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.


Stewart said...

Hi Seamus, that might be a crab but its looking a bit more spider like to me? Hanging on for dear life...

The Hairy Birder said...

Thanks Stewart. I thought crab as well, but looking at it again, it does look spider like!