Thursday, 27 February 2014

All Green and Grey

After yet another leisurely Latte in Booths, and calling at the local agricultural college to pick up the waste bird seed from the aviaries, I headed to my feeding station to undertake a 'seed drop'. I had virtually clear skies with a 15-20 mph westerly wind, but it was a beautiful day.

On the flood the regular Green Sandpiper was still there with the 'becoming regular' Grey Wagtail, and lending them some company was a cracking male Pied Wagtail. Just by the barn I came across a flock of 30 Chaffinches feeding around some muck heaps on some maize stubble, but no sign of the Linnets from last week.

As I headed off down to the feeding station I thought at first that perhaps the Tree Sparrows had dispersed as I only had one or two, but then they started to fly in and I realised that probably something had flushed them just prior to me arriving and they had flown up the '97 Hedge'. In the end I still only had twenty, but more were arriving as I left. There were also two Yellowhammers, a few Chaffinches and Tits too.

As I watched four Stock Doves fly over I picked up 120 Lapwings on the stubble field and decided not to bother walking along the 97 Hedge in case I flushed them. Also on the flood at the end of the track were eight Shelducks and another Green sand. As I headed back to the car about a thousand Pink-footed Geese lifted from the west fields and two Buzzards went over calling.

 Pink-footed Geese

As I drove off site a flock of 23 Corn Buntings were on telegraph wires above some stubbles and a few dropped in to the hedge and I managed to get a couple of shots of one of them.

 Corn Bunting (above & below)

Fingers crossed I might have some ringing news for you tomorrow!  

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Proper Dawn Chorus

Yesterday, as I walked down to the estuary at first light there was a proper dawn chorus leading to a cacophony of bird song; magic! Members of this bird band all on lead vocals were Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, Wren, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Song Thrush and Reed Bunting. Spring is indeed in the air!

Other than the magical bird song the walk down to the estuary was fairly uneventful. I'd also mistimed the tide and there was more water in the river than I expected leading to a dearth of dabbling wildfowl. I had three hundred Golden Plovers on the estuary and that was probably the only thing of note.

On the reservoir were 23 Tufted Ducks, six Coots, a Great Crest Grebe, seven Goldeneyes, five Pochards and a Little Grebe.

 Seven Goldeneyes

Male Goldeneye

Male Tufted Duck

It was a fairly quiet walk back to the car with only four Stock Doves to add to my notebook. I then picked Gail up and took her for her annual treat of willow planting at the obs. We planted up an existing ride and then planted up a new net ride where I will target Meadow Pipits during the spring and autumn, if the wind ever stops blowing! Next week will be another treat for Gail, carrying out our annual maintenance check on Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow boxes. What a lucky girl!

 Gail 'enjoying' (?) her treat at the Obs!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Signs Of Spring

In addition to the first birds singing on territory over the past few weeks I had a few more signs of Spring this morning when I called at my feeding station in the form of displaying Lapwings and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker. It had rained quite hard earlier as I took a leisurely Latte in Booths and I was glad that by the time I got to my feeding station it had brightened up and the sun was shining.

There's definitely been a reduction in birds using the feeding station and just like a couple of days ago this morning was no exception with just a single Yellowhammer, two Chaffinches and only 13 Tree Sparrows. At the end of the feeding station the stubbles are flooded and as I approached this flood a Green Sandpiper got up and this was in addition to the usual bird with a Grey Wagtail on the usual flood. On occasions over the Winter I have recorded two birds.

 Green Sandpiper

Driving off site I came across a large flock of Linnets totalling 150 birds, which is as big a flock as I have seen some time. Two Buzzards thermalled in the warming air and I added a further nine Yellowhammers and five Corn Buntings to my red-listed farmland bird total. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Down South

I was working in southeast Cheshire today for my sins producing a scrub clearance and scrape creation management plan for a block of land on the Cheshire/Staffordshire border. So the picture below was the view from my office today!

 The view from the office today.

I didn't see a great deal other than a Woodcock, two Jack Snipes and a Fox. Interestingly I flushed the two Jack Snipes from an area I earmarked for a scrape, so I must be doing something right!

I called at my feeding station yesterday for quite literally a 'splash and dash' as it was very wet down the track. The feeding station was relatively quiet with just six Chaffinches, six Yellowhammers, eight Blackbirds and 63 Tree Sparrows. I'm beginning to think that perhaps some birds are already dispersing because of the mild weather. I also had two Buzzards, a Song Thrush, six Stock Doves and Green Sand and Grey Wagtail on the flood.

Green sandpiper

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Mediterranean Morning

I was at the Obs for first light and did my usual circuit. It was great to be wandering round the Obs and I couldn't help think that in a few weeks time the first Wheatears will be here! I had virtually clear skies with a 15 mph westerly wind.

A number of birds were singing/and or displaying this morning including Greenfinch, Great Tit, Wren, Dunnock, Woodpigeon and Blackbird giving a very Spring-like feel to the morning. The Moorhens are still together as a family party and I had four feeding out on the front fields.

I got to my usual watch point over the sea and did a quick count of the Gulls just in front of me on the shore and there were 81 Herring Gulls, 217 Black-headed Gulls, 6 Common Gulls, an adult Kittiwake and a Great Black-backed Gull.

As the tide ran in a group of Black-headed Gulls were continually shifted by the tide and looking amongst them I picked out a cracking adult Med Gull. I took a few shots of it (below), but it was quite distant. Well quite distant in terms of my photographic terms, but it looked stonking in the scope!

There were few waders on the beach, just 258 Oystercatchers, 13 Turnstones and seven Sanderlings. Although not on the beach I did have two Snipe to add to the wader tally. Movement on the sea was restricted to two Cormorants, 16 Eiders, a Razorbill, a Great Crested Grebe and an Auk sp.

Heading back I saw very little else but did admire the Gorse that was in flower.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

When Will It End?

I don't know about you but I'm getting fed up with this weather, it's never ending! Depression after depression from the west. I can't wait for Spring, and the first Wheatears should be up here with us in three weeks and five days; yippee!

I made the usual visit to my feeding station today and I parked up just about a hundred metres or so before the flood where the Green Sand has been frequenting. I walked along and sure enough the first signs of it being there were when I heard it calling flying from the floodl! If you are a desperate year lister the grid reference for the pool is SD43723 41820; that will get you within 18 feet! And please don't ignore the sign below that you might attempt to drive past, it is fairly clear I think. Even if you are on a bicycle you can't cycle down a public footpath, so you will need to leave it behind and walk.

I don't  want to dwell on this topic any longer other than to say I have been ringing and studying the wintering Tree Sparrows at this site for over ten years and have built up a good relationship with the landowners, local residents and Game Keepers and don't want that spoiling by the irresponsible behaviour of listing birders! It would seem that some birders, or should I say one interfering birder in particular who seems to to have set himself up as some sort of  champion of desperate birders, would think that this is okay and can't understand why I might I get slightly annoyed about the indefensible birders he tries to defend! I could use an expletive here to describe him, but won't waste my breath. On to more positive news now!   

It was late afternoon by the time I put the food down and the majority of the Tree Sparrows had gone off to roost so all I had was a Redwing, a Yellowhammer, six Chaffinches, five Stock Doves, ten Tree Sparrows, a Song Thrush and a Coal Tit. Out on the stubbles was a flock of 250 Lapwings with 80 Starlings.

I'm working over in West Yorkshire tomorrow for my sins and it is looking like it will be dry until lunchtime so I might see something in the morning, but I'm not sure what.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Here We Go Again

I am going to try and be very restrained here as I talk about the topic of local bird news once again. The reason for getting on this subject is down to the reporting of a Green Sandpiper by an individual who works for one of those rare bird news companies and I must admit that I thought this particular rare bird news operative Leopard had perhaps grown up and changed his spots! But sadly it would seem not.

For those of you who read my blog you will know that I have been having a Green Sand regularly on a flood close to the 'private' road that leads on to the mossland where my feeding station is located. The clue in my last sentence is the word 'private'! Now, some of you who might know this location will say "hang on a bit mate this road/track is a public footpath" and I can't argue with that. However, a public footpath is for walking along and not driving along!

Green Sandpipers are a fairly common winter visitor to this area and if you put the time in you will see one, unfortunately it's usually just a glimpse of its white rump as it flies off as they are notoriously difficult to get to close to. The point I am trying to make is that it would, in my opinion, be impossible to see this bird on foot.

Now I wasn't there when this bird has been reported recently, including six figure grid reference for its location (for fecks sake!), but if I was a betting man I would say that it was viewed from a vehicle. "So what" you might say. But the point I want to make is that you would drive past a very obvious sign that says 'private road no thoroughfare', so that means you need to park at  the road end and walk the half mile to the location of the flood.

Now it is possible that this individual has permission to drive a vehicle down here and if he has should he be putting precise details of the location of this bird out (I can't believe I'm saying all this, it's just a Green Sand for fecks sake!) knowing that other people won't be able to drive to see it? Or should he, if he feels duty bound to report the exact location of every bird he sees, be putting a note against the sighting saying 'private road, no vehicular access, public footpath only'. That would be my preferred option.

Now what does this matter I hear you say. Well firstly it gives the impression that it is okay for birders to trespass and ignore 'private' signs and more importantly to me it could potentially jeopardise my access to this area. I have permission from the landowner to drive on site to undertake ringing activities and it only takes one mouthy birder, and there have been some incidents locally of this last winter at a flogged to death raptor site, who objects to being told to move by the landowner. The landowner could then potentially rescind my permission assuming that all birders are the same and that I must be associated with them!

This bird has been reported publicly by others recently as well, and I ask did you drive to look at this bird and if you did you were trespassing. So please in future just use it as a public footpath and walk down, unless of course you have written permission from the landowner to take a vehicle down there. And if you are reporting this bird please state that it is a private road and footpath only!      

By the way the Green Sand was there today and at my feeding station were just 41 Tree Sparrows, a Fieldfare and six Blackbirds. In the large stubble field behind were 200 Lapwings.

What a large waffling post just about one of these:

Sunday, 9 February 2014

On The Falling Tide

It was difficult to decide where to bird within the obs recording area yesterday morning based on the weather and the state of the tide. It was fairly bright with a 25 mph SSE wind and high tide was at 0523. The tide wouldn't be far enough out to make the estuary productive and it would be exposed on that wind direction, so I decided to hit the coast and have a look on the falling tide.

 The falling tide.

This stretch of coast doesn't hold too many waders along the shore and all I had were 30 Sanderlings, 50 Oystercatchers, a Curlew south and four Turnstones. I am making a concerted effort to submit complete lists to BirdTrack every time I go out this year and this means counting everything I see and hear. Because of this I counted the Gulls this morning and although I didn't have many I counted eight Great Black-backed Gulls, 11 Herring Gulls, 13 Black-headed Gulls and two Common Gulls.


 2nd winter Herring Gull

The most notable passage of birds out at sea were the Little Gulls heading south. In the hour and half that I was there I had 63. The supporting cast to the Little Gulls were 16 Eiders, four Great Crested Grebes, a Kittiwake, 26 Common Scoters and four Cormorants.

I then had a walk behind the sea wall and had the female Snow Bunting that has been around for a while. It was extremely flighty and didn't allow close approach. I think it has been disturbed so much by people that as soon as it sees a person it is off.

 Somewhere in the centre of this shot is a rear end view of a Snow Bunting - 

It's looking like more of the same weather wise this week and other than attending my feeding station birding elsewhere could prove difficult!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Big Farmland Bird Count

It's been a farmland bird themed week for me at work this week. Firstly I was helping to lead a farmland bird workshop in southwest Cheshire with a couple of my colleagues and yesterday I took part in the Big Farmland Bird Count on behalf of one of my clients in Bowland.

My client has a 750 acre upland beef and sheep farm and operates 11 feeding stations on the farm and it was at one of these feeding stations that I did a count for him as part of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust's 'Big Farmland Bird Count'. If you click on the above link you will see what it was all about.

This particular feeding station is located close to a stream with scrub and open Alder carr, surrounded by improved pasture. The weather was a bit mixed and during my half hour count the low cloud obscuring the fells deposited some wet stuff! I didn't see anything out of the ordinary and my half hour count included two Lesser Redpolls, eight Goldfinches, 20 Chaffinches, 49 Greenfinches, 91 Fieldfares and 40 Starlings. It will be interesting to see what the combined results show.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Still On Sunday!

I suppose I am fairly lucky in that I get out birding most days, or usually at least five days in the week. However, it generates loads of what used to be called paperwork, but now is data inputting on the old PC. After a birding/ringing session, and depending on the location of where I have been birding, I have to update BirdTrack, two blogs, IPMR (Integrated Population Monitoring Reporter - if I've been out ringing), notes for Lancashire Bird Report (I like to do these after every birding session to keep up to date), notes for any other county bird reports if I have been working outside my county, Northwest Brown Hare Project website (if I have seen any Brown Hares and I often have as I spend a lot of time on farms), Patchwork Challenge spreadsheet, Lancashire Moth records spreadsheet (if I've been running my moth trap) and Trektellen website for visible migration records! As a consequence of all this I'm still on Sunday!

Sunday morning saw Gail and I stretch our legs and have a walk down to the estuary. Heading down the 'Hawthorn Tunnel' we just notched up Long-tailed Tit and Song Thrush before reaching the estuary. There was a big tide today but it hadn't yet covered the saltmarsh, but it had covered all the mudflats, so wildfowl were few and far between.

 Hawthorn Tunnel

On the reservoir were 16 Tufted Ducks, five Goldeneyes, 15 Coots, six Little Grebes, a male Pochard and a male Red-breasted Merganser.

 Little Grebes

We did have some wildlfowl in the form of 97 Wigeons, just five Teal and three Whooper Swans that flew over. It was now time to head back to the car but a pleasant walk had been had nevertheless!

Monday, 3 February 2014

West Versus East

Driving to the Obs on Saturday morning I could see dark clouds to the west and it started raining. Now, I have nothing against birding in the rain, and at certain times of the year (Spring and Autumn) it can lead to the best birding, but not in early Feb! In addition to this it is very exposed at the Obs and there is nowhere to get any shelter. Out towards the east it was bright and clear, so I headed east instead to the Moss to my feeding station. Even just a few miles inland it was a good deal colder and as I drove on site I encountered frozen puddles and a frost. The wind form the southeast was biting, but I was determined to have a good wander round.

I was surprised to find the Green Sandpiper on the flood and on my way off site I took a few shots of it and you can see the results below.

As dawn turned in to daylight skeins of Pink-footed Geese were going over heading south and I could see they were dropping in to feed on some fields just to the south of where I was. In total I had 760 go over. At the feeding station were 19 Chaffinches and 123 Tree Sparrows. I then headed north up the '97 Hedge' and on to the plantation.

As soon as I started walking along the 97 Hedge I had my largest flock of Yellowhammers for the winter so far with a flock of 21! This is a very good count for here. I always find that the number of Yellowhammers build up at this time probably because natural food is at its scarcest at this time of year.

The plantation yielded very little other than three Song Thrushes and heading back towards my car I came across a flock of Starlings carrying 30 Fieldfares. Back at the car something had spooked, raptor presumably, all the birds to the west and 230 Lapwings lifted into the air.

As I drove off site I came across a further 30 Fieldfares and 14 Redwings, again feeding with some Starlings and snapped the Blue Tit below as it fed in the lower branches of a mature Sycamore.

A quick look on the river driving home produced a pair of Goosanders out of the water preening in the sun.