Thursday 30 September 2010

A Few More Green Linnets

Ian and I were at Rossall again this morning. You know the script by now; arrival at 6.30 a.m. and four nets up. It was fairly clear with a force 1-2 southeasterly wind and there was cloud cover to the north and east. The usual barrage of MP3s were turned on and once again the Greenfinch 'playback' worked best. Not long after we had switched it on Greenfinches started dropping out of the sky! First a flock of 15, then 6, then 7 and then 5! Smaller numbers moved through after that and in total my notebook details 60.

We trapped 38 new birds and 2 recaptures as follows:

Greenfinch - 30/0
Blue Tit - 5/0
Dunnock - 1/0
Robin - 1/1
Goldfinch - 1/0
Blackbird - 0/1



Visible migration was more pronounced this morning and as always it was difficult to operate mist nets, ring and monitor vis at the same time. Therefore, the following totals are somewhat huge underestimates. All the vis was south unless otherwise stated.

Meadow Pipit - 114
Collared Dove - 11
Chaffinch - 13
Jackdaw - 38
Mistle Thrush - 4
Grey Wagtail - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2 (1 north)
Siskin - 2
Linnet - 2
Swallow - 11
Pink-footed Goose - 80
Alba Wag  -7
Starling - 219
Sparrowhawk - 1 (north0
Goldfinch - 12

A few Red Admiral butterflies were also 'belting' south and we had a Comma as well.

Grounded birds were few and far between other than a few Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and a Reed Bunting. Ian also had 2 Chiffchaffs calling from the copse.

Ringing at the 'obs' was made more civilised this morning when Ian's other half brought us some breakfast and steaming hot coffee! Thanks Wendy!!!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Green Linnets

Before I go into detail about this morning's ringing session at Rossall have a look at the details of the fall at Spurn Bird Observatory yesterday. Amazing!

As usual I was at the 'obs' this morning with Ian putting nets up at 6.30 a.m. In fact I must thank Ian because he turned out to help me put the nets up even though he wasn't going to be able to do any ringng; thanks mate! As it happened he did turn out for about an hour later in the morning to ring some Green Linnets, or should I say Greenfinches.

It was a very quiet start to the morning and I thought it was going to be all over by 8.30 a.m. It started off with 5 oktas cloud, but this increased to 8 oktas very quickly. The wind was southeasterly, about 10 mph, but this picked up to nearer 15 mph by mid-morning. By the end of the morning I was just operating one 40 foot net with Greenfinch song on my MP3 player because it was too windy for the other three nets.

I trapped 39 new birds and 1 recapture as follows:

Pied Wagtail - 1/0 (new for 'obs')
Dunnock - 1/0
Robin - 1/1
Reed Bunting - 1/0
Great Tit - 2/0
Greenfinch - 27/0
Blackbird - 5/0
Wren - 1/0



 Great Tit

 Pied Wagtail

 Reed Bunting


As of recent days the vis was fairly quiet. There just seemed to be a handful of Meadow Pipits, Alba wags, Grey Wags, Meadow Pipits and Goldfinch moving through. There must have been reasonable numbers of Greenfinch for me to be able to ring 27.

There weren't quite as many 'Pink-feet' this morning and all I had were 75 heading northeast. There were no noticeable numbers of grounded birds, unless the Blackbirds were migrants, but it was difficult to tell.

It looks like a lie in for me tomorrow as it is going to be raining heavily, in fact it started raining soon after it went dark this evening. If the rain hadn't been coming in until later in the night I would have ventured out in the rain tomorrow in case it had dropped any birds.

Monday 27 September 2010

A Quiet Monday

It was Rossall for Ian and I again this morning and we arrived at 6.30 a.m. to put the usual nets up. At first light there was full cloud cover, although it had been clear overnight, and the wind was quite a brisk easterly. This meant that only 2 out of the 4 nets were relatively sheltered.

It was very quiet and we only managed to trap 8 new birds and 1 retrap as follows:

Blackbird - 2/0
Blue Tit - 1/0
Dunnock - 1/0
Great Tit - 1/0
Goldfinch - 1/0
Greenfinch - 2/0
Wren - 0/1

 Great Tit

 Blue Tit



Visible migration was very slow and all we had were 6 Grey Wagtails, 3 Meadow Pipits, 3 Greenfinch, Goldfinch, 8 Chaffinch, 53 jackdaws and 111 Pink-footed Geese.

We tried our best to catch the Grey Wagtails. They were interested in the MP3 but the net was a bit 'billowy' and consequently they were perching on the poles, on the top shelf string and not throwing themselves in the net! The only grounded  migrants were a few 'ticking' Robins and a female Stonechat.

In the afternoon I went to Rawcliffe Moss to put some food out at the feeding station. Tree Sparrows numbered 48 along with half a dozen Chaffinch. I did my usual walk along the '97' hedge, onto the 'top moss', round the plantation and back.

 The turbine at Dewlay Cheese, Garstang that dominates views 
east across rawcliffe Moss

The most numerous species by far was Skylark. They were doing that mysterious Skylark thing they do here where they are around in large numbers but you can't work out what they are doing and whether they are moving and if they are in what direction! I had 102 on my walk round and this included a flock of 48 and 37.

A single Corn Bunting went over calling and I had calling Great Spotted Woodpeckers from both Curlew and the 'L' Wood. Walking up to the plantation I had 8 Linnets go over and a couple of Reed Buntings called from the 97 hedge. About 85 Pink-footed Geese headed north, presumably moving between feeding areas.

 Pink-footed Geese

Raptors were represented by 2 Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawk was mobbed all the way across the moss by a single Carrion Crow. The Crow would give chase, diving at the Sparrowhawk, and the Sparrowhawk could easily out fly the Crow. It was like watching an aerial dog fight. The Crow would dive at the Sparrowhawk, the Sparrowhawk would pull up and the Crow would shoot past not being able to slow down enough. This went on for a couple of minutes until the Sparrowhawk obviously got fed up with it all and shot through some woodland to 'drop' the Carrion Crow!

There were good numbers of Finches and Tits in the plantation. The finches consisted of Chaffinch and Goldfinch, and the Tits, Blue, Great and at least 6 Coal Tits. I can only assume they were feeding on Birch and Alder catkins. A couple of Jays were also in the plantation and on my way back to the car I had 18 Stock Doves fly east.

Its back to the 'obs' tomorrow so I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday 26 September 2010

All Northerly

Craig, Ian and I were at Rossall again this morning for another ringing and migration monitoring session at the obs. As yesterday we had clear skies with a steady force 2 northerly wind. The wind wasn't any stronger than yesterday, but it was constant, meaning that a couple of nets struggled to catch anything. Yesterday 4 out of the 34 birds ringed were caught via playback calls and today 14 out of the 22 were caught in this manner. From that you can perhaps deduce that there were some grounded birds around yesterday, but very few today.

We trapped 22 new and 3 retraps as follows:

Wren - 2/1
Greenfinch - 5/0
Chaffinch - 9/0
Great Tit - 1/0
Robin - 1/0
Blue Tit - 1/1
Blackbird - 2/0
Starling - 1/0 (new ringing record for the obs)
Dunnock - 0/1





There was a little more vis than yesterday and also like yesterday it was all north except for the Swallows and Pink-footed Geese. We had (very approximately) 50 Chaffinch, 15 Meadow Pipits, Reed Bunting, 75 Greenfinch, 25 Collared Doves, 4 Grey Wagtails (we still haven't been able to catch and colour ring any of these for Heysham BO) Goldfinch, Linnet, 14 Tree Sparrows (mega!), 4 Swallows, 340 Pink-footed Geese and 80 Jackdaws (oh, these went south as well).

Other birds included 6 Mistle Thrushes, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Kestrel. No warblers ringed today, although a Whitethroat was in the 'middle' hedgerow. The forecast is looking okay for tomorrow so I'll give it a try again. There were a few arrivals of Redwings further east last night so I will be keeping my ears open tonight.

Saturday 25 September 2010

A Late September Morning at the 'Obs'

One of the advantages of ringing at a coastal site with limited cover, such as Rossall, is that virtually everything is a migrant. Hence the reason we were getting excited about the Tits and Dunnocks we were catching this morning! I was going to give my blog the title of 'Tit Fest' but I thought it would attract the wrong type of reader and also the 'wrong type of reader' would be terribly disappointed on viewing my blog!

Craig, Ian and I arrived at the obs at 6.30 a.m and put 4 nets up bisecting the hedgerows. We trapped 34 new and 2 retraps as follows:

Dunnock - 4/0
Blue Tit - 8/0
Great Tit - 2/0
Robin - 1/2
Meadow Pipit - 1/0
Chaffinch - 3/0
Reed Warbler - 2/0
Whitethroat - 1/0
Wren - 4/0
Long-tailed Tit - 8/0
Blackbird - 1/0

 Blue Tit

 Chaffinch - female

 Chaffinch - male

 Great Tit

 Long-tailed Tit

 Long-tailed Tits in bag prior to being released together

The Reed Warbler got a thorough grilling but it was still just a Reed Warbler and I don't mean 'just' as in boring or ordinary because juv Reed Warblers are stonking birds!

The wind was a force 2 NNE and I think this had an effect on the vis. Pink-footed Geese arrived throughout the morning in small numbers and in total we had 136 come in off the sea and head southeast. The Geese seem to prefer a tail wind for migrating whilst I think passerines seem to prefer a light head wind. A tail wind would mean that you could travel quicker, but a light head wind would create more lift, although your ground speed would be less. It's interesting to speculate!

By the way if you haven't read Ian Newton's 'Bird Migration' yet then just forget everything you know about migration, start again and read his book! On with this morning.

It's very difficult to log vis when you are ringing so the following totals are bare minimums and probably bare no resemblance to the actual numbers involved or indeed the totals you would record if not ringing. All of the passerines headed north into wind other than the Swallows; Grey Wagtail - 3, Chaffinch - 35, Meadow Pipit - 25, Skylark - 10, Swallow - 10 and Alba Wag - 12.

Raptors were represented by a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. A Grey Heron arrived high from the north, circled in a thermal to gain height, and drifted south. We could have been at the straights of Gibraltar. Well, perhaps not.

It's looking good, albeit northerly again, for another morning at the obs tomorrow. I'll let you know how we get on.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

They're Back

In fact they haven't really ever gone away at all as they do breed on Rawcliffe Moss in some of my boxes. The 'they' I am referring to is of course Tree Sparrows and today when I went to feed at my feeding station the numbers had already built up to 57. Excellent!

 Tree Sparrow - above and below. You'll need to squint!

It was very warm this morning as I had an hours walk on the moss before heading off to Bowland to do some work. It was obvious straight away that there was some 'vis' as Meadow Pipits and Chaffinches were on the move as soon as I got out of the car. As I headed down the track a Corn Bunting flew over and a number of Carrion Crows and Jackdaws were feeding in the flooded field alongside the track.

Flood alongside the feeding station track

Jays were very noisy and I had at least two. Well I say at least two because I saw one flying north towards the Scots Pine copse and Jay(s) were calling noisily from Curlew Wood. Heading north along the '97' hedge a number of Skylarks were heading over in a more or less southwesterly direction and in the end I counted 19. Swallows and House Martins were constantly arriving, feeding and then departing south as I headed up onto the top fields.

I had 67 Snipe flying south very high in five groups and when I headed towards the wildbird seed mix I flushed 35 Goldfinch and 66 Linnets. On the edge of this area in some tall vegetation I had three Whinchats which was nice.


It was now time to turn back. I went back along the '97' hedge and all I could add was a single Chiffchaff and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Scoter Watching

It's amazing how different the weather can be between two sites in the Fylde. This morning when I arrived at Rossall Point at 6.30 a.m. the wind was 15 mph WNW and there was no way I could have got any mist nets up at the obs. On the other hand just 8.5 miles (14 km) away at one of our ringing sites on Rawcliffe Moss, Phil and Will managed to do some ringing as the wind was nothing but a southeasterly breeze. Also unusually, there were more birds around at this inland site. See for details.

Back to Rossall. As you've heard me mention many times on here before, when there is a northerly element in the westerly wind seabird passage is usually virtually nil. Why bother then when I already know this I hear you ask? I suppose it's because there was a tide, it's one of my local patches and it's autumn and you never know!

As the tide ran in a few waders fed in front of my position alongside the Coastguard's Tower and these included 65 Oystercatchers and 47 Sanderlings. Interestingly Wyre Borough Council are intending to waste a huge amount of money in constructing some sort of hideous cafe/information centre/ bird hide next to the Coastguard's Tower. They would be better spending the money to zone the beaches to provide safe nesting areas for Ringed Plovers and roost sites for migrating and wintering waders. I think the main reason for this new building is to provide offices with a 'sea view' for Wyre Borough staff and provide somewhere for all the idiots with pooches who disturb the birds to meet and have a coffee to discuss the latest matters concerning all things 'doggy'!


As expected the sea was very quiet other than Common Scoters and I had 602 in total. They were very difficult to count and there could be a little duplication in my figures, but they were mainly all heading in an easterly direction into the bay so I think the numbers are fairly accurate.

A few Auk sp.'s flew into the bay and the only 'proper' seabird was a westerly heading Sandwich Tern. I then bobbed into Fleetwood Cemetery for a quick look, but I didn't expect many migrants if any. I had a Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and four Swallows and that was it. I took a few snaps in the cemetery and you can see the results below.

 Crane Fly

Herring Gull - juv


I then moved onto Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park where another local authority, Lancashire County Council, has wasted a 'shed load' of money by re-surfacing the pedestrian areas of the car park with a non-slip surface. No money has been spent on habitat management, so it would seem that the priority is to 'pander' to the needs of the dog walkers and encourage them to further mess the site up with an increase in dog shit and more mutts to disturb the wildlife! I must say that the ranger service try their best, it is the officers and councillors that are misguided and only provide 'lip service' to conservation.

I heard the most ridiculous name for a dog here today. A rather large gentleman got out of his car that was adorned with all sorts of pink items, including pink seat covers, and proceeded to put a pink lead on a fluffy white poodle. I heard him calling his dog and it's name was 'Huffle Puff'!!! Yes, I'll say it again 'Huffle Puff'. The mind boggles!

Did I see any birds? On the pools were 13 Tufted Ducks, 24 Coots and a Little Grebe. Thirty Pink-footed Geese headed south and 7 Skylarks arrived from the east. With all the disturbance from dog walkers they wouldn't be able to rest and feed for any time at all. Fifteen House Martins also arrived at a similar time and then headed off south.

 Roosting Herring Gulls

The wind is veering west-southwesterly tonight, although some rain is coming in, so depending on visibility it could be better on the sea tomorrow. As always I'll let you know.

Friday 17 September 2010

Splash and Dash

I called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning on my way to see a client in Bowland. It was clear with a moderate northwesterly wind and it was quite cold. A few birds are starting to find the seed now and there were half a dozen Chaffinch and about 10 Tree Sparrows.

 Tree Sparrow

As I walked back down the track away from the feeding station I could hear some Pink-footed Geese calling and I was expecting to see them appear over Curlew Wood from the north, and then I could hear them over head. I looked up and 76 were high 'winging' their way south.


The weather has now changed for weekend and it is highly unlikely that we will get out ringing at the 'obs', so it will be some birding for me tomorrow and Sunday.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Windy Wednesday - Parts 1 and 2

The weather conditions were spot on for some decent seawatching off Rossall Point this morning, so by 6.30 a.m. I was sheltering behind the Coastguards Tower with Ian. The first birds I had were a few Guillemots close in on the falling tide. At the same time Ian and I both picked up a small Tern being blown east by the 30 mph westerly wind with wings flailing. It managed to compose itself and then battle west against the wind and it was then that we could see that it was a juvenile Little Tern. The first good bird of the morning. We did have a few Sandwich Terns on the move as well and these numbered 12.

The stormy conditions seemed to be stirring up the Common Scoters and 89 birds moved over the waves.

Next up were the stars of the show and we picked up the first Leach's Petrel cutting across the bay. It was interesting that the first few birds were doing this, moving in a southwesterly direction. It's as if they weren't being affected by the strong winds and being blown in to the bay. Later on they were being blown into the bay and they were passing Rossall close in moving west along the shore. In total I had 15 Leach's during the morning.

 Leach's Petrel robbed off the net

Kittiwakes moved west further out and in total we had about 8 with a supporting cast of 2 Manxies and 3 Gannets.

Ian then picked up a small Skua sp. coming across the bay shearing. As it came closer a lot of features came into view that would clinch it as a 'pale' juvenile Long-tailed Skua. Awesome! The Long-tailed was closely followed by 2 Bonxies and 4 Arctic Skuas. By this time I had to go to work as I had an appointment with a client, otherwise I would have stayed all day. This constitutes Part 1 of 'Windy Wednesday'.

 Long-tailed Skua - juv illustration; 
smilarly robbed off the net

Part 2 kicked off when I returned to Rossall at 4.00 p.m. Straight away Leach's were on the move and in total I had 12 birds west close in giving stonking views. At one stage I had a flock of four! Auks were still around on the sea and there was an even mix of Guillemots and Razorbills.

A few Gannets (3), Kittiwakes (9) and 2 Sandwich Terns moved west. I had my first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn when a flock of 76 arrived from the north and headed southwest. A Red-throated Diver flying high west was also a first for the autumn for me. Skuas were sadly lacking during 'Part 2' but a Bonxie heading west at speed close in made up for a lack of numbers by giving stupendous views. And that was it. It was time to head home and show my face to 'her indoors'.

The wind is easing tonight and veering northwesterly and it is still looking good for some ringing on perhaps both Saturday and Sunday, but we'll see.

Monday 13 September 2010

Weekend Washout

What a weekend! As I had Friday off work I was hoping to have three consecutive days of birding, but it wasn't to be. It was wet Friday, but as you know I managed to get out, and it was wet on Saturday and Sunday, but with a moderate northwesterly wind and along with the rain I decided not to bother.

The forecast over the next few days isn't much better. I have just looked at the five day forecast, something I keep on vowing not to do as it either; (a) depresses me or (b) disapooints me when the weather doesn't live up to the forecast. Tuesday (tomorrow) and Wednesday looks like it could be good for seabirds off the Fylde coast, then on Thursday it is swinging round to the northwest. This will favour the Merseyside birders, but not us. However, dare I say it, Saturday at the moment is looking like I might get out rinigng. But mind you it will probably change now.

I will try and get out before work in the week, but if I don't get out I'll have to stick my nose in the two new books that arrived today. I purchased the new 'Bird Observatories of Britain and Ireland' (can't wait to start that one) and James McCallum's 'Wild Skeins and Winter Skies - Paintings and Observations of Pink-footed Geese'.

Friday 10 September 2010

Twice Round

I was hoping that the rain front that came in from the west over night would drop a few migrants on my coastal patches, and it did, but it was only a few. As Ian said this morning as we both took shelter from a particularly heavy shower "it was raining just a little too hard". The wind didn't help much either as it was veering from SSE to SSW, and I think if there had been more easterly in it it would have been a better morning. There we go that's all the excuses as to why it was crap over with.

I worked three coastal patches; Mount Park, Fleetwood Cemetery and Rossall School twice. The reason for that was after I had worked all three once, the conditions improved so I went round them all again. I won't bore with you what I saw on each round and have just lumped the meagre totals together.

 The Mount

In the Mount it was raining heavily and all I could muster was a couple of Goldcrests and a single Chiffchaff. There were the usual 'ticking' autumn Robins and these too were probably migrants.

On to the cmetery and I did fair better here. The southern end was better as it was more sheltered and flicking around in the willows were 5 Goldcrests, 2 Chiffchaffs and possibly up to 3 Willow Warblers. A 1st winter male Sparrowhawk shot through and a few Swallows battled south against the wind that had now picked up to around 15 mph.


Conditions at Rossall School were tricky to say the least and finding any migrants was virtually impossible. A few local Swallows were feeding over the fields and I had 2 heading south out at sea over the waves. The visibility ast sea was poor and consequently a quick look only resulted in 3 Common Scoters and an Eider.

On the way back to my car I did manage one migrant in the form of a Wheatear. I then headed to Fleetwwod Marsh Nature Park to see if the wet weather had dropped any waders in and it hadn't. On the pools were 22 Tufted Ducks, 2 Pochards, 30 Coots and a Little Grebe.

The local authority are in the process of re-surfacing the car park and footpaths which is a total waste of money. They don't spend a penny on managing the habitat at the site and yet they can find several thousand pounds to re-surface the car park for the benefit of the dog walkers who just spend all their time disturbing all the wildlife!

It is totally amazing that money can be found to do this when the coalition government is proposing some huge cuts in funding for nature conservation. Targets for restoring farmland birds have gone and huge cuts are proposed in agri-evironment funding to name but a few. It would seem that our current government has no concern for biodiversity in the UK at all. At least I can sleep easy knowing that I didn't vote for this shower of shite!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Birds Of The Froorland Minge

Several years ago a colleague of mine was giving a presentation of a project he had been involved in with the RSPB. The title of his presentation, and indeed the project, was 'Birds of the Moorland Fringe' but an accidental spoonerism as he read out the title of his talk caused fits of laughter throughout the room. As I was surveying a farm on the moorland fringe today it got me thinking about JC and his presentation and hence the title of my blog.

I was on a farm at the western end of Bowland that we hope to improve for breeding waders and I was carrying out a survey of all the environmental, historical and landscape features as part of the application. A number of Swallows and House Martins seemed to be steadily moving southwest during the morning and in total I had 50 and 10 respectively. The only other 'vis' was restricted to 10 each of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails.


A large number of Starlings, probably about a thousand, were feeding in fields close to the farmstead and were very noisy until a Sparrowhawk shot through and all was quiet. There was a nice network of hedgerows on the farm but all was quiet in them other than a Willow Warbler and some 'ticking' Robins.

 Willow Warbler

I had 5 Buzzards during my walk round and I never tire of seeing these graceful raptors. In an adjacent field was some brassica 'game' cover crop and 2 Reed Buntings and 7 Linnets fed within. That was all I had bird wise today and I was hoping to get out ringing tomorrow, but the weather forecast has changed again. It is going to be clear with some raining come in over night, so I will probably still go birding as tonight and tomorrow looks likely to be the last day of south-southeasterly winds for a few days. I will find that Barred Warbler! That's jinxed it then; I'll let you know. 

Sunday 5 September 2010

Yesterday at the 'Obs'

The forecast for yesterday was marginal to say the least, but at this time of year you can't afford to miss any opportunity to get out ringing. Gary, Ian and I met at Rossall School at 6.00 a.m. and put the nets up. They were billowing a little and possibly just enough to make them obvious so that birds avoided them. There was also very little on the move and the combination of these two factors probably led to the poor catch that we had.

In total we ringed only 8 birds and these were Great Tit, Robin, 2 Whitethroats, Dunnock, 2 Swallows and a Blue Tit. On the positive side we did identify another net ride that will cut through a hedgerow hopefully intercepting any birds that move along it.


Great Tit



As I mentioned before the 'vis' was quiet and all we had going over were 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Linnets and 4 Meadow Pipits. There were 60 House Martins and 80 Swallows around but it was very difficult to tell whether they were moving through or not, as they seemed to be moving round the site in a feeding circuit.

I came across the critter below in my garden this afternoon and it is an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar. A cracking little 'beasty' and even more of a cracker as a moth!