Saturday 31 March 2012

As Queit As A Quiet Thing!

As Craig, Heather, Ian and I met at the 'obs' at 0600 we were greeted with a 'pea souper' of a mist that rolled out, rolled in and rolled out again before clearing completely. However to the south and east there was a huge cloud bank that was obviously having a blocking effect as we had no grounded migrants and very little 'vis'.

The vis we did have consisted of 13 Meadow Pipits, 2 Alba Wagtails, Knot, Lesser Redpoll, Lapwing and Curlew. The ringing was equally quiet as you might expect and we ringed two Goldfinch and recaptured a Blue Tit and Dunnock.


 The best birds of the morning were the pair of Sparrowhawks that were once again displaying over the fields demonstrating their mastery of the skies. The forecast looks better for tomorrow with the wind veering round to the south; so fingers crossed!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

First Heralds

No birding for me this morning, although I do have a couple of site visits later, so hopefully I'll see a few bits and pieces then. I had my first Heralds, two of them, in the moth trap this morning. It wasn't my first Herald of 2012 as I had an over-wintering individual in my garage. The only other moths in the trap were 3 Hebrew Characters. I'm assuming there is some movement going on this morning as again when I went into the garden after breakfast to check my moth trap I had Lesser Redpolls going over.


Tuesday 27 March 2012

Mountain Blackbird

Now a few days have passed since the clocks went forward Craig, Ian and I are enjoying the late 6.00 a.m. starts at the 'obs' and we were there this morning putting nets up under clear skies with a light ESE wind.

Although the number of Lesser Redpolls we had going over was an increase from Sunday (25th) the 'vis' was generally lighter and all we had were 55 Lesser Redpolls (an excellent count for March), 8 Meadow Pipits, 3 Alba Wags, 8 Siskins, 5 Linnets, 15 Woodpigeons and 440 Knot.

It wasn't really a morning for grounded migrants, but we did have 2 Chiffchaffs and the title bird a stonking male Ring Ouzel! Ian picked it up as it 'dropped' out of the sky and landed on the centre hedge. It then gave us excellent views feeding in a variety of habitats, flying and calling for a good few hours. They used to be regular, during spring in particular, as a coastal migrant but as they have declined they have sadly become scarce. You can still come by them annually on the coast, but you have to put the time in. I only had my 'point and shoot' camera with me so I have used one of Ian's pictures of a male in Spring last year.

On the ringing front it was quiet too and we ringed 9 birds as follows:

Lesser Redpoll - 4
Meadow Pipit - 3
Chiffchaff - 1
Wren - 1

Back home my moth trap held 4 Hebrew Characters and 3 Common Quakers.

Monday 26 March 2012

Just Moths

When I say 'just moths' I'm not suggesting that they are in any way inferior to birds, but it is more of a statement to say that it was just moths that I recorded today. With work piling up I decided that I needed a day in the office and a third early morning on the bounce would make me look to the sofa rather than the office chair.

When I went out to check my moth trap after breakfast straight away I had Lesser Redpoll, Linnets, Greenfinch and Siskins going over, so I suspect there was a bit of a push this morning in the clear skies. In my moth trap were 4 Plume Moth sp. (I can't identify them), 3 Hebrew Characters, Early Grey and Common Quaker.

 Plume Moth sp.

As I was loading my car with gear this evening in preparation for some ringing at the 'obs' tomorrow I spotted the two characters below on the house roof opposite.


Sunday 25 March 2012

Mixed Fortunes And Some Of It Was Yellow

Another visit to the 'obs' this morning for Ian and I, and it was very similar to yesterday in terms of the conditions and the birds recorded. At first light we had misty clear skies (if that makes sense) and it was calm. The 'vis' moved in fits and starts and we recorded 34 Lesser Redpolls, 3 Goldfinch, 6 Alba Wags, 65 Woodpigeon, 3 Carrion Crows, Reed Bunting, Golden Plover, Grey Wagtail, 224 Meadow Pipits, 2 Linnets, 3 Greenfinch and 39 Siskins.

The 'yellow' in my title refers to the two Yellowhammers we had this morning, which are fairly scarce on the coast on migration. Of course at my ringing site on Rawcliffe Moss they are common and as you know I get decent numbers at my feeding station and several pairs nest. We had a grounded male Yellowhammer, that moved off with some Meadow Pipits, and then we had a female going over. Nice!

Grounded birds other than the Yellowhammer included 5 male Wheatears, 3 Goldcrests and a stonking male Blackbird. I say 'stonking' because an adult male in the spring looks fantastic. We ringed 21 birds as follows:

Meadow Pipit - 15
Blackbird - 1
Greenfinch - 4
Goldcrest - 1

 Meadow Pipit

Back home my moth trap held just 2 Hebrew Characters and I forgot to mention yesterday that there were 4 Hebrew Characters! I have caught a Pug a couple of nights running but it escapes before I can identify it!

The forecast is looking good for the coming week so hopefully I will be able to fit some work around ringing, I mean ringing around work, and get out a couple of times before the dreaded 'w' word.

Saturday 24 March 2012

A Slow Start

It was a slow start this morning at the 'obs' until it warmed up a bit and the sun burnt some of the murk off. Craig, Ian and I met at 5.15 a.m. and it was fairly misty with a light southeasterly breeze. Just after we had put the nets up and had returned to the cars for that first welcoming morning coffee a pair of Sparrowhawks gave us a fantastic display as they courted each other in superb aerial fashion. The male was doing it's 'stalling' display and then chasing the female with some amazing low level flying. Awesome!

The first 'vis' started in the half-light and we had 69 Meadow Pipits, 15 Lesser Redpolls, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Grey Wagtails, 3 Alba Wags, Reed Bunting, 8 Siskins, Linnet, 46 Woodpigeon, Rook, 9 Jackdaws, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Golden Plover.

The only grounded migrants we noted were the three Goldcrests we extracted from the nets. We had no idea they were around as they never called whilst on site. We ringed 22 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 15
Great Tit - 3 (1)
Goldfinch - 1
Goldcrest - 3
Dunnock - (3)


Weather permitting we will have another go tomorrow and I must try and remember that the clocks go forward tonight!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Bits and Pieces

As I had a site visit this morning I wasn't able to get out birding, so all I did first thing was to check my moth trap. In the trap were just two moths; Common Quaker and Hebrew Character. It looked as though there would be some birds on the move because as soon as I stepped out into my garden I had Siskin and Alba Wagtail going over.

 Common Quaker

Hebrew Character

It was a pleasure doing my site visit in the warm spring sunshine with 'tumbling' Lapwings for company and Skylarks singing from the heavens.

I made my last feed visit to my feeding station and then I had a walk round for a short while. It felt like a raptor afternoon, perhaps an early Osprey or Marsh Harrier I hoped, but the only raptors I had were Buzzard and Kestrel. Yellowhammers were in full song and I had three singing males plus a bird that flew over calling. As expected there were few birds at the feeding station, just 12 Tree Sparrows and 3 Chaffinch.

 I had 6 Brown Hares on my walk this afternoon

I had a few migrants on my walk, but not summer migrants from Africa, and these included 135 Fieldfares, 19 Curlews and 3 Golden Plovers. The Fieldfares were chattering excitedly from the tops of the trees in Curlew Wood, acting as though they would be departing later this evening.

 Whilst watching the Fieldfare five Roe Deer ran out from Curlew Wood 
(I know there are only three here!)

Two Grey Partridges, two Reed Buntings and two Stock Doves were all I could add and it was soon time for me to head home and get back working behind that PC.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

All Quiet On The Western Front

On the west coast of Lancashire this morning Ian and I made a valiant attempt to ring some birds at the 'obs' but it was very quiet. At 5.30 a.m. we had full cloud cover and the SW wind was touching 10 mph, and this was nearly too windy for the site.

It was obvious from the start that very little was on the move and on 'vis' we only recorded 3 Alba Wags, 51 Meadow Pipits, 4 Linnets, Reed Bunting and 7 Siskins. Not strictly vis were 242 Knot that headed south, presumably to join other birds feeding in the Ribble estuary.

The ringing was equally as quiet as the vis and we ringed 6 birds as follows:

Goldcrest - 2
Wren - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Linnet - 1


Back home I checked an empty moth trap and then spent the rest of the day bleary eyed working on my computer!

Sunday 18 March 2012

A Quiet But Interesting Morning

We slipped up this morning by not carrying out any ringing at the'obs'. The forecast last night was for a fairly stiff NNE wind but just after 6.00 a.m. at first light it was fairly calm. Nevertheless I still covered the obs but without mist nets.

One of the first birds I saw or heard was a Goldcrest and by the end of my coverage of the site I had recorded 5 at various locations. The only other grounded birds I had were two male Wheatears just behind the sea wall.


The NNE wind, although light, did slow down the 'vis' this morning, but it wasn't too bad all things considered. I recorded 49 Alba Wags, 13 Linnets, 9 Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, 3 Siskin and 95 Meadow Pipits.

Out on the sea it was quiet with just 2 male Eiders, 31 Common Scoters, 3 Red-throated Divers and 4 Whooper Swans. I did have one interesting bird in the form of a Bonxie that arrived from the west high and then rapidly headed south. 

I then went on to the cemetery but all I could find were 3 Goldcrests and 3 Robins.

Later in the morning I was back on the coast having a walk with Gail. As we were walking behind the sea wall and heading towards the golf course I could see a white bird walking along the sea wall towards us. I lifted my bins up and it was a cracking male Snow Bunting! Typically I had left my camera at home so couldn't get any pics, which was a shame because it came to within 15-20 feet of us. Anyway, it was a nice way to end a quiet but interesting morning.

Thursday 15 March 2012

First Chiff

My blog title was nearly 'I wish I'd stayed in bed this morning' but then I thought about it and thought that every time I go out, even if I don't see a great deal it has been worthwhile. Mind you, my first reaction at 5.30 a.m. when I set off into the mist wasn't that at all!

I headed to the 'obs' in the hope of my first Wheatear of the Spring, but based on the weather conditions I knew this was unlikely. The wind was southerly, which was good, but the overnight murk and mist would probably have held migrants up. Surprisingly there were a few birds on 'vis', most of them heading north, but a few heading south; presumably just moving around 'off passage' because of the weather conditions. I had 29 Meadow Pipits, 20 Alba Wags, 1 Pied Wagtail and 10 Chaffinch (headed south).

A quick look through the fog on the sea revealed a first on the sea off the obs for me in the form of a male Goldeneye, 9 Eiders and 3 Cormorants.

Grounded migrants were restricted to a single Goldcrest calling from grassland behind the sea wall and a singing Chiffchaff, my first for the year.

Back home in my moth trap was a single Hebrew Character.

 Hebrew Character

I have a couple of site visits this afternoon in some good habitat so I am hoping I might pick up another early migrant or two then. Perhaps that first elusive Wheatear!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

A Taste of the Med

Just a quick post to tell you of an addition to my garden list (if I kept one) that I had late afternoon today. As I sat down in the conservatory with a coffee to start reading 'Greenshanks' by Desmond and Maimie Nethersole-Thompson, I glanced out of the window and there on the bungalow roof just beyond the end of my garden was a full summer plumaged adult Med Gull! I grabbed my bins and had a good look at it and thought about running for my camera, but it then took off, flew round and headed off to the north. Not rare by any means, but one I wouldn't have predicted for the garden!  

Tuesday 13 March 2012

More Vis, More Ringing and Two Moths!

Once again Craig, Ian and I met at the 'obs' at 5.45 a.m. (it's getting earlier!) to do some ringing and 'vis miging'. Just after we had put the nets up we were treated to a display by a hunting Barn Owl as it floated along in the half-light.

As it dawned with full cloud cover and a very light WNW wind birds started to move. Our vis totals included 197 Meadow Pipits, Reed Bunting, 41 Alba Wags, 2 Lesser Redpolls, 7 Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, 5 Linnets, 4 Grey Wagtails and a Siskin.

The only grounded migrants we had were 3 Goldcrests and we ringed one of these. Other birds of interest included a Peregrine, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

We ringed 18 birds as follows with recaptures in brackets:

Robin - 1
Meadow Pipit - 10
Blue Tit - 1
Linnet - 1
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Chaffinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Goldcrest - 1


Back home I checked my moth trap and this morning I had two moths in the form of a Clouded Drab and an Early Grey.

Clouded Drab

Early Grey

Sunday 11 March 2012

Some Vis, Some Ringing and A Moth

This morning Craig, Ian and I met at the 'obs' at 6.00 a.m. and we were greeted with virtually full cloud cover with a 5 mph WNW wind. We put the nets up in the half-light and prepared ourselves for a morning of early Spring migration monitoring.

We had some 'vis' this morning and though there weren't huge numbers of birds it was typical for early Spring. On the move were 92 Meadow Pipits, 6 Linnets, 4 Grey Wagtails, 24 Alba Wags, 5 Curlews, 8 Goldfinch, 20 Siskin, Raven, 3 Skylarks, Sparrowhawk, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting.

We ringed 15 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 7
Dunnock - 2
Linnet - 4
Greenfinch - 2
Blackbird - (1)


The forecast is looking okay for the next few days, but due to work commitments it will be Tuesday before I can get back to the 'obs' again.

Back home I checked my moth trap and I had my first moth for 2012 in the form of a Common Quaker.

Common Quaker

Saturday 10 March 2012

Nest Boxes - Day 2

As I mentioned yesterday it was my turn to treat Gail to a day out repairing, replacing and putting up new nest boxes. Our first port of call was the Hodder Valley in Bowland where I have 38 boxes up for Pied Flycatchers. We checked all the boxes and carried out repairs as well as putting up one or two new boxes to fill gaps in the coverage of the woodland. Below is a dark picture taken by my good lady of 'yours truly' putting up a box.

Whilst we were wandering round we had Brambling, Siskin, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

It was then on to Rawcliffe Moss for yet more boxes but this time for Tree Sparrows. Whilst there I fed at the feeding station and there were 132 Tree Sparrows, 14 Chaffinch and 4 Yellowhammers. Two Kestrels and a Merlin also put in appearance.

It's the 'obs' for me in the morning so I'll be sure to let you know how we got on tomorrow.

Friday 9 March 2012

Nest Boxes - Day 1

I was out this morning helping Ian and his good lady Wendy put some boxes up in some local authority woodland where Ian has a feeding station. We just put 10 boxes up today but we'll hopefully increase this to 30 over the next couple of years. Below is a picture of Wendy showing us how many boxes she can carry at once and this is followed by a picture of Ian in action putting up a box.

Tomorrow I'll be treating my good lady to a day putting up next boxes in the Hodder Valley; I bet she can't wait!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Latest Ringing Totals

Over on the right I've updated the ringing totals for 2012 for our group (Fylde Ringing Group). You will see that we have ringed 600 birds of 34 species. Eight new species were added for the year in February and these were Pink-footed Goose, Mallard, Coot, Herring Gull, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Siskin and Linnet. The top ten 'movers and shakers' are:

1. Blue Tit - 102 (up from 2nd)
2. Chaffinch - 78 (down from 1st)
3.Great Tit - 64 (same position)
4. Great Tit - 53 (up from 6th)
5. Tunrstone - 40 (down from 5th)
6. Tree Sparrow - 32 (down from 4th)
7. Blackbird - 27 (same position)
8. Robin - 26 (same position)
9= Dunnock - 23 (same position)
9= Starling - 23 (same position)

Below is a picture of the species holding the number one spot; Blue Tit.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

It's Spring!

It's officially Spring because we had our first ringing session back at the 'obs' and what a funny morning it was weather wise. Craig, Ian and I met at 6.15 a.m. under cloudy skies with a ground frost. By the time we had got the nets up the skies had cleared and some 'vis' started to trickle through. A fog bank then rolled in from the south and any passage stopped, it then cleared and passage started again and then the fog bank rolled in again and we packed up and went home!

The first bird we had this morning was a male Peregrine that was heading south and that would be the only raptor of the morning. I mentioned that we had some vis, but it was only light and we recorded (all heading north) 2 Greenfinch, 10 Meadow Pipits, Alba Wag, Skylark, 4 Siskins, 2 Grey Wags and a Reed Bunting. There was probably a little more than this but this is what we recorded between net rounds, cups of coffee and chatting!

We processed 9 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blue Tit - 1
Meadow Pipit - 3
Pied Wagtail - 1
Great Tit - 1
Wren - 2
Blackbird - 1
Robin - (1)

The cracking male yarrellii that we caught this morning

Monday 5 March 2012

Winding Down

At this time of year I slowly wind down my feeding station on the moss. I always have mixed feelings because it marks the end of a winter of feeding and seeing some cracking farmland birds, but it also marks the start of spring and it means that I will be back at the 'obs' for the excitement of migration. I don't suddenly stop feeding, but slowly reduce the frequency of my feeding visits so the birds become less dependant on the food.

This afternoon I made one of those 'winding down' visits and as I drove down the track 4 Stock Doves lifted from some stubbles. As I was filling my bucket with seed I could hear a Buzzard calling from Tree Sparrow wood and a male Tawny Owl from Curlew Wood. As I looked up I could see the Hen Harrier hurtling past Curlew Wood propelled by the blustery northwesterly wind.

As I approached the feeding station two Grey Partridges lifted from the field and at the feeding station were a reduced number of 95 Tree Sparrows and 15 Chaffinch. I didn't have a great deal of spare time but just had enough time to walk along the '97' hedge and back. I saw something spook 14 Stock Doves and 15 Skylarks and it was the Hen Harrier again. I managed to get the heavily cropped blurry photograph below!

I had 11 Reed Buntings along the hedge and nothing else so I headed back and picked up my various containers and left the moss.

Sunday 4 March 2012

Boxed In

I was up at 5.45 a.m. yesterday to go birding but it was raining. Now, I am not bothered about birding in the rain and quite enjoy it when the wet conditions threaten to ground a migrant or three, but on 3rd March I decided it wasn't worth trudging around in the rain.

Instead I set to work putting the finishing touches to my boxes. They are now all proofed and holes plated, ready to go up in the next few days and hopefully provide some Pied Flycatchers and Tree Sparrows with desirable homes! As I was sat in the garden working on my boxes I had several Pied Wags and a Grey Wagtail head north, and a presumed migrant Goldcrest flitted in then out of the garden.

 Coming soon; Pied Flycatcher (above) and Tree Sparrow (below) chicks

As I write this on Sunday morning it is raining heavily again so no birding for me for a second morning running! There might be a window of opportunity for a first morning migrant monitoring at the obs on Tuesday, but as I always say 'unfortunately there is time for it to change'. Let's hope not!

Friday 2 March 2012

What's The Word?

I haven't been able to do what I call any 'proper' birding this week although I have been out as usual feeding my farmland birds. I made two visits in the week to the moss and this yielded 60 Fieldfares, 3 Yellowhammers, 23 Chaffinch, 215 Tree Sparrows, 2 Corn Buntings, 2 Buzzards, 2 Grey Partridge and the regular female Hen Harrier giving me stonking views as she sailed past close by!

Yesterday I called at a friends farm near Nateby to have a look on their flood and they were keen to show me some of the latest conservation work they had completed and to seek my advice on some practical habitat management matters. The flood looked looked good and held 3 Shovelers, 70 Teal and 120 Curlew.

They had put some more small boxes up and Will from our group had put up a Barn Owl box for them and left them with a couple of Kestrel boxes. I look forward to checking the boxes and ringing the pulli later in the spring/summer.

We received details of some recoveries from the BTO in the week and these included a Lesser Redpoll that Craig ringed at the 'obs' on 10th April 2011 that was controlled at Icklesham in East Sussex 418 km to the southeast on 19th October 2011. See Google Earth image below.

When we ringed it in the spring it would have been on migration heading north to breeding grounds further north in the UK and in the autumn when it was trapped at Icklesham it was perhaps going to winter in that area or hop across the English Channel to winter in France, Belgium or western Germany.

 Lesser Redpoll

The forecast for the weekend is a bit of a 'mixed bag' but nevertheless I will be out birding weather permitting. Incidentally I have had my moth trap out a couple of evenings this week with no luck, so I have yet to catch my first moth for 2012!