Sunday 27 March 2011

Two Nets Two Species

Ian and I ventured forth to Rossall again this morning and it was a completely different day. The forecasters had got the timing wrong with the weather and at first light we had complete cloud cover with a stiff south-southeasterly wind. In fact the wind was so stiff we could only put two and a half nets up. I say two and a half, because the 'half' was a 30 foot net where we would normally use a 60. It wasn't long before that net came down and we just had two nets up.

The first hour was spent looking at empty nets and gazing up at empty skies! There was no 'vis' at first light, but eventually the Meadow Pipits started to move and we started to catch. We ringed 32 birds in the form of 2 Chiffchaffs and 30 Meadow Pipits.


Meadow Pipit

Grounded migrants were limited to the two Chiffchaffs ringed plus a third bird heard calling away from the nets. 'Vis' consisited of 6 Goldfinches, 210 Meadow Pipits, 2 Alba Wags, 2 Siskin and a Lesser Redpoll. So it was an interesting morning but very different from yesterday.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Mountain Blackbird

Ian sent me some pictures (see below) of a cracking singing male Ring Ouzel that was the highlight of a small arrival of migrants in Fleetwood yesterday. These birds have declined somewhat over the years, but they are still possible to see in the Fylde for those prepared to put a bit of time in rather than sitting on their arses waiting for a phone call so that they can twitch one! 

Walking the Plank

Craig, Ian and I were back at Rossall again this morning and we had full cloud cover at first with light east-southeasterly winds. By 0900 the winds had picked up and we started to take the nets down. We put up a new net today which has become known as the 'plank net', as it is a net dissecting the central hedgerow over the ditch and we have had to put in place two 12 foot planks to enable us to put it up. It didn't break it's duck today but I have high hopes for it. Full marks to Ian for sorting out the planks!

 Walking the plank!

The visible migration was a little slow today, although we did have more Meadow Pipits than earlier in the week but less finches. Vis mig totals included 131 Meadow Pipits, 17 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Alba Wags, 3 Siskins and a female Goosander east! Probably the best bird of the morning.

The only grounded migrants we had were the Chiffchaff that we ringed and 5 male Wheatears. We observed some migratory behaviour from a group of 4 Blue Tits and 6 Great Tits that dropped in, moved through, and headed north.

We ringed 18 birds as follows:

Chiffchaff - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Meadow Pipit - 7
Linnet - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 3

 Blue Tit


Great Tit

Lesser Redpoll


Meadow Pipit

Back at home my moth trap held Hebrew Character and 2 each of Common Quaker and Early Grey. The forecast looks okay for tomorrow so Ian and I will be back at the 'obs'.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Back at the 'Obs'

It was a 5.30 a.m. start for Craig, Ian and I at Rossall this morning. When the clocks go forward early on Sunday morning we will get a brief respite from very early mornings, but it doesn't last long! We had clear skies this morning with a light south-southeasterly wind and a light ground frost.

As soon as it was light birds, Lesser Redpoll being the first, were on the move. The 'vis' wasn't heavy but did include 19 Lesser Redpolls, 5 Alba Wags, 109 Meadow Pipits, 2 Chaffinch, Grey Wagtail, 5 Siskins and Reed Bunting. The only grounded birds were two mega's, of the same species, for the site in the shape of Tree Sparrows! We always get a few going over on 'vis' in autumn but it was good to have 2 birds grounded for a while. They were perched up in the central hedgerow and then after a couple of minutes they took off, circled round climbing and headed north. Migration in the raw; brilliant!

Of course we had our mist nets up and we processed 15 new birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Greenfinch - 1
Meadow Pipit - 5
Pied Wagtail - 1
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Chaffinch - 1
Linnet - 6
Robin - (1)


 Pied Wagtail

Unfortunately I am working tomorrow morning so it will be Saturday before I can back to the 'obs' again but thankfully the forecast at the moment looks okay for both Saturday and Sunday, so another weekend of migration monitoring is hopefully in store!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Pastures Old

I had a little bit of time today before and after seeing one of my clients Over Wyre and this gave me the opportunity to have a quick look at a couple of patches that some years ago I used to 'work' regularly. First port of call before my appointment was Fluke Hall. I parked in the car park and walked west along the sea embankment towards Knott End.

 Looking east towards Fluke Hall

There was some 'vis' and it was all easterly and included 4 Siskins, 4 Alba Wags, 18 Meadow Pipits, Linnet and 2 Lesser Redpolls. Out on the saltmarsh close to the sea wall were 28 Redshanks and 108 Curlews. The Curlews were interesting to watch as they flew onto the marsh as some of them were displaying to each other and then they were joined by 6 Golden Plovers.


I had a look in the woodland and on the pool at Fluke Hall but it was quiet, not a Chifchaff or Willow Warbler in sight!

The pool and woodland at Fluke Hall

After my appointment I had a very late lunch break at Lane Ends. In the plantation I had 2 Goldcrests and that was it. I had a walk to Pilling Water and back where I flushed a Little Egret that flew from the pool behind the sea wall on to the saltmarsh. I think because when I started birding Little Egrets were a big rarity I still can't help feeling a little excited every time I see one, even though they are now very common.

 Looking north across Morecambe Bay from Lane Ends

The plantation at Lane Ends

The Little Egret landed on the sea embankment...

...and then flew onto the saltmarsh feed

It's some early morning ringing for Craig, Ian and I before work tomorrow so I'll let you know how we get on.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

The Fat Bird of the Barley

On my way to Horwich this morning I had three quarters of an hour to spare so I stopped off on Rawcliffe Moss to have a wander in the early morning sunshine. I headed down the track towards the feeding station where there were still a few birds including 5 Chaffinches, 17 Tree Sparrows plus the odd Blue and Great Tit.

I could hear a Yellowhammer singing in the distance and two Lapwings displayed over the 'Big Field'. Also in the Big Field were 6 Brown hares, but none were boxing this morning. I then headed up the '97 Hedge' towards the top fields and I had a couple of Corn Buntings (the fat bird of the barley) duelling with each other. They were giving their characteristic 'jangly' song to each other and then the bird closest to me was doing that fantastic little display flight that they do where they fly to another song perch close by, whilst singing and dangling their legs below their body. Awesome!

 Brown Hare

I spent some time trying to get some photos of one particular singing bird and you can see the results below. The two songsters were then joined by another 4 birds and the singing stopped. I then headed back to the car and all I had were singles of Buzzard, Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Setting off on it's 'dangly' legged song flight!

Monday 21 March 2011

Gloomy Mipits

When I came out of the theatre at 10.00 p.m. last night it was foggy and I thought "that will have put paid to any pre-work birding tomorrow". I still got up to have a look and it remained foggy so I gave up on any thoughts of going birding. However, as I was loading some work gear into my car I had a few Meadow Pipits calling from the gloom and heading north!

 Meadow Pipit (Ken Hindmarch)

Sunday 20 March 2011

Short and Not So Sweet

The forecasters got it wrong again this morning, but I am not going to give them a hard time as it is difficult to forecast the weather and to be fair they got it right in terms of what was going to happen it was just that the timing was all wrong. It clouded over last night earlier than forecast but nevertheless I was still at Rossall for first light.

As I set off on my walk around the recording area I thought it seemed promising because straight away I had two Goldcrests which had presumably been grounded by the overnight weather conditions. It would then go rapidly downhill from here both in terms of a lack of birds and the weather! I had just about got to the dunes at the southern end of the recording area when it started to rain quite hard and it didn't let up!


Even in the drizzle there were a few birds on 'vis' heading from south to north and these included 5 Goldfinches, 38 Meadow Pipits, 8 Alba Wags, Grey Wagtail and 3 Siskins.

 Goldfinch (Ken Hindmarch)

It was very murky out at sea so I didn't bother looking and as I approached the usual spot where I sea watch two Kestrels were perched on the fence looking thoroughly miserable, if a bird can look miserable that is! As I apporached the dunes the drizzle turned to rain and I noticed that a section of the dune vegetation had been set on fire by some irksome little tw*ts.

 Burnt dune vegetation

I made my way back in the rain and other than 14 Common Gulls and 7 Blackbirds I recorded very little of interest. The weather is looking settled for the coming week with high pressure in charge. Doubtless there'll be some more arrival of migrants and hopefully I'll be able to get out for a morning or three before work.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Quality and A Little More Quantity

It was back to Rossall for Craig, Ian and I this morning. The weather wasn't quite as forecasted and we began with 4 oktas clould cover with a very light south-southeasterly wind. As the morning progressed the cloud cover cleared and the wind picked up a little.

It seemed very quiet at first and we thought that we weren't going to catch much, but a male Sparrowhawk in the net soon livened things up. In fact the male Sparrowhawk hit the net with a female Sprawk but she bounced out. Another interesting aspect to the mornings ringing were the group of 8 Long-tailed Tits that we caught. We had a Mipit MP3 playback on the 'Redpoll' net and we saw this group of birds drop from the sky. Of course we thought they would be Mipits but when we got to the net they were Long-tailed Tits. Interestingly, when we released them together they circled round gaining height and headed north! Mega; migration in action. You can't beat a coastal site!

 Sparrowhawk - male

We processed 25 new birds as follows (no recaptures today):

Meadow Pipit - 6
Dunnock - 2
Reed Bunting - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Linnet - 2
Goldfinch - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 9
Sparrowhawk - 1 male



On the ' vis mig' front it was quiet and we had the following moving south to north; 47 Meadow Pipits, Yellowhammer, 11 Pied Wagtails, 3 Siskins, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, 2 Lesser Redpolls and Grey Wagtails.

 Meadow Pipit

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground and included 80 Meadow Pipits and a single Goldcrest.

Back at home my moth trap caught it's first moths of the Spring in the form of 3 Hebrew Characters and a single Common Quaker.

 Common Quaker

Hebrew Character

The weather synopsis looks interesting for tomorrow morning, with clear skies and southerly winds overnight, with a rain front moving in from the west before light. Unfortunately it is still only mid-March, but if it was mid-April I would be getting very excited! I still might be up and looking at first light tomorrow though.

Friday 18 March 2011


It would have been nice to have had quality and quantity this morning when Ian and were ringing at Rossall, but we had to settle just for quality. At first light we had 6 oktas cloud cover with a virtually zero east-southeasterly wind. Later in the morning the cloud cover had decreased to zero and the wind remained east-southeasterly.

We processed 16 new birds (recaptures in brackets):

Goldcrest - 1
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Meadow Pipit - 12
Siskin - 1
Blue Tit - 1



There was some vis this morning from south to north and this included 128 Meadow Pipits, 6 Pied Wagtails, Reed Bunting, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Greenfinch, Chaffinch, 27 Siskins, Linnet, 7 Whooper Swans and Goldfinch. I half expected to see a Sand Martin 'zipping' through, but didn't.

 Meadow Pipit


On my way home I called in at the Nature Park just in case there were any Wheatears about, there weren't, and on the pools had 7 Coots, 16 Tufted Ducks and 3 Little Grebes.

The forecast is looking reasonable for tomorrow so hopefully we'll be back at the 'obs'. I have to keep stopping myself from getting too excited as it is only March still!

Monday 14 March 2011

Late Afternoon On The Moss

Now that the days are getting longer it is possible to go birding before and after work. I must admit that I prefer before work even though it means an early start and a longer day, but the birding is so much better then. On my way home from work I called in at Rawcliffe Moss and had a walk round for a while. I took the usual route of down to the feeding station, up the '97 hedge', round the wild bird seed plot, along the track to the plantation and back to the car.

I can say that I didn't have any summer migrants but there were plenty of signs of Spring. Even the humble Shelduck is a sign of Spring when it is back inland looking for nest sites and today I had a small flock of five fly over. Displaying Lapwings were another sign and I had 5 displaying over the 'top fields' plus a further 4.

 Shelduck (Simon Hawtin)

With all this talk of Spring there was still some Winter hanging on. This included 81 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station with 15 Corn Buntings and 2 Yellowhammers close by. I had 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers this afternoon; I had one bird drumming from Tree Sparrow Wood, another calling from Curlew Wood and two at the feeding station.

 Great Spotted Woodpecker

As I headed north along the '97 hedge' 56 Woodpigeons flew out of Curlew Wood and 7 Stock Doves lifted off the 'Big Field'. Recently there has been 9 regularly feeding on the big field, but not today. I pushed 8 Reed buntings along the 97 hedge and a couple of Snipe lifted from the margin.

Snipe (Ken Hindmarch)

Only three Buzzards this afternoon and the wild bird seed mix only gave up 5 Chaffinch, 5 Skylarks and 2 Grey Partridge. I then headed along the track to the plantation and had a Stoat cross the track and run along the margin next to the ditch. It was quiet in the plantation other than a handful of Goldfinch and a calling Siskin. Heading back towards the car as dusk approached I had 90 high flying Black-headed Gulls heading south.

Saturday 12 March 2011

No Wheatears Yet

I was at Rossall this morning by first light, but no ringing today as it was too windy, just a walk round the 'obs' to see what was about. I dreamed of an early Wheatear or perhaps a Sand Martin zipping through, but knew this was unlikely because of the weather. However, what we as birders have, is buckets full of optimism!

Plenty of birds were singing and/or displaying including Greenfinch, Wren, Dunnock, Woodpigeon and Skylark. The wind was a fairly brisk southerly and there was some visible migration. I had 12 Siskins go north and then I had an 'off passage' flock of 9. Incidentally, when I got home there were 3 Siskins on my sunflower seed feeder in the garden. Other species on the move included 11 Pied Wagtails, 20 Meadow Pipits, 4 Reed Buntings and Grey Wagtail.

The only grounded migrants I had were a male and female Stonechat. Other than that the hedgerows were very quiet. I had a quick look on the sea and had 4 Eiders and a single Red-throated Diver heading south.

 Gorse in the hedge

I then moved to the cemetery where my eternal optimism was hoping for a Chiffchaff. That wasn't to be but I had some migrants in the form of 5 Redwings feeding amongst the headstones. Three Mistle Thrushes were nice, but that was about it so I headed to the Nature Park.

 Mistle Thrush


The Nature park was, as usual, full of dogs and dog walkers disturbing everything. I also noticed that someone had removed two 'runs' of timber from the wooden fence alongside the artificial pool! Someone had obviously gone to great lengths for this as the timber had been cut off with a saw! There's some real tossers around!

On the pools were 2 Little Grebes, 15 Tufted Ducks, Pochard and 11 Coots. I had a walk into the reeds and willow scrub where we ring and flushed a Woodcock and had 2 Reed Buntings.

 Tufted Duck

It looks like the wind will be quite strong and from the west tomorrow, with the chance of some rain at first light. I might not get out ringing, but hopefully I'll get out birding, because that first Wheatear must surely be just round the corner.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Day Two

It was back to the 'obs' for Ian and I this morning. I have said this several times before but one of the beauties of working a coastal site with little cover is that you can notice very easily the often imperceptible changes in the numbers of birds present, and today was no different. Well, it was actually.

The day dawned bright and clear with a ground frost and a slight easterly breeze. As the morning progressed the wind picked up from the southeast and cloud cover developed from the southeast so by 0830 we had complete cloud cover.

Even though it seemed a better day for vis than yesterday it wasn't. We had the following, all moving north; Linnet, 120 Pink-footed Geese, 12 Sisikins, 2 Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit (plus 18 off passage), Greenfinch and 2 Mistle Thrush. We had 4 Mute Swans go over, heading south, but they were obviously local birds.

 Mute Swans

We processed 7 new birds (recaptures in brackets):

Greenfinch - 3 (1)
Dunnock - 2
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1

 Blue Tit


Great Tit

That will probably be it until next weekend, when hopefully I will be reporting my first Wheatears!