Thursday 30 April 2015

All Work and No Play!

I hate being busy in the spring, but I shouldn't grumble really, but I don't think we birders are ever happy. And unfortunately it is looking like it is going to be weekend before I get out proper, but at least it's a three day weekend, so fingers crossed for three days of birding and ringing!

I have been out, sort of, this week but it's all been work related. On Monday (27th) I had a breeding wader survey to do in east Lancs. The site did reveal some breeding waders in the form of two Curlews and 17 Lapwings. Other bits and pieces encountered during the survey were eight Linnets, a Raven, two Stock Doves, two Skylarks, two male Wheatears and a Tree Pipit.

Yesterday I was out at a long standing clients farm in Bowland checking on some habitat creation and management that had been done fairly recently on the farm. At least twelve wader scrapes have gone in to provide foraging areas for wader chicks, and in one particular field with a slight slope the contractor had been quite inventive with the creation of a series of five scrapes with dams, bunds and interconnecting ditches.

On my walk round checking the work I recorded eight Curlews, seven Brown Hares, 17 Lapwings, five Tufted Ducks, a Reed Bunting and two Snipe to name but a few.

Fingers crossed for some good weather over the coming weekend for some more migrants and the first visit to my nest box schemes!

Sunday 26 April 2015

Late April?

I question late April in my blog title as it most certainly didn't feel like late April this morning as I set off for a walk round the Obs with hat and gloves on, and in a cold biting 10 - 15 mph northeasterly wind! Even though it was cold there were a few migrants about.

From a grounded perspective I had three Whitethroats, a Grasshopper Warbler, a male Whinchat, two Sedge Warblers and a Blue Tit. Yes, a Blue Tit. In the Japanese Rose behind the sea wall I had a feeding Blue Tit and this is a long way from any suitable habitat for Blue Tits, particularly at this time of year.


There was some vis early on in the form of twelve Meadow Pipits, two Whimbrels, nine Goldfinches, 32 Swallows, 18 Linnets, two Alba Wags, a Skylark, three White Wagtails and a Sand Martin.

The sea was very quiet with just an Auk sp., two Red-throated Divers, four Sandwich Terns, a Curlew and 28 Dunlins.

I then headed off to the water treatment works to remove the ropes and empty feeders form the feeding station. A number of warblers were singing including Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat. I also heard a Redstart calling and just caught the end of a red tail disappearing in to cover, so it remained unsexed.

Back home in the moth trap it was very similar to recent catches with two Early Greys and four Hebrew Characters.

It's looking a bit mixed on the forecast this week so it might stir things up a bit, but whilst the weather remains fair tomorrow I have a breeding wader survey to complete in east Lancs, so it will be at least Tuesday before I am back out at the Obs again.

Friday 24 April 2015

Quality Not Quantity

A blog title like that could be an excuse for not seeing many birds, and I suppose it is, although this morning was a 'quality' morning from a ringing perspective.

At first light as I arrived at the Obs I had clear skies, although it was a little misty, and it was calm. I made a 'schoolboy error' this morning and forgot two out of three of my MP3 players! On a morning when I didn't think there would be may grounded migrants around my MP3 players would be crucial for ringing a few birds.

I only ringed four birds, as follows, but they were all quality species (recaptures in brackets):

Lesser Whitethroat - 2
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Wren - (1)
Lesser Whitethroat

Willow Warbler

The Lesser Whitethroats were new in and after I released one bird it started singing from an adjacent hedge. There were a few grounded migrants this morning and of course they were all new in and these were two Whitethroats, a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and three Grasshopper Warblers (including the ringed bird).

 Grasshopper Warbler

Vis was really poor with just eleven Linnets, a Curlew, two Swallows, two Goldfinches, three Meadow Pipits and a Siskin north.


After I packed up my nets I had a look in the cemetery on my way home and there was a smattering of grounded migrants here too in the form of a Whitethroat, two Willow Warblers, two Wheatears and a male Blackcap.


I ran my moth trap at home last night and in it this morning were three Early Greys, three Hebrew Characters, a male Dotted Border and an Angle Shades.

The weather is changing later today and as I write the skies have darkened and you can feel the moisture in the air. This change in weather might stir things up a bit and I'll need to decide where to look first in the morning.

Monday 20 April 2015

From Scandinavia To Siberia

I had another good day at the Obs yesterday and it started at first light when I met Kim to do some ringing on the coast. We had clear skies with a 5 mph northeasterly wind and then within a couple of hours the cloud cover increased to 8 oktas. It's a pity the cloud cover didn't develop during the night as it might have dropped a few more migrants in.

There was some vis this morning and we thought we would get a good Tree Pipit count as we had three at first light, but a good count didn't materialise. Our vis totals were six Tree Pipits, 36 Meadow Pipits, a Chaffinch, three Swallows, eleven Goldfinches, 18 Linnets and three Alba Wags.

Apart from a Chiffchaff the only evidence of grounded migrants came from the mist nets. A bit of excitement came in the form of an acredula type Willow Warbler particularly when I walked up to the net and I could see this very obvious 'cold coloured' phyllosc in the net! We ringed eleven birds as follows:

Sedge Warbler - 1
Goldfinch - 3
Reed Bunting - 1
Great Tit - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Blackcap - 1
Willow Warbler - 1

 Acredula type Willow Warbler

Sedge Warbler

That was a good start to the day and then I got a call from Ian after lunch saying that he was at the water meadows and that he had one or possibly two Richard's Pipits! Ian had flushed the Dick's Pipits as he had walked across the water meadows and they had lifted with some Skylarks and he could hear the distinctive 'shreep' call and wasn't sure whether there was one or two. By the time I got there he had them distantly down on the deck and there were definitely two!

When I first arrived we couldn't locate them and it took a bit of walking to find them. They were flighty and we couldn't get anywhere near them. So I had plenty of flight views of the pair of them, listened to the distinctive call and observed the little hovering movement they do before landing. Eventually I got some reasonable views of them on the ground with the scope, but they were too distant for me to get any record shots. I have included below one of Ian's record shots and although not a brilliant image you can tell what it is if you squint and look hard enough!

 Richard's Pipit (honest!)

I'm going to struggle to get out in the week this week as I have a number of site visits to do, but I will try my best to get out one morning at least.

Saturday 18 April 2015

A First Ringing Record For The Obs

Kim and I headed to one of the reedbeds at the Obs this morning for a ringing session and with clear skies an easterly breeze it was fairly obvious that last night had been a 'clear out' night, and therefore we didn't expect many grounded migrants.

Our expectations were met and we didn't have many grounded migrants, but we did trap a female Pied Flycatcher which was a first ringing record for the Obs! We ringed just eight birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Willow Warbler - 3 (1)
Pied Flycatcher - 1
Blackcap - 2
Blackbird - 2
Cetti's Warbler - (1)

 Cetti's Warbler

Willow Warbler

The easterly breeze soon strengthened and we had to take the nets down sooner than anticipated. Other than the excitement of the Pied Flycatcher it was quiet except for a passage of 36 Sand Martins northeast.

It was cold overnight and as a result the catch in my moth trap was meagre with just two Hebrew Characters and a Common Quaker.

The forecast is looking okay for some more ringing at the Obs in the morning!

Friday 17 April 2015

A Warbler Walk

After nearly a day and half of writing the same report I needed to get out when I finished it late morning. I decided to have a walk down to the estuary as the scrub on the way to the estuary holds a good variety of warblers. High tide was late morning so I knew that the river would be covering the mud and I wouldn't see any species on the river, but nevertheless it would be good therapy after being cooped up indoors!

Sure enough as I set off I had my first warbler species in the form of Chiffchaff and by the end of my walk I had recorded three Chiffchaffs, nine Willow Warblers, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. If I kept such a thing as a year list the Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler were new for the year. Perhaps that means I keep a mental year list!

Other than the warblers I didn't have a lot else other than a late Rock Pipit out on the saltmarsh; it was just nice to be out in the sunshine! It's ringing for me tomorrow in the reedbeds and scrub, so I'll let you know how I get on.  

Wednesday 15 April 2015

A Reeler Through The Legs!

I was back seawatching with Ian again this morning on the incoming tide. We had full cloud cover with a good 15 mph southwesterly wind. At the car park a Willow Warbler gave a few snatches of song indicating that there might be a few grounded migrants about.

Whilst sheltering in front of the tower six Wheatears dropped in and landed on the beach; a bit of migration in action! And then Ian shouted "what the f*ck was that"? I was busily looking down the end of my scope and wondered what he was on about and said "what was what"? He said a small bird had flown between his tripod legs and then flew through my tripod legs and dropped into the dunes! We quickly climbed up on to the dunes and straight away flushed a Grasshopper Warbler. More migration in action!

There was some vis this morning and like yesterday there was split between birds heading into the wind and others battling north across the bay. Our vis totals were two Tree Pipits, 33 Meadow Pipits, an Alba Wag, seven Swallows, 24 Linnets and eight Goldfinches.

Passage at sea was similar to yesterday, without the Velvets, and included six Red-throated Divers, 95 Common Scoters, 12 Eiders, two Red-breasted Mergansrs, five Kittiwakes, a Gannet, 30 Grey Plovers and a female Goldeneye.

Waders on the shore were just 71 Dunlins and five Ringed Plovers. On my way to the Wenning valley I called in to the cemetery and had two Wheatears, six Willow Warblers and another Gropper.

It's a day in the office for me tomorrow to finish off two reports so I am free to bird/ring on Friday. 

Tuesday 14 April 2015

A Touch Of Velvet

I thought the seawatching would have been better this morning given the wind direction, southwestely 15-20 mph, and the fact that it was spring. But unfortunately it was fairly quiet probably as a result of the hazy conditions with the wind turbines coming in and out of view. I know that won't mean a great deal to you, but if you can see the wind turbines the visibility is good, it's even better if you can see the Isle of Man, and if you can't see them it's crap!

However, it was worth sticking it out as Ian and I had four Velvet Scoters; two pairs! The first pair had unusually latched on to a pair of Common Scoters and the second pair were on their own, which is more typical, as they motored out of the bay.

The supporting cast at sea consisted of 118 Common Scoters, two Grey Plovers, two Red-throated Divers, five Gannets, five Cormorants, 100 Knot, six Bar-tailed Godwits, a Guillemot and a Kittiwake.

There was some vis this morning but it was light due to the direction and strength of the wind. The Swallows were moving west into the wind, with some of them at sea, whilst the remaining species headed north across the bay. The vis totals were just ten Swallows, six Meadow Pipits, seven Goldfinches and two Linnets.

In addition to the waders moving at sea we had 180 Sanderlings, 142 Dunlins and 32 Ringed Plovers on the shore. The only other birds to report were three male Wheatears on the beach.

I apologise for a lack of photographs in these last few postings but I haven't had the opportunity to snap any of the passage out at sea. The wind is remaining southwesterly tomorrow, so it will probably be another couple of hours seawatching for me again before heading up the Wenning valley to deliver some nest boxes and wildflower seed to a client.

Monday 13 April 2015

Eyes Seawards and Ears Skywards

It was bl**dy cold this morning and the keenness of the 10-15 mph southeasterly wind took me by surprise. I'm glad it wasn't just me as Ian too was caught out with a lack of layers! I was hoping to be able to stand on top of the dunes so I could keep an eye on both the sea and the air space above my head, but it was just too cold and necessitated a retreat to the front of the tower for some shelter. The downside to this is that from a vis point of view you can't see what's moving behind, mind you without eyes in the back of your head maybe you can't anyway!

The sea wasn't exactly rocking this morning and my totals included 14 Eiders, 20 Common Scoters, six Sandwich Terns, five Red-throated Divers, four Red-breasted Mergansers, twelve Cormorants, three Mallards, five Shelducks and four Gannets.

The vis was particularly high in the clear conditions and you certainly needed a keen sense of hearing to pick up those high flying Tree Pipits! My vis totals were seven Alba Wagtails, 65 Meadow Pipits, 35 Linnets, 25 White Wagtails, three Tree Pipits, five Carrion Crows, 12 Goldfinches, four Curlews and three Swallows.

There were a few waders about this morning but as I was static I had to rely on them coming past me and I just had 90 Sanderlings, 22 Dunlins and 20 Turnstones. I didn't have time to search for any grounded migrants as I had to get back home to do yet more report writing, but it didn't really have a grounded feel to it this morning.

I'll probably treat myself to another 5:30 a.m. alarm call tomorrow morning, but give the real ale a miss so I can get up with more of a clear head! 

Friday 10 April 2015

A Good Linnet Morning

I was back at the Obs this morning, and under the virtually clear skies with a 5 - 10 mph southeasterly wind a touch of murk had developed over the sea. Nevertheless it was a 'vis' rather than a 'grounded' morning. I just spent a couple of hours walking round before returning to the office for some report writing.

My vis totals included 54 Woodpigeons, a Carrion Crow, 54 Linnets, six Goldfinches, a Sand Martin, five Lesser Redpolls, three Alba Wags, a Chaffinch, 192 Meadow Pipits and a Snipe.

As I said before it wasn't much of a grounded morning and all I had were two Wheatears, a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler.

It was virtually impossible to see anything on the sea because of the misty conditions and consequently all I had was a Cormorant and male Red-breasted Merganser.

It's forecast for quite a stiff southwesterly wind overnight and into tomorrow with a rain front coming in from the Irish Sea during the early hours. It's hard to tell whether the rain will drop a few birds in or not, but I'll certainly get up and have a look.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

At Last The Fog's Gone!

Whilst the rest of the UK has been bathed in glorious sunshine over the Easter hols, up here in northwest Lancashire, particularly along the Irish Sea coast we have been 'locked down' with dense fog! So it was a pleasure to be out this morning on the coast at the Obs in clear conditions. At first light I had just one okta cloud cover and it was calm.

Not the best conditions for grounded migrants but I did have two Redwings and three Goldcrests grounded.

It was more of a vis morning and because of the clear conditions everything was high, and with most species this morning I was just hearing a flight call without seeing the bird or more to the point birds. This means that in my notebook one call = one bird, when in reality it probably meant several.

My vis totals were 34 Woodpigeons, 73 Meadow Pipits, five Alba Wags, twelve Goldfinches, 33 Linnets, a Reed Bunting, nine Lesser Redpolls, six Collared Doves, a Swallow and two Carrion Crows.

Meadow Pipit. I didn't know this bird was ringed until looking at the picture
on my computer! 

The sea was fairly quiet but I did have my first Sandwich Terns when two flew north. In addition to the 'Sarnies' were 300 Knot, 15 Eiders, three Red-breasted Mergansers, three Cormorants and five Common Scoters.

I have four breeding wader surveys to do in the Lancashire uplands tomorrow, so it will be Friday before I'm back on the patch.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

March Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of March. You will see that we have ringed 472 birds of 24 species and we are 350 ahead of where we were this time last year. Four species were added to the ringing list during March and these were Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff, Jay and Linnet.

Below I have listed the top five ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year so far.

Top 5 Ringed in March

1. Lesser Redpoll - 32
2. Blue Tit - 27
3. Chaffinch - 25
4. Meadow Pipit - 24
    Goldcrest - 24

Top 10 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1.Blue Tit - 119 (same position)
2. Great Tit - 57 (same position)
3. Chaffinch - 49 (up from 4th)
4. Goldfinch - 44 (same position)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 39 (up from 8th)
    Long-tailed Tit - 39 (down from 3rd)
7. Goldcrest - 26 (straight in)
8. Meadow Pipit - 24 (straight in)
9. Blackbird - 15 (down from 6th)
10. Coal Tit - 13 (down from 7th)

It's unusual to cancel a planned ringing session because the weather is too good, but that's exactly what's happening tomorrow evening. There isn't going to be enough cloud and with a Waning Gibbous moon it will be too bright to operate mist nets in the dark on the wetland!

It's fairly clear at the moment, but more mist/fog is forecast later, and it may well drop a few migrants in the morning so I'll have to make sure I have a stagger round the Obs before starting work!

Monday 6 April 2015

From Murk To Marsh

My alarm went off at 0515 and a quick look outside showed that it wasn't fit for any ringing at the Obs due to the heavy, almost drizzle like fog, so a quick to call to Kim was made to call the morning's ringing off. Later in the morning Gail and I called to seem some good farmer friends of ours to pick up some next boxes that Robert had made for a client of mine.

It was good to catch up with them and whilst there we had a look on their wetland and were presented with a good selection of birds including over 300 Curlews, 150 Teal, six Wigeon, twelve Coot, two Lapwings, two Oystercatchers and four Shovelers. In the woodland two Chiffchaffs were singing, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming and four Tree Sparrows flew over head.

We've made plans for later in the week to have a ringing session on the wetland to try and catch some of the waders and wildfowl before they disperse. I'll let you know how we get on.

Sunday 5 April 2015

Fog Bound Fatties

As I write this blog post I have mist nets draped in various locations around the house drying, testament to the foggy conditions this morning. As I unlocked the gate and drove down the track at the Obs I was in the midst of a 'pea-souper'! In fact I didn't put any nets up at first, instead I planted about 15 Willows that I had brought with me. In the half-light I could hear Goldcrests calling so I decided to put a couple nets up in the knowledge that they wouldn't be up long before they were wet through with the fog and would need to come down.

I ringed just five birds as follows:

Chiffchaff - 2
Goldcrest - 2
Robin - 1

The Goldcrests and Chiffs were laden with fat and I wondered where they might have been heading before being grounded by the murk. In total I thought there were seven Goldcrests and three Chiffchaffs around. In addition to these to species other grounded birds included a Fieldfare and 55 Meadow Pipits.

 One of the 'fog bound fatties', a Goldcrest

Even though it was foggy there was still some vis and birds were moving above and on the upper limits of the fog. In total I had 60 Meadow Pipits, a Collared Dove and a Linnet.

Back home in the moth trap were three Common Quakers, a Light Brown Apple Moth, three Hebrew Characters and an Early Grey.

 Hebrew Character

I will try again in the morning but at 1935 as I type the fog has yet to clear!

Saturday 4 April 2015

Where's Spring Gone?

I arranged to meet Kim at the water treatment works this morning to do some ringing there as it was a touch too breezy right on the coast. Before I met Kim I had a quick look in the cemetery to see if there were any grounded migrants, but it was more of a vis morning. Dawn revealed four oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph northwesterly wind and it was cold!

Straight away I picked up Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Grey Wagtails and Alba Wags heading north, but absolutely nothing grounded.

I met Kim at the arranged time at the water treatment works and we just put two nets up. With the aid of a few MP3 players we ringed ten birds as follows:

Dunnock - 1
Goldfinch - 3
Robin - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - 4

Situated in the plantation woodland it was hard to discern what was going on from a vis perspective and in addition to what we ringed all I could add was Song Thrush, Redwing and a Sparrowhawk.

The forecast is looking okay for some coastal ringing over the next couple of days so I'll let you know how I get on.