Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wheatears Are Back, Wagtails Are Wow

Wednesday saw my first Wheatear of late summer near Fluke Hall. The Wheatear christened Hi-Fly’s shiny new gate with a derisory white blob before disappearing into the foot high maize crop. I waited for the chat to reappear as Wheatears mostly do but this one didn’t. I waved “Hi” to one of H-Fly’s gang constructing the pheasant pens for the autumn releases - goodness how the seasons fly by. 


It was a quiet couple of hours walk with little to report except for 10 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron and a couple of single figure flocks of both Goldfinch and Linnet. There appeared to be a small movement of Swallows heading east along the sea wall but no more than 40 or so birds in two hours. 

Thursday’s early start saw a Barn Owl near Pilling village followed by a Corn Bunting in song where Gulf Lane meets Maniac Mile. It’s here on the straight road that bikers hit a ton or more on Sunday mornings when there’s no one but birders around. At either end of the straight there are deceiving bends where on more than one occasion the unwary have come to an unplanned stop on the wrong side of the fence.

Maniac Mile - Pilling to Cockerham

I stopped for a leisurely look at Braides Farm and then Crimbles added 45+ Lapwing, several Curlew and a Black-tailed Godwit before hitting the road to Glasson and elsewhere. Glasson held good numbers of Swallows both feeding around and resting upon moored boats. I counted 250+ Swallows and 2 Sand Martins. Not much doing near the dock except for 1 Grey Heron, 1 Common Tern and 1 Pied Wagtail. The Tufted Duck count was up to 15 here today, perhaps partly as a result of the low water levels at Conder Green, the ducks’ hangout for the last three months. 


Tufted Duck

Walking the canal proved fairly fruitful and into the notebook went 8 Sedge Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap and several each of both Greenfinch and Goldfinch, as well as another 2 Grey Heron. 

Reed Warbler

Sedge Warbler

High tide at Cockersands added more species to the day by way of 350 Oystercatcher, 19 Eider, 65 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, 2 Ringed Plover, 1 Golden Plover, 2 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron. 


It was 11am, 5 hours from the start and just time for a quickie at Bank End where the tide was well short of its maximum at the foot of the sea wall. 

Bank End, Cockerham

There was the customary Little Egret, Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches and a Willow Warbler in the line of trees and Pied Wagtails on the marsh. The wagtails might hold a yellow one, that scarce beast which turns up intermittently these days, so it was worth scanning the marsh. 

Wow! An amazing count of 130+ Pied Wagtails, and this not an early morning post-roost gathering or an evening pre-roost assembly, it was 11am. 

Pied Wagtails

Pied Wagtail

Less than 10% of the wagtails were adult birds the remainder being birds of the year. 2014 is turning out to be a wonderful summer for birding and it looks like birds are making the most of it too.  

Log into Another Bird Blog soon for the latest news and views.

Linking today to Run A Round Ranch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There’s A Reason

Bird watchers are never entirely happy with their lot. If they don’t see birds there are several likely explanations as to why that should be. It’s mostly weather related, easily defined by constructing a phrase beginning with either “too much” or “not enough” and adding the element which caused the birding disaster - wind, sun, cloud, rain, clear, snow or ice. 

Most readers will recognise the sentiment and have almost certainly used such a saying quite recently. So I’m very philosophical about the less exciting days like today and apologies for the tortuous introduction to nothing much in the way of a post, but I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s birding when I hope to continue the good run of late. 

I made a beeline for Glasson today in the hope of nailing more Swallows. There were lots about and now it’s for certain there’s a roost nearby, perhaps in the reeds and trees which surround the yacht basin. An estimate of this morning’s numbers would be in the order of 300 Swallows and 4 Sand Martins feeding over the water until an hour or more after dawn. At times the Swallows took breaks from their feeding and perched along the handrails and ropes of a number of the many boats moored alongside the jetties. Swallows seem popular with blog readers, so here’s another. 


There is also a House Sparrow roost at Glasson with 70+ birds leaving the bowling green bushes soon after dawn. And there was me thinking that House Sparrows are now so decimated in numbers that it’s hardly worth the effort to meet up and exchange gossip. By all accounts this glorious summer is going to be an outstanding breeding season too, maybe even for the humble Spodger.

House Sparrow

One Grey Wagtail in the area of the lock gates, 2 Pied Wagtail, 5 Tufted Duck on the water and a Common Tern fishing the dock water before flying off with the trophy. 

Common Tern

 There was no variation at Conder Green except for 3 Snipe. Otherwise as you were with 5 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 15 Tufted Duck and the other Common Tern. Things were so subdued that I decided to try my luck at Knott End and the incoming tide. 

Best I could do here was 380 Oystercatchers, 1 Ringed Plover and 1 Lapwing on the beach. Up river I found 3 Pied Wagtails and 1 Grey Heron. 


Back home there were a few chores to complete with time to reflect the fact that in the grand scheme of birds and bird watching, the busy days far outnumber the quiet ones. 

Tomorrow will be a good one, I just know it.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Short Sunday

The weather people promised us torrential rain for most of Saturday but none arrived. Instead there was 100% cloud all day long combined with almost continuous and very irritating light showers. It was enough to ruin birding ambitions and save the job until the next day. 

Sunday at 6am started much the same with the sky failing to brighten until 11 am, a moment in time when Uncle Tom Cobley & All hit the Sunday Streets to signal that a birder’s work is done. 

In the meantime there was a Litle Owl at Crimbles again. And at Glasson I  thought there may be a Swallow roost nearby because upon arrival at the yacht basin and the dock there were more than 80 Swallows feeding around the two areas of water.

An hour or two later the only Swallows left were the local Swallows and a more normal 12/15 of them. I grabbed a few photos in the murky light with ISO800 again, but hope to take better ones when the sun shines next. High ISOs seem to destroy colour rendition from the images. One of the young Swallows below is especially fresh from a nest, its downy feathers and yellow gape all too obvious. 




The Common Tern was feeding at Glasson again. It’s the same male which flies off to Conder Green carrying a fish for a female. It’s the male with one tail streamer. A Kingfisher flew across the dock from a boat and landed on a mooring rope but when I walked around to look for the bird it had gone elsewhere. 

Common Tern

Otherwise things were pretty much normal, with a short walk revealing 5 Tufted Duck, 2 Cormorant, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail and 1 Great Crested Grebe. 

 Pied Wagtail

Black-headed Gull

Waders and herons at Conder Green: 130 Redshank, 26 Lapwing, 12 Oystercatcher, 10 Common Sandpiper, 4 Curlew, 2 Greenshank, 1 Snipe, 6 Little Egret, 3 Grey Heron. A Peregrine showed all too briefly as it flew over the marsh before disappearing behind trees to the east; I’m sure it will be back to finish off the job. 

Wildfowl: 2 Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe, 6 Shelduck. 


Two Pied Wagtails here as well as a Grey Wagtail near the bridge where there’s a good stand of reeds and where I spotted 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting and 1 Reed Warbler. There was a Meadow Pipit still in song over the marsh as it has done all week now.

On the way home a Buzzard circled over Head Dyke Lane, and then over a neighbour’s house a gliding Sparrowhawk heading west towards the river.

If the weather people are to be believed there’s sun for birding next week, We’ll see.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Swallows, Knots And Crimbles

The early morning weather was poor, far worse than the forecast, with spells of grey cloud, rain, and worse of all a strong wind. There were however a few interesting sightings and a couple of new photographs to share with blog readers. 

Good numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins were on the move soon after 6am. That may have been induced by overnight storms in other parts of the country, the cool, grey, overcast morning or simply by the normal seasonal urges. Mid-July often signals the beginning of Swallow roosts containing locally bred young together with migrants starting their long southerly journeys. 

After seeing just handfuls of hirundines in the area of Conder Green and Glasson for several weeks, this morning’s increase in numbers was very noticeable. At Conder Green hirundines could be watched arriving from the north-west and flying directly over the pool before continuing south. I skipped the obligatory look on the pool and motored on up to Glasson Dock where Swallows and Sand Martins were feeding over the yacht basin, all the time flying steadily east and south-east towards Conder Green. 


It’s hard to put a guesstimate together but perhaps 150 Swallows and 30 Sand Martin. At Glasson it appeared that the Swallows breeding under the road bridge finally have youngsters to show for their efforts with 4 fresh youngsters waiting to be fed while exercising their wings. Those are spots of rain on the youngster’s back, the photo taken at an un-summery ISO800. 




On the yacht basin a Great Crested Grebe and 5 Tufted Duck, while on the towpath, 3 Pied Wagtail and 2 Grey Wagtail. 

Pied Wagtail

 Grey Wagtail

There are token counts from Conder Green as the strong wind put many waders out of sight in the lee of the island and kept passerines low: 120 Redshank, 26 Lapwing, 6 Curlew, 5 Common Sandpiper, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Little Egret, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Stock Dove. 


A real surprise was finding an adult Knot on the island. The Knot was some 100 yards from the nearest viewing point and hence the poor photo, but good enough to appreciate where the full title of “Red Knot” originates. The Knot is more strictly a winter-grey shore bird found in huge numbers in Morecambe Bay but rarely on a pool such as the one at Conder Green. So unusual is the record that I captured it for posterity. 

 Knot (and Lapwing)

There are still 2 Common Terns, a male and a female. I made some drawings of Common Terns via FotoSketcher by converting the original digital images to sketches. The photos were taken in poor light and not good enough to use as blog photographs but they work quite well in depicting the “jizz”, the aerodynamics and flight postures of a Common Tern. 

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Blog readers from Wednesday will know I set about researching the local place name of Crimbles, part of the Cockerham area. 


It seems the name may be a derivative of very old (1300-1500) North of England words such as “cruma” or “crymel” meaning a small piece, a scrap, a small section of land. Both words also had plural forms. This particular part of land is split north and south by the River Cocker and historically subject to high tide floods from the marshes to the north and west. A description of how the land appeared on a daily basis all those years ago would appear to be the explanation as to how the name of “Crimbles” came about.  

Like I said, Crimbles is nothing to do with Christmas or food, unless of course the word “crumb” comes into play? 

There will be more crumbs of comfort from Another Bird Blog very soon. Book your place now.

Linking today to Anni's Blog and  Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I saw plenty of birds to see this morning, in fact it proved to be a really excellent and productive morning of birding but rather trying in the photography department with too few new pictures. Sometimes it’s good, mostly it is hard work to keep coming up with new pictures. 

A Barn Owl hunting near the A588 at Pilling gave the briefest of views as it sped across the fields and then out of sight behind hedges and buildings. The choices were, sit and wait for the owl to do a circuit, try in a fashion to follow the bird across roadless fields, or drive on. I drove on hoping that another Barn Owl might show between here and destination Glasson. 

 I stopped at Crimbles and waited for a while with no sign of Barn Owls, just a Raven heading out to the marsh and several Curlews and Lapwings on a pool fashioned by the recent high tides. I took a detour to a Crimbles farm where there are owls and a favoured wooden fence. Bingo, a Little Owl. 

“Crimbles” is a rather strange place name and nothing to do with cakes or Christmas. It is probably a very ancient Lancashire dialect description of the locality with origins in the Domesday Book. I need to do some research and get back to readers. 

Little Owl

Once again I decided that Glasson would get the early shift and Conder Green the post-breakfast going over. A Common Tern was hunting the basin and the dock where it plunge-dived with great efficiency and lifted small fish from below the water. 

I watched the tern swallow a whole fish while in flight but its next catch it kept hold of and then flew directly above the road on the shortest route to Conder Green where later on I saw the female waiting for breakfast and the male arriving from the direction of Glasson. As suspected a few days ago, the male travels a mile or two in the course of hunting at Conder Green, Glasson Dock and the River Lune, and there are at the moment but 2 Common Terns and not three. 

A Kingfisher put in a late and brief appearance by landing on the stern of a moored boat, taking a look around at the busy dock before then whizzing off elsewhere - no pictures of it today. 

On the water, a single Great Crested Grebe, 5 Tufted Duck, 22 Coot and 25 Mallard with along the towpath 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, a Chiffchaff in song and 1 Grey Heron. 

Five Little Egrets flew over as they headed off the river and in the direction of Cockersands. Later I was to see another six at Conder Green, a goodish total of 11 for the morning’s effort. 

On scanning the creek at Conder Green there was another Kingfisher, 75 yards away, a tiny blue and orange marker attached to a mid-stream and lifeless remains of a tree. The Kingfisher dived from the bare limbs and splashed into the shallows several times without success before flying off towards the railway bridge; it was time for a count or two. 

These current higher tides make for low water levels in the creeks, just an inch or two of water in places and ideal for waders so giving a healthy count of 160+ Redshank, 15 Oystercatcher, 6 Common Sandpiper, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Curlew, 1 Greenshank and 1 Spotted Redshank. 


There were the aforementioned 6 Little Egret plus 2 Grey Heron, plus a family party of 9 Shelduck, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Wigeon and a more than reasonable modern day count of 30+ Swifts. 

Grey Heron

It appears that we are in for record temperatures on Thursday and Friday quickly followed by thunderstorms and downpours at the weekend. Goodness, it looks like I may have to go out birding again tomorrow. 

Meanwhile, I’ll see what I can cook up about Crimbles.

Linking today to The Run a Round Ranch Blogspot.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Doing The Rounds

More terns on Monday, this time on the Glasson and Conder Green circuit. Even after such a lovely sunny morning I resisted puns and the obvious post title of “Terned Out Nice Again.” 

Many people confuse terns with gulls and although related the two families of birds have marked differences. Most terns are elegant, slim and streamlined and are often called "sea swallows" because of their long narrow wings, long forked tails and swift, graceful flight. In general the tern family of birds have long tapering bills and fly with them pointing downward as their keen eyesight scans the water below. Terns take live food but rarely alight on water, and instead plunge headlong into it to capture prey beneath the surface. 

Most gull species are scavengers of the highest order, more heavily built than a tern, with broader wings, square or rounded tails and business-like bills equipped for mischief. Gulls are not nearly as good looking as just the average tern. Oops, there goes my honorary membership of The Gull Appreciation Society (GAS). 

Common Terns were at Conder Green and at Glasson Dock, two at Conder and a single at Glasson Dock. The latter one was actively fishing both the dock water and the yacht basin, circuiting and then plunge diving into both at such breakneck speed that the autofocus could barely get a fix on it. Luckily there was a gull to practice on. 

Common Tern

Black-headed Gull

Although I arrived before the dock opened for operational business with its hustle, bustle and noise, there was no sight or sound of Kingfishers today. A Great Crested Grebe and 4 Tufted Duck sailed in and out of the margins according to activity on the towpath. The birds prefer to feed close to the retaining walls where there is probably a more varied choice of food but where the almost constant pedestrian traffic sends them back to deeper water. 

Great Crested Grebe

There were 5 Pied Wagtails around the bowling green, 3 Grey Heron and 2 Little Egret on the marsh and “many” Lapwing and Redshank all the way to Conder and silhouetted into the morning light of the river. 

Grey Heron

The terns at Conder Green seem to have adopted a stony, weed infested island, a perfect choice for nesting if only it were Spring. One sat with head just visible looking for all the world like it was at a nest while the other flew around the pool and the creeks for a while before heading off towards the canal and Glasson. Perhaps my three terns is after all a double tern? 

Waders and herons: 135 Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 9 Common Sandpiper, 3 Greenshank, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Spotted Redshank, 4 Curlew, 4 Grey Heron, 4 Little Egret. 

Juvenile Oystercatcher


Wildfowl: A pair of Tufted Duck with 4 youngsters reduced from 10 “newbies” just a week ago, 6 other Tufted Duck, 2 Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe and 2 Shelduck. 

Ods and Sods: 9 Pied Wagtail, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Meadow Pipit, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Greenfinch.

Another Bird Blog will be here again very soon for all the news, views and more photos. Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Well Terned Out

From the bedroom window at 5am dawn appeared as grey skies and rain spotted puddles. I went back to bed for another sleep vowing to try later. 

I've neglected Knott End birding for weeks of mid-summer. So with a late start, a freshening wind and high tide due at midday I decided to spend an hour or two at the estuary in the hope of seeing returning waders and terns; it’s here where the River Wyre meets the huge expanse of Morecambe Bay. People and vehicles sometimes come to grief here when they fail to appreciate the speed of the incoming tides, the softness of the exposed beach or the whereabouts of patches of quicksand. 

Motoring - Knott End style

It's barely mid-July but already there are good numbers of post-breeding Oystercatchers and I counted 340+ leaving the shore, most heading up river to roost, the remainder flying towards an alternative roost at Pilling. The 35 Curlew and 12 Dunlin flew up river too, the Dunlin split 50/50 black- bellied adults and plainer juveniles. I thought it odd not to see a single Redshank today in contrast to the good numbers there have been a few miles up the coast at the River Lune. 



A walk up river didn’t produce much apart from a single Lapwing, a lonesome Eider, a Pied Wagtail and 30/40 Black-headed Gulls. As I walked the Oystercatchers kept coming in their tens and twenties flying south to their roost a mile away at Barnaby’s Sands/Burrows Marsh. 

By now the wind was quite blowy and cool so I donned a jacket to sit at the jetty where the ferry leaves to cross for Fleetwood, all of four hundred yards away. A Peregrine coasted by not too far out, the bird in no hurry as Peregrines mostly are. It was headed Pilling way flying so lethargically that I failed to appreciate what it was until too late - fooled, no picture. 

Fleetwood and The River Wyre viewed from Knott End

A couple of Sandwich Terns came in from the north with the tide, searched around for a while and then left towards the Fleetwood side of the river just as quickly as they appeared. 

Sandwich Tern

There wasn’t an awful lot doing and I was about to call it a morning when a Black Tern appeared from somewhere out in the bay; a most unexpected arrival. The tern wasn’t feeding but flew and high over the water towards Fleetwood and then up river until of sight. From the fairly brief and overhead views the bird appeared to be an adult in full or mostly full summer plumage. 

Black Terns breed in good numbers in the Low Countries of Europe from where this one may have originated and then travelling overland to reach North West England. Just like many wader species at this time of year many adult Black Terns leave breeding colonies in July before the juveniles follow suit in August and September.

Black Tern - Photo credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Foter / (CC BY 2.0)

A rewarding end to a few hours of birding, and I’m pleased I turned out instead of sitting around the house! 

No apologies for the excruciating puns. Let’s hope they won’t deter anyone from revisiting Another Bird Blog soon.
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