Wednesday, 23 November 2022

If it wasn't for the day job...

...I wouldn't be getting out at all of late! 
 
I have never known an autumn like it, and I know I've said that before recently. I have two wintering bird survey locations, with two survey areas at each site, and depending on the tide, it might be just four days to do two surveys at each, or if the tide isn't right it might take between four and eight. What I'm getting at, is that I should have plenty of time for my voluntary birding and ringing, but I'm not. Since late September there has only been a handful of days per month when the weather has been good for anything outdoors, and on these good days I've had to complete surveys for the day job. I shouldn't complain, as at least it keeps me out in the field. 
 
Mid-month, I was back in the north-east at Teesside. There was no mist in the forecast, but it was certainly a misty morning when I completed my two surveys. Fortunately, the mist was never enough to prevent me seeing the distances required for the surveys. 
 
My first survey location is away from the coast and it was quiet here. Highlights were few and far between, and the only sightings perhaps worth mentioning were 20 Lapwings, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Kestrel, a Song Thrush, seven Fieldfares and a Tree Sparrow that headed west, which was a new species for the site for me. 
 
I've mentioned before, that from my second vantage point (VP) I can see out over the estuary, and hauled out on the mud were 25 Harbour Seals. A selection of wildfowl and waders were out on the estuary, including 42 Shelducks, 29 Wigeon, 16 Teal, 23 Red-breasted Mergansers, 40 Oystercatchers, 22 Golden Plovers, four Grey Plovers, 36 Curlews, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits and 118 Redshanks
 
Other than that, a male Stonechat and a Kestrel were the only other things worth mentioning.
 
One of the favourite places that Gail and I like to stretch our legs for a wee dander, is the quay down by the Wyre estuary. Late morning yesterday, we did just that, and it was a cold half hour spent walking along the quayside overlooking the estuary. 
 
The tide was just beginning to fall, and a few waders were starting to feed on the small areas of mud that were starting to appear. Not many, just 22 Redshanks and eleven Oystercatchers. As we rounded the corner and started heading to the mouth of the estuary it was even colder, and you can see how bleak it looks from the picture below. All we could add was a Peregrine perched up on the old ferry infrastructure. 
 

Peregrine
 
I was alarmed to read in the Conservation News section of a recent British Wildlife, that in 2021 the number of documented violations of legislation designed to reduce water pollution caused by farming in England were at record levels, as the rules remain largely unenforced. Environment groups estimate that there were tens of thousands of undocumented violations. And even more alarming was the fact that the Environment Agency had been instructed by DEFRA not to enforce the rules. Shocking!
 
I'm hoping that the weather starts to behave itself soon, so I can get out in the field other than just for the day job!

Friday, 4 November 2022

P is for...

...Pallas's Leaf Warbler, or just plain old Pallas's to some, but there isn't anything plain at all about a Pallas's. They're rare in the west, so when one turns up it causes some excitement, but not so much in the east, and they are lovely little birds, really lovely, but I'll come back to the leaf warbler in a bit. 
 
At the start of the week, I completed my second wintering bird survey on some mossland in southwest Lancs, but it was quiet. Gail joined me for this survey, and I had to treat her to some lunch in Southport later for the pleasure of her company! We set out under 7 oktas cloud cover, with a fresh south-south-easterly wind. 
 
Like last time, a number of Pinkies were flighting in from coastal overnight roost sites, to feed out on the moss, and we had over a thousand go over. A pair of Grey Partridges put in appearance once again, and raptors were still thin on the ground with just a single Kestrel. Two Ravens were an addition to the site total, and once again a survey site for work, has started taking on the feel of a 'patch'. 
 
Pink-footed Geese
 
Not as many Skylarks headed south, with just nine on this morning, but a singing Chiffchaff was another new species for the site for me. It is like a patch! No wintering thrush numbers to speak of, but Goldfinches had increased to twenty, carrying about ten Linnets, and three Yellowhammers were another addition. Nothing exciting, but still enjoyable.
 
Back to that pale green, stripey, lemony, sprite, aka a Pallas's Leaf Warbler! I'd had a late night on Wednesday, as Gail and I had been to a gig, and I think it was closer to 1:00 am before Gail and I got to bed, so when Ian phoned me yesterday morning just before 9:00 am I had only just got up. I answered the call to Ian with a "morning matey", and he said "are you are home"? When I answered yes, he said "thank f*ck for that, as I've got a Pallas's Warbler in the Mount"! I got my stuff together, and was stood with Ian in the Mount about fifteen minutes later. 
 
After about a five-minute wait, it started calling and proceeded to show well as it flitted amongst the foliage of the pines and poplars feeding away. I think Pallas's are gorgeous birds, forget about them being scarce, they are just lovely birds. I love the way they are constantly active, 'zipping' this way and that, and the muted colours of green, lemon and white, with that stripey head, just make them such a bonny bird somehow.
 
However, this constant zipping and flitting, make them hard to photograph, well for me and my camera at least, and the two shots below are record shots, to test all record shots. And if you squint hard, with a fair wind behind you, and you have just looked at some proper images of a Pallas's, you might just be able to see that the over-exposed, tiny, blurry smudge, is indeed this stonking little leaf warbler!
 


 
Far better is the short video clip below that Ian sent me, and you can see how stripey it is, and how it continually moved around! Press play and keep watching.
 

 
When it called, it was easy to see. It had two distinct calls, and I am rubbish at describing calls, but the best call was an almost two-syllable (my description) 'chew-ee', or something like that, which was quite 'soft'. The other call, was a shorter, and perhaps slightly harsher, in a Pallas's soft call context, and was a short 'pii', or a bit like that. I think the best thing to do, is go on Xeno-canto and have a listen!
 
It showed well for a good 15 - 20 minutes, and then vanished for perhaps 20 minutes, before re-appearing briefly on the other side of the pines, where it showed well again, and then disappeared. A few birders started to arrive and it was picked up again, but it was time for me to slip away.
 
Gail and I had a walk along the quay this afternoon, and had a few bits and pieces. Out on the mud were 16 Redshanks, three Black-tailed Godwits and three Oystercatchers. The creeks held eleven Teal and 26 Mallards, and two Little Egrets flew downstream towards the mouth of the estuary. 
 
Ravens are regular here now, and we had a single bird fly over croaking away at both the start and end of our walk. A female Peregrine was perched up and sheltering from the wind, and a calling Rock Pipit was one of the few passerines we encountered alongside a couple of Linnets. As we finished our walk and were just about to get in to the car, four Whooper Swans headed south-east. A nice end to a pleasant hour in the sun.