The Working Week That Was

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Most of my birding of late has been in order to keep the wolf from the door and I am in the middle of a number of wintering bird surveys. I'm not going to complain, but when it comes to weekend the weather hasn't played ball and I have struggled to get out. I think it's called sod's law, but I suppose I shouldn't complain as I am doing some birding!

About a week ago I was surveying inland at a farmland site, and it was fairly mundane, but as I am fond of saying there is always something to look at. On this particular morning there did seem to be good numbers of thrushes along the hedgerows and I counted 25 Blackbirds, 96 Fieldfares, two Redwings and two Song Thrushes.

Raptors were represented by a male and female Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard being mobbed by two Carrion Crows. Grey Wagtail and Siskin put in a appearance, as did six Tree Sparrows, so it wasn't all bad.

I have another survey site on some farmland adjacent to a tidal stretch of river and I was there a few days ago. Tree Sparrows were apparent here as well and I had ten going over on vis heading southwest. It never ceases to amaze me seeing these relatively sedentary farmland birds on the move in the autumn.

Thrushes weren't as obvious on this morning with 37 Fieldfares, seven Song Thrushes, five Redwings, a Mistle Thrush and another 25 Blackbirds, so actually fairly similar! Pink-footed Geese were moving between roosting and feeding sites and I had 2130 overhead in all directions. A Raven and three Siskins over made it in to my notebook as did three Little Egrets.

 Little Egret

The tide was in down on the estuary and there was limited mud available for any waders, consequently all I had was eleven Curlews, two Redshanks and eleven Snipe. A flock of ten Reed Buntings were in some Phragmites fringing a watercourse and 21 Whooper Swans flew northeast bugling away; magic!

 Reed Bunting

At the end of the week I was inland again on some mossland with intensive agriculture ranging from cereals to field vegetables. Two each of Kestrel and Buzzard flew the raptor flag and quite a number of Goldfinches were present. In total I had 64 Goldfinches and 25 of these were with 75 Linnets in some veg stubbles.

I rarely see Grey Partridge these days, so a covey of five was noteworthy, and a male and female Stonechat were still occupying a feeding territory in rank vegetation alongside a ditch and a pond. This vegetation would be harbouring over-wintering inverts, and therefore food for the Chats!

 Stonechat

It's a mixed week weather-wise coming up, but fingers crossed I'll get out!

 The sun sets on another week of surveys

Waggies

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
This afternoon Ian and I headed to the reedbeds to try and ring some roosting Pied Wagtails. We had full cloud cover and 10 mph north-northwesterly wind. Whilst waiting for Ian to arrive I had a quick look on one of the pools and there was an impressive 59 Coots and the now ubiquitous calling Cetti's Warbler.

A couple of Goldcrests called from some willows adjacent to the reedbed and a female Sparrowhawk coasted across the pool. Another raptor made an appearance in the form of a Buzzard mobbed by Corvids heading towards the river.

Before the Pied Wags came in to roost we ringed a few Greenfinches that were on their way to roost in the water treatment works, and at least 30 or so showed some interest in the MP3 player. It was difficult to estimate the numbers of Wagtails roosting, but there must have been at least 180.

 Greenfinch

We ringed 29 birds as follows:

Greenfinch - 6
Pied Wagtail - 23

 Pied Wagtail

I'm not sure what to do in the morning as it is forecast for a brisk northwesterly. I'll see how many Orkney brewery beers I sample this evening and then make a decision!

October’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 October. To date we have ringed 2,378 birds of 54 species. New additions for the year in October were Sparrowhawk, Fieldfare, Redwing and Mistle Thrush.

Below you will find the 'Top 5' ringed in October and the 'Top 10 Movers and Shakers' for the year.

Top 5 Ringed in October

1. Goldfinch - 62
2. Redwing - 54
3. Goldcrest - 50
4. Pied Wagtail - 45
5. Blue Tit - 32

Top 10 Movers and Shakers

1. Goldfinch - 264 (up from 2nd)
2. Linnet - 241 (down from 1st)
3. Blue Tit - 166 (up from 4th)
4. Swallow - 145 (down from 3rd)
5. Lesser Redpoll - 139 (up from 6th)
6. Goldcrest - 128 (up from 8th)
7. Meadow Pipit - 124 (down from 5th)
8. Great Tit - 96 (up from 10th)
9. Reed Warbler - 92 (down from 7th)
10. Chaffinch - 80 (straight in)

More Thrushes

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
This is just a quick post to report on yesterday's ringing activities at the Obs. Ian and me were back in the reedbeds at first light with full cloud cover and 5 - 10 mph northerly wind.

Other than the ringing details I have recorded very little in my notebook. There was a good movement of Pink-footed Geese and several skeins were leaving their estuarine roost, and as a couple of days ago others were arriving from the north.

There was probably 70 grounded Redwings and 15 - 20 Fieldfares, and they featured prominently in the ringing totals for the morning. We ringed 28 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Fieldfare - 2
Wren - 1
Redwing - 13
Reed Bunting - 8
Greenfinch - 4

 Fieldfare

 Redwing

It's looking more of a seawatching kind of day tomorrow, with the possibility of some thrushes Sunday morning.

Some Ringing At Last

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Yesterday morning at the Obs I headed to one of the reedbeds just before first light to do my first ringing since September! In fact it was the first morning that I had seen a frost this autumn, but it wasn't that heavy, just a light and brief dusting. Skies were clear and it was calm, something that it hasn't been for some time!

Being a birder of a certain age I still have to pinch myself every time I hear a Cetti's Warbler, and I hear them an awful lot now, and this morning was a classic example, a Cetti's calling from a frosty reedbed in Lancashire!

There was quite a few Pink-footed Geese moving around this morning in all directions, some obvious arrivals from the north and other birds moving from their roost site to feeding areas. The 5-600 logged in my notebook is probably a gross under estimate, but I was quite busy ringing this morning so couldn't always look up!

When I was putting the nets up a number of Fieldfares and Redwings were moving amongst the reeds and willows, perhaps 30 and 15 of each respectively, and I did wonder whether I would catch any, and I did. In total I ringed 31 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Fieldfare - 2
Wren - 1
Redwing - 4
Song Thrush - 1
Chaffinch - 2
Reed Bunting - 2
Goldfinch - 5
Greenfinch - 13 (1)
Blue Tit - 1
Goldcrest - (1) 

 Redwing

In addition to the Pinkies there was some vis involving Fieldfares, Redwings, Song Thrush, Jackdaws, Woodpigeons, Brambling, Greenfinches, Meadow Pipits, Carrion Crow and Linnets. However, my counts are woefully low as I said earlier, so I haven't bothered to report them here.

 Fieldfare

It's looking okay for some ringing later in the week at the Obs so hopefully I'll be out again. Twice in one week, what's going on?!

Big Skies

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I was surveying on some deepest, darkest mossland this morning and it was the first morning that you could say that it was actually cold. When I arrived at my survey site there was a ground mist and lateral visibility wasn't brilliant to say the least, but vertically it was crystal clear which meant birds were still on the move.

 That orange ball soon cleared all the low lying mist

The mosslands aren't everybody's cup of tea as in Lancashire they are usually used for intensive agriculture, mainly field salad and veg, and where I was today was no exception. However, it is the big skies that lend these areas some wildness. I also like the habitat islands that you find. When I say habitat island it could be a group of Birch trees for example surviving along a track, and they are indeed islands in their position and richness within the surrounding agricultural landscape.

 An island of Birch in a mossland sea

The main theme of the morning was the 'vis' but this was a tad limited, or the birds were so high they were out of my sight and hearing range. Skylarks were a good example; I could hear them calling, but often I couldn't see them. They were somewhere coasting in the stratosphere.

A few flocks of Pink-footed Geese were on the move, scribbling across the sky like a spider dipped in ink and running across the page, a page of crystal clear cobalt blue! Continuing the wildfowl theme I had three parties of Whooper Swans (10/4/4) heading south, announcing their presence by their loud bugling calls. Magic!

As I said before there was some vis. Interestingly some of the Skylarks were heading north into the light northerly wind. My vis totals, irrespective of direction, were as follows; six Tree Sparrows, four Alba Wags, 68 Woodpigeons, two Chaffinches, a Magpie, 45 Skylarks, 161 Jackdaws, a Linnet, 85 Starlings, four Meadow Pipits, a Reed Bunting, six Carrion Crows, 11 Goldfinches, four Redwings and a Greenfinch.

The only raptor I had this morning was a female Sparrowhawk that coasted over a small area of wild bird seed flushing 45 Goldfinches and 15 Linnets in the process. I thought I might have had a few more thrushes this morning, but other than the Redwings all I had was seven Blackbirds, a Fieldfare, three Song Thrushes and three Mistle Thrushes.

I came across a flock of 13 Lapwings on a small flood and there was no way of approaching them without flushing them, which was a shame because the light was perfect in my head I thought I could have got a cracking photo. The problem there is that it was all theoretical and I hadn't factored in my lacking photographic skills!

It was nice to hear a Corn Bunting singing from, where else, some telegraph wires and that brought to an end a pleasant job of work!

 Big skies

Farmland Vis

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Yesterday and today I have been doing some bird surveys, yesterday in the Fylde and today in the Lune valley. The vis hasn't really been part of the surveys, but I record it anyway for my own interest, and after the stormy weather earlier in the week the flood gates opened. 

The day dawned with clear skies and very little wind, perhaps just a tad from the east, and birds were on the move straight away. My totals below don't really justify the true numbers of the birds involved, as I was having to concentrate on other things, but the species make-up is accurate. So a flavour of yesterday morning included 654 Pink-footed Geese, 49 Skylarks, 4 Woodpigeons, 13 Meadow Pipits, four Redwings, a Snipe, a Tree Sparrow, 44 Jackdaws, a Lesser Redpoll, five Alba Wags, two Grey Wags, a Brambling, a Greenfinch, a Siskin, a Raven, a Fieldfare and nine Lapwings.

 Some of the Pinkies yesterday

This morning the vis was a lot quieter and as I said before I was in the Lune valley. I was preoccupied with looking at hedgerows, but the vis was so light I am pretty sure I recorded most of it. My totals included a Siskin, 23 Meadow Pipits, two Reed Buntings, three Goldfinches, 122 Redwings, a Fieldfare, three Chaffinches and 16 Skylarks.

 A typical hedge that I was surveying today

I had a few other bits and pieces, non vis related, when I was surveying the hedges, and this included two Mistle Thrushes, two Grey Wagtails, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 16 Blackbirds (some continental birds), a Stock Dove, five Song Thrushes, a Goldcrest and two Bullfinches.

I had two Sparrowhawks during the morning, an immature male and a female. I watched the female mobbing one of the two Buzzards that I had.    

I've got another work related bird survey tomorrow and then at weekend it looks like more sea watching based on the forecast.

Farmland Vis

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Yesterday and today I have been doing some bird surveys, yesterday in the Fylde and today in the Lune valley. The vis hasn't really been part of the surveys, but I record it anyway for my own interest, and after the stormy weather earlier in the week the flood gates opened. 

The day dawned with clear skies and very little wind, perhaps just a tad from the east, and birds were on the move straight away. My totals below don't really justify the true numbers of the birds involved, as I was having to concentrate on other things, but the species make-up is accurate. So a flavour of yesterday morning included 654 Pink-footed Geese, 49 Skylarks, 4 Woodpigeons, 13 Meadow Pipits, four Redwings, a Snipe, a Tree Sparrow, 44 Jackdaws, a Lesser Redpoll, five Alba Wags, two Grey Wags, a Brambling, a Greenfinch, a Siskin, a Raven, a Fieldfare and nine Lapwings.

 Some of the Pinkies yesterday

This morning the vis was a lot quieter and as I said before I was in the Lune valley. I was preoccupied with looking at hedgerows, but the vis was so light I am pretty sure I recorded most of it. My totals included a Siskin, 23 Meadow Pipits, two Reed Buntings, three Goldfinches, 122 Redwings, a Fieldfare, three Chaffinches and 16 Skylarks.

 A typical hedge that I was surveying today

I had a few other bits and pieces, non vis related, when I was surveying the hedges, and this included two Mistle Thrushes, two Grey Wagtails, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 16 Blackbirds (some continental birds), a Stock Dove, five Song Thrushes, a Goldcrest and two Bullfinches.

I had two Sparrowhawks during the morning, an immature male and a female. I watched the female mobbing one of the two Buzzards that I had.    

I've got another work related bird survey tomorrow and then at weekend it looks like more sea watching based on the forecast.

The Birding Highs and Lows of Ophelia

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
The press has been full of reports of the damage and sadly loss of life that ex-hurricane Ophelia wreaked upon the UK, particularly Ireland, Wales and southwest Scotland. Luckily here in northwest England we escaped the full force of the storm, but when I went out sea watching at the Point yesterday it was still a force 9 southwesterly!

I was at the tower for first light and was soon joined by IG and GH, and later AD. The first bird I had was a dark morph Arctic Skua shearing west, but sadly it was some way out. We had another two Arctic Skuas, and these were followed by both Great and Pom. We had three Bonxies head west and then at 1140 whilst I was on the phone to my Doctors I heard IG shouting for me to get back up quick. Two gorgeous Pom Skuas were heading west and they were close in. Both were adults; one was in winter plumage and the other was a full summer bird with spoons! Stunning!

As might be expected we had a few Leach's Petrels heading out of the bay and we had 2, possibly 3. We weren't sure whether the third bird was the second bird that had gone into the bay and was coming out again or not. The best of the rest included 13 Common Scoters, four Red-breasted Mergansers, nine Kittiwakes, an adult Med. Gull, a Little Gull, five Whooper Swans, two Auk sp., 13 Shovelers (yes 13 Shovelers - we don't get anywhere near that number at the Obs all winter!), eight Pintails, three Eiders and a Guillemot. Sea watching never ceases to amaze me, what were 13 Shovelers doing heading west in to a force 9 storm?!

 Pintails (honest)

These were the birding highs. The birding lows were represented by a mystery Petrel that flew west at about 0815. I picked it up about half way out, tracking west, and getting closer all the time. I called it as a Petrel sp. as I didn't think it looked like a Leach's, but I wasn't sure what it was! IG and GH were soon on to it and we watched it for about 3 - 4 minutes, before we all lost it. It was struggling to fly against the wind and kept being blown back before pushing on again. It could only be either a Storm-petrel or a Wilson's Storm-petrel! Factors against it being a Wilson's were that we couldn't see the toes projecting beyond the tail and we couldn't see any short pale panels on the upper wing. Having said that, I couldn't see the long pale panels on the upper wings of any of the 2/3 Leach's we saw either, as we were viewing in pretty horrendous conditions. The main and only factor for it being a Wilson's was that we couldn't see a broad white band on the under wing, which it would have it was a Stormie. And we saw it well enough to see this feature if it was there, as we have all seen numerous Stormies in varying conditions and have always been able to see the under wing bar. It had a broad white rump and a square cut tail, and that was it. It wasn't a Leach's, I don't think it was a Stormie, so what was it?

The only other interesting thing was that even in the gale force winds I picked up two Meadow Pipits coming across the bay and they made it, making landfall on the golf course!

It was a vis kind of day this morning and I did a bird survey for work, but more of that later.

Some Migration At Last

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
First of all I need to apologise for a lack of recent updates. This isn't for the want of trying, but mainly it's because most of my birding in October so far has been work related (start of wintering bird surveys), and it's been uninteresting or site confidential, so it's great to be able to report some migration at last! Generally the month has been dire here on the Lancashire coast, whilst north, south and east of us have been having good birds!

This morning I headed to the Point at first light with 6 oktas cloud cover and a force 3 south-southeasterly wind. The first entry in to my notebook was sadly a dead Harbour Porpoise washed up on the beach. By the chunks of flesh missing from it's neck, I would guess that it had been hit by a boat's propeller.

The skies cleared to probably 3 oktas soon after and by 0945 had become 8 oktas. The clear skies got some 'vis' going and a feature was the number of Pink-footed Geese coming across the bay. Due to the fairly brisk southerlies that they were flying in to, they were often coming in low and in total we had 2,523. I say we as I joined Ian on top of the dunes where we could monitor the vis and look out to sea. Mind you with murk in the bay sea passage was next to nothing.

Pinkies

The other vis records included four Chaffinches (probably a lot more than this), eleven Reed Buntings, 44 Meadow Pipits, eleven Skylarks, three Magpies, 25 Alba Wags, three Rock Pipits, 64 Greenfinches, 21 Linnets, 17 Starlings, 18 Goldfinches, 53 Carrion Crows, two Mistle Thrushes, three Swallows, a Woodpigeon and six Rooks (could have been more). Some of the birds were coming in off the sea, such as Linnet and Starling; migration in action!

There was even a few grounded migrants with four 'agitated' Dunnocks, a Wheatear and a Chiffchaff that dropped out of the sky into some vegetation in front of us! As I said earlier the sea was very quiet and the best of next to nothing was a female Scaup that flew west. Other than that it was a single Red-throated Diver, ten Eiders and five Shelducks.

I had a look in the cemetery on my way home and was treated to a bizarre site of a Song Thrush being mobbed by a Grey Wagtail. The Songie had come out of Sycamores and was circling to gain height before heading off south no doubt and the Grey Wagtail was giving it a serious mobbing. I've never seen that before! A few continental Blackbirds and a party of eleven mobile Long-tailed Tits that had started at the coast and worked their way inland was all I could add.

The weather conditions are not fit enough for one of my wintering bird surveys tomorrow, so I might just get out for a couple of hours first thing.