Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Early Doors Birding

The forecast promised three or four hours of sunshine. So there was just enough time to get some birding in before the day’s babysitting at 9am. Mid-day and it's raining.

I hit the road north in the direction of Pilling and Conder Green. 

Conder Green, Lancashire

I had lost track of the tide times so found myself at the creek just as the tide filled, an outcome with both good and bad points, depending upon the depth of the water caused by the tidal bore, the speed and height of which can vary considerably. Many of the birds that feed in the shallow water of the creeks find themselves flooded out so then head off to roost on the higher sandbanks of the Lune or on Conder Pool just yards away. 

A Barn Owl took advantage of the situation and spent thirty minutes or more searching a wide area of marsh and field for a meal, stopping only briefly to take a look around. Barn Owls are surprisingly fast fliers for anyone looking to take an action shot, with a single bird spending a good time on the wing. They pause or rest less than one might imagine from the many and varied photographs which often show them using fences or similar objects. 

Barn Owl

The tide worked in my favour today when many waders found their way to the pool, including 13 Common Sandpipers, 100+ Lapwing, 40+ Redshank, 15 Oystercatcher and 2 Curlew. Common Sandpipers have returned with a vengeance, the breeding season finished for many of those which arrive in the UK in early spring. They raise just one brood and then head back to Africa with little delay. 

Lapwings have not bred here on the pool with their present numbers swelled by fairly local birds from the many marshes and fields nearby. Autumn and Winter will bring a much larger influx from Scotland and Europe. 

Common Sandpiper

Lapwing

Lapwing

The resident Common Terns still feed their dependant young on a distant island but rarely come close enough for a picture. Likewise the breeding but shy Avocets, strangely quiet today. From a start of four chicks I fear there may be one or even none of the fluffy youngsters left. 

Avocet

The road here at Conder Green is badly potholed and damaged due to passing heavy traffic from nearby Glasson Dock coupled with the occasional high tides that wash over it. The local Oystercatchers don’t mind too much. There’s usually a morsel or two of food to be found in the broken, bumpy and uneven surface of what passes for a road. 

Oystercatcher

The usual Grey Heron and Little Egret obliged with wildfowl represented by 3 Wigeon, 2 Tufted Duck and a healthy but uncounted number of Mute Swan and Mallard. 

It was good to see Swifts this morning with 40+ feeding over the hawthorn hedge at early doors, together with 15+ Swallow and a handful of Sand Martins. This is the highest number of Swifts I’ve seen at home this year, a tiny number compared to the many thousand I noted migrating through the island of Menorca in early May. Let’s hope that our declining Swift is doing rather better in other parts of Northern Europe than here in Great Britain. 

Along the hedgerow I found 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Sedge Warbler, 4 Goldfinch, 4 Greenfinch, 2 Linnet, 1 Whitethroat and 1 Song Thrush. 

Young Swallows were about today, fresh from a nearby nest. Who can resist taking yet more pictures of our handsome Barn Swallow? Not me. 

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Please join in again soon. And now go back and “click the pics” for a closer look at those Swallows.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

More From The Hills

I’m not exactly an insomniac, more a light sleeper so these mid-summer mornings often find me awake at 4 in the morning. The kettle was on as I munched a breakfast banana. Through the kitchen window I could see the pipistrelle bats flying around the garden. We seem to have a lot this year as witnessed by the top of the recycle bin and the hundreds of droppings beneath the spot where the bats enter and leave the roof space. No problem, the bats are more than welcome to the many insects they consume. 

Bat Droppings

It wasn’t the brightest morning but I decided to head into the hills and try and bit more photography before the breeding season ends. 

The Bowland Hills

The bird list was much as last week although there was a definite increase in the number of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails, more than a hundred pipits and dozens of Pied Wagtails. I saw both species carrying food whereby I imagine by mid to late June the adults will be on their second broods. 

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

 Pied Wagtail

A juvenile Lapwing wasn’t for moving from the roadside. The poor light and occasional drizzle needed ISO1600. Maybe there will be a sunny spell for the next visit? 

Lapwing

I saw at 4 or more Snipe this morning with at least two of them in “drumming” mode but none would pose on a fence like the one last week. “Drumming”(or “winnowing”) is a sound produced by Snipe as part of their courtship display flights. The sound is produced mechanically in the slipstream of a power dive (rather than vocally) by the vibration of the modified outer tail feathers held out at a wide angle to the body.



Snipe

I saw three Red Grouse in exactly the same patch of ground as a week ago but no Grey Partridge today. 

Red Grouse

Taking care not to scare them prematurely the local Oystercatchers are pretty amenable to a photograph, especially if they have young around and need to keep an eye on them. 

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

Once very common in Bowland the Redshank seem pretty scarce up here nowadays, a casualty of the overall decline in upland birds like Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Dunlin. A Redshank came to see me off from its patch before flying back to where it had youngsters some 30 yards away. 

Redshank

Along the stream were two or three pairs of Common Sandpipers, one pair protesting loudly when the car stopped alongside their patch. It was a clear sign of youngsters about, so I left them in peace. The picture is more than a little blurred in the poor light coupled with not enough ISO. 

Common Sandpiper

Other birds today – Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow, Swift, Blackbird, Siskin, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove , Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Willow Warbler, Grey Wagtail.

Linking today to Anni's Birding.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Over And Out

This blog stays well clear of party politics apart from occasionally noting that politicians know or care little about the environment or birds in general, but will answer a question or give an opinion with clichés or words they think a questioner wants to hear. There are no votes in birds. 

The referendum of 23rd June is slightly different by giving ordinary people a chance to decide whether the UK should either leave or stay in the European Union. There is a clear choice based not along traditional party lines of left, right or centre, but on how people feel about being part of the EU. No one should feel obliged to vote how their usual party allegiance tells them. 

Supposedly there are 500 bird species protected by the EU Wild Birds Directive, but it has achieved little or nothing for once common birds like the Cuckoo, the Curlew, the Lapwing, the Turtle Dove, the Skylark, the Yellowhammer, the Corn Bunting or the Yellow Wagtail. They are all in serious decline as seen in my own local area during the past 30+ years. A vast amount of public money has been wasted, misspent or worse, in thousands of funded agri-environment schemes that are not adequately checked or controlled with the result that most of the schemes produce no meaningful increases in our UK wildlife. 

Turtle Dove - declined 88% since 1995 

Common Cuckoo- declined +49%

 Lapwing - declined +55%

Yellow Wagtail - declined +43%

Corn Bunting - declined +50%

In the European Union there are theoretical constraints on the killing of migratory birds but hunting continues unabated as the EU shows itself unwilling or unable to stop the slaughter. The situation in the Mediterranean is appalling. Every year, from one end of it to the other, hundreds of millions of songbirds and larger migrants are killed for food, profit, sport, or general amusement. The killing is indiscriminate with heavy impact on species already battered by destruction or fragmentation of their breeding habitat. Mediterranean hunters shoot cranes, storks, and large raptors for which governments to the north have multimillion Euro conservation projects. 

All across Europe bird populations are in steep decline, and the slaughter in the Mediterranean is one of the causes. The French continue to eat Ortolan Buntings illegally, and France’s long list of “quarry” birds includes many struggling species of shorebirds. Songbird trapping is still widespread in parts of Spain where migratory thrushes are a particular target. Maltese hunters blast migrating raptors out of the sky. Cypriots harvest warblers on an industrial scale and consume them in platefuls of “ambelopoulia” (trapped birds) at €50/€60 a time in law-breaking restaurants. 

One of the most damaging implications of Britain joining the EU has been the effect on our fishing industry by the UK giving up its territorial waters and protected fishing areas to the EU. The results of this disastrous policy have been witnessed just a few miles down the road from here at Fleetwood, a once thriving fishing port. As with most policies emanating from the centralised elite in Brussels, the Common Fisheries Policy was a major disaster. After its introduction in 1970, the CFP has been synonymous with decline of our fish stocks, deterioration of the environment, wasteful discarding of fish and the destruction of Britain’s fishing industry and communities. 

I worry about the unfettered freedom of movement across Europe, mainly the movement of both legal and illegal migrants, an ongoing disaster played out on our television screens on an almost daily basis. The population of the UK has risen relentlessly until it is close to 60 million due to immigration and the inevitable baby boom. The British countryside can never ever recover from the trashing now taking place to cater for the ever growing population of this tiny island. Each day I pass more and more green fields consumed by yet more houses and roads as hedgerows and trees are destroyed to heap yet more pressure onto our beleaguered birds. 

Staying in or leaving Europe should depend on other issues. Perhaps even the notion of democracy? Britain has little or no say in decisions reached by the other 27 member states or the unelected EU Commissioners who have too much clout in deciding how the EU is run. I don’t fancy living in a huge socialist experiment called The United States of Europe. That is the next stage of the EU plan - to swallow the UK and others into an amorphous mass that can be controlled more easily by an unelected elite without due democratic process. 

Meanwhile youth unemployment in Southern Europe continues near 50%, Greek debt soars to $350 billion and other countries line up to demand a vote on leaving the failing EU.

I know the argument – better to stay and use our influence to change the EU for the better. Unfortunately, and just like the Titanic, the dying EU is heading for the rocks where it and all aboard will sink without trace. It’s time for Britain, the fifth richest nation in the world, to jump into a lifeboat and sail to calmer waters. 

The historic and important decision for each and every UK resident is one I took weeks ago by putting an “X” in the box marked “LEAVE” of my postal ballot. Yes, I have already voted in the EU Referendum. I want OUT.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Upland Birding

I journeyed across the moss and in the half-light saw 2 Barn Owls and at least two Kestrels waiting for dawn to bring breakfast. Singing Song Thrushes seemed to greet me at every hedgerow, garden, spinney and wood. I hope our Song Thrush has had a good year - it certainly sounded like it this morning. 

"Click the pics" for a trip to the hills.

Song Thrush

Just for a change I was heading for the Bowland hills today, hoping to get some photographs of upland birds. Unfortunately the light was poor as it often is 1000ft above sea level. Never mind, there was a great selection of birds to see with one or two nice surprises, including brief views of a Ring Ouzel and then later on finding a Snipe nest. 

 Bowland

Two of the commonest and most obvious species this morning were Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits with good numbers of each on almost every stretch of road. There are lots of stone walls and fences for birds to use as lookout posts .There were 10+ Grey Wagtails too with plenty of Willow Warblers, Goldfinches and Lesser Redpolls in roadside trees and plantations. I didn’t do an exact tally but reckoned on 50+ species, not bad for a morning’s work. 

Pied Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

The Grey Partridge is pretty much extinct where I live near the coast but maybe they do better up in the hills 15/20 miles away.

Grey Partridge

Most blog readers will know of the saga of Hen Harriers which mysteriously disappear from Bowland and other Pennine Hills localities every year. The same readers will know why the Red Grouse is a favourite bird of those who own the land and shooting rights up here while the Hen Harrier is mostly unloved. Walking miles into the heather uplands might just find a Hen Harrier, but far more likely is a that a Red Grouse will tell a walker to “go-back-go-back” for their own safety. We're in the hills, but that's cotton grass, not snow.

Red Grouse

The most common wader this morning was Oystercatcher with many pairs dotted around the fields and using the stone walls as vantage points. Next came Lapwing with at least a couple of dozen, all of them with well grown flying young, except for a single running youngster, a day or two off flight. Luckily I had my ringing box in the boot for the first Lapwing of the year. This year the species has all but disappeared from lowland haunts, and now clings on by a whisker or less. 

Lapwing

 
Lapwing

Oystercatcher

Curlews were in evidence with birds still displaying but none coming close enough for pictures. Likewise Redshanks, a once common bird in these damp uplands but now like the Curlew, a wader in decline. 

I got lucky with a Snipe that I discovered on a gate post. The bird flew off and landed about twenty yards away in a clump of long grass. Undeterred I drove back the same way about thirty minutes later to see the Snipe once again on one of the posts of the gateway. Unconcerned at my presence the Snipe preened a while, took a nap, looked around and generally gave the impression of taking time out. When she eventually fluttered back to the same grassy plot I knew she had a nest. Four eggs - nice one. 

Snipe

 Snipe
 
Snipe

Snipe

Snipe

Other birds today – Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Common Sandpiper, Greenfinch, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow, Swift, Blackbird, Siskin, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove , Chaffinch, Reed Bunting, Robin, Wren, Dunnock etc., 

A good morning’s birding was had by all.

Linking today to Eileen's SaturdayWorld Bird Wednesday and Anni's Birding.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wednesday Wander

Mid-day and it’s raining for the rest of the day. It was as well I managed a few hours birding earlier at Conder Green in the morning when the birds were pretty much a repeat of a week ago. Well we are in the doldrums of June when nothing much is on the move. 

The Avocets continue to occupy the same island as the Common Terns, but while the Avocets are eminently watchable the terns are playing hard to get. That latter might suggest the terns are close to the eggs hatching. There was a single Great Crested Grebe again today. I watched it hanging around and submerging into quite shallow water near where the male Avocet fed, just like a week ago. I came to the conclusion that the grebe was cashing in on the way the swaying motion of the feeding Avocet stirs up food from below the surface. 

Although the grebe’s diet consists mainly of fish they will eat insects and larvae including dragonflies, beetles, water bugs, flies and moths; they also take frogs, tadpoles and newts. 

Great Crested Grebe

There are still 4 Tufted Duck and 15+ Shelduck around but no sign of ducklings for either. A pair of Oystercatchers still has 2 young and although a handful of Lapwings have been around most of the spring there’s still nothing to show for their presence. I didn’t see any young Redshanks either but there was an increase to 40+ today perhaps as a result of failed and non-breeders arriving from not too far away. 

Oystercatcher
 
Two Grey Herons and a single Little Egret made up the meagre quota of herons. Swallows and House Martins were about in tens while it made a change to see a few Swifts – six in all hawking around the hedgerow and the farm buildings. 

A walk around the road and railway circuit found warblers, finches and buntings in the shape and sound of 3 Whitethroat, 4 Sedge Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Reed Warbler, 4 Reed Bunting, 3 Linnet, 2 Goldfinch and 2 Pied Wagtails. 

Sedge Warbler

 

Sedge Warbler

Reed Bunting

Sedge Warblers have an old name of “sedge nightingale” from their habit of singing in the dark, especially when newly arrived on territory in spring. Their chattering, reeling, unmusical song is nothing like the song of a Nightingale, not that we get to hear any Nightingales here in North West England. 

Glasson Dock was quiet apart from Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat and a Grey Heron heading out over the marsh. A Lesser Black-backed Gull hung around the car park but rain was not far away.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
 
There’s more soon from Another Bird Blog. Don’t forget to pay a visit.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday and Run A Round Ranch.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Recent Recoveries, Oakenclough

I recently told blog readers about a Siskin ring number Z470850 that Andy and I ringed at Oakenclough on 23rd March 2016. Just 21 days later on 13 April 2016 it was recaptured near Fortrose, adjacent to the Moray Firth in the highlands of Scotland. 

Siskin

Now comes along another similar Siskin recapture, ring number Z470846 (the same ring string as the above), ringed on the same day of 23rd March 2016. This Siskin was also recaptured by other ringers in Scotland, but this one at Abernyte, Perth & Kinross on 8 May 2016. The Moray Firth is 416 kms due north of Oakenclough whereas Perth and Kinrosss is 284 kms due north.
 
Siskin - Oakenclough to Moray Firth

Siskin - Oakenclough to Abernyte

As we hoped at the time of ringing good numbers of Siskins, there was a good chance that a few would be later found in Scotland or even further north. 

Siskins

We also received from the BTO recovery details about a Lesser Redpoll and a Willow Warbler. 

A Lesser Redpoll carrying ring number D948673 was originally ringed as a first year, a juvenile, on 29th September 2014 at Woolston Eyes, Warrington, Cheshire by the Merseyside Ringing Group. We recaptured this bird at Oakenclough on 20th April 2016 when we were able to determine it as an adult female. The dates of ringing and recapture are both at the peak of migration timing of Lesser Redpolls but clearly we have no indication of where the bird was between times.

Lesser Redpoll - Woolston Eyes to Oakenclough

 Lesser Redpoll

A Willow Warbler carrying ring number HPH224 gave us a very interesting recovery. Originally the warbler had been caught on 18th August 2015 at Cissbury Ring, near Worthing, West Sussex by Steyning Ringing Group.

With a wing length of 67mm it could not be sexed but was safely aged as a bird of the year, a juvenile. Willow Warblers do not winter in the UK but make their way to Central Africa where they winter. We can be certain that in August this bird was about to cross the English Channel to France on the next stage of its long journey.

Willow Warbler -  Worthing to Oakenclough

We recaptured the Willow Warbler at Oakenclough on 20thApril 2016 when the by now adult wing length of 69mm allowed it to be be safely assigned as a male. A lack of visits to Oakenclough since April has meant we have been unable to find out if HPH224 stayed around to breed. Hopefully we’ll catch up with it soon and add another piece to the jigsaw.

Willow Warbler

It's raining today and I've still not completely recovered from my virus, but with luck there'll be news, views and photographs soon.

Check out the new header picture, an Oystercatcher at Pilling.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday  and   Anni's Birding.


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