Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Wet, Unsettled and Windy, that’s what Heather said on BBC North West on Monday morning when she predicted the weather for this week.

So I went for a swim this morning fully expecting to be rained off birding pm. Wrong Heather, it was actually a pleasant afternoon with a balmy southerly wind and just the odd shower that at least kept me looking at the sky to later find my second Swallow of the year. At 1300 hours I hit the Pilling Lane/Lane Ends trail and saw lots of bits and pieces but no Wheatears. At and from the car park/pools I saw 1 Chiffchaff, 10 Meadow Pipit, 1 Reed Bunting, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch and a Sparrowhawk again. Water birds came in at 3 Cormorant, 2 Gadwall, 8 Teal, 2 Goldeneye and the trilling Little Grebe that while very vocal, is actually difficult to see as it hides around the well vegetated margins of the west pool with partner and dives at the very hint of being looked at.


Meadow Pipit

Between Lane Ends and Pilling Water I counted 55 Shelduck, 4 Little Egret, 5 Ringed Plover, 130 Redshank and 2 Black-tailed Godwit, with only 250 Pink-footed Goose, a figure that left me wondering where the rest of them were. No worries as I found another 2,400 down at Braides Farm but I didn’t walk the track for fear of disturbing their feed or sending them all prematurely packing out to the marsh. I listened and watched from the gateway for a while but sadly saw only one Lapwing around the newly created but still dry ditches. There are a couple of Lapwings sat on eggs opposite Lane Ends entrance but I’m afraid the overall picture for the poor Lapwing doesn’t look too good again after a promising period a few weeks ago.

Ringed Plover


It still didn’t rain and the sun came out, the only cue I needed to try out Ridge Farm, walking along the sea wall and back through the farm track. It was quiet, with a few Linnets along the gorse, then fairly late in the afternoon a flight of about 60 Meadow Pipits heading east and a single Swallow, fairly high but heading all the while out over the bay.

I’ll see what tomorrow brings but I bet the weather isn’t as bad as predicted and if that southerly wind is still there overnight, I may find a job for those mealworms. You see, the BBC has got it wrong before and all the trees may not fall over during the night despite the Scottish blizzards I just watched on the news.

Happy Birding.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sounds Like Spring

The Spring Equinox but it was windy this morning, probably 20mph, wrong direction as well, so rather than trudge along to Lane Ends for a battering from the elements with probably little or no fresh migration I decided to head inland to the moss where I might find shelter.

The track goes eventually through to Nateby but I parked up before that, taking care to avoid blocking gateways, the way out for parked up farm vehicles due to recommence work from Saturday. In the fields several pairs of Lapwings cavorted noisily around, likewise a few migrant Curlew bubbled across the grass with one pair playing at breeding; but lowland breeding Curlew are pretty rare so whilst the Curlew’s bit of practice doesn’t get entered as a “B” on Birdtrack, the Lapwings do carry on to do the real deal.



Two Buzzards called from the wood across, and in edge of the other wood nearest to me the Tree Sparrows at the nest boxes chip-chipped at my passing. The track grew quieter as I neared the more windswept parts of the farm, birds not obvious apart from 2 singing Corn Buntings and similar Skylarks, but I had to turn my head from the wind to hear them. I found a party of 30 Meadow Pipits on the deck near the topmost field, probable left over’s from the week as none were on the move this morning apart from when I disturbed them and they seep-seeped off.

Meadow Pipit

Corn Bunting

I spent some time near the barn where little flocks of Corn Bunting and Yellowhammers still refuse to accept it is spring and continue to search around the old tailings: 15 or so Corn Buntings and 4 Yellowhammer today with the usual attendant Chaffinch, flyover Goldfinch and Linnet plus a very smart spring attired Pied Wagtail that stayed a while.

Corn Bunting


Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail


On the way back home I saw the Stock Dove pair at the usual tree. They didn’t hang around for me but I might have expected them to be on eggs by now and perhaps for one to stay in the holey tree. I stopped for a while to look for the Little Owls, and although one was calling very loudly from somewhere I couldn’t locate it from inside my car so hung fire with the camera for another day. Maybe it looked down on me from somewhere?

Little Owl

It was a nice afternoon, dry and sunny but cool, in fact a perfect day to hear from over the garden fence the one certain sound of a British spring, yes that’s right a lawnmower. Spring has arrived.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Back to The Woolly Hat

The wind changed last evening and overnight, as it went more westerly on isobars that originated from Iceland or thereabouts. No great shakes one might say, and although it was a bright sunny start I didn’t see much in the way of obvious migration despite keeping a look out for one of the Alpine Swifts that are in the country; the only thing alpine was the temperature at 7am as I donned my woolly hat again.

Alpine Swift

I thought it too chilly to catch Wheatears with cold, lethargic meal worms so I made my way up to good old Conder Green in the hope of a few waders on the pool or in the creek. No luck, apart from the resident "shanks", 1 each of Greenshank and Spotted Redshank plus 13 common Redshank together with 24 Oystercatchers but no spring Little Ringed Plover or Avocet to vary my list.



Spotted Redshank

In the way of wildfowl were still 15 Teal, 6 Tufted Duck and 4 Shelduck. Odds and sods came in at 1 Grey Heron, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Meadow Pipits, a couple of Skylarks and a couple of Greenfinch.

As the air warmed a little I drove back to Lane Ends where I could walk my walk. Still lots of Pink-footed Goose, similar to yesterday so I estimated 2000+ and I guess they might delay a move back north just yet with the promise of April snow nest week. At Pilling Water I found a single Wheatear which may have been a left over from yesterday as it ignored my meal worm offering and scooted off towards Fluke Hall. I beat the dog walkers to be first there this morning, so early as to see about 135 Redshank roosting on the pool, together with a couple of Oystercatchers, 4 Shelduck and a passing Kestrel that stopped by briefly.



There was little in the way of passerine activity but I did note displaying, paired Meadow Pipits, three singing Skylarks, 2 “albas” and an overflying Siskin. After a while the clouds and cool returned so I packed up the spring traps for another day, perhaps towards the end of next week if the forecasters are correct.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wheats And Chiffs

After a morning in the swimming pool and the sauna, an afternoon walk in the fresh air beckoned, particularly since overnight rain and southerly winds promised a little migration and the possibility of a few more Wheatears.

So I did my Lane Ends to Pilling Water walk where at the rocks next to Pilling Water I found 9 Wheatears, set two traps and within a few minutes caught two of the birds, an adult male and a probable adult female.




Tasty Mealworms

I spent more time trying to catch others but I all I got was a sprung trap with nothing in it. Sometimes the wriggling mealworm sets off the trap or a Wheatear approaching from the wrong side can trigger it without the bird being caught. As we might expect in March the Wheatears I have caught this week have all been of the nominate Eurasian race Oenanthe oenanthe with wing lengths between 92 and 97mm, bang in middle of the BWP quoted range of 90-102mm. I normally don’t expect to see any obviously bigger and brighter “Greenland” types until the middle of April.

So I turned my attention to counting what was out on the marsh and round about even though the high tide had been four hours before.

Pilling Water Out To Heysham

I had a count of 6 Little Egrets, and whilst there have been a number throughout the winter, I think I detected a little further migration of this species in the last few weeks. There was also a number of Redshank again today, maybe 110, more migrants on their way to Iceland and points north. The Peregrine was on duty today again which is a bit surprising considering it looks like an adult male and should perhaps be expected to be in the throes of breeding, unless of course it is doing so close by.

It’s a strange time of year as we wait for the spring migrants to arrive whilst still counting the winter visitors, like today when I estimated 2200 Pink-footed Geese out on the marsh; any day now they will be off to Iceland in huge groups.

Pink-footed Goose

Back at Lane Ends I sat at the picnic table that the moronic creatures of the night have begun to disassemble. It was in the hope that a Chiffchaff might just sing in the afternoon warmth, but below the bank I spied one just flitting silently through the branches of a willow; and then blow me if another further away didn’t start up singing, hesitatingly at first as they do, but then slowly breaking into that monotone but very welcome chiff–chaff, chiff-chaff. Definitely two then, and probably a male and a female.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Swallow But Not Summer

Knott End was productive this morning when I filled down one side of my notebook page with records from there. The wind blew south easterly, and although it wasn’t cold, it was cool with full cloud cover and to the north Heysham disappeared periodically into the low and slightly drizzly cloud. I didn’t expect to get many photographs this morning in such low light conditions, but multi-tasking as blokes do, I had ready my bag of rings, pliers and spring traps for any likely looking Wheatear encounters.

From the area of the jetty I counted 800+ Oystercatchers, 45 Redshank, 5 Curlew, 2 Ringed Plover, 6 Eider, 1 Cormorant, 2 Red-breasted Merganser and 1 Little Egret, with fly overs of 2 Whooper Swans heading north and 2 Greylags. There was a little noticeable migration from birds that flew across the estuary from Fleetwood to follow the jetty and then the Esplanade inland, i.e. 15 Meadow Pipit, 4 “alba” wagtails, 2 Siskin, a Reed Bunting and a Skylark.

Whooper Swan


A little up river alongside the golf course I noted 2 Wheatear down on the pebbly shore, 3 Linnets, 3 Goldfinch and a couple of Greenfinch that at last seem to have returned in a few numbers this last week. Also up here I heard a Mistle Thrush singing from the other side of the golf course. Along the Esplanade I found the flock of 16 Twite feeding on the black magic and the Meadow Pipit theme continued with little groups of 8 then 11 birds heading along the wall towards Pilling.



Meadow Pipit

I decided to walk my usual Lane Ends to Pilling Water stretch. Here also there was an obvious Meadow Pipit and alba movement whereby I added another 28 “mipits” heading south east into the breeze and 5 more wagtails. On the pools the Gadwall pair of two days ago had left to be replaced by pairs each of Goldeneye and Little Grebe.

Near the stile at Pilling Water I watched the fields, marsh and sky and perused the wildfowler’s pools to count: 120 Redshank, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Teal, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Egret, 30 Golden Plover heading north, 3 singing Skylark and a single Swallow, my first of the year that flew low across the stubble then like most things this morning, east along the sea wall.

Little Egret


No Wheatears here this morning but by next highlight came in the form of the pale, male Peregrine I had seen on and off for the last week or so, this morning noisily chasing off inland another but slightly smaller male Peregrine. The big bird paused on the way back out to the marsh to take a half hearted attempt at a Lapwing that seemed to outmanoeuvre the Peregrine; that’s why I thought the Peregrine hadn’t really tried very hard, it could surely have a Lapwing if it so wanted?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Two

I always buy in a pot of live meal worms for springtime because Wheatears just can’t resist them, so when I go to Lane Ends and Pilling Water I combine birding with trying to catch a few Wheatears if they are around.

I hadn’t seen a Wheatear until today but when after lunch I walked towards Pilling Water I saw three of them; within 5 minutes I caught two in spring traps whilst the third watched proceedings from the top of the single bare elderberry tree.

Male Wheatear

Female Wheatear

Earlier on I didn’t expect to see any Wheatears because of the Merlin sat amongst the rocks of the sea wall in my favoured Wheatear catching location. Maybe it was the sight of those white rumps from the distant marsh that brought it near in the first place, but as soon as it saw me it sped off again.


Other birds seen this afternoon with combined Lane Ends/Pilling Water counts: Little Grebe 2, Gadwall 2, Meadow Pipit 6, Goldfinch 6, Little Egret 4, Reed Bunting 2, Linnet 3, Skylark 3, Long-tailed Tit 2. Additional birds of prey were represented by a male Sparrowhawk over the plantation and a male Peregrine both sat on and dashing over the marsh towards Cockerham.

I called in at a Little Owl spot for another twosome: I guess this goes on Birdtrack as a positive breeding record?

Little Owl

Little Owls

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Through The Gloom

A family birthday party at Rico’s together with a surfeit of red wine and garlic infused food probably isn’t the best preparation for a good night’s sleep so I wisely cried off the planned 5am ringing for a bit of a lie in and a little birding at a civilised time.

I made the mistake of setting off in a mist that I thought was clearing. Wrong. Slowly, and in the hope of killing time until the sky brightened, I drove around Moss Edge in the hope of seeing the Barn Owl in the mizzle, which I did fleetingly as just a ghostly grey apparition before it wisely returned to the barn it inhabits. The Little Owl was in residence at the two trees corner, sat in the box entrance as normal but the mist was so dense and light so poor a photograph was out of the question. I’d seen and heard ghostly Lapwings still displaying in the gloom and Grey Partridge calling but nothing else of note until I emerged at Crimbles Lane to a Kestrel sat atop the roadside fence.

Barn Owl by Stuart Piner

Little Owl at “Owl Corner”

With headlights on and heated seat warming my bottom I decided to head for CG and sit out the mist, at least there would be something to see once the sun broke through. I could have sworn that this morning that sign read “Road liable to fogging”.

The Famous Conder Green

Through the gloom at Conder Green I made out the odds and ends of the customary fare: 4 Shelduck, 6 Tufted Duck, 5 Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Moorhen, 18 Teal and 1 Grey Heron. I saw a single Reed Bunting singing and also a Meadow Pipits displaying alongside the creek. Waders came in at 1 Spotted Redshank, 15 Redshank, 3 Curlew and about 12 Oystercatchers, most of the latter still debating which pair should occupy the small island in the coming weeks. The blue sky in the picture is most definitely not from this morning, but by the time I was nearly home the mist did clear to reveal a bright if not completely azure sky.


Oystercatcher on "The Island"

Grey Heron

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Take A Look

When it rained today I spent a while on the Internet looking at this week’s new BTO initiative announced in their usual low key manner.

Without any obvious fanfare they placed online a tremendous resource for birders, ringers and for local bird report editors and authors that can at the touch of a button produce both online ringing totals and recovery summaries viewable at a country and county level.


The new development is much more than a simple store of information for ringers because it will prove so fascinating and informative for all birders and students of migration whether ringers or not. Non-ringers may not have heard about the introduction of this facility, but I urge them to take a look at http://www.bto.org/ringing/ringinfo/recovery_summaries.htm

It seems that the coding for this, which was no mean feat in itself, plus the run to extract and tabulate the data took over 8 hours of solid computing time!

There are caveats with some of the data, but this is all explained on the web pages. In particular, not all old (pre 1979) recoveries of birds ringed abroad have been input and the ringing totals are for data sent in electronically by ringers (about 97% at present).

All I can say is congratulations to all concerned and well done the BTO and staff involved. The pages are as fascinating as they are useful and once again it shows how much valuable information is gleaned from ringing birds.



The weather looks slightly better for Sunday with a little ridge of high pressure. I may even get some ringing and birding in.

6am Sunday

Friday, March 19, 2010

Half A Picture Post

I’m a bit stuck for time today so I’ll post a few pictures with the minimum waffle from me.

I was at the farm today hoping to get more pictures of the shy Yellowhammers and the equally timid Corn Buntings. They just wouldn’t come in to feed and then I realised why. The photographer’s nightmare, half a bird hidden by its surroundings.

Headless Little Owl

Well I didn’t want to disturb the Little Owl so waited while it sat and dozed, looked around, ignored the crows and a Chaffinch that spotted it, called a few times and then sat some more, all the while keeping birds from feeding on the pile of discarded grain.

After a while I drove round to the road where I had a distant view of the owl.

Little Owl

So there are a few other photos, mainly from earlier in the week. Until I took these pictures I hadn’t realised what striking ear marks Brown Hares have.

Brown Hare

Brown Hare

Corn Bunting

Collared Dove




Roe Deer

Eventually the owl moved again. But as a precursor to the promise of rain for Saturday, the best light had gone which didn't make for the perfect photograph and the birds waiting to feed didn't return.

Little Owl

Related Posts with Thumbnails