Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Good Question 30 - You Cannot Be Serious!

It's quiz night Tuesday!

Tonight's challenge combines birds and one of my favourite sports, tennis.  So what you need to do is try and link a tennis player's name to a bird in some way. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

Billie Jean King Eider (Billie Jean King)
Boris Wood Pecker (Boris Becker)

So over to you. I will pick the four best ones tomorrow night and put them on a twitter poll to select the winner.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

A "Swift" Visit to Frodsham Marsh

On Saturday my Grandma was coming over from North Wales, so we decided to show her around one of my favorite birding sites, Frodsham Marsh (she used to live in Frodsham). We arrived on the track along side No.6 tank opposite No.5 tank, where we were greeted by a very heavy burst of rain which lasted a few minutes before finally easing off. We noticed a couple of lone scopes of the embankment overlooking the tank and soon realised that my good friend Bill Morton and Alan Chambers were sheltering in the bushes from the torrential rain that had just passed.  They hadn't found much shelter though, as they were soaked!

High tide was midday. Now that the water level in No.6 tank has decreased a bit, we were hoping for some good wader action, as the high tide pushes the birds off the Mersey estuary. As soon as I set up my scope, I immediately got on to 2 stunning summer plumaged Curlew Sandpipers with a mixed Dunlin and Ringed Plover flock.

They must have just dropped in as neither Bill nor Alan had picked them out earlier.  According to the BTO Bird Atlas, Curlew Sandpiper are most frequently reported while on autumn passage in July - October and are scarce in Spring, so it was fantastic to see them.

The heavy rain brought a few migrants down with it, as literally hundreds of swifts circled our heads as we were observing the tank.

A spectacular sight; infact you could stand less than a meter away from a buzzing swarm of mosquitoes and the swifts would feed practically above our heads.  You could literally feel the air move as the swooshed past.

We continued to scan the rest of the waders roosting on the tank, however sadly they didn't stay long due to an unexpected raptor flushing pretty much everything off the tank and into the air. This raptor was a stunning Short Eared Owl, quite a late bird for mid May. We only got brief views as it flew across the tank and was lost to view due to the tree cover, scattering the small flocks of waders.

Thankfully my Grandma got to see this amazing raptor as well, whilst she was watching 3 Avocets and a Lapwing which were keeping her entertained.

It was a while since I'd been to Frodsham Marsh and it was amazing to see how far the wind farm has come. 3 turbines were already up and the parts that make up a full turbine were already in place for some of the others. 21 are going up in total. There are of course mixed opinions on the turbines; that balance between the long term tackling of climate change and the immediate impact on the local eco-system.

After such a great visit yesterday, I went back again today. The Curlew Sandpipers were still present on No6 Tank and quite a few Swifts were still circling.

The drier weather brought out more of the warblers, with Sedge Warblers being heard most against everything else.

It was also great to see the Lapwing chicks progressing well.

If you've never been to Frodsham Marsh, you really should try and get there.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Moth May-nia

Last week, due to the warmer weather, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get my first proper moth trapping session of the year in. It had been 23 degrees plus in the day and at least 17 degrees over the course of the evening, which is a great temperature for moth tapping. The overnight cloud cover made it even better, as the brightest light around was the moth trap, rather than the moon. 

The first moth in the trap that really caught my attention was this striking Chocolate Tip. I caught my first back in 2014, a lovely species.

Chocolate Tip

Certainly the largest moth of the session was the Poplar Hawk-moth (and the first Hawk-moth of the year). I am looking forward to elephants appearing soon though. Poplar Hawk-moths are quite common, but always great to study up close. So much power in those sturdy wings.

Poplar Hawk-moth

The highlight of the mothing session had to be this new species for the garden; the Mullein. Quite a big moth and highly distinctive.


The final moth, and probably most eye catching was another new species for me; the Sallow Kitten. Last year we caught a similar species from the same family, Poplar Kitten. Although very similar, look how much more wavy the line at the end of the black band of the Sallow Kitten is.

Sallow Kitten

Poplar Kitten from last year

A great session and I can't wait for what's to come. And if you are busy planting your gardens at the moment, remember to create those B-Lines and plant something for these important pollinators.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Whiskered Tern

After a fantastic day out ringing at one of my favorite sites (blog to come), I got news that 2 Whiskered Terns had appeared at Sandbach Flashes only about 20 minutes from my house! Due to the birds being so close I decided to go and see them.

When I arrived just after 4pm, it was amazing to see how much attention the terns had attracted, as the viewing area was teeming with people. Being a local patch, I have birded at Sandbach Flash many times, so it was strange to see it so packed.  The viewing area is well fenced, which ensured that everyone stayed well away from the birds.

All this interest didn't stop the 2 Whiskered Terns from showing brilliantly. I stayed for at least an hour watching them and got mouth watering views, I also managed to get some decent pictures with my phone scope considering the distance and lighting.

It was great to see Elliot Montieth and Joel Tragen there, and watch these fantastic birds together.

You can find out more about Whiskered Terns by clicking here.

Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, 18 April 2016

#Think500YearsAhead - Last Chance to Sign Up

Tomorrow morning at 9:30am, I am hoping that thousands (if not millions) of people will see the following message on their social media feeds:

“I want MPs to put the natural world at the heart of decision making and #Think500YearsAhead not just 5 years ahead."

You can read all about the reasons behind setting up the Thunderclap on my blog here and on Mark Avery's blog here.  You can even watch a short video about why we need to think further ahead here.

This is my final call for help with making the Thunderclap a success.  As I write this blog post 671 people from all walks of life have signed up to the Thunderclap, and it has the potential to reach over 2 million people. These numbers are far bigger than I ever expected them to be, but they also encourage me to keep pushing for more and get the message spread as far and wide as possible.

You can sign up to the Thunderclap on Twitter or Facebook (or both if you have both). If you have more than one Twitter account, you can sign up on each of them. The more it gets tweeted, the better the chance of it trending tomorrow.

You can sign up by clicking here.

I am going to be in school all day, so I would be so grateful if you could share this post and encourage as many people as you can to sign up. 

On the 19th April, in the run up to 9:30am and for the rest of the day, would you think about tweeting/facebooking a message using the hashtag #Think500YearsAhead and giving a personal reason why it is important to think long term for the natural world. It would be great to see everyone's thoughts and ideas circulating round and being shared.

Thank you again for all your support.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Droning on About Anglesey!

Last Wednesday the whole family was off, so we decided it would be a good idea to go and visit Angelsey for the day. Now the island is at least 2 hours drive from where I live, so we set off early. I was a bit concerned visibility wise on the way there, as the car was surrounded by thick fog which wasn't too good. However, thankfully within half an hour the fog gave way to some stunning morning sunshine. The weather looked great for the rest of the day. 

Our first port of call was a stunning little beach just off Trearddur Bay called Porth Dafarch. It has a wonderful headland for attracting migrating birds and is brilliant for sea watching. Amazingly out at sea it was flat calm, you could make out some of the birds close in with a naked eye, and picking things out and identifying them further out at sea was relatively easy.

So a half an hour sea watch produced 2 Shag, 4 Lesser Black Backed Gull, 38 Herring Gull, 1 Arctic Tern (first of the year for me), 5 Manx Shearwater (2 flew very close in, giving extraordinary views). It was amazing to see them gliding over the water as they do. I also noted 100 Guillemot and Razorbill and a single Gannet.

The headland itself produced some good birds as well. Whilst taking a break from sea watching I trained my scope on a color ringed Chough which showed really nicely for everybody.

The smaller passerine birds of note included 4 Rock Pipit, 4 Stonechat, 6 Wheatear and the 'Alba' race of our usual Pied Wagtail: the White Wagtail.

After a nice session of birding we decided to do a bit of 'Go-Pro-ing' on the beach with Harley, and managed to get some footage for him. We stayed on the beach for a while, before heading off to RSPB South Stack to see the huge sea bird colonies present on the cliffs. It was amazing to see all the auks on the cliff and we even managed to see 3 Puffin sat on the sea!!!

I must also congratulate a member of RSPB staff for grounding a drone that was being flown too close to the breeding colonies on the rocks. I wonder when drones will have to be licensed.

We got a further 3 Manx Shearwater whilst sea watching there and that took total up to 8 which is quite good for this time of year. We also saw another Gannet and a few more Chough flying by.

By this point it was getting a bit late, however before we left for home, we had one last look at that Porth Dafarch again, only managing to see a few Wheatear this time.

A brilliant day

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday


I did also leave a message behind on the beach to support the #Think500YearsAhead thunderclap.

Only 3 days left to sign up, which you can do by clicking here.

Friday, 15 April 2016

House Martins - Running Late

I am beginning to appreciate just how valuable the notes are that I have made over the last 5 years, and this was really brought home today with the return of a pair of House Martins.

All week I have been looking out and listening for them, as I knew they were due back any day now. And today was the day. As soon as I got up this morning I heard them, and sure enough, there they were circling the house and already investigating last year's nest.

But they were late! I looked back on the last few years records I have kept, and realised just how predicable they have been in the past.

2013 - arrived back 14th April
2014 - arrived back 14th April
2015 - arrived back 14th April
2016 - arrived back 15th April

I like to think though that they arrived back just before midnight last night, and stuck to their 14th April plan.

One of last year's broods