Sunday, 26 October 2014

At Least I Tried

A combination of strong southwesterly winds, a mid-day tide and the dent I made in a case of Orkney Brewery beer last night lead to a late start for me this morning and it wasn't until 10.00 a.m. that I made it to my seawatching location at the Obs. The weather has been funny these past several days with strongish winds ranging from NW through to SW, and the issue has been that the winds have been 'strongish' and not strong, and consequently there has been a lack of decent seabird passage.

This morning I had full cloud cover with a 25 mph SW wind. At about 10.30 a.m. the sun made a brief appearance and made the already tricky murky conditions worse by adding a heat haze into the mix! And the poor viewing conditions were probably a contributory factor to the lack of action!

A few waders gathered on the shingle as the tide ran in and passing my location were 158 Turnstones, six Ringed Plovers, 42 Sanderlings and a Dunlin. The sea was very quiet and all I had were a Cormorant, a Gannet, four Common Scoters, two Auk sp. and two Kittiwakes.

 Turnstones bathing

The ropey shot of the Gannet above illustrate this mornings poor 
viewing conditions

After about an hour and a quarter I'd had enough and headed home, but I suppose I could console myself with the thought that at least I had tried.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Very Pleasant Three Quarters Of An Hour

Gail and I headed to the feeding station this morning to do a 'seed drop' and to have a quick look round. The food is going in less than a week now, so I need to increase the frequency of my visits. We had full cloud cover with a 15-20 mph SSW wind.

There were good numbers of Pink-footed Geese heading south and they will have been coming off their Morecambe Bay roost sites. Some birds were dropping on to some of the stubbles to feed and others stopped for a short while and took off heading south.

On the wildfowl theme I had my first Whooper Swans of the autumn when a party of eight headed low north. I was busy putting food out and they had gone past before I could think of getting my camera out. Tree Sparrows are still hovering around the thirteen mark at the feeding station and to be honest I need to increase the frequency of feeds as I stated earlier to build the numbers up.

Walking past the flooded stubbles we picked up a large raptor being mobbed by a number of Alba Wags and Meadow Pipits and it was a 'big' female Peregrine. I say big, as she was one of the largest females that I can remember seeing. Tranquillity returned to the stubbles and a Green Sandpiper dropped in to feed.

 One of the mobbing Albas

A mixed flock of Tits moved along the hedge and this included a number of Blue and Great Tits, plus seven Long-tailed Tits and a couple of Goldcrests. At this point it was time to return to the car and head home, but it had been a very pleasant three quarters of an hour.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

All At Sea

With 25 mph southwesterly winds and two oktas cloud cover, seawatching was the only option this morning. I joined Ian at first light and we spent a couple of hours trying to make out what was moving in the murky conditions. It wasn't possible to see across the bay this morning due to a combination of murk and at times heat haze, thus making viewing hard work. There were bits and pieces moving but it felt as though you were having to strain to see them!

I won't beat around the bush and will go straight to the totals which were 22 Cormorants, 20 Common Scoters, 36 Auk sp., 19 Gannets, 12 Wigeon, a Red-breasted Merganser, three Red-throated Divers and a single Kittiwake. All the passage was westerly i.e. moving out of the bay, which is what you'd expect in autumn.


There were a few waders roosting on the shingle including 56 Sanderlings, 184 Turnstones (including one of our leg-flagged birds) and 14 Dunlins. It's going to get rough later in the week and will perhaps be the last chance for a few Leach's Petrels.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Hardly Worth Reporting

I headed to the Obs this morning in the hope of a few grounded migrants, but unfortunately there had been too much rain during the night and I don't think any birds had got on the move. As I was driving there the heavens opened and I decided to divert to a more sheltered location where I could bird in the rain, rather than walk some of the more open coastal fields.

It soon stopped raining and I had 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10-15 mph southerly wind. Not unexpectedly it was quiet and from a grounded perspective all I had were five Goldcrests and ten Blackbirds. The vis was non-existent and I had a single Sparrowhawk that livened things up, or should I say calmed things down! I was walking through the pines and four Blackbirds in front of me were completely motionless as I approached them, and then I noticed the ghost-like appearance of a male Sparrowhawk perched up in the trees close by. Before I could get my camera out it lifted into the air and melted into the trees!

The forecast for tomorrow is for 25 mph southwesterly winds so it will be some seawatching for me!

Friday, 17 October 2014

A Quick Update From My Feeding Station

I visited my farmland bird feeding station late yesterday afternoon to my second feed of the autumn/winter and it was pleasing to note that a few Tree Sparrows were already using it, namely thirteen of them. I feed once a week to start off with and then increase the frequency of my seed drops to meet demand.

I did a little bit of management work on the hedges and then had a brief walk along the '97 Hedge' and 'Big Field'. I had a couple of raptors in the form of a Buzzard and Kestrel, and the Kestrel was posing nicely perched on top of a relatively close hedge until I got my camera out! In addition to the Tree Sparrows the only other 'classic' farmland birds I had were five Yellowhammers. I did have some other bits and pieces, but as I count everything for BirdTrack when I'm out I won't bore you with how many Blue Tits, Carrion Crows, Pheasants etc that I had!

It's an enforced day in for me today because of (a) too much work and (b) it's Gail's birthday, so I'd better make sure she is pampered a little to receive a good dollop of brownie points! More news over weekend hopefully if I can get that is as the forecast isn't brilliant to say the least!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

September's Ringing Totals

Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of September. At 2,407 birds ringed for the year we are now only 276 short of where we were last year. However with the forecast for the next seven days looking like there will be no ringing we might lose a bit of momentum this month.

Four new species were added to the species list for 2014 and these were Barn Owl (2 pulli), Garden Warbler (1), Coal Tit (3) and Jay (1).

Below I have listed the top five species ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed In September

1. Meadow Pipit - 108
2. Swallow - 105
3. Blue Tit - 100
4. Great Tit - 81
5. Robin - 56

Top 10 Movers And Shakers

1. Swallow - 712 (same position)
2. Blue Tit - 191 (up from 3rd)
3.Reed Warbler - 164 (down from 2nd)
4. Great Tit - 157 (up from 5th)
5. Meadow Pipit - 112 (straight in!)
6. Goldfinch - 90 (up from 7th)
7. Sedge Warbler - 86 (down from 4th)
8. Robin - 78 (straight in!)
9. Blackcap - 70 (same position)
10. Chiffchaff - 66 (same position)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Murk Stopped Play

The weather this morning wasn't quite as good as forecast, particularly from a wind strength perspective. At first light at the Obs I had virtually clear skies with a 5 mph SE wind, but the wind soon picked up to a good 10 mph necessitating the closure of one of my nets. It wasn't foggy at first but after a couple of hours some murk rolled in from the southeast and virtually curtailed the vis, bringing my ringing session to a halt.

I ringed 30 birds as follows (no recaptures):

Dunnock - 1
Greenfinch - 17
Wren - 1
Blackbird - 2
Meadow Pipit - 5
Chaffinch - 1
Robin - 1
Great Tit - 2


 Great Tit

There was some vis this morning, up until when the murk came in, but there wasn't quite the variety of yesterday. My totals included 176 Meadow Pipits, 14 Chaffinches, 182 Jackdaws, 28 Alba Wags, a Collared Dove, 40 Greenfinches, nine Woodpigeons, six Skylarks, eight Grey Wagtails, three Magpies, 40 Pink-footed Geese and a Reed Bunting.

 Meadow Pipit

There was little evidence of grounded migrants this morning mainly because I was at a fixed location but they could have included eight Blackbirds and a male Stonechat, although this could easily have been yesterday's bird.

It's only work related birding for me tomorrow as I have a bird survey to do in north Cumbria, but I'm hoping be to be back out on the patch on Tuesday.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Vis Variety

It was the Obs for me this morning after an absence of several days and I wasn't sure whether it would be a vis or grounded morning, or perhaps both. I had 6 oktas cloud cover, that cleared within an hour to 1 okta, and the wind was quite a stiff southeasterly.

It was too breezy for operating mist nets so I walked my usual circuit with pauses to count vis and to look on the sea. There did seem to be a few grounded migrants around and this was more obvious at the end of the morning when I totalled everything up in my notebook. Birds I considered grounded were a Goldcrest, seven Wrens, twelve Robins, nine Blackbirds, three Reed Buntings, a Jay, a Wheatear and a male Stonechat.

It was obvious very quickly that there was a reasonable passage of vis and also a reasonable variety too. My vis totals over two and half hours were 156 Meadow Pipits, 84 Jackdaws, nine Chaffinches, 20 Reed Buntings, eight Starlings, 155 Pink-footed Geese, two Sparrowhawks, ten Linnets, six Alba Wags, a Tree Sparrow, three Grey Wagtails, 27 Skylarks, four Carrion Crows, two Rock Pipits and eight Goldfinches.


 Meadow Pipit

The sea was quiet with just two Great Crested Grebes and seven Auk sp. The weather is looking calm enough for ringing in the morning, so I will be back at the Obs and hopefully kept busy; I'll let you know!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

First Feed

I set my winter feeding station up this afternoon after a site visit in the Wenning Valley in the morning where I was measuring hedgerows to be restored this winter. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary as I wandered along the hedges with my measuring wheel but it was obvious there was some vis going on as there was Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Goldfinches and Swallows on the move. The only obvious grounded migrant I had was a Chiffchaff, and thirteen House Sparrows and a Stock Dove using the old barn was good to see.

I set my feeding station up by putting the first bucket of seed down and the two peanut supplementary feeders to hold Tree Sparrows in case the seed runs out before the next seed drop. I also did a bit of management work by trimming some of the hedges that I run my nets along.

 The first seed drop

Supplementary peanut feeder

I had a quick ten minute walk to see what was about in the immediate area and had 15 Skylarks over, 51 Meadow Pipits put up by a male Sparrowhawk, two male Yellowhammers, a Buzzard and a Corn Bunting. I'll have a proper look round next time I'm there.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A Bit Of Migration Action

First of all I apologise for my 'radio silence' of late but I had to return home to the family in the Emerald Isle for the funeral of a favourite Auntie and Godmother. It took a few days and hence no outings for me to the Obs.

I only had an hour or so to spare this morning before a morning of arranging site visits so I headed up to the Obs. At first I thought it was going to be a vis morning (it was later when I was back home) but during the five minute drive from my house I could see the cloud building so I decided to try a couple of migrant spots along the coast within the recording area.

At first it seemed quiet but as the light increased it was obvious that there was a bit of migration action going on. Grounded birds included ten Robins, four Goldcrests, nine Blue Tits, six Great Tits and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

 Blue Tit

Robin in the gloom

There was also a few Thrushes about and I had six Blackbirds grounded and these were joined by a further two and three Song Thrushes that dropped out of the sky. Shortly after that two Song Thrushes from a different patch of scrub climbed in to the sky and headed south. A number of the Blackbirds and several Dunnocks were very agitated and were 'fidgeting' at the top of the trees, a sure sign of migrant individuals.

 Thrush habitat

The vis would pick up later when I was back indoors but I got a phone call from Ian saying that there were good numbers of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Alba Wagtails coming low in off the sea. Birds were obviously heading south at sea cutting across Morecambe and then Liverpool Bay, and hitting the rain front coming in from the south, and then heading east to make landfall on the coast. Interestingly over the Mull of Galloway today were 1,918 Skylarks, 3,031 Meadow Pipits, 203 Alba Wags and 784 Linnets in just three hours!

The vis when I was out was very slow and as I was 'bush bashing' all I recorded were three Chaffinches, three Grey Wagtails, 14 Starlings, seven Meadow Pipits, three Goldfinches, six Carrion Crows, 15 Jackdaws and an Alba Wag.

The only raptors I had were a male and female Sparrowhawk at different locations and it was hard to tell whether they were migrants or not. I've got a couple of days of site visits coming up before I can get out proper birding again, although I will be out in the field keeping my eyes and ears open.