Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Little Ringing

Just a little open window of opportunity this morning was the only invitation we needed to get a little ringing done somewhere, but nothing too ambitious that might tempt the weather devils of wind and rain.

Will’s garden then. Not so much a page from a Gardener’s World catalogue, more like a birder’s ideal garden with ornamental and fruit trees, a hedgerow interspersed with mature trees and small holly, then beyond that, a farmer’s maize field as a neighbour. Add in the rural wooded location near Garstang within a stone’s throw of Bowland and we have a pretty good mix of things where it’s possible to catch a few target species. The proximity to the Pennines means it’s a pretty good location to “vis mig” if the weather is suitable but not this morning as despite the dry start with a couple of Swallows overhead, it remained cloudy with intermittent drizzle.

We reached a fairly respectable total of 28 birds caught which included 1 Great Tit first ringed in 2008. “New” birds as follows: Dunnock 3, Robin 2, Nuthatch 1, Collared Dove 1, Chaffinch 17, and Blue Tit 3.

The locality has a healthy population of Chaffinch all year round, but at this time of year we would expect to begin to catch larger, brighter birds of continental origin and birds from Scotland or the higher Pennines. Very good then that we caught two corking adult males with wing lengths of 92mm & 94mm, and although there is also an element of older birds also having longer wings, the first bird is a “probable” continental, the latter almost certainly from mainland Europe.

There were at least a couple of Jays hanging around the garden today but fortunately we didn’t catch one. I use the word “fortunate” because whilst they are fine to look at through binoculars, I do my best to avoid handling them as even a momentary lack of concentration might allow them to give a nasty, sometimes painful nip from their bill. It’s a trainee’s bird really, builds up the experience and confidence of carefully taking mystery birds out of bags.

Also in the garden today were a gang of about 20 Greenfinch sticking to the feeders near the house together with plenty of Greats and Blues. It was just a pity that the Grey Wagtails decided to mainly stay on the roof, flitting off occasionally to disappear from view for a while.

We caught a fine male Nuthatch which caused us to open up “Svensson” to help ageing and sexing it because in the normal course of events down in the Fylde lowlands we catch very few.

Likewise, catching a Collared Dove called for opening up “Non-Passerines Guide” that spends most of its life in the glove compartment. What an eye colour that dove has!

On the way back home at midday I noticed a Buzzard near Rawcliffe Hall, about 15 Swallows at Town End, Out Rawcliffe then four more in Hambleton.

Monday, September 28, 2009

There's No Alternative

That’s now two and a half days without getting out birding but probably double that of “nothing” weather, as everyone describes what has taken place last week, over the weekend and now at the start of this week. No good for birding, no good for ringing, no good for bird photography.

So I thought about a few other hobbies that I might take up if this continues, ones that other blokes seem to participate in even enjoy, but there are negatives to most:

Fishing-far too inactive, and have you ever seen an angler actually catch a fish?
Train, Plane or Bus Spotting - I’m 63 for heavens sake.
Sailing Model Boats or Flying Model Planes at Fleetwood - the plastic surgery would be too expensive.
Glamour Photography - not allowed.
Shooting - much too dangerous, especially as an armed ex bird watcher frustrated by continual bad weather.
Golf - It’s just balls.
Video Gaming - sat at a desk often (SADO).
Standing Outside Shops (SOS) - precisely.
Listening to Rock Music - I can’t hear Goldcrest now.

Other suggestions are welcome, please email me.

So I thought about it a bit more then decided that maybe birding is not so bad after all, plus the weather improved a bit, for a while anyway. Enough for me to get this photo of a Kestrel, a species that normally flies away all too readily. This picture allows me to pass on today’s birding tip – Fit a sunroof to your car, but more important make sure it’s open before taking photographs.

In the interests of keeping the blog going I have posted a few previously discarded photos, firstly a picture of a garden Coal Tit in August, a juvenile. Boy I must have been bored that day, putting a net up to catch a Wren, Blackbird and a Coal Tit. Coal Tit, such a frustrating species to photograph as they come and go to the garden feeder to nick some seed or peanut in double quick time, then immediately fly off to hoard it out of sight before the shutter has even thought about closing.

Autumn Blackbirds pose other problems, mainly the indelicate subject of purple poo and how to slip stained bird bags into the washing machine unnoticed. But explaining away similarly coloured wine stains isn’t normally a problem in our house which gives some leeway for the imagination. There’s a photo of the garden Blackbird, almost in focus. Now it’s obvious why I need to practice more on my photography.

Finally a photo of a pair of Tufted Duck that sums up some digital problems; water reflections, exposure, field of view, depth of view, telephoto lenses. Things can only get better.

A quick glance at Met Office for tomorrow shows wind and rain. Oh dear, where’s my stamp album?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Grey Day

It’s a BBC plot of course. If they keep messing it up they will need to invest more money to make sure the forecasts are more accurate. And that is easily solved by putting up the licence fee? That’s my conspiracy theory, but they didn’t catch me out last night; I just doubled the wind speed forecast of 8mph, didn’t plan any ringing and when I looked out this morning my forecast was spot on. Easy!

I started at Fluke Hall Lane, just in time to see the pinkies come off the marsh to land in the recently cut barley field. They kept coming until I counted about 900, easily the best count I have had this year. With them was a very leucistic individual that can be seen in the very poor record photo; early morning grey light, grey geese, plus camera shake I’m afraid. The poor bird will make quite a target for the shooters soon.

I motored on past Fluke Hall scattering many of the recently released roadrunners, even finding them on the beach scampering across the sand below the concrete ramp. On the sea wall the stiff and cold north westerly put paid to any hopes of major visible migration. It’s funny but sometimes it’s not necessary to hang around long, if it’s going to happen or if it has started it will be immediately obvious but this morning was always a no-no. But if I have missed a day birding e.g. Friday, I still go out the next day, which isn’t necessarily the most sensible thing to do.

From the wall I could see to the right two Little Egrets out beyond Fluke Hall but the tide was too way out to invest time in looking past the green marsh. At Lane Ends I was early enough to spook a couple of Jays from the plantation from where I also heard a Goldcrest before finding it close by. It must have been near because I admit to struggling to hear Goldcrests nowadays, not to mention Tree Pipit which is even more difficult to pick up. But don’t laugh; everything comes to he or she who waits!

A Buzzard came out of the trees then headed off towards Fluke, scattering a few Curlew and Redshank before pausing a few minutes to sit incongruously on the marsh then eventually flying off again. A few, and I mean a few, Meadow Pipits went over at some height; although it was a grey sky, the cloud was not particularly low, allowing the pipits to maintain a decent altitude.

Small numbers of Pink- footed Geese still came off the marsh heading towards the bigger numbers from before but so few that I didn’t add more to my previous approximate count.

Up at Conder I quickly located two Spotted Redshank feeding below the road in their favoured spot with about 25 Common Redshank scattered along the creek. I watched a Kingfisher dive into the pool a couple of times from the overflow parapet but it quickly disappeared out of sight further along the edge of the water. Like at Lane Ends I could hear Meadow Pipits going over at some height, but again not in any way numerous.

The Lapwing field at Jeremy lane was consistent as I noted 700 Lapwing, 145 Golden Plover together with 75 Curlew in the nearest grassy field. At one point I really felt that someone was watching me watching them.

At Cockersands the noticeable element this morning was Skylark. Here close to the open river it was still quite chilly in the wind that blew across directly from Heysham so I put back on the coat I had earlier discarded at Conder. A group of eight Skylark then four more chirruped over from the north as maybe another thirty flew intermittently from the field immediately behind the bank before dropping down to hide again in the grass. And again just a small number of Meadow Pipit flew over almost imperceptibly. At least I can still hear those.

I drove on up to the caravan park which was doggy heaven along the shore; just the opportunity to see two Little Egret out in the tide, and near the farm entrance 15 Tree Sparrows. Another 20 Tree Sparrows near the next farm, the dilapidated barn and the roadside nest boxes. Thanks to Paul for the pic below.

I see it’s ten past five; I must go and watch the weather forecast.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Final Push?

In the absence of any promise for migrant weather “The Plan” was to go sheltered garden ringing this morning where at least there would be a healthy population of Chaffinch, Nuthatch, thrushes and hopefully one or two Grey Wagtail. But although the forecast said 13 mph westerly, I’m afraid that optimism again got the better of me. Whilst watching my marker trees outside the front window sway around at 20mph dropping early leaves, a few hurried text messages and phone calls led to postponing the ringing and adopting Plan B. The only problem was I didn’t have a Plan B, and in the absence of any blue sky I went for a swim again.

As the sky brightened towards lunch time I fancied some quiet time so took myself over Stalmine Moss then via Pilling Moss to my destination Rawcliffe Moss taking care not to test out the recommended 30mph limit over the narrow switchback route. After all it’s only the tractors that have a remit to do thirty and probably best that motorists don’t pick an argument with a loaded John Deere, or try to emulate their speed with the attendant risk of sliding 12 foot into a roadside ditch.

There were plenty of drying bales around the fields with several Kestrels waiting for foolish voles to show; I even saw a Grey Heron adopt similar tactics by stalking purposefully around the packaged grass.

It was about 1pm just as the greyness thinned more that I noticed the Swallows, a definite drift south of several individuals, then a loose party of forty or fifty, then more, all travelling south west; low over the dry fields but also higher but all going eventually in the same direction and I watched them for a while, arriving, feeding, circling then leaving to the west. I had seen a few Swallows around isolated farms on my journey there, but these were different, surely the almost final push south I thought as I simultaneously scribbled “300+ SWALL” in my notebook.

On a recently harvested potato field I counted 140 Lapwings picking through the perfectly disturbed ground and a party of 150 Starlings swirling around, brown against the black of the peaty soil. Corvids were plenty, mainly Crows but also the beginnings of Jackdaw numbers. Both of them worth watching of course, if only to reveal the whereabouts of the local Buzzards, who as usual kept their distance a wood or two away whilst being ambushed by the black gangsters. Hidden in the field were Skylarks, just a few but welcome to see all the same and soon they will appear in numbers, just like the Mipits will.

Close to the farm buildings where there are evergreens, six Jays flew across to a nearby conifer copse whilst a couple of Pied Wagtails searched around the machinery fresh from the day’s work. Perhaps we are due a Jay year?

A pretty quiet couple of hours then and a short report, but as usual the enjoyment is not necessarily in the quantity, certainly not in the so called quality, it’s just in the taking part.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Pleasant Interlude

Sometimes I make a good choice, like this morning after watching the weather forecast then deciding to go for a swim to postpone birding until later. I can recommend going for a swim as being as therapeutic as birding, but maybe not as stressful as birding when I read the web later to see the things I missed whilst counting lengths instead of waders.

Today’s timing also meant I would grab another good tidal flow at Pilling about 2pm then still be home in time to gain a few Brownie points – perfect.

From the car park at Lane Ends I fought against the still strong westerly along the sea wall towards my well worn spot of grass above the dyke to see it taken by a stranger, a young man. Immediately I noticed he travelled light, without binoculars, just the essential equipment, telescope, telephone and pager. Anyone that knows me can vouch my sociability, my eagerness to help other birders and to share information. Nonetheless and not wishing to make assumptions, I sat down next to him, whereupon he seemed a competent birder as we found bits and bobs.

We shared our counts, our observations. Waders were very scarce again today with Redshank coming in at less than 20, two Dunlin , two Golden Plover, one Greenshank two Snipe, eight Knot and 125 Lapwing, how strange on such a fairly high tide.

Lots of wildfowl today with 800+Teal, 300 Pintail, 450 Wigeon, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 35 Greylag Goose and 120 Pink-footed Goose but I have doubts about the origins of some wildfowl on the marsh given the proximity of game hatcheries nearby.

A handful of Swallows appeared over the marsh as the incoming tide pushed several Skylark up also but I didn’t count a single Meadow Pipit today, presumably those from the previous days moved on for us to await the next wave.

Concentrating on my count was getting difficult as the pager beeped, the phone rang and the conversation became more bizarre, ever more fractured and difficult to eavesdrop, something about “booted”, then “dunge”, “today” and “unfeathered tarsi”. I put two and two together and got four. An unidentified raptor at Dungeness was possibly a Booted Eagle, and even though unfeathered tarsi were a handicap, not least to the poor bird, could we get there today? Naturally I hung about for a while in the hope of cadging a lift from my new found friend, but I suspect I could not afford to pay his phone bill, never mind chip in to charter a plane today.

When my pal disappeared to search elsewhere for exotic fare I decided to walk towards Fluke and maybe a few photographs. Up here the tide filled the creeks to reveal seven Little Egrets, my best count at Pilling this year. As usual they tolerate each other’s company just so far but if one strays into the wrong feeding territory it is seen off pretty smartly.

The juvenile female Peregrine seen earlier was now joined by a second much smaller bird and they proceeded to “beat up” in unison the assembled wildfowl, one in particular paying attention to Teal. They both went hungry for now, but I do wonder sometimes if their interaction is just sibling based or whether the hunting of one draws a second and sometimes third into joining in?

So today’s competition is Spot the Peregrine. Mark the spot on the photograph where you think the Peregrine is – the winner gets a month’s free pager messages.

On the way back to the car park I noted two Wheatear leapfrogging me up and down the tideline.

All in all a nice afternoon’s birding with free entertainment thrown in.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mipits at last

The early start promised a sunny day as the damp, cool, even cold air gradually gave way to weak sunshine. The mist hung around the fields at Lane Ends but even as I donned my hat, gloves and boots a Chiffchaff sang from the nearest trees. Strange that autumn Chiffchaff often sing, but autumn Willow Warblers much less so.

A Little Egret was out on the marsh, not moving yet. Last week I bemoaned the numbers of Greenfinch but here this morning a number, maybe a dozen, came out of the plantation even at this early hour which made me suspect an overnight roost had taken place. There was also some “pinking” and contact calling from several Chaffinch, noises that come with fresh migrants. A couple of both Grey Wagtail and “alba” wagtails flew over.

I didn’t stay long at Lane Ends today, didn’t even get to Pilling Water, but instead motored on up to Conder Green with the intention of then walking part of the Bank End/Cockerham stretch of sea wall.

Conder Pool was the proverbial mill pond where I counted the 3 Little Grebe, the Spotted Redshank, Kingfisher, single Greenshank, eight Snipe, 45 Teal, and 22 Redshank. Like at Lane Ends, a couple more Grey Wagtails flew over calling, as did several Meadow Pipit on high, because by now the sky was clear and bright. Obviously this morning I looked carefully in the car park and along the cycleway with only a heavily breathing but thankfully speedy, receding jogger to disturb me. A tit flock was about, moving quickly through all the sycamores but all I could find were longtails, coals, greats and blues, not even a hanger-on chiffy.

Down at Bank End two Little Egrets fed quite close to the road despite a constant flow of traffic heading for the parachute centre. It’s only when you try to photograph a Little Egret that you realise how quickly they move about through the water, dashing around in unpredictable directions as they locate or search for prey.

I heard other flaps and flutterings today, but not from avian wings, just the parachutes overhead. Throw myself from a plane? No thanks I’ll definitely stick to birding.

I took a walk further along the sea wall where I came across many Meadow Pipits, most not on the move but grounded, either earlier this morning or as leftovers from Saturday. The pipits flushed constantly from the wet grass, rough ground and pools or ahead or beside me so that by the time I had walked about a mile I had counted more than 300. In addition to the pipits I counted 6 calling Reed Buntings, a species always associated with pipit arrivals.

Also in the fields were approximately 15 Skylark with odd ones going over. Two separate finch flocks held 50 Goldfinch and 45 Linnet. Not a raptor morning for me with just a single Kestrel to report at Bank End.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

So Near Yet So Far

Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park was the first port of call this morning for a spot of ringing. After all who knows what may turn up in a mist net in a nice bit of mixed habitat on a fine September morning, especially so near the coast? Alternatively, who could guess what might appear in a birder’s back garden a mile away on the very same morning?

As it turned out both the ringing and the watching at FMNP were pretty quiet with a nominal passage of birds overhead that included a dozen or so Grey Wagtails, a similar number of “albas” and maybe only 50 or so Meadow Pipits passing infrequently in ones and twos on a broad front. Local Linnets and Goldfinch hung around in small numbers as did a few Reed Buntings, none of them giving many clues as to their origins today. A couple of Great-spotted Woodpeckers and a single Jay were present in the top willows, both of which species might suggest an element of migration. Waders were represented with flyover Redshank and Ringed Plover, plus a couple of Oystercatcher dicing with death on the “airport runway” i.e. the fenced off aero modellers grassy track. Swallows had passed over most of the morning; I estimated about 50 in the three hours spent on site.

Birds ringed this morning were few and far between, one each of Goldfinch, Reed Warbler, Blue Tit, Robin and Meadow Pipit with no small green and yellow warblers to enliven the proceedings. Two Chaffinches completed the ringing, the photograph shows an adult female (clearly demarcated chestnut edged tertial feathers and rounded tail) and Reed Warbler.

Rather than have no photographs with which to bulk out today’s blog I took a few shots of the pair of Tufted Duck that stayed on the top water where they ducked under the bridge periodically, in and out of light suited to my efforts. Definitely tufted this female.

As the tide was on the way in I decided to take a stroll to Rossall to try some photography, almost certainly a bit risky to my blood pressure on a fine Saturday morning. At the Marine Lake I counted 220 Turnstone roosting on the island. Yes, the island 20 yards long that many moons ago was a ringing site where the roosting birds were hundreds of both Greenfinch and House Sparrow, remember them? But in those days the BTO told ringers not to bother ringing House Sparrows! The tales of cracking the ice to get to the island, of hauling across a holed, sinking plastic dinghy complete with passengers can wait for another day. Now there’s a thought, do Turnstones roost there at night or stay on the beach, where’s my puncture repair kit?

As usual I digress.

Walking on to the point I counted several Eider and a lone Guillemot close in. Some Turnstone had stayed on the beach so I added 30 more to my previous total then included 48 Ringed Plover, 40 Sanderling, 6 Dunlin and 15 Oystercatcher to the wader count.

A dozen or so of the morning’s left over Meadow Pipit flitted between the golf course and the beach whilst several more Swallows went quickly over.

Forecast for tomorrow? 7 m.p.h south-westerly. That will do nicely.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Raptor Morn

Seumus sent me a text this morning to say that Meadow Pipit passage at Rossall was “decent”. I was a little late getting out but even so the pipit passage at Pilling seemed indecent or more precisely non-existent. Comparing notes in the past it’s often the case of course, Rossall can be quite busy with birds but it’s not necessarily replicated a few miles east and probably crucially, the reason is that Pilling is further into Morecambe Bay. As a result of the text I had a quick check of Ridge Farm but all I found was a couple of flocks of finches - 100 Linnet, 60 Goldfinch, 2 Reed Bunting and 3 Dunnock which may or may not have been migrants, but otherwise no discernible migration.

At Lane Ends, with a cool north easterly breeze, the noticeable migrant was Skylark if only in small numbers, as first a group of ten and then three smaller groups of two and threes went south. A single Wheatear was along the fence behind the sea wall and 8 or 10 Swallows went through south. There wasn’t much happening vis mig wise overhead so I switched my interest to sitting down on the sea wall at Pilling Water for the next hour or two watching the 9 metre tide run in.

Conspicuous was the reappearance of large numbers of Shelduck with a count of 500+ and Pink-footed Goose building to 255 as small parties came in not from the north but the local fields. Herons were represented by 3 Greys and 3 Little Egrets and swans by 10 Mute Swan.

Raptors put on a good show with 2 Peregrine, one of which tried unsuccessfully to see off a female Marsh Harrier that then settled into the marsh. Quite unusual that the next raptor I saw coming in from the west was a Short-eared Owl that flew around at some height at first, then as before like the harrier, it settled into the marsh to roost. Also in from the west was a female Sparrowhawk that flew quickly and purposefully across to the east then into the trees at the car park. A couple of hovering Kestrels completed the raptor glut but no sign of Merlin this morning.

The tide was perhaps too low to do a wader count with most of the waders beyond the green marsh out of sight, but anyway I had been so busy watching the assorted raptors that the best time was past. Even so I did count 12 Snipe over plus 14 Golden Plover but noted the remarkable disappearance of Redshank today with less than ten. But they often fail to show here, perhaps just on slightly lower tides.

Photos today of Dunnock, Reed Bunting and another Redshank from Wednesday, then the Marsh Harrier courtesy of Simon Hawtin – more of his work by clicking the link in the right hand column.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Full Page

I ended up with an almost full page in my notebook today. Nothing extraordinary as I might expect by visiting the usual spots, but it was just a good variety of birds, some nice totals, whilst enjoying a very pleasant morning in reasonable weather. Anyway it’s no good just sitting in reading the blogs and web pages, it’s much better to go out and actually do it?

First port of call Conder Green. Maybe it’s about due to turn up something a bit out of the ordinary again. Very occasionally I just stumble across rarities, and at Conder Green only in the month of July every 20 years – White–rumped Sandpiper in July 1984 and Pectoral Sandpiper in July 2004. The “pec” was really strange because the morning I tripped over the Pectoral Sandpiper was the day after I finished “work” as a civil servant and the beginning of my new career as a full time birder/layabout. Roll on July 2024. In the meantime I did find something of a rarity today, more of that later.

The pool and creek were as deceptively quiet as ever but with a little looking, a tiny bit of patience I found: 2 Little Grebe, 2 Greenshank, 1 Kingfisher, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Cormorant and 11 Teal. Passerine wise I saw PW’s flock of Goldfinch in the centre of the marsh, but they later split off to leave about 40 here and the remaining 300 or so flying over the working areas of Glasson Dock then out towards the marsh. I walked over the footbridge where I saw and heard a fruity Chiffchaff in the immediate bushes, then some distance out on the marsh, a Merlin sat upright on a piece of debris. A single Grey Wagtail flew calling overhead in the direction of the pool I had just left. In the creek below an additional 5 Greenshank stayed together as the tide ran in slowly around them. I did manage to get a photo of a Redshank, just the most easily spooked species ever.

A quick count at Glasson gave me 14 Tufted Duck 14, 52 Coot and 8 Great Crested Grebe, together with the aforesaid Goldfinch.

“Good” I said, as looking from the road up to Cockersands, the track over the beach appeared deserted; it was only as I turned the corner below the cottage that I saw it wasn’t. A lunatic with a household axe was very slowly, but systematically destroying and loading into his car and trailer the remains of a large tree that had lain on the beach for months. When he nodded “good morning” to me I pretended not to notice but kept a safe distance away. Me, I think I would spend a few quid to buy some firewood then go birding.

Whilst the noise echoed around the estuary I made my way to Plover Scar where I took a shot of what appeared to be a slightly sick Ringed Plover then counted the following: Oystercatcher 1100, Ringed Plover 7, Redshank 195, Wheatear 2, Meadow Pipit 6, Linnet 11.

The Mad Axeman was still there when I retraced my steps so I made my way to Jeremy Lane.

It was here that I found that local rarity Grey Partridge, a “covey” of 4, if four still constitutes a covey. They stood nervously waiting to enter a field full of Black-headed Gulls who were probably more preoccupied in robbing about 700 Lapwing and 120 or so Golden Plover of their food items to notice a few Grey Partridge. They did go in the field eventually but quickly disappeared out of sight below the hedgerow.

Nearly the end then, just time for a stop at Lane Ends to see a couple of Little Egret, 2 Wheatear and a Grey Wagtail.

Pilling Water wasn’t on the cards today as this was the first shoot of the season in the adjacent fields and outer marsh. But from Lane Ends car park I could see many of the released duck meet an untimely end as the sportsmen forced them to fly up from their nursery and over the guns.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A quiet start.......

....but it got a little better, and if optimism is the essential prime quality that bird watchers need, then perseverance is surely a close second. It was very clear again this morning, in fact both clear and cold, probably too much of both I thought as I took the sea wall west from Fluke Hall and felt the northerly draught.

Absolutely no “vis” at all, the half a dozen grounded Meadow Pipits I saw were probably left over from Sunday and showed no inclination to head south. A nice flock of 55 Goldfinch hung around the sea wall feeding on seed heads, as did a smaller flock of c 18 Linnets but the two species didn’t mix today. A group of 5 Snipe appeared from the fields south but flew north out over the marsh then out of sight. As usual the Lapwings stuck to the green marsh but I did see 3 Dunlin together with several Redshank amongst them this morning. I turned off at Ridge Farm to “do” the tracks and hedges. Again, zero apart from the ticking Robins. I stopped to watch a flock of about 50 Woodpigeons in a weedy field where I knew that with them I would find a number of Stock Dove trying to look inconspicuous by melting into the grey and white of the woodies. I was right, eight Stock Doves.

I started to think about Woodpigeons and how they are one of those species that aren’t really rated by birders. Too common, too big, too ugly, not rare or unusual, an agricultural pest even. Actually they are a pretty good looking, hugely successful bird and if I kept a list I would be happy to include Woodpigeon on it. Just look at the photo, isn’t that a corker of a bird?

Of course some people say they are pretty good to eat but Woodpigeon is not on my eating list either. Which reminds me of a birder, Doug, I met at Long Point Observatory Canada who had the ultimate list – Birds he had eaten, which naturally included many North American warblers. This eccentricity came to light when he showed an unhealthy interest in a freshly dead Myrtle Warbler (now Yellow–rumped Warbler) found under an obs window. Well I suppose he was in most respects a recycling pioneer.

The Yellow- rumped Warbler courtesy of

Further away I heard the crows what I call “grunting”, that alarm call they use when coming across a raptor, even Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. But this morning it was the Buzzard that provoked their distrust as it flew briefly over the trees at Fluke before settling back somewhere into the canopy. I looked again from the wall at Fluke and in the direction of Cockerham noted a Little Egret right at the edge of the marsh.

I travelled up to Lane Ends, not stopping, just glancing left because as yet all the fields are either dry or uncut.

How often do we say that birding is just as much about listening as much as looking? Just through the gate, I didn’t need to look to know that a couple of Little Grebes were managing to survive in among the masses of ”Mallards” on the west pool duck brothel. Neither was it necessary to look for the Jays, just enough to hear their raucous screeches, garrulous they sure are.

The morning had been cool, cloudy and not especially warm, just enough to deter the dog walkers from disturbing Pilling Water but instead staying in with a hot coffee or denying Fido the usual walk until later in the day. On the stones were a couple of juvenile Wheatears and five Meadow Pipits, again not migrants but refugees from an earlier day. But I’d saved the best for last and found 24 Black-tailed Godwit on the pool together with a Kingfisher that flew calling between here and the channel below the sluice gate.

You really don't want to see my pictures of Black-tailed Godwit from 500 yards on a cloudy morning so I'll sign off with a shot from Knott End last night.

Better luck tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fives and Sixes

At last, after the privations of August we managed to get some ringing in, combining this with some watching visible migration. Fleetwood Marsh Nature Park was the venue for this morning because it offers a coastal ringing site adjacent the River Wyre and for “vis mig” it is comparatively near the Rossall Point landfall if a little south east of it.

An 0615 start in time to set nets for first light then is not too arduous, it’s the mid summer 4am starts that are the ringer’s assassin.

As expected Meadow Pipits were the first to move soon after dawn then continued to arrive in fours and fives so that by the end of the session c1030 we totalled c100 passing overhead and continuing south. Also over were 20 “Alba” wagtails, 15 Grey Wagtails, 20ish Linnet and up to 10 Goldfinch. Three Snipe and over 50 Lapwing were on the “tyre” pool, the Lapwing leaving soon after the first walkers of the day arrived.

Catching wise was steady with obvious migrants in the shape of 5 Dunnocks, 6 Reed Buntings, 6 Meadow Pipits and a fairly late in the season Reed Warbler. Local titmice bulked out the field sheet.

Pink-footed Geese continue to arrive. This morning we counted 150 not long after first light, quite distant but travelling south west. Later in the morning whilst having an outdoor lunch (wow, it must have warmed up lately) I counted 45 more travelling west towards the River Wyre.

Pictures from today are Reed Warbler (2), Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit, top to bottom.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Harrier Week

Last evening I didn’t get chance to update the Blog as I was tied up with a trip to the A6 and the Fulmar, not to mention ringing a brood of four healthy Swallows at Catterall.

So this is an update with things seen yesterday 10th September on a morning stroll around a farm near Nateby and then on a visit to an adjoining farm this afternoon.

Swallows are a good starting point. Early in the week when large numbers were counted on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and it appeared that a movement of thousands took place, the count helped by the overcast but warm weather which kept the birds feeding fairly low and thus more visible, by Thursday and today I noted that numbers were much reduced, in the dozens only.

Raptors were much in evidence, four Buzzards yesterday on the eastern edge of Rawcliffe Moss in the direction of St Michaels and then today five Buzzards over Rawcliffe Moss looking North West towards Pilling and two more directly over the farm. Maybe the clear skies with better visibility just made them more easily seen, but there is no doubt that Buzzards are now a daily sight in the Fylde and possibly our commonest raptor? The single Sparrowhawk I saw yesterday couldn’t compete with all the Buzzards in the air and neither could three or four Kestrels on both days.

Yesterday at Nateby I had a further sighting of Marsh Harrier, this time an adult female, maybe the one that frequented Braides at the weekend and Monday? Looking on Google Earth I can see that Braides is just a flap and a glide from the Nateby Road, via Eagland Hill and then Winmarleigh Moss. Unfortunately, whilst I have seen two different Marsh Harriers this week, I have not been able to get close enough or at the right angle to take a photo, they just don’t cooperate.

Whilst mentioning the moss this might be a good point to include today’s birding tip, as if I really need to relate this – Don’t take a family car over moss tracks that might look and start out solid but peter out to peat. The plonker in the photo got a large bill after calling out a rescue vehicle to Rawcliffe Moss this week when quite rightly the farmer didn’t wish to take responsibility for towing the stranded car through the black goo.

On the moss today I found another flock of Linnets, this time 43. There were definitely 43 because they obligingly sat on a telephone wire long enough to count them. The Goldfinch I saw this afternoon were scattered around in twos and threes so with a total of 17, I couldn’t match the Linnet count. In the pine copse I disturbed a couple of Jays and a Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Not the Great Spot I saw today but a similarly noisy, protesting one.
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