Sunday 24 September 2023


I think I finished my last blog post on a positive note about birding in the rain, and how the conditions looked good to drop in a migrant or two. I did go to the cemetery in the rain the following morning, as it was raining on a south-easterly wind, and the rain had come in later in the night, so I was hopeful. However, I did not record a single migrant. If it wasn't for the fact that I like to do complete lists of everything I see or hear, so I can enter a 'complete list' of my sightings on the BTO's BirdTrack, I wouldn't  have entered anything in my notebook! The only thing I will mention is that I had a Grey Wagtail over, south. Rain will feature again in this post.

Just over a week ago, I ran my moth trap for one of my sporadic moth trapping sessions, and I caught nineteen moths of nine species; eight Large Yellow Underwings, a Setaceous Hebrew Character, a Light Brown Apple Moth, three Common Marbled Carpets, a beautiful Burnished Brass (see picture below), two Lesser Yellow Underwings, a Snout (it does what it says on the tin), a Spruce Carpet and a Square-spot Rustic. I also caught a Cinnamon Sedge, which is a species of caddisfly. 
Burnished Brass
On the subject of invertebrates, I had a couple of walks along the Quay during the past week. And on my first walk, I photographed a hoverfly species. I see them often, and they are very common. I have narrowed it down to either Syrphus ribesii or Syrphus vitripennis, I think! If it is indeed one of those two species, to separate them you need to see the colour of the hind femur (top part of leg)! And I didn't. The only other inverts that I had were a couple of Red Admirals and several Common Drone Flies. 
Syrphus ribesii/vitripennis
The Wyre estuary alongside the quay
Two Little Egrets were feeding out on the mud of the estuary, and a female Teal was floating in the Quay on the incoming tide. As the tide continued to run in, it pushed more waders on to areas that were uncovered, and I had 80 Redshanks, fifteen Oystercatchers, with a further 79 heading downstream, and two Black-tailed Godwits
Little Egret

A few days later, I was back at the Quay and dodging the rain showers. I was on site at a similar time, just after lunch, and the tide was well on its way once again. Redshanks were feeding along the water's edge, before being pushed off onto roosting areas, and I had 349 of them. Just six Oystercatchers this time, with 20 heading downstream, and 25 Turnstones with some of the roosting Redshanks was noteworthy. 
Redshanks just holding on as the tide runs in
Yesterday I had a ringing session at the Nature Park with a good old friend of mine, Graeme, and I think the last time I was out ringing with Graeme was in 1996, when he was a member of our ringing group, and before he moved to East Sussex. So, we had 27 years of catching up to do!

Yesterday morning was the only weather window that we had to do some ringing, so under 6 oktas cloud cover, with a marginal 2 - 3 NW wind, we put a few nets up. I think Graeme must have brought some luck with him, as we managed to ring 32 birds, which isn't half-bad for this site of late:

Robin - 3
Grey Wagtail - 2
Blue Tit - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Great Tit - 2
Blackcap - 1
Greenfinch - 14
Dunnock - 1
Chiffchaff - 6

Between putting the birding/ringing world to rights, ringing, and processing the birds, we did try and monitor anything that was moving. I suppose the best migrants that we had were three Redwings that dropped out of the sky when some rain came in. In fact, they might be my earliest ever, but I'll need to check. As the wind was a north-westerly direction, this was bringing the Pink-footed Geese in, and we had at least 465 go over, most of them very high. It was probably the same conditions that brought and dropped the Redwings, and because of this they were very probably Icelandic birds. The rain played its part again, and we had to close the nets for a short while until the rain cleared. 
Besides the Pinkies, there wasn't a great deal of vis, just a handful of Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtails and Woodpigeons. Two 'cronking' Ravens, two singing Cetti's Warblers, four Snipe and a Kestrel, were the best of the rest. 
The forecast isn't looking great for next week, but as ever I will make the effort to get out.
It was interesting, and alarming, to read in August's British Wildlife, that the brilliant columnist for the 'Conservation News' section, Sue Everett, shares my utter concern that tipping points in climate change are being made. Any Naturalist of a certain age, who has kept detailed notes throughout this period, will have seen the plethora of bird and invertebrate populations disappearing from the pages of their notebooks.
Sue writes, will 2023 be the year when humanity finally realises the dangers of climate change to the continued existence of our species? My concern isn't for humanity, but more for the amount of mass extinction that we will cause for species across the planet on our one-way ticket to oblivion. She goes on to say that the fear, supported by evidence, is that tipping points are being reached, beyond which there is no return without effective carbon caption and storage coupled with halting the use of fossil fuels.
Global temperature has reached a level not experienced for 125,000 years, and there is a 98% likelihood (Sue is more optimistic than me) that the Paris Agreement of 1.5 degrees C will be breached within the next five years. I give it a 100% likelihood! 
Already in 2023, temperature records have been smashed; June was the warmest June globally since modern record-keeping began in 1880. The five hottest Junes have all occurred since 2019, and this year, in July, the world experienced its hottest day ever recorded. Also in July, Europe recorded its highest ever temperature, 48.2 degrees C in Sardinia. Extreme marine heatwaves are being experienced in the North Atlantic Ocean, and global average sea-surface temperatures reached unprecedented levels in June and July, with 38.3 degrees C recorded in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Keys, and this may break the record for the highest global sea temperature.
You've only got to look at the number of Southern Ocean bird species that are turning up in UK waters in the last few years. And the numbers of Great and Cory's Shearwaters off the southwest coast of England this summer were unprecedented. In this same area, record sea temperatures were experienced, 3 - 4 degrees C higher than normal for June. Rising sea temperatures will inevitably precipitate huge changes in ocean chemistry and marine ecosystems, as well as in patterns of oceanic circulation. And the large numbers of these 'big Shears' will have been as a result of this.
On that happy note.................  

Thursday 14 September 2023

Big Skies

Gail and I started a wintering bird survey off last week, on the mossland south of the Ribble marshes. We had six oktas cloud cover, with a light easterly wind. We did an hour's VP, followed by an hours transect (an opportunity to stretch our legs) and then another hour's VP. Our survey site is within an area of farmland used for growing vegetables, so it is flat with big skies, and the fields are bounded by ditches, rather than hedgerows.

The two most numerous species that we recorded were the 425 Canada Geese and 225 Woodpigeons. In addition to the Woodpigeons, we had eight Stock Doves and 21 Collared Doves. As our survey was from first light, most of these birds were heading from roost sites to foraging areas. There was some vis, but it was light, just nine Swallows, 14 Meadow Pipits, three Goldfinches and four Linnets

Next to where our VP is located, is a field that has been tilled and recently sown, and 78 Alba Wagtails were feeding in this field, before moving off east about an hour after first light. We had three species of raptor during the survey; a Buzzard that was feeding on a prey item on top of a fence post (Grey Squirrel or a Rabbit), a Kestrel and a gorgeous Hobby that belted low, northeast. 
Last weekend we had a ringing session at the Nature Park. Whilst putting the nets up under clear skies, with no wind, it felt like another clear-out morning, and our ringing totals supported this assertion. We ringed just eight birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):
Chiffchaff - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Great Tit - 2
Blackcap - 1
Blue Tit - 2 (1)
Cetti's Warbler - (1)

The numbers of Starlings roosting looks to have increased, and we made a very rough estimate of perhaps 4,000 birds. Cetti's Warblers gave their explosive song, at least three were singing, as was a migrant Chiffchaff. The vis was next to nothing, with just a handful of Meadow Pipits over, plus a single Grey Wagtail. We could hear some Pink-footed Geese calling, but they remained unseen. 

Four days ago, we made the first of two recent visits to the Quay, and as usual we were there mid-morning and we had four oktas cloud cover, with a light south-easterly wind. The tide was running in, but there was still plenty of mud exposed, and out on the mud were 115 Redshanks and 14 Oystercatchers. A few Grey Wagtails headed south, but that was it in terms of vis. 

We didn't think that there were any grounded migrants until we encountered a very confiding first-winter Wheatear on the wall of the quay. It wasn't bothered by our presence at all, and perhaps it hadn't come across many people, because Wheatears tend to breed in fairly remote places, whether it's in the uplands of the UK, or in Iceland etc. We really enjoyed the ten minutes that we spent in this bird's company, and I think this epitomises the pleasure of observing a local patch on a regular basis. It doesn't have to be some rare waif or stray to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, just a gorgeous, not so humble Wheatear perhaps. 
Wheatear (above & below)


We were back in the land of the big skies yesterday, and it was a typical season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom-friend of the maturing sun kind of September morning. It was nippy, clear, and calm at first light. 
Once again lots of Canada Geese were flying into various locations to feed, and we had a total of 485. In addition to the Canada's, we had 37 Greylags and 111 Pink-footed Gese headed west. We had 15 Lapwings out on the moss, and they were accompanied by 22 Golden Plovers, one of my favourite waders. 
There was some vis, but it was hard to untangle it from birds moving from roosts to foraging areas. Our best guess was that we had eight Skylarks, seven Alba Wags, 24 Meadow Pipits, a Reed Bunting, four Grey Wagtails, five House Martins, six Swallows and a Linnet moving anywhere between a south-westerly or south-easterly direction. 
Woodpigeons were the second most abundant bird species and we had 128, with a supporting cast of six Stock Doves, and eleven Collared Doves. No Hobby or Kestrel this week, just the same Buzzard in the same location, but without any prey this time. 
We made our second recent visit to the Quay this morning, and it was fairly cloudy with a light easterly wind. When we got there, the tide had nearly covered all of the mud in the Quay and in the estuary, and a few waders were sitting it out on whatever exposed substrate they could find. We had thirty Redshanks, and then when the tide had nearly covered everything, a flock of 247 dropped in on some mud on the side of the channel into the quay, but they were soon shifted by the quick running tide. Six Oystercatchers, three Common Sandpipers and seventeen Turnstones were associating with the Redshanks. 
The Wyre estuary
We had just got to the point where the Quay wall turns, and forms the western bank of the estuary, when we heard what sounded like a lot of Sandwich Terns calling. A large flock were wheeling in the air and heading upstream, and we estimated that about 120 birds were involved. The largest number of Sandwich Terns that I have seen at this location.
Sandwich Terns
We sat in our usual spot on the wall overlooking the estuary, and the Terns started to return. They were diving into the water to feed, and nearly every dive seemed to be a success, as they lifted off the water with a small fish secured in their bill. We chatted to a local fisherman, and he said that there were a lot of Whitebait about, and Whitebait are the immature fry of fish such as Herrings and Sprats, so this is probably what the Terns were catching. A few of the Terns landed on some exposed shore before the tide covered it, and after a few minutes of enjoying the antics of the 'Sarnies', they headed downstream towards the mouth of the estuary. 

It was time for us to continue our walk, and as we were passing a patch of Bramble, I noticed a darter fly in and land. And I was very surprised to see that it was a mature male Black Darter! According to Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland by Steve Brooks, and illustrated by Richard Lewington (an excellent book by the way), the larval habitat of Black Darter includes shallow, acidic, nutrient-poor pools with abundant emergent vegetation on heathland, moorland and bogs. However, the adult is a wanderer, and can undertake migratory journeys, and therefore is likely to appear far from water, or in locations that do not support breeding populations. Hence, our sighting this morning! Anyway, it was a cracking little beastie, and I have included some pictures of it below. 


Few butterflies were on the wing, other than seven Small Whites and a Small Copper. On our return leg we had a singing Chiffchaff, which was of course a migrant, and it made me think that perhaps the same weather had brought both it and the Black Darter to the site. 
Small Copper
There is some rain coming in after dark this evening, and it might well still be raining at first light tomorrow, so I might get up early and see if it has dropped any migrants in.

Saturday 2 September 2023

More Tales From The Riverbank

Gail and I had two walks along the quay this week, and we got it right the first time, but our timing was out on our second visit. On our first visit, five days ago, the tide was falling, and just like the week before, a few waders were dropping in on the newly exposed mud. We had 470 Oystercatchers, that either flew downstream, or stopped off on the mud, before heading downstream again. Three Little Egrets, 39 Redshanks, a Common Sandpiper and thirteen Curlews were with the Oystercatchers, and seven Sandwich Terns headed towards the mouth of the river as well. 
Little Egret and Oystercatcher
A few butterflies were on the wing; 14 Small Whites, two Red Admirals, and a single of the day flying moth, Silver Y. The most interesting insect that we had, was an Ichneumon wasp species, possibly Dusona falcator, but only possibly! I only managed to get one picture of it, and you can see this below. The picture does not do this fantastic beastie justice, as in flight, you could see that above the black tip to its abdomen, it was bright yellow, and you can't see this in the photograph. Before I could get a better picture, it was off!
Dusona falcator possibly!
The Rowan trees along the quay are full of berries, and as we passed them walking back, three juvenile Blackbirds were feasting on them. 
Two days ago, we made our second visit to the quay, but we got our timing all wrong, and the tide was in. Not a scrap of mud to be seen, and consequently not a wader to be seen. We killed some time by having lunch in a cafe overlooking the mouth of the river, but even after that, on our return leg, there still wasn't any mud exposed. We could see that the tide was dropping, but not enough. I think we need to consult the tide tables next time. 
Five Red Admirals, a Common Darter, five Small Whites, a Silver Y, and two Small Tortoiseshells were on the wing, and that was about it. 
The forecast was okay for Gail and I to go ringing at the Nature Park this morning, but with clear skies overnight, and still clear just before 6:00 am, when we arrived on site, I wasn't hopeful for many birds. It was definitely a clear-out night/morning, and too early yet for any reasonable amount of visible migration. At this time of year, most local breeding summer migrants have moved on, and any numbers of continental migrants have yet to arrive. 

We put a couple of nets up and kept our fingers crossed, but our predictions proved to be correct. We ringed seven birds as follows:

Whitethroat - 2 (11 for the site for the year, and 6 more than last year's total of 5)
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (8 for the site for the year, and equals last year's total)
Blackcap - 2 (10 for the site for the year, and just 1 short of last year's total)
Reed Warbler - 1 
Wren - 1
The Starlings were exiting their roost at the exact time that Gail and I were putting the nets up, so the 2,000 that I put in my notebook was mostly guesswork, and I suspect that there were considerably more than this. 

We had a Grey Wagtail and a Tree Pipit south, and that was it for vis. A Great Spotted Woodpecker is always noteworthy here, but they are getting more frequent. And that was it!

In the afternoon we had a walk through the Larkholme Grasslands to see if there were any dragons around the ponds. We had two Common Darters, two Emperors and a male Migrant Hawker
Common Darter
Migrant Hawker (above & below)


It is looking settled for most of next week, but it will be clear skies for most of the time, meaning that any migrants will pass straight through. If we get a suitable morning, we will have another try. 

I follow an excellent blog called North Downs and Beyond, and I can thoroughly recommend it if you like a good read about nature and conservation. Its author, Steve is a brilliant all-round naturalist, and I have posted many a link to some of his posts on here before. 

A couple of weeks ago he wrote a post entitled Impotent about how he feels about climate change, and a lack of action by both individuals and government, and I can totally relate to it. You can read Steve's post HERE, and it is well worth a read, as are all his posts, but this summed up the way I feel very well.
Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of August. Three new species for the year were ringed during August, and these were Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail and Linnet.
Below you will find the top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year, but I haven't produced a top 5 ringed during August as only one species made it into double figures.
Top 10 Movers and Shakers
1. Sand Martin - 101 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 85 (same position)
3. Goldfinch - 66 (same position)
4. Great Tit - 57 (same position)
5. Chaffinch - 26 (same position)
    Reed Warbler - 26 (up from 7th)
7. Pied Flycatcher - 23 (down from 6th)
8. Lesser Redpoll - 18 (down from 7th)
9. Reed Bunting - 16 (same position)
10. Chiffchaff - 13 (down from 9th)