Sunday 30 September 2018

A Quiet Morning Ringing

At last the weather was kind enough yesterday to allow me the opportunity to do some ringing at the Obs in the reedbed and scrub. Six oktas cloud cover with a 5 - 10 mph southwesterly wind wasn't going to trouble the nets at all. Unfortunately it was clear overnight and it was very obvious at dawn that it had been a 'clear out' night! Nevertheless, I persevered and put just a couple of nets up.

I ringed eleven birds as follows:

Reed Bunting - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Robin - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Wren - 1
Greenfinch - 5


 Blue Tit

As you might expect the birding was quiet too. Three Cetti's Warblers calling away from various parts of the site with their explosive call never fails to make me smile, mainly because I still find it incredible that they are relatively common now! Two Ravens flew over giving that fantastic deep throated 'cronk' of a call. They're regular now at the Obs and I suspect they are nesting locally.

I had my first Water Rail of the autumn/winter as one called several times early on.There was very little vis, and Ian confirmed this too as he was getting little at the Point as well, and all I had was a handful of Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits and Greenfinches. Just 37 Pink-footed Geese arrived from the west and headed east, presumably to feeding areas over Wyre.

 Pink-footed Geese

The only grounded migrant I had was a Song Thrush that 'dropped in', and that was it for a fairly unremarkable morning!

The weather is looking unsettled this week for the start of October, but hopefully this will change and we can start looking forward to some continental migrants.

Saturday 22 September 2018


I headed to the Point this morning for first light and was joined by Ian. We had three oktas cloud cover and a 25 mph west-northwesterly wind. Unlike the other day when there was too much southerly, today there was too much northerly!

We didn't expect much because of the wind direction, and as such we weren't disappointed, but the morning did have some interest. One of the most interesting/unusual sightings was that of five Little Egrets heading west out to sea and flying between the wave troughs. I have said it several times on here before that being a birder of a certain generation I always delight in seeing Little Egrets, but when they are heading west out to see it is quite spectacular. Where were they going? That is a good question, but as there are so many breeding in the UK now they are probably establishing migratory patterns from breeding to wintering grounds, and I guess that these were some local/northerly breeding birds heading to their wintering area. We later had another individual drop in and feed in a tidal pool on the shore.

Little Egret

In addition to the 'Seagrets' we had moving at sea 23 Common Scoters, two Auk sp., six Sandwich Terns, ten Red-breasted Mergansers, a close in Manx Shearwater, two Kittiwakes, three male Eiders, a female Pintail, a Gannet, two Guillemots and a Razorbill

Waders as the tide ran were restricted to 223 Oystercatchers, 121 Sanderlings and two Curlews. There was even a bit of vis this morning and Meadow Pipits were heading southwest out to sea and we had about fifty. A few Pink-footed Geese came in from the north and they too headed southwest, all 85 of them.

Towards the end of our watch a female Merlin headed west at sea and a short while later she was low over the beach in front of us with a prey item, probably a Meadow Pipit, and I guess she was probably a migrant as well following the Meadow Pipits.

It was forecast to be wet tomorrow, but now that's changed and it's looking like a reasonable morning with the possibility of some decent vis. Even though I will be up very early on Monday to start a series of wintering bird surveys in Cheshire I'll be up and out in the morning. It's September and as a birder you're duty bound to be out this month!

Wednesday 19 September 2018

Too Much Southerly

I sort had this morning free so I took myself off to the Point to do some seawatching and joined Ian who said to me as I walked up to the tower, "you may as well go home mate it's awful"! Not what I wanted to here, but not surprising either as the wind was dues south without a hint of any west in it. At the Point the best direction is anywhere between southwesterly and westerly.

Funnily enough, even though I was hoping for a bit of seawatching, because the wind was fairly strong, but not very strong, and because of the southerly direction there was a bit of vis. Three Grey Wagtails and a handful of Meadow Pipits and Swallows headed south into wind.

The sea was quiet also, with the most numerous species recorded being the 86 Common Scoters that headed west and the scarcest a male Velvet Scoter that drifted slowly out and west on the falling tide. Best of the rest included a Red-throated Diver, ten Sandwich Terns (on the beach), two Auk sp., two Gannets, seven Kittiwakes, a lovely juv. Little Gull and a single Guillemot.

Interestingly two Peregrines were at sea and they seemed to be hanging round an offshore shingle island. Ian sees them regularly and it makes you wonder whether they spend a lot of time out there hunting waders and perhaps even seabirds like Auks.

Waders on the shore included 112 Sanderlings and twenty Ringed Plovers. It was interesting to note that there was only a few juv. Sanderlings amongst the flock as a result  of the catastrophic breeding season in Greenland because of summer snow cover. 

I've got work over the next couple of days, so it will be weekend before I am out again. Fingers crossed that the weather plays ball!

Sunday 16 September 2018

Wot No Birding

Life, namely work, and the weather has been getting in the way of my birding of late and it's Autumn!!! And I haven't posted since 8th September, so really all I want to do with this post is to let you know dear reader that I am still here and very frustrated!

Before I was self-employed I used to always take the last week in September and the first week in October off as annual leave and go birding every day. I can't do this now, because if I am doing a series of wintering bird surveys at a site for example, and the weather is fit to get some surveys in, then I have to do the surveys and there goes my day or days off! I'm not after a sympathy vote as there are far more worse ways to earn a crust, but I am just offering this up as an explanation for my 'radio silence'. That in its self rings a bell, and I think I have offered that as an explanation before!

I have been out in the great outdoors but my work this past week has been completing tree assessments to provide help and guidance to landowners on the successful establishment of their woodland planting. So it's all been about weeding tree tubes, removing redundant tree tubes & stakes, returning leaning trees to an upright position and other such activities associated with the successful establishment of trees and woodland! Pleasant work none the less, but it's not birding!

This coming week I have a wintering bird survey to start and I'm hoping to get some sneaky birding in for pleasure sometime mid-week. The weather hasn't been playing ball either in terms of ringing and it is some time indeed since we have had a ringing session at the Obs, and looking at the forecast it could be some time to come before we do again!

Saturday 8 September 2018

First Frost

It was cold yesterday morning when Gail and I headed to one of my survey sites in south Cumbria close to Grange-Over-sands, in fact there was a ground frost! We had clear skies with a 1 - 2 NW wind.

It was quiet amongst the trees except when a mixed Tit flock moved through with some carrier Warbler species. We recorded nine Robins, ten Blue Tits, three Willow Warblers, four Great Tits and two Chiffchaffs.

Ravens were numerous, well for Ravens anyway, and we had nine different birds fly over! A Chiffchaff sub-singing off site and a Buzzard was the best of the rest.

We decided to call at Foulshaw Moss on the way home, and I wanted to show it Gail as she has never been to this cracking reserve. If I lived a little closer it would certainly be one of my patches!

 There was a heavy dew on the Moss and lots of the spiders webs stood
out in the low morning sun (above & below)


You can only view a small proportion of this mossland reserve, which is how it should be, but the boardwalk that takes you out on to the bog is enough to make sure that you get the whole mossland experience! Three Reed Buntings were flitting about, but the most numerous finch/bunting by far was Siskin. My notebook records fourteen, but there was probably at least four times this number as often we would hear them call and not see any. And we had two Lesser Redpolls too.

A few Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtails and over demonstrated that there was some vis going on, even though the wind had picked up to a 2 - 3 NW since first light.

We had three raptor species this morning in the form of a female Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, and two Ospreys. We chatted to a local birder on the raised viewing platform and he said that the male was the male that breeds on the site, but the female was a visitor from Scotland, somewhere near Stirling to be exact based on the colour ring she had on.

Yet another Raven flew past and another lively Corvid, a Jay, flew the other way. Three Stonechats and a calling Water Rail were noteworthy, as were three Great Spotted Woodpeckers together in the top of a dead Birch tree; a juvenile plus a male and female. On our way back to the car park we flushed, it was impossible not to, twenty Teal from the pools.

 Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker

As I write it is pouring down outside and the forecast for tomorrow is for it to be just as wet! It looks like I might have to sample a few real ales this evening!

Thursday 6 September 2018

Never Dull

I started birding and getting into wildlife along time ago and I have been an avid recorder for 42 years, and so I can remember a time when certain bird species in particular were far more numerous than they are now. Even though a large number of our bird species have declined alarmingly I always enjoy being out communing with nature and it is never dull, there's always something of interest. And this week it was Tree Sparrows and Common Gulls.

I've completed a couple of plantation woodland bird surveys this week and I have my last one to do tomorrow morning. On Tuesday I was in Cumbria, northeast of Penrith, in the Eden valley and at first light it was cool with four oktas cloud cover and a light northerly wind. It was here that I noted some interesting Tree Sparrow behaviour, but before that below is a summary of my sightings.

I had 31 Tree Sparrows, three Mistle Thrushes, a Bullfinch, a Stock Dove, an immature male Sparrowhawk spooking the Tree Sparrows, a Willow Warbler, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Siskins, four Grey Wagtails, a Song Thrush, 120 Lapwings heading north, two Buzzards and twenty Goldfinches.


Back to the Tree Sparrows. At this site there is a thick hedge running alongside a track and I always record lots of calling Tree Sparrows from here. As I was walking up the track, with the hedge on my left, an immature male Sparrowhawk came flying along the track about two feet from the ground, and as soon as it saw me he shot through the hedge causing pandemonium amongst the Tree Sparrows.

About half an hour later I was surveying a wooded compartment that runs up a slope and from the top there are great views over the River Eden. As I was walking up the slope I kept on hearing Tree Sparrow calls and small groups of Tree Sparrows were leaving and heading northwest. They must have been roosting birds from the aforementioned hedge heading out to feeding areas. Interestingly they were climbing high as they headed northwest, presumably to gain height to get over the surrounding hilly countryside. I had groups of 14, 11, 4 and 2, but there was more, because some I could hear, but not see.

On Wednesday I was again in the Eden valley, but in the upper Eden near Kirkby Stephen. It was a cool morning again, very Autumnal, with just one okta cloud cover and a light northerly wind. Before I get to the Common Gulls, of interest I recorded 235 Swallows, nine Siskins, three Stock Doves, a Song Thrush, a Snipe and a Grey Wagtail.


At this site there are seven woodland compartments to survey, but some are very small. I was just heading into the third compartment block when lots of Gulls came over, about 300 to be exact, and I didn't really pay much attention other than thinking that it was a large group of Gulls in an area that I don't normally record many Gulls! They dropped into the field on the other side of the hedge and were calling excitedly to each other, and I knew straight away they were Common Gulls. I had a scan through them with my bins and all were Common Gulls, not another Gull species among them. They were a mix of adults and juveniles, with more adults than juveniles.

A short while later the Gulls came over me and headed off south. I can only think that they had arrived from the north, dropped into feed for a short while, before continuing their southwards migration. Brilliant!

I'll let you know if I see anything interesting during my survey tomorrow. Weekend is looking like a wash out on Saturday, with Sunday being a better day but sadly too breezy for any ringing. Let's hope it changes!

Monday 3 September 2018

At Least We Didn't Slip Up

It seems a long time now since weekend, particularly as I was looking forward to getting some ringing in, but the forecast Friday evening indicated that it would be too windy for any mist nets! Saturday dawned and I headed to the coastal farm fields at the Obs. It seemed quite calm at first, but the wind very quickly picked up and I could console myself with the fact that at least we hadn't slipped up!

At first light I had full cloud cover with a 10-15 mph SE wind. I headed along the track ducking every other second to avoid the Wasps that were speeding along here, it was like a motorway for Wasps! I witnessed this phenomenon last year, and can only assume it is Wasps leaving what is left of their nests and heading out to feeding areas.

I walked the fields and hedges and there wasn't any grounded migrants. I headed to the mound behind the sea wall and set my scope up. The sea was very quiet and for what it's worth all I had was 17 Cormorants, three Auk sp., five Sandwich Terns and a Teal.

Of interest from a wader perspective was a group of five Bar-tailed Godwits on the beach; obvious migrants that had dropped in for a rest.

The vis was slow as well with just three Tree Pipits, six Meadow Pipits, ten House Martins, six Alba Wags and a Grey Wagtail south.

I watched the above Grey Heron fishing in one of the tidal pools and you 
can see from the picture below that it caught a small fish before flying off.

I then headed to the cemetery to have a look there to see if there was any grounded migrants, and there wasn't. I had a bit more vis in the form of three Swallows and a Tree Pipit south.

I've got my last three woodland bird surveys to squeeze in this week starting with one in northeast Cumbria tomorrow, so I'll let you know if I record anything interesting.