Monday, October 12, 2015

A Little Fluke And Greek Delight

I managed an hour two exploring Fluke Hall today. Whooper Swans are back from Iceland with four adults and a single juvenile below the sea wall. There was a Green Sandpiper along the landward ditch, a single Snipe, a couple of hunting Kestrels plus 2 Little Egrets and a Grey Heron.

Best I could find around the woodland turned out to be 45+ Woodpigeon, 3 Stock Dove and a Nuthatch.

Whooper Swans

That snippet of local news rather short changes regular readers so for the rest of this post there are some final pictures from our Skiathos holiday of 16th to 30th September.

We chose a sunny day to make the annual pilgrimage to the ancient abandoned fortress of Kastro where we could watch the exploits of the island’s Eleonora’s Falcons. For a more detailed insight into both Kastro and its Eleonora's Falcons, see my post of last year Fantastic Falcon.

The colony of breeding Eleonora’s live on a rocky outcrop in the far north of the island, the opposite coast to both our hotel and to Skiathos Town. Luckily we made the tortuous overland journey before the historic storms of 22/23rd September as otherwise I think the route via secondary roads and rough tracks would have been blocked by rivers of mud and rocks. 

Kastro, Skiathos

Kastro, Skiathos

The parking spot leaves a foot-slog over rocky paths towards the Greek flag with chance to see Yellow-legged Gulls, Blue Rock Thrush, Kestrel, Alpine Swifts, Common Swifts and swallows of both the common and red-rumped variety. In the vegetation skulked Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Sardinian Warblers and Blackcaps. 

Yellow-legged Gull

The falcons live below the flag along the furthermost point of the rocky promontory where they remain fairly distant until one or two fly directly over. The Eleonora’s performed to their usual incredible and spectacular level, hurtling through the skies at breakneck speed to the rocks and the sea below. With approximately 20 birds present, both adults and youngsters, it was obvious there was lots of family interplay to get through before they fly to Africa for the coming winter. 

Eleonora's Falcon

Eleonora's Falcon

Eleonora's Falcon

Eleonora's Falcon

On a couple of occasion we drove to Koukounaries to visit the famous beach and the lake of Strofilia which lies between a line of pine trees and the road to Koukounaries. 


Strofilia, Skiathos

Strofilia from above, Skiathos

A couple of leisurely walks around the lake taking in the mix of habitats produced a good selection of species with Yellow Wagtails and Whinchats in abundance, on one day in particular 50+ Yellow Wagtails and 20+ Whinchats.

There was also Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Hoopoe, Red-backed Shrike, Hobby, Grey Heron, Honey Buzzard, Spotted Flycatcher, Wryneck, Kingfisher, Little Egret, Kestrel and Sardinian Warbler. That’s a worthy list by any standards, especially considering that by mid to late September many species are absent having set off for Africa. 

Spotted Flycatcher


A Hoopoe is a striking bird but they can be difficult to spot when they choose to stay quiet and sit motionless in a tree. 


Red-backed Shrike

Yellow Wagtail

Hooded Crow

Yellow Wagtail

I hope blog readers enjoyed the recent posts from Skiathos, Greece. It’s a peaceful, stress-free place for a holiday and there's always a spot of leisurely birding available for those who choose not to sun bathe. 


Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog for more birds and more pictures very soon.

Linking this post to World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

More From The North

After a good catch of 42 birds on Thursday I was back at Oakenclough this morning but this time met up with Andy so we could share the tasks of ringing and migration watching. An onlooker today was surprised at how often we might visit the site but as we explained, during this period time of peak migration each day brings new birds in a steady stream and it is rare that we recapture birds which are on active migration. Even the commonplace and humble Robin is a very migratory species.

We were more than happy with today’s varied catch of 53 birds of 13 species; 12 Chaffinch, 9 Goldcrest, 6 Great Tit, 6 Blue Tit, 5 Goldfinch, 3 Coal Tit, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Greenfinch,2 Dunnock, 2 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Long-tailed Tit and 1 Chiffchaff. 


Lesser Redpoll

The single Blackbird caught was of the “continental” type. Almost three-quarters of the Blackbirds breeding in this country may be resident but others winter in France and yet others (particularly from Scotland and northern England) head for Ireland. Their places here are occupied by migrants from Scandinavia, Denmark and Germany. Some of these Blackbirds, more noticeably the males, display “continental” like features of sooty colouration, entirely dark bills, scalloped breast feathers and finely speckled throats. 

"Continental" Blackbird

The visible migration of Chaffinches was less marked this morning as reflected by catching just 12. The numbers flying over started quite well soon after dawn but quickly came to a standstill. We counted approximately 100 birds heading south in infrequent parties of mostly less than eight or ten individuals. 


Highly obvious today was the number of Mistle Thrushes arriving from the north, the early ones in the half-light of dawn. By packing up time of midday we had counted 24+ as having passed over or through the site. 

One of today’s Goldcrests bore a ring beginning with letters EDX, so not one of our own. But as a first year bird it was ringed elsewhere this autumn, perhaps even in the last day or two. We will hear in due course once the record is computerised and sent to join the database of ringed birds held at the British Trust for Ornithology. 

Goldcrest EDX

Other visible migration came in the form of 1 Swallow, 8/10 Redwing, 18 Greenfinch. 

Today's Local birds - 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Raven, 1 Peregrine.

There are more migrant bird soon with Another Bird Blog. Don't miss them!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Northern Delight

The weather man thought that Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights might be visible overnight. When I looked to north from Oakenclough at 0630 there was a definite luminosity in the sky that I hoped might be the famous display of natural light. When I looked again I realised that it was the glow given off by the streets and buildings of Lancaster and Morecambe some eight or ten miles to the immediate north. 

No excuses then, it was time to set the nets for a spot of ringing. 

It was slow start that only really came to life after 0800 when visible migration became more evident. I ended at 1130 after a good catch of 42 birds made up of mostly Chaffinch and Goldfinch, the Chaffinches definite migrants, the Goldfinches perhaps less so, or at least in the distances they may have travelled. A couple of the Chaffinch caught proved to be larger males with wing lengths of 91mm, a sign of more northerly birds than our marginally smaller UK residents. 

Totals - Chaffinch 20, Goldfinch 12, Goldcrest 4, Coal Tit 2, and singles of Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Robin and Reed Bunting. 

Reed Bunting

Song Thrush



Another four new Goldcrests nudged our total for this site close to 50 for the autumn, suggesting that Goldcrests had a breeding season than was more successful than species closer to home. 


There was a significant movement of Chaffinches arriving from the north all morning. They came steadily in handfuls or the low teens. Bearing in mind those I did not see whilst busy with ringing and taking onto account that the twenty ringed is a sample only, I imagine that a total figure after 4 fours of steady Chaffinch movement is somewhere in the low hundreds. 

Redwings were not around at first light, only after 0830 and than about 0900/0930 when I counted a total of 60+ circling around in small groups before mainly continuing south. Mistle Thrushes were also evident with up to 15 individuals in two and threes flying over, some landing in the plantation. There was also more than the single Song Thrush which found the nets but less than five. Two Jays flying overhead were possible migrants as it is a species not seen on site for some months. 

There was just a handful of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll this morning, two species which are usually present but seem to have become less numerous in the last two weeks after an early burst of migration in August and September.

"Otherwise" birds - 3 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Sparrowhawk. 

On the way home over Pilling Moss I stopped to photograph a Kestrel, one of two along the same stretch of road. There was a less accommodating Sparrowhawk which didn’t hang around for a portrait. 


A good result for the morning, but with just one observer trying to multitask by birding, ringing and photography it does beg the question of what goes missing on such occasions. It will be interesting and instructive to read other Internet accounts from this morning, especially where coastal birders have been on the lookout for migrants.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Monday, October 5, 2015

An Ill Wind In Skiathos

The weather is not too good for birding or ringing for a day or two so for today’s blog post there’s a tale from recent Skiathos. "Click the pics" for a clearer view of Greece.

Our first week in Skiathos saw glorious weather, constant temperatures between 28 and 30⁰ and endless clear blue skies. The photograph below shows part of Skiathos and in the right-hand background the neighbouring and larger island of Skopelos as viewed from the Kanapitsa peninsula of Skiathos. 

View from Kanapitsa, Skiathos

The scorching weather broke on 22nd and 23rd September with thunderstorms of historic proportions. The Greek mainland and the island of Skopelos bore the brunt of the storms with at times wind and rain reaching tornado strength. In Skopelos the torrential rain created flash floods which poured through the narrow streets and alleys into the harbour below the town. Reports at the time suggested that 10.5 inches of rain fell in the first 24 hours and that 70 or 80 vehicles had been washed into the harbour. Many businesses were destroyed by the ferocity of storm. Thankfully we heard that there was no loss of life and that both islanders and tourists managed to stay safe. 


While all this was going on we spent a day and more in our hotel in Agia Paraskevi listening to the thunder, watching the lightening and hearing the rain beat on our patio roof. When we once ventured out during what seemed a lull we found ourselves stuck for an hour or more in a stationary line of traffic at Kolios when a tree crashed across the road ahead of us and brought down power lines. 

The mornings after the storm saw huge numbers of birds on the move, displaced by the bad weather systems which stretched across many hundreds of miles. Sitting with my pre-breakfast cup of tea I watched thousands of Barn Swallows, Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins, Common Swifts, Pallid Swifts and Alpine Swifts circling in the grey clouds above. Two parties of Bee Eaters flew over as did a group of 8 Hobbies, several Lesser Kestrels, a couple of Eleonora’s Falcon, at least 3 Marsh Harriers and a number of Ravens. The grey skies allowed time to test the theory that the Hobby has a silhouette like a large swift - it does. Eleonora’s Falcon has a call remarkably similar to Ring-necked Parakeet, a fact which I remembered when searching the sky for a green parrot with a long tail but instead seeing a medium sized falcon! 


On the third day Sue took the bus to the delights of shopping in Skiathos Town. I made off in the Jimny for Aselinos where the cool of the morning meant that no one wanted to sunbathe. Pools newly created by the recent storms held many Yellow Wagtails as well as Whinchats, Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and the ever present shrikes. 

Aselinos Beach



Red-backed Shrike

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail


Yellow Wagtail

Yellow Wagtail

I found a couple of Richard’s Pipits too, a species which according to various sources, may or may not be scarce in Greece but is one that I’ve seen in the same place two years running. There are no Magpies or Jackdaws on Skiathos where apart from the scarce Raven, the representative of the crow family is the ubiquitous Hooded Crow. 

 Richard's Pipit
Hooded Crow

 The Road From Aselinos

As that old proverb goes - “It’s an ill wind that blows no good.” That certainly applies in Skiathos where the normally quiet bird watching of September becomes rather different when bad weather drops migrant birds onto the island. 

I just looked at the latest forecast and it looks like there will be a ringing or birding day soon. Log in then for more news, views and photos.

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

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Crests And Chiffs

Thank goodness. The late evening fog of Friday had gone by 0600 on Saturday so I set off to meet Andy at Oakenclough for my first ringing session since returning from Skiathos. 

Andy visited the ringing site while I was away and kept up the tally of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls as well as ringing a number of migrant Goldcrest. 

Goldcrests featured again today in our catch of 38 birds comprising 14 Goldcrest, 5 Chiffchaff, 7 Chaffinch, 6 Great Tit, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Coal Tit and singles each of Blue Tit and Robin. 



I didn’t take many pictures this morning because the initial bright skies lasted about an hour and a half before a clammy and all-enveloping mist rolled in from the north. Until that time we’d seen evidence of visible migration in the form of Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches and Meadow Pipits overhead and heading due south. We also caught most of  the birds during that time but once the curtain of mist arrived migration stopped. Birds don’t generally move much during misty or foggy weather but simply wait around until conditions improve and they can see where they are going. 

The fog put paid to any birding ambitions except for singles of Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Siskin, Sparrowhawk and a single Swallow. 

Driving off the still misty site at midday I noted 12+ Mistle Thrushes further into the plantation and feeding on rowan berries but away from our netting area. The thrushes had clearly made unseen landfall during the fog and mist.

Mistle Thrush

The blog header has changed to a picture of a Yellow Wagtail taken in Greece last week. There will be more pictures of Yellow Wagtails and other Skiathos birds very soon, so stay tuned to Another Bird Blog.

Linking this post to  Anni's Birding Blog.

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