Sunday, 31 May 2015

Just Waders

The day dawned with torrential rain and appalling visibility out in the Bay, so I decided to return later to the Obs at high tide just to count the waders. Spring migration is virtually over, and autumn is perhaps only a couple of weeks away (no summer in the bird world!), but the last waders are still moving through to Arctic breeding grounds in Canada and Greenland.

When I returned at high tide several groups of waders were roosting on some of the shingle ridges and my totals were 223 Sanderlings, seven Dunlins, 36 Ringed Plovers and seven Turnstones. You wonder how these birds at this late stage have the time to get to the arctic tundra, rear a brood and return before the weather conditions deteriorate in the far north. Amazing stuff!

The forecast isn't conducive for any survey work for me for at least a couple of days so I'll have to keep myself busy having a look on the sea!

Mixed Fortunes

Yesterday morning Kim and I checked our Pied Flycatcher boxes in the Hodder Valley. The crucial time for the Pied Flycatchers is coming up as they start to hatch, but for the Tits the crucial time is here and they aren't faring well.

The Nuthatches haven't done well either. When we first checked on 16th May there were seven young, on 25th May four young and yesterday (30th) we ringed just three young!


It was a similar picture for both the Blue and Great Tits, with small brood sizes and some dead young in the nest. It is obvious that the adults are only finding enough food to keep a small number of chicks alive. We ringed four broods of Great Tits yesterday, with brood sizes of 3, 3, 4 and 4; with a mean brood size of just 3.5! Interestingly down towards the coast on the Moss we ringed two broods of Great Tits and these were a six and a seven.

Great Tit

We only ringed two broods of Blue Tits and these were a three and a five, far less than you would normally expect.

So far the Pied Flycatchers have been producing normal brood sizes and we ringed a brood of eight and seven yesterday, but the weather will be crucial for their survival this week. The weather is forecast to be grim tomorrow and Tuesday, and then it is due to warm up later in the week. Let's hope they can survive until then. I'll be making my next check on 6th June, so I'll keep you posted. .

Friday, 29 May 2015

Rain Stopped Play!

I'm going to give myself ten out of ten for effort this morning after getting up at 0430 to do a sea watch in this morning's weather conditions! Or maybe that should be ten out of ten for stupidity!

It was absolutely pouring down when I got to my sea watching spot and the wind was a good 15 - 20 mph west-northwesterly and it was virtually impossible to find any shelter. We have a choice of two buildings to shelter behind or in front of, but because of the wind direction and the position of the buildings it was near impossible. I could remain sheltered from the wind but get wet, or keep dry but get buffeted by the wind; I went for the second option. However, after an hour of poor visibility and the constant shaking of my scope I packed up and headed home.

During the time I was there I recorded 58 Common Scoters and nine Gannets on the sea. The only waders I had were those feeding in front of me and these were four Ringed Plovers, a Turnstone, a Dunlin and ten Sanderlings. The weather is improving for tomorrow so it will be my third check of the boxes.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Ringed P's

After a few cracking pints of real last night an early start wasn't on the cards, particularly as I had been up since 0430! It was gone on eight this morning before I got to the Obs and I only had a couple of hours to spare. My aim was to count the waders at high tide, have a brief look on the sea and try and locate the three Ringed Plover chicks that Ian found yesterday before jetting off to Bulgaria!

It was hard work walking along the front in the blustery west-northwesterly wind without any shelter. I found the roosting waders and there were 146 Sanderlings, 27 Ringed Plovers, a Turnstone and six Dunlins.


I found the Ringed Plover chicks, or should I say chick, and I spent a great deal of time making sure that there wasn't more than one. There definitely was only one and I duly ringed it. Fingers crossed that it survives!

 Ringed Plover

I retreated to the front of the tower for some shelter and spent half an hour seawatching and had an Auk sp., five Gannets, two Fulmars and a Sandwich Tern. The only vis was two Swallows flying west into the wind.

It's going to be some more seawatching for me in the morning, although it will be wet, as the weather isn't good enough for survey work. 

The View From The Office

I've been working in north Cumbria this past week and I thought I would share with you a couple of views from 'the office' this week.

Looking towards the Uldale Fells (above & below)

Looking across the Solway to Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland

So, what of the birds? I've been carrying out breeding bird surveys in young broadleaved woodland and the above pictures were taken yesterday on my way to a site. I had nothing out of the ordinary when surveying yesterday but as always it was delight to see and record Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Redstart and Tree Sparrow in some of the compartments. 

A bit of news from the Obs to follow shortly.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Latest From The Boxes

I do apologise for a lack of posts of late but work is getting in the way of birding at the moment. Perhaps I shouldn't grumble as I do manage to scrape a living out of the natural world, but it is usually the case that when the weather is good to get out on the patch it's also good to carry out some of the surveys that earn me a living! Saturday morning was a beautiful morning and normally I would be out on the patch but instead I was doing a breeding bird survey in the north Lakes, but I have to admit the views of Blencathra and other mountains in the north Lakes were stunning and partly made up for not being able to get out on the patch!

This morning Kim and I made our second visit to the Pied Flycatcher boxes. Brief results of which are below:

Blue Tit - five boxes with incubating females, one box with six warm eggs and one box with six small young still naked & blind.

Nuthatch - one box with four young still naked & blind. Interestingly this box held seven small young last  weekend, so three birds have perished during the week!

Pied Flycatcher - seven boxes with females on eggs. We lifted three females off the nest and two were un-ringed, so we ringed these, and one was a female that we lifted off the nest and ringed in 2009! We have lifted her off the nest in every subsequent year except 2014. This bird is at least seven years old and just think what mileage she has clocked up flying to Africa and back every year! One box had seven young in, but they were too small to ring as they were still naked and blind.

 Does she look seven?

Pied Flycatcher nest

Great Tit - one box had a female incubating eggs and the remaining five boxes had small young in, with very small brood sizes. The only brood we ringed was a brood of two, so early signs are showing that these birds are struggling to find food this year with all the poor weather.

At the Tree Sparrow boxes we ringed a brood of three and a brood of one, and the remaining four boxes had either warm eggs or too small young. One Tree Sparrow box with a Tree Sparrow nest in it contained an incubating female Blue Tit! There were also two boxes with Great Tits in and these were too small to ring.

The weather this coming week is going to be crucial and it will be interesting to see how they have all got on when we check the boxes again next weekend.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Sea Going Marsh Hawk

It is absolutely pouring down as I sit and write this on a thoroughly miserable Monday morning, so no site visits for me today. Yesterday it was cold with a 20 mph west-southwesterly wind and the only thing to do was a bit of sea watching. I didn't get to the point until 0630 and was joined later by Howard and then Ian.

The flavour of the morning once again was Gannets and we had 119 come out of the bay. The best bird of the morning was undoubtedly a female Marsh Harrier that I picked up a long way out heading northeast across the outer bay. Marsh Harriers heading east in to the bay during the spring are annual and they are usually just off-shore hugging the coast. This bird, however, was a long way out and crossing a substantial area of sea!

We had just two Skuas during the 'watch'  and these were very obliging dark morph and pale morph Arctic Skuas 'rocketing' in to the Bay just over the surf!

The supporting cast on the sea included 1,080 Knots, 33 Kittiwakes, nine Auk sp., 36 Common Scoters, two Red-throated Divers, ten Manx Shearwaters, two Sandwich Terns, two Guillemots, two Fulmars and two Common Terns.

The only vis was twelve Swallows flying west in to wind and a single Swift.

Weather permitting it's more breeding bird surveys in Cumbria for me this week and it could well be weekend before I am out on the patch again.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

What's In The Box?

This morning Kim and I carried out the first nest box check of my Pied Flycatcher boxes in the Hodder Valley and Tree Sparrow boxes on the moss. I was very interested to find out what the occupancy rate was, particularly for the Pied Flycatchers and wondered whether they would be behind because of the cold spring.

Out of the 39 boxes in the Hodder Valley 22 were occupied which is 56%. The number of boxes occupied by species is as follows:

Blue Tit - 7
Nuthatch - 1
Pied Flycatcher - 8
Great Tit - 6

The Nutchatches had just hatched, the Tits were still incubating/brooding recently hatched young and the Pied Flycatchers were all incubating. I managed to lift three female Pied Flycatchers from their nests and all three were ringed. All three of them were controls, two I will need to wait for the details, but one of them I already have the details as she was controlled last year. She was ringed as a chick in a box near Wray in the Lune Valley in June 2012 and in May 2014 I lifted her off the nest at this site.

I only have sixteen boxes for Tree Sparrows at my site on the moss and 12 were occupied which is 75%. Ten were occupied by Tree Sparrows and two by Great Tits. The Great Tits were incubating eggs still and the Tree Sparrows were either incubating eggs or had very small recently hatched young; so a few birds to ring here next week.

It's going to be a touch windy in the morning so it will be some seawatching at the Obs for me.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


I should have been doing a breeding bird survey in north Cumbria this morning to earn a crust, but it was too windy so I ended up seawatching at the Obs. There was full cloud cover and the wind was southwesterly 25 mph and some shelter was required in front of the tower.

The first hour and a half was fairly slow and then things started to pick up a bit. After Ian left to do the school run I had two cracking pale morph Pom Skuas fly east in to the bay and they were close in. In fact if they hadn't motored in at the high rate of knots that they were travelling, and I had some advance notice of their arrival, I might have managed to get some shots! When Ian returned after the school run we had another Pom cutting northeast across the mouth of the bay.

The other main feature of the morning were Fulmars and Gannets, and we had five and 109 of each respectively. We even had one Fulmar come along the beach, which is unusual! There was a supporting cast to the Poms, Fulmars and Gannets and these were 44 Common Scoters, eight Sandwich Terns, nine Arctic Terns, two Shelducks, a Red-breasted Merganser, eleven Guillemots, twelve Cormorants, eight Kittiwakes, 15 Auk sp., six Manx Shearwaters, two Red-throated Divers, a dark morph Arctic Skua and two Razorbills.

The vis this morning was that of aerial insectivores with 82 Swallows and four Swifts moving west into the wind.

It will probably be weekend now before I am back on the patch as north Cumbria and breeding bird surveys beckon to earn that crust! 

Sunday, 10 May 2015

There's Always Something Of Interest

For the first time in days I had a stagger round the Obs this morning. At first light I had full cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind. There was also a few heavy showers that had me retreating to the copse for shelter a couple of times before the showers finally cleared.

I had a few grounded migrants on my walk round and the first of these was a Garden Warbler in the copse. This bird was giving frequent bursts of song and I like to think that I have no problem in separating Garden Warbler from Blackcap, but on the odd occasion I have been surprised when listening to a Blackcap and a Garden Warbler pops up, or vice versa! So it was nice to see this beautiful summer songster later in the morning showing itself to be what I thought it to be!

There were a few other species of warbler singing this morning and based on their positions on my walk they are very likely territory holding birds and I haven't classed them as grounded. These were three Whitethroats, a Chiffchaff and three Sedge Warblers.

Next up on the grounded list were two male and one female Wheatear, followed by a Tree Pipit, two Grasshopper Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat. I flushed the Tree Pipit from behind the dunes and it flew round calling before heading off south surprisingly, but I guess it was just flying in to wind.


 Grasshopper Warbler (there's always vegetation in the way spoiling the shot!)

The only vis I had this morning were Swallows and these were all flying south, again heading into the wind, and I had 51 in total.

The sea was quiet with just five Sandwich Terns, six Gannets, two Eiders and seven Common Scoters. Walking back to my car I had two Greylag Geese (domestic) fly over and drop in to the field behind the sea wall and this was the first time I have seen Greylags on the deck in this location.

 Greylag Goose

I then had a look in the Cemetery and the woodland and all I could add was a Sparrowhawk, Swift, two more Chiffchaffs and three Blackcaps.

I'm not sure when I'll be back on the patch as I have quite a bit of survey work in Cumbria to do over the next couple of weeks and I suppose it will all depend on the weather.

April's Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of April. April is probably the month when the most new species are added with the arrival of summer migrants. Nine new species were ringed for the year which were Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Starling.

Below you will find the top 5 ringed for the month and the top ten 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in April

1. Willow Warbler - 74
2. Blackcap - 13
3. Chiffchaff - 11
    Starling - 11
5. Goldcrest - 10
    Blue Tit - 10

Top Ten Movers and Shakers For the Year

1. Blue Tit - 129 (same position)
2. Willow Warbler - 74 (straight in)
3. Great Tit - 63 (down from 2nd)
4. Chaffinch - 51 (down from 3rd)
5. Goldfinch - 50 (down from 4th)
6. Long-tailed Tit - 40 (down from 5th)
    Lesser Redpoll - 40 (down from 5th)
8. Goldcrest - 36 (down from 7th)
9. Meadow Pipit - 26 (down from 8th)
10. Blackbird - 21 (down from 9th)

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A Few Firsts For The Year

If there had been a tide yesterday morning I would probably have had a look on the sea first thing, but there wasn't, so I didn't! You can sea watch at the Obs on a low tide but it entails sitting on some cold, lumpy shingle at the Scar or taking a cushion or fold-up chair with you and I couldn't be bothered with either! Instead under 4 oktas cloud cover with a 15 - 20 mph southwesterly wind I had a walk down to the estuary.

As soon as I got out of the car to set off on my walk I had a Garden Warbler singing, which was my first for the year. I headed down to the estuary through the scrub and was greeted with the song of two Blackcaps, four Chiffchaffs, five Whitethroats, four Sedge Warblers and three Lesser Whitethroats.

Looking across the mudflats from the saltmarsh it was quiet other than a single Whimbrel. Two Swifts flew overhead and these too were my first of the year. Further down the river was a Little Egret with a couple of Grey Herons and amazingly this too was my first Little Egret of the year. I must have been asleep until now!


For some reason I have kept on missing Common Sandpipers this spring but I rectified this with a bird feeding along the edge of the reservoir. A Cuckoo called distantly from an area of scrub to the west and this too was my first for the year. Willow Warblers were quiet this morning and I only had two in the scrub adjacent to the saltmarsh.

My walk back was quiet and I didn't add anything to what I had already seen during what was a pleasant morning. The weather is grim as I type this on Tuesday morning with lots of rain about and it looks particularly grim for tomorrow with heavy rain forecast for most of the day. It's going to be towards the end of the week I think before I'm back out on the patch.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Too Quiet!!!

It felt like late Feb/early Mar as I walked along the point to find some shelter in front of the tower from the cold southeasterly wind, and it was far too quiet for my liking. There was very little going over (there should be loads of Swallows at this time of year) and consequently no calls for me to tune in to.

There was a little vis, and it was a little, with just nine Linnets, eight Meadow Pipits, three Alba Wags, five Goldfinches, 16 Swallows and a Tree Pipit heading east.

The sea was even quieter in a way and all we had were 1,520 Knots, four Cormorants, 17 Sandwich Terns, 20 Grey Plovers, four Eiders, three Arctic Terns, five Manx Shearwaters, four Gannets, ten Shelducks, two Common Scoters, a Red-throated Diver and two Atlantic Grey Seals.

It's forecast for heavy rain all through the night and in to tomorrow morning, so the chances of me getting out in the morning are slim. The flip side of this is a few more real ales this evening! The forecast is looking not too bad for Monday, so hopefully we'll be able to get into the reedbed to do some ringing; fingers crossed!