Thursday 29 June 2017

Chicks and Juvs

On Sunday afternoon I found myself at my good friend's Robert and Diana's farm near Nateby with a brood of Kestrel chicks to ring. I'd checked them about a week earlier and they were just too small to ring, so hopefully after a week they would be big enough.

One of the diversification enterprises that Robert and Diana have on their farm is a small camping and caravan site and when we went to ring the Kestrel chicks we were joined by a small group of keen, wildlife enthusiast campers. I climbed the ladder and looked into the box and I was greeted to the sight of five healthy Kestrel chicks. They were still covered in grey fluffy down, but had started to grow tail and primary wing feathers. The other thing I noticed straight away was the number of mammalian prey items in the box and it was obvious that the parents birds were finding plenty of food and the chicks couldn't keep up with supply! It is a good vole year this year so fingers crossed it should be a good breeding season for Kestrels nationally and also Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl etc.

I haven't any photographs of the Kestrel chicks I'm afraid as I was too busy ringing the five chicks and also letting the enthusiastic group of campers quickly get some photographs before returning the chicks to the box. They all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing the Kestrels ringed and the opportunity of seeing the birds close up, which is privilege that we as ringers sometimes take for granted.

We then had a walk down to the wetland and on the way along the woodland edge we noticed quite a few Red Admirals. In the immediate area there was a lot of nettles that are the food plant for Red Admiral caterpillars.

 Red Admirals

There was nothing on the wetland other than a few House Martins and Swallows hawking over it for aerial insects, so we headed in to the woodland to have a look at the outdoor classroom in the woods. One of the other things that Robert and Diana do is to facilitate school visits to the farm where the children learn about the link between farming, food production and the environment, but they also learn some basic outdoor survival skills and are encouraged to identify some of the wildlife found in the woodland. Great stuff!

As you might expect a woodland in late June in the middle of the afternoon is going to be quiet, but a singing Chiffchaff, a confiding Treecreeper and a Jay found their way into my notebook!

The following day I had a 4:00 am alarm call (ouch!) to carry out a plantation woodland bird survey in the North Pennines not far from Kirkby Stephen. It was a glorious morning with clear skies and calm conditions. Nearly everything I recorded during the survey was a juvenile; spotty Robins, gingery Song Thrushes, more green than blue Blue Tits and short-tailed Swallows!

Other bits and pieces included six Goldfinches, a Linnet, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, four Willow Warblers, a Siskin, a Buzzard, a Grey Wagtail, a Lesser Redpoll and a Stock Dove. Oh, and at least seven Brown Hares!

Since then it has rained and I've remained indoors, but I've got another bird survey Friday morning before hopefully some birding on the patch at weekend!

Thursday 22 June 2017

Back In Bowland

Tuesday morning saw me take to the hills in Bowland to carry out a site visit to look at the condition of two areas of species rich grassland. My client's farm is full of breeding waders as he farms exceedingly sympathetically to cater for them; he's amended some farming practises to reduce any potential impact on eggs and chicks, created habitat features such as scrapes to provide additional habitat and adjusted stocking densities to create the correct sward heights. He's a great bloke!

Walking between the two fields that I had to survey it was obvious that most of the waders had finished breeding. Nearly all of the Lapwings had gone and just a few pairs of Curlew and Oystercatcher were still about. I had an interesting first wader breeding record for the farm in the form of a Common Sandpiper. I can't claim any credit for discovering this as it was one of the farm staff that alerted me to it's presence. She told me that every time she drove past this particular stone edged pool she saw a wader species she couldn't identify. She also went on to say that she had seen the bird with chicks.

One of the fields that I had to check was adjacent to this pool and as I parked up in the gateway and got out of my car I heard Common Sandpiper alarm calling. And sure enough, at some distance, it was perched up on the fence. I suspect that the other bird was somewhere around the pool with the chicks. This is the first time in Lancashire that I have recorded Common Sandpiper breeding on a farm away from a water course. Great stuff!

 Common Sandpiper

In addition to the waders a few Willlow Warblers were still singing from some of the woodland plantings and a Cuckoo was calling from an area that I had one or it earlier in the spring. The same pool where the Common Sandpiper was also had two broods of Tufted Ducks on and there looked to be at least four ducklings in each brood.

So a very enjoyable visit and I wish that all of my work could be like that!

First Moths For A While

I ran my garden moth trap for the first time a few days ago and had a pleasing little catch, well for me anyway. I don't like to catch too many as it takes me quite a while to go through them, mainly because I don't run my trap often enough to get my eye in. However, I caught 21 moths of eight species as follows:

Brimstone - 2
Sallow Kitten - 2
Garden Carpet - 4
Riband Wave - 1
Heart and Dart - 4
Dark Arches - 3
The Flame - 2
Large Yellow Underwing - 3


 Sallow Kitten

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Holiday Snaps

I've had to hit the ground running this week with work, with lots of site visits and today is the first time I have had time to post anything since getting back from Scotland at weekend. Gail and I had a week in a holiday cottage on the Kilninver Estate south of Oban overlooking Loch Feochan. When it wasn't raining we had cracking views to Kerrera, and Mull beyond that. I say when it wasn't raining because we had quite a dreich week!

We didn't see a huge selection of birds, but you know what it's like as a birder you're always birding wherever you are. Highlights included lots of Siskins everywhere we went, Hooded Crows a plenty, Cuckoos, a couple of Golden Eagles, Goosanders, lots of Song Thrushes outnumbering Blackbirds, Spotted Flycatchers, breeding Wheatears, Stonechats, Peregrine, Ravens and Rock Dove (not sure how genuine they are here).

Below are a few holiday snaps in no particular order with no particular reason for the selection either:

 Bon Awe Iron Furnace

English Stonecrop (in Scotland)

Gylen Castle on Kerrera

Heath Spotted Orchid

Inverary Castle

Northern Marsh Orchid

Signs to the tea garden on Kerrera (above & below)

Spotted Flycatcher

Inside Kilmory Knap Chapel


Loch Feochan from the cottage

Thursday 8 June 2017

May 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 May, and they haven't increased that much. This is because of a ringing suspension due to a local avian influenza outbreak, which thankfully was lifted on 7th June. So we need to hit the ground running now and get some birds ringed!

Three new species for the year were ringed during May and these were Lapwing, Pied Flycatcher and Nuthatch. Below you will find the top three ringed during May and the top nine 'movers and shakers' for the year:

Top 3 Ringed In May

1. Blue Tit - 51
2. Pied Flycatcher - 24
3. Great Tit - 20

Top 9 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Blue Tit - 74 (up from 4th)
2. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (down from 1st)
3. Linnet - 59 (down from 2nd)
4. Goldfinch - 49 (down from 3rd)
5. Great Tit - 27 (straight in)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 24 (straight in)
7. Meadow Pipit - 19 (same position)
8. Willow Warbler - 14 (same position)
9. Nuthatch - 13 (straight in)

 Pied Flycatcher

This will probably be my last post for over a week as I am off to Scotland for a weeks holiday shortly, so I will post again when I get back!

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Big Boxes

Gail and I had a second day of checking boxes on Sunday, but this time it was at our good friends Robert and Diana's farm near Nateby. We had three 'big boxes' to check; two Owl boxes and a Kestrel box. It was positive news for the box in the barn as it contained four healthy Barn Owl chicks ranging in age from 16 - 25 days, ish! The Barn Owls were duly ringed and we moved on to the other Owl box.

 Barn Owl

This box contained an old Stock Doves nest from last year. In fact I think in most years since it has been up it has been used by Stock Doves.

The Kestrel box in the wet woodland was certainly active and from a vantage point in the field we could see the female Kestrel sitting in the box. It is likely that she was brooding small young rather than incubating eggs, and as such we didn't disturb her. We will return in a week or so's time to ring the chicks.

Walking through a section of open woodland a Banded Demoiselle flew past which was a great sighting. Banded Demoiselles like slow-flowing, mud-bottomed streams and rivers with open banksides and adjoining meadows, and that description fits perfectly with this part of the farm.

Since we ringed the Barn Owl chicks on Sunday, today (Wednesday) is the first day that it hasn't rained and I must admit to be being a bit worried about them as the parents will have found it difficult, if not impossible, to hunt during the wet weather. Let's hope that they have managed to find enough food to feed the chicks today, as I do wonder about the survival prospects for the youngest chick!

Tuesday 6 June 2017

Last Pied Fly Gig Of The Year

On Saturday morning Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley to carry out the final check of our next boxes here for the year. We knew we would have a few Pied Flycatchers to ring and in total we ringed 47 pulli. Quite a few of the chicks hadn't developed much during the week because of the cool changeable weather leading to a struggle for the adults to find food. And I must admit I am worried about them now after two full days of constant rain. If it wasn't for the fact that I go away to Scotland this weekend I would go back and check to see how they are getting on. Probably the first thing that I'll do on my return is go and see if they have managed to fledge okay; fingers crossed!

Pied Flycatcher

Monday 5 June 2017

The Birding Doldrums?

It's at this time of year that a lot of birders almost hang their bins up! Some switch their attention to dragonflies or moths, and some just go in to complete hibernation until autumn. However, there is always something of interest and it's just a matter of being out there to chance upon it. I have a broad interest in natural history, so being out in the field is just, well being out in the field and enjoying whatever you are looking at or listening to.

I completed two bird surveys this week to earn a crust. One was to do with planned development and the other was conservation based. But, both were equally as enjoyable! My planned development related survey was in lowland Lancashire on some fairly ordinary farmland, whatever that is?! I was stopped at one of my vantage points when I heard a Raven calling from behind me. It's loud croaking call got closer and closer until I picked it up flying directly over me. It then proceeded to do a roll as it flew away from me, followed by a 'stall' and it was away in the distance. Magic!

I had a few bits and pieces in addition to the Raven including two Buzzards, 27 Magpies, two Reed Buntings, ten House Sparrows, a Sedge Warbler, two Whitethtoats, eight adult Lapwings plus three chicks, 21 Jackdaws, two Song Thrushes, a Blackcap and a Stock Dove. And I also had plenty of Red Admirals, Small Whites and Small Tortoiseshells on the wing.

My second survey was another survey of plantation woodland in the Eden Valley. The highlight of this survey was finding a Buzzard's nest with at least two chicks in it! The best of the rest was eleven Tree Sparrows, seven Willow Warblers, two Blackcaps, three Redstarts, a Jay, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sedge Warbler and a Stock Dove.

 River Eden

Buzzard nest, although the chicks aren't visible.

So, birding doldrums? I don't think so!