Monday 27 February 2017


I recently completed one of my wintering bird surveys in Merseyside and it was probably the quietest of the winter so far. The weather was fairly good with four oktas cloud cover and a 10 mph southwesterly wind, so it was probably just the time of year influencing the results.

Of interest I had 34 Goldfinches, a Kestrel, 14 Linnets, ten Long-tailed Tits, five Buzzards, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Stock Doves, five Song Thrushes, seven Lapwings (including a displaying bird), two Barn Owls, two Goldcrests, a calling Tawny Owl, 48 Woodpigeons, 32 Carrion Crows, eleven Robins and 14 Blue Tits.

The Barn Owls were of most interest as I had expected to record Barn Owl at the site but hadn't all winter until this survey, when I had two. One bird came flying towards me and then dropped on to a vole quite close to me! I managed to get a shot of it, but the light was pretty poor, so it wasn't as good as expected considering how close it was!

 Barn Owl (above & below)

I am still busy operating my feeding station but can't do any ringing there yet because of the avian influenza outbreak, but I am hopeful that the suspension will be lifted as soon as this week; fingers crossed!

White Winger

High tide was in the early hours yesterday morning so I decided to have a look at the river at first light. As I set off along the edge of the saltmarsh I had 7 oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph southerly wind. A number of 'Pink-feet' were leaving their riparian roost, 174, and I also had 280 go over high north; some early vis.

As I walked, or should I say slid, along the muddy path a flock of 19 Twite flew over my head calling away, and I soon reached my watch point over the river. There were large Gulls coming and going to bathe and their numbers were quite spectacular, in fact my counts didn't represent the true numbers. I counted 990 Herring Gulls, 17 Great Black-backed Gulls, 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (starting to move through now and looking immaculate in breeding plumage) and 115 Black-headed Gulls. In reality there is probably 3,000 large Gulls at the site at the moment.

After some time going through the Gulls I picked out the 2CY Glaucous Gull that has been around for a number of weeks. I'm not a huge Gull fan, but even I can appreciate this giant white winger! There wasn't much wildfowl on this stretch of the river, but a flock of 110 Lapwings was nice. Walking back across the saltmarsh I added Rock Pipit and a male Reed Bunting.

I had a look on the pools next and there was two Shovelers (male & female), seven Tufted Ducks, six Mallards, 38 Coots and a Great Crested Grebe. I had a wander in to the reeds to check out some of our net rides in preparation for the lifting of the suspension of ringing within the 10 km surveillance zone for the relatively local avian influenza outbreak. All looked well and in fact I got to some net rides that we haven't managed to get to for two years due to high water levels, so that shows what a dry winter it's been.

All I had in the reeds was another Reed Bunting plus a Snipe and a singing Cetti's Warbler. So all in all a pleasant couple of hours! 

Thursday 16 February 2017

Above The Wenning

I was up above the Wenning earlier this week measuring various habitat features.It wasn't a bad morning with 3 oktas cloud cover and a warm southerly breeze.

I walked from the huge old barn which has been sympathetically restored to be still used for agriculture. This is great as a lot of these old barns don't fit in with modern farming practises and are either converted to housing or left to fall down. The barn has also been restored with the colony of House Sparrows that occupy it in mind and lots of holes, nooks and crannies have been left in the external skin of the building for the Spadgers! The twenty or so knocking around the barn seemed happy!

I headed up to the Iron Age hill fort and with such warm weather lots of Buzzards were on the wing and in total on my walk I counted seven. Song Thrushes were singing and I had a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the woodland. A singing Skylark and three Brown Hares added to the mix.

 Measuring wheel parked on the hill fort!
In one field I had a feeding flock of 24 Redwings and 57 Fieldfares which was nice. Along the track at different positions I had two Stoats pop out of the hedge to investigate what the noise was coming from my measuring wheel, but sadly they vanished before I could get a photograph. Three Siskins overhead and a Little Egret down by the river and that was me finished for the day. Not bad for some non-birding work!

Herdies But Not In The Hills

Valentine's Day found me continuing with my wintering bird survey in deepest, darkest Merseyside. It was dark when I set out and pretty cold in the 10 mph southeasterly wind. Close to where I am surveying is an area of dunes that are grazed in the winter with some Herdwick sheep, which I think are amongst the bonniest of our native sheep breeds.


Nothing stood out during the survey, and as usual a good range of species were recorded including two Sparrowhawks (an immature male and a female), two Song Thrushes (merrily singing away), 1672 Pink-footed Geese, three Goldcrests, 13 Chaffinches, five Long-tailed Tits, three Coal Tits, seven Stock Doves, five Buzzards, 24 Goldfinches, 16 Curlews, a Grey Wagtail, 43 Carrion Crows, 136 Black-headed Gulls and eleven Blackbirds.

All my birding seems to be birding for work at the moment, but I mustn't complain as at least I am getting out! Hopefully I'll be on the patch this coming weekend. I do apologise for saying that as the weather will be awful this weekend now! 

Sunday 12 February 2017

January'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 January. The only thing worth noting is the sterling work Phil and Andy are doing on Linnets with 59 ringed during the month. With a number of our ringing sites falling within a 10 km avian influenza surveillance zone, the totals for February will be even more meagre; roll on spring!

I called at my feeding station yesterday and all I had of note was a single Grey Wagtail. I've sacrificed birding this morning for some post beer festival recovery and to get my bird records for 2016 in order for the county recorder!

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Up The Wenning

I spent a pleasant morning today up the Wenning Valley in northeast Lancs close to the Cumbria and North Yorkshire border, before 'rain stopped play' shortly after lunch. I was carrying out some land surveying and wandering round with a land wheel measuring various features and structures, which of course presented the opportunity to do some birding at the same time!

 The Wenning

I had two Skylarks head northeast this morning high up, and I'm pretty certain that they were moving; my first 'vis' of the year. I had three more Skylarks on some maize stubble along with 13 Redwings and 45 Fieldfares. I also had a few more Thrushes in the form of seven Blackbirds and five Song Thrushes in various sections of hedgerow.

Out on some of the pasture were eleven Lapwings, but they weren't setting up territory yet, and keeping them company were three Brown Hares. The only raptor I had was a calling Buzzard from the woodland across the river.


On the river I had a Grey Heron and Little Egret, and then I pushed off twenty-ish  Teal. On this section of river there is a decent sized Sand Martin colony and I thought it won't be long before they are back.

I finished the day off with a pint of Stanley's in the new Kirkby Lonsdale brewery in the Royal Barn in Kirkby, and very nice it was too!

Monday 6 February 2017

Starting To Sing

Over the past week or so on my travels one thing has been obvious and that has been bird song! A number of species are starting to sing including Dunnock, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Great Tit etc, etc, etc! It's great to hear, and makes you look forward to spring! But, there's still a good bit of winter to get through first and Feb can be a tough month.

It's been fairly quiet at my feeding station and the food I am putting out is lasting 5-6 days, which is unusual at this time of year. There hasn't been anything notable but counts of some species included 21 Magpies, two Buzzards and 15 Goldfinches.

There has been some Pink-footed Geese within the Obs recording area and peak counts have been 800, but sadly I haven't had anything else amongst them despite giving them a good grilling!

 Pink-footed Geese

I have been back to my winter bird survey site in Merseyside for an afternoon count and perhaps of interest recorded 114 Curlews, 26 Goldfinches, 279 Pink-footed Geese, a male Sparrowhawk, a Coal Tit, six Long-tailed Tits, 304 Jackdaws, a Jay, nine Stock Doves, two Buzzards, two Goldcrests, 21 Magpies, 36 Carrion Crows, eleven Blue Tits and 108 Black-headed Gulls.

At one section of the survey area I caught a flash of reddish-orange and saw a Red Squirrel running ahead of me. It climbed up into a Scots Pine tree and was at one stage upside down clinging to the underneath of a major bough! Sadly the sun was behind the tree and my pictures aren't good to say the least, but you can tell it's a Red Squirrel!

 Red squirrel (above & below)

At weekend I had a look at the southern part of the Obs recording area around the farm fields, and this was my first look at this bit of the Obs since Christmas. On my walk round I had a Long-tailed Tit, a singing Song Thrush, 14 Woodpigeons, a pair of displaying Kestrels close to their nest site, a male Sparrowhawk, 34 Herring Gulls and a Mistle Thrush.

The sea was quiet with just 18 Eiders, nine Cormorants, two Great Crested Grebes and two Red-throated Divers.

The weather isn't looking bad for the remainder of the week. I've got a site visit tomorrow and then I'm relatively free for the remainder of the week. Hang on, I've just remembered, it's Fleetwood Beer festival Thu - Sat, and I like to go on at least two days so birding could be intermittent!