Sunday, June 20, 2010

Moore lists...

Friday 18th June

Well, today was to be the big test of the previously proposed, freaky, but rather intriguing, ‘Universal Law of Listing’ (ULL). I’d planned the route through the patch (see previous blog) to cover as many different habitats as possible and as much of the patch as possible, given the limited time available. What follows then is really just a diary of the day... what I saw where and when... BUT also, an occasional commentary on how, if at all, this all fits with the ULL.

Halfway House (07:45-09:00)

Weather was overcast, though not overpoweringly dull... cool, but on the milder side thereof... and there was just enough breeze to set my pollen detectors twitching. First of my five stops today was Halfway House (HWH). Parked the car near the black and yellow barrier, grabbed my rucky (containing scope, tripod, flask, munchies), my usual Garam Masala coloured, collapsible, ‘Royal’ fezzie chair, bins and I was off. Pleasant lil yomp-let later and I was there - time, just after 07:35. Tide was on the rise with only about a quarter of the mud exposed and the ‘path’ to my elevated lookout on the bank was waist height in grass, nettles and hogweed. Settled in, poured a coffee, took out my notebook and I was off – first of five consecutive 15 minute observations, starting at... 07:45.

What do we have? 1...2...3... 14 Lapwing on the mud in front of me. Numbers are up. There were only 6 the last time I was here a few weeks back. Now there are these lot and a further 53 down by Wigg Island. Reed Bunting calling, Black-headed Gulls dotted about, eclipse Mallard... no Canada Geese and no Cormorant though. Big bunch of gulls way off on the mud... scope... Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed. Small stuff flitting by... Sand Martins... 4 of them. Whitethroat, Song Thrush and now Reed Warbler singing. Magpie over, Grey Heron calling and what’s that? Wader. Redshank. Oh, didn’t expect that – nice summer bird. Looks too neat to have already hit the breeding grounds. Guess he’s gonna be a late arrival OR not bother at all... High left more Lapwing... flock of about a hundred. Lone Swallow among the Sand Martins now and... Ooo, there’s a Shelduck... finally. Couple of Wood Pigeons over low behind... Carrion Crow, Kestrel hovering over the Fiddler’s Ferry hide, Pheasant, Oystercatcher and Goldfinch calling and... Chiffchaff and Blackbird singing somewhere brought a productive 15 mins to an end. Tally – 26 species. Now according to the ULL this should account for about 55-60% of what I was gonna see at Halfway House, which meant that with my usual 7% miss rate (see previous blogs) I should have managed to find about 40-44 species here all told... OR, to put it another way, with an hour still to go I could expect to see another 14-16 species.

Here’s how things panned out.

08:00 – 08:15 Blue Tit calling, Wren and Willow Warbler singing, Gadwall and Cormorant over (5 more species...)

08:15 – 08:30 Linnet calling, Chaffinch and Dunnock singing (another 3...)

08:30 – 08:45 Grasshopper Warbler reeling over the river (I’d had this bird before – it was to be the first of 3 Groppers today), Skylark singing high over Norton Marsh and... biggish, brown, flying low, long bill... Bar-tailed Godwit??? Nope! Curlew. Another very clean, neat summer bird... hmmmmm. So, what’s that? 3 more...

08:45 – 09:00 Great Tit alarm call in the hedgy stuff behind me, House Martin over my head, 2 Stock Dove have landed on the strand line to my right... now they’re off... well THEY didn’t stay long... and finally Greenfinch song flight. I make that a grand total for HWH of 41 species. Score 1 to the ULL, I’d say! Woot!

MSC and UMS (09:00-10:15)

Right. Phase two (or rather, next bit of the patch). Plan here was to walk back to Bob’s Bridge (BB) along the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC), past the red brick houses and over the lil wooden bridge onto Upper Moss Side, follow the path through the Tree Sparrow Field to the Norton Marsh hide and then backtrack through Balloon Hut Field and follow the path through Daisy Field, cut up onto the top scrub and head back to Bob’s Bridge via path past Shipton’s Meadow. SO, this, in contrast to the sit and wait sesh at HWH, was to be a yomp, although again it was to be split into five 15 minute chunks. This would mean that I could see whether the ULL fitted this part of the patch too (results later) and also whether it fitted what I ought to see over the day as a whole. This phase of the day was a bit of an unknown for me though as if any of the 5 sites was to throw a spanner in the ULL works, this was likely to be it. Why? Because the section I was walking changes from scrubby, watery-ness, to farmland and my gut was telling me that this could cause a bit of a blip as I was bound to bump into a mess of new farmland stuff halfway through the sesh. Ah well, we would see. I’d managed 41 species at HWH, which, according to the ULL should account for 55-60% of the entire day’s list, if I was to visit another four bits of the patch for the same amount of time and work them similarly hard. Although I had no idea at the time the ULL prediction for the day based on the HWH list was 68-75 species. Nice!

09:15 – 09:30 Along the MSC... first up... Canada Geese! Hadn’t gotten a single one on the river, which is really weird tbh. Hang on... Greylag... AMONG the Canadas... and a little further along... a pair of Greylags on the far bank with a brood of 5 goslings. Some croaking from a Great Crested Grebe added another species to the day tally (there were in total 3 pairs on the canal between HWH and BB today). Buzzard over calling and a Sedge Warbler has just started up and has just stopped, just like that. I make that 5 new species in the first 15 minutes.

09:30 – 09:45 Lots going on and a good few new species for this part of the patch (see later), but just as the theory predicts, relatively few new species on the day... another 5 in fact; Tufty on the canal, and the rest in the scrub along the canal path – Bullfinch calling, Robin, Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush singing.

09:45 – 10:30 Drop everything off at the car except for bins and water and carry on past the houses adding Collared Dove on the wires as a Jay flew over the track and a Yellowhammer piped up. By the end on the White House Path Field I’d added Tree Sparrow. A quick short-cut through the Red and White Campion in Tree Sparrow Field flushed first, a female Pheasant with 6 quarter grown young, all of which could fly and then a single Grey Partridge, which brought the new species tally for phase two, to 15 by the time I got to the Norton Marsh hide. A Swallow flew out. There had been a nest with unfeathered young in last time I was here, but today it was empty. Long enough ago for them to have fledged, but not much evidence that a full brood had been raised in it (too clean!) so I suspect they were predated. Let’s hope they have better luck with this lot! Can just about make out male Shoveler on the rapidly drying pool in front of the hide and get Meadow Pipit as I leave. The only other new addition to the day’s tally is Garden Warbler near Bob’s Bridge. Total addition of new species from phase two is...18, which makes the day total so far... 59! Excellent. This should be equivalent to about 80% of the predicted day total according to the ULL, which would but the day total to between 71 and 74, if you do the sums. SO, if I had but known it, another 12-15 species was all I could expect to add during the rest of the day...

Pumphouse Pool (10:45-12:00)

Time for a well earned break, some munchies and a much needed coffee at... Pumphouse Pool, the third stop on my field adventure. Now I was pretty good. I resisted the urge to stick Swift on the list straight away and instead waited for the allotted start time for this ‘sit and wait’ session – 10:45. Not that the short interlude was without its excitement as I was to witness the Pumphouse Triangle in action for the first of what to turned out to be several times during the next hour and a quarter... Suddenly, there materialised right in front of the hide, a baby Rabbit zig-zagging... then behind that a Stoat in close pursuit! Despite the lil bunny’s best efforts, it didn’t take long for the Stoat to catch up. Cue – pouncing from the Stoat, neck bite and loud squeals and jinking from the Rabbit. Poor little thing did its best to shake the Stoat off its back, but it was too late. A parent bun materialised at the same spot and leapt towards them resulting in the Stoat’s temporary release of its elevenses, but I’m afraid the the baby lagomorph just twitched and so its mother dematerialised back into the Pumphouse ether. Out popped the Stoat again and dragged the little bugger off into the bushes to dismember and crunch through at its leisure. All over, yum yum and time to watch some birds...

10:45 – 11:00 Swift! Thankfully (?) they’d not gone during my ritual caffeine imbibe – 7 were scything through the air above the pool with about 14 Sand Martins skimming the weedy water below them. Two odd species to add so late in the morning next – Coot and Moorhen! Nothing else new through the bins, except for a Grey Heron lying down... you know, I don’t remember the last time I saw one do that... saw one SWIM across Birchwood Pool the other year... that was weird too... but lying down on the spit – crazy legs... all the others were standing up. Time for a quick scope, free-stylee... some movement on the near shore... Pied Wagtail – that’s a new one! More distant scoping now... Coot, Coot... male Tufty, female Tufty, male, male... male Pochard. Oh. They’re back... interesting. A little bit eclipse-y maybe? I make that 5 more species on the day...

11:00 – 12:00 I add another 5 new species to the day.... Long-tailed Titzi-zi-zi’-ing behind me, Rook and Jackdaw over calling. ‘Peep!’ left... Kingfisher? Can’t see anything... ‘pee-peeep... pee...peeep’... shot of electric blue streaking along the east shore... KINGFISHER... along the island...’peeep’... and into the willow. Flying turns to perched and so blue turns to orange - gorgeous. Forgot to sex it though... doh! Plop... distant ripples amid the slumbering Tufties... female just dived? No. Coot. Coot? No, bird is still under and creating a small sub-surface wake... bob... it’s up. Little Grebe. That puts me on 69... woot, woot!

Woodlands (12:30-13:15)

More coffee and I’m yom-noming thru my jar of fruit and nut... Brazil (yom)... Golden Sultana (nom)... Pecan (nom)... Raisin (yom)... Almond (nom)... Dried Cranberry (nom)... Pistachio (nom)... Sober-achio (oh dear)... Next stop, phase four. Plan is to yomp (a la previous MSC/UMS bit) for one and one quarter hours through the woodlands of Moore – specifically Birch Wood, Birchwood Strip, skirt the west end of Birchwood Pool, go past the Tawny roost and Lapwing Wood, on to Lapwing Lane... along past Lapwing Lake screen hide, thru the car park and back thru Birch Wood to my parked car alongside Pumphouse Pool (west end).

12:30 – 13:15 First rain of the day... middling shower halfway through this damp stroll. First addition, Great Spotted Woodpecker in Birch Wood... then a late-in-the-day Mute Swan (well three actually) as I skirt BWP, followed by... nothing much. Spend half an hour dodging the rain as I strain to hear anything (!) Exceptionally quiet, then... Treecreeper siiinging in the rain. Remembered that the Lapwing Lane screen has a roof on it and so stroll there. Rain soon stops and I head off again discovering to my horror as I do so, dozens of tiny Toadlets clambering along the gravel path between the hide and Lapwing Lane. Horror? Yes!I Because God knows how many I must have squished on my way down to the hide just now oblivious as I was to their presence. Doh!!! Day tally – 72 (that’s bird species, not ghosts of boot-mulched toad btw!).

Eastern Reedbed & Millbrook Pool (14:15-15:30)

That just left the final, fifth patch-let – Millbrook Pool and the Eastern Reedbed combined! I note that the new Moore brochure labels the hide here as ‘The Phoenix Hide’... Oh, dear... We also have ‘Sedge Hide’... ‘Canal Bank Hide’... ‘Colin’s Hide’ etc... So much for common sense! That's the last time THOSE names will appear in these blogs that's for sure! Anyway... Things to note here today include: Mute Swans. Why? Because they still have 9 cygnets – happy days. Also there’s a pair of coots with a fully grown brood of 7 youngsters... yes, SEVEN! Now I think that’s bloody odd. What’s going on with Moore Coots? They seem to have gone all PC... not seen a single case of child abuse this year and the family of nine seemed positively...’adjusted’ – the parents were almost doting!!! No sign of the large GC.Grebe chick today on the ERB... but the parent was still about. Surprise here too! There are two male Wigeon back already!!! Tick! MBP was, perhaps not surprisingly this late in the day, quiet with regard to new species, except for a rather long tailed Pied Wagtail out of the corner of my eye that turned out to be a juvenile GREY Wagtail once I focussed on it properly. It was also the last species of the day - Grand Total = 74 species.

So how did the ULL hold up? Well I reckon pretty well in general. Similar patterns as previously, with some variation due to scale (see below).

% species seen (y-axis)  v % time spent looking (x-axis)

I reckon enough Moore data's been crunched now to come up with the following Rules of Thumb based on the ULL.

For year lists (including patches) divide your total species seen at the end of Mar by 0.7 and then take off 7% which you'll miss over the year to end up with your likely year list length.

For days lists (including patches) divide your total species seen after 20% of the time you plan to stay out by 0.55 to get a likely day list. If you're blitzing a site, you're not likely to miss much I reckon, so no need to adjust.

For an hour or so in one spot, I reckon you can divide your initial 15-20 minute species tally by 0.6 and then take off 5% for stuff that's not come out of hiding yet.

Of course this is a bit rough and ready, but hey... give or take a bird or two, shouldn't be far off most of the time I reckon - here endeth the graphage... back to patching proper ;)


  1. Just tried your maths - bally close!

    From the field guide - 175
    From Moore mathmatics 176.7



  2. Cool :) When you think about all the variables out there, plus or minus a couple of birds ain't bad as a general rule I'd say... looking good so far!

  3. Interesting maths - but works less the further north that you go - my Scatness (shetland) yearlist at the end of March = 70, divided by 0.7 = 100, minus 7% for misses = 93 - but i'm now on 112 !!!
    Shetland Misfit

  4. DOH! BUT very interesting Steve!!! Less to do with northerly-ness I'm wondering and more perhaps to do with it being Shetland? :) Wouldn't be surprised if the Scillies was a lil anomalous too lol. I have 3 theories - (1) you got off to a slower than usual start and should really have been on about 85 by the end of March on account of a particularly wonderful Hogmanay, (2) Shetland has less habitat variability compared to Moore,or (3) the ULL is pants and needs (a) regional coefficients of adjustment (b) restricting to mainland sites or (c) chucking in the bin :o On a more positive note though, with 112 now, you should hit 122 end of year :) Maybe...

  5. my target is 140+ by the year end, but due to the crap spring (no bluthroat, r b shrikes, wood warb, whinchat, black redstart, redstart, swift, reed & sedge warblers or wood sands !)I hopefully should fill some gaps in the autumn.
    You're now linked on my blog, by the way

  6. Cheers. Likewise - link ;) Apart from Reed, Sedge, Swift & Whinchat I'd be happy with any ONE of those. All would be patch tciks apart from Wood Sand :)