Sunday, 28 April 2013


A look out of the window at 5.00 a.m. had me thinking that it would be quiet at the obs and when I arrived at 5.30 a.m. I was even more convinced unlocking the gate with a 15-20 mph southwesterly wind with full cloud cover.

I set off on my usual route and an early Willow Warbler gave me some hope that despite the conditions there might be some grounded migrants around. Wrong! I did have a few migrants but it was just one of each; single Grasshopper Warbler, Wheatear and Whitethroat in addition to the 'Willie' and that was it.

As you would expect the vis was virtually non-existent other than a single Alba Wag and eight Swallows north. Offshore it was equally quiet and all I managed to record were a single Red-throated Diver, a Sandwich Tern and ten Common Scoters.

More work for me this week, but I am hopeful of sneaking a couple of mornings in before the weekend again.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


I was at the obs again this morning, but the 15 mph northerly wind was too much for any mist netting. It was cold too and it was very much a hat and gloves morning!

There were a few grounded migrants around but not many; these included two Whitethroats, three Grasshopper Warblers, four male Wheatears (Greenland types) and a single Willow Warbler.

As I made my way towards the coast the first visible migrants started moving and in total I had 106 Linnets, seven Redpolls, 46 Meadow Pipits, 11 Alba Wagtails, 35 Swallows, 74 Goldfinches, two Sand Martins, 12 Siskins, a White Wagtail, a Yellow Wagtail and two Tree Pipits.

The 'Hoody' in my title refers to a Hooded Crow I picked up out at sea heading north. And with the magic of modern telecommunications I phoned Ian, who I knew was a mile or so north of me at the scar, to let him know a Hooded Crow was heading his way and he in turn phoned Paul, who was at the observation tower, to let him know as well. Both Ian and Paul saw the Hoody!

Movement offshore was very slow and all I had were three Red-throated Divers, ten Common Scoters, five Gannets, 10 Auk sp., ten Sandwich Terns and three Whimbrels.

Back home I checked my moth trap and even though there was a ground frost this morning I managed to catch three Hewbrew Characters, a Common Quaker and an Early Grey.

Common Quaker

 Hebrew Character

The wind is going to veer southwesterly overnight with some rain coming in during the morning. Unfortunately the rain is coming in long after sunrise, which is a shame because otherwise there might have been a chance that it could drop in some  migrants. Mind you the weathermen could get the timing wrong, so there is only one thing to do, get up at 5.00 a.m. and take a look!

Friday, 26 April 2013

There's Alaways Something To Look At

The past few days have seen quite an arrival of spring migrants at coastal sites here in the northwest. Have a look at the blogs for Bardsey, Fleetwood, Heysham, Hilbre and Walney observatories to see what I've missed whilst working! I managed to get out this morning for a couple of hours before work again and at first light I didn't think I was going to see a great deal. I had 3 oktas cloud cover with a cold 15-20 mph NNW wind. I didn't expect any or many grounded migrants, but hoped for a bit of vis.

I headed to the southern end of the obs and worked the farm fields next to the coast. My first birds were a Willow Warbler and a singing Whitethroat. As the morning warmed up I had a further five Willow Warblers and another Whitethroat. I thought the Willow Warblers were probably left over from yesterday's fall. The only other grounded migrants I had were a Wheatear on the sea wall and a Grasshopper Warbler 'reeling' from the dunes.

As I headed towards the sea wall a female Merlin shot through heading low north and it was at this point that I thought that there is always something to look at and even if I didn't see anything else a Merlin before breakfast would do for me! The only other raptor I had was a Peregrine ridge soaring the school buildings and then suddenly it dived and chased after a pigeon and I lost sight of it.

There was some vis this morning and everything was heading north in to the wind. Linnets were the main feature and I recorded 184 heading north. Other species on vis included 68 Goldfinches, 80 Swallows, 24 Meadow Pipits, 12 Alba Wags, a Reed Bunting, seven Redpolls, 15 House Martins and four Siskins.

I had cracking views of two dark morph Arctic Skuas heading north over the beach. They were really close in and looked awesome in the crisp morning light. I telephoned Ian who I knew was at the scar to let him know that they would pass him very close, in the hope that he could manage a snap or two. Also on the sea I had eight Common Scoters, a Velvet Scoter, six Sandwich Terns, two Arctic Terns, three Gannets, eight Manx Shearwaters, six Auk sp., 400 Knots and 20 Ringed Plovers.

So, not an amazing morning but there was something to look at. It's going to be cold again tomorrow with a stiff northerly wind so perhaps another vis rather than grounded morning. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


The only birding I had time for today was a quick look on the marsh after visiting one of my farmer clients. Even though the sun was shining the WSW wind blowing across the marsh was very cold.

Feeding in the shallow water of the pool and out on the grazing marsh was a nice flock of 112 Black-tailed Godwits. I tried to get a few shots of an individual feeding in the pool and every time I pressed the shutter I got a shot of it with it's head under the water, except for one!. See below.

There were plenty of Lapwings out on the grazing marsh with several females very obviously on eggs. Wildfowl included two pairs of Shovelers, 30 Shelducks, six Wigeon, two pairs of Gadwalls and two pairs of Teal.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Pure Velvet

As I suggested yesterday I was back at the obs at first light for a short seawatch of about two hours from the point before work. The skies were virtually clear and the wind was a 15-20 mph SSW. It was similar to yesterday, but different in terms of the numbers of birds, far fewer today. For example, yesterday Little Gulls were spread right across the horizon in a large loose feeding flock, but today there were only half the numbers.

My totals this morning for the sea were 224 Common Scoters, 46 Sandwich Terns, 15 Eiders, two Red-breasted Mergansers, six Razorbills, 147 Little Gulls, 39 Gannets, a Velvet Scoter, eight Red-throated Divers, five Shelducks, 50 Arctic Terns, an Auk sp., a Guillemot, four Kittiwakes, a Manx Shearwater and a Bonxie flying out of the bay.

There was some vis this  morning and again as yesterday it was mainly westerly into the wind. I didn't record a great deal of vis because most of it was moving a few hundred yards inland, as I realised when I walked back to my car and there were groups of Goldfinch and Siskin heading west. My meagre totals were five Linnets, 11 Meadow Pipits, four Alba Wags (they all sounded like White's to me), 69 Goldfinches, a Tree Pipit, a Yellow Wagtail, a Swallow and two Siskins.

There were a few waders on the beach this morning including 130 Sanderlings, 300 Dunlins and 35 Ringed Plovers.

It's site visits for me tomorrow, but I might be able to have my lunch looking over some pools on the marsh so it might not be a totally bird free day!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A Few Little Gulls and Assorted Spring Migrants

It was another early alarm call for me this morning to spend the morning seawatching and monitoring visible migration at the obs. Once again it was cold in the 15 mph south-southwesterly wind and with the shelter of the tower casting a shadow over me it was still cool even when the sun came up. I spent three hours at the Point and it was interesting, if perhaps a little slow at times, making it hard to stay any longer than three hours.

Walking up to where I would seawatch from there were a nice selection of waders on the beach yet to be disturbed by the scourge of modern birding, dog walkers! The waders included 21 Grey Plovers, nine Turnstones, a Whimbrel, a Knot, 63 Ringed Plovers, 184 Dunlin and 30 Sanderlings.

There was some vis this morning and interestingly a lot of it was westerly (out of the bay), which is usually an autumn direction, before changing to the usual direction for spring, easterly. The vis included a Whimbrel, 11 Meadow Pipits, five Linnets, six Tree Pipits, two Alba Wagtails, six Swallows, nine Siskins, five White Wagtails, a Redpoll, four Carrion Crows, 49 Goldfinches, four Collared Doves and a Yellow Wagtail. Because of the southerly wind I was having to shelter at the front of the tower and this meant that it was difficult to count the vis moving behind.

There was some reasonable passage at sea and as my title suggests the main feature of the morning were Little Gulls. Sea passage consisted of 223 Common Scoters, 74 Arctic Terns, six Sandwich Terns, 50 Red-throated Divers, four Red-breasted Mergansers, five Gannets, ten Eiders, seven Manx Shearwaters, 317 Little Gulls, 80 Pink-footed Geese and a dark morph Arctic Skua.

The Little Gulls were feeding along with the Manxies and Arctic Terns, and the Arctic Skua gave a great aerial performance chasing and harrying an Arctic Tern. The turn of speed and manoeuvrability of the Arctic Tern was impressive, but it was even more impressive for the Skua because of its large size. Awesome!

A Harbour Porpoise close in added to the enjoyment of the morning and the only grounded migrants I had were a Goldcest in the cemetery and a Chiffchaff in the willows by the pools. I checked the water depth of our net rides in the reedbed but it was right at the top of my wellies so it needs to drop a bit yet, or I need to get my waders out. I flushed four Snipe from the reeds and had a calling Water Rail.

 Tufted Ducks

Red-breasted Merganser

The forecast is looking okay in the morning so I might just have to have a couple of hours seawatching before chaining myself to my desk!


Yesterday morning found Craig, Huw and I setting nets up at the obs on a very cold and frosty morning at first, with a hunting Barn Owl for company. As the morning progressed it got warmer but as that south-southeasterly wind picked up it was bitter for a time.

There was some visible migration but as ever it was difficult to do the counts credit whilst operating mist nets. All the following birds were heading north except for the Woodpigeons, which were heading south; 121 Woodpigeons, eight Tree Pipits, 45 Meadow Pipits, a Linnet, nine Siskins, 37 Pink-footed Geese, four Shelducks, 45 Lesser Redpolls, three Carrion Crows, a Whimbrel and three Swallows.

It was obvious that there were a few grounded migrants around, mainly in the form of phylloscs, based on the number of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers caught plus a single Whitethroat.

The main feature of the morning from a ringing perspective were the number of Lesser Redpolls ringed and our totals for the morning were as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Willow Warbler - 6 (Ian also ringed 17 elsewhere at the obs)
Chiffchaff - 3
Lesser Redpoll - 21
Dunnock - 1 (1)
Meadow Pipit - 3
Blue Tit - 1

 Lesser Redpoll (redcap)

The warmer weather later in the morning enticed a few invertebrates out and a number of Small Tortoisehells were on the wing.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Belated March Ringing Totals

You will see over on the right that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of March. The total of 901 birds ringed is 447 down on where we were this time last year, so let's hope for a good breeding season to pick things up.

Eight new species were added to the totals during March and these were Stock Dove, Collared DoveWren, Fieldfare, Nuthatch, Yellowhammer and Little Bunting. The Little Bunting was a first ringing record for the group and was caught by Phil at his feeding station on the moss. In fact the excellent finch totals are down to the hard work Phil puts in at this site.

This month's 'movers and shakers' were as follows:

1. Chaffinch - 107 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 76 (same position)
3. Brambling - 54 (same position)
4. Reed Bunting - 48 (same position)
5. Great Tit - 36 (up from 8th)
6. Blue Tit - 31 (down from 5th)
7. Tree Sparrow - 20 (same position)
8. Turnstone - 16 (down from 6th)
9. Long-tailed Tit - 15 (same position)
    Siskin - 15 (straight in)

The top five species ringed during March were as follows:

1. Chaffinch - 30
2. Goldfinch - 27
3. Great Tit - 22
4. Brambling - 20
5. Siskin - 15
    Reed Bunting - 15

I don't want to say too much but the forecast is looking good for weekend with a large high pressure moving in stretching from Iberia with southerly winds! Say no more!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Scattering Of Migrants

The weathermen got the forecast right for this morning and as they suggested it was too windy for any ringing at the obs, so it was a few hours birding for me. At first light there was full cloud cover with quite a dense fog. As the morning progressed this eventually cleared to leave virtually clear skies.

As soon as I went through the gates at the obs I had a Willow Warbler singing and a Goldcrest calling from the copse. I would record a further two Willow Warblers and four Goldcrests on my walk round. There weren't huge numbers of grounded migrants this morning but I did have 14 Wheatears, a Snipe, four Chiffchaffs and a Tree Sparrow. The best grounded bird I had was a stonking male Ring Ouzel. In fact over the past couple of days there has been a few at the obs.


 The grounded Tree Sparrow

It was interesting that when the fog was at its densest Meadow Pipits were still moving. They were arriving from the south and west and were heading east at first until the fog cleared, and then were heading north. My vis totals included 72 Woodpigeons, a Curlew, four Redwings, 638 Meadow Pipits, nine Alba Wags, 25 Linnets, 30 Siskins, a Redpoll, two Goldfinches, a Tree Pipit, three Swallows, a Chaffinch, 200 Knot and 25 Pink-footed Geese.

It is forecast to rain overnight, but there might be a few clear slots after midnight. I would normally treat myself to a lie in on such a forecast, but as it's mid-April I'd better not! I'll let you know tomorrow whether I made the wrong decision!

Singing Greenfinch

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A Proper Spring Morning

Huw and Me returned to the obs this morning and for the first few hours it felt colder than yesterday with quite a hard frost but at least it was calm and we could get some nets up. The cloud cover that was forecasted to form over night didn't materialise until late morning, but we were to find out through our ringing later on that there had been a fall.

Just like yesterday as we were putting the nets up in the half-light a Barn Owl was hunting the fields; what a cracking sight. There was plenty of vis this morning, but it did seem to take quite a while to get going, but the range of species was less. Heading northwards we recorded 421 Pink-footed Geese, seven Alba Wagtails, 33 Woodpigeons, two Chaffinches, a Linnet, six Siskins, two Skylarks, a Snipe and 1,051 Meadow Pipits.

 Meadow Pipit

We ringed an excellent 59 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 32
Robin - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 8
Reed Bunting - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Wren - 1
Chiffchaff - 7
Chaffinch - 1
Greenfinch - 1 (1)
Goldcrest - 4
Blackbird - 2



Based on some of the species ringed and our observation of birds in the field I would say that grounded migrants included a male Wheatear, five Goldcrests, a Reed Bunting, eight Chiffchaffs and two Blackbirds. The only other species of note was a female Sparrowhawk that shot through early on.


The weather and wind direction for the coming week doesn't look overly promising for migration but as ever I'll keep an open mind and keep looking.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Ringing At Last

At last Huw, Ian and Me managed to have the first ringing session for the spring at the obs this morning. As we put the nets up before first light it was flat calm with clear skies and a ground frost. A Barn Owl hunted ghost like across the fields just as dawn was putting out its fingers splintering the sky red and the first birds on the move were a group of 13 Redwings north.

Visible migration was the feature of the morning, particular Meadow Pipits, as the clear calm conditions were ideal for movement. As usual it was difficult keeping one eye and one ear skywards as we carried out ringing operations and undoubtedly we missed many birds. All the movement was northerly and between 0600 and 0900 we recorded 13 Redwings, 260 Pink-footed Geese, 982 Meadow Pipits, eight Woodpigeons, five Alba Wagtails, 14 Siskins, a Chaffinch, a Linnet, four Goldfinch, five Magpies, seven Lesser Redpolls, a female Blackbird, a Grey Wagtail and two Great Tits.

 Lesser Redpoll

The ringing totals weren't monstrous as we only ringed 13 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Meadow Pipit - 7
Reed Bunting - 1
Lesser Redpoll - 3
Wren - 1 (1)
Greenfinch - 1
Dunnock - (1)

 Meadow Pipit

We had no grounded migrants and no what you would call 'summer migrants'. The forecast is for it to be calm enough for ringing tomorrow and the cloud cover will build over night which night drop a few migrants in; I'll let you know.

Monday, 1 April 2013


It was another cold morning at the obs with a biting 15 mph easterly wind. From the word go birds were on the move but if felt slower than the past couple of days. Heading northwards were 114 Meadow Pipits, ten Alba Wagtails, two Siskins, four Woodpigeons, a Linnet and a Goldfinch.

Grounded migrants consisted of just three Snipe and the sea was nearly as quiet with two Eiders, two Cormorants, a stonking summer plumaged Red-throated Diver and my first Sandwich Tern of the spring. The only waders I had in any numbers were 52 Turnstones on the rocks.

It's remaining cold all week but at least it is going to be dry and I should get some birding done even if it is just through my work.