Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Do or Die Birding

At last this morning the rain and wind eased enough to attempt a spot of birding, and although there was still a stiff, cold breeze there was a hint of sunshine. After a couple of birdingless days it was do or die for yours truly. 

I decided to give Fluke Hall the once over. There’s the shore, the wintry fields, the woodland and a good number of hedgerows, all worth a look for lingering signs of winter and maybe one or two hints of Spring. 

In the field behind the car park were 5 Pied Wagtails and a tight feeding flock of 70+ very flighty Twite, the birds taking to the air at the slightest disturbance. Close by a close relative of theirs a Linnet was in good singing voice from the hedgerow with both Goldfinch and Greenfinch singing from the trees above. 

Greenfinch

There’s a pair of Kestrels on territory and it looks like the Buzzards are back after going missing for a few weeks or more. A pair of Mistle Thrushes made lots of noise; I watched as they joined forces to chase off a third bird intent on being in their territory. 

The Mistle Thrush, the largest of our UK thrushes is renowned for being aggressive in defending both a feeding territory and a nest, and only in autumn migration time are they likely to be seen in smallish flocks. Mistle Thrushes are regularly chronicled attacking Nest Recorders and bird ringers who stray close to an active nest. The noisy, rattling attack they employ against trespassers must be quite disconcerting to anyone not in the know. 

Mistle Thrush

A Great-spotted Woodpecker flew calling from the trees but no sign today of the Nuthatch which has been around all winter. Today saw a pair of Stock Dove, hole nesting birds and a regular breeding species here. Thankfully the wood here is not overly managed in the modern way of removing the rotten trees that birds favour for nesting by either making or using existing holes. 

The still wet fields held lots of waders with upwards of 550 Golden Plover, 130 Lapwing, 60 Dunlin, 30 Redshank, 24 Oystercatcher and 4 Black-tailed Godwit. It was a bit too cold and blustery for Skylark song with just 3 birds noted plus 6 Meadow Pipit and 1 Pied Wagtail. 

Near Lane Ends a Buzzard crossed the road and a Kestrel hovered, circled and hovered again. Beyond Gulf Lane and Sand Villa several thousand Pink-footed Geese were scattered across the fields too distant to study or count with any degree of accuracy but “3500+” was the notebook entry. 

At windswept Conder Green a Robin said “hello” while the reliable Spotted Redshank and 70+ Teal proved the climax. Otherwise just 2 Goosander, 2 Little Grebe and single Goldeneye the also-rans. 

Robin

Spotted Redshank

Thrushes were the highlight of Thurnham with a pair of Mistle Thrush along a line of trees plus 28 Redwing and 4 Fieldfare feeding in the wet fields with c 70 Starlings. Four Little Egrets on a flood. 

Fieldfare

If the forecast of a falling wind speed is correct Andy and I might finally get a crack at some ringing tomorrow. If so log in to Another Bird Blog tomorrow for an update and pictures. 




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Circuit And PC Birding

There isn’t much to report from this morning’s grey affair. A shimmy around Conder Green on my way to business in Lancaster produced the usual wildfowl fayre of 90 Teal, 30 Wigeon, 6 Shelduck, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Canada Goose, 2 Goosander, 2 Cormorant and 1 Little Egret.

Lapwings and Oystercatchers were on the spot for breeding around the margins with 30 or so Redshank, 1 Spotted Redshank and 2 Snipe. 

Common Snipe

As compensation for today’s meagre entry here’s an item from the Washington Post about Political Correctness reaching bird watching. Let me just check - no, today isn’t April 1st. 

"Bird watching has long been a popular and seemingly harmless weekend activity in Sweden. Its innocence, however, came to an abrupt end when many of the country's bird lovers were suddenly confronted with allegations of racism. 

For centuries, it has now been revealed, the Swedish had given birds some names that now could be considered offensive to certain groups. One species, for instance, was called "gypsy bird," whereas another was named "negro." The insult "caffer," which was used by white against blacks in South Africa, also resembled a Swedish bird species called "kaffer." There were other offensive bird names in Sweden, such as "Hottentot" — apparently inspired by the name of the language of an indigenous southwest African tribe called Khoikhoi, yet also a derogatory term for that tribe. 

Despite the prominence of bird watching among Swedes, the existence of these names and others like them had sparked little outrage and publicity until recently. When Sweden's Ornithological Society completed its first-ever global list of all 10,709 Swedish bird names two weeks ago, the organization also announced some awkward name changes. 

In the process of categorizing the names, staffers had raised concerns over some that had a potentially offensive nature. As a result, several of them have now been changed: "negro" bird, for instance, will now be called "black" bird. "When working on the list, it became obvious that some older names no longer were appropriate," Anders Wirdheim, Communications Officer at the Swedish Ornithological Society told The Washington Post. 

Wirdheim does not think that the bird names should be used to draw broader conclusions about the Swedish society. "Out of thousands of names, there were only 10 which could be understood as condescending or even racist," he said. Nevertheless, Sweden's Ornithological Society was surprised by how serious some have taken the racism allegations. "We had expected a few responses, but certainly not the flood of comments that followed the publication," Wirdheim said. 

"Here in Sweden, an overwhelming majority is for the changes we have implemented. However, the news has reached far beyond our borders and most outraged reactions have come from abroad." 

Blackbird

Naturally it’s only a matter of time before the European Union directs the UK to rename some offensively titled British birds. 

For a start our UK field guides are full of Tits not to mention a Shag, which makes it very embarrassing to discuss these species with non-UK birders. There’s the very impolite Dusky Warbler or Dusky Thrush, an abusive Sooty Shearwater or Sooty Tern and more than enough thank you of birds called “Yellow”, “Brown” or “White”. Thankfully the Martians haven’t arrived yet so for now we can forget all those “Green” birds. 

Great Tit

Yellow Wagtail

Then there are those species which have to be reminded they are of diminished stature by the use of the word “Little” or “Least”, or of less than ideal physical proportions, or with a disability, and  therefore labelled with a derogatory prefix - “Long-eared”, “Short-eared”, “Short-toed” or ”Long-toed” come to mind. And in these days of equality should we really refer to some bird species as “Common”, implying they are of a lowly class and that similar but less numerous species are superior? 

Short-toed Lark

Common Gull

And to precede so many of our British bird names with the adjective “Lesser” implies that the species is not of equal importance to its “Greater” relative when it clearly is. Be honest. Which would you rather see? A Greater White-fronted Goose or a Lesser White-fronted Goose? Me too. 

Lesser White-fronted Goose - CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Swans are very beautiful and graceful creatures. I suggest to readers that in 2015 it is no longer acceptable to begin the naming of our commonest British swan with the archaic term “Mute”. Surely “Inability To Speak Swan” would be more acceptable”? 

Mute Swan

Although not strictly speaking a British bird, the Bufflehead finds itself on the British List by virtue only of its rare transatlantic appearances here in the UK. Is that any reason to call an American cousin a “Bufflehead”? It is a word clearly designed to offend. 

Yes, it is definitely time to bring British Birds into the modern world of equality, diversity and tolerance. 

Suggestions for the New British List of Birds on a postcard please to Presidency of The European Union, Strasbourg, France.

Linking today to Anni's Birds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Good Morning All

This getting rained off p.m. is becoming tiresome. After a fairly sunny morning when mostly all was well with the world, those dreaded spots appeared before the eyes again soon after lunch time. 

The fields near Fluke Hall Lane held a good selection of waders as usual. Lapwings numbered some 320, most in a fairly tight congregation on the flooded part of the maize field. Fifty or more of these Lapwings were spread in ones and twos across a wider area and were probably prospecting for potential laying sites. Little do they know that very soon the farmer will ensure the fields resemble a grassy prairie where there aren’t too many places to scrape a nest together. If more than half a dozen pairs of Lapwings nest successfully on this land in 2015 it will count as a modern day miracle. Of 40 or more Oystercatchers at least one pair were marking out a territory but none of the 30+ Redshanks seemed so inclined. 

Lapwing

There was a small flock of 28 Black-tailed Godwits keeping their standard 100 metres distance from the road. I gave it a while hoping the godwits might walk into camera range but they are not that daft so I made do with watching them and an archive picture. In this part of North West England Black-tailed Godwits are Spring and Autumn migrants, a contingent of wintering birds and then a tiny number of breeding pairs. 

Black-tailed Godwit

The maize stubble held just 3 Linnets but a dozen or more Skylarks. There was much chasing about between the Skylarks and some half-hearted singing from a few. Several pairs of Skylarks will eventually settle down to breed here but working out their territories and finding their nests is a real labour of love. 

Skylark

A walk along the sea wall produced 5 Little Egrets and then just 2 Teal and 2 Shoveler on the wildfowlers’ pools; not a good reward for a walk there and back of half-a-mile or more. Things improved on the way back with the appearance of a flock of 20+ busily feeding and excitable Meadow Pipits, almost certainly, and at the end of February, the frontline troops of the huge push north that occurs in March. By mid-April the Meadow Pipits will be mainly well north of Pilling with nowadays a token presence of breeding pairs. 

Meadow Pipit

By now the sun was out, the air had a touch of warmth and there was plenty of birdsong and bird activity around the trees of Fluke Hall. Song came from Nuthatch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Song Thrush (2), Blackbird, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Dunnock, Robin and Wren with extra-curricular activity from a pair of Kestrels and several Tree Sparrows around nest boxes. 

 Wren on a fence - Troglodytes troglodytes

The tiny, brown, stumpy-tailed Wren is possibly the most ignored bird of the UK, undocumented and snubbed by bird watchers and bird ringers alike. It is found everywhere from the tops of the highest moors to the sandy shore, often in the most unexpected and unpredictable places. What the Wren lacks in likeability is compensated for in its boisterous and enormous singing voice, ten times louder weight for weight, than a cockerel. I do try to love the Wren but as a bird ringer who likes to work with open sleeved shirts it’s problematic. 

I managed to get to Oakenclough and just top up the feeders before the rain arrived. Andy is back from Spain now so if the wind and rain don’t conspire against us there will be a ringing session quite soon. 

Join Another Bird Blog soon for even more mornings - good or bad.

Linking this post to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Run A Round Ranch.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Showers Birding

The weather lady promised there would be two or three hours of fine weather before the rain arrived on Sunday. She was right. By 11am I was back home and rained off. I’d managed a quick birding circuit at Conder and Glasson followed by a drive to Oakenclough to top up the feeding station.

Backsands Lane at Pilling and then Sand Villa at Cockerham produced three species of raptor, a Kestrel at the nest box, a fly by Sparrowhawk and then two Buzzards, one along the fence line and another distant on the sea wall. Hordes of Pink-footed Geese were flying from their salt marsh roost and dropping on Cockerham Moss Edge. Now the shooting season is over and in just a week or two the geese will become more tolerant of people who just want to enjoy them as a spectacle rather than as a shooting trophy or a meal.

Pink-footed Geese

The pool at Conder Green was pretty full following a series of very high tides whereby excess water from the Lune is diverted into the mere, so not too many muddy edges in evidence for waders. Four Lapwing loafed on the nearest island where a pair of Oystercatchers busily mated as a prelude to nesting there again, as they do in most years. Several Redshanks were dotted around the pool margins but today was mostly wildfowl with 2 Goldeneye, 2 Tufted Duck,2 Canada Goose, 2 Little Grebe, 22 Teal, 18 Wigeon, 6 Shelduck and 2 Cormorant. As usual more Teal dabbled in the shallow creeks to bring the total of this species to 70+.

 Canada Goose

Shelduck

I counted the Goldeneye and Tufted Duck at Glasson Dock at 45 and 42 respectively. It’s rare indeed to find that Goldeneyes outnumber Tufted Duck on this water although a few tufties are often hidden amongst the moored boats or the distant reeds. Male Goldeneyes look wholly black and white from a distance and it’s not always possible to see the glossy green head of this wary duck.

Goldeneye

Looking west I could see rain approaching but inland was still reasonably bright so I headed up to the feeding station where it was dry but very cloudy. There’s a clearance and replanting programme ongoing here following years of neglect when rhododendrons took over the woodland. The team have worked extremely hard with the result that in a few years’ time the place should be buzzing with birds, hopefully a few of the species in evidence fifteen or twenty years ago when I spent a good number of days here; Green Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer and good numbers of breeding Willow Warblers and Lesser Redpolls spring to mind.

Each stake represents a young native tree to be planted in the next week or two, each sapling a welcome addition to the rather sparse habitat left following the demise of the rhododendron.

Replanting

In the meantime Andy and I can monitor the changes through our ringing and birding here. Today showed evidence of both Goldfinch and Chaffinch returning following the cold spell, with good numbers about the feeders.

In or adjacent to the woodland - 1 Buzzard, 1 Jay, 4 Fieldfare, 9 Redwing, 14 Blackbird and a singing Mistle Thrush.

Goldfinch

In nearby fields and waters I counted 55 Lapwing, 45 Oystercatcher, 4 Greylag, 15 Mallard and 2 Gadwall.

That’s all for now, but be sure there’s more birding, ringing and photography soon on Another Bird Blog.

In the meantime I'm linking to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.



Thursday, February 19, 2015

Rainy Day Birding

Today is cloudy, rainy and breezy and I’m indoors. 

Yesterday there was time for a trip up to the feeding station armed with a bucket of nyjer seed and a bag of Bamford’s finest. On the 30 minutes drive up to Oakenclough I noted 5 roadside Kestrels at well scattered locations so figured that the moderately mild winter augured well for Kestrels and others in the coming weeks. 

 It was quite blowy with some action around the feeders but nothing out of the ordinary with good numbers of Chaffinch and Goldfinch, a couple of Lesser Redpolls, a Grey Wagtail and a pair of Mistle Thrush. 

Mistle Thrush

Kestrel

To fill today’s post there are a few leftovers from the recent holiday to Lanzarote. 

We like to spend a day in the old part of Puerto del Carmen, a town which has a busy working port and harbour, more than enough coffee stops, plus a spot of shopping for the grandkids’ presents. 

Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote

Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote

Lanzarote dolls

The Turnstones here appeared to be juveniles and will probably spend the summer in the locality as there is so much food to be found by hanging about the fishing boats. 

Turnstone

Turnstone

The Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres is one of two species of turnstone in the genus Arenaria. It is a highly migratory bird, breeding in northern parts of Eurasia and North America and flying south to winter on coastlines almost worldwide. It is the only species of turnstone in much of its range and is often known simply as “Turnstone”. 

In the Americas, Turnstones winter on coastlines from Washington and Massachusetts southwards to the southern tip of South America. In Europe it winters in western regions from Iceland, Norway and Denmark southwards. In Africa, it is common all the way down to South Africa with good numbers on many offshore islands, including here in the Canaries. 

In Asia, it is widespread in the south with birds wintering as far north as southern China and Japan. It occurs south to Tasmania and New Zealand and is present on many Pacific islands. Yes, the Turnstone is some traveller, one that makes us appreciate the magic of bird migration. 

Turnstone

There’s a Little Egret here with a trick or two. The egret knew that if it waited around long enough someone would come along the jetty above with a handful of bread to feed the hordes of grey mullet in the clear shallow waters below. As the fish came steaming in for a free and easy meal, so did the egret. 

Little Egret

Little Egret

Let’s finish on a guy with attitude and hope the weather improves soon for Another Bird Blog 

Spanish Sparrow

Monday, February 16, 2015

Birding Monday p.m.

Andy’s off to Spain so there’s the feeding station to top up tomorrow and maybe a ringing session soon. In the meantime an afternoon birding Pilling sea wall was all I could manage today, a four hour walk which resulted in a good number of birds despite my February gloom. 

The notebook kicked off with 3 Whooper Swans feeding on the spuds leftover from the wildfowlers' Pink-footed Geese bait. The geese are feeding on fresh green shoots in the fields and the salt marshes now so the geese don’t need the potatoes, and in any case the shooting season is over for another year. Thank goodness for such mercies. 

Whooper Swan

There were 6 Little Egret, 2 Pied Wagtail and a couple of Skylarks between Fluke Hall and the wildfowlers' pools and when I got to the pools I took a rest on the stile hoping to find more birds. On the pools, still 27 Pintail, 2 Shoveler, 2 Teal and a good number of Mallards plus a Green Sandpiper, the latter a near certainty here every winter. Along Pilling Water a Kestrel and a then a Buzzard which came flying in via Pilling village pursued by the usual crows. Pintail look in especially fine shape at the moment. 

Pintail

The wet fields were simply buzzing with a great selection of feeding waders plus wildfowl. The combined counts of this initial walk and then afterwards the fields at Damside produced 195 Lapwing, 170 Redshank, 38 Oystercatcher, 26 Black-tailed Godwit, 95 Curlew, 4 Dunlin, 1 Snipe and 42 Shelduck. The fields are so wet at this time of year that the waders have no difficulty in probing the soil to find their food.

Oystercatcher

Black-tailed Godwits

At Fluke Hall itself - a Great-spotted Woodpecker doing Ginger Baker, a calling Nuthatch again, 2 Kestrel, 2 Pied Wagtail and 40+ Woodpigeon. The Woodpigeons exploded noisily from the trees when a Kestrel play acting as a Sparrowhawk flew quickly through the pigeon’s rest area. Woodpigeon’s don’t normally respond to the presence of a Kestrel but on this occasion the speed and agility of the Kestrel’s arrival sent all of the pigeons into panic mode. A female Sparrowhawk is more than capable of taking a Woodpigeon whereas a Kestrel would be unlikely to attack such large prey. 

Woodpigeon

Log in soon to Another Bird Blog for more birding news. But not tomorrow, a half-term day with Olivia and Isabella for Nana and Granddad. Rather be birding? No way.

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Good Birding But A Pitiful Pom

It’s been a meagre sort of week for birding with lots of cloud and grey skies and the mid-February doldrums giving limited opportunities for finding new birds. A Wednesday ringing session proved quite productive and enjoyable, followed by a couple of duff days and then Saturday morning the first opportunity to try my luck birding. But I’m really looking forward to the migrants of Spring and there we go again - bird watchers wishing their lives away in seasonal yearnings. 

Some of the earliest singers Great Tit, Song Thrush, Dunnock and Robin are in full voice in the garden although a return to cold weather will surely make them place their refrains on hold. A pair of Buzzards is on territory down the lane towards the river and on my travels I’ve heard more than a few Great-spotted Woodpeckers beating out the rhythm on a drum. 

Great Tit

Just lately there’s been a juvenile Pomarine Skua along Pilling Way, an injured bird which although able to fly, had a droopy wing. The skua created a stir amongst birders for a week or two then disappeared off the radar after it was seen feeding mostly on carrion Pink-footed Geese. I found the skua again this morning at Fluke Hall but this time it wasn’t going anywhere as it was dead, probably as a result of its rather restricted diet and its injury. 

I brought it home, let it dry off and then cleaned it up for a picture or two. It’s not often one finds a Pomarine Skua, even less a tideline corpse. 

Pomarine Skua

Pomarine Skua

Fron Wiki. The word pomarine is from the French pomarin, a shortening of the scientific Latin pomatorhinus, ultimately from Greek, meaning "having a covered nose". This refers to the cere which the Pomarine Skua shares with the other skuas. 

Bill of Pomarine Skua

On the marsh I also found 33 Whooper Swan, 2 Little Egret, 60 Lapwing, 25 Redshank, 20 Shelduck and 2 Teal. In the stubble field and along the hedgerows were singing Greenfinch and Goldfinch plus a couple of Skylark and a single Stock Dove. Highlights of the woodland were Nuthatch and Tree Sparrows active around the nest boxes. 

At Braides Farm were 2 Buzzards, spaced out as it were, one along a fence line the other on a pile of farm debris 100 yards away from the first. Our local Buzzards aren’t ones that like posing for photographs and keep a good distance from man. Who can blame them? 

Buzzard

The usual species were at Conder Green, including the Spotted Redshank and Common Sandpiper, two normally migrant waders which have wintered here in the saline creeks. I noted a decrease in Teal numbers down to circa 50 but an increase in Oystercatchers to 16, with a few of them becoming rather noisy in anticipation of Spring. A few Shelduck have reappeared in the creeks after being mostly absent during recent months. 

On and around the pool an eclectic mix of 70 Curlew, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Snipe, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Goldenye, 2 Cormorant and just 2 Little Grebe. 

Curlew

At Glasson Dock there was a Song Thrush in full voice and as I watched the thrush at the very top of a bare tree, a Raven flew over. The Raven was silent and flying strongly in a northerly direction over the river and towards Lancaster but it looked somehow odd. When I looked through binoculars the Raven's bill was stuffed with soft, nest lining material. As I watched the first Raven a second one came into sight, it too with a beak overflowing with nest lining material and this bird carried on in the same flight line as the first one.  Nest building fairly locally.

On the yacht basin I counted 22 Goldeneye and then 34 Tufted Duck. There’s a pair of Till Death Us Do Part Goldeneye sailing around the yacht basin, seemingly joined together by an invisible piece of string. The female is less wary than the male and she takes the lead in cruising to the favoured feeding spot before diving for food, quickly followed a few seconds later by the faithful male. 

Goldeneye

The Goldeneye breeding habitat is the boreal forest. They are found in the lakes and rivers of the taiga across Canada and the northern United States, Scandinavia and northern Russia. Goldeneyes are migratory with most wintering in sheltered coastal or open inland waters at more temperate latitudes. Goldeneyes nest in cavities in large trees and will readily use nest boxes, and this has enabled a healthy breeding population to establish in Scotland where they are slowly increasing and spreading, possibly into Ireland. 

This beautiful and harmless species makes a wonderful addition to the list of breeding British Birds but it is to our national shame that such a bird is on the list of allowed “quarry” for shooting. 

Goldeneye

Goldeneye

It was time to head home after an enjoyable morning’s birding that was rather spoiled by finding the dead “Pom”. Let's hope I can put the corpse to good use or quickly find someone who can. Sue isn't  too happy about it living in the freezer. 

There’s more birding another day with Another Bird Blog. Log in soon.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.

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