Saturday 29 October 2011

Slowing Down

Ian and I went to the 'obs' yesterday and it was very quiet and it felt for the first time that autumn was really slowing down. We had the nets up in the dark and hoped for a few Thrushes to be tape lured own, but all we caught was a single Redwing. We ringed 24 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Redwing - 1
Greenfinch - 17
Goldfinch - 2
Meadow Pipit - 2
Wren - (1)
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
House Sparrow - 1
Dunnock - (1)

House Sparrow

Blue Tit

The vis was equally quiet with just 6 Reed Buntings, 40 Meadow Pipits, 45 Greenfinch, 4 Linnets, 7 Chaffinch, 3 Carrion Crows, 2 Jackdaws, 2 Song Thrush, 6 Rooks, Skylark, 2 Sparrowhawks, 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Alba Wags, 2 Siskin and 5 Goldfinch.


Tuesday 25 October 2011

Splash and Dash

On my way home I called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to put some more seed out. I wasn't sure whether there would be many birds using it and I was surprised to find 70 Tree Sparrows there even though it was late afternoon. Accompanying the Tree Sparrows were 7 Chaffinch and I heard a Brambling call but didn't see it.

 Tree Sparrow

To the west of the feeding station on the neighbouring farm were 3,075 Pink-footed Geese that kept getting flushed and lifting up. Coming from the same direction were a group of 16 Skylarks and I had a further 5 as I walked along the edge of the 'big field'.

Along the hedge and ditch were 6 Reed Buntings and I didn't record anything more of interest on my short walk round.

Sunday 23 October 2011

RIP Marco Simoncelli

I'd set the recorder on the TV to record the Moto GP from Malaysia this morning as I was hoping to be out birding, but the weather was pretty awful at first light, so I decided to watch the Moto GP live instead.

The Moto GP world lost what was one of it's greatest talents in Marco this morning when he was killed on the second lap of the race. I felt sick to the 'core' and my heart goes out to his friends and family. At only 24 years old he had the 'biggest balls' in the Moto GP paddock and had buckets full of talent; a future Moto GP world champion without doubt (he already had the 250 cc crown). Sunday afternoons won't be the same without watching him weave his magic on two wheels. Very sad and sorely missed already.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Gimme Shelter

I was looking for the near impossible this morning, some shleter on a north facing coast from the 15 - 20 mph southerly wind with some elevation so I could count the vis and keep my eye on the sea! I did actually find a nice depression on the north side of the dunes that was really sheltered and high enough for me to peer over the top towards the south to count any vis. And vis there was, mainly in the form of Chaffinch.


With the wind in the south and the fact it is late October I knew that there could be quite a few Chaffinch around this morning and I wasn't wrong as I had 754 move in a general southerly direction (anywhere between south and west). The supporting cast was 4 Meadow Pipits, 45 Starlings (including 16 in-off the sea), Rock Pipit, 2 Carrion Crows, 2 Bramblings (or should I say 2 Brambling calls; there is a difference!), 4 Linnets, 4 Skylarks and a single Alba Wag.

As the tide dropped waders flew in to feed and I had 323 Oystercatchers, 8 Knot, 131 Sanderlings and 90 Turnstone. The sea was quiet with just 26 Cormorants, 6 Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, 31 Common Scoters, 3 Auk sp., 5 Shelducks and 40 Kittiwakes.

A juvenile Merlin gave a cracking display this morning. It dropped onto the beach with prey, although I couldn't see what it had caught, and then it was flushed so it headed back along the beach east. It later came past me again, before doubling back once again.

Not a gripping morning, but nevertheless interesting.

I'm off to see the folk duo Show Of Hands tonight. You have probably guessed that I am more of a 'rocker' than a 'folkie', but I do indulge in a bit of folk sometimes. Below is a clip of Show of Hands performing Country Life in which they lament the change in the British countryside. Enjoy!

Thursday 20 October 2011

Raining Greenfinch

It was also raining the usual 'wet stuff' when I was heading to the obs this morning. In fact when I got there I had to sit in my car for five minutes until it stopped before I could put the nets up. I was on my own this morning, so I only put three nets up, but that was plenty as I became very busy! At first light the wind was southerly, perhaps just about 5 mph with virtually full cloud cover, but by the end of the morning the skies had cleared an the wind had swung round to a 10-15 mph NNW.

I ringed 73 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Wren - 2
Sparrowhawk - 1st wint. female
Dunnock - 1
Meadow Pipit - 5
Song Thrush - 3
Greenfinch - 61
Robin - (1)

I also controlled two Greenfinch; TR20075 and TR90261 anyone?


There was some vis this morning, but I was so busy ringing that it was virtually impossible to count anything. So the following totals are huge under estimates for certain species: 2 Redwings, 3 Song Thrush, 5 Bramblings, 27 Chaffinch, 19 Meadow Pipits, 2 Fieldfares, 3 Alba Wags, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Grey Wagtails, Reed Bunting, Siskin, 3 Skylarks and 2 Rock Pipits.

Other than the vis I had 570 Pink-footed Geese dropping onto the farm across the road to feed. The weather is looking a bit mixed over the next few days and I have just been pleasantly surprised to see that there might be a window on Sunday morning for some more ringing and vis migging. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Were They Waiting For Me?.........

.........or did they recognise the man with the green bucket? It's that time of year again when I start feeding at my farmland bird feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss. I called yesterday morning to put the first lot of seed out and there were two or three Tree Sparrows hanging around the feeding station area and after I put the seed out within ten minutes there were 25!

 The first seed drop

After I put the seed out I had a bit of wander. I had two Yellowhammers in the hedge close to the feeding station and as I walked along the '97 hedge' I had 4 Skylarks and a Crossbill called heading north. There were very few Thrushes and all I had were 4 Blackbirds, Song Thrush, 4 Fieldfares and a Redwing. Six Snipe flew south and it was then time to leave and head back to work.

I was back at the feeding station again this morning before I had to head off to the Yorkshire Dales as I wanted to put up two large nut feeders as 'reserve' feed. I use these to hold the birds if they finish all the seed before my next visit. This doesn't happen often, but when it does the peanut feeders certainly hold the Tree Sparrows.

It was very windy this morning and the flavour of the day were the Pink-footed Geese; I had 1,860 heading south. Skylark numbers had increased to 58 and Fieldfare to 18.

I got caught out in a heavy hail shower, but it produced a couple of spectacular rainbows that I managed to photograph. See below. I was hoping to get to the 'obs' Thursday morning as there seemed to be a window in the weather, but this has now gone and it looks fairly unsettled into next week!

Saturday 15 October 2011

Too Clear and Too Windy

Yep, another bunch of excuses as to why we didn't catch much this morning! Ian and I knew that it would be marginal at the 'obs', but based on the numbers of Thrushes that have been around we thought we would chance it. All we could get up were two nets and one of those was a bit 'iffy'. Redwings called in the darkness and as the first rays of the new rising sun (did you spot the Jimi Hendrix reference there?) hit the obs Fieldfares were moving too, but ignoring our MP3 players! A Barn Owl gave a great performance hunting over the meadow just in front of us, so that raised our spirits.

We only managed to ring 3 Wrens, a Dunnock and 3 Greenfinch before we decided to give up and call it a day.



There was a good variety of 'vis' this morning if numbers were low and we had 9 Fieldfares, 48 Redwings, 3 Song Thrush, 38 Chaffinch, 3 Reed Buntings, 43 Meadow Pipits, 18 Alba Wagtails, 43 Carrion Crows, 17 Goldfinch, 12 Skylarks, 79 Pink-footed Geese, 2 Swallows, 3 Linnets, 30 Jackdaws, 11 Tree Sparrows, 3 Siskins, 61 Starlings, 16 Lapwings, 27 Greenfinch, Rock Pipit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Snipe, 2 Blackbirds and 3 Great Tits.


It's looking a bit marginal again tomorrow, but I'll be out birding or ringing, or both!

I shouildn't really have been posting this evening as Gail and I were due to see Joe Bonamassa tonight at Blackpool Opera House. However, he has come down with flu and the gig has been postponed. Have a look below at Joe below playing Sloe Gin from the Albert Hall. Stunning!

Thursday 13 October 2011

Mega Tree Sparrow Passage!

Now before you get too excited the mega Tree Sparrow passage was just 22 birds south, but for the 'obs' it was a mega count, but more of that later. At last we had a window of opportunity this morning to get to the obs to do some ringing. The wind was forecasted to be ESE and only 5 mph, but it was nearer 10 mph! Nevertheless, nets were erected in the dark and Redwing and Fieldfare MP3s went on. The only problem with that was that there were no Thrushes on the move. It looks likely that tonight will see a big arrival over here on the west, based on the number of birds arriving in the east of the country overnight and during today.

It started off slowly this morning, but the vis got going and we had some half decent counts. Our vis totals included 34 Chaffinch, Sparrowhawk, 122 Greenfinch, 5 Siskin, 2 Crossbills, 11 Goldfinch, 12 Reed Buntings, 2 Redwings, 7 Linnets, 6 Swallows, 11 Skylarks, 2 Grey Wagtails, 4 Lesser Redpolls, 35 Alba Wagtails, 22 Tree Sparrows (mega), 295 Meadow Pipits, 3 Fieldfares and 3 Mistle Thrush.




We didn't do too badly with the ringing either and ringed 53 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Wren - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Blue Tit - 3
Linnet - 3
Reed Bunting - 3
Greenfinch - 25
Blackbird - 2
Meadow Pipit - 7
Chaffinch - 4
Goldfinch - 3
Robin - 1
Dunnock - (1)


We also controlled a Greenfinch; TK55862 anyone?

So overall not a bad mornings birding and ringing!

Friday 7 October 2011

Not Too Bad for a Northwesterly!

Every time I mention the diabolical nature of a northwesterly wind for seawatching I get a sense of deja vu as I know I have mentioned it so many times. Why go out if it is so crap on a northwesterly? I think it's because I'm off work this week and off work = must go birding!

As it was northwesterly I didn't go to my usual seawatching location but went to a spot in Cleveleys that I knew would offer some shelter in this wind direction. It was a little slow to start but just like yesterday I had a dark morph juv Arctic Skua head south exceedingly close in. This was followed a little later on by a second dark morph bird that was further out and less showy.

 The view from my seawatching shelter

Common Scoters were the most numerous bird this morning and in total I had 50. A juv Gannet headed south and so did a high flying Red-throated Diver. Five Kittiwakes shot south close in and the best birds were two pale-bellied Brent Geese that headed north giving excellent views as they did. In fact I was able to text Ian at Rossall to warn him they were heading his way and he picked them up.

It looks like it's more northwesterlies tomorrow but slightly less in strength, so it might be a bit more seawatching for me, but I promise I won't moan about those pesky NWs!

Thursday 6 October 2011

What Happened to the Leach's?

The wind seemed due west this morning at Rossall and as it had blown all yesterday and overnight at a fair old strength I thought a Leach's Petrel or two was a dead cert., obviously not! Pete at Heysham Bird Observatory  felt that the wind was WWNW, which would just put enough north in the westerly to make it useless on our stretch of coast.

Stonking views of a dark juv Arctic Skua exceedingly close in kicked things off and Ian and I thought that would be it and we would have a reasonable morning, but that was the highlight! Distant Kittiwakes followed the shipping in and out of Heysham and in total we had 44 'pale' Kittiwake shaped specks bouncing along the horizon. Not seawatching at its best!

Other bits and pieces included 4 Common Scoters, 3 Pintails, Great Crested Grebe, 8 Black-tailed Godwits, 7 Eider, 3 Auk sp. and 4 Bar-tailed Godwits. We even had a single Meadow Pipit at sea battling west through the huge wave troughs!

After two and a half hours I'd had enough and headed home. The forecast for tomorrow is for it to be northwesterly proper, so as I said before that will make it useless along our stretch of coast.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Not Blowing Long Enough

I went to Rossall Point this morning for first light to watch the falling tide. The wind was a good 25 mph southwesterly but unfortunately it hadn't been blowing long enough for some storm driven seabirds. After just over an hour I got fed up after seeing just 4 Eiders, Common Scoter and 2 Cormorants and decided to call it a day. I know, I'm a lightweight!

I called in at the obs to put some seed down at the feeding station and then dropped by the Nature Park on my way home. On the pools were 3 Tufted Ducks, 7 Pochards, 2 Little Grebes, 18 Coot and 13 Mallards.

It's going to remain windy overnight with the wind westerly and about 30 mph in strength. So it looks like some more seawatching for me tomorrow.

I'm going to finish on a sad note because the amazingly talented guitarist Bert Jansch died today. Have a look at a young Bert performing 'Black Waterside' below. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that Jimi Page ripped this off for 'Black Mountain Side' that appeared on Led Zeppelin I. Bert once famously said that "Jimi has never been able to look me in the eye since"! He will be sorely missed.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Rain Stopped Play But Not the Vis

It was the obs for Ian and I this morning and for the second day running they got the forecasted wind strength wrong. The wind was the least of our troubles as it started raining shortly after we put the nets up. This meant  a very protracted ringing session where we only ringed 5 birds (recaptures in brackets):

Wren - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Robin - (1)

Even though it rained constantly once it started Meadow Pipits were still moving and we had 298 head south with Goldfinch, Alba Wag, 2 Grey Wagtails and Reed Bunting. I headed to the cemetery afterwards to see if there was anything grounded but other than a few 'ticking' Robins there was nothing doing.

Late morning news came in of  a Solitary Sandpiper found by Stuart Piner (well done Stuart) on one of my client's farms that I put into Higher Level Stewardship last year. The bird was feeding on one of the wet areas that the farmer created and manages, so I guess you can say that it is working well. I phoned Robert up to tell him that his farm was going to be the focus of a lot of attention from birders!

I have updated the ringing group totals in the panel to the right and we (Fylde RG) have ringed a very respectable 3,552 birds. Septembers mover and shakers are listed below:

1. Chaffinch - 452 (up from 5th)
2. Meadow Pipit - 363 (up from 9th)
3. Tree Sparrow - 351 (down from 1st)
4. Swallow - 330 (down from 2nd)
5. Goldfinch - 278 (down from 4th)
6. Siskin - 260 (down from 3rd)
7. Whitethroat - 191 (down from 6th)
8. Lesser Redpoll - 159 (down from 7th)
9. Willow Warbler - 141 (down from 8th)
10.Blue Tit - 128 (same position)

Saturday 1 October 2011

Mipit Tsunami

The forecast was all wrong this morning, in terms of wind strength anyway, and it was amazing that I ringed any birds at all at the obs. I had virtual full cloud cover as dawn broke with a moderate, perhaps 15-20 mph ESE wind shortly after I put three nets up. Within half an hour, due to the wind strength, I had to take one net down.

I ringed 29 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Greenfinch - 10
Meadow Pipit - 12
Blackcap - 1
Robin - 1
Blue Tit - 3
Chiffchaff - 1
Great Tit - 1
Dunnock - (1)


Blue Tit

By the fact that I ringed a Blackcap and Chiffchaff it was evidence that there were some grounded birds this morning. Also I had two flighty Song Thrushes at first light that were probably grounded as well.

The feature of the morning was the Meadow Pipit passage. From first light until I left the site at 1120 they were going through in impressive numbers. I counted 1,280, but I suspect that there were probably at least three times as many as this because when you are ringing, particularly on your own, it is impossible to do all the ringing and record the 'vis' accurately all at the same time. The ringing station at the obs has a clear view to the sea wall to the west, but to the east the view is obscured by an embankment. Therefore, when processing birds at the ringing table you can only pick vis up directly overhead or to the west. Between net rounds I would stand on top of the embankment for a few minutes and look east and there were constant groups of Mipits heading south all morning.

 Meadow Pipit

Other birds on the move included 18 Alba Wags, 8 Chaffinch (or should I say 8 calls heard), 23 Pink-footed Geese, 10 Siskin (see under 'Chaffinch'), 6 Greenfinch (obviously more than this as I ringed 10 which were birds 'tape lured' down), 5 Grey Wags, Linnet, 2 Reed Buntings, 17 Swallows, 4 Skylarks and 4 Goldfinch.


The forecast looks okay for some more ringing and 'vis' recording tomorrow and then later in the week I might well be seawatching!