Monday, May 25, 2015

Shades Of Green And Grey

My weekend was rather uneventful when a visit to the hills near Oakenclough and a mooch around the ringing plantation proved somewhat disappointing. I’d hoped to locate a few Willow Warbler nests but not taken into account how cool, wet, windy and changeable the Lancashire uplands had been during my two weeks in the warm Mediterannean. 

In the course of getting very wet feet I managed to locate at least 12 Willow Warbler territories without more than a sniff of where a few nests might be located. The first week of June is the historical peak of nesting activity with over the years c400 Willow Warbler nestlings ringed. A week or ten days of dry weather should see more intense activity as well as making the site more negotiable. 

Willow Warbler

During the watching and listening I ringed 3 Willow Warblers, all three showing the necessary signs of breeding activity. A Stoat ran across the road and into the ringing site. I hope it has a dietary preference for voles rather than Willow Warbler eggs or nestlings. 

Willow Warbler

There was a male Cuckoo doing the rounds all morning, flying over the fells, stopping off to “cuckoo” from the topmost point of a stand of pines, heading off towards Oakenclough and then circuiting the ringing station, a tour of a mile or two in the hope of attracting a female. There’s a regular Kestrel too and probably as a result of the number of voles amongst the heather and bilberry, the little animals darting back into the crevices as my feet sloshed through the heavy ground. 

I noted at least 4 overflying Lesser Redpoll, a pair of Pied Wagtails, 4 Swallow, 2 Bullfinch, 2 Mistle Thrush and 2 Song Thrush. 

Song Thrush

Two pairs of Greylags have 7 young between them and appear to be operating a crèche or “safety in numbers” system whereby 4 watchful and wary adults don't miss much. 

Greylag Goose

The Greylag or Greylag Goose Anser anser is the ancestor of the domestic goose and also the original “wild goose”, known in pre-Linnaean times known as the wild goose - Anser ferus. 

The Greylag, a native of northern and central Eurasia, has been domesticated and raised for meat and egg production for over 1,000 years. It can be white or completely grey like the wild form or somewhere in-between as a result of interbreeding with other geese. The often strange looking offspring from such marriages are guaranteed to cause confusion amongst those starting out as birdwatchers. 

The Greylag Goose is the only grey goose seen in numbers in the UK during the summer months. There are two breeding populations currently recognised - 1) the northwest Scotland (or native) population, which is the remnant of the population that once occurred more widely across Britain, and 2) the population of birds released primarily by wildfowlers during the period from the 1930s to the 1960s, birds which began the establishment of feral populations and a correspondent increase in the abundance and distribution of Greylags during the 20th and the early 21st centuries. 

Greylag Goose

So because Greylag Geese might be of uncertain provenance they are mostly ignored or treated with suspicion by the average UK birder. Birders prefer to spend time looking at wholly migratory and “authentic” grey geese like Pink-footed Goose or White-fronted Goose. It’s rather a shame because Greylags are certainly a characterful and handsome goose but with an unfortunate lineage. 

Half-term and grandad duties with Olivia and Isabella on Tuesday, Theo on Wednesday.

Back for more birding soon with Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday in Australia.

18 comments:

Linda said...

So beautiful! And seeing your photo of the Greylag goose reminds me of a Greylag goose here in Montreal who (in a nature park) walked right up within a few feet of me and stood there, and I got photos of her. I shared one of them on my blog last week, I believe. :)

TexWisGirl said...

cute greylags. love the thrush, too.

Jo said...

Absolutely beautiful birds! The Songthrush reminds me of the Spotted Palm Thrush which was seen in abundance in Tanzania. Now back in South Africa, we don't see these beauties. Have a great day. Greetings, Jo

eileeninmd said...

Hi Phil, I love the cute warbler. And the Greylag Goose is pretty, I would love to see one in person. Heautiful birds and photos. Have a happy new week!

Fun60 said...

I much prefer the greylag goose to the Canada goose which seems to be everywhere these days. Enjoy your childminding duties over half-term.

mick said...

An interesting description of your walk and the birds - but IMO only for an intrepid birder in such wet conditions! The song thrush against that blue sky is very beautiful and the little goslings are cute. I hope the adults are successful in keeping away predators.

David Gascoigne said...

I hope that you have taken a complete course in Grandpa training which includes, but is not restricted to, spoiling, ice cream buying, cookie making, telling lurid tales about their parents when they were kids, walking slowly, having a ready answer to whatever question they ask and making sure they suck up to Grandma too. If you are armed with these prerequisites you are good to go. My bill for all this sage advice will follow in the mail.

Margaret Adamson said...

I agree with what you say about people and Greylag but I love seeing them. They are in my park, 2 minutes away and as I walk through I never tire of seeing what they are up to. Love seeing their young in your photo.

Adam Jones said...

I must say I do what most other UK birders do and tend not to pay too much attention to the Greylag, other than their noise. Like you say, a bit of a shame really.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

That goose is a good looking fellow. I'm all for giving him the benefit of the doubt even with unfortunate lineage... (Where would we be ....);)

You found a lot of great birds as always. Enjoy your time with the grandkids. Lucky them, lucky you to have the time!

PS: yes, "snowbirds" is used to denote all us old retired folk who head South to escape the winter cold. And who now mostly have migrated back home. Except us, we are always marching to a different song from usual.

Silver Parrot said...

The warblers are so tiny and cute! Also, very interesting history on the goose. We have a pair on the lake near my mother's house - one is gray and the other is white. The neighbors have named them "Maude & Claude."

BumbleVee said...

Warblers are such a cute shape....

Les Fous du Cap said...

Beautiful pictures ;-)
Céline & Philippe

Christian Weiß said...

Great observations, like the graylag goose.

Mary Cromer said...

The names of your grandchildren are all just wonderful names Phil. The Song Thrush sure is a beauty and the little Willow Warblers are quite the sweet little chaps as well. I hope the nests and eggs were OK and that no predators get them...always so difficult as they are hungry too. Happy week~

Marie C said...

Wonderful birds, as always! I especially loved seeing the Greylag with its goslings! I enjoyed learning about the Greylag also.

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Your blog title gave me a good laugh. :-)
Take 25 to Hollister

Gunilla Bäck said...

The thrush is beautiful and I love the cute goslings.

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