Source Fleetwood Birder

Pollen Horns

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was my first ringing session at the Obs this morning for the Spring after the lifting of the ringing suspension in the area due to the avian influenza outbreak at HyFly hatcheries near Pilling. At first light I was greeted with clear skies, a ground frost and it was calm. It felt quiet and I wondered whether it was too clear!

The first birds on the move were a hundred Pink-footed Geese that headed north and they were high, positively stratospheric! This would reflect the rest of the vis (all north) that I would record and all I had was two Carrion Crows, a Woodpigeon, two Linnets, 31 Meadow Pipits and three Siskins.

I didn't detect any grounded migrants other than the Chiffchaff that I ringed. Talking of ringing my totals were as follows:

Meadow Pipit - 8
Robin - 1
Chiffchaff - 1
Long-tailed Tit - 2
Greenfinch - 1

The Chiffchaff that I ringed had 'pollen horns' (see picture below) which are feathers that have become encrusted with pollen whilst the bird is foraging for insects or pollen on flowers. Research carried out at Portland Bird Observatory in Dorset showed that pollen from 19 plants was found on species like Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, with the most pollen coming from Eucalyptus and citrus plants. Presumably the birds were picking this pollen up at plantations in North Africa, Spain or Portugal. Amazing stuff!


The forecast is looking okay again for tomorrow so I'll try some more ringing at the Obs!

Source Fleetwood Birder

Vis – the Variety of (Bird) Life

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I headed to the Point this morning for a couple of hours birding, and based on the weather I predicted that there would be quite a lot of vis this morning and there was! The weather has been pretty awful these past few days with strong winds and rain, and this morning was the first decent morning for a while and the flood gates were certainly opened. I joined Ian before seven (Ian had been there since six), and spent a pleasurable couple of hours. We had 6 oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph east-northeasterly wind.

All of the birds moving on vis were heading between east and northeast and we had 502 Meadow Pipits, 51 Carrion Crows, six Linnets, 40 Whooper Swans, three Jackdaws, nine Alba Wags, eleven Goldfinches, a Rook, a female Sparrowhawk, 32 Woodpigeons, a Pied Wagtail, a male Kestrel (at sea), a female Merlin (at sea), three Magpies, a Siskin and a Stock Dove! As I said before Ian was there before me and I left him there, so I imagine the final Obs totals will be considerable and you will be able to find them HERE later.


In comparison the sea was very quiet with just a Cormorant, two Red-throated Divers, four Eiders, two Red-breasted Mergansers and an Auk sp. There was a steady passage of Gulls heading in to the bay, but sadly I had my ears and eyes full counting everything else, so didn't count the Gulls.

I didn't have any grounded migrants until I got home where I had a cracking male Siskin in the garden and a Goldcrest. So it is likely that a few grounded migrants could have been found in a sheltered, sunny spot.

I had a walk at lunch time in the local woods and had a queen Bumblebee sp. on the wing as well as the Red Admiral below.

 Red Admiral

The forecast is looking reasonable over the next few days so I'll try and get out tomorrow morning again and fingers crossed Saturday morning I'll get some ringing done at the Obs! I'm at Hawkshead brewery beer festival tomorrow, but just in the afternoon so it should give me plenty of time to recover for a 5:00 o'clock alarm call Saturday morning!

Source Fleetwood Birder

In Only Seven Days…

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder a brilliant song by Queen, but it also only a short period of time when your blog can become out of date! In the past seven days I have been busy with lots of things 'birdie' but haven't seemed to have the time to update my blog!

Last weekend I had a look on the farm fields on the coast hoping for an early Wheatear, but that wasn't to be. In fact grounded migrants were a bit thin on the ground and all I could muster was a male and two female Stonechats and a single Goldcrest. I suppose I would class the Meadow Pipits that had gathered on the fields as grounded migrants too, as they were certainly migrants and weren't going anywhere at present; in total I had 66!

Vis was virtually non-existent as well with just two Alba Wags north. It was murky out at sea and as a result was very quiet other than the 25 Whooper Swans that I picked up on the sea. They rested there for a while before taking off and heading north.

 Whooper Swans (honest) above & below

The only raptors I had was the male Kestrel from the resident pair and an adult male Sparrowhawk that shot through.

Earlier in the week Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley to make sure that our boxes were 'ship shape' for the coming breeding season. A few numbers needed re-painting and one or two boxes needed replacing, but over all they were in fine fettle! On the way home we noted a few fields that had been recently been spread with slurry with large numbers of newly arrived, pristine, Lesser Black-backed Gulls. At this time of year they look absolutely fantastic!

This past weekend we found ourselves in Dunfermline for the joint British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Scottish Ornithologists Club (SOC) Scottish Birdwatchers' conference, and what a cracking conference it was!

The conference was opened by Norman Elkins of 'Weather and Bird Behavior' fame, who talked about the new Fife atlas and picked out a number of winners and losers since the last atlas to highlight population changes within Fife. This was followed by a presentation by Allan Perkins called 'Developing conservation solutions for Scotland's Corn Buntings', and the conservation solutions proposed could be applied to Corn Bunting populations anywhere in the UK. I was particularly surprised at how much the Corn Buntings in the Outer Hebrides are struggling and it really is the eleventh hour to prevent them from becoming extinct here.

Gavin Siriwardena from the BTO was up next with 'Farmland birds - problem solved after 15 years of agri-environment?'. I was particularly interested in Gavin's presentation as I have a keen interest in farmland birds and professionally have put together a good number of agri-environment scheme agreements. The positive and negative association with scheme options and population declines and increases of farmland birds was both uplifting and vexing at the same time!

I'd heard of Professor Will Cresswell, but had never seen one of his talks before and it was brilliant. He reminded me of a young Professor Ian Newton in as much as he is a boffin, but managed to present scientific information in an easily understandable way. His research into african-palearctic migrants was fascinating.

David Steel, formerly head ranger at the Farne Islands, but now warden on the Isle of May gave a highly entertaining and informative talk on the Tern populations on the May, and what he is doing to increase their breeding population there. Considering he had the 'grave yard' slot straight after lunch he captivated the audience.

Owen Selly from the RSPB talked about White-tailed Eagles in eastern Scotland, and what amazed me was the distances these birds travelled. Several birds from the eastern Scotland population flew over to Mull in the winter and associated with Eagles there before returning in the spring!

John Calladine from BTO Scotland gave a presentation on the results of the 2007-11 Atlas from a Scottish perspective and looked at what could be done with the data to provide sound conservation science. To finish we were treated to some stunning photography from Fife birder John Anderson. His shots of a North American Mink attacking a juvenile Gannet had everybody on the edge of their seats! What a way to end what was a brilliant conference and I'm already looking forward to the next one.

We have recently been notified that the ringing suspension that was affecting us because of a 10 km surveillance zone around an avian influenza outbreak has now been lifted! So I just need some decent weather to get out ringing again!

Source Fleetwood Birder


Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was a tad cool on the coast yesterday as there was some northerly in the westerly, and with full cloud cover no sun to warm things up! It was also murky out at sea and as a result the sea passage was even slower than the day before, and the vis was nearly non-existent!

The sea produced six Common Scoters, eleven Eiders, a Red-throated Diver, seven Shelducks, a Great Crested Grebe, three Red-breasted Mergansers and two Cormorants.

Grounded migrants were restricted to three males and a female Stonechat, but it won't be long until the first Sand Martins, Wheatears and Chiffchaffs appear! Roosting waders included twenty Sanderlings, eleven Oystercatchers, eight Ringed Plovers and three Turnstones (all the Turnstones were at the Marine Lakes).



The near non-existent vis was just a single Alba Wagtail, a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Wagtail; early days yet!

I then had a look at the Marine Lakes and counted 148 Turnstones, including at least four of our leg-flagged birds that I managed to read. The beauty of the Marine Lakes for the Turnstones is that they can continue to feed over the high tide if they wish to do so, but if there is too much disturbance they will roost on the island.


It's deepest, darkest Merseyside for me this afternoon for my last winter bird survey, so more on that tomorrow.

Source Fleetwood Birder

It’s All In The Flex!

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was a beautiful spring-like day yesterday when I headed to the Point for a sea watch. I had 3 oktas hazy cloud cover with a 5 mph westerly wind. High tide was about an hour before I got there and the tide was just starting to turn.

Spring seawatching is one of my favourite disciplines within the broader umbrella of birding, and I particularly like the spring Red-throated Diver passage when birds are travelling in to the bay at height to cross over land to the North Sea! There was some diver passage this morning with five 'Red-throats' in and two out, but none of the birds moving in to the bay were high. Some of the divers were close in and I always enjoy watching them 'motor' along with that long neck of theirs flexing up and down; superb!

The supporting cast on the sea included twelve Eiders, 28 Common Scoters, a Shelduck, a Great Crested Grebe, 20 Whooper Swans heading northeast, four Cormorants and two Red-breasted Mergansers.

Vis is starting to trickle through now and this morning I had three Meadow Pipits, a Skylark, a Carrion Crow and a Siskin head east. Grounded migrants were just represented by two male and three female Stonechats, and the males looked particularly resplendent in their black and burned orange attire!


It was soon time for me to head home and chain myself to the desk, but some early morning birding before work doesn't half set you up for the rest of the day!


Source Fleetwood Birder


Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
It was a glorious spring-like day today with lots of warm sunshine. I went to the water treatment works to top my feeders up and the first bird I had was a fly-catching Chiffchaff! It is likely that it is an over-winterer as we've had Common Chiffchaff and Siberian Chiffchaff wintering close by. Nevertheless it made it seem even more spring-like!

The feeders were empty so they are obviously busy at the moment. We still have ringing suspended because of the avian influenza outbreak and I hope it gets lifted soon because March can be quite busy ringing wise at the Obs!

The willows where moments before a flycatching Chiffie delivered 
it's sorties from!

Source Fleetwood Birder

It’s Starting To Get Early

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
My latest survey in deepest, darkest Merseyside required a 4:00 am alarm call to enable me to get on site one hour before sunrise and I thought to myself "it's starting to get early"! On the morning in question I had three oktas cloud cover with a 10 - 15 mph south-southwesterly wind.

It was probably one of my quietest surveys to date at this site and there wasn't really any highlights. Of moderate interest I recorded four Song Thrushes, 21 Goldfinches, a Kestrel, eleven Chaffinches, nine Lapwings, ten Skylarks, three Goldcrests, two drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a female Sparrowhawk, eleven Blue Tits, eleven Blackbirds, 226 Black-headed Gulls and 19 Carrion Crows.

I tell a lie there was a highlight, well for me anyway, and that was three Red Squirrels! Always a pleasure to see!

Source Fleetwood Birder

Garden Mega!

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
This is just a really quick post to say that I had a 'mega' in the garden this morning in the form of a Tree Sparrow, yes a Tree Sparrow! I can hear you all saying that they're not that rare and that you get them in your garden all the time, but round here they are scarce!

The nearest population is some miles away, so I can only assume that this bird was a migrant. Every spring we get a few birds moving over the coast on vis. This 'smart dressed individual' was associating with the House Sparrows, but wasn't a full member of their gang as it was always on the edge of the group.

Funnily enough my sister-in-law, Kim, was visiting last Saturday and over breakfast she said to me "is that a Tree Sparrow"? Now I have to admit that I didn't look up and said "no it'll be a House Sparrow". Whoops! So, who knows it might have been around since weekend!

Source Fleetwood Birder


Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
I recently completed one of my wintering bird surveys in Merseyside and it was probably the quietest of the winter so far. The weather was fairly good with four oktas cloud cover and a 10 mph southwesterly wind, so it was probably just the time of year influencing the results.

Of interest I had 34 Goldfinches, a Kestrel, 14 Linnets, ten Long-tailed Tits, five Buzzards, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, two Stock Doves, five Song Thrushes, seven Lapwings (including a displaying bird), two Barn Owls, two Goldcrests, a calling Tawny Owl, 48 Woodpigeons, 32 Carrion Crows, eleven Robins and 14 Blue Tits.

The Barn Owls were of most interest as I had expected to record Barn Owl at the site but hadn't all winter until this survey, when I had two. One bird came flying towards me and then dropped on to a vole quite close to me! I managed to get a shot of it, but the light was pretty poor, so it wasn't as good as expected considering how close it was!

 Barn Owl (above & below)

I am still busy operating my feeding station but can't do any ringing there yet because of the avian influenza outbreak, but I am hopeful that the suspension will be lifted as soon as this week; fingers crossed!

Source Fleetwood Birder

White Winger

Posted on - In Fleetwood Birder
High tide was in the early hours yesterday morning so I decided to have a look at the river at first light. As I set off along the edge of the saltmarsh I had 7 oktas cloud cover with a 10 mph southerly wind. A number of 'Pink-feet' were leaving their riparian roost, 174, and I also had 280 go over high north; some early vis.

As I walked, or should I say slid, along the muddy path a flock of 19 Twite flew over my head calling away, and I soon reached my watch point over the river. There were large Gulls coming and going to bathe and their numbers were quite spectacular, in fact my counts didn't represent the true numbers. I counted 990 Herring Gulls, 17 Great Black-backed Gulls, 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (starting to move through now and looking immaculate in breeding plumage) and 115 Black-headed Gulls. In reality there is probably 3,000 large Gulls at the site at the moment.

After some time going through the Gulls I picked out the 2CY Glaucous Gull that has been around for a number of weeks. I'm not a huge Gull fan, but even I can appreciate this giant white winger! There wasn't much wildfowl on this stretch of the river, but a flock of 110 Lapwings was nice. Walking back across the saltmarsh I added Rock Pipit and a male Reed Bunting.

I had a look on the pools next and there was two Shovelers (male & female), seven Tufted Ducks, six Mallards, 38 Coots and a Great Crested Grebe. I had a wander in to the reeds to check out some of our net rides in preparation for the lifting of the suspension of ringing within the 10 km surveillance zone for the relatively local avian influenza outbreak. All looked well and in fact I got to some net rides that we haven't managed to get to for two years due to high water levels, so that shows what a dry winter it's been.

All I had in the reeds was another Reed Bunting plus a Snipe and a singing Cetti's Warbler. So all in all a pleasant couple of hours!