Saturday 28 May 2011

Penultimate Box Check

Ian, Nikki and I made our penultimate visit to check our boxes in woodland on the River Hodder this morning. We did manage to ring a brood of three Pied Flycatchers, but the majority of them will be ready next week. A small brood you might think and you would be correct, except there were three unhatched eggs, which of course won't hatch now.

 Pied Flycatcher

With all the wet and cold weather we have had in the week we were worried that we might find a few boxes with dead young in, but thankfully we only had one brood of dead Blue Tits. All the other Tits were fit and healthy and broods that we had ringed over the past couple of weeks had successfully fledged. In addition to the aforementioned Pied Flys we ringed 12 Great Tits and 28 Blue Tits.

 Blue Tit

On the way home we called in to have a look at Barnacre and I had my first Cuckoo of the year. Now, I don't get out every day birding but do I get out several days a week and this was my first one. These birds are certainly scarce now.

Back at home the Starlings couldn't resist some dried meal worms and I managed to ring 4 birds from a 'drop trap'. Pictures of a juv, female and male below.

The forecast tomorrow looks like it is shaping up for a lie in with more wet and windy weather on the way. It is going to clear up later in the day so I might give one or two net rides a 'hair cut' before hopefully putting them to good use over the next few weeks.

Friday 27 May 2011

That's A Funny Barn Owl

Ian and I checked a box at a farm on Rawcliffe Moss in a barn that we expected to be occupied by Barn Owls.When it had been checked a week earlier a scratching sound had been heard from the box and so as not to cause disturbance to an incubating Barn Owl the box was left for a check in three weeks time. However, the farmers son called in at my office and said that he had found an Owl chick on the floor in the barn so he had put it back in the box. I told  James that we would be round that evening to check.

If this was a young Barn Owl it would mean that they had laid extremely early. Ian climbed the ladder to the box and as he was climbing back down the ladder with the single Owl chick I thought "that's a funny Barn Owl" and of course it would have been a funny Barn Owl because it was in fact a Tawny Owl! That explained everything; the early date and the fact that the chick was outside the box. Below is a picture of Ian holding the chick just after ringing.

Sunday 22 May 2011

I couldn't look......... Ian climbed a tree and then moved along a thin branch to get to a Carrion Crow's nest to ring the chicks within.

 Ian up 'the' tree

Carrion Crow

Earlier in the day Nikki, Ian and I had been to our nest box sites in the Hodder Valley and on Rawcliffe Moss. In the Hodder Valley we ringed 27 Blue Tits, 28 Great Tits, 8 Nuthatch and 5 Blackbirds. On Rawcliffe Moss we ringed 12 Tree Sparrows and at Fleetwood the aforementioned 4 Carrion Crows.

Great Tit

Sunday 15 May 2011

Gannets and Skuas.........

.........were the order of the day this morning at Rossall. I was a bit late getting out and didn't get to Rossall until 6.00 a.m. and then I spent 5 minutes 'farting' around trying to get in the right position. I had to choose between being buffeted with the wind or putting up with the occasional shower. The problem was the northerly in the westerly, but thankfully after a short while the wind veered due west and I was both dry and sheltered!

Gannets were on the move as soon as I put my eye up to my scopes eyepiece and I wondered how many I would have had, had i got here for 5.00 a.m. In the end I had a respectable total of 132 birds heading into the bay. I love watching Gannets as they will often come very close in giving stonking views and it's the variety of ages that you see making them look so variable; I had 2CY, 3CY, 4CY and adults all flicking the tips of their wing tips at my scope as they flew by! That's a slight exaggeration of course, but some were very close.

 Gannet (Simon Hawtin)

The other headline bird was Arctic Skua and I had four 'into' the bay before 8.30 a.m. I had one dark morph and three pale morphs. The fourth bird was incredibly close and the views I had of it were stonking. Of course there wasn't just Gannets and Skuas and I had a supporting cast of 41 Eiders, 13 Common Scoters, 4 Razorbills, Great Crest Grebe, a full summer plumaged Red-throated Diver close in and 2 Fulmars.

There were a lot of waders about and I couldn't really count them properly as I was concentrating on the sea, but as a minimum I had 1,404 Dunlin, 850 Sanderling, 40 Ringed Plovers and 6 Grey Plovers. One of the Grey Plovers was in full summer plumage; awesome!

 Grey Plover

Saturday 14 May 2011

Flycatchers, Tits and Sparrows

In between the showers Ian, Nikki and I managed to check boxes at three sites today. First up were some boxes in the Hodder Valley in Bowland where we have 5 pairs of Pied Flycatchers, one pair of Nuthatch and numerous Blue and Great Tits. We managed to lift three female Pied Flys off the nest; one was new and the two others were recaptures. The first recapture was ringed at the site in 2009 as a breeding female and subsequently lifted off her nest again in 2010. The second recapture was ringed as a pulli in 2010 and she has obviously returned to her natal area to breed. We also ringed a single brood of 7 Great Tit. There were plenty of Tits that either had young too small to ring or were incubating eggs, so there will be plenty to ring next weekend.

 Ian ringing a Pied Flycatcher

Next stop was a farm near Nateby where the farmer had put up 25 boxes for Tree Sparrows over the winter. Only one box was occupied by a Tree Sparrow and the rest of the boxes that were occupied were occupied by Blue and Great Tits. I would imagine that the colony of Tree Sparrows will slowly build up and next year we should have a few more.

Our final port of call was Rawcliffe Moss where 10 out of our 12 boxes have active Tree Sparrows. We ringed 22 pulli and have about 30 to ring next weekend.

 Tree Sparrow pulli

It is looking quite windy tomorrow so it will be a spot of seawatching for me.

Thursday 12 May 2011

The Aaaaah Factor

I wasn't going to post today as I didn't really have a great deal to report even though I have been out surveying all day on some farmland in the middle of the Fylde. However, I showed some pictures I had taken of a small Roe Deer fawn and Gail thought that I should share them with you. So below are a couple of pictures of the fawn that I literally stumbled across when walking through some Reed Canary Grass.

Monday 9 May 2011

Inland Birding...Sort Of

Not 'sort of' inland, but 'sort of' birding! I was doing a bit of work on a lowland common that I am producing a management plan for this morning and as always whatever I am doing out in the field I always bird. I suppose it's what birders do.

 The Common

The main habitat of the common is that of fen with some willow carr and patches of gorse scrub. As you can imagine it supports a good population of Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats and this morning I had 10 and 7 singing males respectfully. The Sedge and Whitethroat chorus was ably supported by 2 singing Willow Warblers, 2 Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap. Surprisingly I only heard one Reed Bunting singing.


Other than that it was very quiet, but at least I got out!

 Amongst the Crosswort

Sunday 8 May 2011

Rain Postpones Play

One of the problems with ringing operations at Rossall is that we are dependant on mist nets. This means that we can't really catch and ring birds when it is too windy or drizzly, when often it is these conditions that ground migrants. Also, we have to process the birds at a table outdoors, which means again if it is wet it makes this virtually impossible. Today was one of those mornings, and this has been the pattern over the past 10 days or so, when it was raining and too windy to do any ringing. My alarm went off at 5.30 a.m. (a bit late I know) and a look out of the window confirmed that it was blowy and pouring down so I snatched another couple of hours sleep. Eventually I got to the 'obs' mid-morning and had a wander round.

First up were a party of 7 screamimg Swifts overhead in the humid and murky conditions. I had about a dozen Swallows during my 'census', but it was difficult to discern whether any of these were birds moving through. Singing Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats were obvious and I had 6 and 5 of each respectively. If we had been able to ring over the past couple of weeks I might have been able to tell which were the resident males and which were males moving through.

 Sedge Warbler

A Lesser Whitethroat 'rattled' from the 'central' hedge and a late Siskin called overhead flying south into the southerly wind. The only other 'vis' was restricted to a single White Wagtail north and 2 Goldfinch. A male Reed Bunting and 2 Sedge Warblers (already mentioned) sang from the 'dunes' reedbed, and 7 House Sparrows were foraging for invertebrates in a large patch of Japanese Rose.

 Japanese Rose

The grassland in this area was full of Starlings, also foraging for invertebrates, amongst the Birds-foot Trefoil and the Thrift.


In the middle of census I stopped off for what became a 45 minute seawatch after some wet weather came in and brought an end to proceeding and recorded 3 Gannets, 20 Arctic Terns, 6 Common Scoters, 14 Sandwich Terns and a single male Eider. The only wader on the beach was a single Turnstone.

 A ship on the beach laying a cable to some new wind turbines at sea

The only grounded migrants I had were two female Wheatears perched on the fence behind the sea wall and it was now time to escape the torrential rain and head for cover!

Saturday 7 May 2011

Back to the Boxes

It was a morning of nest box checking for Gail and me as we ventured forth first to the River Hodder in Bowland for Pied Flycatchers and then to Rawcliffe Moss for Tree Sparrows. We just managed to get both sites done before it started pouring down.

At our site in the Hodder Valley we have 36 boxes up and 27 of these were occupied by:

Great Tit -9
Blue Tit -12
Pied Flycatcher -5
Nuthatch - 1

Most of the Blue and Great Tits were incubating eggs, but a few were hatching or had tiny young. Out of the 5 Pied Flycatcher nests one female was incubating a full clutch, two were still in the process of laying and the other two had complete nests and were (hopefully) about to start laying. Please see below some pictures of the various nests.

 Blue Tit nest

Blue Tit - female incubating

Great Tit nest

Tell tale signs that Nuthatches are in the box!

Nutatch nest

Pied Flycatcher nest

We then headed off to Rawcliffe Moss where I just have 12 boxes at the moment aimed at providing nest sites for Tree Sparrows. Eleven out of the twelve had active Tree Sparrow nests. They were all at one of two stages; either incubating full clutches or small young recently hatched. So there should be plenty of young Tree Sparrows to ring next weekend.

 Tree Sparrow nest

The forecast for tomorrow is for thundery showers after a period of heavy overnight rain. I'll set my alarm but I'm not too hopeful about getting out.

Sunday 1 May 2011

A Long Hard Slog, But Worth It

It was a completely different day today than yesterday even though the weather conditions were more or less the same. I say more or less because the wind was due east this morning instead of a northeasterly like yesterday. I was at the Coastguard's Tower by 0545 and was soon joined by Ian, and then shortly afterwards by Johnny, Len, Mark, Paul and Kinta. I'm not used to seawatching in a crowd!

Swallows were on the move from 'the off' and I had 104 in total supported by 2 Swifts, 3 Sand Martins and a House Martin. Just like yesterday the 'vis' for other species was quiet and all I had were 6 Meadow Pipits, 20 Goldfinch, 6 Linnets, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Tree Pipits, Snipe, Yellow Wagtail, Alba Wagtail and 6 Jackdaws.

The sea was quieter but interesting this morning with the undoubted highlights being 6 Little Terns heading in to the bay close in, a cracking summer plumaged male Long-tailed Duck on the sea this time found by Ian and a pair of Goosanders on the sea. There weren't as many Arctic Terns as yesterday and my total was only 220. All this was backed up by a supporting cast of 4 Sandwich Terns, 2 Auk sp.'s, 23 Eiders, 113 Common Scoters, Great Crested Grebe, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Gannets and a Little Gull.

There were good numbers of waders around, but just like yesterday, I didn't get the opportunity to count them except for 5 Whimbrel that flew east accompanied by a Bar-tailed Godwit. As we were watching the Long-tailed Duck Johnny picked up a male Peregrine that was having a go at the waders and in the process gave us stonking views.

The only grounded migrants were 2 Wheatears and a Willow Warbler that 'dropped' out of the sky and proceeded to sing from some low scrub in the dunes. The forecast is similar again for tomorrow, so I imagine the birding for me will be similar too!