Friday 20 September 2019

A Mid-week Ringing Session

I am up to date with all my survey work at the minute, and the weather Wednesday morning was suitable to do some ringing at the Obs with 7 oktas cloud cover and a light southerly breeze. The forecast for this coming weekend on, with perhaps the exception of Monday, doesn't look very good at all for ten days or more, so it was an opportunity not to be missed.

From first light there was quite a bit of 'Pinkie' action with Pink-footed Geese departing their roost on the river, birds arriving from roosts further east and birds arriving and heading south. I tried to distinguish what each flock was doing, but it will suffice for the Blog to say that I had 1,851 during the morning.

 Pink-footed Geese

I couldn't really say that I had any grounded migrants, other than the birds that I ringed, but two explosive calling Cetti's Warblers were, and are, always good to hear.

There was some vis but it was fairly slow and it involved Meadow Pipits, Goldfinches, Grey Wagtails, Linnets and Alba Wags, but we're only talking a handful of each.


Greenfinches are always interesting at this time of year and I always have Greenfinch on my MP3 player for ringing, particularly during October. I never really see or hear many going over, but the MP3 certainly pulls them in, and often like the individual pictured below their bills are covered in the husk of Rose hips, providing evidence of one of their major autumn food sources.


I ringed 27 birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Chaffinch - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Great Tit - 4
Linnet - 1
Robin - 3
Goldfinch - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 9
Wren - 2
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Goldcrest - (1)


After I had packed up ringing I had quick look on the pools and recorded 26 Coots, a female Shoveler and a male Pochard.

It's going to be a bright day tomorrow with quite a stiff easterly wind, so a spot of 'vis' might be the order of the morning.

Corbie Country

On Tuesday I was undertaking one of the regular surveys that I do for a client on the wetland section on one of his farms. This particular farm is in Bowland, and is very much 'Corbie country' or it certainly was this morning.

A Corbie is a local name in the north of England for the Raven. Other names include Corbie Crow (Scotland), Croupy Crow (northern England), Fiach (Ireland), Marburan (Cornwall) and Ralph!

 Distant Raven - honest!

On my walk along the 'wetland corridor', under 4 oktas cloud cover with a light northwesterly wind, I recorded seven Ravens, or perhaps I should say made seven sightings as one or two sightings could have been of the same birds. I watched one particular individual flying along, calling away, and every few seconds it would do a complete roll, and keep on repeating the process until out of sight! My gut extinct was +that it was doing this out of sheer exuberance, but I suppose it might have been displaying to a bird that I couldn't see.

It is now Friday as I write this, and as usual I am behind with the Blog, but I have just had to run outside from my office because I could hear a Raven calling! I looked up and there it was heading south and trying to shake off a Carrion Crow that was mobbing it. There were two other Carrion Crows too, but they were leaving the Raven alone. An addition to the house list, I think! I say I think because I don't actually keep a house list, and perhaps I should, but I certainly can't remember having Raven from the house before. 

I was intrigued as to how many species of birds I have recorded from my house and I have just added up and the Raven was number 65. I don't think that is too bad, although I am not sure what I am basing that on, and I am fairly certain that I have missed one or two.

Anyway, back to my 'wetland corridor' survey in Bowland. The only vis that I could detect were a few Meadow Pipits and Alba Wags heading north into the wind.

I had a few Brown Hares this morning, and it was a few, being just three. On this farm in the Spring I can easily see 20-30 over a relatively small section of it.

 Brown Hare

The wetland corridor that I survey consists of about a dozen ponds, of varying size, all forming a line through the centre of the farm. And I suppose they from the boundary between the higher unimproved area of the farm and the lower more improved section. The ponds are surrounded by different vegetation/habitat types at different successional stages, and some are relatively easy to view over and others very difficult.

Over all the wetland area I recorded four Moorhens, two Teal, 47 Mallards, three Mute Swans, a Cormorant and Little Grebe.

Best of the rest were a single Siskin over, a Chiffchaff, two Goldcrests, a Buzzard and a Roe Deer.

It was certainly a very slow morning, but a pleasure to be out as always!

Sunday 15 September 2019

Woolly Hat Weather

Over the past two days it has most certainly been woolly hat weather first thing in the morning, an indication that it is getting cooler. On Friday I was carrying out a hedgerow survey in the Wenning Valley for a client and it was woolly hat weather then, and yesterday down on the estuary at the Obs it was again woolly hat weather!

This particular farm straddles both side of a road. On the northern side of the road the farm is flat and all the land runs alongside the River Wenning. On the south side the land rises and overlooks the valley, and the picture below was taken from this vantage point when there was a mist first thing covering the land down by the river.

A misty Wenning valley

At this time of year bird activity in the hedgerows reduces, or becomes more localised at least, a quiet period between departing summer migrants and the arrival of continental migrants and winter visitors. The only warbler species I recorded were a single Blackcap, two Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff. A nice flock of 19 Linnets were flying up from feeding in a field of fodder crop to the hedge if disturbed, and four Long-tailed Tits moved from a line of Ash trees to the hedge I was surveying, before turning round and heading back to the Ash trees to join the other larger group of extended Lottie family and friends! 

During the two hours that I was surveying the hedges a number of Pink-footed Geese headed over and I had 30 NW, 85 S and 90 SW. I guessed that they were just arriving as they were very high, and were re-orientating themselves to head to feeding areas.

 Pink-footed Geese

A few butterflies were on the wing, namely Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell. I recorded a few (13) Goldfinches along one of the mature hedges. They were feeding on a stoned area surrounding a gateway and livestock drinking trough, that was vegetating over with lots of pioneering seed bearing plants. And like the Linnets above, would fly to the hedge if disturbed.

 Painted Lady


I've mentioned this before but it's been a good Autumn for berry and nut crops, and the hedges here were full of Hawthorn, Rowan & Guelder Rose berries, as well as lots of Hazel nuts! When our wintering Thrushes arrive there will be plenty of food for them!

 Guelder Rose

Yesterday I decided to have a walk down to the estuary at first light, and just like Friday is was nippy, woolly hat weather in fact, with clear skies and a cool southeasterly wind. Walking along the Hawthorn tunnel to the estuary I must have counted a dozen ticking Robins along with a good splodge of Woodpigeons and Chaffinches.

 The Hawthorn tunnel

The Hawthorn tunnel passes a reedbed and a Cetti's Warbler could be heard giving that explosive call. Just like the Little Egret, being a birder of a certain age, Cetti's Warblers still give me a thrill when I hear one. The only other warblers I heard were Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest and a Lesser Whitethroat.

Pink-footed Geese were a feature of the morning here too and various 'Pinkie' action was going on with birds leaving their estuarine roost as the sun rose and other birds arriving to bathe and feed from roosts out in Morecambe Bay. These too would depart eventually and head off south.

 Pink-footed Geese

Waders feeding on the mudflats were few and far between and all I had were two Curlews, 22 Redshanks and 47 Lapwings. Other birds on the river included three Little Egrets, two Grey Herons, 263 Black-headed Gulls and seven Shelducks

The first bird I saw on the reservoir by the river was a Kingfisher! I was just about to press the shutter on my camera and it flew off! Seven Little Grebes and 36 Tufted Ducks made it from the surface of the res into my notebook. On my walk back to my car a few Swallows, a couple of Grey Wagtails and four Skylarks headed south.

 Tufted Ducks

Talking of woolly hat weather, I've had our wood burner on a few times recently as well!

Saturday 14 September 2019

Working Out The Vis On The Eastern Solway

Earlier in the week I was birding at what has become a semi-regular local patch for me on the Solway near Rigg, in Dumfries and Galloway. As I have hinted at previously, I hope that in the not too distant future it will become a more regular local patch! It's always interesting, even exciting, finding new local patches and trying to work out the dynamics of the site. A point in question is the 'vis' at this site.

 The Solway

There was a bit of vis on this morning, the majority of it heading east/southeast. Birds seemed reluctant to cross the Solway, and I wondered if this is always the case, or is it bit like Morecambe Bay at the Obs and is weather dependent. On clear days birds will head south from Walney, completely missing landfall at the the southern mouth of the Bay where the Obs is, as we pick birds up at sea heading south. On less clear days, perhaps the majority of days when birds are on the move, we record birds heading east or west, in essence heading in and out of the Bay. The Solway is of course a large bay too, and maybe the majority of birds head in and out here as well. Hopefully time will tell!

I had four oktas cloud cover, with a light westerly wind when I parked my car overlooking the Solway near Rigg. I like to set my scope up first and have a look at the birds feeding on the shore, or drifting in and out on the tide. A number of Snipe were on the shore and I counted 25. I'm used to seeing Snipe flying away from me at the Obs as I put them up from one of the wetlands, so it was a pleasure to watch them feeding away.

The most numerous wader species was Lapwing and I counted 237 in total. Other wader species included two Curlews, four Oystercatchers, 126 Redshanks, five Greenshanks, two Golden Plovers, two Curlew Sandpipers and 51 Dunlin.

Returning to the vis I had a few bits and pieces, moving mainly easterly as I stated above. Species on the move were two Grey Wagtails, 21 Meadow Pipits, eight Skylarks, four Swallows and a Tree Pipit.

There was a number of butterflies about either feeding from flowers on the edge of the merse, or on flowers on the merse itself. I counted three Red Admirals, seven Painted Lady's, a Green-veined White and two Small Tortoiseshells. Looking at these figures I can see that I didn't count everything, I was probably just enjoying watching them too much!

 Painted Lady

After a quick call to a local supermarket to purchase some Orkney Brewery ales it was time to cross back over the border.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Which Morning?

On Friday evening I was faced with a dilemma as to which morning over the weekend to do some ringing at the Obs, as the forecast was reasonable for both Saturday and Sunday. In terms of wind strength and direction, it was marginally better for Sunday with a forecast 5 mph southeasterly wind, and for Saturday morning a 9 mph northerly! Normally I would have gone for Sunday, but Saturday morning would be the first morning for several days when it would be fit for some vis, and maybe the vis dam would burst!

I was at the Obs early Saturday morning unlocking and then locking the three gates that give us access to the ringing area in one of the reedbeds and Willow scrub. I was there a tad early, as I had to use my head torch to see to unlock the gates and to find the guy ropes to put up the nets! The day dawned with three oktas cloud cover and a 10 mph northerly wind.

A few Alba Wags went over heading north, rather surprisingly, until I realised that they were probably dispersing from an overnight roost at a chemical plant to the south of the site. I didn't hear any Swallows exiting their reedbed roost alongside one of the pools, probably as a result of the poor weather during the week breaking up the roost and preventing any further movement. The Starlings exited their roost in their customary late fashion, considerably later than sunrise, and they numbered at least 6,000.

There was some vis, but it didn't really start until a couple hours after first light, when it had warmed up. As it's early September the passage wasn't heavy, and as I was situated between the coast and the estuary the vis isn't always as obvious here. I had no more than a hundred Meadow Pipits head south and 46 Pink-footed Geese (my first of the Autumn), with a handful of House Martins, Linnets, Grey Wagtails, Skylarks and Swallows.

Grounded migrants were thin on the ground, and with the exception of a single Goldcrest, are probably reflected in what I ringed. I ringed sixteen birds (no recaptures) as follows:

Blue Tit - 2
Blackcap - 3
Linnet - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Reed Warbler - 2
Robin - 2
Wren - 2
Chiffchaff - 1
Blackbird - 1



Not much else made it in to my notebook 27 Coots, four Little Grebes, seven Tufted Ducks, two male Pochards and a Cetti's Warbler.

I'll hopefully be birding on the Solway in Scotland on Tuesday after one of my surveys in north Cumbria. So I'll let you know if I do.

Wednesday 4 September 2019

Minor Changes

I've made a few minor changes to my Blog description, and also to the introduction to my profile, to reflect more the area that I now spend my time immersed in Natural History. I tend to be spending less of my time recording and observing wildlife in the Fylde area of Lancashire, but more of my time in Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway. Partly because of my work, but partly because I like those areas. In fact either or will hopefully become home in the not too distant future.

A week ago now I was at one of my survey sites in the North Pennines, in the upper Eden Valley in fact, on a glorious sunny day with a light south-southwesterly wind. It is quite a bleak site in it's position in the landscape, and whenever I view it in my mind's eye it always seems cold and overcast. But today was one of those days that proves it can be a beautiful spot when the sun shines!

As I drove along the farm track to the plantation woodland (seven compartments here) I had to move some very stubborn sheep from the track. I was about to say that they had obviously roosted on the track (bird parlance) overnight, but what I do mean is that they had obviously slept on the track overnight. They weren't for moving, not even when sounding my horn or revving  the engine; I had to get out and 'encourage' them out of the way. 

Driving to where I park my car I had a first record for the site in the form of a female Wheatear. Nothing unusual, but even common species can be patch megas, and that's the beauty of getting to know a site intimately. 

Willow Warblers were yet again a feature of the morning, as they have been during all of my surveys recently, and I recorded a respectable 16 birds. Other warbler species included four Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff. I always record a few Song Thrushes at this site and this morning was no exception with four making it in to my notebook. The best of the rest included four Grey Wagtails, 13 Lesser Redpolls (including a juv.), three Meadow Pipits south (my first on vis for the Autumn), 42 Goldfinches, 33 Swallows, two Siskins, a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk.

On Monday I had another survey not too far from Kendal. Gail accompanied me this time with the promise of a walk on Foulshaw Moss, and breakfast with retail therapy at Low Sizergh Barn Farm Shop & Cafe; I think it was the latter that encouraged her out of bed before first light!

 Rowans looking like Christmas trees with a heavy load of berries and a 
silvery dew on their leaves

This is one of the few sites where I regularly record Bullfinches, and we had two this morning. Other bits and pieces included a male Sparrowhawk that flew very low over our heads, four (more) Willow Warblers and a Song Thrush; a fairly quiet one.

We then headed to one of our favourite sites, Foulshaw Moss, before a breakfast barm beckoned! We spent about an hour and a half on the Moss dodging the showers that were driving in. In Cumbrian terms Foulshaw Moss is a popular place with visitors and it is a site that Cumbria Willdlife Trust try and sign up members at. I like going there because it is a wonderful place for wildlife and compared to the reserves I'm used to in Lancashire, it is quiet!

There are two feeding stations in operation at Foulshaw Moss and this morning they were busy as always. Numbers of Blue and Great Tits were visiting constantly, as were about 20 Tree Sparrows, 20+ Goldfinches, a few Greenfinches, the odd Reed Bunting and a few Chaffinches. Apologies for the not very accurate or scientific counts, but it really is hard to tell how many birds visit feeders, unless you are catching and ringing them of course.

 One of the feeding stations

A Tree Sparrow on a feeder at the other feeding station

A few Chiffies and Willow Warblers hung on, and we had a few Tree Pipits over heading south before the rain showers came in. Probably the best bird of the morning was a juv/female type Marsh Harrier that was putting all the wildfowl up as it quartered the moss.

I've mentioned before the local amenity woodland that I walk to and around to stretch my legs when I am in the office all day, well yesterday I had another mega on one of the ponds in the form of a Cormorant! Again, like the Great Crested Grebe I had recently, not a scarce bird at all, but the first that I have recorded at the site, so a little bit of patch magic!

The weather has been appalling of late, but there is a window of opportunity tomorrow morning for me to get a survey in under the shadow of the mighty Blencathra in the north Lakes, and fingers crossed some ringing on Sunday!