Sunday, November 23, 2014

Barny Start, Busy Day

It was a pretty awful week of weather but maybe a good one to be laid low by a common cold. So apologies for a lack of posts blog readers but we’re back on track now. 

By Sunday morning I was bursting to go birding so set off in the usual direction north. I passed a couple of roadside Kestrels at Head Dyke Lane and Damside, two locations where the birds remain on their year round territories. It was far too dark to stop for a picture and anyway these adult birds are too wary to hang about for slowing vehicles. So I pulled into Braides Farm a mile up the road where there was yet another Kestrel and also a hunting Barn Owl. The light was really poor and I think the pictures below were shot on Auto ISO at 3200, hence the grainy finish

Barn Owl

Barn Owl
Barn Owl

The owl wasn’t having much luck hunting the long, wet grass and disappeared out of sight further along the main road. I’d stopped hoping to see the Buzzards and found one of them on a fence post a long way towards the sea wall. There was a Raven too, a couple of Little Egrets, a number of Curlews hidden in the longish grass and 15+ Meadow Pipits harassing the hovering Kestrel. 

At Conder Green I checked the pool, the creeks and “around the bend” - past the Stork and into the car park. Duckers and divers were represented by 105 Teal, 14 Little Grebe, 13 Wigeon, 4 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander, 1 Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Little Egret. 

As of November 23rd is it now autumn or winter? The 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Spotted Redshank still present might suggest it is autumn so therefore interesting to see if both essentially migrant species overwinter here as they have in past years. Little Brown Jobs - 2 Meadow Pipits, 25+ Chaffinch and 2 Pied Wagtail. 

A peek at Glasson Dock revealed 55 Tufted Duck, 5 Goldeneye and 1 Little Grebe. There was a yacht circuiting the basin which caused a flurry of activity from the Goldeneye causing the 4 males and 1 female to fly out the safety of the estuary. It is wonderful to see this superb duck back for the winter months ahead.


The light improved slowly so I gave Pilling a shot, stopping to scan through Pink-footed Geese along the busy thoroughfare that is the modern Backsands Lane. My rough and ready count was 2500 but with so many noisy and colourful passers-by I reckoned the geese would not be there long before they sought quieter parts. 

 Pink-footed Geese

Pink-footed Geese

Along the sea wall and the wet fields at Fluke Hall - 55 Whooper Swan, 11 Little Egret, 45+Redshank, 15 Oystercatcher, 9 Curlew, 45 Woodpigeon, 4 Stock Dove and 120 Lapwing. 

With Andy busy at a bird ringing demonstration at the Wildfowl Trust it was my turn to fill the feeders at the ringing station near Oakenclough. It’s been a surprise how many Goldfinch and Greenfinch there are up here in the hills, especially since Goldfinch are supposed to leave us for the winter months. 

There was a continuous flurry of 15-20 Goldfinches activity around the feeders with smaller numbers of Greenfinch, Chaffinch and the ever present Coal Tits. Two Fieldfare fed on the hawthorn berries adjacent to our net rides, so all looks good for a sunny, calm day and a spot of mid-week ringing. 



Join Another Bird Blog soon for more busy birding.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Double Day Birds

I found a couple of hours to go birding on Tuesday morning before granddad duties called. There was even a little sun to help the walk along, and fingers crossed, we so far seem to lack the six weeks of promised wind and rain. 

As per last week a Song Thrush was in unseasonal good voice again from the trees at Fluke Hall. Otherwise it seemed pretty quiet apart from the resident and easily found Blackbirds, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtails and a couple of titmice flocks. 

There are some useful flashes of water on the fields adjoining Fluke Hall and it was here I counted a good mix of 35 Redshank, 40+ Lapwing, 45 Oystercatcher, 15 Curlew, 1 Snipe, 40+ Woodpigeon and hundreds of corvids. 



It’s often the case; the crows and Jackdaws drew my attention to a Sparrowhawk flying off along the sea wall, and although I followed along, there wasn’t much chance of getting close views of the shy raptor. There was a Rock Pipit feeding quietly along the tide wrack and then a little further along an equally quiet Skylark, and out on the marsh 10 Whooper Swans, 80 + Shelduck and 7 Little Egret. 

On and around the wildfowlers’ pools were still hundreds of “mallards”, dozens of Red-legged Partridge, 6 Teal, 3 or more Reed Bunting, 6 + Linnet. 

With a fine morning in prospect Andy and I pencilled in Wednesday for a ringing session near Oakenclough. The session didn’t disappoint with a catch of 35 birds, 23 new plus 12 recaptures from the last few weeks of ringing. 

The 23 new birds comprised of a good selection of species, finches named first: 5 Chaffinch, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Greenfinch, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Blue Tit, 1 Robin, 1 Great Tit, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Robin. 



Lesser Redpoll

Rather unusually every single recapture proved to be a Coal Tit. Anyone familiar with the feeding habits of Coal Tits will know how the species does not linger at bird tables and feeders but instead spends as little time as possible at a food source, quickly taking an item, flying off with it and then returning again and again. In can be quite exhausting simply watching this puzzling and apparently tiring ritual but it’s all to do with the Coal Tit’s strategy of taking food and storing it for later consumption. 

Coal Tit

Birding while ringing was quiet with the subdued calls of Bullfinch heard on a couple of occasions as well as the single unmistakeable nasal sound of a Brambling soon after first light. Otherwise we both enjoyed the steady session which allowed us time to study and enjoy in full the birds we caught. 

There’s more birding and ringing soon from Another Bird Blog, assuming of course I survive Thursday’s ‘flu jab.

Linking today to Anni's birding.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Friday/Saturday And A Fishy Tale

On Friday the rain didn’t stop until close on 1pm. That left just a couple of hours for birding because by 3pm and five weeks to mid-winter, the sun is well down in the sky. So I made it a short and familiar route along the sea wall at Pilling and then back via the trees at Fluke Hall. 

There was a Reed Bunting calling from the hedgerow and as I pulled on boots still damp from recent days I could hear a Song Thrush in full voice just along the lane. The sudden sun had given us both a lift and I set off with a spring in my step to view the wet fields. 

Reed Bunting

It was a good start with a useful selection of 44 Redshank, 65 Oystercatcher, 6 Curlew, 24 Lapwing, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Stock Dove and 1 Snipe. Along the sea wall - 8+ Little Egret, 18 Whooper Swan, 2 Mute Swan, 22 Shelduck and a Kestrel. 

I was drawn by intense activity on the distant shore and watched a Peregrine create the usual mass panic amongst the waders and wildfowl. In just a couple of passes the Peregrine had grabbed what looked from a distance to be a Redshank and then landed on the shore with the wader still flailing about. The Peregrine barely had chance to begin its meal before a Great Black-backed Gull arrived with the obvious intention of grabbing a piece of the action. Very quickly the Peregrine gave way to the threats and let the huge gull take over, but not without a protest as it took to the air and dive-bombed the robber several times in the hope the gull might relinquish the prize. No chance, the Black-back quickly swallowed the meal and left the Peregrine to find another. 


It’s almost impossible to follow such fantastic birding and what came next proved something of an anti-climax to a hunting Peregrine in full flow. Fluke Hall wood produced single Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail and Song Thrush. 

Song Thrush

Saturday dawned with yet more cloud and a trip to Conder and Glasson Dock. 

At Braides Farm were the 2 regular Buzzards on the regular fence near the midden. These two really are the most consistent Buzzards I know of at the moment although it would be foolhardy to try and approach them for a closer picture; they would definitely fly off into the distance. Three or more hours later and on my way back from Conder Green the two were still fence sitting but if anything they were further away and the light worse. 


Conder Green gave a good selection of species on both the pool and the in the creeks. A Kingfisher obliged with a brief fly past as I watched 14 Little Grebe, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Goosander,1 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Cormorant, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 1 Little Egret fish the pool. There’s obviously good feeding at the pool right now for species that dive for their fishy food. 

Red-breasted Merganser

In the creeks and at the roadside - 1 Ruff, 125 Teal, 15+ Redshank, 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Goldfinch and 1 Rock Pipit.

Pied Wagtail

At Glasson Dock I was busy noting the 48 Tufted Duck, 4 Goldenye, 2 Grey Heron and a Kingfisher when I spotted an angler landing a Northern Pike or pike (Esox lucius).

I abandoned the birding to see the haul, an 8lb beauty. It proved more of a handful than weighing your average warbler. The chap was in fact a Water Bailiff on a sort of day off and he told me how there had been a lot of poaching in the area lately, especially by East European immigrants who have a taste for eating pike.

No thanks, I'll stick to Pilling Plaice and battered haddock.

 Weighing In

Pike at Glasson Dock

More tales and tails soon from Another Bird Blog. In the meantime linking to Anni's Blog and World Bird Wednesday.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Catching Up

It has been a rough old week of weather with no real sign of a let up to the wind and rain. But Andy and I managed to find a tiny window of dry weather this morning for a ringing session near Oakenclough. 

We caught a good mix of birds by way of 21 new birds and 9 recaptures. The new birds comprised 4 Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 4 Great Tit, 5 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit 1 Blackbird and 1 Robin. Rather unusually all of the 9 recaptures were Coal Tits ringed here a week ago. The single Blackbird caught was a dark-billed first winter male bird which displayed the characteristics of a “continental” type. 





Even though over the years I’ve ringed almost 4500 Chaffinches, it’s still satisfying to catch them on a regular basis. The Chaffinch is an interesting and accessible species, one that is eminently suitable for amateur study. See Another Bird Blog here for an earlier account of autumn Chaffinches  

I may have told this story before on Another Bird Blog but here goes. The Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), sometimes known as bachelor finch, was described by Linnaeus in 1758 in his Systema Naturae. Fringilla is the Latin word for a finch while coelebs means unmarried or single. The English name comes from the Old English ceaffinc, where ceaf is "chaff" and finc "finch". The “chaff” part of the name arose no doubt through this farmland birds’ preference for eating chaff, the husks of corn or other seed separated by winnowing or threshing. A common call of the Chaffinch is variously described as “fink”, “vink” or “pink” and gave rise to the “finch” part of its English name. 

Linnaeus thought that during the Swedish winter, only the female birds migrated south towards Belgium to Italy, leaving male birds to stay close to their territories. Although this observation was not entirely accurate there was an element of truth in the theory. The male to female ratios of Chaffinches migrating south and forming wintering flocks actually varies from year to year with the locality and dependent upon the severity of a winter/availability of food. 


This morning’s birding seemed rather uneventful until about 0915-1030 when we noticed a huge stream of a couple of thousand or more Fieldfares arriving from due north and heading south on a route through the hills east of the Grizedale Valley, a direction which if continued would take them over the town of Garstang. Our views from 400 yards away were limited by distance and a large plantation on the hillside and it was hard to tell if the flocks were of Fieldfares only or whether Redwings were also involved. Later we did see just a couple of Redwings.

Sightings otherwise - 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Bullfinch, 1 Mistle Thrush.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Buzzards

Buzzards again I’m afraid. Well let’s face it a “big brown job” like a Buzzard is a lot easier to find, ID and photograph than those “little brown jobs” and I’m all for an easy life. 

The first Buzzard was at Braides Farm again, way out on the fence towards the sea wall; and in the photo below that’s Heysham Power Station in the far distance, 20 miles across Morecambe Bay. 

A mile or less along the sea wall are fields swarming with released Red-legged Partridges courtesy of the local shooters but the local Buzzards are too lazy to go chasing partridges which fly fast and close to the ground. Instead the Buzzards mostly prefer a “watch and wait” approach from a tree or fence, mainly for earthworms, amphibians and large insects plus the odd bit of carrion like road kill. 


What’s that old adage? “Give a dog a bad name and hang him” comes to mind. There’s another Buzzard photo later in this post for folk who appreciate this much maligned raptor. 

There was a Kestrel at Braides too, but little else to excite. 

I stopped at Conder Green where on the pool I found 18 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Goldeneye and 2 Grey Heron. In the creeks - 1 Kingfisher, 160 Teal, 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Ruff, 1 Little Egret and 1 Goosander. 

At Glasson Dock there was a Black-headed Gull with a Darvic ring inscribed “6CY”. Anyone out there wishing to claim ownership please contact me, but in any case I will submit the record to the appropriate place. 

Black-headed Gull - 6CY

It wasn’t long after 9:15 am but both Conder Green and Glasson started to resemble a combined Bradley Wiggins Festival and Cruft’s Dog Show, so I drove to Pilling looking for peace and quiet. 

On the tideline a Pink-footed Goose flapped to escape me but with one wing smashed beyond repair it couldn't do so. I lacked the heart or the means to kill the poor bird, so shame to say left it to its own devices and hopefully quick death. How did this happen? Probably an unclean shot by a sportsman which left the bird ”winged” to later drift on the tide and eventually find its way ashore. 

Pink-footed Goose

On and around the pools, flooded fields and maize - 2 Ruff, 40+ Shelduck, 8 Oystercatcher, 3 Redshank, 2 Reed Bunting and 5+ Skylark. 

In the sunny wood there was a little activity around a few of the Tree Sparrow boxes, the autumnal display in evidence whereby this species is known to indulge in sexual activity and sometimes construct nests. 

Tree Sparrow

I was side-tracked by a party of tits moving through the trees, a good number of Long-tailed Tits, a Nuthatch, a Goldcrest and several Great Tits. Just then two more distractions arrived with a Grey Wagtail flying over followed by a Kingfisher flying across the woodland pool and landing in a tree situated in front of two Mallards and a pair of Teal. It’s very unusual to see Teal here so deep in the woodland.

Fluke Hall, Pilling

A Buzzard flew over the wood, the raptor pursued by Carrion Crows eager to see the bird out of their patch. It’s weird how Buzzards can sit around on fence posts for ages unmolested by other birds but as soon as they begin to resemble a hawk they attract unwanted attention. 

Carrion Crows and Buzzard

I'm out of action tomorrow but tune in soon for more large and small brown jobs.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Friday and Saturday Birding

Friday dawned grey and breezy with the threat of rain. So I took a leisurely tea and toast as an hour or more elapsed before the sky brightened and motivation kicked in. I set out for a walk at Pilling - Fluke Hall to Pilling Water along the sea wall and shore, then back via the woodland. 

Two Ravens croaked across the marsh and headed in the general direction of Lane Ends, and as I scanned east I noted 14+ Little Egrets and a single Grey Heron scattered at suitable intervals both on the marsh and just inland. Although the species roosts communally, a single Little Egret will vigorously defend a quite small feeding territory. I was late as most of the Whooper Swans had set off inland where up to 200 have been feeding on flooded fields near Eagland Hill, the inland hamlet all of 33ft above sea level. I was left with just 8 Whoopers to consider. 

Whooper Swans

The 11am tide was running in and producing some good flights of birds. Many were too distant to bother with in the grey light and stiff breeze but I had good counts of 29 Snipe, 23 Black-tailed Godwit, 60+ Shelduck, many hundreds of Wigeon and dozens of Pintail. 

Black-tailed Godwits

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a bird fly low along a flooded ditch, thought it might be a Green Sandpiper but as it turned and flew along the main channel and lost to view I could see it was the local Kingfisher. 

The tide was moving passerines, mostly Skylarks but also 50+ Linnets and several Reed Buntings, the Reed Buntings flying into the cover given by wildfowlers’ maize. Adding the Skylarks shifted by the tide to those already feeding on the wet stubble field I reached a total of 60+ individuals. 

Reed Bunting

The wind increased, the grey persisted so I headed for the relative calm of Fluke Hall, pausing to watch Redshanks, Snipe and Lapwings rise from the flooded field. 

At Fluke was the resident Kestrel pair, a single Buzzard, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Jays, and several newly arrived Blackbirds, the thrushes feeding quietly in the hawthorn hedgerow alongside a few Tree Sparrows 

Saturday, and after a rather dismal week apart from Wednesday morning which provided a ringing session in the hills at Oakenclough I went back there this morning. It was time to top-up the feeders and weigh up what’s about in readiness for mid-week ringing if the weather improves. 

Driving across the moss roads of Stalmine, Pilling and Winmarleigh I clocked up an early Barn Owl, 4 Whooper Swans, 3 Buzzards and 2 Kestrels, and then beyond Garstang another Buzzard feeding in a stubble field. 

The feeding station seemed a little quiet with seemingly not as many birds around as in the week but a good mix of titmice, a few Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Bullfinches plus a Mistle Thrush. Otherwise - 90 Lapwings, Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Kestrel. 

 Feeding station
Mistle Thrush

Looking to the south-west I could see Saturday’s rain arriving so headed home to greet the deluge.  

Stay tuned. There’s more soon from Another Bird Blog. 

In the meantime I'm linking to Anni's blog and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Buzzards Betrayed

Regular readers of Another Bird Blog will know that I regularly feature the plight of our UK Buzzards. Having for more than 30 years watched the Buzzard scramble unaided from a status of “scarce” to one of “common” I am sickened that certain sections of the UK shooting fraternity see fit to mercilessly persecute both Buzzards and other birds of prey. 

In the posting More Buzzard Bashing I promised to update readers on the sentence handed out to Allen Lambert, a gamekeeper found with a bag of nine dead buzzards on a pheasant-shooting estate. In October he was found guilty of intentionally killing a protected species. 

This is England’s worst recorded case of poisoning birds of prey. Lambert was also found guilty of possessing illegal pesticides and other equipment including a syringe for injecting poison into eggs or meat baits, which prosecutors described as a “classic poisoner’s kit”. 

Poisoned Buzzards - courtesy of BBC and RSPB

My prophecy of 9th October 2014 was - “If all goes according to the normal way of such things in the UK Lambert will probably face a slap on the wrist and a derisory fine rather than a well-deserved spell in Her Majesty’s Prisons where he could mix with criminals of the same ilk” 

Guess what? - On November 6th 2014 Lambert was sentenced to 10 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, ordered to pay costs of £930 and a victim surcharge of £80. 

Allen Lambert - pictured by Matthew Usher

This pitiful so called “sentence” will exasperate many, especially since Judge Peter Veits said Lambert’s crimes ‘had crossed the custody threshold’ but that his sentence would be suspended.

Sentencing is supposed to serve two purposes. It is meant to deter the convicted criminal from repeating the crime, but also to dissuade others who may be contemplating committing the same or similar offences. It is also supposed to provide a punishment to the offender for having acted in a criminal manner. This was a lost opportunity for the courts to send out an unequivocal message to those who continue to commit wildlife crimes. 

Lambert has effectively got off without harm, loss or real penalty. What about his now previous employers, The Stody Estate? The BBC - “There is no evidence the estate owner, Charles MacNicol, knew about the poisonings. He wouldn’t tell BBC News whether he knew, or whether he condemned the killings. Lambert was not sacked by Stody Estate, but instead was allowed to take early retirement. The estate distanced itself from the offences and said it had considered Lambert a valued and trusted member of staff.” 

The Judge told Lambert “There would appear to be a complete lack of control over poisons on the estate and in many other ways your employers might have been in the dock themselves for some of these offences involving poison on their property.”

The Stody Estate has received millions in agricultural subsidies over a number of years and The Rural Payments Agency is understood to be investigating to see whether financial penalties of tens of thousands of pounds of subsidy could be withdrawn if the estate is found to have been negligent. 

The Scottish government has made landowners share the blame for gamekeepers' misdemeanours. It says there appears to have been a significant drop in killings since the adoption of "vicarious liability". This is where a superior is responsible for the acts of their subordinates and has the "right, ability or duty to control" the activities of a violator.

The RSPB wants England to follow suit but the environment department Defra says the evidence that their current policy is not working is not strong enough.

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