20 Mar 2017

A brief visit to Hilbre

Its months since I've had the chance to go across to Hilbre - work & house renovations have got in the way! Luckily I got a chance last week and joined the rest of the regulars to spend the tide over on the island.

Many waders have already left for their breeding grounds but Middle Eye held an impressive number of Curlews whilst the Brent Geese gave good views as they serenely swam down the east side. Only two Purple Sandpipers were seen but there were plenty of Common Scoter around and a male Eider put in a distant appearance.

It was a beautiful sunny day with plenty to see - not many spring migrants but typical early spring fare with overhead migration of alba wagtails and finches. The first Bumble Bees and butterflies were on the wing with both Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock being recorded.

14 Mar 2017

Last SCAN canon netting trip of the winter

A re-scheduled canon netting trip meant  I could make the last SCAN session of the winter and so Saturday morning saw me arriving at Kinmel Bay at 05.45 and gettign uestioned by the local police as to my intentions.......

After explaining to the officer what I was doing a few of the other members of the team turned up only for a 2nd police car to arrive. Apparently, according to local sources (Mark Payne) the area is a meeting point for the local transvestites.........

With two nets set the waiting game began. The target species was Sanderling and during the early morning recce a colour ringed bird had been spotted. Pulse rates quickened as news came in over the radios as to the whereabouts of the birds and how many were in the catching area.

Suddenly the button was pressed and the nets were fired. The nets were moved up the beach away from the in coming tide and the birds covered in hessian to keep them calm until they were extracted and placed in holding cages to await ringing and processing.

A total of 555 birds were processed with over 200 Sanderling being caught - including the colour ringed bird that came from Iceland! It was originally ringed there in the autumn of 2016 before subsequently being seen at several sites on the north Lancashire coast, then Formby and finally Kinmel Bay!

 Juvenile Sanderling (Euring 5, 2nd calendar year) showing  buff tips (very worn) to tertials and inner media coverts.
Adult Sanderling (Euring 6, 3rd calendar year or older) without the buff tips shown by the juvenile

Good numbers of Dunlin were also processed including a bird with a colour ring thought to have originally been ringed in mid-Wales. In addition around 6 Ringed Plover and a single Turnstone were also processed.
Colour ringed Dunlin.

A great day - the weather was kind to us, a good catch (that'll help increase our knowledge of these birds movements and the importance of the local area for them as a wintering ground), good company and a cracking rugby result! Roll on the summer and the start of the seabird ringing season on Puffin Island.

It was great to see local birder John Roberts out and about - I haven't seen him for a long time!

7 Mar 2017

First ringing in new garden

For the first time since we bought our new place last September I've had an opportunity to spend an hour or so ringing. I haven't quite worked out the best places to put mist nets but decided to put 2 x 18ft nets in the back garden. Within 1 hr I'd ringed 14 birds including 6 Goldfinches, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2 Great Tits and 2 Blue Tits!

The Goldcrests are probably resident as they've been around since we bought the house last September and we have a good number of evergreens in the garden - both male and female were caught in the same mist net at the same time.

Interestingly all but one of the Goldfinches were 2nd calendar year birds and were easy to age because of their retained juvenile greater coverts. The bird below had only one retained greater covert whereas others had two or even three.

It was a pleasant change to be doing some ringing but it looks like I'm going to have to do a bit of planning about wheres best to site the nets.

1 Mar 2017

Med Gull on the house list!

Wit hBlack=-headed Gulls and Common Gulls congregating  on the fields around the house and visiting the pond to bathe I'd been checking them out hoping for something unusual. I still hope for an Iceland or Glaucous Gull but an adult Mediterranean Gull was still a nice find this morning.

I thought I'd seen one yesterday with the naked eye (the black hoods really do stick out like the proverbial sore thumb among Black-headed Gulls) but by the time I'd got the binoculars up it had gone.

Patience was rewarded though when I spotted one in with the Black-headed Gulls this morning only for the whole flock to spook and fly off over the house. They started drifting back but the Med Gull disappeared for 30 minutes before reappearing.

Annoyingly it appears to be colour ringed wit ha white colour ring on its left leg but even at 75 x mag on the scope and the phone camera on full zoom I cant make out the alpha - numeric code.

Still, it on the house and new patch list!

That brings me up to 66 species on the new house list since we moved in on 9th December.
I'm hopeful of a few passage waders and theres obviously all the summer visitors to come yet. Surprisingly I haven't seen a Blackcap whereas they were regular winter visitors to our old garden.

28 Feb 2017

More from the window.

I really haven't had time to get out and do much birding recently but the views from the house make up for it. The pond in the filed opposite continues to attract god numbers of wildfowl and the odd Lapwing and after 'Doris' its now flooded and will hopefully attract a few passage waders once the water recedes and leaves a muddy margin.

There have been up to 6 Wigeon and 4 Shoveller (see above) utilising it and last night there were 4 Coots. Where did they come from?

Last nights sunset was spectacular and this morning Moel Famau could be seen wreathed in cloud and covered in a smattering of snow.

Come to think of it  - I don't need to go anywhere else.............

20 Feb 2017

Mute Swans.

Before my recent travels to New Zealand (business unfortunately) the pond that keeps on giving threw up another surprise when I gazed out of our front bedroom window and saw tow Mute Swans among the throng of Teal, Wigeon and Shoveller that have taken up temporary residence.

They only stayed for an hour then flew off west. A single Lapwing also stayed for a couple of hours and the Wigeon flock reached a peak of 6 birds!

Arriving back home in the dark Sunday morning I was surprised to flush two Woodcock from the middle of our lane. Not something I'd expected to see. With the weather being quite mild it was no surprise to see Blue Tits investigating the nest boxes  I put up just before I went away.

6 Feb 2017

Patch challenge 2017 - new patch and green birding

Now we've moved house I've had to start all over again building up a new garden bird list! For the last few years I've also taken part in the patch challenge where people are encouraged to work a local patch - in my case it's always been 'green' with my house being at the centre of my patch and everywhere accessible by foot. This obviously restricts the available habitat and number of species that can be seen. One of the advantages of our new house is its location opposite a field with a fairly large pond which I'd hoped would attract passing waders and wildfowl. Getting up early and training the scope on this pond at first light to see whats dropped in is becoming addictive! The pond is several hundred metres away but from my vantage point in one of the bedrooms can easily be seen.

Sunset from the house - the pond can be seen just to the left of the telegraph pole

This weekend was no exception and the first new birds for the 'patch' and garden lists were 8 Lapwings that dropped in briefly on to the muddy margin. Unfortunately they didn't stay long but the Canada Geese did and the mll flock contained  single Greylag Goose. Checking out the rest of the pond I was surprised to find a pair of Wigeon!

The distance means no decent photos can be obtained through the DSLR so I'm having to resort to phonescoping!

The next surprise was the sudden appearance of three Shoveller and a flock of Teal. One of the Shovelers was a sub-adult male along with two females. There are Teal on a nearby pond which is surrounded by trees at the back of a private garden so I think these must have been displaced from there.

The next morning was even better. An adult male Shoveller turned up and 18 Greylags dropped in whilst the Teal flock built up to 47!

I'd heard Wigeon before from the house at night but it was nice to get a sighting. I'd heard Coot as well but again, it was nice to get a sighting!

Every couple of hours I'd take a break from working in the garden, grab a brew and check out what else had turned up on the pond! Another nice bird was this leucistic Mistle Thrush that I first saw last year before we'd bought the house.

Whilst watching I also spotted this Brown Hare, an increasingly rare sighting around here, that meandered around for  few moments before setting off through the hedge and into a neighbouring field.

Wit hall the building work and decorating I haven't had a chance to do any ringing in the garden but the feeders I've installed are attracting good numbers of birds with Goldfinches, Lesser Redpoll, Chaffinch and Greenfinch now being regular visitors. I've heard Tawny Owl in the area so took the opportunity, whilst the weather was dry, of hanging a box given to me by Alan H on our large back garden oak along with two open fronted boxes and four tit boxes. I've got two House Sparrow boxes that I'll hang once we've painted the outside of the house.