Monday 31 December 2012

A Quiet And Murky End To The Year

It wasn't half murky out in the Bay this morning and consequently few birds were recorded by yours truly as he stared through his scope! The wind was a blustery west-southwesterly with intermittent rain showers. A few waders were on the beach staying ahead of the incoming tide and these included 67 Sanderlings, eight Grey Plovers, 209 Oystercatchers, 19 Turnstones and 46 Ringed Plovers.

Passage at sea was limited to just a single male Red-breasted Merganser, two Common Scoters, a Kittiwake, five Teal and 27 Wigeon. Not a diver or an auk in sight! I fed the Turnstones and recorded four leg-flagged birds before calling it a day.

If you haven't already got Mark Avery's excellent book 'Fighting for Birds' I can heartily recommend it. I didn't quite read it in one sitting as Chris Packham says he did in the foreword but it was hard to put down once I started reading it. Mark has a huge passion for birds and their conservation and this comes through clearly in this book. The chapter entitled 'the raptor haters' is truly enthralling, if at times depressing, but the book is also full of humour and above all hope. If Father Christmas didn't bring you a copy, spend some of your Christmas money on it, you won't be disappointed!

 See you all in 2013!

Sunday 30 December 2012

More Of The Same

It was the same 'pack drill' today to that of recent days with a dawn start at the Point. The wind was a blustery WSW with full cloud cover. High tide wasn't until 1215, so I knew what I would see would be limited as I only had a couple of hours and by this time the tide wouldn't have really started to run in.

In the end I only watched for an hour and a half and recorded three Red-breasted Mergansers, a Little Gull, three Eiders, a Kittiwake, 340 Knot, 170 Sanderlings, three Red-throated Divers and 37 Ringed Plovers. As I was leaving Ian was arriving, so for a fuller report of what was on the sea have a look at Fleetwood Bird Observatory later.

I headed to the Turnstone feeding station and fed the 'Terry's' and 35 were instantly on the food. None of these had leg flags on and only two were metal ringed, presumably retrap birds from last winter. Turnstones number about 150 at the feeding station and we have flagged 31 so far. If this wintering population was static without birds moving in or out of the population you would expect to see 20% of the birds feeding at any one time to have flags on them. In the case of this morning this would have been seven birds, but as I say none of them were flagged indicating the turn over of birds even during the winter.

I then headed to my farmland bird feeding station but the weather had deteriorated further and it wasn't fit to have a walk round so all I had were a Reed Bunting, a Buzzard, 19 Chaffinches and 84 Tree Sparrows.

The forecast is similar for tomorrow with 25-30 mph SSW winds and light rain towards lunchtime. I am not sure what I will do as yet, but I will be out doing something!

Friday 28 December 2012

From Coast To Moss Via The Terry's

First light saw me back at the Point sheltering behind the tower waiting for it to get light! It was a darker morning this morning and what was birding light yesterday wasn't today! I had full cloud cover with a 15 mph SSE wind.

As yesterday the first birds noted were the roosting Oystercatchers in the half-light and 410 were on the beach before being pushed off by the in-coming tide. Sanderlings numbered 250 and Ringed Plovers 17.

Passage on the sea was lighter than yesterday, presumably because of the murkier conditions, and I had 18 Common Scoters, 63 Cormorants, 13 Teal, three Eiders, 43 Wigeon, two Red-breasted Mergansers, a Red-throated Diver, two male Goldeneyes, five Mallards and three Auk sp.

I couldn't stay as long as I had two feeding stations to get to. First of all I fed the Terry's (Turnstones) and I counted 94 and there were several of our leg-flagged birds amongst them. As I was feeding the Terry's 19 Whooper Swans flew east.

 This Carrion Crow was stealing the Terry's food

I then headed to my feeding station on the Moss where I had a paltry (compared to recent weeks) flock of only 604 Woodpigeons, 15 Chaffinch, 240 Pink-footed Geese, 98 Tree Sparrows, two Grey Partridges, four Reed Buntings, six Redwings, five Fieldfares, a Buzzard and a Song Thrush.

Our planned Turnstone catch is off tomorrow because of the weather, so if it isn't too wet i.e. zero visibility, it will be more seawatching for me.

Thursday 27 December 2012

High Flying Divers and Low Flying Geese

The above isn't strictly true as some of the divers off the Point this morning were flying low and some of the Geese were high, but generally it was the main feature of this morning's seawatching. At first light I had complete cloud cover with a 10 mph westerly wind, which swung to an ENE from 0935 and cleared all the murk from the bay in the process.

Off the Point a shingle island has developed over recent years that only gets covered by the higher high tides and this morning was a morning when it would get covered. It would seem that the Oystercatchers knew this as there were 452 roosting on the beach as I walked towards my seawatching location along with a nice small flock of eight Grey Plovers.

Other waders roosted and fed as the tide came in and dropped including 222 Sanderlings, 77 Turnstones (not a flagged bird amongst them) and 20 Ringed Plovers.

It was fairly slow on the sea at first but when the murk cleared things seemed to pick up. Sightings included 30 Red-breasted Mergansers, 30 Common Scoters, 28 Auk sp., 17 Wigeon, a Teal, two Great Crested Grebes, three Shelducks, a Razorbill and three male Eiders.

The most interesting feature was the westerly passage of Divers and northerly movement of Pink-footed Geese. In total I had 42 Red-throated Divers head out of the bay (west) and three in (east). A great number of these birds were well above the horizon, reminiscent of the spring passage in to the Bay, but heading in the opposite direction. In total we had 1,480 Pink-footed Geese heading north across the bay, but from a westerly direction. These birds seemed to perhaps have been coming across Liverpool Bay from the south and then as they were getting towards the Furness Peninsula starting to track east. I am intrigued to know where they might have been heading and why!

After three and half hours of Diver watching I headed to the Turnstone feeding station to see if I could re-sight any leg flagged birds and in total I had six. Fingers crossed we should hopefully catch and mark some more birds at weekend.

Turnstones at the feeding station (above) and bathing in a puddle (below)

 I have also been to my farmland bird feeding station a couple of times over the Christmas period and had 1,200 Woodpigeons, seven Fieldfares, 92 Tree Sparrows and 19 Chaffinch. The forecast doesn't look good for any mist netting anytime soon, and particularly not tomorrow, so it will probably be some more seawatching for me.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Winter Wildfowl

It was blowy this morning so I decided to head to the Point to spend a couple of hours seawatching. The wind was a 20-25 mph southwesterly wind and unusually for this direction it was awkward getting some shelter behind the Coastguard's Tower. After a bit of toing and froing I found a spot that was reasonably sheltered and was joined by Ian.

During the next hour and three quarters we recorded five Red-throated Divers, two Red-breasted Mergansers, a Little Gull, 38 Teal, six Kittiwakes, four Pintails, seven Wigeon and 200 Sanderlings. The visibility at the crucial distance was very poor and as the tide dropped the birds slowed up.

I then had a look at the Marine Lakes to see if I could re-sight any of our leg-flagged Turnstones and recorded eight birds with leg flags on and two just with metal rings. These are likely to be a couple of our birds from last winter.

Black-headed Gulls & Turnstones

Friday 21 December 2012

The Light Returns

As it is the winter solstice today I would like to wish all my readers a Happy Winter Solstice!

After today the days lengthen and we can look forward to Spring! I think perhaps I'm getting a bit carried away there.

I haven't a great deal to report since the start of our Turnstone project last Sunday. I have of course been at my feeding station every other day and the highlights this week were 20 Corn Buntings, 44 Chaffinches, 4,245 Woodpigeons, 100 Tree Sparrows, 5 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings and a thousand Starlings.

Below is a picture of the feeding station taken just before the Solstice in 2010. What a difference to today!

Sunday 16 December 2012


This morning Graham, Huw, Ian, Phil and I had our first catch of Turnstones at the feeding station. As I have mentioned before we are fitting leg flags to these birds in an attempt to:

- generate some information on wintering sites and distribution of wintering Turnstones in the northwest of
   England or further afield
- attempt to find out what the turnover of the birds wintering at the site is; where are they coming from to
   roost/forage at the site
- measure winter site fidelity and implications of disturbance if they show high winter site fidelity
- generate re-sightings to look at migration routes
- try to ascertain whether there are any relationships between wintering areas and breeding areas
- possibly measure phenology if we can catch them over a number years

We had a successful morning and caught 31 Turnstones, including a retrap from this site from January 2012. All were fitted with leg flags, so we need to put some time in trying to re-locate them and generate some re-sightings.


Saturday 15 December 2012

Mud Glorious Mud

After I fed the Turnstones I headed to the estuary to have a look on the mud flats and saltmarsh and as I walked down the 'Hawthorn tunnel' towards the estuary I was putting up good numbers of Thrushes. It was hard to count them accurately but there was at least 53 Redwings, 25 Blackbirds, 87 Fieldfares and three Song Thrushes.

 Mud, glorious mud!

As I walked past the pools a Water Rail called and I was then out on the saltmarsh. I walked to the edge of the saltmarsh to a promontory where I could see up and down the river. The numbers of waders and wildfowl had dropped compared to recent weeks, perhaps due to the hard weather, but I still managed to have 31 Wigeon, 204 Teal, 40 Dunlin, 47 Lapwings, 20 Black-tailed Godwits and 600 Pink-footed Geese.

Walking back across the saltmarsh I had six Rock Pipits and heading back down the 'Hawthorn tunnel' I had ten Goldfinch, ten Long-tailed Tits and a male Sparrowhawk.

 The 'hawthorn tunnel'

I headed to the marine lakes to see how many Turnstones were coming and there were about 130, but not of all of them were on our food. Out on the lakes were four Tufted Ducks, a female Scaup, three Goldeneyes and four Red-breasted Mergansers

Now you see me.......... you don't


 Turnstones at the feeding station

Friday 14 December 2012

Wot No Sanderling or Turnstones

I apologise if you were expecting to hear about some wader ringing this week, but for various reasons both planned ringing sessions were called off. First up were the Turnstones on Wednesday. When Ian, Peter and I arrived at the ringing site at 7.30 a.m. we were greeted with a hoar frost that was a centimetre deep and this included a covering on the beach! There was absolutely no way that we would catch and ring Turnstones in these conditions.

The plan was to cannon net roosting Sanderlings on Friday but the forecast for Friday was awful; wet and windy, and as I type this it is Friday and it is wet and windy! We brought the cannon netting session forward to Thursday, but when Ian reccied the site on Wednesday there were only 30 Sanderlings roosting due to disturbance on the beach by contractors operating tracked vehicles.

So what do I have to report? Not a lot really and no photographs either. I have of course been to my feeding station several times during the week and had Reed Bunting, Jay, Brambling, 1,000 Woodpigeons, 125 Tree Sparrows, three Redwings, ten Fieldfares and 32 Chaffinches.

Hopefully I'll have some bird news over weekend.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Weekend Round-up

My birding weekend started at my feeding station on Friday and finished at my feeding station today, with birding at the obs in between.

It was late afternoon on Friday when I called to drop several sacks of seed off into my seed bin at the feeding station and also to feed. I'd had to drive through a couple of floods to get there and the land surrounding the track where I feed was under water. See the pictures below of the views towards the wintry fells with the flooded field alongside the track where I feed.

 A dusting of snow on the fells

The flooded field alongside the track where I feed

As it was late most of the birds had left to roost although I did have nine Fieldfares, 26 Tree Sparrows and six Long-tailed Tits.

Yesterday I spent the morning birding at the southern end of the obs. At first light I had clear skies with a light WSW wind and a hard frost. I had a look on the flood but that was frozen, but there was still a couple of Redshanks and six Oystercatchers hanging around trying to work out why they couldn't feed!

The highlight of the morning were the two Short-eared Owls. I actually made two visits to the obs today as I came back later in the morning to show Gail the Short-eared Owls as she absolutely loves Owls. Just as the sun was rising above the eastern horizon I had one bird perched on a fence post. I tried to take a couple of shots but you will see below that they were grainy due to the low light levels. I also took a few shots of the 'Shorties' silhouetted against the sky and these work better!

 Short-eared Owl (above and below)

When Gail and I returned we quickly got on one bird that had just made a kill and we could see it flying away from us carrying a vole. It started to gain height and the second Shortie came up underneath it, flipped upside down and tried to take the vole off the first bird. The first bird wasn't having any of it and it started to gain height quite rapidly. We watched this bird and it kept reaching down to its feet with its bill, presumably to kill the vole. I had a look in BWP and this was indeed what our bird was doing. This is something I haven't seen before, but then again I haven't spent hundreds of hours observing the feeding behaviour of Short-eared Owls!

Pink-footed Geese kept arriving and dropping on to the farm fields to the east and in total I had 954. I tried to have a look through them later, but unfortunately they were feeding a long way from the road and were obscured by hedges.

I had a quick look on the sea but it was very quiet other than three Eiders and five Cormorants. There was a heat haze making viewing extremely difficult.

This morning I was back at my feeding station and what a different  morning it was at is was raining with a 25 mph westerly wind. I didn't spend any more time than was necessary to drop some food off and had 250 Pink-footed Geese, a Jay, a Brambling, a Goldcrest, 125 Tree Sparrows and 17 Chaffinch in the process.

The focus for this coming week is waders with hopefully a catch of Turnstones mid-week that will be fitted with leg flags and then cannon netting some Sanderlings at the end of the week with Morecambe Bay Wader Ringing Group. Oh and I'll have to fit some work in as well!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Slowing Down

The title isn't a reference to my lack of physical capabilities brought on by middle age, but to the fact that in November our (Fylde Ringing Group) ringing totals slowed down and we only ringed 168 birds during the month. This was down to the appalling weather that we had with wet and windy conditions precluding any decent amount of time for ringing.

Over on the right I have updated the totals for the year and we now stand at 3,536 birds ringed of 66 species. The only addition to the species list in November was a Woodcock that Ian caught by hand after it was trying to push itself through a fence!

 The very Woodcock held by 'yours truly'

As usual I have listed below the top ten 'movers and shakers' for November.

1. Greenfinch - 360 (same position)
2. Chaffinch - 334 (same position)
3. Swallow - 317 (same position)
4. Tree Sparrow - 266 (same position)
5. Blue Tit - 259 (up from 6th)
6. Goldfinch - 253 (down from 5th)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 144 (same position)
8. Great Tit - 143 (same position)
9. Blackbird - 127 (up from 10th)
10. Meadow Pipit - 112 (down from 9th)

I suspect that there will be very little change in December as well. There is a chance that Chaffinch could overtake Greenfinch and possibly Blue Tit & Goldfinch could overtake Tree Sparrow. Other than that I think the positions will remain static.

As I stated previously we only managed to ring 168 birds in November and below I have listed the top 5 totals for the month:

1. Blue Tit - 25
2. Long-tailed Tit - 23
3. Blackbird - 22
4. Chaffinch - 16
5. Goldfinch - 15

Lat Sunday (2nd) Huw, Nigel and I managed to get out ringing at my feeding station. It was a cracking morning weather wise with flat calm conditions and a ground frost. There was 6 oktas cloud cover, so the mist nets were pretty invisible too. We only managed to ring 13 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Tree Sparrow - 5
Chaffinch - 3
Blue Tit - 3 (11)
Blackbird - 2 (1)
Great Tit - (4)
Robin - (1)
Coal Tit - (1)

To save you doing the maths I'll tell you that we recaptured 18 birds and this is typical of what you see at a feeding station when it is reasonably cold.

As we were putting the nets up a Barn Owl floated across the stubble field and later in the morning two Jays and eight Whooper Swans would fly over the same stubble field. We had two Siskins go south and other than that my note book is blank. 

Friday 30 November 2012

Not A Little Owl In Sight!

Earlier this week Craig and I took my good mate from Canada, Nigel, out birding for the day. Nigel's a ringer, warden of Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station and one of the best bird artists around (in my opinion anyway). It was too windy to do any ringing so we went birding instead and the only species Nigel really wanted to see was a Little Owl. Sure I said, I've got three guaranteed sites where we're bound to get one at one of them. From the title you will have guessed that it wasn't to be, not a Little Owl in sight. We even checked a couple of the sites twice!

We headed off Over Wyre starting at my feeding station where we we had 150 Tree Sparrows and then at various spots on our travels we had 325 Whooper Swans, three Little Egrets, two Rock Pipits, 1,500 Lapwings, four Goosanders, three Little Grebes and a hundred Teal. We told a few tall tales about birding and ringing, and generally had a good day.

This morning I went to my feeding station to feed and I am now into the routine of feeding every other day. Just as I had got out of my car eight Fieldfares flew over and then I got some of the best, if not the best, views of a male Hen Harrier I've ever had. Just 15 metres from me a 3CY male 'whipped' over the hedge and floated north towards the wood and then west across the moss. Awesome!

There seemed to be a few Blackbirds around and I had 11 walking down to the feeding area. At the feeding station were 106 Tree Sparrows along with 11 Chaffinch. I then had a walk along the '97 hedge' and had 11 Yellowhammers and ten Reed Buntings.

Over on the eastern corner of the top fields I had an impressive flock of 380 Chaffinch. I couldn't see any Bramblings amongst them but I didn't want to disturb them to try and spot any white rumps and left them alone. As I headed back along the lane I had 600 Woodpigeons feeding in one of the fields and a flock of 11 Corn Buntings flew from the hedge.

No photographs I'm afraid as when I switched my camera on, just before the Harrier appeared, the battery was dead. I think you could call that a school boy error! It is looking cold for weekend with the chance of getting some ringing done on Sunday.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Back In Action

I suppose it could have been a worse week weatherwise to damage the tendons in my shoulder, so I shouldn't complain about not being able to get out too much. No lifting bins or extracting birds from the top panel of a mist net for me this week, instead it's been a week of intense physio. But the good news is that it's virtually mended my shoulder and this morning I was out at my feeding station ringing and extracting birds from the top panel! Oh, and I lifted my bins a time or two too.

It was flat calm this morning at first light with a ground frost and full cloud cover although it was light and hazy. The soundscape as I put my nets up were mewing Buzzards and shouting Jays. Birds started to arrive at the feeding station quite early including 116 Tree Sparrows and 27 Chaffinch.

 Tree Sparrow

Sat at my ringing table between rounds I had five Bramblings, four Fieldfares, a Redpoll, 11 Yellowhammers and three Corn Buntings go over. After Christmas the Yellowhammers should hopefully be coming into the feeding station.

There were good numbers of Woodpigeons around this morning and 2,230 couldn't decide which direction to head in. Some went south, then headed east, came back west and headed north! A few Pink-footed Geese were moving around this morning, but at 447 their numbers were a drop in the ocean compared to the numbers of Wood Pigs.

I ringed 35 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Robin - 1
Chaffinch - 4 (1)
Great Tit - 4 (1)
Tree Sparrow - 7 (1)
Blue Tit - 17 (1)
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1 male
Greenfinch - 1

 Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday 18 November 2012

Wood Pigs

I was due to feed at my feeding station this morning so I found myself mossward bound after a latish start due to a very late evening! It was a glorious morning with virtual clear skies and a light ESE wind.

The most numerous bird on my walk round were Woodpigeons. There seemed to be flock after flock feeding locally or heading east. On my walk I counted 2,815 and later in the morning I bumped into Phil who had estimated that he had seen perhaps 20,000 on his way over. That's a lot of Wood Pigs!


Down at the feeding station numbers of Tree Sparrows had increased to 65 with about ten Chaffinch and a couple of Fieldfares accompanying them. Along the '97 hedge' were 11 Reed Buntings and when I walked back down the 97 hedge later I had a male Brambling.

As I approached the top of the 97 hedge I had three Roe Deers run in front of me and they leaped up onto the top fields. At the far end of the top fields were a further 85 Chaffinch and four Corn Buntings. At this point I had a male Hen Harrier head west being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows.

 Roe Deer

I decided to head across some unharvested wheat to see if there were any finches/buntings feeding in them, but there wasn't. However, they do look good for later in the winter during that 'hungry gap' time of year in Feb - Mar. All I had from the unharvested crops were seven Snipe, six Skylarks, a pair of Grey Partridge and a couple of Brown Hares.

Other than the Hen Harrier raptors were represented by just a single Buzzard and two Kestrels. As I approached the plantation three Whooper Swans flew over and I could hear Siskins calling from the Pine Wood. At this point it was time to head back to the feeding station to collect my seed bucket and head home.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Catch Up

Life's been a bit hectic this past week, mainly due to catching up with work, and the result is a lack of posts on 'The Hairy Birder'! So today I am playing catch up, not that there's a great deal to report.

Earlier in the week I was up on the moorland tops on the border between Lancashire and North Yorkshire again for my sins and although the weather was glorious, and the views stupendous, the birding was a little quiet as you would expect up there at this time of year.

However, what the moorland lacked in numbers of bird species it made up in numbers of Red Grouse and in total I had 69 during my survey. Eight sightings of Raven was nice and a Woodcock flushed from heather was also welcome. Probably the best bird of the day, although I didn't see it, was a calling Lapland Bunting go over that I failed to get on to!

Yesterday, Ian, Richard and I were recceing some Sanderlings roosting on the foreshore in preparation for a cannon netting session in December and before heading out on to the shore I fed the Turnstones at our Terry feeding station. There were at least 180 Turnstones at the feeding station and 400 Sanderlings at the high tide roost.

 A Terry above and some Terries below

This morning I decided to head out to the estuary and marsh for a change and as I walked along the footpath through the scrub there were a few Thrushes including 13 Blackbirds, two Mistle Thrushes, 17 Redwings and two Song Thrushes. There are plenty of berries on the Hawthorns along here, so there should be plenty of food to hold them well into the Winter.

 Mistle Thrush

Two Grey Wagtails went over calling and a Water Rail called from the wetland as a Sparrowhawk flew over. I had a look on the reservoir along the estuary and there were 14 Tufted Ducks, three Goldeneyes, three Little Grebes and eight Coots on it.

Out on the estuary were quite a number of waders and wildfowl including 700 Pink-footed Geese, 111 Wigeon, 1,009 Teal, 228 Lapwings, 18 Knots, 20 Dunlin, a male Red-breasted Merganser and three Shovelers. As I crossed the saltmarsh to view the estuary I put up ten Rock Pipits, but I didn't get the opportunity to look at them on the deck.


My next port of call were the pools where the surrounding area has been infested with dogs and dog walkers. I was trying to take some pictures of some Linnets bathing in a pool on the track when a barking Springer Spaniel came up to me. Had it got within leg range, my right foot would have connected with it and launched it into the air! It's ignorant owner called it off and then walked down the track flushing the Linnets!!!

Anyway, rewinding back to when I arrived as soon as I got out of my car I had a Redwing over and three high Brambling calling and heading south. There must have been a bit of vis this morning. Out on the pools were 35 Coots, 141 Herring Gulls, a Little Grebe, 26 Tufted Ducks, two Pochards and six Mallards. Around the edge of one of the pools close to some of our mist net rides I put up seven Snipe but couldn't walk along our paths into the reeds and scrub because of the high water levels.

A flock of 50 Linnets (the ones I tried to photograph), a Goldfinch, a Greenfinch and two Chaffinches were feeding on some weed seed and dropping down to a large puddle to bathe. As I headed back to the car I had two Rock Pipits over and I unsuccessfully then had a drive round trying to find some Waxwings. There's always tomorrow!

Linnets feeding above and bathing below

Monday 12 November 2012

Wet - Dry - Wet

Gail and I made a quick call at my farmland bird feeding station yesterday morning, although it wasn't meant to be a quick call. Driving there it was raining, then it stopped as we headed off on our walk and then about half way round my regular circuit it started raining again and we had to make a hasty retreat to the car.

We had two flocks of 60 Woodpigeons head east as we walked down the track and 400 Pink-footed Geese flew over heading east. We could hear huge numbers of 'Pink-feet' but couldn't see them.

 Pink-footed Geese

Down at the feeding station were 24 Chaffinches, two Redwings, 49 Tree Sparrows, four Blackbirds, three Reed Buntings and a handful each of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin and Wren. Walking along the '97 hedge' there was no sign of last weeks monster finch flock and Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers were conspicuous by their absence.

 Blue Tit

Just as the rain came in we put up a Jack Snipe and then made our hasty retreat back to the car.

Saturday 10 November 2012


My first job at first light this morning was to feed the Turnstones and then I had another job of removing ropes from some of the net rides at the obs as I prepare to switch ringing operations to my feeding station. I fed the Turnstones and then moved on to the obs to have a wander round before removing the ropes.

It started off fairly cloudy this morning, but this soon decreased to virtually clear skies, but the wind remained a fairly stiff SSW all morning. First up were three Redwings heading east as I got out of my car and walking down the hedge-lined track it was obvious that there were a few Thrushes about as I had 16 Blackbirds and two Song Thrushes.

On the fields were 57 Black-headed Gulls and then out of the corner of my eye I picked up a long-winged bird dropping from the sky. I got my bins on it and it was a Short-eared Owl. It dropped out of sight behind the embankment at the end of the track and when I got to the end of the track it lifted off a fence post and dropped into the field. It then took off again and I squeaked at it, which brought it circling around my head calling vociferously at me!

 Short-eared Owl (honestly!)

As it flew round I picked up a second bird  flying low over the field and I thought I had a third, but it could have been the first bird rapidly wheeling round. By this time Ian had joined me and we enjoyed stonking views of this freshly arrived migrant Shortie. At one point a Carrion Crow continually mobbed it and the Shortie climbed high into the sky with the Crow in attendance. They both got higher and higher, and eventually when they were nothing more than dots the Crow gave up. We thought the Shortie would then drift off after gaining such height, but it held it's wings high over it's body and plummeted earthwards. It would then pull its wings down to slow down and it repeatedly did this until it was back at ground level. Awesome!

 Short-eared Owl

The other facet of this bird was that it was very vocal, something I haven't seen much of with Shorties in the past. I then continued on my rounds and noticed there was a little vis in the form of 20 Chaffinches, Rock Pipit, six Meadwo Pipits and three Siskins all heading south. Have a look later at Fleetwood Bird Observatory for some impressive vis totals elsewhere at the obs for this time of year.

 Meadow Pipit

I wandered through the dunes and found this dead Fox below in some Japanese Rose. Whether it had died of natural causes I don't know. On the flooded fields were 50 Redshanks, 72 Oystercatchers and 11 Curlews.

I had a quick look on the sea and had two Red-throated Divers, 32 Common Scoters and a Great Crested Grebe. On my way back to the car I 'bumped' into the Shortie again and had views of the second bird which was nowhere near as confiding.

 Short-eared Owl - again

A quick look in the cemetery on my way home revealed a late Swallow heading south and a further Rock Pipit over, as well as a flock of a thousand Knot heading west along the shore.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Bachelor Finch

I had an hour spare this morning and needed to feed at my feeding station so I headed inland to the Moss at first light. The forecast was for some light drizzle, but I just managed to get away with it with cloudy skies and a stiffish WSW wind.

I headed down the track with my buckets of seed to the feeding station and it was obvious that the numbers of birds using the feeding station had increased as I found five Yellowhammers, 56 Tree Sparrows and about a dozen Chaffinch on the seed. The apples that I have been putting out had disappeared and there were a few Fieldfares at the feeding station, so perhaps they had been coming down to feed on them.

There were a number of Pink-footed Geese around this morning and it seemed to be a combination of birds being disturbed close by from feeding areas and birds flighting in from their saltmarsh roost that made the numbers up. Wherever they had come from I had 2,512. On the flood Lapwing numbers had decreased to 21 and I didn't have any Teal at all.

 Reduced numbers of Lapwings were on the flood

My plan was to walk along the hedge and margin, as this area can hold quite a few birds, and then on to some woodland to check for Woodcocks. Along the hedge and margin I encountered six Reed Buntings, a further 19 Fieldfares, four Blackbirds, two Redwings, eight Corn Buntings, a Goldcrest and a monster flock of Chaffinch.

I say monster flock, but I suppose compared to the flocks I used to see thirty years ago, this mornings flock of 264 is small beer, but nevertheless quite a number for today. There were some Bramblings amongst them, but I could only find four, but I am sure there were quite a few more.

 Part of the monster flock of Chaffinch

My walk through the woodland revealed an acorn carrying Jay and no Woodcocks. My walk back to the car added a single Buzzard and flock of a thousand Starlings.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Green On Top

It's that time of the month again when I update the ringing totals over on the right for Fylde RG. The only new species ringed in October for the year were four Fieldfares. As usual I have listed below the top ten movers and shakers in terms of numbers ringed.

1. Greenfinch - 348 (straight in)
2. Chaffinch - 318 (up from 3rd)
3. Swallow - 317 (down from 1st)
4. Tree Sparrow - 259 (down from 2nd)
5. Goldfinch - 238 (same position)
6. Blue Tit - 234 (down from 4th)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 144 (same position)
8. Great Tit - 136 (down from 6th)
9. Meadow Pipit - 112 (up from 10th)
10. Blackbird - 105 (straight in)

Knocked out of the top ten are Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler, both with 92 ringed. Just bubbling under are Wren (71), Robin (79), Dunnock (62), Goldcrest (63) and Long-tailed Tit (60).

To give you a flavour of the main species ringed amongst the 664 birds we ringed in October I have listed the top five ringed for October below.

1. Greenfinch - 284
2. Chaffinch - 72
3. Goldfinch - 38
4. Redwing - 36
5. Blackbird - 34
    Long-tailed Tit - 34

How it will pan out for the rest of the year I'm not sure. As usual the weather will play its part, but November can still be a good month for the continued arrival of migrant finches and thrushes. We shall see.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Return Of The Man With The Green Bucket

I made my second seed 'drop-off' at my feeding station on the Moss this afternoon and the plan was to have a walk round after I had put the food out. Unfortunately the forecasted rain front was just arriving and a wander over the open moss in the strong SSW wind and accompanying rain wasn't appealing!

The Tree Sparrows have found the food and there were 31 at the feeding station this afternoon with a few Chaffinches. Ten Fieldfares accompanied by a single Redwing and two Blackbirds flew off as I walked along the Hawthorn hedge running the length of the track.

Out in the flooded field to the south of the feeding station were 190 Lapwings and 80 Teal, which is quite a good count for the site. Lunch beckoned and I walked back to my car to eat my sandwiches listening to the 'World At One' before heading home to do some work.

Saturday 27 October 2012

The Terrys Are Back

It was cold in the northerly wind this morning looking over Morecambe Bay and to be honest there was little moving on the sea. Nineteen Cormorants headed west after the rising tide had flushed them off their roost and seven Auk sp. headed east into the Bay. Even wildfowl were thin on the ground with just a handful of Common Scoters and Eiders.

The only unusual sighting on, or should I say in, the sea was the guy below who went in for a dip. I was cold enough to start with, but felt even colder after watching him wade into the surf!

 That looks cold!

Waders were fairly thin on the ground too and all I had were 120 Oystercatchers, five Turnstones, five Redshanks, a Grey Plover, a Ringed Plover. two Curlews and 26 Sanderling.


The only vis I had was a single Grey Wagtail west and 90 Jackdaws heading northeast into the wind.

Before I looked on the sea this morning I'd put some food out for the Turnstones in the half-light and when I went back to have a look there were about 20 'Terrys' feeding on the seed. We have a colour marking project registered with the International Wader Study Group and over the winter we will hopefully be catching the Turnstones and fitting leg flags to them as part of the project.

The aims of the project are to:

- generate some information on wintering sites and distribution of wintering Turnstones in the northwest of
   England or further afield
- attempt to find out what the turnover of the birds wintering at the site is; where are they coming from to
   roost/forage at the site
- measure winter site fidelity and implications of disturbance if they show high winter site fidelity
- generate re-sightings to look at migration routes
- try to ascertain whether there are any relationships between wintering areas and breeding areas
- possibly measure phenology if we can catch them over a number years

Last winter we carried out a bit of a pilot study mainly to see if we could catch them and we managed to ring 50. The aim is to try and mark 100 per year for five years, but I would be very happy indeed if we could do just 50 per year! I am just waiting for the leg flags to come through that are being made for us and then we can make a start. I think it has the makings of a great project.

The 20 Turnstones feeding on the food that I had put out were just part of a larger group of 160 comprised of two flocks of 80. One group of 80 were roosting with 51 Redshanks on the south side of the island where it was sheltered from the northerly wind and also in full sun.


 Redshanks and Turnstones

I then had a look at the Mount as I knew it would be sheltered and I was hoping for a few passerines. I came across a flock of about 15 Long-tailed Tits and amongst them were two Goldcrests, a Coal Tit and several Blue and Great Tits. Chaffinches fed in the tops of Sycamores and were accompanied by a calling Brambling.

The forecast is looking a bit grim for tomorrow with 20-25 mph westerly winds and rain. It might be worth a look on the sea in the morning, but I doubt it will be fit for anything else.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Post Script to 'That Feeling'

I mentioned yesterday about a large arrival of migrants at Spurn Bird Observatory. For the full details, and they are very spectacular, have a look HERE. Enjoy!

Monday 22 October 2012

That Feeling

It was one of those mornings this morning that felt that there should be a few birds around. As I went to bed last night the sky was clear with an easterly wind and at first light this morning there was full cloud cover with a light northeasterly wind and occasional light drizzle. I didn't have long to spare before I was chaining myself to my desk so I just checked a couple of sites within the obs recording area.

In the cemetery a Coal Tit, four Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff was all I could muster. There was some vis in the form of Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches and Redpolls. I then headed to The Mount and had a further two Coal Tits, three Goldcrests and another Chiffchaff. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go anywhere else and reluctantly headed home.

News has been coming in during the day of a huge fall at Spurn Bird Observatory with counts of 10,000 Redwings, 5,000 Fieldfares and 2,000 Bramblings! Let's hope that some of them find their way over to us in here in the west.

Hopefully coming soon to a ringing site near us:




Sunday 21 October 2012

Still Green

Huw and I ventured forth to the obs this morning and just before first light there was quite a dense fog and we thought that would put the mockers on any passage. However, as the sun got up the fog cleared leaving clear skies and virtually calm conditions.

A few birds were on vis this morning including two Redwings, 128 Meadow Pipits, two Song Thrushes, four Alba Wags, four Chaffinches, six Siskins, 46 Greenfinches, 133 Jackdaws, eight Carrion Crows, a Brambling, a Reed Bunting, a Grey Wagtail and four Skylarks.

Grounded birds were restricted to four Long-tailed Tits, a Song Thrush, a Short-eared Owl, a Goldcrest, seven Blackbirds and a Jay. The 'Shortie' spent part of the morning hunting over the fields that are usually cut for haylage, but haven't this year, so are probably full of small mammals.

The only raptors we had this morning were a single Kestrel and two Sparrowhawks. Pink-footed Geese numbers steadily built up during the morning and at least 520 dropped in to feed on farm fields across the road. 

From a ringing perspective we still very much 'green' because we had another good catch of Greenfinches. We ringed 45 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 4
Goldcrest - 1
Meadow Pipit - 8
Greenfinch - 31
Blue Tit - 1
Robin - (1)
Dunnock - (1)

It's remaining easterly into next week so I will make sure that I get out birding for a morning or three!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Where Did The Week Go?

I can't believe it's been a week since I was last ringing at the obs! Unfortunately I've been busy with work this week and it has meant time working rather than time birding! At the obs this morning I had a bit of a disastrous start when my head torch packed up, so it was a case of erecting nets by touch!

I had full cloud cover this morning with a stiffish southeasterly breeze. First up was a Fieldfare calling in the darkness, but that would be it in terms of Thrushes on the move for me. In fact the vis was particularly slowly, probably due to the dark mass of black cloud to the north that would have been sitting over Morecambe Bay and the south Lakes. What I did have on vis were three Chaffinches, two Alba Wags, 48 Greenfinches, a Coal Tit, three Grey Wagtails, two Reed Buntings, a Redpoll sp., 40 Jackdaws, five Swallows and ten Meadow Pipits.

 Coal Tit

The only birds that I could consider grounded were a Coal Tit, 12 Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. I ringed 25 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 3 (two were continental males)
Greenfinch - 8
Long-tailed Tit - 11 (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Robin - 1
Great Tit - (1)

 Long-tailed Tit

I was working in the uplands yesterday on the Lancashire and North Yorkshire border and it was quiet, birdwise as expected at this time of year, on the particular area of moorland I was surveying. I did have good numbers of Red Grouse and had 50 in total. On a largish wet flush as I walked round it trying to find a place to cross I flushed 122 Snipe and when I stopped for a coffee in the afternoon a party of three Stonechats moved through and then silence descended again.

 Looking towards North Yorkshire from God's Own County!

The forecast is looking okay for the morning so I'll have another try ringing and birding at the obs. The easterlies are continuing into next week, but typically I have a lot of work on, but I'll see if I can squeeze a few mornings birding in!

Sunday 14 October 2012

And Still They Come

Huw and I worked the southern part of the obs this morning and as we put the nets up in the semi-darkness there was a 5 mph ESE wind with 7 oktas cloud cover.

Redwings were calling in the darkness, but none of them could be lured down by MP3. A few Redwings, namely eight, would feature in the vis this morning and in addition to the Redwings we had five Alba Wags, 63 Meadow Pipits, 98 Greenfinch, two Reed Buntings, four Chaffinch, four Grey Wagtails, 302 Jackdaws, eight Carrion Crows, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, five Skylarks and a Rock Pipit.

We managed to ring 63 birds and this included yet more Greenfinch. We processed the following new birds (recaptures in brackets):

Wren - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 2
Greenfinch - 42 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Meadow Pipit - 7
Song Thrush - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 6
Dunnock - 1
Blue Tit - 1

 Meadow Pipit

There was no evidence of any grounded migrants as such and the male Stonechat we had could have been the bird from earlier in the week. The wind is swinging to the southwest in the morning, although remaining light, there could be some rain around so I might sneak a couple of hours birding in before a day's report writing!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Buff Tip Moth Caterpillars

For a while now I have been following the fortunes of some fairly numerous caterpillars on the Willows in my garden. Some weeks ago I wrongly identified them as Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars when in fact I have since found out they are the caterpillars of the Buff Tip moth. Below is a picture of how they looked a few weeks ago. Initially they feed in groups by day and night, and later singly.

At the moment they are a good 4-5 cm long and are dropping off the Willows one by one and heading across the garden looking for a location to pupate. I'll look forward to a decent catch off Buff Tips in my trap next summer! Below is how they look now and this is a photograph of an individual that I took on Gail's hand that was heading out across the garden in search of a pupation site.

The forecast is looking as though it should be mainly clear over night, although there is still the chance of a shower or two along the coast, with the wind starting SE at 0600, becoming E by 1000 and NE by 1200. That's the forecast on the BBC, but rather confusingly XC shows it being W - NW. Ah well, I'll just have to get up, take a look and decide whether to bird or ring, or both. Whichever it is I will be at the obs.