Saturday 31 October 2015

Owl Fest

I had a wander around the Obs this morning under cloudy skies with a 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind. In recent weeks I have been enjoying the spectacle of a couple of Barn Owls hunting for a while after first light, but this morning there was a few more than two! Straight away I picked up two birds hunting over the farmland and then I noticed a third bird as it was quite different with completely white secondaries, primaries and tail. Excellent; three Barn Owls! I whizzed a text to Ian to let him know and then within two minutes I was texting him again to say there were four. A text back from Ian said "amazing" and I had to text him again to say sorry there were five! Five Barn Owls; a record number for the Obs!

 Barn Owl

It was nearly three species of Owl this morning but the Little Owl wasn't in residence, but I did flush a Short-eared Owl from some long grass! In fact Ian had a further three Short-eared Owls later on so there were five Barn Owls and four Short-eared Owls at the Obs this morning!

 Short-eared Owl

I did my usual circuit and added three Kestrels to the raptor tally, but nothing else. As usual 'Pinkies' were arriving from the river shortly after first light and 645 dropped in.

There was some vis this morning, mainly in the form of high flying continental Chaffinches. I kept hearing Chaffinch calls and sometimes I wouldn't be able to see anything they were so high and at other times I would be able to pick birds out in the stratosphere! My vis totals were nine Meadow Pipits, 48 Chaffinches (massive under count), a Collared Dove, a Fieldfare, two Bramblings, a Rock Pipit, two Reed Buntings, five Starlings and three Alba Wags.

The only obviously grounded migrants this morning were two Song Thrushes and a Goldcrest. The sea was quiet with just eleven Common Scoters, but I did have a female/immature Long-tailed Duck head south with five Common Scoters.

The forecast looks okay for some ringing in the morning so I'll give it a go and see what I get.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

A Bit Of A Late Autumn Fall

One of the benefits of knowing your patch inside out and visiting it often, is that you can easily detect any changes in the number and species make up of the birds utilising the site. This morning was a classic example as I knew straight away that there had been a small fall of Thrush species.

Overnight it had started clear and then sometime before dawn cloud had moved in and it had become quite murky. When I got to the Obs at 7:15 a.m. I had 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind and it was a touch murky out to sea.

As I said before I realised immediately that a few birds had been dropped and that a small fall had occurred consisting of nine Robins, two Mistle Thrushes, four Song Thrushes, two Stonechats, nine Reed Buntings and two Fieldfares.

There was some vis this morning but it wasn't exactly 'rocking' and all I had was a Skylark, a Goldfinch, 19 Meadow Pipits, eight Chaffinches, an Alba Wag, six Carrion Crows, a Lesser Redpoll, two Grey Wagtails, two Rock Pipits and a Siskin.

During the morning there were some Pink-footed Geese dropping in to the farm fields across the road and in total I had 1,097. Both Barn Owls were active this morning and were hunting for a good hour or more after first light. I watched one of the Barn Owls catch a small mammal and a young male Kestrel repeatedly mobbed the Barn Owl  trying to get its prey off it.

 Pink-footed Geese

Barn Owl


I had a quick look on the sea but it was very quiet with just four Cormorants and two Eiders. The forecast looks grim for tomorrow and I have a site visit on Thursday, so it will be Friday before I am out again, but at the moment the forecast isn't looking too good for then either!

Grey Heron

Sunday 25 October 2015

A Quiet Sunday Morning

It meant a slightly earlier start this morning as the clocks had gone back an hour but nothing major, the main aggravation was the weather . It was forecast to be overcast and dry with a 15 - 20 mph southwesterly wind. However, as I drove to the Obs for a sea watch it was pouring down! As I parked my car the rain eased and I could see Ian walking along the top of the dunes and joined him in front of the tower. For the next hour we played a game of having to seek frequent shelter because of heavy squally showers that came belting our way. In the end we gave up and called it a day as far as seawatching was concerned.

In that hour all I recorded in my notebook was 33 Cormorants, 27 Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers, six Shelducks, an Eider and two Red-breasted Mergansers. Surprisingly in such atrocious conditions there was a hint of vis with 15 Chaffinches east and 4 Meadow Pipits low over the sea west!

I then headed to the water treatment works to check on the feeding station. Although I had only put the feeders up four days ago and knew that nothing much would have found them as yet, I wanted to get in to a weekly weekend cycle of topping them up. The feeders had been found, but they only need topping up slightly, reflecting how quiet it was in there. It hardly seems worth reporting here what I found but of minimal interest were two Buzzards, two Goldcrests, a Song Thrush and a female Sparrowhawk.

As on the coast there was a touch of vis with three Skylarks, two Meadow Pipits and four Starlings moving in a more or less southerly direction.

The forecast is looking a bit mixed for the coming week, although remaining fairly dry until Wednesday, so I will try and get at least one morning in between now and then.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Feeding Station

Ian and I called at the water treatment works this morning to set up the feeding station there for the winter. After half an hour we had cleared the net rides and put four feeders up plus seed on the ground. So hopefully weather permitting we will have a our first ringing session of the winter there in the next couple of weeks.

We had a quick look round whilst there and recorded two Buzzards, 40 Woodpigeons, three Song Thrushes, ten Long-tailed Tits and five Goldcrests amongst others.

I've got site visits tomorrow but I am hoping to get out Friday morning and do some seawatching in the stiff westerlies forecast.

Tuesday 20 October 2015


It was a busy old morning yesterday as I was ringing at the Obs on my own and I caught quite well. The morning dawned with seven oktas cloud cover and it was calm.

Almost immediately I had Redwings going over but not in huge numbers. My vis totals, including those for Redwing, included 47 Redwings, two Bramblings, four Lesser Redpolls, 16 Chaffinches, 249 Jackdaws, a Yellow Wagtail (getting late), 28 Greenfinches, 450 Pink-footed Geese, eight Skylarks, two Alba Wags and five Meadow Pipits.


 Pink-footed Geese

A Barn Owl was present again this morning, but no Buzzard, and the only other raptor was a single Kestrel. The most interesting grounded migrant of the morning was a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched on top of a lamp standard! Other grounded migrants were four Wrens, a Fieldfare, two Song Thrushes, four Dunnocks, two Blue Tits, a Great Tit, three Blackbirds and two Goldcrests.


As I said earlier I was busy ringing this morning as I was on my own and I managed to ring 41 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 26
Chaffinch - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Blackbird - 3
Wren - 2
Goldcrest - 1
Great Tit - 1
Robin - (1)

I also controlled a Greenfinch and look forward to details of its origin.

The position of the jet stream is changing this week and we are losing the calming influence of the high pressure, and with it the easterlies and a return to westerlies. With site visits today and time spent setting up one of my feeding stations tomorrow it is going to be later in the week before I am out again.

Sunday 18 October 2015

A Slow Start

I was back at the Obs this morning, but this time armed with mist nets, or should I say mist net! There was a niggley northeasterly wind that meant all I could put up was one 60 foot net. After an hour or so all I had ringed were four birds and I was about to pack up when I started to catch and in the end I ringed 23 birds as follows:

Chaffinch - 1
Meadow Pipit - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Blackbird - 2
Greenfinch - 14
Chiffchaff - 1
Wren - 1
Dunnock - 1

 Meadow Pipit

Some of the Greenfinches I was catching were showing 
evidence of feeding on rose hips.

A Barn Owl was out at first light again and the Buzzard also made an appearance again and was also mobbed by a Kestrel once again! The only other raptor was an immature male Sparrowhawk that shot across the middle meadow a foot from the ground!

There was a bit of vis this morning in the form of a Tree Sparrow, twelve Redwings, 305 Jackdaws, seven Meadow Pipits, three Chaffinches, 120 Pink-footed Geese, four Alba Wags, 65 Greenfinches, four Linnets, a Grey Wagtail and two Skylarks.



Grounded migrants were thin on the ground with just a Song Thrush and a Chiffchaff. Later in the morning Gail and I had a walk on the estuary and had 54 Redshanks and a pair of Peregrines.


The forecast is looking okay tomorrow for operating mist nets again so I'll give it another go!

Norse Invaders

Yesterday was one of those days where with a bit of hindsight I would have sat on a chair in my garden from first light to mid-afternoon counting Thrushes and I guess that my Fieldfare total would have been in the region of 2-3,000 birds heading north with perhaps half as much of Redwings! However, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

At first light whilst pulling my wellies on at the boot of my car I could hear Redwings and Fieldfares moving over in the half-light but I couldn't see how many. When I got to the Obs a few minutes later I had about 15-20 Fieldfares head east and a similar number of Redwings. At this stage no indication of the huge numbers of Thrushes that would head northeast that day.

I had fairly clear skies with a 10 mph northeasterly wind as I set off on my walk. I thought the vis was a bit thin on the ground, but one of the interesting movements was a flock of 150 Jackdaws that came high in off the sea and then dropped out of the sky on to the school buildings. There's quite a healthy population of Jackdaws at the school and I'm guessing that they had 'called' the moving Jackdaws in.

Buzzards are now fairly regular within the Obs recording area but not at this particular spot so it was great to see one coasting in to land on the fields being mobbed by a Kestrel. Owls were certainly a feature of the morning and a pair of Barn Owls were hunting for a good hour after first light over the farm fields and 'a' or 'the' Little Owl had returned to its winter roost site.

Pink-footed Geese weren't on the move this morning but about 600 dropped in to the farm fields across the road. I had a quick look on the sea but it was quiet with just 15 Cormorants, eight Eiders, seven Common Scoters, a Razorbill and a Guillemot.

The only obvious grounded migrants that I had were three Redwings and two Song Thrushes. As it was Gail's birthday it was time to cut the birding short and head home to ensure no loss of brownie points!

It was back at home that I noticed the movement of Fieldfares. I got out of my car and could hear Fieldfare calling and when I looked up I could see about half a dozen distant birds. But when I lifted my bins to look at them, there were 125 with six Redwings! Over the next couple of hours I had a further 325 Fieldfares and 15 Redwings!

Friday 16 October 2015

First Bramble Finch Of The Autumn

I took another hour out this morning and headed to the Obs. I had full cloud cover with a 15 mph northeasterly wind. It was quiet but as always there were a few bits and pieces to hold my interest, and to be honest even if there wasn't it is still just good to be out.

Grounded migrants included five Goldcrests, three Redwings, a Fieldfare, two Song Thrushes and a Brambling (my first of the autumn). It was a similar picture for the vis with a similar mix of species and I recorded just 75 Redwings, two Meadow Pipits, five Fieldfares, two Alba Wags and four Chaffinches.

A Sparrowhawk caused some excitement as it chased a Song Thrush across the cemetery. I watched the 'dog-fight' unfold until eventually the Song Thrush managed to lose the Sprawk, or the Sprawk gave up to save its energy for another ambush. Spectacular stuff!

I've got an appointment this evening with a box of Orkney Ales freshly arrived from those magic isles, but I'll still be up in the morning. The wind is going to be a touch strong for mist netting so it will be pure birding tomorrow for me, with hopefully some ringing on Sunday.

Just An Hour

Yesterday morning I gave myself an hour in the morning to go birding before sitting down for the rest of the day to write a report. I am always amazed how good it makes me feel if I can at least spend some time communing with nature!

I had a quick look at a couple of migrant spots at the Obs to see if there was much doing. I had my first two Fieldfares of the autumn, and other than that grounded birds were a bit scarce and all I had were five Robins, five Goldcrests, a Song Thrush, two Coal Tits, three Redwings, a Rock Pipit and a Chiffchaff.

The vis didn't fare much better and I recorded two Meadow Pipits, 15 Chaffinches, four Grey Wagtails, an Alba Wag, a Greenfinch, four Redwings, 40 Jackdaws and a Goldfinch.

The only raptors I had were a male Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. So after just an hour out I felt ready to face the day!

Peregrine (above & below)


Wednesday 14 October 2015

September'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 September. We are still 493 birds ahead of where we were last year, so fingers crossed we can achieve a good total by the end of the year.

Three new species were ringed for the year in the form of Sparrowhawk (surprisingly), Cetti's Warbler and Magpie.

Below you will find the top five ringed for the month and the 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top Five Ringed In September

1. Swallow - 116
2. Greenfinch - 51
3. Meadow Pipit - 43
4. Robin - 31
5. Chaffinch - 29

Top Ten Movers And Shakers For The Year

1. Swallow - 914 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 188 (same position)
3. Sand Martin - 169 (same position)
4. Reed Warbler - 156 (same position)
5. Great Tit - 131 (up from 6th)
6. Willow Warbler - 119 (down from 5th)
7. Goldfinch - 112 (same position)
8. Chaffinch - 97 (up from 9th)
9. Starling - 84 (down from 8th)
10. Meadow Pipit - 70 (straight in)
     Goldcrest - 70 (straight in)

It's fairly stable at the top of the table and it's nice to see Meadow Pipit and Goldcrest coming straight in to the top ten. It will be interesting to see how October pans out.

Redwing Throlly

I love some of the local and old names for birds and 'Redwing Throlly' is a Yorkshire name for Redwing. Others include Redwing Mavis (Forfar), Red Thrush (Midlands), Wind Thrush (Somerset), Windle (Devon) and Little Feltyfare (East Lothian) to name but a few. This morning when loading my car for my site visit I instantly had nine Redwings go over high heading southwest and they had been on the move last night as well. I keep all my beer in a fridge in the garage and I enjoy walking across the garden during these autumn evenings to select a real ale and listen to the Redwings and Blackbirds going over en route.

My site visit was to the West Pennines to the east of Accrington and as I turned on to the M61 from the M6 I had a Raven drifting north over the central reservation. Not a motorway tick per se, but certainly a motorway tick in this part of Lancs. Redwings were a feature of the morning and as I stepped out of my car at the site I was visiting I could hear Redwings calling and a flock of a hundred headed southwest. During my hour and a half visit I didn't have any more, but this could have been because of the location of the high ground to my north and east.

The view from the office today - that hill in east Lancs where the witches 
come from!

The small supporting avian cast included 3 Woodpigeons SW, a female Kestrel, six Meadow Pipits (off passage), two Reed Buntings and some calling Siskins (I couldn't see them so don't know whether it was one or ten!).

The forecast is okay for tomorrow so I will try and sneak out for an hour first thing before I have to spend the rest of the day report writing!

Tuesday 13 October 2015

A Change Of Counties

I haven't posted for a few days as I have been up in England's most tranquil county, Northumberland. In my opinion perhaps the only county to give Cumbria a run for its money and possibly even better due to it's North Sea location and prime position for migrant birds!

Before I headed to the northeast last Friday I had a quick look at the Obs and it was fairly cloudy with a 10 mph southerly wind. I started off by having a look on the sea and could only muster 47 Cormorants (most of these were roosting on a shingle island), 12 Eiders (staring to build up now), four Gannets, three Auk sp., five Common Scoters and a Razorbill.

There was some vis in the form of 50 Meadow Pipits, seven Alba Wags, three Linnets, seven Carrion Crows, a Rock Pipit, a Reed Bunting, two Chaffinches, two Grey Wagtails, two Skylarks, 60 Pink-footed Geese, six Swallows and a Yellow Wagtail (getting late).

Grounded migrants included a Wheatear, two Chiffchaffs, three Coal Tits and ten Goldcrests. There was also a nice selection, and good numbers, of butterflies on the ivy (50 Red Admirals).


 Red Admiral

I headed off to Northumberland Friday afternoon to give a talk to North Northumberland Bird Club on the BTO ringing scheme and I was staying with my good friend George. We did a bit of birding around Newton-By-The-Sea Friday afternoon but it was very quiet with just a Wheatear and several Goldcrests. At sea were numerous Gannets and Kittiwakes with five Red-throated Divers.

 The view north from a section of that wall the Romans built!

We spent all day Saturday birding and again it was quiet. Noteworthy were 20 Red-throated Divers off Cocklaburn Dunes and ten Barnacle Geese amongst some Pinkies was nice.

We made up for it on Saturday evening by drinking in one of my favourite pubs in the whole of Brirain, the John Bull Inn in Alnwick. It has a great selection of real ales and amazingly serves a 120 different whiskeys! There is no music and no TV, just a classic old school back street boozer!!!

Unfortunately Sunday morning was better, and I say unfortunately because I was leaving to come home then. All we had time for was a quick look at Branton Pits near George's home and there was plenty of vis even though we were five miles from the coast. Redwings were constantly pouring over with groups of up to 30-40 dropping out of the sky. Chaffinches, Siskins, Redpolls and a few Bramblings were all on the move. The pits held a good flock of 70 Goosanders with a supporting cast of Teal, Wigeon, Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Goldeneyes and four Gadwalls.

I've got a busy week work wise this week and it could be weekend before I am out again proper!

Monday 5 October 2015

A Bit Too Quiet After The Storm

After the excitement at the Obs over weekend, not covered here but on my joint blog with Ian here, it was a bit too quiet at the Obs yesterday morning. When I popped my head out of the door before dawn there was a touch of mist but nowhere near as much as recent days so I ventured forth.

First up was a bird that I haven't seen on the patch for about 18 months, a Barn Owl. that I picked out in my headlights perched on one of the wrapped bales in the meadow. Unfortunately the morning never really improved from here.

There was very little vis and a quick phone call to Ian who was on a hilly vantage point confirmed the reason why as the Bay north of the peninsula was locked down with murk. The only birds battling through were 362 Pink-footed Geese, nine Alba Wags, 22 Meadow Pipits, a Siskin, two Grey Wagtails and 14 Greenfinches.

Grounded migrants were limited to a Coal Tit, a male Blackcap, a Reed Bunting and a Song Thrush. I didn't bother checking anywhere else as Ian had checked the other usual migrant hot spots and they were dead.

 Coal Tit

I just sneaked in to double figures and ringed eleven birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Coal Tit - 1
Meadow Pipit - 3
Blackcap - 1
Reed Bunting - 1
Greenfinch - 2
Wren - 2
Song Thrush - 1
Robin - (1)
Wren - (2)


I don't how much birding I'll get in this week as I have a presentation to prepare on the BTO ringing scheme for Friday, so I need to crack on with that.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Another Pea Souper

I put my head out of the door in the darkness this morning and it was foggy again and I cancelled my plans to do some ringing. Instead I found myself at the Obs sat in my car drinking a coffee waiting for it to become light before I could start birding.

In the confusion of changing my plans I made the schoolboy error of forgetting my camera and typically the first bird I had was a cracking adult male Sparrowhawk perched in the open! After a while though it was quite liberating not having to think about taking any pictures but just enjoying 'seeing' the birds.

The fog remained for the couple of hours I was out and consequently the vis was a bit scant with just 47 Meadow Pipits, six Alba Wags, two Snipe, two Chaffinches and three Grey Wagtails.

There were some grounded migrants in the murky conditions in the form of 15 Goldcrests, nine Robins, a Blackcap and two Chiffchaffs.

The forecast is looking fairly reasonable for some ringing in the morning and this might be the last day for a while that it will be calm enough to operate some mist nets at the Obs, so I'll make an effort and get up early in the morning (again)!

Friday 2 October 2015

Pea Souper

When I headed out to my car in the pre-dawn darkness to head to the Obs there was a pea souper of a fog and I must admit I did think about not ringing and just birding. However, I thought to myself that it might clear when the sun comes up, but it didn't!

I duly put the nets up and waited for it to clear but as I said above it didn't. I had a few grounded migrants in the murk in the form of two Song Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap and nine Goldcrests. There was even some vis over the fog as I could hear Pink-footed Geese, Meadow Pipits, Alba Wags, House Martins and when it cleared a bit I saw a few Swallows and a single Snipe.

Before my nets became wet with the fog I did manage to ring seven birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Goldfinch - 4
Chiffchaff - 1
Woodpigeon - 1
Robin - (1)
Blackbird - (1)


The forecast for tomorrow is for light southeasterly winds and cloud, so as long as there is no fog I'll have a ringing session at the Obs and if there is fog I'll just grill the patch for grounded migrants.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Super Supercill

It is the start of Lytham Beer Festival at teatime today and what has that to do with birding I can hear you say? The fact that it is the start of the beer festival and also the fact that I like to make an appearance shortly after it opens (I can sample a few beers early doors and be fit to get out birding early the following morning that way) meant that I didn't go out ringing at the Obs this morning. Instead I gave Gail a lift to work so I could pick her up and drive on to the beer festival. That way I have a designated driver for the return journey! After I dropped Gail off I headed to the Obs just to do some birding.

I met Ian in the cemetery and a couple of years ago when we birded together at this time of year in the cemetery we found a Golden Oriole. We didn't expect anything quite as good as that this morning but a Yellow-browed Warbler was on the cards as Ian had found one at the Mount yesterday.

The YBW that Ian found yesterday materialised with a cloud bank rolling in from the east, but this morning it was crystal clear and not really the sort of morning for a grounded migrant. However with so many YBWs in the northern isles (76 on Fair Isle earlier in the week and they ringed 40 of them!) it is possible for one or two of these Siberian waifs to turn up anywhere under any conditions at the moment.

We came across some calling Coal Tits and counted them as they moved from tree to tree; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Yellow-browed! Five Coal Tits zipped past in front of us with a YBW hot on their heels. The Coal Tits moved back again in the direction they had come from but the YBW hung around in front of us for a short while and just long enough to get some photographs below. They are indeed record shots but you can tell it is a YBW, just look at that super supercill!

The YBW moved south along the edge of the cemetery and it was then lost from view. The only other grounded migrant in the cemetery was a single Goldcrest.

I then moved on to the Mount and gave it a good grilling. It felt like there should be another YBW lurking amongst the party of five Coal Tits, Chiffchaff and two Goldcrests but there wasn't. The ivy in here was attracting a lot of butterflies and there was easily 70 Red Admirals, 15 Small Tortoiseshells and three Commas nectering on the ivy flowers, plus huge numbers of bees.


 Red Admiral

Small Tortoiseshell

Speckled Wood

There was some vis this morning in the form of 15 Meadow Pipits, nine Alba Wags, 263.Pink-footed Geese, three Skylarks, a Snipe and a Grey Wagtail.

 Pink-footed Geese

It is going to be relatively calm tomorrow so I will try and return to the Obs with mist nets for a ringing session even after a few jars at the beer festival!