Sunday, 13 August 2017

A Small Arrival

Conditions overnight were clear and at 11:00 pm last night I was watching the Perseid meteor shower in the garden with Gail when I suddenly realised I needed to get to bed as I was up in less than five hours! The clear conditions led Ian and I to believe that it would be a 'clear out night', and it was to a certain extent, but there was definitely a small arrival this morning.

At first light we had clear skies with a 5 mph NNW wind and it was cool, a definite nip in the air! We put the nets up in one of the Obs reedbeds and retired to our cars for a coffee. About a dozen Alba Wags went over after exiting their roost, but their numbers were dwarfed by the twelve thousand (well about that anyway) Starlings that came out of another reedbed roost.

A Little Egret went over one way and a young female Sparrowhawk shot through the other. There was even a bit of 'vis' this morning with eight Swallows, two Swifts and 25 House Martins drifting south. A couple of calling Willow Warblers that avoided the nets were new in, and it was the ringing that gave us the real feel of there being a small arrival.

We ringed 16 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 11
Whitethroat - 3
Wren - 1
Song Thrush - 1

 Reed Warbler

Yet again I'm playing catch up with work this week, and my plan is to try and clear everything by mid-late September and take the whole of October off to give the Obs a serious grilling for a month. But don't tell Gail!

Friday, 11 August 2017

July's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of July. We are 444 down on where we were last year, which will take some catching up. 

Four new species were added to the species ringed for the year in the form of Song Thrush, Lesser Whitethroat, Treecreeper and Starling.

 Song Thrush

The top five ringed for the month of July and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year are listed below.

Top 5 Ringed in July

1. Sand Martin - 57
2. Swallow - 49
3. Reed Warbler - 34
4. Blackcap - 18
5. Greenfinch - 14

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Blue Tit - 91 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 90 (down from 1st)
3. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (same position)
4. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (same position)
5. Sand Martin - 66 (up from 9th)
6. Linnet - 59 (down from 5th)
7. Swallow - 51 (straight in)
8. Reed Warbler - 48 (straight in)
9. Great Tit - 41 (down from 6th)
10. Blackcap - 58 (straight in)

Sunday, 6 August 2017

The Fisher Queen

A second day ringing on the bounce has been a rarity so far this Autumn at the Obs, but this morning Ian and I were back in the reedbed for the second morning in succession. At first light we were greeted with 6 oktas cloud cover and a 10 - 15 mph W wind.

Like yesterday, it was fairly quiet on the birding front. The Starlings were still late up from the other reedbed but this morning there was about 8,000; I probably missed half of them yesterday! A Little Egret overhead and a Kingfisher that zipped past and in to a mist net, was the best of the rest.

We ringed twelve birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 5
Blue Tit - 2
Great Tit - 1
Kingfisher - 1

 Kingfisher - 1CY female

It's likely to be next weekend before I am back out on the patch again as I've a lot of work to get through this week, some of it entails site visits, so there might be something to report.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Back In The Reedbed

I had the nets up this morning by 5:30 a.m. and conditions were okay, but not perfect. I had one oktas cloud cover and the wind was 10 - 15 mph northwesterly.  However, it was good to be back in the reedbed ringing.

The view from the ringing table early this morning

Starlings are late risers I've noticed, not for them up and feeding at the crack of dawn! It's a good hour after first light before they make an appearance, rising from their reedbed roost in more or less one large wave. From where I was ringing I could see approximately 4,000 Starlings exiting another of the Obs reedbeds to the south. Swallows are just the opposite and they leave their reedbed roost in the half-light. In fact they both differ when they come in to roost as well; Starlings arrive early and Swallows late. So to sum up, Starlings go to bed early and get up late, whilst Swallows go to bed late and get up early! I know a Hairy Birder who's a bit like a Swallow!

 Starlings

During my ringing session of a couple of hours I didn't see anything of real note. Of course my notebook is full of details of sightings of about thirty species, as I like to record everything I see and hear, but there wasn't anything that really stood out.

I ringed 20 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 5
Great Tit - 1
Whitethroat - 2
Lesser Whitethroat - 3
Greenfinch - 9

 Lesser Whitethroat

Where are all the Sedge Warblers? We ring twice as may Reed Warblers as Sedge Warblers these days, so something is going on.

I'm out again in the morning with Ian, so fingers crossed for a few more birds!

Friday, 4 August 2017

MG6 or is it MG7?

The problem of surveying MG6 and MG7 type grassland habitats for birds, is that by their nature they tend to be in impoverished agricultural landscapes where Lolium perenne  or Perennial ryegrass dominates! And I had one such survey to complete earlier in the week.

It was a bit touch and go with the weather, but I managed to squeeze the survey in before the forecast rain arrived from the south. I was in Lancashire in a landscape of intensive grassland, with fairly heavily trimmed hedges and the odd mature hedgerow tree. Some heavy overnight rain had lead to some splashy conditions in one of the fields that attracted a few birds. Ten Mallards sailed around on the flood, and an attendant flock of 108 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 11 Common Gulls and 62 Black-headed Gulls searched for any ground invertebrates that found themselves close to the surface.

I recorded nothing out of the ordinary in this bright green, nitrogen fuelled landscape other than ten Stock Doves, four House Sparrows, 23 House Martins, a Tree Sparrow, three Swifts, a Willow Warbler and a Whitethroat. I did record other more common species of course, but nothing worth troubling you all with.

It's looking like I might actually get some ringing in over the next couple of days in one of the reedbeds at the Obs, so fingers crossed that the wind continues to decrease overnight!  

Monday, 31 July 2017

Old Cut

I apologise for the lack of postings of late and this has been down to a combination of poor weather and all my birding being site visits for work, and I am sure you are fed up about hearing of these! So by way of keeping the blog going I picked an old notebook off the shelf from 1989. I am fortunate in having all my field notebooks from when I started birding in 1976 and they are a great source of nostalgia. They also highlight the changes in the fortunes of some bird populations; some good, but mainly bad!

In 1989 I was fortunate enough to spend nearly a year volunteering at Long Point Bird Observatory near Port Rowan in southern Ontario, Canada. On this day, 31st July, in 1989 I was at the Old Cut field station preparing for a period of daily recording at the end of Long Point known as the Tip. Old Cut was the field station at the base of Long Point, which is the promontory that stretches 20 miles in to Lake Erie from it's northern shore line. In addition to the two field stations already mentioned there is Breakwater that is about five miles out along the spit. It's a bit like Spurn Point on steroids!

Old Cut is surrounded by summer cottages and other residential buildings close to the lake shore, and the main habitat at the field station is scrubby woodland associated with marshes and wetland.

The majority of the day on 31st July 1989 was spent procuring provisions for a two week stint at the Tip. Our task was to open the field station at the end of Long Point for the autumn season. This would entail clearing the mist net rides, putting up the mist nets and carrying out any repairs on the Helgoalnd trap there. So the birding at Old Cut on this day was limited.

My notebook tells me that it was warm with two oktas cloud cover and just two birds were banded (ringed); a Least Flycatcher and a Barn Swallow. The most interesting bird was an immature Bald Eagle that flew over during the morning and Caspian Terns were flying over the field station to various feeding areas on the lake, and I counted 15 (the following day I counted 65). Thirty Black Ducks wasn't unusual and neither was the ten Cedar Waxwings. It always felt most odd encountering Waxwings (although not our waxwing the Bohemian in North America) on a warm sunny day, when we usually associate them with winter birding!

Other bits and pieces from my notebook that day were four Pine Siskins, a Forsters Tern, four Green Herons (Green-backed Heron then) and two Black-crowned Night Herons.

Firmly back in the 21st Century the forecast isn't great for the week ahead with the position of the jet stream leading to a conveyor belt of westerly weather systems. Oh well, I might have to look at an old notebook again!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Back On The Patch Via Cumbria

I seem to spend all my time apologising for not posting too much recently, and my usual excuse is that I have been busy. I suppose I'm lucky in that when I am busy it means that I am busy with conservation related work, so busy, long days at work are days out in the field generally observing and recording wildlife!

I've been in Cumbria these past ten days. Earlier during this period I was in the southwest along the Furness peninsula. Highlights at this newly planted woodland site included a Grey Wagtail, eight Linnets, two Chiffchaffs, two Stock Doves, four Siskins, three Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blackcap and a Sedge Warbler.

Later in the ten day period I was in north Cumbria not far from Wigton, and I had Gail assisting me with my bird and tree survey. Highlights here included a Yellowhammer, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Lesser Redpolls, two House Sparrows, a Chiffchaff, four Willow Warblers, five Stock Doves, a Buzzard and a Tree Sparrow.

As the morning warmed up a few butterflies were on the wing, including the Comma below, that was one of a group of five nectaring on some Thistles; gorgeous!

 Comma

This morning I was back out on the patch at the Obs. I headed to the Point under five oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph southeasterly wind. Out in the bay it was both murky and the sea surface had a heat haze over it, not overly conducive to sea watching!

There was just a smattering of vis with three Swallows and a Sand Martin east. Also on the mover were 16 Whimbrels and eight Curlews. Other waders included 31 Oystercatchers, nine Ringed Plovers, two Turnstones and a couple of Sanderlings.

At sea were nine Gannets, 12 Cormorants, 14 Sandwich Terns (including seven on the shore), two Common Terns, four Common Scoters and two Atlantic Grey Seals.

 Distant Sandwich Terns

With the overnight rain there was plenty of snails around and I must admit I do find them interesting. One day if I have time I'll tell you about my mark and recapture scheme in my garden, but in meantime below is a photograph of one of the beasties. It's a bit of a mixed bag in the morning with rain forecast both sides of dawn, so just a little unpredictable to chance any ringing sadly.