Sunday 31 March 2013

Wheatears At Last

You will note that I used the plural Wheatears in my blog title today as I had two male Wheatears this morning at the obs which were my first for the spring. It was another cold morning with a ground frost and a penetrating easterly wind as yesterday.

Birds were on the move as soon as I arrived and I got a phone call from Ian who was at the point to say that huge numbers of Meadow Pipits were moving north further east and he had recorded over a thousand, which is a cracking total. Have a look here later when I have updated the 'obs' blog for the final totals. I had 172 Meadow Pipits, 11 Alba Wagtails, three Siskins, eight Woodpigeons and a Snipe.

Grounded migrants were restricted to the aforementioned Wheatears and nothing else. The sea was quiet too with just three Cormorants, a nice flock of 24 Wigeon, a Great Crested Grebe and two male Eiders. Some Turnstones were feeding on the rocks, but only 46 this morning.

The nice flock of Wigeon, but not a nice photo!

It's still too windy to operate mist nets at the obs, so it will be more birding and recording vis for me in the morning.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Another Frosty Slice Of Spring

It was too breezy for ringing again at the obs this morning which is becoming a bit depressing as we haven't had a ringing session there this spring yet. As I unlocked the gate this morning with a ground frost all around, and a 10 mph biting easterly wind, a Song Thrush sang from the copse. It was a joy to hear although it didn't make me feel any warmer!

The main feature of the morning would be the visible migration and cutting to the chase I had 141 Meadow Pipits, ten Woodpigeons, 12 Linnets, two Grey Wagtails, 14 Alba Wags, 14 Siskins, 500 Knot (south), two White Wagtails, two Goldfinches, a Greenfinch, three Great Tits and three Chaffinches all heading north. 

The sea was very quiet with just nine Cormorants, two male Eiders, a pair of Mallards, two Red-breasted Mergansers and two Red-throated Divers. A flock of 85 Turnstones fed on the rocks before the incoming tide covered them, the rocks that is!

The only grounded migrants I had were eight Coal Tits and a Goldcrest in the cemetery. Non avian signs of spring included frog spawn in the pumping station pond and lots of flowering Lesser Celandine in the cemetery.

 Frog spawn

Lesser Celandine

It looks like more of the same for tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what the vis is like and whether I can get my first Wheatear for the spring. I'll let you know tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Back On The Pavement

Another bitterly cold day in the field today with that 'lazy' easterly wind still biting and there were a number of snow flurries to contend with. I've noticed now that there are very few birds singing compared to how it was before the cold snap. A couple of weeks ago when I first went up on to the pavement there were plenty of birds singing, but this morning it was absolutely 'dead'. I saw three birds today and these were a sinigng Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and a Woodcock, and that was it.

I heard the Met Office saying today that this cold weather would last in to next week and the 30 day forecast was for below average temperatures!

Crikes, watch them Grykes!

 The view from the office today

Monday 25 March 2013

Still Cold

I was surveying farmland habitats in east Lancashire and boy was it cold with that constant 'lazy' easterly wind. In fact based on the weather and the birds I was seeing you would be forgiven for thinking it was the middle of winter and not spring.

At this time of year and in this particular habitat I would have expected to have come across singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff but not today and probably not until next week! The only hint of spring were a flock of 22 grounded Meadow Pipits with a single Grey Wagtail. Nine Redwings gave it that wintry feel and the best bird of the morning was a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. A Sparrowhawk and Little Owl made 'best of the rest'.

I'm back on the pavement tomorrow so I'll be keeping my eye on those grykes whilst trying to keep them skywards as well!

Sunday 24 March 2013

A Lazy Wind

I don't need to tell you how cold it has been this past week in the UK and this morning it was no better with a lazy wind as they say in Norfolk; meaning a wind that goes through you rather than round you!

Because of the weather I didn't set my alarm this morning and it was about quarter past seven when I arrived at the Tower to have a look on the sea and found Ian virtually frozen to the spot! I stuck it our for about an hour and a half, and was impressed that I had lasted that long due to the painfully cold easterly wind and a lack of birds. During this time all I could muster of noteish was 16 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Curlew east, 17 Common Scoters and six Red-throated Divers east.

It's amazing how different it was this last time last year; plenty of migrants through and I had even run my moth trap several times, but not this year. I decided to count up how many grounded and visible migrants I recorded at the obs in March last year and how many I had recorded up until now this year. You will see the results below and I think they speak for themselves!

Unfortunately a quick look at the forecast for the week ahead shows another week of very cold weather. Mind you, when it that wind does swing round anywhere from the west to the south there will be a rush of migrants. I hope it happens soon!

Alba Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
Reed Bunting
Meadow Pipit
Lesser Redpoll
Snow Bunting
Ring Ouzel

Wednesday 20 March 2013

On The Pavement

There were Meadow Pipits going over as I loaded my car yesterday morning before heading off to south Cumbria and also as I came out of Booths in Kirkby Lonsdale with a fine selection of real ales, Mipits were heading east up the Lune Valley.

I've got a busy week with work this week, but I shouldn't complain. I am in the middle of surveying an extensive area of limestone pavement in south Cumbria at the moment and that's where I was this morning. The habitats on the pavement vary from open pavement in good condition through to areas of thick scrub leading to woodland.

 The view from my desk at lunchtime

The Mipit movement was obvious over the pavement with birds heading north. I didn't get to the site until mid-morning and the focus of my attention was on the ground as I didn't want a leg dropping down a gryke, so I only recorded 24 birds. Other species encountered on the pavement were a single Grey Wagtail east, a Kestrel, two Siskins north, a calling Green Woodpecker and two Jays.

 Limestone Pavement

I've just made the mistake of looking at the weather forecast to see if we are going to get any ringing done at the obs anytime soon and we're not! I''ll keep looking and hoping.

Monday 18 March 2013

More Work For Her Indoors

I've had about 80 Willow whips sat rooting in a bucket of water for several weeks now, so I decided yesterday morning that I would sacrifice a few hours birding and treat Gail to some tree planting at the obs. I also wanted to trim a couple of the net rides and attach the ropes to another.

One particular net ride has been the focus of tree planting and we probably put at least 40 Willows in here alone, with the remaining 40 distributed between three other net rides. As we were busy planting there was a steady light passage of vis north including Grey Wagtail, Alba Wag and Meadow Pipit. The only other birds of note seen whilst working were two Redwings, a female Sparrowhawk and a number of Pink-footed Geese dropping into the farm fields across the road.

 Gail planting Willows

Planted Willows at net one

I'm not sure how much birding or ringing I'll get done this week, not just because of work commitments but because of the weather. It's going to be a week of strong cold easterlies, but we'll see.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Trying Hard In The Rain

The cloud and rain came in too early last night to produce 'the goods' this morning except perhaps for a few Blackbirds. There was some potential for a few grounded migrants in last night's forecast, depending on the timing, but the timing was all wrong and this morning we ended up with some blocking murk instead.

Nevertheless I hit the coast and checked the obs for grounded migrants in the constant light rain. I slogged around for over an hour with nothing other than 11 Blackbirds, that when combined with counts of Blackbirds at other locations around the obs, perhaps indicated that there had been a light grounding of Thrushes.

I headed to the cemetery to try my luck there, but met Ian who had already walked the cemetery with just a single Goldcrest to report. We decided to cut our losses and headed to a new area of the obs and cut three net rides in a very sheltered location in preparation for some spring mist netting.

It's going to rain tomorrow morning as well, but I will be out again trying hard in the rain!

Thursday 14 March 2013

No Wheatears yet..........

..........but that isn't unexpected given the weather. The forecast for this morning was meant to be a WSW wind and I thought there might be half a chance of a Wheatear with the change of wind direction. Looking south across Liverpool Bay from the obs this morning I could see North Wales, where I know there has been Wheatears over recent days.

It was bitterly cold this morning with a hard frost and a biting ESE wind. No wonder there wasn't any Wheatears! Even though there wasn't any Wheatears the visible migration was quite good and even though I was only out for an hour and a half I had a Grey Wagtail, 34 Alba Wags, 50 Meadow Pipits, four Goldfinches, four Linnets, a Siskin and 34 Curlews all head north.

It was impossible to seawatch as there was a horrendous heat haze making everything other than birds just over the tide line difficult to identify. As the morning progressed the wind veered NE, then to the north and finally NW just as I left. This lead to the 'frosty heat haze' clearing by the time I headed home. All I had on the sea were 47 Cormorants, 24 Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers and an Auk sp.

Yesterday I was surveying some farmland in East Lancashire and although I didn't see many birds it was a pleasant if not cold day to be walking round. What the farm lacked in birds it made up for in archaeology so it was an interesting few hours at work. The few birds that I did record were eight Siskins, two Nuthactches, a Goldcrest, 12 Redwings, six Long-tailed Tits, a Buzzard and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I say Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as I never saw the bird, only heard it drumming from a nice piece of Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland (ASNW). The drumming was quieter and more faster than a 'Great Spot' and it finished abruptly rather than 'fading out' as a Great Spot does. I had heard several Great Spots drumming that morning and as soon as I heard this bird it really stood out.

Below are a couple of views from 'my office' yesterday and the final one a view from 'my desk' as I ate my lunch!

Saturday 9 March 2013

East Versus West

It was difficult to discern the direction of movement on the sea this morning, or it was for some species and for the relatively short time I was watching for. I had a few bird related tasks to carry out this morning that limited my seawatching time to only about an hour and half.

Common Scoters were the main feature of the morning for me and they were mainly heading westwards out of the bay, although some were heading eastwards into the bay. Interestingly they were coming from a long way east in the bay and I wondered whether overnight they had been feeding further into the bay under the cover of darkness or perhaps during the early hours of the morning they had drifted east on the incoming tide and now it was light they were moving west to feed on the outer reaches of the bay. Whatever the reason I had 33 head east (into the bay) and 249 west (out of the bay).

Eiders were a mix of east, west and on the sea and totalled 38 birds. Red-throated Divers were different and they were all moving east, which is the spring migration direction here, and I had eight head into the bay. Red-breasted Mergansers were doing a bit of both and were probably just wintering birds moving around feeding and I had nine in total.


Four Great Crested Grebes put in an appearance and these were all heading west out of the bay. A Shelduck, five Curlews and three Meadow Pipits all east were probably migrants along with the Divers.

Afterwards I headed to one of the ringing areas at the obs to put ropes on the net rides in readiness for the first ringing session, whenever that will be. A quick look on 'XC Weather' for the next seven days shows that the next window of opportunity for ringing will be towards the end of next week, but I must admit I don't pay much attention to forecasts a week ahead as invariably they don't come to fruition.

My last bird related job was to put some feed out at my feeding station. I did a quick 'splash and dash' in the rain and all I recorded of note were 60 Fieldfares heading southeast.

I'll have a look again on the sea tomorrow and see who wins, east or west.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Totals, Tree Sparrows and Turnstones

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of February over on the right. This time last year we had ringed 600 birds, so we are somewhat lagging behind. I can think of various reasons why this might be the case including a poor breeding season in 2012 leading to less birds at the feeding stations over the winter and weather not conducive to 'mist netting' in the early part of the year. Let's hope we have a good Spring so we can catch up.

During Feb we added nine new species to the ringing list that were Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Magpie and House Sparrow. I have listed below the top ten 'movers and shakers' as usual.

1. Chaffinch - 76 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 46 (same position)
3. Brambling - 34 (straight in!)
4. Reed Bunting - 30 (up from 7th)
5. Blue Tit - 19 (down from 4th)
6. Turnstone - 16 (down from 3rd)
7. Tree Sparrow - 15 (down from 4th)
8. Great Tit - 14 (same position)
9. Long-tailed Tit - 12 (straight in)
10. Starling - 9 (4th)

The top five species ringed during the month were as follows:

1. Chaffinch - 33
2. Brambling - 32
3. Goldfinch - 19
4. Long-tailed Tit - 12
5. Blue Tit - 11

The Brambling totals are fantastic and these are a result of Phil's efforts at his feeding station.

I mentioned in a previous posting that I am slowly winding my feeding station down for the winter and I called to feed yesterday and had a Brambling, eight Corn Buntings, a Yellowhammer, 51 Tree Sparrows, six Chaffinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

I called at our Turnstone feeding station this morning to do a feed drop as we might try and leg-flag a few birds next week when the tides are very high. There were only 20 along the side of the lake and just four came in to feed along with the Gulls. One had a leg flag and another was just metal ringed.

It would seem that the first Wheatears arrived yesterday in the UK, but looking at the weather charts for the next few days it could be a day or three before we get any up here. I'll be looking though!

Raptor Peresecution

I was reading a mate's blog Stringer, and under his posting of 4th March 2013 he has written a piece called 'Murdering Scum' and I urge you all to read it. If you feel moved to do so, and I hope you do, then I urge you for a second time to click on the link he has highlighted that takes you to a HM Government e-petition site calling for the licensing of upland grouse moors and gamekeepers and sign the petition. I am not going to repeat anything Gary has said as he puts it across so passionately. If you want you can click here as well to reach the petition site.

Monday 4 March 2013

A Treat For My Lady!

Yesterday morning saw Gail and I carrying out essential maintenance works at my two nest box schemes; one for Pied Flycatchers and the other for Tree Sparrows. And you can see from the picture below that I put Gail to work climbing the ladder and inspecting the boxes!

After we had checked all the Pied Flycatcher boxes I treated Gail to a Wild Boar sausage sandwich and a mug of tea. I know how to treat my lady! Outside the cafe window is a feeding station and there must have been at least 70 Siskins coming in to feed. The two pictures below were taken through a very dirty windy.

Next stop was the Moss to check the Tree Sparrow boxes. I only have 15 boxes here and I only had to replace one of them. Now it's just a case of waiting for a few weeks for some feathered tenants to move in.

Saturday 2 March 2013

A Splash Of Yellow

It was minus four as I headed to my feeding station for a last ringing session of the winter. I will continue to feed throughout March, but my focus will be on monitoring spring migration at the obs instead. Two nets were erected and then I retreated to the ringing station to warm my hands on a cup of coffee.

There was some visible migration this morning, even though it is sometimes hard to detect in land-locked lowland Fylde, and I had 230 Pink-footed Geese, two Grey Wagtails and a Siskin head north with four Shelducks heading east.

I had a few Fieldfares this morning but they headed south in groups of one, 12 and eight; probably moving from feeding area to feeding area. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming from three clumps of woodland and their drumming carried along way on the crisp, still air.

 Great Spotted Woodpecker

It was impossible to say how many Tree Sparrows were coming in as I was busy extracting birds from mist nets and then rinigng and processing them, but my notebook does have a count of 46 birds in it, which is a definite under estimate. The only raptor of the morning was a single Buzzard drifting east with a corvid escort!

The ringing kept me busy with 17 new birds and 17 recaptures, including a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker that managed to spill my blood numerous times!  New birds are as follows with recaptures in brackets:

Song Thrush - 1
Brambling - 1 (1)
Tree Sparrow - 6 (1)
Yellowhammer - 2
Chaffinch - 1
Great Tit - 4 (3)
Blue Tit - 1 (6)
Dunnock - 1
Robin - (1)
Great Spotted Woodpecker - (2)
Goldfinch - (1)
Blackbird - (1)
Coal Tit - (1)



It's a morning of nest box maintenance for me tomorrow, with assistance from my other half Gail; I bet she can't wait!