Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Nearly There

I'm 'nearly there' in terms of finishing off monitoring my boxes for this year and also I just have one more Great Crested Newt survey to complete and then I'll be able to get back out birding again with some regularity, just in time for it to get really quiet! Mind you it will soon be autumn and I always think that in the birding world there isn't really a summer; it's spring from early March until mid-June, autumn from mid-June until mid-November and winter from mid-November until the end of Feb!

On Sunday Gail and I checked our boxes in the Hodder Valley and then a few boxes at our friend's farm near Nateby. In the Hodder Valley we ringed 31 pulli; four Great Tits, 16 Pied Flycatchers and eleven Blue Tits. One of the Pied Flycatcher broods totalled nine chicks, which is the largest brood I've ever ringed. We have four broods of Pied Flycatchers to go back for next weekend.

 Pied Flycatchers

Great Tit

On the way back home we called at Robert and Diana's at Nateby. We had a brood of two Stock Doves to ring as they were too small just over a week ago. As you will see from the picture below they are quite prehistoric looking and as Diana commented 'ugly cute'!

Gail holding a young Stock Dove

Saturday, 24 May 2014

A Few More Boxes

I headed to the Moss this morning before the rain came in to check a few more boxes. It was a glorious morning with clear skies and a warm easterly wind. Walking to the Birch scrub where my boxes are located it was great to hear singing Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Skylark, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat.

I only had a few boxes to check and ringed two broods of Tree Sparrows and a single brood of Great Tits.

 Tree Sparrow

It's more Pied Flycatcher boxes when the weather is forecast to be a bit better on Monday, but tomorrow I might head to the coast for a late spring look on the sea and catch up with the last spring passage waders.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Early Broods

On Sunday (18th) Gail and I checked our boxes in the Hodder Valley and at a friends farm near Nateby. What seemed very obvious with our boxes in the Hodder Valley were the number that were empty and the low occupation rate by Tits. I will need to check this out properly and see if this is indeed the case. Out of 38 boxes occupation rates were as follows:

- Empty boxes - 21 (including two with Wasp nests and one with a Bee sp. nest)
- Great Tit -5
- Pied Flycatcher - 6
- Blue Tit - 5
- Nuthatch - 1

I lifted a female Pied Flycatcher off the nest in one box and she had a ring on beginning with the sequence L772 and is very likely to have come from some boxes in the Lune Valley, it will be interesting to note exactly where when the information comes through from the BTO.

 Pied Flycatcher nest

We managed to ring 13 pulli Great Tits, eight Nutchatches and 13 Blue Tits. All of these broods other than the Nutchatches were well developed and were very early broods for this site.

 Great Tit chick

A box occupied by Nuthatch

We then headed to see our friends Robert and Diana at Nateby and had a successful afternoon there checking Robert and Diana's boxes. We found two broods of Stock Doves, one too young to ring and the other we couldn't reach in to the box far enough as they were right at the back of the box and our arms weren't long enough! We also found a box occupied by Kestrels with five eggs in. We ringed a brood of seven Great Tits and six Blue Tits, but missed the Tree Sparrows because they had already fledged. In fact in some boxes the nests had been re-constructed (they get quite flattened by the time the chicks fledge) and a second clutch will be laid in them soon.

The only less positive news was that the Barn Owls aren't using the box this year and I'm not sure why. A bit of research in Bunn, Warburton and Wilson's 'The Barn Owl' is required to perhaps look at what might of happened, but I imagine it is very likely that one or both of the adults have been killed.

It's more pond surveys for me this week before more box checking over the bank holiday weekend!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Greenfinch and a Hawkmoth

After a 4.00 a.m. alarm call this morning I found myself in the reedbed putting some nets up for a ringing session under clear skies with no wind. It was still quite wet in the reedbed (waders required) and this meant that I could only get a couple of nets up.

My four o'clock alarm call turned out to be fairly fruitless as all I ringed was an adult male Greenfinch! A number of warblers were singing from the reedbed and surrounding willow carr including Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat and Reed Warbler. On the pools I noted that the Great Crested Grebes had two you chicks which was great to see.


After a protracted ringing session I was back home early checking my moth trap and I caught a Light Brown Apple Moth, a Poplar Hawkmoth, two Bright-line Brown-eyes, a female Shuttle-shaped Dart, a Cabbage Moth and a Small Square-Spot (new for my garden).

 Poplar Hawkmoth

I'm treating Gail once again to nest box checking tomorrow and it will be interesting to see how many boxes are occupied by Pied Flycatchers.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

First Pulli of the Year

I had a morning off from pond surveys this morning and headed to the Moss to check my Tree Sparrow boxes to make it one site less for the weekend. I only have 16 boxes up here and six were occupied by Tree Sparrows, two with Blue Tits, one with Great Tit and seven were empty. I would need to check back over previous years but I am fairly certain that this is the lowest occupancy of Tree Sparrows that I have had here.

 Tree Sparrow box

This could be because the land use has changed slightly on the farm over the past year with less cereals grown and more areas down to grass for silage. It could also just be that the Tree Sparrows are nesting elsewhere as this can often happen with Tree Sparrows, and large  numbers can leave the colony for no apparent reason. I'll have to wait until next year to find out properly.

 Tree Sparrow

Surprisingly I ringed a brood of Blue Tits and a brood of Tree Sparrows this morning, and both had only hatched within the last 4-5 days, but they were well developed enough to ring.

 Female Blue Tit sitting

It's more boxes for me at weekend, when I head to the uplands and switch to Pied Flycatchers, but not before a session in the reedbed hopefully ringing Reed and Sedge Warblers. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Weekend Washout!

After a week of working in Cheshire again surveying for Great Crested Newts I was desperate to get out this weekend and headed to the Point yesterday even though the forecast was awful and the conditions were awful when I got there! It ranged from absolutely bl**dy awful to absolutely awful at best! I had full cloud cover, murk blocking the Bay, rain and a south - southwesterly wind force 3 - 4. Other than that it was glorious!

I stuck it out for just over an hour and in that hour all I could muster were eleven Dunlins, 21 Swallows (all heading west), 20 Common Scoters, nine Turnstones, four Sanderlings, five Sandwich Terns, 45 Knots, a Gannet, a Red-throated Diver and an Atlantic Grey Seal.

The plan for this morning was to check three nest box schemes; two for Tree Sparrows and one for Pied Flycatchers, but unfortunately it was pouring down this morning and I had to contact Huw and call it off.

I've got more Newt surveys again this week so blog posts will be few and far between I'm afraid, so once again I will desperate to get out birding when I can!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Almost A Warbler Fest!

There was nothing in my moth trap this morning, well nearly nothing, as there was a Common Plume Moth and a Pug sp. that escaped before I could identify it! That didn't bode well for a walk down to the estuary. I enjoy walking down to this estuary at this time of year, not for the estuarine birds as they are thin on the ground now, but for the scrub I have to walk through to get to the estuary as it holds a good variety of warblers.

This morning was no exception and on my walk I had six Whitethroats, four Blackcaps (I tried my best to string one of the singing Blackcaps into a Garden Warbler but they weren't having it!), a Reed Warbler, five Sedge Warblers, a Chiffchaff, four Willow Warblers and two Lesser Whitethroats.

If it wasn't for the warblers it would have been very quiet as I had very little else other than a variety of butterflies on the wing including Peacocks, Speckled Woods, Orange Tips, Green-veined Whites and Walls.

 Every time this Wall landed it was always partially obscured!

Birding opportunities will be few and far between for me this week as I have another week surveying for Great Crested Newts, but if I do get out I will certainly do a blog post.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


The forecast last night for today was a bit mixed and depending on the timing of the rain it might or might not drop some migrants in. It rained just before first light and as I set off on my walk round the Obs it was raining lightly and the wind was a 10-15 mph southwesterly.

The rain soon stopped and it remained relatively dry for the rest of my walk and it was obvious that it had dropped a few migrants in. First up were two grounded Lesser Redpolls and this was followed by a 'reeling' Grasshopper Warbler. At one point the 'Gropper' was singing away from the top of a fence post, or it was until I pointed my camera at it!

The main grounded migrant of the morning was Sedge Warbler and I had eleven on my walk round, including one singing in the cemetery. And if they're in the cemetery you know there's been a fall. Other grounded birds included single Wheatear, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler; obviously a Sedge morning!

There was no vis to speak of other than 35 Swallows heading south, presumably in to wind as the Bay was locked down with murk. As a result of the murky conditions the sea was very quiet with just 217 Knots, two Common Scoters and a Red-throated Diver.

I'm working again late tomorrow night surveying for Great Crested Newts so I will get out birding in the morning at some point, but it won't be a first light operation with just a few hours sleep as it normally is!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Back Out Birding

After a week of wrestling with dragons, well surveying for Great Crested Newts actually, it was good to be back out birding at the Obs this morning. It was cold for early May with a 10 - 15 mph SE wind with 6 oktas cloud cover.

The theme for the morning was that of a general lack of birds, but nevertheless it was pleasant to be out even if I had only managed to snatch a few hours sleep after getting back late from Liverpool after seeing Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull)! The 'vis' was exceedingly light and all I recorded was a single Lesser Redpoll, a Goldfinch, a Tree Sparrow, three Linnets, 13 Swallows, a House Martin and a Tree Pipit.

Since I was last here Whitethroats had increased to three singing males and five singing Sedge Warblers were new in, but whether they will all stay to breed remains to be seen. Grounded migrants were thin on the ground but included a beautiful male Whinchat and eight Wheatears.



Continuing with the quiet theme there was very little on the sea other than 211 Knot heading south, a winter plumaged Razorbill, 21 Common Scoters, two Sandwich Terns and five Gannets.

The wind is swinging round southwesterly tomorrow and there is some rain coming in just after first light. I'm not sure whether it will produce any birds, but I'll certainly be having a look.

 Two Meadow Pipits were displaying this morning.