I set off this morning just in time to see a spectacular sunrise appear over Cockerham. Our west coast of Lancashire has remarkable sunsets also but there’s something very special about the light of a new day dawning over misty fields.
A Cockerham Dawn
As usual I was on my way to Conder Green where with luck and more than a little perseverance it is possible to see a good selection of birds. I wouldn’t be disappointed, especially as the regular Barn Owl was doing the rounds of the road and the marsh at a steady 20 or so mph in trying to evade my camera and the odd vehicle that came by, even at 0600.
The usual birds graced the pool and the nearby creeks with waders at 90+ Lapwings, 30+ Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 5 Common Sandpiper, 2 Avocet, 2 Greenshank and 1 Dunlin. In the egret and heron department were the customary 3 Little Egret and a single Grey Heron, the numbers of both yet to show any real increase this autumn.
Tufted Duck have been present all spring and summer in fours, fives and sixes with the appearance today of a single brood of tiny young. With just three in tow the female has considerably less than the 10 or so ducklings more typical of the species immediately after nesting. The female flew in alone from over the canal calling to the youngsters as she landed that the coast was clear. The chicks quickly left their hiding place in bankside vegetation and joined mum on the water.
Other wildfowl seen - 6 Little Grebe, 2 Wigeon, 1 Teal and 1 Goosander. Four Swift flew around briefly and I suspect they were migrants as overall Swift numbers are down in the past week or two. How soon does summer change to autumn.
A quick look at Glasson Dock revealed several Coot, 6 Tufted Duck, a single Great Crested Grebe, and 2 Common Terns fishing both the dock and the yacht basin.
I drove back over Stalmine Moss where I followed the song of a Yellowhammer, an increasingly scarce farmland bird which has reached almost celebrity status with local birders. A yellow male was singing from a fence post with a browner bird flying off as I approached the spot.
I stopped to watch a pair of Buzzard circling overhead but then noticed what looked like a small animal immobile in the centre of the carriageway. It was a very fresh but also very dead Mole.
Mole - Talpa europaea
The Mole Talpa europaea is one of the most common and widespread of mammals in the UK, but because it spends most of its life in the tunnels which it digs, it is rarely seen. For most people, it is the familiar sight of molehills of soil in woods and fields and even on lawns which is their only experience of these secretive animals.
Moles are only about 15cm long, but have stout forearms and broad front paws with strong claws which give the animal its ability to tunnel so effectively underground. Their bodies are roughly cylindrical with no neck and a pointed nose, and they are covered in thick, dark fur.
A Mole’s diet mainly consists of earthworms, but they also feed on beetles and other insects, even baby mice and occasionally shrews if they come upon them while on the surface. A mole needs to eat the equivalent of its own bodyweight each day. In autumn they make a store of hundreds of earthworms to last them through the winter. The worms are usually chewed off at the front end so they cannot crawl away, but remain alive and so provide fresh food for several months.
Moles are not blind, as most people believe. They do have eyes and internal ears, but these are very small to prevent them being clogged up and damaged during tunnelling. Although they can see, the mole’s eyesight is poor, with no ability to detect colours, just light from dark and movement. However, the mole has a special weapon to help it find other animals underground - an area of bare pink skin on the snout covered in tiny pimples that detect movement and the scents of prey and other moles.
Large molehills mark the position of a nest, sometimes known as a “castle”. A line of small molehills marks the direction of a deep tunnel while a continuous line of earth marks a very shallow tunnel. Moles are considered as pests where they damage lawns and fields that farmers like to see flat. Many methods are used to try to eradicate them, often with only limited success.
Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog. This weekend I am studying “Britain’s Birds”, an entirely new and must-have photographic field guide due for publication in mid-August. Read my review on here very soon.
That's all for now. In the meantime I am linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.