Wednesday 25 May 2016

Box Update

At weekend Gail and I carried out the second check of my Pied Flycatcher boxes and there were a few birds to ring. We ringed 40 Great Tits, seven Nuthatches and nine Blue Tits. All were pulli of course, and I lifted another two female Pied Flycatchers off the nest. One of the females was ringed by North Lancs Ringing Group as a pulli in one of their boxes in Bowland in 2014 and we have recorded her as a breeding female in our boxes last year and this. The other female was a breeding female in Otley, West Yorkshire in 2014 but she's been with us in 2015 and this year.

 Pied Flycatcher

Nuthatches in residence; note the mud around the entrance hole!

I was in north Cumbria again on Monday carrying out a bird survey but it was fairly quiet other than four Tree Sparrows, two Stock Doves, two Song Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap, three Mistle Thrushes and a Buzzard.

Work is getting in the way of birding at the moment and I have pond surveys and a bird survey in Cheshire to look forward to before I get out birding again!

Saturday 21 May 2016

April'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 April. We are 53 ahead of where we were last year despite April's totals being third worst for the year so far. April always adds lots of new species ringed due to the arrival of summer migrants and we added Collared Dove, Tree Pipit, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Willow Warbler.

Below are the top three ringed for April and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 3 Ringed in April

1. Lesser Redpoll - 68
2. Willow Warbler - 27
3. Chiffchaff - 13

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 122 (same position)
2. Lesser Redpoll - 106 (straight in)
3. Chaffinch - 71 (down from 2nd)
4. Blue Tit - 57 (same position)
5. Siskin - 56 (down from 3rd)
6. Meadow Pipit - 53 (down from 5th)
7. Great Tit - 33 (same position)
8. Willow Warbler - 27 (straight in)
9. Coal Tit - 21 (down from 8th)
10. Dunnock - 19 (down from 9th)

Friday 20 May 2016

Boxes, Barn Owl, Bird Surveys And A One Legged Yellow Wagtail!

On Saturday Kim and I made the first check of our Pied Flycatcher boxes in the Hodder valley. We have 38 boxes at this particular site and this year so far the occupancy is as follows:

- Blue Tit - 7
- Great Tit - 6
- Empty - 13
- Nuthatch - 1
- Pied Flycatcher - 6
- Wasp nests - 2
- Started nests - 2 (Pied fly and Tit sp.)
- Fallen off tree - 1

The Blue Tits either had incubating females or incomplete clutches. The Great Tits were similar although there was one brood of nine that had just hatched, so they should be ready to ring next weekend, and it was the same for the Nuthatch. We lifted two female Pied Flycatchers off the nest; one was a new bird so we ringed her and the other was a recapture from 2014 when she was ringed as a chick. The remaining Pied Flycatchers were either complete or incomplete clutches.

We found two broods of Oystercatchers; one with three young and the second just hatching from a nest on a tin roof. Hopefully we will be able to ring these this weekend. There were also plenty of Siskins coming to the feeding station still, so we will have a short ringing session there as well next weekend; weather permitting! 

I've been back to north Cumbria this week doing a repeat bird survey for one of the sites I've been monitoring and I was pleased to see a Barn Owl hunting over my survey area. I didn't record anything out of the ordinary but I did record two Willow Warblers, two Chiffchaffstwo Blackcaps, Yellowhammer, three Stock Doves, Buzzard, Redstart, Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler.

 Cuckoo Flower

On my way home I called at one of my favourite spots and that's Shap Abbey. I like the combination of history and wildlife that you can find there on the River Lowther. However it was very quiet and all I had was Grey Wagtail on the river. Normally I would expect to see Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart etc., but not today!

 The River Lowther

Shap Abbey

Today I completed a recce of a site that I need to start surveying soon in Cheshire and it was here that I had a one legged Yellow Wagtail! I didn't know it only had one leg until I was looking at the 'record' shots (all my shots are record shots!) I took of it. In addition to the Yellow Wag I just had a few Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and Buzzards. I always enjoy watching Buzzards displaying and it was great watching one today doing that brilliant undulating display where they climb, shut their wings, dive and repeat the process several times!

 One legged Yellow Wagtail

It's going to rain tomorrow, but the forecast is good for Sunday, so it should be some box checking and mist netting for me.   

Sunday 15 May 2016

Sea Swallows

I've been busy with various bits of survey work of late and unfortunately this has meant an enforced neglect of the patch and I've missed some of the sea bird passage of late. With my first check of the Pied Flycatcher boxes due to be completed today I managed to get out yesterday morning for a sea watch.

At first light I had clear skies and it was calm. However by 0715 the wind had picked up to a 5 - 10 mph northeasterly.

As you would expect at this time of year there was little vis and it was limited to four Lesser Redpolls, a Linnet, a Whimbrel, 20 Swallows and a Tree Pipit.

My seawatching position happened to be opposite where the waders were roosting at high tide and I had 612 Dunlins, 150 Ringed Plover and 500 Sanderlings (including a leg-flagged bird). Three hundred Knot flew over but these were heading west presumably to join a larger roost on the Ribble estuary.

 Dunlins and Sanderlings

The waders were a bit flighty.

The only grounded migrant I had was a Short-eared Owl on the golf course that the Gulls just wouldn't leave alone. Every time it flew it was mobbed by Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls!

The main feature, and nearly the only feature, at sea was the passage of Arctic Terns. There was nowhere near the numbers that Ian has had of late and this morning I recorded 150 flying east into the bay. Some of them were gaining height rapidly and would be heading over land to the North Sea! In addition to the Sea Swallows all I had was eight Gannets, three Common Terns, six Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver.

Tuesday 10 May 2016


I'm not sure whether there is such a word as 'migrantless' but there was a distinct lack of migrants this morning anyway! At first light it was pouring down and I have no problems birding in the rain, but it was far too heavy for anything to be in the slightest active.

As soon as the rain eased I headed to the cemetery and it had virtually stopped when I got there. As I got out of my car I was met more or less with silence, and it was immediately obvious that there were few birds about. On the migrant front a trawl round only produced a single Blackcap and two Siskins! Three Mistle Thrushes and a male Peregrine were good to see, but not what I was hoping for.

I headed to the coastal park just to confirm my misery and it was quiet here too with just a singing Chiffchaff of note. I decided there was no point in 'flogging a dead horse' and headed home to do some work!

Monday 9 May 2016

Birding Inside A Slow Cooker

Unfortunately I couldn't get out on the patch Sunday morning as I was in A & E for eight hours over Saturday night into Sunday morning (not for me but for my Mother who is okay), and four hours sleep in 48 hours meant that I needed a full nights sleep last night to catch up! Consequently I didn't get out this morning until just before eight when Gail went to work.

I headed down to the estuary and foolishly put my Barbour on which was like birding inside a slow cooker and I was getting slowly boiled alive! It was a relief to get back to my car and shed a few layers! Several warbler species were singing on my walk down and included Blackcap, four Sedge Warblers, a Reed Warbler, eight Whitethroats, a Chiffchaff, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Garden Warbler.

There was very little on the pool other than a Common Sandpiper, two Shelducks and a Great Crested Grebe. The saltmarsh held even less and all I noted were two Whimbrels and a male Kestrel.

 Great Crested Grebe


I then had a look at the reedbeds and scrub and again it was more warblers including Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, two Blackcaps, three Whitethroats, a Reed Warbler and four Sedge Warblers.

 There was lots of Herb Robert flowering in the more mature areas of scrub
and they help to brightrn up dark corners!

It's a funny time of year now as when you are out birding it feels as though everything is 'in', and movements and falls become few and far between, but you have to keep going as May can deliver some good birds. In addition to this it is good to record all the breeding birds and enter it all on to BirdTrack! With this in mind I will get out tomorrow as the next time I can get on the patch will be Friday.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Before the Spot Flys

I was out early this morning and sadly before what seems to be an almost mass arrival of Spotted Flycatchers. I did my usual walk around part of the Obs recording area and was greeted with full cloud cover and a 5 - 10 mph east-southeasterly wind at first light.

It's been a few days since I walked this part of the Obs so it was difficult to differentiate between what were genuine grounded migrants from this morning and what were birds that had arrived a few days ago and were holding territory. I will be able to tell tomorrow as I'm going to walk this same patch again. Anyway for arguments sake lets call them all grounded and I had four Whitethroats, ten Sedge Warblers, a Willow Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Lapwing and a Garden Warbler.

The main feature of the vis was Swallows and Lesser Redpolls and my totals included 41 Swallows, 13 Lesser Redpolls, a Siskin, a Tree Pipit, a Tree Sparrow, a White Wagtail, a House Martin and an Alba Wag.

The sea was quiet too with just 21 Common Scoters, an Arctic Tern, two Cormorants, a Sandwich Tern and two Gannets.

Afterwards I had a look at the pools to see if the water level had dropped sufficiently for us to get in there ringing, but it hadn't. There were three singing Reed Warblers, four Sedge Warblers and a Cetti's Warbler. Three pairs of Coots had young with broods of three, two and three. Two Great Crested Grebes and three White Wagtails and that was your lot!


Back home I checked my moth trap and there were just singles of Herald, Hebrew Character and Shuttle-shaped Dart.


It's remaining southeasterly tomorrow with some rain overnight so it might drop a few bits and pieces in; I'll let you know!

There was plenty of Thrift in flower this morning.

Thursday 5 May 2016


Yesterday started with an early morning bird survey on a site in south Cumbria. Even though it has started to warm up this week it was still cold and hat and gloves were still required! Nothing overly exciting during my survey, but it's as always just a pleasure to be out and record three Blackcaps, two Sedge Warblers, a Willow Warbler, a Grasshopper Warbler, two Siskins and a Tree Sparrow.

 The view from the office today

After a bacon and sausage muffin washed down with a gallon of Costa coffee I was on my way back to the Obs and was recording in the cemetery by 0845. As soon as I got out of my car it was obvious that there were a few migrants about and I had a Chiffchaff, six Willow Warblers, twelve Siskins, two Lesser Redpolls, two Wheatears and a Blackcap.

A number of large gardens back on to the cemetery and they are good for holding migrants. The two Wheatears were perched on the chimneys of one particular house; migration in action!


I moved on to a couple more sites within the Obs recording area and to my tally I added a Buzzard, two Whitethroats, five Sedge Warblers, six Blackcaps, two Willow Warblers, a Lesser Redpoll, a Coal Tit, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and three Chiffchaffs.

A number of insects were on the wing including Peacock butterflies, Small Tortoiseshells, Speckled Woods and Buff and Red-tailed Bumblebees. It was also nice to see Red Campion, Scarlet Pimpernel, Field Forget-me-not, Lesser Celandine and Common Field Speedwell flowering.


 Small Tortoiseshell

I've got a site visit in east Lancs tomorrow, but I will try my best to get out at some point, but if not it will have to be weekend.

Monday 2 May 2016

White Winger

Thankfully I didn't have too much to drink at the beer festival yesterday and was able to get up this morning to go birding at the Obs. The wind was a 20 mph south-southwesterly and there was full cloud cover. As there was a morning tide the plan was to do a sea watch and I joined Ian at about 0545.

Walking up towards the tower I had a large female Wheatear on the beach and this was the only grounded migrant I had during the morning. Interestingly there was some vis this morning and the direction of movement was west, into the wind. Hirundines were the main feature with many moving out at sea. In total we had 50 Swallows, 27 Sand Martins and 30 Goldfinches.

Visibility was very poor and as the morning progressed we could sea the rain front coming in from the northwest. All we had seen was 28 Common Scoters, two Gannets and a single Sandwich Tern until Ian shouted "white winged Gull coming in to the bay"! And low and behold there was a Glaucous Gull motoring east! Due to the distance all we could say was that it was a Glauc and it was either a second or third calendar year bird and that was it!

The rain arrived at about 0730 and the visibility was next to nothing so I called it a day. I've got bird surveys in Cumbria for the next couple of days so hopefully I'll be back on the patch later in the week.