Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Good Afternoon. Sorry I haven’t been posting much but Sue and I are not at home. We are still in Greece, staying on the island of Skiathos to be precise. 

This is mainly a sun holiday for Sue and I although regular readers of this blog will know that binoculars and camera always go on holiday with us. 


I’m home in a day or two and will post news and pictures of our trip, birds and views of the beautiful Sporades islands of Skiathos and Skopelos. In the meantime here are a few photographs from the same place in 2014 and 2015. It’s so good we decided to return. 

Flying Cat at Alonissos 

One of the highlights of our stay is day exploring Kastro in the north of Skiathos where Eleanora’s Falcons are guaranteed during the month of September, a time when the falcons feed on the millions of small birds migrating through the Greek islands. It’s a fair old bumpy journey to get to Kastro and then a trek over the rocks to reach the Greek flagged promontory. It’s well worth the effort to watch the magical and acrobatic Eleanoras in action. 

Eleanora's Falcon

Kastro, Skiathos

There are lots of Alpine Swifts here and in fact all over the island where they tear across the sky at breakneck speed. There’s a good number of Bee Eaters around too and they often feed up high in amongst swifts, swallows and martins.

Alpine Swift

Bee Eater


We’re staying on the south coast where there’s often scrubby habitat, reeds and remnants of pine forest just yards from the tourist beaches. They make good spots for shrikes, wagtails, pipits and chats.

Red-backed Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

That's all for now, it's time to head off for our evening meal.

Taverna - Skiathos

I'm not blogging for a day or two so apologies if I don't catch up with everyone.  We are back home soon and I promise to do so then. 

Log in later for more news, views and photographs from Another Bird Blog in Greece.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Good Morning. Yes, Sue and I are in Skiathos, Greece, so apologies that there is no local news today. Instead here are pictures and a few words about Skiathos until we return. I really enjoy my local birding as regular readers will know; but once or twice a year spending quality time in the sunshine of the Med or Greece is just the job to reinvigorate the birding senses. 

The economy of Skiathos island is mainly centred on tourism and fishing, followed closely by crop and livestock farming. Skiathos is greener than someone might expect from many of the typical hot and sunny Greek island in holiday brochures. While Skiathos has many beaches they are often flanked by lush green hills. This landscape feature makes it one of the more naturally attractive Greek islands. Skiathos is also called “the boomerang island” because it is said that once someone has visited this island they will feel an irresistible urge to return. This is our fourth visit here. 

The island of Skiathos and the neighbouring one of Skopelos are both renowned for their population of wasps, and I daresay that the creatures are all pervasive on nearby islands and the mainland. No wonder then that Skiathos has a good resident population of Honey Buzzards, a raptor that specializes in raiding the nests of bees and wasps. The numbers of this buzzard are swelled in September by migrating birds from further north, but Common Buzzard also occurs here as a migrant. 

Eleonora's Falcon and Honey Buzzard

We always rent a Suzuki Jimny when in Skiathos. On the neglected roads and rough tracks of post-financial crisis Greece, the legendary robustness and fun factor of the tiny 4x4 is sought after by European tourists looking for an authentic Greek experience. For us it’s a bit of nostalgia for the electric blue Jimny we once owned. 

Birding Greek Style

You are never far away from a beach in Skiathos, but if sun bathing is not your thing, just a few yards away is the real Greece where a spot of birding is possible. 


Birding to the beach 

Red-backed Shrike

Yellow Wagtail



This year’s list of birds may not be the longest or contain a large number of rare birds, but it’s an eclectic mix containing a number of “goodies”. And boy, are we having a good time! 

These are the species so far during days split between exploring, chilling and soaking up the Greek sunshine: Honey Buzzard, Kestrel, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Yellow-legged Gull, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Spotted Flycatcher, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Bee Eater, Eleanora’s Falcon, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wood Warbler, Whinchat, Wheatear, Cuckoo, Common Whitethroat, Olivaceous Warbler, House Sparrow, Woodchat Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Little Owl, Scops Owl, Common Buzzard, Raven, Hooded Crow, Yellow Wagtail, Richard’s Pipit, Caspian Gull, Hobby, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Blackcap, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Lesser Whitethroat, Bonelli’s Warbler, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, European Shag. 

This week I managed a number of return visits to fellow bloggers but with just a smartphone and intermittent WiFi it’s not easy, so please bear with me for a while. I will be with you all soon. 

Chicken Souvlaki

I hope everyone enjoyed this taste of Greece. Back soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dead As A Dodo?

The Dodo Raphus cucullatus is extinct. But is the Latin I used there a dead language? Well if you’re a birder the answer is a resounding “No”. Read on. 

On this blog I sometimes include the Latin name/scientific name of a bird species. This is to add interest for the reader or to illustrate a particular feature of the bird. But for many birdwatchers the Latin names of birds found in books is a waste of space or a puzzle to be ignored. I rather like studying the scientific names I encounter, wondering about their origins and then often find myself Googling for an answer to satisfy my innate curiosity. 

A reader recently thanked me for explaining the use of the Latin name when relating my sighting of a Marsh Harrier, Circus aeruginosus, the scientific name that means “a rusty coloured hawk which flies in a circle”. So for Sallie in Canada and other readers who may be intrigued, puzzled, or simply curious about scientific names, here is a brief explanation of their usage and beginnings, mostly in relation to birds. 

Circus aeruginosus

Think back many years, before modern communications like the Internet, the telephone, widely available books, newspapers and magazines, or beyond that even, when the spoken word was the only way to describe a bird, plant or animal and when many names might be in use for the same thing. 

A solution was proposed by the Swedish biologist Carl van Linné, usually known by the Latin version of his name Linnaeus. He proposed that all species of plant and animal should be identified by a unique Latin name in a standard form. Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae was first published in Latin in 1735. The most important version, the tenth edition of 1758 is still considered as the starting point for modern day zoological nomenclature. Linnaeus helped future research into the natural history of man by describing humans Homo sapiens just as he described any other plant or animal. The question of the origin of man may have begun with Linnaeus and later continued by Alfred Wallace, Charles Darwin and others in the early 1800s. This later culminated in the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. 

Linnaeus’ naming system consists of two parts: the name of the genus, or group of organisms, followed by a name identifying the species within the genus. So for example the Mallard is allocated to genus Anas “fresh-water duck”, and is called Anas platyrhynchos - broad-billed duck. The Latin generic name is a noun and the specific name an adjective, just as in English, except that in Latin the noun comes first. 

Anas platyrhyncos

In the written form we italicise scientific names so as to separate the species from the common name and also to show we are using Linnaeus’ system. Using the Latin or scientific name in text, discussion or debate avoids ambiguity between different continents, cultures and languages. For instance, and by using a familiar species to illustrate the point, in Great Britain Pluvialis squatarola is known in modern English as Grey Plover. In North America the exact same species is known as Black-bellied Plover but retains the Latin/scientific name. 

A few scientific names are original Latin as used by the Romans for their everyday birds. These are usually their Latin generic names, such as Cygnus (swan), Columba (pigeon), Passer (sparrow) or Ardea (heron). In Roman times people were familiar a few dozen species of birds only, but over the next hundreds of years bird names both stuck and became more specific by the use of the Latin genus together with Latin identifiers - e.g. Ardea cinerea, Grey Heron, Columba palumbus, Wood Pigeon, or Passer domesticus House Sparrow. 

Ardea cinerea

Other scientific names come from classical Greek where the choice of names gives the impression that Linnaeus used Latin as much as possible and then resorted to Greek when the Latin ran out. Linnaeus and other early naturalists used these mainly Greek words to apply to otherwise anonymous birds, having turned the Greek into a Latin form. In the case of harriers, and to return to the second paragraph above, the Greek “kirkos” became the Latin “circus”. The word was applied to a hawk which flew in a circular manner, Circus aeruginosus, the Marsh Harrier, as well as to a similar but blue-coloured hawk Circus cyaneus, the Hen Harrier. Both species were probably familiar to Linnaeus and other naturalists of the time who recognised the need to differentiate these two as well as many other birds. 

Nowadays there are about 10,000 bird species on Earth, plus millions of other forms of life, either now extinct, very much alive, or yet to be discovered. All need classification through a naming system able to identify them as uniquely separate and where with a little invention, imagination, and knowledge of the species, Linnaeus’ system comes into its own. 

Here are just a few birds that readers will recognise together with the species’ scientific names, meaning and a brief explanation of its origins. 

Birds named for their appearance:
  • Common Coot  Fulica atra  - a black coot
  • Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca  - a dusky black duck
Birds named for their behaviour: voice, display, feeding preferences or habitat, etc: 
  • Hoopoe Upupa epops - the Latin is onomatopoeic, a bird named for its repetitive call of  “hoop-hoop-hoop-hoop” 
  • Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus - a mistletoe-eating thrush
Bird names based on geography:
  • Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica - Lapland godwit 
  • Fulmar Fulmaris glacialis - a northern seabird, an icy fulmar 
Birds named after or people, usually the person, mostly an ornithologist, who first identified the species to be scientifically different from a closely related one: 
  • Baird’s Sandpiper Calidris  bairdii - a grey-coloured waterside bird named after Spencer Fullerton Baird a 19th century naturalist
  • Hume’s Warbler Phylloscopus humei - a "leaf watcher" named after the ormithologist Allan Octavian Hume 
Upupa epops

Taxonomy, the branch of science that encompasses the description, identification, nomenclature, and classification of organisms is a large and varied topic full of sometimes complex ideas. It’s a subject that will crop up from time to time on Another Bird Blog but Wikipedia is a good and recommended starting point for readers who wish to explore further.

Now forgive me. I'm off to Greece for a while where I'm hoping to brush up on my Greek, grab a few birds and to top up my sun tan.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Creatures Of Habit

Both Birders and Barn Owls appear to be creatures of habit. This morning I set off early as I often do and followed my well known route across Stalmine Moss. I don’t have a driverless car yet but I think that maybe mine does this route so often that it could probably do it right now, without help from Google. Right on time and in the correct spot at the road junction was Mr Barn Owl, or maybe Mrs Barn Owl; the sexes aren’t easy to tell apart, especially in the half light of a cloudy morning. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

I stopped at the rainwater flood on Rawcliffe Moss where yesterday’s rain had topped up the water level a little. There didn’t appear to be much doing at first with approximately 400 Starlings splashing around the shallows and a couple of Swallows flitting over the surface. A shoot on nearby land did the trick as first 2 Buzzards and then a dark Marsh Harrier appeared over the distant trees, the harrier in particular flying quite fast and south. It’s just a mile to the River Wyre and where to follow its course would take the harrier to the coast. 

Two Black-tailed Godwits flew over heading west. Then a flock of about 60 previously unnoticed Meadow Pipits took to the air and scattered in all directions before settling down again in the grassy field. In a further field and in amongst a dozen or more Wood Pigeons were 6 Stock Dove. 

I stopped briefly at Braides Farm where an annual flood has yet to materialise despite the rain of recent weeks. All that I found here were singles of Curlew, Buzzard, Grey Heron and Little Egret. 

The hundreds of Lapwings at Conder Green are now a thing of the recent past. I counted a mere handful before seeing that a couple of thousand and maybe more had panicked into the air, a grey mass of Lapwings beyond the railway bridge and directly above the distant River Lune. Only a Peregrine could perform that trick.

Compensation for the low count of Lapwings on the pool came with a good selection of other birds; 18 Redshank, 6 Greenshank, 6 Curlew, 3 Snipe, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Goosander, 3 Wigeon, 18 Teal, 3 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 3 Pied Wagtail and a Kingfisher. The Kingfisher was yet another fly by, and although I watched it fish from the edge of a far island, this one seems not to come near the birder’s watch point. Little Grebe numbered 17, the same count as my last visit but short of the nineteen counted two weeks ago. 


Over towards the railway bridge I noticed a gaggle of 19 very wary Greylag Geese, not a species which is at all common at Conder Green, at least not on the ground. The geese fed on the marsh for a while and then made their way into the creek when I noticed that one wore an orange neck collar inscribed with black lettering of “SDB”. 

Greylag Geese

Later, a quick look on the Internet revealed that the goose may have been captured on the Orkney Islands, some 450 miles north of here, and where between 2008 and 2012 hundreds of Greylags were marked with either an orange neck collar with three characters or a white plastic leg ring with three black characters. 

The Orkney Ringing Group - “The number of Greylag Geese in both the summer (c10,000) and winter (c70,000) are increasing on Orkney. The national Goose Science Advisory Group (GSAG) has identified the marking of Greylag Geese a priority in Scotland. Little is known about the movements of these birds after the breeding season. No catching has been undertaken during the winter months when the summer stock is joined by up to 60,000 winter migrants from Iceland. The degree of mixing of the two stocks is not known.”

Linking to Anni's Birding Blog.

More news and views soon. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ringing Gold

I met Andy up at Oakenclough at 0630 for a long overdue ringing session, the first one of the autumn here. The morning was overcast but there was no rain in the forecast. And with a wind speed of 10mph there seemed good cause to expect a reasonable catch of birds. 

The Office

Following a somewhat steady start the appearance of flocks of Goldfinches flying in from surrounding areas gave a boost to our eventual numbers. We were far from disappointed with a total of 63 birds of 11 species and totals as follows: 40 Goldfinch, 4 Chaffinch, 6 Coal Tit, 3 Blue Tit, 1 Great Tit, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Blackcap, 1 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Robin, 1 Treecreeper.

Goldfinches are certainly beginning to flock in some numbers in recent days. This morning we initially thought there to be 100+ birds in the area. This was a clear underestimate as two or more flocks may have been involved whereby a catch of 40 is indicative of 200 or more Goldfinches. 

At this time of year we expect that the majority of birds caught will be juveniles of the year rather than adults however even we were surprised to find that of today’s 40 Goldfinch, 39 were juveniles and just one an adult. More interesting still was that this single adult proved to from elsewhere as the ring number beginning with Z690 was not one of our own. The ring number will be forwarded to the BTO and the original ringing details notified to us in due course. 


In contrast to the adult male above, most juveniles are still at the stage where they cannot be sexed with any certainty by their plumage. While the one below is as buff/brown as many of today’s birds, a wing length of 82 mm coupled with the large bill and black nasal feathers indicate a male. 




Willow Warbler



The ringing kept us busy but in addition to the birds mentioned above we noted 1 Buzzard, 5 Pied Wagtail, 1 Common Sandpiper, 15 Lapwing, 3 Siskin and 45+ Swallows.

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

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Short Saturday

On Saturday morning I was back home for 9am after being rained off. The weather forecast was spot on but left me a two hour slot for a spot of birding. 

Is this getting familiar to readers? Barn Owls aren’t ten a penny around here, honest. It’s just that my route north through Hambleton and Out Rawcliffe takes me past a Barn Owl location where once again a pair of owls were out hunting. I took a distance shot and then left the two looking for breakfast. 

Barn Owl

I was hoping to see the recent Marsh Harriers out on the flooded moss but there was no sign of them. As autumn migrants the harriers may have moved on already and found a more productive feeding location. 

I made do with 3 Buzzards and several Carrion Crows which didn’t venture far. They mainly sat along the fence lines apparently waiting for a meal to show nearby rather than taking to the air to find one. 

Carrion Crow and Buzzard

The water level of flooded area had dropped a little with fewer species than a few days ago. A number of Swallows mobbed a passing Sparrowhawk as the raptor scattered the flock of feeding Starlings. A good mix of birds followed with 180 Starling, 40 Lapwing, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Grey Heron, 40+ Swallows and 2 Snipe.

Common Snipe never stray far from their customary areas of living. They are most often found in areas such as brackish and fresh marshlands, grassy cover, rich moist soils, and edges of lakes, rivers, and swamps where they can easily hide if need be. These are areas that are commonly open and are low enough for them to become almost invisible in vegetation where they can be incredibly hard to spot.

That left me an hour at Conder Green where from the west the sky quickly turned a grey shade of grey with rain in the offing.

Little Grebes continue to hide from prying eyes but I managed to locate seventeen again before they floated off to the island margins. I also found 24 Teal and 3 Wigeon. A Kingfisher sat briefly on the nearest island before it too did a disappearing trick. Wader counts were pretty good with 230+ Lapwings, 30 Redshank, 2 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Snipe. 

There a good flock of Goldfinch on the marsh whereby my count of 80+ is the best so far this autumn. As we might expect at this time of year, approximately 90% of the Goldfinch appeared to be  juveniles. Otherwise - 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Little Egret and a handful of Linnets. 


An hour or two that’s all but Barn Owls, Kingfishers and Buzzards can never be discounted can they?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

More Of A Circus

Andy and I were due to go ringing this morning but then he cried off because of an emergency baby-sitting request. Grandparents come in useful sometimes, even if the old fools do vote the “wrong” way in referendums and generally don’t do as they are told. 

Not to worry, I decided to go birding instead of ringing. I was at the car putting on a jacket when I heard a Tawny Owl hooting from nearby gardens, a reminder of autumn and that today is the first day of September. 

The main times to hear Tawny Owls call is during the breeding season which runs from February/March to May, and then again in the autumn when the adults have finished their moult. In June and July the adults tend to go silent and only the young may be heard, squeaking for food throughout the night from dusk. August, September and October can be very active times vocally for adults as they set about reaffirming their territories in preparation for the next breeding season. 

Tawny Owl

As usual I drove over the moss road towards Pilling. It’s a more productive bird route than the main road although in the half light of this morning the best I managed was a Kestrel on the usual roadside post. Near Pilling village I saw a Barn Owl on a fence post so slowed the car in preparation for a possible photographic encounter. Not this time. The owl was away and across the fields before I could even lift the camera. 

I made for the flood at Out Rawcliffe where on Saturday 27th August I’d seen the Marsh Harrier and a few waders. Today was also the first day of the inland shooting season, something I remembered when from across the fields I heard the sound of gunfire but saw no people carrying shotguns. 

The parish of Out Rawcliffe is one of the largest in England. It takes more than a couple of hours to walk north to south or east to west over the mossland, so I wasn’t too worried that the guns would be on me soon; there was time to scope the flood for birdlife. 

Out Rawcliffe, Lancashire

On the water I counted the wildfowl as 150+ Mallards and 24 Teal. So many Mallards indicated the recent release of captive-bred birds and another reason for the sound of gunfire. By contrast the Teal are truly wild birds and recent arrivals from north and east. Waders today comprised just the two species, 220 Lapwing and 4 Black-tailed Godwits. 


There was a single Kestrel about plus 3 or 4 Buzzards, and then as a bonus 2 Marsh Harriers in the air together over the trees and the distant water. There was some interaction between the two harriers when I could see that both were “cream tops”, juvenile/female types with noticeable and extensive creamy foreheads. Local Swallows instinctively mobbed the pair of raptors but I can’t imagine the circling harriers were any real threat to the Swallows. 

Marsh Harrier and Swallows 

Soon a line of a dozen or more sportsmen appeared on the horizon, spread right to left at regular intervals over the maize field dotted with blue feeder bins that sate the released partridge and pheasant. The shooters were headed slowly towards the flood so it was time for me to head in the direction of Conder Green. 

In the wildfowl stakes I counted 19 Little Grebe, 5 Shoveler and 3 Wigeon on the pool, 4 Goosander in the main creek and 20+ Teal in all. Just 3 Little Egret today but a zero count of Grey Herons and a species that continues to disappoint in the numbers seen at expected and traditional locations. 

Waders obliged with 105 Lapwing, 24 Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 3 Snipe and 1 Common Sandpiper. A Kingfisher put in the usual fly-by appearance as did a passing Kestrel. 

Over near the railway bridge the nesting House Martins numbered 20+, a similar quantity to the Swallows hanging around the nearby farm buildings. Otherwise - 15 Linnet, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Reed Bunting. 

House Martin

I was saddened today to hear of the passing of a fellow blogger and ringing pal Lew/Errol Newman, a name that blog readers will know from reading the “Under Rydon Hill” link in the right hand sidebar.

Like me Lew was a regular visitor to Bardsey Island, Wales where our paths sometimes crossed. Lew almost singlehandedly built the main Heligoland trap in the central withy beds. It was a trap that worked like as dream and I had cause to thank Lew on a number of occasions when his construction presented me with bags full of birds and several ringing “ticks”. Lew will be greatly missed by friends, colleagues, family and his partner Jenny.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Blogspot.
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