Saturday 28 April 2012

Common Sands Over the Sands

Due to work commitments I have neglected the 'obs' recently so I was desperate to get there this morning, hopefully to ring, but the stiff northeasterly wind meant that ringing wasn't an option.

The northeasterly wind started fairly light at dawn, but after only an hour or so it was at least 10-5 mph in strength. Even so birds were on the move and the strangest record of all were 6 high flying Wheatears heading north! The remainder of the 'vis' cast included 6 Woodpigeons, 62 Goldfinch, 11 Swallows, 2 Carrion Crows, 44 Linnets, 4 Alba Wags, 4 Lesser Redpolls, 14 Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 White Wagtails, 11 Swallows, 113 Meadow Pipits and 5 Siskin

The only reasonably numerous grounded migrants were 23 Wheatears in addition to a single Willow Warbler. Where are all the Whitethroats?

Out on the sea were 9 Sandwich Terns, 4 Razorbills, 3 Auk sp., 3 Gannets, 2 Shelducks, Red-throated Diver and an Atlantic Grey Seal. With eyes seawards and ears skywards I heard Common Sand calling and picked two birds up flying along the beach. They kept looking as though they were going to land but perhaps weren't too keen on alighting on the shore. 

Back home in my moth trap all I had was a single Hebrew Character, which wasn't surprising based on how cold it was overnight. The forecast for tomorrow is for near gale force northeasterly winds with a rain front coming in from the south mid-morning. Mmm!

Thursday 26 April 2012

Land of the Salad Leaf

I was working in west Lancs today, in the rain I hasten to add, carrying out some surveys in the salad growing area. Alongside the well prepared seed beds were bits of habitat that supported a few birds and I recorded 2 Blackcaps, 3 Yellowhammers, 2 singing Corn Buntings, singing Reed Bunting, 4 Skylarks, 7 Linnets, Grey Partridge, 2 Chiffchaffs, 7 Lapwings and a male Wheatear perched on top of a telegraph pole! A reasonable selection of farmland birds.

Below is a picture of a fumitory species that I recorded and I'm not sure if it is Common or Purple Ramping. Below that some Ramsons growing along a ditch side.

Fumitory sp.


Wednesday 25 April 2012

Blast From The Past...1989 In Fact

I don't know about you but I enjoy going through my old notebooks and I have them all from when I started birding in 1976! Over lunch today I picked up my notebook that covered part of 1989 and on 25th April 1989 I was at the Breakwater Field Station, with Phil, at Long Point Bird Observatory on Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada. According to my notes we had quite a fall that morning and ringed a good few birds.

Out on the lake we had 500 Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 White-winged Scoters, Common Loon and 2 Horned Grebes. The marshes and pools held 2 Kildeers, 2 Great Blue Herons, 30 Forsters Terns, American Bittern, Northern Harrier, Greater Yellow Legs, 3 Boneaparte's Gulls and 50 Ring-billed Gulls.

However it really was the fall of passerines that stands out in my memory and the totals that follow have the number we ringed in brackets; Northern Flicker - 300 (4), Mourning Dove - 20, Eastern Meadowlark - 5, Chipping Sparrow - 200 (21), Tree Swallow - 30, Brown Creeper - 500 (70), Golden-crowned Kinglet - 4,000 (we couldn't ring any because Long Point BO at the time didn't carry a ring size small enough, but we still had to extract over 300 from mist nets!), Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 1,200 (51), Hermit Thrush - 30 (9), Brown Thrasher - 10 (3), Field Sparrow - 100 (19), Song Sparrow - 50 (10), Swamp Sparrow - 20 (5), White-throated Sparrow - 100 (30) and Dark-eyed Junco - 1,000 (83).

Sorry to bore you (I jmust be bored because I couldn't get out this morning), but happy days!

Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Nothing New

I'm not sure why I'm posting really as I haven't got much to report! Today looks as though it might be a good day for migrants but I am stuck indoors catching up on some work! On Sunday evening we tried a ringing session at the Nature Park because Dave was down from Orkney and he is trying to get his C permit. Four nets were set and we had them up for at least two hours and we caught four birds. Two Blackbirds and two Blue Tits! In fact we saw very little other than a male Wheatear and a couple of Linnets and Swallows.

 Blue Tit

 Yesterday I was on some moorland and in-bye land in east Lancashire carrying out a breeding wader survey and I saw very little migrant wise in the cold easterly breeze. On the tops were 6 male Wheatears and that was it. And the breeding waders were thin on the ground too, with just a couple of pairs of Curlew.

Fingers crossed I should be out in the next couple of days again.

Saturday 21 April 2012

It's All In The 'Vis'

I didn't get to the 'obs' until 6.10 a.m. today as I was late back last night from seeing Ian Anderson and band performing Jethro Tull's seminal 1972 album 'Thick As A Brick'. Even though it was still early it wasn't early enough to beat the first inconsiderate b*stard bird flushers (aka as dog walkers)! 

There were few grounded birds this morning other than 2 Willow Warblers and single male Wheatear, instead it was all in the 'vis'. On vis I had 33 Goldfinch, Jackdaw, 3 White Wagtails, 13 Alba Wags, 13 Swallows, House Martin, 71 Linnets, 2 Siskins, 507 Meadow Pipits, Tree Pipit and my first Yellow Wagtail of the spring. 

Out at sea it was quiet but I did have 2 Auk sp., 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 18 Gannets (12 of them were close in giving stonking views of one of my favourite birds), 7 Sandwich Terns, 6 Red-throated Divers, 7 Cormorants, 1965 Knot and 3 Eiders.

Thursday 19 April 2012

First Sedge

I had to pop in to town this afternoon to colour copy some maps and on my way back I thought I would have half an hour down the disused railway line and also have a look on the adjacent pool.

Straight away I could hear Willow Warbler singing and I added a further four as I walked along. I had my first Sedge Warbler of the spring singing from the reedbed in the cutting and the only other warbler I had was a singing Blackcap.

 Sedge Warbler

On the pool I had another Sedge moving through the reeds. Out on the water I had a pair of Great Crested Grebes, 11 Tufted Ducks and a Coot on a nest. My half hour was soon up and it was back to more report writing.

Monday 16 April 2012

First Eggs

I was surveying farmland in the salad growing area of west Lancs today and this land is intensively managed due to the nature of the crops, and consequently birds were a little thin on the ground. This isn't a criticism at all it's just how it is in this area.

I could tell that there was some movement going on as I had Linnets, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpolls and Meadow Pipits heading north in small numbers. There was an obvious increase in the numbers of Swallows around as I was seeing several perched on telegraph wires around the farms.

I was looking at a small irrigation pond in the corner of a field that had been colonised in one corner by a small patch of Reed Mace. I was just photographing this for the report I will be subsequently writing when I saw a Moorhen slip off her nest. I looked down and I could see that she was incubating three eggs.

The irrigation pond in its agricultural setting

The patch of Reed Mace

Moorhen nest and eggs

The weather synopsis looks potentially good for dropping a few migrants here in the Northwest tomorrow and as I have a report writing day planned for tomorrow I should be able to get out for a couple of hours in the morning. As always the timing of the front coming in will be crucial and if it comes in too soon there will be nothing! If I haven't posted anything tomorrow then you will know that it was the latter that happened!

Sunday 15 April 2012

Early Morning Change Of Plan

When I got up this morning and looked out into the gloomy half-light I could see that there was more cloud cover than I expected so I decided to visit the 'obs' rather than the Point where I could check some coastal habitat that might hold a grounded migrant or two.

When I got out of the car I could hear Willow Warbler singing from some semi-mature woodland and I thought this boded well for a few grounded migrants perhaps. Because of the wind strength and direction I knew there wouldn't be much, but I did hope. In the end I didn't have many grounded migrants other than 7 males and 1 female Wheatear.

 Willow Warbler

The 'vis' was a different picture altogether with a good passage similar to yesterday. I had 4 Lesser Redpolls, Chaffinch, 2 Tree Pipits, 5 Alba Wags, Swallow, 3 Carrion Crows, 60 Linnets, 61 Goldfinch, 12 Siskins, 3 Jackdaws and 346 Meadow Pipits.

The sea was similar to yesterday too with 15 Sandwich Terns, 6 Eiders, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, 4 Red-throated Divers, 143 Auk sp., 8 Shelducks, 2 Mallards, 8 Common Scoters, Canada Goose, 26 Guillemots, 2 Cormorants and 28 Razorbills.

Not an amazing morning, but not too bad either!

Saturday 14 April 2012

Cold Notheasterlies Don't Halt Vis

As forecast it was too windy to operate mist nets at the'obs' so I headed to the Point for first light. I was greeted with clear skies with a cold 10-15 mph northeasterly wind. From the outset birds were on the move and Tree Pipit opened the 'score card'. My vis totals (all between north and east) included 5 Tree Pipits, 16 Siskins, 3 Alba Wags, 6 Lesser Redpolls, 7 Swallows, 9 Woodpigeon, 6 Carrion Crows, 5 Sand Martins, 90 Linnets, White Wagtail, 51 Goldfinch and 337 Meadow Pipits.

 Tree Pipit

On the sea I had 17 Eiders, 2 Guillemots, 57 Common Scoters, 9 Red-throated Divers, 4 Razorbills, 8 Shelducks, Gannet, 68 Auk sp., 23 Cormorants, 26 Red-breasted Mergansers and 43 Sandwich Terns.

Waders were few and far between with just 3 Turnstones, 2 Dunlin, 3 Ringed Plovers, 10 Oystercatchers and 40 Knot. The only grounded migrant I had was a single male Wheatear.


It's going to be too windy for mist nets again tomorrow so it will be some more coastal patch work for me.

Friday 13 April 2012

Back Across the Black Sands

It's amazing how the weather can vary so much between two relatively close areas. I filled my car up at a petrol station close to home this morning and listened to Chiffchaff and Song Thrush singing in the rain from some scrubby woodland close by, then 45 minutes and 45 miles later near Bickerstaffe I was bathed in glorious sunshine! I was back across the black sands again this morning finishing off the survey I started on Wednesday.

 Song Thrush

Farmland birds were the order of the day with a smattering of summer migrants. On my walk round this mossland farm I had 10 Skylarks, 3 Reed Buntings, 2 Yellowhammers, 7 Lapwing and a single singing Corn Bunting. The smattering of migrants I mentioned were 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Swallows and Willow Warbler. The only raptors I had were singles of Buzzard and Kestrel.

It looks too breezy for the 'obs' tomorrow so I will probably head up to the 'point' and have a look on the sea.

Thursday 12 April 2012

A Bit Of 'Vis' and That

The 0545 start at the 'obs' that Ian and I had this morning was a little late and in the next few days we will have to make it 0530! Whilst putting the nets up in the half-light we heard some Pink-footed Geese and over the next few minutes we had 561 head north.

Meadow Pipits were the first birds to get moving and we had 240 followed by other members of the 'vis' cast including Alba Wagtail, 34 Linnets, House Martin, 16 Goldfinch, 5 Swallows, 39 Woodpigeons, Tree Pipit, 7 Siskins, Sand Martin, 800 Knot and Chaffinch.

 Meadow Pipit

The Sparrowhawks were giving their display as usual and the female was pursued by two males. Later in the morning one of the males was cruising around the site giving stonking views. A high flying male late in the morning might have been one of the trio, but it could equally have been a northward bound migrant.

At first we thought there was little grounded with perhaps just one Willow Warbler and a single female Wheatear. However, some high dense cloud built from the south which switched the vis off, but immediately afterwards we extracted 3 Willow Warblers and 2 Chiffchaffs from our nets. There was obviously a fall of Willow Warblers today as a phone call from Ian later told me that he had seen 60-70 around Fleetwood at various sites.

 Willow Warbler

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

Meadow Pipit - 7
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Linnet - 2
Willow Warbler - 3
Chiffchaff - 2
Dunnock - (2)

 Lesser Redpoll

I'm back to the 'black sands' tomorrow for some more farmland birds and perhaps the odd migrant or two! 

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Across The Black Sands

It was a day of arable farmland birds for me today as I was surveying some farmland in the Bickerstaffe area. The 'black sands' in my title refers to the soil type in the area and the 'black sand' is very evident in the tilled fields at the moment.

 The Black Sands

I was surveying three farms that are next to each other and I had a suite of arable birds including 14 Tree Sparrows, 28 Corn Buntings, 8 Skylarks, 6 Lapwings, 4 Grey Partridge, 2 Yellowhammers, 39 Linnets and 5 Stock Doves.

It was evident that there was a movement of Meadow Pipits as I had a consent movement of singles/small groups of birds over head on 'vis'. A quick call to Ian on the coast confirmed that there was quite a movement of Mipits this morning as he was having groups of 20s, 30s and 40s going over Fleetwood.

A singing Bullfinch from some scrub was nice and 2 Chiffchaffs sang from woodland; but no Willow Warblers. Out on the 'black sand' 45 immaculate Lesser Black-backed Gulls were feeding on recently ploughed earth and two male and one female Wheatear were close by.

The only raptors I had were 2 Buzzards and a single Kestrel. It's the 'obs' for me in the morning, so I'll let you know how I got on.

Saturday 7 April 2012

One Swallow doesn't make a summer.........

.........and neither do 6 or 7! I thought we'd slipped up this morning when I arrived at the 'obs' at 6.30 a.m. as it was virtually flat calm, just a hint of a whisper from the northeast, and it was mild. I started to wonder about all the birds we could have ringed until fairly quickly it was clear that there wasn't a great deal on the move.

As usual the pair of Sparrowhawks kept me entertained with their early morning air display, but other than that the skies weren't exactly full of migrants winging north on 'vis'. There was some vis but this was limited to Goldfinch, 3 Linnets, 2 Alba Wags, 29 Meadow Pipits, 7 Swallows and Lesser Redpoll.

There was nothing grounded at all other than a Snipe that I put up from the dry reedbed in the dunes. Focusing my attention on the sea it was quiet here too. Eighteen hundred Knot headed south and the main point of interest were the 27 Sandwich Terns on the beach. They were a delight to watch as pairs displayed to each other within the group.

I then met up with Ian and we headed to the reedbed to give some of the willows along our net rides a 'hair cut'. It was great to be back in the reedbed and we look forward, hopefully, to some Acros in a few weeks time. Coming soon to a reedbed near you:

Sedge and Reed Warbler

Friday 6 April 2012

Blues Rock and Skuas

Don't worry I haven't gone completely mad and started taking my 'Strat' to the Point to play huge blues rock riffs with insane string bending when a Skua flies past! The 'blues rock' in my title refers to last night's Joe Bonamassa gig that I went to. The only word to describe Joe is 'stunning'! Every time I see him he gets better, which is really impossible because he has always been an amazing guitar player. If you like some rock with your blues, or blues with your rock, or you just like amazing guitar players then look him up, you won't be disappointed!

At first light this morning I found myself at the Point with no shelter insanely standing in the cold west-northwesterly wind, but it wasn't a bad morning so it was worth it. There was some 'vis' this morning, mainly Meadow Pipits heading north across the bay and in total I had 123. Other birds on 'vis; included 3 Alba Wags, 9 Linnets, Reed Bunting and 17 Goldfinch.

Shorebird numbers were a little disappointing mainly due to arrogant, selfish dog-walkers who think that it is perfectly acceptable to allow there 'dear little pooch' to chase waders! Don't get me started on that topic! I had 889 Knot (all heading west), 52 Turnstone, 134 Oystercatchers, 73 Sanderlings, 2 Curlews and 2 Ringed Plovers. The only other wader I had was an unidentified species being carried off in the talons of a Peregrine!

The sea was quite interesting and this is where the Skuas come in. I had three dark morph Arctic Skuas this morning and one gave excellent views as it headed west just along the tide line. Other birds at sea included 31 Cormorants, 24 Gannets, 9 Red-breasted Mergansers, 7 Shelducks, 4 Red-throated Divers (including a close in full summer plumaged bird), 302 Common Scoters (a respectable count for here), 10 Sandwich Terns and 14 Eiders.

I called in at the Cemetery afterwards but as expected there were no migrants and the Nature Park was very quiet with few wildfowl other than 7 Tufted Ducks.

We received the details of some recoveries from the BTO in the week and amongst them were two standout movements. The first was a Coot colour-ringed at Stanley Park, Blackpool on 21st October 2010 that was sighted 230 km to the north in Loanhead, Midlothian, Scotland on 2nd February 2012.

The other was a Goldfinch ringed at Rawcliffe Moss on 2nd September 2011, controlled at Cadborough, East Sussex 407 km to the southeast on 16th October 2011. See the Google Earth image below (Coot movement in yellow and Goldfinch movement in red).

Thursday 5 April 2012

March Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see the totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of March. We have ringed 948 birds of 39 species which is an increase of 129 birds over where we were this time last year. Two new species were ringed in March and these were Snipe and Grey Wagtail. I have listed below the top ten 'movers and shakers'.

1. Goldfinch - 119 (up from 6th)
2. Lesser Redpoll - 108 (straight in)
3. Blue Tit - 107 (down from 1st)
4. Chaffinch - 101 (down from 2nd)
5. Great Tit - 72 (down from 3rd)
6. Meadow Pipit - 56 (straight in)
7. Turnstone - 40 (down from 5th)
8= Tree Sparrow - 32 (down from 6th)
     Blackbird - 32 (down from 7th)
10= Dunnock - 29 (down from 9th)
       Robin - 29 (down from 8th)

 Goldfinch - Number 1 in March!

I suppose the two notable movers and shakers in March are Lesser Redpoll and Meadow Pipit that have come straight in to the top ten in 2nd and 6th places respectively!

Sunday 1 April 2012

LIghtning Can Strike Twice!

The northerly had become southeasterly and the blocking high cloud to the south had gone so surely there should have been a push of migrants this morning, even if it was birds on 'vis' in the clear skies. Not a chance, it was almost as quiet as yesterday! We thought that some of those migrants encountered at Portland Bird Observatory  yesterday would have made their way north and again the answer was no!

A Barn Owl entertained us as we put the nets up in the half-light at the 'obs' and some early Lesser Redpolls teased us but the day never really got going. The few birds on vis included 8 Lesser Redpolls, 13 Meadow Pipits, Chaffinch, 20 Woodpigeon, 6 Sandwich Terns, 2 Alba Wags, Reed Bunting, Siskin and Lapwing.

 Lesser Redpoll

We ringed a few more than yesterday, but it was still only five birds as follows:

Lesser Redpoll - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Great Tit - 2
Blackbird - 1

After yet another shortened session Craig, Ian and I headed to a coastal park to prepare it for some ringing over the next few weeks. This site is very sheltered and held at least two each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrest.

Back home my moth trap held just two Common Quakers. The forecast is looking pretty abysmal for Tuesday with temperatures not far above freezing and snow a possibility, so I thought I should have a look on the sea off the Point tomorrow, even though it will be a northwesterly!