Monday 29 May 2017

Continuing Pied Fly Fest

I make no apologies at all for posting some more on Pied Flycatchers as Gail and I checked our boxes again in the Hodder Valley yesterday. A few boxes no longer needed checking because they were still empty or hadn't progressed from a half completed nest for example, but we had a few birds to ring so it still took us a couple of hours.

 Pied Flycatchers

In total we ringed 49 birds made up of 32 Blue Tits, 14 Pied Flycatchers and three Great Tits. All were chicks from the boxes, and next week we should have something like 60 Pied Flycatcher chicks to ring! The clutch sizes of the Tits have been very small and this is certainly a phenomenon of recent years, and perhaps indicates the difficulty the adults are having finding food for their chicks. Climate change is certainly playing a roll in this with the hatching of young out of sync with the hatching of foliar feeding caterpillars. In addition to this cooler, wetter springs are reducing the number of invertebrates available as well.

 Pied Flycatcher

On our walk through the woodland checking the boxes we picked up a Tawny Owl flying through the treetops, and judging by its laboured flight we assumed it was a young bird. It was given a hard time by numerous woodland birds as it moved from tree to tree!

I received a bit of bad bird related news yesterday when Ian phoned me in a state of shock to tell me that the local tip was being moth-balled for a couple of years at least! Being much more of a 'Laruphile' than me Ian really was gutted to say the least, and we both lamented the prospect of a Gull, particularly 'white wingers', light winter at the Obs this winter! I suppose it's only a birder that could mourn the closure of a landfill site!   

Friday 26 May 2017

Up North

I have had a full week of 'stupid o'clock' alarm calls to head up north to Cumbria to complete the second surveys of the plantation woodlands that I am surveying for birds. On Monday Gail joined me at an upland site where there are tremendous views of the Solway and over to the Criffell in Dumfries and Galway.

These second surveys tend to be the quietest of the three as they are at a time where a good percentage of breeding birds are feeding young. This site was no exception and the few highlights included a Song Thrush, a Chiffchaff, a Stock Dove, two Siskins, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap.

An early start, means an early finish, so afterwards we had finished the survey we headed over to the Scottish side of the Solway to have a look at the seabird colony at Balcary Point. We did a four mile circular walk and we started the walk in the rain and finished it in glorious sunshine!

The sea cliffs held breeding Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags. And on our walk terrestrial bird species included Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Rock Pipit and Stonechat.

 Loch Mackie; part of the circular walk.

I completed three more bird surveys 'up north' and I have lumped the relatively interesting sightings together as the three sites were fairly close together; eleven Willow Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, a Yellowhammer, four Lesser Redpolls, two Skylarks, two Blackcaps, a Stock Dove, a Mistle Thrush and a Redstart.

Blencathra peeping out of the mist.

We've got some hefty showers forecast for most of the day tomorrow, but if I can drag myself out of my pit at just a bit later then 'stupid o'clock' then I might get some birding in before the rain!  

Thursday 25 May 2017

More On Pied Flycatchers

Earlier in the week Gail and I checked our nest boxes in the Hodder Valley and it is looking very good for Pied Flycatchers. We definitely have eleven occupied boxes and they are all incubating completed clutches. I lifted a further three females off the nest and one was one of ours (ringed as a chick last year), and the other two were controls.

I was very interested in the good numbers of Pied Flycatchers occupying our boxes and through social media I asked other nest recorders if they were finding similar. Interestingly one local scheme reported average numbers as did a recorder from Wales, but mainly it would seem that most observers are reporting increased occupation. Several reasons have been put forward for this and include good over-winter survival, increased survival during spring migration and poor breeding success for Tits last year leading to less competition for nest sites. Interesting stuff!

A few chicks in our boxes were ready to be ringed and we ringed seven Nuthatches, 17 Great Tits and seven Blue Tits. Next weekend we will have more Blue and Great Tits to ring and hopefully I'll be able to record the remaining Pied Flycatcher females!


Saturday 13 May 2017

April's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of April. We are 375 down on where we were this time last year and this has been mainly as a result of avian influenza outbreaks. Talking of avian influenza outbreaks there has been another two in the Fylde at Hambleton and Thornton and we currently have another ringing suspension within the 10km surveillance zone! So that doesn't bode well for our totals going forward.

Three new species were added for the year during April and these were Tree Pipit, Willow Warbler and Tree Sparrow. Below you will find the top three ringed for April and the top eight 'movers and shakers' for the year so far.

Top 3 Ringed in April

1. Lesser Redpoll - 48
2. Goldfinch - 13
3. Willow Warbler - 12

Top Eight Movers and Shakers

1. Lesser Redpoll - 65 (up from 3rd)
2. Linnet - 59 (down from 1st)
3. Goldfinch - 49 (down from 2nd)
4. Blue Tit - 23 (same position)
5. Chaffinch - 21 (up from 6th)
    Siskin - 21 (down from 4th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 19 (down from 6th)
8. Willow Warbler - 12 (straight in)

 Tree Pipit

Friday 12 May 2017

Pied Fly Paradise

Before I get to the 'Pied Fly Paradise' a quick rewind to earlier in the week is required where I carried out some bird surveys in two different parts of Cumbria. My first survey was in the north Pennines not too far from Kirkby Stephen. The site is in a gorgeous location, but for some reason (third year now) it is always cold, and this particular morning was no exception! These surveys that I am carrying out are on common woodland/woodland fringe bird populations so the highlights of these common birds included seven Goldfinches, three Linnets, four Lesser Redpolls, a Stock Dove, a Song Thrush, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, three Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler and three Siskins.


After I had completed the survey I had to see a client near Barrowford so my drive took me along the A65 through Kirkby Lonsdale, Settle and at Long Preston I turned off and headed towards Gisburn following the River Ribble. As I got close to a little place called Swinden the river is particularly close to the road and as I glanced out of my side window my eyes feasted upon an Osprey perched in the top of a dead tree next to the river! Typically I was motoring along over 50 mph and there was nowhere to stop! I'm guessing it was a bird that had roosted in the area overnight and it was contemplating carrying on north as the sun warmed up; cracking!

My second and third surveys were in the west of Cumbria close to some of the Furness peninsula mosslands. I've lumped the two totals together as both sites were fairly close to each other. The best of the common birds I recorded included three Tree Sparrows, two Willow Warblers, two Mistle Thrushes, eleven Goldfinches, two Blackcaps, a Goldcrest, two Lesser Redpolls, two Chiffchaffs, a Stock Dove, a Garden Warbler, six Linnets, two Sedge Warblers and a Reed Bunting.

This morning Gail and I headed in to Bowland to do the first check of our boxes in the Hodder valley. We have 39 boxes at this site and we are targeting primarily Pied Flycatchers and I think you can guess from my blog title that we found a few! We had eleven boxes definitely occupied with eggs and incubating females, and also a twelfth with a complete nest that could still come to fruition. This means that we have 28% occupation of the boxes by Pied Flycatchers and this is the best year yet for occupation. Of course these eggs all need to be converted in to chicks and we need the right weather conditions for the adults to find food and fledge all the little fellows. So we have a way to go yet!

 Pied Flycatcher nest.

I managed to lift five female Pied Flycatchers off the nests. Three of these were already ringed; two weren't from our site and were controls (ringed elsewhere by another ringer) and the third was ringed last year as a chick from one of the boxes. So she has returned from her natal site after making two crossing of the Sahara! The other two were un-ringed so Gail and I ringed them.

Pied Flycatcher

In addition to the Pieds we had one box with eight recently hatched Nuthatches in and the rest was a split of seven Blue Tits and four Great Tits. In the woodland we also recorded singing Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Goldcrests.  

Its forecast for heavy rain tomorrow morning, so I might just get a rare lie in and an extra ale this evening! 

Wednesday 10 May 2017

A Few Arrivals

Sunday morning saw me wandering around the farm fields again at the southern end of the Obs recording area. I had clear skies and it was calm at first but a 5 mph NE wind picked up from 0805.

The usual Chiffie and Whitethroats were holding territory, but it did seem as if there had been a few arrivals just based on the increase in the number of singing Sedge Warblers. On my walk round I recorded 16, and there certainly isn't enough habitat to support this number of breeding pairs in this area. One of the Sedge Warblers was doing some mimicry throwing Reed Warbler, Linnet and Goldfinch in to his set list! Three Wheatears by the sea wall added to the feeling that I had of there being a few arrivals.


Conditions were suitable for some vis and I recorded (all north) a Goldfinch, thirteen Lesser Redpolls, 99 Swallows, two Swifts, a Sand Martin, two Tree Pipits, five House Martins, a Linnet, two Siskins, a Yellow Wagtail and an Alba Wag.

There was a bit of movement over the glass like sea, but the murky conditions/heat haze didn't help. Of interest entered into my notebook were 1200 Knots, five Shelducks, eight Sandwich Terns, eight Gannets, four Whimbrels, four Dunlins, ten Kittiwakes, six Sanderlings, two Ringed Plovers, 102 Common Scoters, a Common Tern, twelve Eiders, two Canada Geese, four Arctic Terns, three Red-throated Divers and five Auk sp. I also got good 'scope views of a Harbour Porpoise slowly heading north. At times it was very active and you could see that it was chasing prey close to the surface!

 Canada Goose

I joined Ian mid-morning in the coastal park where he had found a singing Wood Warbler. I don't know how many pictures I took trying to get just one half decent shot of this very showy bird, but I failed! In addition to the Wood Warbler were a Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, a Garden Warbler and a Whitethroat.

 Wood Warbler (above & below - honest!)

We then both had a look in the cemetery where there was another Wood Warbler! This bird too was very showy and I failed yet again to get any record shots even! There was also a Spotted Flycatcher, another Garden Warbler and three Willow Warblers. So definitely a few arrivals this morning!

Meadow Pipit

Saturday 6 May 2017


This northerly air stream all the way from the arctic is getting wearisome and it makes it unseasonably cold for May! This morning Ian, Howard and Me had to take shelter behind the tower once again to record the migration at the Point. Normally at this time of year we would be stood on top of the bank with great views out to sea and a clear view to the west to pick up easily any vis, but not today!

We had clear skies at first, but cloud slowly built during the morning, and the wind was a keen 10 - 15 mph northeasterly! The one good thing about Spring is that it is an 'urgent' passage and birds are pretty much on the move whatever the weather conditions, within reason of course!

Straight away from first light Lesser Redpolls were on the move and their totals and the other vis is as follows (all east); 25 Lesser Redpolls, eight Tree Pipits, one Rook, 21 Swifts, one Meadow Pipit, one House Martin, 48 Swallows, one Sand Martin and two Carrion Crows.

The main feature offshore was the passage of Arctic Terns that were steadily heading east in to the bay, but some were doubling back and heading east again. They were constantly moving up and down, and were presumably feeding on a large shoal of fish. Offshore totals included 361 Arctic terns, six Sandwich Terns, 19 Auk sp., 14 Red-throated Divers, 14 Eiders, ten Gannets, 16 Whimbrels, 131 Common Scoters, four Mute Swans, a Guillemot, a Velvet Scoter, a Bar-tailed Godwit and four Common Terns. There was also an Atlantic Grey Seal bobbing around just offshore.

There was a few waders roosting on the shore and the most unusual in terms of habitat was a Common Sandpiper running around on the shingle! In addition to the Common Sand were 704 Dunlins, 141 Ringed Plovers and 102 Sanderlings.

 Roosting Dunlins, Sanderlings and Ringed Plovers.


Ringed Plover

I'm not sure what I'm doing in the morning, other than I will be out birding or ringing :) 

Thursday 4 May 2017

Woodland And Waders

I completed another plantation woodland bird survey in Cumbria yesterday morning, and this time it was in the northeast of the county in the Eden valley. This particular site is one of my favourites and usually produces some half decent results.

At first light, which is getting a tad early now I have to say, I had five oktas cloud cover with a cold 10 mph northerly wind. I had three small blocks of plantation woodland to survey raging from recently planted to woodland planted about eight years ago. For ease I'll just give a list as follows of the more interesting species that I recorded; eight Willow Warblers, five Redstarts (four males & a female), a Mistle Thrush, eleven Shelducks, four Tree Sparrows, a Siskin, a Stock Dove, a Sedge Warbler, a Yellow Wagtail, a Song Thrush, a pair of Bullfinches, a Blackcap, three Coal Tits and a Buzzard

Adjacent to one block of plantation woodland that I was surveying was an existing small area of woodland and in a dead Ash tree a pair of Redstarts were prospecting a potential nest site. The male kept going in to the hole and then singing from the entrance to the cavity, and the female would come over and have a a look. On two occasions whilst the male was in the hole a Blue and Great Tit went in to the hole and the male Redstart chased them out. Then another male Redstart came over and the two males were chasing each other around the trees and only a few feet from me; stunning!


Breeding waders were the target for my work this morning in Bowland. I was surveying one of my client's farms and checking that the habitat creation/restoration that he has undertaken is proving attractive to breeding waders. The main aim is to improve the habitat for Curlew and Lapwing, and if we can attract any other species that would be a bonus. I checked the eight fields where he has created scrapes, specifically manages the sward height and manages the amount of rush cover and found five pairs of Oystercatchers, 17 pairs of Lapwings, a pair of Snipes and seven pairs of Curlew.

 One of the Lapwing chicks that I ringed.

Of course I was seeing other species on my walk round and I had at least four singing Willow Warblers and five Lesser Redpolls. One pair of Lesser Redpolls were displaying close to me whilst I got all of my gear together before setting off.

Over the fell at the back of one of the wader fields I had a Buzzard and a Peregrine, and later three Ravens. One of my best sightings was a male Cuckoo. I heard Lapwings and Meadow Pipits alarm calling and the Cuckoo flew over the hedge and landed in a tree adjacent to the stream. I could see him well with my bins, but sadly he was just a little distant for a photograph. I then saw a flash of red and a male Redstart dived into the hedge and shortly afterwards a female Wheatear bobbed along a stone wall.

 The fell at the back.

It was a pleasant morning's work and tomorrow I was supposed to do another survey in the north Pennines but unfortunately it is going to be a bit too windy. It does mean that I can have a beer tonight and I won't be too tired when I go to see Genesis six string wizard Steve Hackett tomorrow evening!

Monday 1 May 2017

Where Did That Rain Come From?

I set out at first light to walk the farm fields at the southern end of Fleetwood Obs and it started to rain as soon as I set off. I wasn't too bothered about the rain whilst checking for grounded migrants, but I knew that where I looked at the sea at this part of the Obs it didn't afford any shelter, but thankfully it had stopped by the time I got round to that bit! After the rain had stopped I still had full cloud cover with a 15 mph ENE wind.

The first migrant I had was a Chiffchaff singing from the herb garden and this was quickly followed by a Willow Warbler singing from the copse. It was obvious that there had been a bit of an arrival overnight as I soon added five Whitethroats, five Sedge Warblers, two Grasshopper Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat to the grounded migrant tally.


Even though it was a bit drizzly and murky at first there was some visible migration (north) and I had a Linnet, 16 Meadow Pipits, 48 Swallows, a Tree Pipit, 17 Lesser Redpolls, two Alba Wags, six Sand Martins, five Goldfinches and a House Martin.

The most curious bird was a Great Spotted Woodpecker that I put up close to the central hedgerow, that then flew north and I lost it over the houses. There is a lack of woodland within the Obs recording area and 'Great Spots' are relatively scarce, so I am guessing it was a migrant as there is still other early stuff on the move such as Meadow Pipits.

I had brief-ish look on the sea and had the following; two Whimbrels north, 19 Arctic Terns south, 200 Knot south, seven Eiders, three Red-throated Divers north, 30 Common Scoters north, six Cormorants, 70 Pink-footed Geese north, an imm. female Peregrine north, two Sandwich Terns north and a Shelduck.

Before heading home I bobbed in to the cemetery and had three grounded Willow Warblers. I've got bird surveys and site visits every morning this week, so won't be able to get back on the patch until weekend.