Thursday 31 December 2015

Happy New Year!

No news from me I'm afraid, although I will be out birding tomorrow as the forecast is quite good for a change. So more on that tomorrow!

I just wanted to wish all my blog readers a 'haud Hogmanay' for this evening and a 'Guid New Year' for tomorrow! See you in 2016!

Sunday 27 December 2015

Shake Hands With Shorty......... a cracking album by southern blues rock band North Mississippi Allstars and I was virtually shaking hands with Shorty's this morning!

I haven't had a walk around the farm fields for a while and I was keen to get going this morning as it was the first decent day for weeks! Amazingly at first light I had clear skies with a light southeasterly wind.

A lot of the fields were flooded, as you can imagine, and had Gulls feeding and bathing on them including 112 Herring Gulls, 293 Black-headed Gulls and 103 Common Gulls. A Goldcrest called from the copse and a Reed Bunting called from a reedy ditch and that was it for those two species.

The stars of the morning were undoubtedly the 'Shorties' or Short-eared Owls to be precise. I had a definite three different birds and there was probably a fourth. I was so close to them at times that I could hear them hissing at each other if they came too close to each other when hunting.

 Short-eared Owl

On the owl front I was also delighted to see a Barn Owl and managed to locate where it is roosting, and fingers crossed nesting next year, but on a sad note I also found a dead Barn Owl. As you know Barn Owls struggle to feed when there is continual rain and I guess this bird became desperate to feed and succumbed to the poor conditions.

A Grey Heron and four Snipes on the wetland was all I had until a Rock Pipit flew over as I walked to my seawatching position. The sea was very quiet and I had diddly squat other than fourteen Pink-footed Geese heading north.

On the way home I had a look on the 'geese fields' and there were 600 'Pinkies', but there was nothing else amongst them.

 Pink-footed Geese

If the forecast is decent tomorrow I'm going to treat Gail to a morning's birding on the marshes; I bet she can't wait!

Friday 25 December 2015

Goose For Christmas!

It wasn't supposed to rain this morning until eleven, but they're was some light drizzle as I drove to the coast in the semi-darkness. My first bird this morning was a Barn Owl hunting over the farm fields, so that was a good start to a Christmas morning's birding.

I found some shelter in front of the tower and set my scope up.I had full cloud cover with a 15 mph south-southwesterly wind with light showers. As the tide ran in Oystercatchers and Sanderlings gathered on the beach and I had 363 and 172 of each respectively.

By now the rain was coming in from the west and the bay became 'locked down' in murk and consequently I had nothing on the sea other than four Cormorants, a Common Scoter and three Red-breasted Mergansers. It was at this point that I decided to head home.

On my way home I had a look on the geese fields and there were 400 Pink-footed Geese, but I couldn't see anything amongst them. A flock of 120 Lapwing went over heading east and a Kestrel made up the supporting cast.

The forecast is really grim again for tomorrow with more rain so I am not sure when I'll next get out.

Monday 21 December 2015

Solstice Greetings

Before I go into detail regarding the grim solstice morning's birding I had, I just want to wish all my readers a Happy Winter Solstice! At least after today we can look forward to lengthening days! Technically winter solstice is at 04:48 on 22nd December, so the shortest day will actually be tomorrow! But being a traditionalist I'll stick to the 21st!

I decided to see if I could get out birding for an hour or so before the forecast heavy rain came in. I managed about an hour, but probably wouldn't have stayed any longer even if the rain hadn't come in as the birding was so dire!

At first light I was greeted with 7 oktas cloud cover with a moderate-strong south-southwesterly wind. I took shelter in front of the tower and set my scope up. High tide was just after seven so the tide was still in when I started my watch. As usual the waders were getting kicked about the beach by dog walkers and included 200 Sanderlings, 175 Oystercatchers, 22 Ringed Plovers, three Dunlins and fifteen Turnstones.

Talking about wader disturbance Ian and I had a good meeting with the RSPBs Marine Conservation Officer last week about measures we could put in place to both limit the disturbance from people at the high tide roost and also how these people could be educated about the disturbance they are causing. More on this in the near future hopefully when proposals get firmed up.

It was even quieter on the sea with just three Cormorants, 24 Common Scoters, two Red-breasted Mergansers and 27 Eiders on the scar.

As I walked back to my car I heard a couple of Blue Tits alarm calling and a male Sparrowhawk shot through the scrub. The weather is looking brilliant over the next week or so but as it's the holiday season and I'm going to take a bit of time off I will try my best to get out.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Time Out

I took some time out from writing a report regarding a site in north Devon of all places to meet Ian on the coast at the Obs to discuss some future ringing projects. I had a look at the Geese on the way there and on the way back and there was about 600 Pink-footed Geese and all I could see amongst them was a juvenile 'Greenland' White-fronted Goose and a single Greylag.

The local authority have recently drained the marine lake and today they were filling it up. The shallow water had attracted a Little Egret in to feed along with five Red-breasted Mergansers that were feeding fanatically alongside the Egret. There were good numbers of Turnstones, about 250, along with three Purple Sandpipers and a Grey Wagtail.

 Little Egret

Purple Sand and Turnstones

Some of the 250 Turnstones

Feeding Red-breasted Mergansers

I wish some of the bird photographers would take time out from chasing the Short-eared Owls around. Today a female photographer (not that their sex matters) in a bright blue coat was relentlessly chasing a  'Shortie' with her big lens. In fact for most of the time she was trespassing, but that doesn't seem to matter to these folk. No bins with her and zero field craft! I wouldn't mind betting she probably didn't even know what she was photographing, that is the level of expertise of some of these so called bird photographers these days.

At one point the Shortie dropped into the grass and caught a small mammal. What did this idiot do? Back off and let the Shortie feed would be what any normal person would do, but no she had to keep getting closer and closer until the Shortie flew off without its meal! I give up!!!

The forecast is looking a bit grim for the foreseeable, isn't it always at the moment, so I'm not sure what the next few days will bring. I need to get to the feeding station tomorrow so it will be interesting to see if I can relocate the Firecrest. I'll let you know.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Wader and Wildfowl Spectacular

Yesterday I spent a very pleasant day with the staff, supporters and volunteers of the Biodiverse Society on and around Morecambe Bay watching the Pink-footed Geese leave their coastal roost and the wader spectacular as the tide ran in.

The Biodiverse Society is a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) funded partnership project between the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Local Record Centres; Merseyside BioBank and Lancashire Environment Records Network (LERN). The Biodiverse Society Project aims to enhance and update data on Local Wildlife Sites across Lancashire and North Merseyside by engaging more people in wildlife recording and supporting and training a new generation of amateur naturalists. The project will raise awareness and value of Local Wildlife Sites and create a well-supported new group of champions for wildlife sites. For more information click HERE

We met near Pilling just as it was coming light and waited for the 'Pink-feet' to leave the roost. It took a while but eventually we treated to the fantastic spectacle of flock after flock of Pink-feet flying low and heading inland to their favoured feeding areas. I attempted to count them but grossly under-counted them due mainly to chatting to a great bunch of enthusiastic naturalists. The count in my notebook reads 4,432, but there was probably twice as many as this. 

Whooper Swans were doing the same and we had 109 of these magnificent birds. A few Little Egrets (four) graced the saltmarsh along with a 100 Lapwings, 155 Linnets and a single Rock Pipit.

After the wildfowl spectacular we headed to Fluke Hall and walked along the sea wall towards Knott End to watch the wader flocks build up as the tide ran in culminating in a 9.3 m high tide at lunchtime that would cover all the mudflats and just leave a small area of higher marsh for the birds to roost on. 

There were a couple of other birders on the day who like me have supported and become involved in the project since it started by supporting some of the volunteers and providing mentoring to some of the staff. As often happens when a few birders get together you often end up talking about birding and the three of us were having a little moan about a good proportion of today's birders needing 'target' birds to go and look at all the time, otherwise they get bored and complain there is nothing to look at! Then when there is something of interest in their eyes they never leave whatever birds/sites they may be and keep continually going back to look again and again! A classic example are the Barn and Short-eared Owls around at the Obs at the moment! My advice to these 'bored' birders is get out birding, open your eyes and look!!!

The beauty of being out with a group of enthusiastic amateur naturalists with varying interests from birds to dragonflies to plants is that they see the natural world for what it is, an amazing natural spectacle that we can all engage with and enjoy. The waders certainly put on a spectacular display as they tried to keep ahead of the fast incoming tide and the Knot were particular amazing as they moved around in an amorphous state perhaps numbering five or six thousand! Every single one of the twenty people out this morning, including me, were mesmerised by this wader spectacular. So come on bored birders with nothing to look at get yourself to a high tide wader roost and if you are still bored and think there is nothing to look at then my advice would be to hang your bins up!

Below are some attempts to capture the spectacle of the amorphous Knots!

In addition to the Knot there were lesser numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Lapwings, Redshanks, Dunlins, Curlew and Golden Plovers. Four Little Egrets were around and another amorphous bunch in the form of 120 Twite kept us entertained.

A fantastic morning with a fantastic group of people was rounded off with a very pleasant lunch in a local cafe. Here's to another year of the Biodiverse Society!  

Sunday 13 December 2015


This morning Ian and I had our first ringing session for some time and we headed to the feeding station under frosty conditions. The weather for ringing was perfect in that it was calm and overcast, however the birds didn't know that it was perfect weather conditions for ringing except for one little gem!

We put the nets up and retreated to the ringing table for coffee. As we chatted and put the birding world to rights we heard Goldcrest calling, so on the next round we put Goldcrest on the MP3 player. It was very slow ringing wise and on the next round we had caught just a few birds and in the far net what we thought was the Goldcrest. However, when we got close to it we could see it was a gorgeous stripey Firecrest!


This was a first ringing record for the Obs, and though in the grand scheme of things that doesn't mean very much, it was still nevertheless a cracking little bird. We did also catch a Goldcrest next round, but in total we only ringed six biirds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Dunnock - 2
Firecrest - 1 male
Goldcrest - 1 male
Great Tit - 1 (3)
Blue Tit - 1 (2)
Chaffinch - (1)


Great Tit

We had very little else from a birding perspective other than about a couple hundred Greenfinches exiting the roost and numbers of 'Pink-feet' calling as they too left their estuarine roost. I forgot to mention another good bird that I had in the week at the feeding station, which was a personal first for me at the Obs, and this was a male Bullfinch. They are just about annual in the southern part of the recording area, but this was the first record this winter!

During the afternoon Gail and I stretched our legs along the estuary and we had a female Common Scoter right in the quay which was nice. Of course Common Scoters are common off the Obs, but it was nice to see one close in and away from the open sea.

If the weather is okay tomorrow I will be birding at one of my former birding sites from years gone by, but more of that tomorrow.

November's Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of November. No new species were ringed during the month and in the latter half of the month we struggled to get out. Below are the top five ringed for the month and the 'top ten movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 November

1. Great Tit - 36
2. Blue Tit - 35
3. Goldfinch - 28
4. Redwing - 17
5. Goldcrest - 17

Top Ten Movers and Shakers

1. Swallow - 922 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 272 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 233 (same position)
4. Great Tit - 188 (up from 9th)
5. Chaffinch - 175 (same position)
6. Goldcrest - 171 (up from 8th)
7. Sand Martin - 169 (down from 4th)
8. Greenfinch - 161 (down from 6th)
9. Reed Warbler - 157 (down from 7th)
10. Willow Warbler - 119 (same position)

Sunday 6 December 2015

Purple Haze

I have always looked for an excuse to use a Hendrix track as a blog title as I am huge fan of the late great genius guitar player and this morning it sort of fitted. It was very hazy at first this morning, well more like murky, and one of the birds I had this morning had a 'Purple' in its name!

I was a bit in shock that it was actually fit to go birding this morning and in my excitement to get out got up too early and spent a while looking into the darkness from the observation tower. Just as it slowly came light Ian joined me and we spent the first half hour complaining of the poor visibility, again, and dodging rain showers. Eventually it came light and the visibility improved and it was possible to see across the bay.

It didn't exactly get going this morning but there were one or two bits and pieces on the move at sea and these included seven Red-breasted Mergansers, 71 Common Scoters, a Shag, 70 Teal, eight Pintails and six Wigeons.

It was just about bang on high tide when I got there and there were a number of waders roosting on the shore including 329 Sanderlings, a Purple Sandpiper and twenty Ringed Plovers.

I'm usually moaning about dog walkers flushing the high tide wader roost but this morning we incredulously watched a birder do it. I am guessing he was desperately trying to year list Purple Sand and thought the way to do it was to flush all the waders. Instead of walking along the promenade he walked all the way along the shingle ridge until he came to the roosting Sanderlings. He spent some time looking at them and then just walked towards them flushing them. And he did this two or three times before walking back to the car park perhaps after collecting his target bird! This type of behaviour is becoming more and more prevalent in birding today, where so called birders seem to have no field craft and no consideration of the bird's welfare!

The Sanderlings afterwards and before the desperate birder flushed them 

It's looking a bit unsettled to say the least this week so it will be a case of birding as and when!