Back On The Patch Via Cumbria

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I seem to spend all my time apologising for not posting too much recently, and my usual excuse is that I have been busy. I suppose I'm lucky in that when I am busy it means that I am busy with conservation related work, so busy, long days at work are days out in the field generally observing and recording wildlife!

I've been in Cumbria these past ten days. Earlier during this period I was in the southwest along the Furness peninsula. Highlights at this newly planted woodland site included a Grey Wagtail, eight Linnets, two Chiffchaffs, two Stock Doves, four Siskins, three Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blackcap and a Sedge Warbler.

Later in the ten day period I was in north Cumbria not far from Wigton, and I had Gail assisting me with my bird and tree survey. Highlights here included a Yellowhammer, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Lesser Redpolls, two House Sparrows, a Chiffchaff, four Willow Warblers, five Stock Doves, a Buzzard and a Tree Sparrow.

As the morning warmed up a few butterflies were on the wing, including the Comma below, that was one of a group of five nectaring on some Thistles; gorgeous!


This morning I was back out on the patch at the Obs. I headed to the Point under five oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph southeasterly wind. Out in the bay it was both murky and the sea surface had a heat haze over it, not overly conducive to sea watching!

There was just a smattering of vis with three Swallows and a Sand Martin east. Also on the mover were 16 Whimbrels and eight Curlews. Other waders included 31 Oystercatchers, nine Ringed Plovers, two Turnstones and a couple of Sanderlings.

At sea were nine Gannets, 12 Cormorants, 14 Sandwich Terns (including seven on the shore), two Common Terns, four Common Scoters and two Atlantic Grey Seals.

 Distant Sandwich Terns

With the overnight rain there was plenty of snails around and I must admit I do find them interesting. One day if I have time I'll tell you about my mark and recapture scheme in my garden, but in meantime below is a photograph of one of the beasties. It's a bit of a mixed bag in the morning with rain forecast both sides of dawn, so just a little unpredictable to chance any ringing sadly.  

June’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 until the end of June, and we are still playing catch-up after the various ringing suspensions that I have blogged about previously due to Avian Influenza outbreaks locally. We are 370 birds down on where we were last year and need some good weather through autumn to catch up.

Twelve new species for the year were ringed in June and these were Kestrel, Curlew, Woodpigeon, Barn Owl, Little Owl, Sand Martin, Swallow, Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Whitethroat and Carrion Crow.

The top four ringed during June and top 10 'movers and shakers' for the year were as follows:

Top 4 Species Ringed during June

1. Pied Flycatcher - 54
2. Goldfinch - 31
3. Reed Warbler - 14
4. Great Tit - 13

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 81 (up from 4th)
    Blue Tit - 81 (same position)
3. Pied Flycatcher - 79 (up from 6th)
4. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (down from 2nd)
5. Linnet - 59 (down from 3rd)
6. Great Tit - 40 (down from 5th)
7. Chaffinch - 25 (straight in)
    Siskin - 25 (straight in)
8. Meadow Pipit - 19 (down from 7th)
9. Sand Martin - 18 (straight in)
10. Nuthatch - 15 (down from 9th)

Common, King and Spotted

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
As I suspected would be the case, I didn't make it out early this morning after my real ale tour of some Scottish islands last night. Instead Gail and I headed down to the estuary for a walk mid-morning. And what a pleasant walk it was.

Heading along the path through the Hawthorns and reed-fringed pools an assemblage of singing Warblers greeted us, and amongst these insectivore songsters were Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Chiffchaff. Basically, representatives of Phylloscs, Acros and Sylvias, all with instruments of varying pitch and tone!

The tide was running in as we got to the estuary and it wouldn't be long before it started to lap up against the saltmarsh, so the ribbon of mud holding the feeding waders was getting thinner and thinner. Time was of the essence, so a route march was in order to get to the 'spit' and anything on the reservoir could wait until the walk back.

The highlight of the 'mud larks' was a gorgeous summer plumaged Spotted Redshank showing exactly why black is the colour! Sadly it was a little distant, and therefore I haven't got any photos to show what a cracking looking wader this is in this plumage; try 'Googling' it! I think it was the first Spotted Redshank that Gail has seen, but she took the lifer in her stride without showing too much birding emotion!

The Spot Reds supporting cast included 50 Lapwings, two Grey Herons, 55 Redshanks, two Little Egrets, five Oystercatchers and two Curlews. And I've just remembered that I forgot to count the Shelducks!

Back to the reservoir for the return journey and we bumped in to Ian. That's the spotted of my blog title out of the way, and the reservoir gave us the common and the king. We could hear a number of Common Sandpipers calling and in total there was three interacting with each other, and then cutting across the Common Sands calls was a Kingfisher that Ian picked up flying along the far side of the reservoir. It perched up in a dead tree over the water and we watched it for a good few minutes until a Grey Heron also landed in the tree and flushed it! Again no pictures I'm afraid as the Kingfisher was a tad too far away.

 About the only thing I could photograph this morning was the Sea 
Lavender on the saltmarsh!

It could be next weekend before I'm out on the patch again, but I've got plenty of site visits this week with a few surveys thrown in so hopefully I'll have something to report.

Reedbed Ramblings

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Ian and I were out ringing at the Obs this morning in the reedbed and we had to give the net rides a trim first before we could put any nets up. We had clear skies with a 5 mph northerly wind.

As I arrived on site Starlings were exiting their overnight reedbed roost,and there was probably somewhere in the order of 3,000 birds doing some morning murmurating! Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers, Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were all singing from their respective reed and scrub territories, whilst half a dozen Swifts screamed overhead.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker looked odd alighting in some rather flimsy Poplars, where moments earlier a party of Long-tailed Tits had moved through. An early Siskin moving south and an alarm calling male Stonechat were best of the rest.

We ringed thirteen birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Reed Warbler - 2 (1)
Whitethroat - 3
Blue Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 2
Wren - 3
Blackbird - 1

 Reed warbler

I'll attempt to get out in the morning and I say attempt because I have some lovely Scottish ales to sample this evening!

Good To Be Back Out

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It's been a while since I posted due to a combination of poor weather and lots of indoor work generated by lots of outdoor work. Fingers crossed I'll be out ringing at the Obs this weekend. It's all planned but as I write it's raining and it's not forecast!

Yesterday morning saw me surveying another plot of recently planted woodland in south Cumbria and funnily enough it wasn't forecast to rain then either, but I had frequent showers. They were light, however, and didn't affect the outcome of the survey.

Damp woodland!

I had nothing amazing, but it was just good to be back out again. The bits and pieces that I feel are worthy to jump from my notebook to this blog include a Raven, a Whitethroat, two Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff, two Buzzards, a Blackcap and a Tree Sparrow.

I hope that you all will forgive me when I admit that I have just discovered the superb Scottish nature writer Jim Crumley after he has written thirty plus books! I am currently reading 'The Nature of Autumn' and I can't tell you how good it is, and how he paints the landscape and the beasties within, with words. He even manages to out 'Robert Macfarlane' Robert Macfarlane, which just blows me away as he is my favourite naturalist/landscape writer!

As a taster here are a few words from Jim describing an encounter with a male Hen Harrier from his car as he climbs the road from Kylerhea on Skye through Glen Arroch (it helps to be able to picture a male Hen Harrier in your mind's eye). 

"Halfway up, a male Hen Harrier flashed across my bows, a poem in silver-grey and black...It's shadow-into-sunlight starburst was the most distant of echoes of the Green Woodpecker in far-off Glen Finglas". He then goes on to describe the Harriers hunting flight action..."slow as thistledown and one-yard high, searching for vole tremors or a passing cloud of finches on the move. Then with that streamlined absence of fuss that is the badge of all its tribe, it might soar fifty feet, bank and turn in its own length and tilt the whole mighty seaboard of the West Highlands through forty-five degrees in the process".
Crumley, J (2016) The Nature of Autumn Saraband, Glasgow 

Now that's how you describe a Hen Harrier!

Chicks and Juvs

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
On Sunday afternoon I found myself at my good friend's Robert and Diana's farm near Nateby with a brood of Kestrel chicks to ring. I'd checked them about a week earlier and they were just too small to ring, so hopefully after a week they would be big enough.

One of the diversification enterprises that Robert and Diana have on their farm is a small camping and caravan site and when we went to ring the Kestrel chicks we were joined by a small group of keen, wildlife enthusiast campers. I climbed the ladder and looked into the box and I was greeted to the sight of five healthy Kestrel chicks. They were still covered in grey fluffy down, but had started to grow tail and primary wing feathers. The other thing I noticed straight away was the number of mammalian prey items in the box and it was obvious that the parents birds were finding plenty of food and the chicks couldn't keep up with supply! It is a good vole year this year so fingers crossed it should be a good breeding season for Kestrels nationally and also Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl etc.

I haven't any photographs of the Kestrel chicks I'm afraid as I was too busy ringing the five chicks and also letting the enthusiastic group of campers quickly get some photographs before returning the chicks to the box. They all thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing the Kestrels ringed and the opportunity of seeing the birds close up, which is privilege that we as ringers sometimes take for granted.

We then had a walk down to the wetland and on the way along the woodland edge we noticed quite a few Red Admirals. In the immediate area there was a lot of nettles that are the food plant for Red Admiral caterpillars.

 Red Admirals

There was nothing on the wetland other than a few House Martins and Swallows hawking over it for aerial insects, so we headed in to the woodland to have a look at the outdoor classroom in the woods. One of the other things that Robert and Diana do is to facilitate school visits to the farm where the children learn about the link between farming, food production and the environment, but they also learn some basic outdoor survival skills and are encouraged to identify some of the wildlife found in the woodland. Great stuff!

As you might expect a woodland in late June in the middle of the afternoon is going to be quiet, but a singing Chiffchaff, a confiding Treecreeper and a Jay found their way into my notebook!

The following day I had a 4:00 am alarm call (ouch!) to carry out a plantation woodland bird survey in the North Pennines not far from Kirkby Stephen. It was a glorious morning with clear skies and calm conditions. Nearly everything I recorded during the survey was a juvenile; spotty Robins, gingery Song Thrushes, more green than blue Blue Tits and short-tailed Swallows!

Other bits and pieces included six Goldfinches, a Linnet, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, four Willow Warblers, a Siskin, a Buzzard, a Grey Wagtail, a Lesser Redpoll and a Stock Dove. Oh, and at least seven Brown Hares!

Since then it has rained and I've remained indoors, but I've got another bird survey Friday morning before hopefully some birding on the patch at weekend!

Back In Bowland

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Tuesday morning saw me take to the hills in Bowland to carry out a site visit to look at the condition of two areas of species rich grassland. My client's farm is full of breeding waders as he farms exceedingly sympathetically to cater for them; he's amended some farming practises to reduce any potential impact on eggs and chicks, created habitat features such as scrapes to provide additional habitat and adjusted stocking densities to create the correct sward heights. He's a great bloke!

Walking between the two fields that I had to survey it was obvious that most of the waders had finished breeding. Nearly all of the Lapwings had gone and just a few pairs of Curlew and Oystercatcher were still about. I had an interesting first wader breeding record for the farm in the form of a Common Sandpiper. I can't claim any credit for discovering this as it was one of the farm staff that alerted me to it's presence. She told me that every time she drove past this particular stone edged pool she saw a wader species she couldn't identify. She also went on to say that she had seen the bird with chicks.

One of the fields that I had to check was adjacent to this pool and as I parked up in the gateway and got out of my car I heard Common Sandpiper alarm calling. And sure enough, at some distance, it was perched up on the fence. I suspect that the other bird was somewhere around the pool with the chicks. This is the first time in Lancashire that I have recorded Common Sandpiper breeding on a farm away from a water course. Great stuff!

 Common Sandpiper

In addition to the waders a few Willlow Warblers were still singing from some of the woodland plantings and a Cuckoo was calling from an area that I had one or it earlier in the spring. The same pool where the Common Sandpiper was also had two broods of Tufted Ducks on and there looked to be at least four ducklings in each brood.

So a very enjoyable visit and I wish that all of my work could be like that!

First Moths For A While

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I ran my garden moth trap for the first time a few days ago and had a pleasing little catch, well for me anyway. I don't like to catch too many as it takes me quite a while to go through them, mainly because I don't run my trap often enough to get my eye in. However, I caught 21 moths of eight species as follows:

Brimstone - 2
Sallow Kitten - 2
Garden Carpet - 4
Riband Wave - 1
Heart and Dart - 4
Dark Arches - 3
The Flame - 2
Large Yellow Underwing - 3


 Sallow Kitten

Holiday Snaps

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I've had to hit the ground running this week with work, with lots of site visits and today is the first time I have had time to post anything since getting back from Scotland at weekend. Gail and I had a week in a holiday cottage on the Kilninver Estate south of Oban overlooking Loch Feochan. When it wasn't raining we had cracking views to Kerrera, and Mull beyond that. I say when it wasn't raining because we had quite a dreich week!

We didn't see a huge selection of birds, but you know what it's like as a birder you're always birding wherever you are. Highlights included lots of Siskins everywhere we went, Hooded Crows a plenty, Cuckoos, a couple of Golden Eagles, Goosanders, lots of Song Thrushes outnumbering Blackbirds, Spotted Flycatchers, breeding Wheatears, Stonechats, Peregrine, Ravens and Rock Dove (not sure how genuine they are here).

Below are a few holiday snaps in no particular order with no particular reason for the selection either:

 Bon Awe Iron Furnace

English Stonecrop (in Scotland)

Gylen Castle on Kerrera

Heath Spotted Orchid

Inverary Castle

Northern Marsh Orchid

Signs to the tea garden on Kerrera (above & below)

Spotted Flycatcher

Inside Kilmory Knap Chapel


Loch Feochan from the cottage

May 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 May, and they haven't increased that much. This is because of a ringing suspension due to a local avian influenza outbreak, which thankfully was lifted on 7th June. So we need to hit the ground running now and get some birds ringed!

Three new species for the year were ringed during May and these were Lapwing, Pied Flycatcher and Nuthatch. Below you will find the top three ringed during May and the top nine 'movers and shakers' for the year:

Top 3 Ringed In May

1. Blue Tit - 51
2. Pied Flycatcher - 24
3. Great Tit - 20

Top 9 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Blue Tit - 74 (up from 4th)
2. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (down from 1st)
3. Linnet - 59 (down from 2nd)
4. Goldfinch - 49 (down from 3rd)
5. Great Tit - 27 (straight in)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 24 (straight in)
7. Meadow Pipit - 19 (same position)
8. Willow Warbler - 14 (same position)
9. Nuthatch - 13 (straight in)

 Pied Flycatcher

This will probably be my last post for over a week as I am off to Scotland for a weeks holiday shortly, so I will post again when I get back!