Saturday, 28 April 2012

Nesting season! - 28th April 2012

Today I visited Kane in Atherton to begin the nest monitoring of Blue Tits for my dissertation project and it went very well with all 10 of my study boxes being occupied and with varying numbers of eggs laid.

I think cute factor has to go to the three baby Tawny Owls that were ringed in the woods. I love how sleepy and grumpy they always look (probably because they are!)
Here is one of my Blue Tit boxes with brown wool collected. It's a really exciting time and I am really happy that every single box has been used!

On the train home, I also managed to find 6 nests on stations including 4 Feral Pigeon nests, 1 Collared Dove nest and amazingly, a Magpie within the station structure! Amazing! A really enjoyable day and 4 'yearticks' in the form of Whimbrel, Ring Ouzel, Green Woodpecker and Swift.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Moore NR - 21st April 2012

I will let the photos do most of the talking, but I woke up at 04.15 this morning and got the train to Warrington Bank Quay and visited Moore NR in search of the mythical male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I have visited here many times in the past with no luck, so I was determined to see one/it this time. I tried the circuit round the woodland to the left of Lapwing Lane for over an hour with not even a sniff of mini-pecker. I decided to wander over to Birchwood Pool to check the gulls but there was a single Herring Gull and that's it! Starting to lose hope, I thought I would check Birch Wood itself when on the walk there, I happened to look up and see a small bird moving from branch to branch...It was only the Lesser Spot! What a fantastic bird and only 40 foot away! I fired off a few record shots and then the bird decided to put on a show and flew down onto a tree trunk at eye level only 25 feet away! I watched the bird for about 20 minutes hearing it call 3 times and watching its feeding habits and how it differs to Great Spot in so many ways. A fantastic bird and well worth the early start!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

2A00: A tribute

On March 1st 2011, The North West Black-headed Gull project began as Kane, Ciaran, Chris, Chris Piner and I went up to Bowness-on-Windermere and caught this stunning adult Black-headed Gull. It was the first bird to be caught for the project and was the only bird we caught on the first day, so left quite an impression. It was ringed by Chris Piner as he had never had the opportunity to handle a Black-headed Gull and we had no right to deprive him of this wonderful experience! The bird was last seen at Bowness on 17th March
Just 7 days later, Kane got an email off Morten Helberg from Oslo, Norway to tell him that he had seen 2A00 close to his home! What incredible news as this was the first bird we'd ringed in the project and it had travelled 1026km in just 7 days!
He was seen in Norway throughout the summer until he was suddenly resighted back at Bowness on 28th November 2011. We were lucky enough to catch up with 2A00 on Christmas eve on our annual trip up to Bowness. This was the first time Gillian, Craig and Heather had a chance to see him and they found themselves charmed by his confident stance and bulging throat.
On 3rd April 2012, Carsten from Norway emailed Kane to let him know that 2A00 was back in Oslo, back on territory and ready for another year of breeding.
Sadly, within the last week, Carsten found 2A00 dead, which for someone who has followed his story over the past year, saddens me!
In just over 12 months, we recorded that 2A00 travelled a minimum of 3078km and considering that we caught him as an adult, who knows how many kilometres he travelled in his life.
This blog post is a slight tribute to the gull that started off the North West Black-headed Gull Project. Hopefully it does 'our boy' 2A00 justice! RIP little man!

Golden Eagle and Osprey! - 12th April 2012

Today I went up to Bassenthwaite Lake to see the Osprey pair on the nest. I have been twice before but both times, I arrived late so it was closed meaning I couldn't see the birds. Today I was able to get distant scope views of the female next to the nest, but this years male (one of her chicks from 2007) was absent during my visit. My 9th Osprey of the year, equalling last years record and it's only April 12th!

Last year, I also went up to Haweswater to see the famous Golden Eagle, but I had no idea where to look so failed miserably. This year however, I got a tip off of where to look and a 30 minute walk later, I scanned the horizon and caught site of a large bird gliding across the valley. It was the eagle! What a fantastic bird and a real privilege to watch England's only example of this impressive and majestic bird. As the bird displayed over the valley in an attempt to find a mate, I felt slightly saddened that this was almost a waste of effort as he will probably never find a mate and start up the English population once more. If it was up to me, I would love to translocate a young female from Scotland to keep this population going. It would be a great shame if my children and grandchildren will never be able to observe such a wonderful animal in their own country (unless I move to Scotland of course!)

A fantastic day!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

2cy Little Gull - Brockholes NR LWT, Lancs SD585305 - 10th April 2012

Despite the excellent passage conditions with strong westerlies and regular showers, there was no wader passage at all this morning at Brockholes. This Little Gull dropped in during one of the heavy showers at 13.05. Watching this bird and comparing it to yesterday's bird, I personally thought that it was less advanced in its moult than yesterday's bird. The dark markings on the upper wing seemed more extensive and the carpal bar seemed broader. I would like to compare my photos with any photos of yesterday's bird.
At 11.25, I scanned south of the ribble and noticed all the gulls had lifted. I saw a bird of prey in amongst them that was noticeably chunky, so when it banked and revealed a pale chest, I new straight away that I was watching my 8th Osprey of the year! Fantastic!
It suddenly descended and went out of view below the trees and appeared to head down to the river. This was the last I saw of the bird.
With further westerlies and showers forecast for the next couple of days, I would like to continue my patch work before I head back into my final term of the year at Bangor on Saturday.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Putative hybrid Glaucous x Herring Gull - Preston Docks - 9th April 2012

Very interesting bird found by Lee Harrison at Preston Docks. Overall structure appeared right for Glaucous with short primary projecting giving a stumpy appearance, very large, barrel chested size gave the bird a brutish appearance. Rather Herring like head and two toned bill showing a pale tip. Dusky underwings and dusky breast extending to the belly and on the back of the nape. Very pale tertials with only a few gingery markings. Primaries looked similar to a kumlien's gull with gingery leading edge and pale trailing. Mature feathering was coming through on the mantle showing surprisingly dark tones which was much darker than the surrounding argenteus Herring's suggesting argentatus influence. Weak secondary bar showing gingery tone that only partially stood out in flight. Reasonably obvious tail band which contrasted to pale rump. Finally the bird showed long pink legs.

Purple Patch - 9th April 2012

I would have liked to have spent today scanning for Osprey at Brockholes, but the persistant rain only let off for a about an hour early afternoon, which produced nothing. I did however set up camp in the M6 Motorway hide and before long, I picked up a tern that briefly took flight and landed on the island with all the gulls. It was a Sandwich Tern! The bird remained on the island for 15 minutes, before flying off SW, allowing me to get this above record shot with my mobile phone.
An hour or two later, heavy rain started and I began scanning the gulls to see if the 'resident' Med Gulls had dropped in. A small gull flew past the back of the gull-flock which turned out to be a 2cy Little Gull. Fantastic! This bird stayed for at least 40 minutes before I left the site, so could still be there now.
In addition to these fantastic birds, I also saw my first Willow Warbler singing of the year, and a female Wheatear on No1 island.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Magnificent 7! - 8th April 2012

Stocks Res have now gone ahead of Brockholes on the light hearted annual competition. As a result, I was very keen to get on the scoreboard for a second time this spring. I arrived on site to to drizzle, wind and very poor visibility. I didn't fancy my chances but I thought I'd set up camp in the M6 Motorway hide to have a look for any waders or terns that may drop in. Mark Farnshawe had had the same idea as me as we looked up to a complete lack of migrants present on No1 which was surprising considering the westerly wind and showers...

An hour or so into the visit, the weather began to clear up, so Mark and I moved over to the infamous eastern bank and began to scan. The first 360 degree scan produced nothing except a few annoyingly osprey-like Grey Herons and Black-backed Gulls. The same again for the second scan. Half way around my third scan and I picked up a large bird flying towards us directly south of the car park. Instantly I noticed this wasn't quite right for a Buzzard. Mark arrived on this bird at this point. The wings looked too long. As it got closer, the tail seemed longer than a Buzzard and it appeared to show a shallow 'M' in its wings. Getting closer and closer, our heart rates increased as it was looking better and better. In the very poor light, it seemed to take ages before it looked anything other than dark. It slightly banked and revealed its two-toned dark and white underside. An OSPREY!

It gradually started descending and as it drifted over the car park, everything on No1 pit took flight and a mass panic started. The bird circled over No1 twice and moved over to the eastern end of Boilton Wood almost right above and hovered briefly over Redscar Weir on the Ribble. It then flew directly north over Redscar and out of view leaving Mark and I pumping with adrenaline. Always a thrill!

My 7th Osprey of the Spring and I'm well on the way to getting into my double figure target.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Bogey Bird doesn't stop amazing day! - 7th April 2012

Hearing about a Penduline Tit at Leighton Moss, I felt obligated to twitch it. Regular readers of this blog will know I have spent the last few summer holidays in North-east Spain. I have spent more hours than I care to remember looking for Penduline Tit without succeeding. As a result, I think of them as a bit of bogey bird.
This bird at Leighton Moss has decided that I haven't been through enough pain yet, so remained completely elusive.
Sightings that made up for the dip were as follows:
Osprey flying high north over the Causeway at 14.55
Pair of Garganey from Grizedale Hide
Lots of Avocet from the train on coastal pools
3 displaying Marsh Harrier (1 male)
A fantastically tame Marsh Tit
Singing and calling Cetti's Warbler on path to Grizedale which showed itself briefly
Finally, the cherry on the cake was an Osprey flying north over Garstang from the train at 15.36 (my 6th for the Spring)
Every time I see Marsh and Willow Tit, they steal the show for me, as they are my favourite common bird species in Britain. Willow just edge it as my favourite due to their stocky build but Marsh are still fantastic birds with a great call.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Proper Patching - Brockholes NR LWT - 1st April 2012

What an awesome day on the patch! Arriving at 9am, I checked Main Pool(/Meadow Lake if you're not pre-LWT) and No1 producing 12 Little Ringed Plover, Knot, Green Sandpiper, 8 Ringed Plover, 14 Redshank and 4 Gadwall.
Whilst doing a raptor scan from the Motorway hide, I picked up on a familiar harsh call and looked up to see my first Sandwich Tern at Brockholes! It called twice and flew off strongly east, at which point I lost it in front of the sun whilst trying to photograph it. This is a really good record for the site and is only about the 6th or 7th record.
I moved off to the east of the site where I joined Bill Aspin and continued with the raptor scanning. Observing all day with the occasional refreshment break and sit down, I saw at least 4 Swallow and about 70 Sand Martin. At 15.23, I was scanning east when I picked up a raptor flying north at 15.23. It was an Osprey! Result! It was only in view for about 40 seconds, but as always, it was a real thrill to see it!
Continuing the scanning after this buzz, I picked up a small raptor over the river south of the car park. I thought it was a Kestrel at first, but the flight wasn't quite right. It was a Merlin. I flew rather strongly north overhead and allowed me to fire off a couple of record shots right into the sun. Only my 2nd record for Brockholes.
I ended the day spending 2 hours in the south eastern corner of Main Pool looking for the ever present Cetti's Warbler. A couple of Chiffchaff and Wren in the reeds got my adrenaline pumping, but sadly, no sign of the Cetti's Warbler. I really do NEED to get this bird before it disappears!

09.20-18.20: The longest I've spent on-site for a long time and it was really worth the sore back and tired legs! Patching at it's best!