What About the Marsh Tits?

I completely forgot to mention the Marsh Tits from the weekend before last, when we were checking our Pied Flycatcher boxes. We had driven down and parked by the River Hodder, and I was just unloading my ladder to head off into the woodland, when I heard a snatch of song that sounded instantly familiar, but my brain was slow in coming up with the identification. The bird flew over our heads into an Alder by the river, and just as John said "that Tit has got a bib", my brain yelled "Marsh Tit"! The Marsh Tit continued to sing for a few seconds in the Alder, and it was joined by another, and then they vanished as quickly as they appeared. 
 
I see Marsh Tits whenever I am in the Silverdale area, in northwest Lancs, and I've also recorded them on one of my clients' farms alongside the River Wenning, but this was the first time that I have recorded Marsh Tit in Bowland for about twenty years! At the site where we have our nest boxes, the former landowner used to have a feeding station, and when I first started visiting the site in 2002, the odd Marsh Tit would visit the feeding station, so they were obviously just hanging on in the Hodder Valley then. 
 
The Birds of Lancashire and North Merseyside states that in "east Lancashire Marsh Tits were described as widespread though scarce breeders throughout the Ribble, Calder and Hodder woodlands as recently as 1986. Up to seven pairs nested in the Whitewell area in the 1980s, occasionally in nest-boxes, and breeding season presence was recorded fairly regularly around this time... By 2000, however, a major decline throughout the region was all too evident... Occasional sightings at Whitewell and Doeford Bridge, however, indicate continued presence in this stretch of the Hodder Valley" (White, McCarthy & Jones, 2008, p.331).
 
So, a scarce bird indeed in this area, but perhaps just hanging on as a breeder!
 
Back to last weekend, and we carried out the final check of our nest boxes in the Hodder Valley and at our friend's farm near Garstang. We ringed 24 Pied Flycatcher chicks at our Hodder Valley site from four nest boxes. This is probably the worst year, in terms of productivity, for Pied Flycatchers at this site, with the exception of last year when there were lots of predation. I'm not sure of yet what the reason is for this, and it will be interesting to see what the results are for the Bowland-wide Retrapping Adults for Survival project that I am part of. Meaning, is it an issue across all Pied Flycatcher sites in Bowland this year, or is it just localised to our site? There does definitely seem to be a shortage of females, based on the number of males present, and this might well be the cause. 
 
Pied Flycatcher chick
 
 
Male Pied Flycatcher
 
Talking of flycatchers, we did enjoy watching a Spotted Flycatcher fly-catching when we stopped for a coffee break. However, we have yet to find the nest(s) of the Spot Flys, and last year we found two nests! We have checked the usual places, but no luck so far.
 
On to Garstang, and we just ringed a single brood of six Blue Tits. We checked the Kestrel box and there were five chicks, and an unhatched egg, that were too small to ring. So, I look forward to doing those next weekend. We checked three Tawny Owl boxes, including one that had a Tawny Owl egg in it earlier in the year, and all had Grey Squirrels in. 
 
Kestrels
 
I ringed an Oystercatcher chick yesterday when I was checking on breeding waders at my clients' farm near Slaidburn in Bowland. I spotted one chick running ahead of me along a track, and I thought "when I climb this gate, I'll pick you up", and when I went to climb the gate another chick was squatting, and trying it's best to blend in with the surface of the track. I picked this chick up, and lost the other! 
 
I didn't get a picture of the Oystercatcher chick that I ringed, but this was one 
of the adults
 
On my walk round I encountered alarm calling Lapwings, or one or two large flying Lapwing chicks, suggesting that they are coming to the end of their breeding season. Curlews were very quiet, and are probably at the late incubation stage, and I saw a few 'on-guard' males. I had two Common Sandpipers in an area where they regularly nest, but I couldn't work out what was going on with them. 
 
Out on one of the many pools on this farm were a brood of six Tufted Ducks, with the female in close attendance. Other proof of breeding was obtained for both Stonechat and Willow Warbler, as I saw adults of both species carrying food. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to wait, watch and find the nest. 
 
Tufted Ducks
 
 
Some of the wildflowers surrounding one of the pools
 
The only other bird of note that I had on my walk round was a singing Cuckoo, my first for the year at this site. When I was last here on 9th May I didn't hear any. 
 
Over on the right, if you are viewing in web version, you will see that I have updated the ringing totals for Fylde Ringing Group up until the end of May. Ten new species were ringed for the year during May, and these were Reed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Skylark, Pied Flycatcher, Lapwing, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Bullfinch and Garden Warbler. 
 
This is the Spotted Flycatcher that was ringed in May
 
Below you will find the 'top 3 ringed in May', and the 'top 9 movers and shakers' for the year. 
 
Top 3 Ringed During May
 
1. Blue Tit - 54
2. Great Tit - 37
3. Tree Sparrow - 16
 
Top 9 Movers and Shakers
 
1. Blue Tit - 80 (up from 2nd)
2. Great Tit - 72 (down from 1st)
3. Tree Sparrow - 20 (straight in)
    Chaffinch - 20 (same position)
5. Blackbird - 17 (up from 6th)
    Goldfinch - 17 (down from 4th)
7. Reed Bunting - 15 (down from 5th)
8. Willow Warbler - 13 (down from 6th)
9. Sedge Warbler - 10 (straight in)