Primaries Flash ‘Silver’ in Sunlight

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I birded the farm fields at the Obs this morning and sadly because of looming end of September deadlines with work I didn't have time to operate any mist nets. Although with the beauty of hindsight I wouldn't have caught much! The day dawned with a hazy single okta of cloud cover and a 10 mph southeasterly wind that would have troubled the nets if I had put any up!

The vis was very slow to start this morning, and even when it peaked it was little more than a trickle, and then it was all over by 9:00 am. My meagre totals were twelve Alba Wags, four Reed Buntings, three Grey Wagtails, a Chaffinch, 21 Meadow Pipits, eight Swallows, a Linnet, four Carrion Crows and 50 Pink-footed Geese.

Grounded migrants were equally as thin on the ground, although five Stonechats was nice, but just a single Goldcrest was best of the rest. A Fox brightened things up that crossed the path and stopped in the middle of the path, stared intently at something and moved on.

It was also quiet on the sea with just 23 Sandwich Terns, five Shelducks, a Gannet, two Eiders, a Red-throated Diver, thirteen Common Scoters, three Guillemots and an Auk sp

I've downloaded the Collins Bird Guide app. to my phone and it looks good. I was having a look through it and comparing it with the book version and I opened Common Scoter where it described the males primaries as flashing 'silver' in sunlight, and that is exactly what I was seeing this morning. The two groups of Common Scoters that I saw had mainly males in the flock and their primaries did indeed flash 'silver' in the sunlight.

I pulled one of my 2012 notebooks off my book shelf and on 23rd September 2012 Ian and I were ringing in the coastal park. In fact we only ringed one bird, a Goldcrest, and just like today the wind was southeasterly. Of interest my notebook, and not my memory, tells me that a Great Spotted Woodpecker (migrant) dropped in to the trees and we had a Marsh Harrier go east. I do remember the Marsh Harrier and it was high over the bay. Where it had come from I'm not sure, but it had certainly arrived high over the sea!

It's similar weather tomorrow, so I'll do a similar thing, but I hope the birds aren't similar!

Pintails and Pinkies

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was chilly yesterday morning at the Point with a 15 mph northeasterly wind, nearly full cloud cover and occasional showers. Ian and I took shelter on the western side of one of the buildings overlooking the dunes.

The first bird I recorded before I got to the buildings was a Kittiwake that flew along the tide line as I walked along on top of the dunes, and this was the only Kitti of the morning. A Grey Wag over calling was the first of four, and due to the weather conditions (blocking cloud to the north) the vis only consisted of two Skylarks and five Meadow Pipits!

I purposefully left out the arrival of Pink-footed Geese from the above vis totals as they were the main feature of the morning, besides some limited action on the sea. Pinkies were continually moving south and southwest all morning in generally quite small skeins. Some were very high, others low, and some looked truly spectacular with the Lakeland fells as a backdrop! I counted 1,116 in a couple of hours.

 Some of the Pinks arriving

The sea was the other feature of the morning, and despite the winds being northeasterly there was always something to keep us interested. We had eleven Sandwich Terns, four Shelducks, four Red-breasted Mergansers, six Common Scoters, 16 Red-throated Divers (some in full summer plumage), three Guillemots, 13 Pintails, two Gannets and a Great Crested Grebe.

 Looking across the bay to the Lakes

I've got another busy week ahead of me in the office I'm afraid, but once I get to next weekend things should be slackening off and hopefully it will be a month long period of daily birding!

August’s Ringing Totals

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of August. At 1523 birds ringed we are 690 down on this time last year. Let's hope for a good autumn to catch up!

Four new species for the year so far were ringed in August and these were Kingfisher, Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler and Garden Warbler.

Below you will find the top 5 ringed during August and the top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in August

1. Linnet - 145
2. Swallow - 94
3. Goldfinch - 63
4. Reed Warbler - 42
5. Goldcrest - 21

Top 10 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Linnet - 209 (up from 6th)
2. Goldfinch - 153 (same position)
3. Swallow - 145 (up from 7th)
4. Blue Tit - 103 (down from 1st)
5. Reed Warbler - 90 (up from 8th)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (down from 3rd)
7. Sand Martin - 67 (down from 5th)
8. Great Tit - 56 (up from 9th)
9. Blackcap - 40 (up from 10th)
10. Willow Warbler - 35 (straight in)

The forecast is looking reasonable for the weekend, so fingers crossed I'll get some birding and ringing in at the Obs.

Crests Not Leach’s

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
The 'Hairy Birder' is stuck indoors at the moment up to his eye-balls in Countryside Stewardship Mid-tier applications that have an end of September deadline to be submitted to Natural England by, so today's brief blog entry is about grounded Goldcrests from yesterday, before all the Leach's and Sabs Gulls of the past couple of days!

 Goldcrest on a sunnier day than today

And to add 'insult to injury' I'm stuck indoors all week! However, my master plan is to have the decks cleared by the end of next week and take the remainder of September and all of October off to bird...bring it on!

The forecast Saturday night was for a brief ridge of high pressure to nudge in to the west and then for rain showers in the early hours after midnight. Unfortunately, it was forecast for the wind to pick up rapidly during the morning with a rain front rolling in by mid-morning. So sadly there was no chance of mist nets, but I did have a blustery ramble around the farm fields at the Obs. At first light I had full cloud cover with a 15 - 20 mph west-southwesterly wind.

First up were some 'ticking' Robins and the first of my dozen Crests. My first Goldcrest was calling from the copse and then another from the herb garden, which isn't unusual as there is usually always a couple in autumn knocking about these areas. However, what sparked my interest was that the other ten were from the farm hedgerows that were quite wind-battered with their exposed location, and even odder were a couple calling from the dry reedbed behind the sea wall. Interestingly, I didn't have any in the migrant habitat in the dunes and also the Crests were the only grounded migrants I recorded.

I had a brief look on the sea and all I had were 66 Sandwich Terns south and a couple of male Eiders. The vis was similarly unproductive, understandably so, with three Alba Wags, a Chaffinch and ten House Martins south. The walk back across the fields to my car was also unproductive other than a male Sparrowhawk working the hedge and ditch.

That's me signed off until weekend!

 Leach's Petrel - this is what I should have been watching this week and 
getting some better shots than this!

First Mipits Of The Autumn

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I had my first ringing session at the coastal farm fields at the Obs this morning and at 5:30 am I had clear skies with a light southeasterly wind. It had been clear overnight, so I did wonder what the morning would bring when it got light. I got the nets up in the half-light and poured a coffee, waiting for the dawn.

There was a little vis this morning, but it was slow, and I suppose typical of early September. My meagre totals included 15 Meadow Pipits, four Grey Wagtails, ten Swallows, four House Martins, one Alba Wagtail, one Goldfinch and 30 Linnets (single flock).

I ringed ten birds as follows:

Wren - 4
Robin - 3
Meadow Pipit - 2
Blue Tit - 1

 Robin

As it warmed up later in the morning there were a few butterflies on the wing and I recorded four Red Admirals and two Speckled Woods.

 Speckled Wood

The only grounded migrant I had this morning was a single Goldcrest calling from the conifers, but there was a good number of Blue Tits around and I had eleven in total which is unusual for such a coastal location.

It's going to be too windy for ringing tomorrow, but as there is a morning tide I'll try and have a look on the sea before the rain comes in.

Too Late Cloud Cover

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
We were back in the reedbed this morning and at first light it was somewhat chilly with clear skies and a 10 mph SSE wind. The weather synopsis had looked good for an overnight arrival of migrants with a forecast southerly wind, clear skies and then cloud cover rolling in around midnight. The cloud cover did roll in, but not until about 0900, so it actually became a clear-out night with few grounded migrants.

The Starlings were spectacular as they exited their reedbed roost with a 'mini reversed murmuration', and they numbered somewhere in the region of 15,000! Similarly Alba Wags were exiting their roost on the marina, but in nowhere near the numbers of the Starlings, in fact only 16 came south over us. There will have been more than this but they disperse in all directions.

The only other thing of note in my notebook was a flock of 60 Goldfinches that are at the moment feeding on the plentiful thistles.

Due to the too late cloud cover (you have to have a theory as to why you didn't catch!) we ringed just seven birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 2
Whitethroat - 1
Blackcap - 1
Chiffchaff - 1

 Whitethroat

When I got back home I enlisted Gail's help to clear the net rides at the coastal farm fields area in the Obs recording area. I have to say she was a great help and did a magnificent job. Below are before and after pictures of the 60 foot ride in the Hawthorns.

 Before

 After

It's going to be a touch too windy for ringing tomorrow so I am going to treat myself too a few beers this evening and a lie-in as I've got 4:00 a.m. starts Tuesday - Friday next week!

A Sprinkling Of Migrants

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
At first light Ian and I had our nets up in one of the reedbeds at the Obs and it didn't half feel quiet, but as it turned out there was a sprinkling of migrants. We had full cloud cover with a 10 mph wind that veered between westerly and southwesterly.

There was actually a bit of vis this morning in the form of three Grey Wagtails, a few Swallows (I didn't count them properly!), eight House Martins and two Swifts. The Swifts were getting late and once we cross over in to September they will be scarce indeed.

A few oddities included a Raven that headed vaguely north and a Kingfisher that 'zipped' through. If I was a betting man I would bet that it was the young female that we ringed a couple of weeks ago. There was a nice flock of 40 Goldfinches feeding on thistles, and when the sun came out for a bit later there were Speckled Woods and Brown Hawkers on the wing.

There was obviously a few migrants grounded as our ringing totals testify and we ringed 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Blackcap - 1
Reed Warbler - 6
Grasshopper Warbler - 1
Reed Bunting - 10
Robin - 1
Whitethroat - 1
Wren - 3
Dunnock - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 1

 Grasshopper Warbler

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, as a group we've ringed more Cetti's Warblers than Grasshopper Warblers at 35 and 25 respectively!

We'll be trying again in the morning and I'll let you know how we get on.

Pishing Amongst The Trees

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It's at this time of year, and throughout autumn, that the art of 'pishing' comes into it's own when out birding. This technique of making a 'pishing' noise to attract birds started in North America and spread to the UK, and now most birders will deploy this technique at some point, during the autumn particularly, if not often!

I was doing one of my plantation woodland bird surveys this morning and my 'pishing' amongst the trees paid dividends with a number of birds coming to investigate the noise and therefore showing themselves! Which is what 'pishing' is all about, it's a tactic to enable you to be able to see the bird by attracting it to you through this veritable art! One of the purposes of these bird surveys that I am carrying out is to look at bird usage of the plantation woodland in late summer/early autumn in terms of species and total bird numbers, and 'pishing' does give a helping hand.

Two paragraphs on 'pishing' is enough now, so I'll move on! When I arrived at my survey site in north Cumbria at first light I was greeted with full cloud cover and a light SSW wind. I had wondered weather it might be raining when I got here because it was certainly raining when I picked a coffee up at Tebay and as I drove over Shap Fell. Thankfully the rain kept away and I managed to complete the survey.

 Berries and blossom on the same Rowan

Of the 120 individual birds I recorded of interest were three Song Thrushes, two Chiffchaffs, seven Willow Warblers, thirteen Swallows, three Coal Tits, 26 Goldfinches, a Bullfinch, a Goldcrest, two Reed Buntings, thirteen Mistle Thrushes, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Blackcap, three Grey Wagtails, a Siskin, a Snipe and a Buzzard.

 Mistle Thrush

So, all in all 'pishing' amongst the trees was a pleasurable way to earn a buck on a dreich Friday morning! The forecast is looking reasonable at weekend, so fingers crossed for two days of birding and ringing at the Obs!

D & G

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Earlier in the week I had a couple of days in Dumfries and Galloway with Gail. On the first day I was working at a couple of sites assessing tree condition and growth in a couple of newly planted woodlands, whilst Gail mooched around Dumfries spending money!

It's the third year that I have assessed these sites and for the past two years it has been dry at the first site and rained at the second site (further inland and higher), and this year it was just the same! The first site isn't far from the Criffel and a surprise on this visit were four Tree Pipits that I put up in my walk round. It does look like good habitat for Tree Pipits, and it obviously was! The only other thing of note was a flock of 30 - 40 Linnets feeding on the weed seed that is in abundance amongst the trees. I wouldn't be surprised if this flock gets larger as we get further in to autumn.

The drive to my second site usually produces some Red Kites and today I had at least three. I had a fourth one at the site, I love their call, but not a lot else because it poured down! So it was the third year running that I was walking round clipboard in hand and soaked to the skin!

A late afternoon visit to one of my favourite breweries, Sulwath in Castle Douglas, was in order before we retired to our B & B. The following morning on the way home I took Gail to one of my favourite birding spots on the Solway only a mile or two west of Gretna. Saltmarsh, mudflats, freshwater and plenty of coastal migrant habitat make this a cracking little spot. Oh, and the views across to the land of the Sassenachs and those pointed hills in the Lakes is quite special!

Out on the estuary were Curlews, Lapwings, Osytercatchers, Redshanks and four Goosanders. But it was the butterflies that were most noticeable due to the lovely sunny weather that we had. There was at least 15-20 Red Admirals, 10-15 Peacocks, perhaps five Walls, 20-25 Small Whites and just a single Large White. A number of Common Darters were about too, over some of the small pools.

Talking of invertebrates I managed to get a shout of a Hoverfly species that is almost certainly Helophilus pendulus, which is a common species but also a cracker! A handful of Siskins, Linnets, Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush and a Tree Pipit south almost wrapped up the bird sightings, except for a cracking immature Sparrowhawk with prey back at the car. A bag full of blackberries that we picked, and field mushrooms given to us by a kindly elderly gentleman, ended a lovely morning. The only downside was going home!


A Small Arrival

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Conditions overnight were clear and at 11:00 pm last night I was watching the Perseid meteor shower in the garden with Gail when I suddenly realised I needed to get to bed as I was up in less than five hours! The clear conditions led Ian and I to believe that it would be a 'clear out night', and it was to a certain extent, but there was definitely a small arrival this morning.

At first light we had clear skies with a 5 mph NNW wind and it was cool, a definite nip in the air! We put the nets up in one of the Obs reedbeds and retired to our cars for a coffee. About a dozen Alba Wags went over after exiting their roost, but their numbers were dwarfed by the twelve thousand (well about that anyway) Starlings that came out of another reedbed roost.

A Little Egret went over one way and a young female Sparrowhawk shot through the other. There was even a bit of 'vis' this morning with eight Swallows, two Swifts and 25 House Martins drifting south. A couple of calling Willow Warblers that avoided the nets were new in, and it was the ringing that gave us the real feel of there being a small arrival.

We ringed 16 birds as follows:

Reed Warbler - 11
Whitethroat - 3
Wren - 1
Song Thrush - 1

 Reed Warbler

Yet again I'm playing catch up with work this week, and my plan is to try and clear everything by mid-late September and take the whole of October off to give the Obs a serious grilling for a month. But don't tell Gail!