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Showing posts from 2009

South Ayshire Hogmanay

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Having made our way up to Girvan yesterday afternoon, we awoke to a bright and sunny morning though bitterly cold. There's little snow around here but plenty further east and north. A quick glance towards Arran revealed snow covered mountains - a spectacular view from here.

We decided to have a quick look along the coast north of Girvan and up to Maidens. The first stop was Dipple, next to the alginate processing factory. Here there were 45 Lapwing, several Turnstones and Redshank. A few Wigeon and Eider were off shore but otherwise there was very little. Next was Maidens harbour where a Black Redstart had been seen lately. We didn't see it but the wrack in the bays was covered in birds. You don't often see Song Thrush, Grey Wagtail and Turnstones feeding together. There were plenty of Meadow and Rock Pipits including a greyish one with a hint of a salmony coloured wash on the upper breast - probably a Water Pipit or possibly littoralis Rock Pipit. The bird showed briefly b…

Rishton Reservoir 29th Dec

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With reports of the Black-necked Grebe coming past the promenade yesterday, I headed out to the reservoir in the bitterly cold east wind and the oncoming gloom. There were plenty of birds again, and most pleasingly the two Great Crested Grebes had returned.

Three drake Shovelers and eight Tufted Ducks sailed out from the yacht club briefly. Fifteen teal were perched up on the dam wall whilst seven Goosander and 17 Cormorants fished the reservoir. Most obvious was a site record count of 299 Canada Geese on the far bank along with 120 Lapwing, 300 Starling and 16 Coot.

It took a while but I eventually located the Black-necked Grebe in the far corner again and patiently watched it as it dived repeatedly, making its way down to the yacht club where I lost it. I kept my fingers crossed that it would do a circuit and 20 minutes later I was delighted when it popped up jst to the left of the promenade. It rapidly made its way past me towards the overflow at which time I rattled off some dark, …

Three new garden ringing ticks!

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With the prospect of ringing some more Redpolls in my garden, Mark came round with his nets this-morning for another three hour session. It was just after nine when we had the nets set up and almost immediately we were rewarded with a good catch that included a Lesser Redpoll and our first garden ringing first of the day in the form of a Wren..

I had the feeders all set up along the hedge line with the mist net in between. The other net was 'down the dip' but only trapped a Robin all day. The next good bird to get was a female Reed Bunting, one of a pair that have started to feed at the base of the apple tree.

The final new bird was rather unexpected in the form of a Pied Wagtail. We usually get Greys in and over the garden and Pieds are quite unusual, especially as it was no a fly-over.

All in all, we trapped 42 birds with another three retraps; all from last winter and none from our session a few weeks ago - very interesting! Great and Blue Tits were very much at the forefront …

Christmas birding

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The pre-Christmas cheer in the way of birds continued as the Black-necked Grebe continued to skulk in amongst the partly submerged willows on the railway embankment at Rishton Reservoir - a nice bird for Christmas Day. A couple of Gadwall were also a very welcome addition to the local birds.


The Velvet Scoter at Barrow Lodge has attracted birders from all over the county - I told you they were rare in Lancashire! We had another trip over there today now that the roads were clear. It was extremely active swallowing copies amounts of fresh-water mussels before having a lunchtime doze.

Back in the garden I've now had two different Redpolls and a pair of Reed Buntings feeding on the ground-scattered seed were overdue. I'll have to keep an eye out for Brambling.

Black-necked Grebe results in another East Lancs Twitch

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My final day at the old Mullards site in Blackburn finished at 10:30 when we all said our goodbyes and trudged off through the snow to the car park. Though I knew this day was coming for several months, it was a very emotional time as most of us had been there a long long time.
Bernie decided I needed cheering up so we went home, grabbed the optics and headed for the sun-baked promenade of Rishton Reservoir (she's very understanding!). It was as if the local birds had decided to cheer me up too! There were loads of gulls on the far bank; about 1500 Black-headed, 200 Common, 80 Greater Black Back, 50 Lesser Black Back and 1200 Herring. Then I was delighted to see five Shovelers (4 drakes and a female), four Tufties, two Goosander and twelve Teal - a real duck fest for this neck of the woods.
Then I did a double take. There, in the far corner of the reservoir, was a winter-plumaged Black-necked Grebe - Nirvana! The second really good East Lancs bird in two days - I could get used to…

An East Lancs Mega!

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It was my penultimate day at work and as I had half a day's holiday left I decided to take it and sort out a few things at home before Christmas. The snow has been problematical these last few days - the hill from our house proving an insurmountable barrier if I hadn't gritted it and yesterday we ran out of grit! Fortunately I have decided to park the car at the top of the estate so that I had a fighting chance of getting on the road.


As luck would have it, I'd just finished my lunch and the ever-reliable Bill Aspin left me a message about a Velvet Scoter on Barrow Lodge. Well it's only about five miles away, so having successfully traversed the skating rink I got on the main roads and slithered to a halt at the lodge. Allen Holmes and Pete Morris were viewing the bird, a female, as it dived repeatedly on the only open patch of water in amongst lots of Mallards and Black-headed Gulls.

Having done my usual informative talk with some of the locals, I joined up with Allen o…

Atlasing SD75W

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With a fine morning forecast it was time to do another tetrad in East Lancashire. I'd chosen an area north of Bolton-by-Bowland as the area hadn't been surveyed yet. I'd never birded here before but that's one of the reasons why I quite like this task - it just makes you look at areas that wouldn't get a second glance normally.

Things started off reasonably well in this rural, livestock-rearing neck of the woods with a reasonably sized flock of Redwings and a calling Green Woodpecker (something not often encountered in Lancashire generally). Though there was a frost over the ground, it hadn't penetrated the surface and the going was heavy.
One nice aspect to this tetrad was that Tosside beck flows through it but there were no Dippers on the three stretches I could get to. Nuthatches were much in evidence at a couple of places and I came accross a nice bracken covered bank that looks good for Whinchat in the summer.

On several occasions, single Siskins flew over b…

A ringing recovery!

Well this took me quite by surprise. Mark has just informed me of the recovery of one of our Redpolls last spring. It was trapped in the garden on 30 Dec last year, re-trapped on 21 March this year and then controlled on 18 April at the Calf of Man. Splendid!
It's Marks first recovery outside Lancashire as well.

'Banding' in the garden again

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With the hope rather than expectation of some reasonable ringing weather, Mark came round with his nets yesterday morning to get an update on the birds in my garden. Things started very well - the first bird in the nets was a male Bullfinch, probably one of the ones that managed to acrobatically avoid the net in March.

Unfortunately, no other finches were playing ball though there were a larger number of Tits in the nets. Around 10 we got a total of 13 birds in the top net all at once. these included a coupleof retraps of adult Tits and female Bullfinch.
A new bird for the garden ringing list was the only bird caught in the net at the bottom of the garden, a splendid male Goldcrest.

Mark had to go to watch Burnley lose again around 11:30 but in the two and a half hours the totals were:

Goldcrest              1
Coal Tit                 3 plus 1 retrap
Blue Tit                 7 plus 2 retrap
Great Tit               10 plus 1 rettrap
House Sparrow      2 
Chaffinch               1
Gold…

Miserable weekend

I'm full of a cold and feeling distinctly under the weather, so no birding for me this weekend. There were good numbers of finches in the garden today with at least 19 Goldfinches and 12 Chaffinches. One of last year's ringed female Bullfinches put in an appearance but there's still no sign of an Redpolls. Long-tailed Tits have been rather scarce this year as well.
It was good to see a flight of five Goosanders bombing down the canal as I haven't seen all that many over the past year or two though they are regular at the reservoir.

North-west Bird Fair

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I spent all weekend at Martin Mere on the Lancashire & Cheshire Fauna Society’s stall at this year’s bird fair. We were ‘banned’ last year along with all the other charitable organisations and consequently they had little on offer. This year’s was much better, even with the howling gale and heavy showers (though not as heavy as in Cumbria). Things were busy throughout the two days and I’d like to say thanks to all of those who either helped on the stall or paid us a visit for a chat.


I hoping that the weather will calm down this weekend and entice Mark over to do some garden ringing.

A weekend in Girvan

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A quick look at the calendar and I realised that if I was to get my Girvan Atlas square survey done, then it was going to have to be this weekend as I was doing something on all the others through to the end of the year.
The rain pelted down as we made our way carefully up the M6 on Friday evening and I was getting more than a little concerned that the weekend would be a washout! Herring Gulls woke me from my slumbers the following morning - the day was fine! So once the sun was up I grabbed the bins and the notebook and headed for the shore outside the house.
The tide was almost at its height so there was not much beach exposed, nor waders anywhere. Eiders and single Red-brested Merganser and Red-throated Diver got the list off to a good start. A flock of Linnets fed on the shoreline with a couple of Greenfinches and two Rock Pipits. I made my way to the outcrop of rocks on the southern corner of my square where I hoped to find some roosting waders; I wasn't disappointed, in fact…

Atlasing near Gisburn

As I opened the curtains this-morning, the sun was just about to come up but the forecast overnight frost had clearly not happened. We'd planned to start our Atlas survey work today as it was meant to be calm and sunny but as we made our way north east, the drizzle started!
I parked up at Stirk House, donned waterproofs and set off over the fields towards the river. We hadn't gone far when we came across a large thrush flock - at least 250 Fieldfare and 40 Redwing along with several Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. There were also a couple of large flocks of Chaffinches, though no northern interlopers no matter how hard we searched. We slip-slided our way down Steep Wood to the Ribble that was in full spate - not ideal for riverine birds to say the least; the woods were generally rather quiet but we managed to get a few more on the day's list. We had seen several Hares so far and our mammal list was augmented with a herd of over 30 Sika Deer seen through the trees including a…

Before the storm

Just did a quick tour of the local Reservoirs this-afternoon. They were sailing on Rishton Res so not much there. The four Great Crested Grebes were still present as were 41 Canada Geese. Up on Parsonage there were at least 11 Snipe on the small reservoir with the Little Grebes and Coot. another 69 Canada Geese with two Pink-footed Geese fed in the field. On the main reservoir, there were quite a fe duck (in comparison to recently anyway) - two Goldeneye, 13 Teal and three Wigeon.
We'll see what the storm brings tomorrow - not the ideal weather for winter atlas work so that'll have to be postponed a week or so.

Sizergh Hawfinches

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Yesterday was spent up in Cumbria with our good friend Paul and his menagerie. We called in at Sizergh Catle car park en route to Burneside (above Kendal) in order to see if we could get a glimpse of the resident Hawfinches.
There were plenty of birds in the car park - a large flock of Redwing with Fieldfare, Blackbirds, Mistle and Song Thrushes were very much in evidence. There were plenty of Chaffinches and Tits as well as a rather demonstrative Nuthatch that called incessantly and a male Blackcap that fed on the Elderberries.
It took about ten minutes until I noticed my first Hawfinch in the trees above the visitor centre, closely followed by another three birds. They sat high in the branches before disappearing behind the centre as another bird joined them. I thought they might come back for a repeat show but it all went quiet again so we set off to Paul's place just up the road.
Meadow House is in a wonderful place on the south side of Potter Fell with fantastic views. Paul h…

Back to the marshes

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As I filled the feeders this morning, I could hear the familiar mournful whistle of a Bullfinch so I was pleasantly surprised to get three of them including two unringed females. Good numbers of Gold, Green and Chaffinches have been visiting lately as well as two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. A couple of Redpoll were heard over the garden at the weekend but I've not seen them down yet.
A visit to Rishton Reservoir in the murk yielded four Wigeon but nothing else of note apart from a lot of Tit and Wagtail activity. I checked Parsonage Reservoir - just three drake Tufted Ducks, two Little Grebes and a few Snipe again - but visibility was poor and it was really gloomy so I decided to pay a visit to Hesketh Out Marsh again.

The light was reasonably good but there was nothing close to the observation point - not surprising really as there is no screening of ones approach at all (please get this rectified, RSPB!). At the back of the first pool I noticed an odd Shelduck - a Ruddy x Common …

Crowning Glory

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I haven't caught up with the much-improved Autumn Watch yet following yesterday's birding and intellectual exploits but if Chris Packham was rubbing his thighs at the thought of a Red-flanked Bluetail, then I shudder to think how he coped with the news of the Eastern Crowned Warbler at South Shields. What a cracking bird!

My phone had been on charge when I checked it late on Friday evening - Bernie could hear the expletives and after a couple of calls we had arranged a car load to travel up to an area that I love to go to, especially in the autumn. John had to be back very early so he'd set off himself and as Billy, Phil and myself made our way over the grassy area behind the coastal cliffs we became ever more excited about the prospect of seeing this bird. Billy had regaled us of the desire of friends in the north east that really wanted to connect with this bird in the UK and it had happened at last. A crowd was assembled at the top of the cliff and in the disused quarry …

A Dowitcher at last

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Bernie's coughing and spluttering everywhere and I haven't had a good nights sleep for ages so it was a bit of an effort to drag myself out of bed this-morning. However it was a beautiful day so I thought I'd check the reservoir before doing the shopping. As is becoming usual these days, I was rather brassed off when I saw a fisherman's tent on the far bank but there were still a few birds around as whoever was in there hadn't set foot outside.

A flock of 29 Redwings flew over as well as Meadow Pipits and Siskin. Robins were active in the bushes and all seemed well. Then the fisherman appeared and everything took off - including five Wigeon (unusual here) and 42 Lapwings. There was nothing else happening so it was off to the shops before the afternoon's planned excursion to the coast. I managed a few minutes in the 'obs' - plenty of activity here but once again, the Woodpeckers arrived after I left.

Banks Marsh

I met up with Billy and John at 1:30 and we …

A quiet local weekend

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With the pressure systems over Britain all a bit of a mess, not a lot was happening in our local area. On Saturday morning, the fog was thick and I thought I'd have a look at Rishton Res only to find that they were shooting geese again - however I couldn't see the far bank so goodness knows what they were taking out. I decided to work in the garden and hope for some migratory movement overhead but even here ut was rather benign.

I took a break in the 'obs' and got a few nice images like this Greenfinch but when I left, a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers landed right next to the shed.

We are occasionally getting Bullfinches back in the garden and double figure flocks of Goldfinches that are probably moving through, but there's no sign of any Redpolls yet.

I nipped up to Parsonage Reservoir in the afternoon. Two Little Grebes and 63 Canada Geese were on the smaller marshy part whilst on the main reservoir there was just two drake Tufted Ducks. Just about summed up the …

A chill in the air

The last few days have seen a distinct reduction in the temperature and there seems to be a bit of thrush activity at last. A couple of days ago, there were at least ten Blackbirds and several Song Thrushes chasing each other around the scrub outside my office window along with several Chaffinches. A quick trip to the reservoir is in order after work and before the forecast deluge starts. Tomorrow could be quite interesting.

There was not all that much on Rishton Res this-afternoon. No grebes! No ducks! However the post-tip, pre-roost bathing of large gulls has started - 77 LBBG's and three Herring Gulls along with 71 BHG's and a paltry four Lapwings. Theere was a nice mixed flock of tits on the sunny side of Cut Wood with at least 25 birds in it including 12+ Long-tailed Tits.

Why pay for exfoliaton?

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Its blowing a gale. Fantastic. I love this weather - makes me want to get out on the coast and look for Leach's Petrels!
I had a few boxes of Bird Reports to distribute; I'd posted out the bulk yesterday but our sales outlets needed their stocks so it was a good excuse to head south-west. I called in at Rishton Reservoir on the way and was very surprised to find a female/immature Common Scoter on there - what an amazing run of birds we're having. There was little else easily viewable as I was looking into the teeth of the gale and the rain was pelting down - just around 40 Lapwings on the far bank and an increase in the Black-headed Gull population.
I deposited the reports at Martin Mere, Mere Sands Wood and Marshside before heading to Ainsdale where I picked up my brother headed out to the beach.

We parked up by the rangers compound and headed over the dunes to the beach - it was tortuous with the sand swirling around. Graeme noted that a sand-blast does wonders for the sk…