Sunday 28 September 2014


I was ringing at the Obs this morning and became quite busy as I was ringing on my own, although I'm not complaining! It was a different morning to yesterday with full cloud cover and it was virtually calm, although there might have been a breath of wind from the southeast.

The vis was a good deal lighter today and I did wonder whether it was murky in the bay, but the set of nets at this particular location is close to the coast but the sea isn't viewable from where I ring. The vis this morning consisted of 13 Alba Wags, 217 Meadow Pipits, three Starlings, a Golden Plover, three Chaffinches, 14 Greenfinches, five Reed Buntings, two Grey Wagtails and three Skylarks.

 Meadow Pipit


A few grounded migrants were evidenced by seven Blackbirds, two Goldcrests, ten Long-tailed Tits and a Stonechat. A few Pink-footed Geese were arriving, perhaps 250, and were dropping into the farm fields to the east. No Sparrowhawks this morning but a Kestrel kept stirring the Mipits up!

 Long-tailed Tit

As I said before the ringing kept me busy this morning and I ringed 46 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 25 (there were some large birds amongst the sample this morning including one with a wing  of 87 mm, perhaps suggesting Icelandic origin for some of them)
Reed Bunting - 2
Blue Tit - 3
Greenfinch - 6
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Blackbirds - 2
Goldcrest - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 5
Chaffinch - 1
Robin - (1)

 This Greenfinch has been feeding on Rose hips.

Reed Bunting

Interestingly I controlled a Meadow Pipit (D784905 anyone?) and this is the first one ever controlled by the ringing group in the 31 years of its existence and after processing 2,341 Mipits! It is on IPMR now and it will be interesting to see where it was from and how recently it was ringed. If I was a betting man I would put money on it being from Walney! When I find out I will let you know.

Saturday 27 September 2014


The weather at the Obs this morning started off at six oktas cloud cover before clearing completely and then after a couple of hours a cloud bank came in from the southwest leading to full cloud cover. The wind was southeasterly, fairly light at first, but then increasing to a good ten mph.

Before I go on to what I had on my walk round the Obs this morning I thought I would say a few words about the 'Obs'. When I refer to the Obs I am referring to the recording area around Fleetwood, Lancashire where Ian and I record bird observations on a daily basis. Well Ian does and I just get out when I can! We refer to this recording area  as Fleetwood Bird Observatory (FBO) and the daily sightings of FBO can be found HERE 

Although not an official bird observatory affiliated to the BTO the Fleetwood peninsula has been operated like a bird observatory for many years. Migration monitoring through sea watching, ringing, searching for grounded migrants and monitoring of visible migration takes place on a daily basis. The recording area consists of a number of sites and a range of habitats can be found within the recording area including coastal grassland, scrub, sand dunes, shingle, open sea, saltmarsh, reedbeds, hedgerows, broad-leaved woodland, mudflats and freshwater pools. Rather than refer to the individual numerous sites found within the recording area it is just easier for the purposes of my blog to refer to these sites as the 'Obs'. I just thought I would explain this as I realised that I hadn't explained this before! Over on the right below the Fylde Ringing Group totals you will see a Google Earth image of the recording area to hopefully give you a better idea of the Obs location.

Back to this morning. It was quite cold this morning and the vis was slow to start, but when it did there was a good variety and it was really interesting. Perhaps the most interesting species of the morning were the Jays. Jays are a rare and infrequent breeder within the Obs recording area with only one pair breeding infrequently (this is the same for all woodland species), so this morning's sightings almost constituted an invasion! In total I had thirteen birds head south: flocks of six, three and four respectively.

 Jay over the dunes (honest!)

The remainder of the vis included 185 Meadow Pipits, 15 Reed Buntings, a Tree Sparrow, four Starlings, 40 Pink-footed Geese, 37 Linnets, 30 Skylarks, 42 Alba Wagtails, four Chaffinches, eleven Carrion Crows, five Jackdaws, 20 Goldfinches, a Rock Pipit, two Sand Martins, a Sparrowhawk, a Grey Wagtail and four Swallows.

 Reed Bunting

Grounded migrants were very thin on the ground and the only 'thing' I could say was grounded was a single Song Thrush. The sea was quiet, but part of that was because I was looking skywards, and all I had was a single Wigeon and four Common Scoters.

The wind is going to be relatively light tomorrow so I am planning to be out ringing at the Obs and I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday 22 September 2014

Almost Half A Century

Yesterday morning Huw and I were ringing at the Obs and conditions looked perfect for some vis and we hoped we would be able to tape lure some Meadow Pipits down for ringing. At first light we had 1 okta cloud cover and it was calm. It would remain clear all morning but the wind picked up to a 5 mph northerly later.

As I have already mentioned the conditions looked perfect for some vis and there was quite a bit of passage. The usual caveat to the following totals applies in terms of operating mist nets and keeping eyes and ears skywards; it's inevitable that a good deal of birds were missed. Our vis totals included 527 Meadow Pipits, a Goldfinch, five Chaffinches, five Alba Wagtails, a Reed Bunting, eleven Swallows, 819 Pink-footed Geese (my first major arrival; smaller numbers have been filtering through for about a week), 19 Skylarks, two Sparrowhawks, a Greenfinch and a Rock Pipit (my first on vis for the autumn).


 Pink-footed Geese

We ringed 45 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Robin - 3
Meadow Pipit - 26 (all small birds suggesting mainly British origin)
Blue Tit - 4
Great Tit - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Wren - 2 (1)
Greenfinch - 5
Woodpigeon - 1
Dunnock - 1
Blackbird - 1



There wasn't any evidence of grounded birds at all and the overnight weather conditions would have suggested that it was a 'clear-out' night rather than an arrival night. Fingers crossed for a few more days like this throughout the remainder of autumn!

Saturday 20 September 2014

It's Surprising What's About Even On A Quet Day

It was relatively quiet this morning at the Obs and with full cloud cover and a lot of mist and murk I didn't expect too much.

There was some vis, although not heavy, it was fairly constant and I had 102 Meadow Pipits, three Grey Wagtails, two Goldfinches, seven Alba Wags, three Chaffinches, a Reed Bunting and a Skylark.

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground but sprinkled with a little bit of quality. At first all I'd had was a Chiffchaff and three restless Dunnocks, and then the murk increased to the south and east, and a 1st wint. female Stonechat appeared. Shortly after that just as I was packing my ringing gear away I heard what I thought was a Sylvia warbler 'tacking' from an Elder bush just in front of my car. A bit of pishing and a streaky Locustella popped out. A few alarm bells rang at first, but then I could see that it was a juv. Grasshopper Warbler.

Ringing was slow and I ringed eight birds as follows:

Dunnock - 1
Robin - 2
Meadow Pipit - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Great Tit - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Greenfinch - 1



It's going to be cooler and clearer tomorrow and perhaps with some heavier vis; I'll let you know.

Friday 19 September 2014

A Day Too Late?

After the fantastic day Ian had at the Obs yesterday with lots of common migrants and a mega, I wondered whether it was a day too late for me this morning. These past couple of days I have been stuck indoors writing reports and I needed to get out this morning for a couple of hours. I decided I would spend an hour looking on the sea and recording vis and then 'hit' some of the migrant spots of the Obs in the hope that a few grounded migrants would be around.

At first light I was greeted with two oktas cloud cover and the wind was a very light easterly. Straight away there were birds on vis and these included three Grey Wagtails, 69 Meadow Pipits, two Alba Wags, and a Chaffinch.

The sea was relatively quiet with just two male Eiders, 21 Common Scoters, a Gannet on the sea (I think they always look odd on the sea) and a cracking summer plumaged Red-throated Diver that flew out of the bay.

My time was up for vis and I headed to some of the migrant traps and there were a few grounded migrants around in the form of four Goldcrests, two Chiffchaffs, a male Blackcap and two Spotted Flycatchers.

 Spotted Flycatcher (above & below)

I was a day late, but it was pleasant just to be out. I am hoping for a run of three mornings mist netting at the Obs starting tomorrow morning and I'll be sure to let you know what I do and don't catch!

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Barn Owls

Yesterday evening Huw and I headed to a local farm to ring a late brood of Barn Owls. The nest site was in the bottom of a large grain bin/store, which was a first for me! The two chicks were quite well grown with just a little down remaining and not far from flying. These were in fact the first Barn Owls ringed this year for the group, so that was good. Below are a few pics of one of the chicks.

Monday 15 September 2014

Not A Mega Mipit Morning

Another morning at the Obs and this time without mist nets. I had full cloud cover with a 5 - 10 mph northeasterly wind. The vis was completely different to Saturday morning both in terms of numbers and direction of movement.

There were far less birds on the move and the direction of movement varied. On Saturday everything was moving south but this morning some birds were moving north in to the wind and others were coming in off the sea and heading east! My vis totals (without directions of movement) were 51 Meadow Pipits, one Reed Bunting, seven Grey Wagtails, 17 Alba Wagtails, one Goldfinch, one Greenfinch, one Skylark, one Snipe, and 13 Golden Plovers.

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground with just 14 Robins, five Wheatears and a Willow Warbler. I had a brief look on the sea and just recorded six Black-tailed Godwits north, six Sandwich Terns south and two Cormorants.


I've got some Barn Owls to check this evening, and hopefully to ring, and I'll let you know how I get on later.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Mega Mipit Morning

After a couple of evenings drinking in probably the best Pub in Britain and drinking probably the best beer in Britain (check out the Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket, home of Hesket Newmarket brewery) it was quite refreshing to get up at 5.00 a.m. to go ringing! I headed to the Obs and was greeted with full cloud cover and a 5 - 10 mph ESE wind.

It seemed quiet at first, but eventually birds got on the move and the vis was quite interesting. I had twelve Grey Wagtails, 609 Meadow Pipits, three Alba Wags, four Reed Buntings, 13 Goldfinches, five Greenfinches, three Skylarks and a Tree Pipit all heading south.

With such a good passage of Meadow Pipits I did manage to ring a few and in total I ringed 31 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Robin - 1
Meadow Pipit - 22
Reed Bunting - 2
Dunnock - 1
Great Tit - 2 (1)
Willow Warbler - 1
Woodpigeon - 1
Blackbird - (1)


 Reed Bunting

In addition to the Blackcap (female) and Willow Warbler ringed the only other obvious grounded migrant was a male Blackcap, unless the male Great Spotted Woodpecker with a ring on was a migrant. I think probably it was a local bird that we have ringed at the Obs in the past, though I do have to say that there is very little 'Great Spot' habitat in the Obs recording area. Raptors were thin on the ground except for two Kestrels

The wind is forecast to be northeasterly in the morning and possibly into double figures in terms of wind speed, so it will be a morning birding rather than ringing and birding for me tomorrow.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

First Pinkies

Under full cloud cover with a stronger than forecast southeasterly I had a ringing session at the Obs this morning. As my blog title suggests I had my first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn when 110 arrived from the north, attempted unsuccessfully to land on the farm fields and headed off northeast.

 The first Pinkies heading northeast.

This would be the highlight of a relatively short and quiet morning. A quick call to Ian who was further up the peninsula and looking on the sea confirmed my suspicions; blocking murk in the bay! On 'vis' I just had three Alba Wags, nine Meadow Pipits, a Chaffinch, 24 Goldfinches and four Grey Wagtails.

Grounded migrants were represented by six Robins and the only raptor I had was an immature male Sparrowhawk. I ringed eight birds as follows:

Robin - 4
Meadow Pipit - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Greenfinch - 1



There will be a few days of radio silence from me as I head north to celebrate my first half century (I can't believe I'm that old!) at one of my favourite pubs with attached brewery, brewing some of my favourite beer!

End of August Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of August. Even though we ringed a respectable 641 birds during the month we are still 982 down on where we were last year! Two new species for the year were ringed this month in the form of a single Magpie and Collared Dove, and below are the top five for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed August

1. Swallow - 441
2. Reed Warbler - 52
3. Sedge Warbler - 29
4. Wren - 15
    Blue Tit - 15

Top Ten 'Movers and Shakers' for the Year

1. Swallow - 607 (same position)
2. Reed Warbler - 142 (same position)
3. Blue Tit - 961 (same position)
4. Sedge Warbler - 82 (up from 5th)
5. Great Tit - 76 (down from 4th)
6. Whitethroat - 59 (same position)
7. Goldfinch - 47 (same position)
8. Wren - 45 (up from 10th)
9. Blackcap - 44 (down from 8th)
10. Chiffchaff - 40 (down from 9th)

Monday 8 September 2014

Cool Northwesterly

I had a stagger round the Obs yesterday morning not expecting much due to the wind direction and my expectations were realised! I had virtual clear skies with a 10-15 mph NW wind and it was cool.

There was a little 'vis' in the form of two Golden Plovers, a Collared Dove, three Alba Wags, a Reed Bunting, three Grey Wagtails, ten Meadow Pipits and a Tree Pipit.

 Meadow Pipit

Apart from a single Goldcrest the only grounded birds I had were seven Wheatears. Raptors were similarly thin on the ground and the only raptor flag was flown by two Sparrowhawks, that could well have been migrants based on their behaviour.


The forecast is looking okay for ringing tomorrow at the Obs so I'll give it a whirl.

Sunday 7 September 2014

The End?

Last night Huw, Ian and I might have had the final session at the Swallow roost for the year, although I think it will depend on what happens over the next few days. We went to the reedbed and put the nets up and unfortunately only about ten Swallows came in to roost! As we get into September the number of Swallows moving through decreases and this of course is reflected in the numbers of birds roosting.

Poor weather reduces the number of birds roosting as it impacts negatively on the number of birds migrating and yesterday morning was wet with next to no passage of Swallows. As there has only been about a thousand birds roosting of late it only takes one day of poor weather to reduce the roost to virtually nil. If a good n umber of Swallows are on the move over the next few days it will be worth going again as the roost will build up, but if there isn't that will be it until next year.

We didn't draw a complete blank from a ringing perspective as we managed to ring a Sedge Warbler and two Swallows. Just two Teal were on the pool and two Snipes on the mud, and I imagine the Sparrowhawk that came for a hirundine supper was just as surprised as us!

Thursday 4 September 2014

It's Those Swallows Again!

Huw, Ian and I spent a pleasant couple of hours 'working' the Swallow roost last night again. We managed to ring 101 plus singles of Sand Martin and Reed Warbler. We thought that perhaps about a thousand Swallows were roosting, but there could have been more. The attendant raptor this evening wasn't a Hobby unfortunately, but a juvenile male Sparrowhawk instead.

We had very little else other than five Moorhens, a Teal and a Greenshank calling in the twilight!

We received details of some recoveries from the BTO yesterday and amongst them was quite an interesting Sedge Warbler that we had ringed at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park on 15th August 2010, and ten days later on 25th August 2010 it was controlled (re-captured by other ringers) 900 km south at Plaisance, Saint-Froult in France! See Google Earth image below.

 Movement of Sedge Warbler L141611

Interesting as this movement is, it isn't anywhere near as amazing as that of a Willow Flycatcher from North America that I heard about through the BTO Ringers Yahoo Group. Details of this amazing bird as controlled by the ringer in southeastern Mexico can be found below:
"We always speak about amazing migration achievements in Shorebirds. Here I want to show you something amazing. You know Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii), these little guys can fly from North America to northern South America during migration. They weigh 14 to15 g and they cross through where we are, in Minatitlan Veracruz (southeastern Mexico). Yesterday we caught around 120 of them, and one was already banded. We checked it out, thanks to BBL, and found that this bird was banded in Harrison Illinois, USA on the 30th of August 2014. We recaptured it yesterday, 1st September 2014, two days later and 2200 km away. That means this bird flew about 45 km/hour for 48 hours non stop. That is an achievement!"

As Manuel says that is an achievement indeed! If you think about it, that 45 km/hour is an absolute minimum as what we don't know is how long the bird had been in Mexico when Manuel trapped it, probably not very long. I've ringed a good few Willow Flycatchers in Canada and they are only just a little bit bigger than a Pied Flycatcher! The more we learn about migration the more amazing it becomes!

 Willow Flycatcher

Wednesday 3 September 2014

First Meadow Pipits Ringed For The Autumn

I had a ringing session in the coastal scrub yesterday morning and as I unlocked the gates at 0530 it was flat calm with clear skies. It was the first decent day for some vis for a few days and I was hoping there would be a good few birds on the move.

There were a few birds on the move but not as much as I expected, even taking into account that I was busy ringing and it was hard to look out for vis and concentrate on ringing at the same time. Interestingly, Ian was further up the peninsula where the coast changes from a north--south alignment to an east-west alignment and he had a lot of vis heading east!

My poor vis totals included 53 Meadow Pipits south, two Grey Wagtails south, two Alba Wags south, three Skylarks south and I've saved the best until last; four Tree Sparrows south!

I had nothing additional grounded to what I ringed and I ringed 31 birds (no recaptures) as follows:

Greenfinch - 4
Dunnock - 5
Blue Tit - 11
Robin - 4
Meadow Pipit - 6
Goldfinch - 1




The only other records of note for the morning were a flock of thirteen Goldfinches and a cracking adult male Sparrowhawk that somehow managed to avoid my net when flying directly towards it two feet off the ground!

We're at the Swallow roost this evening and hopefully the Swallows will have built up again after being scared off by that Hobby!

Monday 1 September 2014

Swallows Again

Andy, Ian and I had another good session at the Swallow roost yesterday evening. There were about 2,000 roosting and we managed to ring a respectable 97 plus a single Sand Martin. When we were extracting them Ian was at a different net to Andy and I and we suddenly heard him shout Hobby! All the Swallows got up out of the reeds and climbed into the sky. Andy and I unfortunately couldn't get on to the Hobby that had shot low over the net Ian was extracting from, and it was that close that he could see it was a juv. Superb!

The forecast is looking good for some ringing on the coast tomorrow, so I'll let you know how I get on. In fact the forecast is looking good all week and towards the end of the week we might even get a goodie at the Obs if these easterlies persist!