Friday 30 November 2012

Not A Little Owl In Sight!

Earlier this week Craig and I took my good mate from Canada, Nigel, out birding for the day. Nigel's a ringer, warden of Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station and one of the best bird artists around (in my opinion anyway). It was too windy to do any ringing so we went birding instead and the only species Nigel really wanted to see was a Little Owl. Sure I said, I've got three guaranteed sites where we're bound to get one at one of them. From the title you will have guessed that it wasn't to be, not a Little Owl in sight. We even checked a couple of the sites twice!

We headed off Over Wyre starting at my feeding station where we we had 150 Tree Sparrows and then at various spots on our travels we had 325 Whooper Swans, three Little Egrets, two Rock Pipits, 1,500 Lapwings, four Goosanders, three Little Grebes and a hundred Teal. We told a few tall tales about birding and ringing, and generally had a good day.

This morning I went to my feeding station to feed and I am now into the routine of feeding every other day. Just as I had got out of my car eight Fieldfares flew over and then I got some of the best, if not the best, views of a male Hen Harrier I've ever had. Just 15 metres from me a 3CY male 'whipped' over the hedge and floated north towards the wood and then west across the moss. Awesome!

There seemed to be a few Blackbirds around and I had 11 walking down to the feeding area. At the feeding station were 106 Tree Sparrows along with 11 Chaffinch. I then had a walk along the '97 hedge' and had 11 Yellowhammers and ten Reed Buntings.

Over on the eastern corner of the top fields I had an impressive flock of 380 Chaffinch. I couldn't see any Bramblings amongst them but I didn't want to disturb them to try and spot any white rumps and left them alone. As I headed back along the lane I had 600 Woodpigeons feeding in one of the fields and a flock of 11 Corn Buntings flew from the hedge.

No photographs I'm afraid as when I switched my camera on, just before the Harrier appeared, the battery was dead. I think you could call that a school boy error! It is looking cold for weekend with the chance of getting some ringing done on Sunday.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Back In Action

I suppose it could have been a worse week weatherwise to damage the tendons in my shoulder, so I shouldn't complain about not being able to get out too much. No lifting bins or extracting birds from the top panel of a mist net for me this week, instead it's been a week of intense physio. But the good news is that it's virtually mended my shoulder and this morning I was out at my feeding station ringing and extracting birds from the top panel! Oh, and I lifted my bins a time or two too.

It was flat calm this morning at first light with a ground frost and full cloud cover although it was light and hazy. The soundscape as I put my nets up were mewing Buzzards and shouting Jays. Birds started to arrive at the feeding station quite early including 116 Tree Sparrows and 27 Chaffinch.

 Tree Sparrow

Sat at my ringing table between rounds I had five Bramblings, four Fieldfares, a Redpoll, 11 Yellowhammers and three Corn Buntings go over. After Christmas the Yellowhammers should hopefully be coming into the feeding station.

There were good numbers of Woodpigeons around this morning and 2,230 couldn't decide which direction to head in. Some went south, then headed east, came back west and headed north! A few Pink-footed Geese were moving around this morning, but at 447 their numbers were a drop in the ocean compared to the numbers of Wood Pigs.

I ringed 35 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Robin - 1
Chaffinch - 4 (1)
Great Tit - 4 (1)
Tree Sparrow - 7 (1)
Blue Tit - 17 (1)
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1 male
Greenfinch - 1

 Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday 18 November 2012

Wood Pigs

I was due to feed at my feeding station this morning so I found myself mossward bound after a latish start due to a very late evening! It was a glorious morning with virtual clear skies and a light ESE wind.

The most numerous bird on my walk round were Woodpigeons. There seemed to be flock after flock feeding locally or heading east. On my walk I counted 2,815 and later in the morning I bumped into Phil who had estimated that he had seen perhaps 20,000 on his way over. That's a lot of Wood Pigs!


Down at the feeding station numbers of Tree Sparrows had increased to 65 with about ten Chaffinch and a couple of Fieldfares accompanying them. Along the '97 hedge' were 11 Reed Buntings and when I walked back down the 97 hedge later I had a male Brambling.

As I approached the top of the 97 hedge I had three Roe Deers run in front of me and they leaped up onto the top fields. At the far end of the top fields were a further 85 Chaffinch and four Corn Buntings. At this point I had a male Hen Harrier head west being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows.

 Roe Deer

I decided to head across some unharvested wheat to see if there were any finches/buntings feeding in them, but there wasn't. However, they do look good for later in the winter during that 'hungry gap' time of year in Feb - Mar. All I had from the unharvested crops were seven Snipe, six Skylarks, a pair of Grey Partridge and a couple of Brown Hares.

Other than the Hen Harrier raptors were represented by just a single Buzzard and two Kestrels. As I approached the plantation three Whooper Swans flew over and I could hear Siskins calling from the Pine Wood. At this point it was time to head back to the feeding station to collect my seed bucket and head home.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Catch Up

Life's been a bit hectic this past week, mainly due to catching up with work, and the result is a lack of posts on 'The Hairy Birder'! So today I am playing catch up, not that there's a great deal to report.

Earlier in the week I was up on the moorland tops on the border between Lancashire and North Yorkshire again for my sins and although the weather was glorious, and the views stupendous, the birding was a little quiet as you would expect up there at this time of year.

However, what the moorland lacked in numbers of bird species it made up in numbers of Red Grouse and in total I had 69 during my survey. Eight sightings of Raven was nice and a Woodcock flushed from heather was also welcome. Probably the best bird of the day, although I didn't see it, was a calling Lapland Bunting go over that I failed to get on to!

Yesterday, Ian, Richard and I were recceing some Sanderlings roosting on the foreshore in preparation for a cannon netting session in December and before heading out on to the shore I fed the Turnstones at our Terry feeding station. There were at least 180 Turnstones at the feeding station and 400 Sanderlings at the high tide roost.

 A Terry above and some Terries below

This morning I decided to head out to the estuary and marsh for a change and as I walked along the footpath through the scrub there were a few Thrushes including 13 Blackbirds, two Mistle Thrushes, 17 Redwings and two Song Thrushes. There are plenty of berries on the Hawthorns along here, so there should be plenty of food to hold them well into the Winter.

 Mistle Thrush

Two Grey Wagtails went over calling and a Water Rail called from the wetland as a Sparrowhawk flew over. I had a look on the reservoir along the estuary and there were 14 Tufted Ducks, three Goldeneyes, three Little Grebes and eight Coots on it.

Out on the estuary were quite a number of waders and wildfowl including 700 Pink-footed Geese, 111 Wigeon, 1,009 Teal, 228 Lapwings, 18 Knots, 20 Dunlin, a male Red-breasted Merganser and three Shovelers. As I crossed the saltmarsh to view the estuary I put up ten Rock Pipits, but I didn't get the opportunity to look at them on the deck.


My next port of call were the pools where the surrounding area has been infested with dogs and dog walkers. I was trying to take some pictures of some Linnets bathing in a pool on the track when a barking Springer Spaniel came up to me. Had it got within leg range, my right foot would have connected with it and launched it into the air! It's ignorant owner called it off and then walked down the track flushing the Linnets!!!

Anyway, rewinding back to when I arrived as soon as I got out of my car I had a Redwing over and three high Brambling calling and heading south. There must have been a bit of vis this morning. Out on the pools were 35 Coots, 141 Herring Gulls, a Little Grebe, 26 Tufted Ducks, two Pochards and six Mallards. Around the edge of one of the pools close to some of our mist net rides I put up seven Snipe but couldn't walk along our paths into the reeds and scrub because of the high water levels.

A flock of 50 Linnets (the ones I tried to photograph), a Goldfinch, a Greenfinch and two Chaffinches were feeding on some weed seed and dropping down to a large puddle to bathe. As I headed back to the car I had two Rock Pipits over and I unsuccessfully then had a drive round trying to find some Waxwings. There's always tomorrow!

Linnets feeding above and bathing below

Monday 12 November 2012

Wet - Dry - Wet

Gail and I made a quick call at my farmland bird feeding station yesterday morning, although it wasn't meant to be a quick call. Driving there it was raining, then it stopped as we headed off on our walk and then about half way round my regular circuit it started raining again and we had to make a hasty retreat to the car.

We had two flocks of 60 Woodpigeons head east as we walked down the track and 400 Pink-footed Geese flew over heading east. We could hear huge numbers of 'Pink-feet' but couldn't see them.

 Pink-footed Geese

Down at the feeding station were 24 Chaffinches, two Redwings, 49 Tree Sparrows, four Blackbirds, three Reed Buntings and a handful each of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin and Wren. Walking along the '97 hedge' there was no sign of last weeks monster finch flock and Corn Buntings and Yellowhammers were conspicuous by their absence.

 Blue Tit

Just as the rain came in we put up a Jack Snipe and then made our hasty retreat back to the car.

Saturday 10 November 2012


My first job at first light this morning was to feed the Turnstones and then I had another job of removing ropes from some of the net rides at the obs as I prepare to switch ringing operations to my feeding station. I fed the Turnstones and then moved on to the obs to have a wander round before removing the ropes.

It started off fairly cloudy this morning, but this soon decreased to virtually clear skies, but the wind remained a fairly stiff SSW all morning. First up were three Redwings heading east as I got out of my car and walking down the hedge-lined track it was obvious that there were a few Thrushes about as I had 16 Blackbirds and two Song Thrushes.

On the fields were 57 Black-headed Gulls and then out of the corner of my eye I picked up a long-winged bird dropping from the sky. I got my bins on it and it was a Short-eared Owl. It dropped out of sight behind the embankment at the end of the track and when I got to the end of the track it lifted off a fence post and dropped into the field. It then took off again and I squeaked at it, which brought it circling around my head calling vociferously at me!

 Short-eared Owl (honestly!)

As it flew round I picked up a second bird  flying low over the field and I thought I had a third, but it could have been the first bird rapidly wheeling round. By this time Ian had joined me and we enjoyed stonking views of this freshly arrived migrant Shortie. At one point a Carrion Crow continually mobbed it and the Shortie climbed high into the sky with the Crow in attendance. They both got higher and higher, and eventually when they were nothing more than dots the Crow gave up. We thought the Shortie would then drift off after gaining such height, but it held it's wings high over it's body and plummeted earthwards. It would then pull its wings down to slow down and it repeatedly did this until it was back at ground level. Awesome!

 Short-eared Owl

The other facet of this bird was that it was very vocal, something I haven't seen much of with Shorties in the past. I then continued on my rounds and noticed there was a little vis in the form of 20 Chaffinches, Rock Pipit, six Meadwo Pipits and three Siskins all heading south. Have a look later at Fleetwood Bird Observatory for some impressive vis totals elsewhere at the obs for this time of year.

 Meadow Pipit

I wandered through the dunes and found this dead Fox below in some Japanese Rose. Whether it had died of natural causes I don't know. On the flooded fields were 50 Redshanks, 72 Oystercatchers and 11 Curlews.

I had a quick look on the sea and had two Red-throated Divers, 32 Common Scoters and a Great Crested Grebe. On my way back to the car I 'bumped' into the Shortie again and had views of the second bird which was nowhere near as confiding.

 Short-eared Owl - again

A quick look in the cemetery on my way home revealed a late Swallow heading south and a further Rock Pipit over, as well as a flock of a thousand Knot heading west along the shore.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Bachelor Finch

I had an hour spare this morning and needed to feed at my feeding station so I headed inland to the Moss at first light. The forecast was for some light drizzle, but I just managed to get away with it with cloudy skies and a stiffish WSW wind.

I headed down the track with my buckets of seed to the feeding station and it was obvious that the numbers of birds using the feeding station had increased as I found five Yellowhammers, 56 Tree Sparrows and about a dozen Chaffinch on the seed. The apples that I have been putting out had disappeared and there were a few Fieldfares at the feeding station, so perhaps they had been coming down to feed on them.

There were a number of Pink-footed Geese around this morning and it seemed to be a combination of birds being disturbed close by from feeding areas and birds flighting in from their saltmarsh roost that made the numbers up. Wherever they had come from I had 2,512. On the flood Lapwing numbers had decreased to 21 and I didn't have any Teal at all.

 Reduced numbers of Lapwings were on the flood

My plan was to walk along the hedge and margin, as this area can hold quite a few birds, and then on to some woodland to check for Woodcocks. Along the hedge and margin I encountered six Reed Buntings, a further 19 Fieldfares, four Blackbirds, two Redwings, eight Corn Buntings, a Goldcrest and a monster flock of Chaffinch.

I say monster flock, but I suppose compared to the flocks I used to see thirty years ago, this mornings flock of 264 is small beer, but nevertheless quite a number for today. There were some Bramblings amongst them, but I could only find four, but I am sure there were quite a few more.

 Part of the monster flock of Chaffinch

My walk through the woodland revealed an acorn carrying Jay and no Woodcocks. My walk back to the car added a single Buzzard and flock of a thousand Starlings.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Green On Top

It's that time of the month again when I update the ringing totals over on the right for Fylde RG. The only new species ringed in October for the year were four Fieldfares. As usual I have listed below the top ten movers and shakers in terms of numbers ringed.

1. Greenfinch - 348 (straight in)
2. Chaffinch - 318 (up from 3rd)
3. Swallow - 317 (down from 1st)
4. Tree Sparrow - 259 (down from 2nd)
5. Goldfinch - 238 (same position)
6. Blue Tit - 234 (down from 4th)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 144 (same position)
8. Great Tit - 136 (down from 6th)
9. Meadow Pipit - 112 (up from 10th)
10. Blackbird - 105 (straight in)

Knocked out of the top ten are Reed Warbler and Willow Warbler, both with 92 ringed. Just bubbling under are Wren (71), Robin (79), Dunnock (62), Goldcrest (63) and Long-tailed Tit (60).

To give you a flavour of the main species ringed amongst the 664 birds we ringed in October I have listed the top five ringed for October below.

1. Greenfinch - 284
2. Chaffinch - 72
3. Goldfinch - 38
4. Redwing - 36
5. Blackbird - 34
    Long-tailed Tit - 34

How it will pan out for the rest of the year I'm not sure. As usual the weather will play its part, but November can still be a good month for the continued arrival of migrant finches and thrushes. We shall see.