Saturday 29 September 2012

A Draughty Old Morning

After yesterday's excitement of trapping a Blyth's Reed Warbler at the obs (for details see Fleetwood Bird Observatory  later on today) it was business as usual this morning. Ian and I decided to test just how sheltered our net rides behind the mound were and amazingly in a 25 mph southwesterly they were flat calm! We had three nets up and as there was nothing around, not that we expected anything as it was more of an experiment, we only managed to ring two Goldcrests. Six Blackbirds feeding in some grassland could have been new birds in.

The forecast for the foreseeable future is for it to be westerly and like the other week it is going to be neither strong enough for some good sea watching or light enough for searching for migrants. I don't tend to pin my hopes on the forecast and take my birding a day at a time.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Stop, Start, Stop, Start.........

........., that's how the morning went at the obs today. The forecast last night looked good for some vis, but I wasn't sure whether it would produce any grounded migrants as I thought it would be too clear. However, when I got up at 5.30 a.m. it was raining and I thought we were in with a chance of a grounded migrant or two.

Ian and I met at the coastal park at 6.15 a.m. and had to wait a while for it to stop raining before we expectantly put up the mist nets. As the skies lightened we could see that the bay was locked out with murk and it was difficult to see across to the other side. Throughout the morning it would clear and you'd get a glimpse of Walney Island and then it would close in again, clear and you'd get a glimpse of Heysham and then it would close in again! And that's how it went until we packed up four hours later having only ringed four birds in the form of two Goldcrests, a Robin and a Wren.

Just like the visibility the vis came in spurts and was on the low side. From our vantage point we recorded 14 Alba Wagtails, a Redpoll sp., 26 Goldfinch, six Chaffinch, 14 Carrion Crows, 64 Meadow Pipits, four Grey Wagtails, a Greenfinch and 24 Swallows.

Grounded birds were restricted to the aforementioned Goldcrests, a Jay and a Song Thrush.

We're back into a westerly pattern of weather for the next seven days, so it will have to be eyes seaward!

Monday 24 September 2012

It's Wet Out There!

Rather foolishly, or was it optimistically, I went out this morning trying to locate any eastern gems that might have been grounded in the wet weather. After about an hour and a single Goldcrest and Robin I gave up. Unfortunately the rain came in before dark last night and would have blocked any movement of waifs and strays on the blustery easterly wind. It's remaining easterly until Wednesday, so I will be out scouring the obs again over the next couple of mornings.

Interestingly a quick scan of my notebooks for 2006 show that I was birding around the obs on the exact date in an easterly wind and I did have a few grounded migrants in the form of four Pied Flycatchers! I think I prefer to call it optimism.

Talking of migration I am off to see Professor Ian Newton this evening in Lancaster talking about migration, so I am looking forward to that. 

Sunday 23 September 2012

Looking Down

This morning Ian and I tried a new ringing site within the obs recording area, although it is a site that we regularly check for grounded migrants and Ian watches for vis from. The site is a small man made hill that overlooks the sea front, with a park to the rear (south) of the hill, and has commanding views over Morecambe Bay, the peninsula to the south and across the Fylde plain to Bowland.

Looking northwest

Looking northeast

Fairly quickly after we had put the nets up it was fairly obvious that there weren't any, or many, grounded migrants and the vis was a fraction of yesterdays. The clear conditions that lasted all day yesterday would have meant that any birds blocked by recent weather conditions would have moved through and overnight clear skies last night would have cleared any grounded migrants out. Tomorrow is still looking like the day for grounded migrants.

The first bird of the morning was an adult Med. Gull that was flying past with some Black-heads and it was quite a novelty to be looking down on birds when I am used to birding on the coast and looking up! There was a trickle of vis and this included 355 Pink-footed Geese, 13 Swallows, eight Alba Wagtails, seven Goldfinch, 16 Chaffinch, five Grey Wagtails, 13 Meadow Pipits, five Linnets and five Greenfinch.

The best bird we had on vis was a juv Marsh Harrier that Ian picked up as it battled east against the stiff southeasterly wind.

I said that we didn't have many grounded migrants, but we did have a male Goldcrest (the only bird we ringed), 15 Pied Wagtails on the bowling greens and a Chiffchaff and Great Spotted Woodpecker that dropped in. It is possible to watch the sea from this location if you set up a telescope and the only 'offshore' birds we logged were two Red-breasted Mergansers flying into the bay.


As I type Pink-footed Geese are continuing to arrive and I keep dashing into my garden to count them. I am going to keep a close eye on the forecast throughout the day because it could be interesting in the morning!

Saturday 22 September 2012

Icelandic Mipits?

With clear skies and calm conditions some ringing at the obs was on the cards and I headed to the southwest of the recording area at first light to try my luck. It was pretty cold at 0600 and there was quite a ground frost, but luckily only the car roof was frozen and I didn't need to waste time clearing frost from my windscreen before I set off.

I was on my own this morning, as Ian went to another part of the recording area, and I just put up three nets that I hoped would be best for 'tape luring' diurnal migrants. There wasn't too much evidence of grounded migrants this morning other than a few Robins, Dunnocks, a Tree Sparrow and the Reed Warbler that I trapped later in the morning.

The vis got going almost straight away and it was dominated by Meadow Pipits. My totals included 723 Meadow Pipits, six Grey Wagtails, three Woodpigeons, a Linnet, three Sparrowhawks, four Goldfinch, 172 Pink-footed Geese, a Chaffinch, 127 Swallows, 15 Greenfinch, ten Alba Wagtails, five House Martins, three Skylarks, and a Reed Bunting.

I processed a total of 24 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Robin - 2 (1)
Meadow Pipit - 14
Greenfinch - 5
Reed Warbler - 1
Wren - 1


Some of the Meadow Pipits that I trapped were quite long winged, with one individual being very long winged, and I wondered whether they were of Icelandic origin. I had three birds with a wing length of 83 mm, one of 84 mm and one of 88 mm!

The weather synopsis is looking interesting over the next couple of days with some strong easterlies forecast. There has been quite an influx of Yellow-browed Warblers and Red-breasted Flycatchers on the east coast and northern isles and it is likely that some of them will make it over here!

Friday 21 September 2012

Pastures Old

I had a site visit Over Wyre this morning and after that was completed I decided to visit two former birding patches of mine as it 'felt' like a classic autumnal morning (calling Goldcrests, Pinkies flying over etc).

First of all I headed to Fluke Hall, an area of broadleaved woodland on the coast adjacent to the Lune estuary and Morecambe Bay. I had forgotten how hard it was to search for migrants in woodland; there's too much cover! My hat goes off to anyone who regularly birds a site like this. I much prefer my bit of coast with limited amounts of cover, it makes it far easier to find grounded migrants. It was fairly quiet in the woodland with just five Goldcrests and three 'ticking' Robins.

There were a number of Swallows, about 90, feeding over the stubbles of a recently harvested field and in the wetter areas were 20-30 Meadow Pipits. About 500 Pink-footed Geese arrived from the north and headed south, and there was a flock of 260 Lapwings on the foreshore.

 Pink-footed Geese

I then headed to Lane Ends, which was a former active ringing site (less so now) of our group, and had a wander through the now very mature and over-grown broadleaved plantation. Even though it is right on the coast all I could find in this 'jungle' was a single calling Goldrest. The problem with the site as far as a migrant spot goes (we have ringed Yellow-browed Warbler here in the past!) is that it is too far east into Morecambe Bay.

The wind is dropping off tonight as the high pressure builds so at the moment it is looking good for some vis tomorrow and perhaps a few Meadow Pipits ringed at the obs. I'll let you know.

Monday 17 September 2012

Was it worth it...............

...............for six Cormorants and 16 Common Scoters? As the wind was forecast to be WSW 20-25 mph I headed for my reserve sea watching spot at first light due to the state of the tide. I had decided to give it a couple of hours before strapping myself to my desk for the rest of the day. In the end I only gave it just over an hour because in that time all I had seen was the above.

As I was driving home I received a text from Ian to say he had had a Leach's up the coast at the obs! However, when I rang him he said other than the Leach's he had seen b*gger all.

Was it worth it? I would say yes because you just never know! It looks as though we're gong to get more of the same for the rest of this week, but I will try.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Neither Here Nor There

As predicted yesterday the wind caused it to be one of those in between mornings. The wind wasn't strong enough for a decent sea watch (too much north in the west as well) and it was a little too strong for any migration. although there was a smattering of grounded migrants and some 'thin' vis.

I headed for the obs and changed my routine slightly and went straight to my seawatching/vis observation point. As mentioned earlier the sea was 'dead' other than a handful of Common Scoters, Cormorants and the odd Auk sp.

Along the sea wall were three Wheatears and a Goldcrest! That's right a Goldcrest perched on the sea wall. As I walked up to the front I heard a Goldcrest calling from the herb garden and whilst looking at the sea I kept hearing one call and couldn't see it, until it popped up on to the wall!

Walking back through the coastal fields and hedges I had a calling Willow Warbler and the light vis consisted of 11 Meadow Pipits, an Alba Wagtail, four Grey Wagtails and six Goldfinch. I had two Sparrowhawks near the copse and an adult Med. Gull was in the front field with 45 Black-headed Gulls.

As there were a few grounded migrants around I decided to have a look in the cemetery and it was more Goldcrests totalling four individuals. There was some light vis that included ten Greenfinch and single Grey Wagtail.

There's some heavy rain coming in tomorrow, but the timing of it will dictate what happens bird wise. I'll keep you posted.

Herring Gull in the cemetery

Grey Dagger moth caterpillar, taken in my garden last week

Friday 14 September 2012

Leach's For Breakfast

I knew the conditions had the potential of producing a Leach's Petrel or two this morning, but I didn't have a great deal of time available to spend seawatching. I just had about an hour and a half spare this morning from first light so I headed to my reserve seawatching location of the sea front at Cleveleys.

My usual sheltered spot wasn't so sheltered in the 30 mph WNW wind so I was buffeted around a bit as I scanned the sea. First up was a Bonxie, close in, along the surf and not long afterwards a lone Leach's Petrel battled it's way southward. My time ran out as I had another Bonxie yet again giving stonking views as it flew south along the beach.

The wind is easing over night, but not enough to be able to go out ringing tomorrow unfortunately, and not remaining strong enough for more Leach's. It's one of those in between winds that is neither use nor ornament to the birder!

Sunday 9 September 2012

No Two Days The Same

Yesterday Ian and I split up and 'worked' different areas of the obs to try and increase the number of birds ringed. It's a good job we did as neither of us caught very well! At first light I was greeted with full cloud cover with a light southwesterly wind. The weather had been the same throughout the night and was responsible for a lack of grounded birds and very little vis.

The only vis I had was in the form of 12 Meadow Pipits, 31 Swallows, an Alba Wagtail, three Grey Wagtails and five House Martins. I had no grounded migrants and only ringed three Wrens and 2 Greenfinch.


What a difference this morning as the conditions were perfect for a scattering of grounded migrants and classic for some good early autumn visible migration. The wind was southeasterly, perhaps 15 mph, and horizontal visibility was a touch murky.

I always start off by looking through the Gulls that feed on a field close to where I park my car and amongst the 83 Black-headed Gulls, five Herring Gulls, six Lesser black-backed Gulls and four Common Gulls was an adult Med. Gull.

The vis started almost straight away and was all southerly in direction. In total I had 12 Goldfinch, 12 Grey Wagtails, 126 Meadow Pipits, 15 Alba Wags, 175 Swallows, 30 House Martins, two Siskins, a Reed Bunting and a Redpoll sp.

Four Kestrels were hunting the farm fields and I saw one successfully catch a vole. I am assuming these are the birds that we ringed from a nest box in this locality.

Grounded migrants consisted of 10 Wheatears, a Goldcrest and a Willow Warbler. The sea was fairly quiet but I did have my first Pink-footed Geese of the Autumn with 70 heading south into Liverpool Bay. Another autumnal first for me were two summer plumaged Red-throated Divers heading south. In addition to this the sea produced 410 Knot, 12 Gannets, two Auk sp., three Common Scoters, a Grey Plover and a Shelduck.

The forecast for the coming week is for it to be unsettled with westerlies. It is going to be windy, but whether it will be windy enough for a good count of Leach's Petrels I'm not sure.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Swallow Storms up the Charts to Number One

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group for 2012. To date we have ringed 2,455 birds of 62 species and we are only 381 down on last years total at the same time of the year. This is pretty good considering the summer we have had and this is down to the hard work of Ian ringing almost daily at Fleetwood Bird Observatory, Phil and Will's tape luring of Chaffinches in particular out on the Moss and Paul's continued ringing of Tree Sparrow pulli from boxes.

Two new species for the year were added in the form of a Sand Martin ringed at the Swallow roost and four Tree Pipits trapped at the obs and out on the moss.

This months movers and shakers are as follows:

1. Swallow - 317 (up from 4th)
2. Tree Sparrow - 258 (down from 1st)
3. Blue Tit - 217 (down from 2nd)
4. Goldfinch - 179 (down from 3rd)
5. Chaffinch - 150 (up from 6th)
6. Great Tit - 125 (same position)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 113 (down from 5th)
8. Willow Warbler - 89 (straight in)
9. Reed Warbler - 85 (straight in)
10.= Meadow Pipit - 68 (down from 7th)
        Whitethroat - 68 (straight in)


Knocked out of the top ten were Blackbird (66) and Greenfinch (53). Just bubbling under are Wren (55), Dunnock (54), Robin (56) and Sedge Warbler (54).

What will happen in September? I expect Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit to move up the order, but this of course will be weather dependant. We'll have to wait and see. 

Tuesday 4 September 2012

A Brief Late Morning Meander on the Moss

On my way back from a site visit this morning I called at my feeding station to drop some seed off in the feed bin. I haven't started feeding yet, but I am just starting to build up the seed supply in preparation. I had about three quarters of an hour to spare so decided to have a walk round the southern end of the moss.

First up was a juvenile Peregrine chasing a Woodpigeon and there was no chance that the Peregrine was going to catch the Woodpigeon as there was no element of surprise, but I suppose it is all good practise for a juv. bird.

A number of Hirundines were feeding over the Wheat crop and I had 78 Swallows and 17 House Martins. There was very little in the hedge other than a family party of four Reed Buntings and a group of ten Goldfinch flying up from the thistles.

As I walked across a muddy open area I put up 16 Snipe and a single southward bound Meadow Pipit went over. As I walked along the far margin I had a number of Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and a single Silver Y moth. A number of Hoverflies (I think they were hoverflies) were virtually on every Dandelion flower. I have included a picture below in case anybody knows what they are.

 Small Tortoiseshell


As I headed back to my car I picked up two Corn Buntings and two Stock Doves. Not a great deal, but a pleasant interlude nevertheless.

Below are some recent pictures from my garden including the Garden Spider that caught the Migrant Hawker recently, an Eyed Hawkmoth caterpillar and some other caterpillars that look a bit like Small Tortoiseshell to me, but I'm not sure. They were feeding on Willow sp. and I though Small Tort fed on Nettle. Does anybody know what they are please?

Garden Spider

Eyed Hawkmoth caterpillar

Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars?

Saturday 1 September 2012

Winter Wildfowl

I started off at the southwestern end of the obs as usual this morning, as this is closest to home, and 'worked' the fields, hedges, ditches, reeds, dunes and looked on the sea. I had full cloud cover with a 15-20 mph WNW wind. The weather conditions weren't conducive to much migration and the sea was difficult as it was a long way out.

Fairly early on one of the regular Kestrels was hunting the fields and I picked a second bird up calling from a building later on. The only other raptor I had was an immature male Sparrowhawk that shot through as I was looking on the sea.

The only grounded migrants I had this morning were four Wheatears along the sea wall. I tried to get a few shots, as you will see below, but it was windy and the light was poor. That's my excuse for the poor quality anyway!

 You can see how breezy it was

I'm not sure what it was looking at

On the sea I had three Eiders and then I had nine Pintail head north followed by four Teal. I suppose my blog title should have been 'autumn wildfowl' but it didn't have the same alliteration effect! There was a trickle of 'vis' in the form of seven Swallows, a House Martin and a Grey Wagtail.

I didn't see a lot else and decided to check on the Woodpigeons nesting in one of our net rides. I could see that there was at least one well-grown young (the female was incubating 2 eggs) and it would fledge soon meaning we would then be able to get our 60 foot net up the next time we were out ringing here.

I then called at the coastal park and although it was sheltered there was absolutely no migrants. I decided to call it a day and headed home. The forecast is similar for tomorrow, so it is doubtful that I'll get any ringing done but I will be out birding as ever.