Friday 29 April 2016

Wintry Warblers

I had an hour to spare yesterday morning and fancied stretching my legs so I went to one of the quieter parts of the Obs recording area to have a look for warblers. It was still bitterly cold even though the wind was southwesterly.

 One of the quieter areas of the Obs

To cut a long story short I did have a few warblers in the form of three Blackcaps, four Chiffchaffs, eleven Willow Warblers, three Sedge Warblers, six Whitethroats and a Lesser Whitethroat. Pleased with that I didn't really have anything else of note other than 15 House Martins, five Swallows and a Whimbrel at the pool. I did have a female Northern Wheatear that rang a few alarm bells for a while, but it was just a female Northern Wheatear!

Sadly the wind has gone northerly again and is forecast to remain so overnight, but there is some high pressure building from the Azores later tomorrow and the wind is going southerly so perhaps there might be a few arrivals on Sunday!

Thursday 28 April 2016

When the north wind blows......... generally see b*gger all, especially in Spring! It has been cold this past week in the UK and yesterday was no exception when I was out surveying at a site in the north Pennines. I had virtual full cloud cover with a northerly breeze and it was cold. The picture below encapsulates how bleak it was!

It was quite a surreal experience hearing a Fieldfare calling at the same time as Willow Warblers! I didn't record a great deal but the best of very little included five Willow Warblers, a Fieldfare, a Siskin, a Linnet, two Lesser Redpolls, a Blackcap and a Buzzard.

Hopefully normal spring weather will return soon!

Saturday 23 April 2016

Wild Island

I've just finished reading 'Wild Island A Year in the Hebrides' by Jane Smith and I didn't want it to end!

If you're a fan of great wildlife art, the landscape of western Scotland, and descriptive and evocative writing this book is for you! The book is about the year in the life of a Hebridean island called Oronsay that is an RSPB nature reserve. The wildlife, farming and the people that live and work on the island feature in the book. I can't recommend this book highly enough. As a friend said to me today it is a book to escape in to when things in life are going pear-shaped! I couldn't agree more.

Below are just a couple of samples of the artwork to be found in the book. It's therapy for the soul; enjoy!

A Few For My Patchwork Challenge

I actually had a lie in until 5:45 a.m. this morning, so that was a bit of luxury, which meant I wasn't at the Obs until 6:15! It was a cold morning with clear skies and a 10 mph northeasterly wind.

For the first hour or so the only summer migrant I had encountered was a singing Lesser Whitethroat, but that changed when I added Tree Pipit, Swallow, Whimbrel, Sandwich Tern, House Martin, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler!

There was some vis this morning and I had 22 Linnets, nine Meadow Pipits, eleven Goldfinches, a Tree Pipit, two Alba Wags, twelve Lesser Redpolls, 16 Siskins, six Swallows and a House Martin.

 Meadow Pipit

A brief look on the sea produced two Great Crested Grebes, three male Eiders, seven Whimbrels north and 37 Sandwich Terns. Although not on or over the sea, a Little Egret fed briefly in a tidal pool on the beach until flushed by a....., you've guessed it,......a dog walker!

Little Egret

I had a look on the pools and this is where I had three singing Sedge Warblers and one each of singing Cetti's and Reed Warbler. The area surrounding the pools was infested with dog walkers and I was glad to get away!

There's some rain about tomorrow morning and if I have one less beer tonight and set my alarm a little earlier I might get an hour or so before it rains. It's still going to be cold and northerly though! 

Friday 22 April 2016

Redstart Country

For the past few days I have been working in Cumbria and the majority of that time has been towards the north of the county. I've been lucky with the weather as it has been glorious most of the time, although most mornings have started off with a ground frost.

 Some of the views I have enjoyed this week (above & below)

Living on the Fylde plain of Lancashire Redstarts are a species that I only connect with during migration periods, so it has been nice to see several singing males on my travels. I haven't seen anything particularly outstanding during my surveys but lumping all the sites together some of the highlights have been 13 Willow Warblers, six Siskins, two Tree Sparrows, 21 House Sparrows, four Blackcaps, two Song Thrushes, two Chiffchaffs, three Stock Doves, twelve Lesser Redpolls, nine Redstarts (all males), two Green Woodpeckers, a Yellowhammer, 22 Linnets, four Buzzards, a Grey Partridge, 78 Sand Martins, a Sparrowhawk, a Wheatear, five Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a Goldcrest.

Pied Wagtail

I'm back on the patch again tomorrow but I'm going to treat myself to a 5:30 a.m. lie in so I can have a couple of beers!

Monday 18 April 2016

Clear Out

When Kim and I did some ringing at the Obs yesterday we had clear skies, a ground frost and no wind. It was obvious it was a 'clear out' morning and we didn't expect any grounded migrants, and in that respect we weren't disappointed. Any ringing we did would be linked to playback calls on the MP3 players.

Where we have our nets is only 0.5 km from the coast, but it is enough to reduce the volume of vis and due to the crystal clear conditions any vis we had was very high. Therefore the vis totals were both disappointing and unrepresentative, and just included six Linnets, four Meadow Pipits, 13 Siskins, a Short-eared Owl, 15 Lesser Redpolls and a Swallow.

We only ringed five birds and all were Lesser Redpolls!

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Pecker

Saturday morning saw me heading north to north Cumbria for a bird survey and on the way I had great views of a snow covered north Lakes and then cracking views over the Solway to Scotland from the site itself. It was cold with four oktas cloud cover and a 5 mph north-northwesterly wind.

 Uldale Fells 

The Solway and Scotland

The breeding bird survey didn't show up anything spectacular but I did have a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, five Tree Sparrows, three Buzzards, a Song Thrush and two Stock Doves.

Tree Sparrow

House Sparrow 

The best bird of the morning was just as I was taking my boots off and about to leave, and I heard a calling Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. It was calling from the top of a few mature trees between me and some very nice woodland. As I lifted my bins it stopped calling and I couldn't see it. Unfortunately it must have flown at the exact moment I lifted my bins; I think it's called sods law! This was the first 'Lesser Pecker' I had seen for a few years, but it was a typical date and also in a typical location!

Friday 15 April 2016

Wot No Migrants!

I've had a busy week this week with early starts and late nights and this morning was my first opportunity for a bit of leisurely birding. I decided to see if there were any migrants around and first went to the cemetery. The cemetery is a good barometer of whether there are any migrants about and often that first impression is correct and my first impression this morning was that it was very quiet. No calling phylloscs, oh dear I thought!

 Dunnock; one of the resident breeders.

I trawled round the cemetery without any results other than the usual resident breeders. I decided to have a look in the coastal park just in case the quietness of the cemetery was a fluke. And it wasn't with the only migrant being a single Goldcrest!

It's going cold and northerly this weekend, particularly tomorrow, but the wind is easing into Sunday so this might briefly unblock things, we'll see! 

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Pond Surveys

One of the jobs I am doing at the moment is some pond surveys with my good mate Liz. We set our first bottle traps on Monday evening and checked them Tuesday morning. The ponds aren't wonderful and we recorded very few invertebrates. Amphibians were represented by Smooth Newts and we also trapped two species of fish; Perch and Roach. That alone gives you an idea as to why they are a tad impoverished; typical fishing ponds in the main with no emergent vegetation and steep-sided!

Roach (unless anyone knows different!)


 Smooth Newt (male right and female left just out of shot!)

 A few birds were present in the hedgerows and scrub surrounding the ponds including Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Linnet. Whilst overhead we had Buzzards, Grey Herons and Swallows.

Monday 11 April 2016

March Ringing Totals

In case you were wondering, and you probably weren't, I had to cancel my bird survey in north Cumbria this morning due to wind strength. At least I got to stay in bed a little longer!

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of March. We have ringed 547 birds of 29 species and we are 75 ahead of where we were last year.

New species ringed during March were Sparrowhawk, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Chiffchaff, Jay, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow and Linnet.

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 March

1. Meadow Pipit - 53
2. Siskin - 43
    Goldfinch - 43
4. Lesser Redpoll - 36
5. Chaffinch - 16
    Blue Tit - 16

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 121 (same position)
2. Chaffinch - 71 (same position)
3. Siskin - 55 (up from 6th)
4. Blue Tit - (down from 3rd)
5. Meadow Pipit - 53 (straight in)
6. Lesser Redpoll - 38 (straight in)
7. Great Tit - 25 (down from 4th)
8. Coal Tit - 21 (down from 5th)
9. Dunnock - 16 (down from 8th)
10. Robin - 15 (down from 7th)

Sunday 10 April 2016

A Touch Of Frost

It wasn't just a touch of frost this morning, there was snow, fog and glorious sunshine too. When I left the house at 4:30 am to head to north Cumbria to do a bird survey I was surprised to see that my car was covered in heavy frost. As I drove through the Lune gorge on the M6 the Howgills were covered in snow and between Shap and Penrith it was foggy! Thankfully at my destination near Dalston, Carlisle it was a beautiful sunny day!

I won't bore you with all the details of my survey but I did have two Buzzards, four Chiffchaffs, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Yellowhammers, male Peregrine, six Stock Doves and a singing Blackcap. Some of the woodland was carpeted with Primrose which made a great spectacle.

 Stock Dove

It's just as early a start for me again tomorrow, but this time the destination is near Wigton. 

Saturday 9 April 2016


There were a few uncertainties in the forecast last night that made it tricky in deciding what to do this morning. It looked like it could be a touch windy for mist nets and how soon would that rain clear. In the end I decided to abandon the idea of ringing at the Obs and just bird.

At first light I had virtual clear skies with a 10 mph west-northwesterly wind. It was borderline for mist netting, but I'm not sure if I would have caught much anyway as it wasn't a grounded morning as you will see. In fact the only grounded migrants I had were a single Chiffchaff and four Wheatears that made an appearance a couple hours after sunrise.

There was some vis this morning, though it wasn't heavy, and I recorded 20 Goldfinches, 112 Meadow Pipits, a Swallow, 21 Linnets, three Alba Wags, three Lesser Redpolls and two Siskins.

The main interest on the sea concerned two Black Guillemots that headed north at about 0815. I picked them up when they were about two thirds out and they were heading north and moving closer all the time. They kept dropping as if they were going to land on the sea and then climbing a bit and then dropping down. Eventually I lost sight of them and gave Ian a ring, who was further round and looking in to the Bay, to tell him that a pair of Tysties were on their way to him. He didn't get them immediately, but picked them up later when they drifted in on the tide. They then took off and headed northeast.

There wasn't much of a supporting cast on the sea just two Cormorants, an Eider, 630 Pink-footed Geese north, three Gannets, 21 Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers and two Whooper Swans north.

It's some birding to earn a crust for me tomorrow as I start a series of breeding bird surveys mainly in north Cumbria, a part of the world that I really love!

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Post Breakfast Migrants

I hadn't planned to be out birding yesterday morning as I had a busy day in the office preparing for all of my fieldwork that starts later this month. However, a phone call from Ian as I was half way through my toast telling me that there were quite a few migrants around this morning, he was watching two Ring Ouzels, had me heading to the Obs.

There was obviously a few phylloscs around as I had four Chiffchaffs and three Willow Warblers. I heard a Ring Ouzel call and saw a bird climb high into the sky, head north, veer west and then drop somewhere right on the coast. My views were so poor (silhouetted against the light sky) and distant that I couldn't even sex it, but it was still my first of the spring. In fact some springs I don't record them at all so it was good to get an early one under the belt.

I didn't have much time so headed home and with hindsight I wish I'd stayed out because I spent the rest of the day wrestling with a dying computer to no avail!

Monday 4 April 2016

Which Way's North?

It was another good morning for vis yesterday morning at the Obs. At first light I was in the cemetery looking for grounded migrants under full cloud cover with a light southeasterly wind. The only grounded migrants i had were six Goldcrests and two Chiffchaffs.

I could see that there was some vis going over and decided to join Craig and Ian on top of the dunes. Horizontal visibility was fairly poor and you couldn't see across the bay for example and this was causing some confusion amongst the migrating birds. They going over exceedingly high and some flew round a little before powering off northeast.

Our vis totals were 1,110 Meadow Pipits, two Lesser Redpolls, 19 Linnets, 15 Alba Wags, 30 Goldfinches, a Kestrel, three Chaffinches, a White Wagtail, three Swallows, 16 Sand Martins, eight Woodpigeons, ten Carrion Crows, five Magpies, a Twite and a very early Yellow Wagtail.

Due to the general murkiness the sea was quiet with just 99 Common Scoters, twelve Red-breasted Mergansers, three Eiders, six gannets, and two Red-throated Divers. In addition to the grounded migrants in the cemetery I had five Wheatears in the dunes as well.

All in all not a bad few hours birding.