Tuesday 29 May 2012

Now That's What I Call A Moth!

Just a quick report on what was in my moth trap this morning, which was my best catch so far this spring. 'The moth' in my title refers to the Eyed Hawkmoth that greeted me as I peered into the trap after breakfast. Not rare, but a cracking beastie all the same.

Eyed Hawkmoth (above and below)

The supporting cast consisted of a Brimstone Moth, 3 Light Brown Apple Moths, 2 Dark Arches, 3 Heart and Darts and a single Common Pug.

 Brimstone Moth

Its eyes to screen and fingers to keyboard for the rest of the day for me I'm afraid!

Monday 28 May 2012

Romping Up The Ribble

I spent most of the day in the glorious sunshine surveying some farmland next to the River Ribble near Gisburn. For a change it wasn't just birds I was looking at as I had to do some botanising. I started at the top of the valley and made my way down to the river. From the top there were views south to Pendle and east into the Yorkshire Dales.


From a birding perspective I didn't see anything unusual but had a nice selection of woodland/scrub birds including 4 Blackcaps, 7 Willow Warblers, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a party of Long-tailed Tits, 3 Buzzards and 4 Mistle Thrushes. The best woodland birds were a pair of Redstarts giving a Grey Squirrel some 'stick' presumably as it was too close to their nest site. The male looked absolutely gorgeous in the rich morning light. Down on the river was a female Goosander, but little else of note.

Views of the river above and below

There was a good selection of flowers including Meadowsweet, Common Dog Violet, Wood Anemone, Water Avens, Lesser Celandine, Primrose, Pignut, Early Purple Orchid, Bugle, Tormentil, Ragged Robin, Rough Hawkbit, Greater Stitchwort, Ramsons and Bluebell. So quite nice!

 Early Purple Orchid

I also came across this fungus below, which I think I have identified correctly as Laetiporus sulphureus. I am sure you will tell me if I haven't! All in all a pleasant day and I was getting paid!


Sunday 27 May 2012

Black Magic

Have a look at Fleetwood Bird Observatory later this evening for details of what was a phenomenal Black Tern passage off the obs today.

My moth trap was equally devoid of moths as yesterday with just 3 Light Brown Apple Moths and a single Garden Carpet making up the catch!

Saturday 26 May 2012

Few Moths And A Few More Pulli

I ran my moth trap last night with high expectations of a decent haul, but it wasn't to be. I even got up exceedingly early so I could process all the moths before heading off to three sites to check boxes! Three moths, three species was all I caught; a Plume Moth, Garden Carpet and a Hebrew Character.

 Garden Carpet

Thankfully we faired better with the nest boxes. To and from out nest box site in the Hodder Valley we ringed two broods of two Lapwings. At each site we got 2 out of the 3 in the brood. Sadly at the first site near Inglewhite one of the Lapwing chicks got run over and killed by a car. Ian and I came across the three chicks in the road, screeched to a halt and went to gather them up. We found two, but one had disappeared into the verge. We ringed the two chicks and then the third popped out, but before we got to it a car came round the corner and ran over it. If we hadn't been going past I think all three would have been road casualties.

In total we ringed 46 pulli at the boxes that were a mixture of Blue and Great Tits. The Pied Flycatchers aren't ready yet, but we did lift an unringed adult female off the nest and ringed her. Most of the Tree Sparrows that we ringed last week had either successfully fledged or were about to fledge. However, there were still one or two boxes still at the egg stage.

Friday 25 May 2012

Buzzard Petition Site

If you feel strongly, as I do, about Defra's horrendous plans to look into methods of controlling Buzzards then please visit this petition site by clicking here

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Blue-tailed Damselfly below taken in my garden this afternoon.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Defra Plan To Control Buzzard Numbers

Before I get onto the latest barbaric proposal by the Tory bunch of 'merchant bankers' who claim to be the greenest government (what a fecking joke) yet, to destroy further species of our already beleaguered birds of prey, you might have noticed a change in my blog title!

The reason for the change is to reflect more of what my blog is about and also because all the Fleetwood bird stuff is covered in my good mate Ian and I's new blog Fleetwood Bird Observatory  Depending on the success of our new blog and our commitment to it the title 'Fleetwood Birder' may return in the future! To launch my new blog title I was going to regale you with a tale of a classic days birding in late May in Norfolk in 1987, but that will have to wait until another day. Instead I am having to pass on more depressing news for the fortunes of yet another of our magnificent raptors.

Listening to the today programme on Radio 4 this morning I heard about Defras plans to control Buzzard numbers so some of the irresponsible gun toting idiots can have more tame Pheasants to blast for a giggle. No doubt this will all be dressed up as how Pheasant shooting is important for the rural economy, which is the usual lame excuse the 'boys in blue' come up with to keep all their wealthy chums happy. The income from blasting tame Pheasants won't be anywhere near as much as the income from tourism by people visiting the countryside to enjoy our magnificent birds of prey.

Anyway, below is an article from the good people at  Birdguides

'The RSPB is stunned by Defra's plan to allow the destruction of Common Buzzard nests and to permit Buzzards to be taken into captivity to remove them from shooting estates. The Society believes this intervention against one of England's best-loved birds of prey will set a terrible precedent and prove to be a costly and unnecessary exercise. The move by Defra followed lobbying by the Pheasant-shooting industry. Buzzards usually scavenge on animals that have already died, but they will sometimes take young Pheasants that are released for sports shooting.

The Buzzard was eradicated from large swathes of Britain following decades of persecution. Legal protection and a general warming of attitudes towards Buzzards and other birds of prey on the part of many lowland land-managers led to Buzzards recovering across the UK: a fantastic conservation success story. Martin Harper is the RSPB's conservation director. Criticising Defra's proposal, he said: "We are shocked by Defra's plans to destroy Buzzard nests and to take Buzzards into captivity to protect a non-native game bird released in its millions. Buzzards play a minor role in Pheasant losses compared with other factors like collisions with vehicles."

Pheasants are not native to the UK. Around 40 million birds are released every year for shooting. The impacts of this practise on wildlife have been poorly documented, but serious questions have been raised about the impact such a large injection of captive-reared birds might have on the predator–prey balance in our countryside. Buzzards will take young pheasants from rearing pens, given the opportunity, but the RSPB believes the issue can be managed without destroying nests or moving Buzzards. Measures include providing more cover for young Pheasants in release pens, visual deterrents to discourage birds of prey and providing alternative food sources.

Mr Harper added: "There are options for addressing the relatively small number of Pheasant poults lost to Buzzards. Destroying nests is completely unjustified and catching and removing Buzzards is unlikely to reduce predation levels as another Buzzard will quickly take its place. Both techniques would be illegal under current wildlife laws, and I think most people will agree with us that reaching for primitive measures, such as imprisoning Buzzards or destroying their nests, when wildlife and economic interests collide is totally unacceptable. At a time when funding for vital conservation work is so tight, and with another bird of prey, the Hen Harrier, facing extinction as a breeding bird in England, I can think of better ways of spending £400,000 of public funds. This money could work harder for wildlife, and I hope the Government will therefore put a stop to this project."

Mick Carroll of the Northern England Raptor Forum said: "Given that Buzzards are still recovering from past persecution and there is no evidence they are a significant cause of loss, this is a scandalous waste of public money." Nigel Middleton, Hawk and Owl Trust Conservation Officer for the Eastern Region, said: "We are totally against persecution of any birds of prey, and destroying the nests of Buzzards is tantamount to this. We believe that alternatives should always be sought to lethal control where the commercial interests of humans come into conflict with birds of prey."

I don't want to say anymore because I will end up ranting, but it is possible to have a look at a project specification by Defra entitled 'The Development Techniques to Reduce Predation of Pheasant Poults by Buzzards'. If it wasn't so terrifying it would be funny. There are phrases like "a 2011 survey by the National Gamekeepers Organisation found that 76% of gamekeepers believe that Buzzards have a harmful effect on gamebirds". Oh what a surprise! That's a good bit of unbiased research to base a policy on then. I imagine that you could add any predator species into that and a majority of gamekeepers would say that they were having a harmful effect on gamebirds. What will be next; Sparrowhawks?! It then goes on to say that BBS 2010 results for breeding Buzzards in England shows an increase in the breeding population of 146% between 1995 and 2009". So that's it then, the population of Buzzards has increased, the Gamekeepers Association says they are having a harmful effect on non-native tame gamebirds soon to be blasted for a giggle, so lets have a cull. Sickening!

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Good Lovelies

For details of the ringing session that Ian and I had this morning at the obs go to http://fleetwoodbirdobs.blogspot.co.uk/

Now, on to the Good Lovelies. Who are the Good Lovelies I hear you ask. They are an all female, I hate to say folk, so will say acoustic/roots band from Toronto, Canada. Gail and I went to see them last Thursday in Garstang and we thoroughly enjoyed them, so much so that we nearly went to Barnsley the following night to see them again!

What's strange is that they aren't really my cup of tea and I shouldn't really like them; no twin lead guitar attack, no heavy blues riffs, no mellow aching Gilmour-like guitar solos or keyboard driven songs lasting over twenty minutes! But what impressed me was their wit and on-stage banter, beautiful harmonising vocals, good straight forward song writing and their ability to play multi-instruments that they swapped around after each song.

I had a chat with them during the interval and after the gig, and probably bored them to death by telling them about all the Canadian bands I like such as Rush and Jeff Healey! Have a look at the clips below and see what you think, or I am just going soft and mellowing in my old age!

Saturday 19 May 2012

Pied Flys and Things

Ian and I spent the morning checking boxes at three sites. First up was our site in the Hodder Valley in the heart of Bowland. Most birds were sitting tight, either on eggs or brooding small young. We did manage to ring a brood of 5 Great Tits and lifted 2 female Pied Flycatchers off the nest. The first female Pied Fly was ringed at this site as a breeding female in 2009 and each year we have recorded her at the site. It gives me goose bumps when I think about the mileage she has covered flying to and from West Africa each year, and the dangers that she has seen and overcome. Absolutely amazing!

 Great Tit

The second female wasn't one of ours and was a control; X932417 anybody? It will be interesting to see where she was ringed. Wandering around the woodland we had singing Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap.

Our next port of call was Rawcliffe Moss to check our Tree Sparrow boxes and we managed to ring 23 pullus here. We then moved on to a friends farm at Nateby to check a further 25 boxes. We ringed one brood of two Tree Sparrows and a brood of four Great Tits. Like our site in the Hodder Valley a lot of females were sitting tight on the nest, so it looks like next week will be a busy weekend ringing.

 Tree Sparrow

Don't forget to click Fleetwood Bird Observatory  to find out what was at the 'obs' today.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

The Last English Hen Harrier?

I don't normally use my blog to report on news items in the biodiversity press, but I received an update email this morning from the Wildlife Trust that included a shocking piece on the fact that there is only one pair of Hen Harriers breeding in England this year and none so far in Bowland, just to the east of me. As I said before this really is shocking and this shouldn't be happening in England in the 21st century. It is time that we heard from DEFRA, Natural England and the British Government as to what they are going to do about this awful state of affairs. I know what I would do, but it isn't repeatable here.

Below you will find the article that shocked me this morning.

The future for England’s most threatened bird of prey – Hen Harrier – is looking bleak, as the species teeters on the brink of extinction as a breeding bird.
Early reports indicate that only one pair of the species is showing signs of nesting in England. If this continues it will be the worst year for Hen Harrier since it recolonised England, following extinction in the late 19th century. Worryingly, there are currently no birds attempting to nest in the Bowland Fells, Lancashire, the bird’s only stronghold in England in recent decades.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Hen Harrier is noted for its wonderful rollercoaster display flight, but the bird’s population in England is on a rollercoaster ride itself. After recolonising England, the bird is now perilously close to being wiped out again as a result of decades of persecution.”
The RSPB’s Dr Andre Farrar monitored the species in the 1980s. Commenting on the situation today, he said: “When I started monitoring Hen Harriers, I had no idea that 2012 would be so bleak. When I started, the harriers were just establishing themselves in England after Victorian intolerance and extermination. Bowland has been their stronghold for decades – nesting attempts in other parts of England are infrequent and inconsistent. There are just too few of them in the English uplands.”
Andrew Gouldstone, a conservation manager with the RSPB in Lancashire, said: “The sight of Hen Harriers is one of the joys of spending time in the hills of Bowland. The RSPB has been working with its partners for over three decades to safeguard Hen Harrier nests here. Bowland is still a safe place for the bird but protecting them away from their breeding grounds is very difficult, and we may be about to lose them as a result.”
Government-commissioned, independent research has shown that the English uplands could support more than 300 pairs of Hen Harrier. The authors conclude that persecution associated with the practice of driven grouse shooting, is to blame for the harrier’s plight. Natural England has previously concluded that very few harrier nesting attempts are successful on grouse moors, there is compelling evidence that persecution continues, both during and following the breeding season, and persecution continues to limit Hen Harrier recovery in England. 
The Government has, via the England Biodiversity Strategy, committed to prevent human-induced extinctions of threatened species by 2020. The extinction of Hen Harrier as a breeding species for a second time looks unavoidable, unless an emergency recovery programme is put in place and there is a rapid and sustained reduction in persecution of these birds.
Martin Harper added: “DEFRA ministers have one chance to avoid breaking a promise. We’re doing everything we can, but the government and its conservation and enforcement agencies need to step up to the challenge of securing the future of Hen Harrier in England. The problem of illegal killing is well understood – we now need Government to bring solutions to the table.”
The situation has become so dire that the RSPB has relaunched its Hen Harrier hotline, to enable the public to report any sighting of these birds during the breeding season in England. The Harrier Hotline number is 0845 4600121 (calls charged at local rate). Reports can also be e-mailed to henharriers@rspb.org.uk.  Reports of sightings should include the date and location of sighting, with a six-figure grid reference where possible.

In fact you might have noticed that I have changed my 'header' to a picture of some young Hen Harriers that I had the privilege of assisting a very good friend of mine to ring and wing tag a few year's ago. Let's hope that they make a come back and long may Hen Harriers 'sky dance' over the moors of England.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Boxing Day Again

I was at a friend's farm near Nateby this morning checking the 25 boxes that Diana and Robert have put up for Tree Sparrows. Out of the 25 boxes only three were occupied by Tree Sparrows, the rest by Blue and Great Tits. Interestingly there were more Tree Sparrows around the yard going into crevices in an old stone barn, so for next year Robert is going to put some boxes up on the barn wall.

On our walk round we had singing Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. Over the flood 20 Swift were feeding with a supporting cast of House Martins, Swallows and Sand Martins.

Saturday 12 May 2012

Boxing Day

This morning Gail and I headed up into Bowland to check our boxes in the Hodder Valley. We have 38 boxes up at this site with the aim of providing nest sites for Pied Flycatchers and other hole nesting woodland bird species. Out of 38 boxes we had 8 boxes occupied by Pied Flycatchers, 8 by Blue Tits, 6 by Great Tits and one by Nuthatch.

The Hodder Valley

I lifted a female Pied Flycatcher off the nest from one box and she was ringed and on checking on the computer back home I had ringed her as a chick out of one of the boxes at this site in 2010. We also ringed a brood of 8 Nuthatches.


Walking through the woodland we had singing Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Willlow Warbler. Other birds included Jay and a calling male Tawny Owl. Orange Tip and Green-veined White Butterflies were on the wing and plenty of woodland plants were flowering including Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Ramsons, Herb Robert, Lesser Celandine and Bugle.


Heading back to the 'flatlands' of the Fylde we checked our boxes on Rawcliffe Moss where we just have 14 up at this particular site for Tree Sparrows. Out of the 14 boxes 12 were occupied and we ringed two broods of four. There should be plenty to ring next week.

 Tree Sparrow

I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about a new blog that I have set up with my good mate Ian Gardner (in fact it is Ian that does most of the birding at the obs) called Fleetwood Bird Observatory (click to access) which details the daily bird movements through what we call the 'obs'. It is in its infancy at the moment and will change, so please bear with us until we have got it right.  

Sunday 6 May 2012

Two 4 One

Yesterday I had a walk round the 'obs' in the cold northeasterly wind, in fact at 5.30 a.m. there was a ground frost. Even though it was cold there were a few birds on the move and all I had were 47 Goldfinch, 6 Swallows, Tree Pipit, 4 White Wagtails, 6 Lesser Redpolls, 28 Linnets, 3 Siskins, 2 Sand Martins, Meadow Pipit, 2 Whimbrel, Alba Wag and Yellow Wagtail.


There were a few more warblers in on territory including the regular Lesser Whitethroat plus 3 Whitethroats and 4 Sedge Warblers. The only grounded migrants as such were two female Wheatears.

 Sedge Warbler

The sea was fairly quiet but I did have an addition to the site for the year in the form of a Little Tern rapidly heading north. Other 'stuff' on the sea included 15 Eider, Atlantic Grey Seal, 2 Cormorants, 35 Gannets, 10 Arctic Terns, 15 Auk sp., Red-throated Diver and 2 Sandwich Terns.

This morning Ian and I had a ringing session in the reedbed and we processed 11 new birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Mealy Redpoll - 2Y female
Sedge Warbler - 3
Chaffinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 1 (1)
Goldfinch - 1
Great Tit - (1)
Reed Warbler - (2)

Reed Warbler

The view from a birding perspective from the ringing station in the reedbed isn't brilliant but we did manage to have Whimbrel, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, Siskin, Tree Pipit and 6 Lesser Redpolls.

Thursday 3 May 2012

A Reasonable Morning In A Quiet Sort Of Way

I was hoping to do some ringing at the 'obs' this morning but the wind forecast last night was just a little to strong for our coastal site. So instead I was out at 5.30 a.m. giving the obs a good grilling by birding only. I had clear skies with a 5-10 mph northeasterly wind.

A couple of Willow Warblers feeding quietly in some Bramble gave me the feeling that there might be a few grounded migrants around on the quiet. I added a further 3 Willow Warblers on my search and a singing Wood Warbler definitely made me think there could be a few grounded birds about. Unusually the Wood Warbler was feeding along the central hedge and giving short bursts of it's 'trilling' song every so often. I came back along this hedge a couple of hours later when it had warmed up but there was no sign of the Wood Warbler.

Other grounded birds included 7 Wheatears, 2 Sedge Warblers, 3 Whitethroats and a single Lesser Whitethroat.


There was some 'vis' this morning, though not as heavy as recent mornings, and I had 2 Woodpigeons, 30 Linnets, 44 Goldfinch, 4 Siskins, 396 Swallows, 12 Lesser Redpolls, 7 White Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 3 Alba Wags, 5 Whimbrel, Meadow Pipit and 19 House Martins.

It was fairly quiet on the sea, although I did record a couple of 'firsts for the Spring for the site', and I had 15 Cormorants, 13 Gannets, 13 Sandwich Terns, 4 Auk sp., 24 Arctic Terns, 5 Eiders, 6 Common Scoters, 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Teal, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Manx Shearwaters.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Mossy Morning

I had an hour to spare before my first site visits and as I was heading east I thought I would have a walk round Rawcliffe Moss as it's been a while since I was here. As soon as I got out of my car I could hear Corn Bunting singing from the field behind me and Blackcap and Willow Warbler form Curlew Wood. On my walk round I recorded 6 singing Corn Buntings and 4 singing Blackcaps.

Along the feeding 'station hedge' were 12 Linnets and 7 Goldfinch and they were flying down into the adjacent field to feed on Dandelion seeds. I walked up the '97 hedge' and didn't record very much until I got to the Tree Sparrow boxes and there was plenty of activity around these. In total I had 18 Tree Sparrows, including 5 around Curlew Farm.

The plantation held sinigng Garden Warbler, Sedge Warbler, 4 Willow Warblers and Whitethroat, and on the top fields was a single Whimbrel. Heading back to the car I picked up a Siskin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Mistle Thrushes.

The only pictures I got this morning, after some failed attempts at Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow, were of Red Dead-nettle and Lesser Stitchwort below.

 Red Dead-nettle

Lesser Stitchwort

I got a phone call from Ian later on saying that he had had a good morning at Rossall with 9 Poms, 4 Black Terns, 11 Arctic Skuas and plenty of Arctic Terns. Nice!

Tuesday 1 May 2012


Yesterday was probably one of the best, if not the best, day of the Spring so far. However, I was working and therefore couldn't get out to the coast to enjoy it. I was land-locked carrying out a breeding wader survey, but I shouldn't complain as there are worse ways to earn a crust on a Monday morning! Today was earmarked as an office day for me and I decided to spend a couple of hours birding at the 'obs' before a day of report writing.

At 5.30 a.m. I had full cloud cover with a moderate northeasterly wind as I set off on my walk. Immediately I had a singing Willow Warbler and in total I had three by the end of my session. Other grounded birds included 2 male Whinchats and 23 Wheatears.

 Willow Warbler

Swallows were the most numerous species moving this morning and I had 487 in total battling their way north. There was quite a good 'vis' passage this morning and in addition to the Swallows I had Woodpigeon, 2 Tree Pipits, 9 Lesser Redpolls, 11 Meadow Pipits, 20 Linnets, 9 Siskins, 19 White Wagtails, 25 House Martins and 104 Goldfinch.

The sea was relatively quiet with just 18 Whimbrel, 2 Shelducks, 14 Sandwich Terns, male Eider, 2 Gannets, 3 Cormorants, 20 Common Scoters and a Razorbill. A telephone conversation with Ian at the Point during the morning informed me that I had missed Marsh Harrier and Osprey!

I am out working in the field tomorrow, but hopefully I might be able to get out ringing Thursday morning with a little more birding on Friday. As always I'll keep you posted.