Saturday 31 January 2015

Three Observatories

It was crystal clear in the next to useless 25 mph north-northwesterly wind as I looked across the Bay, and I realised that I could see the location of three bird observatories; two unofficial and one official. Starting at Fleetwood, where I was, I could clearly see Heysham and looking straight across the Bay was Walney. It was so clear that I could even tell the time on Barrow's town hall clock!

 The Lakeland fells as viewed from the Obs this morning.

It was very quiet on the sea this morning, as it usually is with a northerly component, although Ian and I speculated that it could be okay after a week of northerlies next week and it might just displace something interesting from further north.

Walking to the Point I had the male and female Stonechat, and the male is starting to come in to summer plumage and is looking rather stunning. The Shore Lark wasn't around first thing near the car park, but was when Ian arrived, and on our way back it was still there giving good views. Just two twitchers at this time in the morning, but there was bound to be a few more as the morning progressed. I would have thought that it's novelty value would have worn off by now, but some birders do seem to like a target bird as a focus to there day's birding; each to their own I suppose!

On the shore were 166 Oystercatchers, 13 Turnstones, 16 Ringed Plovers and 31 Sanderlings. The flock of 16 Linnets were roaming along the dunes and some visiting birders are reporting these as Twite!!!

As stated earlier the sea was quiet with just 44 Eiders, four Red-breasted Mergansers, a Kittiwake, 18 Pink-footed Geese (heading NNW across the Bay) and two Auk sp.

It's forecast for a cold NW wind tomorrow, but as there's a morning tide I'll probably be out having a look on the sea and moaning about the wind direction!

Monday 26 January 2015

Coast To Coast

I started off on the Irish Sea coast in the west this morning and by mid-morning as I was on the North Sea coast in the east, as I had a site visit in Northumberland. I didn't see much during my site visit in Northumberland other than a Peregrine, Goldcrest and a couple of Tree Sparrows.

On my way back I called in at my feeding station at dusk. All the Tree Sparrows had gone to roost but I did have twelve Corn Buntings and seven Yellowhammers.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Here And There

It was a mixed bag of birding sites for me yesterday from the estuary, local woodland, feeding station and then on to the water treatment works. It was cold at first light as I headed to the estuary from the quay, with a 15 mph northwesterly wind and six oktas cloud cover. I made a school boy error and forgot my notebook and had to improvise with the back of last year's Schedule 1 licence!

On the mud in the quay were just 41 Redshanks and two Black-tailed Godwits. I walked round to the estuary and on the exposed mud of the river had 183 Lapwings and 20 Golden Plovers. It was really exposed where I was standing so I decided to retreat to an area of woodland.

Early morning on the estuary

The woodland borders some allotments and it was here that most of the birds were, including 20 House Sparrows, three Chaffinches, six Greenfinches, twelve Long-tailed Tits, two Goldcrests and two Goldfinches.

 Standing deadwood that has received the attention
of the local 'Great Spots'.

I then had to go to my feeding station to feed and a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Jay called from the woods. At the feeding station were 144 Tree Sparrows, 15 Chaffinches and two Yellowhammers. Walking back to my car I had a nice flock of 25 Fieldfares and 50 Redwings go over.

In the afternoon Ian and I headed to the water treatment works to top up our feeders there. Surprisingly it seemed calm enough to put a couple of nets up, but we were soon to take them down after the wind picked up and we only ringed a Redwing, Chaffinch, Great Tit and Blackbird.


About three hundred Greenfinches came in to roost along with about ten Goldfinches and a hard to determine number of Chaffinches. A Buzzard, Goldcrest and two Stock Doves graced the pages of my notebook here.

It will be difficult to fit in much birding this week as I have site visits in Northumberland and inland upland Lancashire, but if I see anything interesting on my travels I'll let you know.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Two's Better Than Nowt!

This morning Andy, Ian and Me made our first attempt at catching and fitting leg flags to Turnstones in 2015. The conditions were right in as much as there was a high morning tide and it has been quite cold of late. Only three Turnstones came in range of the whoosh net and we managed to catch two of them. So another two Turnstones are now carrying leg flags and we look forward to hopefully numerous re-sightings of them.

I didn't really have time to have a look on the lakes as most of the time was spent in the car waiting for Turnstones. However, I could see there was a small group of Tufted Ducks with a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers and a lone Whooper Swan flew south.

Fingers crossed for some decent weather this weekend so I can get out birding!

Sunday 18 January 2015

Northerly Pinkies

At last I got out birding this morning and it was a glorious frosty morning with a light northeasterly wind. I headed to the Point and positioned myself at the end of the dunes to have a look on the sea. The sea was actually very quiet and not as clear as you would expect for a cold frosty day, as there was quite a bit of murk, particularly in the eastern portion of the Bay.

The main feature of the morning was the northerly movement of Pink-footed Geese. In total I had 310 go north across the western portion of the Bay. The only likely destination for these high flying birds was the Solway Estuary in north Cumbria/south Scotland. In addition to this an adult and a juv. Whooper Swan headed north, but half way across the Bay they 'pitched' on to the sea.

 Pinkies Solway bound?

The only other bits and pieces on the sea were 16 Eiders, three Common Scoters, eight Cormorants, a Red-breasted Merganser, an Auk sp. and a Great Crested Grebe.

Ian and I had to laugh at four birders who appeared looking for the Shore Lark. They asked us if we had seen it and we said that we hadn't been looking for it. Then we heard one of them say "there's only one thing for it we'll have to walk along the beach"! Walk along the beach, the beach had roosting Oystercatchers, Ringed Plovers, Turnstones and Sanderlings on it!

Anyway, we watched them walk off and they were stood on the low wall scanning the shingle beach when we heard the Shore Lark calling. It flew directly over their heads calling loudly, and giving a call we hadn't heard before, and they didn't even flinch! Nobody looked up at all! Now, I'm not expecting them to know the call, as I didn't until this bird turned up late last year, but even if you didn't know the call it would certainly stand out as something different and it would make you look up. Not these guys, obviously they weren't tuned in to bird calls at all.

We then headed to the water treatment works to check our feeders at our recently established feeding station and they were virtually empty, so some birds have found them, so fingers crossed for a ringing session soon.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Still Here and it's Still Windy

The weather is still appalling up here and I still haven't really been out birding other than to top up my feeding station. I know I should just quit moaning and get out there, but because of the weather I haven't had the enthusiasm! Things have been ticking over nicely at the feeding station with about 130 Tree Sparrows, 15 Chaffinches, six Yellowhammers, a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers and two Grey Partridges being regular visitors. On the way home today in the rain/sleet/snow I called in at the flood and there was a single Green Sandpiper and nothing else.

As I pulled up outside my house, when I got back, to reverse into my drive a Gull dropped to the pavement to pick up a food item and to my pleasant surprise it was an adult Med. Gull! I did have an adult Med.Gull winter round my area last winter and I saw it change into full summer plumage. Hopefully it is the same bird and it will do the same as last year.

I ran a workshop earlier in the week near Penrith in north Cumbria on behalf of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) on farmland bird identification. The aim was to hone farmers bird identification skills to help them take part in GWCT's 'Big Farmland Bird Count' in February. Although the intensification of agriculture is to blame for the decline in farmland bird populations, this count gives farmers the opportunity to deliver messages about the good work that is undoubtedly done by some farmers on their farms to encourage birds. All the farmers that came along to the workshop were very positive and interested in birds, and it was good to see.

The weather is going colder and calming down a bit over the next few days so some birding for me is definitely in order and I can't wait to get out there!

Sunday 11 January 2015

Beleaguered Buzzards In The Firing Line Again

My alternative blog title was "Is Richard McMorn An Idiot"?, but I am far too polite to say that. Who is Richard McMorn you may ask, and indeed you should ask! I was dismayed to read under 'News and Comment' in British Birds - January 2015 that a self-employed gamekeeper who has repeatedly applied to Natural England (NE) to 'control' Buzzards (what an idiot), has been granted permission for a judicial review of NE's decision to refuse him. And the name of this numpty is Richard McMorn.

Unsurprisingly his High Court action is backed by the National Gamekeepers' Organisation (NGO) and as BB states "no doubt bankrolled by the shooting community". Going back to that question of who is Richard McMorn I will quote directly from BB.

"In July 2013, Natural England received an application (presumably from Mr McMorn) under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act for a licence to cage-trap and shoot 16 Buzzards at four sites (I can think of somebody that requires cage-trapping and shooting!) where he rears Pheasants. The applicant also wanted to kill three Eurasian Sparrowhawks. The application was refused but the NE assessor accepted his claim that he was suffering predation from Buzzards and this was seriously affecting his livelihood".

A little bit more on Mr McMorn from the same piece in BB.

" Mr McMorn - or another gamekeeper called Richard McMorn and also from Ancroft in Northumberland  - previously appeared in these pages in November 2007 (Brit. Birds 100:687) when he was fined £600 by Berwick magistrates after he pleaded guilty to four pesticide offences. Two of the products involved were banned pesticides. One of these, carbofuran, was banned in 2001 and has consistently been the most regularly abused product for the preparation of illegal poison baits. The next bit is the best bit! McMorn claimed he had used this product for killing wasps, although this former agricultural pesticide was never approved for that purpose".

Killing wasps my arse! I think this gives a flavour as to the type of character that Mr McMorn is! I am not anti-shooting per se, but the antics and actions of idiots like McMorn will soon make me become anti-shooting and I guess that it is the same with a number of conservationists who currently tolerate legal shooting.

To quote BB again.

"It is this apparent inconsistency in the licensing process which led Mrs Justice Thirlwall to grant McMorn leave to bring a judicial review later this year. Another inconsistency in NE's stance towards Buzzard control is that the first-ever licence to destroy Buzzard nests was granted in the spring of 2013 to an applicant believed to be (you've guessed it) Mr McMorn. 

The NGO made a typical response and said:

"This case is about a gamekeeper who is trying to do the right thing within the law (really!) to address a real and serious threat to his livelihood". My heart bleeds!

So let's get this right. This numpty runs a business releasing large numbers of semi-tame non-native Pheasants for people to come along and blast for a giggle. And he wants to be able to shoot a legally protected native bird because they have taken a poult or two! Maybe he would like to shoot all the motorists that run over tens of thousands of Pheasants on the road every year?

I think it is time that some serious research is carried out into the effect of Pheasants on native fauna and flora. And not just Pheasants either, Red-legged Partridges too. A quick glance in Bird Atlas 2007 - 11 tells you that "it is estimated that 6.5 million Partridges (Grey and Red-legged) were released across the UK in 2004" and around 35 million Pheasants are released for shooting annually. Yes, that's 35 million! You can't tell me that they aren't having an effect on native fauna and flora.

The Bird Atlas states that there has been little research on the impacts of released birds on native species, but there is some evidence that shooting operations based on large-scale releases of Red-legged Partridges could be implicated in local extinctions of Grey Partridges. In addition to this high densities of Pheasants potentially have negative effects on native species, but again these have been poorly studied. 

I would also be interested to know what the cost is too the insurance industry annually from motorists claiming after damage to their vehicles from collisions with Pheasants, and I imagine there are a fair few motorists who have left the road and damaged their cars after swerving for Pheasants too.

I don't really want to say any more on the subject because it is making my blood boil. But I will say that I think the shooting industry is now under serious scrutiny and if it values its future it needs to clean up its act. I don't think the general public will tolerate such nonsense for much longer.

By the way I still haven't gout out birding this weekend. We are still subject to continual winds of 35 - 40 mph with heavy showers, which makes birding unpleasant and almost pointless as it is a struggle to see anything. Unfortunately the high tides are in the afternoon, otherwise I would have done some sea-watching. It is possible to sea-watch at low tide at the Obs, but it involves standing at a spot without any shelter at all and I think you'd soon give that up! Let's hope for some better weather soon.

Friday 9 January 2015

End Of Year Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the final ringing totals of 2014 for Fylde Ringing Group. Only one new species was added this month and this was seven Coot ringed by Craig and Huw. Below you will find the top five ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers'.

Top Five Ringed In December

1. Blue Tit - 65
2. Goldfinch - 55
3. Chaffinch - 32
4. Great Tit - 27
5. Greenfinch - 10

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 712 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 347 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 240 (up from 4th)
4. Great Tit - 220 (down from 3rd)
5. Reed Warbler - 164 (same position)
6.Chaffinch - 142 (up from 7th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 118 (down from 6th)
8. Greenfinch - 114 (up from 9th)
9. Robin - 112 (down from 8th)
10. Reed Bunting - 108 (same position)

I apologise for a lack of posts of late, but the weather has been appalling up here in the northwest with near constant wind and rain! I have been going to my feeding station every other day, but all I have been doing is dashing down to it, making a feed drop and dashing back to my car. Tree Sparrow numbers seem fairly stable at about a hundred, with lesser numbers of Chaffinch and Yellowhammer.

The forecast for tomorrow looks equally grim with showers and a 30 - 35 mph westerly wind. It looks like it might brighten up for a while mid-morning before rain comes in again in the afternoon. I'll see if I can get out somewhere during that mid-morning windy, but hopefully dry spell.

Monday 5 January 2015

A Few Hours At The Water Treatment Works

Yesterday afternoon Ian and I continued with our work of setting up a ringing station in the scrub and plantation woodland at the Water Treatment Works. We established a feeding station last week, and when we went today under full cloud cover with a 10 mph southeasterly wind we noted that the first birds are staring to use it. We put a couple of nets up at the feeding station and located a further three net rides that will need some work carrying out on them over the next couple of weeks.

As usual a number of finches were coming in to roost this afternoon and from our vantage point, with restricted vision, we had five Linnets, 154 Greenfinches, ten Goldfinches and a few Chaffinches. The site seems to be a good spot for roosting Woodcock and we flushed two as we walked about, but I'm sure there are a good deal more than that here.

As usual Magpies and Woodpigeons came in to roost but I could only count 20 and 49 of each, although a lot more than that are using the site as a roost site. On the roosting theme 290 Pink-footed Geese flew over towards the estuary to roost as the afternoon drew to a close and a Goldcrest called as it was getting dark.

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

Great Tit - 1 (3)
Blue Tit - 1 (1)
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 3
Song Thrush - 1
Blackbird - 1


The forecast is looking a bit grim for the coming week with a spell of wet and windy weather coming in from the Atlantic. However, I'm sure I'll manage to get out somewhere.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Year Listing

There was plenty of year listing going on yesterday on the patch by visiting birders as the Shore Lark is still around and of course over here in the west there is no guarantee that we will get another one later in the year. I'm still not used to all these birders and I suppose to be frank I don't want to get used to them either, I like the patch to be nice and quiet. Call me unsociable perhaps, but that is how I like it. I was busy sea watching on my own at first light when suddenly six birders came an joined me; eek! I had to send Ian a text to say "when you get here mate come and rescue me"!

Later on when Ian and I were sea watching there was a similar pattern of behaviour amongst the visiting birders that would make me smile. As soon as they spotted us with scopes pointing seawards they would approach us and the usual introduction was "anything interesting out there mate"? When we replied with "no it's fairly quiet other than a few Scoters, Mergansers etc", they would all without fail then say "have you seen the Shore Lark yet this morning"?! Our reply was either "yes, earlier" or "no", depending on when they asked. When they realised we were locals they would then ask us about other year-listing targets in the area and whether we knew anything about them. We were only there for about an hour and a half because the
 weather was shocking, but there must have been 40 - 50 birders around! Heaven knows what it will be like today (Sunday), so I'm keeping away and going ringing. More of that this evening.

The weather was awful as I have already hinted at and it never seemed to get light all morning with heavy grey skies and a stiff southwesterly wind. The sea was quiet with just four Red-breasted Mergansers, nine Eiders and four Shelducks. A male Stonechat and a female Sparrowhawk on the edge of the golf course was nice and the Shorelark pitched down right in front of us having being disturbed yet again by dog walkers and/or birders!

A quick look on the Marine Lakes revealed only 50 Turnstones and 150 Redshanks. One of our leg-flagged Turnstones was amongst the flock, but we could see only one which was interesting. We have been feeding them with the hope of another catch soon.

Friday 2 January 2015


I didn't get out birding yesterday as the weather up here in the Northwest was pretty awful, with wind and rain virtually from dawn to dusk.

This morning was a different story and I managed to get out for the morning, and even though I am not a 'Laruphile' by any means, Gulls did feature quite a bit in my birding.

I joined Ian at the Point for my first sea watch of 2015, and although it was better than New Year's Eve it still wasn't rocking. And then I had to remind myself of the date! Visibility wasn't too bad and Walney Island was visible across the Bay, and we had two oktas cloud cover with a 30 mph westerly wind.

Kittiwakes were the main feature of the morning and we had 14 flying east out of the Bay in a flurry of short-lived activity. In addition to the Kitti's were just two Common Scoters, seven Red-breasted Mergansers, three Great Crested Grebes, a Guillemot, an Auk sp. and seven Eiders.

After a short pit-stop at Ian's for some high octane coffee we headed out again to have a look through the Gulls. There were approximately a thousand Gulls to look through and straight away Ian was picking out some 'Scandinavian' Herring Gulls and then I located the adult Caspian Gull. I was quite surprised at how much it stood out from the Herring Gulls, but then again I was looking for it.

After a few Reed Buntings, Sparrowhawk, 150 Lapwings, 50 Wigeon, a Peregrine, 30 Tufted Ducks, a pair of Pochards and a Water Rail it was lunchtime and I headed home.

It's forecast for light rain in the morning, but as there's a tide I'll probably start the day with a spot of sea watching.