Sunday, 27 February 2011

Catch up soon

Once again sorry for the lack of posting in the past few days, back to school tomorrow so got lots of coursework to finish off. Hopefully this week I will be able to catch up on lots of recent posts so keep an eye on here as it may get busy.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Dawn till Dusk

Yesterday I met up with Aaron Cregan and Ashley Baines on Lawson's Field at 06:45 in the hope of counting the whooper swans before they leave at dawn to feed in other areas. Unfortunately when we reached Marton Mere there weren't any swans to be seen apart from the resident 4 Mutes Swans; however we did manage to see a large flock of 200+ Pink Footed Geese going over north, probably to feed somewhere Over Wyre. We headed round to the FBC hide to see what was on the mere and found that a small group of Cormorants had already converged on the scrape, 9 birds at 07:30. We searched the barn at the back of the mere in the hope that the Little Owl would be perched in its usual perch; however the only birds present were 3 Stock Doves. There were plenty of ducks on the mere itself with large numbers of Mallard, at least 50 Teal, and flotillas of 15 Goldeneye, 20 Tufted Duck and 25+ Shoveler moving around on the water. There were surprisingly few gulls present with Herring Gull being the only species on the water, with small numbers of Black Headed Gulls flying over west, from roosts to their feeding areas. At this point the Cetti's Warbler fired up from the reeds next to the hide, the first time this year that I have heard it fully singing; a sure sign of spring; as was the first of several Bees that we saw during the day. The Cormorant number had reached 15 by the time we left the hide.

We then decided to head up the bridle path at the north end in the hope of connecting with some more species for the day list. A pair of Mistle Thrush were showing very well near to Staining Nook and whilst we were watching them a small flock of birds shot out of a nearby bush and alighted in an alder tree further down the path. Me and Ash immediately set out scopes up and there in the tree were 4 Siskin! These really are a beautiful little bird, the males especially with their bright green plumage and deep black caps. 3 more birds joined them and we watched them feeding for 10 minutes before a dog walker flushed them and they flew out of sight; there were also 6 Goldfinch and 8 Greenfinch feeding nearby. Further along the track our first bird of prey of the day in the form of a male Sparrowhawk flew over towards Staining, and a flock of 15+ Fieldfare were feeding on the golf course before retreating back into the bushes when a golfer rifled a shot down the green past them. Skylark filled the air with their undulating songs whereas the high pitched calls of Long Tailed Tits came from several areas of bushes along the way. A pair of male Great Spotted Woodpeckers provided a great spectacle as they chased each other around the trees lining the path.

After this we headed back to the mere where we located a pair of Long Eared Owls in the same bush that they were in on Tuesday, one of which was showing very well, staring at us with its fiery orange eyes. At this point the ranger Larry joined us and informed us that the adult Mediterranean Gull was still present on Lawson's Field, but before we headed there we called into the container hide to check the gulls on the mere in case it had sneaked in without us noticing. No sooner had I set up my scope than Larry called "Water Rail" (year tick) and pointed us in the direction of one which had emerged from the reeds and attempted to cross the water before seeing that it was a bad idea and turning round and heading back from whence it came. We then walked towards the field and a call above us drew our attention to a pair of Curlew that were heading high to the west as did a large flock of Rooks. A beautiful female Kestrel was hunting near to Lawson's field and showing very well as it perched up in a tree above us, and a Coal Tit calling from a bush next to the path was a surprise addition to the day list and the only one we saw during the day. As we reached the field it became clear that the gulls had all dispersed as there were only 50 or so birds present, however some of them were Common Gulls in their summer plumage which are always nice to see. We decided to head back to the feeding station at the mere and return later on in the hope that our target bird would re-appear.

The feeders were alive with birds coming and going, lots of Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits on the fat balls, Reed Buntings on the seed and a couple of Robin and Dunnock foraging around on the floor. However it was the scarcer species which provided the highlights of the stop, with at least 5 Tree Sparrows feeding alongside 2 Brambling and at least 20 Chaffinches. Then Larry appeared and told us that there was a pair of Siskin feeding in the alders outside of the hide that we had probably walked right past on the way to the hide! 2 male birds were showing very well and even called occasionally, a brilliant noise.

We headed back to Lawson's Field and were relieved to see that there were several hundred gulls present and feeding on the south side. It didn't take us long to locate the adult Mediterranean Gull; with its jet black head standing out a mile away. Unfortunately our plan to entice the gulls in with bread failed miserably as they took no notice whatsoever of the food so our views of the med gull were distant. We also managed to clear up some of the commoner species for the day list here, with House Sparrows near the allotments, Feral Pigeon over the houses, Magpie and Pied Wagtail on the field and Carrion Crow flying over. As we started walking back to the mere a Meadow Pipit exploded from a patch of rough grass next to the path calling loudly and making all of us jump. This was an unusual place for Meadow Pipit and could indicate a migrant bird. Blackbird and Song Thrush were in evidence on the walk back to the mere with several of each singing loudly from the surrounding trees.

Another 2 Cetti's Warblers were calling/singing from the south west corner of the mere near to the inflow, a good sign that they have survived the hard winter. Another species that seems to have done well over the cold snap is Wren with several birds heard singing around the reserve during the day. A reminder that winter is still with us came in the form of a small group of Redwings that were feeding underneath a row of bushes next to the hide, and upon entering the hide we were greeted by a large flock of gulls bathing in front of us providing a good opportunity to study them more closely. We picked out at least 3 adult Lesser Black Back Gulls amongst the masses of Herrings and then the massive Greater Black Back Gull turned up, dwarfing all the other bird around. A group of 7 Wigeon at the back of the mere made it onto the day list as did a Grey Heron flying over north.

We made our final stop off at the FBC hide for an hour in the hope that a Bittern might do a fly past. The wildfowl numbers had increased on those from the morning, with small numbers of Greylag and Canada Geese making a racket in front of the hide, Moorhen and Coot chasing each other about the mere defending their own territories, and the male Pochard with the broken foot in its usual spot on the scrape sleeping. A trio of Gadwall were feeding on the far side of the mere, the two males in their sleek grey plumage chasing off any Mallard that came too close for their liking. Aaron picked up a pair of Buzzards soaring over the barns at the back, before they were joined by 2 more birds coming across from the Staining direction; amazingly these were then joined by another 4 birds and all 8 circled together on a thermal, a sight record for me. A pair of Kestrels were also present in the fields at the north side, one of which alighted on the owl box which is situated on the island. It hopped down onto the entrance to the box and peered inside before quickly jumping back and away which suggested to us that there must be something already in the box that had scared it off. A pair of Jackdaws also alighted on the box but they decided not to investigate which was probably a good idea!

A large flock of Woodpigeons were present in the north fields and kept getting spooked by an unseen raptor (Larry had seen a Peregrine earlier but we missed it), and several Collard Doves were also present nearby. At least 100 Linnets perched up on the wires over the field, and a flock of Lapwings were commuting between here and the scrape on the mere, their "peewit" calls showing why they are sometimes named as such. The sun was starting to set and a pair of male Pheasants on the island looked stunning with the light illuminating their golden plumage. We did one last circuit of the mere, hoping for the Little Owl to appear on the barn as we rounded the top corner however it wasn't to be in the time I had. Several flocks of Starlings headed over to their roost site on Blackpool north pier, and whilst walking back along the north side a Woodcock appeared from its day time roost spot, darting away through the trees as I neared. Ash and Aaron had gone back round the other side of the mere and text me saying that 5 Whooper Swan had just dropped in, a great end to the day and the 67th species in all. Later on I found out that the others had seen 2 Little Owl and a Barn Owl after I had left which took our combined total to 69 species. A great achievement for 11 hours work.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Marton Mere at it's best

I had only planned on spending a couple of hours at Marton Mere yesterday however the quality of the birds present meant that I actually ended up staying the entire day! As usual I got the bus to Victoria Hospital and walked through Stanley Park to get to the mere. 2 pairs of Great Crested Grebes were present, 1 at each end of the north lake. One of the pairs briefly started their beautiful courtship dance with the male diving underwater before emerging with some pond weed that he would present to the female. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera out at this point! So instead here's a photo of them doing the same behavior from last year.

The darvic ringed Black Headed Gull which was ringed near Copenhagen, Denmark on 25/03/2008 was still present on the south lake. The previous evening Stephen Dunstan had told me about an adult Mediterranean Gull present on Lawson's Field opposite the park that was also bearing a white darvic ring but he hadn't managed to read the ring combination. So I set myself the challenge of trying to read the ring, sound easy? Well location the bird wasn't too difficult, a stunning adult Mediterranean Gull with jet black head and pure white wings, however getting close enough to read the ring was problematic as it was very jittery. I took over 200 photos in the hope that I would be able to piece together the ring from those, and eventually I managed to read the ring as 3N92, and after some enquiries I found that it had been ringed near Antwerpen, Belgium on 14/06/2004 with a green ring, before being re-ringed with the white ring at the same site in 24/06/2006. Full details can be found on Dave McGraths blog.

Then it was on to the mere where the feeders were alive with birds coming and going. A male Brambling was visiting the seed with a group of Chaffinches and is my second bird there in a week following the adult female I had on Friday. At least 4 Tree Sparrows were also coming to the seed along with at 10+ Reed Buntings, some of the males in gorgeous summer plumage. Then it was on to the Fylde Bird Club hide where a couple of young birders were already set up, Ashley Baines and Aaron Cregan. We tried counting the birds present on the mere which sounds easier than it actually is! A flock of Goldeneye were in the middle of the mere, most the males were displaying to the males and we counted 9 adult males, 1 1st winter male and at least 7 female. As usual there were plenty of Cormorants perched up either side of the scrape and although they were all stood still we still had trouble counting them which wasn't helped with new birds flying in every now and then; at the height of the day we counted 30 birds which is the most I have seen here at any one time. The mere usually doesn't support much in the way of waders yet there were at least 20 Lapwings present on the scrape along with a Snipe that ventured out of the reeds for a few minutes to feed (photo below from Inned Farm Marsh). The highlight however was a single Dunlin that flew in from the west and alighted on the scrape and fed for 10 minutes or so before flying back from whence it came. This is my first record of the species at the site and takes my Marton Mere list to 120 species.

Other highlights of the visit included a Cetti's Warbler singing next to the Fylde Bird Club hide, 2 Long Eared Owls roosting in bushes away from their normal area, 2 Buzzard including the now resident bird on the island, a female Sparrowhawk shooting across the path in front of us whilst looking for the owls, the white headed Blackbird still present on the south side and watching Pink Footed Geese through the mist over the barns at the back of the reserve.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Coot Details

I've received the details from my latest batch of colour ringed coots, all seen on Friday at Stanley Park. 4 of the birds I had already seen and 6 were new for me, 1 of which was ringed at Southport Marine Lakes whilst the other 9 were all ringed at Stanley Park.

(Top Left Bird) Orange BTO/Green Black - GR26319 - Adult ringed at Stanley Park on 18/01/2011
(Top Right Bird) Yellow BTO/Yellow Green - GR24363 - 2nd year bird ringed at Stanley Park on 24/09/2010, seen by me at Stanley Park on 02/01/2011

White BTO/Orange Black - GR24390 - Adult ringed at Stanley Park on 29/11/2011

Pink BTO/Orange Mauve - GR25103 - Adult ringed at Southport Marine Lakes on 02/12/2010

Dark Blue BTO/White Black - GN08864 - 2nd year bird ringed at Stanley Park on 02/09/2010

Orange BTO/Mauve Orange - GR26303 - Adult ringed at Stanley Park on 02/12/2010, seen by me at Stanley Park on 02/01/2011

The other 4 birds that I didn't photograph are as follows:

- Yellow BTO/Yellow Orange - GR24362 - 2nd year bird ringed at Stanley Park on 24/09/2010, seen by me at Stanley Park on 02/01/2011

- Orange BTO/Yellow Black - GR24358 - 2nd year bird ringed at Stanley Park on 22/09/2010

- White BTO/Orange Green - GR24386 - Adult ringed at Stanley Park on 10/11/2010, seen by me at Stanley Park on 02/01/2011

- Dark Blue BTO/White White - GN08865 - Adult ringed at Stanley Park on 09/09/2010

Wader Wonder

With another high tide on the cards today I decided that a trip to Pilling and Fluke Hall could produce large flocks of roosting waders on the small areas of marsh left uncovered. Arriving at Pilling Lane Ends the tide had started to flood the edges of the marsh but there seemed to be a lack of birds with Shelduck being the only species present in any large numbers. However in the fields behind the sea wall plenty of waders had gathered to escape the incoming water. At least 100 Lapwings, 70 Redshanks, 45 Golden Plovers and 20 Dunlin were feeding on the flooded fields and after a while I picked out the Ruff (year tick) that had been present for a few days. The Golden Plovers looked stunning in their bright plumage with one or two birds starting to acquire their summer plumage.

It was Fluke Hall that provided the main spectacle, with several thousand Dunlin roosting on the marsh and performing brilliant aerial displays when they took off. In amongst these were at least 200 of my favourite wader, the Grey Plover, with several birds in full summer plumage. The sea also provided some interest with 2 each of Great Crested Grebe and Red Breasted Merganser, 4 male Pintails west and an adult Whooper Swan that drifted in on the tide. Despite looking around I couldn't locate any large Pink Footed Goose flocks, where are they all?

Sorry for the lack of photos in the last few posts, the weather has meant that my camera hasn't left its bag but hopefully with some milder weather forecast the blog will once again return to its colourful self.

Warton Marsh (saturday and sunday)

With high tides over the weekend I thought that Warton Marsh would be the place to be to catch up with some tricky species that only show well over the highest of tides. On Saturday I arrived 45 minutes before high tide and the water had already covered the outer marsh flushing lots of birds closer to the bank. 8 Little Egrets were counted feeding in the various channels and pools being formed by the incoming water. I spotted a familiar Honda jazz parked up and sure enough Maurice Jones was stood behind the open boot lid which provided a very nice shelter from the wind. He got me onto a Short Eared Owl (yeartick) perched on the rapidly flooding outer marsh and over the next 20 minutes we counted 5 birds in all hunting, at one point 4 were in the scope at once! A female Peregrine Falcon mobbed the owls for a short while before going off in pursuit of a flock of waders, and a stunning female Merlin shot over the marsh before perching up on a post giving brilliant views of this charismatic little falcon. A flock of 10 Whooper Swans (6 juveniles) drifted in on the tide and small flocks of Pink Footed, Greylag and Canada geese took off from the marsh as the water approached. As high tide approached we turned our attention to the pipits which were slowly making their way towards us. A small flock of birds landed amongst some drift wood next to the bank and we were given great views of at least 2 Water Pipits (year tick), which searched for food amongst at least 10 Rock Pipits and lots of Meadow Pipits allowing a good comparison between the 3 species.

After this we headed to Starr Gate to do my first proper seawatching session of the year. I quickly logged at least 500 Common Scoter (year tick) close inshore, a single Red Throated Diver, at least 6 Great Crested Grebes and 8 Pintail south. I had been speaking to Starr Gate regular Dave McGrath the previous evening and he had told me of a large flock of gulls that feeds on the dropping tide to the south of the promenade so I headed here in the hope of bagging something interesting. After some time I located an adult Yellow Legged Gull (year tick) amongst a group of large gulls on the waters edge. I suspect this flock could produce something interesting in the near future.

On Sunday the weather had turned chillier with a biting south-easterly wind. Nevertheless a large crowd of birders had gathered at Warton Bank to watch the tide once again come rushing up to the bank. The best birds were a pair of Marsh Harriers (year tick) seen distantly hunting over Hesketh out marsh on the opposite side of the river. Unfortunately they didn't cross over to the Fylde side so they are yet to make it onto my Fylde year list. Only 3 Short Eared Owls were seen and they seemed less inclined to hunt than on the previous day, but the female Merlin once again zoomed past us and perched up on it's favourite post, giving brilliant views. The Pipits put on another instructive showing close to the bank with at least 3 Water Pipits seen with similar number of Rock and Meadow to previous days, also a candidate for Scandinavian Rock Pipit was briefly seen but not all the features could be noted whilst it was on view.

British Yearlist 2011 - 127 species
Fylde Yearlist 2011 - 126 species

Saturday, 19 February 2011

All the C's (yesterday)

My parents have been away for the past couple of days so I was without transport yesterday, meaning that I could only get out birding using buses. I decided that I would go down to Stanley Park and Marton Mere in the hope of photographing more colour ringed coots, and also to get a couple of year ticks.

Unlike my last visit to the park, both of the lakes were unfrozen meaning that the Coots were much more spread out and also reduced in numbers as most of them had moved back to their breeding sites. Also they were reluctant to come out of the water so I only managed to read 10 combinations and most of these were of birds on the water where I could see the rings. 3 of these birds I photographed on the park on 02/01/2011 and I am currently awaiting details on the other 7. Also present was my first ever darvic ringed gull, an adult Black Headed Gull. Talking to Craig Brookes about it he informed me that it was ringed in Denmark and has wintered in the park every year since, before returning to Denmark for the summer to breed.

I then walked round to Marton Mere where I found a large flock of gulls bathing in the centre of the lake. Usually I wouldn't bother with gulls as I don't have the patience, however I decided to try my luck and was rewarded with a stunning adult Mediterranean Gull in summer plumage. My main target bird of the day was Cetti's Warbler (yeartick) and I hoped that if I staked in the Fylde Bird Club hide a bird would reveal itself in the reeds on either side, as they have done on several previous visits. After around 30 minutes I eventually picked up the call of a bird in the right hand reed bed and after a few minutes it appeared hopping around the base of the reeds, before flying across the water in front of the hide. On the way back I stopped off at the feeding station where a female Brambling was coming to the seed along with several Chaffinches and at least 8 Reed Buntings.

In the afternoon I went round to my grandparents house and my grandad suggested we take the dog for a walk around the mere. The birds were very similar to when I had been there in the morning however I bumped into Maurice Jones and Frank Bird in the Fylde Bird Club hide, who informed me of a Red Kite that Frank had seen over the mere at 2pm!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Getting to know the Locals

Once again the weather was fine whilst walking home from school so it was off down to the crematorium again for a couple of hours. The Pink Footed Geese were once again present in the south fields however the flock had reduced in size by about 60%, from 500 to only 200 this afternoon. The normal Canada Geese were still present, 5 on Pond 1 and 2 around the pond in the field, but the Greylag Geese had again reduced in numbers, down from 18 to 13. One of these birds has an apparent broken wing and was getting chased away from the other 12, spending most of it's time on the pond, hopefully it will recover in the coming weeks. 13 Mallard (7 male) were present on Pond 1, the males performing a sort of display dance reminiscent of Goldeneye, rising up out of the water and bobbing their heads, not something I have seen before. Also another 2 Mallards were present on Pond 2 in the south west corner. A total of 6 Moorhen today (3 on Pond 1, 1 on Pond 2, 2 in the south fields) but only 3 Coot (both colour ringed birds present).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

More on the Patch

Like yesterday the weather was very changeable today, at some times being sunny and at other times raining; however by around 1pm it had settled on grey cloud with very occasional rain so I decided to get out to Carleton Crematorium again to see if there had been any change in the wildfowl numbers and also to walk around the rest of the crem to try and find any small birds.

The Pink Footed Geese were once again present in the fields at the south end of the crematorium, around 500 birds in all. As usual they were very flighty and didn't allow any close viewing so I couldn't find anything else amongst them. Other birds present in the fields included 18 Greylag Geese, 2 Canada Geese (new in), 8 Mallard, 2 Coot (both unringed), 3 Moorhen and a large flock of c3000 Starlings. On the main pond were the usual 5 Canada Geese, 12 Mallard, 2 Moorhen and 2 Coot (1 colour ringed bird). I was confused about where the second colour ringed bird had gone however I had noticed another small pond to the west of the crematorium that could be viewed through the side fence. On this were single Moorhen and Coot and as I had suspected the Coot was the second colour ringed individual. I have received the ringing information about both of these birds from Kane Brides and as I suspected they were both ringed on Stanley Park during the cold snap in mid december. It will be interesting to see if we get any more cold weather and if so whether they will move back to the park.

Other birds present around the crematorium include a single Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Great Tit, 3 Blue Tit and a pair of Chaffinch. Below is a brief summary of the changes in wildfolw numbers which I will update after each visit:

Pink Footed Geese - about the same at around 500
Greylag Geese - down 6 from 24 to 18
Canada Geese - up 2 from 5 to 7
Mallard - down 3 from 23 to 20
Coot and Moorhen equal at 5 and 6 respectively

Monday, 14 February 2011

Make your mind up!

The weather could not make it's mind up today on how it was going to be, the morning started with a glorious sunshine but by 9am it was raining, before the sun re-emerged around 12. My mum had agreed to take me out after to school and I had planned to go to Marton Mere in the hope of catching up with Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail. However whilst walking home from school I could here the Pink Footed Geese to the west of Carleton and I decided to head Over Wyre to see if I could find any Barnacle or Brent amongst the large Pink Feet flocks.

My plans were somewhat scuppered by the entire length of Bradshaw Lane between Pilling and Eagland Hill being closed! This meant I couldn't search an area where I had seen geese on my last visit and also lost any chance I seeing a Short Eared Owl which had been in the area. Instead I headed down to the Lane Ends car park in the hope some geese would be out on the marsh. Only 500 Pink Footed Geese or so were present from the sea wall however they were close in meaning they were easy to search through, another neck collared bird was noted amongst them but I couldn't read the letters, there seem to be allot of them about this winter. A large male Peregrine Falcon was sitting on the edge of the marsh watching the waders feeding out on the mud, surely the same bird that I saw 2 weeks ago at the same location? A flock of 22 Whooper Swans were feeding on a small pool in the distance, and although I didn't manage any photos today I think the blog needs a dash of colour so below is a picture of the bird present on Fleetwood Marine Lakes a few weeks ago.

Although spring seems to be on its way the light still starts to go at around 5pm so I thought that before it faded I would head down to Knott End in the hope that some birds would be present on the incoming tide. Plenty of Cormorants were flying west out of the bay as did a trio of Kittiwakes (yeartick) and a pair of Eider. A large flock of gulls were present on the beach off the esplanade but unfortunately most were sleeping so I couldn't find anything else amongst them. With my year tick I headed home happy and I am now on 121 species for the year all in the Fylde.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Egyptian Goose

Yesterday afternoon I received a text from Paul Slade informing me of an Egyptian Goose present on a lake south of Nateby near Garstang. Last year one was present near Cockerham between the 23rd of February and 3rd March, yet for some reason I never went for it and have regretted it ever since as Egyptian Geese are rare on the Fylde so I didn't think I would get another chance in a hurry. My dad agreed to take me in the morning so I arrived at the lake at 10:30. The description from the text said to take the footpath 350 yards south and view the lake to the west, sounds simple? Well the footpath was very over grown and didn't seem to have been used very much, and also the field that you had to view from was extremely muddy meaning I nearly slipped over a few times; couple this with difficult viewing through 2 different lines of trees between me and the lake you can imagine it wasn't easy.

As I set up my scope I spotted a familiar figure walking towards me across the field, Len Blacow who I did my work experience and volunteering work with and also a top local birder. We started searching the lake from out view point but with only 50% visible it was difficult. A nice flock of 5 Goosander (2 male) were present along with 2 Teal and a single Oystercatcher roosting on a pontoon. A flock of feral geese were present on the fields to the right of the lake, 12 Greylag, 5 Barnacle and 2 Chinese Swan Geese, but the Egyptian goose wasn't with them. However after about 20 minutes I eventually spotted the Egyptian Goose (year tick) swimming across the lake towards the far bank and managed to get Len onto it. Obviously the origins of these birds are always dubious but it's going on the list as when it hauled itself out of the water we could see that it was unringed.

Regular readers of the blog may have noticed that I haven't yet left the Fylde during 2011, this is because I am focusing on the Fylde Bird Club Yearlist Challenge this year and want to be competitive as the past 2 year I have finished 11/14. If you want to keep up to date on how everyone is doing check out this link Fylde Yearlist 2011.

Not quite to plan (yesterday)

Yesterday I was hoping to clean up some more yearticks in the north of the Fylde, especially the Snow Bunting at Cockersands. I arrived at 10am with the tide quite far out, which meant that most of the birds were along way out and difficult to view. I walked from the car park up to plover scar in the hope that the bunting would be near the sea wall, however it was not to be and there was no sign of any small birds at all. A pair of Eider were feeding offshore as were a large flock of Wigeon and I counted 24 Pintail.

Since I was close to Ellel Grange I thought that a stop off here might produce Kingfisher and Jay for the year as I saw 3 of each on my last visit on the canal, however once again neither of them were showing. Luckily the woods around the canal were full of birds, with large flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare being hurried off by at least 3 Mistle Thrushes that were determined to protect their local patches. An area of flooded woodland by the side of the canal looked good for Woodcock (year tick) and sure enough almost immediately I noticed one scuttling away through the undergrowth, my first one in almost 2 years. A single Raven flew north as did 2 Buzzards.

The plan after this was to head down to Preston via a quick stop off at Myerscough Quarry to get Goosander for the year, however this "quick stop" turned into a thorough search of the area and it meant that I didn't get time to get down to Cottam Brickworks. The quarry lake was alive with gulls, hundreds of Black Headed Gulls and Common Gulls, 14 Goosander (1 off the site record I believe), 6 Goldeneye (2 males which were displaying) and over 250 Wigeon. A strange Aytha hybrid was present on the lake and after getting home I found out that it was a Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid. The Goosander and Woodcock take me up to 119 for the year out of 146 species seen in the fylde so far in 2011.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Fab day on the Patch

A gorgeous day with wall to wall sunshine throughout meaning that I wanted to get out and check out my new local patch to get some preliminary numbers of the species present. Unfortunately I had to be back at school at 5:30 to help out with a year 9 options evening which meant that I had from 3:20-5:00 to walk the 5 miles or so around the patch, yet it didn't exactly go to plan.

Walking along Blackpool Road towards Carleton Crematorium I was surprised by the number of flowers that had bloomed into flower overnight, plenty of snowdrops and even a few crocuses poking up through the soil. I was also amazed to see my first butterfly of the year flutter across the road in front of me, and the few seconds it took me to comprehend this early sighting stooped me from being able to identify which species it was, but it wasn't large so maybe a Small Tortoiseshell.

Reaching the crematorium I thought it would be a good idea to monitor the bird numbers on the small pond at the south end. Today the totals were 23 Mallard (12 males), 5 Canada Geese, 3 Greylag Geese, 4 Moorhen, 3+ Coots. Initially there were 2 Coot on the pond, 1 of which was colour ringed, probably a bird that was ringed at Stanley Park during the cold snap.

I was then confronted with a surprise in the form of a large flock of at least 500 Pink Footed Geese feeding in the fields at the south end of the crematorium. This put pay to my previous plans as I decided to search through them in the hope of finding anything interesting. There was a flock of 21 Greylag Geese present with them which according to one of the local dog walkers are resident birds at the crematorium, but are separate from the 3 that live in the pond. I suspect that this was the same Pink Footed Goose flock that I saw a few days ago on the other side of Carleton, as this flock also contained a neck collared bird, which this time was close enough to read, LAF. I'm going to send the details off soon.

After searching through the pink feet i headed back to the pond and was surprised to see a different colour ringed coot feeding on the bank, however the original bird was nowhere to be seen, both were with an unringed companion. So either there were 2 different pairs which had swapped whilst I was watching the geese, or the original colour ringed bird had been moved on by the second bird (there was definitely only 2 birds on the pond at any one time). It should be interesting to see how this site develops during the course of the year.

Other birds seen included single Mistle and Song Thrushes, Robin, Goldfinch and 2 Grey Heron over.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Song Thrushes Still

The local area has come alive over the past week with singing birds, and all 4 of the now resident Song Thrushes are still singing their hearts out on my route to school. The bird this side of the railway has taken to sitting in the bushes outside of my house and only sings from about 9 at night till 8 in the morning, so I go to bed with the sound of Song Thrush and wake up to the same, a beautiful song. The other 3 birds are holding strong on Derby Road, by the train station and next to school respectively and hopefully they will all go on to be successfull during the breeding season.

I've also been looking on some maps and mapped out a course of a new local patch for me that takes in lots of different areas in Carleton, Bispham and Poulton which I will walk around during the year and hopefully get to know the local birds. Talking to a friend from the Fylde Bird Club he reckons the area would be good for migrants such as Redstart and Pied Flycatcher in the Spring and Autumn so I will keep an eye out. Hopefully soon I will do the full walk around the patch and I will do a blog post about all the different areas, watch this space.

Monday, 7 February 2011

After the Storm ...

For the first time in at least 4 days the sun managed to poke it's way out from behind the clouds this morning, and although the wind was still as strong as it has been the rain didn't come and it felt like a nicer day. Walking home from school today I passed over the dyke that runs through derby road, and the recent rain had swelled it to the highest level I have ever seen it. The dyke runs into the fields behind my house and this explains why they have been flooding over the weekend.

I heard a large flock of Pink Footed Geese somewhere close by when I reached Carleton and spotted them going down on the north-west edge of the village, so I decided to go investigate and try and locate them (once I had picked up my binoculars from home of course). I had a pretty good idea where they would be and I managed to locate them in an area of fields along a stretch of road between Poulton and Bispham. However typically they were keeping their distance and I had to search for a closer vantage point, which although I managed to get slightly closer, still meant that half the flock was out of sight. I would estimate around 400 birds but nothing out of the ordinary apart from a single neck collared bird, although it was too far away to read.

I still had a good walk however with plenty of birds around, the totals being: 6 Mute Swans, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Moorhen, 8 Mallard, 1 Kestrel, 3 Redwing (first I have seen in a while), 2 Wren, a Pied Wagtail and a Curlew. Not bad for my local area and 4.5 km walking is never bad for you.

Also forgot to add that I had a great house bird in the form of a Merlin on sunday! Only my second record from the house..

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Review of the Year 2010 - Part 3

The main part of the month was taken up with my work experience, where I worked with Len Blacow, the head countryside ranger for Wyre Borough Council and one of the most experienced birders in the Fylde. Although we were working I still managed to see a number of good birds, the highlights being: discovering a pair of Whitethroat feeding young in a nest along the promenade at Fleetwood on the 6th, Len showing me a Little Owl nest box Over Wyre and seeing one of the adults on the 8th, discovering a Ringed Plover nest on the beach at Rossall Point on Friday the 9th, an Arctic Skua past Fluke Hall whilst helping him with his WEBS count on the 11th, seeing an adult Mediterranean Gull off Cleveleyes on the 12th and on the same day discovering our second Ringed Plover nest on the beach south of Rossall School. Also on this day we watched 4 chicks hatch from the nest by Rossall Point, which survived to become the first Ringed Plover chicks to fledge in Fleetwood in a decade! I never found out how the second nest fared but I suspect due to it's location it will have been abandoned.

The rest of the month was dominated by seabirds, with a Fylde Bird Club pelagic on the evening of the 22nd producing great views of Manx Shearwaters, Fulmar and Kittiwake, before a trip to Northumberland on the 24th and 25th. I had a strange feeling of de ja vu over the weekend as I managed 3 year ticks, Osprey, Roseate Tern and Puffin, which were the same 3 yearticks that I had got on a trip to Northumberland the previous July. It was my first trip to the Farne Islands with a camera so I took plenty of photos, a few of which are below.

The month ended in a flurry with a stunning Hobby at Brockholes Quarry on the 28th being overshadowed by a Purple Gallinule at Saltney, which despite being an escapee was still a gorgeous bird to watch.

A family holiday to Crete from the 3rd-10th was never going to hold much birdwatching, however it didn't stop me seeing a number of brilliant species and adding 11 lifers to my world list: Bonelli's Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, Scopoli's Shearwater, Rupell's Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Crested Lark, Short Toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and Italian Sparrow.

With a wealth of birds present on the east coast I managed to persuade my mum to take me for an over night stay in Durham to try and get some lifers. Plenty of seabirds during the morning at Whitburn with 2 Black Terns, 8 Roseate Terns and a Great Skua before a trip inland produced a lifer in the form of Spotted Crake at Shibdon Pond along with a Garganey. Then the next day a Great Northern Diver past Hartlepool Headland was followed by my second lifer of the trip, a juvenile Whiskered Tern at Saltholme RSPB. On the last day of the month I made my first visit to Pennington Flash near Manchester, an excellent site and a 1st winter Little Gull took my year list up to 200 species.

With autumn migration well under way it was the Fylde that produced some of the best local specialities during the month. 2 juvenile Curlew Sandpipers on the river Conder showed well along with 2 Spotted Redshanks and the wintering Common Sandpiper on the 11th. The first of the big autumn gales whipped through the north-west on the 15th and some massive counts of Leach's Petrels were made, with over 500 seen past Hilbre on the Dee Estuary! My count at Rossall Point was much less than this yet 7 birds showed brilliantly close inshore, some of which came right up and over the beach as they battled against the wind. On the 17th a juvenile Red Necked Phalarope (lifer) was discovered on Fairhaven Lake, the first twitchable bird for over 20 years, and luckily for me it was still showing well the next day, my second UK Phalarope after the female Wilson's at Martin Mere in 2008.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wind and more Wind

Today was one of those days where you can see the weather getting steadily worse in front of your eyes. The morning was quite nice with the sun giving the clouds a red tinge as it rose in the far east, with the chorus of morning bird song punctuated by the Song Thrush which has now taken up residence behind my house and is a very reliable alarm clock, always starting singing at 6:30. As it has been for the last 2 mornings there were small flocks of Pink Footed Geese heading south low down over the estate, yet they seem to be getting confused of late as when they reach the estate they lose all sense of synchronisation and the V shaped flocks collapse into a jumble of birds.

However by the afternoon the wind was starting to pick up and the clouds were rolling in. Walking home from school after a badminton match was certainly an experience with pieces of trees and plastic bags providing flying obstacles which needed dodging round on occasion. A large flock of 250+ Pink Footed Geese headed over north at an incredible rate of knots with the wind behind them. At the moment whilst writing this I can hear the wind rushing through the trees and the banging of fence posts, it could be interesting walking to school tomorrow as during the last round of storms I had to take a different route due to a tree blocking one of the paths!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Sunday Round up

I had planned to get out to the local patches early in the morning to get some extra yearticks and also to check upon the colour ringed coots at Stanley Park; however the plans went out the window when I didn't get up till 11:30! I didn't expect to get out birding after this however my parents decided to take a walk along the beach at Fleetwood, and since I still needed a few waders for the year I thought I would tag along. The tide was going out unfortunately meaning that most of the waders were a long way out, however further round the coast towards rossall point the tide doesnt go out so far and on the beach there were at least 100 Oystercatchers, 30 Redshanks and 2 Ring Plover (yeartick).

The sea wasn't much better for birds with a small passage of Cormorants numbering 74 in total, however a surprise did come in the form of a Shag (yeartick) flying north, not a common bird in my area, this is only my third. The only other birds were 9 Eider floating around on the tide. The Shag and Ringed Plovers take me up to 117 species for the year.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Super Saturday

I've finally managed to sort out all my photographs from the weekend, and since I've got some free time I will do a full post about the weekends birding, so here goes.

The day started off early morning with my mum doing the driving, (as my dad doesn't usually get up till 10), and first port of call was the feeding station at Bradshaw Lane to see if the Barn Owls would still be around. Pulling up I quickly spotted one bird in a distant field and then a second in the field closest to the road, giving brilliant views as it hunted in the early morning sun. Also present were 3 Yellowhammers and a pair of Stock Doves (year tick) in the adjacent field.

Then it was on to Pilling Lane ends to look for some geese, and after a quick search I managed to locate a flock of 600 or so Pink Footed Geese in fields just west of the car park. From the seawall I managed to pick out an adult White Fronted Goose (year tick) with them although apparently a brent goose was seen in the same area later in the day. On the marsh itself was a male Peregrine that was sitting on the tide edge watching the wader flock, and at least 60 Whooper Swans scattered around before they slowly departed for the inland pastures. I then decided to head up to Cockersands to try and locate the Snow Bunting that had been present for a few days previously, yet there was no sign along the sea wall towards the abbey. However there were plenty of birds about with yearticks coming in the form of a beautiful male Brambling, Sanderling and finally Great Crested Grebe; and the estuary also held massive flocks of Wigeon with Teal, Pintail and a few Eider mixed in. The rest of the morning passed without much incidence apart from a Little Owl (yeartick) on the ruined barn by Jeremy Lane and a male Goldeneye on Conder Pool.

When I arrived home at lunch time a parcel awaited for me on the kitchen table, and I knew immediately what it was, my new Nikon D90 camera. I hadn't expected it to arrive till Monday so I was over the moon and immediately wanted to test it out. So my earlier plans went out the window and I decided to go down to Fleetwood Marine Lakes as this is one of the best places to get close to good birds that aren't too jumpy. Upon arrival I spotted the Whooper Swan that has taken up residence this winter on the near bank and over the next 30 minutes it gave unbelievable views down to a few feet. 6 Mute Swans were also present and I managed to read 3 of the rings, BU4 which from my notes I believe was one of the cygnets that was raised on the Marine Lakes last year, and SXV and SXY which are one of 2 pairs of birds at Fleetwood Nature Reserve, presumably that have moved here in the harsh weather as the marine lakes don't completely freeze.

It was then on to Thornton ICI Reservoir where the Ring Necked Duck (year tick) had once again relocated for a single day to it's original host lake. It never seems to stay in one place for very long so I was glad to have been able to catch up with it with a group of 9 Pochard and 3 Tufted Ducks. This is now the 5th time I've seen this bird, following sightings at Marton Mere, Fleetwood Marine Lakes, Preesall Flashes and the ICI Reservoir. Also on the reservoir were a pair of Goldeneye, the male of the pair treating me and my dad to a delightful viewing of it's courtship dance as it tried to catch the eye of the female, even if it didn't have any competition. Crappy record shot below of the Ring Necked Duck.

For the last part of the day I wanted to try and get some better shots of the Red Necked Grebe at Fairhaven lake, however when I arrived it was sitting right in the middle of the lake with a trio of male Pochards, and never came close to the banks. Luckily there were plenty of other birds to photograph in the evening sunlight, a male Shoveler was a surprise feeding amongst the Mallards and Black Headed Gulls.

The final stop of the day was Ashton Gardens in the centre of St Anne's, where a male Mandarin (year tick) had been reported as being present on the small pond in the north corner. The pond was very small and mostly frozen but nevertheless there were plenty of Mallards present and the stunning male Mandarin which was in it's full summer plumage. Whilst photographing it I heard quite a commotion above me and looked up to see a large flock of at least 50 Greenfinches; one of the highest numbers I have ever seen together; in the trees around the pond, and whilst looking through them I located a single male Siskin (yeartick) which was a very nice surprise.

So overall a great day with 78 species seen in the Fylde area and 9 year ticks taking my year list up to 115 species.