Friday, December 19, 2014

Golden Times

The weather doesn’t improve. After writing off Wednesday and Thursday’s plans for birding due to almost constant rain and solid grey skies, Friday’s strong winds were also not designed to help birders, ringers, or anyone else really. Luckily there was a vital job for me that would pass a couple of hours - a trip to Oakenclough where the ringing and feeding station would need a top-up. 

The journey would take the long way round. From home the coastal road through Pilling and Cockerham to Conder Green and Glasson. After that a drive inland over the raised mosses of Pilling, Cockerham and Winmarleigh, skirting alongside the ancient market town of Garstang before heading east and into the foothills of Bowland. Yes, this part of Lancashire is a superb part of the world in which to live and in which to enjoy birds, away from the noise, fumes, expense and stress of city and urban living. 

The week’s rain coupled with the incoming 9 o’clock tide meant that Conder Creek was almost full alongside the road - not the best way to see feeding waders with no shallow water to survey. I’d made an elementary mistake in not keeping abreast of tide times in recent days. Never mind, there was a fine flotilla of 90+ Teal, a dozen or more Wigeon and even a few Little Grebes in the brimming channels. On the pool, a Red-breasted Merganser, 5 more Little Grebe, a couple of Cormorants and a lone Curlew sharing the windswept island with a gang of Mallards. 

Curlew

I drove to Glasson hoping that diving ducks might be feeding close to the more sheltered margins of the yacht basin as they often do on strong windy days. Bingo - 24 Goldeneye and 22 Tufted Duck at times coming reasonably close to the edge until the steady plod-plod of early but oblivious walkers sent the ducks steaming back to the choppy middle water. Some people just don’t notice the stunning looks of a male Goldeneye, even less do they mind disturbing the birds from their search for food. 

Goldeneye

Glasson Dock

The feeding station was busy, the feeders now just a quarter full after Tuesday’s top-up. I watched from the car as 8 or 10 Goldfinch crowded each one, squabbling as they went and sending the bigger Greenfinches flying off. In the hawthorns and on the ground below I counted 20 or more Chaffinch, Dunnocks, Robins and a constant stream of raiding Coal Tits. When next the weather allows we will surely have another good catch of birds with Goldfinch to the fore. 

Goldfinch

Some of our UK Goldfinches migrate to south-western Europe, e.g. France and Spain. Interestingly, many more of these birds are females than males, and birds that migrate one year will not necessarily migrate in others. The weather this winter has been wet and mild which means that many Goldfinches will stay around for the time being, especially since part of our feeding regime includes niger seed and sunflower hearts, both of which are high energy foods that Goldfinches love. 

Goldfinch

Goldfinches have recovered well from a serious decline in the 1970s and 80s possibly caused by increased use of herbicides. The comeback has been so strong that the Goldfinch may well be our commonest garden bird, but changing agricultural practices in the future might still threaten the species. 

While birders most often use the term “flock” to describe a number of birds feeding or flying together, an old and now unused collective name for a gathering of Goldfinches is a “charm”. That seems an eminently fitting term to describe our beautiful UK Goldfinch.

There was a Kestrel, a Mistle Thrush in the wood and overhead 40+ Fieldfares heading north, but little else of note on such a windy morning.

No, problem, we'll try again soon. In the meantime linking to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday Blog .
 

30 comments:

Jo said...

I'll exchange with you: a day or two of our sublime summer weather for a sighting of the Curlew and Goldeneye. Wonderful post, Phil. Thanks for sharing. Greetings. Jo (East Africa)

David Gascoigne said...

My wife says that more females migrate to Spain because they have more sense than the males. Spoken like a true chauvinist if you ask me!

TexWisGirl said...

hope you dry out a bit, soon, but these shots are lovely!

Phil Slade said...

David and Miriam. The male stays behind to keep the home and environs safe from intruders in readiness to welcome his mate back. Meanwhile the female flies off to sunnier climes to enjoy herself with another summer.

Of course while the cat is away the mouse might play and on her return the original female may find herself replaced by a younger and prettier replica.

eileeninmd said...

Great post and photos, Phil! I would love to see each one of these birds.. And I would especially love to see a charm of Goldfinches..Have a great weekend and happy birding..

Linda said...

Lovely captures, Phil...and nice of you and the birds to brave the winds for these gorgeous photos.

Stuart Price said...

Wowm didn't know that about Goldfinches..............

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post to my critter party.. Have a happy weekend..

Adam Jones said...

I know what you mean about the weather Phil. It's been shocking. Great shot of the Goldeneye. I love to see these in the Winter.

Germán Ibarra Zorrilla said...

El Bucephala clangula precioso, excelente fotografía. Saludos cordiales desde España.

Derek said...

Your goldfinch photos are amazing

Margaret Adamson said...

Yes I have always liked a 'charm' of goldfinch. I am having more in my garden nowadays. I am surprised the Greenfinch left because of the goldfinch but Perhaps it had to do with greater numbers. I am always amazed when you see so many birds in a day, that you are still disappointed. Have a lovely weekend.

Rajesh said...

Lovely. The goldfinch is treat to the eyes.

Lea said...

Lovely, lovely birds!
It amazes me how a lot of people never notice birds, or sunsets, or anything else around them.
Have a wonderful week-end!
Lea

carol l mckenna said...

Wonderful post ~ love the town names you pass through and birds are so beautiful! Wonderful photography!

Happy Holidays to you,
artmusedog and carol

Anni said...

...you stated: "a superb part of the world in which to live and in which to enjoy birds, away from the noise, fumes, expense and stress of city and urban living." I can so agree to this...this kinda area is superb for birding.

Phil, that Goldeneye image is outstanding. Of course you know how much I'd love to see one of those finches.

Best of the holiday season to you and your family. And, thanks for linking in this weekend.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

A charm of Goldfinches, how splendid!
~

Gunilla Bäck said...

I love the goldfinches, they're so pretty. Our days are so short and grey at the moment, but soon the days will get longer again and hopefully we'll get some sunny days as well.

Russell Jenkins said...

Some stunning pictures regardless of weather, Phil. I think one Goldfinch is a charm. Your photos are beautiful.

Marie said...

Just love those goldfinches! I am so happy they have made a comeback and are strong now. The goldeneye and curlew are lovely too. Made some nice finds after your "cleaning?" Am I interpreting right? :-) I assume everyone takes turns.

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Very cool pictures .. Merry Christmas

Jen said...

We get a couple of Goldeneye species here, neither of which I've yet seen. Your photo makes me want to see one in person. I'll have to add them to my list of birds I want to find this winter.

Hannah said...

The Goldeneye is so incredible in the rough water, quite a cool duck. The European goldfinch is so pretty with the red and yellow accents.

Choy Wai Mun said...

The weather is also dark and gloomy now here in Malaysia and birding has been slowed down a gear or two. But you managed to pull some great shots over there despite all this.

Fun60 said...

A charm of goldfinches, how fitting.

mick said...

Of course the Curlew is beautiful but those little Goldfinches steal the show - A Charm - is perfect for them!

Karen Hayward-King said...

Great shots...love the one of the Goldeneye...

NatureStop said...

Greetings from Dubai!! Love that Curlew shot and enjoyed your blog. Will be back and have a great day!

Shantana

Mary Cromer said...

I like that Phil! A gathering of Goldfinches...very nice, it has a special ring to it ;) I think that I am so bored with not feeling up to an outing, I would love a gathering of just about any species right now, to pay a visit to my garden, but for now the feral cats are blocking their welcome. One feral cat has been seen eating cracked corn and bird seed. A few neighbors have decided to take them in, so maybe soon it will be better for picture taking. Merry Christmas~

Laura said...

Beautiful series, especially the goldfinches! Wishing you much joy in this season of love.

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