Sunday 27 August 2017

Too Late Cloud Cover

We were back in the reedbed this morning and at first light it was somewhat chilly with clear skies and a 10 mph SSE wind. The weather synopsis had looked good for an overnight arrival of migrants with a forecast southerly wind, clear skies and then cloud cover rolling in around midnight. The cloud cover did roll in, but not until about 0900, so it actually became a clear-out night with few grounded migrants.

The Starlings were spectacular as they exited their reedbed roost with a 'mini reversed murmuration', and they numbered somewhere in the region of 15,000! Similarly Alba Wags were exiting their roost on the marina, but in nowhere near the numbers of the Starlings, in fact only 16 came south over us. There will have been more than this but they disperse in all directions.

The only other thing of note in my notebook was a flock of 60 Goldfinches that are at the moment feeding on the plentiful thistles.

Due to the too late cloud cover (you have to have a theory as to why you didn't catch!) we ringed just seven birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 1


When I got back home I enlisted Gail's help to clear the net rides at the coastal farm fields area in the Obs recording area. I have to say she was a great help and did a magnificent job. Below are before and after pictures of the 60 foot ride in the Hawthorns.



It's going to be a touch too windy for ringing tomorrow so I am going to treat myself too a few beers this evening and a lie-in as I've got 4:00 a.m. starts Tuesday - Friday next week!

Saturday 26 August 2017

A Sprinkling Of Migrants

At first light Ian and I had our nets up in one of the reedbeds at the Obs and it didn't half feel quiet, but as it turned out there was a sprinkling of migrants. We had full cloud cover with a 10 mph wind that veered between westerly and southwesterly.

There was actually a bit of vis this morning in the form of three Grey Wagtails, a few Swallows (I didn't count them properly!), eight House Martins and two Swifts. The Swifts were getting late and once we cross over in to September they will be scarce indeed.

A few oddities included a Raven that headed vaguely north and a Kingfisher that 'zipped' through. If I was a betting man I would bet that it was the young female that we ringed a couple of weeks ago. There was a nice flock of 40 Goldfinches feeding on thistles, and when the sun came out for a bit later there were Speckled Woods and Brown Hawkers on the wing.

There was obviously a few migrants grounded as our ringing totals testify and we ringed 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Reed Warbler - 6
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 10
Robin - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Wren - 3
Dunnock - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1

 Grasshopper Warbler

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, as a group we've ringed more Cetti's Warblers than Grasshopper Warblers at 35 and 25 respectively!

We'll be trying again in the morning and I'll let you know how we get on.

Friday 25 August 2017

Pishing Amongst The Trees

It's at this time of year, and throughout autumn, that the art of 'pishing' comes into it's own when out birding. This technique of making a 'pishing' noise to attract birds started in North America and spread to the UK, and now most birders will deploy this technique at some point, during the autumn particularly, if not often!

I was doing one of my plantation woodland bird surveys this morning and my 'pishing' amongst the trees paid dividends with a number of birds coming to investigate the noise and therefore showing themselves! Which is what 'pishing' is all about, it's a tactic to enable you to be able to see the bird by attracting it to you through this veritable art! One of the purposes of these bird surveys that I am carrying out is to look at bird usage of the plantation woodland in late summer/early autumn in terms of species and total bird numbers, and 'pishing' does give a helping hand.

Two paragraphs on 'pishing' is enough now, so I'll move on! When I arrived at my survey site in north Cumbria at first light I was greeted with full cloud cover and a light SSW wind. I had wondered weather it might be raining when I got here because it was certainly raining when I picked a coffee up at Tebay and as I drove over Shap Fell. Thankfully the rain kept away and I managed to complete the survey.

 Berries and blossom on the same Rowan

Of the 120 individual birds I recorded of interest were three Song Thrushes, two Chiffchaffs, seven Willow Warblers, thirteen Swallows, three Coal Tits, 26 Goldfinches, a Bullfinch, a Goldcrest, two Reed Buntings, thirteen Mistle Thrushes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Blackcap, three Grey Wagtails, a Siskin, a Snipe and a Buzzard.

 Mistle Thrush

So, all in all 'pishing' amongst the trees was a pleasurable way to earn a buck on a dreich Friday morning! The forecast is looking reasonable at weekend, so fingers crossed for two days of birding and ringing at the Obs!

Saturday 19 August 2017

D & G

Earlier in the week I had a couple of days in Dumfries and Galloway with Gail. On the first day I was working at a couple of sites assessing tree condition and growth in a couple of newly planted woodlands, whilst Gail mooched around Dumfries spending money!

It's the third year that I have assessed these sites and for the past two years it has been dry at the first site and rained at the second site (further inland and higher), and this year it was just the same! The first site isn't far from the Criffel and a surprise on this visit were four Tree Pipits that I put up in my walk round. It does look like good habitat for Tree Pipits, and it obviously was! The only other thing of note was a flock of 30 - 40 Linnets feeding on the weed seed that is in abundance amongst the trees. I wouldn't be surprised if this flock gets larger as we get further in to autumn.

The drive to my second site usually produces some Red Kites and today I had at least three. I had a fourth one at the site, I love their call, but not a lot else because it poured down! So it was the third year running that I was walking round clipboard in hand and soaked to the skin!

A late afternoon visit to one of my favourite breweries, Sulwath in Castle Douglas, was in order before we retired to our B & B. The following morning on the way home I took Gail to one of my favourite birding spots on the Solway only a mile or two west of Gretna. Saltmarsh, mudflats, freshwater and plenty of coastal migrant habitat make this a cracking little spot. Oh, and the views across to the land of the Sassenachs and those pointed hills in the Lakes is quite special!

Out on the estuary were Curlews, Lapwings, Osytercatchers, Redshanks and four Goosanders. But it was the butterflies that were most noticeable due to the lovely sunny weather that we had. There was at least 15-20 Red Admirals, 10-15 Peacocks, perhaps five Walls, 20-25 Small Whites and just a single Large White. A number of Common Darters were about too, over some of the small pools.

Talking of invertebrates I managed to get a shout of a Hoverfly species that is almost certainly Helophilus pendulus, which is a common species but also a cracker! A handful of Siskins, Linnets, Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush and a Tree Pipit south almost wrapped up the bird sightings, except for a cracking immature Sparrowhawk with prey back at the car. A bag full of blackberries that we picked, and field mushrooms given to us by a kindly elderly gentleman, ended a lovely morning. The only downside was going home!

Sunday 13 August 2017

A Small Arrival

Conditions overnight were clear and at 11:00 pm last night I was watching the Perseid meteor shower in the garden with Gail when I suddenly realised I needed to get to bed as I was up in less than five hours! The clear conditions led Ian and I to believe that it would be a 'clear out night', and it was to a certain extent, but there was definitely a small arrival this morning.

At first light we had clear skies with a 5 mph NNW wind and it was cool, a definite nip in the air! We put the nets up in one of the Obs reedbeds and retired to our cars for a coffee. About a dozen Alba Wags went over after exiting their roost, but their numbers were dwarfed by the twelve thousand (well about that anyway) Starlings that came out of another reedbed roost.

A Little Egret went over one way and a young female Sparrowhawk shot through the other. There was even a bit of 'vis' this morning with eight Swallows, two Swifts and 25 House Martins drifting south. A couple of calling Willow Warblers that avoided the nets were new in, and it was the ringing that gave us the real feel of there being a small arrival.

We ringed 16 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 11
Whitethroat - 3
Wren - 1
Song Thrush - 1

 Reed Warbler

Yet again I'm playing catch up with work this week, and my plan is to try and clear everything by mid-late September and take the whole of October off to give the Obs a serious grilling for a month. But don't tell Gail!

Friday 11 August 2017

July'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 July. We are 444 down on where we were last year, which will take some catching up. 

Four new species were added to the species ringed for the year in the form of Song Thrush, Lesser Whitethroat, Treecreeper and Starling.

 Song Thrush

The top five ringed for the month of July and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year are listed below.

Top 5 Ringed in July

1. Sand Martin - 57
2. Swallow - 49
3. Reed Warbler - 34
4. Blackcap - 18
5. Greenfinch - 14

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Blue Tit - 91 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 90 (down from 1st)
3. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (same position)
4. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (same position)
5. Sand Martin - 66 (up from 9th)
6. Linnet - 59 (down from 5th)
7. Swallow - 51 (straight in)
8. Reed Warbler - 48 (straight in)
9. Great Tit - 41 (down from 6th)
10. Blackcap - 58 (straight in)

Sunday 6 August 2017

The Fisher Queen

A second day ringing on the bounce has been a rarity so far this Autumn at the Obs, but this morning Ian and I were back in the reedbed for the second morning in succession. At first light we were greeted with 6 oktas cloud cover and a 10 - 15 mph W wind.

Like yesterday, it was fairly quiet on the birding front. The Starlings were still late up from the other reedbed but this morning there was about 8,000; I probably missed half of them yesterday! A Little Egret overhead and a Kingfisher that zipped past and in to a mist net, was the best of the rest.

We ringed twelve birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 5
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 1
Kingfisher - 1

 Kingfisher - 1CY female

It's likely to be next weekend before I am back out on the patch again as I've a lot of work to get through this week, some of it entails site visits, so there might be something to report.

Saturday 5 August 2017

Back In The Reedbed

I had the nets up this morning by 5:30 a.m. and conditions were okay, but not perfect. I had one oktas cloud cover and the wind was 10 - 15 mph northwesterly.  However, it was good to be back in the reedbed ringing.

The view from the ringing table early this morning

Starlings are late risers I've noticed, not for them up and feeding at the crack of dawn! It's a good hour after first light before they make an appearance, rising from their reedbed roost in more or less one large wave. From where I was ringing I could see approximately 4,000 Starlings exiting another of the Obs reedbeds to the south. Swallows are just the opposite and they leave their reedbed roost in the half-light. In fact they both differ when they come in to roost as well; Starlings arrive early and Swallows late. So to sum up, Starlings go to bed early and get up late, whilst Swallows go to bed late and get up early! I know a Hairy Birder who's a bit like a Swallow!


During my ringing session of a couple of hours I didn't see anything of real note. Of course my notebook is full of details of sightings of about thirty species, as I like to record everything I see and hear, but there wasn't anything that really stood out.

I ringed 20 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 5
Great Tit - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 3
Greenfinch - 9

 Lesser Whitethroat

Where are all the Sedge Warblers? We ring twice as may Reed Warblers as Sedge Warblers these days, so something is going on.

I'm out again in the morning with Ian, so fingers crossed for a few more birds!

Friday 4 August 2017

MG6 or is it MG7?

The problem of surveying MG6 and MG7 type grassland habitats for birds, is that by their nature they tend to be in impoverished agricultural landscapes where Lolium perenne  or Perennial ryegrass dominates! And I had one such survey to complete earlier in the week.

It was a bit touch and go with the weather, but I managed to squeeze the survey in before the forecast rain arrived from the south. I was in Lancashire in a landscape of intensive grassland, with fairly heavily trimmed hedges and the odd mature hedgerow tree. Some heavy overnight rain had lead to some splashy conditions in one of the fields that attracted a few birds. Ten Mallards sailed around on the flood, and an attendant flock of 108 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 11 Common Gulls and 62 Black-headed Gulls searched for any ground invertebrates that found themselves close to the surface.

I recorded nothing out of the ordinary in this bright green, nitrogen fuelled landscape other than ten Stock Doves, four House Sparrows, 23 House Martins, a Tree Sparrow, three Swifts, a Willow Warbler and a Whitethroat. I did record other more common species of course, but nothing worth troubling you all with.

It's looking like I might actually get some ringing in over the next couple of days in one of the reedbeds at the Obs, so fingers crossed that the wind continues to decrease overnight!