From Inland Cheshire To Coastal Cumbria

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Over the past two days my birding has been work based and they have been completely different; inland Cheshire yesterday and coastal Cumbria today!

It was a beautiful day yesterday everywhere it seemed, other than my survey site that was fog bound! On the drive down it was glorious until I got near my site, and then on the return journey foggy until a few miles from the site where it was glorious again! It was one of those mists where horizontal visibility was compromised, but not vertical!

 The sun was trying it's best to make an appearance!

I did have a few birds at my misty Cheshire site including five Song Thrushes, which were almost certainly migrants. No Fieldfares or Redwings though! A Buzzard was ever present as usual, but the best bird of the morning was undoubtedly a Little Owl.

I could hear Blackbirds and Chaffinches alarm calling and I approached the area where I knew that they were scolding a predator of some sort. I looked through a gap in the hedge and perched up on a post was a Little Owl. It was really close, and soon spotted me and sadly flew off. It still put a spring in my step though!

The site holds a population of Tree Sparrows and I had five on this morning. A flock of seventeen Long-tailed Tits moving along a hedge was nice, and these were really all the highlights.

Gail and I were at a site in northwest Cumbria today, and if it wasn't for the relatively murky conditions, the views across to Dumfries and Galloway and down to the Isle of Man would have been superb. The site is on the coast and today's visit was just to plan my transect route and VPs (vantage points), so I wasn't really recording my sightings thoroughly. Of interest we had 33 Skylarks, eight Linnets, a Rock Pipit, four Stonechats, two Ravens and a nice covey of six Grey Partridges. I didn't look on the sea today, but when I start the surveys soon I will be doing.

Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee. It was nice to record this today and I have 
had one or two in my garden over recent days

Tomorrow I'm hoping to get out ringing at the Obs, but I'm leaving it until the morning to make a decision as the forecast is marginal in terms of wind strength. I'll let you know if I do!

False Start

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
If you remember I had commented on the potential interesting weather synopsis for yesterday morning, but as often happens it didn't come to fruition. The weak weather front moved through, with light drizzle, but after it had come light the effect was more of a 'blocking' feature than of a 'dropping' feature, if you know what I mean.

Having said that, after my 8 o'clock Doctor's appointment I decided to have an hour or so's birding before hitting the office for the day. I arrived at the cemetery under full cloud cover, with a moderate southeasterly wind. Where had that wind come from?

As I got out of my car I could hear some Chaffinches 'pinging', looked up and could see just a couple of birds. I looked harder and there high above, just dots in my bins, were a tight flock of 42 heading west. When we get flocks like this down on the coast at the Obs, it's a sure sign that they are continental birds. I sent a quick text to Ian saying "it looks like continental Chaffinches are on the move this morning". After that I had very little vis, so it had in fact been a false start.

The only grounded migrant I had in the cemetery was a single Goldcrest, so I headed to the coastal park, but I didn't hold out much hope. There were a few more grounded migrants in the coastal park in the form of four Goldcrests, 14 Chaffinches and two Redwings. Vis was restricted to just 13 Chaffinches and ten Starlings. It was time to go home!

There are three Woodpigeons that seem to be permanently hanging around our garden at the moment, although I must admit I am putting food out for them. One of the birds has been moulting its wing feathers and when it takes off it 'clatters' it's wings even more than usual!

Looking back to this day in 2010 Ian and me were ringing at the farm fields/school in the Obs recording area. We ringed 52 birds; a Song thrush, a Redwing, three Goldcrests, a Long-tailed Tit, six Reed Buntings, three Blue Tits, a Dunnock, five Blackbirds and 31 Greenfinches. So, not a bad haul!

The birding wasn't bad either and it stood out for one reason, and that was a Great Grey Shrike that headed north at 0800! I remember it well as both Ian and I picked it up at the same time, knowing there was something odd about this bird with undulating flight that was approaching! That was the last Great Grey Shrike recorded at the Obs, so we are over due another one!

You Couldn’t Make It Up

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I was out yesterday looking for more eastern sprites, but it wasn't to be, in fact it was very quiet both in terms of vis and grounded migrants. I had seven oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph northwesterly wind. I'm blaming the northwesterly wind.

I visited the cemetery first as it is closest to home and I didn't have a single grounded migrant and just the odd Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch over was the only vis.

The coastal park was a little better as there was some grounded migrants in the form of five Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, four Coal Tits and a Song Thrush that dropped in. Vis was similar to the cemetery with a handful of Chaffinches and three Grey Wagtails west.

Last night the forecast for this morning looked good for some ringing locally, and it was forecast for some rain at my Cheshire wintering bird survey site, so I decided to go to the Nature Park and try my luck with a couple of nets and a few MP3 players. Interestingly after dark last night and before light this morning I didn't hear any Thrushes going over, and one of my plans was to get there in the dark and try and tape lure some Redwings and Fieldfares.

I loaded my car up at 6:30 am and headed out along the short five minute drive to the site. On arrival I noticed that the first gate was open and in the distance I could see the lights of a vehicle moving around. I drove round to the second gate and this was open too, so I assumed it was somebody official doing some work on the site, but in the dark?! I headed off towards the third gate that takes you into our ringing area, and the vehicle that was moving around pulled alongside me and it was Greg the part-time Ranger of the site.

We exchanged a few niceties and Greg informed me that he was there early as he was meeting some contractors that were going to put a trench in near the first gate to install a fibre optic cable, and he wasn't sure whether they would be digging the track up to do it! This meant that if I carried out my ringing session as planned I might not be able to get off site until the end of the day! You couldn't make it up! What a coincidence that the first decent morning for ringing for days coincides with a day when some work was going to be completed that might block my exit from the site! Of course, the decision was made and an enforced full day's birding at the Nature Park didn't appeal, so it was off home for some breakfast.

There's a potentially interesting weather synopsis for overnight with easterly winds and a weak weather front in the early hours, it might just drop something in. I've got an appointment early doors, but might just sneak out for an hour afterwards.

You Couldn’t Make It Up

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I was out yesterday looking for more eastern sprites, but it wasn't to be, in fact it was very quiet both in terms of vis and grounded migrants. I had seven oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph northwesterly wind. I'm blaming the northwesterly wind.

I visited the cemetery first as it is closest to home and I didn't have a single grounded migrant and just the odd Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch over was the only vis.

The coastal park was a little better as there was some grounded migrants in the form of five Goldcrests, a Chiffchaff, four Coal Tits and a Song Thrush that dropped in. Vis was similar to the cemetery with a handful of Chaffinches and three Grey Wagtails west.

Last night the forecast for this morning looked good for some ringing locally, and it was forecast for some rain at my Cheshire wintering bird survey site, so I decided to go to the Nature Park and try my luck with a couple of nets and a few MP3 players. Interestingly after dark last night and before light this morning I didn't hear any Thrushes going over, and one of my plans was to get there in the dark and try and tape lure some Redwings and Fieldfares.

I loaded my car up at 6:30 am and headed out along the short five minute drive to the site. On arrival I noticed that the first gate was open and in the distance I could see the lights of a vehicle moving around. I drove round to the second gate and this was open too, so I assumed it was somebody official doing some work on the site, but in the dark?! I headed off towards the third gate that takes you into our ringing area, and the vehicle that was moving around pulled alongside me and it was Greg the part-time Ranger of the site.

We exchanged a few niceties and Greg informed me that he was there early as he was meeting some contractors that were going to put a trench in near the first gate to install a fibre optic cable, and he wasn't sure whether they would be digging the track up to do it! This meant that if I carried out my ringing session as planned I might not be able to get off site until the end of the day! You couldn't make it up! What a coincidence that the first decent morning for ringing for days coincides with a day when some work was going to be completed that might block my exit from the site! Of course, the decision was made and an enforced full day's birding at the Nature Park didn't appeal, so it was off home for some breakfast.

There's a potentially interesting weather synopsis for overnight with easterly winds and a weak weather front in the early hours, it might just drop something in. I've got an appointment early doors, but might just sneak out for an hour afterwards.

Eastern Sprite

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Ian's garden is an important component of the Obs recording area, as it is directly on the coast, and the habitat in his and neighbouring gardens are very attractive to migrants. The garden is one of the sites where we trap migrants for ringing and good numbers of Lesser Redpoll, for example, are ringed every Spring in the garden.

I didn't set my alarm this morning as the forecast was poor and I'm ashamed to say that a phone call from Ian got me out of bed. He phoned me to say that even though it was wet, even very wet at times, there were migrants around as he had just had six Blackbirds and a Song Thrush 'drop in' to his garden!

I got up and dressed, and decided I would go out if and when the rain eased. I then received another phone call from Ian saying that he had just caught a Yellow-browed Warbler in his garden, and did I want to come up. Luckily Ian only lives about a six minute drive from me, and as I was up and ready with my birding gear at hand, I was in his house getting the gorgeous little 'eastern sprite' out of the bird bag to ring in less than ten minutes.

 Yellow-browed Warbler

It was an immature bird and it was in very fresh plumage, even though it had flown all the way from the Siberian taiga! These little birds weighing only c.7g should be wintering in southeast Asia, but every year more and more reach western European shores, including the UK. This was actually the second we have ringed at the Obs, and the third ringed by the group. When I got up this morning I didn't think I would be doing any ringing, let alone ringing a Yellow-browed Warbler!

Yellow-browed Warbler

The forecast is for rain again tomorrow morning, but lighter than today, and there might be a few clear spells during the night, so I will try and get out in the morning to see if any more eastern sprites have arrived.

Landlocked

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
As I write, it is blowing a southerly gale outside, and it is forecast to start raining soon and carry on for most of the night and tomorrow! Earlier in the week in sunnier and warmer times I had two site visits to undertake; one in southwest Lancs and the other in Cheshire. Without a doubt, both of them well and truly landlocked!

My southwest Lancs site visit was on Tuesday and it was a gloriously sunny morning as I wandered around some intensive agricultural fields. I wasn't completing a bird survey, but I was outdoors and that was all that mattered. Skylarks were a feature of the morning and these 'blithe Spirits' would make another appearance later in the week. I had eighteen head south during my short walk, and three Tree Sparrows calling noisily as they went by were good to see.

It seemed odd in these beautifully warm conditions to have twenty Whooper Swans go over, my first for the Autumn, and I never tire of their bugling calls. Stonking!

Fast forward to Wednesday and I was in Cheshire doing a wintering bird survey and the weather was glorious; clear skies and a light-moderate southeasterly wind. The main feature of the morning was the vis, and there was quite a bit, particularly Woodpigeons, even though again I was landlocked.

 Migrating Woodpigeons (above & below)



My vis totals (all south) included 19 Skylarks, 18 Meadow Pipits, two Redwings (my first of the Autumn), eight Linnets, 677 Woodpigeons and 15 Alba Wags.

I couldn't detect any grounded migrants but other bits and pieces included 21 Tree Sparrows, 15 Linnets feeding in some maize stubble, a Song Thrush, a male Kestrel, three Reed Buntings, a Goldcrest, two Stock Doves and three Buzzards.

 Buzzard

 Ash Trees are a feature of the landscape in this area and 
I love a good Ash Tree!

For the past week or so a/the/our Hedgehog has been still visiting our garden. It comes shortly after dark and again just before first light in the morning. It's so mild of late that I guess that he/she will be visiting for a while yet.

As I mentioned before the forecast is grim for the rest of the day and tomorrow, but I am hoping that I will be able to get out on Sunday. Fingers crossed as it is Autumn!

East and West

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Yesterday morning before it got light I loaded my car up with my ringing gear, tied my poles on to the roof rack and headed to the pools at the Obs. I was looking forward to a few hours ringing and the forecast had been spot on all week for Sunday morning, even before I went to bed just before midnight.

Looking north I could see black clouds looming, and what's this, rain on my windscreen! The wind turbine was also spinning round at more of a rate than it should given the forecast. I parked up before unlocking the three gates to get access to the ringing area and checked the forecast again, not that I needed to as I could see, feel and hear that the weather had changed! And sure enough the wind strength was due to increase as the morning went on, so I made the decision to abort and headed home to drop my poles off before checking a few coastal migrant spots.

Unfortunately it had been a clear out kind of night and it was a vis kind of morning, and if I had managed to get some nets up anything I caught would have been down to the MP3 players. First port of call was the Cemetery; no grounded migrants bet definitely some vis. My second and final port of call was the coastal park, and again more vis. I'll lump my vis totals together for both the cemetery and the coastal park as they are close to each other.

 Looking across Morecambe Bay from the coastal park

The highlight of the vis were three Jays (scarce here) that headed west and a Great Spotted Woodpecker that dropped in to the trees before heading west. The vis was both east and west this morning; west because that's the usual autumnal direction on this stretch of coast, and east because some birds were obviously heading in to wind.

My vis totals, whether it was east or west, were ten Chaffinches, 22 Greenfinches, a Rook, a Meadow Pipit, an Alba Wag, 184 Pink-footed Geese, four Magpies, twelve Goldfinches, three Jays, six Mistle Thrushes, twenty Carrion Crows, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Swallow, a Grey Wagtail and a Siskin.

 Pink-footed Geese

The only grounded migrants were two Goldcrests and a Song Thrush. An immature male Sparrowhawk was nice to see, as always, and that was about it.

It's survey work this week for me in southwest Lancs and Cheshire, and hopefully on Saturday some birding in southwest Scotland, although the weather is looking a bit grim fro Friday/Saturday! Hopefully it will change!

A Quiet Morning Ringing

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
At last the weather was kind enough yesterday to allow me the opportunity to do some ringing at the Obs in the reedbed and scrub. Six oktas cloud cover with a 5 - 10 mph southwesterly wind wasn't going to trouble the nets at all. Unfortunately it was clear overnight and it was very obvious at dawn that it had been a 'clear out' night! Nevertheless, I persevered and put just a couple of nets up.

I ringed eleven birds as follows:

Reed Bunting - 1
Chaffinch - 1
Robin - 1
Meadow Pipit - 1
Blue Tit - 1
Wren - 1
Greenfinch - 5

 Greenfinch

 Blue Tit

As you might expect the birding was quiet too. Three Cetti's Warblers calling away from various parts of the site with their explosive call never fails to make me smile, mainly because I still find it incredible that they are relatively common now! Two Ravens flew over giving that fantastic deep throated 'cronk' of a call. They're regular now at the Obs and I suspect they are nesting locally.

I had my first Water Rail of the autumn/winter as one called several times early on.There was very little vis, and Ian confirmed this too as he was getting little at the Point as well, and all I had was a handful of Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits and Greenfinches. Just 37 Pink-footed Geese arrived from the west and headed east, presumably to feeding areas over Wyre.

 Pink-footed Geese

The only grounded migrant I had was a Song Thrush that 'dropped in', and that was it for a fairly unremarkable morning!

The weather is looking unsettled this week for the start of October, but hopefully this will change and we can start looking forward to some continental migrants.

Seagrets

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I headed to the Point this morning for first light and was joined by Ian. We had three oktas cloud cover and a 25 mph west-northwesterly wind. Unlike the other day when there was too much southerly, today there was too much northerly!

We didn't expect much because of the wind direction, and as such we weren't disappointed, but the morning did have some interest. One of the most interesting/unusual sightings was that of five Little Egrets heading west out to sea and flying between the wave troughs. I have said it several times on here before that being a birder of a certain generation I always delight in seeing Little Egrets, but when they are heading west out to see it is quite spectacular. Where were they going? That is a good question, but as there are so many breeding in the UK now they are probably establishing migratory patterns from breeding to wintering grounds, and I guess that these were some local/northerly breeding birds heading to their wintering area. We later had another individual drop in and feed in a tidal pool on the shore.

Little Egret

In addition to the 'Seagrets' we had moving at sea 23 Common Scoters, two Auk sp., six Sandwich Terns, ten Red-breasted Mergansers, a close in Manx Shearwater, two Kittiwakes, three male Eiders, a female Pintail, a Gannet, two Guillemots and a Razorbill

Waders as the tide ran were restricted to 223 Oystercatchers, 121 Sanderlings and two Curlews. There was even a bit of vis this morning and Meadow Pipits were heading southwest out to sea and we had about fifty. A few Pink-footed Geese came in from the north and they too headed southwest, all 85 of them.

Towards the end of our watch a female Merlin headed west at sea and a short while later she was low over the beach in front of us with a prey item, probably a Meadow Pipit, and I guess she was probably a migrant as well following the Meadow Pipits.

It was forecast to be wet tomorrow, but now that's changed and it's looking like a reasonable morning with the possibility of some decent vis. Even though I will be up very early on Monday to start a series of wintering bird surveys in Cheshire I'll be up and out in the morning. It's September and as a birder you're duty bound to be out this month!

Too Much Southerly

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I sort had this morning free so I took myself off to the Point to do some seawatching and joined Ian who said to me as I walked up to the tower, "you may as well go home mate it's awful"! Not what I wanted to here, but not surprising either as the wind was dues south without a hint of any west in it. At the Point the best direction is anywhere between southwesterly and westerly.

Funnily enough, even though I was hoping for a bit of seawatching, because the wind was fairly strong, but not very strong, and because of the southerly direction there was a bit of vis. Three Grey Wagtails and a handful of Meadow Pipits and Swallows headed south into wind.

The sea was quiet also, with the most numerous species recorded being the 86 Common Scoters that headed west and the scarcest a male Velvet Scoter that drifted slowly out and west on the falling tide. Best of the rest included a Red-throated Diver, ten Sandwich Terns (on the beach), two Auk sp., two Gannets, seven Kittiwakes, a lovely juv. Little Gull and a single Guillemot.

Interestingly two Peregrines were at sea and they seemed to be hanging round an offshore shingle island. Ian sees them regularly and it makes you wonder whether they spend a lot of time out there hunting waders and perhaps even seabirds like Auks.

Waders on the shore included 112 Sanderlings and twenty Ringed Plovers. It was interesting to note that there was only a few juv. Sanderlings amongst the flock as a result  of the catastrophic breeding season in Greenland because of summer snow cover. 

I've got work over the next couple of days, so it will be weekend before I am out again. Fingers crossed that the weather plays ball!