Saturday 29 January 2011

Yellow Bunts

Ian and I finally managed a ringing session at our feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning. It was a beautiful morning with clear skies and no wind; perfect for mist netting. We processed 23 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Tree Sparrow - 3
Chaffinch - 7 (1)
Yellowhammer - 2
Reed Bunting - 1
Brambling - 1
Blue Tit - 3 (4)
Robin - 1 (1)
Starling - 3 (1)
Blackbird - 2 (1)
Great Tit - (4)

 Brambling - female

Chaffinch - female

Chaffinch - male

Great Tit

Yellowhammer - female

Yellowhammer - male

It was virtually impossible to estimate the number of birds using the feeding station, but there did look to be around 200 Tree Sparrows, and there were 8 Yellowhammers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

One of the first birds we had this morning was a Buzzard flying along Curlew Wood and calling as it flew. It was as though it was trying to wind all the Corvids up as they were calling from the wood as it passed over them! Pink-footed Geese were moving around this morning and there was probably around a 1,000 in various flock sizes.

A Raven flew west calling, which is quite a good bird for here, and a handful of Fieldfares and Redwings were about. A single Siskin headed south and 30-40 Skylarks were in the 'Big' field.

After we had packed up we got my new whoosh net set up in preparation for some Turnstone ringing (hopefully) and with brand new bungees it was fast. I'll let you know how we get on.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Two Mosses and a Handful of Recoveries

Over the past two visits to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss the number of Tree Sparrows have been fairly constant at 185 with 7 Yellowhammers and 20 Chaffinch. Hopefully we'll be able to get out ringing there this weekend.

That was the first moss and the second moss was Altcar Moss near Formby yesterday. I was doing a survey of an arable farm there in preparation for a Higher Level Stewardship application that I am completing. It was fairly cold and breezy as I walked round and also fairly quiet bird wise. I had a nice flock of 22 Curlews feeding on some flooded potato stubbles and in the 'crystal' light they looked fantastic. A number of Pink-footed Geese were moving around all morning and in total I had 2,178 in varying flock sizes.

I was hoping for a few finch flocks but the best I could do were 7 Reed Buntings and a handful of Skylarks (yes I know they're not finches!). I had 5 Buzzards in one area with 3 together thermalling above some woodland. Walking along a track I had Stoat run close in front of me and later on in the morning I had another one.

Below are some pictures of the landscape of the moss at Great Altcar.

 We had a few recoveries through from the BTO yesterday and I have detailed the more interesting ones below.

We had a Blackbird that Phil and Will ringed at Lee Farm near Myerscough College on 3rd February 2010 and this was controlled at Bauersdorf, Lammershagen, Germany on 31st October 2010 having moved 866 km to the east. It is interesting to speculate that when controlled on 31st October whether it was heading west back to the UK or whether it was going to winter in Germany.

 Blackbird CF24597

The second reovery was a Coot colour ringed by Craig at Stanley Park, Blackpool on 13th September 2010 that was reported at Glasson Dock, Lancashire on 28th November 2010. This is a movement of 24 km NNE. Craig has been colour ringing Coots in Blackpool as part of a larger colour ringing scheme organised by Kane Brides and they have been getting some fantastic results. In fact I think they are going to be re-writing what is known about the movement of Coots.

 Coot GN08876

The third and final recovery is of a Chaffinch that Ian and I controlled at Rossall School on 4th October 2010 that had been ringed as a juvenile female in Gosforth, Cumbria on 13th August 2010. This was a movement of 63 km to the SSE. It illustrates nicely the distance of post-natal dispersal of some Chaffinches.

 Chaffinch L145712

Sunday 23 January 2011


It was a fairly disastrous morning all in all and the weather forecasters got the weather completely wrong. On Saturday they forecasted no fog and it was foggy and today they forecasted fog and it was clear! As a result of the forecast we didn't make any plans to go ringing on Rawcliffe Moss and when I went there later in the morning to feed it was clear and flat calm!

At the feeding station were 200 Tree Sparrows, 12 Yellowhammers and driving off the Moss I stopped to have a look at the Little Owl looking at me.

Just after lunch I got a phone call from Ian to say he was watching a first winter Iceland Gull at the Nature Park. As the Nature Park is literally only 5 minutes from home I nipped up there to have a look. I am not the worlds biggest Gull fan, but this was a nice bird and my 'record' shots below don't do it justice!


1st winter Iceland Gull - above & below

Whilst we were watching the Iceland Gull, Ian picked up an adult Yellow-legged Gull that flew in and landed on the pool. It stopped for just a couple of minutes bathing, before flying off again. My pictures of the Yellow-legged Gull are even worse than those of the Iceland!

Adult Yellow-legged Gull - above & below

I have received some news from Richard on the Oystercatcher we controlled at Heysham yesterday. It was indeed a Grampian bird and following is a snippet from Raymond's email to Richard..."it is a Grampian bird. Ringed as an adult on 27/3/10 at an inland spring roost near Tarland. Could be a bird heading north or a breeder."

I was having a conversation with Phil this afternoon about Bramblings and what was our best year for Bramblings in terms of numbers ringed by our group. At the moment I am reading Ian Newton's 'Finches' that was first published in 1972. He mentions a roosting flock at a site in Switzerland in the winter of 1951/52 numbering between 36 and 70 million birds! Besides these birds there was apparently another 30-40 million Bramblings elsewhere in Switzerland at the same time, bringing the total population of the country to at least 100 million birds! I don't think we were anywhere near those numbers!

Saturday 22 January 2011


Ian and I joined Morecambe Bay Wader Ringing Group today to help with cannon netting some Oystercatchers. It was a successful day and in total we ringed 207 of which 181 were full adults, 9 hatched in 2009 and 17 hatched in 2010.

We also recaptured 10 birds; 9 of which were from Heysham and the other one Richard thinks might possibly be a Grampian Ringing Group bird.

A ringed Oystercatcher waiting to go to the processing team

Processing Oystercatchers

Adult Oystercatcher (told by eye colour)

Richard commented on the 175 birds that we processed that "the weights generally appear to be very good and the number that had not completed their primary moult was very low.  This ties in with the low numbers of birds found dead in the bay this winter which are normally of birds that have failed to complete their moult". This would suggest that they have survived the recent cold weather fairly well and have been finding enough food to enable them to complete their moult.

It is looking as though it will be too foggy for ringing on Rawcliffe Moss tomorrow so Ian and I are going to do some work on my new whoosh net ready to attempt to catch some Turnstone over the next few weeks.

Friday 21 January 2011

Fog Thick Enough to Knit!

I finished work early this afternoon with the intention of feeding at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss and then having a good mooch around the Moss. This wasn't to be because of the dense freezing fog. I suppose in some way it was probably a blessing in disguise as it enabled me to finish off my presentation on the BTO Ringing Scheme that I am giving on Monday evening.

Interestingly in the murk I could see that there were a good few birds at the feeding station including 6 Yellowhammers, 2 Song Thrushes, 200 Tree Sparrows and 45 Chaffinch. A male Kestrel was on the telegraph wires back at the car and on my way off the Moss the usual Little Owl peered down at me through the fog from it's usual perch in the usual tree.

 Song Thrush

I am hoping the weekend will be better as I am off to Heysham tomorrow to help with the cannon netting of some Oystercatchers and then on Sunday hopefully we'll be ringing at the feeding station. I'm keeping everything crossed.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Roll On Spring

At this time of year it always feels like I am on a tread mill when out birding as it is often more of the same. Yesterday I had a bit of a change, although strictly I wasn't birding, but working, but managed a bit of birding! I was working on some farmland at Eagland Hill, digging soil pits and looking at soil profiles. Unfortunately I kept on flushing the 'Pinkies'; so if you were trying to watch them I apologise. I was trying my best not to, but they were very wary. I had to go into several fields to look at the soil and the fields I had to look at always seemed to be the ones with the Geese in!

 I apologise if this is the view you were getting of the 'Pinkies' at Eagland Hill 

As I walked round this particular farm I had a nice flock of 30 Skylarks feeding in some stubble and in a similar area were 4.000 Pink-footed Geese. I had a female Sparrowhawk 'quartering' the stubble a bit like a Harrier; gliding low with wings held in a 'v' configuration, presumably trying to flush small passerines from the stubble. Raptor number two was a Buzzard that was very reluctant to leave the area that I was walking across. As I walked along it would keep 20-30 metres in front of me, and when I had gone so far it doubled back to where it had come from. There was obviously some prey items in the area that I had missed.

 Sparrowhawk - female

Across from the yard is an area of flooded potato stubble and there were 140 Whooper Swans feeding in it. The farmer told me that he has been feeding them, so they will probably hang on there for a while. I only had a quick look through them with my bins and didn't pick up any Bewick's, but that's not to say there weren't any.

This morning I called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss and it was a much better morning and a pleasure to be out and about. A group of 20 Corn Buntings were perched up in the hedgerow adjacent to the 'Reed Bunt' ditch and one or two of them were giving their 'jangly' song. At the feeding station were 14 Chaffinch, 132 Tree Sparrows and 6 Yellowhammers.

This settled weather is going to remain with us for a while and last into weekend, so hopefully I'll get out both days. I'll let you know.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Are You Out There?

What a washout the weekend has been. Wet and windy for two days has meant no birding or ringing for me. I called briefly at my feeding station today, but the weather was too appalling to have a walk round, so all I can say is that there were about 200 Tree Sparrows.

If you're not in to Thin Lizzy then look away now.

Lizzy were absolutely awesome last night in Manchester. I know there a lot of critics out there saying how can it be Lizzy without the 'big man' Phil Lynott and sometimes I sort of agree. However, what sold it for me was the fact that drummer Brian Downey, Phil's bestest buddy ever, is back in the band and he wouldn't do anything that Phil wouldn't approve of. It's 25 years since the death of one of Rock's greatest front men and the music needs to be kept on playing to keep it alive.

For the Lizzy anoraks amongst you the set list from last night is listed below:

1. Are You Ready?
2. Waiting For An Alibi
3. Jailbreak
4. Do Anything You Want To
5. Don't Believe A Word
6. Dancing In The Moonlight
7. Massacre
8. Angel Of Death
9. Still In Love With You
10. Whiskey In The Jar
11. Emerald
12. Wild One
13. Sha La La
14. Drum Solo
15. Cowboy Song
16. The Boys Are Back In Town


17. Rosalie
18. Bad Reputation


19. Black Rose

Are You Out There?

Friday 14 January 2011

Scores on the Doors and Other Bits and Pieces

It's been a week of work and few birds for me this past week so I thought I would report briefly on the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group with whom I ring and am secretary of. In 2010 we ringed 3154 adults, 520 pulli and recaptured a further 458 birds, meaning that in total we processed 4132 birds! These are our best totals since 1997, so there is quite a target to aim for this year!

Below are the totals ringed (with recaptures in brackets):

Mallard 1; Tufted Duck 1; Sparrowhawk 4; Kestrel 5 pulli; Coot 89 (55); Oystercatcher 1 pulli; Ringed Plover 4 pulli; Lapwing 20 pulli; Woodcock 3; Curlew 9 pulli; Black-headed Gull 10 pulli; Lesser Black-backed Gull 3; Herring Gull 1; Stock Dove 2 pulli; Woodpigeon 6; Collared Dove 4; Little Owl 1 & 6 pulli; Tawny Owl 1 & 6 pulli; Great Spotted Woodpecker 1; Skylark 1; Swallow 50 (1) 78 pulli; House Martin 2; Tree Pipit 9; Meadow Pipit 84; Pied Wagtail 1 & 9 pulli; Dipper 3 pulli; Wren 46 (16) 6 pulli; Dunnock 66 (27) 2 pulli; Robin 57 (29); Stonechat 1; Wheatear 9; Blackbird 135 (34) 17 pulli; Fieldfare 42; Song Thrush 14 (1) 8 pulli; Redwing 52; Mistle Thrush 2; Cetti's Warbler 2; Sedge Warbler 40 (16); Reed Warbler 54 (10) 8 pulli; Lesser Whitethroat 7; Whitethroat 127 (34) 10 pulli; Garden Warbler 2; Blackcap 12; Chiffchaff 19 (4); Willow Warbler 73 (37) 7 pulli; Goldcrest 31 (1); Spotted Flycatcher 2 pulli; Pied Flycatcher 25 pulli (1); Long-tailed Tit 50 (6); Coal Tit 50 (14); Blue Tit 148 (50) 90 pulli; Great Tit 108 (30) 34 pulli; Nuthatch 6 (4) 14 pulli; Treecreeper 8; Jay 6; Jackdaw 13 (1) 9 pulli; Carrion Crow 3; Starling 31 (1); House Sparrow 69 (7); Tree Sparrow 27 (5) 119 pulli; Chaffinch 665 (49) 9 pulli; Brambling 53; Greenfinch 337; Goldfinch 232 (11) 4 pulli; Siskin 53 (3); Common Redpoll 1; Lesser Redpoll 63; Yellowhammer 13; Reed Bunting 139 (8).

 Female Blue Tit on the nest

Tawny Owl pulli

Nuthatch pulli from the 'you know what' platsered box!

One of the Wheatears ringed this Soring

I realise that all of the above isn't so easy on the eye, so I have listed below a few personal ringing highlights of the year.

  • watching Kane pluck a male Tufted Duck out of the water at Stanley park; the first ringed for the Group
  • all the hard work Craig has put in catching and colour ringing Coot by hand and also one or two Gulls as well; well done Craig
  • Ian finding the first Ringed Plovers to successfully hatch young at Fleetwood for a decade
  • receiving a phone call from Ian to say that aWoodcock has got itself caught in the chicken wire surrounding his hen cabin
  • the number of Tree Pipits ringed by Phil and Will on Rawcliffe Moss
  • the first Dipper pulli ringed for a good few years
  • the look of shock on mine and Ian's faces when we caught not one but two Cetti's Warblers in a matter of minutes at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park
  • 171 Whitethroats processed; mainly at Rawcliffe Moss, but with support from the Nature Park
  • Spotted Flycatcher still appearing on our ringing totals
  • a Nuthatch plastering the hole and lid of the nest box it was using with dog shit insteadd of mud. Nice!
  • the number of pulli Tree Sparrows ringed by Paul near Singleton
  • the incredible number of Chaffinch tape lured by Phil and Will during autumn at Rawcliffe Moss
  • watching Greenfinch dropping out of the sky at the 'obs' and ringing 337!
  • Common Redpoll at the 'obs'
  • tape luring Lesser Redpolls at the 'obs'
  • an incredible 139 Reed Buntings, nearly all tape lured during the autumn by Phil and Will at Rawcliffe Moss
 Common Redpoll


One of the 337 Greenfinch

Lesser Redpoll

Two of the Ringed Plover chicks

The Woodcock caught by the hen cabin

Let's hope I can report similar if not better highlights at the end of 2011!

As stated earlier I haven't been able to do much birding this week, mainly due to work commitments, but also because of the weather. I was on one farm in the week near Inskip as part of some project work I am delivering and had a male Merlin which was nice, and then I was doing some similar work at a farm on Rawcliffe Moss (already a group site) and Rach and I had 15 Corn Buntings. In fact I said to the farmer Jim, that I would come back in the summer and ring his Swallow pulli.

It was late afternoon today before I got to my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to feed, and quite a few birds had already left to roost. I had a mere 19 Tree Sparrows, 5 Yellowhammers and a Buzzard. The forecast is for it to be far too windy, and possibly wet, to do any ringing tomorrow, so I think it might be a sea watch in the morning instead.

Then tomorrow evening I am off to Manchester to see Thin Lizzy. Are You Ready?

Sunday 9 January 2011

Nearly Thwarted by Pinkies Again

It was a beautiful morning as I headed across Rawcliffe Moss to the feeding station. It was a touch windy from the west, but I was blessed with glorious sunshine. As I headed down the track a group of 11 Corn Buntings went over giving their nondescript but memorable call! If you know the call of a Corn Bunting you will know what I mean by that.

I could see that Pink-footed Geese were dropping into the top field close to the plantation and I thought that my attempts to walk up to the plantation would be thwarted for the second time this week. However, as I just about reached the feeding station I could see about 1,500 'Pinkies' lift into the air and move off. Something had obviously flushed them, but I don't know what. In total I had 2,102 Pinkies in various flock sizes throughout the morning.


At the feeding station were 137 Tree Sparrows, 3 Corn Buntings, 12 Yellowhammers and 16 Chaffinch. I had 2 Kestrels on my walk and the only other raptor I had was a single Buzzard being mobbed, as usual, by Corvids. I headed up the '97' hedge towards the wild bird seed plot and I had 8 Stock Doves fly over, which is the most I have seen for a long time.


A number of Reed Buntings, 6 in all, were along the hedge and when I got to the Badger set I flushed 23 Red-legged Partridges. These were obviously release birds by the Gamekeepers. Thirteen Chaffinch were perched in the Birch trees at the Badger set along with 2 Linnets.

I had a walk round the wild bird seed plot and flushed 28 Skylarks, 4 Reed Buntings, 22 Linnets and 6 Corn Buntings. I had a walk into the L Wood on my way to the plantation and flushed a Woodcock and then I had a group of 5 Roe Deer running across the stubble fields.

Roe Deer

It was fairly quiet in the plantation until I got to the pond and I noticed some small birds feeding along the edge of the still frozen water. Lifting my bins I could see they were a flock of 11 Chaffinch with a stonking male and female Brambling. They spotted me and flew up into one of the Alders. I could only assume that they were foraging for Alder seeds that had fallen onto the ice and would be easy to obtain.

My walk back to the car was fairly bird less other than more 'Pinkies', a flock of 150 Jackdaws and a single Cormorant heading west which is a good record for the Moss.

Saturday 8 January 2011

In Search of Harriers

Buy this book!

This is a beautiful book, by a beautiful man, telling a beautiful story, with beautiful paintings, about beautiful birds! Even if you have The Hen Harrier  or One Pair Of Eyes, still buy it; it's fantastic.

I haven't got a great deal to report today. Yesterday I went to Rawcliffe Moss to feed, but the weather was so awful I didn't have a walk round. Numbers of Tree Sparrows and Chaffinch at the feeding station had increased to about 200 and 50 respectively, with at least half a dozen Yellowhammers.

I didn't get out this morning either as it was pouring down at first light and when it cleared I didn't fancy watching the tide at Rossall Point on a northwesterly, as it is probably the worst wind direction possible, so I spent some time updating my 'BTO Ringing Scheme' presentation that I am giving to a natural history group in a few weeks.

It looks like it is going to be dry but fairly windy tomorrow, so I'll get out birding somewhere, but unfortunately it will be too windy for any ringing.

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Travelling Light...

...or should I say that's my excuse for not taking my camera with me when I went to feed at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this afternoon. There were a large number of Jackdaws feeding in the field on the neighbouring farm and they totalled at least 600. One hundred of these were also spilling over on to 'my patch' to feed as well.

As I approached the feeding station a number of Woodpigeons were feeding on the seed that I put out, the little b*ggers, along with the 194 Tree Sparrows. There were 4 Yellowhammers at the feeding station as well, along with 27 Chaffinch.


As I headed north along the '97' hedge Starlings were flying in from the east to feed and I had 224 in total. A flock of 20 Redwings went over and I had a single Fieldfare. A couple of Song Thrush were in the hedge and I pushed up to 5 Reed Buntings towards the Badger set.


I had a walk round the wild bird seed plot and it was devoid of finches, but 27 Skylarks were feeding in it. I headed up towards the plantation but had to stop short as I noticed 2,000 Pink-footed Geese feeding in the stubble field opposite the plantation. There was no way I could walk to the plantation without flushing them so I cut my walk short and turned round and headed back. Just as I was walking away from the 'Pinkies' two Whooper Swans flew in to join them.

Back at the car I could see 15 Corn Buntings perched in a Willow along the 'Reed Bunt ditch'. A pleasant end to a pleasant walk.

 Corn Bunting

I see the local bird club, of which I am a member incidentally, has announced the winner of its 'who has the most time available to twitch at the drop of a hat any scarce birds that turn up' Yearlist Challenge 2010. The winner recorded 199 species in the recording area which is actually a few species less than the total for the year for the Fleetwood area!

I note that the rules state "to ensure all entrants have an equally fair chance to see rare and scarce species during the competition, please continue to send all relevant bird news to Rare Bird Alert (surprise, surprise!)...any suppressed birds cannot be included in yearlist totals". Why not just publish a list of all species recorded in the area during the year, let everyone count them, and declare everyone a winner! What if you find a scarce breeder, do you put the news out so you can count it in your list, or do you suppress (sorry for using the's' word) it to protect it. I know what some people would do! Aren't I glad that I do my own thing and don't get involved with such nonsense.  

Monday 3 January 2011

Back To Normal

I had all the family round yesterday for an afternoon/evening buffet, but it was great to be back to normal today and head off to Rawcliffe Moss to the feeding station. I say 'back to normal' but I had 'her indoors' with me this morning which meant it was less hard core birding (if it ever is) and more of a pleasant stroll!

There were quite a number of Pink-footed Geese on the move this morning with a number of birds arriving from the east to feed somewhere on the west of Rawcliffe Moss. As it was a frosty morning a number of farmers were out muck spreading and I can only assume that the 'Pinkies' were disturbed from other areas by these agricultural activities. In total I had 3,602 'Pinks' fly over during our walk.


Thrush numbers had reduced compared to recent days and I only had single figure counts of Blackbird, Fieldfare and Redwing and no Song Thrush. Down at the feeding station were 142 Tree Sparrows, 20 Starlings, 15 Chaffinch, and 2 Yellowhammers.

 Tree Sparrows heading back to the feeding station (honestly!)

We headed up the '97 hedge' towards the wild bird seed plot to see if there was anything in there, but before we could get there 3 people and 3 dogs from one of the converted, now private, farm dwellings on the Moss were heading in that direction, so there was no point heading there. The dogs were running everywhere, 'miles' from their owners, but I am not going to say anymore otherwise I won't stop!

Heading up towards the plantation 2 Roe Deer crossed our path and we flushed a single Woodcock from close to the main track. The plantation was very quiet and other than a Buzzard flying over we had very little else. It was time to head back south towards the car and we paused to look at a flock of 8 Corn Buntings perched on telegraph wires before heading home.

Corn Bunting (above) and Corn Buntings (below)

Birding Bedlam

My first birding outing of 2011 was yesterday (2nd) to Rossall Point. I had just got my self settled counting the waders on the shore when the tosser below came walking along the beach with his dog. This idiot systematically walks his pooch along the beach every day irrespective of whether he is disturbing roosting waders or not! Anyway, after he had gone, after some 'dirty' looks from me I could get back to my birding.

I was busy sea-watching when a very pleasant elderly gentleman with bins and a scope asked me if I was anything to do with the Fylde Bird Club guided walk that was meeting at 9.30 a.m. I informed him that I wasn't and thought to myself that it was going to be a nightmare birding at the Point this morning. As it turned out it was a guided walk lead by a Wyre Borough Council Ranger, but still a group of noisy novices to be avoided! Joking apart, it is good that people show an interest to ensure that the conservation message is secured into the future, and it is good that there are people out there prepared to show potential new birders the ropes.

Back to the birding. The visibility was superb this morning and Walney Island and the neighbouring town of Barrow was clearly visible. In fact you could read the time on the Barrow Town Hall clock and through the wind farm you could make out the 'hump' of Snaefell on the Isle of Man!

There were a number of waders roosting on the shore including a group 11 exquisite Grey Plovers. They were accompanied by 24 Ringed Plovers, 78 Turnstones, 3 Redshanks, 2 Sanderlings and 520 Oystercatchers.

 Grey Plover

As the visibility was so good the views of some of the birds out on the sea were excellent and there were quite a few Red-throated Divers moving this morning. It was difficult to get an accurate count of how many individuals were involved as birds were moving both east 'in to' the bay and west 'out of' the Bay.It is safe to say that I had 23 'sightings' some were very close in and giving stonking views.

The 'pin sharp' light meant that counting Eiders floating in on the incoimg tide was easier and I had 165 along with 38 Red-breasted Mergansers. I also had 3 Great Crested Grebes, 68 Common Scoters, 4 Auk sp. and 2 Harbour Porpoises.

Driving out of the car park three 'noisy' birders were heading on to the point and it was time to try and find some peace and quiet!