27 Apr 2012

Trickling through.

One Swallow doesn't make a summer but combined with a few soggy sounding Chiffchaffs and the occasional Willow Warbler around the house this week its a sign that maybe summer is on its way. A Swift over the house ahead of another torrential down pour Thursday night was another sign that the weather should start improving.

The only other local birds of note were perhaps more expected as winter visitors to the garden with a pair of Bullfinches continuing to visit the feeders late evenings and joined one evening by a pair of late Siskins.

A break in the rain allowed me to get out one evening to search the local area for the first Whitethroat or Garden Warbler but apart from the occasional Chiffchaff and Blackcap there wasn't much else although a few Orange Tip butterflies were on the wing and the local Rabbits are enjoying the lush new vegetation.

Easterlies in the early part of the week meant a quick dash to Hilbre to repair damage to one of the heligoland traps had the added bonus of catching a few birds with several Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs being ringed along with a male Blackcap.

23 Apr 2012

Where have all the migrants gone?

Feathered not economic. There's still plenty of the former. A distinct dearth of migrants is being reported over the UK with just a trickle making it through. Hopefully its due to the continuing presence of winds with a northerly bias once they switch we'll be flooded with incoming birds.

A wet Friday afternoon meant a recce of my usual sites looking for migrants was abandoned in favour of watching the garden birds from the refuge of the conservatory. The weather cleared up about 4 pm and I took the opportunity to erect a small mist net in the garden and promptly caught a Chiffchaff that had been hanging around followed closely by a male Great-spotted Woodpecker. The Chiffchaff had quite a good fat score (20) suggesting it hadn't come far and that many birds are making short hops interspersed with refuelling stops as they battle against the winds.

Saturday saw a brave and intrepid band heading for Hilbre despite the dire forecast. Some overhead migrations was noted with the first Yellow Wagtail (for Hilbre) of the spring being logged along with White Wagtail and Whimbrel. The only migrant present was a Chiffchaff that was duly caught and processed.

16 Apr 2012

Hard going.

Beautiful weather over the weekend but still cold with a northerly wind effectively stopping most of the migrant birds reaching our area. A few have made it through and I saw my first Swallows of the year over Sandfield golf course Friday afternoon whilst battering a little white ball round a few holes with Mrs W.

Saturdays trip to Hilbre coincided with a visit from a big RSPB group and even though there were few migrants around we managed to show them a Willow Warbler and Linnet 'in the hand'.

Highlight of the days birding was the large number of Sandwich Terns offshore - at least 200 birds moved though and amongst them were the first Common Terns of the year.

Linnets are also back on territory and the males are looking pretty dapper in their breeding plumage.

12 Apr 2012

Thayer's Gull.........or not?

An interesting looking juvenile gull showing many of the features of Thayer's Gull was found last week loafing around on fields in the wilds of north Lincolnshire. An interesting bird and Thayer's Gull is currently treated as a separate species by some authorities (and some not so authoritative!) but it isn't yet on the British list.

The birds been giving a few people the run around and wasn't seen at all over the Easter weekend after giving itself up to the masses on Good Friday. With decorating in full swing I couldn't go that day so played it cool and shrugged my shoulders when there was no sign over the preceding three days. Oh well. There'll be another.......................................Then it showed up again Tuesday having obviously gone away for its Easter Hols somewhere. Decisions, decisions.

Luckily the decision was made for me when Fred texted and asked if anyone wanted a lift. Setting off before news we were relieved to hear the bird was still there. Then if flew. Then it came back.
As we arrived in the general area we saw a few cars parked along a lane and people watching intently through 'scopes. Surmising this was where the bird was currently residing we did a quick 360 round the next roundabout and back up the dual carriageway, took a right and casually parked the car and strolled across the lane to view the top of a head hidden in a dip!

Eventually the bird, obviously exhausted after its epic flight from the pacific coast of N America, deigned to stand and give us prolonged views before deciding to stretch its wings and fly off with all the other gulls in the field. What suddenly makes gulls decide to do that?

10 Apr 2012

Wet and miserable.

A wet and miserable Easter weekend with the highlight being a fly over Osprey being mobbed by gulls as it moved N W over the garden on Saturday. With the winds being predominantly in the north and little prospect of any migrants I decided to forgo Hilbre until Monday and help finish the decorating and other projects at home.

The wet weather certainly saw a flurry of activity  in the garden  - probably due to invertebrates becoming more accessible. A pair of Blackbirds appear to be nest building nearby as do the Robins and spent a lot of time feeding on the lawn. Two male Blackbirds have been sparring over territory in the back garden whist the resident Dunnocks are chasing each other around with much wing flicking.

Absolute highlights for the weekend as far as the garden was concerned though were a pair of Bullfinches visiting the feeders and two male Song Thrushes having a sing off as dusk fell on Sunday evening. The first time we've had two Song Thrushes on territory since we've lived here. The Bullfinches have been absent all winter so its nice to see them back.

Monday was even wetter than forecast and it was a soggy morning on Hilbre. One solitary Willow Warbler had braved the elements and migrated north and ended up on the Island whilst the 'resident' Merlin continues to terrorise the Turnstone flock.  Hopefully the wind will shift to a more easterly bias and we'll see more migrants over the next couple of weeks.

Interestingly I caught our neighbours cat with a mole. It dropped it when asked politely to do so but the mole unfortunately died. It gave a good opportunity for a close up of this rarely seen mammal and it as sad to see. The same moggie was also caught with a Goldfinch in its mouth. Sadly this turned out to be one of the ones I'd ringed in the garden back in February.

5 Apr 2012

The wet Rook

For several weeks now I've been noticing the local Rooks mooching around the industrial estate where I work collecting nesting material or feeding on the grass verges. Occasionally they even perch on the lamp post outside my office window looking glum like this one in the pouring rain. Could there ever be a glummer looking Rook? It looks really pissed off.

I'd also noticed that they seem unperturbed by passing cars and carried on mooching around along the grass verge as long as no one walked past. So, using stellar fieldcraft, unlike numpties who flush Black Grouse, I loaded the camera in the car and parked on the road!

Luckily the rain stopped and the sun came out briefly transforming a bedraggled black 'crow' into quite a handsome looking bird albeit with a face only its mother could love.

2 Apr 2012

A mixed bag.

Not much happening on Hilbre at the weekend with the rush of migrants of previous days completely drying up. The only birds of note on a beautiful sunny day were the first two Sandwich Terns of the year that passed down the west side.

More locally a trip to the municipal recycling centre on Friday afternoon gave me an opportunity to check out the South Road pool. Amazingly amongst the Tufties, Shoveller and Teal was a pristine drake Garganey lurking right at the back amongst the reeds. Great stuff - this pond really is a hidden gem.

A male Ring Ouzel at Moore had Mr. Payne itching to get down there for his year list and as we were meeting up to check out a local Little Owl site (for his year list again!) we decided to change our plans and meet at Moore. The Ring Ouzel was showing well but distantly on the opposite side of the Manchester Ship Canal. A fantastic bird and one of my favourite spring migrants.

Next up were the Little Owls which unfortunately weren't showing as well as they have been and we were looking directly into the sun.

I've recently made a Little Owl box which we've located on private land nearby in the hope these diminutive Owls will take a liking to. With the UK population dropping sharply they seem to need all the help they can get.