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.