Posts

Showing posts from 2013

A short break in Nerja, Andalucia

Image
It's half term, so now that Bernie had had all four inspections a school could get in the space of ten months (and be rated as outstanding in every one of them), it was necessary to get her away for a few days so that the temptation of dealing with the pile of stuff at school was put well out of reach. Neither of us are fans of hot weather and lolling around on a beach but we thought that a trip to Nerja on the Costa Del Sol at this time of year would be just the tonic. And so it has proven to be.

We hired a car from Malaga airport and got a small hotel in Nerja - Casa Mercedes in a quiet part of the town - from where we could just loll around or set out to see some of the area.

In birding terms, there's not a lot written about this place as most of the really good sites are in the west so I thought I'd make note of a couple of trips we've made (though travelling some distance.

From the hotel balcony, we've been visited by the commoner species such as Serin, Sardin…

Snow Bunting surprise

Image
Yesterday was spent in the Hartlepool area again with the presence of a Western Bonelli's Warbler and a Pallid Swift enticing birders there. Last weekend, we were at Spurn on Saturday in the drizzle and rain and got to grips with several nice birds but no real megas. They all arrived the next day!

And then last week I had the amazing good fortune to jam in on a juvenile Bonxie on Rishton Reservoir before it headed off towards Preston. So it's been quite good for birds this past week.

Anyway, back to the latest birds....
Folks think this is a juvenile Pallid Swift - seemed a bit dark to me but I know very little about such things!

"So-sweet" Yellow-broweds everywhere (on the east coast)

Image
But none of them were confiding enough to get a picture.Yesterday, I indulged myself with a bit of east coast birding. Hartlepool is a favourite destination of mine as there's not only the gardens and bushes for passerine migrants but the sea and marshes of the Tees as well.

I headed for Borough Hall area where there were a few birders around, and probably more Yellow-browed Warblers than birders. They were calling from the tree tops - impossible to see in the poplars but occasionally great when they appeared in the Sycamores. They were accompanied by a single Chiffchaff and a Red-breasted Flycatcher which gave us the run around but I managed a couple of hastily taken images.
What was really weird was that there weren't any other migrants around - I had a single Siskin and Wheatear and that was it!

A lunchtime seawatch over a flat calm sea produced a couple of male Velvet Scoters, Red-throated Diver and an adult Pomarine Skua that came out of the bay.

The news of four Glossy I…

Back to birdin'

Image
The warm weather over the past few months has resulted in some excellent days for Butterflies and nights for Moths but as September dawns, the temperatures are starting to drop and so the moth trap wont be as busy. Having said that, I got yet another couple of new moths for the garden this week - Old Lady, which is a large butterfly sized moth, and Brindled Green. Peacock butterflies have been in abundance and on one day I had seven species of Butterfly in the garden including a migrant Painted Lady.
However, the end of August means migration - I should have headed east a couple of weeks ago when there was a plethera of Scandinavian migrants on the east coast but instead we tried to get some migrants trapped at Marks Farm and my garden. It wasn't to be unfortunately. The local finch and tit population is doing well as they devour the sunflower seeds - I have double figure counts for Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch every day at present - soon these will be augmented by birds fr…

Recent records from Rishton - Birds and Moths

Image
I've had the Moth trap out in the garden eight times so far in August and though the sepcies count has diminished somewhat (50 - 60 on average compared to up to 98 in July) the interest has not. Yes, the trap is inundated with Yellow underwings from five species - mainly Large Yellow Underwing and Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing - but there have been lots of others to enjoy. The Copper Underwings have started to appear and examination of the extent of the copper colouring on the underside of the hindwing had led to the identification of Svensson's. The trap was doing well yesterday morning with three new micros for the 10km square SD72  - Agriphila latistria, Lobesia litoralis and Carnation Tortix - all localised species in Lancashire and never recorded anywhere near here!
The garden has been busy with young birds - it seems a good year for a lot of species as teh young Tits and Finches devour the seed. I've had some information on Redpolls we've caught - once c…

Two-barred Crossbill - a first for Lancs

Image
It's been a while since I posted on here but East Lancashire has scored again with another rarity, this time a juvenile Two-barred Crossbill on a Bowland bird feeder.
The news came out at 5pm this-evening that the bird had been present for two days on feeders at a farm house near Browsholme Hall. The owner, Barry Tyrer, runs www.lancashirewildlife.org.uk a website with many links to blogs and resources for the Bowland area so as a keen naturalist was keen to get the news out. I'm not to sure if he's prepared for the throng tomorrow!

The path up to the farm wasn't entirely obvious but managed it at a second attempt. After a short wait the bird came down to some feeders where it tucked into sunflower seeds. It departed after around 10 minutes but was soon back, perching on the aerial before coming down to he feeders again. The tertial spots were not all that prominent but other than that it looked like a two-barred, the first of the recent invasion to reach the western s…

Greenish Warbler in Lancashire

Image
June is normally a quiet month where I can get on with writing up the Lancashire Bird Report but with being away in America for two weeks and a very busy time at work moving all the IT to a new site things haven't been as quiet as would have liked.
The only birding I've done has been some Sand Martin ringing on the Lune last week and a couple of brief visits to the very quiet Rishton Reservoir. I've had the moth trap out a few nights too but missed the 'biggest' night of the year so far last Tuesday: I haven't had large numbers of any species but quite a variety in the small number of moths in the trap. So when I got the news of a Greenish Warbler singing in a copse on a golf course at Turton (in Blackburn with Darwen, just yards from the border with Greater Manchester) it was too good an opportunity to miss.
It took a while to find the golf course, let alone the bird but once there, a dash up the bridlepath and a yomp over the fairway had me within hearing dis…

After 37 years, an Albatross!

It's been a long wait but after a very long wait since I first dipped the Black-browed Albatross on Hermaness in '76 (and subsequently in three other years) I finally have an Albatross on my list in the form of three Black-footed Albatrosses from the whale watching trip out of Monterey. The sea was very choppy and it was the first time they'd gone out for four days because of the strong westerlies and it had been touch and go whether this trip would go.

We were glad it did though for the majority of the four hours it was concentrating on not being sick and following the horizon. We jammed in on a mother and calf Humpback Whale after only 45 minutes and stayed with them for  another hour or so before heading out to the canyon where I picked up several Sooty Shearwaters. Then the guide called out the Albatross on the other side of the boat. I managed some shaky binolcuar views of the large brown Albatross as it sheared over the waves and I picked up another two a few minutes…

West coast birding - the Pacific not the Atlantic

Image
After a couple of good days in Chicago, we've hit the Pacific coast and done a stack of sight-seeing which resulted in views of Anna's Hummingbird in a San Franciscan park, loads of Brandt's Cormorants and Western Gulls, a single White-throated Swift and one Heermans Gull. White-crowned Sparrows are very common here too.



Today we made our way down to Monterey stopping off at a couple of birdy sites. The strong westerlies were keeeing most things down unfortunately. At Pescadero there were lots of Western Gulls and CAspian Terns on the beach with once adult Glaucous-winged Gull. On the marsh we had a pair of Northern Harriers and the surprise of three Red-necked Phalaropes but not a great deal else.

At Moss Landing we enjoyed the raft of Sea Otters, a host of Harbour Seals and a pier full of Sealions as well as a couple of Long-billed Curlews and three fly-over Whimbrel. Squadrons of Brown Pelicans travelled up and down the Slough but again there was little else on show.


On…

My first taste of spring birding in the states

Image
Back in the USA. And Chicago again to attend my daughter's graduation ceremony but that's given me a chance to experience some May birding in places where I've only known relative silence in terms of bird song. Montrose point was splendid this morning with all the songs of the grackles, redwings, american robins and orioles amongst others.

And all the birds are all in the summer finery too! Splendid Chestnut-sided, Yellow, Magnolia, Palm and Mourning Warblers as well as Wood Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Warbling Vireo, White-crowned Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. It all made a very pleasant hour or two before the crowds descended!

Jackson Park tomorrow I think before the thunderstorms hit and then it's off to the west coast.


Westerlies bring seabirds to Rishton Reservoir

Image
We've had summer. That nice week is now a distant memory and we're back into cool weather, westerlies and showers but at this time of year this is great weather to drop migrating birds into local reservoirs. I finished early on Friday and though I'd checked the reservoir in the morning (with just a single Dunlin). I thought it may be worth checking again and I was delighted when I saw an Arctic Tern floating over the water. I suspected there were two and that was confirmed a little later by Casper after I had put the news out.
The following day was an early start with a ringing session at Mark's. Most of my Redpolls had left but his garden was buzzing with them. We managed a few rounds dodging the showers and got 25 new birds plus controls as well as more Siskins and Golfinches. Two ofthe female Siskins had well developed brood patches and we also had a freshly fledged juvenile - very early indeed. The Redpolls continue to interest with a good percentage having longer …

Wot, no Chiffchaffs, yet still the Redpolls keep coming

We're into the first week of May and though the weather has turned warmer, there are still winter birds around and a dearth os some migrants. A few Willow Warblers are singing around Rishton but there's a complete lack of Chiffchaffs in the area. Swallows and Sand Martins are thin on the ground too. Cool evenings on the reservoir normally result in flocks of hirundines but not much so far this year.

Following the successful twitch of the Killdeer a few weeks ago, it's been dipping time since. We mossed the Alpine Swift in Blackpool by five minutes and I completely forgot about the Rock Thrush - setting off on Saturday only to stop half way and enjoy some time at Fairburn Ings whilst the negative news arrived.

There's been little on the Reservoir apart from the Little Ringed Plovers that are regularly disturbed by fisherfolk. The Great Crested Grebes are attempting to build (all three pairs, but the receding water line is hampering all efforts.

We've been tackling a…

Whinchat tops spring arrivals in Bowland

Image
Saturday was a lovely spring day so it was an early start at Mark's to see if we could catch more of the hoards of Siskins that have descended before they migrate. In fact it was so nice, the bulk had indeed left but we still managed a good number of birds.

It was lovely to hear Redstarts singing again - they were back in force with at least seven birds in song around the farm but virtually impossible to pick out even in the bare trees. We had a walk down to the end of a neighbouring field where a Pied Flycatcher was proclaiming his territory and a Tawny Owl was sitting on eggs.

On the opposite side of the track, Wheatears were being disturbed as the sheep were being fed but the major surprise was a fine male Whinchat on top of a hawthorn.

We decided to try my garden in the late afternoon as I still had plenty of finches around and we weren't disappointed. Firstly I got a ringing tick with three Blackcaps including this female.
Then there were lots more Redpolls, Siskins and a…

Killdeer and Osprey provide a distraction from ringing activities

Image
I think the title is putting it mildly. After a couple of hours ringing in the garden catching another 13 new Redpolls taking the winter total to over 70, my phone rang - it was Bill Aspin - there must be something at Brockholes I thought! Close. A Killdeer at Alston Wetlands found by ace Kildeer finder Gavin Thomas was a first for Lancashire and a first for me in Britain if I saw it so the nets were furled and the remaining birds processed before Mark and I leaped into the car and headed for Longridge around 15 miles away.

There was no playing it cool like the Solitary Sandpiper a couple of years ago so Mark reminded me! However our velocity was somewhat hampered by Sunday drivers and a tractor between Ribchester and Hothersall but we arrived at the parking spot just before 11 and legged it across the field only to be greeted by a (smug?) pair of birders - Bill and John Wright. "It's flown high south" - Bill clearly wanted it on his Brockholes list but we carried on to …

And yet more Redpolls

Image
I apologise for being rather repetitive on some posts recently but Redpolls are generally scarce yet on Saturday Mark and I ringed a total of 22 new birds plus a control and several retraps.
One of the few adult males that was coming down to seed was distinctly greyer that the rest of the birds and having bounced of the nets three times previously, we eventually trapped him. The bird seemed to have good credentials in that it was noticeably greyer than all the rest and the white in the wing, tail and back was extensive. Flanks had no buff in them and were boldly streaked as was the rump. However, the measurements were all below the range for Mealy! It was reminiscent of a bird in 2009 that stood out similarly. That was also trapped later and though quite large, we put it down as a Lesser as with this one.

The previous control from January came from Cumbria:
L7422553J30.07.11Greystoke Forest (Cumbria)
Caught6F13.01.13Rishton 110 km SSE

We caught three Blackbirds, one of which was laden…

Some pictures of my garden Redpolls and other stuff

Image
Typical isn't it. The pictures of the bright rosy male redpolls were jus a bit too blurry.





Chaffinch invasion

Image
I'm making sure all the feeders are full during this cold snap and as a consequence the bottom of the garden (which is relatively sheltered) has lots of birds.

There have been at least 20 Chaffinches in the large and growing brush pile (created from the trees that have been pruned over the last year) and we have at least 10 Lesser Redpolls visiting still - most were unringed today.

There were twelve Mute Swans and the Black Swan on Rishton Reservoir today but nothing much else has changed.

No Lesser Scaup for me

Image
This time last week I was hoping that a drake Lesser Scaup at Brockholes would hang on into the weekend but there was no such luck. However a call from John Wright on Saturday afternoon raised hopes as he'd found a Scaup asleep with three Tufties on Fishmoor Reservoir. I dashed over but it soon became apparent that this was a different bird to the one a Brockholes. Could it be another?
It was an hour later before we got any prolonged views of it in any pose other than asleep - the nail on the bill was coloured black but it seemed to be too broad. Then it sat up and flapped - white in the primaries and a dark tide line indicated that this was actually a first winter Greater Scaup.
At least we enjoyed a lovely sunset whilst a Mediterranean Gull flew over.
There's been nothing really to talk about at Rishton Reservoir though there are three pairs of Great-crested Grebes displaying. All the easterlies have meant a general dearth of rainfall and the reservoir levels are droppi…

A weekend break in Gloucestershire

Image
Half term has arrived and not a moment too soon for Bernie. So I'd booked a hotel near Cheltenham so that we could spend some R&R around the Cotswolds and drop in on a few birds too!

A Great Northern Diver that had taken up residence on a Park lake in Cheltenham not 4 miles from our hotel was very obliging. It gave us some great views as it fished in the shallows with the local Mallards and Coots for company!
We had started off with a visit to Slimbridge WWT on the Saturday morning where we quickly got aquainted with the wintering wildfowl population. There were around 40 Bewick's Swans dotted around the place as well as a couple of hundred European White-fronted Geese and a Tundra Bean Goose (there were three but I only picked out one). There were thousands of Lapwings and Wigeon as well as hundreds of Golden Plover & Dunlin. There was a good selection of Ducks at various points around the reserve but the highlight had to be a Bittern (or was it two) at the Kingfisher…

Cannon-netting Sanderling at Fleetwood

Image
For the first time this year, I've ventrued away from east Lancashire to do some Sanderling ringing at Fleetwood with Richard Du Feu and others. This was initially planned for December but the weather scuppered our plans and so today was the next best high tide - in excess of 10 meters.

The plan was to cannon net waders at their high tide roost - a sand and gravel bank on the beach near the Marine Lake at Fleetwood. A few days previously there had been 170 Sanderlings present but the last few days they were far fewer in number following weekend disturbance.

However seven of us turned up at 9am to set out the cannon nets under Richard's guidance. This was something I had done before but over 35 years ago at Seaforth with the SW Lancs ringing group when I wasa novice teenage birder. We carefully laid out two nets and four cannons just below the crest of the bank hoping that the birds would come into roost at just the right place.

Once the nets were in place (an hour later), it w…