Sunday, 25 February 2018

Med to Moss

Blimey, what a busy week it's been, I'm looking forward to sinking a few real ales this evening! I've been doing wintering bird surveys everyday this week, and it's been a case of 'making hay whilst the sun shines', or more of a case of catching up on surveys whilst it's been bl**dy cold, but dry!

Monday saw me on a site close to some intertidal areas with adjacent 'bog standard' improved farmland. The first thing in my notebook for that day is a note saying "it's great seeing the number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls build up as they arrive from Africa in immaculate plumage". And I'm not wrong! I only had five this morning, but they looked stunning with crisp white head, neck and underparts, contrasting with sharp slate grey mantle. Beautiful!

Continuing on the Gull theme I also had three adult Med. Gulls among the Black-heads and all were adults in summer plumage! Raptors were thin on the ground with a single female Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, and two Buzzards.


There was just twelve Teal on the pond, but two Little Egrets there as well was a result of the high tide pushing the birds off the river.

Little Egret

Tuesday saw me on some agricultural moss land in the southwest of the county and it was very cold with a biting 15 - 20 mph northerly wind, and consequently birds were thin on the ground. Only just worthy of mention are eleven Linnets, three Mistle Thrushes, a female Kestrel and two Buzzards.


Wednesday I was in an area of improved grassland again and it was another cold day, although thankfully the northeasterly wind had abated a bit and made it feel more comfortable. It's interesting doing these surveys because you have to count everything you see or hear over a set period and this can sometimes lead to some interesting totals of species that you perhaps wouldn't normally count and record. An example of this was the 47 Carrion Crows I had.

On the subject of Corvids I did have a Raven heading northeast and I never tire of seeing these giant cousins of the Carrion Crow. A couple of Tree Sparrows was nice to see, but I don't want to trouble you with anything else.

On Thursday on a cold and frosty morning I was again on some agricultural moss land in west Lancs, and I had a few half decent farmland birds. There was more of those spanking Lesser Black-backed Gulls and I had 24 over the three hours I was there.

Perhaps the most impressive count I had, and of a red listed species, was 272 Linnets! Other farmland species included 24 Skylarks, 32 Lapwings, two Grey Partridges, twelve Stock Doves and a single Corn Bunting.

There was the merest trickle of vis in the form of a Grey Wagtail and two Siskins, all heading high east. I love the bugling calls of Whooper Swans and party of 17 flew over me with that haunting call, so evocative of the wild!

 Whooper Swans

A brief interlude Thursday afternoon was a calling Chiffchaff in my garden. Ian and me were sat in my sun lounge enjoying a coffee and putting the birding world to rights when we both looked up and said "Chiffie"! As soon as I opened the back door for better look and listen I caught sight of it high-tailing over the house! We could then hear it on the other side of the road calling away.

On Friday morning I was back on the same piece of moss land in the southwest of the county and it was a Thrush sort of morning. Again it was cold with clear skies and a ground frost, with that cold niggling southeasterly wind.

Most of the land in this area is managed as arable land for cereals or vegetables, but behind my watch point is a largish area of permanent grassland grazed by a herd of Belted Galloways. This field is fairly wet and has a number of wet flushes on it and it was here that a good number of Thrushes were feeding. I had 233 Fieldfares, eight Blackbirds and 17 Redwings. In the same field with the Thrushes were 367 Woodpigeons and 123 Starlings. I also recorded six Mistle Thrushes and two Song Thrushes, not in this field but on my transect walk.

A number of Gulls also fed in this wet field and I had 85 Black-headed Gulls and 78 Common Gulls. Eight Stock Doves, two Buzzards, 19 Chaffinches, 13 Skylarks, 18 Goldfinches, three Shovelers over, a Grey Wagtail, a Grey Partridge and five Lapwings were best of the rest.

I'm giving birding a rest tomorrow so I can spend some time harvesting some Willows from my garden for later planting at the Obs, and I'll also make a start on making half a dozen nest boxes or so for Pied Flycatchers to replace any dilapidated boxes at my Pied Fly nest box scheme. 

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