Saturday 31 December 2011

Last Post Of 2011

My last post of 2011 is just an update from my feeding station on the Moss. Compared with recent weeks Yellowhammers were few and far between, in fact so few and far between that there was only one today! I had a feeling that it was going to be a good morning for Reed Buntings when a small flock of 6 were in the hedge along the lane.

Heading down to the feeding station I had 152 Tree Sparrows accompanied by 17 Chaffinch and a single Corn Bunting. As usual I headed north along the '97 hedge' and immediately picked the Hen Harrier up flying across the wild bird seed plot. As I headed along the 97 hedge I pushed the Reed Bunt tally to 39, which is my best count for the site this winter.

 Corn Bunting

When I got onto the top fields it started raining so I decided to turn and head back towards my car again and as I did I picked the Harrier up as it flew west across the 'big field'. All I could add were a further 2 Corn Bunts and that was it.

So that's 2011 almost done. I'll update our ringing group totals in a day or three, but it's suffice to say that we have had our best year for some time. I'm not going to give you one of those end of year highlights because I don't want to bore you and more to the point I can' be arsed! All I do want to say is Happy New Year to you and let's hope 2012 is a cracking year filled with wildlife for you all! See you next year.

Thursday 29 December 2011

A Net Full Of Terry's

From now on I will always think of Turnstones as 'Terry's' as that was what Ian was calling them this afternoon when we were trying to ring a few! Craig, Ian and I braved the weather this afternoon for a second attempt to catch some Turnstone at Fleetwood. There were no men racing model boats today so the birds were fairly settled.

We set the net up and liberally sprinkled mixed bird seed (an unusual choice of food for Turnstones I know; but they love it) in front of it and sat back in the car and waited. Slowly, but surely, the Turnstones worked their way in and as soon as they were close enough we fired and caught ten birds! We were pleased with this as it means that we can catch them, so the next stage is to start colour marking them.


Turnstones are amber listed in the UK and globally their IUCN red list category is that of 'least concern'. The overall population trend for Turnstones is decreasing and it is for this reason that we are interested in colour marking them.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

No Gulls and No Turnstones

Armed with dried mealworms, bread, a turkey carcass and goose giblets, Craig, Heather, Ian and I met at Fleetwood to try and catch some Gulls and Turnstones. We set the whoosh net up in the half light, put out the bait, and waited. Unfortunately for us there was some kind of model yacht competition on the boating lake and as the tide ran in the Turnstones appeared but they kept getting flushed by the 20 or so men walking up and down with their remote controls directing their yachts!

The only birds brave enough to come in and feed were a few Starlings and we tested the un-tried whoosh net by catching seven Starlings! Not what we had come out to catch, but we felt fairly confident that if the 'model yachters' hadn't been there we would have caught some Gulls and Turnstones.

Starling, but not from today

Later on in the morning we noticed a steady passage of Woodpigeons high up and heading west; in total we had about 500 birds.

Monday 26 December 2011

Coasting Greenfinch

Unfortunately I didn't manage to get out yesterday, not that I am a huge fan of Christmas, it was all the dashing round to friends and family that ate into my precious time. This morning Gail and I headed to the feeding station for some fresh air and to have a look at what was about, or not, on the Moss. It wasn't the most pleasant of mornings for a wander, but at least we were out.

Tree Sparrows were a little thin on the ground with only 88, but it could have been the conditions keeping them low as there was a good 20-25 mph southwesterly wind. Four Yellowhammers and 11 Chaffinch kept the Tree Sprogs company.

In the windy conditions we decided to shorten our walk to an amble up to the top fields and back. Heading along the '97' hedge 20 Skylarks were in the 'big field' and 7 Reed Buntings along the ditch. Two Buzzard flew low in the windy conditions, but no Hen Harrier today. At the Badger Sett we had 2 Song Thrushes and as we walked across the wild bird seed plot the Short-eared Owl got up and dropped into some stubble.

Heading back we added three Corn Buntings, a pair of Grey Partridge and 200 Lapwings flew over heading west.

One of the recent recoveries we received from the BTO concerned a Greenfinch that we controlled at Rossall School on 13th October 2011. This bird had been ringed the year previously at Walney Bird Observatory on 1st November 2010 18 km north on the other side of Morecambe Bay.

We have 'controlled' a few Greenfinch at the 'obs' from Walney and it is likely that this bird has passed over the 'obs' last year, although we didn't catch it. It would be good to have some more records of onward passage of 'our' Greenfinch, but other than a bird controlled in Merseyside this is yet to happen.


Saturday 24 December 2011

Across The Irish Sea

Before we head across the Irish Sea I attempted to head across Rawcliffe Moss this morning but was thwarted by the weather. Just as I set off down the track to the feeding station loaded up with a bucket of seed, apples, peanuts and niger seed it started raining!

Yellowhammers were back in reasonable numbers and I had 19 at the end of the hedgerow. Five Fieldfare over was good compared to recent weeks and I wondered whether birds wintering further east were now starting to filter through. Down at the feeding station itself Tree Sparrows numbered 214 accompanied by 23 Chaffinch. The rain continued and I dutifully replenished the feeders and headed off the Moss.


My reference to crossing the Irish Sea is not a return to my homeland but to a couple of Chaffinch controls we received in the latest batch from the BTO. Both were juvenile females ringed in Will's garden at Claughton and both had been recaptured on the Calf Of Man at the bird observatory (see Google Earth image below). The dates don't really give any clues; the first bird was ringed on 30/12/10 and controlled on the Calf on 11/10/1,1 and the second bird was ringed on 4/9/11 and controlled on 23/10/11. It is possible that the second bird was heading further west to winter in Ireland when it was intercepted on the Calf.

The first bird was obviously wintering in Lancashire in 2010 based on the date when ringed and then in 2011 could also have been on its way to Ireland to winter. Some Chaffinches show evidence of winter site-fidelity whilst others do not. Presumably our first Chaffinch is one that doesn't.

Allegedly it is going to be dry tomorrow, so hopefully I can get out for an hour or two in the morning. I always like to get something in my notebook on Christmas Day! Talking of Christmas Day; Seasons Greetings to all my readers and I hope you have a prosperous and wildlife filled 2012.

Friday 23 December 2011


Continuing with the batch of recoveries we received from the BTO recently one was an intriguing Yellowhammer movement. A Yellowhammer that we ringed at Moss House Farm on 23rd January 2010 was found dead 40 km NNW near Stribers, Cark in Cumbria on 20th April 2011 (see Google Earth image below). The bird was found as a skeleton and was only identified by the fact that it had a ring on one of its legs.

The Migration Atlas states that the sedentary nature of the Yellowhammers that breed in Britain & Ireland is clearly evident from the recoveries. Regardless of season, 95% of birds were recovered within 25 km of where they were ringed, and the median distance is less than 1 km. Some longer-distance ring-recoveries suggest a winter movement towards the coast or lower ground (Wernham 2002). It is possible that this bird had been wintering at Moss House Farm and had returned or was returning to its breeding area when it died. Interesting and intriguing!

It's going to be dry tomorrow, but still breezy, and as my ravenous hordes of Tree Sparrows will need feeding it will probably be some more tales from the moss tomorrow from me. I refuse to get my hopes up but XC weather is suggesting that there might be a window in the weather for some ringing next Tuesday (27th). Fingers crossed!

Thursday 22 December 2011

A Brief Change Of Scenery

I called to see some clients this morning that have now become friends and to have a look at the wetland on their farm near Nateby, or the 'flood' as they like to call it. As I walked down to the flood a Redwing called overhead and this is the first one that I have had for a while.

 The Flood

The flood looked in fine fettle but it was fairly quiet. There were 71 Teal, 2 Moorhens and 8 Mallards. As I walked back up to the yard I had a single Kestrel. I then went onto my feeding station and when I arrived at the track I could see Phil's car parked so I knew he was having a wander on the moss.

 Distant fuzzy Teal

As I walked down the track a Brown Hare got up from the field next to Curlew Wood and I saw a further 3 in stubbles in the 'big field'. Talking of mammals I had 8 Roe Deer this morning; two groups of 4. Having said recently that I hadn't seen any for a while I am constantly 'tripping over' them now!

As Phil had already walked past the feeding station the numbers of birds present were lower than normal  because it is impossible to walk past it without disturbing the birds. I had 108 Tree Sparrows and 12 Chaffinch. There were also 3 Yellowhammers and later when we were back at the cars a flock of 15 dropped in.

As usual I headed up the '97' hedge and there were 10 Reed Buntings feeding along the ditch and margin. As I headed on to the top fields I had 12 Corn Buntings go over. As I headed south across the stubbles I had three Fieldfares over and a single Linnet.

After I got back to the car I decided to have a look in the wild bird seed strip alongside Curlew Wood. There were about 30 Chaffinches dropping in from the wood to feed but nothing else. I bumped into Phil here and we headed back to the cars. As were having a natter and a catch up the ring-tail Hen Harrier appeared over a stubble field to the west of us and it was immediately mobbed by Crows. In fact they harassed it mercilessly and the Harrier had to climb high heading east over Curlew Wood. A few minutes later it had shaken off the Crows and was quartering the stubbles of the big field.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Mid Afternoon On The Moss

I had to go out and buy some presents for her indoors this morning for the dreaded 'C' word, so it was this afternoon before I got to my feeding station to top-up. At last it wasn't raining and the wind had eased. In fact the wind might ease enough for a ringing session tomorrow; fingers crossed.

As I headed down the track 3 Yellowhammers flew in front of me and then at the feeding station itself I had 240 Tree Sparrows with about 25 Chaffinch. I put a couple of small niger feeders (need to make a few more) out yesterday morning in the rain and already there is Goldfinch using them.


I then headed up the '97 hedge' and immediately had the 'ring-tail' Hen Harrier hunting low over the 'big field'. It dropped onto the 'deck' and stayed there until a Grey Heron flew by and flushed it. A number of Lapwings were moving around this afternoon and I had 245 in varying flock sizes.

There weren't as many Skylarks on the big field, only 15, and along the 97 hedge I just had 6 Reed Buntings. I headed north towards the plantation and had two Grey Partridges near the maize strip. It was very quiet in the plantation, but as I skirted the top of it a Woodcock flew fairly high from it to the Pine Wood.

I now headed south back towards the feeding station. As I cut across the stubbles towards the wild bird seed plot I had 7 Brown Hares and a Lesser Redpoll went over. As I walked through the wild bird seed plot I flushed a Short-eared Owl, presumably the same bird that I had five days ago.

Heading back towards the car 400 Woodpigeons headed southeast to roost and as I drove off I had my only Corn Bunting of the afternoon perched on top of an Ash.

One of the recoveries that we received recently from the BTO was of a Reed Warbler that was ringed at Moss House Farm as a 3J on 28/07/2010 and it was controlled 26 km to the south on 03/07/2011 at Mere Sands Wood, Rufford as a breeding male (see below). It is likely that this bird hatched somewhere in the region of Moss House Farm and then in the following year it had set up territory at Mere Sands Wood.

Saturday 17 December 2011

What A Difference Some Snow And A Couple Of Days Make

Since my last visit to the feeding station we had some snow yesterday, not a great deal but obviously enough to make a difference to the number of birds on the moss. I stopped by the barn to put my wellies on at a clean bit of concrete yard and I heard a Kestrel alarm calling. It was dive bombing something perched on top of a telegraph pole and when I looked with my bins I could see it was a Buzzard. The Buzzard wasn't phased by the Kestrels antics at all and very soon the Kestrel gave up.

There was some lying snow, but not a great deal, but just enough to cover the area I put seed down apart from where the birds had kept it clear through feeding. So it was here that I dumped the seed down today. Only one Yellowhammer this morning and at the feeding station were 149 Tree Sparrows and about 15 Chaffinch.

A light dusting of snow, above and below

In the field behind the feeding station a flock of about 4,000 Starlings fed and I had 171 Pink-footed Geese go over. I headed up the '97 hedge' and had 5 Blackbirds, single Song Thrush and a further 10 Chaffinch. Out on the stubbles were 83 Skylarks and I had 126 Lapwing feeding on a flooded field.

 Pink-footed Geese

As I headed towards the wild bird seed plot I could hear a Raven croaking, but couldn't see it, and two Roe Deer headed towards the 'top fields'. Only 9 Reed Buntings today and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from Curlew Wood. I like to vary my route around the moss and today I headed south to have a look round the bottom fields but all I could add were two Brown Hares, two Grey Partridges and a single Snipe.

One of the recoveries we received recently from the BTO was of a Coot that Craig ringed as part of Kane Brides colour ringing project. Craig ringed the Coot at Marton Mere LNR on 10/09/2010 as a 1CY male and it was re-sighted at West Kirby on the Wirral on 21/08/2011. Please see google earth image below.

You can only speculate about this birds movements. Had this bird hatched in the Wirral area in 2010 and it had returned to its natal area to breed? In December 2010 this bird was sighted in Sefton Park, Liverpool; so only more observations will help to answer this.

Friday 16 December 2011

Sanderling from Greenland

We received a batch of recoveries from the BTO this week and rather than bore you with all of them I thought that I would share them with you one or two at a time. In addition to the recoveries from the BTO, Ian had a colour-ringed and leg-flagged Sanderling at Rossall Point a couple of days ago and it was this recovery that I wanted to share with you first.

Ian saw the Sanderling at Rossall on 15th December 2011 and the bird had been ringed at Hochstetter Forland in northeast Greenland. See the google earth image below.

Ian reported the bird to Jeroen Reneerkens from Holland who co-ordinates a colour ringing project on Sanderlings. This Sanderling had been ringed on 16th July 2011 and Jeroen's comments paint a vivid picture. "The bird was ringed in northeast Greenland last summer. It's partner was ringed two days later and two of their chicks were ringed that were guided by the bird that you observed". Awesome!


This is the second colour-ringed Sanderling that Ian has had at Rossall this year. The other bird that Ian had he observed at Rossall on 25/08/2011 and this bird had originally been ringed at Sandgeroi in Iceland on 23/05/2007 and had sunsequently been observed back there again on 21/05/5008 and 28/05/2009 before being seen at Rossall.

It is likely that the latter of these two Sanderlings was passing through Rossall on its way to wintering grounds in West Africa and the former bird observed this week is probably wintering at Rossall , if not somewhere in Liverpool or Morecambe Bay. Fascinating stuff!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Almost A Raptor Fest!

I called at the feeding station late morning when it had stopped raining and the sun had come out, and bumped into Phil who was out for a bit of birding. As we chatted whilst I filled my buckets with seed we had at least 56 Yellowhammers and a flock of 5 Corn Buntings over. Later we would add a further 8 Corn Bunts to the total.

Walking down to the feeding station Phil picked up a Hen Harrier that gave a fantastic display as it hopped over hedges and weaved in and out of the more open aspects of the woodland. We then lost it and I picked it up sat on the margin of the 'big field' in the sun preening itself. It was having a good old preen lifting its wings in turn and preening underneath, and then twisting its tail to preen its underparts showing its white rump. After a while it departed and floated off over the stubble.

The only Hen Harrier pictures I have are at the nest when I was lucky 
enough to help out  ringing a  few chicks a couple of years ago. The same 
goes  for the  Merlin  further down.

At the feeding station the Tree Sparrows had increased to 230 and were joined by 23 Chaffinch. Later on in Curlew Wood I had a further 25 Chaffinch. We then headed up the '97 hedge' and had 11 Reed Buntings and a single Song Thrush. Perched in the birch trees above the Badger sett was a female Merlin.

I then took a walk across the wild bird see plot and flushed a Short-eared Owl that gave stonking views as it in turn flushed two Grey Partridges. Two Buzzards and a Kestrel added to the raptor score.

Walking back across the stubbles I had 89 Skylarks, 2 Snipe and a Siskin went over. It was then time for me to head home and get on with some work.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

More Farmland Birds But Not As Many

Funnily enough I had been asking Phil whether he had seen any or many Roe Deer on the moss recently as I hadn't and when I drove down the track a Roe Deer ran in front of me as if just to prove they were still around! It was blustery as I headed down towards the feeding station with a Kestrel round the buildings and Buzzard alongside Curlew Wood.

I had two Grey Partridges again but only 6 Yellowhammers. As I approached the feeding area I could see a Great Spotted Woodpecker on one of the peanut feeders and 110 Tree Sparrows flew off towards the hedgerow next to the wood.

I had a walk along the '97 hedge' and on to the wild bird seed crop. Reed Buntings were a little more numerous and I counted 20 as I walked the margin alongside the hedge, but Chaffinch numbers had dropped to 231. I had 4 Corn Buntings on my walk and 20 Goldfinch had joined the Chaffinch.

Reed Bunting

Two Lesser Redpolls flying over were a little unexpected and the 10 Skylarks lifting off the 'big field' weren't. Something flushed the Lapwing from the adjacent field and I counted 103. So overall it was a morning of diminishing returns, but no less enjoyable.

Saturday 10 December 2011

A Good Smattering of Farmland Birds

I am now in the cycle of going to my feeding station every other day to feed now and this morning I got the impression that there were a few more birds around, perhaps because of the colder weather further east and north. I had more time today, so after I had fed I had a walk round for about an hour and a half. Not that it will mean much to you, but I headed down the track to the feeding station along the '97 hedge' to the top fields, across the moss to the plantation and back down the lane to my car.

Rather than bore you with the details of exactly where I saw everything I thought I would just give you the raw totals of the more interesting birds that I had. This included 14 Blackbirds, 24 Yellowhammers (an excellent total for this time of year and a actually a good total for any time of year), 13 Reed Buntings, 177 Tree Sparrows, 355 Chaffinch (the highest total I have ever recorded at the site), 140 Skylarks, 2 Grey Partridge and 21 Corn Buntings. A good few red listed species there.


There were a few Pink-footed Geese around but only 307. All of these were mobile so I couldn't look through them for any White-fronts or Bean. Any that flew over me low enough I did look at to see if I could see any barring on their bellies, but I didn't.

Raptors were conspicuous with their absence and all I had was a single Buzzard and Kestrel. Continuing in the single species vein were Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush. I had a walk through the L Wood in the hope of flushing a Woodcock or two, but I didn't have anything at all.

The forecast for the rest of the week is looking like more of the same with a succession of Atlantic depressions from the west bringing more windy weather. I'll try and make the best of it!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Horizontal Birding

I wanted to go seawatching this morning with the 30 mph southwesterlies we have at the minute but I have several reports to write and my Tree Sparrows needed feeding so it was the feeding station that I headed to. Walking down the track to the feeding station my posture was almost horizontal due to the strength of the wind and consequently it was difficult to do any birding.

Tree Sparrow numbers reached a seasonal high this morning as I counted 228 accompanied by about 30 Chaffinch, only 6 Blackbirds and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew from the feeding station to Curlew Wood as I got close. The only other bird I had was a single Buzzard.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I daren't look at the weather forecast anymore for the coming week because it is so depressing. Well, I did just have a look and it is going to remain windy, not always gale force, but too windy for any ringing for the foreseeable future i.e. all next week! Mind you within our ringing group our mantra is always 'there's time for it to change'!

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Rails, Red-headed Sparrows and Ringing Totals

If I was a sad lister and kept a 'birds seen from the car' or 'birds seen flying in front of the car' lists then I would have added a new species this week. I was driving home through some lanes towards dusk and as I drove through a flood that was spilling out from a roadside ditch a bird flew in front of the car and in my headlights I could pick out dangling legs and fluttering flight. It flew along in front of the car for a few seconds and then dropped into a gateway and ran into a field. It was a Water Rail!

It's been cold and windy so far all week and when I called at my feeding station late Monday afternoon it was bitterly cold. In fact there were frequent hail showers blown along with the 25-30 mph wind that made it too unpleasant, and pointless, too have a walk round. All I did was dash down the track and feed.

A couple of Buzzards were calling and flying along Curlew Wood and Blackbird numbers at the feeding station had increased to 10. I wondered whether this was possibly because of snowy weather to the north and east pushing birds our way as on some adjacent fields was a flock of 850 Lapwings. As it was late in the afternoon Tree Sparrows (local name in Yorkshire is Red-headed Sparrow) numbered only 35 with 4 or 5 Chaffinch.


I had a meeting yesterday at Crooklands in south Cumbria and when I could see across to the Howgills they were covered in snow. Very seasonal. Yesterday it looked like there might be a window in the weather to do some ringing on Saturday, but it has all changed now.

I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group in the panel to the right and you will see that we have ringed 4,377 birds of 61 species so far this year. Hopefully we will be able to push the totals over 4,500 by the end of December. It isn't really the totals that matter, more the species and information gained that is important, but the totals give an indication of all the effort that is put in. As usual I have listed the top ten 'movers and shakers' below and as you will see now that we are in winter things are remaining fairly static.

1. Chaffinch - 641 (same position as last month)
2. Meadow Pipit - 414 (same position as last month)
3. Tree Sparrow - 368 (same position as last month)
4. Goldfinch - 357 (up from 5th)
5. Swallow - 330 (down from 5th)
6. Siskin - 260 (same position as last month)
7. Whitethroat - 191 (same position as last month)
8=. Greenfinch - 183 (same position as last month)
8=. Blue Tit - 183 (up from 10th)
9. Lesser Redpoll - 172 (down from 9th)

There were no species that dropped out of the top ten from last month.

Friday 2 December 2011

I'm Still Here......

......and I haven't a great deal to report other than what has been at my farmland bird feeding station over the past week. I've been busy at work and this has prevented me from getting out as much, but hopefully this has now all been sorted.

Earlier in the week there were still 170 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station, but there were only 72 today. The Tree Sparrow count can change depending on the timing of your visit. Interestingly, as I was feeding late morning birds were flying in so they may well have built up to 170 or more.

I had a little time to spare so I had a walk along the 97 Hedge, round the wild bird seed plot and back to my car. There were quite a few Chaffinch around this morning mainly in the Birch trees by the Badger sett and I had 50 in total. Corn Buntings numbered 7 and a female Sparrowhawk drifted south over the 'big field' and lifted 34 Skylarks.

 Corn Bunting

A couple of Grey Partridge flew out of the grass margin and 3,066 Pink-footed Geese dropped onto the top fields. Eight Reed Buntings were feeding in the cover by the ditch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from Curlew Wood. Walking back down the 97 hedge and to my car I added singles of Snipe, Stock Dove, Song Thrush and a male Yellowhammer perched on a telegraph pole.

On the way home I had a look on the river and had a pair of Goldeneye and 18 Curlews feeding in a riverside field.It looks as though it is going to remain windy for the rest of the week and westerly. Not much chance of any ringing, but hopefully some opportunities for some birding. I'll keep you posted.