Sunday 26 November 2023

Feeding Station Fortunes

Under beautiful clear, sunny skies, Gail and I had a ringing session at our feeding station yesterday morning, and ringed 77 birds. Before I get to our feeding station fortunes, I want to rewind to about ten days ago, when funnily enough we were at our feeding station!
We had called at our good friends Robert and Diana's farm, near Garstang, where we have our feeding station, to top the feeders up, something we will have to do at least twice a week between now and the end of March. The 'big green' feeders still had seed in, which is a good job as they hold 20 kg in each, so the feeding station was still holding lots of birds. We duly filled the feeders up, and then had a look on the wetland.
It was pleasing to note that wildfowl numbers had increased and we had 300 Teal, 20 Shovelers and 80 Wigeon. On a neighbouring farm, I could see a flock of 80 Common Gulls in a wet field, probably taking advantage of invertebrates brought to the surface by a higher water table. 
A couple of days later, Gail and I had a walk along the Wyre estuary from the Quay, under six oktas cloud cover, and a light south-westerly wind. The tide was out, and consequently very few waders were in the Quay, just eleven Oystercatchers, six Redshanks and a Knot, which is unusual here. When we got close to the mouth of the estuary, we could see on the mudflats on the east side of the estuary at least 400 Oystercatchers!
A few wildfowl were on the river, and as we headed back upstream the tide was just starting to turn. We had 52 Wigeon, two Eiders (adult and imm. male) and 29 Mallards. The only other thing of interest we would add before we got back to the car was a couple of Little Egrets
The following afternoon we headed to the RSPB's Ribble Discovery Centre, as we wanted to buy a couple of their seed feeders for the garden. We already have two, but we wanted to be able to take the two feeders down to clean, put up two clean ones, and keep doing this on rotation. Now, the feeders that the RSPB sell are not the cheapest, but they are the best quality of any feeders that I have seen. Seed feeders purchased, plus a few Christmas cards, we decided to have a walk around the lake. 
To be honest, I didn't manage to fill the pages of my notebook with much, other than a Goldcrest with a flock of sixteen Long-tailed Tits, or perhaps the group of 37 Black-headed Gulls roosting out on the water. I photographed one of the Black-heads that was perched on a tyre acting as a fender, to keep boats away from the outflow, and when I had look at the image on my computer screen, I could see what looked like a crab holding on to the bird's belly! Have a look on the pictures below and see what you think. Click to enlarge. 
Black-headed Gull and 'friend' (above & below).

Earlier in the week, I headed up to my client's farm in Bowland to collect the trail cams that Gail and I had put out two weeks earlier. I have yet to go through footage caught on the cameras properly, but a quick flick through some of them is showing lots of footage of Roe Deers and Brown Hares, but I'll report more on this at a later date. 

I had a few birds as I drove round collecting the cameras, including a Buzzard, a Kestrel, two Ravens, and my first Little Egret for the site. 

The following day we were back at the feeding station topping the feeders up again, and there seemed to be plenty of Tree Sparrows, Chaffinches and Greenfinches visiting the feeders. On the wetland the numbers of wildfowl had dropped, and we had 28 Shovelers (actually increased), 212 Teal and 31 Wigeon. 

On Friday morning, Gail and I completed the second November visit to our wintering bird survey site south of the Ribble, and it was cold, with a keen north-northwesterly wind, with four oktas cloud cover. 

Just beyond the field that is the main focus of our surveys, a flock of 151 Canada Geese were feeding from first light, and as the morning wore on, they left in small groups until they were all gone. We had some Pink-footed Geese over, 357, but it was the Whooper Swans that made the morning. Not particularly large numbers, 58 in total, but just the spectacle of these magnificent birds flying over us, some very close, with their evocative, bugling calls. Magical!
Pink-footed Geese
Whooper Swans (above & below)

As always, there were a number of Skylarks, 34 this morning, in 'our' field, and 37 Chaffinches and 21 Goldfinches were still feeding in the sunflower crop. Three Little Egrets was our best total for these small, adorable egrets, so far this winter, and it was good to see a couple of Kestrels on site. 

Back to our feeding station fortunes. As I said before, Gail and I had our first ringing session at our feeding station yesterday, and we managed to ring 77 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Tree Sparrow - 15
Chaffinch - 13
Greenfinch - 13
Great Tit - 12 (3)
Blue Tit - 20 (4)
Goldfinch - 2
Nuthatch - 1
Dunnock - 1
Coal Tit - (1)
We were only ringing for a couple of hours, as we don't like to keep the birds away from the feeders for too long, and as you can imagine we were quite busy. In fact, we were too busy to do any 'birding' as such, and the only additional information entered into my notebook are observations of two Nuthatches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
We were thrilled that we managed to ring fifteen Tree Sparrows, as this is the main purpose of the feeding station, which is to monitor the wintering population of this red-listed species. We hope to generate some data on survival, by recapturing birds that we have ringed from the nest boxes that we provide, but they were all new birds this morning. In addition to this, we are also helping to ensure that adult birds can get access to food over winter to aid in their survival, part of the 'big three' that conservation organisations such as the BTO and the RSPB talk about; a safe place to nest, insect for chicks during the summer and seed over winter. And the farm provides all of these three elements. 

All good and interesting stuff, well we think so anyway.

Saturday 11 November 2023

Trail Cams and Feeding Station

It has probably been nearly two weeks since I last posted, but I haven't been idle, it is more a case of trying to find time to sit down in front of the computer. 
Since I last posted, Gail and I have been keeping an eye on the Wyre estuary and walking along the Quay. Rather than go into any great detail, I will just list the highlights, which were, 80 Redshanks, 38 Mallards, 20 Turnstones roosting, three Teal, a Little Egret, 280 Pink-footed Geese, two Grey Wagtails, thirteen Shelducks, eleven Oystercatchers, two Black-tailed Godwits, two Rock Pipits (new in), 17 Whooper Swans and two Ravens. Nothing exciting, but pleasant to be out nevertheless, particularly with all the wet weather we have been having of late.  

Whooper Swans

A few days ago, Gail and I headed to my client's farm in Bowland, near Slaidburn, to set up six trail cams in the main areas where we have breeding waders, to try and attempt to see how much Fox activity there is at the moment, and of course it will be interesting to see if the cameras catch anything else. I'll keep you posted. We will leave the cameras up for about 10 - 14 days, and then bring them back in and see what we've managed to capture. 
One of the trail cams that we put out
Whilst setting the cameras up, it was a morning of sunshine and showers, and although we weren't birding in 'anger', we did have a few bits and pieces. Down here on the Fylde, we haven't really had any numbers of Fieldfares as yet, so it was nice to encounter a flock of at least 80, with twenty Redwings mixed in. In fact, along some of the lanes close to the farm, we were putting up lots of Thrushes from berry laden Hawthorn hedges. Just two species of raptor, a Kestrel and two Buzzards. In the field with numerous scrapes in it, I expected to perhaps see some wildfowl on a couple of the larger scrapes, but there was just twenty Mallards with a single Teal. 
The sunshine and showers created this rainbow
The following day, Gail and I were at our good friends Robert and Diana's farm, near Nateby, to set the feeding station up for the winter. With Roberts help we made light work of it. We put up two, six port sunflower hart feeders, and two large, five port seed feeders, that hold 20 kg of see in each! Within five minutes of putting the feeders up, the first birds were coming to them, in the form of a Chaffinch and a Robin
Feeding station (above & below)


There was a few Fieldfares here as well, about thirty, and out on the wetland were at least ninety Teal and twenty Wigeon. We look forward to our first ringing session for the winter at the feeding station.
Yesterday morning Gail and I carried out our first November visit to our wintering bird survey site south of the Ribble. It was a glorious morning with clear skies, and it was calm. 

It was just getting light when we arrived, and a number of birds were obviously moving from their overnight roosts to feeding areas, including 46 Collared Doves, 67 Black-headed Gulls and 18 Jackdaws. Geese and Swans were represented by Canada Geese, Pink-footed Geese and Whooper Swans, and we had 180, 407 and 23 of each respectively. We had a flock of ten Golden Plovers head north, and fifteen of their Lapwing cousins. 
There was less Skylarks around this morning, and we only had thirteen in the cabbage crop. Similarly, numbers of Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails in the same crop had dropped, and we had ten, thirteen and seven of each. The best bird we had in the cabbage crop was a 1CY Wheatear, which will be one of my latest ever. You can see a record shot of it below. 
Wheatear - honest!
As well as observing from a vantage point, we also walk a transect, and in the small field of sunflowers, which are really going over now, we had fifteen Chaffinches and twenty Greenfinches. Close by three Tree Sparrows, two Fieldfares and a Grey Wagtail made it from the map, onto the pages of my notebook. 
From our VP, we picked up a 1CY Marsh Harrier, but it was distant, but we could have reasonable views through the scope. The only other raptor that we had was a female Sparrowhawk, and other than a Little Egret that was it. 
This morning, Gail and I headed to the Nature Park for probably the last ringing session at this site until the new year. It was cold and clear when we arrived with a light NNE breeze, that was barely detectable. We were hoping for a few thrushes, but there wasn't really any on the move. We had four Redwings go over and six Fieldfares, but that was it. In fact, I kept popping my head outdoors last night for a listen but couldn't hear any Redwings going over.
One of the pools at the Nature Park
The first species in my notebook was Golden Plover, and this was a flock of 34 that we had heading south-west. In fact, other than the Goldies, the vis was limited to three Woodpigeons, 24 Jackdaws and two Sparrowhawks. We had a walk from the ringing station, to have a look on one of the pools and flushed six Snipe. From the ringing station we could hear two Water Rails calling from the margins of the same pool. 
Cetti's Warblers were ever present, and we ringed our 14th for the site for the year, and in addition to the bird that we ringed, at least two were giving their explosive song. In addition to the moving Sparrowhawks, we had a Kestrel, and other birds that we recorded included a Raven, three Song Thrushes, six Long-tailed Tits and a female Stonechat.
We ringed 24 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):
Song Thrush - 1
Redwing - 1
Wren - 1
Goldcrest - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1 
Robin - 1 (1)
Blue Tit - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 1
Greenfinch - 14

As always, the forecast is looking a bit mixed for the coming week, but fingers crossed that there will be a few windows of opportunity to get out.
Gail and I bought a superb piece of original art this week, from a hugely talented wildlife artist based on Orkney, Tim Wootton. We were so lucky in managing to secure the beautiful painting of a Woodcock, from an online exhibition that Tim is currently hosting. Thrilled is an understatement! You can see a snap of the painting below. We can't wait to get it framed and displayed.   

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of October. Three new species for the year were ringed during the month, and these were, Redwing, Brambling and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Below you will find details of the 'Top 5 Ringed in October' and the 'Top 10 Movers and Shakers for the Year'.
Top 5 Ringed in October
1. Goldfinch - 83
2. Chaffinch - 56
3. Redwing - 28
4. Linnet - 21
5. Blue Tit - 17
Top 10 Movers and Shakers for the Year
1. Goldfinch - 193 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 116 (up from 3rd)
3. Sand Martin - 101 (down from 2nd)
4. Chaffinch - 90 (up from 6th)
5. Great Tit - 86 (down from 4th)
6. Greenfinch - 52 (straight in)
7. Meadow Pipit - 45 (down from 5th)
8. Linnet - 40 (straight in)
9. Lesser Redpoll - 39 (down from 7th)
10. Reed Bunting - 31 (same position)