Thursday 29 September 2011

The Butterfly Bush

What, a title that doesn't refer to birds on 'Fleetwood Birder'? I must admit that birds are my passion or obsession as Gail continually reminds me, but I do enjoy all types of flora and fauna. The butterfly bush of course refers to the Ivy I mentioned yesterday, but more of that in a moment.

First of all it's back to the 'obs' at first light this morning. As of recent days I was greeted with 6 oktas hazy cloud and a 15 mph southeasterly wind. Horizontal visibility was pretty poor with a lot of murk out to sea. Still very few grounded birds to report although I did think there were more Wrens, Dunnocks and Blackbirds around this morning; 7, 12 and 9 respectively. The Dunnock count includes three birds flying high and heading south calling.

Vis was less this morning with no Pinkies at all and my count included: 81 Meadow Pipits, Yellow Wagtail, 2 Chaffinch, 61 Linnets, 5 Carrion Crows, 4 Reed Buntings, 4 Starlings, 6 Alba Wags, Tree Sparrow, Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail and 38 Jackdaws.

I then called at the Mount and headed for the 'butterfly bush'. Even though it was only mid-morning there were 49 Red Admirals, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 8 Commas and 1 Speckled Wood. There was also two male Migrant Hawkers hunting around the tree tops.  The only migrant bird I had was a calling Goldcrest.

The butterfly bush


Above and below - Red Admiral using me to 'sun' on

On my way home I called into the cemetery and other than a Chiffchaff and a Siskin going over it was very quiet. It looks like the weather is going to be similar tomorrow, but hopefully we'll get some ringing in on Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

A Mixed Bag

It was the obs again for me this morning, but no rinigng as the 15 mph southeasterly wind precluded the operation of mist nets. It was hazy with some murk out at sea. The first birds I had were two flighty Song Thrushes in the half light that left the copse as soon as they saw me. Ticking Robins announced their presence by ticking and 6 was the total for the morning. And that would be it for grounded migrants.

There was some vis and most notable were the arrival of 680 Pink-footed Geese to the east and a Yellow Wagtail heading south. Other movers included: 3 Grey Wagtails, 2 Chaffinch, 4 Reed Buntings, 51 Linnets, 26 Alba Wags, 11 Skylark, Tree Sparrow, Snipe, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 5 Collared Dove ('in-off' & then headed south), 2 Carrion Crows, 26 Swallows, female Sparrowhawk and 167 Meadow Pipits.

 I came across this large mushroom as I walked towards the sea wall

As I mentioned before it was murky out at sea and consequently all I had were 12 Eiders, Guillemot and Red-throated Diver.

I then headed to the Mount where all I had grounded-wise was a single Goldcrest, and 15 Goldfinch and a Grey Wagtail went through. The main interest were the butterflies and bees feeding on a flowering ivy. The bees numbered into the several hundred and there were approximately 15 Red Admirals, 5 Small Tortoiseshells, 3 Peacocks and 5 Commas all nectering on the plant. Close by were two Small Coppers. I was talking to a lady who was photographing the butterflies and she said that in the afternoon yesterday she estimated that there were more than a hundred butterflies on this large ivy plant.

On my way home I called in the cemetery but didn't see any migrants at all! It's going to remain southeasterly for a few days yet and it looks good for some ringing over weekend.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Who Turned the Tap Off?

Conditions were marginal this morning at the obs for operating mist nets and in fact the wind strength almost certainly adversely affected the catch. At first light I had virtually clear skies with a stiff, perhaps 10 - 15 mph, southeasterly wind. From the 'off'  birds were on the move, but quite suddenly at about 1000 the 'vis' tap was turned off. My vis totals included 188 Meadow Pipits, Reed Bunting, 14 Chaffinch, 10 Alba Wags, 7 Siskins, 8 Greenfinch, 2 Grey Wags, 2 Collared Doves, 2 Swallows, 7 Goldfinch and the best of the lot 10 Tree Sparrows! These totals are based on what I recorded, and for some species, particularly Mipits the total was probably twice that.

Meadow Pipit

Reed Bunting


As I was busy ringing all morning it was difficult to gauge what was grounded other than what I ringed. I ringed 26 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 4 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Meadow Pipit - 7
Greenfinch - 8
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Chiffchaff - 1
Great Tit - 2

 Look at those tertials - adult male Chaffinch


So to go back to the subject of grounded birds I would say that the Dunnocks and the Chiffie were all that was grounded.


We recieved details of a few recoveries from the BTO today and two stand out from the others. The first is Greenfinch TK94482 that was ringed ar the obs on 17th October 2010 and 'controlled' by Peter Fearon 49 km to the south on 20th November 2010 at Brookvale, Liverpool.

The second bird was a Swallow ringed on Rawcliffe Moss on 8th August 2009 by Craig and it was controlled on 27th April 2010, 1198 km to the southeast in Verbania in the Alpine region of Italy.

The weather is remaining southeasterly all week and it looks like it will be too breezy for ringing until Saturday, but then it looks like we might get three consecutive days! Of course I will  be out birding between now and then and I will let you know what I do or don't see!

Monday 26 September 2011

No Mipit Wave Here

Some of the 'vis migers' in the Pennines have been reporting large numbers of Mipits moving this morning, but down here on the coast there was very little movement. I was at the 'obs' for first light and I had virtually clear skies with a 15 mph WSW wind that eventually swung round to become WNW when the tide ran in.

On my round of the obs there was very little vis at all other than 4 Alba Wags, 13 Linnet, 15 Meadow Pipits, Grey Wag, 2 Greenfinch and Chaffinch. There seemed to be similar numbers of Robins around with 7 'ticking' birds, but less Blackbirds and Wrens. The only grounded migrant as such was a single Wheatear.

My quick look on the sea produced 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 31 Common Scoters, 3 Eiders and a few Auk sp.s.

I then had a look in the Mount and other than 5 Robins and a single Goldcrest I had no migrants at all. I had a few butterflies in the form of 5 Red Admirals, 2 Commas and 2 Speckled Woods sunning themselves in sheltered sunny spots.

Red Admiral

It was then on to the Cemetery where my run of no migrants continued and all I entered in my notebook was a single Grey Wagtail over. I then had a walk down the old railway line and encountered a singing Chiffchaff, but very little else.

 The old railway line

At the Nature Park the pools held 21 Tufted Ducks, 4 Little Grebes, 22 Coots, 11 Mallards and 5 Pochard. I had a calling Chiffie from the willow scrub and the incoming tide pushed 11 Skylarks off the saltmarsh.

 Tide running in on the marsh

It looks like I might get out ringing tomorrow, but I'll need to check the forecast again later. It certainly looks good for some settled weather later in the week to facilitate the operation of mist nets. I'll keep you posted as ever.

I photographed this little fella in my garden in the rain last night

Sunday 25 September 2011


Vis was the order of the day this morning. The wind had dropped overnight and shifted a little bit more to the east to become southeasterly, but unfortunately it was a little too stiff for us to do any ringing at the obs; instead I had a walk round.

As soon as I set off there were birds on the move. My walk took me just under two hours and I was trying to 'work' the bushes, listen out for vis and then keep an eye on the sea when I got to the sea front. I think what I am trying to say is that there was probably a lot more on the move than I recorded due to the aforementioned excuses! My vis totals (all south) included 3 Grey Wagtail, 192 Meadow Pipits, 46 Linnets, 6 Alba Wags, 35 Chaffinch and 23 Swallows.

Grounded birds were restricted to 8 Robins, 5 Blackbirds, 7 Wrens and a single Wheatear. The sea was exceptionally quiet with just 8 Common Scoters recorded in my notebook. Out on the shore I had a few Turnstones feeding along the top of the groynes and looking for invertebrates on the side and a Bar-tailed Godwit that flew through was a nice distraction.

Turnstones feeding on a groyne

I've inserted a picture of the 'humble' fence post below with it's rusty strands of barbed wire because as I walked past the numerous fence posts at the obs it got me thinking how essential they are for migrants to perch on, particularly chats! If I could be bothered and was sad enough I could probably come up with a fence post list. Perhaps the local bird club could have a Fence Post Yearlist Challenge where members were encouraged to submit lists of all the species they see in a year perched on posts!

Talking of birds perching on fence posts I had a cracking adult male Sparrowhawk perched on one this  morning. It was in absolutely stunning plumage and was virtually blue and orange; it was that good!

Saturday 24 September 2011

Ticking Robins.........

.........and not much else greeted me when I did the rounds at the 'obs' this morning. Usually 'ticking' Robins are a good sign that some birds might be grounded, but not this morning. I actually got to the obs too early and as it was only just coming light, too dark to bird, I walked down to the feeding station and put some seed out.

On my walk round I had 4 'ticking' Robins and not a lot else grounded other than two Wheatears. One of the Wheatears was feeding behind the shelter of the old swimming baths and seemed to be catching plenty of invertebrates.


Due to the stiff murky SSW wind vis was virtually non-existent other than Grey Wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipits and 2 Alba Wagtails south. I had a quick look on the sea and it was very murky, and consequently all I had were 3 Auk sp. and 2 Common Scoters.

I then moved onto the Mount and things seemed a little more promising as I could hear Goldcrest calling as soon as I stepped out of my car. But it was only teasing me because I didn't have anything else of note. I called in at the cemetery but again it was quiet and all I could do was add 4 Swallows to the vis totals for the morning. On the way home I called at the Nature Park and 11 Tufted Ducks, 3 Pochards and 15 Coots were on the pools.

It's too early to call yet as to what the weather is going to be doing tomorrow. I'll definitely be out birding, but it still might be a touch too breezy for ringing at the obs.

Sunday 18 September 2011

More Mipits

As I mentioned yesterday a window of opportunity was forecasted by the weathermen and they got it right! At first light at Rossall we were greeted with 4 oktas cloud cover with a 5 mph NE wind. It looked very murky to the east and by 0730 some mist rolled in, but this very quickly cleared and the wind veered easterly. As I waited for Ian to arrive I heard a Green Sand calling and in the half light we tried a Blackcap song on the first net, and on the first net round was a Garden Warbler right above the MP3 player! Wrong Sylvia, but it would do as it was a first for the site for us. I say 'for us' as the site used to be ringed in the 1970s and 1980s by Andrew Cadman and he most certainly ringed Garden Warbler.

 Garden Warbler

We ringed 59 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Garden Warbler - 1
Dunnock - 7 (4)
Robin - 2
Meadow Pipit - 31
Chaffinch - 1
Blue Tit - 7
Greenfinch - 4
Wren - 1
Great Tit - 3
Swallow - 1
Sparrowhawk - 1 male


Blue Tit

There was quite a bit of 'vis' this morning but not as much as Thursday and the vis totals were as follows; 438 Meadow Pipits, 22 Chaffinch, 6 Grey Wags, 5 Pied Wags, 11 Swallows, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Sand Martin, 8 House Martins, 3 Siskin, Golden Plover, 2 Sparrowhawk and 4 Skylarks. These are counts as detailed in my notebook and not estimates. When you are busy ringing it is difficult to keep tabs on the 'vis' and you could very easily double the counts for some species, particularly Meadow Pipits. It is also sometimes tricky to count the Chaffinch and Siskin, as 'a' call could be one bird or it could be a flock. But when you can't see the calling bird(s), it has to go as a single in the old notebook.

 Meadow Pipit

The best birds we had on vis were 9 Ravens that headed north. They started out as 2 birds that came in calling from the east heading to the coast, but when they hit the coast and headed north a further 7 Ravens joined them. Whether they were all flying together but spread apart, or whether they called each other in we are not sure.

Another cracking morning at the 'obs'!

Saturday 17 September 2011

Buy This Book and Buy it Now!

This book is absolutely stunning and is full of some amazing art work and essays on bird migration. If you are interested at all in bird migration, and if you are a birder you must be, then buy this book; you won't be disappointed!

Amazingly, the forecast is looking good enough to enable us to get out ringing tomorrow. The only down side is that the wind will be from the north albeit quite light. Hopefully there will be some Mipits on the move as today's wet weather will probably have held a few up.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Mipit Surge

The ridge of high pressure covering the UK today gave Ian and I the opportunity to get to Rossall and do some ringing. As I was putting the poles on my roof rack in the half light 12 Pink-footed Geese headed south, which were the first of the autumn for me.

It was flat calm at the obs and wet put the nets up and set up the MP3s with various songs and calls of species that we thought would be on the move this morning.

Meadow Pipits were certainly the most numerous visible migrant and we had 5-600 head south. There was a supporting cast of 45 Swallows, 12 Pied Wagtails, 4 Goldfinch, 6 Chaffinch, 5 Grey Wagtails, 350 Pink-footed Geese (5 groups), 12 Skylarks, Tree Pipit and Sparrowhawk.

 Meadow Pipit

We ringed 71 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 7
Robin - 2
Meadow Pipit - 43
Blue Tit - 8 (1)
Great Tit - 4
Goldcrest - 1
Greenfinch - 6



I have to work tomorrow and fortunately the weather isn't that brilliant, but unfortunately it doesn't look that fantastic over weekend at the moment either. However, whatever it does I will be out doing some kind of birding!

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Leach's for Breakfast and Other Tasty Morsels

I only had a couple of hours to spare this morning before I needed to head off to Merseyside for a meeting so I was at the coast for 0625 and I spent the next couple of hours seawatching. I immediately had a Leach's Petrel heading south along the tide line, quickly followed by another. I then had a bit of a wait before another two headed south. All four gave stonking views!

The first Skua I had through was an Arctic and then at 0725 I had a a pale morph adult Pom Skua with full tail spoons just over the beach. Awesome! As I was watching the Pom an adult Sabines Gull flashed past my scope! I didn't know which one to watch! Both birds slowly drifted south out of view. In addition to these stonking birds I had a few Gannets and Kittiwakes heading south.

I returned mid-afternoon after my meeting and did a further 3 hours. Straight away I was on to a Leach's and another two quickly followed. I had 2 Manxies, Sandwich Tern, 9 Gannets, Fulmar, Little Gull and 5 Kittiwakes head south. Then at 1700 I picked up a small distant tern like Skua 'shearing' south. It didn't really get any closer but I managed to get enough on it to clinch it as a juv intermediate type Long-tailed Skua. Excellent!

Shortly before this I had a really close Bonxie go south and the Long-tailed made it four species of Skua off the Lancashire coast; the first time I had ever seen all four species of Skua off Lancashire! The passage then slowed down and by 1800 I was getting hungry and decided to call it a day. I couldn't complain, except perhaps for missing the Balearic. If work hadn't got in the way of birding again there is a chance I would have seen it.

The wind is going to ease down over night and into tomorrow and then swing to the southeast and become very light for Thursday morning. Hopefully I will be able to get out ringing. As always I'll keep you posted.

Sunday 11 September 2011

A Day Too Early

The remnants of Hurricane Katia will cross the region tomorrow and the seawatching could be interesting. It was supposed to be an office day for me tomorrow, so I might just have to move my office to the coast!

The wind never really materialised this morning. I was at Rossall for first light and it was SW 3-4 and within an hour it dropped slightly and went southerly. In fact when it dropped and turned southerly there was a flurry of vis with a few Mipits, Swallows and Grey Wags whizzing through.

When I arrived at Rossall the tide was quite a long way out and 650 Oystercatchers fed on the shore. It was fairly quiet on the sea and all I had were 10 Common Scoters, 8 Cormorants, 5 Sandwich Terns, 4 Eiders, 5 Shelducks and a Gannet.

In the Elders behind the Coastguard's Tower was a Dunnock and a Chiffchaff. As it was quiet on the sea and because of the Chiffie I packed up early and called in the cemetery on my way home. I had 3 Chiffies and not a lot else.


I'll be keeping my on the forecast all day to see if that Atlantic weather comes in.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Wheatear Weather

Whatever the weather did or didn't do this morning it certainly brought in some Wheatears in. At various sites around Fleetwood I had 25 in total. At first light I started out at the obs for two reasons; firstly it is only 5 minutes from home and secondly it is smack bang on the coast. At first light there was full cloud cover with a 15 mph SE wind. Straight away it was obvious that there wasn't anything grounded other than 17 Wheatears.


There was a little 'vis' in the form of 3 Grey Wagtails, Linnet, 223 Swallows and 2 Pied Wagtails. I had a quick look on the sea, but other than 2 Shelducks north there was nothing doing. I then headed to the cemetery but checked the grass strip behind the sea wall on the way and added a further 3 Wheatears plus 6 Meadow Pipits.

Before going into the cemetery I thought I would have a quick look on the golf course and I had a further 5 Wheatears. The only other bird of note was a Whimbrel heading south. By this time the wind had picked up to a near 20 mph southerly and the cemetery was very quiet. The only thing half decent was a male Sparrowhawk and Speckled Wood butterfly.

On my way home I called in at the Nature Park to have a look on the pools and there were 16 Tufteds, 3 Little Grebes and 16 Coots. I had a single Grey Wagtail over and 2 Chiffchaffs feeding in a willow that were a bit of a surprise considering the lack of grounded migrants elsewhere.

The forecast for tomorrow is for the wind to pick-up and turn southwesterly, so a spot of seawatching might be in order, although Monday/Tuesday look better days in terms of wind strength and length of blow.

Friday 9 September 2011

Travels Without a Camera

First of all a postscript to yesterday. The Red-throated Diver is still on the Marine Lakes, but unfortunately the Manxie died and is now safely frozen in Ian's freezer!

 Red-throated Diver

The rain eventually stopped shortly after lunch and I headed off to the Moss for a wander round. No camera with me today, so no pictures of anything seen this afternoon. There was a steady stream of Swallows heading in to the SSW wind and in total I had probably somewhere in the region of a thousand head south in the hour and quarter that I walked round.


I had 50 Goldfinch and 9 Linnets on my walk, but these weren't birds on 'vis', rather birds feeding in a weedy field. In fact the only vis I had were the Swallows with a few House Martins and a single Meadow Pipit. I had a few raptors this afternoon in the form of Kestrel, Peregrine, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. The Peg caused uproar amongst the Gulls as they all left the flood they were bathing in en masse to see it off.

There were good numbers of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies around and they were all recently emerged immaculate specimens. I also had a few Small Whites and in the plantation 3 or 4 Speckled Woods. The only grounded migrants I had as such were 2 Whitethroats along a newly planted hedge that is now just starting to resemble a hedge.

The forecast isn't brilliant for the weekend with tomorrow the only chance for a few migrants and its back to seabirds on Sunday. The charts look interesting for Monday with a rapidly moving deep depression heading across the Atlantic. It looks good for a few seabirds and surely a yank or two in the right location. How about a.......

Common Yellowthroat

or a..........

Nashville Warbler

or maybe even a.............

 Tree Swallow

I think I'll leave it at that!

Thursday 8 September 2011

A Nice End to the Day

I often moan about how work gets in the way of birding and then I always think that actually I am quite lucky in what I do. Today was a classic example. All day I kept getting reports of a Sabines Gull here and a Leach's there, and I wished I was seawatching at Rossall and connecting with these birds. I was out on some farmland in Merseyside surveying a farm for Higher Level Stewardship. I was looking at a piece of lowland raised bog, which is a UK BAP habitat, and as a habitat it is very scarce. Look at the picture below and you can see that the water table needs lifting to kill off the scrub and that is what we'll attempt through the scheme.

I was seeing Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, watching a party of Long-tailed Tits, listening to a Willow Warbler calling and watching Swallows hawking low flying insects under the trees in the rain, so it wasn't all bad!

At lunchtime I got a phone call from Ian to say that there was a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver on the Marine Lakes. I decided that I would call on my way home. As I was close to the Marine Lakes Ian phoned again to say that there was a Manx Shearwater on one of the other lakes as well! What a nice end to the day. My camera was playing up, so even though both birds were close I struggled to get some decent shots as you will see below. Keep your eye on Another Bird Blog as I am sure Phil will have some pictures of the Manxie on his blog soon, taken with a proper camera by a proper photographer! 

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Movers and Shakers

As we are in early September I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Rinigng Group up until the end of August in the panel to the right. We have ringed 2,836 birds of 60 species. New species ringed in August were Collared Dove and Grey Wagtail. I have lsited the top ten below.

1 - Tree Sparrow - 351
2 - Swallow - 326 (up from 4th)
3 - Siskin - 260 (down from 2nd)
4 - Goldfinch - 237 (down from 3rd)
5 - Chaffinch - 210
6 - Whitethroat - 183 (up from 8th)
7 - Lesser Redpoll - 154 (down from 6th)
8 - Willow Warbler - 139 (straight in)
9 - Meadow Pipit - 131 (down from 7th)
10 - Blue Tit - 100 (down from 9th)

The totals for the year are looking excellent and the bulk of the birds ringed in August were by Phil and Will, who are both retired and semi-retired, and are able to get out when conditions are good. So it's a big thank you to them.

I was working up the Lune Valley today and after all the rain we have had over the past 48 hours the Lune was in flood and I have included a few pictures.

Looking upstream from the Gressingham Bridge

Looking downstream from the Gressingham Bridge

Sunday 4 September 2011

Low Key Autumn Morning

Ian and I were at Rossall for first light this morning and in terms of wind strength, virtually zero, it was perfect for mist nets. However, the weather synopsis over night wasn't conducive for any grounded migrants, but we did hope for some vis.

The lack of vis, other than it being early in the autumn, was a little baffling as it had been murky all day yesterday and we thought it would have blocked a number of migrants and that they would have been on the move this morning in the clear conditions. Thankfully we don't know everything! Birds on 'vis' included 7 Pied Wagtails, 4 Grey Wagtails, 9 Meadow Pipits and even smaller numbers of Goldfinch and Linnet.


We processed 14 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Whitethroat - 3
Robin - 2
Dunnock - 3 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Wren - 1 (1)
Blackbird - 1
Blue Tit - 1

 Reed Bunting

The fact that we ringed a few Whitethroats, Dunnocks and Robins showed there were some migrants around, but it is likely that they were birds that had been around from the previous day. One of the Whitethroats had a fat score of 4 and weighed just short of 18 g, when normally they would be between 12 and 14 g.


Other than that there was very little to report except for a female Sparrowhawk that 'coasted' through causing mayhem amongst the Swallows.

Friday 2 September 2011

Ortolan Gold

I was just about to have breakfast when my mobile started ringing and flashing on the screen was Ian's name. "Where are you mate?" was Ian's question and when I replied I was at home about to eat my breakfast, Ian hit me with "I've got an Ortolan Bunt on the golf course". F*ckin' hell, or words to that effect were my reply and ten minutes later I was walking along the track between the sea wall and the golf course.

The bird wasn't showing, but as I headed towards Ian it flew up onto the sea wall. I had a good look at it and took a few poor record shots. The bird then flew south below the sea wall and over the track before once again appearing on the wall. I took a couple more dodgy shots and the bird again dropped down. It was at this point that we lost it. By now one or two birders had turned up and we spent another half hour looking but to no avail.

Poor record shot of 1st wint. Ortolan Bunting

It was obvious that there were a few migrants around this morning as we pushed a Goldcrest from the base of the sea wall and there were a few Wheatears on the golf course. It's back to work and reality for me now, but I just wanted to thank my good mate Ian for yet another excellent find in Fleetwood. Well done mate!