Monday, January 14, 2019

Slaughter In Spain

I offer no apologies for the photographs in this post. They should be shared far and wide, mostly to our representatives in the EU and the UK. 

The slaughter of birds for amusement continues apace in many countries in Europe. It is commonplace in Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus to name the most notorious. 

From my friend in Spain, Fernando Gavilian Lopez. 

De cómo exterminar al Zorzal común. Capítulo 2. Imágenes de esta semana subidas a las redes sociales en España. La especie se nos va. 

Google Translation - How to annihilate the Song Thrush. Episode 2. Images uploaded to social networks this week in Spain. The species is going away.

I am so angry that words fail me. Isn't this what we adults should be doing in 2019?

Thank you.

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Down Memory Lane

Surfing as one might on a rather dull morning and on the website of Fylde Bird Club, Lancashire, I stumbled across a page full of their old Newsletters. The newsletters, now in PDF form and dated from 1983 to 2017 provide a source of historic local information to both members and non-members alike. 

Inside June/July 1983 Number 4, was a piece submitted by one Phil Slade about the finding of a rare bird on a June evening in 1983. In those days I was a member of the club, one of ten or twelve founder members who set up the club as a way of developing interest in the local site of Marton Mere, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). 

In the early eighties the mere was threatened with development by interests wholly unsympathetic to wildlife. Despite the SSSI the mere was a free-for-all to many varied interests with little concern for its status as an SSSI. Club members took on an evening rota to try and deter the many undesirable elements from destroying the site’s value – birds’ egg thieves, scrambler bikes, unruly dogs with and unruly owners, charging horses topped by inconsiderate riders. You name it, Marton Mere had the lot.  

After an encounter one evening with a muddy dog and an unpleasant owner I recall taking a different route to escape the abuse.

Read on …. 

Fylde Bird Club June/July 1983

Fylde Bird Club June/July 1983

Fylde Bird Club June/July 1983

Apologies about the quality of the images above.  This was pre-digital and pre-mobile phones.  Remember that?

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Also, from Page One above: "Information regarding breeding birds in the Fylde has been somewhat sparse, so strengths and weaknesses of locally breeding birds must unfortunately pass undocumented for another year - let's hope we can improve on this for the future".

Strange then that a year or two later some members of the club helped put a block on bird ringing at the mere, studies that would have provided much needed data. It was because of this myopia that I broke my relationship with the bird club.  It is only in very recent years, following a proposal from Andy Dixon plus a new enlightened approach from Blackpool Borough Council, that ringing is now encouraged and supported.

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

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Testing Times

Andy and I arranged to meet up at Gulf Lane this morning to test our latest theory about Linnets - we catch better on frosty mornings? 

There was a ground frost and a temperature of -1° at 0800. We had been here on Saturday 4th January and despite a spot count of 400 Linnets we caught a big fat zero, not a single one; the Linnets just weren't interested, this in contrast to 2nd January when we had a catch of twenty-seven. The difference between the two days was - on January 2nd there’s been an overnight frost followed by an icy morning of -2.5°. In total contrast the morning of Saturday 4th January was much warmer at 7°C. My post, Another Bird Blog of 2nd January - “Twenty seven was our best catch of the winter, probably helped by the frosty start and the Linnets’ keenness to eat”. 

These are wintering Linnets only, ones which and dependent upon the coming weather, may be back on their way North as early as March. That leaves us just eight or ten weeks to reach our target of 200 new Linnets for the winter period. Another 100 to go. 

We set the nets followed by another bucket of millet and rape seed then waited for the Linnet’s arrival. Although the Linnets arrived in good numbers – up to 300, we caught just four. All four were females today. So although it’s back to the drawing board for our next theory, we do not give up so easily and remain convinced that catches will improve. 

Linnet - First winter/second calendar year female 

Linnet - First winter/second calendar year female 

“Ringing has been an important research tool for the conservation biologist over the last 100 years. Effective conservation of wild bird populations requires understanding of bird ecology, the factors driving population change, and evidence that proposed conservation measures can be effective. Bird-ringing studies can provide a wide range of data types to aid and inform this process, and in many cases these data are not available without the capture and marking of individual birds.” 

The above is a summary of a paper from Ringing and Migration “The value of ringing for bird conservation”, written in 2009 by Guy Q.A. Anderson and Rhys E. Green. 

The full paper, too lengthy to post here, includes sections on: 
  • Movement between seasons in resident species 
  • Dispersal Migration routes and strategies 
  • Survival rates 
  • Productivity 
  • Genetic relationship 
  • How to improve the value of ringing for conservation gain 
Read the full paper at: 

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Birding Glossary

Here I am on a miserable Sunday afternoon, mizzly, dank and grey with nothing on the telly, just the usual BBC propaganda, Sly News or tired old films. 

I got to thinking about the birding terminology, names and acronyms used in the world of birds here in the UK. Birding and birdwatching is a pastime that has evolved its own lifestyle, culture and even language. It is a way of life often mocked and misunderstood by those yet to experience the joys of ticking a mega bird or to suffer the anguish of a dick’s pip dip. 

So anyone looking to enter the world of birds may find the information below a useful Aide Memoir. Hopefully by studying and memorising some of the terminology it will allow them to slip seamlessly into the world of birds at a level appropriate to their experience – or not, as the case may be! Using the right jargon can be a passport to acceptance by the birding community, but getting it even slightly wrong can lead to being “sussed”, side-lined, and in extreme cases, quickly ostracised. 

For now we’ll skip the major terms of Birder, Bird Watcher, Lister, Bird Chaser, Twitcher, Ornithologist, Robin Stroker, and Rasberry. These are labels which need a whole post and more in which to explore the perils and pitfalls of acquiring such a tag for oneself or to apply to others.

I tried to put the list in some sort of logical order but gave up and opted for random. Where appropriate there are warnings as to when, where and why it may not be wise to use a particular expression or shorthand. Some are thought to be derogatory if said to another birder’s face, the bird itself, or made in reference to a hallowed bird organisation. The list is not exhaustive and I am sure readers can add their own examples.  
Let’s start with some simple almost self-explanatory ones for LBJs - Little Brown Jobs. 

Acros- Acrocephalus warblers e.g. Reed and Sedge Warbler etc. Also, reedy, sedgie. 
Hippos- Hippolais warblers. e.g. Icterine Warbler and Booted Warbler etc. 
Phylloscs - Phylloscopus warblers. e.g. Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler etc. 
Gropper or PG Tips - Locustella warblers - Grasshopper Warbler and Pallas’s Gropper respectively.
Mipit - Meadow Pipit
Tripit - Tree Pipit
Trepi – Tree Pipit - reserved for bird ringers only. Bird Ringers have exclusive codes which set them apart from mere birders. 
Wipit - Water Pipit 
Rokit - Rock Pipit 
OBP- Olive-backed Pipit 
Dick’s Pip or Dick’s - Richard’s Pipit 
RBF - Red-breasted Flycatcher 
Spotfly or Spofl - Spotted Flycatcher
Sibe - a vagrant of Siberian origin 
Yank - a vagrant (bird) of usually North American origin 
Pink Stink – An adult Rose-coloured Starling. A tip – Birders are wholly uncomplimentary about the starling family, unless it’s a Golden O – Golden Oriole.
Fawn Yawn – a juvenile or first winter Pink Stink. Think about it, or see “Collins” below. 
Junk Bird - Slightly controversial. A bird so common as to be worthless on a list other than a life list. For example - House Sparrow, Wren, Dunnock or Blue Tit. Or formerly, a Greenfinch.
Gringo - a Greenfinch. 

Beware of assigning an LBJ to the wrong family tree - an embarrassing mistake that breaks a birding social convention of “knowing ones Collins”. Collins Field Guide THE Most Complete Field Guide To The Birds Of Britain And Europe.



Now for a few members of the wading family: 

Barwit - Bar-tailed Godwit 
Blackwit - Black-tailed Godwit 
Hudwit - Hudsonian Godwit 
Curly Wurly - Curlew 
Peeps - reserved for North Americans on a UK birding trip - small Calidris waders that real birders call stints- e.g. Little Stint or Curlew Sandpiper 
Oyk - Oystercatcher. As distinct from an Oik who blocks the view during a twitch. 


And Seabirds: 

Manxie - Not a tailless cat but a Manx Shearwater 
Bonxie – Great Skua 
Commic Tern - Common/ Arctic Terns that are too distant to differentiate safely enough between the two. Beware of using this label and thus admitting to incompetence whilst in the company of a birder higher up the echelons of the birding world. 
As above - Corvid for use when unsure whether the bird is a Rook, Carrion Crow or Raven. N.B. Can be more acceptable than Commic Tern. 



Plastic - a bird which is likely to have escaped from captivity. Use with care as a “plastic” may by higher authority later become a “tick”, in which case can be retrospectively claimed as an “armchair tick”. 
Yuck Duck – similar to Plastic. A hybrid but often wild duck, mostly the result of a union between a Mallard and a farmyard duck. Take care not to spend time trying to ID such birds as they will never qualify as a tick. Furthermore, the observers' credentials as as serious birder will be seriously damaged.

In Part Two of Birding Glossary we explore other terms, some of which often induce controversy and even conflict into the genteel world of bird watching. Words like suppression, stringer, dude, lumper and splitter. 

Be there or be a dipper. But best not to be gripped off.

Linking this post to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

All Fired Up…....

…... and somewhere to go. After the news on New Year’s Eve that Linnet AYD5167 had been ringed on North Ronaldsay Orkney it didn’t need much persuasion to get out ringing again. Even better, the forecast promised near zero wind and a bright morning that would get hungry Linnets moving around. 

I met Andy at Gulf Lane to -2.5°C and where we hoped that lightning might strike twice by way of another ringed bird from the Highlands or the Islands. 

Gulf Lane - Pilling/Cockerham  - 2nd January 2019

Gulf Lane - Pilling/Cockerham 2nd January 2019

We set up the ringing station in Andy’s hatchback and made a mental note that now into 2019 all birds become a calendar year older and ageing codes change overnight; first year 3s become 5s and adult 4s magic into 6s.

Just think, if we could do that with friends and relatives we could post every birthday card on the First of January and never again worry about being in the doghouse by missing that vital one.

Oops, the first Linnet went onto the field sheet as a “3”, but we soon got into the swing of it and kicked off the ringing year with 27 new Linnets and zero recaptures. Twenty seven was our best catch of the winter, probably helped by the frosty start and the Linnets’ keenness to eat, not least on the bucket of fresh, dry millet and rape seed we deposited on the frozen ground.

Our best spot count this morning was of a maximum 300 Linnets, the only other small birds in the immediate area being Wren and Dunnock.

Linnet - first winter male Age "5".

The catch this morning comprised 12 first winter male, 8 adult male, 6 first winter female and 1 adult female; once again, a preponderance of males.

Field Sheet - 2nd January 2019

Here’s wishing all followers and readers of Another Bird Blog a Happy and Bird Filled New Year. 

Back soon with more about Linnets and other birds.

Linking today to Eileen's Blogspot.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Great Result

Wow. We had had a great result from the Linnet mentioned on here a day or two ago. 

As suspected, ring number AYD5167 that Andy and I caught at Gulf Lane on 24th December had been ringed in Scotland. Better still, the Linnet location on 8th September 2018 was the Scottish island of North Ronaldsay, Orkney some 605 km due north of Gulf Lane. 

Wiki - “The main purpose of the island's bird observatory, established in 1987, is to conduct long-term monitoring of bird populations and migration. North Ronaldsay is well known as one of the best birdwatching sites in the country during the spring and autumn migration periods.” 

Linnet - North Ronaldsay to Gulf Lane, Pilling/Cockerham 

North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory - Mike Pennington 

Given the location of North Ronaldsay there is a good chance that AYD5167 was passing through and that its original location and birth place in the summer months was Shetland, or even Norway. We cannot know for certain where it began the long journey south, however this latest information is now the third link between the wintering Linnets of Gulf Lane and the far North of Scotland. 

The Orkney Islands UK

My one visit to North Ronaldsay was more years ago than I care to remember, but I do recall, quote - “the quantity and variety of birds that can be seen at these times is often spectacular.” It was too and I recall catching Long-eared Owls, Yellow-browed Warblers, Waxwings, hundreds of Scandinavian Blackbirds, and a real rarity, a single Pine Bunting. 

Pine Bunting - by Jargal Lamjav

There was even a Linnet or two.


Stay tuned. Wednesday is looking good for more birding and ringing.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Linnet Recap

Andy and I met up again on Thursday morning for another crack at the Linnets. 

The Linnets didn't want to play ball and it could be that many or most of the 300 present were the same as on 24th December and would not be captured twice. So we caught just 4 Linnets but once again all four were quite big males at wing length 84, 83, 83 and 82 mm.

One in particular was very dark on the cap, the head in general and noticeably on the nape. We thought it more than likely this was a good example of the Scottish race of Linnet Linaria cannabina autochthona, and that coupled with a catch of similar examples on 24th December, recent days have seen an influx of Linnets from the far north of England and from Scotland. 

Linnet - Linaria cannabina autochthona 

 Linnet - Linaria cannabina autochthona

This is probably the last ringing session here in 2018 but we will return as soon as possible in 2019 to continue with our work. 

For the benefit of readers yet to learn of this project.

Andy Dixon and I began Project Linnet in the autumn of 2016 to investigate wintering Linnets using a site at Gulf Lane, Lancashire; here the two parishes of Pilling and Cockerham meet alongside the A588 at Wrampool Bridge. Just 100 yards across sheep pasture to the north is a 10 mile sea bund that links the town of Knott End in the West to the parish of Cockerham in the East. The bund/wall protects farmland and villages from the infamous tidal surges of the area, the southernmost extremity of Morecambe Bay Site of Special Scientific Importance (SSSI). 

Gulf Lane - Pilling/Cockerham 

The background to our mission is as follows. In the Fylde, Lancashire the Linnet’s demise over a number of years is part and parcel of the species’ national decline that has resulted in its current UK status as a fast disappearing farmland bird. This part of coastal Lancashire has not been immune to these environmental changes and as a highly agricultural area reflects the typical downward trend for the UK Linnet population. 

The Linnet is resident throughout the year in this part of Fylde, Lancashire. As a partial migrant it is here in spring, summer and autumn but numbers usually increase during October/November/December and into March/April according to the severity of winter. 

My own observations and experience from the last 40 years, more so since the Linnets gradual decline that began some 20 odd years ago, suggested that the regular winter influx of Linnets has helped to mask a substantial loss in the species’ breeding population in the wider area of the Fylde.  

A look at local sources of both digital and printed information painted a very sketchy picture of the Linnet’s status, with nothing to suggest that our winter Linnets were other than local birds choosing to spend their winter close to where they breed.  Other than random and piecemeal counts from the  area, there was little or no work, past, present or proposed to establish the species’ overall breeding and migratory status, even though the partial migratory habits of the Linnet is well documented elsewhere. 

So when a chance to investigate a wintering population of Linnets presented itself the two of us decided to use the opportunity to catch and ring this previously neglected but now priority species. Our project at least gives us a fighting chance to find out where winter Linnets originate from, and where they go to the following spring. In the process we might prove the conservation value of argri-environment schemes that provide winter feed to a number of bird species including the Red-listed Linnet. 

Our ringing site is a triangular plot of farmland, planted each year with a mix of cover crop that yields bird seed during the autumn and winter. There is no cover or hedgerow to protect the site from this often windswept part of Lancashire with the nearest habitation two small farms some 100 yards away; hence we are very dependent upon fine weather in using mist nets. Our project is a labour of love that requires both dedication and persistence in the face of the often poor weather and the uncertain nature of Linnets and their feeding habits; e.g. Thursday 27th December. 

Including Thursday we have 508 captures - 363 juvenile or first summer/autumn, (212 male, 148 female and 3 not aged), 63 second years (36 male and 27 female) and 80 adults (52 male and 28 female). 

Same site recaptures have been few and far between, a fact that tells us the daily, weekly and monthly turnover of Linnets on site is huge. From the 508 captures there are just two individuals caught on two occasions each. These two at least display a degree of loyalty to the same winter site: 

S348543 caught on 03/10/2016 and 03/12/16 
S800285 caught on 02/11/2017 and 09/03/2018. 

In contrast to the two individuals above, other records show the species’ migratory status. 

There are 2 Linnets ringed at Gulf Lane and recaptured elsewhere (Lochinver, Scotland and Barrow, Cumbria), There are 2 Linnet ringed elsewhere and recaptured at Gulf Lane - Shetlands, plus one outstanding - AYD5167.

Linnet - Linaria cannabina

More soon. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog in 2018 and 2019.

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

Related Posts with Thumbnails