Sunday 27 April 2014

Seven Whistles

It has been three days since I have been out birding proper, and I say birding proper as I have been out in the field these past few days carrying out pond surveys. Even though my work has been surveying for Great Crested Newts I have been recording plenty of birds whilst scrambling around ponds setting bottle traps!

This morning I went to the Obs and spent four hours birding in a cold northeasterly wind with some hazy sunshine and at times murky conditions out at sea. The 'vis' this morning was quite slow probably as a result of a 'blocking' low pressure system to the south of us. Nevertheless there were a few birds on the move including 64 Swallows, eight Linnets, four Siskins, ten Alba Wags, 17 Goldfinches, seven Lesser Redpolls, a Tree Pipit, a Sand Martin, a House Martin, five Meadow Pipits, seven Pink-footed Geese, twelve Whimbrel (the seven whistler) and three Carrion Crows.


Waders are building up nicely and this morning on the shore were 77 Turnstones and 760 Dunlins. Grounded migrants were just six Wheatears and two White Wagtails.


The main movement at sea consisted of 95 Arctic Terns with a supporting cast of three Red-breasted Mergansers, seven Gannets, 32 Common Scoters, five Sandwich Terns, a Shelduck, a Red-throated Diver, a Guillemot, three Eiders and two Little Gulls. In addition to this there was an Atlantic Grey Seal bobbing around in the surf just off shore.


 Atlantic Grey Seal

It's more Newts for my sins this week and it's unlikely that I'll be out birding 'proper' until Friday; eek!

Thursday 24 April 2014

Afternoon Interlude

Too much real ale flavoured 'pop' last night and a report that needed completing prevented me from getting out birding this morning. So when I had completed the report shortly after lunch I headed down to the estuary for a couple of hours for some much needed birding therapy!

It was a glorious afternoon and the warm temperatures made me think about Ospreys, Marsh Harriers and other such large raptors, but I wasn't to see any large raptors this afternoon. In fact the only raptor I did see was a single Kestrel.

Walking down to the estuary there was a good variety of warblers in the reeds and scrub and I logged six Willow Warblers, five Whitethroats, two Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler, two Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, two Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler.

There was very little on the estuarine mudflats other than several hundred Lesser Black-backed Gulls and lesser numbers of Herring Gulls, and two Whimbrels. The Gulls feed on the adjacent landfill site and are constantly flying to and from the estuary to bathe and roost.

On the reservoir were just two each of Tufted Duck, Shelduck and Mute Swan, with four Coots


A number of butterflies were on the wing including Peacock, male Orange-tips, Speckled Wood and Large Whites.


 Speckled Wood

I didn't see a great deal else but it was just pleasant to have a break from work and a walk in the sunshine! The forecast looks good for tomorrow, but as I will be working until after 11.00 pm surveying for Great Crested Newts I'm not sure yet whether I can face an early alarm call!

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Short And Not So Sweet

This will be a very short post as I have precious little to report after a couple of hours birding this morning; certainly short and not very sweet!

I started off in the cemetery and had a Tree Pipit over and there was a steady passage of Swallows north and a single Sand Martin. The only grounded migrant was a single Willow Warbler.

I then had a look in the coastal park and it was just as quiet here with two Willow Warblers being the only grounded migrants. I went back to the cemetery and added a Wheatear and had two recently fledged Mistle Thrushes being fed by the adults.


It wasn't a surprise that it was quiet as the wind was quite a fresh northeasterly and it was cold. I then had a quick look at the pools before heading home and had seven Wheatears plus a couple of Sedge Warblers and a single Reed Warbler. On the pools there were few wildfowl other than eleven Tufted Ducks.

  Tufted Duck

Sunday 20 April 2014


It was back to the Obs for me this morning but without mist nets as the wind was a 15 mph northeasterly and it was quite cold under the clear skies. There was very little new in this morning other than a female Wheatear, a skulking Chiffchaff and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler.

The vis wasn't spectacular, but it was steady, and I had two Lesser Redpolls, ten Meadow Pipits, 25 Linnets, 25 Swallows, six Sand Martins, five Goldfinches, a Curlew and a Carrion Crow.

The sea was even quieter with just two Arctic Terns, three Eiders, a Red-throated Diver and four Sandwich Terns.

After a couple of hours flogging the coast I headed to the pools to have a look. The main reason was to see if I could get in to the Willow Carr to put some nets up, but unfortunately it is still far too wet. However, I did flush six Snipe in my attempt to get in! A few migrants were logged including two Whitethroats, two Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler, two Whimbrels, a White Wagtail and three Wheatears.

It was then time for me to head home and check my moth trap. In the trap were 13 Hebrew Characters, an Early Grey, two Light Brown Apple Moths and an Early Thorn

Saturday 19 April 2014

Short But Oh So Sweet

It was a short ringing session at the Obs this morning but it was sweet because of a couple of cracking birds. I unlocked the gates at 0500 and drove down the track to the ringing station. The skies were clear and the wind was a cold 10-15 mph ESE. I knew there was a chance that any ringing would be cut short as it was forecast for the wind to pick up, and after a couple of hours I had to take the nets down.

The first bird that I caught threw me initially as it was completely out of context as I didn't expect to be extracting a Cetti's Warbler from a net dissecting hedgerow! This was the first sweet moment of the morning and it was also a first for this section of the Obs. We have ringed several Cetti's warblers at the Obs, but these have been over in the reedbeds and wet scrub where you would expect them.

 Cetti's warbler

In total I only managed to ring ten birds due to the increasing wind as these were as follows:

Cetti's Warbler - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 8
Willow Warbler - 1

 Willow Warbler

I also controlled a Lesser Redpoll, so it will be interesting to know where that has come from.

 Lesser Redpoll

The second sweet moment came in the form of a bird belting northeast under clear skies and this was a stonking Hobby! Even with the naked eye I could see its pale cheek and throat standing out. And through my bins it looked even more stonking with streaked underparts and 'red trousers'; top bird!

The Hobby's supporting cast on vis included an Alba Wag, 40 Lesser Redpolls, six Swallows, four Meadow Pipits, three Linnets, two Goldfinches, a Tree Pipit and two Siskins.

The only grounded migrants I had were two Willow Warblers and the two Whitethroats were likely the same birds as yesterday.

After I packed up I headed to the cemetery for a quick look and received a call from Ian to say that he had 'my' Hobby over the pools before he lost it belting south. Perhaps it had headed up the peninsula and didn't fancy the open expanse of sea in Morecambe Bay and turned round and headed south.

The vis was continuing over the cemetery and in the half hour I was there I had two Linnets, three Siskins, two Tree Pipits, four Meadow Pipits, a Redpoll, two Swallows and a male Sparrowhawk heading east fairly high with a bulging crop! I suspect with the crystal clear conditions most of the vis was high and out of the range of my eyes and ears.

Back at home in the moth trap it was a Hebrew Character fest with a total of eight and just a single Early Grey.

It's going to be too breezy for ringing tomorrow and the wind is swinging round northeasterly, so it will be birding only for me and a Sunday morning lie in until 5.00 a.m.!

Friday 18 April 2014

All Quiet On The Ringing Front

I had my first ringing session for the spring at the Obs this morning and was joined by Huw at first light where we were met with a ground frost, clear skies and a very light southeasterly breeze. It 'felt' very quiet as we were putting the nets up and quiet it was to remain throughout the morning.

There was some vis this morning, but it was light, and included a Linnet, eight Meadow Pipits, a Tree Pipit, 18 Lesser Redpolls, five Swallows, three Skylarks, a Siskin and a House Martin.

 Lesser Redpoll

Grounded migrants were equally thin on the ground with just two Whitethroats new in and a Chiffchaff that we trapped. We ringed eleven birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 1
Wren - 1 (2)
Chiffchaff - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 7
Blue Tit - 1 (1)


 Blue Tit


So all in all a very quiet morning, but it was good to get some nets up. Let's hope it's better tomorrow morning!

Tuesday 15 April 2014

The Beauty of a Local Patch

As I am working this evening and late into the night, and also early tomorrow morning, bottle trapping Great Crested Newts, I decided to have a leisurely start to the day by heading to Booths for a free Latte and then on to the Moss for a birding stroll. I collected some waste bird seed from the local agricultural college and dropped this off at my feed bin.

As I drove down the track I had a singing Yellowhammer, but this was to be the only one encountered on my walk. Corn Buntings were conspicuous by their absence too and I only had a single Tree Sparrow. I'm not too worried about a lack of Tree Sparrows, like I am for a lack Corn Buntings, as I know the Tree Sparrows will have been busy in my boxes.

Two Buzzards thermalled above the woodland in the warming air and I added a third bird later on my walk. From the same woodland a Great Spotted Woodpecker called and I had a second calling bird from the L Wood. As I approached the L Wood I had my first singing Willow Warbler and then had another three in the plantation.

Migrants were thin on the ground this morning and in addition to the Willow Warblers I had a male Wheatear feeding amongst some stones and fence posts adjacent to the track. At the far end of the very large field opposite was a flock of 160 Curlews and I couldn't pick any Whimbrels out amongst them. Heading back past the plantation I flushed a Grey Partridge and Roe Deer crashed out of the woodland.


A number of butterflies were on the wing, mainly Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks. Driving off the Moss I stopped to have a look on the Green Sand Pool and I was pleasantly surprised to see a Black-tailed Godwit feeding away, which was a first record for me for this species at this site, and this just re-emphasised to me the beauty of a local patch in that the bird doesn't have to be particularly rare to give you a buzz!


 Black-tailed Godwit

Monday 14 April 2014

March Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of March. We have ringed 122 birds of 20 species and are 379 birds down on where we were last year.

I haven't produced a list of the top 5 ringed for the month as only one species was ringed in double figures and this is Chiffchaff with 14 ringed. Nor have I listed a 'top ten movers and shakers' as only five species were ringed in double figures, so I have produced a 'top five movers and shakers' instead.

Top Five Movers and Shakers

1. Chiffchaff - 15 (straight in)
    Blue Tit - 15 (same position)
    Goldfinch - 15 (straight in)
4. Yellowhammer - 12 (down from 2nd)
5. Wheatear - 11 (straight in)


Sunday 13 April 2014

Niggling Northerly

I bumped in to Ian at first light this morning and we headed to the Scar where we could 'watch' the sea even though the tide was out and had yet to turn and run in. The forecast had been for it to be a straight westerly this morning but in reality there was a 'niggling northerly' in it making it a chilly west-northwesterly. In fact it felt like a November morning this morning, not like mid April at all!

The first hour after first light was definitely the best and it slowed down a great deal after that. Passage on the sea included 31 Red-throated Divers, a Fulmar, two Gannets, 19 Common Scoters, 15 Kittiwakes, two Red-breasted Mergansers, ten Eiders, two Sandwich Terns, four Cormorants and a Shelduck.

As you might expect there was very little vis under these conditions other than two Swallows, a Meadow Pipit, a Sand Martin and 21 Goldfinches. I had a few waders on the shore in the form of 28 Sanderlings, 55 Dunlins and 85 Turnstones. The only grounded migrant was a single Wheatear.

Back home in my moth trap were two Hebrew Characters, a Common Quaker and an Early Grey. It's forecast a stiff northwesterly for tomorrow so I'm not sure if I'll get out other than to drop some food off at the bin at my feeding station followed by a short walk on the Moss perhaps.

Saturday 12 April 2014


After a week of breeding waders, Great Crested Newts, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Primroses and Fritillaries it was great to get out for a relaxing morning's birding this morning. A sea watch was the order of the day with a 15 - 20 mph southwesterly wind blowing and a mid-morning tide. I tried to sea watch at my new spot on the coast but it was too exposed so had to go back to the old and trusted sheltered spot.

The 'vis' was all over the place this morning with some birds managing to head north and east early on, but as the wind increased they were heading west along the peninsula into wind. My meagre vis totals included a single Alba Wag, 14 Meadow Pipits, six Linnets, 28 Goldfinches and a Swallow. The best or most interesting bird I had on vis was a Hooded Crow that flew directly over my head being mobbed by Gulls. It headed northeast across the bay and dropped onto a sand bar. It was then mobbed by Gulls again and I lost it as it headed east.

The sea was quiet, with the main feature being a small movement of Gannets totalling 31 birds. The supporting cast included 69 Common Scoters, seven Red-throated Divers, five Red-breasted Mergansers, 115 Knots, nine Eiders, 13 Cormorants, 60 Dunlins, two Sandwich Terns, a Whimbrel, two Shelducks and 22 Ringed Plovers.

The forecast for tomorrow is for quite a stiff westerly wind so some more sea watching might be on the cards.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Mainly South

The vis yesterday was a mixture of north or south, but this morning it was mainly all south; often perceived as the wrong direction in spring! The wind direction for the second day running was probably the reason for the southerly movement as it was a good 15 mph from the south. I had full cloud cover throughout most of the morning, but the forecast rain yet again didn't appear.

The vis was a similar mix of species and numbers to yesterday and included 21 Meadow Pipits, nine Goldfinches, an Alba Wag and eleven Linnets. However, if at all possible there were less grounded migrants than yesterday restricted to just a single Wheatear.

 Meadow Pipit


The sea was a little livelier with Gannets being a feature of the morning and my totals included two Cormorants, two Red-throated Divers, an Auk sp., a Common Scoter, seven Eiders, 29 Gannets, two Grey Plovers, nine Sanderlings and a Sandwich Tern.

I have a busy week coming up work-wise and I might struggle to get out birding again until Friday as I have a breeding wader survey to complete Tuesday and Great Crested Newt surveys on Wednesday and Thursday. Where do the days go?!

Saturday 5 April 2014

North and South

As I set off on my walk around the Obs this morning I had full cloud cover with a stiff southerly wind. Rain was forecast for some time during the morning, but it didn't arrive during my two hour walk.

Grounded migrants were a bit thin on the ground and a Chiffchaff singing from the hedge & ditch and a Wheatear on the sea wall was all I could muster.


The vis was a bit mixed this morning in that there was some, although it wasn't particularly heavy and some birds as well as moving in the expected northerly direction were moving south into the wind, including Meadow Pipits out at sea. My vis totals included 180 Pink-footed Geese, 34 Meadow Pipits, a Siskin, six Linnets, an Alba Wagtail, two Goldfinches and a Lesser Redpoll.

I didn't spend too much time on the sea and just had four Cormorants, 14 Eiders, five Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers and three Red-breasted Mergansers.

I had a look on the flood and there were six Snipes and as I walked through the dunes I flushed a cracking adult male Sparrowhawk.

The forecast is similar for tomorrow with strong southerlies and rain moving through in the morning.

Friday 4 April 2014

Keep Going Back

I always find that if you have the time, and particularly at coastal sites in the spring, keep going back to have a look as new birds are always dropping in even on a slow morning like today. I was at the cemetery at first light and it was gloomy; full cloud cover with a quite a mist and a light southeasterly breeze.

My walk round yielded little other than a Redwing heading northeast and three Siskins. I then moved on to the coastal park and expected a Chiffchaff at least but I had no migrants other than a Sand Martin zipping through.

I then went back to the cemetery and the mist had thickened to become a light drizzle and straight away two Fieldfares dropped in and I had a grounded Redwing too. Walking the same circuit as earlier I added three Chiffchaffs to the morning's total but that was it migrant-wise, but it had certainly been worth going back.


The forecast for tomorrow is a bit mixed with southeasterlies and some rain coming in during the morning. The timing of the rain is going to be crucial and I'll certainly be getting up to have a look. 

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Mountain Thrush Before Breakfast

Based on last night's forecast of southerly winds with overnight rain it was obvious that it was going to be an arrival morning and not a morning for seawatching. I headed to the cemetery at first light as this is often a good place for grounded migrants due to its coastal location.

I did my usual circuit of the cemetery and had notched up a couple of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests when I heard the familiar "chack-chack" call of a Ring Ouzel. I must have flushed it from feeding amongst the head stones and it very briefly alighted on the hedge. It was a very scaly bird and I could see that it was a first winter male. It then took off and flew round in circles, landed briefly in a Scots Pine and then I lost it. But I was nevertheless pleased with my sighting.

Continuing on my walk I added a male and female Blackcap to my migrant tally and headed off to the coastal park. I was greeted with singing Chiffchaff and a distant singing Willow Warbler, before picking up a Blackcap tuning up from some scrub. Two Goldcrests were also in the park, but it was now time to unfortunately head home for breakfast, and I say 'unfortunately' because I knew that there would be quite a few birds around.

I don't 'put out' records of common migrants like Ring Ouzel but another birder who does had obviously been in to the cemetery and re-found the Ring Ouzel and released the news to all and sundry! I'm not criticising  this birder whoever they are, it's not just the way that I operate. This apparently resulted in half a dozen birders running round the cemetery trying to relocate the Ring Ouzel. This was a flighty bird to start off with, but with a posse of year listers on it's tail it will be even more so!

I don't understand the modern birding scene and perhaps I'm an old dinosaur with an old fashioned attitude. I looked at the forecast last night and to me it had 'grounded migrants' written all over it, it couldn't have been plainer than that. I only had an hour to spare this morning so I went to the most likely spot to hold some grounded migrants on my patch. It would seem that the modern way is to sit indoors with a coffee and wait for the pager to go off! I'm obviously doing it all wrong!!

 This Woodpigeon is the only bird I could photograph this morning!