Sunday, 14 January 2018

Half Decent Weather

I always seem to be moaning about the weather, but this winter I feel somewhat justified as it seems to be worse than ever. I suppose all the weather statistics at the end of winter will either prove of disprove my feelings. And because of the weather it has been tricky getting out either on the patch at weekends or during the week for work.

Mid-week last week I was at my coastal winter bird survey site, with some half decent weather, that covers part of an estuary as well as improved farmland, and also that very ordinary pond that I have mentioned a few times before with the wintering wildfowl. My survey started on the improved grassland with a fairly large count of 21 Magpies. Usually I expect to record Little Egret down on the intertidal stretch of the river, but on this morning I had one on one of the farmland ponds!

 Magpie

The aforementioned bland pond held 30 Teal, so I was quite pleased with that. Raptors were thin on the ground except for three Buzzards, and I am finding now that Buzzard is the commonest raptor that I record when I am out birding. When I started birding in the 1970s Sparrowhawks were scarce, and were probably still recovering from the DDT caused population crash. Ten years on and they became very common, but I don't see them too often now, and my gut feeling is that they are being persecuted by numerous idiots within the shooting and pigeon keeping fraternity!

Close to the river some Pink-footed Geese were feeding in adjacent fields and I counted 778 in total. I had a good look through them and couldn't see any other than Pinkies. Out on the mudflats a flock of 214 Curlews switched from feeding, to preening, to roosting, to feeding and were in the company of 40 Black-tailed Godwits and 24 Redshanks.

The weather for this coming week isn't looking good, other than for catching up on paperwork in the office! I hope it changes!

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Birders...

...sometimes get kyboshed! On Sunday morning the plan was to go to Cockerham to have a look at our latest ringing/birding site, where the owners have given permission for ringing group members and their vehicles to access their private land. A variety of habitat can be found at the site, but one area of interest are some wet fields where we hope to catch and ring Snipe. The idea was to have a look and get an idea of how many Snipe were present. However, after three days of frost I guessed that any water would be frozen and Snipe departed for the coast, so it will have to wait until next weekend.

Instead, Gail and I headed down to the estuary, my second visit in as many days. It was a glorious morning with clear blue skies, virtually no wind and a frost. A quick look on the reservoir revealed a number of Tufted Ducks, plus a respectable count of 13 Little Grebes.

 The path through the 'enchanted' hawthorns that leads
to the estuary!

Little Grebe

Out on the river along the saltmarsh edge was 172 Teal and 90 Wigeon, and further out on the mudflats 25 Shelducks. A Goldcrest and a Kestrel was the only other species of note that we recorded, and we headed back to the car. We didn't see a great deal but it was a pleasure to be out, and it was more of a 'leg stretch', than a serious birding trip!

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Wood Pigs Not War Pigs

It was clear and cold yesterday, with a 15 - 20 mph northerly wind, that my Norfolk friends would call a 'lazy' wind because it blows through you and not round you! I bumped in to Ian just as it was coming light and we walked down to the estuary.

The main feature of the morning was a southeasterly movement of Woodpigeons and in total we had 378 cross the river and head southeast. Besides where were they going and why, the other question was where had they come from? Woodpigeons do often move ahead of cold weather, but up until fairly recently it has been mild with just a couple of days of frosty weather. My guess is that it was a weather related movement, and probably a cold weather movement from further north.

Out on the estuary was a single adult Whooper Swan with a supporting cast of 2,120 Pink-footed Geese, 71 Curlews, 20 Teal (probably nearly ten times as this tucked away somewhere), 40 Wigeon, 135 Lapwings, 12 Shelducks, 80 Dunlin and a single Little Egret.

 Wigeon

We had a look on the saltmarsh and there were 47 Snipe and surprisingly just one Rock Pipit. Visiting parent and in-laws for the rest of the day meant it was an early finish for me. There's always tomorrow!

The Stonechats Are Back

I spent a very pleasurable afternoon on Friday on my mossland wintering bird survey site! By the end of the afternoon I had clear skies and there was just a hint of a crisp northerly wind.

Woodpigeons have been a feature of recent days with numbers moving in various locations in the UK, likely as a response to cold weather. I had a flock of 132 Friday afternoon with 13 of their Stock Dove cousins for company.

 There's a line of old Birch trees on this patch of mossalnd that I have become 
very attached to, as they are the only trees for miles around. I always look 
forward to renewing my acquaintance to see what lies within!

I haven't seen many wintering Thrushes for a week or so now on my travels, and Friday was no exception, but I did record four Song Thrushes and up to three Mistle Thrushes. Amongst the usual corvids found on farmland it's always a pleasure to record Ravens, and I had a single bird heading high north. Even though Ravens are increasing in numbers with perhaps less pressure from game keepers (although you wouldn't think so with illegal raptor persecution in the uplands), it's always great to see them as they were once scarce in lowland Lancs.

 Since I started this survey in September I have passed this patch of Broccoli 
in one of the fields and I have always thought that it looks like a piece of 
remnant rain forest in miniature!

Three raptor species made it on to the pages of my notebook; a female Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, and two Buzzards. One of the Buzzards was a leucistic bird and it gave me a bit of start, as for a split second I thought it was a pale morph Rough-legged, but I soon dispelled that thought almost as soon as it popped in to my head! In fact when I located my 'thinking cap' I remembered that I had seen this bird earlier in the winter.

There wasn't many farmland passerines about other than a flock of 24 Linnets, three Reed Buntings and a handful of Skylarks. But, the Stonechats had returned and I had another pair making it four birds. The first pair were back around the pond that I had recorded them at until some frosty weather had moved them on, and I found another pair feeding in a grassy margin alongside a ditch in another part of my survey area.

 Stonechat

Five Grey Partridges rounded off a pleasant afternoon; nothing unusual but just nice to be out even though it was work!

Sunday, 31 December 2017

My Last Birding Session of 2017...

...and it was a quiet one! At first light the wind was southwesterly and force 8, so I headed to the tower to do a sea watch.

 The sea this morning

As I walked up to the tower some waders were roosting on the shingle ridge including 153 Oystercatchers, 15 Turnstones, 140 Sanderlings and 20 Ringed Plovers. Later I had a look on the marine lakes at high tide and 139 Turnstones and a Purple Sandpiper roosted on the island.

 Turnstone

Passage a sea was quiet but I did record 23 Kittiwakes, 29 Eiders, 28 Wigeon, six Teal, two Common Scoters and three Auk sp.

And that was it. As I said before a quiet one. I'll be back out in the morning for my first birding session of 2018, unless I have one real ale too many this evening!

I pulled a notebook off my shelf and on this day in 2006 I was out on Rawcliffe Moss feeding my farmland birds. I had some good counts including 33 Corn Buntings, 150 Tree Sparrows, 50 Chaffinches, two Yellowhammers, seven Linnets, 35 Skylarks and two Grey Partridges. In addition to this were 500 Pink-footed Geese, 60 Fieldfares, 14 Blackbirds and a Song Thrush. Sadly this particular feeding station is a thing of the past! 

Corn Bunting

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Blowing The Cobwebs Away

I don't know what it was like in your neck of the woods, but the weekend immediately before Xmas, Xmas day and Boxing day were awful up here in Lancashire! I normally like to get out birding on Xmas day, to try and kid myself that a sense of normality prevails, but the weather put paid to that. So today was my first opportunity to get out, and I headed west Lancs way to do a winter bird survey for work.

 Tools of the trade.

I had virtual clear skies, but that north-northwest wind was a tad chilly! I didn't really record much but it was good to get out and blow the cobwebs away. I only had a few Pink-footed Geese this morning, but expected more, with just two parties of 200 and 5 respectively.

The most abundant species I recorded was Woodpigeon, Jackdaw and Black-headed Gull, with 193, 221 and 132 of each. I had a few Stock Doves with the Woodpigeons, somewhere in the region of 15, and the only raptor was a single Buzzard. A covey of twelve Partridges quickened the pulse until I got on them and saw that they were just Red-legged. A covey of twelve Greys would have been nice indeed.

 Stock Dove

I've no surveys tomorrow due to the weather where they are, so hopefully I'll get out birding locally.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Solstice Greetings

I just wanted to wish all my readers and their families Solstice Greetings! I hope you find peace and happiness in which ever way you celebrate mid-winter. I will raise a glass this evening to celebrate the return of the sun, and the start of the new year tomorrow!

Have a cool Yule! It won't be long before butterflies grace
us once again with their presence!