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A brief review of 2012

The rain is pouring down outside. There, I should leave it at that as it is a very succinct synopsis of 2012 here in the north-west of England. The rest of England may have had drought in the early part of the year but not here and that's put paid to many plans.

The unexpected present of a moth trap from my wife last Christmas has got me started on this aspect of natural history observation and even though the opportunities for getting the trap out have been rather few, I indeed have got the bug as it were and am hoping for a much better year in 2013. It turned out that the 10km square I live in has very few moth records so increasing the 'list' by 50 species this year has been most welcome. Cue the second unexpected present this Christmas - a portable generator - which means I can get a little further afield an perhaps check out the moths at Rishton Reservoir/Cut Wood.

Combined with the incessant rain have been strong winds meaning that there have been very few opportunit…

Rishton Reservoir WeBS 16th Dec

Today's Wetland Bird Suvey of Rishton Reservoir didn't pop up too many surprises though there were goodly numbers of Tufties and Goosanders. In fact 15 was the magic number for both those species and also Coot, none of which were colour-ringed unfortunatley.

Canada Geese are still absent - not sure if that's a good or bad thing as they used to attract a few other birds in with them, however the Mute Swans numbered eight and the Black Swan was present again.

A nuthatch was calling in Cut Wood again and a Great Tit was giving a few snippets of 'teacher, teacher!'

Back home the blackbirds have polished off all the apples and I've finally got round to making the fat cakes. Plenty of finches still coming down as well as the regular Grey Wagtail. This-evening I watched the gulls passing by the back of the house on their way to roost. Only around 400 - 500 large gulls, a fraction of previous years numbers when I could count thousands.

Lesser Redpolls back in the garden

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We've managed a couple of ringing sessions in the garden over the past month. Lots of Goldfinches a few weeks ago but only a couple today. However there are a few Lesser Redpolls around - a flock of twelve were very adept at avoiding the nets apart from this adult male.
Adult male Lesser Redpoll Rishton Reservoir has been generally quiet. The Great Crested Grebes are still present with up to six and there have been a few Teal and Tufted Duck around as well as a hybrid Aythya. Wigeon have alse been quite regular but the geese have notable by their absence. May nip down tomorrow to see what's dropped in.

My turn for a Waxwing fix

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Colin Bushell eluded to this yesterday with his report of 150 Waxwings in Preston but this-morning was my first chance to catch up with this winter's crop of Waxwings. A few weeks later that the last huge irruption of two years ago but welcome all the same.

There's just something about that trilling call that I and other birders just love. Definitely the opium of the masses of birders ('scuse the pun) - great birds.

There were ten at Barrow today but with hndreds depositing themselves around the country, they could turn up anywhere, especially as the berry crop is poor this year.
You never know, we may get then in the garden again.

Long-tailed Duck awaits my return

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We've had a few days away in Plymouth this week. The weather wasn't too kind to us but I did manage to see the Lesser Yellowlegs amongst Redshanks and Greenshanks at Ernesettle Creek. Walks on the coast at Hope Cove and Wembury didn't turn up anything special even though we seemed to be surrrounded by reports of Black Redstarts but it was very enjoyable all the same (apart from being shot-blasted by a hail-storm when on the most exposed part of the walk). Our B&B was on Plymouth Hoe so we certainly ate well in the restaurants along the Barbican.

At Rishton Reservoir, this-morning, I had two species that I can't recall seeing there before. A Crossbill was calling as it flew high overhead and I had three Rooks flying east over the dam wall. There are always plenty of Crows around but Rooks are very scarce over Rishton. On the water there were the first four Goosander of the winter - all juveniles/females - and seven Cormorants. Sixty-two Lapwings fed on the western f…

Winter's arrived in the form of a Brambling

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A week without any rain, a rarity! As is Brambling in my back garden but a fine male was present this morning along with five Blackbirds munching through windfall apples as the first significant frost of the winter descended.

The cold snap brought the swans up to the Reservoir today - 10 Mute and the Black Swan and another uncommon visitor to Rishton at least, a Little Grebe. Up at Parsonage Reservoir, there was a single Goldeneye but I did catch sight of  two skeins of Pink-footed Geese (around 300 in total) heading south-east towards Rishton. there were several Lapwings in the area too and Canada Goose numbers have started to increase.

We tried ringing in the garden for the first time since the re-layout on Wednesday but the wind conspired against us. However we did retrap this male Sparrowhawk that we had initially rung in December. I had my first Fieldfare of the winter over the garden - still not many around though there weems to have been a big movement elsewhere in the past day…

A Pallas' but no Yellow-browed

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The flurry of Yellow-browed Warblers descending on the country has resulted in a good crop of records in Lancashire with records from Leighton Moss, Heysham, Fleetwood, Pilling, Marshside and Crosby. An then Peter Hornby had one at Pollard Moor between Burnley and Accrington. I had a go for that one last night as did a few other locals but to no avail. What's been more obliging has been the Pallas' Warbler in Chris Batty's back garden at Knott End - a real rarity on this side of the country and very much appreciated on a fine Thursday evening!

With all these YBWs about, there must be lots elsewhere in the county just waiting to be discovered - I'm patiently scouring Rishton for one - I could juts picture one in teh sycamore at the bottom of the garden - dream on! There was a small passage of Meadow Pipits over the house this morning and a few Redwings are about but the one thing that most locals are noticing are the number of Jays about - some continental immigrants an…

WeBS at Rishton Reservoir

Rishton wildfowl made the news in the local paper (Lancashire Evening Telegraph) yesterday. I'd received a call from the Hyndburn reporter asking if there was any evidence behind the apparent decrease in the number of ducks on the canal. Well that got me started and so we moved from one subject to the next and got onto the wildfowlers who were employed to cull geese taking a load of Mallard instead!

They got my name wrong but a follow up in the Accrington Observer next week should be more accurate.

Anyway, today was WeBS day so I made sure I located all the Mallards in the vicinity of the Reservoir - a paltry 45, eleven of which were on a flooded corner of the field adjacent to the playground. Ten coot present but none came out so that I could check them for bright plastic jewellery! Other wildfowl were a single female Wigeon, four Tufted Ducks, a wierd looking Pochard x Tufted hybrid, four Mute Swans and the Black Swan.

The Great Crested Grebes were still feeding their adolescent…

Last day in Chicago

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I'm now back home amidst the floods and torrential rain that has characterised the last 12 months here, so to cheer myself up I thought I'd share a coule of images from Northerly Island yesterday.

It was a breezy morning when I pulled up at 7am having said my goodbyes to my daughter. A Black-billed Cuckoo sat on the railings of the building above my head as I put my $2:50 in the parking lot machine - four hours should be plenty. There was one other car in the parking lot - that belonged to Leo whom I bumped into a few minutes later as we scoured the grassy areas for Sparrows. We had on very interesting bird that could have been a Henslow's but nothing was sitting out.

The area at the southern end was again the most productive with a whole host of Sparrows: White-throated, Song, Swamp, Savannah, Lincoln's and Chipping as well as this warbler that we think is a Pine.
Leo decided to try Montrose but before he left, stumbled across a flock of Lapland Longspurs (Buntings) n…

Chicago Northerly Island

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Slight change of plan today as I was expecting to spend the whole of the day in Chicago with Heather but she had to work this morning. that was my cue to try birding a new area for me and one that was closer to where I'm staying - Northerly Island. Formerly a small airport built on infill into the lake, this has been transformed into a park with jogging/cycling tracks and prairie type vegetation. Sticking out into Lake Michigan just south of the city and the museum area, it clearly attracts migrants, especially Sparrows.

It was an eventful three hours as there was plenty of long grass for birds to disappear into but nevertheless, I saw over 40 species. My first tramp through some taller grasses produced Savannah and Swamp Sparrows as well as an obliging Nelson's. Palm Warblers were everywhere again and the avifauna was enlivened by the presence of Coopers Hawk, Peregreine, Black-billed Cuckoo and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. I flushed a Meadowlark (Eastern or Western???) and three S…

The Magic Hedge lives up to its name

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Another morning spent at Montrose Point was again rewarding with lots of new birds having come in overnight. As I opened the car door, I was greeted by the trilling of Cedar Waxwings and the calls of a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Chimney Swifts continued to fizz around the tree tops and a Peregrine gloded overhead as I made my way towards the shore where I had more good views of Nelson's Sparrows and a Dickcissel amongst a few other things.
Back in the cover of the Magic Hedge there were plenty of things to keep me occupied - more warblers with an Orange-crowned being rather early. Whilst looking for this bird, a Connecticut-like warbler popped up briefly - I was immediately hit by the bright conspicuous eye-ring and greyish hood/shawl. But as soon as it had appeared, it had gone. I alerted other to its presence but to no avail.
Yellowthroats and Palm Warblers were very common today but there was a good supporting cast with Nashville, Tenessee, Black & White, Magnol…

Visible Migration on the Illinois River

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I was at Hennepin Lake bright and early, and well wrapped up as I scanned from the observation tower. The forecast wind hadn't picked up yet and it was a beautiful morning. Flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds and Blue Jays were passing my nose and I just wasn't expecting the hundreds of White Pelicans flying down the Illinois River basin from the north! Raptors were putting in an appearance with Sharp-shinned Hawk annoying the local Blue Jays and Starlings, Coopers Hawk and three Northern Harriers but the waders were the birds I was drawn to.

The conditions were so much better than yesterday so I could get reasonable identifiable views. Apart from around 300 peeps of some description, there were a few American Golden Plover, two Buff-breasted Sandpipers, single Lesser Yellowlegs, a few Pectoral Sands and a Godwit which I think must have been Marbled as it dwarfed the Ring-billed Gull next to it (well you know what I mean). I had picked it up on my first scan and vowed to return to…

Unexpected Bald Eagles

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This-morning I set out to Montrose again but this time wrapped up in a couple of layers - a cold front had passed through and the temperature had dropped, coupled with a stiff NW wind, it felt quite a bit colder!

Though I tried a little later on, it wasn't a day for the dunes area - birds were most active on the south side of the hedge unsurprisingly and there were still plenty around including plenty of Magnolias and a few Parulas. At one point we had Yellowthroat, Wilson's, Blackpoll, Cape May, Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, Nashville, Parula and Redstart in one tree at the same time. Nearby I also had a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Whilst photographing the above, a Pine Siskin flew in calling, landing on the top of a tree. Could just about make out that it was a juvenile and a very early one by all accounts. Still a fwe Goldfinches around but a juvenile Cooper's Hawk was patrolling the area so birds were understandably wary.

I then set off for a 2 1/2 hour drive to the bend i…

More warblers at Montrose Point

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It's been another fine morning's birding at Montrose today with the imminent arrival of a cold front, I'm hoping for some falls in the next couple of days.

I made my way out onto the dunes where I managed to see another Nelson's Sparrow and a Swamp Sparrow along with Merlin, American Golden plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe and a flurry of Barn Swallows passing through. There were plenty of Northern Waterthrushes both out on the dunes and in the Magic Hedge area.
There were a lot of warblers around today - still lots of Palm Warblers, Yellowthroats and American Redstarts but also Magnolia, Blackpoll, Tenessee, Black & White, Parula, Chestnut-sided, Nashville and a lateYellow Warbler. Red-eyed Vireo was new for the day and there were several Flickers including eight in one tree at one point!
Brown Thrashers were in evidence along with lots more thrushes - mainly Swainson's but a couple of Slightly larger Grey-cheeked too. A drinking pool in the disa…

Nelson's Sparrows in Chicago

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I'm back in Chicago this week to attend Heather's Senior Day at IIT next Saturday and in the intervening period, take in a couple of her games and do some birding whilst she's at college. Yesterday we had a trip to South Bend, Indiana and joined the team after the game at one of the platers homes nearby. The house was situated out of town in a complex surround by natural woodland so it shouldn't have been a surprise to see a Pileated Woodpecker in the back garden! Add to that Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker and some more regular birds and it was a very pleasant break in the trip!

This-morning was my first chance to get out to do some proper birding, leaving Heather to have a deserved lie-in, so I had to head to Montrose Point and the "Magic Hedge". I made my way out onto the dunes around 7am to join a few birders who'd been looking for Nelson's Sparrows. There were several around (unusually so) and I jammed in on one pretty much straight away…

Information Boards arrive at Rishton Reservoir

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It seems an inordinately long time ago when I penned a few lines for the Prospect Panel in Rishton - they wanted to put up some information boards around Cut Wood and I suggested a couple of bird ones illustrated by my good friend and local artist, Tony Disley.

And so it came to pass that last week the first one was installed about 18 months after that initial enquiry and the first comment was "Why are there no Swans on there" as a Black Swan had taken up residence. You can't legislate for these sort of things and I was limited to ten species!

I nipped down this-morning to see the board and I wasn't disappointed - there were even birds around the reservoir including 60 Lapwings and a Kingfisher. The Black Swan was also present with a single Mute Swan and Canada Goose whilst the juvenile Great Crested Grebe was fully grown though still dependent on its parents.

At home, the new garden re-design is finished and the bids have given it their approval. A flock of over 30 …

Lancashire Bird Report 2011

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After many man-days of work again this year, the report has arrived and I'm about to post it out to members of the Lancashire and Cheshire Fauna Society. It will be available soon in selected outlets around the county - Seaforth, Marshside, In-Focus (at Martin Mere), Mere Sands Wood, Brockholes and Leighton Moss.

Four county firsts are included, I saw the Solitary Sandpiper and the Short-toed Lark but didn't go for the Iberian Chiffchaff. As for the fourth, well no-one apart from some vets saw that one alive - a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! And then there's the first confirmed British record of a 'Caspian' Reed Warbler found dead in December. All good stuff so get a copy!!!

Next publication - the Dragonfly Atlas perhaps!

Tree pipits reach 19 for the summer

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All the wet weather has really put paid to much mothing, ringing or birding over the last few weeks which has been probably a good thing in that I’ve got the Lancashire Bird Report finished off and at the printers ready for a frantic delivery dash next weekend. The garden is taking shape albeit slowly but most of the plants should be in place by the end of the week and we can start to use it again! Yesterday, Bernie and I paid a visit to Eccleston Mere where we managed to catch up with the American Black Tern that had been floating around the area for a couple of days. It had disappeared just before we got there and several people made their way up to the site and then turned around but we decided to stick it out a little longer and were rewarded with some great views. Of course, I didn’t take my camera! Doh! Sunday evening saw me and Mark join Richard at the Melling Swallow roost where we caught around 60 birds before they settled in for the night. That’s the third session I’ve done th…

Inter-Olympic birds and moths - Gold!

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I, like nearly everyone else in the country, am hooked on the Olympics so a Saturday spent alternately going through a large moth catch and watching British Olympians do their stuff was amazingly draining!

The new Micro Moth book arrived too so that helped me on my way to identifying some of the easier micros that were in the trap.
This morning I nipped over to Marks in the hope that we might get a few Meadow Pipts moving through. Sure enough, a flock of ten dropped into one net all at once as well as a few Willow Warblers.
We're having the back garden redesigned so the feeders have had to be taken to the bottom of the dip. They're still attracting plenty of birds and everything should be in place for the autumn.

Balmy summer birding near Glasgow

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Summer's finally arrived though as we'd travelled up to Glasgow on Saturday, it came three days later than home! I'm currently looking enviously at the temperatures at home knowing that the past few nights would have been excellent for moths as reported from several Lancashire sites. I just know that by Sunday, we'll be back down in single figure overnight temperatures.

Anyway, not to worry, I've had my first micro query confirmed as a Lozotaenia Fosterana and here's me saying I'll ignore them for now. Maybe I will on the whole but this one seemed identifiable (apologies for the image as the iPhone cameras focus is not centre weighted it seems)!
I've managed another ringing session with Mark with a plethera of new nets and poles - so we're ready for the overland Meadow Pipit passage and hopefully some other goodies as well. This time we trapped a lot of Siskins in their July dispersal period so it would be nice to know how far they actually go.
Yest…

Mothing in the garden

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A fine night was forecast on Saturday/Sunday so I had to get the Moth trap out again and I was rewarded with quite a good catch with some bleting ones topped off with four Elephant Hawkmoths. We even managed another morning's ringing at Mark's place on Newton Fell on Sunday morning catching our first juv Meadow Pipit along with several Willow Warblers, two juv Great-spotted Woodpeckers, a Redstart and umpteen juvenile Great Tits.
Last night I put the trap out again and had an amazing catch of around 210 moths of 54 species (not including Micros that I can't fathom yet). It kept me busy! Four poplar Hawk Moths and single Elephant and Eyed Hawk Moths were the biggest, but lots of Brimstones, Light Emeralds with a smattering of Buff Arches, Small Angle Shades and Buff Tips along with hordes of Marbled (?) Minors, Burnished Brass, Dark Arches, Silver, Golden and Beautiful Golden Y's. Gold Spots and Dark Spectacled were new along with Straw Dot, Small Yellow Wave, Dingy She…

Lovely Tern in the weather?

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I don't believe it! Fine weather at last so a good chance to do some garden ringing. Unfortunately, the wind was coming from the east and gusting so the nets were billowing a bit. Even so we caught lots of young Tits, mainly Great along with a retrap Lesser Redpoll and several Greenfinches. We also too the opportunity to ring three nests of Swallow pulli at the farm.

This Woodpigeon was a ringing tick for me - I was wondering when we'd get one!
What was more surprising was a Common Tern flying over the garden. It's over ten years since I last saw one along the canal so it was long overdue - nice spot, Mark. I think it'll be Moth trap time tonight as fine weather is predicted!

Time for a bit of a catch up

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The weather has put paid to a lot of birding related activities recently. I've managed one Sand Martin ringing evening with Richard on the Lune and that's the only one we've managed. The heavy rain of the last week resulted in rivers way above their normal levels - Lune and Ribble bursting their banks and all the Sand Martin colonies wiped out on the Ribble at least. The garden is full of birds at present but no chance to do any ringing of them either because of the wind and rain.
At least I've managed to get the moth trap out a couple of evenings - all very instructive with some smart beasties. Four Poplar Hawk Moths so far as well as several diverse looking species that are all common but new to me.
  A business trip down to Spalding meant that I could call in on the adult White-winged Black Tern at Fairburn Ings - now that's what I call a stunning bird; the first adult I've ever seen.

The Olympic Torch Relay went through Oswaldtwistle last weekend so Bern…

First juveniles are appearing

Just got back from a mini-twitch to Brockholes where a delightful Red-necked phalarope has put in an appearance in today's miserable weather. Just rewards for concentrating on the bird report today.  Now the question is Roller and Pallid Harrier tomorrow?. Hmmm.

Anyway, the juveniles are starting to appear in the garden. The parent woodpeckers have been back and forth to the peanut feeder this week and today a juvenile came down too. Also the first jiveile Goldfinch along with the Blackbirds, Starlings and Blue Tits but how they'll fare in the persisent rain is up for debate.

A quiet day at Spurn

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Not what we were hoping for when we set off early on Saturday morning, but a quiet day is what we had. Arriving at 7am we’d already missed Spoonbill and Turtle Dove and though there were Chinese whispers about Golden Oriole sightings, there were just none to be had.The local Lesser Whitethroats put up a good show along with other resident warblers. A Cuckoo was rather showy and lots of Little Terns at Beacon Lane pools are always good to see.We spent the late afternoon and evening at Hatfield Moors – the Red-necked Grebe showed well at the north end of ten-acre lake after we’d negotiated a road with potholes of Cuban standards. We then searched in vain for the waders that had been reported at the southern end of the peat bog. So not a great day for birding even though it was May and we had a stiff north-easterly breeze.I’ve had the moth trap out at home on a couple of occasions as the weather was now warm enough and Thursday nights catch was rather impressive – probably all common stu…