Last Saturday, Gail, Alice and I made what we thought would be the last visit to our Bowland Pied Flycatcher nest box scheme. As we approached the site, we were treated to a cracking view of a Red Kite drifting over the road and into the wooded valley; superb!
We had two boxes of pulli Pied Flycatchers to ring, or so we thought, and for the Retrapping Adults for Survival (RAS) project, that we are involved in with other ringers in Bowland, we needed to trap the two respective males from these boxes.
We ringed one brood of six Pied Flycatchers, but the other brood of eight were too small, and will have to wait until next weekend. However, we were successful in trapping both males, and both were ringed. The first male had been ringed at this site on 5th June 2016 as a chick from a brood of six, making him five years old! The typical lifespan for a Pied Flycatcher is two years, and the maximum age recorded from ringing is 9 years and 7 days, so our male is certainly long-lived! Just to think, that he has flown to West Africa and back five times, crossing the Sahara ten times! The other male was ringed elsewhere by another ringer, and we await the details of where, from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).
After we were finished, we were chatting to the landowner, Simon, when we noticed a bird fly down from a nest under the eaves of a low wooden building, and it was a Spotted Flycatcher! A quick lean of the ladders against the building, and a check of the nest, revealed that the Spotted Flycatcher was incubating five eggs. Brilliant!
We called at our friend's farm near Garstang to check the remaining two Tree Sparrow boxes. One pair is still on eggs, but the other pair had two chicks. A third chick was sadly dead in the nest. The two remaining chicks looked healthy enough, and were duly ringed.
Yesterday, I had a breeding bird survey to complete at one of my long-standing survey sites in northwest Cumbria, and I headed off on my transect under 6 oktas cloud cover, with a light northerly breeze. Compared with my last visit there seemed to have been an arrival of Whitethroats, and I recorded eight during the survey, including six singing males. A Grasshopper Warbler singing from the margin of an arable field along the cliff top was new in, and the only other warblers I recorded was a single singing Willow Warbler.
Skylarks are ever present at this site, both during the winter and summer, and I recorded seven, with three of them singing from the heavens.
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
An exert from 'To a Skylark' by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
I had a few finches in the form of eight Linnets, a Siskin high north (very late now), 18 Goldfinches and a single Lesser Redpoll.
Two male Stonechats were singing, with no sign of females, so I assumed that their 'other halves' were on the nest incubating eggs of second broods. The only raptors I had were a pair of Kestrels.
On the way home I called in at the Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserve, Foulshaw Moss. In fact, it is one of my favourite reserves locally. I was hoping for some sunshine to bring inverts and reptiles out, but this wasn't to be, but it was warm and bright, and I hoped this would be enough.
I had a look at the feeding station first, mainly because you have to walk past it anyway, and it was being visited by a few juvenile Tree Sparrows, plus a few Lesser Redpolls, Goldfinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Throughout my walk, I was accompanied by singing Willow Warblers, and there were at least eight males in song as well as a Chiffchaff. A Tree Pipit sang from the top of a Birch, with occasional song flights over the bog. As I passed the Osprey watchpoint, the staff pointed out an adult Osprey and three chicks on the nest that could be viewed on a screen; through my bins they were four blobs! Foulshaw is well known for its breeding Ospreys, and as you approach the site there are road signs directing you to the 'Osprey Watchpoint'! It's a great opportunity to get new members for the Wildlife Trusts.
Just after here were four Common Lizards on the boardwalk, plus lots of Large Red Damselflies. A little bit further on I encountered a few White-faced Darters, but unfortunately every one that I tried to photograph was facing away from me, so you couldn't see that lovely white face!
White-faced Darter (above from yesterday and facing away, and below from
2019 showing it's white face)
An hour and a half had been whiled away in very pleasant surroundings, and it was time to jump back on the M6 and head home.