Saturday, November 25, 2023

Down To Zero

After yet another windy week our one out of seven days a week of ringing turned out to be Saturday. Overnight Friday/Saturday the temperature gauge dived to 0° whereby the Fiat’s heated seat and windscreen proved worth their weight in gold. 

I met Will at 0730 up at Oakenclough and where as I arrived he was already on with the mist nets. The sun stayed hidden behind the horizon as winter gloves made their first appearance. 

A quiet session ensued, highlighted by singles of Redwing and Lesser Redpoll included in our meagre catch of just 13 birds – 4 Chaffinch, 3 Robin and singles of Blackbird, Redwing, Lesser Redpoll, Coal Tit, Wren, and Blue Tit. 



Lesser Redpoll


More frustration followed by our failure to catch birds that we saw but which avoided our nets completely, e.g. Crossbill, Bullfinch, Siskin and Sparrowhawk. 

Loxia curvirostra, the Red Crossbill (North America) or Common Crossbill (Europe) is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae. Crossbills have distinctive mandibles, crossed at the tips, an adaptation enables them to extract seeds from conifer cones and other fruits. Adults are often brightly coloured, with red or orange males and green or yellow females, but there is wide variation in beak size and shape, and call types, leading to different classifications of variants, some of which have been named as subspecies.


Two parties of Crossbills, a gang of five then a larger party of 7 or 8 made their way and calling overhead as we watched a number drop into the area of a mist net. 

We failed to catch any but as the breeding season for Crossbills approaches we hope that some will stick around for the next several weeks. Common Crossbills nest very early in the year in English pine plantations, hatching their chicks in February and March to take advantage of the new crop of pine cones. 

Linking today to Eileen's Weekend.

Back soon with more pics, news and photos. Stay cool but stay warm and come back to Another Bird Blog on another day.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Standard Autumn Fayre

Surprise surprise. We survived Storm Debi, a “storm” hyped up by the usual suspects quoting 70 mph gusts from well-known exposed sites on cliff tops and unprotected coastal locations. Here in flat windswept Fylde the gusts turned out to be nothing more than the typical weather we experience for days at a time every autumn. Strong winds with bouts of rain, before everything returns to normal a day or two later.  

We know of course why they do it – to crank up climate alarmism for people who have yet to realise that the “climate emergency” is one big scam designed to part them from their money. 

Clearing our garden of neighbours’ sycamore leaves is a yearly event come rain or shine but inventive doom mongers have yet to claim that the late falling leaves of 2023 are due to global warming. 
Autumn Leaves

Early this week we pencilled in the only suitable day, of Friday for a ringing session at Oakenclough near Garstang. Will visited a week earlier with moderate success that included the catching of four Common Crossbills, a few Redwings and other bits and pieces. 

Yours truly, Will and Andy met up at 0730 to rain but forecasts of brightening skies and afternoon sun; before planning a ringing session we make it a rule to check at least two weather forecasts as they hardly ever agree. About an hour later the rain relented and we set to the job in hand and landed a good variety of species, 18 birds before packing in about 1100 when things turned suddenly quiet. 

We caught no more Crossbills, a rarely encountered species that would have enlivened the usual autumn fayre of 4 Blue Tit, 4 Chaffinch, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Great Tit, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Siskin, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Goldcrest. 


Great-spotted Woodpecker

Lesser Redpoll

As autumn turns effortlessly to winter, so do the birds, with little in the way of numbers that punctuate September and October ringing sessions. 

Noted today, small numbers of Jackdaws, Woodpigeons and Starlings. Otherwise let’s hope that some of the influx of Waxwings, & Short-eared Owls to Scotland and the east coast of England can find their way westwards. Both species pictured below from previous winters in the Fylde. 


Short-eared Owl

Enjoy your weekend folks. Stay safe, warm and sane then come back again to Another Bird Blog for news, views and photos.

Linking this Saturday to Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Some Things Never Change

It’s not just me. Studying the latest news on local web sites it is clear that most birders are struggling with the weather in being able to get outdoors for even a spot of birding, never mind ringing.  Apologies for the lack of posts in recent days and for the next week or so as Storm Debi is the latest Atlantic arrival to batter our lives. 

I raided the archives and found memories of warmer, drier days gone by in The Middle East and Egypt where politics and/or religion are often a cause of trouble.

After arriving in Egypt to tanks on street corners the holiday was uneventful but totally relaxing. Late on Friday November 8 2011 we arrived in Manchester safe and sound from Hurghada and The Red Sea, many miles from the shock waves still emanating from Cairo and other Egyptian cities. 

Sue and I had healthy tans from a wonderful holiday, and after two weeks of unbroken 28 degrees, together with staving off Pharaoh’s Revenge, we felt pretty relaxed about Egypt. Most other Europeans went home with tails between their legs at the first sign of trouble, and left mainly German and UK nationals remaining. By our second week, the early mornings saw a halt to  hostilities in the “Towels on Sunbeds War” and where available sunbeds on our deserted beach easily outnumbered potential occupants by five to one.

These unexpected plusses neatly allowed me to head off for a little local birding in the by now extremely quiet but lush, well-watered, green resort of Makadi Bay where Bougainvillea clad buildings greet at every turn. I quickly established a couple of miles local patch that comprised boating wharfs, the beach and numerous garden areas of the many four and five star hotels. 

The locals tell you that Egypt is 95% sand, where the Red Sea resorts are built on strips of land bounded by sandy shores on one side and desert sand on the other, Hurghada being no exception to that rule. That rather limits the birding unless car hire is taken, but that wasn’t on the agenda in strife torn Egypt. I found plenty of birding and photographic opportunities with morning and afternoon forays and gentle strolls around the beautiful bay.

Here is a flavour of the birds I saw in Egypt, and in the next week or two I hope to post more pictures after first catching up with blogging friends everywhere, news from my local patch here in the UK and get in an overdue ringing session.

Common and numerous everywhere in Makadi Bay are Bluethroats, wintering birds from the several races of Europe.

Makadi Bay


I found lots of ground-hugging Red-throated Pipits skulking about the quiet grassy areas where Cattle Egrets also fed as Kestrels and an Egyptian soldier kept a look-out.

Red-throated Pipit

Red-throated Pipit


Cattle Egret


Egyptian Soldier

The beach and the shore held Western Reef Herons and an occasional Striated Heron, crepuscular in their habits.

Sunrise, Makadi Bay

Striated Heron

Western Reef Heron

Stay tuned folks. Storm Debi can't last forever can she?

Another Bird Blog is back soon.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Sunday Morning Twite

I changed the header. It’s a Twite Linaria flavirostris, a close relative of the Linnet Linaria cannabina, a bird featured many times here on Another Bird Blog. 

Most people wouldn’t notice a Twite - a small, streaky brown finch whose only colour is a bright pink rump and even that shows only in Spring. The rest of the year, it’s rather retiring and uncommon. Perhaps that’s why it’s disappeared from our uplands almost without us noticing. 

Here on the Fylde stretch of coastline in the extreme south of Morecambe Bay, the Twite is a winter visitor and autumn migrant. 

I was lucky this morning when two Twite put in an appearance out Pilling Way. Who can resist a few clicks when there’s Linnets and Twite around for direct comparison? A Twite has a distinctive and rather beautiful orange-buff ground colour to the face and the unstreaked throat. Brown streaking extends from the sides of the breast rather diffusely down onto the flanks, but the belly and undertail coverts are white. Unlike a Linnet, a Twite has an obviously yellow bill in winter, contrasting with the face. Twite have black feet and legs, a Linnet has paler brown/dark straw coloured legs.






The morning improved when a Kingfisher flew back and forth for several minutes and where I got the distinct impression there may have been two rather than the single bird that posed briefly. Here at this spot are hundreds of yards of ditches and dykes for Kingfishers and other water birds. Hence the Little Grebe, several Little Egrets and Reed Buntings flitting around the phragmites fringed ditches. 

Reed Bunting

Could it get any better? Well yes when a Merlin flew past pursued by a Crow and then a few minutes later a Marsh Harrier going in the opposite direction. The raptors were the reason for so much Lapwing activity with many 300/400 hundreds flying around in a seemingly random fashion but all the while keeping their distance from danger. 

A drive out Cockerham way produced a count of six Cattle Egrets feeding amongst some pretty muddy cows. Of course the egrets are adept at exploiting the churned up ground in which to find their prey of insects and worms that cattle disturb with their feet. The egrets also will sit on cattle to look out for insects but I have only observed this behaviour in the Med and not in the UK. 

Cattle Egret

It seems that the six Cattle Egrets weren't the only ones today. Another ten were seen a couple of miles away near the coast at Cockerham. The species may have had a good breeding season in the east with many now heading our way to enjoy the milder Lancashire weather rather than the cold of Europe. 

The forecasts for the week ahead don't look too clever but as always where there's a will there could be a way. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog for the very latest news, views and photos.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Half Day Wednesday

A 0730 start is as late as it gets now. Next weekend we turn the clocks back an hour and head into winter. At seven-thirty Thursday it was still pretty dark and we hoped to catch a few early morning Redwings. 

We got the nets up in double quick time with the help of headlamps however the Redwings didn’t arrive and we settled for a couple of migrant Blackbirds. In fact the whole morning’s ringing turned out quiet with just 11 birds caught – 3 Blackbird, 4 Linnet, 3 Chaffinch, 1 Goldfinch. 



Our four Linnets proved disappointing when the combined count of a number of flocks totalled over 250 finches, a count that included a number of Goldfinches and Greenfinches, the latter not easy to pick out amongst fast flying gangs of small birds. 

All four Linnets showed features of Scottish birds and as usual all new birds, with a slim chance only of capturing a recent Linnet or a Linnet from elsewhere.

"Scottish" Linnet


There was a Sparrowhawk in attendance and then brief views of a “ringtail” Hen Harrier over the nearby marsh. 
Hen Harrier
Female and juvenile Hen Harriers, are known colloquially as “ringtails”, both look very similar, with brown on top, almost checkerboard brown and beige underwings, a white rump and a bearded tail. However, females are larger than males at 400-600g, compared to 300-400g. They're smaller than buzzards, but larger than crows. 

Storm Babet made little impression here on the west coast, a few windy days and nights but we are rather accustomed to that scenario and take it in our stride.

Keep an eye on the weather folks. And then come back here to Another Bird Blog for the latest news, views and photographs.

Linking today to Eileen;s Saturday blog.



Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Finches On The Move

Monday’s weather didn’t disappoint with a start of zero wind, zero rain, and a hint of a sunny morning to come. I met up with Will at 0715 and we set just a couple of nets, single panels for finches in the seed plot together with a 60 footer alongside a hawthorn hedge. 

We didn’t wait long for the first Linnets to arrive from the north and east, following their trajectory that is inevitably the same north to south direction as the set-aside seed plot. The route became busy as many small groups and larger flocks passed through and eventually totalled over 450 finches when we packed in about 1030. 

Not all were Linnets in the catch of 30 birds and the good mix of species - 16 Linnet, 5 Greenfinch, 2 Robin, 1 Great Tit, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Wren, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Redwing. 

The percentage of Scottish type Linnets is increasing at each visit now with our 16 Linnets today almost exclusively of that type. If and when “ferocious” storm Babet hits Scotland it will surely send more Linnets our way. 


Reed Bunting

The concentration of finches brought in a Sparrowhawk on at least two occasions and although we didn’t see a kill, the hawk would not be without a meal for long when so many birds were on the move. A cream top Marsh Harrier flew around hunting for a while where it disturbed Teal and Mallards from their shallows haunt before it too set off to try its luck out on Pilling Marsh. 

Other birds seen in our 3+ hours included 10 Redwing, 8 Skylark, 10 Chaffinch ,2 Cetti’s Warbler, 20+ Reed Bunting, 3 Pied Wagtail, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Whooper Swan.

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting


Fingers crossed that Storm Babet is another figment of the weathermen’s imagination and that we can enjoy another excellent morning of birding and ringing very soon.

Storm Babet - Wednesday night
Stop Press. I studied several weather charts. You heard it here first.

Already I am downgrading Storm  Babet to a bit of a blow. They are trying to frighten us again! 

Linking at the weekend to Eileen's Saturday blog


Thursday, October 12, 2023

Terns of North America - Book Review

As promised, and despite my being poorly with a dose of Common Cold, saved only by a glass or two of ouzo held back in case of serious illness, here it is. 

My personal and early look at Terns of North America; A Photographic Guide by Cameron Cox, due for release on 24 October 2023.

Terns of North America - Princeton Press
Let’s not beat about the proverbial bush. This is a simply stunning book that every birder should own - an essential identification guide to not just North American terns, but the noddies and skimmers that in recent years have crossed the Atlantic to appear on the British List with increasing regularity. 

The book follows the expected traditional route of an Introduction from Pages 1 to 19 followed at Pages 20 to 197 by the Species Accounts. 208 Pages in all. 
Contents - Terns of North America - Princeton Press
The author’s Introduction quickly puts the reader at ease with the assertion that despite perceptions by some birders, terns do not present extreme ID challenges. He reassures the reader that difficult and real ID distinctions are few and far between, and mainly within larger Sterna terns. 

The section Tricky Thalasseus is especially welcome in dealing with similarities and differences between the North American Sandwich Tern, Eurasian Sandwich Tern and the so called Cabot’s Tern. 

Terns of North America - Princeton Press

Terns of North America - Princeton Press

Terns of North America - Princeton Press

The individual species accounts are found together, grouped under logical headings rather than in pure scientific order, a sequence that might still upset the purists. But this is an entirely acceptable device that makes for a highly functional field guide, one that will find its way into a backpack for that trip to the shore where terns and their allies congregate. 

For instance, a glance through sections entitled Large Terns, Crested Terns, Medium Sized Terns or Sterna Terns will quickly sort the possible from the unlikely. Equally, Marsh Terns, Pelagic Terns and Upland Terns can be found in their own respective compartments. As one might expect, Skimmers and Noddies can be found in a section all of their own. 

Terns of North America - Princeton Press

Terns of North America - Princeton Press

Terns of North America - Princeton Press

Within the pages are a small number of photo quizzes that I found quite difficult based upon my limited experience of North American terns, questions that those on the US side of the Atlantic might solve more easily. In any case, the answers and explanations can be found in time honoured fashion in the final pages. There is a very useful bibliography at Pages 198-201 followed by a mercifully short Index. 

There are 350 high quality illustrations, mostly superb photographs packed into 200 or so pages of Terns of North America, photographs that take tern ID to another level and demonstrate once again how quality bird photography is the future for field guides focused on birds. 

The sheer strength of the book lies in the many sensational photos of terns. Terns at rest, terns in flight, flocks of terns, mixed terns, mottled terns, immaculate terns, grey terns, black terns, carrot billed terns or banana billed terns. They are all in here where bird photography crosses into art and thrills the reader into discovering more about this rather special family of beautiful and elegant birds. 

I found myself browsing the many photographs so as to simply enjoy the experience and forgetting to read whole chunks of text. Stand out images included Aleutian Terns at pages 152/153, a Black Tern at 135 followed by a whole set of similar joys and then the fabulous Sandwich Tern in flight that opens the Species Accounts. 

As I browsed the hundreds of photos it came increasingly obvious just how many had been taken in The Sunshine State of Florida, that Beachy Hotspot of terns and skimmers. I know one or two birders in FL who right now will I suspect be clicking that link to Princeton, itching to get their hands on a copy of Terns of North America. 

The book is a great value for money prospect for cash-strapped birders who are often notoriously reluctant to part with their dosh, in this case for a meagre 19 or 20 species that already feature in guides they own. To not invest in this inexpensive book would be a mistake because it is bang-up-to-date in its detailed and simplified approach to sometimes challenging tern ID, whereby to head out onto a tern-crowded beach without might be a recipe to fail. 

Go on, treat yourself.  At £22 or $27.95 this book is another winner from Princeton. 

Price: $27.95/£22.00 
ISBN: 9780691161877  
Published: Oct 24, 2023 
Pages: 208 Size: 7.5 x 9.5 in. 
350 colour illus. 

Back soon with news, views and photos on Another Bird Blog.

Linking this weekend to Eileen's Saturday.
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