Monday, 31 December 2012

List Summaries

A quick summary of my various wildlife related lists now the year has ended:

World - 318
British - 268
Lancashire - 240
Fylde - 224
Patch - 95
Garden - 87
2012 British Yearlist - 220 - my highest ever
2012 Fylde Yearlist - 192 - finsihed 3rd on the Fylde Yearlist Challenge

Moth British - 276
Moth Garden - 206
Butterfly British - 34
Dragonfly British - 17

Review of 2012 - September to December

A contender for the rarest bird of the year, albeit only a subspecies, is the American Black Tern that I saw at Pennington Flash on the 1st September. It showed very well from the car park in the company of a European Black Tern allowing a great comparison to be had between the two and the differences to be noted. This is the 5th British record of this form of Black Tern; there is currently a debate as to whether the two are genetically different enough to be classed as separate species so for now it isn't added to my British list. Being back at college had the advantage of getting me back to checking the patch more often, and it certainly produced the goods in September with 4 patch ticks. A vis-mig on the morning of the 22nd was highlighted by a Ring Necked Parakeet calling nosily as it headed south-west, with a supporting cast of 271 Meadow Pipits being an excellent count for here. The same day a Nuthatch was heard calling in Carleton Crematorium, and then on the 26th a Spotted Flycatcher gave great views in the orchard, and a stunning Yellow Wagtail was found feeding on the muddy area in the horse field. An early start on the 29th saw me and Ash once again heading over to the East coast with Ian, this time to Spurn Point. By first light we were in the car park of the crown and anchor pub in Kilnsea looking for the Red Breasted Flycatcher that had been seen the previous day. The wind was fairly strong making viewing more difficult than we imagined, even so we found 2 Yellow Browed Warblers in the same small tree next to where we were stood, along with a Lesser Whitethroat and a Redstart. Next it was along Beacon Lane where we managed to find Ash his first lifer of the day, an elusive  Firecrest amongst a flock of Goldcrests, only my second ever. This was followed by me managing to rectify our previous trips failure on a personal level as we got brief but okay views of the Greenish Warbler in Kilnsea, with a flyby Honey Buzzard adding to the excitement. Heading down to Sammy's Point we were planning to look for a Long Eared Owl that had been found, but as we parked up 2 birders informed us that the Flycatcher had been seen in Kilnsea so it was a quick u-turn and back to the churchyard. After a few minutes the female Red Breasted Flycatcher appeared at the tops of the trees before dropping out of sight, however it was quickly replaced by a bird that we all agreed was much more rufous in colour, most likely a 1st winter bird. A Great Northern Diver and a Shag were seen on a brief seawatch after lunch, then we headed off and briefly across the Humber to Far Ings where without too much difficulty we were able to locate the drake Ferruginous Duck on the entrance pools, the 3rd lifer for both me and Ash for the day. The final stop of the day was to Swillington Ings where we failed to find the Slavonian Grebe that had been reported, although a Red Kite and 3 Marsh Harriers were adequate compensation. The total for the day was 3 lifers, 7 yearticks and 97 species, my highest ever single day count.

Into October and the annual trip to Leighton Moss to see the Bearded Tits on the grit trays took place on the 14th along with Ash and Dave. We witnessed a rather rare event whilst waiting for them to show, when a flock of 11 Bearded Tits 'erupted' from the reedbed and flew high south, the second flock to do so during the Autumn. A pair gave better views as they came to feed on the grit trays. The following day my bird highlight of the year was found by Chris Batty in his Knott End garden, and ensured a nervy day at college before my dad picked me up afterwards and took me down to see the beautiful Pallas's Warbler. It remained faithful to one sycamore tree and allowed really nice views in stunning fresh plumage. This was followed by 2 of it's commoner cousin the Yellow Browed Warbler, at Fluke Hall on the 17th and then Mount Park in Fleetwood on the 18th. Another trip to Spurn on the 20th was highlighted by my 9th and final lifer of the year, a fly over Woodlark, along with my 5th Yellow Browed Warbler of the Autumn and a male Velvet Scoter flying north over the sea. The final trip of the month was to Aldlciffe where a Lesser Yellowlegs showed really nicely in the morning sun on a flooded field, often the closest bird to us along with a very late Wood Sandpiper.

November started with a few winter specialities around the Fylde. My first patch Bramblings on the 1st, a pair of incredibly showy Snow Buntings at Rossall Point on the 2nd/3rd, 18 Waxwings in Preston on the 10th, with a stunning ghostly 2cy male Hen Harrier on Pilling Moss that evening. The final long distance trip of the year took place on the 17th and saw the three of us heading off to North Wales for the day. A dozen Black Guillemots started off the day in Holyhead Harbour, followed by 2 Choughs at South Stack which took a lot of finding despite them usually being found pretty easily here. This was the first time I have been to Anglesey since 2004 so it was a treat to relive childhood memories whilst at the same time watching some brilliant birds. A Great Northern Diver showed distantly on the Inland Sea before we headed towards the highlight of the day, 4 Surf Scoters off Llandulas including 3 males, which although distant the main features could all be noted even on the female. December proved to be rather tame bird wise with no real stand out birding moments, although a flock of c600 Pink-footed Geese in the fields behind my house were somewhat of a surprise. This was also my last bird of the year, a small flock flew over my house just before dark this evening.

2012 produced some incredible birding moments both locally and nationally. Finding a lot of scarce Fylde species (Pied Flycatcher, Red Kite, Redstart, Ring Ouzel, Cuckoo and a spring Curlew Sandpiper) have made the year even more special, and with the more long distant trips I sure won't forget this year in a hurry. Bring on 2013!

Review of 2012 - June to August

With exams throughout June birding took a back seat and as such only 3 entries were made in my logbook! My local patch compromises mainly the same area as the North Blackpool Pond Trail and on the 3rd they were conducting a Bioblitz, the aim of which was to record as many species as possible in 24 hours. The weather was the most part terrible, the rain only started to ease around 5pm! I met with up Ash, Dave and a few others at 4am to check the moth trap, where despite the deluge 9 species were found including new for me Treble Lines. The day progressed with various surveys including bird, insect, plant and even worm, and by the end we had recorded 51 bird species, a great total for my patch including 2 patch first, a Barn Owl and a pair of flyover Curlew. The overall total for the day was around 325 species, not quite reaching our target of 500 but given the conditions we were thrilled with that. My next outing wasn't until the 23rd when a seawatch from North Pier produced my first Fulmar of the year heading south, although the rest of the watch was pretty dead. By this point I was already getting twitchy as a Little Swift has been discovered around New Brighton on the Wirral the previous afternoon, however my parents were busy and refused to take me and Ash despite several attempts to persuade them. However with the bird still present on the 24th my dad finally gave in and after a tense hours drive we got our first views of this beautiful swift as it arced overhead. It never came too low so only a few record shots could be taken but it was still a great bird to watch and at around the 26th British record, the rarest species I have seen in the country.

In a similar vein to June, July was also rather slow for birding although it was punctuated with a few surprising birds from the house. On the afternoon of the 5th I headed down to Warton Bank to try and see a Spoonbill that has been seen earlier in the day, a would be Fylde tick for me. Unfortunately it hadn't been seen a couple of hours by the time I arrived so I wasn't too hopeful of spotting it. Another birder who was present headed off to try from a different vantage point a mile down the road and I soon received a call informing me that he had found it. A quick dash back to the car and drive down to Lytham followed where the bird showed intermittently but fairly close in the various creeks on the marsh. A surprise house tick came on the morning of the 15th, when as it was getting light I was awoken by a familiar call which I told myself must have been in my dream, but no I looked out my window and there it was, a Common Tern flying north over the fields behind my house! This along with Woodcock are my only 2 additions to the house list this year, which now stands at 87 species. This was followed by a first sight record for the house, a Tawny Owl that flew over around midnight whilst me and Ash were doing a moth night on the 20th, following 2 heard only records from previous years. The final days of the month were spent in Sussex for a holiday centred around going to the Olympic Games, bird life was few and far between with the only sightings of note being 47 Red Kites on the journey down, a Great Skua at Dungeness and a Hobby at Lakenheath. However the none birding highlights more than made up for this, 29 new species of moth (including Jersey Tiger in the Olympic Park), 2 new butterflies (Marbled White and Brown Argus), a new dragonfly (Ruddy Darter) and watching 3 Harbour Porpoises close in off Dungeness, as well as the amazing athletics!

By August migration is beginning to kick in and as such more interesting birds begin to appear. The 14th started off with a juvenile Black Tern at Marton Mere before down the road 3 Garganey were picked out amongst a few Teal at Mythop flood. Yet this paled into insignificance compared to what laid in store in the afternoon, for whilst doing a seawatch off Rossall school a the back of a mammal broke the surface. Before I had even had time to register what it could be another of the group fully breached out the water, a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins! These are rather scarce off Lancashire although this pod had been seen a few times over the previous weeks, so I was delighted to watch the 7 of them as they moved south. The final action of the month concerned a twitch with Ash and Ian up to St Marys Island in Northumberland to try and see a Greenish Warbler. To cut a long story short after about 2 hours of searching an area of hedge no longer than 40 metres long, the other 2 briefly saw the bird however I failed to as I was stood a few metres away. Typically it didn't show again and they got much merriment in taking the piss most of the way home as a result!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Review of 2012 - May

Rossall Point if the place to be in spring, on mornings with the right conditions you can get seabirds constantly streaming by offshore and hundreds of passerines migrating overhead. Despite college starting at 8:45 each morning I was able to get to Rossall for an hour or so each morning thanks to getting lifts of a local birder Len. Setting off at 6am on the 1st we were driving up the main road towards Fleetwood when I spotted a Blackbird in one of the adjacent fields, which then turned to reveal a broad white collar, a nice male Ring Ouzel! Only my 2nd ever in the Fylde and my first self found, we quickly pulled over and watched it for a minute before it flew over a hedge and out of sight. Seabirds were pretty much non-existent that morning but overhead migration was more interesting, a female Marsh Harrier headed north over the golf course which was followed by a very distant Osprey miles out to sea also heading north. The following morning had more highlights with a distant Pomarine Skua and 3 Little Gulls over the sea, 2 Whinchat and male Redstart on the golf course and 4 Tree Pipits overhead. I also found a female Redstart in Fleetwood Cemetery on the way back to the bus stop. The next few days continued to produce a host of scarcer migrants on the Fylde, a nice bright Wood Warbler was in Stanley Park on the 3rd, a singing Garden Warbler at Thurnham on the 5th, a calling Cuckoo at Carr House Green Common on the 6th (a Fylde tick for me) and then 2 Spotted Flycatchers once again at Stanley Park on the 10th.


Both my parents have in the past few years done several treks in various parts of the world for Macmillan Cancer Support. In 2010 my Dad had done a trek which involved walking the Inca trail in Peru with a group of about 50 other people, and in May of this year they had organised a get together for a weekend to catch up. When I heard this would be taking place in the Highlands of Scotland about 10 miles from Loch Garten I made it clear there would be no way I would not be going with them! So on the 11th we headed off and by late evening we were at our accommodation in Cromdale near Grantown-on-Spey. My parents had said we could have around half a days birding out of the weekend, which despite not being enough time to do the area justice meant I could try and see my 3 main targets in the area, Capercaillie, Crested Tit and Ptarmigan. An early start on Saturday was agreed upon as it meant we could go to the Capercaillie watch at Loch Garten, and we arrived there at around 6:15 and the hide was already pretty full although no birds had been seen yet. The next hour and a half were frustrating to say the least, with a male bird giving the odd glimpses right at the back of the clearing but very few people were able to connect with it, and a female was seen from the forward hide however by the time the first group had been taken to see it it had moved on. As the first few few people were starting to filter out around 8:05 a huge dark bird flew in from the right of the clearing and perched up at the top of a Scots Pine, it could only be one thing, a male Capercaillie! I had brought my own scope along so whilst everyone else was lining up to take a look through the specially set up scopes I was able to get great views of the bird for a few minutes before allowing others to use mine too. It sat atop the tree for around for 10 minutes before with a huge flap of its wings it departed and out of view.

This was enough for me so we headed just down the road to Loch Mallachie where the circular walk around the wood and along the loch edge proved to be full of bird surprises. Siskins were absolutely everywhere seemingly calling from every tree, whilst Common Sandpipers nosily defended their territories on the shore of the loch. A flock of 10 or so Crossbills were coming to drink from a puddle on the track but I didn't have time to sit and watch them to see if there were any Scottish or Parrot mixed in with them. At least 3 male Redstarts were seen/heard on the walk however after one circuit of the track my main target remained elusive and unseen, but we got a tip off from another birder of a place to look. Upon reaching the spot we had been told about we looked upwards and there hopping around the branches of the pine above us was a Crested Tit. The views were difficult as it was directly above us and never sat still for a more than a second, but nevertheless it was a great bird to see and my second lifer of the day. Out final stop of the day was the ski centre on the edge of the Cairngorms where I was hoping for a sighting of Ptarmigan. There had been a lot of recent snowfall so the car park was packed with people making the most of the white stuff. To cut a long story short I was unable to locate any Ptarmigan, either around the car park or from the cafe at the top of the ski lift, although several displaying Red Grouse slightly made up for dipping the Ptarmigans. At least it gives me an excuse to go back again in the future!

The rest of the month was punctuated with revision and exams so birding was intermittent but by no means boring. On the 26th me and Ash headed up to the Silverdale/Arnside area to look for butterflies, however it was on the way the main surprise of the day appeared. Driving out of Garstang along the A6 I noticed a bird of prey coming in low from the west towards the road, and as it shifted it's trajectory a forked tail was revealed, a gorgeous Red Kite. These are still a rare species in the Fylde, this is around the 12th record for the area. My dad pulled over and I managed to fire off a couple of record shots as it drifted east over the road and out of the Fylde. After this surprise success we headed up to Gait Barrows near Silverdale where we hoped to find the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly and we were kindly shown 1 by another person searching for them soon after our arrival. Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Dingy Skipper were both new for me butterflies from the same day.

The final action of the month concerned some confusing Stints found on a flood in Weeton on the 27th. 2 Temminck's Stints were discovered during the morning, a species I am far from familiar with having only seen a distant pair the previous May at Newton Marsh. In the early afternoon I went to search for them and with a few others we eventually located 2 stints at opposite ends of the same flood in the middle of the field.  One was a classic plain Temminck's Stint whilst the other was extremely bright and rufous, far from what I was expecting. However as they had been identified as 2 Temminck's by far more experienced birders that morning I just assumed this bird was a strange individual and so left it as that. It was only when I got home and looked on birdguides that I saw a report of "1 Temminck's and 1 Little Stint present on the flood" and alarm bells really began to ring. A quick look at images on the internet confirmed that the second bright bird could only have been a Little Stint (a Fylde tick for me) as no Temminck's is ever that colourful no matter what plumage it is in. I text a local this information who headed down to take a look and a soon got a reply saying that now both Temminck's were present along with the Little.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Review of 2012 - April

As you would expect as spring progressed a procession of species returned to the UK from their wintering grounds in Africa, meaning yearticks were frequent over this time period. The sea provided the first interest of April with 7 Sandwich Terns and 14 Gannets moving north off Rossall Point on the 2nd both being yearticks. Sand Martins seem to have arrived very late this year and in much diminished numbers, it wasn't till the 5th that I saw my first of the year and I didn't see too many in the coming months. In contrast with this 2 recently fledged Mistle Thrushes at Bispham Marsh on the 6th were rather earlier than I was expecting. The 10th proved to be a very interesting day, birding at several sites along the Ribble with my mate Ash. A report of a possible Glaucous Gull on the docks the previous day saw us heading down there and the bird soon showed up. The size of the bird alone (it was a real brute of a bird) meant it had to have some Glaucous genes in there, however the plumage was more Herring Gull like and so we concluded it must be what is known as a 'Viking Gull', a hybrid Glaucous x Herring. From there we headed downriver to Warton Bank where one of the Great White Egrets was quickly located out on one of the various marsh pools, but this was trumped by a stunning summer plumaged Water Pipit that perched up a log on the shore in front of us. The icing on the cake was a pair of Avocet on Freckleton Naze Pool, one of which was colour ringed and had been ringed in northern France.

Migrants took over once again from the 11th: Willow Warbler that day, Long Tailed Duck and 2 Little Gulls off Starr Gate on the 12th, House Martin on the 19th, Reed Warbler on the 20th and then a seawatch on the 21st produced c50 Manx Shearwaters, an Arctic Skua and 2 Arctic Terns. After said seawatch Ash and his dad Mark gave me a lift with them to Marton Mere to see if any more migrants had dropped in. 2 Reed Warblers were singing from deep within the reedbed near the bird club hide and then as we rounded the east end a Sedge Warbler burst into song. Walking along the path by the scrub on the northern edge of the mere we heard a Whitethroat singing from a small bramble patch, and whilst moving closer to see if we could locate it Mark said "Ash, what's that in that bush over there, with an orange breast". A reply quickly came from Ash, "male Redstart!" Redstarts migrate through the Fylde in small numbers each spring however none of us had connected with a Fylde one before. The bird gave brilliant views for a minute or so before turning and disappearing into the thick tapestry of bushes and shrubs that make up the scrub. Since this was the first of the year in the Fylde we text a few people with the news and by the end of the afternoon a small crowd of 15 had assembled, with the bird showing intermittently although getting more elusive and distant as the afternoon progressed. I was back at the mere the following day and although the Redstart had moved on I managed to see all 9 warbler species that are available at the mere in spring (including 4 Grasshoppers, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Cetti's).

The morning of the 28th saw me down at Rossall Point for my first proper vis-mig session of the year; it was rather slow going although a Tree Pipit over was a yeartick and a Short Eared Owl hunting on the golf course provided some distraction. That afternoon I headed down to Fairhaven Lake where 6 Swifts were hawking over the water, before heading a little further upriver as I had spotted a large number of Dunlin feeding there. I was hoping something may be with them, but was still pleasantly surprised when a moulting Curlew Sandpiper appeared in my scope view, this being the first individual I have seen away from Autumn passage. The last day of the month produced one of my personal highlights of 2012, not in terms of rarity but in terms of personal satisfaction. A small area of trees lies a short distance from my college and so every morning I had been checking there before my first lesson of the day. It had produced a few warblers in the previous weeks and on the 30th there had clearly been a small fall as the 3 common warbler species had increased in numbers. Scanning a large sycamore tree a small pale bird flashed through my view as it hopped between branches and promptly disappeared behind some leaves. After a few minutes it appeared a bit further to the left and I could it was a Flycatcher species, however I couldn't get decent enough views due to it being very flighty to confirm whether it was a Spotted or a female Pied. Eventually it sat still for a few seconds and turned sideways, revealing the white wing bars of a female  Pied Flycatcher. This is quite a scarce species in the Fylde with just a handful of records annually, indeed it was Fylde tick for me, and being on my local patch made it all the sweeter. Unfortunately as I was going to college I didn't carry my camera on such mornings, so the below photo is of a male from 2010.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Review of 2012 - January to March

My favourite day of the year is the 1st of January, a whole years birding ahead and a whole new yearlist to begin. Sticking to tradition I spent the whole day birding at various sites around the Fylde, recording 74 species which I then supplemented with another 18 the following day. Plenty of highlights, just a few of which include an Iceland Gull at Marton Mere, Great White Egret, 5 Tundra Been Geese, 2 Green Sandpipers, 2 Cetti's Warblers, Scaup, Mandarin, 3 Brent Geese, Marsh Harrier and a Long Eared Owl.

More geese were encountered on Pilling Marsh on the 7th, where much to the annoyance of a birder who had been present for an hour and found nothing amongst the 5000 pink feet, I quickly picked out 6 Eurasian White Front, 6 Brent and 3 Barnacle Geese! A ringtail Hen Harrier and 2 Barn Owls along Bradshaw Lane ended the day on a high. The first twitch of the year took place on the 8th when a drake American Wigeon was found with the Wigeon flock on Newton Marsh. My only previous sighting of this species was a distant drake which I refound on Glasson Marsh in 2010 so I was keen to see this one properly, which it obliged to do giving nice views despite the pouring rain that day. This was followed by another wildfowl highlight in the form of my first Fylde Smew, a redhead on the 15th at Skippool Creek and then Glasson; the supporting cast for the day included a Black Redstart, another Iceland Gull and a Short Eared Owl. Like the American Wigeon it was Nearctic ducks that provide the interest in the following weeks, a fine drake Green Winged Teal was at Leighton Moss on the 28th with the returning drake Ring Necked Duck on Thornton ICI Reservoir on the 1st of February. This is the 4th year I have seen this Ring Necked Duck in the Fylde and at 6 different sites (below photo is from it's visit to Bispham Marsh in 2011).

By Januarys high standards February was a rather slow month birding wise. A Woodcock flushed from the fields behind my house on the 4th was my first record for the house, although within the past couple of weeks I've seen 3 more behind my house. A flock of 15 Eurasian White Fronted Geese on Warton Marsh was a nice surprise and when they flew it is was the first time I have heard the species call. On the 14th I set myself the task of trying to see if the Hooded Crow was still around Singleton from the previous year, and after a couple of hours searching it gave itself up in the exact same field I saw it in last year. My second trip of the year to Leighton Moss on a freezing cold morning had the hoped for affect of forcing the Bitterns out onto the ice, 2 birds gave great views for over an hour and an Otter at the back of the pool was my first for several years.

March usually heralds the first signs of spring, and I noted my first movement of migrating birds at Rossall Point on the 4th when 4 flocks of Kittiwakes totalling 66 birds headed purposefully north just offshore. The first big tide of the year on the 10th saw my heading to Warton Bank along with a crowd of others in the hope of seeing a few specialities being pushed off the marsh. Whilst raptors failed to deliver the Water Pipits made up for it with 3 birds showing very well, as did a Jack Snipe which nearly landed right in front of us before realising it's mistake and powering away inland. Up to this point I had yet to see a lifer in 2012, but I sought to change that with a trip up to Sizergh Castle on the 11th where the Hawfinches (4 males and a female) gave quite brilliant views coming to food in the car park just a few metres from where I was sat in the car.  On the way home a quick stop off at Leighton Moss yielded the Glossy Ibis which had hung on from the previous year. As the month drew to a close more migrants began to make an appearance, Chiffchaff on the 16th, 4 Wheatears on the 17th, a cracking male Snow Bunting at Rossal on the 18th, Swallow powering north over Fairhaven on the 31st, the same day as 4 Little Ringed Plovers at Myerscough Quarry.