Sunday 31 October 2010

The Usual

The Tree Sparrows needed feeding on Rawcliffe Moss this morning so I headed up there and did 'my usual'. I dropped the seed off on the track and then walked the '97' hedge and up to the plantation and back. There were a fair number of 'Pinkies' around this morning and my notebook records 1,304. In fact there were a lot more than that as large numbers could be seen in the distance towards Pilling Moss.


I had a a covey of 5 Grey Partridge hurtling across a ploughed field near to the barn and this was quickly followed by a Peregrine heading north. At the feeding station Tree Sparrow numbers seem fairly stable and I had 51 birds feeding with Tits, Chaffinch and Reed Buntings.

As I was about to head up the '97' hedge a party of 6 Long-tailed Tits moved through calling noisily to each other as they do. It was fairly quiet as I walked along the 97 hedge and I didn't see much until I got to the 'top' fields where I had a few Reed Buntings. In total I had 6 Reed Buntings in this area.

 Long-tailed Tit

Phil and Will were ringing at the plantation and you can see how they got on by clicking here Chaffinches were constantly on the move south with a few Bramblings mixed in. I had 52 Skylarks during my walk and these were mainly on the top fields. At one point 30-40 were spooked by something; my Peregrine from earlier perhaps.

A few thrushes were about including 8 Redwings and 67 Fieldfares and I had singles of Lesser Redpoll and Corn Bunting. The only other finch species I had was a group of 11 Siskin heading north towards the plantation. My walk back to the car was fairly quiet. It's off to the 'obs' tomorrow to do some ringing and as ever I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Doing The Rounds

I started off at Rossall School this morning just as it was coming light. The most obvious thing was the amount of Thrushes in the hedge and ditch alongside the track; I had 16 Blackbirds, 12 Redwings, 2 Fieldfares and 2 Song Thrushes. I carried on walking along the eastern hedgerow, heading towards the sea wall. Finches were heading south and I had at least 2 Siskins, 8 Bramblings and 20-30 Chaffinch. These are absolute minimum numbers as I obviously missed birds as I was walking and also if you hear a call/calls if you can't see the birds because they or so high it only goes in the notebook as 1-2 birds, when there probably would be a lot more.

When I got to the sea wall I headed south to have a look in the reeds and roses by the dunes. About 12 Greenfinch were feeding on the rose hips and in fact over recent weeks when we have caught Greenfinch at the 'obs' some have had rose seeds stuck to their upper mandibles.

The reeds were attracting Reed Buntings down from the sky and they seemed to flock together in the reeds before heading off south together in small groups. I had 19 birds head off south from this location. I had a couple of Rock Pipits go over and a few Alba Wags winged south as I headed back north along the sea wall. I had a quick look on the sea but it was quiet.

My next 'port of call' was the cemetery and as at the 'obs' Chaffinch, Bramblings, Siskins, Redwings and Goldfinch were going over. Some of the Chaffinch were stopping off in the taller Sycamores and I had stonking views of a female Brambling. A party of 11 Long-tailed Tits moved through the Sycamores and I gave them a good grilling in case there was anything 'stripey' or 'winged-barred' amongst them, but there wasn't.

 Long-tailed Tit

Further round towards the north end of the cemetery I had a Chiffchaff that only called in response to my 'pishing'! I then headed to the southern end to look amongst the willows and I had 13 Blackbirds and a single Goldcrest. A Sparrowhawk caused a stir as shot along the length of the willows.

As I slowly headed home I called in at the Nature Park. It was living up to its alternative name as a dog toilet as there were numerous dogs being exercised by their owners. One of them shattering the peace and quiet by incessantly shouting his badly behave mutts name. All I could hear was "willow, willow, willow". Why on earth do people give their dogs such stupid names.

I came across the ubiquitous bag of dog shit hung up on the railings that the lazy dog walking feckers couldn't be bothered to drop in the shit bin or take home!

 We've been here before I know; but why can't these filthy people take their 
dog's filth home?

A quick look on the pools revealed a male Shoveler, 14 Pochards, 26 Coots and 17 Tufted Ducks. Raptors were represented by a single Kestrel.

 Black-headed Gull

Herring Gulls

This mornings Kestrel above & below

Tufted Duck scratching 

Yarrow providing a netcar source for late insects

Back at home this afternoon sat in my conservatory finishing off 'Bird Migration' I watched a Chiffhchaff flitting around the garden with 9 Goldfinch and 6 House Sparrows on the feeders.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Little Owl

I called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning to feed the Tree Sparrows. As I was coming out of the barn with a bucket of seed I had 2 Siskins go over followed by a couple of Skylarks. As I pulled in to the track I could see that Pink-footed Geese were dropping into the stubble field next to Tree Sparrow Wood and typically as I didn't have my camera with me they were close and in good light.

I got out of the car and a Little Owl flew from the sheep handling facilities next to where I park. This was the first time that I have seen a Little Owl here. It flew a short distance down the track and perched on a fence post. As I looked at it through my bins it was looking straight at me and was bobbing its head up and down. That was the second time that I had wished I had brought my camera with me!

A Little Owl ringed at Rawcliffe Moss, but not 'the' Little Owl.

As I walked down the track it flew along the track and up into the hedge. The Chaffinch and Tree Sparrows were going 'ballistic' mobbing it as it flew. As I got to where it was it flew out of the hedge, along the track and onto a post. The same thing again; it was looking straight at me, bobbing its head. This whole process was repeated two more times before it disappeared along the '97' hedge, before once more perching up on a fence post and watching me. Awesome!

At the feeding station I had 49 Tree Sparrows along with 9 Chaffinch and a couple of Reed Buntings. On my way back along the track I had 2 Yellowhammers around the 'pheasant' feeder. Hopefully they'll build up here like they did last winter. Just as I got back to the car 10 Redwings flew over heading south and it was then time to head up to Kirkby Lonsdale to see a client.

Monday 25 October 2010

All Green

There was a heavy frost this morning at Rossall as Ian and I put just two nets up at the 'obs'. I had to go in to work towards lunchtime so we just had a short three hour ringng session. Back at the cars having a well deserved warming cup of coffee a Barn Owl floated over the field on the other side of the central hedgerow. The Fieldfare and Redwing MP3 playback was blasting out, well not quite blasting, but it was loud enough to attract a few Fieldfares. We caught just one which was a new ringing record for the site.

We processed 56 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Fieldfare - 1
Blackbird - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 49
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Dunnock - (1)
Robin - (1)
Wren - (1)



We have ringed 257 Greenfinch this autumn at the obs and haven't retrapped a single one!

From a 'vis' perspective the greatest interest of the morning were the Brambling and we had 48 go over. Other birds on the move included 4 Blackbirds, 2 Redwings, 5 Fieldfares, 3 Linnets, 3 Goldfinch, 760 Jackdaws and a Grey Wagtail.

As it was half term Ian had his little girls with him for the second half of the ringing session and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Three new trainees for the future? 

Starting them young. Yours truly with three future trainees!?

Sunday 24 October 2010

More Fieldfares

I couldn't think of a more inventive title for today's blog entry, but it perfectly sums up the avian highlight for me on Rawcliffe Moss this morning. The northerly wind was a little bit too strong for any ringing at the obs this morning so I went to Rawcliffe Moss to feed after I had watched a slow, but later entertaining Korean GP.

The weather was glorious with clear skies and 'pin sharp' light. A number of Pink-footed Geese were arriving from the northwest and dropping onto the moss and I had 1,035 in total. As you will probably know there is/was a Red-breasted Goose with the Pink-feet at Pilling today and it seems that a number of people are getting quite excited. Why on earth you can get excited about a Red-breasted Goose amongst Pink-feet I'm not sure. It might stand a better chance of being genuine if it was amongst dark-bellied Brent Geese on the east coast, bit not over here with Pinkies. Mind you it will give all the 'listers' a target bird to go for. 

Pink-footed Geese

There seemed to be a few more Skylarks around this morning compared with recent days and I had 80 in total mainly on the 'big' and 'top' fields chasing each other around and over the stubbles. A few Meadow Pipits were amongst them, perhaps a dozen, and I had 5 Reed Buntings on my walk round.

At the feeding station itself Tree Sparrows numbered 50 together with a few Chaffinch and Tits. As I headed up the '97' hedge I had 2 Song Thrushes and then the first of the Fieldfares. The Fieldfares were coming and going and moving in different directions. I don't think I double counted any, but it is possible, and in total I had 946. The biggest groups were two groups of 274 and 280. Interestingly I only had 3 Redwings and 2 Blackbirds on my walk round. It would seem that there are a lot of Redwing still to come.

 Distant Fieldfare

I had the odd finch over such as Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Siskin and 7 Goldfinch in the plantation. Phil and Will were ringing in the plantation and when I stopped to chat with them for a few minutes they 'gripped' me with a male Bullfinch that they had seen in the plantation earlier. This is a first record for the site and they are a fairly scarce bird in the Fylde full stop. I had a look in the plantation for the Bullfinch but only had 2 Goldcrests and a Kestrel hovering above the field to the west.

 Bracket fungi in the L Wood

Foxglove providing a late nectar sorce for insects

On my way home I stopped off at Town End to have a look on the Wyre and all I had was a female Goosander. The weather looks okay again tomorrow and I am going to have a ringing session at the 'obs' before work. I'll let you know how I get on.

The River Wyre at Town End


Thursday 21 October 2010

Fieldfare Invasion

If you have been birding in certain parts of the UK you won't have failed to notice the huge numbers of Fieldfares moving through. Yesterday I was doing some habitat management training with some new members of staff on a farm near Slaidburn in the Forest of Bowland. Funnily enough one of the first birds I had was a Crossbill flying over calling and then the Fieldfares arrived.

During the morning they were constantly heading west/northwest in groups of 10-50 flying low over the ground and flying very fast. How many moved through I couldn't tell as I also had to have my eyes to the ground identifying plants!

During the afternoon I came across over a thousand feeding and alighting in some hedgerows and pasture with lesser numbers of Blackbirds, Song Thrush and Redwings mixed in. It was an awesome spectacle!


I haven't 'blogged' for a few days as I haven't had anything to blog about. I had a couple of interesting sightings driving over Rawcliffe Moss on my way to work on both Monday (18th) and Tuesday (19th). On Monday I had a Water Rail walking along the side of the road adjacent to a patch of phragmites and willow carr. At more or less the same spot the following day I had a Peregrine fly over!

I called to feed at my feeding station on Wednesday but I had very little as the weather was so appalling. The forecast isn't fantastic for the next few days either. Too windy for ringing, but not windy enough for seabirds. But never mind I'll make the most of whatever the weather is.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Quality and Quantity

We had a team of 5 out this morning at Rossall and nets were erected quickly in the half light. A mixed Thrush tape was put on and a few Redwings (25) and Fieldfares (8) were interested but we didn't manage to catch and ring any.

In total we processed 63 new birds as follows (retraps in brackets):

Blackbird - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 54
Blue Tit - 2 (1)
Meadow Pipit - 1
Robin - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1


Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit - adult. 
Note how fresh and evenly aged the greater and median coverts are, 
indicating an adult that has undergone a complete moult.  A juvenile would show a 
contrast between  new inner olive edged greater coverts and outer worn, 
unmoulted and 'bleached' greater coverts.

There were two species that we had on vis this morning that were of particular interest. The first species was Brambling, and it was the number of birds involved. In total during only the first hour of the morning we had 37 birds move south.

The other species, not normally associated with visible migration, was Long-tailed Tit. Later in the morning we could hear some birds calling and our eyes were naturally drawn towards the hedgerows but they weren't there. Ian looked up and there at considerable height were 15 Long-tailed Tits heading south! The natural world never ceases to surprise and amaze you.

As you can imagine we were quite busy processing 65 birds so my recording of other species on vis isn't overly accurate but included 7 Chaffinch, 2 Meadow Pipits, 310 Jackdaws, 2 Alba Wags, 2 Linnets, 26 Goldfinch, 3-4 Reed Buntings, 4 Skylarks, 2 Siskins and 2 Grey Wagtails.

The only raptor we had this morning was a Peregrine south and just one Whooper Swan, that was an immature bird heading north. Over 300 Pink-footed Geese arrived and were dropping onto fields at Fleetwood Farm.

It would seem that in the week the weather is turning northwesterly and at the moment the possibility of some migration monitoring at the obs is slim. But in the optimistic words of group members "there's time for it to change yet"!

Saturday 16 October 2010

Second Species of Butcher Bird Over the Obs

It was a bit it nippy when Craig, Gary, Ian and I met at Rossall at 6.30 a.m. to do some ringing. It was clear with a 5-10 mph northeasterly wind. We knew that any weekend birders turning up for the Red-backed Shrike would be disappointed as it was the first clear night last night since Ian found the bird on Wednesday (13th) and undoubtedly it would have 'cleared out' and it had. No updates on Redwing calls last night as I was in Manchester watching the greatest guitar player in the world, Joe Bonamassa. Look him up and prepare to be amazed!

The highlight of the morning was without doubt when at 8.00 a.m. Ian shouted "Great Grey Shrike" and there above us, slightly to the west was a Great Grey Shrike with its 'bouncing' flight heading north. Awesome! In fact I think when I looked at it I was heard to exclaim "Gret Grey f*cking Shrike"! We watched it head north over the houses until it disappeared from view. Stunning!

Below are slome shots of Northern Shrike in the hand taken by my good friend Nigel in Canada. Not exactly the same as our Great Grey Shrike, but in teh absence of a Great Grey picture it will do.

Even though we had had such a mega (relatively speaking of course) the vis was actually fairly quiet. I had my first Fieldfare of the Autumn and numbers of Redwings and Song Thrushes were in single figures. In fact everything that moved over was in single figures including Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Alba Wagtail, Skylark, Rock Pipit (expectedly in single figures) and Goldfinch. The only birds moving in numbers were the 200 Jackdaws that headed south.

Arrivals of wildowl were represented by 4 Whooper Swans and 92 Pink-footed Geese heading fairly high to the south. Raptors included Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, and that was it for birding. But who needed anything else after the Great Grey Shrike.

From a ringing perspective we processed 52 new birds as follows, with numbers of retraps in brackets:

Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 1
Goldcrest - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 1 (1)
Reed bunting - 6
Blue Tit - 3 (2)
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 5
Greenfinch - 31
Robin - (2)

The ringing team back 'to it' after the distraction of the Great Grey Shrike


And why a Redwing is called a Redwing


Reed Bunting

Thursday 14 October 2010

Oh Dear!

I bumped into Will on Rawcliffe Moss at teatime and I was telling him how impressed I was that all the birders at Rossall yesterday were following the instructions not to enter the fields to view the Red-backed Shrike.  Then I found out that two employees of that rare bird news service, you know the one, the one with the pagers that bleep incessantly and really annoy you, were wandering around the fields this afternoon, trespassing to try and see the Shrike. Apparently their excuse was "we thought we were on a public footpath". Bollocks!!! They knew exactly where they were and didn't give a f*ck!

You would think that they would set an example and follow the instructions that they were sending out to subscribers. I think these two characters thought they could get away with it, get a closer look and try and get some shots close up of the Shrike. What they have in fact done is spoil it for everyone else. This site will now become a 'bird news black hole' and no gen will now be released from the site, or not from me at any rate.

I am actually bloody livid about this as I have worked hard to get permission to ring here. I have to produce monthly and annual reports for the school to ensure that we can continue to carry out our valuable ringing studies here. The School won't differentiate between us and these two clowns and any more actions like this could jeopardise everything we have worked hard for, and I am not prepared to risk this. What makes it even more annoying is that both these clowns are qualified ringers and should realise how hard you have to work to gain a landowners trust. Despicable!

These two idiots should take a hard look at themselves and the organisations that they represent and ask themselves whether they have set a good example or not. One of the clowns sits on a national committee and helps to asses whether yours and my records should be accepted or not. Is this acceptable behaviour for someone in this position? I think not.

Anyway, I'm not going to waste my time on this any more and on to today's birds or lack of them.

It was completely cloudy last night and as a result I didn't have a single Redwing calling. I didn't see a Peregrine flying over as I walked across the car park at work either, but I did have a several Coal Tits and a couple of Nuthatch coming to my office feeders.


Oh, and Red-breasted Nuthatch, but not on my office window feeders!

On my way back from Longton this afternoon I dropped into Freckleton Marsh to have a alook at the ditches that we put in and they look absolutely fantastic. I'll bob back with a camera next week and let you have a look.

Back to where I started I suppose in that I called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to feed on my way home from work. As I drove along the track a male Sparrowhawk flew in front of me only inches above the ground. Amazing! Tree Sparrow numbers were similar to a few days ago and I had 93 in total. Other than 3 Skylarks over and a Coal Tit calling from Curlew Wood that was it.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Butcher Bird at the Obs

It was one of those days today where birds were turning up on my local patches and I was at work and not able to get away until the end of the day. Frustrating!

It all started off when I received a phone call from Ian saying that he had found a Yellow-browed Warbler in Fleetwood Cemetery! Unfortunately I was on my way to see a client at Horwich so was travelling in the complete opposite direction to Fleetwood. Then as I was pulling into my client's yard Ian phoned again to say he had found a 1st winter Red-backed Shrike at Rossall School! I was gob-smacked! I must give Ian an almighty pat on the back as he puts more time in than anyone I know birding. In fact all three Red-backed Shrikes that I have seen in the Fleetwood area have been found by Ian!

After my meeting at the Wildlife Trust I headed to the obs and spent half an hour watching the Shrike. It was feeding between an area of gorse and a line of fence posts. It was continually catching bees and would return to its favoured bramble perch or one of the fence posts. Awesome! 

This was the second record for the 'obs' after the first in September 2008. Also at the obs there are records for both Great Grey and Woodchat Shrikes. So that's four shrikes of three species. Not bad for a west coast location. I have included a couple of crappy record shots of the Shrike below.

Re-winding to last night and earlier today the Redwing passage didn't start until 2030 here and until 2230 I was averaging 5 calls per minute. This morning when I arrived at my office at Myerscough College I had a male Peregrine flying over the car park heading north. Although not rare it is a good bird for the office.

I had a meeting at the Wildlife Trust offices at Cuerden Valley park today, as I mentioned above, and as I was early for my meeting I had a short wander round the park. I didn't see much other than 4 or 5 Jays. I have included a couple of pictures of the park below.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Migration In Action

I have probably said this on here a few times but one of the beauties of watching a coastal site is being able to see exactly what is or what isn't happening migration-wise. If it is a coastal site with limited cover it is even better, even over here on the 'barren' west coast! It also doesn' take huge numbers of birds to create a spectacle and this morning at Rossall it was one of those mornings.

Ian and I arrived at the 'obs' at 6.30 a.m. and we put just two 40 foot nets up in the dark. Unfortunately I had to go to work later in the morning so it was going to be a short ringing session as well as being short in net length. In fact the nets were down by 10.00 a.m. and we processed 40 new birds as follows (retraps in brackets):

Blackbird - 9 (1)
Greenfinch - 15; responding to the 'play-back'
Wren - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 4
Chaffinch - 1
Robin - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Great Tit - 4
Blue Tit - (1)




Great Tit


Long-tailed Tit

In the early morning darkness Redwings were calling and it was impossible to tell exactly how many birds were involved. As it became light we could see a few birds responding to the 'play-back' but they were refusing to get caught.

During the morning we had 62 Redwings and it was spectacular to watch them drop out of the sky with Blackbirds and Song Thrush. The Blackbirds and Song Thrsushes were moving up and down the hedges and then climbing high into the sky and moving on. We had 32 Blackbirds and 10 Song Thrushes grounded and unfortunately these birds were in the area where we would normally have two other nets up so they evaded capture.

Large numbers of Jackdaws were on the move this morning and in total we had 425 head south with single figures of Carrion Crows amongst them.

On one net round Ian and I were approaching a net and 6 Coal Tits dropped out of the sky and whistled past our ears into some willows. Unfortunately they didn't head towards our net but worked back the other way for a few yards and then climbed into the air and headed off. This happened again later in the morning with 5 Blue Tits. Cool!

It always amazes where the Greenfinch come from when we switch on the 'play-back' calls, as almost immediately they just drop out of the sky straight to where the MP3 player is. I can only assume like a lot of the other finches they are moving out of range of our sight and hearing. Incredible!

As you may have gathered there was quite a bit of vis this morning and other species and totals included 30 Meadow Pipits, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Brambling, 140 Pink-footed Geese, 11 Siskins, 2 Grey wagtails, Reed Bunting and Mistle Thrush. These totals don't include the numerous 'heard only' birds that were coursing through the stratosphere!

A party of 12 Long-tailed Tits, plus a few Blue and Greats, moved through and you will have noticed from the ringing totals above that we only managed to ring 4 of the Long-taileds. A juvenile male Sparrowhawk spent all morning on and off trying to catch something as we saw it regularly flicking through and over the hedgerows.

Out of interest the Redwing passage only commenced here at 2145 last night and I was recording 8 calls per minute. You'll have to excuse me while I just go and have a listen again.

Monday 11 October 2010

Norse Invaders

Redwings were continuing to arrive last night and they were moving over in slightly greater numbers. Between 2000 and 2130 they were averaging 4 calls per minute. Even as I was leaving the house this morning in the half light I could still hear them going over. Also, as I walked from my car to the office I had a flock of 30 head southeast along with 25 Lapwings that went east.


On the way home I called in at Rawcliffe Moss to feed. It was a glorious evening with crisp early evening light. A few Pink-fooed Geese moved around and I had 230 go over. My attention was drawn to some Buzzard calls and I picked up two birds very low calling to each other giving absolutely fantastic views in the 'razor sharp' light.

Down at the feeding station the Tree Sparrow numbers had increased to 104 and I 'pushed' a Great Spotted Woodpecker off one of the feeders. Ian and I are going to have a go at Rossall in the morning, so I'll let you know how we get on.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday 10 October 2010

Avoidance Tactics

Redwings were arriving last night and my usual way of assessing how heavy the passage is, is to count how many calls I hear per minute. Lat night I was hearing on average 3 calls per minute, so the passage was fairly light, but at least they were here!

This morning I wanted to go birding, but avoid any numbers of people, and the reason being was that I didn't want to hear anyone discussing the results of the Japanese F1 GP or the Malaysian Moto GP, both of which were run in the early hours UK time. I am a big fan of these two motorsports, but birding comes first, and I had recorded both and it was my plan to watch them later. I wanted to get out and see what was about, so I planned to just bird a couple of migrant sites and then go home to watch the GPs before there were too many people about.

 Rossi; the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time)

I first went to Mount Park and straight away 6 Redwings came out of the site. Other thrushes included single Mistle and Song, and 3 Blackbirds. Vis included Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit going east in ones and twos and 30 Goldfinch east as well.


There were a few grounded migrants including 3 Coal Tits, 2 Goldcrests, Chiffchaff and male Blackcap. The most bizarre sight I had was a pale bellied Brent Goose flying south with 4 Cormorants! Interestingly, Ian had 2 Brent Geese on the sea later in the morning off Rossall Point, but he couldn't 'race' them as they were a long way out and bobbing up and down on the sea.

 Coal Tit

I then went on to Fleetwood Cemetery and it was more of the same. I had 2 Redwings, 11 Meadow Pipits, 31 Chaffinch, 15 Siskins, 2 Skylarks, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, 2 Swallows and a Rock Pipit go over on vis. A juvenile male Sparrowhawk caused a commotion as it shot along the west side of the cemetery.

 Reed Bunting

There were a few grounded migrants in the cemetery including 4 Blackbirds, 4 Robins and a Chniffchaff. There were more people around now, so it was time to go home and watch the GPs. As it was calm in my south facing garden (sheltered from the ENE) I put a net up and managed to ring 3 House Sparrows and a Great Tit.

House Sparrow and Great Tit. 
The odd background are the blinds in my ringing room, err conservatory!