Thursday 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

No news from me I'm afraid, although I will be out birding tomorrow as the forecast is quite good for a change. So more on that tomorrow!

I just wanted to wish all my blog readers a 'haud Hogmanay' for this evening and a 'Guid New Year' for tomorrow! See you in 2016!

Sunday 27 December 2015

Shake Hands With Shorty......... a cracking album by southern blues rock band North Mississippi Allstars and I was virtually shaking hands with Shorty's this morning!

I haven't had a walk around the farm fields for a while and I was keen to get going this morning as it was the first decent day for weeks! Amazingly at first light I had clear skies with a light southeasterly wind.

A lot of the fields were flooded, as you can imagine, and had Gulls feeding and bathing on them including 112 Herring Gulls, 293 Black-headed Gulls and 103 Common Gulls. A Goldcrest called from the copse and a Reed Bunting called from a reedy ditch and that was it for those two species.

The stars of the morning were undoubtedly the 'Shorties' or Short-eared Owls to be precise. I had a definite three different birds and there was probably a fourth. I was so close to them at times that I could hear them hissing at each other if they came too close to each other when hunting.

 Short-eared Owl

On the owl front I was also delighted to see a Barn Owl and managed to locate where it is roosting, and fingers crossed nesting next year, but on a sad note I also found a dead Barn Owl. As you know Barn Owls struggle to feed when there is continual rain and I guess this bird became desperate to feed and succumbed to the poor conditions.

A Grey Heron and four Snipes on the wetland was all I had until a Rock Pipit flew over as I walked to my seawatching position. The sea was very quiet and I had diddly squat other than fourteen Pink-footed Geese heading north.

On the way home I had a look on the 'geese fields' and there were 600 'Pinkies', but there was nothing else amongst them.

 Pink-footed Geese

If the forecast is decent tomorrow I'm going to treat Gail to a morning's birding on the marshes; I bet she can't wait!

Friday 25 December 2015

Goose For Christmas!

It wasn't supposed to rain this morning until eleven, but they're was some light drizzle as I drove to the coast in the semi-darkness. My first bird this morning was a Barn Owl hunting over the farm fields, so that was a good start to a Christmas morning's birding.

I found some shelter in front of the tower and set my scope up.I had full cloud cover with a 15 mph south-southwesterly wind with light showers. As the tide ran in Oystercatchers and Sanderlings gathered on the beach and I had 363 and 172 of each respectively.

By now the rain was coming in from the west and the bay became 'locked down' in murk and consequently I had nothing on the sea other than four Cormorants, a Common Scoter and three Red-breasted Mergansers. It was at this point that I decided to head home.

On my way home I had a look on the geese fields and there were 400 Pink-footed Geese, but I couldn't see anything amongst them. A flock of 120 Lapwing went over heading east and a Kestrel made up the supporting cast.

The forecast is really grim again for tomorrow with more rain so I am not sure when I'll next get out.

Monday 21 December 2015

Solstice Greetings

Before I go into detail regarding the grim solstice morning's birding I had, I just want to wish all my readers a Happy Winter Solstice! At least after today we can look forward to lengthening days! Technically winter solstice is at 04:48 on 22nd December, so the shortest day will actually be tomorrow! But being a traditionalist I'll stick to the 21st!

I decided to see if I could get out birding for an hour or so before the forecast heavy rain came in. I managed about an hour, but probably wouldn't have stayed any longer even if the rain hadn't come in as the birding was so dire!

At first light I was greeted with 7 oktas cloud cover with a moderate-strong south-southwesterly wind. I took shelter in front of the tower and set my scope up. High tide was just after seven so the tide was still in when I started my watch. As usual the waders were getting kicked about the beach by dog walkers and included 200 Sanderlings, 175 Oystercatchers, 22 Ringed Plovers, three Dunlins and fifteen Turnstones.

Talking about wader disturbance Ian and I had a good meeting with the RSPBs Marine Conservation Officer last week about measures we could put in place to both limit the disturbance from people at the high tide roost and also how these people could be educated about the disturbance they are causing. More on this in the near future hopefully when proposals get firmed up.

It was even quieter on the sea with just three Cormorants, 24 Common Scoters, two Red-breasted Mergansers and 27 Eiders on the scar.

As I walked back to my car I heard a couple of Blue Tits alarm calling and a male Sparrowhawk shot through the scrub. The weather is looking brilliant over the next week or so but as it's the holiday season and I'm going to take a bit of time off I will try my best to get out.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Time Out

I took some time out from writing a report regarding a site in north Devon of all places to meet Ian on the coast at the Obs to discuss some future ringing projects. I had a look at the Geese on the way there and on the way back and there was about 600 Pink-footed Geese and all I could see amongst them was a juvenile 'Greenland' White-fronted Goose and a single Greylag.

The local authority have recently drained the marine lake and today they were filling it up. The shallow water had attracted a Little Egret in to feed along with five Red-breasted Mergansers that were feeding fanatically alongside the Egret. There were good numbers of Turnstones, about 250, along with three Purple Sandpipers and a Grey Wagtail.

 Little Egret

Purple Sand and Turnstones

Some of the 250 Turnstones

Feeding Red-breasted Mergansers

I wish some of the bird photographers would take time out from chasing the Short-eared Owls around. Today a female photographer (not that their sex matters) in a bright blue coat was relentlessly chasing a  'Shortie' with her big lens. In fact for most of the time she was trespassing, but that doesn't seem to matter to these folk. No bins with her and zero field craft! I wouldn't mind betting she probably didn't even know what she was photographing, that is the level of expertise of some of these so called bird photographers these days.

At one point the Shortie dropped into the grass and caught a small mammal. What did this idiot do? Back off and let the Shortie feed would be what any normal person would do, but no she had to keep getting closer and closer until the Shortie flew off without its meal! I give up!!!

The forecast is looking a bit grim for the foreseeable, isn't it always at the moment, so I'm not sure what the next few days will bring. I need to get to the feeding station tomorrow so it will be interesting to see if I can relocate the Firecrest. I'll let you know.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Wader and Wildfowl Spectacular

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant day with the staff, supporters and volunteers of the Biodiverse Society on and around Morecambe Bay watching the Pink-footed Geese leave their coastal roost and the wader spectacular as the tide ran in.

The Biodiverse Society is a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded partnership project between the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Local Record Centres; Merseyside BioBank and Lancashire Environment Records Network (LERN). The Biodiverse Society Project aims to enhance and update data on Local Wildlife Sites across Lancashire and North Merseyside by engaging more people in wildlife recording and supporting and training a new generation of amateur naturalists. The project will raise awareness and value of Local Wildlife Sites and create a well-supported new group of champions for wildlife sites. For more information click HERE

We met near Pilling just as it was coming light and waited for the 'Pink-feet' to leave the roost. It took a while but eventually we treated to the fantastic spectacle of flock after flock of Pink-feet flying low and heading inland to their favoured feeding areas. I attempted to count them but grossly under-counted them due mainly to chatting to a great bunch of enthusiastic naturalists. The count in my notebook reads 4,432, but there was probably twice as many as this. 

Whooper Swans were doing the same and we had 109 of these magnificent birds. A few Little Egrets (four) graced the saltmarsh along with a 100 Lapwings, 155 Linnets and a single Rock Pipit.

After the wildfowl spectacular we headed to Fluke Hall and walked along the sea wall towards Knott End to watch the wader flocks build up as the tide ran in culminating in a 9.3 m high tide at lunchtime that would cover all the mudflats and just leave a small area of higher marsh for the birds to roost on. 

There were a couple of other birders on the day who like me have supported and become involved in the project since it started by supporting some of the volunteers and providing mentoring to some of the staff. As often happens when a few birders get together you often end up talking about birding and the three of us were having a little moan about a good proportion of today's birders needing 'target' birds to go and look at all the time, otherwise they get bored and complain there is nothing to look at! Then when there is something of interest in their eyes they never leave whatever birds/sites they may be and keep continually going back to look again and again! A classic example are the Barn and Short-eared Owls around at the Obs at the moment! My advice to these 'bored' birders is get out birding, open your eyes and look!!!

The beauty of being out with a group of enthusiastic amateur naturalists with varying interests from birds to dragonflies to plants is that they see the natural world for what it is, an amazing natural spectacle that we can all engage with and enjoy. The waders certainly put on a spectacular display as they tried to keep ahead of the fast incoming tide and the Knot were particular amazing as they moved around in an amorphous state perhaps numbering five or six thousand! Every single one of the twenty people out this morning, including me, were mesmerised by this wader spectacular. So come on bored birders with nothing to look at get yourself to a high tide wader roost and if you are still bored and think there is nothing to look at then my advice would be to hang your bins up!

Below are some attempts to capture the spectacle of the amorphous Knots!

In addition to the Knot there were lesser numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Lapwings, Redshanks, Dunlins, Curlew and Golden Plovers. Four Little Egrets were around and another amorphous bunch in the form of 120 Twite kept us entertained.

A fantastic morning with a fantastic group of people was rounded off with a very pleasant lunch in a local cafe. Here's to another year of the Biodiverse Society!  

Sunday 13 December 2015


This morning Ian and I had our first ringing session for some time and we headed to the feeding station under frosty conditions. The weather for ringing was perfect in that it was calm and overcast, however the birds didn't know that it was perfect weather conditions for ringing except for one little gem!

We put the nets up and retreated to the ringing table for coffee. As we chatted and put the birding world to rights we heard Goldcrest calling, so on the next round we put Goldcrest on the MP3 player. It was very slow ringing wise and on the next round we had caught just a few birds and in the far net what we thought was the Goldcrest. However, when we got close to it we could see it was a gorgeous stripey Firecrest!


This was a first ringing record for the Obs, and though in the grand scheme of things that doesn't mean very much, it was still nevertheless a cracking little bird. We did also catch a Goldcrest next round, but in total we only ringed six biirds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 2
Firecrest - 1 male
Goldcrest - 1 male
Great Tit - 1 (3)
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Chaffinch - (1)


Great Tit

We had very little else from a birding perspective other than about a couple hundred Greenfinches exiting the roost and numbers of 'Pink-feet' calling as they too left their estuarine roost. I forgot to mention another good bird that I had in the week at the feeding station, which was a personal first for me at the Obs, and this was a male Bullfinch. They are just about annual in the southern part of the recording area, but this was the first record this winter!

During the afternoon Gail and I stretched our legs along the estuary and we had a female Common Scoter right in the quay which was nice. Of course Common Scoters are common off the Obs, but it was nice to see one close in and away from the open sea.

If the weather is okay tomorrow I will be birding at one of my former birding sites from years gone by, but more of that tomorrow.

November's Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of November. No new species were ringed during the month and in the latter half of the month we struggled to get out. Below are the top five ringed for the month and the 'top ten movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 November

1. Great Tit - 36
2. Blue Tit - 35
3. Goldfinch - 28
4. Redwing - 17
5. Goldcrest - 17

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 922 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 272 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 233 (same position)
4. Great Tit - 188 (up from 9th)
5. Chaffinch - 175 (same position)
6. Goldcrest - 171 (up from 8th)
7. Sand Martin - 169 (down from 4th)
8. Greenfinch - 161 (down from 6th)
9. Reed Warbler - 157 (down from 7th)
10. Willow Warbler - 119 (same position)

Sunday 6 December 2015

Purple Haze

I have always looked for an excuse to use a Hendrix track as a blog title as I am huge fan of the late great genius guitar player and this morning it sort of fitted. It was very hazy at first this morning, well more like murky, and one of the birds I had this morning had a 'Purple' in its name!

I was a bit in shock that it was actually fit to go birding this morning and in my excitement to get out got up too early and spent a while looking into the darkness from the observation tower. Just as it slowly came light Ian joined me and we spent the first half hour complaining of the poor visibility, again, and dodging rain showers. Eventually it came light and the visibility improved and it was possible to see across the bay.

It didn't exactly get going this morning but there were one or two bits and pieces on the move at sea and these included seven Red-breasted Mergansers, 71 Common Scoters, a Shag, 70 Teal, eight Pintails and six Wigeons.

It was just about bang on high tide when I got there and there were a number of waders roosting on the shore including 329 Sanderlings, a Purple Sandpiper and twenty Ringed Plovers.

I'm usually moaning about dog walkers flushing the high tide wader roost but this morning we incredulously watched a birder do it. I am guessing he was desperately trying to year list Purple Sand and thought the way to do it was to flush all the waders. Instead of walking along the promenade he walked all the way along the shingle ridge until he came to the roosting Sanderlings. He spent some time looking at them and then just walked towards them flushing them. And he did this two or three times before walking back to the car park perhaps after collecting his target bird! This type of behaviour is becoming more and more prevalent in birding today, where so called birders seem to have no field craft and no consideration of the bird's welfare!

The Sanderlings afterwards and before the desperate birder flushed them 

It's looking a bit unsettled to say the least this week so it will be a case of birding as and when! 

Monday 30 November 2015

Trying Conditions

I don't think I need to tell you how awful the weather has been of late with gale or near gale force west - northwesterlies and driving rain! As a consequence I haven't been out birding properly for a week and I salute those that are braver than I and have managed to get out.

I have been going to my two feeding stations every couple of days but the weather has been so terrible during each of my feeding visits that I haven't really anything to report other than they are both wet! There's Chaffinches and Goldfinches coming to my feeders at the water treatment woks and Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Chaffinches at my farmland bird feeding station, but beyond that I can't say anymore!

I was hoping for some wildfowl on some friends of ours wetland when we called yesterday for a lovely lunch but when we went to have a look at the wetland it was bird less. Mind you the wind was 50 mph southwesterly with squally showers so I imagine everything was sitting tight. It's a good job that Robert and Diana fed Gail and I some lovely food washed down with some excellent vino to take away the pain of  a lack of birds!

I have come across an excellent blog, well I think it's excellent and so do a lot of other people, called Not Quite Scilly and it can be found HERE There's some good tales of birding 'derring-do' and a mix of thought provoking posts such as the latest one titled 'Suppression? Good Idea!'. I'll leave you with that one!

Monday 23 November 2015

Heat Haze?!

At this time of year heat haze might not be the technical definition of the poor visibility caused by the temperature differential between the air and the sea, but whatever the correct term is the outcome was the same and viewing conditions were far from perfect! Looking across the bay with the naked eye the visibility looked quite good and the snow capped Lakeland mountains stood out quite well as did Barrow-in-Furness town hall clock, Peel Castle and Walney Island, but through the scope all was not well.

There seemed to be an increase in Eiders this morning and in total I had 40 either on or over the sea. In addition to the Eiders on the sea I had 26 Cormorants, 64 Common Scoters, five Great Crested Grebes motoring out of the bay, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, 16 Pintails, a Med. Gull, two Little Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, a Velvet Scoter, a Whooper Swan and two Shelducks. Not rocking, but not awful either.

I had a Snow Bunting fly past/over me but I couldn't see it. It was calling loudly as it flew east to west but I couldn't locate it at all. It is possible that it was behind me and the 15 mph southerly wind had turned the volume up to number eleven!

Waders were thin on the ground this morning and all I had in any numbers were 150 Sanderlings flushed from their high tide roost by a, you've guessed it, dog and dog walker!

Four Reed Buntings feeding on the beach and dunes were new in and could perhaps have been displaced by cold weather. And that was about it for my pre-work interlude before I had to return to the coal face.

Thursday 19 November 2015


Catching up on work has forced me indoors and also forced me to miss a few seabirds during this blustery week or so. In addition to this I have had some internet connection problems, now sorted, and haven't been able to blog.

Tuesday of this week saw me taking a walk down to the estuary before the rain came in. The wind had dropped and I had a pleasant couple of hours not seeing very much but enjoying myself very much nevertheless.

At this time of year the walk down to the estuary through the Hawthorn 'tunnel' is generally very quiet without the breeding warbler assemblage that accompanies you in spring and summer. I headed to my vantage point on the saltmarsh and had a scan of the river. It's amazing how no two visits to the estuary are the same even  on the same day, as there are so many variables affecting the bird numbers; weather, state of the tide, disturbance by raptors etc.

Scanning from left to right I picked out 517 Lapwings, 18 Curlews, nine Golden Plovers (although there looked to be good numbers further upstream with some Lapwing), 60 Dunlins, 49 Herring Gulls, 14 Mallards, 120 Wigeons, 126 Redshanks, 23 Shelducks, 97 Black-headed Gulls, 14 Common Gulls and two Grey Herons. Walking back towards the scrub I had three Rock Pipits, none of them on deck but flying over me calling.

In the scrub alongside the pool were four Goldcrests, three Song Thrushes and two Long-tailed Tits. On the pool itself was a lack of variety with just 50 Tufted Ducks, three Goldeneyes, two Little Grebes and three Teal.

 Twenty of the fifty Tufteds

Over the past few days I have been keeping my two feeding stations topped up and my feeding station in the water treatment works seems very busy with all the feeders emptying in just a few days. All I need is a decent day to see exactly what's there, or even better a morning calm enough to do some ringing. Sunday is looking like a possibility but I have probably put paid to that by mentioning it!

At my farmland bird feeding station this morning in the near gale force winds and showers it was pleasing to note that the Tree Sparrows have now found the food and alongside three Yellowhammers and 14 Chaffinches were 17 of the little beauties.

I am satisfying my 'inner folk' tonight that occasionally breaks through my rock/prog exterior as I am off to Macnhester to see Show of Hands. Look them on the tinterweb and I don't think you will be disappointed; a folk band with rock sensibilities!

Thursday 12 November 2015

A Swell Morning

After the winds of late there was only one thing to do this morning in the forecast clearer and drier conditions and that was have a look on the sea. Over the past few days it has been pretty windy but it has been the lack of visibility with the driving rain that has been the problem. This morning I had 2 oktas cloud cover with a 10- 15 mph southerly wind. The visibility was better, though not brilliant, and the swell made it tricky viewing birds on the sea.

There was actually some vis this morning as it was the first decent window for some time and again high flying continental Chaffinches were a feature of the morning. On vis I had 32 Chaffinches, eight Linnets (all coming in off the sea), a Brambling, 137 Starlings (37 'in-off'), ten Meadow Pipits (8 in-off), a Rock Pipit (in-off) and two Skylarks.

A few waders gathered as the tide ran in and I had 191 Sanderlings, 67 Oystercatchers, two Curlews, 101 Turnstones and 15 Ringed Plovers.

It's a wonder there are any birds on the shore at all with the disturbance they receive from dog walkers. This morning there was a male Eider on the beach and an ignorant, and obviously unintelligent, woman was walking a Labrador and her stupid pooch started to chase the Eider. The Eider headed for the sea and the stupid dog was dancing round it and making grabs for it. What did the intellectually challenged female toss pot do?; she just watched and let her dog harass the poor Eider. The Eider made it to the sea and the dog went in after it. Once the Eider was in deeper water it had no problem escaping from the thick dog and it kept diving and then surfacing away from it. As the Eider went further out the the dog swam after it. I was starting to hope that the fast moving tide would carry the dog out into the bay as it would have served its stupid owner right. Eventually the dog gave up on the Eider and swam back to shore and the idiotic woman and her pooch proceeded to walk along the beach flushing the roosting waders!

From a negative aspect of the morning to a positive sea related one there was a bit of movement on the sea this morning in the form of 46 Common Scoters, five Kittiwakes, three Eiders (including the beleagured male), seven Red-breasted Mergansers, 29 Little Gulls, two Auk sp. and a Great Crest Grebe.  

The forecast is looking grim for the next few days and it will be challenging when out birding to say the least. I've got to go to my feeding station at the water treatment works tomorrow morning but it will literally be a splash and dash!

Monday 9 November 2015

October's 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 October. At 3,674 birds ringed we have already ringed more birds full stop than we did last year. If we can ring more than 3,723 by the end of the year it will be our best annual total since 2011.

Three new species were ringed for the year in October and these were Fieldfare, Marsh Warbler and Brambling

Below you will find the top five ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed In October

1. Greenfinch - 97
2. Goldfinch - 92
3. Redwing - 88
4. Goldcrest - 84
5. Chaffinch - 65

Top Ten Movers And Shakers For The Year

1. Swallow - 922 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 237 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 205 (up from 7th)
4. Sand Martin - 169 (down from 3rd)
5. Chaffinch - 162 (up from 8th)
6. Greenfinch - 160 (straight in)
7. Reed Warbler - 157 (down from 4th)
8. Goldcrest - 154 (up from 10th)
9. Great Tit - 152 (down from 5th)
10. Willow Warbler - 119 (down from 6th)

At 922 birds ringed I would say that Swallow is secure in number one spot. However, Blue Tit is certainly under threat from Goldfinch and could be replaced in second position. Also Sand Martin's tenure in fourth is under question and could easily slip down to the lower end of the table. Likewise Reed Warbler is in a similar position. Only time will tell!

Sunday 8 November 2015

A Narrow Window Of Birding Opportunity

It hasn't half rained these past few days and this morning there was a narrow window of birding opportunity; namely first light until about 9:00 am! I was working at the end of last week in southwest Scotland and it didn't half rain there as well. Birds were a bit thin on the ground but I did manage to see Red Kite, Hen Harrier, lots of Barnacle Geese and winter Thrushes so it wasn't all bad. I also managed an hour in the brewery tap of the Sulwath Brewery in Castle Douglas which was an excellent way to escape the rain!

There was a morning tide today so I hit the coast at about 7:00 am and it was just about light enough to start birding. I sought some shelter and spent about an hour and a half watching the sea. A few waders were about on the incoming tide including 190 Oystercatchers, 33 Sanderlings and 53 Turnstones.

There was enough interest on the sea to keep me occupied in the form of 141 Cormorants, five Eiders, ten Common Scoters, six Red-throated Divers, 23 Auk sp., ten Red-breasted Mergansers, two Great Crested Grebes, two Razorbills and four Shelducks.

There was some vis this morning as it was probably the first morning in several days when there was the possibility of some movement based on the weather conditions. It was clear across the bay and high flying continental Chaffinches in particular were taking advantage of this. I kept hearing Chaffinches calling but couldn't see them and then walking back to my car I managed to get on to a few high flying birds, and when I looked at them with my bins there was a flock of 70! So how many actually went through this morning I'm not sure, but several hundred I would guess! The only other vis was a single Meadow Pipit and 34 Pink-footed Geese.

Just as the rain came in I was topping my feeders up at the feeding station and all the food had gone since Monday, so that's a good sign. I couldn't really say what was there as it was absolutely lashing it down as I was putting the food out.

It's looking very unsettled this week but hopefully I'll get more than a narrow window of opportunity to get out birding.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Better Late Than Never Perhaps

I set up my farmland bird feeding station on the Moss this morning, which is a month later than usual. I have attempted to set it up a few times but there has been lots of farming activity in the vicinity of my feeding station that has prevented me from doing this. The cropping pattern of the farm has changed over the past two years with less cereals grown and more maize and grass. It will be interesting to see if it has had an effect on farmland bird numbers and diversity and if it has, how much of an effect.

In fact today was probably the first time in ten years that I have visited the farm in November and not recorded a Tree Sparrow; we'll see if they come now I am feeding. I made the first seed drop and had a walk along the '97 Hedge'. Skylarks can be a feature of the moss feeding on the winter stubbles. This area because of the peaty soils still has spring cereals with winter stubbles if it is down to cereals rather than grass. I only had twelve Skylarks and I put up a small flock of five Snipe from the same stubbles. I would increase my Snipe total to 25 later when a flock of 20 flew over.

There were a number of Thrushes around including 62 Fieldfares, nine Blackbirds a Song Thrush and two Redwings. The Fieldfares were feeding on invertebrates in the sewage sludge that had been spread on part of the 'big field'.


The only raptor I had was a single Buzzard, unless you count Short-eared Owl as a raptor. I picked a 'shortie' up very high and coming in from the west. I watched it for some time as it circled round half closing its wings to lose height. That is until two Carrion Crows decided they would mob it so it gained height again and drifted east until out of sight.

 In-coming Short-eared Owl

Something was flushing the Lapwings and Pink-footed Geese from the top fields, but I don't know what it was; I had 210 and 75 of each respectively. Before long it was time to head home and do some work and all I added to my notebook was a Grey Wagtail as I drove off site.

I have some work north of the border in Scotland towards the end of the week for a couple of days, so it will probably be Saturday before I am back out on the patch.

Monday 2 November 2015

More fog.........

.........but at least this time it dropped a few birds in. I paid a quick visit to my feeding station in the water treatment works, which lies about 0.5 km from the estuary and 1 km from the coast, and has some good migrant attracting habitat.

Compared to my last visit there were good numbers of birds around. Birds that I considered to be grounded migrants were six Song Thrushes, four Goldcrests, six Blackbirds and three Robins. There was also an increase in numbers of tits, finches etc with four Greenfinches, five Chaffinches, ten Long-tailed Tits and 26 Goldfinches. The only raptor I had was a single Kestrel.

It must have been clear above the fog as I could hear Pink-footed Geese, Skylarks and Redwings going over. I topped up the peanut and niger feeders and put some seed and apples out on the ground. I am going to check my farmland bird feeding station tomorrow to make sure that they have finished all the field work in that area and hopefully start feeding. 


And that was nearly the only entry in my notebook for yesterday! When Kim and I got to the Obs just before first light it was misty at most and there were a number of Redwings calling overhead, by the time we had put the nets up a dense fog rolled in and it didn't shift.

We strung it out for a couple of hours and the fog was so bad that I was amazed that we actually ringed six birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 1
Goldfinch - 3
Greenfinch - 1
Sparrowhawk - 1 imm. fem.
Blue Tit - (1)



We only had one Barn Owl this morning that loomed out of the fog like some ghostly apparition and then it dissolved back in to the murk! As you would expect there was absolutely no vis, in fact there was virtually no birds at all. We could hear Pink-footed Geese going over and about fifteen Fieldfares appeared out of the gloom and then vanished again! And that was it!

Saturday 31 October 2015

Owl Fest

I had a wander around the Obs this morning under cloudy skies with a 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind. In recent weeks I have been enjoying the spectacle of a couple of Barn Owls hunting for a while after first light, but this morning there was a few more than two! Straight away I picked up two birds hunting over the farmland and then I noticed a third bird as it was quite different with completely white secondaries, primaries and tail. Excellent; three Barn Owls! I whizzed a text to Ian to let him know and then within two minutes I was texting him again to say there were four. A text back from Ian said "amazing" and I had to text him again to say sorry there were five! Five Barn Owls; a record number for the Obs!

 Barn Owl

It was nearly three species of Owl this morning but the Little Owl wasn't in residence, but I did flush a Short-eared Owl from some long grass! In fact Ian had a further three Short-eared Owls later on so there were five Barn Owls and four Short-eared Owls at the Obs this morning!

 Short-eared Owl

I did my usual circuit and added three Kestrels to the raptor tally, but nothing else. As usual 'Pinkies' were arriving from the river shortly after first light and 645 dropped in.

There was some vis this morning, mainly in the form of high flying continental Chaffinches. I kept hearing Chaffinch calls and sometimes I wouldn't be able to see anything they were so high and at other times I would be able to pick birds out in the stratosphere! My vis totals were nine Meadow Pipits, 48 Chaffinches (massive under count), a Collared Dove, a Fieldfare, two Bramblings, a Rock Pipit, two Reed Buntings, five Starlings and three Alba Wags.

The only obviously grounded migrants this morning were two Song Thrushes and a Goldcrest. The sea was quiet with just eleven Common Scoters, but I did have a female/immature Long-tailed Duck head south with five Common Scoters.

The forecast looks okay for some ringing in the morning so I'll give it a go and see what I get.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

A Bit Of A Late Autumn Fall

One of the benefits of knowing your patch inside out and visiting it often, is that you can easily detect any changes in the number and species make up of the birds utilising the site. This morning was a classic example as I knew straight away that there had been a small fall of Thrush species.

Overnight it had started clear and then sometime before dawn cloud had moved in and it had become quite murky. When I got to the Obs at 7:15 a.m. I had 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind and it was a touch murky out to sea.

As I said before I realised immediately that a few birds had been dropped and that a small fall had occurred consisting of nine Robins, two Mistle Thrushes, four Song Thrushes, two Stonechats, nine Reed Buntings and two Fieldfares.

There was some vis this morning but it wasn't exactly 'rocking' and all I had was a Skylark, a Goldfinch, 19 Meadow Pipits, eight Chaffinches, an Alba Wag, six Carrion Crows, a Lesser Redpoll, two Grey Wagtails, two Rock Pipits and a Siskin.

During the morning there were some Pink-footed Geese dropping in to the farm fields across the road and in total I had 1,097. Both Barn Owls were active this morning and were hunting for a good hour or more after first light. I watched one of the Barn Owls catch a small mammal and a young male Kestrel repeatedly mobbed the Barn Owl  trying to get its prey off it.

 Pink-footed Geese

Barn Owl


I had a quick look on the sea but it was very quiet with just four Cormorants and two Eiders. The forecast looks grim for tomorrow and I have a site visit on Thursday, so it will be Friday before I am out again, but at the moment the forecast isn't looking too good for then either!

Grey Heron

Sunday 25 October 2015

A Quiet Sunday Morning

It meant a slightly earlier start this morning as the clocks had gone back an hour but nothing major, the main aggravation was the weather . It was forecast to be overcast and dry with a 15 - 20 mph southwesterly wind. However, as I drove to the Obs for a sea watch it was pouring down! As I parked my car the rain eased and I could see Ian walking along the top of the dunes and joined him in front of the tower. For the next hour we played a game of having to seek frequent shelter because of heavy squally showers that came belting our way. In the end we gave up and called it a day as far as seawatching was concerned.

In that hour all I recorded in my notebook was 33 Cormorants, 27 Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers, six Shelducks, an Eider and two Red-breasted Mergansers. Surprisingly in such atrocious conditions there was a hint of vis with 15 Chaffinches east and 4 Meadow Pipits low over the sea west!

I then headed to the water treatment works to check on the feeding station. Although I had only put the feeders up four days ago and knew that nothing much would have found them as yet, I wanted to get in to a weekly weekend cycle of topping them up. The feeders had been found, but they only need topping up slightly, reflecting how quiet it was in there. It hardly seems worth reporting here what I found but of minimal interest were two Buzzards, two Goldcrests, a Song Thrush and a female Sparrowhawk.

As on the coast there was a touch of vis with three Skylarks, two Meadow Pipits and four Starlings moving in a more or less southerly direction.

The forecast is looking a bit mixed for the coming week, although remaining fairly dry until Wednesday, so I will try and get at least one morning in between now and then.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Feeding Station

Ian and I called at the water treatment works this morning to set up the feeding station there for the winter. After half an hour we had cleared the net rides and put four feeders up plus seed on the ground. So hopefully weather permitting we will have a our first ringing session of the winter there in the next couple of weeks.

We had a quick look round whilst there and recorded two Buzzards, 40 Woodpigeons, three Song Thrushes, ten Long-tailed Tits and five Goldcrests amongst others.

I've got site visits tomorrow but I am hoping to get out Friday morning and do some seawatching in the stiff westerlies forecast.

Tuesday 20 October 2015


It was a busy old morning yesterday as I was ringing at the Obs on my own and I caught quite well. The morning dawned with seven oktas cloud cover and it was calm.

Almost immediately I had Redwings going over but not in huge numbers. My vis totals, including those for Redwing, included 47 Redwings, two Bramblings, four Lesser Redpolls, 16 Chaffinches, 249 Jackdaws, a Yellow Wagtail (getting late), 28 Greenfinches, 450 Pink-footed Geese, eight Skylarks, two Alba Wags and five Meadow Pipits.


 Pink-footed Geese

A Barn Owl was present again this morning, but no Buzzard, and the only other raptor was a single Kestrel. The most interesting grounded migrant of the morning was a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched on top of a lamp standard! Other grounded migrants were four Wrens, a Fieldfare, two Song Thrushes, four Dunnocks, two Blue Tits, a Great Tit, three Blackbirds and two Goldcrests.


As I said earlier I was busy ringing this morning as I was on my own and I managed to ring 41 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 26
Chaffinch - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Blackbird - 3
Wren - 2
Goldcrest - 1
Great Tit - 1
Robin - (1)

I also controlled a Greenfinch and look forward to details of its origin.

The position of the jet stream is changing this week and we are losing the calming influence of the high pressure, and with it the easterlies and a return to westerlies. With site visits today and time spent setting up one of my feeding stations tomorrow it is going to be later in the week before I am out again.

Sunday 18 October 2015

A Slow Start

I was back at the Obs this morning, but this time armed with mist nets, or should I say mist net! There was a niggley northeasterly wind that meant all I could put up was one 60 foot net. After an hour or so all I had ringed were four birds and I was about to pack up when I started to catch and in the end I ringed 23 birds as follows:

Chaffinch - 1
Meadow Pipit - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Blackbird - 2
Greenfinch - 14
Chiffchaff - 1
Wren - 1
Dunnock - 1

 Meadow Pipit

Some of the Greenfinches I was catching were showing 
evidence of feeding on rose hips.

A Barn Owl was out at first light again and the Buzzard also made an appearance again and was also mobbed by a Kestrel once again! The only other raptor was an immature male Sparrowhawk that shot across the middle meadow a foot from the ground!

There was a bit of vis this morning in the form of a Tree Sparrow, twelve Redwings, 305 Jackdaws, seven Meadow Pipits, three Chaffinches, 120 Pink-footed Geese, four Alba Wags, 65 Greenfinches, four Linnets, a Grey Wagtail and two Skylarks.



Grounded migrants were thin on the ground with just a Song Thrush and a Chiffchaff. Later in the morning Gail and I had a walk on the estuary and had 54 Redshanks and a pair of Peregrines.


The forecast is looking okay tomorrow for operating mist nets again so I'll give it another go!

Norse Invaders

Yesterday was one of those days where with a bit of hindsight I would have sat on a chair in my garden from first light to mid-afternoon counting Thrushes and I guess that my Fieldfare total would have been in the region of 2-3,000 birds heading north with perhaps half as much of Redwings! However, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

At first light whilst pulling my wellies on at the boot of my car I could hear Redwings and Fieldfares moving over in the half-light but I couldn't see how many. When I got to the Obs a few minutes later I had about 15-20 Fieldfares head east and a similar number of Redwings. At this stage no indication of the huge numbers of Thrushes that would head northeast that day.

I had fairly clear skies with a 10 mph northeasterly wind as I set off on my walk. I thought the vis was a bit thin on the ground, but one of the interesting movements was a flock of 150 Jackdaws that came high in off the sea and then dropped out of the sky on to the school buildings. There's quite a healthy population of Jackdaws at the school and I'm guessing that they had 'called' the moving Jackdaws in.

Buzzards are now fairly regular within the Obs recording area but not at this particular spot so it was great to see one coasting in to land on the fields being mobbed by a Kestrel. Owls were certainly a feature of the morning and a pair of Barn Owls were hunting for a good hour after first light over the farm fields and 'a' or 'the' Little Owl had returned to its winter roost site.

Pink-footed Geese weren't on the move this morning but about 600 dropped in to the farm fields across the road. I had a quick look on the sea but it was quiet with just 15 Cormorants, eight Eiders, seven Common Scoters, a Razorbill and a Guillemot.

The only obvious grounded migrants that I had were three Redwings and two Song Thrushes. As it was Gail's birthday it was time to cut the birding short and head home to ensure no loss of brownie points!

It was back at home that I noticed the movement of Fieldfares. I got out of my car and could hear Fieldfare calling and when I looked up I could see about half a dozen distant birds. But when I lifted my bins to look at them, there were 125 with six Redwings! Over the next couple of hours I had a further 325 Fieldfares and 15 Redwings!

Friday 16 October 2015

First Bramble Finch Of The Autumn

I took another hour out this morning and headed to the Obs. I had full cloud cover with a 15 mph northeasterly wind. It was quiet but as always there were a few bits and pieces to hold my interest, and to be honest even if there wasn't it is still just good to be out.

Grounded migrants included five Goldcrests, three Redwings, a Fieldfare, two Song Thrushes and a Brambling (my first of the autumn). It was a similar picture for the vis with a similar mix of species and I recorded just 75 Redwings, two Meadow Pipits, five Fieldfares, two Alba Wags and four Chaffinches.

A Sparrowhawk caused some excitement as it chased a Song Thrush across the cemetery. I watched the 'dog-fight' unfold until eventually the Song Thrush managed to lose the Sprawk, or the Sprawk gave up to save its energy for another ambush. Spectacular stuff!

I've got an appointment this evening with a box of Orkney Ales freshly arrived from those magic isles, but I'll still be up in the morning. The wind is going to be a touch strong for mist netting so it will be pure birding tomorrow for me, with hopefully some ringing on Sunday.

Just An Hour

Yesterday morning I gave myself an hour in the morning to go birding before sitting down for the rest of the day to write a report. I am always amazed how good it makes me feel if I can at least spend some time communing with nature!

I had a quick look at a couple of migrant spots at the Obs to see if there was much doing. I had my first two Fieldfares of the autumn, and other than that grounded birds were a bit scarce and all I had were five Robins, five Goldcrests, a Song Thrush, two Coal Tits, three Redwings, a Rock Pipit and a Chiffchaff.

The vis didn't fare much better and I recorded two Meadow Pipits, 15 Chaffinches, four Grey Wagtails, an Alba Wag, a Greenfinch, four Redwings, 40 Jackdaws and a Goldfinch.

The only raptors I had were a male Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. So after just an hour out I felt ready to face the day!

Peregrine (above & below)


Wednesday 14 October 2015

September's 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 September. We are still 493 birds ahead of where we were last year, so fingers crossed we can achieve a good total by the end of the year.

Three new species were ringed for the year in the form of Sparrowhawk (surprisingly), Cetti's Warbler and Magpie.

Below you will find the top five ringed for the month and the 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed In September

1. Swallow - 116
2. Greenfinch - 51
3. Meadow Pipit - 43
4. Robin - 31
5. Chaffinch - 29

Top Ten Movers And Shakers For The Year

1. Swallow - 914 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 188 (same position)
3. Sand Martin - 169 (same position)
4. Reed Warbler - 156 (same position)
5. Great Tit - 131 (up from 6th)
6. Willow Warbler - 119 (down from 5th)
7. Goldfinch - 112 (same position)
8. Chaffinch - 97 (up from 9th)
9. Starling - 84 (down from 8th)
10. Meadow Pipit - 70 (straight in)
     Goldcrest - 70 (straight in)

It's fairly stable at the top of the table and it's nice to see Meadow Pipit and Goldcrest coming straight in to the top ten. It will be interesting to see how October pans out.

Redwing Throlly

I love some of the local and old names for birds and 'Redwing Throlly' is a Yorkshire name for Redwing. Others include Redwing Mavis (Forfar), Red Thrush (Midlands), Wind Thrush (Somerset), Windle (Devon) and Little Feltyfare (East Lothian) to name but a few. This morning when loading my car for my site visit I instantly had nine Redwings go over high heading southwest and they had been on the move last night as well. I keep all my beer in a fridge in the garage and I enjoy walking across the garden during these autumn evenings to select a real ale and listen to the Redwings and Blackbirds going over en route.

My site visit was to the West Pennines to the east of Accrington and as I turned on to the M61 from the M6 I had a Raven drifting north over the central reservation. Not a motorway tick per se, but certainly a motorway tick in this part of Lancs. Redwings were a feature of the morning and as I stepped out of my car at the site I was visiting I could hear Redwings calling and a flock of a hundred headed southwest. During my hour and a half visit I didn't have any more, but this could have been because of the location of the high ground to my north and east.

The view from the office today - that hill in east Lancs where the witches 
come from!

The small supporting avian cast included 3 Woodpigeons SW, a female Kestrel, six Meadow Pipits (off passage), two Reed Buntings and some calling Siskins (I couldn't see them so don't know whether it was one or ten!).

The forecast is okay for tomorrow so I will try and sneak out for an hour first thing before I have to spend the rest of the day report writing!

Tuesday 13 October 2015

A Change Of Counties

I haven't posted for a few days as I have been up in England's most tranquil county, Northumberland. In my opinion perhaps the only county to give Cumbria a run for its money and possibly even better due to it's North Sea location and prime position for migrant birds!

Before I headed to the northeast last Friday I had a quick look at the Obs and it was fairly cloudy with a 10 mph southerly wind. I started off by having a look on the sea and could only muster 47 Cormorants (most of these were roosting on a shingle island), 12 Eiders (staring to build up now), four Gannets, three Auk sp., five Common Scoters and a Razorbill.

There was some vis in the form of 50 Meadow Pipits, seven Alba Wags, three Linnets, seven Carrion Crows, a Rock Pipit, a Reed Bunting, two Chaffinches, two Grey Wagtails, two Skylarks, 60 Pink-footed Geese, six Swallows and a Yellow Wagtail (getting late).

Grounded migrants included a Wheatear, two Chiffchaffs, three Coal Tits and ten Goldcrests. There was also a nice selection, and good numbers, of butterflies on the ivy (50 Red Admirals).


 Red Admiral

I headed off to Northumberland Friday afternoon to give a talk to North Northumberland Bird Club on the BTO ringing scheme and I was staying with my good friend George. We did a bit of birding around Newton-By-The-Sea Friday afternoon but it was very quiet with just a Wheatear and several Goldcrests. At sea were numerous Gannets and Kittiwakes with five Red-throated Divers.

 The view north from a section of that wall the Romans built!

We spent all day Saturday birding and again it was quiet. Noteworthy were 20 Red-throated Divers off Cocklaburn Dunes and ten Barnacle Geese amongst some Pinkies was nice.

We made up for it on Saturday evening by drinking in one of my favourite pubs in the whole of Brirain, the John Bull Inn in Alnwick. It has a great selection of real ales and amazingly serves a 120 different whiskeys! There is no music and no TV, just a classic old school back street boozer!!!

Unfortunately Sunday morning was better, and I say unfortunately because I was leaving to come home then. All we had time for was a quick look at Branton Pits near George's home and there was plenty of vis even though we were five miles from the coast. Redwings were constantly pouring over with groups of up to 30-40 dropping out of the sky. Chaffinches, Siskins, Redpolls and a few Bramblings were all on the move. The pits held a good flock of 70 Goosanders with a supporting cast of Teal, Wigeon, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Goldeneyes and four Gadwalls.

I've got a busy week work wise this week and it could be weekend before I am out again proper!

Monday 5 October 2015

A Bit Too Quiet After The Storm

After the excitement at the Obs over weekend, not covered here but on my joint blog with Ian here, it was a bit too quiet at the Obs yesterday morning. When I popped my head out of the door before dawn there was a touch of mist but nowhere near as much as recent days so I ventured forth.

First up was a bird that I haven't seen on the patch for about 18 months, a Barn Owl. that I picked out in my headlights perched on one of the wrapped bales in the meadow. Unfortunately the morning never really improved from here.

There was very little vis and a quick phone call to Ian who was on a hilly vantage point confirmed the reason why as the Bay north of the peninsula was locked down with murk. The only birds battling through were 362 Pink-footed Geese, nine Alba Wags, 22 Meadow Pipits, a Siskin, two Grey Wagtails and 14 Greenfinches.

Grounded migrants were limited to a Coal Tit, a male Blackcap, a Reed Bunting and a Song Thrush. I didn't bother checking anywhere else as Ian had checked the other usual migrant hot spots and they were dead.

 Coal Tit

I just sneaked in to double figures and ringed eleven birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Coal Tit - 1
Meadow Pipit - 3
Blackcap - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Greenfinch - 2
Wren - 2
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - (1)
Wren - (2)


I don't how much birding I'll get in this week as I have a presentation to prepare on the BTO ringing scheme for Friday, so I need to crack on with that.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Another Pea Souper

I put my head out of the door in the darkness this morning and it was foggy again and I cancelled my plans to do some ringing. Instead I found myself at the Obs sat in my car drinking a coffee waiting for it to become light before I could start birding.

In the confusion of changing my plans I made the schoolboy error of forgetting my camera and typically the first bird I had was a cracking adult male Sparrowhawk perched in the open! After a while though it was quite liberating not having to think about taking any pictures but just enjoying 'seeing' the birds.

The fog remained for the couple of hours I was out and consequently the vis was a bit scant with just 47 Meadow Pipits, six Alba Wags, two Snipe, two Chaffinches and three Grey Wagtails.

There were some grounded migrants in the murky conditions in the form of 15 Goldcrests, nine Robins, a Blackcap and two Chiffchaffs.

The forecast is looking fairly reasonable for some ringing in the morning and this might be the last day for a while that it will be calm enough to operate some mist nets at the Obs, so I'll make an effort and get up early in the morning (again)!

Friday 2 October 2015

Pea Souper

When I headed out to my car in the pre-dawn darkness to head to the Obs there was a pea souper of a fog and I must admit I did think about not ringing and just birding. However, I thought to myself that it might clear when the sun comes up, but it didn't!

I duly put the nets up and waited for it to clear but as I said above it didn't. I had a few grounded migrants in the murk in the form of two Song Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap and nine Goldcrests. There was even some vis over the fog as I could hear Pink-footed Geese, Meadow Pipits, Alba Wags, House Martins and when it cleared a bit I saw a few Swallows and a single Snipe.

Before my nets became wet with the fog I did manage to ring seven birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Goldfinch - 4
Chiffchaff - 1
Woodpigeon - 1
Robin - (1)
Blackbird - (1)


The forecast for tomorrow is for light southeasterly winds and cloud, so as long as there is no fog I'll have a ringing session at the Obs and if there is fog I'll just grill the patch for grounded migrants.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Super Supercill

It is the start of Lytham Beer Festival at teatime today and what has that to do with birding I can hear you say? The fact that it is the start of the beer festival and also the fact that I like to make an appearance shortly after it opens (I can sample a few beers early doors and be fit to get out birding early the following morning that way) meant that I didn't go out ringing at the Obs this morning. Instead I gave Gail a lift to work so I could pick her up and drive on to the beer festival. That way I have a designated driver for the return journey! After I dropped Gail off I headed to the Obs just to do some birding.

I met Ian in the cemetery and a couple of years ago when we birded together at this time of year in the cemetery we found a Golden Oriole. We didn't expect anything quite as good as that this morning but a Yellow-browed Warbler was on the cards as Ian had found one at the Mount yesterday.

The YBW that Ian found yesterday materialised with a cloud bank rolling in from the east, but this morning it was crystal clear and not really the sort of morning for a grounded migrant. However with so many YBWs in the northern isles (76 on Fair Isle earlier in the week and they ringed 40 of them!) it is possible for one or two of these Siberian waifs to turn up anywhere under any conditions at the moment.

We came across some calling Coal Tits and counted them as they moved from tree to tree; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Yellow-browed! Five Coal Tits zipped past in front of us with a YBW hot on their heels. The Coal Tits moved back again in the direction they had come from but the YBW hung around in front of us for a short while and just long enough to get some photographs below. They are indeed record shots but you can tell it is a YBW, just look at that super supercill!

The YBW moved south along the edge of the cemetery and it was then lost from view. The only other grounded migrant in the cemetery was a single Goldcrest.

I then moved on to the Mount and gave it a good grilling. It felt like there should be another YBW lurking amongst the party of five Coal Tits, Chiffchaff and two Goldcrests but there wasn't. The ivy in here was attracting a lot of butterflies and there was easily 70 Red Admirals, 15 Small Tortoiseshells and three Commas nectering on the ivy flowers, plus huge numbers of bees.


 Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

There was some vis this morning in the form of 15 Meadow Pipits, nine Alba Wags, 263.Pink-footed Geese, three Skylarks, a Snipe and a Grey Wagtail.

 Pink-footed Geese

It is going to be relatively calm tomorrow so I will try and return to the Obs with mist nets for a ringing session even after a few jars at the beer festival!