Tuesday 31 March 2015

Nasty Northwesterlies

I sometimes wonder what motivates us as birders as we will go out even if we can confidently predict that the birding will be poor. Or can we; I think it's that nagging doubt of "what if" or "just in case" that drives us on. This morning was one of those mornings and I saw very little and confidently predicted that I would see very little, but there is something about standing in the teeth of a gale and sea watching that makes you feel very much alive!

As I pulled up at the Point I waited for a squally shower to pass and headed to the watch point and joined Ian. Sitting it out and allowing that squally shower to pass cost me a Bonxie along the beach! We had anywhere between clear skies and full cloud cover with a good 40-50 mph northwesterly wind.

 Conditions out at sea this morning

As I hinted at above the sea was pretty quiet and my notebook records just 5 Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers, eight Red-breasted Mergansers, 21 Kittiwakes, three Shelducks and a Fulmar.

A few waders were about including ten Turnstones, 200 Knots, 25 Grey Plovers and 90 Sanderlings.

I've postponed tomorrow's site visits until Thursday because of yet another atrocious forecast, but it is forecast to be a straight westerly so I might just have to go sea watching again "just in case"!

Monday 30 March 2015

It's Going To Be A Late Spring

I didn't get out birding at all over the weekend as the weather was so awful and I couldn't get out this morning either because of having to run her indoors to work. Mind you once again it was very cold and from a northerly airstream, so not conducive to migration. The forecast for most of the week is for it to remain cold and basically northerly so I guess it's going to be a late spring this year.

Ian and I headed to the water treatment works this morning to top up the nyger feeders and they were virtually empty, so something is munching them and let's hope it is from the Carduelis family rather than Parus! The wind was a good 25-30 mph WNW as we walked round so we did well to see a male Sparrowhawk, two Song Thrushes, two Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest.

It's an office day for me tomorrow as I cancelled my site visits based on the forecast which is for 50 mph WNW winds and rain! However, as there are morning tides I might try and motivate myself to go sea watching for a couple of hours. But be warned, I won't have a lot to report because of that northerly element! 

Friday 27 March 2015

Kite Country

I've been working in an area this week that was part of a Red Kite release scheme a number of years ago and it was a pleasure to see several of these impressive raptors on the wing. They are still a rare bird in my neck of the woods, so I suppose that made it more enjoyable.I tried to get a few shots of some of them but they turned out pretty awful, so I won't bother posting any here. It was also a pleasure to see displaying Lapwings and Curlews, reinforcing the feeling of spring that we have at the moment. Mind you as I drove through the uplands of Bowland first thing yesterday morning it was a shock to encounter a covering of snow and even the road had a light covering too!

On the subject of the weather it's looking grim for the next several days with strong westerlies and not much chance of any further arrivals of summer migrants. There will only be one thing to do and that will be some sea watching; I'll keep you posted.

Monday 23 March 2015

A Bit More Variety

I was at the Obs again yesterday morning and at first light I was greeted with clear skies and a light southeasterly wind. On the ringing front there was a bit more variety in the number of species ringed and I ringed nine birds as follows:

Goldfinch - 2
Meadow Pipit - 4
Leser Redpoll - 2
Goldcrest - 1


 Meadow Pipit

The vis was a lot quieter this morning probably as a result of several days of good weather. My vis totals included 843 Pink-footed Geese, 35 Meadow Pipits, ten Goldfinches, eight Alba Wags, two Linnets, 23 Woodpigeons, four Stock Doves and five Lesser Redpolls.

 Lesser Redpoll

Pink-footed Geese

The only grounded migrant was the Goldcrest I ringed. Only one Grey Heron was in the fields this morning and the only raptor I had was a single Kestrel.

 Grey Heron

I've got a day in the office tomorrow so I'll try and get out first thing in the morning for a couple of hours.

Saturday 21 March 2015

Three Countries, One British Crown Dependancy and Ten Counties In One Morning!

Before I get on to this morning's birds at the Obs I just wanted to say how superb the visibility was. In fact in my 38 years of seawatching off the Lancashire coast I have never been able to see Scotland before! The Isle Of Man, regularly, but today I could see the hills of Dumfries and Galloway! The ten counties I could see were Cumbria, Lancashire, North Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Dumfries and Galloway, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Conwy, Isle of Anglesy and Gwynedd. Snowdon looked resplendant peeking above the clouds with it's snow covered tops! In fact it looked like some mystical kingdom adrift in the Irish Sea!

At first I thought the forecast was completely wrong as it was virtually calm at first light and according to last night's forecast it shouldn't have been. I thought that I had perhaps missed a ringing opportunity but the wind soon picked up to a good 10-15 mph northeasterly, feeling quite bitter under clear skies.

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground and were just three Goldcrests and two male Wheatears. Until I got to the coast I thought the vis was particularly light, but I realised with such clear conditions birds could quite easily be crossing from North Wales to the Mull of Galloway! In fact I could pick out quite a few Meadow Pipits and Alba Wagtails out at sea. My vis totals were 125 Meadow Pipits, a Siskin, nine Alba Wags, five Curlews, a Goldfinch, a Linnet, two Carrion Crows, 47 Pink-footed Geese and Grey Wagtail.

The only notable movement on the sea were seven Red-throated Divers north. And I know when I spoke to Ian earlier in the morning he had had over 20 high flying Red-throats heading in to the Bay.

The forecast is looking good for some ringing tomorrow, so I'll be back at the Obs with some mist nets.

Friday 20 March 2015

Birding The Eclipse

I was back at the Obs this morning for some more ringing, but could only put up one net due to a niggly south-southeasterly wind. I had full cloud cover and visibility was poor-average.

It was a funny old morning in that any migration action was coming through in pulses. I would think it was quiet and then there would be a flurry of activity and then I would think it was alright and it would go quiet! There was some vis, although intermittent, and this included six Fieldfares, a Sparrowhawk, six Woodpigeons, 88 Meadow Pipits, twelve Alba Wags, a Sisikin, eight Linnets, six Magpies, three Tree Sparrows (it's been a cracking spring for them), four Redwings, a Chaffinch, seven Lesser Redpolls and a Grey Wagtail.

 Meadow Pipit

Grounded migrants were four Goldcrests and a party of eight Redwings that arrived from the north and dropped into the ditch-side hedge. Besides the female Sparrowhawk that was heading north I had the semi-regular pair and also the resident pair of Kestrels (they use one of our boxes).

The ringing was even quieter than yesterday with just three Meadow Pipits and a cracking male Lesser Redpoll.

 Lesser Redpoll

Meadow Pipit

Afterwards I went to the water treatment works to take down the peanut feeders from the feeding station and to top up the nyjer feeders in the hope that we might get a few Goldfinches, Redpolls and Siskins through into April.

The eclipse showed on and off through breaks in the cloud and I took a few pictures which you can see below.

 I wonder how many thousands of blogs pictures of the eclipse will appear 
on today?

Back home my moth trap produced a few more moths than of recent days in the form of an Early Grey, a Hebrew Character, two Common Quakers and a Small Quaker.

 Early Grey

It's just going to be a touch on the breezy side for some coastal ringing tomorrow so it will hopefully be a morning of migration monitoring just the same, but without mist nets. I must remember to put my loppers in the car as there is an old net ride at the Obs that I want to resurrect.

Thursday 19 March 2015

More Migrants And Another Moth

I did manage to get some mist nets up at the Obs this morning and it was slow but steady. I had clear skies again with a 5 mph northerly wind. It was a touch misty at first light, but this soon cleared, although visibility would be average at best.

 There were a few Blackbirds around this morning, but they were all local

The only obvious grounded migrants I had this morning were two Goldcrests and a single Tree Sparrow. I heard the Tree Sparrow calling and thought that it was going over, but instead it was perched in some Hawthorns in front of one of my nets!

 Tree Sparrow

I couldn't really tell whether the 'vis' was heavier or lighter than yesterday as I was 400 m in from the coast and looking after mist nets, so sometimes my concentration wasn't directed skywards. Nevertheless I did record some vis in the form of 66 Meadow Pipits, five Lesser Redpolls, five Alba Wags, seven Curlews, four Jackdaws, 77 Pink-footed Geese, two Grey Wagtails, a Goldfinch, a Chaffinch, 15 Whooper Swans and a Linnet.

 Another photogenic Dunnock, but a different bird to yesterday's poser.

There's plenty of Lesser Celandine flowering at the moment.

Raptors were represented this morning by females of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. I managed to ring ten Meadow Pipits and a single Greenfinch; not exactly 'rocking', but good to get a first ringing session in at the Obs for me for the spring.

 Meadow Pipit

Back home my moth trap yielded just a single moth again, but this time it was a Common Quaker.

I'm waiting to find out if I have a site visit to do over near Burnley in the morning or not, and if I don't I'll brave another 5:00 am alarm call and do some more migration monitoring at the Obs.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Migrants And A Moth

I am tentatively back in the birding saddle after my bout of vertigo and this morning I headed out for a few hours birding around the Obs. At first light I had clear skies with quite a dense mist that was slow to clear, and the wind was a 5 mph northeasterly.

 There were a few Dunnocks around this morning, but none of them were 
obvious migrants

As I walked along the sea front the 'vis' was immediate and there were quite a few birds on the move including 14 Goldfinches, a Skylark, eleven Alba Wags, 159 Meadow Pipits, three Curlews, three Linnets, a Tree Sparrow, three Lesser Redpolls, four Grey Wagtails, three Reed Buntings and two Chaffinches.

 Meadow Pipit


The sea was relatively quiet mainly due to the poor visibility but I did manage to muster a Red-throated Diver, 28 Eiders, five Red-breasted Mergansers, four Common Scoters, a Shelduck, seven Gannets and two Harbour Porpoises that swam into the Bay.

The best bird on the sea, or should I say over, was the first Obs record for this species since 2010 in the form of an Avocet! I picked it up heading south across the Bay and it eventually made landfall and attempted to land on the shingle beach but was put off and headed east, drifting further north into the Bay again. I can only assume it was en route to Leighton Moss and had become disorientated in the mist.


It was also a morning for grounded migrants and first up was a Tree Sparrow on the coast in some brambles before getting flushed by a, you've guessed it a dog walker, followed by three male Wheatears, a male Stonechat, 13 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff.


 Tree Sparrow

Back home on the moth trap was a single Hebrew Character. The forecast looks okay for some more vis tomorrow and I'm going to try a few mist nets and see if I can ring some Meadow Pipits.

 Hebrew Character

Sunday 15 March 2015

Vertigo Enforced Radio Silence

I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me, but I feel that I need to explain why I haven't posted for a few days and perhaps why I won't post for a few more days! I'm currently suffering with some form of vertigo and until day I was unable to stand or walk through dizziness and nausea! I'm now popping some pills and starting to feel better, so to keep the blog going over the next few days I may need to revert to some 'blasts from the past'. Hopefully normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

14th March 1987

For a few years back in the 1980s I used to live in northwest Norfolk in a village called Snettisham and later in King's Lynn. I moved down to Norfolk from Lancashire so I could live and work in one of Britain's best birding counties. I remember it was quite a cold winter down there in 1986/87 (mind you it often is Norfolk) and spring was slow to start, and my birding more or less on this day 28 years ago was definitely a typical winter's day birding rather than one of early spring.

I started off at Cley and it was dull, misty and cold. Before looking on the reserve I did a short seawatch off 'Coastguard's' and clocked up 30 Common Scoters, 12 Red-throated Divers, five Fulmars, a Red-breasted Merganser, Eider and Guillemot. Dark-bellied Brent Goose were numerous with 426 logged during the morning and later I had 1500 at Stiffkey.

 Common Scoter

A look on the reserve produced two Ruff, 200 Wigeons, nine Avocets and three Bearded Tits. I suppose what stands out to me are the Ruff, Avocets and Bearded Tits which would all make it a 'red letter day' if they turned up on my patch today!

I lived in King's Lynn at this time and on my way home I stopped off at my seawatching location on the cliffs at Hunstanton and had more winter fayre in the form of 69 Goldenyes, 5 Long-tailed Ducks, eleven Scaup and 600 Common Scoters. So a late spring that year and I didn't record my first Wheatear until 29th March when back home in Lancashire.

Thursday 12 March 2015

February'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 February. We haven't had a good start to the year but amazingly we are 210 birds up on last year! The top five ringed for the month and the top eight 'movers and shakers' for the year so far can be found below.

Top 5 Ringed February 2015

1. Blue Tit - 32
2. Goldfinch - 18
3. Great Tit - 13
    Chaffinch - 13
5. Coal Tit - 7

Top Eight 'Movers and Shakers' for the Year To Date

1. Blue Tit - 92 (same position)
2. Great Tit - 42 (up from 3rd)
3. Long-tailed Tit - 36 (down from 2nd)
4. Chaffinch - 24 (same position)
    Goldfinch - 24 (up from 6th)
6. Blackbird - 14 (down from 4th)
7. Coal Tit - 9 (up from 10th)
8. Lesser Redpoll - 7 (same position)

Window Gazing

Yesterday I was in south Cumbria at an update meeting for CAP 2015 and during the less interesting moments of the presentations I found myself gazing out of the window. It had been beautiful and clear when I arrived and then slowly the cloud bank built from the west and eventually the rain came in. Before that though I had a few birds go past the window in the form of  Buzzard, then a Raven and then another Buzzard. So it does pay to stop and stare out of the window at times!

Monday 9 March 2015

A Boxing Day In March

At the weekend Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley in Bowland to carry out a maintenance visit on my Pied Flycatcher boxes. Most of them were still in good order and I only had to replace two, although I put 2 or 3 on my 'replace next year' list. So a trip to the timber merchants will be in order later in the year to make some boxes to put in stock.

I didn't find anything unusual in the boxes whilst checking them, other than an old wasps nest in one of them (see below). I did find a few bits of fresh moss in one or two boxes as though a few Tits were starting to think about nest building.

 Wasps nest attached to box lid

We didn't see much walking round the woods other than a Woodcock, several Redwings and a couple of Nuthatches. It won't be long before I'm back checking on the Pied Fly's!

Pied Flycatcher; coming soon to a 
woodland near you!

Friday 6 March 2015


I've had a hectic week this week as a result of my elderly father being in hospital and this has meant I've struggled to get out birding; thankfully he's back home and on the mend.

As I've said before I'm winding down my farmland bird feeding station for the summer and I am now slowly weening the birds off the food by making less frequent visits and putting less food down. Today I called to probably make one of, or the last visit until autumn and it was noticeable how few birds remained, just a handful of Tit species and just five Tree Sparrows.

Two Yellowhammers were singing from the hedgerows and in the woodland a 'Great Spot' was drumming, male and female Tawny Owls were calling and a Buzzard mewed. It seemed to be all song and calls this morning!

Whilst I was taking the guy ropes for my mist nets off at the feeding station a group of Stock Doves lifted from the stubble's and I was surprised to count 36 of them, which I think from memory is my largest count for the site.

It's a morning of nest box maintenance for me tomorrow making sure my Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow boxes are all ship-shape and replacing any that need replacing. Pied Flycatchers, it won't be long!

Sunday 1 March 2015

A Little Light Sea Passage

I headed to the Point this morning and joined Ian for a shortish seawatch. We had full cloud cover with a 25-30 mph southwesterly wind. It wasn't exactly 'jumping', but it did have that 'first movement at sea for the spring' feel to it.

There was a nice flock of 100 Sanderlings on the shore with a single Knot keeping them company and the first Curlews were on the move with nine heading ENE across the Bay. Movement at sea included five Red-breasted Mergansers, 12 Kittiwakes, four Common Scoters, five Little Gulls and an adult Gannet. In addition to the movers were six Cormorants and ten Eiders.


Afterwards we headed to the Treatment Works to top up our empty feeders and we are certainly getting the impression that quite a lot of birds are using the feeding station, but we have yet to have a ringing session and are waiting for the first calm morning. A Buzzard, two Long-tailed Tits and a Song Thrush were noted as we topped the feeders up.

I've an office day tomorrow, so I might just nip out first thing for an hour or two.