Wednesday 30 September 2015

Ds and Es

My blog title isn't a reference to some chemical highs that I have been experimenting with, but rather to the fact that over the past couple of days I have had to use both a D and E ring whilst ringing at the Obs. As I mainly ring small passerines I rarely use some of the larger rings so the fact that I have used both these ring sizes recently is noteworthy. More of that later.

I didn't have time to post yesterday but I was out recording at the Obs again and I was there this morning too. Both mornings were similar in terms of weather conditions and birds recorded so I have decided to lump two days totals together.

Vis has certainly been a feature this week and there has been decent numbers each day. Yesterday and today's totals combined were 383 Pink-footed Geese, 25 Alba Wags, 541 Meadpow Pipits (458 today), eight Snipe, 14 Siskins, three House Martins, 16 Skylarks, 73 Greenfinches, five Chaffinches, three Reed Buntings, five Grey Wagtails, 1 Lesser Redpoll, nine Goldfinches, 24 Linnets, 15 Swallows and eight Tree Sparrows.

 Meadow Pipit

Raptors over both days have included up to three Kestrels and a male and female Sparrowhawk. The male Sparrowhawk was a juvenile that I ringed this morning and was responsible for the use of a D ring.


Grounded migrants were a Song Thrush, six Coal Tits, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Goldcrests, two Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff.

 Coal Tit


Over the two days I ringed 30 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Greenfinch -14
Meadow Pipit -9
Magpie - 1
Blackcap - 2
Coal Tit - 1
Great Tit - 1 (1)
Sparrowhawk - 1
Blackbird - 1


The Magpie was responsible for the use of an E ring and when I was extracting it from one of my mist nets I also had to extract a disemboweled Field Vole! As I said earlier in the week the field had been mown by the farmer and the Kestrels were constantly feeding over it. I suspect the Field Vole was a prey item that the Magpie had taken from one of the Kestrels or was a casualty of the grass cutting. Whichever it was it was a gruesome extraction!


I've had a few insects on the wing these past two days including Speckled Wood, Migrant Hawker and Red Admiral.

The forecast is looking good for some more migration monitoring tomorrow with light east-southeasterly winds and it looks set fair with high pressure in charge until at least Sunday. After that the high pressure looks to be losing its grip from Monday onwards as we get an Atlantic front bringing southwesterly winds.

Monday 28 September 2015

More Of The Same

I was at the Obs again for first light and I had clear skies with a 5 - 10 mph southeasterly wind. I'm afraid this blog posting is going to be a bit repetitive as it was very much more of the same this morning.

The vis was similar to yesterday in terms of species make up, but perhaps less numbers, and I recorded 56 Meadow Pipits, three Grey Wagtails, a Reed Bunting, ten Alba Wags, twelve Greenfinches, a Chaffinch, two Goldfinches, 230 Pink-footed Geese, a Curlew, a Skylark, eleven Swallows and a House Martin.

 Pink-footed Geese


With clear skies these past few days grounded migrants have been a bit thin on the ground and this morning I had a Reed Bunting, three Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, a Coal Tit and a Blackcap. I also had a Great Spotted Woodpecker which might not have been strictly a migrant, but it certainly wasn't from the immediate area as there is a lack of woodland.


I ringed seven birds this morning as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Great Tit - 1
Greenfinch - 2
Wren - 1
Woodpigeon - 1
 Dunnock - (1)

 Great Tit

High pressure is still dominating tomorrow, and through until at least Friday, and the winds will remain fairly light at from the southeast. This means that I will be out at the Obs again in the morning and with a bit more cloud around perhaps there might be a few more birds about; I'll let you know.

Sunday 27 September 2015

Just In Double Figures

I was back ringing at the Obs at first light this morning under clear skies with a 5 - 10 mph southeasterly wind. I wasn't anywhere near as busy as yesterday and ringed thirteen birds as follows:

Meadow Pipit - 8
Robin - 2
Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Wren - 1


I got a text from Craig this afternoon who is a member of our group and he is in Denmark at Gedser Bird Observatory at the moment. His text said that he had ringed over 300 birds this morning, mainly Robins and Bramblings on the move!


There was some vis this morning and it was coming through in fits and starts. I had 648 Pink-footed Geese, 182 Meadow Pipits, a House Martin, six Alba Wags, a Reed Bunting, a Goldfinch, ten Swallows, 12 Greenfinches, a Collared Dove, seven Magpies, four Skylarks, a Siskin, a Grey Wagtail and two Linnets.

Grounded birds were limited to six Robins, four Dunnocks, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest and two Reed Buntings. No moving raptors this morning, just three local Kestrels probably from our nest box close by.

The forecast is looking okay again for tomorrow so I'll make the effort to get up and get out again in the morning; after all you have to make hay whilst the sun shines!

Saturday 26 September 2015

Finches of Green and Pipits of Meadow

This morning I was manning the nets at the Obs on my 'Jack Jones' as Kim is holidaying in northwest Scotland and Ian was monitoring vis and sea passage at the Point. The morning dawned with clear skies and a light southeasterly wind. At first it seemed quiet and then the vis picked up, which lead to me being busy with the nets.

I ringed 37 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 14
Chaffinch - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Greenfinch - 18
Robin - 1 (2)
Wren - 1

 Meadow Pipit

Raptors were thin on the ground this morning and I just had two Kestrels hunting over the recently cut meadow. All morning I kept on hearing Pink-footed Geese, but only managed to pick up two groups heading south totalling 90 birds. There was obviously a lot more than this but they must have been out of sight to the east or west.

 Pink-footed Geese

Grounded migrants weren't obvious this morning other than four Robins, a Song Thrush, a Stonechat and two Reed Buntings. However, the vis was better and even though I missed a lot of birds due to operating mist nets I recorded 132 Meadow Pipits, a House Martin, three Goldfinches, 16 Woodpigeons, two Chaffinches, 47 Greenfinches, two Alba Wags, two Linnets, 16 Skylarks, two Grey Wagtails, two Reed Buntings, a Siskin and four Swallows.

The only other observation of note was a feeding flock of about 75 Goldfinches. The forecast is similar for tomorrow so I will be out ringing again and it still looks good next week with those forecast easterlies!

Friday 25 September 2015

Playing Catch-up

After last Saturday's schoolboy error Kim and I returned to the Obs for another ringing session the following morning. We had virtually clear skies with a 5 mph southeasterly wind. This time I did have a spare net but thankfully it wasn't required!

It was pretty obvious straight away that there wasn't much on the move and all we had on vis was three Alba Wags, eight House Martins, two Meadow Pipits, a Collared Dove, a Grey Wagtail, 15 Greenfinches, 14 Carrion Crows, five Swallows and a Chaffinch.

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground with just a Song Thrush, three Robins, five Dunnocks and a Chiffchaff. Raptors were represented by a Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk, and that was about it other than what we ringed.

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

Blackbird - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Robin - 2 (1)
Goldfinch - 1
Greenfinch - 6
Dunnock - 2


I've been working in Cumbria again all this week including the confusing bit of Cumbria that is in the Yorkshire Dales and I have included a few snaps from the office below.

 One day this week I found myself working in the Scottish borders.

Not far from Keswick

The Howgills

I had a late night last night watching a band in a not so local hostelry so an early start was out of the question this morning, but I did manage to surface eventually and spent an hour and a quarter seawatching. Movement at sea included two Gannets, four Auk sp., four Red-throated Divers, a Guillemot and ten Common Scoters.

As the tide ran in a few waders started to appear on the shingle ridges and I had 23 Ringed Plovers, 29 Dunlins, 81 Turnstones and 230 Sanderlings. The only grounded migrants I had were three Wheatears feeding along the beach.

I then took a walk down to the estuary and as it warmed up I had a few insects on the wing including Speckled Wood, Common Darter, Red Admiral, Common Blue Damselfly and Migrant Hawker.

 The Hawthorn tunnel to the estuary

A couple of Blackcaps in the Hawthorns were the only migrant passerines and then I had a look on the pool where I counted four Little Grebes, 44 Tufted Ducks, 55 Mallards and three Teal. Out on the estuary I had 18 Lapwings, an adult Yellow-legged Gull, 122 Redshanks, 290 Black-tailed Godwits, 49 Dunlin and a Knot.

This afternoon whilst sat in my conservatory with a coffee reading Mark Avery's 'Inglorious' I had my first Pink-footed Geese of the autumn with a flock of 100 high up heading south.

I've cleared my diary of site visits for the next two weeks so I can spend every morning birding and ringing at the Obs. The forecast is looking good for the next week with several days of easterlies, so fingers crossed for some good migrants!

Saturday 19 September 2015

Snatched From The Jaws Of A Schoolboy Error

Kim and Me had the first ringing session of the autumn in some of the coastal habitat at the Obs this morning and we just managed to avoid a near disaster. We had virtually clear skies at dawn and it was calm. After about an hour some cloud came in from the east and birds then started to move.

At this part of the Obs recording area I only ever put two nets up as most of what I catch is tape lured. We successfully put up a little eighteen foot net that intercepts a ditch and hedgerow and then we went to put the other net up in another ditch with Hawthorn. This is where it all went wrong as when we were putting the net up we could see that one of the shelf strings was broken. This was unusual as the net had been used relatively recently to catch Swallows and as far as I am aware there was no issues when it was put away then. This shouldn't have been such a disaster as I should have had a spare with me, but I didn't! So the moral of this schoolboy error is always carry a spare net with you!

We persevered with just one eighteen foot net and managed to ring fifteen birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Robin - 2
Siskin - 1
Song Thrush - 1
Blackbird - 1
Greenfinch - 9
Dunnock - 1
Blue Tit - (2)

 Greenfinch (note the evidence on the bill that it had been recently feeding on 
rose hips)

As stated above when the cloud cover increased birds got on the move and on vis we had 13 Alba Wags, four Swallows, 44 Meadow Pipits, three Goldfinches, four Siskins, five Grey Wagtails, 22 Greenfinches and two Skylarks.


We observed some interesting feeding behaviour from a Swallow that I have never seen before. We watched a Swallow that had caught a large aerial insect that kept on dropping it's invertebrate prey and then diving and catching it again. Whatever the insect was it was still alive as sometimes it made an attempt to escape only to be caught by the Swallow again. The Swallow was too far away for us to be able to tell what the insect was, but it was large enough for us to see the Swallow carrying it!

Grounded birds were thin on the ground with just Reed Bunting and Song Thrush being obviously grounded birds.

We will be making another attempt tomorrow morning and this time I have a packed a spare net!

Sunday 13 September 2015

Not exactly Spurn..........

..........but there were a few migrants around this morning. In fact there were one or two juicy migrants recorded at the Obs today by Ian, but unfortunately I didn't see them. Have a look here at our Fleetwood Bird Observatory blog for details in a day or two. Anyway, back to this morning.

When I got out of the car it felt a bit 'birdy' and straight away I had a Chiffchaff calling and after I had only walked fifty yards a Willow Warbler was giving it's autumnal sub-song. This definitely emphasised the feeling of it being a bit birdy, but it didn't really progress any further than that. There were one or two other grounded migrants including five Robins, three Wheatears and a Goldcrest.


There was a trickle of vis at first light before the wind picked up and this included a Grey Wagtail, twelve Swallows, 14 Alba Wags, four House Martins and three Meadow Pipits. There is quite a bit of seeding thistle out at the moment and I had 61 Goldfinches feeding on it.

The only raptor I had was a male Kestrel and a flock of 40 House Sparrows in some brambles was noteworthy. I was chatting to the guy that does some pest control within the Obs recording area and he showed me a picture of a dead owl that he had found and it was a Short-eared Owl. He had seen it a day or two before and it was struggling to fly, so it had obviously been unable to hunt and succumbed to starvation; a sad end for such a magnificent bird.

I'm working again in glorious Cumbia again later this week, but I might just be able to squeeze a couple of hours birding one morning earlier in the week.

Saturday 12 September 2015

There's Always Tomorrow

The forecast was spot on for last night and this morning, but the hoped for birds didn't materialise. At first light it was absolutely bucketing down and Ian and I sat in my car drinking coffee until the rain eased up enough to get out birding. After the first half hour it was obvious that the magic hadn't happened and that it was very quiet.

As was expected in such poor conditions the vis was virtually nil except for a brave Grey Wagtail and two Swallows east. There seemed to be a few more Robins around this morning and in total I had eight. The only other grounded migrants were three Goldcrests in the pines.

On my way home I had a quick look on the pools and had a good count of 71 Coot.

So that was that. The forecast for tomorrow is for it to be dry and overcast with a lighter southeasterly wind than today. I'll give it another go!

Friday 11 September 2015

Mostly Swallows

Even though we have stopped ringing at the Swallow roost for the year, Swallows certainly featured in this morning's birding, but more of that in a minute.

With no site visits today I decided to have a couple of hours birding before doing some office work. High tide wasn't until 1100 so I called in at a couple of good migrant spots before heading to the coast to look on the sea. I must admit I didn't expect any grounded migrants as it was clear overnight and clear this morning, and from that perspective I wasn't disappointed because I didn't have any grounded migrants, well not really! Five Robins and a Goldcrest were probably migrants, but unsurprisingly there was little else around.

I headed to my seawatching spot and spent just an hour and three quarters seawatching and recording vis. The main feature of the morning vis wise was the easterly passage of Swallows and I had 74 with a supporting cast of five Grey Wagtails, two Lesser Redpolls, seven Alba Wags and a Snipe.

It was quite hazy out to sea and it was very quiet with just 48 Cormorants, five Gannets, four Eiders and three Grey Plovers logged.

After I had finished seawatching the sea had run far enough in to start gathering some waders and I had 239 Oystercatchers, 26 Sanderlings, four Turnstones, two Redshanks, four Curlews, 106 Ringed Plovers and 35 Dunlins.

The weather synopsis for overnight and in tomorrow morning looks interesting with clear skies until the early hours, moderate southeasterly winds and a low pressure system sweeping in. There's a good chance that it could drop a few migrants. The only thing to do is get up and do some birding in the rain!

August'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 August, and considering it has been such a poor breeding season the totals aren't too bad. Having said that the totals are healthy due to a good number of Swallows ringed at their autumn roost at the Obs. Numbers have dropped off now and we had our last session earlier in the week and ringed just 27.

Five new species were added to the ringing list during August and these were Herring Gull, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Garden Warbler and Bullfinch. The fact that Great Spotted Woodpecker was new for the year in August is a  reflection of the type of habitats that the group operates in i.e. no woodland. It is a surprise that Garden Warbler was new for the year during August and this probably is a reflection of the decline of this species and the fact that it has been a very poor breeding season for most warbler species other than Reed Warbler. Bullfinch is quite a scarce bird in our part of the world so it came as quite a surprise to Phil when he caught a juvenile.

As usual I have listed below the top five species ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in August

1. Swallow - 730
2. Reed Warbler - 65
3. Sedge Warbler - 15
4. Willow Warbler - 13
5. Goldcrest - 12
    Chaffinch - 12

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 798 (up from 8th)
2. Blue Tit - 173 (down from 1st)
3. Sand Martin - 139 (down from 2nd)
4. Reed Warbler - 135 (up from 7th)
5. Willow Warbler - 118 (down from 4th)
6. Great Tit - 114 (down from 3rd)
7. Goldfinch - 99 (down from 5th)
8. Starling - 82 (down from 6th)
9. Chaffinch - 68 (same position)
10. Pied Flycatcher - 55 (same position)
      Lesser Redpoll - 55 (straight in) 

Monday 7 September 2015

Those Hills Again, More Swallows and Useless Northerlies

I'm afraid its a summary post again as I have had another busy week working in what is probably one of or the most beautiful counties in England, Cumbria. And I say that as a Lancastrian too! Mind you a good part of south Cumbria and all along the Furness peninsula used to be part of Lancashire prior to 1974.

There's not much to say about my work in Cumbria really, so I'll let the views below do the talking!

The view from the office this week

This week we've managed to ring 156 Swallows taking the autumn total to somewhere in the region of 804 birds! Highlights during the Swallow ringing sessions this week have been 5,000 roosting Starlings, a Swift, a Buzzard and a Short-eared Owl flushed from some grassland as we were walking back to our cars.

Saturday morning saw me spend two hours walking round part of the Obs recording area and it was quiet. Grounded migrants were limited to a Song Thrush, a Wheatear and possibly five Robins. I say 'possibly' with regard to the Robins as I wasn't sure how long they had been in.

 Only one Teasel was still in flower, the rest had set seed (below)

The vis was slow with just eight Alba Wags, four Swallows, a Grey Wagtail and a Meadow Pipit over. I text Ian during the morning to tell him how quiet I was finding it, although I hadn't looked on the sea as yet and he text back to say "don't bother"! I did bother and he was right it was dead with just six Cormorants!

This morning Gail and I had a walk down to the estuary and in between birding we did a fair amount of blackberry picking. Grounded migrants were thin on the ground other than a Chiffchaff and two Willow Warblers. On the estuary were 196 Redshanks, 111 Lapwings, 210 Black-tailked Godwits and a Little Egret.

 Common Darter sunning itself on the path

The pools held seven Little Grebes, 18 Tufted Ducks and 24 Mallards. Raptors were represented by two Buzzards and a Kestrel, whilst overhead we had Grey Wagtail and Siskin.

Fingers crossed for some more Swallows this week and the target now has to be 900 ringed!