Wednesday 29 August 2012

A Dragon Is Slain, But Not By St. George!

In the garden yesterday I came across the Migrant Hawker below that had got caught in the web of a Garden Spider Araneus diadematus. How the web had managed to hold the 'dragon' I don't know, but there was significant damage to the web as I imagine the dragonfly put up quite a fight!



Tuesday 28 August 2012

Fish Hawk

We are in a series of morning tides at the moment and I decided to have a couple of hours seawatching at the obs this morning before locking myself away in the office for the day. At first light I had 4 oktas cloud with a 15 mph westerly wind.

It was quite slow for the first half hour or so, but then the passage at sea slowly increased. It wasn't amazing, but just enough to keep you interested. As the tide came in and covered the shingle spit it pushed the 43 Cormorants off and they headed west out of the bay to feed. Gannets were in reasonable numbers this morning and 46 headed west out of the bay, with some very close in giving stonking views.

The Gannets were supported by a cast of 21 Common Scoters, 8 Sandwich Terns, 2 Common Terns, 2 Little Gulls and a Guillemot. At about 7.20 a.m. I picked up a large bird flying low over the sea in front of the wind turbines. I could see it was a large raptor and as it got closer Ian and I could clinch its ID as an Osprey. It started to climb and headed towards land, but we lost site of it as it crossed the boundary of Morecambe to Liverpool Bay. Presumably it would have made landfall somewhere along the coast at Blackpool.

Due to the 'strongish' westerly wind vis was kept to a minimum with just single Swallow and 2 Pied Wagtails west whilst I was there. The wind is moving to the southeast tomorrow with a showery airstream, so I will try and get out for a couple of hours if I can. It looks like high pressure might be building towards weekend that looks as though it might get the first real autumnal vis on the go. Having said that it could all change before then!

Sunday 26 August 2012

A Trickle Of Migrants

Huw, Ian and I had a short ringing session this morning at the obs where a trickle of migrants was just detectable. At first light we had full cloud cover and it was calm. As the morning progressed the cloud cover decreased to 6 oktas and the wind picked up to a 5-10 mph northeasterly.

We only ringed 6 birds this morning which were two Reed Warblers, a Dunnock and three Whitethroats. This in combination with a grounded Tree Sparrow indicated that there were a few migrants around. The only vis we had was in the form of a single Swift and Grey Wagtail.

One of the Whitethroats we ringed was an adult in main moult

Amongst the Black-headed Gulls on the fields was a 3CY Mediterranean Gull.

After we packed up I decided to have a quick look in the cemetery and I was greeted with a Wheatear, a Willow Warbler and two Robins. In the warm sunshine a number of butterflies were on the wing including Meadow Browns, Common Blues, Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks.

On my way home I called to have a look at some scrub alongside the estuary at the northern end of the peninsula that can sometimes hold migrants but there was nothing to be seen. There is some rain coming in tomorrow but it should be okay for some birding first thing in the morning.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Hirundines To The Rescue

When I arrived at the farm fields at the southern end of the 'obs' recording area at first light I thought there might be a few birds about based on the fact that there were a number of 'ticking' Robins; how wrong can you be. The wind was a fairly light northeasterly and it looked like it might be raining further east and out to the west over the sea, but over the Fleetwood peninsula there seemed to be a clear slot.

I headed down the track and flushed a Fox from the central field and when it got to the hedge it turned round, sat down and watched me. Something made me turn round and look down the track and there was another Fox sat down looking at me. I just stepped back behind a gate post and the Fox came trotting down the track and stopped when it got fairly close to me. It sat down and it watched me as I watched it. After a few minutes it got a bit bored of this 'looking at each other' game and wandered off over the embankment. Typically I only had my 'point and shoot' camera with me for digiscoping so didn't take any pictures.

I did my usual route along the sea wall, no Wheatears, through the dunes, the reedbed, stopped and 'pished' at the patch of Japanese Rose, but absolutely no birds. I got to my sea watching position, but other than a few Sandwich Terns, a Great Crested Grebe and a Gannet the 'murky' sea was quiet.

Then the skies darkened and a few drops of rain began to lightly fall and House Martins and Swallows started to appear. The numbers built up and I estimated that there were 300 Swallows and 70 House Martins. They were feeding over the fields and then perching on barbed wire fences and Thistle plants. I was just about to take a picture through my scope when they got up in a 'dread' and I assumed there must have been a raptor around, but there wasn't. Within a few minutes they had gone and their departure corresponded with a lightening of the skies.

Heading back to 'work' the hedgerows I had a flock of 30 high flying Redshank heading south and that was the last entry in my notebook.

I headed to the coastal cemetery for a look, but expected it to be quiet and my expectations were realised. Ian arrived and the heavens opened so we retired to his house for a pot of coffee and a conversation putting the birding world to rights.

The forecast looks okay for some ringing tomorrow, so fingers crossed, and then bank holiday Monday, well that looks like a right old wet one!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Battling On

It was the same 'pack drill' for me this morning except that I didn't manage to get to the coastal park. I started off at the farm fields and it was certainly a better morning to be out, but it was still very quiet. A Willow Warbler calling early on from the hedge along the big ditch made me feel hopeful for a few grounded migrants and a Wheatear on the sea wall increased my optimism, but it was mainly down hill from here.

A few Swallows, 11, headed south and the only other 'vis' to speak of were two Pied Wagtails heading in the same direction. The sea was very quiet, and a long way out, but a Peregrine perched on a groyne made up for a lack of seabirds. The only other raptors I had were two Kestrels.

Moving on to the cemetery I was greeted by 'ticking' Robins and again I was hopeful for a few migrants but it wasn't to be this morning. I have a couple of days of site visits starting from tomorrow, so it will be Friday before I am out on the patch again.


Monday 20 August 2012

Ten out of ten for effort.......... the marks I would give myself this morning for getting out before a day of report writing in the office, but from that you can conclude that I didn't see very much! The forecast last night suggested that there might be a few migrants around this morning, but the rain must have had a blocking effect instead!

I started out at the southwestern end of the obs working the coastal farmland and dunes and scored a big fat zero. I had got to the farthest point in the dunes when it started raining quite heavily and this prevented me looking on the sea, which was shrouded in mist anyway. About 30 each of House Martin and Swallow were feeding along the sea wall hawking low flying insects.

In the dunes a lot of the Sea Holly was flowering and several flowers had Bumble Bees, that had presumably roosted over night on them, waiting for the temperature to rise so they could continue feeding. Two Kestrels and a Sparrowhawk later and I decided to try my luck in the cemetery.

 Soggy Bumblebee on sea Holly

This is where I had my only grounded migrant of the morning in the form of a calling Willow Warbler. I did my usual circuit, but with nothing else present in the drizzle I moved on to the coastal park, but again I drew a blank here. The forecast is similar for tomorrow, so being the eternal optimist that I am I will try again!

Sunday 19 August 2012

A Disastrous Start, A Quiet Middle and a Reasonable End!

This morning Ian and I had decided to split up and concentrate on two different coastal areas of the 'obs' from both a ringing and migration monitoring perspective. However, I had a disastrous start to the morning when I got my car stuck on a bridge across a large ditch (don't ask!). This resulted in a phone call to Ian at 5.00 ask him if he would be kind enough to come along and drag me off the bridge with his 4 x 4. For one reason or another Ian couldn't 'work' the coastal site he had in mind and headed to one of the 'obs' reedbeds and ringed a nice selection of warblers. See Fleetwood Bird Observatory for details.

Eventually Huw and I erected a short length of nets at our site and only managed to ring 5 birds; a Wren, 3 Willow Warblers, a Reed Warbler and 2 Blue Tits. It was very quiet and there were few grounded migrants around other than a few extra Willow Warblers in addition to those we ringed.

 Willow Warbler

'Vis' was equally quiet with just a Swift over and 6 Snipe. We packed up after a short while and joined Ian in the reedbeds.

Sunday 12 August 2012

A Reasonable Passage of Solan Geese

I was out at the coast for first light this morning as there was an early morning tide. There was a bit of an autumnal nip in the air and the wind was a stiff southeasterly. A few Pied Wagtails moved east, but it was difficult to tell whether they were moving or not. However, a few Hirundines were definitely on the move and I had 53 Swallows and 5 House Martins head east. A Grey Heron heading east over the sea could easily have been moving and 2 Swifts doing the same definitely were.

Ian was also watching further along the coast and whilst glued to my telescope eye-piece I heard someone shouting "S E U M U S   M   A   R   S  H    H  A  R  R  I  E  R"  and I looked round and it was Ian. I picked the juv. Marsh Harrier up as it climbed heading east being mobbed by a Herring Gull. I wondered why Ian hadn't phoned me until I realised that I hadn't switched my phone on! It's a good job it wasn't anything rarer.

Just off the shore at the obs a large gravel/shingle bank has developed which is only covered by relatively high tides. The high tide this morning was only low so it remained uncovered. On it and flying to and from it were 128 Cormorants and as the tide dropped 70 Terns (probably Sandwich; it's a long way out) roosted on a sandbank that developed. 

There were a few waders on the shore, but not as many as recently, and included 2 Curlew, 25 Sanderling, 22 Dunlin, 63 Turnstones and 91 Ringed Plovers.

 Ringed Plover preening

As the title suggests there was a reasonable passage of Gannets this morning and I counted 57 along with 84 Common Scoters, Common Tern, 10 Sandwich Terns, Arctic Tern, 9 Manx Shearwaters and an Atlantic Grey Seal bobbed up and down close in.

The only grounded migrants I had was a single Wheatear on the sea wall further along the coast. It's an office day for me tomorrow, so depending on the weather I may try and have a look on the sea again tomorrow morning.

Saturday 11 August 2012

A Bit of Ringing and Some Coastal Gardening

Ian and I had a ringing session in one of the obs many reedbeds this morning and it was a typical reflection of this year's abysmal breeding season caused by the poor summer weather. We processed 11 new birds of 9 species as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Sedge Warbler - 2
Dunnock - 1
Reed Warbler - 1 (1)
Whitethroat - 2
Robin - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Blackcap - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
wren - 1
Great Tit - (2)


It was equally quiet on the birding front although the Starlings departing from their reedbed roost was dramatic. As we were putting a couple of nets up in the reeds we were close to where the Starlings were roosting. When they flew low backwards and forwards before 'exploding' out of their roost the noise was deafening and it sounded like waves crashing on the shore.

A Snipe exited the reeds later in the morning as it heard 5 other Snipe flying overhead which it flew up to join. And a single Tree Pipit south was the only other noteworthy entry in my notebook.

After we packed up we went to one of our ringing areas amongst coastal fields and hedgerows and cleared the net rides in preparation for some autumnal coastal migration monitoring starting next weekend, if not before.

Thursday 9 August 2012

Is This The End.........

.........of our Swallow roost for this year? Ian and I went to our Swallow roost yesterday evening to have a ringing session and all we caught were two adults. The last time we 'worked' the roost was on Monday (6th) and numbers roosting had reduced to 600, so it didn't really come as a surprise that there were only a handful of birds around this evening.

As dusk approached about 30-50 birds arrived and then headed off north. This is in the direction of another reedbed at the obs so I will check it out this evening. It is more likely that the Swallows have switched to roosting in maize, now that the maize is of a suitable height. This seems to have been the pattern in recent years. An early roost forms in one of the old traditional reedbed roost sites and then switches to maize later on. There is so much maize grown in our area, as there are a lot of dairy farms around, so it is tricky finding them when they switch to maize. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.

 A mixture of adult and juvenile Swallows

Tuesday 7 August 2012

A Smartie, a Few More Adults and a Control

Yesterday evening Ian and I had another ringing session at the Swallow roost. There seemed to be less birds coming in, perhaps only 600, but we still managed to ring 64. In addition to the Swallows we ringed a juv. Sand Martin, which was the first ringing record for the obs sincce 2006 and the first for this particular reedbed since 1996! As hinted at in the title we also 'controlled' a Swallow; D006608 anyone!

It was also very noticeable that there were more adults in the catch and at 19% this is the highest adult:juvenile ratio since the roost formed a few weeks ago. What this means I am not quite sure. As I touched upon earlier in the week it could mean that the adults are starting to move through now that they've finished breeding. If this is the case I would expect to see a similar percentage maintained over the coming days and hopefully weeks. However, the past few days have been fairly unsettled weather-wise and this usually has the effect of breaking the roost up as departing birds aren't replaced with newly arriving birds. A perioed of settled weather that gets hirundines on the move usually builds the roost back up again, so fingers crossed!

Monday 6 August 2012

Dawn and Dusk Ringing

From 'a few juvs' below you will see that Ian and I were out ringing at dawn and we were also out at dusk ringing at the Swallow roost. This is just a short post to let you know that we ringed 54 Swallows and approximately 2,020 birds were coming into roost. Interestingly the percentage of adults in the catch was higher at 11%, but of course it was a small sample so you can't read too much into it. As the autumn progresses you expect more adults as they finish breeding and start to move. I'll let you know how the rest of the week goes.

Below is another excellent Swallow picture from Bob; thanks Bob!

Sunday 5 August 2012

A Few Juvs

As I have touched on before it has been a disastrous breeding season for a lot of open nest species and we are seeing this reflected in the ratio of juvenile to adult birds that we are catching for ringing. At this time of year we should be catching large numbers of juveniles compared to adults, but this isn't happening. Whether it will pick up later on as some birds try again, only time will tell and we will be able to tell through our ringing studies. 

Ian and I had a very quiet ringing session in one of the reedbeds this  morning when the time of year and conditions should have produced a good catch. We processed 8 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Robin - 1
Reed Warbler - 4 (2)
Whitethroat - 1
Wren - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - (1)

 Juv Whitethroat

Out of the 12 birds trapped for ringing this morning 8 were juveniles, which is a better ratio than of late, and hence the reason for the title.

 Juv Willow Warbler

I suppose the most noteworthy sighting of the morning were the first Tree Pipits for the autumn for Fleetwood Bird Observatory in the form of two calling birds heading south. The only other 'vis' was 7 Swallows south and the only other species I noted in my notebook was a calling Whimbrel.

So it was a quiet morning with a few juvs around and I'm hoping that if the weather improves we might be able to have a ringing session at the Swallow roost this evening. 

Thursday 2 August 2012

Ringing Totals to the End of July

As is usual at this time of the month as group secretary for Fylde Ringing Group I update the totals for the year and you can see the totals up until the end of July over on the right. Despite the awful summer weather and corresponding poor, bordering on failure, of a breeding season I'm amazed that we have been able to ring 1,995 birds so far. At this time last year we had ringed 2,332 birds.

I like to think that we all work hard at our ringing in the group, but the reason that the totals are looking reasonable at all is because Ian has been managing to ring a few birds around Fleetwood BO virtually every day. This means he has been able to keep up with what little turnover of birds there has been. Imagine what the totals would have been like if we had just an average breeding season this year. It will make for interesting, if somewhat depressing, reading when all the totals and results are in from the various BTO lead surveys this year e.g. CES, RAS, BBS etc.

So, as normal I have detailed below the top ten 'movers and shakers' with their position in the table last month in brackets:

1. Tree Sparrow - 253 (1st)
2.Blue Tit - 202 (2nd)
3. Goldfinch - 171 (3rd)
4. Swallow - 123 (straight in)
5. Great Tit - 120 (6th)
6. Chaffinch - 114 (4th)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 111 (5th)
8. Meadow Pipit - 68 (7th)
9. Blackbird - 58 (8th)
10. Greenfinch - 52 (straight in)

As you will see we have two species that have come straight into the top ten in the form of Swallow and Greenfinch. The Swallows are the result of a roost forming at the obs and the Greenfinch a result of some post-juvenile dispersal.

Dunnock and Turnstone have slipped out of the top ten, but may make a come-back later in teh year as they are just 'bubbling under'. Other species looking to break in to the top ten (totals in brackets) include Wren (42), Robin (45), Sedge Warbler (41), Reed Warbler (49) and Willow Warbler (42).

As most of my ringing is about Swallows at the moment I have included a cracking picture below taken by Bob Bushell (