Monday 30 September 2013

No Pics And Few Birds

I was out again this morning but it was more or less a carbon copy of yesterday with perhaps less vis. I had full cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph ESE wind. I did the same circuit as yesterday but it was very quiet.

Vis included 39 Meadow Pipits, 3 Alba Wagtails, two Skylarks, a Chaffinch and two Grey Wagtails. Grounded migrants were very thin on the ground and all I had were eleven Robins, a Meadow Pipit and two Chiffchaffs. I had a quick look on the Marine Lakes and there were 163 Turnstones roosting.

The forecast is very similar for tomorrow morning with moderate southeasterly winds and full cloud cover. I'll take a look though just in case!

Sunday 29 September 2013

Not For The Want Of Trying

It would seem that Yellow-browed Warblers are everywhere except here! I received a text last night from my mate Gary in Northumberland which read"clear skies here tonight with loads of Yellow-browed Warblers queueing up to leave...Yellow-browed in your nets tomorrow I reckon"! Unfortunately there wasn't a Yellow-browed to be seen around the Obs this morning.

I had clear skies this morning with a 10 - 15 mph ESE wind. With that sort of weather I would normally count 'vis' rather than look for grounded migrants, but as there are so many Yellow-broweds around I decided to look for some grounded migrants in the hope of bumping in to a Yellow-browed or two!

I concentrated on the coastal habitats of the northwest corner of the Obs recording area and did two rounds of suitable places such as the cemetery and the coastal park; once on my own at first light and again a little later on when things had warmed up with Ian. We did really try hard but it was very quiet and the vis stopped quite abruptly after about an hour as well.

I have summed up my sightings for both rounds of all sites. Vis included 155 Pink-footed Geese, a Chaffinch, 72 Meadow Pipits, 18 Swallows, twelve Alba Wags, three Linnets, a Skylark and two Grey Wagtails. Grounded migrants comprised of six Robins, seven Blackbirds, three Alba Wagtails and two Chiffchaffs.

 Pink-footed Geese arriving from across Morecambe Bay

I noticed about 120 Turnstones roosting on a wooden pier on the Marine Lakes and I had a look through them for some of our leg-flagged birds. There were five or six of our birds but all were roosting on the leg with the green scheme marker colour ring on with the leg with the flag on tucked away!

 Roosting Turnstones

In the coastal park there were a number of Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals nectaring on some Ivy and this spectacle is set to get better as more of the Ivy flowers.

Small Tortoiseshell

  Red Admiral

The forecast is for it to remain easterly overnight and picking up to be quite strong. There is also some cloud coming up from the south in the early hours of tomorrow morning, so fingers crossed it might drop some birds 'in'! I'll let you know if it does.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Mainly Mipits

I thought I'd slipped up this morning and missed an opportunity to catch and ring Meadow Pipits at the Obs when I arrived just before 7.00 a.m. and it was calm and Mipits were on the move instantly. However, even though the skies remained clear throughout the morning the wind picked up fairly quickly to a 10-15 mph east-southeasterly.

The 'vis' this morning did mainly consist of Meadow Pipits and I wouldn't have had the count if I hadn't received a phone call from Ian at about 8:00 a.m. I was 'working' the southwest corner of the Obs recording area and Ian the northwest corner. He phoned to ask if I was having many Mipits over and I said a few, and he said have a scan to the east. I did and I could see that large numbers of Mipits were indeed moving south, but further to the east. In fact every scan from south to north revealed anywhere between 15 and 40 birds. Having said that there were birds moving straight overhead and out to sea.

My vis totals were 373 Pink-footed Geese, five Chaffinches, 39 Alba Wags, a Goldfinch, a Greenfinch, two Rock Pipits, seven Skylarks, three Linnets, 89 Swallows, a Grey Wagtail and 1,067 Meadow Pipits! If I had looked east sooner I estimate that I could have added a further 2-300 to that total and when I left at 10:50 a.m. they were still on the move. So I suspect that if I had remained longer perhaps 2-3,000 Mipits could easily have been on the cards!

 Pied Wagtail

Grounded migrants weren't that obvious this morning but did include a Chifchaff, seven Dunnocks, nine Robins, six Wheatears, three Reed Buntings, a Song Thrush, 21 Alba Wags and a Skylark. In addition to the 'Pinkies' on the move a number were arriving from their Wyre Estuary roost to feed on the farm fields and I counted 349 dropping in.


I did have a look on the sea but it was quite late in terms of the tide state and the morning when I arrived at my seawatching point so all I had were 18 Cormorants, a Mute Swan, two Guillemots, two Auk sp., seven Pintails and a Sandwich Tern. It looked a good morning for raptors but all I could muster was a single Kestrel.


It's going to be clear and easterly again tomorrow so more vis will probably be on the cards. It would be nice if some of the Yellow-browed Warblers that are littering the east coast could find their way over here, but I fear it is too clear at the moment, albeit the wind being in the right direction, but we could do with some cloud cover. As always I'll be trying!

 Pink-footed Geese heading south at sea

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Golden Morning

I didn't finish that orchard management plan yesterday so I knocked the idea of any ringing this morning on the head, plus the forecast was for fog so I guessed that the ringing would be unproductive but it did look good for a few grounded migrants I thought. I decided that I would just give it an hour or so this morning and then get back to work, but things didn't quite go to plan!

I knew I wouldn't have time for a full circuit of the Obs so I headed to the coastal park in the hope there would be a few birds in there. As as I walked in I had a Redwing straight away and I thought "hello, there could be a few birds about". Next up was a calling Chiffchaff that had quite a strident call that threw me for a second, but it was indeed a Chiffie. I had Blackcap in the park and that was it other than some Meadow Pipits going over.

What was interesting about the Mipits was the fact that the Bay was shrouded in mist, yet these birds were still coming across the Bay. I can only think that it was clear on the northern side and perhaps a bit further west and they had set off.

The Mipit theme would continue in the cemetery when I had 102 head south in a short time, with three Grey Wagtails, and then they stopped and the fog had thickened again. There were a few grounded migrants in the cemetery including six Robins, three Chiffchaffs, four Goldcrests and two Spotted Flycatchers.

Ian had joined me in the cemetery and we were just chatting at this particular point putting the birding world to rights and we noticed a Spotted Flycatcher 'flycatching'. As we were both watching the Spotted Fly a large greenish/yellow bird with a yellow rump and undulating flight flew from our left towards some Sycamores to our right. It then flew along the front of the Sycamores and disappeared behind them. As my brain was trying to function properly and give me the identification of the bird, Ian shouted Golden 'f*!*ing' Oriole, just as my brain in the short time we saw the bird was giving me the identification. It's funny how the old grey matter works! So there it was a first record for the Obs in the form of a immature/female 'type' Golden Oriole; excellent!

We put the news out and a few other birders arrived but it wasn't seen again. Unfortunately there are a lot of large mature gardens bordering the cemetery and I've lost count over the years of the number of half-decent birds that have 'melted away' into these gardens.

It is remaining easterly right through in to the middle of next week at least which is good news, but unfortunately I'm going to struggle to get out again before Saturday; damn!  

Tuesday 24 September 2013

First Bachelor Finches On The Move

Yesterday morning I decided to do some ringing at the Obs before I settled down for a day in the office and with a light easterly wind and cloudy skies conditions were good for operating mist nets. I would have caught more than I did were it not for a large uncontrolled Labrador dog that damaged one of my nets! I won't go in to detail here as to what I think about certain dog walkers but all I will say is that they aren't very popular here at the Obs!

I ringed 23 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 2
Wren - 1
Robin - 2 (1)
Meadow Pipit - 3
Blue Tit - 4 (1)
Great Tit - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Dunnock - 2
Reed Warbler - 1
Greenfinch - 5

 This Blackbird was moulting from juvenile to adult plumage.

It was the first morning that I noticed Chaffinches on the move. Between net rounds I didn't count many, only four heading south, but they were definitely on the move. Other vis included seven Grey Wagtails, three Alba Wags, 88 Meadow Pipits,  three Skylarks and eleven Greenfinches.


Pink-footed Geese were arriving from their Wyre roost to feed in the farm fields across the road and I had 155 drop in. Grounded migrants were perhaps represented by the Robins, Reed Buntings and Reed Warbler that I ringed, but I detected little else.


If I can crack on and get this orchard management plan finished today I might allow myself some time in the morning for some more migration monitoring. So enough waffle, I need to get on!

 Great Tit

Sunday 22 September 2013

More Of A Mipit Morning

It was a better morning this morning, or at least because of clear skies it was light earlier, and the wind was a bit stronger being a 10 - 15 mph SSW. Too windy again for mist nets so I did my usual circuit of the Obs.

There were no grounded migrants this morning as it was more of a 'vis' morning. There was a distinct lack of Swallows and a slight increase in Meadow Pipits (Mipits). In total heading south I had 65 Meadow Pipits, nine Swallows, six Grey Wagtails, 14 Alba Wags, eight Linnets and a Reed Bunting.

The sea was murky and very quiet with just a Cormorant, 48 Sandwich Terns, two Auk sp., a male Eider and a male Common Scoter.

On the southern sides of the hedges it was warm in the sun and there were a few butterflies about. I had four species that were Small Tortoiseshell, Small Copper, Speckled Wood and Small White.

 Small Tortoiseshell

Small Copper

Speckled Wood

It is forecast for light easterly winds tomorrow so I'll be heading to the Obs to do some ringing and general monitoring of migration. I'll let you know later how I get on.

Saturday 21 September 2013

What Happened To The Daylight?

I got to the Obs for about 6.15 this morning and it was still dark! It was overcast with a light-moderate SE wind but I did expect it to be a little lighter than it was. In fact with the grey dreary skies it was still pretty dark at 7.00 a.m.! It just means that for tomorrow I can set my alarm at least fifteen minutes later; luxury!

It was too windy for operating mist nets this morning so I did my usual circuit. I didn't have anything that I could consider 'grounded' this morning, but there was some 'vis' once it cleared a little. The vis included four Grey Wagtails, ten Alba Wags, 222 Pink-footed Geese, fifty Meadow Pipits, 57 Swallows, 17 House Martins, eight Snipe and four House Sparrows.

I had a look on the sea from my usual sea and vis watch point and it was quiet other than a single Eider, 110 Sandwich Terns, 33 Shelducks, a Wigeon and nine Common Scoters.

I did have a look in the cemetery afterwards to see if my fears were confirmed over a lack of grounded migrants and it was quiet in the cemetery so my fears were indeed confirmed!

It's more of the same for tomorrow with cloudy skies and a stiff southwesterly wind. I'll take a look at the Obs although I don't expect much, but then again it is Autumn and anything can turn up. At the moment the forecast is looking okay for some ringing at the Obs on Monday and Tuesday, so if it remains that way I'll give it a go.

Monday 16 September 2013


My alternative blog title was 'too much northerly........again!', and even though we recorded Leach's this morning there was too much northerly in the westerly making the sea relatively quiet.

 Leach's Petrel

I got to the point for 0615 having been thoroughly sand blasted on the walk from the car park and with the wind being a WNW the only place to watch from was the top of the observation tower and that's where Craig, Ian and Me headed.

I know I've said it on here before but for sea watching in autumn to be productive in Morecambe Bay you need a strong southwesterly wind, backing westerly not a northwesterly wind, backing westerly as it was this morning. I imagine the Merseyside boys will have notched up a fair few Leach's today!

 Leach's Petrel

I watched from 0615 until 1035 and then I gave up and cut my losses and went home to catch up on some report writing for work. We did hook up with two Leach's Petrels with the first one rapidly moving west and the second one lingering long enough to get some record shots.

 Leach's Petrel

The supporting cast consisted of 70 Kittiwakes, 22 Cormorants, 18 Common Scoters, four Pink-footed Geese (my first of the autumn), two Red-throated Divers, a Manx Shearwater, a Fulmar, nine Gannets, 41 Sandwich Terns, a Great Crested Grebe and 81 Arctic Terns.

The strong northwesterly air flow is forecasted to remain until tomorrow at least, but I'm not sure yet what I'll do in the morning. If I get out I'll let you know. 

Sunday 15 September 2013

Gail Force Hirundines

The wind was a 30 mph SSW this morning and that meant that the only thing to do was seawatching. By 0630 I was at the point looking seaward. The Hirundines in my blog title refer to the steady stream of Swallows that battled in a westerly direction in to the teeth of the gale! It was an amazing spectacle watching them attempt to move west and some were getting blown back and into the bay. In total Ian and I had 136 go through which was quite unexpected given the weather conditions.

I didn't see as many waders this morning because of the weather and it wasn't fit to wander up and down the point looking for them and counting them, so I relied on them coming past me and I recorded 59 Oystercatchers, 66 Turnstones (including one of our leg-flagged birds), nine Bar-tailed Godwits, three Dunlin, nine Sanderlings, eleven Ringed Plovers and two Curlews.

I knew it hadn't been blowing long enough for any Leach's, hopefully that will be tomorrow morning, but there was some passage on the sea including 53 Cormorants, 21 Common Scoters, 13 Gannets, 58 Sandwich Terns, two Shelducks, 18 Kittiwakes, two Manx Shearwaters, a Wigeon and two dark morph Arctic Skuas.

As I mentioned before the prospects look better for some proper seawatching tomorrow as the wind is going to be a fairly constant 30 mph westerly, which is a better direction for my seawatching site. I'll be out in the morning so I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Back In The Saddle

It's been seven days since I did any birding, which is probably the longest period of non-birding for me ever! I haven't even done any work related birding this past week either. I have been busy with boring paperwork associated with my business and that combined with some horrible northwesterly winds has meant that I haven't got out. But I am back in the saddle now.

This morning I headed to the coast to have a look on the sea and count any vis or grounded migrants that I might encounter. The wind was NE 10-15 mph with six oktas cloud cover. It was fairly clear looking across the bay but there was a definite heat haze.

 Views across the Bay to the Lakeland Fells (above & below)

There were a number of waders on the beach that were roosting on the highest shingle ridges at first, but then they moved to sandier areas to feed as the tide ran out. In total I had 58 Oystercatchers, 200 Sanderlings, 62 Ringed Plovers, 85 Turnstones, 55 Dunlins and a Knot.

 Dunlins & Sanderling

It was fairly slow on the sea, although I had my first Red-throated Divers of the autumn, and I had 51 Cormorants, 47 Sandwich Terns, five Red-throated Divers, 94 Common Scoters and an Auk sp.

 Common Scoter..........honest!

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the morning was the vis. It started off slow and increased as it warmed up. Most of the Swallows were moving east in to wind, but the Meadow Pipits and Wagtails were coming 'in-off' and heading south. In the following totals I have included the birds that I had over the cemetery a little later on as well; eleven Alba Wags, 98 Meadow Pipits, 77 Swallows, four Grey Wagtails, a Rock Pipit and two Skylarks south.

Grounded migrants were limited to a Goldcrest, two Wheatears and a Sedge Warbler. The only raptors I had this morning were a single Kestrel and immature male Sparrowhawk.

After I left the coast I popped in to the cemetery to see if there were any grounded migrants there and I had five Robins, three Dunnocks and two Goldcrests that I considered to be 'grounded'.

As I type there is a rapid low pressure system approaching us that is likely to give strong SSW winds tomorrow morning, veering to WNW overnight into Monday and still blowy but decreasing on Tuesday. There's a good chance it will bring some seabirds in, including Leach's Petrel perhaps, and at the moment Monday looks the best day as the winds will have been blowing for a sustained period by then. I'll let you know what blows in, if anything!

Saturday 7 September 2013

Ten Out Of Ten For Effort!

What a dismal morning I had this morning. None of the hoped for grounded migrants, but then again the forecast later on yesterday evening didn't look too good for producing 'the goods'. Over night there weren't too many clear slots and this would have prevented any migrants for getting on the move.

However I still set my alarm for 0530 and headed out in to the wet and blustery dawn. The wind was a 15-20 mph ESE and I struggled to find any sites sheltered enough to potentially hold any migrants. My first port of call was a little park on the coast with lots of good cover and usually very sheltered. It has a large bowl of an embankment full of scrub and trees that runs round from the southwest to the southeast but even this wasn't sheltered this morning and consequently there were few birds.

I moved on to some scrub at the northern end of the peninsula right at the mouth of the estuary but as this faced east it was getting a severe blasting making it difficult to see anything. I then headed to a small woodland just inland thinking that at least it would be sheltered, but the woodland was too large and it still had full leaf cover and again I struggled to find anything. My last ditch attempt was at the cemetery on the coast but as in all my sites I covered this morning the vegetation isn't sheltered from an easterly so again I drew a blank.

So there you have it a big fat zilch and four paragraphs of waffle to fill my blog! Not a mention of a single bird! The forecast is looking better for tomorrow; the wind will be southeasterly and not as windy as this morning with some clear skies. Fingers crossed there will be some birds about!

Friday 6 September 2013

Swallow Tops Both Charts

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals up until the end of August for Fylde Ringing Group. Below is a list of the top five ringed this month followed by the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed in August 2013

1. Swallow - 529
2. Reed Warbler - 22
3. Sedge Warbler - 14
    Whitethroat - 14
5. Dunnock - 11

Top Ten 'Movers and Shakers' for the Year

1. Swallow - 761 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 133 (up from 3rd)
3. Willow Warbler - 132 (down from 2nd)
4. Chaffinch - 119 (same position)
5. Reed Warbler - 103 (up from 9th)
6. Sedge Warbler - 100 (up from 8th)
7. Great Tit - 100 (down from 5th)
8. Blue Tit - 90 (down from 7th)
9. Whitethroat - 83 (straight in)
10. Lesser Redpoll - 79 (same position)

I've just received a text from Ian saying that the cold front moving south in to our area has started to drop a few Wheatears in - interesting! It's going to be unsettled over weekend with quite a stiff easterly air flow, so it will have to be some birding in the rain for me. It is September after all!

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Fogged Off!

When I headed to the obs at 0530 it was very foggy, in fact it was a real 'pea souper'! I had high hopes that as soon as the sun got out of bed it would burn the fog off. However, that wasn't to be and the fog lingered for a good couple of hours. Even though it was foggy there was still quite a stiff SSE breeze, but not enough to plague my nets.

 Foggy Obs!

As the fog began to clear there was some visible migration, although not a great deal as the bay was still 'locked down' with murk, but I did manage to reord four Alba Wags, 15 Meadow Pipits, two Grey Wagtails, eleven Swallows and five Greenfinches all heading south.

There were only a few grounded birds and these were three Whitethroats and a single Willow Warbler. Raptors were represented this morning by a male Sparrowhawk and two Kestrels.

The ringing was slow this morning, as was expected with the weather conditions, and I ringed nine birds as follows:

Dunnock - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Great Tit - 1
Greenfinch - 4

 Meadow Pipit

The forecast is looking interesting over weekend and in to next week, particualrly for east coast birders. However, the easterlies do look quite prolonged so there's a good chance it'll bring some birds over here to the west.

Monday 2 September 2013

It Couldn't Get Much Worse!

I only had limited time this morning to sea watch because of; (a) lots of work to do, and (b) I needed to order tickets for Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull) at 9.00 am on the Planet Rock presale! It was windy over night and the wind had moved to a more promising WSW. It was good news on the Ian Anderson tickets as I am on the front row and bad news on the sea watch because of the visibility. In the end I had ample time because after an hour and a quarter I packed up!

In that hour and a quarter all I had on the murky sea was five Sandwich Terns and a single Manx Shearwater. I think the Manxie was a touch exhausted as it came in very close along the surf and landed on the sea just beyond the breaking waves, not an ideal place to land on the sea.

There was driving rain shower after rain shower running into the Bay and a number of these were driving on shore too, making it particularly unpleasant. So that hoped for Stormie didn't materialise.

The wind is going to decrease throughout the day and it is possible that I might get some ringing done at the obs either tomorrow or more likely on Wednesday.

Sunday 1 September 2013


Steady was the only word I can use to describe the seawatching this morning. It wasn't brilliant but neither was it poor. The wind remained a steady 20 mph west-northwesterly all morning and the squally showers out to sea never made it to shore.

Passage on or over the sea included 47 Cormorants, a Kittiwake, four Common Scoters, 16 Gannets, two Common Terns, 12 Red-breasted Mergansers in one flock and two Fulmars. There was a steady movement of Sandwich Terns in to the bay that were tricky to count and then all of a sudden Ian picked a huge flock over the shingle island and we estimated about two hundred. They had obviously been flying in to the bay and landing on the island on the far side out of site. A raptor or a Skua must have then put them up bringing them in to view.

 Gannet - it's a pity you can't see its head!

After just over two hours I decided to go and count the waders roosting on the beach and I counted eight Curlews, 13 Oystercatchers, 145 Turnstones, 19 Ringed Plovers, 45 Dunlins and 27 Sanderlings.


Surprisingly I did have a grounded migrant this morning in the form of a Stonechat, but there was absolutely no visible migration other than sea birds of course!

It's still going to be fairly windy tomorrow, but after that high pressure is going to be in charge for a couple of days which will get some passerines on the move and hopefully I'll be able to do some ringing at the obs.