Saturday, 17 April 2021

Marsh Harrier Saves The Day.....Just!

On Thursday morning at 0820, I sent a text to Ian from my Humber Estuary survey site, saying, "it's feckin' cold in this sh*te, birdless, northerly". And it was, both cold and birdless! It was a beautiful day, with clear skies and a moderate north-northwesterly wind. It was the NNW wind that was the problem.
My VP location
As soon as I got out of my car on site, I could hear a Blackcap and two Chiffchaffs singing, but that would be it in terms of grounded migrants. Visible migration was similarly nearly non-existent with just three Woodpigeons, a Tree Sparrow (first site record), three Goldfinches and seven Linnets north. 
Two Buzzards and a Kestrel were present on site, and the Marsh Harrier in my blog title made an appearance heading southwest. I am guessing that this cracking male bird had come 'in-off' and was heading inland to a breeding area. 
In the field north of my survey site 31 Curlews were roosting over the high tide period, and a group of 32 Black-tailed Godwits, looking superb in their brick-red summer plumage, headed along the shore. 
The site holds a number of breeding species, and over the coming weeks I expect to record a variety of warblers, but this morning the dawn chorus songsters included Great Tit, Skylarks (four singing), Wren, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting.
I've got a ringing session in the morning, so I'll let you know how I get on with that.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Holly Blue

I returned from my walk just before lunchtime today, and as I looked out on to the garden, a small butterfly caught my eye, and then it was in the bird bath! It managed to get itself out, and on to the side of the bird bath, by the time I had ran out in to the garden to rescue it. 

It was a beautiful Holly Blue, and after a few minutes warming up and drying off on my hand, it flew off none the worse for its experience.

If it wasn't for small green birds......

 ......Alice and I would have had an even more miserable ringing session than we did on Saturday morning at our Hodder Valley ringing site! It was cold again, minus 4 Celsius in fact, to start, with clear skies and a light northerly breeze.
The usual songsters were singing in the crisp air, with two Song Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, a Robin, a Chaffinch, a Wren and a Coal Tit, all proclaiming their territories immediately surrounding our ringing station. Other species making their presence known by vocalisations, were a calling Mistle Thrush, two noisy Jays, a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a calling Tawny Owl

As I mentioned before, it was crystal clear this morning, and it was very difficult to detect much vis. Vis is difficult to detect at the best of times at this site, so when you add clear conditions right up in to the stratosphere, it becomes even more difficult. We registered the calls of perhaps 10 - 20 Siskins, but didn't see any of them! That's not quite true, because amongst the poor catch of four birds, we did see two (recaptures in brackets):
Robin - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Siskin - 2
Wren - (1)
Male Siskin
I've got some local site visits this week, and a trip over to the east coast as well, so as always, I'll keep you posted as to what I see. 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Barely Double Figures

I completed the final wintering bird survey at my site in northwest Lancs with a bit of freshwater marsh yesterday, and just for a change (note the sarcasm), the wind was from the north, well, northwest to be precise. And following the pattern of this spring, it was cold! 

There was some vis this morning, and I recorded my first Tree Pipit of the spring, but it barely reached double figures. I recorded (all moving between northwest and east) two Goldfinches, the aforementioned Tree Pipit (too high to see, just a couple of calls), seven Swallows, seven Meadow Pipits, a Linnet, a Siskin and a Chaffinch.

As you would expect wildfowl numbers had reduced, and on the marsh were five Teals, with a Little Egret for company. Just three raptors this morning; two Buzzards and a Kestrel. I didn't have any grounded migrants, but a singing Goldcrest and Chiffchaff from the strip of woodland along the burn could have been fresh in.
For some reason this Greylag Goose found the winter wheat interesting, and
dropped in mid-morning!
I'll report tomorrow on a quiet ringing session, yet again, that Alice and I had this morning.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Back To Winter

As I am completing the final visits at two wintering bird survey sites, I suppose it's apt that the weather has reverted back to winter. There's been snow up and down the country, and some quite substantial falls in northern Scotland. Even in coastal Lancashire, there has been a few flurries, not what you have in mind for April! 

The wintery weather over the past week or so, with cold northerly winds, has slowed migration down to a trickle. It feels like it will be one of those springs where migrants slowly find their way back to their breeding grounds, without any of the excitement of decent movements on the coast. Having said that, it is still relatively early, and I'm sure there will be a few good days. 

This morning wasn't a good day, and it was very, very quiet over the four and a half hours I spent in the field in coastal northwest Lancs. I'll cut to the chase, I had five summer migrants of two species, two Chiffchaffs and three Swallows. And as I sit here looking in my notebook for inspiration, I am struggling to report anything else of interest. I could mention a single Great Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Teal and Lapwings, a handful of Goldfinches, Linnets and Meadow Pipits over, and that would be it! Perhaps best to move on.
Over on the right, you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of March. Nine new species for the year were ringed during the month, and these were Jay, Meadow Pipit, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Treecreeper, Greenfinch, Wren, Chiffchaff and Blackcap.
Below you will find a list of the top three ringed during March, and the top six 'movers and shakers' for the year.
Top 3 Ringed in March
1. Chaffinch - 23
2. Blue Tit - 15
3. Coal Tit - 11
Top 6 Movers and Shakers for the Year
1. Linnet - 60 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 46 (same position)
3. Chaffinch - 43 (up from 4th)
4. Great Tit - 27 (down from 3rd)
5. Coal Tit - 24 (same position)
6. Goldfinch - 14 (straight in)  

Monday, 5 April 2021

Cold And Quiet

This will be a short Blog post.
Alice and I attempted a ringing session at our site in the Hodder Valley in Bowland, and it was cold and quiet. The wind was a sharp north-easterly, with relatively clear skies. In the arboretum it felt quiet, and that was because it was quiet, and there were very few birds around. 
We ringed five birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:
Robin - 2
Goldcrest - 1 (1)
Wren - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 1 
Lesser Redpoll
It's hard to come up with any birding highlights, but if pushed I would say that we had a singing Mistle and Song Thrush, four Siskins, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a male Sparrowhawk and two Long-tailed Tits

It's remaining northerly, or thereabouts, and cold for the remainder of the week. Later in the week I have two bird surveys to get in, so it will be interesting to see what I record, or perhaps more to the point, not record! I'll let you know.

Friday, 2 April 2021

When the north wind blows...

...the migration slows. Well, not quite, as it is Spring, and even when the wind does turn northerly as it has done over these past few days, and is forecast to stay the same over the next few days, a few birds still battle through. And this morning was a classic example. Nothing rare, no large numbers, but a few birds in unsuitable conditions.

It wasn't an unpleasant morning, although I did have to scrape ice off my car windscreen first thing, and I had clear blue skies with a cold, light north-easterly wind. As soon as I stepped out of my front door, I had nine Meadow Pipits heading north, an indication of the kind of morning it would be. It is often the case when we have a high pressure system sat over us and winds are from the north, that you get a little rush of migration for an hour or so and then it dries up.
I headed to the Nature Park at the Obs where the pools are located, as I wanted to check what the water levels were like, and to see whether I could get in yet to do some ringing. To give you a clue as to what the water levels were like, two Coots swam over where I usually park my car, so I think that sums it up!
It was some singing birds that first made it into my notebook, and a Song Thrush was singing loud and clear, and repeating its lines, and an 'explosive' Cetti's Warbler sang from just the other side of the wall. I recorded five singing Cetti's Warblers from around the site, although it isn't always easy to be certain how many there are, as they do move around a fair bit. 
On the bridge across the artificial pool, there were three bird photographers stationed along it, and when I left, I could see six of them. I still don't understand bird photographers, and I'm being cautious in labelling these folk as bird photographers, because I take photographs of birds myself, so does that make me a bird photographer? I think what I should say is that I don't understand 'some' or 'all' bird photographers. They all had lenses on their cameras, bigger than my telescope, and they were taking pictures of some exceedingly tame and close Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebes
I watched one guy walk on to the bridge and straight past a singing Cetti's Warbler, and he didn't even flinch! And, as you know, these birds have a very loud, explosive song as I am fond of saying. Now, it might be that he was super cool, and he had logged the Cetti's in his brain, but I doubt it. As I walked past them there were Meadow Pipits and Linnets flying over calling, a migration spectacle, and not one of them looked skywards. Mind you, they probably couldn't hear anything above the noise of all those shutters continually going off on their cameras. A beautiful male Stonechat was singing its heart out, just at the end of the bridge, I could hear it as soon as I stepped on to the bridge, but there was no response from the photographers! I didn't even see a pair of bins on any of them. Like I said before, I don't understand 'some' bird photographers! Mind you, I don't understand some birders either, but that's another story. 
The singing male Stonechat. The bird photographers with their big lenses
could have got a far better shot than me, if only they knew it was there!
On all of the pools combined I counted three Little Grebes, six Mallards, 15 Coot, 40 Tufted Ducks, two Canada Geese, two Great Crested Grebes, two Shelducks, two Mute Swans, two male Shovelers, three Greylag Geese and a Snipe.
Tufted Duck
As I hinted at before, there was a bit of vis this morning, and I stood for a while in the shelter of one of the stone walls and recorded (all north) a Sand Martin, 110 Meadow Pipits, four Woodpigeons, eleven Linnets and two Siskins
I detected a few grounded migrants this morning in the form of two male Wheatears, two Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a male Blackcap. The male Blackcap flitted through some Bramble that I was stood close to, counting the vis. 
Driving off the site a female Sparrowhawk flew across the road, and I headed to the cemetery for a quick look. As expected, it was quiet. The vis had slowed down, and the only grounded migrants were two Coal Tits. I could see and hear them calling excitedly from the top of a pine tree, and they suddenly launched themselves into the air, and started flying round in circles gaining height. I was waiting for them to head off north or east, when they changed their minds and dropped back down to the trees! Perhaps they weren't ready to go just yet.  
One of the two Robins singing in the cemetery this morning
As I said before, it's remaining northerly for a few days yet, but I'll keep plugging away because it's spring, and unlike autumn, migrants still come through even when the conditions aren't perfect.