It’s that time of year and an excuse to delve into the archives for a review of the year on Another Bird Blog.
Today’s post is my entry in Jim Goldstein’s 10th annual best photos of the year blog project. It's at http://www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/2016/12/14/blog-project-photos-2016/. Take a look, and enter your own pictures.
I am posting a picture for each month of 2016. As the blog sub-title suggests, and for new visitors to this blog, there are tales of bird ringing and bird watching together with a spot of bird photography. Don’t forget to click each pic for a bird close-up and slide show.
In January and midwinter in the Northern Hemisphere most folk are a little bored of short, dark and dismal days that mostly coincide with days of wind and rain. The lack of sun makes us yearn for a little warmth and brightness as an antidote to days spent in layers of clothes and sitting next to radiators while surfing and blogging.
In January Sue and I travelled via a four hour flight to Lanzarote for a dose of winter sun. The Trumpeter Finch, Bucanetes githagineus, is a small passerine bird that is relatively common but far from numerous in Lanzarote. The huge and brightly coloured parrot-like bill gives the bird a somewhat comical appearance.
Trumpeter Finches breed in the Canary Islands, across North Africa, and in the Middle East and into central Asia. There is a small European population in southern Spain where the species is essentially non-migratory with most birds largely resident. In the summer of 2005 there was a notable eruption of this species into north-western Europe, with several birds reaching as far as England, where it remains a very rare bird and subsequently one that does not appear on the list of many twitchers.
February proved to be a good month for catching Siskins Spinus spinus, at our ringing site at Oaeknclough, near Garstang, Lancashire. The 60 ringed there during the month provided a couple of later recoveries in Scotland and close to where the Siskins would breed.
March at Oakenclogh continued the finch theme with good catches of Lesser Redpolls, Acanthis cabaret, a close relative of the Siskin. Both are members of the finch family, Fringillidae. There is evidence of Lesser Redpolls visiting garden feeders on a more regular basis, so much so that several used my own niger feeders for a week or more.
A male Reed Bunting is a handsome bird. Sparrow-sized but slim and with a long, deeply notched tail, the male has a black head, white collar and a drooping moustache. Females and winter males have a streaked head and don’t look nearly as striking as a male in April song. Here’s a male looking for a mate at Cockerham in April 2016.
Most blog regulars will know of my addiction to May in Menorca, Spain. Every year I try to take pictures of Bee Eaters and rarely do I succeed except perhaps the in-flight picture from May 2016 is one of my better efforts.
During June and July I made trips up to the Bowland Hills about twenty miles from my usual birding patch . It’s where waders like Redshank, Oystercatcher and Snipe breed in the wet meadows. Without a hide, a wound down car window is almost as good. However, a certain degree of knowledge about a species’ habits, preferences and likely reactions is essential before embarking on a trip and expecting a result.
August proved to be a mega month for picturing Barn Owls. I latched onto a pair with a regular hunting beat. Once again, knowledge of a species’ habits is essential, as is respect for UK law which protects Barn Owls from disturbance. I am reminded of the antics of a “togger” I watched this year who chased a Barn Owl across fields and prevented the owl from hunting as it should. My own picture below was obtained by waiting for an owl to appear and then let it do what comes naturally.
“Togger” is urban slang for photographer; specifically, one who takes photographs out of a passion for photography and a desire for kudos from other toggers, rather than out of a passion for birds. Most birders I know substitute the letter “s” for “g” when discussing toggers and their antics.
2016 began badly for Swallows. Poor weather on their journey north killed many off before they could arrive in Britain. Any that managed to set up breeding territories were slowed and frustrated by a cool, cold and wet spring. In most years I expect to take many pictures of Swallows; not in 2016.
The weather improved during August and September allowing Swallows to catch up a little. Below is one that made it from the nest. Let’s all wish for a better 2017 for our struggling Swallows.
September and it’s time for a non-birdy picture. “Thank goodness for that”, goes up the cry. The picture is from Skiathos, the other love of our life and another Mediterranean island that Sue and I visit each September. What could be better than relaxing in a beachside taverna with a cold beer while watching the famous blue and white Greek flag flutter in the warming sun? Thanks to the shenanigans of Germany and the European Union the proud Greek people continue to take a battering which they do not deserve. “Yammas” to each and every one of my Greek friends.
October 8th promised to be just another average day of ringing up at Oakenclough for Andy and I. By midday we called a halt at 123 birds caught and both ringers cream-crackered after processing more than 30 birds every hour. Whoever said that ringing birds was easy work? The biggest surprise was that our catch included 61 Goldcrests. This included several greyish looking individuals which almost certainly originated from Fennoscandia a day or two earlier.
A tiny bird that weighs not much more than 5gms would seem to be no candidate for long distance migration. However, ringing has shown regular movements from countries around the North Sea and Baltic into Britain for the winter. One has even reached us from Russia and several from Poland, though Norway, Sweden and Finland are their usual starting points. It seems amazing that any of them can survive two journeys as well as the cold weather but some clearly do, as several Goldcrests ringed in the UK in winter have been found back home in Scandinavia.
Another Scandinavian visitor that brightens up our UK winters is the Fieldfare. It is a highly gregarious creature that arrives on our shores in sometimes huge numbers, this November being no exception. It seems a contradiction that the species is gregarious but also intensely shy, but that is the truth as anyone who has tried to photograph them will confirm. In November I caught up with Fieldfares in a row of hawthorns at Cockerham where I snapped the picture we all crave – a Fieldfare holding its prize of a bright red Christmas berry.
December was almost a write off with many grey, dismal days and never ending rain. Andy and I had been busy at our Linnet project since early October at one small site at Pilling where to date and nearing the end of 2016, we have caught, ringed and fully processed 140 Linnets. The Linnet is a declining farmland bird whereby anything we can do to collect data on its current abundance is a positive contribution to conservation.
Thanks for wading through this post. I hope that everyone that’s done so will return to Another Bird Blog soon and read more about my bird ringing, bird watching and bird photography. And finally, thanks to Jim Goldstein for hosting this get together of like-minded folk for yet another year.
Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday.
Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday.