Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Sprinkling Of The White Stuff

I was a bit surprised by the sprinkling of snow that greeted me when I got up this morning and also how calm it was. It would have been calm enough for some ringing on Rawcliffe Moss but the last shoot of the season had taken place yesterday and I knew the feeding station would have been disturbed and the totals of birds at the feeding station bore this out. I would have been gutted otherwise!

Again a Great-spotted Woodpecker was drumming from Tree Sparrow Wood as I unloaded the two buckets of seed, apples and peanuts from the boot of my car. Pink-footed Geese seemed to be moving around this morning and I had 730 go over in four skeins.

I mentioned before that the totals this morning were lower than recently because of the shoot yesterday, but of course this is only a temporary disturbance and the numbers soon bounce back again. At the station were 37 Tree Sparrows, five Grey Partridges and seven Yellowhammers.

Gail and I had a walk up to the plantation and back but it was quiet. We had a calling Reed Bunting, four Linnets near Curlew Wood and six Corn Buntings back at the barn. No bird pictures today, only a picture of Snowdrops poking their heads up underneath a hedge. Hopefully spring is just round the corner.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Numbing Nothing Northerlies

It was good to be back at Rossall Point this morning after an absence of a couple of weeks. I haven't been able to get to Rossall because I have been busy ringing, so I am not complaining. However, I am going to complain about the wind direction because it was useless and bloody cold!

It even looks cold!

Just as I was getting out of my car at the car park Ian turned up and together we walked down to the Coastguards Tower. On the way we had a male Stonechat perched on the golf course fence, but it was too cold to linger in the biting northerly wind. At the Coastguards Tower we had to stand at the front of the tower as it was less windy here than at the sides.

On the shore 270 Oystertcatchers roosted, the majority on one leg to reduce heat loss, and 53 Sanderling fed frantically along the tide line. Turnstone flashed east, presumably heading to the Marine Lakes to feed and we had a single Grey Plover. Interestingly the Grey Plover at first looked like a Golden Plover through bins as there was bright light and the golden colour of the sand was being reflected on to the grey plumage of the Grey Plover.

Out on the sea it was fairly quiet and you got the impression that it was one of those days that if you stayed there all day diver numbers would still be in single figures! Twelve Red-breasted Mergansers commuted in and out of the 'bay' and only 22 Eiders bobbed up and down on the northerly swell.

Only two Red-throated Divers flew east and they looked fantastic as the light picked up their dark upperparts and contrasted it with the pale underparts. Two Common Scoters and three unidentified Auks and that was it. With no feeling in my hands, feet or face I staggered back to the car park.

On the way home I called in at Fleetwood Marsh Dog Toilet, sorry Nature Park, to have a look on the pools.

In total on all three pools I had twelve Tufted Ducks, three Shovelers, 25 Coots, three Little Grebes and a male and two female Gadwalls.

Male Gadwall - honest!

The only other birds of note were two calling Reed Buntings and a Skylark singing it's heart out in the bright sunshine.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Flash, Marsh and Moss

The title sums up my activities today both at work and from a birding perspective. I am currently working on a Higher Level Stewardship application that includes part of Abram Flash SSSI in Greater Manchester and this morning I was carrying out a survey of an area of farmland that includes part of the aforementioned SSSI. I must be honest with you I was hoping for a Willow Tit to try and get one over on my colleagues in the annual bird race that we have, but unfortunately that wasn't to be. However, I did get one or two species that can be difficult to get on 'farm' so I was quite pleased.

Abram Flash

On the flash I had 60 Teal, three Goosanders, ten Shovelers and six Gadwall. Whilst surveying the rest of the farm I had nine Skylarks, two Buzzards, Kestrel and two Jays. So I was quite pleased with the selection of wildfowl. My next port of call was going to be Freckleton Marsh to measure some fencing that a contractor has put up for us to prevent access on to the marsh during the breeding season to protect breeding waders.

On the way to Freckleton Marsh I called in at Newton Marsh to have a look at the 'electric' anti-predator fence that has been erected and also a length of ditch that has been re-profiled to benefit breeding waders and wintering wildfowl.

Newton Marsh

Again, I was also hoping to pick up one or two species over my colleagues. On the pool immediately in front of the car I had 200 Wigeon and then a Great Black-backed Gull flew over the marsh flushing everything and another 1,000 Wigeon flew in as well as 70 Curlew. Also on the pool were three Shovelers, Little Grebe and ten each of Shelduck and Teal.

To the east of the pool there was a nice flock of 100 Linnets perched on some telegraph wires and a little closer on the same wires were seven Corn Buntings. After I did my measuring on Freckleton Marsh I went to Rawcliffe Moss to put some seed down at the feeding station.

The first bird I heard was a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, which was great because it is yet another sign of spring. Twenty Yellowhammer were scattered along the hedge to the feeding station and four Grey Partridge were flushed from the hedge and track. Even though it was late in the afternoon (4:15 p.m.) I had 200 Tree Sparrows, which is the highest count since the snow. So they are back to their peak numbers, which is good. Eight House Sparrows perched in the top of a tree as I drove off finished the day.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

More Yellow In The Gloom

Just a quick update from the past couple of days. The weathermen got it right on Sunday and it rained for most of the day. I spent a couple of hours nest box building in the morning and got seven boxes for Pied Flycatcher or Tree Sparrow (depending on where I put them up) built. I have two more that I will do this coming weekend.

I called at Rawcliffe Moss to feed this morning in the half light before I set off in the direction of the West Pennine moors visiting a couple of farmers for work. I had the best count of Yellowhammer for the winter as I pushed 22 out of the 'feeding station' hedge as I walked along. I suspect that the Yellowhammers are roosting in the hedge close to where they feed, unlike the Tree Sparrows which roost off site. Tree Sparrows only numbered 29 this morning as they were just starting to arrive as I fed.

Before I headed back to the car I had six white rumps bouncing across the 'big' field that were attached to six Roe Deer. I didn't have much on my farm visits other than a Jay for the year list competition with my colleagues.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Seeing Yellow

It was extremely murky when I set off to Rawcliffe Moss at 07:00 to meet Craig, Ian and Phil to do some ringing at the feeding station. Normally under these conditions you don't catch at all, but this morning was different.

I was there first and started to put the nets up in the dark and two calling male Tawny Owls kept me company. On the first net round we had an incredible nine Yellowhammers in the two nets. Unfortunately, one escaped but we did catch another one later. Nine Yellowhammers ringed is the most Yellowhammers we have ever ringed during a single ringing session!

In addition to the Yellowhammers we ringed six Chaffinches, two Reed Buntings, Tree Sparrow, Blue Tit, two Blackbirds, four Starlings and seven Long-tailed Tits.

As you can imagine in all the fog the birding was slow and we saw very little. A number of Pink-footed Geese were moving around but we couldn't see them, but two Whooper Swans heading north just out of the murk were nice. Three Corn Buntings were with the Yellowhammers at the Pheasant feeder, but they never ventured towards the nets.

I was going to do a a couple of hours birding tomorrow, followed by several hours nest box building, but I have just looked at the forecast and it looks as though it will just be nest box building. Rain is forecast!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Yesterdays News

I didn't have time to 'blog' yesterday as I have had a bit of a hectic week; drinking, gigs etc, thus not leaving much time at home. I did the usual feed on Rawcliffe Moss yesterday and it was business as usual.

Eight Yellowhammers at the Pheasant feeder, nineteen Chaffinch and 175 Tree Sparrows at the feeding station proper. Three Buzzards soaring and calling to each other over Tree Sparrow wood were nice and then it was back off to work for me.

I am hoping that we'll get out ringing tomorrow, so I might have more to report then. Then again I might not!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Mystery Solved...I Think!

If you remember when I called at Rawcliffe Moss last Saturday (16th) I mentioned the Stock Dove/Woodpigeon in the entrance hole to the Little Owl box, well today it was gone and perched up in the open just to the side of the box was one of the Little Owls. I can only assume that when I went past on Saturday the Little Owl had recently killed the bird and was dragging it into the box. Of course I could have got the identification wrong and perhaps the prey item was something smaller, but whatever it was it was bigger than a Little Owl. I can only assume that it had been killed in the tree, or even in the box. So perhaps the mystery isn't solved after all!

It was business as usual this morning on the moss. Yellowhammers had increased to fourteen by the Pheasant feeder and the usual Kestrel was patrolling the area. Tree Sparrows seem stable at around 178 and Chaffinch numbered 23. Eighteen Pink-footed Geese were knocking about and seven Shelduck were roving around, which is always an early sign of Spring for me. Also Great Tits were singing there heads off from Curlew Wood, another sign of Spring.

As I headed across the moss north towards Nateby I could see somewhere in the region of 3,000 'Pink-feet' dropping in to fields to feed on the south side of the River Wyre just upstream from Cartford Bridge, but unfortunately I didn't have time to search them out.

Sunday, 17 January 2010


It was another Coot ringing session at Stanley Park today for Craig, Ian and Me, and we were joined by 'ace' Coot catcher Kane Brides who has ringed an incredible 150 Coots in the past week alone, at Southport Marine Lake, along with an amazing 50 Tufted Ducks, and all by hand!

Unfortunately the Coots weren't 'playing ball' today and we only managed to catch and colour ring three.

In addition to the Coot we caught an adult female Mallard and an adult male Tufted Duck. The Tufted Duck was a ringing tick for me and a new addition to Fylde Ringing Group's list of species ringed. Thanks go to Kane for catching this stonking bird.

The Tufted Duck was the 110th species ringed by the group. Phil and Will went to ring at the old Royal Albert hospital near Lancaster and caught the 10th Woodcock for the group this morning.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Now You See It, Now You Don't

It was amazing the difference between ice and snow conditions between today and yesterday on Rawcliffe Moss. After a whole night of rain almost all of the ice was gone and the driving conditions were back to normal. Even though I fed yesterday, I fed today so I wouldn't need to go tomorrow and hopefully we can catch some more Coot.

Six Yellowhammer were at the Pheasant feeder and at the feeding station itself were 164 Tree Sparrows and 17 Chaffinch. The usual two Grey Partridge were along the track plus another pair that I put up at the feeding station.

Driving off the moss I picked up a raptor flying parallel to me, but a fields distance away. I stopped and got my bins on it and it was a male Peregrine. Nice, my first one of the year on the Moss. I then lost it and picked it up again on the deck.

A quick check of the usual Little Owl spots revealed none present. At one of the locations where we put a box up a couple of years ago for them I noticed a dead pigeon in the entrance to the box. I couldn't tell what it was, either a Woodpigeon or a Stock Dove. If I was betting man I would put my money on Stock Dove, mainly because of the fact that they are hole nesters and do use boxes.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Slippery When Wet

Not much to report today other than a quick dash to Rawcliffe Moss to feed. The track across the moss was at its most dangerous since the big freeze began with a film of water on top of sheet ice; lovely!

I think really all I need to say is that I had the usual! The usual today being nine Yellowhammers, 180 Tree Sparrows, two Grey Partridges and twenty Chaffinch. It was good to see the Tree Sparrow numbers bouncing back. In fact over the last three feeds the numbers have gone 34, 110 and 180. Hopefully they'll be back over 200 soon.

Over the past few days my office window peanut feeder has been visited by six Long-tailed Tits. They come just before first light to feed and then again just as it is getting dark. I imagine they are looking to get a protein boost at the start and end of the day.

The weather looks pretty awful for tomorrow, but dry and a touch windy for Sunday, so we'll probably try our hand at a few more Coot on Sunday. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


As I was driving down the track on Rawcliffe Moss this afternoon to where I park to walk down to the feeding station I could see two or three corvids mobbing something that looked a bit Gull-like in flight, but I could tell it wasn't a Gull. I parked as quickly as possible, taking care not to brake too hard and slide in to the ditch, and leaped out of the car and got my bins on the mystery bird, and low and behold it was a Short-eared Owl! I'm not used to seeing 'Shorties' flying so high. The corvids gave up the chase and the Shortie drifted over Curlew Wood.

'Shortie' in the hand courtesy of Nigel

A nice start to what was yet another walk in the snow to drop some seed off. The snow was coming down fairly quickly, but the flakes were quite small and it didn't seem to be sticking much. A male Kestrel flew in front of Curlew Wood and I flushed two Grey Partridges from the hedge bottom. They in turn flushed four Yellowhammers from the Pheasant feeder. With the Yellowhammer was a single Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting.

Looking through my bins towards the feeding station I could see there were more Tree Sparrows than a couple of days ago and when I counted them there were 110 plus eleven Chaffinch. Two buckets of seed and half a dozen apples were duly put out.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Slow Thaw

A slow thaw has now set in and it is a slow thaw. Yesterday when I went to feed the Tree Sparrows (or lack of them) it was very treacherous with a film of water on top of the ice. As I approached the moss the first bird I had was a Merlin perched on top of a low tree. I stopped to get a better look but unfortunately it flew off.

As I approached the track to the feeding station a female Sparrowhawk 'flap-glided' across the track and on towards Tree Sparrow Wood. Thinking about it, the Sparrowhawk may well have been the reason for the lack of Tree Sparrows this morning as much as the weather.

At the feeding station there were only 34 Tree Sparrows, two Grey Partridges and five each of Blackbird and Chaffinch. Interestingly as I approached the feeding station seven Corn Buntings flew away and these were the first that I have had since the start of the cold snap.

As usual four Yellowhammers were around the Pheasant feeder and ten Lapwings were feeding in the pasture next to the track, presumably trying to feed on the now 'uncovered' sward.

Ian sent me some pictures recently and you will find two of them below. The first one shows 'yours truly' grappling with a Coot and the second a male and female Yellowhammer from a recent ringing session on Rawcliffe Moss.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Catching Coot

It was a first for me this morning; catching Coot by hand in Stanley Park, Blackpool. Craig has been keen to have a go at catching Coot here for a while and with permission sought from Blackpool Council, this morning was our first opportunity. So armed with G rings, colour rings and six loaves of bread we made our way to the piece of water that wasn't frozen and where all the wildfowl were congregating.

The wildfowl are fed regularly here by 'Joe Public' so they have become quite approachable, but 'Joe Public' don't haul them out of the water! We were going to colour ring the Coot as part of Kane's Northwest Coot Colour Ringing Project, that's if we could catch any of course!

Ian in position

We started throwing bread out and within a couple of minutes Craig had caught the first bird. Then he got another, and another and then Ian caught two. Within 20-30 minutes we had caught and ringed five Coot. All of the birds were fitted with three colour rings in addition to the metal ring so they can be identified as individual birds. Not bad, but from this point on we didn't catch any more as the birds had become very wary.

Fitting the colour rings

Measuring the wing

The finished article

These were only the 3rd - 7th Coots that Fylde Ringing Group had ringed, the last ones being back in 1991 on Clifton Marsh. There were probably over 100 Coot on the lake and mingling in with them were 14 Shovelers and a couple of Tufted Ducks.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

It Doesn't Get Any Warmer

I was due to feed on Rawcliffe Moss again today so me and 'her indoors' slid our way to the feeding station. There was still 15 cm of snow and it was still freezing cold! A few flocks of Pink-footed Geese were moving around this morning, presumably trying to find somewhere suitable to feed. In all we had 403 made up of different groups.

'Her indoors' ready to face the elements

As we set off down the track only two Yellowhammers were at the Pheasant feeder. As usual I scattered some seed from the feeder around the base of it to make it easier for the birds to feed. In fact as we walked towards the feeding station it was obvious that there were few birds around. Only thirty Tree Sparrows and four Chaffinch were feeding on what was left of the feed. Half a dozen apples and two buckets of seed were put down and we set off for a walk round.

As we walked along the '97' hedge we had seven Roe Deer in the adjacent field including a buck with antlers in velvet. Later on we would see the same group of deer crossing the track to feed in a stubble field. We had a walk through the L Wood but it was very quiet except for a few Wrens feeding at the base of mossy trees trying to find invertebrates. They will certainly be a species that will suffer in this cold weather.
Dodgy digi-binned Roe Deer

On the way to the plantation we had five Grey Partridges either in the field before the plantation or in the plantation itself. The plantation looked very much like the Taiga in winter and probably held less birds! As we came out of the plantation at the north end we had a Buzzard fly out of the fir wood continually harassed, as always, by a small squadron of Corvids.

The Taiga or the plantation!

Looking towards Rough Holme Farm we picked up a Barn Owl hunting over some frozen pasture. They must find it tough in these conditions. The walk back along the track to the car didn't reveal much more other than a Kestrel and 65 Lapwings heading west towards the coast.

Tomorrow I will be hopefully colour ringing some Coot with some lads from the 'group' so I'll let you know how we get on.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Still In The Icy Grip

I had another ice driving session this morning as I made my way to Rawcliffe Moss. I didn't have long, just a quick dash to feed. It was pleasing to note that, as predicted, the Tree Sparrows had increased to 80 and correspondingly the Chaffinch to 12.

As usual a Grey Partridge called from the field in front of Curlew Wood and four Yellowhammers were at the feeding station. A few Blackbirds and a couple of Fieldfares seem to be surviving on the apples I put out and they make short work of them too.

Driving off the moss and past the 'Little Owl tree' I could see the resident Little Owl looking down at me and staring right into my soul with those piercing yellow eyes. Tremendous!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More Of The White Stuff

This morning we received yet another dollop of snow and we received so much that I abandoned my attempt to get to the office. It was an enforced day off from work. After lunch it stopped snowing and I decided to have a go at getting on to Rawcliffe Moss as the Tree Sparrows needed feeding. I didn't go the usual 'scenic' route, but stuck to the main roads as far as possible. The minor roads and tracks on to the moss were a little adventurous, but two buckets of seed were duly loaded into the car.

This is the third time in as many weeks that I have had to take my shovel with me in case I got the car stuck and also to clear some snow away to put some feed down.

Robin at the infamous Pheasant feeder

As I made my way down the track it was obvious that there were few birds about. No Yellowhammers at the Pheasant feeder, but as soon as I cleared some snow away around it and scattered some seed a Robin was straight in. A few Blackbirds and a couple of Fieldfares were down the hedge, feeding on 'I don't know what'.

Snowy Ditch

At the feeding station itself 33 Tree Sparrows were hanging on, only sustained by the two peanut feeders I suspect. They were accompanied by half a dozen Chaffinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from Curlew Wood and a Grey Partridge from the adjacent field. Snow cleared and food put out I made my way back to the car. To the east at least 2,500 Pink-footed Geese moved from one field to another to feed and two Lapwings winged their way west.

It is going to freeze tonight and over the next couple of days, but there isn't any snow forecasted for our area. So hopefully the numbers of Tree Sparrows will build up again.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Wet Saturday Morning

So much for the cold frosty start with some wet stuff coming in later! Don't worry I'm not going to get on my soap box again and start going on about the weather forecast. As a Tree Sparrow slave I had to make my usual visit to feed on Rawcliffe Moss this morning, and unfortunately it was either raining, hailing or sleeting all the time I was there. This meant that my walk round was cut to a minimum.

I have been mixing some barley in with my bird food to make it go further and try and cut the cost of running the feeding station. One of the unfortunate results of this is an increase in the number of Woodpigeons coming to the feeding station and when I looked down the track from the gate this morning there were 30 on the seed.

Thrush wise I only had a couple of Song Thrush, a handful of Blackbirds and calling Redwings that I couldn't see. No Fieldfares at all. Seven Yellowhammers fed from the Pheasant feeder and a Kestrel perched on top of a single hawthorn kept a watchful eye. Numbers of Tree Sparrows had increased, as expected, to a more respectful 140 and 19 Chaffinch were associating with them.

As the weather was fairly atrocious I decided that I would cut back through Curlew Wood to the car to try and keep dry and also in the hope that I might flush a Woodcock or two. I did keep dry, but didn't flush any Woodcock. All I did flush were two Grey Partridges from the rough field next to the wood.

I then nipped to my office to top the feeders up there and as soon as I had filled the sunflower heart feeders two Nuthatches were straight in.

Friday, 1 January 2010

News Year Eve and Day - A Quick Update

I called briefly at the feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss yesterday on my way out with 'her indoors' and put some seed out. I didn't really have time for a mooch round, so it was a quick march down the track to the feeding area and back again. A few 'Pink-feet' were moving around and I had 286 in total. Paul was telling me that there are currently 15,000 Over Wyre.

At the feeding station itself there were 65 Tree Sparrows, seven Chaffinch and two Yellowhammers.

This morning at about 10:00 I got a phone call from my mate Ian saying that the drake Ring-necked Duck was on the western most of the Fleetwood Marine lakes and was showing well in fantastic light. I dashed up there for another helping of this delightful duck and got one or two reasonable shots, one of which is now the header for my blog. With it being the 1st January, everyone who had twitched it when Ian first found it on 29th December were twitching it again for their year lists!

Also on the Marine Lakes were five Tufted Ducks, with which the Ring-necked was associating with, and 120 Turnstones.