Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Longridge Fell

Today I went up to Longridge Fell with my dad for a walk.

We only went for four hours, but that was enough time to see many species. We were hoping to see some deer, but none were around. However we weren't disappointed as the views from this place were spectacular.

Also I got to tick off The Famous Grouse. After a flock of Bullfinches flew over the pine trees, we heard some strange calls coming from the heather. I managed to spot the bird stood on a stone wall about 200 metres away. unfortunately the sun was facing us, so the photos I got weren't as good as I hoped for. nonetheless I am still glad I saw it. There wasn't just one in the area, there was about six all calling every so often. They have a great call, almost sounds as if someone is laughing. Some kept taking flight then landing to never be seen until they took flight again. I managed to get a couple of pictures of them flying, which I am pleased with.

The sun was setting and I managed to get the warm sunset lighting up one of the red grouse coming into land.

There were a few other species which we saw. A Goosander flew over quickly and startled some crows, which began hoping around the stone wall. There were two Stonechats flitting around the heathland with the Red Grouse. The female kept flicking her tail when she was perched and the males striking orange, black and white plumage stood out amongst the dull brown and green.

A strange small, pale bird was seen darting from branch to branch calling continuously DaDeee DaDeee. I am unsure what this bird is, but have had some suggestions; from the call Twite or Lapland Bunting (mostly sounds like the lesser). Or Linnet, Snow Bunting, Goldcrest, Firecrest. This bird was alone at the top of the trees and has a forked tail and dark crown. It would be great if anyone could put a species to it. the image below shows it, however it isn't focused, although it can be seen.
 Another birder - Phil Lowe, has just pointed out that it could be a Siskin. the audio he had does sound like the one I heard. so thank you Phil. You have helped me tick off Siskin (90% sure), as there are not many near me. However still up for other ideas. He has a blog with many photos if you want to take a look

  The day turned out to be a good walk, hardly anyone was around and the Vimto stayed hot, although my legs are aching! I really want to visit this place again, and hopefully spend a bit longer there.

Monday, 29 December 2014

My guest post

I did a guest post on my favourite blog on the 11th December.
To see it the link is below:


Jake's blog (jakes bones) is a fantastic blog about a thirteen year old living in Scotland. He collects bones and has been since he was six! He has also written a great book, about bones and obviously its called Jakes Bones. He has over 100 skulls on display in his bedroom! Jake has also been in the media quite a bit, including being on The One Show with Sir David Attenborough and on Autumn and Winterwatch. He started blogging in 2009 and blogs once a week about bones he finds, or about animals and birds he sees on his walks. A link to his blog is below. I really recommend that you take a look.


Earlier this year (July), me and Jake found that we were staying at the place. I was on holiday at Cockerham and received a tweet off Jake with a photo of S.BAGSHAW carved into the red rock.

His dad had taken a photo of it on a walk, and Jake had recognised the last name, so contacted me. We met up later on and had a game of pool in the pub and then went for a walk on the beach. He had to go the following day for his uncles graduation, but we keep in touch. It was a lot of coincidences, which lead to a great meeting and friendship.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Icy outing

All ready and in the car for 9:30 this morning, with my mum and dad. I had my camera, binoculars and rucksack and we set off for a day on Lancaster coast. The route was recommended by a fellow birder Phil Slade, who has a great blog http://anotherbirdblog.blogspot.co.uk worth a look.
We started the day off at a reserve near Fluke Hall. It was very well set out, with a few ponds dotted around and plenty of hedges and reed beds. A kestrel flew overhead and landed in a birch before flying off further on soon after. Many robins and blackbirds were darting around, with a few perched singing. The marshland was filled with Lapwing, Curlew and Shelducks, whilst hundreds of very vocal Pink Footed Geese flew over towards the tide.

My dad and i walked down to Pilling, about 20mins whilst my mum drove down. Many cyclists were out and the odd car past us. We saw two Muscovy ducks and a black and grey rabbit. I managed to find my first ever fox skeleton, which had been hit by a car. I only took the cranium and hopefully will have some pictures of it to share soon. Small starling flocks and charms of goldfinches dotted around the trees, with many crows and rooks crowing from the branches above. A Kestrel flew over some flocks and flushed them from the ground. At the time I couldn't see what was flushed, but now I know it was a group of Black Tailed Godwits. A tick for me!

When we reached Pilling, we drove down to Knott End where another group of Pink Foots were busy feeding on the fields. There wasn't much there so we headed up to Cockerham and parked at the lighthouse. There were few there so we had some lunch to give them time to walk further ahead. Along the way a group of 50+ Whooper Swans were feeding on corn. Not as many as there were last year, but it was a good sight.

I went for a walk up the beach along the tide line, looking for anything which caught my fancy. I found a few mermaid purses which i will identify and record on Shark Trust for the Great Eggcase Hunt (i have submitted around 300 sightings to them). A lot more seaweed had been washed up than usual, but the weird thing was, last night had frozen a layer of seawater on the sand and shells, which made it unbelievably crunchy to walk upon. Therefore many Redshanks and oystercatchers where flushed from the grasses.

the black rabbit

I walked back down the beach to Cockerham Sands Caravan Park with my dad. There where plenty of Teal and Wigeon at the waters edge with one Little Egret at a sea pool. We got to the sight around 2:45 and hadn't found much which I could bring home. I did find a washed up sheep and dad found a Fallow Deer, but I wasn't allowed to take them. I had also found four separate Pink Footed Geese washed into the tide line. However only the bodies were there, there neck and head was missing on all four, which we thought was strange. I took home the odd bones, mermaids purses and a few oysters.

I convinced them to take me down to Conder Green, to a walk I had been on before with my granddad. A group of Mute Swans were in the fields and mallards and other ducks were in the gullies. My dad and I went on the walk, but didn't find or see much. There was some amazing views from the walk, which I hope to see again. It was getting darker as we set off home, but I did manage to see some more Mute Swans in the fields along the canal.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Best two collections

I have been collecting since i was little, my family used to call me a 'magpie'. When we went shopping in town, i used to come home with more money then I went with, but these following are my favourite, along with their stories.

The first is a rock

But this is no ordinary rock. No. Its a fishing weight. But it is no ordinary fishing weight. No. Its from the prehistoric period.

I found it two years ago at my favourite place, Cockerham. It was washed up amongst some other rocks and seaweed. At first I only picked it up because it was discus shape and I was going to throw it. But then I noticed it had a ammonite -a fossil of an instinct marine invertebrate- in the centre with four blue lines coming off it, like ribbon on a present. That fossil confirmed that i was going to keep it. I didn't know it was a fishing weight, but a year later when I came across it, I did some research to look further into the markings which embedded into the rock.

I only looked into it because the markings were too symmetrical to be natural erosion, but I'm glad I did! I didn't know what period in time it was from though the fact that the ammonite is in the rock means the rock must have been formed sometime during the cretaceous period, and therefore it must have been used as a weight sometime after that, but long enough ago so that erosion could occur as the rock is smooth (some geology thrown in their for you). And with the help of Ben Driver aka @blicklingben on twitter. It is t from the roman era as their fishing weights have holes through them for the rope.

My second favourite finding

It is an unfortunate end for an amazing seabird, the Gannet. Again i found it at Cockerham. The bird had unfortunately died and had washed up on the north west coast. There aren't many gannets around here as there are no cliffs for them, so my only thought was, is that it had died at sea and been washed in because of the tides and currents.

Gannet from Belgium

I was on a holiday up there and was on a beachcomb at the time. I saw a mass of white feathers and thought it was a gull, so I went over for a better look. I couldn't believe what it was, as I said you don't see any around. As bad as it sounds, I couldn't believe my luck. I had only just started collecting for osteology and had about four skulls, so I thought I couldn't pass this up.

Cutting the story short, I cleaned it up and put its beak sheaths back on. It looks really smart now and its cranium structure is absolutely amazing. The gannet can be admired by the fantastic speeds and ranges it can reach from diving for fish. However diving at those ranges could do some damage to a normal skull, but the gannets cranium just shows how it manages to cope. The skull has a thick piece of bone at the top of the beak to spread the force of impact. This skull truly shows the Gannets amazing evolution and anatomy structure. I found it back in 2012, so not long ago, but in the mean time i have managed to collect and study the anatomy of unusual birds. I will tell of those another day.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

2014 twitches

I have only recently been on two twitches. I have been birding for around five years now and haven't really took to the idea of twitching - that's going out purposefully to see a reported bird, for the non birders- I think its because it feels as though its cheating. however I decided to give it a go. I waited to there was a good report for a rare bird closer to home, not like those Great Spotted Cookoo, which seemed to be everywhere bar the north west.
so my chance came. a Great Grey Shrike had been spotted in Lytham, and I thought it would be a good starting point. my granddad and I set off on one of my free days to go and find this bird. when we arrived at the place where it had last been seen, there where two other twitchers there, who had travelled a long way to see it. they were quite old and were good friends. I began talking to them and before I knew these two men and I were wading through a bog and head high weeds, looking for the grey bird.
we where at the back of an animal sanctuary, searching the power cables and the bramble bushes for a glimpse. there was plenty of wildlife around; greenfinches, blackbirds, robins, goldfinches and great tits, but no shrike!

after admitting the bird wasn't there we heading back across the bog, flushing some Snipe as we passed. one of the men's phones buzzed and he had an alert that the shrike had been seen two hours ago (literally 10 minutes before we all got there) at the other side of the sanctuary, on the opposite side of the road. well... we all went running towards the cars and drove round to the front entrance.

sure enough, we where joined by a few other twitches. one of them decided that the shrike wasn't on the other side of the road, but back down at the sanctuary so he made a detour and wondered off. the three of us however stuck together and went to the other group of twitchers. we set up out cameras and scopes and waited patiently, staring at a huge bramble patch. the patience was killing me, so I grabbed my camera and took photos of a hovering kestrel. the kestrel dived down into the patch, disturbing a few birds. one of the men shouted "its there!" and pointed at a grey dot perched high up in a leafless tree. I started snapping away and showing the others how to take a photo through their scope on their phones - digiscoping.

the shrike stayed around flying weightlessly from tree to bramble. after some time had passed and I was satisfied with my shots and sighting. I decided to head back to the car. the shrike had dived back down into the brambles and others where packing away. we walked back to the cars and suddenly the shrike popped up onto some brambles about 7 metres away. I got some quick shots, before it flew away.

my next twitch was to see a shore lark that happened to land at Fleetwood. I was hoping this was going to be as successful as the other twitch but unfortunately the weather was bad and the shrike was no where to be seen. however luckily a Snow Bunting had made an appearance along the shore, along with some very scitterish Sanderling. with a bag full of beachcombing items, I managed to get some shots of the bunting and sanderling, as well as a Red Breasted Merganser, which was diving in the basin. by the way I also collect bones, so I happened to find a Black Headed Gull skull amongst the san dunes.

even though my first twitch allowed me to see what I set out to see, the second also allowed me to see two new species. with both trips I managed to tick off four birds
great grey shrike
snow bunting

although twitching does still feel like cheating, I have realised that I may not be able to see these birds any other way, unless they land in my garden. so I may indeed go twitching again, hopefully next time I will see the Shore Lark.

Last december outings

I am new to blogging, but have decided to have a go so I can share some of the fun things I do and find.
Yesterday, my Granddad and I went to the docks for a birding trip out. There wasn't much about, however the two usual Great Crested Grebes where showing their very striking winter plumage and diving in the basin. There was also the familiar mallards, along with a domestic and over 150 black headed gulls.

It was a good day except from the terrible sight at the lock gates. The tide had brought in a huge amount of material. Unfortunately the material was not natural, it was full of man made rubbish i.e. Plastic bottles, footballs, tennis balls, fridges and general waste.

The amount of rubbish was in such the amount, that it made the water look like it had a floating land mass. The thing is, the amount of rubbish there, could be the same amount or more of the rubbish that floated down the other side of the river. I need to try and get something done about it. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

However, the wildlife was still about, pied wagtails, cormorants, moorhens and  a few 20+ teal. I went on my usual walk down the river bank, searching for anything which could have been washed up. I found the usual sheep bones, including a part of the skull with a few teeth, a couple of rabbit bones, whelk shells and a black headed gull skull.

There was also an unusual item which had been washed ashore. It was cast iron and really heavy. The shape made it go to a point, but there was some strange markings on both sides of the item. They were hatch markings along the edges of the sides. Something like the veins on a leaf.

I have absolutely no idea what it is, however i have some ideas. It could be off a ship, something to tie rope around and the hatch markings create more friction, however the shape of it doesn't seem right for that, plus its really heavy.
It could also be off a wheel or a door, but seriously i have no idea. If anyone does have any ideas, get in touch and maybe we can figure this out. It would be great to know.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Hope you get what you want :)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My day at Autumnwatch

This Halloween I wasn't trick or treating, instead I was at Leighton Moss for Autumnwatch. I had got an invite to go and watch my favourite programme a few weeks before and had been looking forward to going. I had ordered some binoculars for my birthday and was hoping they came so I could take them to Leighton for the day. that morning they had arrived. I had everything ready to go; ruck sack, camera, binoculars and my D of E book.

it took over an hour to get there, after getting lost of course and already after walking through the doors I had seen Chris Packham and Iolo Williams. it didn't feel real seeing these presenters metres away from me. Whilst they where having some food, I met Brett Westwood (Autumnwatch extra presenter). we talked about our birding experiences and what it was like to work there. he introduced me to Nick Baker (a BBC presenter and Autumnwatch Unsprung presenter). I had brought two of my collections along to show to Nick and hoped he could spread some more light on one of them. I had found both of them on my usual beachcombing routes at Cockerham. the first I found a few years ago amongst some seaweed and rocks. at the time I thought it was a Greater Pipefish skeleton, but Nick told me it was either a Pipefish or a young Greater Pipefish. the second was one I found a few months ago amongst the tide line. it was a Goldcrest; the smallest bird in Britain. I had managed to articulate its skeleton and Nick was amazed at it. he even did a photo-shoot of it. after talking for a bit, he had to go for a rehearsal so I went birding in the hides. throughout the day I managed to tick off Goldeneye, Gadwall, Marsh Tit and Shovelor Duck. I also got to see Red Deer and one of Leighton Moss' Otters.

when evening approached we had to have a meeting in the cafĂ© about what to do when on air and Nick gave a talk about it as well. before the meeting, I got to meet Gary Moore and Richard Taylor Jones, who gave me some really good advice. after putting on high visibility jackets and marching up to some woods where a scout camp was, we all got ushered to our places in the Autumnwatch Unsprung studio and counted down until we went on air. the atmosphere before and after we went live was amazing. I was stood behind the main couch and will never forget the day.
when the main programme went live we all had to creep silently back into the scout hut and got some juice and biscuits. when I thought the day was all over and it couldn't get any better I bumped into Chris Packham, Michaela Strachnan and Martin Hughes Games.

I managed to get all the Autumnwatch signatures and pictures with them, as well as have a truly unforgettable experience.