Saturday 29 December 2018

Early Songsters

As soon as I get to the Solstice I get excited as it is the start of the new year, and the 25th has a special significance as it is the first day when you can actually detect lengthening day light, as there is a minute more of the stufft! Not much I know, but at least it is heading in the right direction.

It even seems to me that our avian songsters detect this lengthening in the day and more and more species start to sing. Whilst out and about this past week I've had, in no particular order, singing Song Thrush, Great Tit, Wren, Robin (Robins do sing throughout the winter though), Dunnock and drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. It certainly lifts the heart, even though I know we have a couple of tough winter months ahead of us.

Just before Christmas, on Christmas Eve in fact, Gail and I had a walk down to the estuary and it didn't turn out to be the successful birding walk we planned, as Gail took a tumble crossing a particular muddy bit near the saltmarsh and hurt her hand. Nothing broken, just a bad sprain, but she wasn't overly enthusiastic about the rest of our walk, not just because of being in some pain, but she was covered from head to foot in mud!

 The view across to the Lakes at the mouth of the estuary (above) and 
Bowland to the east (below)

Before her tumble we had quite a few Blackbirds, fifteen to be exact, walking through the Hawthorns. Winter Thrushes have been scarce of late, so it was nice to record so many Blackbirds. As we approached the saltmarsh a Water Rail called from the reedbed and 129 Pink-footed Geese came from the coast and headed inland over the river. It was just about at this point when Gail went bog snorkling!

 High flying 'Pinkies'

Bravely she soldiered on, but she wasn't enjoying scanning and counting the wildfowl on the river, so three hundred each of Wigeon and Teal had to do, but there was a lot more. I managed to enter 80 Redshanks and 200 Lapwings in my notebook, before I decided Gail had suffered enough and we headed home. A quick detour past a regular Waxwing spot in recent winters revealed zero Waxwings, but I will be keeping an eye out over the rest of the winter.

It's funny that I mention a lack of Winter Thrushes as a few days later whilst surveying in Cheshire I did have a few Fieldfares and Redwings, but only 17 and 10 of each respectively. Three Buzzards made there presence felt calling away, as did a couple of noisy Jays. Jays always seem excitable, and give the impression that they are permanently cross about something. I've ringed a few Jays in my time and in the hand they are just as excitable!


I know I've said before, but the habitat at this particular survey site is intensive farmland consisting of maize stubbles, rye grass desert and hedges flailed within an inch of their life, so it was nice to record 48 Meadow Pipits in a wet bit of maize stubble, and Grey Wagtail and Raven are always a bonus.

The weather is looking settled for a few more days, so I'll try my best to get out in the morning and northwest Cumbria beckons for some survey work on New Year's Eve.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Here's A Blog Post For Ya!

Yesterday on the Solstice I had a bird survey to do fairly close to home. I was a little concerned about the weather as it forecast light rain throughout the morning, but I took the chance that it would be light enough for me to complete my survey without any issues. Sure enough at first light, not very early at this time of the year, I had full cloud cover, the forecast light rain and a light easterly breeze.

To the north of my vantage point I could see flock after flock, though not large flocks, of Pink-footed Geese heading east from their overnight roost on the river. In total I had 972 head east with some of them treating me to an overhead flypast. I can't think of a more evocative call than that of the 'Pinkie' and other wild geese, as their call immediately brings to mind the wild places that they inhabit.

Pink-footed Geese

I've had some decent counts of Lapwings from this site, although the Lapwings haven't been using the site, when local birds have been flushed from their feeding areas. A couple of flocks have numbered over a thousand birds, but today it was a mere three hundred. 

 A handful of Lapwings 

One of the seasonal cards we received from a good friend in York had a picture of Long-tailed Tits on the front as it is her favourite bird, and I must admit I never tire of watching them. A favourite nature writer of mine, Jim Crumley, in his book 'A High and Lonely Place' said about Long-tailed Tits..."the place bristled with Robin song, although it was only January, and flocks of Long-tailed Tits rolled through the twiggy crowns of fieldside trees like squeaky airborne puffballs. There is no aerobatic feat beyond them, no pose too precarious, no impossible demands of landing and take-off". Marvellous! Oh, and I had nine of these squeaky airborne puffballs this morning!

 A squeaky airborne puffball!

Round here winter Thrushes are a bit thin on the ground at the moment, so it was nice to record a Redwing, and as always it was a delight to encounter three Song Thrushes. Anecdotally, and without looking up figures from the BTO, I think Song Thrushes are having a slow up-turn in fortune. The same can't be said for their larger cousin the Mistle Thrush, of which I only had one this morning, that has disappeared from a number of sites I used to regularly record them at. 

Other bits and pieces that I had were 24 Chaffinches, a Greenfinch, a Reed Bunting, a Grey Wagtail, 43 Goldfinches, a Jay and thirteen Meadow Pipits

It's going to be very wet tomorrow morning, so it will be next week before I am out again. High pressure is nudging in on the 24th and it looks set fair for the week. At last!

Friday 21 December 2018

Solstice Greetings

Wow, I can't quite believe it has been two weeks since I posted anything! No excuses, I've just been busy, busy, busy! The weather is bucking up next week, and as such the only day I won't be working is the 25th. When the sun shines the bird surveyor has work to do!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to send you Solstice Greetings, and however you celebrate the mid-Winter, I hope you enjoy the festivities!

Woodland is a brilliant place to visit on the Solstice, to think about the old
year and contemplate the new.

Friday 7 December 2018

It's becoming a habit...

...this only getting out birding a couple of times per week! The weather has been so appalling of late that I haven't bothered going out. I could go through the motions and go out for the sake of it, but luckily I can get my birding 'fix' through work!

In fact sometimes you have to complete surveys in weather that you wouldn't go out birding in for pleasure, and a week ago this was the case. I have a survey site close to home and there are a mix of habitats including grassland, broad-leaved woodland, hedgerows and water courses.

My notes state that on the day I had four oktas cloud cover with a 5-6 SW wind and frequent heavy showers; eek! Luckily on site there was somewhere I could shelter to carry out my Vantage Point (VP) observations. Surprisingly I did have a few bits and pieces despite the weather and they included a male Sparrowhawk, two Little Egrets, two Grey Wagtails, 59 Goldfinches, two Redwings, two Coal Tits, seven Long-tailed Tits, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, three Song Thrushes, 900 Lapwings, a Buzzard and 24 Chaffinches. Not bad considering the weather!

I was back at the site earlier this week on a clear, calm frosty morning and to be honest with you I didn't have as many birds! My totals included four Song Thrushes, 324 Pink-footed Geese, three Stock Doves, two Mistle Thrushes, a Little Egret, a Brambling, 37 Rooks, 1100 Lapwings, a Grey Wagtail, two Skylarks, 19 Goldfinches and two noisy Jays.

The photo below is of the sunrise at the site on that frosty morning. The weather is looking a bit grim for this weekend, although Sunday is a possibility!