Monday 31 August 2015

No Time For Blogging

I have been quite busy birding and ringing over these past few days and haven't had any time to blog, so everything is going to get lumped together in this post!

On Friday (28th) I headed to my usual seawatching spot at the Obs as there was a morning tide about mid-morning. As the tide ran in and started to cover the shore it pushed a few waders past me including 403 Oystercatchers, 96 Dunlins, 208 Knots, five Curlews, 66 Turnstones, 39 Ringed Plovers, a Redshank and two Sanderlings.

On the sea it was relatively quiet with 60 Common Scoters, 43 Cormorants, 35 Sandwich Terns, 49 Gannets, a Fulmar and an Auks sp.

The highlight of the morning was a juv. male Peregrine that gave a fantastic display offshore above the waves chasing small waders. It made several stoops, but unfortunately for the 'Peg' each attack was unsuccessful. In the end it gave up and headed back to the shore.

Saturday (29th) evening found Graham, Ian and Me at the Swallow roost. Due to the unsettled weather of late there weren't quite as many coming in, perhaps 800, and consequently we only ringed 40 Swallows and one Reed Warbler.

From a birding perspective the supporting cast included 60 Lapwings, 40 Linnets, a male Peregrine, a Kestrel, three House Martins, 3,000 Starlings and a Buzzard.

After just two hours sleep (I won't bore you with the details) I was up at 5:00 am Sunday (30th) morning to go ringing at the pools with Ian. Putting the nets up it 'felt' quiet and it was indeed quiet! In fact it has been quiet all summer at this site, and others, due to a particularly poor breeding season. The only warbler species that seems to have done okay is Reed Warbler.

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

Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Reed Bunting - 3 (1)
Linnet - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Wren - 2 (1)


 Reed Bunting

There was some exodus of birds from local roosts not long after first light including 17 Magpies and 28 Alba Wagtails. On the pools were a Wigeon, two Shovelers, 11 Coots, eight Little Grebes and two Cetti's Warblers called close by.

This morning I went out looking for migrants with Gail after the heavy showers last night. In fact at 4:00 am Gail and I were in the garden emptying a soggy moth trap with lots of moths in it and all were released successfully!

Migrants were a bit thin on the ground other than a male Wheatear on the estuary but a number of butterflies were on the wing including Common Blues, Speckled Woods, Peacocks, Painted Lady's, Small Tortoiseshells, Green-veined Whites and Small Whites.

 Female Common Blue

Speckled Wood

It's more Swallows this evening so fingers crossed for a decent catch!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Night And Day

The last time we ringed at the Swallow roost was on Monday night and we managed to ring 80, taking our total to 600 ringed so far. In addition to the Swallows we ringed three Sedge Warblers and a Whitethroat.

On the pools were six Little Grebes, a Teal and very little else. There was about a thousand Swallows roosting and nearby, but not so close as to make us worried, 5,800 Starlings roosted! Four House Martins hawked insects earlier on and were accompanied by a single Swift. Walking back to our cars in the darkness we heard a Common Sandpiper go over.

By day I've been working in north Cumbria again this week and below are a few snapshots from this weeks office window. I finished my days work off with a swift pint in probably one of, if not the, best pub in northern England, the Old Crown in Hesket Newmarket. They brew all their own real ale in the brewery at the back and it is superb!

The forecast is looking 'iffy' for any Swallows this evening, so I might have to forsake a few beers on Friday night to do some ringing!

Sunday 23 August 2015

What Happened To All The Wheatears?

Sat in my brother's conservatory last night celebrating 'little brothers' 48th birthday I listened to the thunder and lightning with heavy down pours thinking "I bet there's a good few Wheatears at the Obs tomorrow morning"! Fast forward to this morning and there were just a few not a 'good few'.

Having consumed a Chinese and a few beers last night I didn't get to the Obs quite as early as I would have liked, but nevertheless it wasn't that long after sunrise. I had virtual clear skies with a strengthening easterly wind.

There were a few grounded migrants around and first up was a calling Goldcrest from the copse, followed by a male Whinchat and four Wheatears.


The vis was fairly slow with just 26 Swallows and four Alba Wags south. I had two Sparrowhawks go through, a male and a female, but I wasn't sure whether they were migrants or not. On the raptor front I also had two Kestrels followed by a male Peregrine over by the estuary later in the morning. I also had 150 Redshanks on the estuary as well.

I recorded a bit of movement on the sea in the form of 22 Sandwich Terns, four Gannets and 31 Common Scoters. A Small Copper butterfly was my first one at this part of the Obs for a while and on my walk back to my car down the lane I came across the fungi below that I have failed to identify, so if anyone has any ideas please let me know!

 Unidentified fungi

The forecast for tomorrow morning is for light cloud with a light southeasterly wind, so if I don't have too many real ales this evening I might try and get out for a couple of hours before work.

Saturday 22 August 2015

The Week That Was

I've had a busy week at work this past week, haven't we all I hear you say, and as such haven't been able to do much birding. We have had two sessions at the Swallow roost ringing a total of 105 Swallows, a Sedge Warbler and three Reed Warblers. We are now just six birds short of 500 Swallows ringed for the autumn.

The supporting cast at the pools during this weeks Swallow roost ringing sessions have been 25 Linnets, 3,000 Swallows roosting, four Little Grebes, a Buzzard, juv. male Sparrowhawk, three Kestrels and three Swifts.

My work has involved assessing some woodland planting in north Cumbria and below is a view from my office this week.

I have just started reading Inglorious - Conflict in the Uplands by Mark Avery and the title says it all. As I say I have only just started reading it and it is a riveting read, but for all the wrong reasons as you can imagine. The foreword by Chris Packham is thought provoking and heartfelt as you would expect from Chris and below is a snippet of what he says in the foreword:

"It is as if all the science, all the ecology, the knowledge, the respect and the understanding that we have so diligently and passionately evolved simply didn't exist. Aspects of this 'industry' seem to persist in a vile vacuum rooted in an ignorant, intolerant and inglorious past. And to try and justify its stance, it trots out a shabby litany of idiotic lies that may somehow have been believable to previous generations but are frankly embarrassing to this one, given the sophistication our public now has in ecological matters. For instance, in recent years a number of grouse moors have eradicated all the mountain hares on their land - they've enacted lagomorphicide - because the hares can transmit a prarsite to the grouse. There cannot be a single viewer of wildlife television who doesn't realise that such lunacy will have a profound effect on the ecology of that community, a community equally devoid of predators of all kinds; it will damage it irreparably. So when we are told by the shooting fraternity that they are 'looking after the uplands' the joke simply isn't funny any more. They burn it, drain it, poison it, denude it of any life that may possibly harm a grouse, and then kill the grouse themselves. How absurd."

Well said Chris! I came across a bunch of these idiots 'looking after the uplands' yesterday when I was driving over a notorious Hen Harrier killing zone and these tossers had the cheek and audacity to give me a hand signal to slow down. If I hadn't had my wife and mother in the car I would have been pulling over to have a few inglorious words with the tweed clad morons!

Anyway I need to cam down and focus on something positive that is the weather over the next couple of days. Based on the weather synopsis I can only imagine that birders in the northern isles and along the east coast will be salivating at the thought of what might turn up in the next couple of days. There is the possibility that over here in the impoverished west we too might see a half decent fall of common migrants with perhaps the odd scarcity thrown it. I'll let you know.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Afternoon Tea In The Garden Kestrel Style

On Sunday afternoon Gail shouted me to come into the conservatory quickly as there was a bird of prey on the lawn! I looked through the glass door of the conservatory and sure enough there was a young male Kestrel enjoying a spot of rodent afternoon tea! He was enthusiastically consuming a mouse with some vigour. Part way through his afternoon tea he decided to take it on to the shed roof, rather than the lawn, and the series of photographs below show him enjoying his snack. Apologies for the quality of the pictures as they were taken through glass, and don't look at some of the pictures if you are eating! After he had finished he remained perched on the shed roof for a good ten minutes in the sun and you can see how bulging his crop looks; full of mouse!

Saturday 15 August 2015

A Sea Of Sea Holly

I had a walk round some of the coastal migrant habitat at the Obs this morning and it was my first visit to this section of the recording area for the autumn. Whilst there I also cut the net rides in readiness for the programme of autumn ringing.

I had two oktas cloud cover with a 15 mph northwesterly wind as I set off on my walk. Nothing to do with birds but I didn't half see a lot of Rabbits this morning. After a while I counted them as I walked round and I had 33 in total! I have never seen that many here before and unlike a lot of our passerine birds they must have produced a good number of young.

Whilst off the subject of birds, not that I've got started on the birds yet, some of the coastal wildflowers were showing very well this morning. In some of the fields behind the sea wall I had plenty of Strawberry Clover (although I think it should have been named Raspberry Clover as it looks more like a Raspberry!) alongside it's planer cousins of White and Red Clover.

 Strawberry Clover

I came across a nice stand of Teasels with plenty of bees foraging on the flowers, although most of them were past their best, but they will soon provide a great source of seeds for Goldfinches and Linnets.

 A nice stand of Teasels

Bumblebee on a Teasel flower

Amongst the dune grassland was a sea of Sea Holly, and like the Rabbits the most I have ever seen here, and nestled amongst the Sea Holly were some Sea Campion and Biting Stonecrop.

 Part of the sea of Sea Holly

Sea Holly close up

Sea Campion

Biting Stonecrop

Now to the birds. I didn't get the impression that there were any grounded migrants this morning and I felt that the Whitethroat and four Sedge Warblers I had were local birds. There's plenty of Creeping Thistle seeding at the moment and I came across a flock of 35 Goldfinches feeding on the seed heads.


Raptors were represented by two females this morning, a female Sparrowhawk and a female Kestrel, presumably one half of the local breeding pair. I couldn't really detect any 'vis' this morning other than perhaps two House Martins and a single Swallow winging their way south.

Male Common Blue

On the fields were five Whimbrels with six of their larger Curlew cousins and that was it for waders other than a single Ringed Plover and nine Oystercatchers. I didn't spend long looking at the sea and consequently all I had were ten Sandwich Terns and two Common Terns.

It's dawn and dusk ringing for me tomorrow, with hopefully migrant warblers in the willow scrub in the morning and roosting Swallows in the reedbed in the evening. Now you'll have to excuse me while I go and get a beer!

Thursday 13 August 2015

July'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 July. Four new species for the year were added this month and these were Barn Owl, Swallow, House Martin and Pied Wagtail.

As usual below you will find the top five ringed during the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in July

1. Swallow - 67
2. Reed Warbler - 58
3. Goldfinch - 26
4. Sand Martin - 16
5. Great Tit - 12

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Blue Tit - 164 (same position)
2. Sand Martin - 162 (down from 2nd)
3. Great Tit - 111 (same position)
4. Willow Warbler - 105 (same position)
5.Goldfinch - 93 (up from 6th)
6. Starling - 77 (down from 5th)
7. Reed Warbler - 70 (straight in)
8. Swallow - 68 (straight in)
9. Chaffinch - 56 (down from 7th)
10. Pied Flycatcher - 55 (down from 8th)

On Tuesday (11th) evening we had another Swallow roost ringing session and ringed 67 Swallows, five Sedge Warblers, a Reed Bunting and a Reed Warbler.

It was quiet on the birding front other than 1,080 Swallows roosting, eight Swifts and a male Sparrowhawk.

Fingers crossed for some decent weather over weekend so I can get out birding.

Monday 10 August 2015

Is This The Best County Bird Report in the UK?

Orkney is a fantastic place and I am already looking forward to my next visit in 2016. Since my first visit in only 2013 I caught up on the Orkney Bird Reports going back to 2006, and I eagerly awaited the 2013 report when it came out. And now I have just finished reading the 2014 report and it is excellent.

The Orkney Bird Report is usually one of the first county bird reports to come out. This year it came out in June which was a month or so later than usual, but still incredibly early for a county report. The covers of recent years have been graced with some fantastic artwork by the superb Orkney based bird artist Tim Wootton. 2012's report had a Roller on the cover, 2013's a Gyr Falcon and you can see from below that this year it is a cracking painting of a Woodchat Shrike.

A bonus of this years report is that it is in full colour and the usual comprehensive details of Orkney's birds in 2014 are included. I can highly recommend it, particularly if you have visited Orkney and know what a fantastic place it is. If you haven't visited Orkney get yourself up there and then buy a report!

Wagtails and Swallows

We were back at the Swallow roost last night, we being Ian, Graham, Andy and Me, and we had a successful evening. We put 100 feet of netting up amongst the  reeds and waited for the Swallows to arrive. As the first Swallows started arriving so did a few Pied Wagtails, and we were catching some Wagtails alongside the Swallows. We estimated that perhaps 1,500 Swallows were roosting.

We ringed 114 birds as follows:

Swallow - 101
Pied Wagtail - 8
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Starling - 3

Next time we go we will make a concerted effort to try and catch a few more Pied Wagtails by using a playback lure.

Whilst waiting for the Swallows to arrive we had a few bits and pieces on the birding front including four Whimbrels, two Buzzards, three Little Grebes and a Ruff. But no sign of the Spotted Crake unfortunately.  

Saturday 8 August 2015

Peaks and Troughs

I came up with my blog title when I thought we were going to have a really poor catch whilst out ringing this morning, but in the end it turned out just about okay, but not brilliant. Let's rewind though to the 'peak' that was Thursday evening at the Swallow roost.

Graham, Kim, Ian and I went to the pools Thursday evening to 'work' the Swallow roost. We had clear skies with a 15 mph westerly wind at first that dropped to nothing when the Swallows arrived. There was probably a good 800 Swallows roosting alongside about 2,500 Starlings. There was very little on the pools other than three Moorhens, three Coots, a Little Grebe and two Mallards.

We ringed 70 Swallows, plus two controls, and two Reed Warblers.

Fast forward to the 'trough' that was the ringing session Ian and I had in the reedbed this morning. It was the first morning that felt really autumnal with a heavy dew and some early morning mist which made me think of Keats's 'Odes To Autumn':

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Apologies for the literary interlude there!

From a birding perspective it was really quiet with just 27 House Martins, nine Swifts, a Grasshopper Warbler, three Shovelers, ten Little Grebes and ten Tufted Ducks the birds of any note.

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

Woodpigeon - 1
Song Thrush - 2
Reed Warbler - 1 (1)
Blackcap - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Whitethroat - 5
Willow Warbler - 1
Blue Tit - 1

 Song Thrush

Willow Warbler

Back home I had a reasonable catch in my moth trap with 42 moths of fourteen species (well the ones I could identify anyway) as follows:

Marbled Beauty - 2
Heart And Dart - 2
Large Yellow Underwing - 9
Herald - 1
Uncertain (it is a moth species!) - 4
Least Yellow Underwing - 4
Common Wainscot - 1
Common Rustic - 6
Buff Arches - 1
Dark Arches - 5
Common Wave - 2
Dot Moth - 2
Buff Ermine - 2
Heart And Club - 1

 Buff Arches

Buff Ermine


I'm full of cold at the minute (no sympathy please), but I will attempt to be up at first light tomorrow and if I don't make it for then, due to the intake of pale golden medicine served in a pint glass, I will be at the Swallow roost tomorrow evening weather permitting.

Monday 3 August 2015

A Few More Swallows

Saturday evening saw Ian and I back at the pools in an attempt to ring some more roosting Swallows. We brought the planned session forwards from Sunday as the forecast for Sunday was grim to say the least. However, as it happened Saturday evening was not too brilliant weather wise from a wind perspective and it had a limiting effect on our catch.

We ringed 35 birds as follows:

Swallow - 32
Reed Bunting - 1
Goldfinch - 2


We estimated that about 400 Swallows were roosting but the gusty wind definitely limited our catch. Starlings were roosting and about 2,500 came in to this sub-roost. I say sub-roost as we noticed that they come in early and then start to drift off in groups to their main roost at the other pools.

Four species of raptor made an appearance and these were female Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, male Kestrel and juvenile female Merlin. Six species of raptor is possible here with the other two potentials being Hobby and Peregrine.

The pools were quiet with just single Little Grebe, three Coots, nine Mallards and a Mute Swan. Our first Snipe of the autumn left the reedbed towards dusk and headed off to feed. There were still ten Swifts coming in to feed along with about 15 House Martins and it is quite surprising how late it is when the Swifts come in.

We will be having a couple more ringing sessions at the Swallow roost this week but with all the unsettled weather around at the moment when this will be I'm not sure.