Wednesday 31 December 2014

New Year's Eve Nothingness

Before I tell you how awful the birding was this morning and how I saw very little I just wanted to rewind to yesterday. Gail and I spent the day walking in the Silverdale area from Yealand Storrs - Cringlebarrow Woods - Leighton Hall - Leighton Moss - Trowbarrow Local Nature Reserve - Yealand Hall Allotment - Yealand Storrs.

 Overlooking Leighton Hall and the Moss

It was a pleasant day, dry and cold, with some sunny intervals. We didn't see a great deal but it was nice to catch up with birds that are scarce in the Fylde such as Bullfinch, Marsh Tit and Green Woodpecker. Walking along the causeway at Leighton Moss we had several calling Water Rails and then a Bittern showed well as it flew over the causeway and dropped into the fields at the far side of one of the meres. So all in all a pleasant day out.

This morning I headed to the Point to have a look on the sea as high tide was 0745, so I knew it would still be in at first decent birding light at about 0830. The wind was a biting SSE and I had five oktas cloud cover. Ian and I found some shelter in front of the tower and we spent the next hour and a half seeing very little. In fact I'm not sure how we managed to last that long, it must be the birders eternal optimism! All the sea gave up for us was seven Eiders, a Red-breasted Merganser, two Common Scoters and an Auk sp.

The Shore Lark showed very briefly as it flew east along the beach in front of us. We had heard it calling earlier behind us and then to the west of us. The poor bugger has been 'kicked' around so much by birders over the past month that it is now very wary and flighty.

I then made a quick visit to my feeding station to feed the expectant 63 Tree Sparrows that were there. I didn't have a lot else on my flying visit other than a Kestrel, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The forecast for tomorrow is a touch grim with wet and windy weather for most of the day, but if there's an opportunity to get out I'll take it.

I'd like to wish you all a Happy and bird filled New Year, although technically it is the new year already as it started with the return of the sun on the 21st December!

Monday 29 December 2014

Birding In The Morning And Ringing In The Afternoon

It was cold and frosty this morning when I set off for a birding walk around part of the Obs recording area that I regularly cover in spring and autumn, but less so in winter. This is because other parts of the Obs are better in the winter and this area is more suited to migrants.

I didn't see great deal but it was just pleasant to be out in the glorious sunshine. The first birds I had of note were a pair of Stonechats that were attempting to feed in an area of dry reed behind the sea wall. These birds have been present all winter but it's been a while since I have recorded them so it was good to know that they were still here.

Next up was Little Owl, and again it has been a few weeks since I called in this area to check to see if it was in the usual place, and it was. I had a look on the sea but it was quite misty and all I could muster were five Cormorants, five Common Scoters and ten Eiders.

Walking back along the hedgerows with Gorse in flower a Skylark gave a little sub-song. It was flying high on 'fluttering' wings as if it was going to give it's song-flight, but the song it gave was somewhere between a call and a song. It must have been encouraged by the sunny conditions.


I walked back through the copse and found some fungi on a tree stump. I photographed them (see below) and identified them later as Velvet Shank Flammulina velutipes. If anyone knows that they are something else please let me know.

This afternoon Ian and I had a first ringing session at a new site within the Obs recording area which was very successful in terms of the sites potential, but less so purely based on what we ringed this afternoon. The site is private and secure, which is a huge bonus for a ringing site, and it mainly comprises of plantation woodland planted in blocks to screen an industrial site.

We cleared a double net ride (60 - 40 dog leg) and set up a feeding station. The site holds large numbers of roosting Greenfinch, and lesser numbers of Goldfinch and Linnets. The finches roost in some of the evergreen plantings close to the buildings and we have tried to catch them there, but they just drop in to the top of the vegetation completely avoiding our nets.  

We only managed to ring three Greenfinches but we weren't disappointed at all as the site has huge potential once we have sorted out a number of net rides and I think  it will be a good ringing site throughout the year and it has the potential to hold a number of migrants in spring and autumn.


We did see a few bits as we cleared the net rides and explored some of the planted areas including Water Rail, Buzzard, 135 Greenfinches (coming in to roost; probably 400 roosting at least), 70 Woodpigeons (roosting birds), two Sparrowhawks (male & female), 40 Magpies (roosting birds), 15 Goldfinches, two Linnets, Woodcock, Goldcrest and Song Thrush.

It's a day out with her indoors for me tomorrow, so normal birding service will be resumed on New Year's eve.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Last Ringing Session At The Feeding Session For 2014

Huw and I met at the feeding station this morning at a leisurely 0745. Huw was there before me and had Barn Owl come out of the barn as he drove past and Tawny Owl calling in the darkness from the woodland. It was calm with a ground frost, and therefore perfect for ringing.

We ringed 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Chaffinch - 15
Tree Sparrow - 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2
Starling - 5
Dunnock - 1
Blue Tit - 3 (18)
Robin - (1)
Great Tit - (3)

 Blue Tit

Just after first light small parties of Pink-footed Geese were heading south from their roost out in Morecambe Bay to their preferred feeding areas, and 2-300 Woodpigeons left their woodland roost to head to their feeding areas as well.

Raptors were represented by two Buzzards and a Kestrel, but no Sparrowhawk this morning. There was perhaps over a hundred Tree Sparrows at the feeding station and somewhere in the region of half a dozen Yellowhammers.

 Tree Sparrow

A few Thrushes were around this morning with 20 Fieldfares and ten Redwings heading backwards and forwards. Fifteen Corn Buntings on the stubbles were nice as were 18 Shelducks that flew west.

The forecast is good for the next few days so it will be birding at the Obs for me in the morning followed by some ringing in the afternoon.

Thursday 25 December 2014

Goose For Christmas

It was a tale of two halves for me this morning. I had been given a morning pass for birding and I needed to feed my farmland birds and I wanted to have a look at the Geese. My feeding station is twenty minutes from home and the Geese were 25 minutes from the feeding station, but thankfully once at the Geese it is only five minutes back home, perhaps even less.

The first three birds I saw as drove down the track towards the feeding station were raptors; a Kestrel, a male Sparrowhawk that flew low in front of the car and then a calling Buzzard from the woodland. Continuing the theme of 'three' I also had three Brown Hares run down the track just ahead of me; they are fantastic animals!

It was just coming light so the birds were just starting to arrive at the feeding station and these included Great Spotted Woodpecker, five Chaffinches, 28 Tree Sparrows, six Yellowhammers and a Grey Partridge. The food was 'dropped' and I headed on to the Geese fields. On my way out from the feeding station I had two Jays by the side of the lane.

The Pink-footed Geese were on both sides of the road this morning and also they were between parking areas. I looked through the birds on one side of the road first and half of the flock was hard to see due to the low sun. Amongst these birds, perhaps 4-500 Pinkies here (including a neck-collared bird), were the two pale-bellied Brent Geese. I had an idea that the Todd's Canadas were also with this group, but couldn't see them.

Brent Goose

On the other side of the road were 2-300 Pinkies and amongst them were the two Bean Geese.They were quite distant and hard to see and kept vanishing amongst the Pinkies. Interestingly they were split like this yesterday apparently, as in the morning we had the Todd's and Brents in one group of Pinkies and later in the day in another group Ian had the Bean and a White-fronted.

My allotted time was up and I had to return home to exchange presents with the family. There is a chance that it might be fit for some ringing in the morning but a lot will depend on the forecast later and how much real ale I consume during the day!

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Birding With Brent And Todd

It was a struggle to know what to do this morning; high tide wasn't until 12:30 pm and they're big high tides at the moment so at low water the tide would be a long way out. It is possible to sea watch at low tide at the Obs, but the location doesn't afford any shelter and in the 25-30 mph westerly wind that was blowing this morning that wasn't an option. There was only one thing to do and that was have a walk down to the saltmarsh and estuary.

As I was walking down Pink-footed Geese were leaving their roost and I had 578 heading inland to feed. A few Redwings, 16 in all, and a Song Thrush were in the scrub, and on the pool were just seven Tufted Ducks, seven Coot, a Little Grebe and a male Goldeneye.

A flock of 36 Goldfinches were  roving around the saltmarsh edge and the only other passerines here were Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit. I walked to the edge of the saltmarsh to look on the estuary and boy was it cold in the blustery westerly. In fact I was getting 'battered' so much that I just did a quick count of 862 Lapwings, 18 Shelducks, 20 Mallards and 360 Teal.

I bumped into Ian and we headed back to have a look through the 'Pinkies' that had dropped into the fields. There was about 5-600 Pinkies and amongst them were two pale-bellied Brent Geese and the two Todd's Canada Geese. So it wasn't a bad couple of hours birding after all.

 Brent Geese

Todd's Canada Geese

It just remains for me to send you all Seasons Greetings and I hope 2015 is full of good birds for you!

Tuesday 23 December 2014

More Winter Thrushes

Just a brief posting today after a brief visit to my feeding station. I didn't get out early today as 'her indoors' had some things she wanted shopping-wise and as she was at work and I wasn't, yours truly had to hit the supermarket. So at what would be normal morning birding first light I was pushing a trolley....., well I had a coffee first and had a little read of 'Birdwatch', before then pushing my trolley round Booths!

At the feeding station the usual suspects were present including two Yellowhammers, nine Chaffinches, 66 Tree Sparrows and a Grey Partridge. Bits and pieces as I walked down to the feeding station included four Grey Wagtails and 120 Lapwings.

I could hear a number of Thrushes calling and had a look on the field close to the woodland, and feeding in there were 90 Redwings, 24 Fieldfares and 300 Starlings. On my way home I called in at the flood and there was just two Green Sandpipers.

The forecast is looking okay for the next few days, just when for some of us the silly Christmas season prevents us from getting out. But not for me it doesn't, so I'll be out birding and enjoying the weather even on Christmas Day!

Monday 22 December 2014

If It Wasn't For Todd It Would Hardly Have Been Worth Posting

There was a mid-morning tide today and the wind had blown quite a strong southwesterly all night, so the only option was to do some sea watching. I got to the tower just as it was coming light, a leisurely 0815 at the moment, and set out my stall. I had full cloud cover and the wind was a good 30 mph southwesterly. Just some of the ingredients required for a decent sea watch, the missing ingredient being the visibility, and the visibility was absolutely awful!

I could see no more than a few hundred metres out to sea and consequently all I had was eleven Cormorants, two Eiders and a male Red-breasted Merganser! After just over an hour of this incredible pelagic action I decided to go and try and find the Geese as Ian had two Todd's Canada Geese amongst them yesterday. Sure enough I found the 'Pinkies' pretty quickly and in the throng were the two Canada's.

I had a quick look on the Distinguishing Cackling and Canada Goose article on the 'Sibley Guides' website and they seemed to fit the description there pretty well:

"B. c. interior – Hudson Bay Canada Goose – Similar in size to canadensis, mantle somewhat browner and darker, with dark continuing uninterrupted to black of neck, feather edges on dorsum average darker, contrasting less with black of neck, breast light to medium grayish towards slaty gray."

 Some dodgy shots (above & below) of the Todd's Canada Geese. The light
was awful and they were quite a long way from the road; that's my excuse 

There was probably about 450 Pink-footed Geese in the field and whilst I was watching the Geese five Whooper Swans flew over. 

The forecast is similar for tomorrow, but not quite as windy, and high tide will be nearer lunchtime. I have to feed my Tree Sparrows tomorrow, so I'll decide what I'm going to do birding wise when I've stuck my head out of the door in the morning and had a peek at the weather.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Bird Photographers

I suppose I'm a bird photographer because when I'm out birding, if I can, I like to take photographs of some of the birds I'm watching. So based on that description a lot of us are bird photographers, or we certainly like taking photographs of birds to enrich our birding and make digital memories for a future date. The difference between my bird photography and the ignorant tosser who walked the full length of the beach today flushing waders is that I respect the birds welfare and I guess that you do too.

Ian and I were seawatching from the observation tower when we could hear waders alarm calling and we just assumed that it was yet another dog walker walking along the beach allowing their mutt to flush the roosting waders. Looking down we were surprised (or perhaps not) to see a, I don't think I can call him a birder, a 'bird photographer' perhaps, walking all the way along the beach flushing Oystercatchers, Sanderlings, Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. He had all the characteristic gear and abysmal field craft of a bird photographer. First up he had no bins, just a whopping great big lens that was covered in camouflage webbing! Of course when you get a top notch tosser flushing every avian creature within 200 yards a bit of camouflaged webbing on his lens is going to make all the difference! I don't know why these clowns don't carry bins, perhaps they don't think they need them because they like to be able to sit right next to the bird and take photographs of the birds eyelid colour with their huge penis extensions, sorry I mean lenses.

This 'character' walked all the way along the beach, perhaps some 500 metres, negotiating groynes, crunching on shingle, until he got to where he thought his 'quarry' was and then headed back. Suddenly he dropped to the deck and became a fully fledged member of the SAS and started to stalk whatever he was after. That bit of camouflage webbing on his lens would have made all the difference of course allowing him to get close to the poor wretched creature that he was trying to fill his viewfinder with. Fast forward some time and he must have been pleased with his efforts as he trotted back along the shore 'high-fiving' a fellow bird flusher! We'll re-visit this character in a bit when we had a close encounter with him and his behaviour got even worse!

It was a fairly blustery old morning with full cloud cover and a 25 - 30 mph WNW wind. It was quieter on the sea than expected and the northerly element was probably to blame, well that's my excuse anyway. Our totals included twelve Eiders, two Wigeons, 15 Pintails, 25 Teal, two Auk sp., a Great Crested Grebe, a Red-breasted Merganser, a Shelduck, two Red-throated Divers and four Kittiwakes.

After perhaps an hour and a half we headed to the Point to count the waders and seemed to have got caught up in a bit of a throng of bird photographers who were moving from the picnic area (where they could be seen  harassing the Shore Lark and our 'new friend' was amongst them) to the shore. I'm guessing they had flushed the Shore Lark after getting too close, which they do on a daily basis by the way, and now wanted to annoy it some more on the beach.

Walking out along the seafront saw our intrepid bird photographer walking the other way. We stopped to count the 50 Sanderling and 44 Ringed Plover and there feeding close in front of us was the 1st winter female Snow Bunting. Suddenly 'bird photo' saw us watching the Snow Bunting and he came running back towards us. He then stood in front of us, jumped over the sea wall and started to run along the beach behind the groyne towards the Snow Bunting. Of course the bird flushed and some half-wit with 'bird photo' shouted "it's flying, it's flying"! I thought "there's no flies on you f*ckface is there"? Before either of us killed somebody we headed back down the Point.

Unsurprisingly the Snow Bunting came 'high tailing' over our heads (obviously flushed by this by now getting seriously tedious idiot) and landed on the beach close to us. Again we were enjoying our views of this cracking little bird when the tedious idiot returned and by now I'd had enough of him. He was about to jump on to  the beach again and I gave him some advice which was basically telling him in language that he would understand that he was to get off the beach and let the Snow Bunting have a chance to feed. Did the advice work? Well it did for as long as we were there, but as we walked away he was back on the beach. What a complete and utter tosser! He needed his big lens taking off him and shoving it sideways where the sun doesn't shine!

It's forecast to be windy again tomorrow, so it will probably be some more seawatching for me, hopefully without the distractions of more bird photographers!

Friday 19 December 2014


I didn't have time for any birding this morning, but the reason I didn't have time was birding related. I had to make a feed drop at my feeding station before heading to the West Pennines for a meeting with Huw and Ian to discuss some potential ringing projects in that area in the form of nest boxes and feeding stations.

Over the past couple of days I have noticed a few more Redwings around on the quiet and on Wednesday morning when I went in to my garden before it was light a couple of Redwings flew from my Apple tree. This morning as I headed to my feeding station I noticed a number of Redwings in the hedgerows alongside the lanes that weren't there a couple of days ago.

As I walked down to the feeding station, in cold horizontal squally rain, I kept flushing ones and twos from the feeding station hedge and then I had a flock of fifty go over. This theme continued after I left the feeding station and headed to the West Pennines. I was meeting Huw and Ian at Roddlesworth Reservoir, and in the surrounding hedgerows were a number of Redwings. So it looks like there has been a bit of an arrival of Redwings into the northwest.

Redwing - coming to a hedgerow near you!

Thursday 18 December 2014

Beating Those Birding Blues

At last my Man Flu has subsided enough enabling me to get out to the feeding station yesterday and to do a bit of birding this morning. I must admit I'm not out of the woods yet, but I had to get out to beat those birding blues.

Numbers of birds at the feeding station seem to have dropped off a little of late and I am assuming it is because of the mild weather we are having at the moment. When it was cold the apples were going down and now these are hardly being touched. Totals yesterday included four Yellowhammers, seven Chaffinches and 55 Tree Sparrows.

I had a couple of 'odds and sods' walking down to the feeding station including a Buzzard, a Whooper Swan and a Mistle Thrush which isn't overly regular here. On my way home I called at the flood and there were no Redshanks and just one Green Sandpiper.

It hasn't seemed to get light today and I can't believe that 'birding light' isn't really until nearer half past eight at the moment, mind you we are in spitting distance of the shortest day of the year now! So why I got to the Point not much after eight I'm not sure! I headed to the observation tower, found some shelter, had a coffee, had another coffee and finally it was light enough to have a look on the sea.

It was very murky out at sea and consequently it was hard work, so I only spent an hour there, and didn't see a great deal. Best of a meagre bunch was a Shag that flew in to the Bay and an adult Med Gull that flew out. Other than that I had just two Red-breasted Mergansers and ten Eiders.

After a coffee at Ian's and half an hour putting the birding world to rights, particularly those pesky bird photographer types who are continually harassing the Shore Lark at the minute, it was time to head home. The forecast isn't the best over the next few days, but on Saturday we might be able to get to the Finch roost. Fingers crossed!

Sunday 14 December 2014

Man Flu!

Once again I have been laid low these past few days with man flu and today with a temperature of 39 I felt pretty shite! In fact I didn't even have a beer last night and if I don't have a beer on a Saturday night then there is something wrong! So my reason for posting is to let you know my reason for not posting of late. You'll be pleased to hear that as I write this I am feeling a little better and I hope normal service will be resumed in the next couple of days! Mind you I don't know what that normal service will be as the forecast is pretty dire for the coming week.

Monday 8 December 2014

Any News From The Feeding Station?

The answer to that question is not a lot really. I have been visiting every other day over the past week and it has been fairly steady with counts of ten Yellowhammers, 62 Tree Sparrows and seven Chaffinches. There's been up to two Buzzards regularly, but these have been the only raptors. I've been putting some apples down and this past week they've started going and when I called the other day two Fieldfares were feeding on them, so it would be nice to hold a few of them at the feeding station. Another couple of visitors on the same morning were two Grey Partridges and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the woodland.

Talking of feeding stations, or in this case potential feeding stations, Ian and I carried out a recce of a secure site within the Obs recording area this afternoon, with a view to a first ringing session this coming weekend. We located some potential net rides for general ringing and also an area to operate a feeding station. The beauty of this site is that there is so much cover we will be able to operate mist nets in virtually any wind direction or strength! Another plus is that the site has a decent Greenfinch roost and this afternoon we located the roost and there were at least 300 Greenfinches, 30 - 40 Goldfinches and perhaps a dozen or more Linnets coming in, so I might have some more news on that at weekend.

Sunday 7 December 2014

November Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of November and we have ringed 3,036 birds of 56 birds. Four new species were newly ringed for the year during the month and these were Kingfisher (1), Grey Wagtail (3), Redwing (7) and Starling (1). As usual I have listed below the 'Top 5' ringed for the month and the 'Top 10 Movers and Shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed for the Month

1. Reed Bunting - 52
2. Blue Tit - 50
3. Chaffinch - 33
4. Goldfinch - 28
5. Long-tailed Tit - 23

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 712 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 284 (same position)
3. Great Tit - 193 (same position)
4. Goldfinch - 185 (up from 5th)
5. Reed Warbler - 164 (down from 4th)
6. Meadow Pipit - 118 (same position)
7. Chaffinch - 110 (up from 10th)
8. Robin - 108 (down from 7th)
9. Greenfinch - 104 (down from 8th)
    Reed Bunting - 104 (straight in)

Over the next month it is likely that the top two will remain the same, but there is a chance that Goldfinch will push ahead of Great Tit in to third place as Andy and Phil have been ringing quite a few at their upland feeding station. Reed Warbler is probably fairly safe in 5th spot, but Meadow Pipit could easily be overtaken before the end of the year by Chaffinch, and perhaps even by Robin. I think Greenfinch and Reed Bunting are likely to remain in similar positions at the bottom of the table, unless there is another species 'bubbling under' that could come straight in and usurp one of them!

By the end of last year we had ringed 3245 birds so we are just 209 birds short of last year's total. This means that there is a chance we could beat last year's total  by the end of 2014, but we will need the weather on our side.

To give you an idea what we have ringed each month, below are the totals by month for the year so far:

Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov
27     41     40       93     173     169   429  641    794   300   329

So September has been our best ringing month, in terms of totals, so far this year which isn't surprising.

Saturday 6 December 2014

Patch Invasion - Day 4

The Shore Lark is still around so I envisaged another patch invasion this morning and I was right. I headed to the Point at first light to do some seawatching on the incoming tide and joined Ian in front of the Observation Tower. It was bitterly cold in the 10 mph southeasterly wind, but it was anice and sheltered in front of the tower, and the cloud cover was 6 oktas.

As the morning progressed birders were coming and going to twitch the Shore Lark and in the first couple of hours at least 40 birders or bird photographers had walked past. I mention bird photographers seperately to birders as these are the guys that arrive carrying huge lenses attached to their cameras and don't carry any bins! There were quite a few of them this morning and some in full camouflage and that includes their cameras as well!

I had no intention of going to look for the Shore Lark myself this morning but after a while it came to us as it was a bit more flighty it would seem this morning and eventually it was there in front of us on the beach. Watching the twitchers was nearly as entertaining as the birding, but not quite.

It was quite good on the sea and the highlights were Great Northern Diver, Gannet and Peregrine. Two 'Red-throats' were picked up flying high out of the Bay by Ian and then he noticed another larger diver a little way in front and it was the Great Northern. The birds were flying very high and I imagine they were heading further out in to the Irish Sea to feeding grounds.

The Gannet was a good record for December and during the winter you only tend to get Gannets after a period of strong winds. However, there were good numbers of Gulls out at sea constantly diving to the surface, and obviously feeding on something, and perhaps this is why the Gannet was there as well.

The Peregrine put on a great display out at sea with its interactions with a Carrion Crow. We weren't sure whether the Crow was mobbing the Peregrine and the Peregrine was having a go back, or whether the Peregrine fancied its chances of a Corvid breakfast. But whatever the reason the aerial dog fight that ensued was great to watch.

The supporting cast included 13 Red-breasted Mergansers, five Red-throated Divers, 23 Eiders, 42 Cormorants, 72 Common Scoters, four Great Crested Grebes and four Wigeon.

There was a few waders on the beach including 356 Oystercatchers, thirteen Sanderlings, two Redshanks, three Curlews, 15 Ringed Plovers and 24 Turnstones.


At the site where we have been ringing and fitting Turnstones with leg flags was a single Purple Sandpiper with about 150 Turnstones. I tried getting a few shots of the 'Purp', but it spent most of the time asleep!

 Purple Sandpiper - above & below

The forecast is pretty awful for tomorrow, but I'm due to feed my ravenous Tree Sparrows so I'll be heading to the feeding station in the morning and hopefully it won't be raining too much so I can at least get some birding done.

Thursday 4 December 2014

Patch Invasion

The invasion started yesterday when a visiting birder to Rossall Point found a Shorelark on the beach at midday. The bird seemed to vanish, as Shorelarks seem to do, and by the time it was re-found it was nearing dusk and only a few birders managed to 'connect' with it. Interestingly this was the first record for the Obs recording area since 1970!

I had planned all week to take a couple of hours off Thursday morning and if the weather was fit I was going to have a look on the sea and watch the incoming tide. I headed to the Point under full cloud with a 5 mph ENE wind and I got a text from Ian saying he was watching the Shorelark I joined Ian at the Lark, but said that I was going to disappear when the first birders started arriving and concentrate on the sea.

I took a few pictures of the Shorelark but the light conditions were poor in the grey overcast conditions. We discussed whether it might actually be the North American species Horned Lark, but weren't sure whether they were separable or not. It seems odd that the only Shorelark(s) in Great Britain and Ireland at the minute are three that have been around for ages in Suffolk. This bird is on the west coast and only a few weeks ago across the Bay at Walney Bird Observatory was a Red-eyed Vireo. But who knows?

The birders started to arrive and myself and Ian made a swift exit to the Tower and did some seawatching. However, I didn't put up for this for long as a constant stream of birders drifted past and they thought we were on the bird and we ended up signposting everyone to where it was. I think I must be getting more unsociable as I get older as it was definitely time to leave. By the time I left at 10:00 a.m. 30 - 40 birders must have headed past me to the bird. It just reaffirmed why I try and keep away from mainstream birding.

However, I am grateful to the visiting birder who found the Shorelark as it was indeed a splendid bird and only a second record for the Obs. If I'm honest, I hope it doesn't linger for too much longer, miserable old b*stard that I am!

The sea was really quiet with just three Red-breasted Mergansers, 17 Common Scoters, 29 Eiders and three Shelducks. It's getting windy next week so there could be more seawatching on the horizon.

Monday 1 December 2014

Grey Morning

Yesterday morning Huw and I had a ringing session at the feeding station. We just had one okta cloud cover and the wind was northwesterly anywhere between zero and 5 - 10 mph. We put the usual nets up at the feeding station and an additional net hoping to target some Wagtails.

The targeting of Wagtails worked in as much as we ringed three Grey Wagtails, but the Pieds weren't interested in investigating the MP3 playing songs and calls back to them.

 Grey Wagtail

We processed 29 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 3 (including what looked like two continental male types)
Greenfinch - 1
Yellowhammer - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Robin - 2
Blue Tit - 5 (16)
Tree Sparrow - 6 (1)
Great Tit - 3 (1)
Chaffinch - 4 (including a continental male; long wing length)
Grey Wagtail - 3

(Gwyn - if you're reading this I haven't mentioned the Jay that Huw let go!!!)

 Tree Sparrow

The usual caveat applies to birding records whilst ringing and all we mustered were 830 Pink-footed Geese, four Corn Buntings, 100 Woodpigeons, eight Whooper Swans, two Jays and two Buzzards. On my way home I called in at the flood and there were still two Green Sandpipers, but Redshanks had increased to 17.

Saturday 29 November 2014

From Tree Sparrows to Twite

I had some reasonable counts yesterday at my feeding station with definitely the highest count of Tree Sparrows of the winter so far with 136, and Yellowhammers a respectable seven. I had my best Corn Bunting count of the winter so far with 28 and Great Spotted Woodpecker and Grey Wagtail made up the best of the rest. On my way home I had a look on the flood and the two Green Sandpipers remained with 15 Redshanks.

I didn't have a huge amount of time this morning for birding as I had to try and get a new car sorted out for Gail (not brand new, just new to Gail!) so I just had an hour and a quarter on the estuary. Potentially based on last night's forecast I could have gone ringing this morning but I was glad that I hadn't as the wind was a stiff easterly and too strong for mist nets; I've saved that for tomorrow.

 Sunrise on the estuary

I think the theme of this morning was really looking at birds, because I think as birders we are guilty of counting birds without really 'looking' at them, or I am sometimes anyway. I heard Redshanks alarm calling and there 'shooting' just a foot or so above the mud was a male Sparrowhawk. I watched it come across at lightning speed and then it pulled up to fly over the fence, drop back down to ground level, pull up over another fence, drop back down to ground level and then pull up over a house and then I lost it; brilliant!

There were 39 Redshanks out on the mud with fifteen Black-tailed Godwits and a single Knot. The Blackwits were the second species that I really 'looked' at this morning as I was watching them to try and get some pictures. I observed a couple of birds feeding and two bits of, what is probably very common behaviour, struck me. I assume that they were feeding on Ragworms as I could see them puling out pretty lengthy and hefty worms from the mud. One bird every time it caught a Ragworm would run down to the creek, wash it and then swallow it. Presumably it was removing all the sand and grit!

I was also amazed at how far they would push their heads in to the mud to try and find these large juicy worms. Sometimes their heads were completely submerged with mud half way up their necks! As I say, this will be common behaviour, but I hadn't noticed it before because I obviously haven't really 'looked' at Blackwits in any detail in the past.

As the sun rose the Pink-footed Geese were lifting from their estuarine roost and I had 707 take off and head north and east to their feeding sites. Talking of birds exiting roosts I had 20 Twite fly past me, heading to foraging areas on the saltmarsh from wherever their roost site was. After 250 Lapwings and 228 Herring Gulls out on the mudflats it was time for me to turn back and head home.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Three Figures!

I called at my feeding station this morning and I was going to say that it was the first time this winter that the count of Tree Sparrows had reached three figures, 107 this morning, and then I looked back in my notebook and saw that on 8th November I had 110! So it is only the second time this winter that the count has got into three figures. There's probably a few more to come yet as they usually peak at about three hundred.

The Yellowhammer numbers are impressive here for the time of year and this morning I counted 14. I know these aren't huge numbers, but normally I wouldn't get these sort of numbers until 'the hungry gap' towards the end of winter, so I'm not sure what's going on. Two thoughts occurred to me; either a good breeding season so there are more birds around or a shortage of food locally forcing them to come to the feeding station earlier than normal.

On my way home I called at the flood and there were two Green Sandpipers, eight Redshanks and 50 + each of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail. Oh and a Grey Wag too.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Birding North Of The Border

From the picture above you can see that I was birding north of the border yesterday in Scotland, and along the Solway coast at Caerlaverock NNR to be precise. I had dropped Gail off at a Christmas cake decorating day in north Cumbria and as I wasn't due to pick her up for a few hours I decided to pop north of the border to do some birding.

The weather was quite kind to me considering what it had been like driving up and I had three oktas cloud cover with a 15 mph southwesterly wind.

I didn't see a huge variety of species but it was just nice to be out birding in a different part of the world and seeing Barnacle Geese, which have got to be one of the best looking geese anywhere. As I stated above I headed to Caerlaverock NNR, not the duck brothel a little further up the estuary, and I had a walk along the board walk through the reedbed near Holland's Farm and had a look across the saltmarshes and out on to the estuary.

 Barnacle Geese

I didn't have a huge variety of species, but what the day lacked in variety it made up in terms of numbers. Barnacle Geese were certainly the feature of the day and in total I had 1,180; some in roadside fields driving to the site and the majority out on the saltmarsh as the tide ran in.

I didn't have much in the reedbed other than a calling Water Rail, thirteen Skylarks over and four Reed Buntings. I had a look from the hide at the eastern end of the reedbed, but this was pretty useless and the picture below shows why; not the best of views from a hide!

 Not the best views from a hide!

I also met a couple walking their dogs on the boardwalk and they had three dogs; one on a lead and two Spaniels off the lead and they were continually crashing through the reeds. It's a fecking NNR for heaven's sake!

 The board walk

Out on the saltmarsh were a number of waders and wildfowl including 363 Lapwings, 96 Shelducks, 40 Wigeon, 600 Golden Plovers and 75 Curlews. Suddenly everything got up and a female Hen Harrier sailed in to view giving stonking views. Rather than dive for camera I decided just to enjoy the spectacle and watch her float past; brilliant!

 Views across the reserve

I then headed to another site further east on the reserve where there was an impressive number of waders roosting including a thousand Lapwings and 3,700 Oystercatchers. No raptors here but a Raven flew over that stirred things up a bit. Soon enough it was time to pack up and head back south to pick Gail up.

 Gail's decorated Christmas cake

I should have been ringing at my feeding station with Huw this morning but a sleepless night after a bout of bad heartburn meant I had to call it off, but I did get there later in the morning to feed. Tree Sparrows numbered 40, with an increase of Yellowhammers to eight, and a a flock of thirteen 'honking' Whooper Swans over rounded off my quick visit.

Friday 21 November 2014

Same Old Same Old!

I'm back in that same old winter routine now of birding at weekend and then my feeding station visits takes up any mid-week birding time that I might have. I called yesterday to feed and Tree Sparrows numbered 83 with eleven Chaffinches and singles of Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer.

On the way home I called at the flood and Redshanks had increased to six, but there was only one Green Sandpiper. I should be able to report a few hours of birding north of the border tomorrow, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Monday 17 November 2014

Great Northern In A Northerly For Breakfast

Straight after breakfast I headed to the shore to spend an hour or so watching the sea over the falling tide before heading back home to write yet more reports. I had full cloud cover this morning with a 20 mph northeasterly wind.

Walking up to my observation point I had few waders on the beach including five Turnstones, 157 Oystercatchers, eight Grey Plovers and 16 Sanderlings. There would have been far more waders roosting on the shingle ridge, but time was of the essence this morning so I just stayed at my observation point. I managed to find some shelter and glued my eye to my scope.

After I had been watching for about twenty minutes I picked up a large Diver heading northeast, slightly away from me and across the bay, and I soon realised that it was a Great Northern Diver! The supporting cast included 18 Eiders, 75 Cormorants, 49 Common Scoters, five Red-breasted Mergansers, three Greylag Geese, a Razorbill, a Great Crested Grebe, a Red-throated Diver and an Atlantic Grey Seal.

Unfortunately it was soon time to head home and do some work. I am hoping to escape for an hour or so in the morning on Wednesday and I'll let you know if I do.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Weekend Round-Up

Yesterday morning I had a mooch round the Obs and at first light I had full cloud cover with a 10 mph southeasterly wind. There was a little vis (all south unless otherwise stated) and this included a Blackbird, two Fieldfares, four Chaffinches, 80 Woodpigeons northeast, a Reed Bunting, two Skylarks (and then dropped on to beach), seven Greenfinches and two Goldfinches.


There seemed to be a few Thrushes grounded in the form of a Mistle Thrush, a Fieldfare and three Song Thrushes. There were a number of Blackbirds around but it wasn't obvious whether they were freshly grounded or not.

Pink-footed Geese were arriving from their roost on the estuary, 1,392 in total, but someone was shooting at them as they were coming in to the farm fields. In fact there was a lot of shooting going on and I could see huge numbers to the east being disturbed through shooting. I'm not anti-shooting per se and if someone shoots a goose to eat rather than buy some factory reared chicken from a supermarket then that's okay by me. However, I'm not in favour of people shooting for a giggle, particularly fantastic migratory species like Pink-footed Geese. And in cases when people are shooting for a giggle I don't understand how they can gain pleasure from killing something for a laugh, and perhaps it says something about their personality!

 Pink-footed Geese arriving to be shot at!

A Little Owl perched at the top of a down spout was a pleasant distraction before I had a look on the sea. The sea was fairly quiet other than 33 Common Scoters, two Great Crested Grebes, eight Cormorants and twelve Shelducks.

 Little Owl (honest!)

I then headed to my feeding station to feed in preparation for this morning's ringing session. A total of 52 Tree Sparrows were present plus two Yellowhammers and a Corn Bunting.

 Tree Sparrow

This morning I met Huw and Aimee at my feeding station just as it was coming light and we put two nets up in cloudy and calm conditions; perfect for ringing. As ever at the feeding station the aim is to try and ring red-listed farmland birds and we didn't fail this morning but the numbers weren't high. We ringed 19 birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Yellowhammer - 2
Greenfinch - 1
Robin - 1
Great Tit - 2
Tree Sparrow - 3
Blue Tit - 10 (5)


Whilst we were putting the nets up in the 'half light' a male Tawny Owl called from the wood and we flushed five Grey Partridges from where we set up our ringing station. Other species recorded whilst birding between net rounds included 14 Fieldfares, a Buzzard, 230 Jackdaws, four Yellowhammers, a Grey Wagtail, eleven Skylarks, a Corn Bunting and a Siskin.

On my way home I called in at the flood and the two Green Sandpipers had been joined by three Redshanks. There's a tide in the morning so I might have an hour at first light before locking myself in my office for the day!   

Thursday 13 November 2014

One Or Two Bits And Pieces

I couldn't describe the week so far as 'full on' from a birding perspective but I have had one or two bits and pieces. I was driving back from site visits on Monday when Ian phoned me to say that there was an adult Greenland White-fronted Goose amongst the Pink-feet. I knew where the Pink-feet were feeding and as I was close to home I decided to go and have a look.

After a few minutes I found the 'White-front' amongst the c. 2,000 Pink-feet. It was feeding at times and then it would lie down and feed whilst down on its belly. I only had bins with me but it was easy to pick out and I couldn't see anything else amongst the Pinkies. I've attached a shot of both the White-front and Pinkies below, but I must point out that the White-front shot was taken through my car windscreen on full zoom.

 Greenland White-fronted Goose

Pink-footed Geese

Yesterday I called at my feeding station and Tree Sparrows numbered 95 with a supporting cast of three Yellowhammers and 14 Chaffinches. On my way home I looked on the flood and there were still two Green Sandpipers with at least 40 Pied Wagtails and a number of Meadow Pipits.

The forecast is looking okay for ringing at weekend, so fingers crossed that it remains so and I can get a first session in at the feeding station.

Sunday 9 November 2014

A Typical November Morning On The Patch

As I headed out of the house at first light this morning to go to the Obs I could hear Chaffinches calling overhead and wondered whether there would be a few moving over the Obs. Five minutes later I was at the Obs heading off on my walk with virtually clear skies and a 10 mph 'keen' southeasterly wind.

As at home the first bird I had was a calling Chaffinch heading high south, but in all honesty the vis didn't amount to very much. I had three Reed Buntings, five Chaffinches, a Goldfinch, a Meadow Pipit, 92 Starlings, two Redwings, seven Woodpigeons and five Skylarks.

There weren't many grounded birds around either and all that I did consider as grounded were a Fieldfare, a Goldcrest and a group of two Reed Buntings and five Greenfinches that dropped in, before heading off south again. A couple of Stonechats showed fairly well, but these have been around for a while.



There were a number of Pink-footed Geese dropping in to the farm fields and I had a total of 1,769 drop in. I had a look at them on my way home but unfortunately I was looking in to the sun, so I gave up.

There were a few bits on the sea and I had two Cormorants, a male Eider, 23 Common Scoters, two Auk sp., two Great Crested Grebes and three Pintails.

It's site visits for me tomorrow but I should be out at my feeding station on Tuesday to see how the numbers of Tree Sparrows are building. I'm hoping to set up another feeding station in a plantation closer to home soon, but more of that over the next few weeks.

Saturday 8 November 2014

October's Ringing Totals

As usual at this time of the month I have updated the ringing totals of our (Fylde) ringing group over on the right, and by the end of October we had ringed 2,707 birds meaning that we are just 201 short of where we were last year. We added no new species in October and I have listed below the top five for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed - October

1. Goldfinch - 67
2. Blue Tit - 43
3. Reed Bunting - 32
4. Greenfinch - 28
5. Chaffinch - 20

Top Ten Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Swallow - 712 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 234 (same position)
3. Great Tit - 174 (up from 4th)
4. Reed Warbler - 164 (down from 3rd)
5. Goldfinch - 157 (up from 6th)
6. Meadow Pipit - 118 (down from 5th)
7. Robin - 94 (up from 8th)
8. Greenfinch - 90 (straight in)
9. Sedge Warbler - 86 (down from 7th)
10. Chaffinch - 77 (straight in)

I called at my feeding station this morning for a quick feed during the rain and as it was pouring down I didn't have a walk round but I can report that Tree Sparrow numbers have now built up to 110 and I had a male Peregrine go over.

The forecast is quite good for tomorrow, but the winds aren't quite light enough to get out ringing so I'll have a wander somewhere round the Obs and see what I can see.

Thursday 6 November 2014

A Bit Of Early November Vis

As I walked up to the sea front this morning I could hear Chaffinches calling and I looked up and I could just about make out with my bins a flock of 61 heading south. I wasn't expecting much vis this morning due to the murky conditions out in the bay, but I'm guessing that they were moving ahead of the rain front that was coming in.

At first light I had full cloud cover with a 15 - 20 mph southwesterly wind and then by about 0900 it started to rain. In the end I had 116 Chaffinches over, plus 66 Fieldfares, two Redwings and 202 Starlings that were coming 'in-off' the sea in small groups throughout the morning. It looked as though the Starlings had been attempting ro cross the widest part of the bay and the incoming rain front was pushing them south and east into the bay.

A few waders were on the shore including 206 Turnstones, four Ringed Plovers and 28 Sanderlings. The sea was quiet with just 27 Cormorants, six Common Scoters, an Auk sp., a Great Crested Grebe, a Razorbill, a male Eider and five Shelducks.

There's more rain forecast for the morning but it is supposed be more showery than today so I might manage a couple of hours before I start work.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

I Think It's Called Sod's Law

I called at my feeding station yesterday to feed prior to a planned ringing session today. However when I called some of the farm staff were working on the field at the end of the track where my feeding station is, repairing some deep ruts with a tracked digger. I decided not to take the risk and turn up at first light with all  my gear this morning only to have to take my nets down after half an hour to let them re-commence work. As I said in my blog title I think it's called sods law as when I turned up to feed this morning, as I couldn't do a feed drop yesterday, there was nobody in sight and I could have had a ringing session!

I dropped some seed off and there was at least 25 Tree Sparrows and four Yellowhammers at the feeding station. I then decided to have a walk through the woodland to see if I could put up a Woodcock or two and have a look on the flooded stubble on my way home. In the hedgerow leading to the woodland were two Goldcrests and five Long-tailed Tits. I had a walk through the woodland and had the usual assortment of woodland birds but definitely no Woodcocks.

 The woodland (above & below)

On my way home I had a look on the flooded stubbles and was pleased to see two Green Sandpipers and a number of Meadow Pipits, Alba Wagtails and a single Grey Wagtail. A male Sparrowhawk put the Pipits and Wagtails up and I could see that there was about 25 and 30 of each respectively.

I've got an hour or two to spare in the morning as I have caught up on reports a little and as there is a morning tide I'll probably have a look on the sea until the rain comes in.

Sunday 2 November 2014

A Change Of Plan

Originally it was my intention to have a look on the sea this morning but Gail said that she fancied going out as well. Now Gail doesn't mind a bit of birding but I know she would draw the line at seawatching! Also I was glad that I hadn't gone seawatching because when Ian called for a coffee this afternoon he said it had been really quiet on the sea, even though it was quite blowy over night and it had rained, the usual ingredients for some action on the sea!

Gail and I decided to have a look on the estuary, but even though we didn't see much (there's a reoccurring theme here!) it was a pleasant couple of hours. The Hawthorn scrub and the reedbed didn't hold anything on our walk down; no Thrushes in the Hawthorns and no calling Water Rails from the reedbed. We didn't really see anything of note until we got to the saltmarsh and had a Little Egret. I love seeing Little Egrets and they still seem exotic to me, maybe it's because I'm of an age when they used to be bl**dy rare and if one turned up a twitch would ensue!

 Little Egret

On the pool were nine Little Grebes, nine Tufted Ducks and two Goldeneyes. As we walked along the path to the spit where I look over the mudflats on the estuary from, an immature male Sparrowhawk flew in front of us hugging the path in his search for avian prey.

I didn't scrutinise the estuary, rather I had a fairly quick counting scan with my scope, and had 20 Redshanks, 50 Mallards, 500 Lapwings, 185 Wigeon and 15 Teal. A Rock Pipit called and flew past along the saltmarsh and then on the way back we had a party of ten Long-tailed Tits in the Hawthorns.

The forecast is looking good for some ringing on either Tuesday or Wednesday this week, so hopefully I'll get my first session in at my farmland bird feeding station. I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Quiet, But Good To Be Out

One of the problems of being self-employed (here he goes again moaning I can here you say!) is that you've got to take the work when it comes, and just at the moment I'm busy doing site visits and then the time consuming follow-up reports that keep me indoors! Autumn seems to have slipped by and with the application of 'sods law' when it gets a bit quiet work-wise and I can get out, the birding will be quiet at the same time, I just know it!

At this time of year I switch away from my coastal migration ringing to my farmland bird feeding station and this morning I headed to the Obs to remove the ropes that I leave on my net rides and I had a stagger round as well. And it was a stagger with 15 - 20 mph SW winds and about three oktas cloud cover.

As I have said in my blog title it was quiet, but good to be out. Grounded migrants were difficult to detect other than two Goldcrests and the 'vis' was equally discreet with just 26 Woodpigeons, 25 Starlings and three Skylarks. I did have 25 Meadow Pipits 'off passage' taking advantage to feed in some of the coastal fields before moving off when conditions improve.

The sea was equally quiet with just a single Red-throated Diver, a female Common Scoter and 21 Cormorants. However to be fair I didn't give it very long as I was getting a bit of battering in the stiff southwesterly. Other than about a dozen Greenfinches feeding on some Japanese Rose hips in the dunes that was about it!


There's some heavy rain coming through tonight and winds are going to remain fairly stiff SW - W, so it might have to be a spot of seawatching in the morning. I don't expect too much mainly because the winds are going to be 'stiff' rather than 'strong'!

Sunday 26 October 2014

At Least I Tried

A combination of strong southwesterly winds, a mid-day tide and the dent I made in a case of Orkney Brewery beer last night lead to a late start for me this morning and it wasn't until 10.00 a.m. that I made it to my seawatching location at the Obs. The weather has been funny these past several days with strongish winds ranging from NW through to SW, and the issue has been that the winds have been 'strongish' and not strong, and consequently there has been a lack of decent seabird passage.

This morning I had full cloud cover with a 25 mph SW wind. At about 10.30 a.m. the sun made a brief appearance and made the already tricky murky conditions worse by adding a heat haze into the mix! And the poor viewing conditions were probably a contributory factor to the lack of action!

A few waders gathered on the shingle as the tide ran in and passing my location were 158 Turnstones, six Ringed Plovers, 42 Sanderlings and a Dunlin. The sea was very quiet and all I had were a Cormorant, a Gannet, four Common Scoters, two Auk sp. and two Kittiwakes.

 Turnstones bathing

The ropey shot of the Gannet above illustrate this mornings poor 
viewing conditions

After about an hour and a quarter I'd had enough and headed home, but I suppose I could console myself with the thought that at least I had tried.