Monday, 29 November 2010

On the Moss Again

As a slave to a feeding station making visits every other day, my blog is naturally going to be filled with notes and comments on Rawcliffe Moss. Yesterday was no exception and I decided to treat her indoors to a bit of a wander outdoors!

 Her Indoors has become Her Outdoors!

Driving on to Rawcliffe Moss we had two Kestrels and then it was a stop at the barn to collect the seed. As we got out of the car at the feeding station track two Snipe flushed from the ditch. Walking along the hedge towards the feeding station there were a few thrushes including 8 Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrushes and 10 Fieldfares.

Views across the Moss

Tree Sparrows only numbered 79, but again there were 4 Corn Buntings, 8 Chaffinch and 6 Yellowhammers with them. As we approached the badger set a large flock of 300 Chaffinch, with at least a dozen Bramblings mixed in, flew in. I am going to keep an eye on them over the next few days and if they seem settled and follow a regular pattern I might see if I can ring a few of them. Alternatively, I hope they find their way down to the feeding station.

It was then on to the top moss and on towards the plantation. Forty skylarks lifted off the peaty fields and 3 Roe Deers crossed the track in front of us. A diversion in to the 'L' Wood revealed no Woodcock and the plantation was similarly birdless.

It was then back to the car and lunch at the Courtyard Cafe in Great Eccleston.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frozen Obs

Unfortunately the forecast last night for this morning was for a stiff NNE breeze, meaning that it would be too windy for some ringing at the feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss, so I decided to head up to Rossall School instead. Before I report from the 'obs' it is probably worth mentioning that I dropped some seed off at my feeding station yesterday. It was late afternoon when I called so there wasn't the same number of birds as usual as some were heading off to roost.

I had 8 Corn Buntings and 3 of these were actually at the feeding station and this is usually a sign that they have exhausted any natural food locally. There were just 70 Tree Sparrows, 3 Yellowhammers, Reed Bunting and 7 or 8 Chaffinch plus assorted Tits.

On the way home I had a look on the River Wyre at Town End and had 8 Goosanders (2 males & 6 females/immatures).

Back to this morning and there was a very heavy frost as I set off along the track at the obs. I suppose I am quite fortunate in being able to report 'just' a heavy frost when most of the rest of the country has snow! Five or six Blackbird fed around the copse and a group of 7 Goldfinch flew over. As I got half way down the hedge and ditch alongside the track I flushed a Woodcock and a Snipe together. I then had a second Snipe in a wet ditch further on.

 Hard frost at the 'obs'

I didn't have a great deal more until I had a look on the sea. There was a regular passage of Cormorants north and in total I had 148. Where they were going I am not sure. There is a large shingle island that has developed off Rossall and this  now only gets covered on very high tides and in the week Ian had over 300 roosting on here, so they could have been heading there.

 Redshank at the 'obs'

There were a few Eiders on the sea and I also had 24 Common Scoters. I then picked up an adult winter Great Northern Diver heading south, which made it 2 different Great Northern Divers this week as I saw the juvenile on the Marine Lakes on Thursday afternoon. The only other birds of interest were a flock of 7 Teal bobbing up and down on the sea. It isn't uncommon to get Teal on the sea but they always look very out of place.

Talking of Great Northern Divers I decided to have a quick look on the Marine Lakes to see if I could make it 2 in a day but the juvenile had gone! On the lakes I had 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, 6 Tufted Ducks and 3 Goldeneyes.

 Black-headed Gull at the Marine Lakes

I was hoping for a ringing session on Rawcliffe Moss tomorrow, but the forecast for inland Fylde is for fog first thing and that combined with -5 degree temperatures makes it not very good for ringng; so I'll just go and feed instead and have a mooch round.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Working (?) From Home!

I was working from home today as I had a walk to prepare for that I am leading tomorrow. I put a question mark after 'working' because when I do work from home I get easily distracted. I might nip out birding for an hour, or put a net up in the garden; but today I was determined to stay motivated and get on with the task in hand. I did have a moment of weakness when I spent a while trying to photograph the Starlings and Goldfinch visiting my garden feeders. More of that in a minute.

Yesterday I called briefly at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss to feed. About 400 Woodpiegon were feeding in the stubble field close to the Teal pool and this is the most I have had here so far this autumn/winter. At the feding station I had 22 Chaffinch, 67 Tree Sparrows, 4 Blackbirds, 5 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush.

Walking back to my car I had 4 Yellowhammers at the Pheasant feeder and a group of 10 Corn Buntings flew over.

Back to my 'working from home day'. Below you will find a few pictures of the Goldfinch and Starlings on my feeders. Common, mundane birds perhaps; but cracking creatures nonetheless!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Frosty Moss

Don't worry I'm not trying to think of lots of titles with the word moss in it! It was a frosty and foggy Rawcliffe Moss when Ian and I met just before 7.00 a.m. to ring at the feeding station. Two 60 foot nets were put up at the feeding station; then we watched them get damp with the mist, freeze, thaw and dry out! Thankfully it didn't stop us catching. We had a reasonably short session so that we were able to get off early and allow the birds to feed. In total we processed 59 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Coal Tit - 1
Blue Tit - 20 (5)
Chaffinch - 4
Tree Sparrow - 18 (1 control)
Great Tit - 6
Greenfinch - 6
Starling - 3
Robin - 1

Blue Tit


Coal Tit


Tree Sparrow

With the combination of fog and the fact that we were busy ringing I didn't record a great deal from a birding perspective. The Yellowhammers had increased to 8 at the Pheasant feeder and we had a single Siskin fly over. It was difficult to estimate the numbers of Tree Sparrows and I just put 100 in my notebook plus whatever we ringed.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from Curlew Wood and a bird fed on the peanut feeders but evaded capture. We had two parties of Long-tailed Tits move along the hedge along the track; a group of 15 and 11. There were about 60 Skylarks moving around this morning and a group of 20 Corn Buntings flew over heading to the northwest corner to feed. And that was it.

The forecast for tomorrow is for the northeasterly wind to freshen and for it to clear after any overnight drizzle. There is a tide in the morning so I might have a look and see what's about off Rossall.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Another Moss

I had a meeting at Leighton Moss this morning with one of my colleagues so I took the opportunity to get up there early and spend an hour or so in the Eric Morecambe hide looking at the wildfowl.

Walking towards the hides there was a mixed flock of finches feeding that included a couple of Brambling. There was a lot of wildfowl on the pools and to be honest I did a half hearted count but all I will say is that there were a lot of Wigeon and Shoveler. I had a about a dozen Pintail, 20 Gadwall, 2 Goldeneyes, 7 Goosanders and 10 Red-breasted Mergansers.

There were about 400 Black-tailed Godwits on the far pool and probably over 400 Lapwings. A single Spotted Redshank fed in front of the Godwits and 3 Greenshank fed alongside 4 Little Egrets. I didn't get any pictures other than those of the Grey Heron and Lapwings below.

Hopefully I will be ringing at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss tomorrow. I'll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

End of Season

I had the day off today because this afternoon I was going for a Chinese in Manchester with her indoors and the outlaws. If you are in Manchester and fancy a Chinese check out Sweet Mandarin; excellent!

My plan for today was to take off all the ropes on the mist net rides at Rossall and then go and feed the Tree Sparrows on Rawcliffe Moss. However, my mate Ian found a Barred Warbler yesterday afternoon in a small copse near Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park so I decided to call there first. I would have had time to look for it yesterday but I knew that all the local 'Yealist Challenge' idiots would be there. And they were and they were thrown off some private property as well! Why these clowns can't view the bird from where they are supposed to and be a little patient I don't know.

When I went this morning two clowns had parked their vehicles in a farm gateway, when there was ample parking on the road, and another clown was in the field (trespassing) trying to see the bird. I gave it half an hour and left as I had more important things to do.

Before I went to Rossall I decided to call at the Marine Lakes to see if the Great Northern Diver was about as this time I had my camera with me. It was and I got a few snaps. See below.

I then went to the 'obs' as planned and took off the ropes on the mist net rides signalling the end of the season proper. There were quite a few Blackbirds around and I had 22 in total down the hedge alongside the track and in the central hedgerow. These were joined by 3 Song Thrushes and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. The 'Great Spot' flew from the copse to the hedge along the ditch and worked its way along the hedge and ditch. It seemed odd every time I pushed it from the hedge as I walked along. 

By the time I got to Rawcliffe Moss I only really had time to put some food out. In addition to this I did put a few ropes on in preparation for our first ringing session; hopefully this weekend. A Buzzard flew along the front of Curlew Wood calling as it was chased by some Crows and a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from Curlew Wood as well. I had another Great Spot on one of the peanut feeders.

Yellowhammers had increased to 3 and at the feeding station were 135 Tree Sparrows and 20 Chaffinch. Thirteen Fieldfare flew over and that was all I had before I had to head home. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Wet Moss

Unfortunately I couldn't do any ringing today as I had a family meal to attend last night that threatened to be a late night affair. Not very conducive to getting up early in the morning and setting mist nets. However, I was home relatively early, midnightish, and I thought that I might go ringing in the morning if the weather was fit after all. A quick check of the forecasts showed that the weather had changed and it was going to be too wet and possibly a little too windy. So I suppose one consolation was that I hadn't missed a ringing session because I was too p*ssed to get out of bed!

I needed to feed on Rawcliffe Moss so I headed out there mid-morning amongst all the heavy rain showers. The plan was to feed and if the rain gave up I would have a walk round on the wet moss. As I walked down the track towards the feeding station the regular 2 Yellowhammers flew along the hedge in front of me calling away. It will be after Christmas before any numbers build up. At the feeding station itself I had 140 Tree Sparrows, which is an increase on recent days so that is good. There was also a couple of Reed Buntings at the feeding station as well as 15 Chaffinch and 5 Blackbirds.

I walked back to my car and put the seed bucket in the boot and I noticed that in the far corner of the 'west' field were quite a few Corn Buntings perched up in a willow. I headed over there walking past 'Tree Sparrow' wood and seeing a further dozen Chaffinch. As I walked along the 'Reed Bunting' ditch there were indeed a number of Reed Buntings flying along it and some were flying in to the willow and joining the Corn Buntings. There were 15 Corn Buntings in the willow and I had another flock of 35 fly over. It was difficult to count the Reed Bunts and I thought there were about 15 or so.

 Blurry Corn Buntings

Corn Bunting

Whilst watching the Buntings 28 Tree Sparrows dropped in and so did a dozen Fieldfares. A number of Pink-footed Geese were arriving from Pilling Moss direction and I had 1,140 in total. I then cut across the front of Curlew wood to the '97' hedge and headed north along here to the top fields and on to the plantation. There were probably another 10-15 Reed Buntings along here and when Colin came driving down the margin to top up the Pheasant feeders he flushed at least 50 Chaffinch.


Pink-footed Geese
Reed Bunting

Further along the '97' hedge I flushed a Woodcock and this was my first for the autumn. As I walked along the track towards the plantation I had a couple of Siskin go over and a single Brambling. Two Roe Deer ran across the track and in to the adjacent stubble field. In the plantation a large number of Goldfinch, 50, were feeding on the ground on fallen birch seeds and also a further 15 Chaffinch were feeding amongst the birches.

 Roe Deer


On my way back to the car I flushed a second Woodcock from the margin next to the track, just before the heavens opened and ended my walk on a wet moss.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Not a Lot to Report Really

The weather, as you will know if you are in the UK, has been pretty awful recently and the only time I have managed to get is out is to feed at my Rawcliffe Moss feeding station. Usually when I go to feed I like to take my time and have a slow wander observing and counting everything. Not these past two times!

I went on Wednesday (10th) and this afternoon and it was more of a dash down the track, drop the seed off, top up the feeders, throw some apples down and back to the car! On Wednesday there were 30-40 Fieldfares feeding on the hawthorn berries and then flying to and from Curlew Wood. The same was happening today except that there was 60-70.


It was late in the afternoon when I was there today and the Fieldfares soon moved off west, presumably to roost. At one point they dropped on to the track to bathe in a puddle before heading off. As it was late afternoon I didn't see many Tree Sparrows today, but on Wednesday I was earlier and had 105. Yellowhammers haven't started building up yet and at the moment I am only getting about three.

 Yellowhammer on a frosty day last winter

It's looking like I'll get out birding tomorrow but it is still going to be fairly windy from the west so I'll need to have a little think about what to do.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Moss, Marsh and Marine Lakes

Todays post covers both yesterday and today. I had to feed my hungry Tree Sparrows yesterday and I nipped out from work to my feeding station. It was pleasing to note that there were 110 Tree Sparrows with about a dozen chaffinch, 3 Reed Buntings, 2 Yellowhammers, 5 Blackbird and 4 Fieldfares.

On my way home I called in to have a look at the Great Northern Diver on Fleetwood Marine Lake that my mate Ian had found the previous day. I have seen several Great Northern Divers at Fleetwood off Rossall Point, but they are never as good on the sea as they are on a lake. I had cracking views of it and I was just annoyed that I didn't have my camera with me.

This afternoon I was on Freckleton Marsh with AG from the RSPB and JR the contractor, putting some soil bunds with pipe sluices in on some of the newly created ditches to hopefully control water levels on the marsh. The shallow ditches that we put in during the summer are looking fantastic now that they are holding water. I have included some pictures below of the ditches and some of the bunds before, during and after construction.

Walking round we had a Woodcock and that was about it bird wise. I can't wait to come back in the Spring and see what effect the ditches and bunds have had on the breeding wader population. Hopefully plenty of Lapwings and Redshanks. 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Not One, But Two!

We had two objectives this morning which were a ringing session at Rossall and a second ringing session at the Nature Park to see if we could catch the Cetti's Warbler that Ian found where we ring earlier in the week. As you will all know Cetti's Warblers are expanding their range and it is important that these birds are ringed to get a picture of where they are coming from and where they are colonising. If we know the rate of expansion of a species like Cetti's Warbler, which is almost certainly as a result of global warming, we can assist it's range expansion by creating and managing suitable habitat for it to colonise.

Gary, Ian and I arrived at the 'obs' at 6.30 a.m. to be greeted by a stiff ENE breeze and because of the wind we only put 3 nets up totalling 120 feet. A Redwing/Fieldfare MP3 was put on, followed by a Greenfinch MP3 later in the morning. We processed 38 new birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Redwing - 4
Greenfinch - 29
Chaffinch - 2
Blue Tit - 2
Blackbird - 1 (1)


 Blue Tit



We have now ringed 304 Greenfinch at the obs this autumn without a single recapture! As it was coming light a Sparrowhawk perched up on one of our mist net poles. We knew of cause that it knew the net was there and therefore there was no chance of catching it.

 Sparrowhawk perched on mist net pole!

For the first couple of hours there was quite a lot of 'vis' that included 18 Whooper Swans, 27 Bramblings, 57 Siskins, 100 Redwings, 6 Fieldfares, 68 Chaffinch, female Sparrowhawk, 25 Lapwings, 154 Pink-footed Geese and 11 Skylarks. All of the finches were moving north into the wind, but the other mainly 'larger' birds were moving south.

A party of 7 Long-tailed Tits moved through the hedgerows heading north and 2 Reed Buntings was everything else that we recorded.

Ian and I then went to the Nature Park to see if we could catch and ring the Cetti's Warbler. As we headed past the ICI Pool we had a Buzzard perched on a fence and unbelievably this was my first record for Fleetwood.

We set a 40 foot net up through some willow scrub and reeds in one of our net rides and put on the MP3. Immediately we caught the Cettis. We ringed and processed the bird and went to take the net down and low and behold there was a second bird in the net! So there wasn't just one Cetti's there were two! It will be interesting to see if they spend the winter here, and if they don't at least they are ringed and we might get some information on their subsequent movements.

Cetti's Warbler number 1

Cetti's Warbler number 2

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Latest Ringing Totals

We, that is Fylde Ringing Group, have ringed 2,545 full grown birds and 520 pulli so far this year making this our best year since 1997 when we ringed 3,181 full grown birds and 807 pulli! Those were the days. The year of course isn't over yet, so there is still time to ring a few more. I realise that in comparison to some individuals, groups, observatories etc that these totals might look paltry, but it is quite an achievement for our small band of dedicated ringers.

I just thought that I would list below some of the totals that I think are interesting/noteworthy so far:

Tufted Duck - 1. caught by hand at Stanley park whilst colour ringing Coot.
Kestrel - 5 pulli
Coot - 48 full grown birds. Mainly due to Craig's hard work.
Ringed Plover - 4. The first brood to fledge at Rossall Point for over a decade!
Woodcock - 2. Including a bird caught in Ian's chicken coop!
Little Owl - 6 pulli and 1 full grown. Down to Phil and Will's hard work.
Tawny Owl - 5 pulli. Unusual for us to ring so many tawny chicks.
Swallow - 50 full grown and 78 pulli. Most of our Swallow pulli are ringed by Phil at one site.
Tree Pipit - 9 full grown. Phil and Will's efforts this summer on Rawcliffe Moss.
Dipper - 3 pulli. A brood of three found by Ian. The first time Dipper has appeared on our totals for some years.
Blackbird - 119 full grown.
Fieldfare - 29 full grown.
Sedge Warbler - 40 full grown
Reed Warbler - 54 full grown and 8 pulli. Most of our Acros were ringed at Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park.
Whitethroat - 127 full grown. Our main site for this species is Rawcliffe Moss with good support from   Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park.
Goldcrest - 30 full grown. Demonstrating that they have perhaps had a good breeding season and bounced back from last winter.
Pied Flycatcher - 25 pulli. Occupation rates are reducing at our boxes giving us cause for concern.
Coal Tit - 33 full grown. A good year for this species.
House Sparrow - 58 full grown. The majority from a site of Will's near Garstang, plus a few in my garden.
Tree Sparrow - 119 pulli. Three nest box sites; 2 on Rawcliffe Moss and one near Singleton.
Chaffinch - 535 full grown. The majority of these were tape lured on Rawcliffe Moss in September.
Greenfinch - 292 full grown. The majority of these were tape lured at Rossall in October.
Goldfinch - 177 full grown. Will's garden is responsible for the majority of these.
Siskin - 48 full grown. As per Goldfinch.
Common Redpoll - 1 full grown. tape lured with Lesser Redpolls at Rossall in spring.
Lesser Redpoll - 51 full grown. The majority of these were tape lured in spring at Rossall. Other birds have been caught on Rawcliffe Moss and in Will's garden.
Reed Bunting - 117 full grown. Most of these have been tape lured during October on Rawcliffe Moss.

I didn't get out birding this morning unfortunately, but I did take the pictures below of a caterpillar on an Apple in my garden. Any ideas to its identification please?


Thursday, 4 November 2010


The weather is so awful at the moment that it is impossible to get out. The only interesting sighting I have had of late was of a male Merlin that shot across the road on Rawcliffe Moss as I drove home yesterday afternoon. The picture below is of a Merlin that was part of a brood that I was lucky to ring a couple of years ago. They are feisty little buggers and have the knack of getting their hooked upper mandible under your finger nail. Ouch!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Birding World Has Gone Mad

I am not going to dwell on this but did you see the 'twitching' programme on BBC4 last night? What an absolute bunch of fecking toss pots. And Lee Evans, what a complete and utter 'merchant banker'! In fact I am speechless as the programme was absolute garbage and it was only garbage that was being spoken by the main protagonists. I am so glad that I am not associated with these clowns in anyway, if I was I would be too ashamed to show my face in public ever again.

 A cross between George Michael and Gordon Brown; 
by his own admission!

Continuing the madness theme I came across the following, on a blog I look at occasionally, about the American Bittern in Cornwall; "everyone was really despondent and fed up. I don't agree with flushing birds at all, BUT...... suddenly a man did lose the plot and walked in a relaxed manner into the field amongst the cows and by the gorse bushes, the American Bittern immediately flew up and flew left at 9.10 a.m.and the whole crowd cheered and clapped the man.....Yes I know birds shouldn't be flushed, BUT this bird had not been seen since early afternoon(ish) of the previous day, so its not as if it hadn't been allowed to feed etc - it had in fact been feeding for 4 hours this morning right in front of us, as we all stood there hungry!!! As someone else said - walking into that field was no different to a crow getting up from the road when you go past in the car. The man that walked in was also silent, he didn't make any pishing noises or sudden moves as I watched him the whole time. The crowd was now relaxed, smiling and chatting happily!".

What?!!!! That's alright then as long as the crowd were relaxed, smiling and chatting happily. The guy should have been put up against a wall and shot! Along with every other clown who cheered! Also, if the bird had been feeding "for 4 hours right in front of us", why the need to flush it. Fecking idiots!!! What's happened to fieldcraft in the birding world today?

This is how those clowns must like seeing their American Bitterns!

Let's get back to reality. I called at my feeding station on Rawcliffe Moss this morning and it was pleasing to note that Tree Sparrow numbers had increased to 111. There were 12 Chaffinch and a number of Blue, Coal and Great Tits at the feeding station as well. Other than 6 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings and a Song Thrush I didn't see anything else in the blustery conditions. Based on the weather forecast over the next few days it might be weekend before I get out and post again.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Last Day of Autumn?

I thought that this morning might be the last chance to do some ringing for a few days, or even the last chance to catch some autumn migrants. With the clocks now gone back it meant an earlier start of 6.15 a.m. for Ian and I at Rossall. As it was calm and overcast at first light we could put the full complement of nets up.

In the half light Thrushes were moving and this included 15 Fieldfares and 14 Redwings. There were a few grounded Song Thrushes and fewer Blackbirds. Bramblings were thin on the ground, or should I say 'in the sky', and all we had were 2 at first light. In fact the vis was fairly thin full stop and other counts were 4 Alba Wags, 3 Goldfinch, 3 Lesser Redpolls, 4 Grey Wagtails, 6 Meadow Pipits, 3 Reed Buntings, 22 Skylarks, 2 Tree Sparrows and 13 Lapwings.

Pink-footed Geese were arriving through the morning and dropping on to Fleetwood Farm across the road; we had 330 in total.

We processed 30 new birds (recaptures in brackets) as follows:

Wren - 3 (1)
Blackbird - 3
Redwing - 1
Song Thrush - 3
Blue Tit - 1
Stonechat - 1 female
Greenfinch - 18


Song Thrush 

Wing of calendar year Song Thrush showing pale tips of greater and 
median coverts turning up towards the shaft


If you read this in time don't forget to tune into BBC4 at 9.00 p.m. tonight to see the worst side of birding in Britain. I'll say no more!