Where Are All The Swallows?

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Another bird survey for me today in north Cumbria, not a million miles from Wigton, and again in some plantation woodland. The woodland is part of a dairy farm and normally, even on the April survey, I have good numbers of Swallows flying from the buildings around the yard to forage for insects over the trees. But not today! SwallowSwallows are now a March bird and in recent years by this time in April you can record large numbers on the coast on vis, but not this year. At the moment at the Obs they are barely reaching double figures. Time will tell whether something calamitous has happened, perhaps on the wintering grounds in south Africa or on migration between Europe and Africa, or perhaps they have just been held up. I'll keep my fingers crossed for the latter.Ian tells me that there was a half decent arrival of birds today on the ...

One Of Those Mornings

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was one of those mornings where it wasn't brilliant, nor was it poor. It seemed to have promise, but failed to deliver. Perhaps frustrating would be a better description.I headed to the coastal farm fields at the Obs at first light to be greeted with 4 oktas hazy cloud with a 15 mph southeasterly wind. By 0800 the cloud had increased to 7 oktas, and as I found out when I tried to do a short sea watch it was pretty murky out at sea with poor - moderate visibility at best!The first bird I recorded was a singing Chiffchaff as soon as I got out of my car and this gave the feeling that there might be more grounded migrants. And there was, but not that many. In total I had three Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest, a Willow Warbler and best of all a singing, or should I say reeling, Grasshopper Warbler. Grasshopper WarblerThere was some 'vis' but it...

Woodland and Waders

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was part two yesterday of the wader project I'm involved in and the morning was spent assessing some of the less suitable land to see if it could be brought into positive management for a suite of breeding waders, mainly Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank. We didn't see as much as before, but it was pleasant to be out amongst displaying Curlew and Lapwing. LapwingOne thing that was very obvious was how far behind Spring is so far this year. It's still cold and we didn't come across any bids on eggs. There was a distinct feeling that there is more to come!Talking about Spring being behind, I was in north Cumbria today and it is at least a week behind the balmy south of Lancashire. Close to home lots of trees are in buds, Blackthorn is flowering and Hawthorn is coming in to leaf, but there was none of that in the north of Cumbria today.Once...
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Waders

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I spent a pleasant day yesterday working with Gavin at a site looking to improve the habitat for breeding waders, although to be honest with you the site is already very good! I left my house in fog, then on my journey through Bowland it cleared, and when I got to the site it was foggy again! However, the sun soon burned the mist off and it became a glorious sunny day!I do an annual breeding wader survey at this site and today I wasn't surveying the waders, but as a crude estimate I would say that we recorded one pair of Snipe, at least six pairs of Curlews (more to come) and eighteen pairs of Lapwings. Even though it was a relatively warm day, it felt like it was earlier in the year, and I don't doubt there will be more birds arriving over the coming weeks. Lapwing. Look at the colours on this bird!The highlight of the morning was whe...
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A Glimpse of Alba

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I was working in north Cumbria today on the higher land overlooking the Solway, and driving to the plantation woodland where I was going to do my bird survey I kept getting glimpses of Alba across the Solway. It's still cold, and on all the higher ground from Dumfries and Galloway, to the North Pennines, round to the main black of the Lakeland Fells and the northern outliers such as Blencathra there were patches of snow. It's forecast to be warmer next week so maybe some of this snow will disappear.When I pulled in to the gateway of my survey site to park my car the first bird I saw was a Barn Owl 'ghosting' down the lane and over in to the area of plantation woodland I was about to survey. These relatively newly planted woodlands do support large numbers of small mammals and hence the presence of Barn Owl. At this particular site a pair of...
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It’s the Breeding Season (?)!

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It's the breeding season, allegedly, and for me that means the start of early, well early-ish, alarm calls and today was the first one. I wasn't going too far, just into north Lancs to continue with some on-going bird surveys and my alarm was set for 5:00 am. Tomorrow I'm in north Cumbria doing a breeding bird survey and my alarm will be set for a proper early time, 4:00 am! I'm not complaining because I actually enjoy getting up at that time; the roads are quiet and there's few people about! Pre-dawn I had my first decent bird as I was driving to my survey site when a Barn Owl flew over the road. This particular stretch of road has fairly high hedges so this kept the Barn Owl high enough not to be hit. I had another driving bird sighting and this was a male Goosander that flew over the M6 somewhere near Lancaster. There was a dusting ...

Blocking

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Migrants are still thin on the ground, and at the moment it feels like one of those 'blocking' Springs where migrants just trickle through straight on to the breeding grounds. Certainly at the moment there is some blocking weather across the Bay of Biscay where low pressure currently dominates. Looking at the weather charts some high pressure is due to build from Saturday into Sunday in this area, and fingers crossed this should allow some migrants through. However, on Sunday night into Monday this migrant highway will be shut down again by weather fronts here in the UK, so Sunday looks like the day for a small arrival. I'll keep my fingers crossed!At first light I was at the Point at the Obs again monitoring any migration should it occur! I had full cloud cover with a 5 - 10 mph easterly wind and the visibility across the Bay varied throug...
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A Short Burst Of Vis

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It seemed as though the vis was switched on yesterday morning for an hour or so at the Obs, and then switched off again, just giving a short burst of diurnal migration!The weather started off with virtually clear skies at first light, increasing to 3 oktas by 0830. The wind was a cold 10 - 15 mph southeasterly and visibility was pretty good across the Bay. Birds were on the move from the 'off' and without further ado my totals included (all east/northeast) 28 Linnets, 136 Meadow Pipits, nine Goldfinches, a Tree Sparrow, ten Alba Wags, 48 Woodpigeons, nine Carrion Crows, 40 Pink-footed Geese, two Chaffinches, a Lesser Redpoll and a Rock Pipit. Carrion CrowsI left more or less at high tide and there was very little in terms of waders on the beach, mainly because of the usual flushing dog walkers and two guys were flying a drone! Early on...
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Winter Lingers On

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
Although it is officially Spring, winter lingers on and migrants are thin on the ground. Since my trip north it has been quite apt that I have been finishing off a series of wintering bird surveys, because during these past couple of weeks it has certainly felt like winter!About ten days ago I was at one of my survey sites that covers some intertidal river as well as 'bog standard' improved farmland, and it was cold with a biting northeasterly wind. The pond that I've mentioned before probably held its last Teal of the winter with a male and female still present. Soon it would revert back to a very uninteresting pond, devoid of any obvious life!A week ago I was on one of my mossland sites on another cold day, with you guessed it, a biting northeasterly wind. It's getting busy on the moss as over-wintered stubbles are getting ploughed in, la...
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Barnie’s At Mersehead

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I've just come back from a very pleasant couple of days in Dumfries and Galloway. I was attending the Scottish Ornithologist's Club and BTO's Birdwatcher's conference at Dumfries, and what a great conference it was! Gail and I made a weekend of it and we headed up on Friday and spent a couple of hours in the afternoon birding at the RSPB's Mersehead reserve.I have always wanted to go to this reserve, but for some reason I have never got round to it, but I will most certainly go again! If I lived close by, it would certainly become one of my local patches. Primarily it is managed for the wintering Barnacle Geese, but there is a good range of habitats and these include merse (saltmarsh), freshwater grazing marsh, semi-improved grassland, wet woodland, sand dunes and hedgerows. Barnacle Geese (above & below)Outside the visitor centre,...