Saturday, October 31, 2009

Various Bits

It was a pretty poor decision last night to give ringing a miss after being led astray by the BBC’s poor forecasting again. But at 0730 with a light southerly blowing it was already too late to go and start putting nets up, but at least they had promised some sunshine for birding and I had unfinished business at Rossall.

It was pretty murky near the point where I found Seumus and Ian “vis migging” and sea watching, eyes and ears concentrating on the above and beyond but fighting a light mist with a poor excuse for a sun making no inroads into improving the visibility.

I found the Stonechats behind the tower and spent some minutes trying to get decent photographs as they insisted on staying on the wrong side of what light there was. I could have tried taking a shot from the golf course but it’s a fairly dangerous spot anyway, without standing on a direct line from a tee shot, especially early on a Saturday morning following the Friday night nineteenth hole.

It didn’t take me long to give up this particular effort, but I promised myself another go when the sun came out.

There weren’t many waders on the beach today, perhaps just as a result of the slightly higher tide, so I struggled to find enough to photograph but at least today there were twenty or so Ringed Plovers amongst the Turnstone.

As usual the Oystercatcher come and go from the tide line according to their strict unwavering rule that dictates how near anyone can get; they seem to vary this rule for people with dogs, and fly off even earlier. So after a few attempts I got a few shots but a red eye on a black bird is difficult to catch without direct sun.

Not long after I turned near home just as the sun emerged.

I spent the afternoon experimenting with the slide copier as several hundred slides collected over the years emerged from a long forgotten black plastic case. It’s funny but I remember those slides being far better than they looked today, poor focus, badly composed, shocking exposure, tiny peas on a far off drum many of them. Time hadn’t helped either with a hint of yellowing on some with buckled cardboard surrounds on others. Only one thing to do for many of them, sorry chaps.

But I found a few that transferred to the digital age with a score of 2/10, and at least it’s a bit of back up for blog non-photo days. So to kick off here’s a competition along the lines of “mystery bird” but only for anyone that doesn’t know me. I pulled this bird from a mist net several years ago in Britain. What is it? Answers next time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Beach Patrol

I had to go shopping yesterday to Aldi - Slide Scanners for £40 so I waited in the queue at 9am with another 6 or 8 hopefuls. I managed to get a scanner so watch this space for a few old pics and an episode of "All Our Yesterdays".

So while in Fleetwood I trotted on down to Rossall to try my luck on the beach. No need for captions here, just well known birds in their environment and a change from birds in the hand. More than one person has said to me in the past "You can't be a ringer and a birder". I beg to differ.

I got back home to find my Internet down, woe is me, but I'm up and running now.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Onward Thrushes

The window of weather in the Fylde today fitted in nicely with the restart of the thrush migration on Tuesday over parts of the Pennines and the east coast. So whilst we didn’t catch enormous numbers it was a fascinating, intense, productive and rewarding five hours of activity. At Rawcliffe Moss it started as a perfect morning for birding and ringing with a light southerly, good visibility, no rain and nets put up in the dark to await the expected thrushes.

The initial thrush arrival was from both South West and North West with the main element being Redwings. As the morning progressed, particularly from 10am onwards this changed to a main ingredient of Fieldfares coming from a North East direction, obviously reflecting the large arrival of Fieldfares in the east of England yesterday. Our count today was ultimately dominated by Fieldfare rather than Redwing, as largish flocks of 50+ Fieldfares arrived then left to the South West very quickly with apparent urgency. Therefore, our total thrush counts from 0700 to 1130, Redwing 260+, Fieldfare 1050+, with a couple of Song Thrush but no high flying Blackbirds and none caught today, even retraps.

Redwing 8 ringed, Fieldfare 4 ringed, Song Thrush 2 ringed, most of them soon after dawn. The Redwing pic is for Fernando - Good Luck, catch one for me.

Another Reed Bunting morning with 13 new ones caught and 1 retrap from the summer but not from the previous week or two of passage. As usual young males were the predominant constituent of the catch, some of them quite stunning individuals. It is difficult to say how many arrived unseen but if we caught 14, perhaps we should at least treble or quadruple that count.

Other birds ringed today:
Wren, 1
Great Tit, 1
Blue Tit, 1
Robin, 2
Goldfinch, 2 ringed with 19 overflying
Chaffinch 5 new ringed including a nice blackish adult male with a wing of 93. 40+ going south during the morning, but in very small groups, even singly.

Snipe, 5 over
Albas, 2 over
Linnet, flock of 18 about
Meadow Pipit, 22 over
Woodpigeon, 600+ over in various directions according to where the shooters were.
Corn Bunting, 2 with one singing heartily as the sun came out.
Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2
Teal, 8 over
Skylark, 190 on stubble fields

Birds of prey seen today; Kestrel 2, one Sparrowhawk, a Merlin fast and low over the stubble and a single Peregrine hunting slowly whilst going west towards Pilling Moss.

As ever there were lots of Pink-footed Goose coming in from the Pilling direction with 8 Greylag flying east.

At Knott End later in the day, 25+ Twite and a single Little Egret, all put to flight by the plonker that walks his pet cat on the marsh.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Touch of Gold

Monday is babysitting but the job often allows me to put a net up in the garden, all in the course of education naturally.

Well I didn’t catch a lot, just a handful of birds, the first of which was a Goldfinch bearing a ring, but not one of mine. So if anyone is wondering where X479288 is, it was here in my garden this morning and the record is already on IPMR and ready to go to the Ringing Office. I just hope it is a long distance one, but more often than not they are birds that wander around the Morecambe Bay area.

A couple more Coal Tits and a single Blue Tit caught together with a nice scaly Blackbird and a Robin with a very tatty tail.

And maybe some real ringing on Wednesday?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not A Lot

Hope sprang eternal this morning as I braved the blustery, showery weather for an hour or two, but very little to report as I dodged the bursts of rain whilst trying to keep both warm and dry.

At Fluke Hall Lane my passing car disturbed a Sparrowhawk dashing across the road ahead of me. Maybe it was just as well the hawk went elsewhere because just there in front of me in the rain pools were two bright Grey Wagtails searching the roadside for food.

Just inside the wood I stopped to look onto the mixed bird food that someone has put down; at least this year they had more sense than to put it on the verge, a collision with a car an accident waiting to happen to some unfortunate Chaffinch.

Two tree rats were having a picnic amongst the seed with three or four Chaffinch and a couple of Great Tits waiting for their turn at the table. A couple of Moorhen crept in and out of my sight, almost too shy for a picture but as the sun put in a brief appearance I snapped one.

The Long-tailed Tit flock was mobile again and by waiting for them to cross the road via the trees I was able to count 22, with small numbers of Blue and Great hangers-on.

Not much point in looking for overhead migrants this morning, but a brief walk along the wall confirmed that, with just the odd Meadow Pit and Skylark calling against the noise of the wind in the trees with four Blackbirds feeding in the hawthorn hedge. I could see a number of Whooper Swan out from Fluke, partly hidden in the ditches and dips of the marsh but at this point the rain was so intense I didn’t venture out to count and in any case I didn’t wish to make them fly off unnecessarily in such weather. So far this year the Whoopers seem to stick to the one spot here which is the approximate area of the marsh that is baited heavily for the weekly wildfowl shoot but the spot is not easily countable from west or east, needing instead a trek across the field path at the risk of disturbing them.

So I drove back through the wood to look across the stubble field where I found a separate group of 7 Whooper Swan with several Pink-footed Geese and 2 Barnacle Geese.

Very windswept and still rainy at Lane Ends where with the tide well out, only a number of Lapwing and about 350 tightly packed Starling to properly count.

At Conder just the usual to report but it seems that my Spotted Redshank count now only ever reaches one. Same bird as last week, different pose.

In the creek I counted 40 Redshank, 90 Teal, 6 Snipe and a single Black-tailed Godwit but by now the rain was both heavy and persistent again so I called it a morning.

By all accounts more of the same weather for at least the next three days but a glimmer of hope for a ringing session on Thursday, fingers crossed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Patching It Up

I was determined to do it properly this morning. Just take some time to do my immediate local area as well as spend a while trudging along the hedgerows, “pishing” as I went whilst kicking a few bushes, even if the Pilling locals thought me mad, walking along a hedgrow making strange noises without the obligatory dog in tow or vice versa.

It’s a birder thing only, knowing that in the next hedge you might find a Goldcrest fresh in from Norway, 5 grams of feathers and not much else; a Robin that isn’t from the garden but which the previous night crossed the Pennines, or a Brambling, a bit like a Chaffinch but not really. Try explaining to Mr or Mrs Whatarebirdsfor about overnight migration from Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, about vis mig and weather systems, or how there are many different species and families of birds, all different. This week I even had to explain to a fairly young person who shall be nameless, how there are male and female birds! GCSEs, don’t make me laugh.

No, it’s better to just do it, play the part, act a bit eccentric and ignore them; after all we don’t want too many people to become birders do we? In any case I don’t need to act eccentric so I have a head start on most.

As it turned out many of the birds I saw this morning were flyovers from west to east during a quite productive but perhaps not outstanding morning of migration. I walked from Fluke via Ridge Farm then the sea wall back to Fluke with the best bits overhead. “Albas” came in singles with at least 8, interspersed with a steady but now as it nears late October, thinning supply of Meadow Pipits, with 20 plus on the one mile circuit. I was not convinced I was seeing migrant Greenfinch, but with hindsight and given the scarcity of the species, maybe my count of 22 was quite good.

Chaffinches were probably the most numerous, lots of them both quiet and high as the cloud was broken with blue above and through. I put 30 in my notebook. As usual, it was a snapshot of an hour or so in a narrow corridor of a strip of coast at a single latitude and 0900 on 23 October 2009. I heard a single Brambling overhead and I see there are the usual October records elsewhere, but which now seem not to materialise into a Brambling winter for us. Should we be happy that the winters in Europe are mild enough to allow the millions of Brambling to spend the winter there and survive? Or do we want them here knowing that is how it should be, even if the harder winter takes its toll? The latter I suppose.

The picture below was taken in January 2009 in Austria, just part of a roost of an estimated four million Brambling.

Reed Buntings were especially noticeable again this morning, in what I think has been a real Reed Bunting autumn. As ever they were very vocal not flying particularly high but all from the west and making landfall soon after their calling.

I saw a really nice male Sparrowhawk fly low across the farmland, all blue against the brown earth as it disappeared behind the Ridge Farm buildings. Out on the sands I counted 250 Golden Plover, 450 Lapwing, 90 Dunlin and 6 Grey Plover with 3 Snipe flushed from the marsh grass by a walker. Little Egret are now so regular that it may soon reach the stage where they becomes the commonplace that birders omit from their notebooks? But for the record, three here today. Out from the wall at Fluke Hall I counted 23 Whooper Swans on the marsh again today.

Back at Fluke a Grey Wagtail was near the end of the wood, and then on my way to Lane Ends I disturbed another one from the United Utilities compound at Backsands Lane.

I walked the Lane Ends to Pilling Water route where unlike a mile away, the noticeable species here was Skylark as I disturbed about 20 from the sea wall during my walk with 2 more Little Egrets to count. By now with the sun out it was very warm, balmy enough to induce a couple of Skylark into a practice run, and in the wood at the car park a Chiffchaff sang several times.

If anyone is stuck for a bit of birding, they could do worse than spend an hour or two at Knott End, a pretty village with a good array of birds and a few useful shops. Friday afternoon, a walk with my better half and a pair of not very well hidden binoculars tells the story.

Oystercatcher 2800
Eider 18
Pied Wagtail 2
Twite 15
Little Egret 1
Bar-tailed Godwit 15
Knot 300
The Coop - Bottles of wine 1

And the reason it’s called Knott End? Photo by Andrew Easton.

And of course if you’re birding at Knott End almost anything might drop from the sky onto the jetty.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Long Distance Dowitcher

Too windy for ringing today but when I go birding there are just so many places I want to get to early morning that I often make the mistake of not spending enough time at any of them. And then unfortunately tempus fugit a bit too fast and I am left wondering what happened to the day.

So it was today when I started off at the sea wall west of Fluke Hall to find Chaffinches, Siskins and Greenfinches going over. Within 15 minutes of arriving I counted 48 Chaffinch in groups of eight to ten coming along the wall from the direction of Knott End before they continued into the wood beyond. Two flocks of Siskin, a seven then an eight also came from the same direction to disappear into the wood. Several Greenfinch were along the hedgerow, together with three Reed Bunting plus three or four Blackbirds that chased up and down. Below the ramp to the sea wall a Grey Wagtail and a Rock Pipit quarrelled a little but the wagtail won by chasing off the pipit further along the wall.

As usual, three Little Egrets were on the immediate marsh, as were several hundred Starlings newly arrived from a roost. I walked along Fluke Hall Lane through the wood where I saw and heard more Chaffinch and Siskin, potentially some of those I saw ten minutes earlier, but probably at least some of them extra. There was a large tit flock, numbering at least 20 Long-tailed Tit with several Great and Blue amongst them as I also disturbed a Sparrowhawk from the fence in the first cottage garden.

So ended my first mistake, as I motored on north to Conder Green instead of spending more time “vis migging” and/or “bush bashing” to find out more about what was happening.

But Conder was ok with plenty to look at by way of 8 Tufted Duck, 2 Snipe and 4 Little Grebe on the pool, the Grey Heron in the creek and a Spotted Redshank close by, even though it was playing at phalaropes and not wanting to show me its red legs.

A Reed Bunting hung about the hedge at the screen, as did the Robin and Wren. The Kingfisher appeared from just below and beyond the parapet wall where it seems to have an out of sight perch, then flew out across the pool in a semi circle to avoid the screen hide before heading back towards the creek. As I passed The Stork pub a single Redwing flew from the car park trees and across towards Galgate but I didn’t see any others today. Also up here nearer Lancaster I didn’t see any of the evidence of passerine movement I saw at Fluke Hall earlier on.

Up at the Victoria I counted over 1000 Lawing on the estuary together with 1400 Knot as they packed together prior to the incoming tide but the wagtails on the bowling green were flushed into the distance by a party of passing walkers.

At Cockersands I bumped into SP outside Lighthouse Cottage where he surveyed the mixed waders whilst hoping to find the dowitcher again. We both watched as the tide filled the channel but although there were plenty of Dunlin, Knot, Redshank and Ringed Plover, there was no sign of the dowitcher. In the way of passerine migrants, there were four Reed Buntings together in the field opposite the cottage and two others flew up from the marsh grass as the tide filled over it.

I should have known that if anyone could find the dowitcher it would be SP since he has eyes like the proverbial. So while I tootled around the fields of Jeremy Lane to see sweet FA, he more wisely spent some time up at the caravan park where he located the distant Long-billed Dowitcher across the still incoming tide. Eventually I joined him (thanks for the message SP) to have very long distance views of a pea on a drum as the bird made its way down to Bank End with roosting Redshank and Golden Plover. Not to worry however as I saw plenty of dowitchers in Canada, even if they were the short billed variety, and I have seen a few of the long billed in Britain. But if this bird stays around for the winter, it looks like high tide at Bank End may be an alternative to a low tide at Cockersands in being able to see it.

Meanwhile back at the car park by the caravans yet another Kestrel chose to pose obligingly for me today and although the light was far from perfect the picture does show how expertly the bird perched on the few available twiggy branches of the tree.

I just had time to call in at Lane Ends where the tide was full. Just enough time to clock 23 Whooper Swans out to the left at distant Pilling Water with 18 Black-tailed Godwit in the tidal pools not far out from the car park.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Thrushes

At this time of year there is simply nothing quite like going out in the early morning to catch overnight thrushes freshly arriving from goodness knows where. After a catch of 50 Redwings yesterday and the massive thrush movements recorded all week, we really couldn’t let another opportunity pass, especially since the forecasts suggest Sunday as the last fine morning for the next few days.

This morning seemed much as yesterday with overnight very clear, a light wind at dawn and good visibility. The major difference this morning out on Rawcliffe Moss was that the slightly fresher wind now blew from a south easterly direction and although the temperature was 5°C instead of 1°C, it felt much colder, with our fingers nipped by the cold but rescued by cups of hot coffee. The visible migration now took place from the north and North West as the birds travelled in a southerly direction. Numbers of all birds were much lower today with a notable lack of small birds and lesser numbers of thrushes with the exception of Fieldfares.

Our first net round at 0720 today comprised of four Redwings and two Song Thrushes. As expected, Redwings dominated the 0715 to 1045 count again today with about 400+ birds in parties of between 10 and 60 birds dropping into the plantation before generally moving on quite quickly. One Redwing caught yesterday was retrapped this morning.

This morning we caught 28 Redwings, made up of 4 adults and 24 juveniles, where just a few had visible fat.

The overhead Fieldfare count came to 65+ with a lone male ringed.

Other counts and observations below. All heading south unless noted otherwise:

Tree Sparrow, 14
Reed Bunting, 6 only, noticeably less birds compared with the several days before with 1 new bird ringed today
Brambling, 1 quite late in the morning
Linnet, 3
Goldfinch, 15
Whooper Swan, 2 west
Snipe, 3
“Albas”, 2
Blackbird, 9 over with 1 new ringed and 1 retrapped
Skylark, several early risers in the dark then the usual 100+ sticking to the stubble fields unless disturbed by geese or microlight
Pink-footed Goose, several thousand increasing as the morning went on
Chaffinch, 40ish with 1 only ringed.

This juvenile male Chaffinch provided some interest in its tertial moult whereby on one wing only it had replaced the diffuse edged juvenile feathers with sharply demarcated chestnut edged adult feathers.

Other birds seen today included 3 Kestrels and one Buzzard. Down at the feeding spot we counted 90/100 Tree Sparrow, 2 Yellowhammer and several Chaffinch.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Redwing City

More of the same this morning when we made the trip to Rawcliffe Moss where the mist of two days ago was replaced by a fine if somewhat cold start as the outside temperature gauge on my dash read “1°”.

We put up the nets in no time, in fact had time for a warming cup of coffee as we listened to two and possibly three Tawny Owls whilst waiting for first light and the opening net check. It was also still pretty much dark when we heard two Stonechats along the ditch waking up “chacking” and then seemingly departing the area because we didn’t see any after that.

Just as well that we managed to grab a coffee early on because for the next four hours we barely stopped until midday when we took down the nets as the thrushes dried up and by when we had renamed the plantation “Redwing City”.

Today I remembered my camera but as usual Will had his Little Red Lumix to hand in a trouser pocket just in case; the only problem was that we had barely enough time to take pictures we were so busy. Just as on Thursday, our first catch included 2 Fieldfare in addition to half a dozen Redwing, which boded well for the morning session.

Steady rounds ensued and by 1130 when overhead things were quieter, we had ringed 48 Redwings and agreed that this would be the last round of the nets; But Hey Presto, two more to make 50 Redwings caught; a notable point indeed at which to stop.

We caught 17 adults and 33 juveniles, adult on the left, juvenile on the right of the picture.

Even after their overnight trip from lands further north we found that about a third of the Redwings still carried varying amounts of fat, scoring between F10 and F30 with individual weights ranging from 52 to 69 grams, those at the lower end of this range with no visible fat.

This morning the visible migration was from the south, especially noticeable with the Redwings that came in small groups of 6/8 and larger parties of 40/50. Although we were very busy with the ringing and may have missed some birds, a count of 800 Redwings is therefore probably an underestimate, especially read in conjunction with catching 50.

Other than the 2 Fieldfare ringed, we saw no more which seems a little strange but as before, we may have missed them while busy ringing. Other thrushes comprised 2 Song Thrush and 1 Blackbird caught amongst the Redwings with 8 more Blackbird over.

Other passage was quite thin with a summary of this and other sightings below;

Snipe, 1 over
Reed Bunting, c20 over with 8 new ones ringed to make 18 new this week
Chaffinch, 5 new ringed but strangely, very little visible migration
Goldfinch, 17 over
Grey Wagtail, 1 over
Meadow Pipit, less than 10 over
Long-tailed Tit, 4 new ringed plus two retraps from earlier in the year
Dunnock, 2 new ringed
Robin, 1 new ringed
Kestrel, 2
Buzzard, 3
Barn Owl, 1
Grey Heron, 1 over
"Albas", one only

Masses of Pink-footed Geese on the moss this morning, with an estimated 8000+ which ties in with my quick visit to Lane Ends yesterday where I thought there were 20000+ birds on the salt marsh at dawn.

Four Roe Deer put in a brief appearance this morning before doing their usual disappearing act.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Action Replay

A six thirty start may not seem that early but it does mean getting up at 0530 in time to load the car with poles, nets, ringing box, wellies and other essentials, not to mention fill the flask with coffee. At least I still have a thermos this year despite my long standing history of destroying them by either dropping from a great height onto a hard surface or filling them with very boiling water. The latter proves quite an interesting half awake early morning experiment on the laws of physics but doesn’t make for a very good cup of coffee.

Anyway the mental check list was duly ticked to meet Will at the prescribed time at Rawcliffe Moss again in order to erect nets in darkness in preparation for the dawn thrushes. The fog was there, more or less as promised by Diane on North West Tonight and sundry web sites, but undeterred we had gambled on a quick warm up dispersing the clouds.

Through the mist Will heard the first Redwings at 0735, then soon after we caught the first of two from a little party of six. Redwing groups arrived on and off until 1030 when we packed in, by which time we had counted a total of 85 that arrived from all compass directions after being disorientated by the fog. Other migrant thrushes were 2 Fieldfare and 1 Song Thrush plus several Blackbirds.

It was the first Redwing that made me realise I had forgotten my camera; so much for the carefully planned routine and infallible preparation as I tried to recall suitable expletives. So whilst the photos aren’t exactly today’s, the species are applicable.

The overhead murk almost cleared once or twice with just the occasional hint of blue promising better things as through it all we counted as much as we could see and hear, but no doubt missed a lot with such poor visibility:

Snipe, 18 over in various directions
Woodpigeon, 200+ over and around
Tree Sparrow, 3 over as distinct from the 90 or so at the feeding station further down the farm
Chaffinch, 40+ with 4 new ringed
Goldfinch, 3 over
Albas, 6 over
Meadow Pipit, 35+ over
Golden Plover 2 over
Starling 600+ over and around
Long-tailed Tit, 6 ringed
Kestrel, 2 locals still searching the maize

Tawny Owl, one calling again
Stonechat, 1 unringed one along the track i.e. not the one caught two days ago
Dunnock, 2 ringed
Wrigglearse, 2 ringed and one retrapped
Reed Bunting, 18+ with 5 new ones ringed

There were lots of Pink-footed Geese this morning, both flying around in the mist to avoid local shooters but also arriving continually from the general direction of Pilling. We estimated 3500+, and then on my way off the moss I saw many settled feeding on a field of maize stubble nearby.

Non bird events this morning were 2 Roe Deer in the misty distance and a Weasel that briefly bounced across the track close to us before diving into some low herbage.

Not quite the highlight of the morning but an interesting sighting as I drove home was seeing a Woodcock at Preesall fly across the main road ahead of me then hedgehop to land just inside a roadside field. Woodcock, one of those species that finds you rather than you find it?

Related Posts with Thumbnails