The weather folk were spot on with their forecast for Tuesday. The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo raged on with the result that there was no birding in the gale force north westerly’s.
Instead I met with Andy near Garstang where we looked over an old ringing site of the 1980s and 1990s. The area became unsuitable for ringing when invasive rhododendrons won the day, but following recent extensive clearance by the site owners we may be able to utilise the place again. So clutching our newly printed shiny permits we explored the now almost rhododendron-free ground looking to identify net rides.
Before the rhododendrons overran the landscape the open structure of the woodland was especially good for breeding Willow Warblers, where over a number of years around 400 nestling Willow Warblers were ringed and many nest records completed.
Willow Warbler nest
It is a site with breeding Willow Warblers, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Bullfinch, and where Yellowhammers, Tree Pipit and Wood Warbler once nested. I found what may have been the last nests of Yellowhammers here in 1996 and 1998 but none since. Nesting Tree Pipits disappeared from here about 1997 but still occur as migrants, while Yellowhammers are now as scarce as hen’s teeth. After the recent extensive ground works both species might just make a comeback but I’m not betting on it.
Andy and I identified a number of net rides, put up a few feeders to attract Siskins and Redpolls, scattered seed for ground feeding finches and we will return when the weather improves.
On Wednesday a 9 metre high tide at Knott End rather appealed even though the wind was still too north-westerly to produce much in the way of seabirds; well at least if the showers returned I could bird from the car.
A couple of hours were all I managed as by 11am the rain had started again. In between times I counted the nearest waders as 230 Oystercatcher, 180 Redshank, 45 Lapwing, 35 Sanderling, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit, 300 Knot and 22 Turnstone.
On the shore, the incoming tide and the river - 11 Eider, 5 Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Grey Heron.
After three days of abysmal weather passerines were hard to come by with just 30+ Goldfinches, 5 Linnet and 3 Pied Wagtails along the marsh the best.
Let’s hope Gonzalo relents soon to leave us with sunshine instead of so much wind and rain.