Tuesday 31 December 2013

Last post of 2013..........

..........and it's not very exciting either! First choice would have been the Point this morning for a seawatch, but I had to go and feed my Tree Sparrows. The weather was appalling this morning and there was no chance of a walk round. Driving on to the site the Green Sand was on the flood and as I was trying to get some shots of it when a car drove up behind me and I had to move on. It's a single track private lane and there is nowhere to pull over.

I walked down to the feeding station with my bucket of seed, apples and peanuts and there were 162 Tree Sparrows and 17 Chaffinches..

It's forecast for strong southeasterly winds for us tomorrow with rain moving in by 0900. As it will be the start of the New Year I'll make the effort to get out and have a bit of a sea watch.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2014 and let's hope it's a great year for wildlife!

Sunday 29 December 2013

Seagull Hawk

I had a change of plan this morning because I needed to go to my feeding station to feed the ravenous Tree Sparrows and therefore didn't get to the Point to seawatch. It was a glorious morning for a wander on the Moss and I was joined by Gail in the clear sunny skies.

Driving on to the Moss we passed the flood where the Green Sandpiper has been semi-regular and sure enough it was on the flood this  morning. I reversed my car so I could get my camera out of the boot without flushing it as I wanted to take some pictures in the perfect light conditions. However, when I pulled forward again the Green Sand had gone! I did have a bonus though in the form of a calling Chiffchaff from some leylandii.

At the feeding station the number of Tree Sparrows weren't at their peak and all we had were 74 plus six Yellowhammers, eight Chaffinches and four Reed Buntings.

 Reed Bunting

As we headed up the '97 Hedge' two Buzzards flew from the woodland and 61 Pink-footed Geese flew overhead in three small skeins. Two Brown Hares made an appearance and we also had another mammal species in the form of three Roe Deers.

 Pink-footed Geese

 Roe Deer

As we headed towards the plantation I picked up a male Hen Harrier to the east. It was 'hawking' over some permanent pasture alongside a reed fringed ditch. On several occasions it would land in the field before taking flight again. Eventually it shifted gear and belted west across the fields. Unfortunately it was always fairly distant and the two shots below are just record shots. A little point about record shots as mine really are record shots. I read some blogs where the author/photographer will say "below is a record shot of the blah-blah-blah bird" and low and behold is a full frame, pin-sharp shot!

The plantation didn't reveal much other than a Jay and on the walk back to the car we had a family party of eight Whooper Swans that headed south, then east and then back west towards where we first picked them up.

It's forecast to be fairly wet and windy tomorrow morning, but I still might have a look on the sea as there's a morning tide.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Starfish Wreck

I headed to the Point this morning but due to an episode of trying to make a flask of coffee with frozen milk I didn't get there quite as early as Craig and Ian and consequently missed a Bonxie by three minutes!

The wind had dropped from yesterday and this morning it was a steady 20 mph-ish west-southwesterly with about two oktas cloud cover. High tide was at 0645, so it was a case of watching the sea over the falling tide.

It wasn't a bad winter morning's seawatching, but I must admit I did expect a few more Little Gulls and Kittiwakes than the 14 and 17 that I had respectively. Auks numbered just a single Guillemot flying out of the Bay and two Auk sp. flying in to the Bay. I had a respectable nine Great Crested Grebes flying out of the Bay, but only two Red-throated Divers flying in.

One of the most interesting sightings was that of an adult Gannet flying west close inshore that had some dark patches on its belly as if it was slightly oiled. If it wasn't for the fact that I had a full cup of coffee in my hand I might have been able to grab my camera from my rucksack and taken a picture!

Wildfowl were represented by seven Eiders (all male), 30 Teal, a Wigeon, three Red-breasted Mergansers and six Common Scoters (two males and four females). The only waders that I counted were the 46 Oystercatchers, 250 Sanderlings, Grey Plover and ten Turnstones that included one of our leg-flagged birds. A juv. female Merlin flying just over the surf stirred the waders up a bit and Ian informed me that she has been around for a few weeks taking waders! She must have acquired a liking for Sanderling!

After the storms of the past week or so and particularly after the strong winds of yesterday large numbers of Starfish were wrecked as the tide dropped and the Gulls were having a feeding frenzy on them. Mostly they just swallowed them whole and some times washed them in some water first before knocking them back; presumably to provide some lubrication. What was interesting was the fact that there seemed to be more juv. Herring Gulls feeding on the Starfish than adults. The Gull species involved were Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls and Common Gulls. Just directly in front of us were at least 400 Herring Gulls on a relatively small area of shore and looking in the wider area there must have been four or five times as many as this.

 Herring Gulls feeding on Starfish. If you look carefully at the Herring Gull
centre top, you can see it carrying a Starfish.

The forecast is for it to be fairly dry and a touch breezy (too breezy for ringing unfortunately) tomorrow, and as there's a morning tide it'll be some more seawatching for me.

Thursday 26 December 2013

A Few Boxing Day Birds

After a few days cooped up inside it was good to be out this morning even if I had to defrost the car first! I headed to the southern end of the obs recording area that includes the private grounds of a public school that I have permission to walk round to survey birds and other wildlife.

Even though there had only been one night of freezing conditions I got the impression that there had been a frost induced movement of birds this morning. As I set off on my circuit I had two Fieldfares heading south. This was unusual because there just aren't any Fieldfares and Redwings around here at the moment as there are no berries for them to feed on, so these were definitely moving birds.

Then when I was walking along side the reed fringed edge of the old athletics's track I flushed two Snipe. This isn't an area I have recorded Snipe before, so I can only assume they were trying to find somewhere to feed that wasn't too frozen. The final sighting that gave me the impression of some frost induced bird movement was a single Song Thrush feeding in the Japanese Rose behind the sea wall. No frost tomorrow, just more wind and rain!

The rest of my walk was fairly quiet and the sea was quiet too as it was very hazy. Other minor highlights were six Blackbirds, 12 Jackdaws, seven Meadow Pipits, 37 Oystercatchers, 17 Shelducks, a Great Crested Grebe and a Red-breasted Merganser. I hope you didn't get too excited there!

I need to feed the Tree Sparrows tomorrow, but I have the feeling that I'm going to get wet!

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Too Early For Tree Sparrows

Roll on Boxing Day so that I can get out birding properly again; I'm like a caged beast at the moment desperate to escape! With all the family round for a meal tomorrow her indoors is finding me chore after chore preventing me from getting out!

I had a quick visit to my feeding station yesterday but the weather was horrendous and I was there in the half-light just as the Tree Sparrows were arriving so I can't report anything meaningful. I will get to the feeding station tomorrow, but it will be a short visit before everyone descends on our house and eats and drinks us out of house and home! Thankfully it's only once a year and what a miserable old b*stard I am!

See you Boxing Day!

Saturday 21 December 2013

The Return Of The Light

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my blog readers a 'Happy Solstice' and a wonderful New Year. From now on the nights get shorter and the light returns! I for one will be having a few beers this evening to celebrate.

In case you were wondering Tree Sparrow numbers didn't beat the 237 from the other day but were still at a respectable 208, with a supporting cast of five Yellowhammers and 21 Chaffinches. I didn't record anything else as the weather was atrocious with strong winds and near horizontal rain! The forecast doesn't look much better for tomorrow, but if there is an opportunity to get out I'll take it!

Friday 20 December 2013

Mid Winter on the Estuary

It was dry this morning and quite cold so I decided to spend an hour or so on the estuary before returning home to wrap presents!. I had very little as I walked down to the estuary other than a Grey Heron that lifted from the field in front of the pools.

The wind was southwesterly and quite strong, perhaps 25 mph, as I walked across the saltmarsh to my vantage point where I could see up and down the river. Even though high tide wasn't due for another four hours the tide was 'running in' and gently 'lifting' some of the waders and wildfowl.

 Sunrise over the estuary

Lapwings totalled 416 and Golden Plovers 290, and as the tide continued to run in huge numbers of Lapwings were pushed from the far northeastern side of the estuary too far away to count accurately. On the water and mudflats were 566 Teal and 113 Wigeon, and on the saltmarsh fringes 717 Pink-footed Geese. In addition to the Golden Plovers and Lapwings the only other waders that I had in any decent numbers were 200 Dunlins.

 Golden Plovers

Passerines were few and far between with just two Rock Pipits and four Goldfinches encountered on the saltmarsh. I headed back to the embankment and had a look on the pool and widlfowl numbers were restricted to three Goldeneyes, eight Tufted Ducks, three Little Grebes, a Pochard, 17 Coot and two Mute Swans. The only raptor I had this morning was a Kestrel.


I'll be back at my feeding station tomorrow and I wonder if I can better my count of 237 Tree Sparrows from yesterday; I'll be sure to let you know. Only one more day until the return of the sun!

Thursday 19 December 2013

And Still They Come

A quick visit to my feeding station revealed two Buzzards, two Roe Deer, 11 Fieldfares, 237 Tree Sparrows (highest total for the winter so far) and six Yellowhammers. It might be dry in the morning and if so I might be able to have a look on the estuary.

Only two days until the return of the sun!

Wednesday 18 December 2013


I always think the word 'pricked' is a poor, bordering on cold casual, word to use for a bird suffering with a shot gun wound destined to die a slow lingering death from starvation if it isn't finished off by a predator first! At my feeding station today I could see a 'pricked' Pink-footed Goose in the adjacent field that was running along a hedge, flapping it's damaged wings in the futile hope that it might get off the ground.

Now I'm not anti-shooting per se and have friends that shoot, but as in all walks of life there are some 'cowboys' out there that don't do things properly, and when this is applied to shooting some poor creature reaps the consequences and suffers at the hand of some 'cowboy's' incompetence! They shouldn't be taking the shot unless they are 100% confident of killing the bird outright.

Other than the aforementioned pathetic creature it was quiet at the feeding station mainly because it was bucketing it down and blowing a hoolie, and all I had were two Yellowhammers, 53 Tree Sparrows, six Chaffinches and five Blackbirds. Driving home as I crossed the bridge over the estuary I had a Peregrine fly over which raised my deflated spirits after the episode with the 'Pinkie'!  


Tuesday 17 December 2013

They're Not Turnstones!

Craig, Ian and I attempted a last catch of Turnstones for 2013 this morning, but they weren't playing ball. We couldn't even blame dog walkers for flushing them as the disturbance wasn't too bad. It's just a fact that they have become wary of three hairy blokes sat in a car with a whoosh net set up! We will try again in the New Year as it is such an exciting, important and interesting project.

There were probably about 150 Turnstones around with a single Purple Sandpiper.

We didn't draw a complete blank, because instead of Turnstones we ringed fourteen Starlings!


Sunday 15 December 2013

Two Hundred Plus

No real ale last night just that awful Tetley Crapflow, but it was an enjoyable evening, and hence not an early start for me this morning. I had to feed the Tree Sparrows at my feeding station and was pleased and surprised to find that there were 202 there! In addition to the Tree Sparrows were 22 Chaffinches, six Blackbirds and six Yellowhammers.

No birding for me tomorrow, but hopefully I'll have a Turnstone catch to report to you on Tuesday. Only six days now until the return of the Sun!

Saturday 14 December 2013

The Passage Before the Storm

I joined Ian at the Point this morning for a couple of hours seawatching and it wasn't too bad. It was a bright day with a 20 mph southeasterly wind and there was a little bit of passage, mainly east into the Bay. In fact the movement of Red-throated Divers east made it feel more like March and we wondered whether these birds could detect the 'mucky' weather that was due in later today, perhaps by being able to detect some pressure change. Who knows!

The sea yielded 24 Cormorants, a Pintail, 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, six Eiders, an adult Mediterranean Gull, 23 Red-throated Divers (17 east), six Little Gulls, 39 Kittiwakes, 15 Auk sp., four Great Crested Grebes, 12 Common Scoters and two Pink-footed Geese.

Waders on the shore were 73 Oystercatchers, 300 Sanderlings and 19 Ringed Plovers. On my way home I had look on the Marine Lakes and there were 70 Turnstones, eight Red-breasted Mergansers and a pair of Goldeneyes. Hopefully we'll have a catch of Turnstones next week on one of the higher morning tides.



I'm off to a party this evening and depending on whether there is any real ale on offer will depend on how early I am out tomorrow!

Friday 13 December 2013

November's Ringing Totals

As per usual at this time of the month I have updated the group's ringing totals over on the right and you will see that up until the end of November we have ringed 3,200 birds of 62 species. We are 336 down on this time last year which is pretty good considering the awful October we had. Two new species were added for the year and these were Coot and Pied Wagtail. Below I have listed the top five species ringed for the month and the usual top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed in November

1. Reed Bunting - 47
2. Pied Wagtail - 41
3. Great Tit - 41
4. Tree Sparrow - 36
5. Goldfinch - 34

Top Ten Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Swallow - 761 (same position)
2. Chaffinch - 168 (same position)
3. Blue Tit - 166 (up from 6th)
4. Goldfinch - 163 (down from 3rd)
5. Greenfinch - 162 (same position)
6. Willow Warbler - 132 (down from 4th)
7. Great Tit - 131 (same position)
8. Tree Sparrow - 130 (up from 10th)
9. Reed Bunting - 128 (straight in)
10. Reed Warbler - 108 (down from 8th)

I called at my feeding station today but the weather was awful so it was a quick 'splash and dash' and a rainy count of 15 Chaffinches and 73 Tree Sparrows.

There's a tide in the morning so I'll probably have a look on the sea and there's only eight more days until the return of the sun!

Thursday 12 December 2013

Feeding Station Update

I apologise for not posting for a week and that is partly due to not having a great deal to say and I have been busy with work. As per usual I have been going to my feeding station every other day, that's all I seem to do at the moment, and even then I haven't had time for a proper walk round.

I seem to have been timing it recently when there has been low numbers of Tree Sparrows and good numbers of Fieldfares, and recently my highest count of Tree Sparrows has been 63 and Fieldfares 266. Chaffinches have been around the ten mark and over the last couple of visits I've only had a couple of Yellowhammers.

 A distant view of four of the 266 Fieldfares

A couple of days ago I decided to have a walk through the woodland close to my feeding station and it was quiet other than a Treecreeper. However, I was really pleased to see Treecreeper as they are virtually absent from my usual coastal birding locations. below are a couple of views within the woodland.

I'll be back at the feeding station tomorrow morning, so I'll let you know if anything has changed, and hopefully at the weekend a mooch round the obs.

Thursday 5 December 2013

From Moss to Marsh to Moss

On Tuesday I called at my feeding station on the Moss, on my way to measure some hedges to be restored in the Wenning Valley. It would have been a good morning for a good mooch round but I only had half an hour to spare, so I fed the Tree Sparrows and then had a quick walk round a section of the farm I don't normally cover.

At the feeding station were 28 Chaffinches and 164 Tree Sparrows. There has been a number of Thrushes feeding on Hawthorn berries around the feeding station but this morning I only had twelve Redwings, eleven Blackbirds and six Fieldfares. Walking back along the track I had my highest count of Yellowhammers so far for the winter with a total of 15.

Buzzards were fairly numerous this morning as I had four, but I didn't record any other raptors. I headed across the field to a patch of maize sown as game cover and pushed four Song Thrushes and five Grey Partridges out of it. These Grey Partridge seemed very wary (as they should be!) and I don't think they were some of the tame 'released' birds I have been seeing recently.

Driving off the Moss I noted that the Green Sandpiper was back on the flood and two Corn Buntings flew over head.

 Green Sandpiper

Yesterday I spent the morning birding with my good friend George from Northumberland. George had stayed the night with us as he had a meeting over in this part of the world and we sank a few pints of real ale,leading to a later start birding than planned!

We headed Over Wyre to watch the tide come in on the saltmarsh and as it was 9.7 m I knew that it would cover most of the marsh. There were huge numbers of Teal with lesser numbers of Wigeon and Pintail, but we didn't attempt a count at all, instead we just soaked it all in. The only wildfowl we did count were the 400 Shelducks and a party of seven Whooper Swans.

As the tide ran it lifted a number of Meadow Pipits, but at least five Rock Pipits were present as well. Snipe were being pushed out of the creeks and then George spotted a Jack Snipe crouched on the green saltmarsh carpet. The tide came in and flooded underneath it and it still sat tight pushing itself down to try and conceal itself, when in reality is stood out like a sore thumb. The tide eventually lifted it and it flew off giving cracking flight views in the crisp, bright light.

I was back at my mossland feeding station this morning but it was blowing a gale literally and I just 'legged' it down the track and back. All the birds were sitting tight in the hedge because of the strong winds and all I had were 100 Fieldfares, 90 Tree Sparrows, ten Chaffinches, ten Blackbirds and ten Redwings. New in were 2,500 Pink-footed Geese feeding on stubble in the 'big field'.

On my way off site the Green Sandpiper was on the flood again.

Monday 2 December 2013

In case you were wondering..........

..........we didn't manage to catch and ring a single Turnstone this morning! We had a few near misses when the birds came in and we were about to fire the net but they got spooked. It's a very frustrating business this Turnstone ringing and we probably have a 50/50 hit rate in terms of successful catches.

However, we remain undaunted and will return in mid-December to try again on the morning tides. I would like to thank the volunteer from Wyre Borough Council, Peter, who did an excellent job of marshalling dog walkers and interested members of the public!

Sunday 1 December 2013

Feeding the Terries

With an impending Turnstone catch tomorrow I headed to the Lakes to put some extra food out for the Terries. Ian has been doing a sterling job feeding them daily and fingers crossed we should be able to fit some more leg flags tomorrow!  There were about a hundred birds present and amongst them were at least four (there will have been many more) leg-flagged birds and four metal ringed birds without flags. I'll let you know how we get on.


Also on the Lakes were a pair of Goldeneyes and six Red-breatsed Mergansers. I then headed to the Point to have a look on the sea. It was very quiet with just 45 Cormorants, 26 Common Scoters, five Eiders, five Auk sp., two Great Crested Grebes and a Red-throated Diver that flew west close in shore!

Roosting waders included 34 Oystercatchers, 25 Ringed Plovers, six Turnstones and 66 Sanderlings. Twelve Linnets also fed amongst the tidal wrack.

I'd better shoot and get all my gear ready for tomorrow.

Saturday 30 November 2013

Is the Strength of the Ringing Table Proportionate to the Number of Birds Ringed?

The answer to the above question will become clearer as you read on, but Huw already knows the answer!

This morning Huw and I met at the feeding station at first light to undertake a ringing session and the weathermen were true to their word. They forecast that the wind would drop right off over night and they were right. However going to bed at midnight with a strong northwesterly blowing I wasn't so sure!

We had an excellent couple of hours ringing and ringed 38 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blue Tit - 12 (17)
Tree Sparrow - 7
Chaffinch - 5
Fieldfare - 1
Blackbird - 2
Redwing - 3
Great Tit - 5
Yellowhammer - 2
Reed Bunting - 1
Robin - 1



The answer to the question posed in my blog title is 'possibly'! Whilst merrily processing the birds caught after a particular round, when we had caught a decent number, Huw's side of the ringing table collapsed! Now was it because of the sheer weight of birds or was it just one too many ham and pickle sandwiches that Huw had consumed that morning! Perhaps that extra sandwich just tipped Huw's usual svelte like figure over the edge causing the collapse! Actually I think that Huw was unlucky and it could easily have happened to my side of the table! Whatever the reason I now have a table to try and get fixed before Monday's potential catch of Turnstones!

The usual caveat applies regarding the recording of birds whilst trying to ring and operate mist nets and my notebook recorded just 62 Tree Sparrows (probably actually three times this number), a Tawny Owl, 53 Fieldfares, eight Redwings, 14 Chaffinches, 41 Pink-footed Geese, two Buzzards, two Teal, 200 Jackdaws, three Reed Buntings and 30 Lapwings.

There's a decent morning tide tomorrow so I might just have to have a look on the sea at the obs.

Friday 29 November 2013

A Few More Wagtails

Ian and I headed off to the pools late yesterday afternoon to have another ringing session at the Pied Wagtail roost. Pre-roost we ringed three Greenfinches and a Reed Bunting and as the sun started to set we put the MP3s on with Pied Wagtail calls and song. We ringed a respectable 14, bringing the total for three sessions to 41 ringed. It doesn't sound a lot but this is impressive for us since we have only ever ringed 18 full grown Pied Wagtails since the group's formation in 1983! However, we have ringed an additional 76 pulli over the years.

 Pied Wagtail (above & below)

Other birds included two Water Rails at dusk and as we walked back through the reeds in the dark we put a few Snipe up.

I noted that a few Redwings were on the move last night. As Gail and I came out of the main hall at Rossall School, after attending a cracking performance of Narnia, we could here Redwings calling as we walked back to the car.

I've just had a quick look at the forecast and it looks as though we should be able to ring at my farmland bird feeding station tomorrow. Talking of my feeding station I had better pop out and feed the hungry Tree Sparrows! 

Monday 25 November 2013

A Few Waggies

Last Friday Ian managed to tape lure and ring 21 Pied Wagtails as they headed to roost and yesterday (Sunday) evening we headed off to the reedbeds to try it again. There weren't as many Pied Wagtails flying over heading to roost and we suspect this is due to activity at different times of the week on their main feeding areas. We suspect that there is a difference between a Sunday and mid-week days and will return on a mid-week afternoon soon to test our theory.

We ringed six Pied Wagtails plus a Greenfinch and a Reed Bunting. To put these totals in perspective, prior to Ian's catch last Friday the group had previously ringed 18 full grown Pied Wagtails and 76 pullus, so we have more than doubled the all time full grown total in just a couple of sessions!

 Pied Wagtail

I made a quick visit to my feeding station late this afternoon to feed and there were still few birds feeding there even though it was getting on towards dusk, including 98 Tree Sparrows, ten Chaffinches, two Grey Partridges, twenty Fieldfares and three Blackbirds

Saturday 23 November 2013

Green and Yellow

It was a cold start this morning and even here on the west coast of Lancashire there was a frost, and as I headed inland to my feeding station the temperature dropped to a chilly minus three! The skies were clear and it was flat calm, perfect for some mist netting.

As I drove on to the Moss the first bird that I recorded was a Woodcock that flew in front of the car and then over a hedge and away out of sight. As I was putting the nets up there were a few Thrushes around, but not as many as recent days and all I had were 12 Fieldfares, three Blackbirds and two Song Thrushes.

Five Yellowhammers were in the hedge and you will see from the ringing totals below that I managed to ring an adult female. At the feeding station were 20 Chaffinches and 55 Tree Sparrows. This isn't a decrease in Tree Sparrow numbers it's just the fact that it is hard to record everything from a birding perspective when you're ringing and operating mist nets.


 Tree Sparrow

I ringed 18 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Yellowhammer - 1
Tree Sparrow - 4 (1)
Blue Tit - 5 (4)
Chaffinch - 4
Robin - 1 (1)
Great Tit - (1)

 Great Spotted Woodpecker

Blue Tit

A Jay called from the woodland and I had two small flocks of Corn Buntings numbering four and six each.

Driving off the site I caught a glimpse of a wader out of the corner of my eye feeding in an unfrozen flood on some arable land. It was a juvenile Green Sandpiper and I won't go into the whole sorry tale of phoning Ian and asking him to come and take a look at it as I was trying to turn it into something else! I think that's best left forgotten. Below are a few pictures of this confiding Green Sand.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Tree Sparrow Numbers Increase

I don't know whether it's the recent cold weather but I had my highest Tree Sparrow count at the feeding station for the winter when I called to feed this afternoon; they numbered 171! The supporting cast included three Yellowhammers, a Stock Dove, a Reed Bunting, two Grey Partridges, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and twenty Chaffinches.

Another busy day report writing for me tomorrow so all I might be able to report on is moths, but it's going to be cold so I don't hold out much hope for catching many!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

First Snow...........Sort Of!

I made a quick late morning call at my feeding station to drop some seed off and there were quite a few birds there. Chaffinches totalled 21 and Tree Sparrows a respectable 116. The most bizarre sight was eighteen Grey Partridges huddled together on the track. Before you think "wow that's a cracking number" they're birds released by the local game keepers and are extraordinarily tame, so they won't last long!!!

Walking back to the car I had 86 Fieldfares head north along with fifteen Redwings. Six Corn Buntings, 350 Jackdaws, four Yellowhammers and 24 Linnets were 'best of the rest' and certainly worthy of an entry in my note book.

Looking east towards the Bowland Fells I could see that there was a sprinkling of snow on the tops but not down on the lower levels. It's forecast for rain over night and into tomorrow so that snow will have gone by the morning.

 Snow on the Bowland Fells

On my way home I had a look on the river hoping for a Goosander or two but it was completely lifeless. It looked resplendent in the sun, but nevertheless it was birdless!

A birdless but resplendent river!

Sunday 17 November 2013

Murky Morning Mist Netting On The Moss

It rained persistently last night, although only lightly, and I wondered whether Graham, Huw and Me would get out ringing at the feeding station this morning. I shouldn't have worried as we did, but it was a little murky with complete cloud cover.

We ringed twelve birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Tree Sparrow - 5
Blue Tit - 6 (2)
Goldfinch - 1
Chaffinch - (1)
Great Tit - (3)
Coal Tit - (1)


The following is an extract from the ringing computer programme Integrated Population Monitoring Reporter (IPMR) showing the details of a Great Tit that we recaptured this morning. As you can see it was ringed as a 3M, which means it was hatched in the calendar year of ringing and sexed as a male. This means that it would have hatched probably in June 2004, making it nearly 9.5 years old! Interestingly it was caught every year at the feeding station until 2008 (except for 2007) and not since 2008 until today! This is just one of many of the interesting life histories that ringing shows up.

N   R988018   GRETI   3M   30/10/2004
R   R988018   GRETI   3M   22/01/2005
R   R988018   GRETI   4M   30/09/2006
R   R988018   GRETI   4M   05/11/2008
R   R988018   GRETI   4M   17/11/2013

There were a number of Fieldfares and Redwings around this morning and the former totalled 51 birds and the latter 14. A flock of 200 each of Lapwings and Pink-footed Geese went over heading south and west respectively, and raptors were represented by a single Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk. A flock of twelve Corn Buntings was a reasonable total and Tree Sparrows at the feeding station numbered approximately 110 birds.

It is a day of report writing in the office tomorrow for me but I should be able to sneak out for a bit on Tuesday, so watch this place.

Saturday 16 November 2013

A Quiet Patch Walk

It was my first visit to the southern end of the obs recording area for a while and that was reason enough for me wanting to have a walk round there, but I also wanted to remove my guy ropes from the net rides. At first light I had full cloud cover with a 10-15 mph WNW wind.

I set off on my usual walk and Rails would feature in the first few minutes of my walk. I had a group of seven Moorhens feeding out on a grassed area and then I had a sub-patch tick (whatever that is?!) in the form of a calling Water Rail from the main ditch. The bird was close because it was loud, but the ditch is wide, deep and covered in lots of vegetation making viewing into it virtually impossible.

The rest of my walk was very quiet really. The only raptor I had was a Kestrel and I had 235 Pink-footed Geese dropping on to the farm fields. There were 114 Oystercatchers and 21 Curlews on the flooded fields behind the sea wall as the tide was a reasonably high 9 metres.

CurlewS & Oystercatchers

Out on the sea it was quiet and all I had were two Eiders, an Auk sp. and 105 Common Scoters so I didn't linger. I worked my way back through the hedgerows to the car and called it a day. 

Friday 15 November 2013

A Nice Selection Of Common Birds

No time for any 'real' birding this morning, just birding connected to a quick visit to my feeding station and to a farm I was working on in the Wenning Valley. Even so both sites revealed a nice selection of common birds.

At my feeding station I had 22 Chaffinches, 121 Tree Sparrows (highest count of the winter so far), a Yellowhammer and a Fieldfare.

At the farm in the Wenning Valley first up was a Little Egret that was feeding in an improved pasture; I'm not sure what it would find to feed on there! The skies were dominated by two Buzzards and two Ravens, with one of the Ravens vocalising at the Buzzard as it passed by fairly close. In some scrubby woodland were numerous Redwings (didn't get a count) and about 120 Fieldfares with good numbers of Blackbirds and a handful of Song Thrushes.

It will hopefully be a weekend of news from my feeding station as I have to call there tomorrow to feed and up to press again on Sunday as it is looking calm enough for a ringing session. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Silver Ys and Blair's Shoulder-knot

Just two Silver Ys and a Blair's Shoulder-knot in the moth trap this morning.

Silver Y

Tuesday 12 November 2013

October's Ringing Totals

Over on the right I've updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of October. October was a weary month from a ringing perspective as we seemed to have constant winds too strong for operating must nets, or they were when I tried to get out! Now I'm fairly flexible in terms of getting out as I work for myself, but this October was the first October in my thirty years of ringing that I didn't ring a single bird! Fortunately Ian is even more flexible than me work wise and the 225 birds ringed is completely down to him, so well done and thank you Ian!

As usual I have listed below the top five ringed for the month followed by the 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed in October

1. Greenfinch - 68
2. Chaffinch - 28
3. Blue Tit - 25
4. Wren - 17
5. Redwing - 15

Top Ten 'Movers and Shakers' for the Year

1. Swallow - 761 (same position)
2. Chaffinch - 155 (up from 4th)
3. Goldfinch - 142 (down from 2nd)
4. Willow Warbler - 132 (down from 3rd)
5. Greenfinch - 128 (straight in)
6. Blue Tit - 125 (up from 7th)
7. Great Tit - 118 (down from 6th)
8. Reed Warbler - 108 (down from 5th)
9. Sedge Warbler - 100 (down from 7th)
10. Tree Sparrow - 94 (straight in)

My only other news from today is from my feeding station that I called at on my way back from a site visit. I had a Reed Bunting, 92 Tree Sparrows, three Fieldfares, a Buzzard, a Skylark, ten Chaffinches, two Grey Partridges and a Yellowhammer.

I have a day in the office tomorrow so there will be no birding from me, but I am running my moth trap tonight so perhaps I'll have some moth news to report.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Surprise Bramble Finch

The weather men got it right this morning and the ridge of high pressure did the trick causing flat calm conditions and clear skies; perfect for some ringing at the feeding station! As Huw and I set off down the track with the gear we could hear some Whooper Swans calling and the calling got louder and four flew over, fairly high, heading east, and they looked great against the azure sky!

We were fairly busy for the few hours that we were ringing and as a result my notebook is a little devoid of bird sightings other than three Yellowhammers, three Fieldfares and fifteen Lapwings. We ringed 35 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Tree Sparrow - 20 (1)
Blue Tit - 7 (2)
Great Tit - 3
Brambling - 1
Chaffinch - 2 (2)
Coal Tit - 2 


 Tree Sparrow

I was relieved to get a ringing session in at the feeding station and hopefully it won't be long before the next one!

Friday 8 November 2013

On the Moss Again

As you are aware I get to spend a lot of time on the Moss between November and March, basically every other day as I become a slave to my feeding station and today was no exception. I had a site visit through work close by and called in to feed on my way home late morning. Late morning is always best for a count of the Tree Sparrows and there were 105 along with twelve Chaffinches.

If I have time I always like to have a short walk after I have fed and try and vary it if I can. Today instead of heading north along the 97 Hedge I headed south to the rough grassland, along the ditch on the far side of the big field, across to the 97 hedge and back to the car.

It was fairly quiet on my walk, although if you look there is always something to see, and if I hadn't walked this way this morning I wouldn't have recorded the eight Skylarks and twelve Snipes that I put up as I crossed the 'big field'.

A couple of Reed Buntings were along the ditch and as I watched a Buzzard being mobbed by several Corvids a Brown Hare 'shot off' from my feet. I love Brown hares as they are cracking animals and I always submit all my sightings to the Northwest Brown Hare Project. If you live in Lancashire, Greater Manchester or North Merseyside you can too by clicking here

Walking back along the '97 hedge' a couple of Linnets lifted from the margin and moving through the hedge was a flock of eleven Long-tailed Tits. Feeding on the Hawthorn berries were 19 Redwings, a Fieldfare and a Song Thrush. The last bird I recorded before reaching my car was a Stock Dove flying out of Curlew Wood.

The weather is looking a bit grim for tomorrow, but I will be out given half the chance. Sunday actually looks like I'll get some ringing done either at my farmland bird feeding station or at a woodland feeding station in Bowland. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Fat Bird of the Barley

I'm on that cycle now of calling at my feeding station every other day to feed the Tree Sparrows. I called late this morning to feed and it was raining slightly, but not enough to put me off having a walk for half an hour.

At the feeding station were 19 Chaffinches and 94 Tree Sparrows. After I had fed I took a slightly different route and headed straight across the 'big 'field' and north along the eastern boundary ditch to the scrubby corner and back along the '97 hedge'.

As I crossed the big field 77 Pink-footed Geese were arriving high from the east and I put a couple of Snipe up from the peaty field. The scrubby corner was quiet with just three Reed Buntings and I headed little further north on to the 'top fields'. Here I came across my first Corn Bunting flock for the site for the winter and I had a group of 23 that flew across the field calling.

I headed back along the '97 hedge' but it was quiet with just single Linnet, Redwing, Buzzard and Greenfinch. Driving off the site I had a small flock of finches and buntings comprising of about 20 Chaffinches, six Corn Buntings and at least one Yellowhammer. It was time to head home and do some work.

The fat bird of the Barley

Monday 4 November 2013

First Frost

It was a glorious frosty morning this morning and the frost on my car took me by surprise a little. I had an appointment with some hungry Tree Sparrows and I was at my mossland feeding station earlier than normal. My earlier visit meant that not all of the Sparrows had arrived from their roost and I had just 79 birds. As usual there were a few Chaffinches at the feeding station and this morning I counted ten.

I had a walk along the '97 hedge' to the 'top fields' and 287 Pink-footed Geese went over heading north to feed. There were three Reed Buntings in the hedge and when I got to the Birch trees fifteen Linnets lifted from some adjacent stubble. Walking back I recorded four Skylarks, a Snipe, three Yellowhammers and single Jay and Redwing.

 Looking across the 'top fields' towards Bowland

Back home I checked my moth trap but didn't expect much in the frosty conditions so I was surprised to find two Silver Ys, three Angle Shades and a Dark Sword-grass.

 Angle Shades

Silver Y

It's going to be wet tomorrow so a day catching up with work is in order after my excursion to Northumberland last week!

Sunday 3 November 2013

Unseasonal Manxie

With 25 mph westerly winds and a morning tide the only thing to do was to go seawatching and I joined Ian at the Point at first light. It was a little slow to start with but then it picked up mainly in the form of Kittiwake numbers. We had been counting groups of 8, 4, 2, 5 etc when a cargo ship headed into Morecambe Bay stirring up the water in its wake and this drew the Kittiwakes to it and we could see that there were at least 150 of them.

The supporting cast on the sea included 22 Cormorants, two Pintails, three Eiders, six Little Gulls, a Wigeon, five Common Scoters, ten Auk sp., ten Great Crested Grebes and a Red-throated Diver. At 0840 Ian picked up a falcon heading south across the Bay but gaining height at the same time and as it came closer we could see that it was a Peregrine. It then stooped at another bird and we could see that this was a small falcon, in fact it was a Merlin. The 'Peg' stooped at the Merlin a couple of times, but the Merlin was having none of it and had a go back at the Peg and in the end the Peregrine gave up and both birds slowly headed south across the bay towards us, one to the west and the other to the east.

The best bird of the morning came at 0930 when Ian shouted "Shearwater" and there close in was a Manx Shearwater shearing to the west giving as good a view of a Manxie as you ever get off the Point. We thought this would be the latest ever record for Lancashire and a quick look in the 'Birds of Lancashire' shows one record later by a day of 80 off Formby on 4th November 1979. Manxies are distinctly uncommon even in October and I therefore question the validity of this record, particularly the numbers involved!

A nice flock of 150 - 200 Sanderlings was on the shore and Ian managed to photograph two leg flagged birds. It will be interesting to find out where these birds were from as we have recorded a number of leg flagged birds here now and have sighted birds ringed in Greenland, Iceland, Portugal and Mauritania.

A Meadow Pipit west at sea was the only 'vis' and a female Stonechat in the dunes was a bird that has been around for a while.

It's a trip to the feeding station tomorrow for me and the weather is looking good enough for a wander round.

Saturday 2 November 2013

North To Northumberland

I have just got back after spending a few days in Northumberland with my good friend George. George invited me over to talk to Alnwick Wildlife Group, of which he is the Chairman, about the BTO ringing scheme. In fact I would recommend the Alnwick Wildlife Group's blog and you can find it here

On my way up to Northumberland I called at my feeding station for a quick 'splash and dash' and there were eight Chaffinches and 57 Tree Sparrows eagerly waiting to be fed!

On Thursday morning George and I decided to visit a few coastal locations and we started over the border at St Abb's Head where for some time there has been a male Sardinian Warbler. We had brief views of the Sardinian Warbler, but better than that was the spectacular landscape. Fieldfares, Redwings, Starlings, Siskins and Skylarks were continually going over head and Thrushes arriving 'in-off' the North Sea continued all day.

 Sardinian Warbler

The supporting cast to the spectacular scenery at St Abb's included a Raven, two Peregrines, two Chiffchaffs, eight Whooper Swans and a male Blackcap.

 Whooper Swans

We then dropped south of the border back in to Northumberland and on to George's sea watching location of Stag Rocks just north of Bamburgh Castle. The most impressive birds for me was the flock of thirty Purple Sandpipers as on my patch I am lucky to get one or two a year. Large numbers of Turnstones and a flock of 45 Knots were with the 'Purps' and on the sea were six Red-breasted Mergansers, 155 Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver. A fly past Little Egret and an adult Mediterranean Gull were also enjoyable.

Before heading home on Friday we headed to Fenham Flats opposite Holy Island for a couple of hours birding on the incoming tide. There were large numbers of wildfowl that I didn't count including Wigeon in their thousands. We had 350 Barnacle Geese, but could only see three pale-bellied Brent Geese, and the highlight for me was the fifteen Long-tailed Ducks that we had.

This morning I made a quick visit to my feeding station before the rain came in and I was pleased to note that the Tree Sparrow numbers had risen to 120 and at least thirteen Chaffinch were with them. I had a flock of five Whooper Swans and four Grey Partridges flushed from the feeding area when I approached.

 More Whooper Swans

The weather is looking a bit lively for tomorrow morning, but there is a morning tide, so I might just get some sea watching in.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Velvet Morning

It was calm enough to do some ringing at the obs this morning, but yet again the forecast of the previous evening was for it to be a good deal windier than it was! At first light I had complete cloud cover with a light SSW wind.

I did my usual walk around the patch and it was fairly quiet. There were very few grounded migrants around, or at least they weren't obvious (quite a few Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens; but were they migrants?), other than three Song Thrushes that spiralled out of the sky and a single calling Goldcrest in the dunes.

Visible migration was similarly lack lustre with just four Alba Wags, 26 Meadow Pipits, four Chaffinches, twelve Starlings and a Reed Bunting. 'Other' birds included just 14 Pink-footed Geese dropping into the farm fields to feed, a single Kestrel flying the only raptor flag and a flock of 26 Greenfinches in the Japanese Rose patch.

 Pied Wagtail

Out on the sea the best bird was a male Velvet Scoter drifting out on the falling tide. In fact the only other bird I had on the sea other than two Cormorants was a single Guillemot and a 'none bird' in the form of an Atlantic Grey Seal.

I'm not sure yet what to do in the morning as the weather is a bit iffy and being a bit of a 'petrol head' I want to watch the Japanese Moto GP and Indian F1 GP. I'll have to give it some thought and consult the weather Gods! 

Friday 25 October 2013

Tree Sparrow Numbers Increasing

It was pouring down again when I visited my feeding station this morning but just in case there was another goodie lurking I kept my bins with me and didn't leave them in the car. However I can report that I didn't see or should I say hear anything scarce!

It was pleasing to note though, that the Tree Sparrows had increased to 90 and there was also 10 Chaffinches and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker. Other single bird sightings were of a Buzzard and a Snipe.

I should manage a stagger around the obs tomorrow as the forecast rain isn't coming in until the afternoon, but it less clear what's happening to the weather on Sunday or Monday, other than a spot of seawatching might be in order!

Thursday 24 October 2013

An Hour On The Estuary

I gave myself an hour or so off this morning and headed down to the estuary just after it got light. It was a glorious morning with clear skies and a fairly light southeasterly wind. The wind was lighter than forecast and I could have been out ringing this morning, but hey ho that's how it goes some times.

 The Estuary

Walking along the Hawthorn path a number of Chaffinches and Robins were calling and as I looked over the field to my left a Barn Owl was hunting over the rank grassland and reeds. Just as I lifted my bins in dropped to the ground and presumably on to some prey item.

I bumped in to Ian who was ringing in a sheltered spot in the scrub but was surprisingly catching very little which made feel a little better about missing a ringing opportunity this morning. There were a few birds moving over and I thought that on the coast the 'vis' would probably be quite good. Over the estuary heading south and in the short time I was there I had 35 Meadow Pipits, three Goldfinches, a Chaffinch, 28 Skylarks, and two Alba Wags.

I walked across the saltmarsh to get a good view of the estuary and had 40 Redshanks, 162 Lapwings, 31 Curlews, 128 Pink-footed Geese, 194 Teal, 176 Wigeon and two Rock Pipits. I headed over to look on the pool and had a female Sparrowhawk being mobbed by two Carrion Crows, and on the pool the most numerous species was Little Grebe and I had a count of thirteen.


 Pink-footed Geese leaving their estuarine roost

It was now time to head back home and do some work, which was a shame because I could have lingered on the estuary for hours as they are such magical places especially on a day like today.

 Couldn't you just linger here?

Monday 21 October 2013

Feeding Station Surprise

I had no birding planned today as I had to go to the seed merchants, where I purchase my bird seed for the winter for my feeding station, and then at teatime I'm off to Manchester to see prog rock legends Camel in concert! On my way back from the seed merchants I called in at my feeding station to drop off a few of the sacks of seed and to do a feed.

It was pouring with rain as I headed off with my bucket of seed and I was pleased when I found 51 Tree Sparrows, six Chaffinches and a Fieldfare at the feeding station. As I was putting the seed out a mixed party of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits moved along the hedge and then immediately behind me calling away from the hedge was a very vocal Yellow-browed Warbler (how different to the almost silent bird at the obs a couple of weeks ago). I caught a fleeting glimpse of it as it reached the end of the hedge and crossed over to another hedge perpendicular to this one and it headed south along the hedge with the Tits.

Not surprisingly this was a first record for the site and an unexpected bonus on a wet and dreary morning. The only down side was that I made the school boy error and left my bins in the car thinking I wouldn't need them!

Sunday 20 October 2013

The weekend weather Gods..........

..........seemed to conspire against me this weekend leading to no birding yesterday and very little this morning. I attempted to bird my patch twice yesterday but each time I aborted because of heavy rain.

This morning when I got up it was dry but I could see cloud cover developing. By the time I was at the southern bit of the obs it was raining slightly. However, I set off on my walk and tried to make the most of it, but an hour in to my walk the heavens opened and I had to make a hasty retreat. 'Sod's law' dictated that back home the cloud cover would break and the sun would come out and it did!

Back to my wet relatively birdless walk then. At first light a few Fieldfare and Redwings were going over heading south and this was all I had on 'vis' other than four Meadow Pipits, 15 Alba Wagtails, a Reed Bunting, two Greenfinches, a Linnet, two Chaffinches, a Grey Wagtail and some Starlings.

The Starlings were perhaps the most interesting facet of the morning and I had 2,750, made up of five squadrons, come in off the sea and head in an easterly/southeasterly direction. The Pink-footed Geese I had this morning were all heading north and I had 480 in total.

 Pink-footed Geese heading north

By the time I got to my seawatching position, that isn't sheltered at all, the rain was really coming down and I headed back to the car and home.

It's looking  a bit mixed weatherwise for the coming week although the wind is forecast to remain generally from the southeast and it will remain warm. I have got a bit of time this week so I will try and get out on a few mornings. I'll let you know how I get on.