Tuesday 29 July 2014

Led A Merry Dance!

Ian and I had an attempt to ring some Swallows last night but we were led a right merry dance! Unfortunately the Swallows aren't roosting in their traditional reedbed at the moment, and the reedbed they are in entails a fifteen minute walk with all the gear to get to!

We just put up one 60 foot net and MP3 lures were switched on and we waited, and waited and waited! Swallows were arriving and coming down to investigate the MP3 players and then moving away and they looked to be heading towards the traditional roost site" And when I say traditional, it is a roost site that they have been using since at least 1984 to my knowledge.

In the end we decided to take the net down and head over to the other reedbed to see if they were going in there. As we were walking away birds were starting to drift back, so we stopped to watch and about 2,000 were coming in to roost! All that was happening was that they were coming in later, perhaps to maximise their feeding time, and when we thought they were moving off towards the old roost they were just flying around to have a pre-roost feed over the large areas of grassland. It wasn't really a wasted journey I suppose, because at least we sorted that out.

We did manage to ring a couple of Reed Warblers, Sedge Warbler and a Swallow. Interestingly the Reed Warbler that I processed was absolutely full of fat and a heavy bird, so was probably fattening up in readiness for a quite considerable migratory hop.

We will be back! 

Sunday 27 July 2014

If it Wasn't For the Greenfinches..........

..........Ian and I would have had a very weary ringing session yesterday morning. The weather was pretty good for mist netting when we got to the reedbed at first light, with no cloud cover and calm. If I was being a bit fussy I would have preferred some cloud cover to take any glare from the sun off the nets.


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

Whitethroat - 2
Blackcap - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Greenfinch - 8
Dunnock - (1)
Willow Warbler - (1)
Sedge Warbler - (1)


The birding was even quieter than the ringing and the only thing of note was a repeat of last week when we had a Snipe drop in at our feet, but this time it was a Lapwing! From the air, the open area area where we have our ringing station must perhaps look like an open wet area and it causes these birds to drop down and take a look. Of course as soon as they land they take off having realised their mistake.

Fingers crossed we should be ringing some Swallows tomorrow evening as we have a Swallow roost in one of the reedbeds. Ian had a session there on Friday night and managed to ring fifty Swallows on his own; he thought about 3,000 were coming in to roost!

Thursday 24 July 2014

An Hour on the Estuary

I popped out for an hour before starting work this morning and headed to the estuary. As it has been of late it was full sunshine and calm. At 5:30 a.m. it was just pleasant heading down there in shirt sleeves.

Even though it was fairly quiet it was nevertheless enjoyable. Walking through the scrub and past the reeds a few warblers were still singing including Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Reed Warbler. In fact I had a Sedge Warbler carrying food, presumably to a second brood at this time of year.

Down at the estuary I had a few waders in the form of a Whimbrel, fifteen Redshanks, a Snipe, 16 Black-tailed Godwits and seven Curlew. Also feeding out on one of the wide shallow creeks were seven Grey Herons and I had another on the pool. I also had two Common Sandpipers on the pool with a supporting cast of ten Shelducks, two Little Grebes, 32 Mallards and seven Tufted Ducks.

 Grey Heron

After watching a Sparrowhawk giving chase to a few Greenfinches and Goldfinches through the Sycamores it was time to head home and chain myself to my desk. That's me until weekend now, when hopefully I'll be out ringing Saturday morning in the reedbed. 

Wednesday 23 July 2014

A Quiet, But Not Unexpected, Type of Morning

I headed to the coastal fields at the obs yesterday morning and although I didn't expect to ring very much I was keen to get a first ringing session in here for the autumn. You need grounded or diurnal migrants for this site as the restricted amount of habitat doesn't hold many breeding birds, but because of the lack of habitat migrants really stand out. It's coastal location (directly behind the sea wall) and green oasis (urban areas to the north and south) mean that it is attractive to migrants in the right conditions.

The conditions yesterday morning weren't the right conditions and I had clear skies and it was calm. On the front fields were a flock of fifteen Lapwings, but anything on the front fields doesn't stay long as they get flushed by early morning dog walkers. The only other wader I had during the morning was a Dunlin over.

The only vis I could detect were two Alba Wags south and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying northeast was quite a good record for here. I had a Grasshopper Warbler 'reeling' but it's hard to know at this time of year whether that's a breeding bird or a migrant.

I only ringed six birds as follows:

Blackbird - 2
Dunnock - 1
Whitethroat - 3


I've got another of my reports out of the way and only have one outstanding at the moment, although I do have a few on the horizon once the surveys are finished, so I might just treat myself to a couple of hours birding in the morning. If I do I'll let you know how I get on.

Sunday 20 July 2014


As birders we don't half give some not overly flattering 'nick names' to some cracking birds and Sedge Warbler is no exception. I presume that some birders refer to them as 'sludges' because it is close to 'sedge' and perhaps sludge represents the colour. We caught a few Sedges this morning and a fresh juvenile in the hand is a sight to behold, absolutely stunning in an ever so subtle sort of way and nowhere near sludge! I prefer some of the old regional names for Sedge Warbler such as Sedge Wren, Sedge Reedling or perhaps Sally Pecker or Sally Picker in Ireland (sally = willow)!

It was perfect conditions for ringing this morning in the reedbed with full cloud cover and just the hint of a WSW wind, although this would pick up a bit later. Ian and I ringed 23 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Whitethroat - 4
Sedge Warbler - 6
Reed Warbler - 4 (1)
Great Tit - 2
Blackcap - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Wren - 1
Willow Warbler - 2 (3)
Chiffchaff - 1


 Willow Warbler

As we drove round to the reedbeds at first light we pushed a flock of 15 Lapwings up and these wouldn't be the only waders of the morning. We had a Black-tailed Godwit over and then as we were sat at the ringing table nattering between net rounds a Snipe 'dropped' from the sky and landed a few yards in front of us! Of course as we went for our cameras the bird 'legged it' as you would expect!

As has been the pattern for the past few weeks there has been a number of Alba Wagtails exiting a roost somewhere to the north and flying over us. We had success last winter in tape luring them down as they headed to the roost at dusk, so perhaps we need to try the same as they exit the roost!  A few hirundines were around this morning with a reasonable flock of twenty House Martins and the only other thing of note is the Great Crested Grebes have now got two young from their second brood.

High pressure is dominating for the first half of the week so I will try and get out ringing again, perhaps Tuesday, at some of the coastal bits of the Obs.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

June Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group to cover the period up until the end of June. At 545 of 45 species they are looking a little bit weary for this time of year and are 802 down on last year.

Seven new species were ringed for the year and these were three pulli Sparrowhawks, three pulli Ringed Plovers, a recently fledged Herring Gull, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Swallow, a Treecreeper and five House Sparrows.

The top five ringed in June were as follows:

1. Pied Flycatcher - 24
2. Reed Warbler - 21
3. Greenfinch - 15
4. Goldfinch - 13
5. Dunnock - 12

The top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year are as follows:

1. Blue Tit - 67 (same position)
2. Great Tit - 56 (same position)
3. Pied Flycatcher - 40 (up from 6th)
4. Chiffchaff - 28 (down from 3rd)
    Goldfinch - 28 (up from 7th)
6. Reed Warbler - 27 (straight in)
7. Greenfinch - 26 (up from 10th)
8. Dunnock - 21 (straight in)
9. Lesser Redpoll - 20 (down from 4th)
10. Sedge Warbler - 19 (straight in)

Dropping out of the top ten were Wheatear, Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer.

So we need to keep our fingers crossed for a Swallow roost and a good autumn of Pipits and Finches!

Saturday 12 July 2014

Twos and Threes

It was back to the reedbed for Ian and I this morning and it was a glorious morning with clear skies and absolutely no wind. Some cloud came in later in the morning which helps to take any glare off the nets from the sun. We didn't ring as many birds as last Sunday but nevertheless it was worth the early start.

Interestingly nearly every species we ringed this morning seemed to be in 2s and 3s, and we ringed 22 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 2 (1)
Blackcap - 3
Reed Bunting - 2
Sedge Warbler - 3
Willow Warbler - 2 (2)
Wren - 3
Chiffchaff - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Dunnock - 1
Blackbird - (1)

 Reed Bunting

From a birding perspective we didn't have a great deal other than a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Kestrel, 25 Coots, two Little Grebes and a Great Crested Grebe.

Back home I had a nice selection in my moth trap consisting of thirty moths of fourteen species, and these were just the ones I could identify. There were a few Pugs that I struggled with and several micros that I just can't do. My totals were:

Marbled Beauty - 6
Heart And Dart - 1
Gothic - 2
Scalloped Oak - 3
Common Wainscot - 2
V-Pug - 1
Buff Ermine - 2
Dot Moth - 6
Large Yellow Underwing - 1
Bright-line Brown-eye - 2
Garden Carpet - 1
Small Angle Shades - 1
Buff Arches - 1
Grey Arches - 1

 Scalloped Oak

Small Angle Shades

 Buff Arches

Buff Ermine

It's going to be too windy tomorrow for ringing at the Obs unfortunately, which is a shame as the series of weak weather fronts coming in from the west might stir things up a bit. I'll just have to have a stagger round and see what I can see. Oh for some fresh wader habitat!!!

Sunday 6 July 2014

Wainscot and Warblers

As hoped for yesterday Ian and I had a successful ringing session in the reedbed this morning and the catch in my moth trap was reasonable. As we put the nets up we had three oktas cloud cover and the wind was a light southeasterly and yet again it was cold!

During the early part of the morning a number of Alba Wagtails were exiting their roost just to the north of us and we had about 20 go over. As we weren't on site at first light it is likely that there were a good few more than this. Twelve Lapwings took the opportunity to feed on the shorter areas of the grassland before the first members of the public would arrive and flush them.

We actually had a bit of vis this morning with three Sand Martins and a Swallow south. Other bits and pieces that we recorded were single Stock Dove, three Swifts, two Great Crested Grebes, 25 Coots, 2 Little Grebes, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

We ringed 31 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 6 (1)
Whitethroat - 8
Reed Bunting - 1
Sedge Warbler - 3 (1)
Great Tit - 2 (2)
Blue Tit - 2 (1)
Blackbird - 1
Willow Warbler - 4
Wren - 2
Blackcap - 2

 Sedge Warbler


When we were packing up I found this juvenile Smooth Newt underneath
the ringing table.

Back home in the moth trap I had a Magpie (moth!), a Large Yellow Underwing, a Garden Carper, two Buff Ermine, a Dot Moth, three Heart and Darts, a Dark Arches, two Bright-line Brown-eyes, a Riband Wave and a Common Wainscot.

 Buff Ermine

It's a day chained to my desk tomorrow for me, but I'm hopeful for the first autumn ringing session at the Obs Tuesday morning.

Saturday 5 July 2014

The rain auditions at my window..........

..........is the opening line to a classic Marillion song called 'The Web', and that is exactly what the rain was doing at my window until it stopped at about 5.15 a.m. and I got up and went birding. High tide was at about 4.30 a.m. so I decided to head to the coast to have a look on the sea. You won't believe this but in the 20-25 mph northwesterly wind that was blowing at this time I had my hat and gloves on, yes wearing hat and gloves on 5th July! Well as I am fond of saying "it is autumn now after all"!

In fact I wished I'd stayed in bed and listened to some Marillion as it was really quiet on the sea but you have to go out because time out = birds in! Birds moving on or above the sea included 129 Common Scoters, three Sandwich Terns, two Arctic Terns, five Cormorants, a single Gannet and an Atlantic Grey Seal.

Waders were few and far between with just six Oystercatchers, two Ringed Plovers, five Turnstones and two Curlews. Best of the rest were a couple of Swifts and that was it. After nearly two hours I couldn't handle all the excitement any longer and headed home. Hopefully I'll have better news from tomorrow's ringing session and from my moth trap. Fingers crossed!

Thursday 3 July 2014

Not the Best Start to Autumn

I've been struggling to get out this week which isn't what I planned for the start of autumn. After my weeks holiday I have been catching up on emails and then today I am finally making a start on four reports that I have outstanding, but I shouldn't grumble really as it's work!

Last Sunday (29th) Craig, Ian and I had a ringing session in the reedbed and it was certainly not what we expected, but we did ring the first juv Reed Warbler of the year. We ringed just 6 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Wren - 1
Blackbird - (1)

From a birding perspective there was very little to add to the ringing other than a few Swifts feeding over the pools. Now I must go and get those reports done so I can get out!

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Southwest Scotland

Don't worry I haven't disappeared from the face of the earth or done something silly like given up birding; no last week I had a week in Scotland with my other half Gail. We had a great week with near perfect weather with just one day of showers. It wasn't a birding holiday as such, but of course birding is more of a way of life to me rather than an interest, so if I'm awake wherever I am I'm birding! Or taking note of all biodiversity of course.

Below are a few snaps taken during our week in Dumfries and Galloway.

Brown Hare

 Calaeverock Castle

The cottage we stayed in.

 English Stonecrop

Juvenile Grey Heron sunning itself

We visited a Red Kite feeding station and the following pictures were taken there.

 Putting the food out

 All Red Kites

The next four shots show a Red Kite swooping into the feeding table and taking some food.


Sheep's-bit Scabious

 Swallows were nesting in the porch to the cottage

 Sweetheart Abbey

Wild Thyme

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse