Thursday, October 29, 2015

Back On The Moss

After a day of hiding behind the clouds the sun finally emerged at midday today. For old time’s sake I decided to drive to Out Rawcliffe and take a walk across Rawcliffe Moss, an ancient peaty landscape which still characterises many parts of Lancashire. 

I’ve neglected the moss for a year or more. When the new plantation here became overgrown the use of our previously productive ringing area became impossible without both intensive and costly  habitat management. soon after the mixed animal/arable farm was sold and the new owners wasted no time in changing the land use to less crops and more animals. It was a combination that caused a drop in bird life. Birding became more difficult and my visits tailed off.

Rawcliffe Moss
 

 Rawcliffe Moss
The moss always was a good place for Little Owls with at least two pairs breeding there in each year where they used the traditional sites of both a building and a line of trees. The farm was quiet today, not many people or vehicles so it didn’t take long to find an owl by looking along familiar fences. 

Little Owl

Along the main track of the farm were a good number of Blackbirds but only a single Redwing. The rush of Redwings during past recent weeks is now over without seeing any substantial numbers of their cousin the Fieldfare. I hope to redress the balance by catching some Fieldfares at the weekend with a ringing session in the hills at Oakenclough, the ringing site which has replaced Out Rawcliffe. 

Redwing

For my North American readers, a Redwing Turdus iliacus is not closely related to the Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus, a North American species sometimes nicknamed 'redwing' which is an icterid, not a thrush. The binomial name Turdus iliacus derives from the Latin words Turdus, meaning 'Thrush' and 'ile' meaning flank as in my photograph above.

Today out on the moss I saw four, maybe five Buzzards, some in flight and another sat motionless on a roll of baled hay, a favourite spot for a Buzzard. The rolls are close to the ground should a small mammal wander by or high enough for lift-off should an unwelcome birder wander by. Next in my notebook came a Hen Harrier, a brown female or juvenile “ringtail” floating across the road ahead of me as it hurried across to Pilling Moss. Later as I drove home via Pilling I saw the harrier make the return journey, helped this time by a convoy of corvids that chased it mercilessly until it was off their feeding stubble. 

The moss was previously a Tree Sparrow hangout, helped by regular dollops of bird seed to feed sundry species. I struggled to see a Tree Sparrow today eventually coming across three or four in the trees where their nest boxes still dot the trees. A number of Chaffinch were among the sparrows, as well as a few Yellowhammers, but on a return viewing an hour or more later the Chaffinch count had swelled to a miserly 15, Yellowhammers to 2 and Reed Buntings to 5. Not the best farmland bird tally. 

Yellowhammer

Next came the big field and a walk over wet stubble where I came across a Merlin, a Kestrel, 2 Corn Bunting, another half-dozen or so Reed Buntings, 5 Linnet, 15 Skylark and 7 Roe Deer. Although the birds scatter along the hedgerow where they might be seen later, Roe Deer never ever stay around but just melt into to the security of a distant wood. 

There had been geese landing in fields not far away so as I drove home via the mossland of both Pilling and Stalmine I stopped for a look in the stubble fields. It is very hard to approach the geese for either a photo or close scrutiny.

Pink-footed Geese

 Pink-footed Geese

The Pink-footed Geese have been with us for a month or more since leaving Iceland and the closest it is possible to get to them, and by staying in a vehicle, is perhaps 500 yards. On most mornings a number of wildfowlers will lie in wait, hidden in the marshy creeks of Pilling and Cockerham where they hope to intercept the geese with a volley of shots as the birds leave their overnight roost to feed on these inland fields. Boy are these geese wild and who can blame them?

I made my way home after an entertaining and instructive afternoon. Yes it was good to get back on the moss if only for a while.

Linking today to Viewing Nature with Eileen.



23 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, what a nice outing. the sky looks beautiful over the field. The Little Owl is adorable and I love the color of the Yellowhammer. It is beautiful. Great birds and photos. Enjoy your weekend, happy birding.

Bob Bushell said...

Absolutely stunning are your photos Phil. I do love the Pink-footed Geese, fantastic.

Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines said...

Oh gosh- I LOVE the cute little owl!

Barb said...

All your bird photos are amazing, but who can resist the coy owl?

HOOTIN ANNI said...

Oh my...you are the 2nd one this past week that posted pink footed geese!! Am I jealous? Yes, indeed!!

The story you chose to share about the Moss you visited....sad that the owl/bird population dwindled. I LOVE the Little Owl photo so much. Hope that someday, the birds will return and be happy.

carol l mckenna said...

Elegant BW sky shot among your other wonderful nature photos!

Wishing you a happy weekend,
artmusedog and carol

Linda said...

Looks like a great time, Phil, lots of beautiful birds!

TexWisGirl said...

adorable little owl!! your redwing looks similar to our american robin (also a thrush).

Ida said...

What a great place to watch birds. Love that sweet little owl perched on the fence. Man that was a lot of geese.

Stephanie said...

Beautiful images, love the owl and the Yellowhammer. A first to see the Yellowhammer bird.

Janice Adcock said...

Beautiful as ever!

Jo said...

What a lovely outing. I love the Little Owl the best. I had a wonderful opportunity to capture an owl IN the city. I posted the images on Wednesday. Have a great day. Jo

Margaret Adamson said...

Loved the sightings of yellowhammer, PF Geese and that i a fabulous photograph of the Redwing. oh, I forgot that beautiful little Owl. Have a wonderful weekend.

David Gascoigne said...

Ah, those big bad boys with their guns. What fine and brave fellows they are, secreting themselves so carefully to fire a volley or two or ten at those wicked geese. How proud they must be when they shred one to smithereens with their drunken shot.

fredamans said...

Beautiful birds, but I love the mood in the monochrome shot.

Marie C said...

The moss is lovely. And I am glad it is a great place for the little owls. Loved all your landscapes and bird shots!

Joyful said...

I love your bird and owl photos! Very nice. Have a great weekend.

EG CameraGirl said...

AWWWW! I love that cute little owl!

eileeninmd said...

Hi Phil, I am stopping back just to say great post and thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post. Have a happy weekend!

Hawkeye BrownDog said...

Hi Y'all!

Love the little owl best.

Y'all come on by,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Adam Jones said...

I love that Little Owl Phil. I've not seen one this year, which is a real shame. Such great little birds.

Tony McGurk said...

What a cute little owl. Reminds me of the time I had a Tawny Frogmouth on my front verandah but by the time I got my camera he/she had flown the coop. The same happened during the week when we had a Kookaburra in the front yard. They must know when the camera's on the way & are a bit shy for the lens

Stuart Price said...

Well I saw 1 goose today.................amd 3 last week. I forget how many come to the NW in winter..........

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