Friday, 30 July 2010

A Birdless Mid-week For Me

Just in case you had wondered whether I had dropped off the face of the planet I had better report that I have nothing to report! Unfortunately this week has seen me desk bound apart from a day in the field on Tuesday (27th). However, this was a trek across a wet and rainy Saddleworth Moor in preparation for some survey work there next week, and therefore I saw bugger all!

It is weekend so I am hoping that the rain and bird Gods are kind and I can get out for two days of birding. I'll let you know.
I like looking back at my old note books and I have them all from the time I started birding in 1976. On this date (30th July) in 1996 I was ringing at a wetland site to the east of Garstang called Greenhalgh Castle Tarn. It was an early start at 4.30 a.m., but it was a perfect ringing morning with calm conditions and near complete cloud cover. No billowing nets or light reflecting off the nylon mesh.

I had a large number of Mistle Thrushes that morning flying east to feed and I counted 76 birds, which is quite a good count. I managed to ring 51 birds and retrapped 8. The new birds included 2 Swallows, 7 Sedge Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Linnets, 5 Reed Buntings, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, 5 Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat.

Blackcap - female

It was a cracking wetland site and was stuffed full of invertebrates so it attracted large numbers of warblers relative to its size. Years later I had to abandon the site as it was getting too dangerous to ring there because of the nature of the peat and I often broke the surface tension of the bog and sank to the top of my thighs without warning!

Let's hope that I have a warbler filled weekend this weekend. How about a warbler from across the pond. I think the Common Yellowthroat below brightens up the page!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Another Warbler Fest

Ian and I ventured forth for another 4.30 a.m. start at the Nature Park this morning in attempt to catch and ring some more Acros. As was the case yesterday a number of Swallows were exiting a roost on site as we put up our nets. I counted 250 flying around shortly after first light and I am guessing that there are probably 5-600 birds roosting.

We managed to trap 34 birds of 9 species for ringing as follows:

Reed Warbler - 19
Sedge Warbler - 2
Whitethroat - 6
Swallow - 2
Blackcap - 1
Dunnock - 1
Blackbird - 1
Wren - 1
Reed Bunting - 1


Reed Bunting

Reed Warbler

We half expected a lot of retraps from yesterday but we only caught 3, so obviously there was a good turn over of birds. We were hoping to make it three mornings in a row but the forecast for tomorrow is for drizzle/light rain.

A quick look on the pools after we packed up revealed 6 Little Grebes, 82 Herring Gulls, 23 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 20 Coots.

Friday, 23 July 2010

At Last!!!

Ian and I have been trying for weeks to get into the reedbed at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park to do some ringing, but have been constantly thwarted by the weather. At last the forecast gave us some hope and at 4.30 a.m. this morning we were putting the nets up.

As we were putting the first line of '60s' up in the reeds we could hear Swallows calling as they exited the roost. It was difficult to tell how many, but back at 'base camp' after putting the nets up a 100 came out, so I am guessing there is probably at least 3-400 roosting.

A Barn Owl put in an early appearance and was constantly mobbed by large Gulls as it hunted over the grassland on the tip. An early Grey Wagtail dropped on to the pool and two breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwits fed alongside 10 Lapwings.

It seemed quiet in the reeds and willow scrub but our nets proved otherwise and we ended up trapping 40 birds of 8 species as follows:

Reed Warbler - 17
Whitethroat - 11
Reed Bunting - 1
Sedge Warbler - 7
Robin - 1
Wren - 1
Willow Warbler - 1
Goldfinch - 1

Reed Warbler


Sedge Warbler


Willow Warbler


We retrapped the french ringed Sedge Warbler that we controlled here in the Spring, so it had obviously stayed around to the breed. At the time of our original capture we wondered whether it was still on passage as it was May when we caught it.

 Sedge Warbler - French ringed (not that you can tell!)

After we packed up I had a quick look on the 'deep' pool and it was quiet other than 20 Coots and 5 Little Grebes. The weather is looking okay at the moment for the rest of the weekend, so hopefully plenty of more birding and ringing ahead.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Mighty Conder

I was working in the Cockerham area this morning so I decided to have a look on the Conder estuary and pool before meeting my client later in the morning. The Conder estuary is a cracking birding spot as the estuary is so compact and easily viewable, and you can obtain good views of waders.

Black-headed Gull

I knew that the tide would be running in and covering some of the creeks, but I had a look nevertheless. The water level was high on the pool and there were few feeding areas for waders. Most of the waders were roosting on the islands as the incoming tide had covered the feeding areas up on the creeks. Four species were present in the form of 4 Oystercatchers, 14 Redshanks, Spotted Redshank and 49 Lapwings. The only other bird of note on the pool was a juvenile Great Crested Grebe.


On the estuary it was fairly quiet because of the incoming tide apart from 5 Common Sandpipers and 54 Redshanks. Looking towards the Lune there were 57 Mute Swans and 200 Lapwings on the saltmarsh.

Common Sandpiper

The good news for tomorrow is that it is going to be fit for some ringing so I'm off to set my alarm for 4.00 a.m.!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Quiet Damp Moss

I called at Rawcliffe Moss today before I headed into Bowland once again. There had been a lot of rain overnight and as a result the vegetation was extremely wet. This morning was quite fair with a few bright spells and a light southwesterly breeze. Perfect for ringing, but I was working!

I had time to get as far as the plantation this morning but didn't as I could see one of the locals with her two idiot dogs that would have flushed everything, so I didn't bother.

At least three Corn Buntings were singing and twice as many Brown Hares were in the field next to Curlew Wood and in the 'big field'. From Curlew Wood I could hear a few Blackbirds alarm calling as if they were letting a predator know that they knew it was there! Tawny Owl perhaps?

A number of hirundines were feeding over the fields including 13 Swallows, 2 House Martins and 2 Swifts. I had a few (4) Whitethroats dotted about including a male along the '97' hedge carrying a large green caterpillar. Three Stock Doves went over and I had 13 Tree Sparrows along the '97' hedge. At a farm that I was surveying this afternoon near Nateby I had a pair of Tree Sparrows nesting in an old building and one of the adults was taking in nest material. It was probably sprucing up the nest cavity in preparation for a third brood.


Goldfinch numbers had reduced to 14 as a consequence of the 'top field' being cut and the 'thistle' source of their food being removed. So there will be no ringing session there. Quite a few butterflies were on the wing as the morning warmed including Gatekeeper, Meadow brown, Large White, Small White and Green-veined White.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Lost And Found

I got a phone call from Ian last night to say that he had found 'our' two missing Ringed Plover chicks. They were with another adult on the other side of the groyne from where we ringed the two Thursday evening. So they hadn't been predated and they had managed to hatch 4 out of 4. More of that later.

I rolled out of my 'pit' again at 4.00 a.m. and headed off to Rossall Point. By 4.45 a.m. I was seawatching behind the Coastguards Tower and the wind direction was better being west-southwesterly, but it had dropped . In fact it was one of those in between mornings where it is too windy to ring and not really blowy enough for a good seawatch.

There were plenty of returning waders on the beach this morning including 77 Dunlin, 2 Turnstone (both in summer plumage; stonking!), 31 Oystercatchers, 8 Curlews, 131 sanderling and a Redshank.

Out on the sea it was quiet even though the visibility was good. I had 28 Common Scoters and a male Eider, and all there was moving was a single Manxie and 2 Gannets. I heard a Sandwich Tern, but didn't see it, and my best bird was a 1st winter Little Gull that flew along the tide line.

I called in at the Nature Park on my way home and it was quiet here too. I am not going to pad it out but just tell you that I had 10 Little Grebes, 2 Whitethroats, 17 Mallards, 15 Coots, 2 Reed Warblers, 4 Linnets and 10 Tufted Ducks.

Reed Warbler

Just before lunch Gail and I bobbed back to Rossall Point to meet Ian and try and locate the 2 unringed Ringed Plover chicks. Within no time at all we found one of the adults brooding the 4 young and before you could say "Robert's your Mother's brother" they were ringed.

Ringed Plover chicks

Back at home the post had arrived and there were a couple of recoveries from the BTO. One was a local Blackbird that hadn't moved, but there was a Pied Flycatcher (see below) that had been lifted off the nest at Barnacre on 9.5.09 and controlled at Whitney Court, Hereford & Worcester on 17.5.10.

The forecast looks grim for tomorrow so I might treat myself to a rare lie in!

Friday, 16 July 2010

A Day Too Early?

I rolled out of bed this morning at 4.00 a.m. and I could hear the wind and rain lashing against the conservatory. The plan was to do a short sea watch before work at Rossall Point. I battled my way a long the sea front and took shelter behind the Coastguard's Tower. The wind was a strong south-southwesterly (perhaps a little too southerly) and the visibility was very poor.

The Sea Off Rossall Point As It Came Light

I stuck it out for an hour and a quarter and returned home having seen very little at all. In fact I didn't see any sea birds, let alone a Stormie! As the tide dropped a few waders appeared on the beach including 15 Oystercatchers, Turnstone, 4 Ringed Plovers, 2 Whimbrel, 26 Sanderlings and 10 Dunlin. Some of the Sanderling were in summer plumage and looked absolutely stunning. No chance of a photograph I'm afraid in these weather conditions.


It looks like more of the same for the weekend so I doubt I will get out ringing, but I haven't given up on that Storm Petrel!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

First For A Decade

I had just walked through the door from work this evening when my mobile rang and it was Ian to say that he was at Rossall Point and that the Ringed Plovers had hatched. Excellent news! Every year a few pairs attempt to nest but due to immense disturbance from 'dog walkers' they never manage to hatch any. I think over the years the local authority could have done more by perhaps zoning the beach, but that would be too much work and they only seem to want to pay 'lip service' to conservation matters.

Ringed Plover chicks

This particular pair of Ringed Plovers had been incubating 4 eggs but only 2 had successfully hatched. Or possibly the other two had hatched but had been predated. Anyway, I dashed up to Rossall and Ian ringed the 2 chicks.

I noticed on the beach that there were a number of returning waders in the form of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. If this weather keeps up there'll be a Storm Petrel or two around over the next couple of days.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

A day Of Two Halves

I had an hour to spare this morning before heading off in to Bowland to spend the day surveying a farm in the fells. I decided to have a bit of walk round the bit of Rawcliffe Moss that I 'work' regularly and talk about on here.

Driving there it got me thinking as to how long I have been birding and ringing on this bit of the Moss. I got permission from the farmer to ring here in 2003, so I am in my eighth year of birding and ringing on this site. In fact the farmer is one of my clients and between us we put together a conservation scheme through Countryside Stewardship. New hedges have gone in, wild bird seed crops sown, over-wintered stubbles left and 6 metre grass margins established. All these features have provided some fantastic habitat for farmland birds. A couple of years later I designed a 3 hectare woodland planting scheme that is now developing nicely and is a cracking piece of habitat. In fact this new woodland or the 'plantation' as I call it forms part of one of two areas that we ring in.

Anyway I digress. It was a day of two halves because of the habitat that I was birding in/surveying and the weather. As I drove down the track on to the Moss I had a female Red-legged Partridge on the track with four chicks. She was obviously keeping her chicks out of the margins of the crop to keep them dry as we had quite a bit of overnight rain and the vegetation was soaking wet.

Because of time constraints I didn't get as far as the plantation this morning and consequently my warbler 'score' is fairly low. I walked down the feeding station hedge, along the '97' hedge and on to the top moss before heading back along the track past Curlew Wood and on to my car.

Along the ditch next to where I park is a cracking 'rank' grass margin (see above). This will protect the water course from agricultural inputs and provide some fantastic habitat for invertebrates and birds, as well as providing a corridor between habitats.

On my walk I had 4 singing Corn Buntings as well as two birds having some sort of territorial dispute. If I had tried to guess the time of year solely by the number of Tree Sparrows I had, I would have said that it was late autumn/early winter. In total I had 29 in groups of 9, 2 and 18. Of course these were all small flocks of adults and juveniles and it was nice to see.

Corn (King) Bunting

I had good numbers of Brown Hare and in one meadow I had 6! Goldfinches were certainly a feature of the morning and in total I had 65 along with 10 Linnets. The majority of these were on the 'top moss' and I think that in a day or two I will pop back and see if I can catch a few of them for ringing. I'll let you know how I get on.

Brown Hare

Three Skylarks sang as I walked round and along the '97' hedge I had a singing Reed Bunting. As I said earlier my warbler 'score' was low and the only warblers I had were 3 Whitethroats along the '97' hedge.


As I climbed (slight incline!) up onto the top moss I had a look on the recently sown wild bird seed plot. As you can see from the picture below it is just starting to sprout and the bare soil and weeds are attracting quite a few birds. On the plot were 5 Stock Doves, 3 Mistle Thrushes and a good percentage of the Goldfinch/Linnets. As I stood watching these birds a Quail was singing from behind me. That's if you can call a Quail's song a song!

Wild Bird Seed Plot

Looking across the moss towards the east I had 3 Buzzards soaring over some woodland and these would be the only raptors that I would record all morning. As I headed back along the track past Curlew Wood I had Grey Wagtail go over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the 'L' wood.

From here it was on to the farm in Bowland, northeast of Chipping, that I would spend the rest of the day surveying. So the second half of my day was from the lowlands to the uplands. I would also get quite wet during the afternoon, but then that's part of the job!

Looking north from the farm there is a conifer plantation on the side of the hill and as the morning warmed condenstion drifted from the top edge into the sky. This was still going on in the afternoon and if you look carefully you can see this in the picture below.

Besides surveying the vegetation and recording certain species of birds, invertebrates and mammals I have to look at any historical/archaeological features I come across, like the old lime kiln below, and assess its condition and suitability for maintenance or restoration.

Lime Kiln

Back to the birds. As is the norm in this area I had numerous Lesser Redpolls 'buzzing' over and smaller numbers of Siskins. In the wooded areas I recorded Jay, a party of 15 Long-tailed Tits and a calling Redstart.

Lesser Redpoll

As I got away from the 'in-bye' land and out on to the lower flanks of the fell I had a cracking male Peregrine go over. As I watched it a thermalling Buzzard drifted into my binocular view.

Peregrine - juvenile

It then started to rain and as I had finished surveying I put on my waterproofs and headed back to the yard.

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

The plan this afternoon was to finish work early, drop some bird seed off at Rawcliffe Moss and do a spot of birding. The first bit went to plan, but the constant drizzle meant that I couldn't have a walk round the Moss. I dropped the seed off and 2 Yellowhammers were duetting close to the barn. A good record for the atlas.


I decided to head home and curl up with a coffee and the latest Ibis, and pretend that I can understand the papers within! However, as I headed west it started to clear so I dived into Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park for a quick look.

The 'shallow' pool was virtually dry and all it contained was a single Black-headed Gull. The 'deeper' pool (pictures below) did have a few more birds on it and included 30 Coots, 10 Mallards, 6 Little Grebes, 3 Tufted Ducks and 3 Pochards.

On the artificial pool a number of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were flighting in to drink and bathe, and I counted 52 Herring Gulls and 42 Lesser Black-backed's.

Herrings and Lessers

We were due to do a ringing demonstration here tomorrow for the general public but we have had to call it off due to the weather forecast. On my way home I dropped in at Rossall School as it has been a while since I have had a walk round the 'obs'. It was a bit blustery and mid-afternoon so I didn't see much at all other than 3 Mistle Thrushes, 10 Goldfinches, Skylark, 2 Whitethroats, Reed Bunting and female Kestrel.

I had a quick look on the sea but it was very quiet. Here's hoping that the weather forecast is wrong so I can get out tomorrow. By the way I did get that coffee and started to read Ibis, but I won't embarrass myself and tell you how many papers I didn't understand!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Walking In Middle Earth

I spent the day today surveying some farm land in the Ribble Valley close to Stonyhurst College where J R Tolkein spent some time and it is alleged that the Ribble Valley was the inspiration for some of the landscapes in Lord Of The Rings. I didn't meet Bilbo, Frodo or indeed Gandalf, unfortunately, but I did see a few birds typical of the upland fringe.

Dark Clouds Over The Shire

Probably the best bird I had today was Redstart, or should I say Redstarts as I had 7 in total. The mature hedges on the margins of the uplands in the Ribble Valley are perfect for Redstarts and my 7 birds ranged from a stonking male, like the bird pictured below by Simon Hawtin (thanks Simon), through to a female and several juvs. Nice.

I had a number of Siskins around some of the conifer plantations as well as a few singing Goldcrests. Grey Wagtails were around the very dry looking rivers and streams and I had 4 Willow Warblers at various wetland locations.

Garden Warblers and Blackcaps sang from suitable habitat and mature woodland held 3 Nuthatches. Walking across a recently cut field I was buzzed by about 10 Swifts as they chased low flying aerial insects that viewed me as lunch! Lesser Redpolls 'buzzed' everywhere and I had 2 soaring Buzzards as I sat eating my lunch enjoying the spectacular views across to Pendle Hill.

Unfortunately I couldn't 'stop and stare' for long as I had a job to do and I had a lot of ground to cover.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Moths, Sweat and No Bird Pictures!

No real birding for me today as such as I had a few essential bits of DIY to do, like blocking a hole up to stop mice getting in to my kitchen!

I emptied the moth trap this morning and I caught 23 moths of 10 species that included 3 new species for the garden. The totals were Garden Carpet, Flame Shoulder, 12 Heart and Darts, 4 Dusky Brocades, Bright-line Brown-eye, Common Rustic (new), Light Arches (new), Rustic (new), Mottled Rustic and Marbled Beauty.

This afternoon I met Gary, Ian, Phil and Sarah at the Nature park to re-trim our net rides ready for 6 weeks of Acro ringing. Sarah and her industrial sized strimmer cut a 200 foot ride in the reeds and the rest of us concentrated on 'tidying' up the three net rides in the willow scrub.

Freshly Cut Mist Net Ride

I had a quick look on the pools and had 38 Coot (16 juvs.), 3 Little Grebes (2 juvs), male Pochard, 23 Mallards, 4 Tufted Ducks, 33 Herring Gulls and 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls. A Grasshopper Warbler reeled from some scrub and a Lesser Whitethroat 'ticked' from some mature willows.