Saturday, 31 December 2016


I didn't have any time for birding today other than to have a quick look on the Quay when Gail and I were collecting some logs. The tide was running in and most of the mudflats were covered, but on the remaining patches of mud were 61 Redshanks, five Oystercatchers, seven Black-tailed Godwits, two Curlews, 21 Mallards, 100 Lapwings, 12 Wigeons and a Dunlin.

New Years Eve isn't something that I really celebrate, being a Pagan at heart, as the winter Solstice is a more appropriate celebration, but nevertheless I would like to wish you all haud Hogmanay and a guid New Year for tomorrow!

Or alternatively as my Tolkein friend (Mark) posted earlier, "Happy New Imagined Time Phase for the Rotation of your Planet around it's Star"! It doesn't trip off the tongue the same though Mark!

Friday, 30 December 2016

In The Shadow Of The Tower

It was cold yesterday morning, and I thought it was a good idea to spend an hour and a half or so under freezing conditions in front of one of the towers at the Point completely in it's shadow! The wind was a brisk east-southeasterly with clear skies, and standing in front of the tower was the only option to escape the 'lazy wind' (cuts right through you) as my Norfolk friends from Lynn would say!

Ian joined me after a short while and we spent a bit of time seeing not an awful lot. Our total of not an awful lot included 18 Cormorants, four Eiders, a Whooper Swan, 102 Oystercatchers, three Red-throated Divers, a Red-breasted Merganser, eight Shelducks, 20 Common Scoters, four Auk sp. and a Great Crested Grebe.

I'm out again in the morning and hope that I don't have another morning of seeing 'not an awful lot'!

Bargain Seasonal Cards

Earlier in the week Gail and I headed to our local RSPB visitor centre to buy some seasonal cards in preparation for next year. That's organised I hear you say, but its more the bargain hunter in me, or should I say Gail!

Outside the visitor centre is a largish man-made lake on the edge of the Ribble estuary and it tends to hold a few diving ducks in winter. In fact many moons camel ride ago (1980s) it used to be one of our regular ringing sites. It has some good coastal cover and in the past we have ringed a fair few migrants there and also a number of Swifts during inclement weather when they were feeding low on the aerial insects forced down by the rain. Off the top of my head I have a seen a few good birds there over the years including Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes, Ivory Gull and Woodchat Shrike to name but a few!

No such goodies during this visit! Gail and I did a full circuit of the lake and as expected there were a few diving ducks in the form of 48 Tufted Ducks and ten Pochards. Nothing spectacular, but pleasant to be out!

Tufted Duck

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

December - Round Two

Yesterday afternoon I completed the second half of my December visit for my wintering bird survey. It started off with clear skies, with quite a biting southwesterly wind, and ended up at dusk with virtually full cloud cover.

The area of farmland with associated woodland, ditches, hedgerows etc has become progressively quieter, other than for Geese, as the winter has progressed, which isn't really a surprise. Some of the highlights included 480 Pink-footed Geese, two Buzzards, 53 Goldfinches, three Stock Doves, 17 Skylarks, a Jay, a Goldcrest and a Grey Wagtail.

 Pink-footed Goose

At one of my vantage points there is a small patch of scrub to the right and a Coal Tit popped up on top of some Willow with a peanut in its bill. It then flew to the area of woodland behind me, and I don't doubt it was going to cache it!

I've got various things to do over the next couple of days, so it might well be Friday before I'm out again.

Happy Solstice

I would just like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Solstice!

"May this Solstice and turning of the wheel bring you love, peace and good fortune in the coming year. Let us welcome the returning sun with Hope and Joy"!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Working the Water Treatment Works

On Friday morning I nipped to the water treatment works to check on my feeders. They had been up a week and I was interested to see if any birds had found them, and they had, and in fact they were all virtually empty! In addition to the feeders I put some seed on the ground and some apples. I didn't record much other than three Long-tailed Tits and five Goldfinches.

 The area of the feeding stattion

Saturday morning under 7 oktas cloud cover with a light southeasterly wind I was again at the water treatment works, this time to do some ringing at the feeding station. I never go at first light so it gives the birds time to feed first, and my ringing sessions are never longer than a couple of hours, so there is plenty of time for the birds to use the feeding station for the remainder of the day.

A few Pink-footed Geese went over during the morning, c.500, and I found out later that there were two Barnacle Geese amongst them, but when I had a look on some of their favoured fields on my way home they weren't there.

A flock of sixty Linnets were feeding on some grassland adjacent to the treatment works and when disturbed were flying in to the tops of the trees close to where I was ringing.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Song Thrush and two Goldcrests are just about worth mentioning.

I ringed nine birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Great Tit - 2 (1)
Blue Tit - 4 (3)
Robin - 1
Goldfinch - 1 (1 - ringed at another local site on 25.11.13, but not recaptured until today)
Chaffinch - 1


There's been a lot of discussion of late on various blogs, forums etc on the ringing of a rare bird in Devon. I don't intend to go in to details on the 'wheres and why fors' as lots of self-proclaimed experts have commented enough, largely based on third hand information! However, what has been annoying is that several of these self-proclaimed experts have commented on the condition of the bird based on its fat score, and have declared the bird was in poor condition because it had a fat score of 1! What the f***! I have tried to educate some of the main protagonists that fat score isn't indicative of a bird's health, but if fell on deaf ears because it didn't fit their agenda.

Of the fourteen birds I trapped this morning ten had a fat score of 0, two of 05 and one each of 1 and 2. None of these birds were in poor condition, in fact they were just the opposite, fit and healthy with good muscle scores and normal healthy weights. To put it very basically fat is an indicator as to whether the bird is fuelled to migrate, or is storing fat as a survival strategy for sever weather. You would expect a bird that isn't moving to have a zero fat score or one at the most! Then again what do I know compared to these self-proclaimed experts!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Wednesday Morning in Merseyside

On Wednesday morning I completed one of my wintering bird surveys in Merseyside. I had virtual clear skies with a 10 - 15 mph south-southwesterly wind.

For the second survey running I bumped in to one of the local birders and it's amazing what a small world it is! We got talking about what we had seen etc, etc and I was asking him about Barn Owls in the area and this lead on to the subject of Southwest Lancs Ringing Group and their work on Barn Owls, and I know many of this group quite well so was able to pass my regards on to some of them via him! He told me about a good friend of his who was coming over to see him this weekend who has just published a book about Spurn, and of course this book is on my Christmas list; what a small world it is!

I had nothing out of the ordinary this morning but did produce a reasonable list of sightings that included two Song Thrushes, three Reed Buntings, six Long-tailed Tits, 21 Redwings, 796 Pink-footed Geese, 18 Linnets, three Goldcrests, 90 Jackdaws, three Coal Tits, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 12 Skylarks, two Mistle Thrushes, a pair of Kestrels, a Grey Wagtail and two Buzzards.

 Pink-footed Geese

When I first arrived before sunrise as I approached a wooded area a number of Magpies were exiting a roost and I counted 56. I think there were far more than this as when I arrived I got the impression that the 'exit' was underway!

High tide was at 1100 and leading up to 1100 way over to the west I could see large swirls of 'smoke like' concentrations of waders, which were obviously Knots, and I estimated that there were at least 10,000, although in all honesty this was more of a guesstimate!

We've got high pressure slipping in over weekend so I am hoping to get out birding somewhere and also to do some ringing at my feeding station. There's a Facebook page that I follow called 'Highland & Islands Weather' and yesterday they posted to say that "an intense jet stream looks likely to develop later next week in the North Atlantic, deep areas of low pressure will also develop, although the exact path of these is still uncertain just now but some computer models bring a storm very close to Scotland on Christmas Eve". Looking at the weather charts that they have produced it looks like we could get some strong southwesterly winds here in northwest England, and with morning tides on Christmas Day it could easily mean some seawatching for me Christmas morning!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Tuesday's Gone

Tuesday morning saw me at the Point for first light, not early at all at this time of year, and I had 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph southeasterly wind. Later some rain came in from the west and I had to seek shelter under the other tower.

Walking up to the coastal path I put up a Song Thrush and two Redwings from the hedge and these would be the only noteworthy passerines I would record. As the tide ran in and dawn moved in between the mud flats and sky, 102 Cormorants left their shingle island roost and headed off towards their feeding areas.

The only movement overhead was 90 Pink-footed Geese heading north over the Bay, but there was some movement at sea including 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, two Auk sp., 18 Common Scoters, eight Red-throated Divers, a Great Crested Grebe and seven Eiders.

A few waders were around being constantly flushed by dog walkers and included 248 Oystercatchers, 85 Sanderlings and six Turnstones.

Not the best of mornings, but at least there was something to look at!

Sunday, 11 December 2016

November's Ringing Totals

Over on the right I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Griup up until the end of November. No new species were added in November and in fact there is very little change in terms of the top ten 'movers and shakers'. It was nice to see Pied Wagtail as the most ringed bird during the month and Linnet coming straight in to eighth position! 

Below you will find the top four ringed for the month and the aforementioned 'top 10 movers and shakers'.

Top Four Species Ringed During November

1. Pied Wagtails - 48
2. Linnet - 39
3. Greenfinch - 21
4. Reed Bunting - 15

Top Ten Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Swallow - 826 (same position)
2. Goldfinch - 284 (same position)
3. Meadow Pipit - 209 (same position)
4. Blue Tit - 207 (same position)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 193 (same position)
6. Goldcrest - 154 (same position)
7. Great Tit - 153 (same position)
8. Linnet - 134 (straight in)
9. Chaffinch - 131 (down from 8th)
10. Reed Bunting - 113 (same position)

December Gannets

Another murky morning! I needed to collect my ropes from my net rides on the farm fields by the coast, so I decided to do the circuit that I do during the spring and autumn, more just because I was there rather than anything else. I had three oktas cloud cover with a 15 mph southwesterly wind.

The only interest during my hour and a half walk was at sea. No large numbers of auks, divers or wintering wildfowl, but a couple of adult Gannets which are always noteworthy in December. Usually it's after a prolonged period of wind, but it's been breezy of late, not windy. I picked up one adult Gannet fairly close in slowly heading south and it was loosely associating with a feeding flock of Gulls. I watched this bird until it was out of sight and then about ten minutes later I had another adult Gannet do the same thing.

The only other bits and pieces I had on the sea were three Red-throated Divers, two Shelducks and 40 Cormorants.

I then set my feeding station up, better late than never, at the water treatment works. My plan was to set it up and then have a look round. However, I picked up the puncture of all punctures (see below), so the priority was to then change my wheel. I needed a new tyre, so it was an expensive trip to the water treatment works!


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Dispersing Cormorants

Friday morning saw me at the Point just after the tide was falling, with full cloud cover and a 15 mph southwesterly wind. It was murky in the bay and there was some light rain about.

Visibility was poor this morning and consequently I didn't record very much and only gave it an hour. In fact it was such a miserable morning I thought it was never going to get light! All the sea produced was six Eiders and a Red-throated Diver.

The only point of interest was the Cormorants. I had 82 fly west out of the bay. I assumed that they were dispersing birds from their night time roost on the shingle island and heading out to feeding areas west and south.

I then went to the Marine Lakes to see if I could read some leg flags on the Turnstones. I found a flock of 30 birds but they were very flighty being flushed constantly by dog walkers. I'm not going to start on about dog walkers, don't worry!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Wot No Wagtails

Ian and I headed to the reedbed this afternoon in an attempt to ring some more Pied Wagtails, but they weren't playing ball! The two nets were duly erected in perfect mist netting conditions of full cloud cover with a light easterly breeze.

We waited, and waited and waited until it got dark and only five Pied Wagtails flew over! There is a second roost site in the opposite direction that they use, so it is likely that for whatever reason they decided to roost there this evening. We just ringed four birds as follows:

Blackbird - 1
Greenfinch - 1
Goldcrest - 1
Pied Wagtail - 1

Camped out deep in the reeds and willow scrub it is difficult to bird as any views are highly restricted and all we had was four Long-tailed Tits, a Song Thrush and five Greenfinches!

Waders And Wildfowl - Two Different Sites

Earlier in the week Andy, Graham, Kim and I met at Rob and Diana's farm to attempt to catch and ring some waders and wildfowl on their farm wetland. We met an hour before dusk to get the three wader nets up in preparation for when, hopefully, some wildfowl (Teal) and waders (Jack Snipe and Snipe) would fly in after dark.

It was forecast to be calm with cloud cover rolling in to keep the temperature above freezing. However, the cloud cover didn't materialise and consequently the wetland started to freeze. As you can imagine this is not conducive to feeding Snipe in particular and we didn't end up ringing anything! We weren't disheartened as the site has huge potential and at least we know where to put the nets up, and everything is in place ready for our next visit.

 Mist nets over the marsh

We did record a few bits and pieces when we were at the site including 400 Teal (in the longer vegetation), two Grey Wagtails, a Kingfisher, a Peregrine and 20 Redwings.

This morning I decided to watch the tide run in at the Point and it was a glorious morning with full cloud cover, and it was calm, resulting in the sea being as flat as a mill pond! On the sea I had 25 Cormorants, 47 Eiders, nine Red-breasted Mergansers, two Great Crested Grebes, a Wigeon, 16 Common Scoters and two Red-throated Divers.

 Looking across the Bay to the Lakes

The only waders I had were 46 Oystercatchers, seven Redshanks, a Curlew and four Ringed Plovers. Walking back to my car I had a female Stonechat in the Gorse.