Friday, April 18, 2014

Hoopoe? What Hoopoe?

The Hoopoe excavating some unfortunate person’s lawn about 10 miles away decided my birding destination to be in the opposite direction this morning. If there’s one Hoopoe, there just might be another around the area or something equally exotic, but no one will ever find anything unless they go birding. 


Fluke Hall gardens haves the look and feel of Hoopoe Land but alas there were none of the floppy fliers to be seen, just scolding Blackbirds and a post-dawn Jay directing me to a Tawny Owl instead. The owl was deep in the trees, a half view and half a picture was all I managed this time. 

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

The owl flew to a private spot near the hall where it usually hangs out. I know that because the local birds often find the hidden owl and noisily tell the whole neighbourhood including visiting bird watchers. They should recognise the signs that point to a concealed owl. 

There seemed to be very few birds on the move this morning despite or perhaps because of the clear, frosty start. Later there would be a couple of flighty redpolls at Lane Ends, but here nothing. 

Never mind, there was a good selection of local birds with today the turn of Mistle Thrushes to be feeding youngsters. An adult bill packed with tiny items told of small young but I lost the adult as it dipped through the trees and then up again. There was a Grey Heron on the pool, a couple of Shelduck, the usual gaggle of Mallards and Moorhens, and in the tree tops 2 Buzzards calling to each other. Later on and as the sun warmed the air both Buzzards circled high over the trees. 


The Kestrel pair sat along a fence line, two posts keeping the two apart; handsome birds but as adults hard to approach for a portrait. 


In song amongst the trees and hedgerows were 3 Blackcap, 3 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Song Thrush and 1 Greenfinch plus uncounted commoners like Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Robin and Blackbird. One Great-spotted Woodpecker was actually drumming this morning, not very loud, more like a regular “tap-tap-tap” in the absence of competing males in the area. “Odds and Sods” comprised a single Swallow, 1 Little Egret and I male Reed Bunting on a regular stretch of territory. 

There were 3 Wheatears at Lane Ends, 2 males and a female, all of which had the appearance of “Greenland” types. When I eventually caught the female, wing 97mm and low weight of 22gms, biometrics which placed it in the overlap zone, I decided that due to her male companions she was almost certainly a “Northern” Northern Wheatear. 

Northern Wheatear

 Northern Wheatear

I heard Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff in song here too, the trilling Little Grebe and there was a flying visit from the Damside male Kestrel. 

The wildfowlers’ pools and sea wall were uneventful with regular counts of 300 Pink-footed Goose, 90 Shelduck, 65 Redshank, 4 Teal, 8 Linnet and 6 Skylark. 

Well in four hours I didn’t see a Hoopoe, nothing exotic, untoward or even unexpected but I did enjoy a great morning of bird watching. 


There’s more unexciting bird watching soon from Another Bird Blog. Log in if you dare.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Different Days, Different Birds

On Tuesday we spent a day at Blackpool Zoo with our two granddaughters. Today I took a well-earned rest and spent a good three hours birding the usual spots. 

Zoos, you either love or hate them and I hadn’t been to a zoo for many years. At ages 8 and almost 3 respectively, Olivia and Isabella loved it, spending the first 30 minutes running around wildly as they discovered new animals to look at. Eventually the pace slowed as the girls began to take an interest in the “exhibits”. 

They were both impressed with the Red Panda, Ailurus fulgens fulgens an animal which in the wild “feeds mainly on bamboo” to then spend most of the day asleep or escaping from Snow Leopards. In the picture the panda is eating a rabbit. Cue Granddad, two cuddly toy Red Pandas from the Zoo Shop. 

Red Panda

We all rather liked the Ring-tailed Lemurs a species closely related to Homo sapiens; both species often practice Yoga in their spare time. 

Ring-tailed Lemur

In between finding Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Swallows along the pathways and over areas of water, Granddad was quite taken with the White Pelicans, one of the few bird species confiding enough to be photographed. There’s a good number of free flying Barnacle Geese wandering close to passing Joe Public, not a trait exhibited from the occasional Barnacle Goose spotted at Pilling. 

White Pelican

White Pelican

Yellow-naped Parrot

Barnacle Goose

A good day was had by all, but now for today’s lack of pictures from Pilling. 

The morning started rather well at Fluke Hall with plenty of redpolls arriving from the west before feeding in the tree tops as they worked their way east. Seventeen birds went into the notebook as the common Lesser Redpoll even though an uncommon Common Redpoll was seen just across Morecambe Bay yesterday. I wouldn’t dare separate the two species on call but I once found an Arctic Redpoll in Wales by hearing it call and then following to where it landed. The joy of “vis migging” is occasionally palpable. 

Confused? It’s a quirk of birding for redpoll species UK style - Common Redpolls are actually quite scarce in the UK, Lesser Redpolls are widespread and numerous in Spring and Autumn, while an Arctic Redpoll is almost unobtainable. 

In today’s rarity stakes were 3 Song Thrush, probably convertible to 2 pairs as one pair were busy collecting food for youngsters and a third bird sang loudly from some distance away. In the same area a pair of Mistle Thrush, 4 Tree Sparrow and the now resident Kestrel. Below is a quite shocking picture but proof that Song Thrush does exist and is breeding hereabouts. 

 Song Thrush

The air was quite still at first allowing not only the redpolls but the songs of 3 Willow Warbler, 3 Blackcap and 1 Chiffchaff. The wind was to pick up noticeably quite soon and put a stop to visible movement. 

At Lane Ends the southerly wind had become quite strong as I walked the sea wall. Two Wheatears was the highlight even though getting a picture of a probable “Greenland” female proved difficult as the wind shook the camera. Neither bird was near the normal catching area.


Also at Lane Ends - a Swallow flying east, 1 Buzzard heading inland, 2 Little Egrets leaving the confines of the pool for the outer marsh and a Kestrel returning to its Damside nest box.

Singing in the plantation were singletons of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap. 

There’s more from Another Bird Blog on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, and…..

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Sheltered Life

I couldn’t get out until lunch time where despite the sunshine, cold and strong north-westerly winds were still doing their best to ruin any birding, so I spent a couple of hours looking in slightly less windy spots. 

In singing mode at Fluke Hall were 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, a couple or more Chaffinches and likewise Goldfinches. Blackcap is always the first of the Sylvias to arrive with Whitethroat due any day, although most Spring migrants appear to be late now. I haven’t seen a Wheatear since 5th April despite being out birding along the coast most days. 

It’s difficult to ever get a picture of a Blackcap because they move so fast through the trees and undergrowth, singing as they go; one obliged today. 


Still 2 Kestrels here at Fluke as well as another pair in the Damside area. A single House Martin flew over the sea wall seemingly heading into the strong wind and across Morecambe Bay. 

On Hi-Fly ploughed fields, several Lapwings, 6+ Skylark and 4 Stock Dove picking through the soil, but presumably no nests after three days of disturbance and ploughing. 

The exposed sea wall accentuates any blustery effect but I braved it for a walk to Pilling Water and back with very little to show - 2 Little Egret, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 45 Redshank, 450 Pink-footed Geese and just 2 Skylarks. Sheltering in the creeks of wildfowlers’ pools - 5 Shoveler, 2 Teal and 4 Shelduck. 


At Lane Ends plantation were more sounds and sights of Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. Little Grebe and Little Egret in the vicinity of the water, and 2 Swallows flying quickly east. 


I’m sure the wind will both drop and change to a lovely warm southerly direction at some time. If so be sure that Another Bird Blog will be there to tell everyone all about it.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quiet Again

A bright, sunny start but with still the nagging northerly that’s holding up a flood of birds just south of here. There was a hint of finches on the move this morning, nothing too obvious just a few Lesser Redpolls flying over, Siskins high in the trees and a Brambling, the latter a good find for April. 

I’d started at Fluke Hall, checked the sea wall for Wheatears and pipits of which there were none but noted small numbers of both Linnets and Goldfinches moving along the hedgerow and the sea wall. There seemed to be little genuinely “on the move” as distinct from local birds, so I then quietly searched the woodland and woodland edge as far as the “Keep Out” signs allowed, hoping for maybe a Ring Ouzel - just Blackbirds of course. 


Bramblings have such a distinctive, nasal, wheezy call that if one or more is about there is no denying it. Likewise Lesser Redpolls and Siskins, two members of the finch family which have also have highly characteristic and unmistakeable calls. All three species were moving through the tree tops but I managed to see a Lesser Redpoll only. Into the notebook went “one” of each although later at Lane Ends there would be 3 Lesser Redpolls and 2 Siskin to add to the resident Chaffinches. 


Also here at Fluke Hall, a resident Pied Wagtail, singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Kestrels at the box and 1 Little Egret on the marsh. 

The maize fields which have proved a magnet for many birds during the winter have now dried to such an extent that they have been ploughed in preparation for planting with the result that the few birds which remain consist of several pairs of Shelduck and Lapwings. 

Lane Ends produced the aforesaid Lesser Redpolls and Siskins, 2 Jays, singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, 2 Little Egret and 2 Little Grebe. 

At Pilling Water - a Grey Heron, the Green Sandpiper, 15 Redshank, 1 Little Egret and on the marsh still 450+ Pink-footed Geese. Otherwise the birding was extremely quiet and unproductive and a change of wind direction would help bring in more migrants. 

 Grey Heron

There are more birds and birding from Another Bird Blog very soon. Call in again for a full of activity time.

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

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking A Break

Migration seems to have come to a stop up here on this part of the North West coast. I was out this morning doing my usual circuit with nothing much to report on yet another cool, cloudy and quite windy morning. 

Still a good number of very vocal Golden Plovers at Braides Farm, over 250 again today. Occasionally some take a fly around, and had the sun been in evidence this morning I may have gotten a better picture of their synchronised but distant fly-past. 
Golden Plovers

Up at Conder Green the overwintering Spotted Redshanks are beginning to acquire their summer plumage, more than can be said for yours truly kitted out in almost full winter garb again. On the pool - 28 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Oystercatcher, 15 Redshank, 1 Little Egret and 9 Tufted Duck. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Signs of Spring at Glasson Dock comprised 4 Swallows hawking the water and 2 Chiffchaffs singing from roadside trees. 

At Pilling on the flood and behind the sea wall I found 600 Pink-footed Goose, 1 Green Sandpiper, 255 Redshank, 8 Shoveler, 10 Teal 1 Dunlin, 15 Skylark, 1 Pied Wagtail and 4 Linnet. I couldn’t find any Wheatears today, my traps made redundant as the mealworms took a well-earned break. At Lane Ends, 3 Little Egret, Chiffchaff, 2 Little Grebe and 2 Reed Bunting. 

There seems to be a few bits and pieces in the garden back home with in the last week several Goldfinches, a number of Chaffinches, a Chiffchaff, a Lesser Redpoll, local Starlings, and that major rarity a Song Thrush. I did a little ringing and photographing of Goldfinches in between Granddad duties.







Visit Another Bird Blog soon for more news and views.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

More Of The Same

I was back home by 1030 this morning, rained off. Prior to the rain a couple of cool but cloudy hours at Pilling allowed a return walk along the sea wall before I retreated back home to blog. 

A Barn Swallow greeted me at Lane Ends, my second of the year but the only one I saw on this overcast and quite breezy morning. There was a Chiffchaff in song, a Reed Bunting too plus a Long-tailed Tit working its way through the trees. Four Little Egrets decorated the pool margins again as a Little Grebe trilled unseen from the mostly hidden pool. 


Towards Pilling Water I disturbed a Sparrowhawk from the base of the sea wall, a big female which glided out to the marsh where it disappeared into a ditch and out of sight. If the hawk was hanging about in a wait for passerines there weren’t many; 4 Skylark, 1 White Wagtail, a couple of overflying Linnet and a single Wheatear melting into the rocks. The Wheatear looked fairly bright but I wasn’t sure if it was a “Greenland” type like those of Thursday

After a while the Wheatear succumbed to a mealworm even though the tiny things barely wriggled in the cold morning wind. This second year male Wheatear turned out to be a typical Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, and at 95mm wing and 23.1 grams, not approaching anything like the weight or measurements of Thursday’s “Greenland” beast. There is an overlap at this time of the year when different races of Wheatears pass through North West England but heading to a variety of destinations. 

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear- Oeananthe oenanthe

The Green Sandpiper was still at the wildfowler’s pools, flying off to hide in the ditches at my approach. Still 15/20 Teal and several partly obscured Shovelers. There was a Stock Dove on the marsh briefly, and overhead a local Buzzard. 

Spots of rain began and in the absence of much doing I made my way back to Lane Ends and thence to Braides Farm where lazy birders can bird from a car. Here were lots of Golden Plovers, 350 and more, distant on the muddy field. 

There are no Lapwing flocks now, just patrolling males and every so often a partial and motionless head, a female Lapwing sat tight on a probable full clutch of eggs. I noted several Oystercatchers feeding but didn’t spot any sat tight just yet; normally their nests are a week or two later than Lapwings. There were several Skylarks in song despite the gloomy morning. 


It was a slightly disappointing morning with frustrating weather resulting in little visible migration but nice to connect with another Wheatear. 

More soon from Another Bird Blog, linking today to Camera Critters and Anni's Birding Blog.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Greenland Bound

I wasn’t too sure about this morning’s first Wheatear, a second year male with lots of last year’s brown juvenile feathers on the crown and ear coverts. At first it both felt and looked rather bulky, but its weight was in line with ones caught recently, the wing measurement longer at 105mm. The weight of 26 grams was slightly above those of last week although upon closer examination there wasn’t a hint of excess fat; in fact the poor thing seemed a little on the skinny side. There are no midnight snacks or raiding the fridge during a Wheatear’s overnight journey. 

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

The second bird was a “Greenland” before I even took it from the trap. Big and bright this adult male easily met the biometric parameters for Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa, the large and colourful so called “Greenland” race of Northern Wheatear. Its wing measurement of 116mm was equal to that of a Redwing or a Song Thrush, it had a smidgen of migratory fat in the furculum and weighed in at 29.8 grams. What a cracker of a bird! 

Northern Wheatear - "Greenland" type - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa 

Northern Wheatear - "Greenland" type - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

Wiki's summary is superb. 

"The Northern Wheatear makes one of the longest journeys of any small bird, crossing ocean, ice, and desert. It migrates from Sub-Saharan Africa in Spring over a vast area of the northern hemisphere that includes northern and central Asia, Europe, Greenland, Alaska, and parts of Canada. 

Birds of the large, bright Greenland race, leucorhoa, makes one of the longest transoceanic crossings of any passerine. In spring most migrate along a route (commonly used by waders and waterfowl) from Africa via continental Europe, the British Isles, and Iceland to Greenland. However, autumn sightings from ships suggest that some birds cross the North Atlantic directly from Canada and Greenland to southwest Europe, a distance of up to 2500 km). 

Birds breeding in eastern Canada are thought to fly from Baffin Island and Newfoundland via Greenland, Ireland, and Portugal to the Azores (crossing 3500 km of the North Atlantic) before flying onwards to Africa. Other populations from western Canada and Alaska migrate by flying over much of Eurasia to Africa. 

Miniature tracking devices have recently shown that the Northern Wheatear has one of the longest migratory flights known - 30,000 km from sub-Saharan Africa to their Arctic breeding grounds."

A blogging pal in Ontario offered to swap a few Blue Jays and Cardinals for a Northern Wheatear. David, I sent two Wheatears in your direction this morning, last seen heading quickly North and West and so coming your way soon. I’ll settle for an autumn warbler thanks and on the blue theme, a Cerulean would be rather nice. 

Northern Wheatear

Things were quiet along the sea wall this morning, the overcast conditions not conducive to migration even though the 7 or 8 Wheatears I saw obviously found a way through the gloom. 

At Lane Ends I heard and saw my first Willow Warbler of the Spring with the now regular Chiffchaff in good voice. A Lesser Redpoll, a few Meadow Pipits and Linnets flew east, and apart from 4 Skylarks that was it. 

On the wildfowler’s pools are reasonable numbers of Teal, 19 or 20 birds which fly out to the salt marsh when disturbed, while the group of 9 Shoveler circle for a while before returning to the pools. 


There are more birds and bird pictures soon from Another Bird Blog. Log in tomorrow and see "what's about".

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

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