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Back In Bowland

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Tuesday morning saw me take to the hills in Bowland to carry out a site visit to look at the condition of two areas of species rich grassland. My client's farm is full of breeding waders as he farms exceedingly sympathetically to cater for them; he's amended some farming practises to reduce any potential impact on eggs and chicks, created habitat features such as scrapes to provide additional habitat and adjusted stocking densities to create the correct sward heights. He's a great bloke!

Walking between the two fields that I had to survey it was obvious that most of the waders had finished breeding. Nearly all of the Lapwings had gone and just a few pairs of Curlew and Oystercatcher were still about. I had an interesting first wader breeding record for the farm in the form of a Common Sandpiper. I can't claim any credit for discovering this as it was one of the farm staff that alerted me to it's presence. She told me that every time she drove past this particular stone edged pool she saw a wader species she couldn't identify. She also went on to say that she had seen the bird with chicks.

One of the fields that I had to check was adjacent to this pool and as I parked up in the gateway and got out of my car I heard Common Sandpiper alarm calling. And sure enough, at some distance, it was perched up on the fence. I suspect that the other bird was somewhere around the pool with the chicks. This is the first time in Lancashire that I have recorded Common Sandpiper breeding on a farm away from a water course. Great stuff!

 Common Sandpiper

In addition to the waders a few Willlow Warblers were still singing from some of the woodland plantings and a Cuckoo was calling from an area that I had one or it earlier in the spring. The same pool where the Common Sandpiper was also had two broods of Tufted Ducks on and there looked to be at least four ducklings in each brood.

So a very enjoyable visit and I wish that all of my work could be like that!

Source Fleetwood Birder

First Moths For A While

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I ran my garden moth trap for the first time a few days ago and had a pleasing little catch, well for me anyway. I don't like to catch too many as it takes me quite a while to go through them, mainly because I don't run my trap often enough to get my eye in. However, I caught 21 moths of eight species as follows:

Brimstone - 2
Sallow Kitten - 2
Garden Carpet - 4
Riband Wave - 1
Heart and Dart - 4
Dark Arches - 3
The Flame - 2
Large Yellow Underwing - 3


 Sallow Kitten

Source Fleetwood Birder

Holiday Snaps

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I've had to hit the ground running this week with work, with lots of site visits and today is the first time I have had time to post anything since getting back from Scotland at weekend. Gail and I had a week in a holiday cottage on the Kilninver Estate south of Oban overlooking Loch Feochan. When it wasn't raining we had cracking views to Kerrera, and Mull beyond that. I say when it wasn't raining because we had quite a dreich week!

We didn't see a huge selection of birds, but you know what it's like as a birder you're always birding wherever you are. Highlights included lots of Siskins everywhere we went, Hooded Crows a plenty, Cuckoos, a couple of Golden Eagles, Goosanders, lots of Song Thrushes outnumbering Blackbirds, Spotted Flycatchers, breeding Wheatears, Stonechats, Peregrine, Ravens and Rock Dove (not sure how genuine they are here).

Below are a few holiday snaps in no particular order with no particular reason for the selection either:

 Bon Awe Iron Furnace

English Stonecrop (in Scotland)

Gylen Castle on Kerrera

Heath Spotted Orchid

Inverary Castle

Northern Marsh Orchid

Signs to the tea garden on Kerrera (above & below)

Spotted Flycatcher

Inside Kilmory Knap Chapel


Loch Feochan from the cottage

Source Fleetwood Birder

May Ringing Totals

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Over on the right you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of May, and they haven't increased that much. This is because of a ringing suspension due to a local avian influenza outbreak, which thankfully was lifted on 7th June. So we need to hit the ground running now and get some birds ringed!

Three new species for the year were ringed during May and these were Lapwing, Pied Flycatcher and Nuthatch. Below you will find the top three ringed during May and the top nine 'movers and shakers' for the year:

Top 3 Ringed In May

1. Blue Tit - 51
2. Pied Flycatcher - 24
3. Great Tit - 20

Top 9 Movers and Shakers for the Year

1. Blue Tit - 74 (up from 4th)
2. Lesser Redpoll - 70 (down from 1st)
3. Linnet - 59 (down from 2nd)
4. Goldfinch - 49 (down from 3rd)
5. Great Tit - 27 (straight in)
6. Pied Flycatcher - 24 (straight in)
7. Meadow Pipit - 19 (same position)
8. Willow Warbler - 14 (same position)
9. Nuthatch - 13 (straight in)

 Pied Flycatcher

This will probably be my last post for over a week as I am off to Scotland for a weeks holiday shortly, so I will post again when I get back!

Source Fleetwood Birder

Big Boxes

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Gail and I had a second day of checking boxes on Sunday, but this time it was at our good friends Robert and Diana's farm near Nateby. We had three 'big boxes' to check; two Owl boxes and a Kestrel box. It was positive news for the box in the barn as it contained four healthy Barn Owl chicks ranging in age from 16 - 25 days, ish! The Barn Owls were duly ringed and we moved on to the other Owl box.

 Barn Owl

This box contained an old Stock Doves nest from last year. In fact I think in most years since it has been up it has been used by Stock Doves.

The Kestrel box in the wet woodland was certainly active and from a vantage point in the field we could see the female Kestrel sitting in the box. It is likely that she was brooding small young rather than incubating eggs, and as such we didn't disturb her. We will return in a week or so's time to ring the chicks.

Walking through a section of open woodland a Banded Demoiselle flew past which was a great sighting. Banded Demoiselles like slow-flowing, mud-bottomed streams and rivers with open banksides and adjoining meadows, and that description fits perfectly with this part of the farm.

Since we ringed the Barn Owl chicks on Sunday, today (Wednesday) is the first day that it hasn't rained and I must admit to be being a bit worried about them as the parents will have found it difficult, if not impossible, to hunt during the wet weather. Let's hope that they have managed to find enough food to feed the chicks today, as I do wonder about the survival prospects for the youngest chick!

Source Fleetwood Birder

Last Pied Fly Gig Of The Year

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On Saturday morning Gail and I headed to the Hodder Valley to carry out the final check of our next boxes here for the year. We knew we would have a few Pied Flycatchers to ring and in total we ringed 47 pulli. Quite a few of the chicks hadn't developed much during the week because of the cool changeable weather leading to a struggle for the adults to find food. And I must admit I am worried about them now after two full days of constant rain. If it wasn't for the fact that I go away to Scotland this weekend I would go back and check to see how they are getting on. Probably the first thing that I'll do on my return is go and see if they have managed to fledge okay; fingers crossed!

Pied Flycatcher

Source Fleetwood Birder

The Birding Doldrums?

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It's at this time of year that a lot of birders almost hang their bins up! Some switch their attention to dragonflies or moths, and some just go in to complete hibernation until autumn. However, there is always something of interest and it's just a matter of being out there to chance upon it. I have a broad interest in natural history, so being out in the field is just, well being out in the field and enjoying whatever you are looking at or listening to.

I completed two bird surveys this week to earn a crust. One was to do with planned development and the other was conservation based. But, both were equally as enjoyable! My planned development related survey was in lowland Lancashire on some fairly ordinary farmland, whatever that is?! I was stopped at one of my vantage points when I heard a Raven calling from behind me. It's loud croaking call got closer and closer until I picked it up flying directly over me. It then proceeded to do a roll as it flew away from me, followed by a 'stall' and it was away in the distance. Magic!

I had a few bits and pieces in addition to the Raven including two Buzzards, 27 Magpies, two Reed Buntings, ten House Sparrows, a Sedge Warbler, two Whitethtoats, eight adult Lapwings plus three chicks, 21 Jackdaws, two Song Thrushes, a Blackcap and a Stock Dove. And I also had plenty of Red Admirals, Small Whites and Small Tortoiseshells on the wing.

My second survey was another survey of plantation woodland in the Eden Valley. The highlight of this survey was finding a Buzzard's nest with at least two chicks in it! The best of the rest was eleven Tree Sparrows, seven Willow Warblers, two Blackcaps, three Redstarts, a Jay, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Sedge Warbler and a Stock Dove.

 River Eden

Buzzard nest, although the chicks aren't visible.

So, birding doldrums? I don't think so!

Source Fleetwood Birder

Continuing Pied Fly Fest

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I make no apologies at all for posting some more on Pied Flycatchers as Gail and I checked our boxes again in the Hodder Valley yesterday. A few boxes no longer needed checking because they were still empty or hadn't progressed from a half completed nest for example, but we had a few birds to ring so it still took us a couple of hours.

 Pied Flycatchers

In total we ringed 49 birds made up of 32 Blue Tits, 14 Pied Flycatchers and three Great Tits. All were chicks from the boxes, and next week we should have something like 60 Pied Flycatcher chicks to ring! The clutch sizes of the Tits have been very small and this is certainly a phenomenon of recent years, and perhaps indicates the difficulty the adults are having finding food for their chicks. Climate change is certainly playing a roll in this with the hatching of young out of sync with the hatching of foliar feeding caterpillars. In addition to this cooler, wetter springs are reducing the number of invertebrates available as well.

 Pied Flycatcher

On our walk through the woodland checking the boxes we picked up a Tawny Owl flying through the treetops, and judging by its laboured flight we assumed it was a young bird. It was given a hard time by numerous woodland birds as it moved from tree to tree!

I received a bit of bad bird related news yesterday when Ian phoned me in a state of shock to tell me that the local tip was being moth-balled for a couple of years at least! Being much more of a 'Laruphile' than me Ian really was gutted to say the least, and we both lamented the prospect of a Gull, particularly 'white wingers', light winter at the Obs this winter! I suppose it's only a birder that could mourn the closure of a landfill site!   

Source Fleetwood Birder

Up North

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I have had a full week of 'stupid o'clock' alarm calls to head up north to Cumbria to complete the second surveys of the plantation woodlands that I am surveying for birds. On Monday Gail joined me at an upland site where there are tremendous views of the Solway and over to the Criffell in Dumfries and Galway.

These second surveys tend to be the quietest of the three as they are at a time where a good percentage of breeding birds are feeding young. This site was no exception and the few highlights included a Song Thrush, a Chiffchaff, a Stock Dove, two Siskins, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Buzzard, a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap.

An early start, means an early finish, so afterwards we had finished the survey we headed over to the Scottish side of the Solway to have a look at the seabird colony at Balcary Point. We did a four mile circular walk and we started the walk in the rain and finished it in glorious sunshine!

The sea cliffs held breeding Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills and Shags. And on our walk terrestrial bird species included Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Siskin, Rock Pipit and Stonechat.

 Loch Mackie; part of the circular walk.

I completed three more bird surveys 'up north' and I have lumped the relatively interesting sightings together as the three sites were fairly close together; eleven Willow Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, a Yellowhammer, four Lesser Redpolls, two Skylarks, two Blackcaps, a Stock Dove, a Mistle Thrush and a Redstart.

Blencathra peeping out of the mist.

We've got some hefty showers forecast for most of the day tomorrow, but if I can drag myself out of my pit at just a bit later then 'stupid o'clock' then I might get some birding in before the rain!  

Source Fleetwood Birder

More On Pied Flycatchers

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Earlier in the week Gail and I checked our nest boxes in the Hodder Valley and it is looking very good for Pied Flycatchers. We definitely have eleven occupied boxes and they are all incubating completed clutches. I lifted a further three females off the nest and one was one of ours (ringed as a chick last year), and the other two were controls.

I was very interested in the good numbers of Pied Flycatchers occupying our boxes and through social media I asked other nest recorders if they were finding similar. Interestingly one local scheme reported average numbers as did a recorder from Wales, but mainly it would seem that most observers are reporting increased occupation. Several reasons have been put forward for this and include good over-winter survival, increased survival during spring migration and poor breeding success for Tits last year leading to less competition for nest sites. Interesting stuff!

A few chicks in our boxes were ready to be ringed and we ringed seven Nuthatches, 17 Great Tits and seven Blue Tits. Next weekend we will have more Blue and Great Tits to ring and hopefully I'll be able to record the remaining Pied Flycatcher females!