Tuesday 28 February 2023

Less Is More...

...or that's my excuse for not posting for a while, quite a while in fact, over two months actually! Who knows where the time goes, to quote folk-rockers Fairport Convention!
I have been out, but it's mainly been surveys for work, and to be quite honest I haven't recorded a great deal, so there hasn't been a great deal to say. Nevertheless, it is the longest period of time for me between blog posts. 
In early January I paid a visit to my wintering bird survey (WBS) site in the northeast, and from my vantage point (VP) I could see a few bits and pieces on the estuary. I had my best count of 37 Harbour Seals for the winter, all hauled out on the mud at low tide. Wildfowl and waders included twelve Shelducks, 89 Wigeon, three Red-breasted Mergansers, 83 Oystercatchers, 44 Grey Plovers, 62 Curlews, 297 Dunlins and 19 Redshanks
Further out towards the mouth of the estuary, I had two each of Red-throated Diver and Shag, and the Red-throats were my first for the site for the winter. The only raptor I had was a single Kestrel, and a pair of Stonechats brought some colour to a grey day. Wintering thrushes have just been ticking over at the site, and there was a slight increase this morning to four Song Thrushes, 13 Redwings and 49 Fieldfares
Stonechats (male above & female below)

I have been keeping the feeding station stocked up at our good friends Robert and Diana's farm near Garstang over the past couple of months, and when it hasn't been frosty, I have had a look on the wetland. Being a freshwater wetland of course, it freezes easily, and this pushes the wildfowl off. In mid-January there were 65 Teal, 12 Shovelers and 32 Wigeon. A week later, and the Teal numbers had increased to 160, but Wigeon had reduced to twenty. 
We've just had two ringing sessions at the feeding station so far, testament to how bad the weather has been, and in total we ringed 29 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):
Great Tit - 5 (3)
Chaffinch -7
Robin - 1 (2)
Goldfinch - 2
Tree Sparrow - 3 (1)
Greenfinch - 1
Blue Tit - 5 (6)
Coal Tit - 1 (3)
Treecreeper - (1) 
Blackbird - 1
House Sparrow - 3

I was back at my WBS site in the northeast towards the end of January, and I had a good count of 356 Shelducks out on the estuary. Other waders and wildfowl included two Red-breasted Mergansers, 12 Lapwings, 48 Curlew, a Woodcock (flushed from an area of scrub and rank grassland), 2 Wigeon, 65 Oystercatchers, six Grey Plovers, 38 Bar-tailed Godwits, 23 Dunlins and 32 Redshanks. The male and female Stonechats remained, and Fieldfare numbers had increased to 119.   

Just three days ago I had a good bird for my garden in the form of a Chiffchaff. It was the central and western European race collybita, so the race that is common in the UK, and it was flitting around the garden constantly. I am certain that it was an over-wintering bird, rather than a migrant, but a Chaffinch calling from the top of the apple tree gave it a migratory feel. 

Over the past two mornings I have had a walk along the quay alongside the Wyre estuary, to see what waders were feeding on the mud there. As the tide runs in and covers the mudflats out on the estuary, the quay is the last area to be covered, and therefore a few species drop in to feed. There were 41 Black-tailed Godwits, twenty Teal, 56 Redshanks, two Shelducks and five Oystercatchers.
Black-tailed Godwit & Teal (above & below)


Gail and I had a look at the plants that were growing along the sandstone blocks of the quay, and we recorded White Stonecrop, Common Whitlowgrass (not a grass, but a member of the cabbage family) and Biting Stonecrop. All what you would expect, but adding some colour to a cold February day. 
Common Whitlowgrass
I told you that it had been quiet. We're heading towards spring proper now, and in just under two weeks the first Sand Martins, Wheatears and Sandwich Terns will be arriving. I can't wait! 
Over on the right you will see that I have updated the rinigng totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of January. Below you will find the top 2 ringed during the month.
Top 2 Ringed in January
1. Goldfinch - 35
2. Chaffinch - 16