Saturday 30 July 2022


I ringed a Cetti's Warbler on Wednesday (27th) morning, in fact I ringed eleven birds in total at the Nature Park, but more of that later. The Cetti's gave me a real buzz, they always do, even though we have ringed five already over the past couple of weeks. 
Cetti's Warblers were first recorded in Britain as recently as 1961, as part of a range expansion across northwest Europe. Colonisation, which began in Kent in 197273, continued to be monitored annually until 2016 by the Rare Birds Breeding Panel, which gives an indication as to how scarce a breeder they were until recently. 
In Lancashire, the first Cetti's Warbler was recorded in 1990, and in The Birds of Lancashire and North Merseyside published in 2008, its status in Lancashire is described as a vagrant from southern Britain or western Europe. How things have changed, but only recently. 
We started ringing at the Nature Park in 2005, and we caught and ringed our first Cetti's Warblers there in 2010. There was a gap until 2013, and we have ringed them annually since then. See table below. 














No. Ringed













You can see from the table, that numbers ringed, steadily increased until 2019, and they now seem to have levelled off. It will be interesting to see how many we ring this year. 
This is the first Cetti's Warbler that we ringed in 2010!
Climate change is the probable cause of the population increases and range expansion of Cetti's Warbler, following the initial colonisation of the UK. A Cetti's Warbler was recorded at Mersehead RSPB in Dumfries and Galloway in April of this year, which is unsurprising as they had reached the Solway on the Cumbrian side. A slow, climate change induced spread northwards through suitable habitat in Scotland now seems very likely. 

A few days ago, we received notification from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) that one of our Cetti's Warblers had been controlled (caught by another ringer) near York. Cetti's Warbler AKN3992 had been ringed by me on 14th November 2021 at the Nature Park, and I had aged it as a 1st calendar year bird, meaning it had been hatched that year. Ringers at Wheldrake Ings Nature Reserve near York, some 137 km east, recaptured AKN3992 as a female with a brood patch on 22nd July 2022! I suspect that when I ringed it last November, it had moved west from the York area where it had probably hatched, and was wintering in Lancashire, before returning to the York area to breed. See Google Earth image below. Cracking stuff!
'Click' to enlarge
I mentioned at the start of the post that I had ringed eleven birds on Wednesday morning, and these were as follows:

Robin - 3
Reed Warbler - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Blue Tit - 2
Goldfinch - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Blackbird - 1
Reed Warbler
As before it was very quiet birding-wise. I thought somewhere in the region of 5,000 Starlings exited the roost, but had they dropped by a thousand since my last post? I'm not sure, I think it's more a case of the accuracy of the guestimate! The only other thing worth mentioning was that I heard at least a couple of Whimbrels calling from the estuary, so I must have a wander down one morning soon.
I have just stepped indoors after spending about fifteen minutes watching 72 Swifts above our house and garden feeding on flying ants, and what a joy it was!
The flying ants fly so slowly, and I could see hundreds of them through my bins, that the Swifts were having to adapt their feeding technique accordingly, so they could catch some.
Swifts are built for speed, as their name suggests; long, pointed, swept back wings, powerful flight muscles and a narrow tail, all add up to a high speed, high performance hunter of aerial insects.
Not so tonight! They were bringing their wings forward, and fanning their tails in attempt to create more lift to enable them to fly more slowly. The flying ants were easy prey, but the Swifts were almost not slow enough. It was certainly a spectacle, and long may it remain so.

Sunday 24 July 2022

Treecreeper Number Two

Yesterday, Alice, John and I had a ringing session at the Nature Park, and we managed to ring just the second ever Treecreeper for the site. Treecreepers are scarce on the Fleetwood peninsula, and to put this in perspective, we have ringed more Kingfishers, Bearded Tits, Cetti's Warblers and Grasshopper Warblers on site, and from a Fleetwood Bird Observatory recording area perspective, we have ringed more Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Jack Snipes, Snipes, Turnstones, Swifts, Skylarks, House Martins, Yellow-browed Warblers, Stonechats, Yellow Wagtails, Tree Pipits and Mealy Redpolls, than we have Treecreepers. So, as you can see, they're scarce!  
As you can imagine then, this green-listed, resident breeder of broad-leaved woodland, caused quite a lot of excitement between the three of us! However, it was a fairly quiet ringing session otherwise, and we ringed just 15 birds as follows:
Wren - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 4
Chiffchaff - 1
Treecreeper - 1
Reed Warbler - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Robin - 1
Willow Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler
Sadly, we didn't recapture any birds, as it is the recaptures that provide us the information on survival and longevity.
The birding was equally as unspectacular, and I am only going to mention the Little Egret that flew over, because as I have mentioned umpteen times before, that they still give me a buzz being a birder of a certain age!  
I forgot to mention previously, that a couple of months ago we were notified by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), that a ringed female Pied Flycatcher that we lifted off the nest in one of our boxes in the Hodder Valley, that wasn't one of our birds, had come from Bearda in Staffordshire. She was ringed as a chick, from a brood of 6, in a nest box in some mixed broadleaved and coniferous woodland, on 8th June 2020. This is a very powerful piece of conservation data, as we know exactly where she was hatched, more or less exactly how old she is, and we now know where she is breeding, which is 86 km NNW of where she was hatched. See Google Earth image below.
(Click to enlarge)
The weather forecast is looking good for later in the week, so hopefully from Tuesday onwards I'll be out. I'll keep you posted.  

Monday 18 July 2022

Ringing and Mothing

On Saturday morning Alice and I had a ringing session at the Nature Park. We aimed to get a session in before the forecast hot weather arrived from Sunday through to Tuesday. It was actually cooler than forecast for Saturday morning, and it was overcast with a 10 - 15 mph north-westerly wind. 

As usual, whilst we were putting the nets up the Starlings were leaving their roost, and there seemed to be less this morning than earlier in the week, so I put 4,000 in my notebook. A bit of an educated guess I suppose, but it will do. 

The birding between net rounds was very quiet, and I've had to force myself just to mention the three Grey Herons that dropped on to the scrape, and the group of three Ravens that went over. It really was that quiet.

Thankfully the ringing faired a little better and we ringed 26 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 3
Whitethroat - 2
Reed Warbler - 5
Reed Bunting - 1
Blackcap - 3 (1)
Goldfinch - 3
Blue Tit - 1
Dunnock - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 4 (3)
Willow Warbler - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Wren - (1)

On that evening I ran my garden moth trap, and the following morning I had 38 moths of 15 species that I could identify:

Buff-tip - 2
Riband Wave - 1
Dark Arches - 14
Clay - 1
Gothic - 1
Bright-line Brown-eye - 3
Common Rustic - 3
Large Yellow Underwing - 1
Flame Shoulder - 1
Marbled Beauty - 3
Heart and Dart - 3
Uncertain - 2
Silver Y - 1
Small Angle Shades - 1
Grey Dagger - 1
In my garden as it was getting dark I had at least three Hedgehogs coming to my feeder. It looked like an adult and two young ones. Superb!

It's forecast to be hot today and tomorrow, but cooling off on Wednesday, so it will be mid-week before I am out again.

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Surveys - Four Different Kinds

In just about as many days, I have completed four different survey, or monitoring, types. A couple were for paid employment, and the other two, I like to class as voluntary work, but all were immensely enjoyable! 
Survey number one, was my last breeding bird survey of a block of arable land that I have been surveying all year, and it was the sixth BBS at this site. The guidelines for breeding bird surveys have changed.

Six visits is considered sufficiently robust to identify the majority of bird species using a particular habitat type in the breeding season, and establish a good understanding of the numbers and distribution of species present. Six visits is also considered to be a proportionate survey effort for all terrestrial and freshwater habitats. 

The bird breeding season is generally acknowledged to occur from late February to early August inclusive, although the majority of breeding activity occurs between March and early July.

Therefore, as a general framework, breeding bird survey visits should be spread evenly between late March and early July, in order to ensure that the surveys cover resident breeders which start breeding early, as well as migrant breeders which arrive later.

Generally, surveys of the breeding bird community should start between half an hour before sunrise and half an hour after sunrise. Surveys should typically be concluded by around mid-morning (10–11 am, with some regional variation) as activity levels (and hence detectability) of many species will have tailed off.

The guidelines state that consideration should be given to species which are active earlier or later in the morning, making sure that both are covered by the survey. Species vary in their detectability throughout the day, some may be more detectable after the main dawn chorus, and others may sing strongly shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset (e.g., Black Redstart), so survey timing may need to be tailored to suit certain potential species, or varied between visits to increase the potential to detect a full range of breeding species.

As species vary in their detectability throughout the day, at least one of the six visits should be in the evening (i.e., during the last few hours of the day, and extending beyond sunset for at least one hour), to pick up species not readily recorded by conventional surveys early in the morning. Certain species call into the dusk and after dark. These include several common species (e.g., Robin) and some which can be difficult to detect during the day (e.g., Grasshopper Warbler, Nightingale, Nightjar and several owl species). Dusk survey visits also provide a good opportunity to identify roost sites.

The survey that I completed at this arable site, was a dusk survey, and Gail and I set off under 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph north-westerly wind. As usual at this site, there were lots of Brown Hares, and we had at least ten individuals on our walk round. In some of the arable field margins we were putting up Meadow Brown butterflies, and we had somewhere between ten and fifteen.
Brown Hare
It was fairly quiet bird-wise, but a few species kept us entertained. It's always a pleasure to watch Swifts, and we had at least fifteen individuals hawking over the arable crops for insects. Also foraging over the crops, and more puzzling as to where they were coming from, were at least eight Sand Martins. At this time of year, they will be busy feeding young, so these birds would probably have been coming from a colony relatively close by, but I couldn't actually think of one. I suppose the question is, how far do Sand Martins fly to forage for insects when they are feeding young, and the answer to this question would give an idea as to how close the colony would need to be. 
There wasn't much activity on the fishing lake, but I suppose 88 Coots is noteworthy. Raptors were limited to a Buzzard and a male Sparrowhawk, and singing, territorial birds, not unexpectedly given the time of year, included just six Skylarks, a Chiffchaff, five Sedge Warblers, two Reed Warblers, a Blackcap, a Whitethroat and two Reed Buntings
Reed Bunting (male)
I haven't run my moth trap for some time now, so it was a pleasure to use it in my garden a few nights ago, and I suppose that was survey type number two. The data from my 'hit and miss' moth trapping isn't very robust at all, but moths of course are very hard to survey otherwise, so knowing what species are occurring on a site, and in what numbers is probably as good as it is going to get. 
I don't catch a huge number of moths, and also, I am not sufficiently experienced or expert enough to identify everything I catch, and I have to confess, that I don't do anything with the micros! Anyway, I trapped 17, or I should say I identified 17, moths of ten species as follows:

Large Yellow Underwing - 2
Bright-line Brown-eye - 3
Dark Arches - 4
Heart and Dart - 2
The Flame - 1
Clay - 1
Buff Ermine - 1
Marbled Beauty - 1
Common Wainscot - 1
Knot Grass - 1

At weekend I had the first ringing session of the autumn at the Nature Park, and this was survey type number three. Ringing is basically a mark and recapture method of surveying birds. You mark them, in this case ring them, and look to recapture them, or they are found, at a later date. And as I have said before, I see ringing as me 'putting something back' for bird conservation.
I arrived on site at 0445 under clear skies, and it was calm. As I was putting the nets up the Starlings were exiting their roost, and I estimated that there were at least 6,000 birds, and it was probably more. There wasn't a huge amount singing from the reedbed and scrub, just a Chiffchaff, two Cetti's Warblers, a Reed Bunting, two Blackcaps, three Sedge Warblers and three Whitethroats. 
Whilst in the net rides I could hear a Sandwich Tern calling, but couldn't see it, and it made me think about the devastation being caused at Tern colonies, and other seabird colonies, by the latest highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 outbreak. At the moment it is mainly affecting seabirds, but there have been a few cases in some species of raptor e.g., Hen Harrier, and of course there are several cases in domestic poultry units. In fact, the disease has come from domestic poultry units in the far east, and has spread to wild bird populations. Once again, humans to blame. No surprise there! As bird ringers, we have been advised to carry out various biosecurity measures, which I am rigorously following, and let's hope it doesn't spread into more species groups, but I'm not hopeful.  

I ringed 11 birds as follows:

Blackcap - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2
Blue Tit - 1
Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Blackbird - 1
Wren - 1
Cetti's Warbler
I had a look on the pools afterwards and recorded eleven Tufted Ducks, six Moorhens, 16 Coots, an adult Great Crested Grebe with one young, four Mute Swans, 22 Mallards, eight Canada Geese, 14 Little Grebes, a Shoveler and a male Pochard
Great Crested Grebe chick
Yesterday I was in Bowland for survey type number four. I was surveying all the meadows on my client's farm, 19 of them, for Curlews. The meadows are due to be cut this week, and we wanted to make sure that all the chicks had gone, and I was happy to report that they had indeed all fledged. If I had found evidence of any chicks e.g., sightings of chicks, alarm calling adults etc, then the cutting date of that particular meadow would be delayed for 2 weeks, and then checked again before being cleared to be cut. It all helps to make sure that the maximum productivity is achieved. 

Of course, when I was walking round, I made a note of anything of interest in my notebook, and I am going to just list what I recorded; six Siskins, two Tufted Ducks, two singing Sedge Warblers, three Willow Warblers, three Swifts and a singing Blackcap.
One of the meadows that I checked was on another block of land, adjacent to this farm, and it was here that I had the best two birds. First up, was a Spotted Flycatcher feeding in the empty farmhouse garden, and I always enjoy seeing a Spotted Flycatcher. The second decent bird, heard only, was in the form of several 'squeaky gate' begging calls of Long-eared Owl, emanating from suitable habitat. It sounded like that more than one bird was involved. Excellent!  

As I spent all morning walking through meadows, I recorded a good number of Meadow Brown butterflies as meadow habitat is perfect for them and I had at least 80 - 90 individuals. In fact, the only other butterflies that I saw were a Ringlet and a Large White.

So, four very different surveys, but all very much enjoyable!

Wednesday 6 July 2022


I mentioned in my last post that I would have news of some Barn Owls, and I do. A few days ago, Alice and I met Robert and Diana at their farm to ring a brood of two chicks from a box in their barn. A couple of years ago Robert fitted a camera inside the box, and it has proved invaluable to see what has been going on inside the box, and also to know exactly when to go up to the box to ring the chicks. 
Barn Owl
Two healthy chicks were ringed, and they looked to be about 25 days old based upon the development of their primaries.

At the start of the week, Gail and I headed to the Nature Park to clear the three net rides in readiness for the autumn migration season, and yes, it is now autumn in the bird world! 
Above is one of the net rides before clearing, and below
after we had cleared it
I haven't got anything much to report from a birding perspective, as we were busy with loppers and hedge trimmers, but next to net one a Garden Warbler was singing, a Cetti's Warbler was giving its explosive song from some reed-scrub, a Whitethroat was singing as well, and there seemed to be quite a few Goldfinches about. We just need some weather now to get a ringing session in. At the moment there's half a chance this Sunday, but a better chance on Monday, then again, it could easily change! I'll keep you posted. 

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringng totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of June. Seven new species for the year were ringed in June, and these were Sand Martin, House Martin, Oystercatcher, Kestrel, Barn Owl, Swallow and Curlew. 

Below you will find details of the top 3 species ringed in June, and the top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 3 Ringed in June

1. Sand Martin - 105
2. Pied Flycatcher - 24
3. Kestrel - 14

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Sand Martin - 105 (straight in)
2. Blue Tit - 86 (down from 1st)
3. Great Tit - 72 (down from 2nd)
4. Pied Flycatcher - 26 (straight in)
5. Tree Sparrow - 20 (down from 3rd)
    Chaffinch - 20 (down from 3rd)
7. Blackbird - 18 (down from 5th)
    Goldfinch - 18 (down from 5th)
9. Reed Bunting - 15 (down from 7th)
    Willow Warbler - 15 (down from 8th)