Monday 30 November 2015

Trying Conditions

I don't think I need to tell you how awful the weather has been of late with gale or near gale force west - northwesterlies and driving rain! As a consequence I haven't been out birding properly for a week and I salute those that are braver than I and have managed to get out.

I have been going to my two feeding stations every couple of days but the weather has been so terrible during each of my feeding visits that I haven't really anything to report other than they are both wet! There's Chaffinches and Goldfinches coming to my feeders at the water treatment woks and Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Chaffinches at my farmland bird feeding station, but beyond that I can't say anymore!

I was hoping for some wildfowl on some friends of ours wetland when we called yesterday for a lovely lunch but when we went to have a look at the wetland it was bird less. Mind you the wind was 50 mph southwesterly with squally showers so I imagine everything was sitting tight. It's a good job that Robert and Diana fed Gail and I some lovely food washed down with some excellent vino to take away the pain of  a lack of birds!

I have come across an excellent blog, well I think it's excellent and so do a lot of other people, called Not Quite Scilly and it can be found HERE There's some good tales of birding 'derring-do' and a mix of thought provoking posts such as the latest one titled 'Suppression? Good Idea!'. I'll leave you with that one!

Monday 23 November 2015

Heat Haze?!

At this time of year heat haze might not be the technical definition of the poor visibility caused by the temperature differential between the air and the sea, but whatever the correct term is the outcome was the same and viewing conditions were far from perfect! Looking across the bay with the naked eye the visibility looked quite good and the snow capped Lakeland mountains stood out quite well as did Barrow-in-Furness town hall clock, Peel Castle and Walney Island, but through the scope all was not well.

There seemed to be an increase in Eiders this morning and in total I had 40 either on or over the sea. In addition to the Eiders on the sea I had 26 Cormorants, 64 Common Scoters, five Great Crested Grebes motoring out of the bay, 15 Red-breasted Mergansers, 16 Pintails, a Med. Gull, two Little Gulls, a Red-throated Diver, a Velvet Scoter, a Whooper Swan and two Shelducks. Not rocking, but not awful either.

I had a Snow Bunting fly past/over me but I couldn't see it. It was calling loudly as it flew east to west but I couldn't locate it at all. It is possible that it was behind me and the 15 mph southerly wind had turned the volume up to number eleven!

Waders were thin on the ground this morning and all I had in any numbers were 150 Sanderlings flushed from their high tide roost by a, you've guessed it, dog and dog walker!

Four Reed Buntings feeding on the beach and dunes were new in and could perhaps have been displaced by cold weather. And that was about it for my pre-work interlude before I had to return to the coal face.

Thursday 19 November 2015


Catching up on work has forced me indoors and also forced me to miss a few seabirds during this blustery week or so. In addition to this I have had some internet connection problems, now sorted, and haven't been able to blog.

Tuesday of this week saw me taking a walk down to the estuary before the rain came in. The wind had dropped and I had a pleasant couple of hours not seeing very much but enjoying myself very much nevertheless.

At this time of year the walk down to the estuary through the Hawthorn 'tunnel' is generally very quiet without the breeding warbler assemblage that accompanies you in spring and summer. I headed to my vantage point on the saltmarsh and had a scan of the river. It's amazing how no two visits to the estuary are the same even  on the same day, as there are so many variables affecting the bird numbers; weather, state of the tide, disturbance by raptors etc.

Scanning from left to right I picked out 517 Lapwings, 18 Curlews, nine Golden Plovers (although there looked to be good numbers further upstream with some Lapwing), 60 Dunlins, 49 Herring Gulls, 14 Mallards, 120 Wigeons, 126 Redshanks, 23 Shelducks, 97 Black-headed Gulls, 14 Common Gulls and two Grey Herons. Walking back towards the scrub I had three Rock Pipits, none of them on deck but flying over me calling.

In the scrub alongside the pool were four Goldcrests, three Song Thrushes and two Long-tailed Tits. On the pool itself was a lack of variety with just 50 Tufted Ducks, three Goldeneyes, two Little Grebes and three Teal.

 Twenty of the fifty Tufteds

Over the past few days I have been keeping my two feeding stations topped up and my feeding station in the water treatment works seems very busy with all the feeders emptying in just a few days. All I need is a decent day to see exactly what's there, or even better a morning calm enough to do some ringing. Sunday is looking like a possibility but I have probably put paid to that by mentioning it!

At my farmland bird feeding station this morning in the near gale force winds and showers it was pleasing to note that the Tree Sparrows have now found the food and alongside three Yellowhammers and 14 Chaffinches were 17 of the little beauties.

I am satisfying my 'inner folk' tonight that occasionally breaks through my rock/prog exterior as I am off to Macnhester to see Show of Hands. Look them on the tinterweb and I don't think you will be disappointed; a folk band with rock sensibilities!

Thursday 12 November 2015

A Swell Morning

After the winds of late there was only one thing to do this morning in the forecast clearer and drier conditions and that was have a look on the sea. Over the past few days it has been pretty windy but it has been the lack of visibility with the driving rain that has been the problem. This morning I had 2 oktas cloud cover with a 10- 15 mph southerly wind. The visibility was better, though not brilliant, and the swell made it tricky viewing birds on the sea.

There was actually some vis this morning as it was the first decent window for some time and again high flying continental Chaffinches were a feature of the morning. On vis I had 32 Chaffinches, eight Linnets (all coming in off the sea), a Brambling, 137 Starlings (37 'in-off'), ten Meadow Pipits (8 in-off), a Rock Pipit (in-off) and two Skylarks.

A few waders gathered as the tide ran in and I had 191 Sanderlings, 67 Oystercatchers, two Curlews, 101 Turnstones and 15 Ringed Plovers.

It's a wonder there are any birds on the shore at all with the disturbance they receive from dog walkers. This morning there was a male Eider on the beach and an ignorant, and obviously unintelligent, woman was walking a Labrador and her stupid pooch started to chase the Eider. The Eider headed for the sea and the stupid dog was dancing round it and making grabs for it. What did the intellectually challenged female toss pot do?; she just watched and let her dog harass the poor Eider. The Eider made it to the sea and the dog went in after it. Once the Eider was in deeper water it had no problem escaping from the thick dog and it kept diving and then surfacing away from it. As the Eider went further out the the dog swam after it. I was starting to hope that the fast moving tide would carry the dog out into the bay as it would have served its stupid owner right. Eventually the dog gave up on the Eider and swam back to shore and the idiotic woman and her pooch proceeded to walk along the beach flushing the roosting waders!

From a negative aspect of the morning to a positive sea related one there was a bit of movement on the sea this morning in the form of 46 Common Scoters, five Kittiwakes, three Eiders (including the beleagured male), seven Red-breasted Mergansers, 29 Little Gulls, two Auk sp. and a Great Crest Grebe.  

The forecast is looking grim for the next few days and it will be challenging when out birding to say the least. I've got to go to my feeding station at the water treatment works tomorrow morning but it will literally be a splash and dash!

Monday 9 November 2015

October'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 October. At 3,674 birds ringed we have already ringed more birds full stop than we did last year. If we can ring more than 3,723 by the end of the year it will be our best annual total since 2011.

Three new species were ringed for the year in October and these were Fieldfare, Marsh Warbler and Brambling

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

Top Five Ringed In October

1. Greenfinch - 97
2. Goldfinch - 92
3. Redwing - 88
4. Goldcrest - 84
5. Chaffinch - 65

Top Ten Movers And Shakers For The Year

1. Swallow - 922 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 237 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 205 (up from 7th)
4. Sand Martin - 169 (down from 3rd)
5. Chaffinch - 162 (up from 8th)
6. Greenfinch - 160 (straight in)
7. Reed Warbler - 157 (down from 4th)
8. Goldcrest - 154 (up from 10th)
9. Great Tit - 152 (down from 5th)
10. Willow Warbler - 119 (down from 6th)

At 922 birds ringed I would say that Swallow is secure in number one spot. However, Blue Tit is certainly under threat from Goldfinch and could be replaced in second position. Also Sand Martin's tenure in fourth is under question and could easily slip down to the lower end of the table. Likewise Reed Warbler is in a similar position. Only time will tell!

Sunday 8 November 2015

A Narrow Window Of Birding Opportunity

It hasn't half rained these past few days and this morning there was a narrow window of birding opportunity; namely first light until about 9:00 am! I was working at the end of last week in southwest Scotland and it didn't half rain there as well. Birds were a bit thin on the ground but I did manage to see Red Kite, Hen Harrier, lots of Barnacle Geese and winter Thrushes so it wasn't all bad. I also managed an hour in the brewery tap of the Sulwath Brewery in Castle Douglas which was an excellent way to escape the rain!

There was a morning tide today so I hit the coast at about 7:00 am and it was just about light enough to start birding. I sought some shelter and spent about an hour and a half watching the sea. A few waders were about on the incoming tide including 190 Oystercatchers, 33 Sanderlings and 53 Turnstones.

There was enough interest on the sea to keep me occupied in the form of 141 Cormorants, five Eiders, ten Common Scoters, six Red-throated Divers, 23 Auk sp., ten Red-breasted Mergansers, two Great Crested Grebes, two Razorbills and four Shelducks.

There was some vis this morning as it was probably the first morning in several days when there was the possibility of some movement based on the weather conditions. It was clear across the bay and high flying continental Chaffinches in particular were taking advantage of this. I kept hearing Chaffinches calling but couldn't see them and then walking back to my car I managed to get on to a few high flying birds, and when I looked at them with my bins there was a flock of 70! So how many actually went through this morning I'm not sure, but several hundred I would guess! The only other vis was a single Meadow Pipit and 34 Pink-footed Geese.

Just as the rain came in I was topping my feeders up at the feeding station and all the food had gone since Monday, so that's a good sign. I couldn't really say what was there as it was absolutely lashing it down as I was putting the food out.

It's looking very unsettled this week but hopefully I'll get more than a narrow window of opportunity to get out birding.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Better Late Than Never Perhaps

I set up my farmland bird feeding station on the Moss this morning, which is a month later than usual. I have attempted to set it up a few times but there has been lots of farming activity in the vicinity of my feeding station that has prevented me from doing this. The cropping pattern of the farm has changed over the past two years with less cereals grown and more maize and grass. It will be interesting to see if it has had an effect on farmland bird numbers and diversity and if it has, how much of an effect.

In fact today was probably the first time in ten years that I have visited the farm in November and not recorded a Tree Sparrow; we'll see if they come now I am feeding. I made the first seed drop and had a walk along the '97 Hedge'. Skylarks can be a feature of the moss feeding on the winter stubbles. This area because of the peaty soils still has spring cereals with winter stubbles if it is down to cereals rather than grass. I only had twelve Skylarks and I put up a small flock of five Snipe from the same stubbles. I would increase my Snipe total to 25 later when a flock of 20 flew over.

There were a number of Thrushes around including 62 Fieldfares, nine Blackbirds a Song Thrush and two Redwings. The Fieldfares were feeding on invertebrates in the sewage sludge that had been spread on part of the 'big field'.


The only raptor I had was a single Buzzard, unless you count Short-eared Owl as a raptor. I picked a 'shortie' up very high and coming in from the west. I watched it for some time as it circled round half closing its wings to lose height. That is until two Carrion Crows decided they would mob it so it gained height again and drifted east until out of sight.

 In-coming Short-eared Owl

Something was flushing the Lapwings and Pink-footed Geese from the top fields, but I don't know what it was; I had 210 and 75 of each respectively. Before long it was time to head home and do some work and all I added to my notebook was a Grey Wagtail as I drove off site.

I have some work north of the border in Scotland towards the end of the week for a couple of days, so it will probably be Saturday before I am back out on the patch.

Monday 2 November 2015

More fog.........

.........but at least this time it dropped a few birds in. I paid a quick visit to my feeding station in the water treatment works, which lies about 0.5 km from the estuary and 1 km from the coast, and has some good migrant attracting habitat.

Compared to my last visit there were good numbers of birds around. Birds that I considered to be grounded migrants were six Song Thrushes, four Goldcrests, six Blackbirds and three Robins. There was also an increase in numbers of tits, finches etc with four Greenfinches, five Chaffinches, ten Long-tailed Tits and 26 Goldfinches. The only raptor I had was a single Kestrel.

It must have been clear above the fog as I could hear Pink-footed Geese, Skylarks and Redwings going over. I topped up the peanut and niger feeders and put some seed and apples out on the ground. I am going to check my farmland bird feeding station tomorrow to make sure that they have finished all the field work in that area and hopefully start feeding. 


And that was nearly the only entry in my notebook for yesterday! When Kim and I got to the Obs just before first light it was misty at most and there were a number of Redwings calling overhead, by the time we had put the nets up a dense fog rolled in and it didn't shift.

We strung it out for a couple of hours and the fog was so bad that I was amazed that we actually ringed six birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackbird - 1
Goldfinch - 3
Greenfinch - 1
Sparrowhawk - 1 imm. fem.
Blue Tit - (1)



We only had one Barn Owl this morning that loomed out of the fog like some ghostly apparition and then it dissolved back in to the murk! As you would expect there was absolutely no vis, in fact there was virtually no birds at all. We could hear Pink-footed Geese going over and about fifteen Fieldfares appeared out of the gloom and then vanished again! And that was it!