Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Spotted Sandpiper! Brockholes Quarry

Yesterday morning Bill Aspin found a gorgeous summer plumaged Spotted Sandpiper at Brockholes Quarry/Wetland, which I had to go and see despite the rain that was setting in as I set off. This was my first visit to the site since it's redevelopment into a proper reserve and I was very impressed with the visitor centre and also the range of hides and viewing platforms that were dotted around the sight. I walked from the car park to the viewing area that overlooks number 1 pit, where a group of about 20 birders were already present, and I got my first view of the Spotted Sandpiper (British 262) feeding along the shore below the artificial nest bank, only 50 metres or so from where we were standing allowing for scope filling views! Amongst the birders coming and going were all of the young birders from the area, Ash and Aaron turned up after a while, Lee Harrison from Preston, and Reece Gallagher in the company of his dad Derek. There were plenty of other birds around the lake including massive numbers of Swifts, a Common Sandpiper that at times fed next to the Spotted allowing great views, plenty of Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers around the rushes, and also a Ringed Plover along the back of the pit. Photo courtesy of Bill Aspin

From here we headed along the motorway north to Cockersands where I had hoped to catch up with a Little Stine and Curlew Sandpiper that were seen the previous evening with the Dunlin flock. However there were no small waders to be found but while I was there I met Paul Ellis and Len Blacow who kindly directed me towards a creek where a pair of Avocets were present. These are my first in the Fylde this year and only my second ever in the Fylde so I was pretty pleased to see them. They were flushed after a short while by a farmer on a quad bike and they flew high off east towards Glasson. Also present was a Little Egret and several Shelducks. The sandpiper and avocets take me up to 180 and 177 for Britain and the Fylde this year respectively.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Better weather, Better moths

Yesterday the temperature finally increased and with the wind dieing down I was hopeful of catching a few moths during the night, which was exactly what happened with several being attracted to my bedroom including 2 new for me, Silver-ground Carpet and a gorgeous Brimstone (one of my favourite). The weather forecest is similar for the rest of this week so I may be able to catch plenty more soon.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Manxies on the Move

A week off school, a week without any exams and i week where I can hopefully add a few ticks to my yearlist that has flat lined in recent weeks. With the strong winds still blowing in from the north west today I decided it was time to do a seawatch off Rossall to try and connect with a few shearwaters that have been passing the coast recently. I decided to set up by Rossall School at first as I hoped it might be a bit more sheltered there, however the wind swung round so it was due west and right into my face, battering the scope about making viewing very difficult! On the first sweep I picked out an adult Gannet heading south and then a pair of Manx Shearwaters (yeartick) distantly speeding north. I spent 15 minutes in my position and counted 16 Manxies and 3 Gannets in total before I decided to head round to Rossall Point in the hope that I could hide behind the coastgaurd tower and use it as shelter. Luckily the tower proved to be an excellent windbreak and I spent half an hour there, with plenty more shearwaters passing by including about 1/4 that were close in allowing for excellent views. The totals between 12:00 and 12:45 for both sites were:
72 Manx Shearwaters N (my highest ever count)
8 Gannet S
1 Fulmar S
9 Auk sp (5N, 4S)

Friday, 27 May 2011

Notable Absence

I spent a few hours at my window today to see how many species I could see from the house in a day, my record is 36 species in 24 hours which shouldn't be too difficult to beat in the autumn. Today I managed 29 species in total but with some notable absences such as Black Headed Gull (I get flocks of 200+ sometimes in the autumn and winter feeding in the fields) as they have all moved off to their breeding sites now. The full list from today with the highlights (in garden terms) in bold:
Grey Heron - 1 over south
Shelduck - 1 over river
Mallard - several over the fields
Sparrowhawk - female hunting over fields
Buzzard - 1 distantly over river
Pheasant - resident male calling from fields
Lesser Black Back Gull - lots in the area and over the river
Herring Gull - same as above but smaller numbers
Feral Pigeon - several around estate and 1 in garden
Woodpigeon - lots in area
Collared Dove - several pairs around the estate
Swift - 2 singletons over fields north
Swallows - 20+ around fields and over road
House Martin - 1 north
Wren - pair in garden
Dunnock - several in garden and bushes
Robin - resident pair still going to the nest occasionally
Blackbird - several in garden and neighbours gardens
Sedge Warbler - male still singing in bushes
Blue Tit - at least 3 in the garden
Great Tit - pair collecting food for young somewhere
Magpie - several birds briefly in garden including 1 juvenile
Jackdaw - a few around during the day and then a flock of c30 south east in the evening (daily occurrence)
Rook - 2 birds north at midday
Carrion Crow - at least 4 birds in the fields
Starling - at least 20 around the garden with several young birds present
House Sparrow - at least 25 in garden and bushes, including the partially leucistic female ane male from last years brood, and a new young bird also showing the white patches on wings and tail
Goldfinch - 2 adults with the juvenile again
Greenfinch - 1 calling from bushes

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Garden Update

Just a quick update tonight in between revising, however after my physics exam tomorrow I have got 10 days off till my next one so hopefully I will be able to get out and do some proper birding! On the days that the wind has died down the garden has been full of birds with plenty of species now feeding recently fledged young. Lots of House Sparrow and Starling young begging food from their parents, a young Goldfinch was briefly seen in the company of an adult on my roof and also a pair have been building a new nest in the bush behind my house. On the 20th I heard the lovely scratching song of a Sedge Warbler calling from the bushes along the train tracks, this is the 3rd year that what I presume to be the same bird has now returned and it is a great noise to wake up to each morning now, that is when I can hear it over the wind! A few hirundines have been seen recently including several House Martins along with larger numbers of Swallows feeding over the fields. Finally a Whitethroat feeding along the bushes on the 22nd was the first for a while but it could have been around quite a long time as I haven't been looking very much.

A little mystery that has cropped up recently is the pair of Robins that built a nest in the ivy by the house. I first noted the birds building the nest on the 7th and since then I have seen the birds every now and then in the garden, with one bird bringing food to the other, passing it over and then the bird with the food flys back to the nest. This was still happening today but not often enough to have chicks, so are they still sitting on eggs or maybe they only have a small number of chicks, or maybe they have none and are just acting strangely, any ideas?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

When theres no birds to photograph...

A few photos from a walk along the beach at Rossall with my parents last week. No birds of interest to note so I tried a few more artistic shots instead, good or bad?

Finally some Birding

With all my GCSE exams recently I haven't had any real chance to get out birding, or even blog for that matter. Already had 3 exams this week however now I've got a day and a half off till my next one which is Physics on Friday morning. So after getting home today about 11 o'clock I decided to go out and check the local patch to see how the birds were getting on and also to check how many fledged birds I could see. First port of call was Carleton Crematorium where the local male Sparrowhawk flew over the entrance being persued by several Swallows. Upon reaching the pond I was amazed to see a total of 29 Mallards feeding on the water or resting on the bank, the most I have seen at this site. On closer inspection it turned out that 5 of these were almost fully grown youngsters, so whether they had grown up on the pond in the month that I hadn't checked it, or flown in from somewhere nearby I don't know.
The Coot family was still present, the chicks aren't going to grow much more as they are almost the size of the adults now, it was good to see that all 3 were still there and looking healthy. The colour ringed adult was feeding alongside its young as can be seen in the photos below.

The walk around the rest of the patch produced a few highlights, the best being:

- 2 Swift over the crem and a male Kestrel hunting along the fringes.

- The Mute Swan pair on Bispham Marsh now have 5 young which all looked healthy, and both Great Crested Grebes were still present with one sitting on the nest which may mean that the chicks were tucked up underneath, if there are any chicks that is.

- Single singing Chiffchaff and Whitethroat along the path between the marsh and Robins Lane.

- The Little Grebe still feeding quite happily on the flood by Robins Lane, although I'm surprised it hasn't moved off to look for a mate. A Coot family with 2 large young were also present which hatched out a month ago, however I didn't see the other family but they could be hiding away around the fringes.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Pug Quiz

When birding for me the most difficult family of birds to identify is the small brown waders, I just really struggle with identifying them as to me they all look the same! However that puzzle is nothing compared to the problems when it comes to identifying Pugs in the mothing world. From what I have learnt so far there seems to be a bewildering array of species that all look basically the same with only small differences. Here are the 5 I have caught so far to give you an idea of what they are like, from top to bottom: Double Barred, Golden Rod, Common, and then 2 as yet unidentified species.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Moths are Back

The decline in the weather conditions at the start of this month has meant that I caught a grand total of 0 moths between the 1st and 18th May, however with the slight increase in temperatures and sunnier conditions in the past couple of days have obviously brought them out and I have had 3 on each of the past 2 nights. On Thursday I caught a Brown House Moth (1st record for my 10km square since 1999), Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet (nfm) and an as yet unidentified pug (the bane of my mothing life!). Last night I caught 2 pugs, 1 Common Pug (nfm) and another unidentified one, and also a Garden Pebble (nfm) and I am hoping to catch some more tonight though hopefully more macro's and less pugs (which I am going to do a post on soon to show how complicated they are).

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bit of a Break

I've got 3 days off school now till my next exam so hopefully I might be able to get out and do a bit of birding over the weekend. This afternoon after getting back from school I decided to try and photograph the birds in my garden using my Tamron 200-500mm lens (which I have rarely used since I bought it last autumn). The Robins are still showing ocassionally and going in and out of the nest site every now and then so I assume that they are still sitting on eggs. I also had my first garden Swift of the year flying over in the company of several Swallows, and the female Sparrowhawk put in an appearance diving into next doors garden however I couldn't see if she had been successful in catching a meal or not.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Recent Sightings

Little chance for birding and blogging recently due to exams (first one tomorrow, Biology), however I have seen a few things whilst out and about, so to list a few:

- after going missing for a week or so the Robins have reappeared in my garden, one bird visiting the nest site occasionally (every hour or so) with food which could mean the male is feeding the female on the nest. Hopefully in the next week or so if they have eggs they should hatch and the adults will start showing more.

- still 1 Chiffchaff singing on my route to school so I'm assuming it hasn't found a mate yet, leaving it too late...

- 3 male Mallards have been hanging around my estate this week, I saw them on my roof on thursday and my mum saw them in the front garden yesterday.

- there has been a singing Whitethroat that I can hear every morning on the railway track behind my garden. I am hoping that in the nice weather we are meant to get this weekend I will be able to get out and take a look along there and also the local patch again.

Friday, 13 May 2011

School Stops Play

Sorry for the lack of posts recently but I have been doing revision most nights to prepare for my GCSE exams which start next week. Unfortunately this has also meant that I haven't been able to get out birding recently and as such my recent sightings consist of the regular Chiffchaff still singing on my way to school, several noisy broods of Starlings being fed under the roofs of houses on my street, 3 male Mallard sat on my roof a few days ago (not a common sight) and finally the regular female Sparrowhawk hunting over the garden most days. However today was my last full day at Hodgson so I think I will get a chance to do some birding this weekend before getting back into revision ready for my Biology exam on Thursday, so until then good birding and hopefully the weather will be better for you than it is here at the moment!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

And Another Lifer!

I don't think I can remember a period of birding in the Fylde which can match the past 3 weeks for amount of rarities found and just generally the number of species around. I suspect that Sunday was the end of this run for me and the final lifer of the spell was a pair of Temminick's Stints (261) that were found by Maurice Jones on the entrance pool at Newton Marsh. They were being difficult when I first arrived by feeding in a creek which could just about be viewed from the road but only a small section of it so the birds were only on view for a short period of time. Also present here were a single Ruff, Common Sandpiper and at least 20 Black Tailed Godwits some of which were in full summer plumage.

On the way home we stopped off at Lytham Crematorium where despite several being heard we could only locate 1 Ring Necked Parakeet calling high up in a tree. My brother took the only photos of it (1 of which below) and I decided to photograph a Jackdaw which was feeding around the edge of the pond amongst the ducks.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Garden Birds

In the past couple of days a pair of Robins have been nest building in the ivy right next to my house, the same place where a pair of Wrens raised 5 young in 2008. It hasn't been sunny yet so no decent photos so the ones here were taken through a glass door in overcast conditions. Also photographed was a male Blackbird that spent some time seeing of a new male on its territory, with a keen female watching the proceedings from nearby.

Friday, 6 May 2011

4th Time Lucky

The Iberian Chiffchaff in Devonshire Road rock gardens had been heard singing 3 mornings in a row since its discovery on Tuesday, so surely it would be singing again this morning when I went down before school... Of course it wasn't! The weather was meant to be clear but typically it was raining lightly however I found Stuart Piner on sight when I arrived listening to a common Chiffchaff calling in the normal area along the south end. A single Common Whitethroat flew in for a while and started singing nearby, and the regular Lesser Whitethroat was rattling away from a large hawthorn bush. My original plan was to walk from here to school which is about 6km but luckily Stuart was heading that way and offered a very gratefully received lift.

After dipping the bird in the morning I wasn't really planning to go again in the evening, however Len text me around 16:50 saying that it was still present along with a Spotted Flycatcher which is a good bird on the Fylde. My mum dropped me off and just after I got out the car I looked in my bag and found that I had left my binoculars in my other bag, f***! I soon found the 2 Pauls looking for the Spotted Flycatcher (yeartick) and after a few minutes Paul Slade located it sitting out in the open on a bare branch giving great views! He then departed but soon afterwards we heard a Chiffchaff singing in the same area that the Iberian has been, and although it didn't sound like the immigrant bird it didn't sound atypical for a common either. It was sort of similar to a common however it kept adding extra notes in and some different phrases as well. I asked Paul to play the recording he had on his phone of the bird to remind me what it sounded like but as he did it the Chiffchaff shot towards us from its perch and sat up in a nearby tree and carried on singing. I managed to get a single rubbish shot of the bird which appeared to show a bright surpercillium but it was too blurry to pick out anything else. After a while it went silent so I headed home not sure of what to make of the bird.

This evening the mystery appears to have been resolved however! Chris Batty found this quote from an article about the identification of Iberian Chiffchaffs, "In the context of spring vagrancy, Iberian Chiffchaff has two major song types; an advertising song used by males trying to attract a mate and a conflict song used primarily during antagonistic interactions with other males. The same is true of Common Chiffchaff, although in that species the advertising and conflict songs are virtually identical. The conflict song of Iberian is very similar to that of Common". He sent this to Stuart who passed it on to me and Paul, which confirmed to us that the bird we had heard and seen was indead the Iberian Chiffchaff (lifer 260). I would like to get down if it is singing tomorrow morning to hear the proper distinctive song but at least I have now seen it, with the flycatcher being a big bonus!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Spanish Visitor hiding away

On Tuesday morning Dave Mcgrath heard a strange Chiffchaff whilst walking his dog through Devonshire Road Rock Gardens in Bispham, and when getting to work he listened to some Iberian Chiffchaff songs on the Internet and thought they sounded a good match. He checked the park that evening however the bird was nowhere to be found, however luckily it was present again the following morning and he managed to get a recording of it singing. He sent the recording to Chris Batty who agreed that the bird was Lancashire's first Iberian Chiffchaff and it was heard singing throughout yesterday till about 13:30, which typically meant when I went down after school it had gone silent and wasn't showing. Apparently it was heard again before dark at 20:20 which gave me hope for today.

After the most dry April on record the weather has turned in the past few days with showers arriving from the south west. A particuarly heavy one of these broke just as I headed out after school with my dad to mythop where I managed to see the Wood Sandpiper (yeartick) feeding on the back of the pools. A few hours at home after this was then ended with my second trip to try and see the chiffchaff, and when I arrived a few birds were singing including Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat. For about a minute at 19:45 2 Chiffchaffs started singing in the area where the Iberian had been heard, and although one of these sounded slightly wierd it only sung twice so I couldn't get any conformation and not going to try claim anything without better sound/views! I gave up at 20:15 however I may try tomorrow morning before school if it isn't raining.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Great Birds Crap Pics

Back to school yesterday after the 4 day weekend and on Monday night I had been on the phone to Ash who had said "all the good birds will turn up now we are going back", cursed words. About 12:30 yesterday whilst sat in Maths I got a text off Paul saying, "Kentish Plover, Cockersands", bugger! I didn't have any way of getting there after school however I rang my grandad who luckily agreed to take me since he wasn't doing anything. We arrived at the car park by the caravan site where a few birders were present and informed me it was still there so it was a quick dash along the 1.5km stretch of coast to Plover Scar where a birder who was already present let me look through his scope to get mt first view of the female Kentish Plover (lifer 259). It was showing about 50 metres away allowing for good scope views from which I could pick out some of the key ID features; light brown sandy colour plumage, thicker and jet black bill, black legs and also it was smaller than the Ringed Plover that was near to it. The wind was still blowing quite strongly from the east so the bird was mainly sitting tight however it did feed briefly a few times. Sorry about the rubbish shot below, better ones can be found on the FBC website, also well done to Pete Woodruff who found the bird!

A couple of birders then arrived and told us that there were 4 Yellow Wagtails in the first field past the car park where I had set off from, so on the way back I stopped off and was treated to a flock of 5 birds in total (1 male, 4 female) feeding around the horses and cattle grazing on the grass. Again they were too far off for any good shots but you can just about make out a yellow blob which is the male bird.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Final seawatch of the weekend

Another early start yesterday for my third and and final seawatch if the long weekend, and it was my longest of the lot from 06:25 - 11:15, however it turned out to be the quietest of the lot with reduced numbers of seabirds moving through however the vis was a bit better, totals were:

1 Arctic Skua (dark morph)
102 Arctic Tern
6 Sandwich Tern
5 Gannet
10 Red Breasted Merganser
1 Red Throated Diver
9 Shelduck
13 Whimbrel
1 Bar Tailed Godwit

2 male Whinchat on golf course (yeartick)
3 Yellow Wagtail over (fylde yeartick)
107 Swallow
4 Sand Martin
1 House Martin
1 Swift
4 Lesser Redpoll
41 Goldfinch
3 Wheatear
25 Meadow Pipit
3 Pied Wagtail

Also whilst the tide was coming in I picked out a very white gull roosting on the beach and got the others onto it, however it kept standing face on to us so they couldn't see any plumage details. Luckily after a while it walked a bit to the right and then flew a little further allowing us all to scrutinise its plumage, we determined it was a 3rd winter due to the bill pattern, and from the structure we believed that it was a leucistic Herring Gull. Paul Ellis went out onto the beach and got some shots which I haven't seen yet, however later that day it was put on the bird club website as a 3rd winter Iceland Gull! I haven't been able to confirm this but hopefully will be able to soon.

In the afternoon I made a visit to Freckleton where a surprise came in the form of 6 more Arctic Tern battling up river, 5 of which gave up and flew back downriver with the strong easterly wind behind them, a Little Egret also flew upriver. Then it was on to Preston Docks where 2 Common Terns were displaying over the pontoons, and 3 more terns were flying around which looked like Arctic however I couldn't be sure in the strong winds.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

An even better Seawatch?

This morning Len picked me up at 6:30 on his way to Rossall for another seawatch in the hope of more terns and skuas. We arrived at 6:50 where Ian and Seamus were already present and had been for an hour although they hadn't had anything out of the ordinary. It was immediately obvious that the main Arctic Tern movement had dried up as birds were only moving though in 1's and 2's at the start, however even this dried up till 09:00 when the quality birds started to show. A small flock of terns appeared from the south and flew past quite close in allowing all of us to get onto them and confirm that they were in fact 6 Little Terns (yeartick), these were my first ever in the Fylde and one of my big targets for the year (as was Garden Warbler which i got a few days ago). Shortly after this an outburst from Ian along the lines of @*/$*@^% was the result of the male Long Tailed Duck from yesterday landing on the sea just offshore allowing for stonking as it drifted in on the tide for the next 10 minutes before continuing west. There were plenty of other highlights, too many to go into detail of so below is a summary of the totals between 06:50 and 11:10:

6 Little Tern
78 Arctic Tern
2 Sandwich Tern
Adult Little Gull
14 Gannet

male Long Tailed Duck
2 Goosander (pair on sea then east, rare off here even though we had a female yesterday)
8 Shelduck
5 Red Breasted Merganser
1 Red Throated Diver
30+ Eider
30+ Common Scoter

21 Bar Tailed Godwit (several in summer plumage)
6 Whimbrel
Snipe over
2 Knot (1 summer plumage)
1 Common Sandpiper (on beach, very rare here)
400+ Dunlin
1 Curlew
50+ Oystercatcher
20+ Ringed Plover
10+ Turnstone
10+ Sanderling

male Peregrine (hunting waders on the beach at high tide, flew right over our heads giving the best views of this species I've ever had!)

134 Swallow
4 Swift
5 Sand Martin
1 House Martin
1 Tree Pipit
17 Meadow Pipit
42 Goldfinch
1 Chaffinch
1 Greenfinch
6 Wheatear

Demise and Surprise

Yesterday afternoon my parents decided to go for a walk along Lancaster Canal at Garstang, however I persuaded them to move further along the canal and instead walk from Cockerham Road to the Glasson turn off. This was mainly because I had seen 3 Kingfishers along this stretch of water last October so I was interested to know if any of them had survived the harsh winter which has decimated the population. Unfortunately there was absolutely no sign of any which confirms their demise and their status as quite a tricky bird to get this year in the Fylde, hopefully they will have a good breeding season and start to increases their numbers once more. Away from this sad news the more expected canal birds were out in force with a total of 73 Mallards counted along the stretch, 51 were adults of which only 6 were females, and the other 21 were all very recently hatched young in broods of 1, 7 and 13 birds. Also seen were a pair of Mute Swans nesting near Ellel Grange, one of which had an blue ring on with orange letters NSV, so I will report back on the details when I get them.
Several Chiffchaffs were heard singing in the woods by the canal and a pair of Swifts over head on the way back were a nice sight. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were also seen before on the way back me and dad picked up a large raptor heading towards us from the south just above tree height. We both assumed it was another Buzzard however as it approached it became obvious that the bird had a much longer and thinner tail and wings, and much more uniformly brown underparts compared to the barring and white of a Buzzard. Dad spotted the pale crown first which confirmed it for us to be an adult female Marsh Harrier (Fylde yeartick), a very good bird to get in the Fylde (only my second ever) and a very surprising sight up there. This took my Fylde yearlist to 167 species, equalling the entire total for last year.