Wednesday 31 October 2012

Return Of The Man With The Green Bucket

I made my second seed 'drop-off' at my feeding station on the Moss this afternoon and the plan was to have a walk round after I had put the food out. Unfortunately the forecasted rain front was just arriving and a wander over the open moss in the strong SSW wind and accompanying rain wasn't appealing!

The Tree Sparrows have found the food and there were 31 at the feeding station this afternoon with a few Chaffinches. Ten Fieldfares accompanied by a single Redwing and two Blackbirds flew off as I walked along the Hawthorn hedge running the length of the track.

Out in the flooded field to the south of the feeding station were 190 Lapwings and 80 Teal, which is quite a good count for the site. Lunch beckoned and I walked back to my car to eat my sandwiches listening to the 'World At One' before heading home to do some work.

Saturday 27 October 2012

The Terrys Are Back

It was cold in the northerly wind this morning looking over Morecambe Bay and to be honest there was little moving on the sea. Nineteen Cormorants headed west after the rising tide had flushed them off their roost and seven Auk sp. headed east into the Bay. Even wildfowl were thin on the ground with just a handful of Common Scoters and Eiders.

The only unusual sighting on, or should I say in, the sea was the guy below who went in for a dip. I was cold enough to start with, but felt even colder after watching him wade into the surf!

 That looks cold!

Waders were fairly thin on the ground too and all I had were 120 Oystercatchers, five Turnstones, five Redshanks, a Grey Plover, a Ringed Plover. two Curlews and 26 Sanderling.


The only vis I had was a single Grey Wagtail west and 90 Jackdaws heading northeast into the wind.

Before I looked on the sea this morning I'd put some food out for the Turnstones in the half-light and when I went back to have a look there were about 20 'Terrys' feeding on the seed. We have a colour marking project registered with the International Wader Study Group and over the winter we will hopefully be catching the Turnstones and fitting leg flags to them as part of the project.

The aims of the project are to:

- generate some information on wintering sites and distribution of wintering Turnstones in the northwest of
   England or further afield
- attempt to find out what the turnover of the birds wintering at the site is; where are they coming from to
   roost/forage at the site
- measure winter site fidelity and implications of disturbance if they show high winter site fidelity
- generate re-sightings to look at migration routes
- try to ascertain whether there are any relationships between wintering areas and breeding areas
- possibly measure phenology if we can catch them over a number years

Last winter we carried out a bit of a pilot study mainly to see if we could catch them and we managed to ring 50. The aim is to try and mark 100 per year for five years, but I would be very happy indeed if we could do just 50 per year! I am just waiting for the leg flags to come through that are being made for us and then we can make a start. I think it has the makings of a great project.

The 20 Turnstones feeding on the food that I had put out were just part of a larger group of 160 comprised of two flocks of 80. One group of 80 were roosting with 51 Redshanks on the south side of the island where it was sheltered from the northerly wind and also in full sun.


 Redshanks and Turnstones

I then had a look at the Mount as I knew it would be sheltered and I was hoping for a few passerines. I came across a flock of about 15 Long-tailed Tits and amongst them were two Goldcrests, a Coal Tit and several Blue and Great Tits. Chaffinches fed in the tops of Sycamores and were accompanied by a calling Brambling.

The forecast is looking a bit grim for tomorrow with 20-25 mph westerly winds and rain. It might be worth a look on the sea in the morning, but I doubt it will be fit for anything else.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Post Script to 'That Feeling'

I mentioned yesterday about a large arrival of migrants at Spurn Bird Observatory. For the full details, and they are very spectacular, have a look HERE. Enjoy!

Monday 22 October 2012

That Feeling

It was one of those mornings this morning that felt that there should be a few birds around. As I went to bed last night the sky was clear with an easterly wind and at first light this morning there was full cloud cover with a light northeasterly wind and occasional light drizzle. I didn't have long to spare before I was chaining myself to my desk so I just checked a couple of sites within the obs recording area.

In the cemetery a Coal Tit, four Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff was all I could muster. There was some vis in the form of Meadow Pipits, Chaffinches and Redpolls. I then headed to The Mount and had a further two Coal Tits, three Goldcrests and another Chiffchaff. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go anywhere else and reluctantly headed home.

News has been coming in during the day of a huge fall at Spurn Bird Observatory with counts of 10,000 Redwings, 5,000 Fieldfares and 2,000 Bramblings! Let's hope that some of them find their way over to us in here in the west.

Hopefully coming soon to a ringing site near us:




Sunday 21 October 2012

Still Green

Huw and I ventured forth to the obs this morning and just before first light there was quite a dense fog and we thought that would put the mockers on any passage. However, as the sun got up the fog cleared leaving clear skies and virtually calm conditions.

A few birds were on vis this morning including two Redwings, 128 Meadow Pipits, two Song Thrushes, four Alba Wags, four Chaffinches, six Siskins, 46 Greenfinches, 133 Jackdaws, eight Carrion Crows, a Brambling, a Reed Bunting, a Grey Wagtail and four Skylarks.

Grounded birds were restricted to four Long-tailed Tits, a Song Thrush, a Short-eared Owl, a Goldcrest, seven Blackbirds and a Jay. The 'Shortie' spent part of the morning hunting over the fields that are usually cut for haylage, but haven't this year, so are probably full of small mammals.

The only raptors we had this morning were a single Kestrel and two Sparrowhawks. Pink-footed Geese numbers steadily built up during the morning and at least 520 dropped in to feed on farm fields across the road. 

From a ringing perspective we still very much 'green' because we had another good catch of Greenfinches. We ringed 45 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 4
Goldcrest - 1
Meadow Pipit - 8
Greenfinch - 31
Blue Tit - 1
Robin - (1)
Dunnock - (1)

It's remaining easterly into next week so I will make sure that I get out birding for a morning or three!

Saturday 20 October 2012

Where Did The Week Go?

I can't believe it's been a week since I was last ringing at the obs! Unfortunately I've been busy with work this week and it has meant time working rather than time birding! At the obs this morning I had a bit of a disastrous start when my head torch packed up, so it was a case of erecting nets by touch!

I had full cloud cover this morning with a stiffish southeasterly breeze. First up was a Fieldfare calling in the darkness, but that would be it in terms of Thrushes on the move for me. In fact the vis was particularly slowly, probably due to the dark mass of black cloud to the north that would have been sitting over Morecambe Bay and the south Lakes. What I did have on vis were three Chaffinches, two Alba Wags, 48 Greenfinches, a Coal Tit, three Grey Wagtails, two Reed Buntings, a Redpoll sp., 40 Jackdaws, five Swallows and ten Meadow Pipits.

 Coal Tit

The only birds that I could consider grounded were a Coal Tit, 12 Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. I ringed 25 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 3 (two were continental males)
Greenfinch - 8
Long-tailed Tit - 11 (1)
Song Thrush - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Robin - 1
Great Tit - (1)

 Long-tailed Tit

I was working in the uplands yesterday on the Lancashire and North Yorkshire border and it was quiet, birdwise as expected at this time of year, on the particular area of moorland I was surveying. I did have good numbers of Red Grouse and had 50 in total. On a largish wet flush as I walked round it trying to find a place to cross I flushed 122 Snipe and when I stopped for a coffee in the afternoon a party of three Stonechats moved through and then silence descended again.

 Looking towards North Yorkshire from God's Own County!

The forecast is looking okay for the morning so I'll have another try ringing and birding at the obs. The easterlies are continuing into next week, but typically I have a lot of work on, but I'll see if I can squeeze a few mornings birding in!

Sunday 14 October 2012

And Still They Come

Huw and I worked the southern part of the obs this morning and as we put the nets up in the semi-darkness there was a 5 mph ESE wind with 7 oktas cloud cover.

Redwings were calling in the darkness, but none of them could be lured down by MP3. A few Redwings, namely eight, would feature in the vis this morning and in addition to the Redwings we had five Alba Wags, 63 Meadow Pipits, 98 Greenfinch, two Reed Buntings, four Chaffinch, four Grey Wagtails, 302 Jackdaws, eight Carrion Crows, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, five Skylarks and a Rock Pipit.

We managed to ring 63 birds and this included yet more Greenfinch. We processed the following new birds (recaptures in brackets):

Wren - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 2
Greenfinch - 42 (1)
Reed Bunting - 1
Meadow Pipit - 7
Song Thrush - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 6
Dunnock - 1
Blue Tit - 1

 Meadow Pipit

There was no evidence of any grounded migrants as such and the male Stonechat we had could have been the bird from earlier in the week. The wind is swinging to the southwest in the morning, although remaining light, there could be some rain around so I might sneak a couple of hours birding in before a day's report writing!

Saturday 13 October 2012

Buff Tip Moth Caterpillars

For a while now I have been following the fortunes of some fairly numerous caterpillars on the Willows in my garden. Some weeks ago I wrongly identified them as Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars when in fact I have since found out they are the caterpillars of the Buff Tip moth. Below is a picture of how they looked a few weeks ago. Initially they feed in groups by day and night, and later singly.

At the moment they are a good 4-5 cm long and are dropping off the Willows one by one and heading across the garden looking for a location to pupate. I'll look forward to a decent catch off Buff Tips in my trap next summer! Below is how they look now and this is a photograph of an individual that I took on Gail's hand that was heading out across the garden in search of a pupation site.

The forecast is looking as though it should be mainly clear over night, although there is still the chance of a shower or two along the coast, with the wind starting SE at 0600, becoming E by 1000 and NE by 1200. That's the forecast on the BBC, but rather confusingly XC shows it being W - NW. Ah well, I'll just have to get up, take a look and decide whether to bird or ring, or both. Whichever it is I will be at the obs.

Aborted Ringing Session

I was looking forward to this weekend and also early next week as the forecast was giving light winds and easterlies and it looked perfect for three days of migration monitoring at the obs. It wasn't to be this morning! After listening to the rain on the conservatory roof for several hours in the night (that's the problem of living in a bungalow with a bedroom in the next room to the conservatory!) I got up at 5.15 a.m. and decided to call the ringing off then and let Dave and Huw know as they were travelling a lot further than me.

I've just looked at the forecast again and this rain could linger overnight along the coast of Lancashire. Typical! I will check again this evening and check several forecasts in triplicate before making a decision on tomorrow.

I spent a blustery morning yesterday on a clients farm in Bowland having a look at the grassland of various fields being managed for biodiversity, in this case waders and botanical diversity, to see if the sward height and structure aimed for had been achieved. Below you will find a selection of photographs taken as I walked round.

Ridge and Furrow

Upland stream in full flow

The fells bordering the farm and the Belted Galloways doing their stuff and 
opening up the sward

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Green Day

This isn't a reference to that pretty awful American pseudo punk band (give me the Damned, Clash, Stranglers, Cure etc any day), but to the number of Greenfinches that I ringed at the southern end of the obs today. Following on from Sunday it was another morning conducive to operating mist nets with calm conditions and clear skies at dawn. It was obvious it wasn't going to be a morning for grounded migrants, but rather what I could pull down with MP3s.

 Another Greenfinch

After two days of good vis conditions it wasn't a surprise that the vis was a little thin today and included 82 Meadow Pipits, 125 Greenfinch, three Chaffinch, ten Alba Wags, 1,135 Pink-footed Geese, two Grey Wags, two Siskins, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Goldfinch.

As I said before it wasn't a morning for grounded migrants and the only birds that I could say that were truly grounded were a male Stonechat, a Coal Tit and a Reed Bunting.

The main feature of the morning, and the bit that kept me really busy, was the ringing and I processed 64 new birds as follows:

Greenfinch - 53
Goldfinch - 2
Blue Tit - 1
Robin - 1
Meadow Pipit - 4
Great Tit - 2
Dunnock - 1

The Greenfinch really are a mystery. If I didn't have an MP3 playing I would see very few on vis, but as soon as I put the MP3 with their song on they drop from the skies! I can only conclude that they are flying over but at a height beyond the range of our eyes and hearing.

The wind is going to be ESE for the next couple of days and pick up a bit. I will probably struggle to get out tomorrow as I have a meeting to attend in the morning and then for the rest of the week I have some surveying to do. So it might be weekend before I am back at the obs.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Foggy Finches

This morning Dave and I were at one of the ringing sites within the obs and during the morning the fog rolled in, rolled out, rolled in and rolled out again! At first light the temperature was a cool 2 degrees and it was calm with clear skies. As I took the poles off my roof rack in the darkness a Barn Owl flew over.

The erratic nature of the fog/mist acted like a tap in turning the vis on and off! However, from a ringing perspective we were quite busy and processed 42 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 2
Sparrowhawk - 1 male
Greenfinch - 27
Meadow Pipit - 10
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - (1)
Robin - (1)


As is usual for this site we pulled all the Greenfinch down with an MP3 lure and without that I doubt we would have recorded any on vis. Talking of vis it included three Reed Buntings, 191 Meadow Pipits, two Redpoll sp., 12 Alba Wags, a Song Thrush, 106 Greenfinch, six Chaffinch, four Grey Wagtails, 508 Pink-footed Geese, two Siskins, three Skylarks and eight Swallows. These totals were very much an absolute minimum as for large periods of time we were busy ringing and it was hard to record vis at the same time.


There were no grounded migrants this morning other than perhaps the two Blue Tits ringed and a party of at least six Long-tailed Tits that moved through.

From Monday to Thursday next week the wind is going to be from the east so it will be interesting to see what arrives in terms of finches and thrushes.

Saturday 6 October 2012

Bonxie Saves the Day

It was one of those mornings, again, where it never really got going and to blame, again, was the murk to the north 'locking down' Morecambe Bay and preventing any substantial vis. At first light the wind was a fairly keen northerly that veered quickly to the northwest with relatively clear skies.

As stated above the vis was slow this morning and included four Grey Wagtails, 26 Chaffinch, five Alba Wags, a Greenfinch, five Mistle Thrushes, five Goldfinch, seven Meadow Pipits, three Whooper Swans (the first for the obs for the autumn) and nine Carrion Crows.

There were a few grounded migrants around this morning in the form of two Blue Tits (that dropped in a la Falsterbo and then 'irrupted' and headed south), a Great Spotted Woodpecker, five Jays, seven Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.

Whilst parked on our hillock trying to keep an eye on our nets below, skywards and out to sea, Ian picked up a Bonxie chasing a Herring Gull along the shore that brightened up our morning! The ringing was slow with a Goldcrest, a Wren and two Chaffinch ringed.

The wind is swinging round northeasterly tonight as high pressure builds over us, so surely this should bring our first Redwings in. I'll be having a listen this evening as I head out to my 'beer fridge' in the garage during the evening for the occasional beer!

Friday 5 October 2012

Wandering Youngsters

We received some details from the BTO today of recoveries connected to the obs. Two in particular involved wandering youngsters and were quite interesting. The Google Earth image below shows the direction of movement of a Kestrel, from the obs to South Walney and a Swallow from Wrexham to the obs.

The Kestrel was ringed from a brood of three on 19th June 2011 and was using a natural nest site, perhaps an old crows nest. This bird was found dead at South Walney on 28th January 2012 and was reported as being found freshly dead. Unless the bird travelled around Morecambe Bay it is likely that the bird headed 19 km northwest and flew straight across the bay to spend the winter in the South Walney area. On a clear day South Walney is clearly visible from Fleetwood and I have seen young Kestrels before head out across the bay, but they usually turn back. 

This might well have been the bird as it was one of the brood of three ringed 
that day

It is well known that Swallows will disperse over a wide area and in all directions after fledging before they commence their journey south to Africa. This Swallow was ringed as a chick at Gesford, Wrexham as part of a brood of five on 19th June 2012. We then caught it with other Swallows roosting on 30th July 2012, 93 km to the north of where it was hatched.

The weather isn't looking too bad for weekend and fingers crossed I'll get out ringing at the obs on both days. Sunday looks like the better day in terms of arriving autumn migrants as the wind veers NNE and then ESE; perhaps I'll get my first Redwings of the autumn.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Seeing Red

Ian and I were out at the obs at first light this morning putting up some mist nets in the 5 - 10 mph easterly wind, with only 1 okta of cloud cover. Looking north and east across the bay we could see that Heysham was 'locked' out with murk and this would affect the direction of movement of vis later in the morning.

We ringed only five birds and it was nearly all red in the form of four Robins and a Blackbird. There were 11 Blackbirds around this morning and the bird we trapped certainly didn't look like a continental bird. Other grounded migrants included two Chiffchaffs, a Jay and a Goldcrest.


The vis was a little slow in getting started this morning and when it did it was a little to the west of us and moving north to south across the bay avoiding the murk. Birds leaving Walney would have had a clear view of the Fleetwood coastline on the other side. The vis included eight Swallows, 85 Meadow Pipits, eight Goldfinch, ten Alba Wags, six Grey Wagtails, five Greenfinch, 61 Pink-footed Geese, two Mistle Trushes, 31 Linnets, three Magpies and three Skylarks.

The wind is going southerly and then veering westerly overnight, with some heavy ran coming in from the Irish Sea. In the morning it will be quite a stiff westerly and as I am going to a beer festival this evening I might just give birding a miss in the morning!

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Little Change

Over to the right I have updated the totals for the year so far for Fylde Ringing Group. September was a poor month for us because of restricted opportunities due to the wet weather. Even our two full time ringers Ian and Phil struggled to get out! We ringed a total of 250 birds in September bringing our totals for the year to 2,705 which is 847 down on this time last year.

We added two new species for the year in the form of Blyth's Reed Warbler and single Treecreeper. Below you will find the top ten movers and shakers that haven't done much moving or shaking:

1. Swallow - 317 (same position)
2. Tree Sparrow - 258 (down from 2nd)
3. Chaffinch - 245 (down from 5th)
4. Blue Tit - 218 (down from 3rd)
5. Goldfinch - 200 (down from 4th)
6. Great Tit - 131 (same position)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 115 (same position)
8.=  Reed Warbler - 92 (up from 9th)
       Willow Warbler - 92 (same position)
10. Meadow Pipit - 83 (same position)

 Blyth's Reed Warbler

The only species to be knocked out of the top ten is Whitethroat and those species just bubbling under include Wren (62), Robin (67), Blackbird (71), Whitethroat (71) and Greenfinch (64).

Let's hope we get some settled easterly weather in October, although it hasn't got off to a good start!