Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Golden Times

There are more pictures from the hill country today. Birding is more than a little quiet and the weather so perfect that I took to the upland roads with camera at the ready. 

Noticeable today was the reduction in numbers of waders with many already gone for the coast, mainly Lapwings, Redshanks and Curlews but to a lesser extent Oystercatchers. In fact I struggled to get pictures of Curlew and Redshank and managed just one Lapwing. Despite that a number of Snipe continued to both sing and display and to show themselves on dry stone walls and fences. 

Lapwing
 
Curlew

Like me, the Oystercatcher below was searching the skies for the Golden Plover singing unseen. I didn’t see the plover but the unmistakeable melody rung out loud and clear across the open fell. 

Oystercatcher

Maybe the Oystercatcher didn’t recognise the song as the Golden Plover is now extremely rare in Bowland. Amazingly, and to the eternal shame of the United Kingdom, the Golden Plover is still classed as legitimate “quarry” for shooting from September 1st to January 31st except in the Isle of Man where it has full protection. 

Golden Plover -courtesy of luontoportti.com

There are still lots of wagtails around, both Pied and Grey varieties, and of course many dozens of Meadow Pipits which now include fresh juveniles. 

Pied Wagtail

Meadow Pipit

I did see a Cuckoo today as it dashed over the tree tops “cuckooing” as it went and then calling continuously on a circuit of the hillside and back to the start. 

It’s amazing what Photoshop can do. One minute there’s a barbed wire fence; the next minute the fence has gone! 

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Common Snipe

Oystercatchers

There are a couple of things to notice in these Snipe pictures, things that aren’t too apparent with the often poor views of this secretive species; the upper part of a bill has a subtle node end and is also marginally longer than the lower half of the bill. Note also the very long toes, an adaptation for wading birds which spreads the bird's weight over a large surface area and thus facilitates walking on soft surfaces where such species both breed and feed. The marsh loving Snipe is a prime example. 

Common Snipe

Snipe 

Wader foot

Apart from the everyday hazards faced by all birds the upland environment presents a particular danger to waders which breed in amongst the sheep - wool. The loose wool that lies on the ground is a special hazard to chicks that can quickly accumulate large amounts of the tough wool around their feet and legs. It sometimes leads to the loss of toes or feet and can also cause entanglement in fences or other everyday objects.  The bottom Oystercatcher has several strands of sheep wool around both legs and may haave lost part of a toe.

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

There's more sun tomorrow and then the weather is going downhill once more. Oh well, never mind there's always something to do and it's been good to see so much sun.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.
 




Saturday, June 17, 2017

Martin Morning

2016 was a year without ringing at the Cockerham Sand Martin colony because the martins’ nest holes were too high up the quarry face for us to catch them. It’s the same this year with the birds mostly out of reach of the mist nets. But with so many being around Andy and I decided we’d experiment with catching some down at ground level today. 

We met up at 0700 and set to with a single mist net in the base of the quarry where the martins had been feeding and flying through on their way to and from the quarry face. We had only partial success with a catch of 9 birds, 4 adults and 5 fresh juveniles. 

We reckoned on something like 200 individuals milling around the colony and upwards of 60 occupied nest holes, even though counting those is subject to interpretation. 

Sand Martin

There are Sand Martins in my picture below taken from 50 yards or more; a closer approach sees the martins into the air en masse. For readers who have never witnessed a Sand Martin colony the photo which gives some idea of the density of holes and nests, bearing in mind that not every hole is occupied. 

Sand Martin colony

Sand Martins - Nabu of Germany

Also on site - 1 Grey Heron, 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Kestrel. 

We’ll have another go at the “smarties” in a week or so when the weather permits. 

Before I met up with Andy I’d spent an hour a mile away at Conder Green to catch up with recent changes. The Avocets are down to two pairs now and I saw only one youngster. It’s tempting to think that the adults spend so much time chasing off other birds that they somehow or other neglect their own young. 

There are still at least 4 pairs of Oystercatchers but only one of those pair with 2 well grown young as other adults sit it out. Otherwise, 8 now summering Black-tailed Godwits, 6 Tufted Duck, 15 Redshank, 6 Shelduck, 2 Common Tern, 1 Common Sandpiper and 1 Little Egret. 

Common Tern

In the passerine department - 3 Reed Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting 2 Whitethroat and 2 Pied Wagtail. And in “miscellaneous” – 1 Stock Dove, 4 Swift, 4 Swallow, 12 House Martin.

Linking today to Anni's Birding.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mainly Pics

I took lots of pictures up in Bowland this morning, almost 400 and easily packed onto half of an SD card. I know there are some who refuse to abandon the traditional 35mm film photography, but give me digital photography, computers and Photoshop any old day. 

It was a morning of waders again with a number of Snipe on show, plus Redshanks and Oystercatchers with young. I even managed a picture of the very shy Red Grouse. Other highlights of the morning included two Ring Ouzel and at least one Cuckoo, but all too distant to photograph.

Click the pics for a closer look.

Redshank

Redshank

Oystercatcher
 
Red Grouse

Snipe seemed especially active this morning whereby I saw 8/10 individuals in poses, behaviour or voice that suggested they now have young.


Snipe

Snipe

Snipe

Snipe

Bowland, Lancashire

A barely fledged Redshank  had quickly learnt about using dry stone walls as a parent looks on.

Redshank chick

Redshank

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtail

Bowland, Lancashire

Lapwing

War Memorial, Bowland

That's all for today. Come back soon for more birding. photographs or ringing with Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to  Viewing Nature With Eileen.




Sunday, June 11, 2017

Back Already?

Spring is barely over but already it seems that a few waders have left their breeding haunts. First back this morning at Conder Green – a Common Sandpiper. It’s a species which breeds up in the hills 15/20miles away and not in lowland Fylde. I heard it call as it flew behind and then over my head as it lost height, flicked over the pool, landed on the near island and then bobbed along looking for a meal. I glanced at the date on my watch. Bang on time, perhaps one or two days early for the annual excitement of spotting returning waders, the spick-and-span youngsters or the adults showing copious amounts of their summer plumage. 

Common Sandpiper

It made me look at the local waders on show and not far behind the frontrunners - Oystercatchers with half grown young, 3 Pairs of Avocets with 3 youngsters on show, noisy complaining Redshanks, and a gang of Lapwings young and old. 

I counted 20+ Redshanks without actually seeing any youngsters but the behaviour of adults told me that chicks were not too far away. Around here we’re sort of celebrating the Avocet success of recent years but as I watched their aggressive behaviour in chasing off godwits, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Shelduck I wondered what the future holds here for other species now that the Avocets will return each year. 

Avocet

Oystercatchers

Rather oddly, there are still 40 or more Black-tailed Godwits here that have been around for several weeks and who chose in recent days not to go north with many of their compatriots. I did note today that most of those left are second-summer rather than fully adult birds, a fact which explains their reluctance or lack of urgency to leave. The feeding here is very good. I watched the godwits take endless numbers of worms from the mud and then walk down to the water’s edge to dip and clean their prey before swallowing them whole. 

Black-tailed Godwits

On the pool also: 15 Shelduck, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron and 8 Tufted Duck. I watched as a male Tufted Duck slowly reassured the female that all was well to go back to her island nest. She climbed up the grassy bank, slipped through a tunnel of vegetation and was gone. The male floated off to join his mates. Tufted Duck incubation is up to 28 days so she can’t be far off leading her chicks into their brave new world; I hope they do better than last year’s brood of 10-12 which vanished in double quick time. 

Near the bridge and main road were at least 3 singing Reed Warblers, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Whitethroat and 2 Song Thrush. A Kestrel overhead hovered, hunted low and then flew off carrying food. 

Kestrel

 Back soon folks. Stay tuned.

Linking today to  Stewart in Australia.



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

That Redshank

Two days of stormy weather have left me indoors. And then tomorrow the forecast is for rain all day and more over the weekend. Is it really June? 

On Saturday last I posted a photograph of a colour ringed Redshank that I saw on a journey through the Forest of Bowland on 4th June, http://anotherbirdblog.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/saturday-sport.html

I followed the sighting up through the Internet and discovered more information via the Farlington Ringing Group. The group of ringers operate on the south coast of England. See below for the full set of information on the Redshank. It shows how effective colour ringing can be in tracking individual birds.

Redshank DD51107

Ringed as an adult in September 2009, Redshank DD51107 is now at least 9 years old and has been re-sighted in the Chichester area of the Sussex coast between August and March in every intervening year. It was noted there in February 2017 and probably moved up to Bowland in March or April where it began its breeding cycle.

Redshank - Chichester to Lancashire

When I saw the bird on 4th June it was clearly on territory from the behaviour displayed – using a line of fence posts which acted as lookout to spot and to warn of predators. 

Redshank
 
The Redshanks that breed in inland and upland parts of the UK are known to move to the coast for winter where studies show that the species is very site faithful from one winter to the next, as perfectly detailed in the chart above. Almost certainly this Redshank is equally true to its summertime home in Bowland. 

If I get up the in the next week or two I shall look out for it but even as early as July it may have left on its journey to the south of England. 

Redshank

But then all Redshanks don't wear such obvious bling.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday Blog.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Saturday Sport

Saturday morning began bright and clear with a forecast of no rain. It looked spot on for birding in the hills. 

I set off over the flat roads of my local patch all the time driving north and east, a direction that took me into the hills above Garstang where our common waders breed. Hopefully I would be able to practice a bit more with the new Sigma lens. The Canon 400mm lens has gone for repair and it will be three weeks or more before I hear the news, good or bad. 

There are lots of pictures today and not much text. Highlights today were 2 Cuckoos calling from the fell sides, dozens of Meadow Pipits with a few feeding young, a colour ringed Redshank, and then a Curlew chick to ring.  Read on and don’t forget to “click the pics”. 

The journey to Garstang and beyond takes me firstly over the flat moss roads of Out Rawcliffe and then another 5/10 miles to the edge of the Bowland Hills. Soon after sunrise the silence broke to the sounds of Oystercatchers, Redshanks, Curlews, Lapwings and Snipe. Pipits and wagtails were everywhere as a Reed Bunting or two made for a little variety. 

Rawcliffe Moss, Lancashire

Bowland road, Lancashire

In the roadside trees Willow Warblers sang softly while Siskins pinged, Lesser Redpolls chattered and Chaffinches cheeped. Mistle Thrush proved plentiful if shy with small family parties almost everywhere I stopped. 

Dry stone walls and fence posts are ideal places from which to display and take a look at what the neighbours are up to. They’re also handy for the advance spotting of predators and folk with lenses poking from car windows. 

Oystercatcher

Meadow Pipit

Bowland road, Lancashire

Three or four Snipe “drummed through the sky and called from vantage points but none came close enough for a decent photo. I’m fairly impressed with the Sigma lens but with it being a both zoom and a bulkier item than the Canon it does take a second or two more to get into position.  The lens has very good "bokeh", (the quality of out-of-focus or “blurry” parts of the image), as can be seen here. With birds there’s rarely a moment to lose before deciding on the best way to shoot and hoping the bird doesn’t fly off. The long reach of the Sigma 600mm is nice to have but it probably makes me try for pictures that I would not have attempted with the Canon's fixed 400mm.

Snipe

Oystercatcher

Snipe

Oystercatcher

Meadow Pipit
 
There’s a lot of background “noise” in the picture below but it was shot in bright sun at eighty yards or so. There’s a different Redshank below that, one colour ringed on the right leg. Through the colour combinations I will find out where and when this bird was first ringed but it seems unlikely it was ringed up here in the hills. The coastline of the UK seems a better bet. 

Redshank

Redshank

 
Redshank

Bowland road, Lancashire

Pied Wagtail

From nowhere two Curlew chicks suddenly ran across the road ahead, a guiding adult overhead. They made for the longer grass on the other side of the road. I intercepted one chick as the other vanished as if by magic. There’s no point in looking for wader chicks in dense, long grass so I quickly ringed the one I had, placed it in the grass and let the adult call it away to safety. "Never go out without a box of rings and pliers" is the motto.

Curlew chick
 
Bowland, Lancashire

Meadow Pipit

Lapwing 

 
Lapwing

 Bowland, Lancashire

That's all for today folks. Hope you enjoyed the trip through the hills.

Linking today with  World Bird Wednesday.

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