25 Nov 2013

Weekend ramblings.

Not a huge amount of birding done over the past week but plenty of gardening! Plenty of interesting local sightings as well with a rare garden visitor in the form of a Mistle Thrush feeding on the few remaining Rowan Berries that the local Blackbirds have left. Goldfinch numbers are building up with 8 or more actually on the feeders but the majority are preferring to feed on the birch seeds now in plentiful supply. At least 20 were feeding on this natural food source at the tops of the trees around the garden. Redpolls have also been seen and heard flying over but haven't yet dropped in to feed - there is obviously a plentiful supply of natural food at the moment.

Other seasonal sightings included a skein of Pinkfeet passing over whilst it was still dark and a Little Owl heard from the garden.

Besides raking up leaves, painting sheds, painting fences and trimming back overgrown vegetation in the garden all the nest boxes have been cleaned and repainted if necessary. Two extra boxes have been put up around the pond so hopefully next year will see them all being used. Two more House Sparrow boxes are awaiting installation - ones been given to Bazzer for his Burton garden & another will go to my parents in law. Another two House Sparrows were ringed in the garden this weekend.

19 Nov 2013

Ringing - Tits & more tits!

A great day Friday ringing in Bazzers garden as part of our annual study into Blue & Great Tit survival. A total of 95 birds were caught of which 74 were new. As well as the Blue & Great Tits we caught 16 Goldfinches & 2 retrap Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Not the busiest day we've had here but still more than expected. What was noticeable was the lack of Great Tits and Coal Tits. compared to previous years.

Saturday saw me driving over to Hilbre in the dark to get there before the high tide. Seawatching was again the order of the day with the highlight being 2 male Velvet Scoter amongst the 450+ Common Scoter milling around in small groups.

Most of the Scoter were moving west but a small group spent the tide flying down the east side.

Once again the roosting waders provided good photo opportunities.

The habitual female Kestrel is still hunting voles and seems to be spending a lot of its time on Hilbre without venturing to Middle Eye.

There are at least 6 Robins on the island including 2 that have set up winter quarters in the Obs garden.

Sunday was a shopping day but once that deed had been done I spent the afternoon tidying up in the garden whilst carrying out some ringing. In contrast to Barry's the Great Tits outnumbered the Blue Tits and I managed to catch 2 more House Sparrows making the garden total now 20 new birds with the oldest being ringed as an adult male 1 year & 176 days ago and caught again this weekend.

With a Western Orphean Warbler in S Wales, belated news of a Dusky Thrush in a Devon garden at the beginning of November  and hot news of A Yellow-breasted Bunting in Norfolk it seems the twitching year isn't quite over yet. Another wintering American passerine? Ovenbird would do nicely.                                

11 Nov 2013

Purple haze.

Finishing early Friday I made a trip across to Hilbre early afternoon and stayed over the tide for a spot of seawatching. Visibility was good until the rain storms started brewing over the Mersey but the seawatch was relatively unproductive with only a handful of Common Scoter, Gannets, Great-crested Grebes and a single Red-throated Diver to keep me interested.

The Purple Sandpiper flock has built up to 9 birds wit h8 choosing to roost adjacent to the hide and posing well for the camera.

Great little birds and full of charisma. The Turnstone numbers are also building up with well in excess of 100 birds seen flying of to roost on Middle Eye as the tide flooded their feeding grounds. This colour ringed bird was ringed by the Obs in 2007 and has been seen every winter since showing tremendous site fidelity and racking up a few air miles in between.

A female Kestrel caught in one of the Heligoland traps a few weeks ago was found to be a control (a bird ringed elsewhere) and has continued hunting Short-tailed Field Voles around the Island. I managed to get a photo showing the ring whilst the bird was hovering. I watched it make a number of unsuccessful dives but at least two successful ones. Each time it carried its prey to the safety of the buildings at the north end to eat. You can also see a piece of grass hanging off the birds leg from a previous hunting attempt.
With darkness beginning to fall and the West Kirby lights beginning to twinkle in the distance it was time think about  leaving. With the tide still a bit high there was one more photo opportunity as the Islands resident Blackbirds came into the Observatory garden for a last feed before roosting for the night.

The rest of the weekend was spent around the house and garden (or watching the rugby). I did a bit of ringing and there was a small movement of finches with a definite increase in the numbers of Goldfinches and Chaffinches visiting the feeders. Coal Tits and Goldcrests were also on the move with the first tow Coal Tits ringed since last winter and two Goldcrests passing rapidly through the garden. Blackbird numbers are building up and the yare beginning to roost in the trees by the pond.

4 Nov 2013

A quiet weekend at home in Chehsire

A quiet weekend spent around the house and local patch - mainly because I screwed up my dates and should have been ringing waders with SCAN in N Wales! Whether my sciatica would have stood up to humping canons and heavy nets around is another matter though.

Saturday morning was spent clearing fallen leaves and putting them into the compost bin or piling them under the bushes to provide a habitat for wintering insects. I put a couple of small mist nets up and managed to catch a few birds including three male House Sparrows  - one of which was a retrap from August last year.

They really are stunning little birds when seen close up and its hard to believe we weren't allowed to ring them in the 70's when  I first trained. If we had been able to do so we'd have picked up the danger signs of a species in trouble much sooner. I'm trying to increase the number of pairs on our estate by making boxes and encouraging neighbours to let me put them up on their houses. Two more have recently been installed.

A juvenile female Greater spotted Woodpecker and two Goldfinches were also ringed along with a first winter Dunnock and the ubiquitous Blue & Great Tits.

Interestingly 2 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff appeared in the garden just after a short shower (I'd already put the nets away by this time). They must have been moving through and become forced down by the rain. The only other significant garden record was a flock of 200 + Jackdaws over early afternoon. This seemed to coincide with a big movement being reported at other sites in Cheshire.

A walk around the fields Sunday afternoon was very unproductive. Where have all the birds gone?
Apart from at least 6 Buzzards the only birds present in any numbers were the  pre-roost flock of 80+ alba Wagtails in a field of winter wheat. These were coming to a puddle to bath and drink so I stood in the fading light and took a few photo's.

The weekends birding ended with me standing in the garden at dusk listening to the 'chink' 'chink' 'chink' of Blackbirds as they assembled before going to roost.