Thursday 22 June 2023


I probably have a blog post titled 'Kes' every year after I have ringed the Kestrel chicks at our friend's farm near Garstang, but that doesn't matter, as I think they are such fantastic birds, and I always appreciate the opportunity that I have to have a glimpse into their world, it is a real privilege. 

Just under a week ago, Gail and I were back at Robert and Diana's farm to check on the progress of the Kestrel chicks. If you remember, the week before, they were too small to ring and there was still one egg. On this recent visit the four young were now big enough to be ringed, and there was still one egg that won't hatch now. All four chicks were duly ringed, and you can see a picture of one of the chicks below. 
Kestrel nests (usually in a box, but I have ringed Kestrels when they have been using an old Carrion Crow's nest) are quite messy affairs, and the nest is often littered with the remains of prey items. This is usually small mammals, with the odd Common Lizard perhaps, but in this box, there was a dead Great Tit that had probably been brought in by the adult shortly before we checked the box. As Gail and I came away from the box, the female was coming in with what looked like a young Rat, so the chicks are being well provisioned. 
We moved on to the Stock Doves that are nesting in a box that we put up for Tawny Owls. Again, they were too small to ring, but today they were a perfect size. You can see a picture of one of the chicks below. 
Stock Dove
This morning Gail and I had a walk along the quay, and it was glorious in the warm sunshine. There were at least three pairs of House Sparrows foraging in the vegetation next to the path, and I assumed that they were looking for invertebrates to feed a second brood.
We heard the Swallows that nest in some of the boat wrecks alarm calling, and we turned round to see a Kestrel perched on top of one of the masts being 'buzzed' by at least six Swallows. It wasn't long before the Swallows drove the Kestrel away. 
Out on the mud six Shelducks fed, and they'll soon be on their way to their moulting grounds. Four Grey Herons were feeding along the water's edge of the river, and 94 Oystercatchers flew upstream. 
A number of jellyfish were stranded out on the mud, and the example in the picture was quite large. It was quite distant, but we thought that it was a Barrel Jellyfish
Barrel Jellyfish?
In the warm weather a few common butterflies were on the wing in the form of a Red Admiral, two Small Whites, three Meadow Browns and a Common Blue. In addition to the butterflies, were three Cinnabar Moths on the wing as well.
Common Blue
We also looked at the plants, and recorded two new species for the year, and these were Rosebay Willowherb and Common Knapweed. I think our plant list for this site is at 61 species now.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Winged Wonders

I suppose this post is really a catch-up, and it's not as if I have been sitting idle, I just don't know where the time goes these days! Apart from a few flowers, everything that I have been recording of late has been winged, whether it's wings of feathers, scales or gossamer! 

I've had my moth trap out a few times over the past few weeks in the garden, and the species that I have recorded, in no particular order, are Light Brown Apple Moth, Garden Carpet, Bee Moth, Flame Shoulder, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Marbled Coronet, Heart and Dart, Small Square-spot, Common Marbled Carpet, Turnip Moth, Cabbage Moth, Large Yellow Underwing, Dark Arches, Celypha striana, Freyer's Pug, Willow Beauty, Common Pug, Brown House Moth, Garden Grass-veneer, Square-spot Rustic, Sallow Kitten, Yellow-barred Brindle, Straw Dot, Clouded-bordered Brindle, Marbled Beauty, Riband Wave, Marbled Orchard Tortrix, Carcina quercana, White Ermine, Swallow-tailed Moth, Figure of Eighty, May Highflyer, Bright-line Brown-eye, Middle-barred Minor, Campion, Ingrailed Clay and Codling Moth.  
Swallow-tailed Moth
If you look closely at the right wing of this moth, you can see why it is called 
Figure of Eighty
The light trap attracts other beasties as well as moths, including various Crane and Caddis flies, and recently I've had Tipula lunata (a Crane Fly), Cinnamon Sedge and Grouse Wing (both caddis flies). I also had a Hawthorn Shield Bug in the trap this morning, as well as a few Welsh Chafers and a Turnip Sawfly on the Common Sorrel in my mini-meadow. 
Tipula lunata
Cinnamon Sedge
Turnip Sawfly (above & below)

Gail and I recently completed the last two checks of both our Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow boxes, and it was mixed fortunes, certainly for the Pied Flycatchers anyway. At our friend's farm near Garstang all the Tree Sparrows have fledged, which is good news. As we headed into the woodland to check on the Kestrels, Gail spotted the female/juvenile Broad-bodied Chaser below, looking resplendent in the sunshine.
Broad-bodied Chaser
The Kestrels were still on five eggs and we also noticed a Stock Dove come out of one of our Tawny Owl boxes. A quick check revealed that she was incubating two eggs. 

When we did the first of the two recent visits to our Pied Flycatcher boxes in Bowland we ringed three broods of Pied Flycatchers, two broods of seven and a brood of eight. Another female was still incubating seven eggs, and it was sad news for our fifth pair. When I climbed the ladder to the box I could smell a strong smell of decay, and in the box were six dead Pied Flycatcher chicks, and two that were barely alive. What was sad, was the fact that the female was brooding the dead chicks. I removed the dead chicks, and hoped the two very poorly chicks might make it, but I wasn't confident. 

Pied Flycatchers are polygamous, and males will often have two females. It might be that he was struggling to find food for both of his broods, or something might have happened to him. 

During the past couple of weeks, Gail and I have had a few walks along the quay on the Wyre Estuary and have recorded a few more plant species. Some of the species that we have added include Common Toadflax, Creeping Cinquefoil, Field Bindweed and Common Broomrape to name but a few. 
In preparation for the forthcoming autumn, it's nearly here, just a couple of weeks away, Gail and I headed to the reedbed and scrub to trim the net rides. We decided that we might as well put a couple of nets up to see if we could perhaps ring some early juv.'s out of the nest, but it wasn't to be, as all we caught was a recapture second calendar year Robin. Good data nevertheless!
Some warblers were in song, including two Cetti's Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat and a Sedge Warbler. We confirmed successful breeding at the site again this year for Skylark, as we observed a pair of birds carrying food in to an area of suitable habitat. If only we'd had our thermal imaging scope with us! Note to self for next time...
Just over a week ago myself and two RSPB friends and colleagues carried out the third and final breeding wader survey on my client's farm in Bowland. It looked as though most pairs had finished breeding, with the exception of Curlew, with fledged individuals of Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe, Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper. On my set of ten fields, I came across a pair of Lapwings with two small chicks, which I suspect was a second nesting attempt for a pair that probably lost their first brood at the egg stage. I had my thermal imager with me, so it was easy for me to find and ring the two chicks. 

Lapwing chicks
The habitat around the ponds and the mature hedgerows supports a healthy population of Willow Warblers at the farm, and I had at least nine singing males. A Jay was a pleasant surprise, and I was serenaded by a singing Cuckoo all the time that I was doing the survey. The best of the rest included a Barn Owl, six Swifts, a Raven, two Buzzards, three Song Thrushes and a distant Red Kite
Even though the fields are 'bone' dry, there is still plenty
of water in the scrapes and ponds, so it was great to see 
this Common Toad as I crossed one of the fields
The second of our recent visits to check on our Pied Flycatchers resulted in more bad news. As we expected, the box with six dead and two dying chicks in it, revealed that the two chicks had died. Another two boxes had dead young in. One of the boxes we had ringed the chicks in, and they had developed further and had then perished. In fact, when I looked into the box, a handful of Sexton Beetles were already carrying out their undertaker duties! The box that had seven eggs in the week before had hatched, and then died several days later, judging by the size of them. 
As I stated earlier the deaths might have been caused by the loss of one or more of the adults to predation, or the adults might have been struggling to find food. Having said that, two other broods had fledged successfully, so the parents of those two broods had obviously found enough food. It happens sadly. 

Last Sunday we were back at our friend's farm to check on the Kestrels and Stock Doves. Four of the Kestrels had hatched, but there was still one egg. Two of the Kestrels were big enough to ring, but two weren't, so we will be back this weekend to check them again and ring them. It was the same with the Stock Doves, they'd hatched, but were too small to ring. 

A couple of days ago, Gail and I had a glorious morning at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve Foulshaw Moss. I've blogged about this cracking reserve in the past, and we were hoping for a few dragons, and we weren't disappointed. 
We liked this sign that we came across on the reserve
Warblers were singing throughout our walk around the reserve and included a Chiffchaff, a Cetti's Warbler, four Willow Warblers, a Garden Warbler, a Grasshopper Warbler and two Blackcaps. The feeding station was busy with lots of juvenile Great Tits, but Chaffinch, Tree Sparrow, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Robin and Blackbird all visited. 

Out on the board walk we saw plenty of Large Red Damselflies, Common Blue Damselflies, Four-spotted Chasers, Azure Damselflies and a handful of Emperor Dragonflies and a single Black Darter. Sadly, no White-faced Darters on this visit, but we have seen them before here. Gail got fleeting glimpses of Common Lizard, and it was too hot for any Adder sightings. 
Four-spotted Chaser (above & below)


We had excellent views of Osprey, and had three in the air together, plus one on the nest. Presumably the Foulshaw pair, and another pair from a nest site nearby. To round off an excellent morning we bumped into an old friend of mine, DP, and we had a pleasant hour or so walking around the reserve with Dave reminiscing about old times, and putting the conservation world to rights!

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing up until the end of May. Four new species were ringed for the year during May, and these were Blackcap, Lapwing, Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler.

Below you will find the 'top 4 ringed for the month', and the top 8 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 4 Ringed in May

1. Blue Tit - 62
2. Great Tit - 35
3. Pied Flycatcher - 23
4. Sand Martin - 16

Top 8 Movers and Shakers

1. Blue Tit - 75 (up from 4th)
2.Goldfinch - 66 (down from 1st)
3. Great Tit - 48 (up from 4th)
4. Sand Martin - 29 (same position)
5. Chaffinch - 25 (down from 2nd)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 23 (straight in)
7. Lesser Redpoll - 17 (down from 3rd)
8. Reed Bunting - 10 (straight in)