' lightning it would seem. Pre-dawn I found myself at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park again with Phil for what we hoped would be another good morning's birding and ringing. We should have taken the burnt out car, attended by the fire brigade, and the flattened gates caused by 'joy riders' in said burnt out car as a bad omen. However, forever the optimists we put this behind us and persevered. The result was a big fat zero! Nothing ringed and nothing going over to tempt down to our tapes, and most definitely no grounded migrants.

The only consolation we could take from this morning's unmitigated disaster was the fact that everything we had ringed yesterday had cleared out and was therefore winging their way somewhere. So, unfortunately this means a picture less blog, perhaps!

Visible migration was limited to literally a handful of Mipits, Alba Wagtails, Snipe and single Grey Wag and Golden Plover. A flock of 16 Linnets noisily roamed the Nature Park and only 10 Lapwings were on the 'tyre' pool.

Counting the wildfowl on the 'CEGB' pool there had been an increase in Tufteds to 24 and they were accompanied by 3 Little Grebes and 22 Coot.

I couldn't not have a picture in my blog, so how about a Baltimore Oriole to brighten the page up?!

Saturday 12 September 2009

Surprise Catch

The question last night was what to do this morning. It was going to be clear and virtually flat calm. Not the right conditions for grounded migrants but it would certainly be okay from a ringing perspective in terms of the wind and mist nets. As we haven't done any ringing for about 4 weeks we were keen to get out. The usual Friday night phone call to Phil ensued where we analyse the weather and decide where to go and what are strategy will be. Phil suggested we go to Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park, rather than Rawcliffe Moss, because as he put it "I would rather only put up two nets and catch nothing, rather than put up eight nets and catch nothing"!

So we found ourselves at Fleetwood at 0615 and were joined by Craig who had driven up from Cornwall the evening before having only 3 hours sleep! Two nets were put up in the Willow scrub and various tape lures were set to try and entice some of the vis down to our nets. In the end we ringed 25 birds including 5 Dunnocks, 5 Great Tits, a late juv Reed Warbler, 6 Meadow Pipits and we retrapped 2 Blue Tits with one of them getting on a bit having been ringed as a juv in July 2005 and it has never been retrapped since.

Now, the above pictures weren't taken today as I made the 'school boy' error of not ensuring that the battery in my camera was charged and when I tried to take a photograph my camera died. Thankfully we didn't catch anything really stonking or otherwise I would have been kicking myself and begging a picture from Phil!

You have probably gathered that I have a fondness for North American warblers and below you will find a pic of a Mourning Warbler taken at Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, Toronto. I am a member of TTPBRS and I robbed this picture from an e-bulletin I received recently. Have a look at their blog via the link to the right.

Retracing our steps a bit, when we first arrived on site and were driving round to the ringing area we had 55 Lapwings get up from the pools. During the morning we had a few Snipe go over on vis and 3 dropped in with a single Redshank. A distant skein of about 150 Pink-footed Geese headed south as did 15 Grey Wagtails, 100 Meadow Pipits, 18 Linnets, 5 Goldfinch and 20 Alba Wagtails. The Alba Wags lingered on the pool for a while before heading south; they were completely uninterested in the tape.

Not a bad mornings ringing at all.

Friday 11 September 2009

Valley of the Buteos

Yesterday I was working in the Lune Valley and surveying part of the Newton Hall Estate for a potential Higher Level Stewardship agreement. I didn't get on site until 9.00 a.m., but as soon as I got out of the car to look at Newton Pool Meadow Pipits were calling high overhead and heading west in 2's and 3's.
Newton Pool

Moving with them in smaller numbers were Swallows and a handful of Skylarks and Siskins. On the pool were 57 Teal and no Garganey or Blue-winged Teal. If you have read this month's Birdwatch you'll know that Keith Vinicombe has instructed us to check all Teal at this time of year for Blue-winged's!

It was a very clear morning this morning and the views across to the Dales were terrific.

Surveying various bits of woodland I looked down on the Roe Deer below and couldn't help but try and get a digi-binned shot.

Buzzards were the main feature of the morning and I had a total of 14 moving/thermalling overhead. Not all in the air at once but a mixture of singles and groups of 3 or 4. I never get tired of seeing these stonking raptors.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

It's that time of year again...

...when I become a slave to a large flock of Tree Sparrows on Rawcliffe Moss! I know, you've heard it all before. I called at Moss House Farm on my way home from work yesterday to put the first seed of the autumn/winter out and also hang up a couple of peanut feeders. The peanut feeders are a back-up in case the seed runs out at any time during the winter before I get there to feed. This ensures that the Tree Sparrow flock is maintained.

When I arrived at the feeding station track I noticed, well you couldn't help but notice, a large number of hirundines on the telegraph wires across the large field immediately next to the track. There were well over a thousand, most of them Swallows but with a 100 or so House Martins as well. In fact over all of the area I walked I would say that there was over 2,000 Swallows.

Close to the telegraph wires there was a wet flush in the field and the Swallows were flying low over it and drinking and perhaps even feeding. Although I think the 'flash' was too temporary to have attracted any insects.

I walked down the track and put a bucket of seed out and the two peanut feeders.

I will leave it a week now before I check the feed again as it can take a while before the birds find it. Also, hopefully by then the farmer, Phillip, will have cut his field of barley and will have flattened the vegetation down the track with his combine. This makes it far easier for the birds to find the seed.
I don't know whether you have noticed or not but there is a good crop of Hawthorn berries this autumn. Let's hope that we have a good influx of Thrushes to watch feeding on them.

After I had put the feed out I had a walk along the '97' hedge. Incidentally we refer to this hedge as the '97' hedge because a couple of years ago Phil and I caught and ringed 97 birds in two 30' nets along this hedge and the name has stuck. I didn't have much other than 24 Goldfinch and a Siskin over.

I decided to walk along the track to the plantation but wished I hadn't bothered as I was overtaken by the new residents of one of the properties on the Moss with her two f*cking pooches off the lead! She then proceeds to tell me how much she is into birds and I wanted to say "how can you be in to birds walking those bastard things off the lead". So, we now have two more bird scarers on the loose. Bring back the dog licence and make it very expensive I say!

Back towards the car and the only other birds I had of interest were two Grey Partridges and a Blackcap 'chacking' from Curlew Wood.

I am reading the above book at the moment and I can't recommend it highly enough. It is hilarious, educational and above all inspirational. It makes you want to go out in the field the very second you start reading it and look at birds! If you haven't got a copy treat yourself, you won't be disappointed.

Friday 4 September 2009

Willow Tit, Pinkies and Rotary Ditcher

A bit of a mixed few days since my last posting. It had been my intention to get out birding yesterday (3rd) morning but the weather was just appalling. Even too bad for standing at Rossall! I had also planned to go out this morning but two of my RSPB mates had invited me to come and have a look at their rotary ditcher in action on a farm near Cockerham creating habitat for breeding waders. I intend to book the rotary ditcher to work on a couple of my sites next autumn. More of that later.

On Wednesday (2nd) I visited a farm near some of the Wigan flashes and this particular farm had some land that backed onto and was part of Abram Flash SSSI. Walking down towards the flash we put two Buzzards up and then I heard the unmistakable buzzing nasal call of a Willow Tit. I expected to find it feeding in the top of a willow or similar but it was feeding low down and hanging off a long stem of grass before flying in to a nearby low hawthorn bush.

As I mentioned briefly before I went to a farm at Cockerham to have a look at the RSPB's rotary ditcher in action. It was creating a number of linear ditches to provide habitat for breeding waders. The series of pictures show the beast, the beast in action and what it can do. It doesn't need any more explanation.

Already the ditches created were attracting waders as a few Lapwings fed around one of the ditches and a juv Ringed Plover dropped in for a look! Never mind the breeding waders what is it going to attract this autumn!

Whilst the ditcher was doing its stuff we had a walk round the site. Just before we set off walking we had a Little Egret flying along the sea wall battling against the strong northwesterly wind. This got us talking about how widespread Little Egrets have become and how we had all twitched out first birds in the 1980s.

As we walked along the top of the embankment adjacent to the River Cocker to get some better views of the ditches we flushed a Greenshank and then we picked some geese up to the east behaving very jittery and attempting to land. When we got better views as they dropped in front of some woodland we could see that they were a flock of 110 Pink-footed Geese. My first of the autumn. In fact later on this afternoon when I dropped some bird food off at Moss House Farm, Phil and I had a flock of 40 Teal going over quite high.

Walking back along the sea wall we had a Peregrine shoot low over the field, flushing lapwings, before it plunged over the sea wall and across the marsh.

I'm not out tomorrow as I have a day of folk music at Fleetwood Folk Festival, but weather permitting should be out again on Sunday.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Sarnies and Barwits

Rossall Point again this morning and well, I'm not going to moan about the wind as it was better than yesterday but still there weren't the birds about. The wind was southwesterly 20 mph, but if I was being picky I would have preferred it to be a west-southwesterly. Perhaps I am looking for an excuse for a lack of birds.

In the half light in the field next to the car park 47 Black-headed Gulls were feeding. A quick scan through them revealed no Meds, but you have to check. On to the Coastguards Tower and the first birds I had were Sandwich Terns and these were birds that had been roosting on the beach at Rossall as opposed to Knott End as I could see birds lifting as the tide ran in.

The pattern was similar to that of yesterday with birds getting up from the beach and a passage out at sea. In total I had 238 birds. I had a number of Cormorants and they looked as if they were on the move as the majority of the birds headed west, with very few birds coming from the west and heading east. I had 51 and out of this 42 headed west. The only sea bird I had was a single Gannet that flew into the Bay.

Dodgy Sanderling pic

There were a few more waders around this morning apart from Oycs. Oycs only numbered 390 compared with the 563 I had yesterday. I had 19 Dunlin, 665 Knot and 17 Grey Plovers.

There was a hint of some vis mig this morning even though it was quite windy as a few Mipits went over with a handful of Swallows and 3 Grey Wagtails.

On my way to Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park I diverted to the Marine Lakes. Roosting on one of the concrete piers were a flock of 60 Turnstone with 6 Redshank.

When I got out of my car at the Nature Park I noticed that the overnight rain had filled the 'tyre' pool up a bit more and it looked quite attractive to waders. I lifted my bins up and a quick scan revealed 4 Barwits.
Okay theye aren't rare, but they weren't there yesterday and that's what makes patch watching so magic. The flock of 40 Goldfinch were still motoring around bits of vegetation surrounding the car park and the Pied Wagtails on the pool had increased to 60, but no Yellow Wags or even Citrine Wags. Sorry, just dreaming there.

Some of the wildfowl had incrased in numbers and I had 38 Coots, 16 Tufted Ducks, 3 Pochards and the 2 female/immature Ruddy Ducks.

Not a brilliant couple of hours before work, but not a bad few hours either. I can't get out tomorrow so it will be Thursday morning before I am out again. See you then.