Wednesday, August 12, 2020

I Need A Drink

Seven Tree Pipits caught this morning during the ringing session at Oakenclough. Seven in one morning is something of a record number for birders who see Tree Pipits in Spring and Autumn only. We are at the peak of Tree Pipit migration. A fellow ringer in Scotland has ringed more than 135 so far this autumn, a number that puts our meagre 10 into the relative perspective of the species being much less common in Lancashire than in the wide open spaces of Scotland. 

The morning was almost ideal - zero wind, hot and sultry and barely a cloud in the clear blue sky. A bottle or two of cold beer would have been more welcome than the hot coffee that accompanies bird ringers everywhere. 

 Dawn at Oakenclough

We kicked off at 0600 hours and finished at 1100 with 36 birds for five hours work. 

Fifteen species meant that we processed a good mix of finches and warblers. 7 Tree Pipit, 5 Willow Warbler, 4 Blackcap, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Great Tit, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Dunnock , 1 Wren and 1 Blackbird. 

All seven Tree Pipits were seen to be first summer/juveniles. The early season weather was very good to insect eaters like Tree Pipits and this may prove to be a record year for the species and sightings 

Tree Pipit

The two Song Thrush caught were clearly siblings. They were at the exact same stage of youthfulness, found in the net together, and when released flew off in the same direction. 

Song Thrush

Song Thrush 

All four Lesser Redpoll turned out to be first summer/juvenile. A couple of them were so juvenile that their post-juvenile moult had barely begun. 
Lesser Redpoll

All five Willow Warblers were birds of the year/juveniles. 

Willow Warbler 

Other birds seen but not caught Spotted Flycatcher, Tawny Owl, 22 Long-tailed Tit, Sparrowhawk, 15 Swallow.

It’s been a hot and thirsty day. Now what’s it to be, a glass of beer, red wine or a fizz to celebrate our Seven Up? 


After reading the latest Bird Guides I definitely need a stiff drink. 

Bird Guides – 11th August 202 - It seems the plague of Groupthink, authoritarianism, pure bullshit and the uncontrolled urge to rewrite history, has reached the once sensible world of birding. 

"The American Ornithological Society (AOS) has announced that it is to change the name McCown's Longspur, after a unanimous decision by the North American Classification Committee (NACC). Rhynchophanes mccownii, named after the naturalist who first collected the species in 1851, will now be known by the English name Thick-billed Longspur." 

McCown's Longspur - Wiki

It was previously titled after John Porter McCown, who was involved in relocations of Native Americans during the 1840s, and who left the United States Army to serve as a Confederate general during the American Civil War. 

The so-called Bird Names for Birds movement, which “aims to support equity, diversity and inclusion in the birding community”, has so far gathered 3,200 signatures on a petition calling for action. 

Yes, that’s right, out of a world-wide community of hundreds of thousands if not millions of birders, the AOS bowed to pressure from 3,200 nutters, most of whom couldn’t tell the difference between a longspur or a Long-tailed Tit. 

Alex Holt of Bird Names for Birds commented: "This is certainly a positive move, but I hope this now leads to further introspection within ornithology and beyond into other scientific fields. "McCown wasn't just a singular anomaly that has now been "solved", but a single expression of far more deep-rooted issues of colonialism, racism, sexism and other prejudices that have gone unchallenged for too long. Hopefully, by continuing to confront that legacy, we can further break down the barriers around who feels able to get involved with birds and nature." 

Such madness is best summed up by a comment from a Bird Guides reader. 

Oh dear, PC gone too far. We shouldn't attempt to re-write history. Slavery, genocide, colonialism and religious persecution are all part of collective human behaviour dating back more than 5000 years. We may not approve of such shameful behaviour today but it is an undeniable fact, not confined to white Anglo-Saxons and in many parts of the world it is still evident. I suspect that if we were to examine the political views of many 19th Century naturalists we would open a can of worms. 

Now where's that drink?


Friday, August 7, 2020

Another Day, Another Drama

There was patchy rain around at early doors. When at 0630 the three of us arrived from our respective but different journeys, Andy said he drove through a few showers, Bryan experienced the same, but my journey had been rain free. At Oakenclough all was dry and bright with just a slight breeze for another ringing session. 

It’s fair to say the morning was slow but steady with 23 birds caught. More Willow Warblers, another Tree Pipit and a good show of Goldfinches. Total - 8 Goldfinch, 5 Willow Warbler, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 House Sparrow, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Wren. 

The House Sparrow was a real rarity, the first one ever caught here at 700ft above sea level. 

We kicked off with 2 new Coal Tits, a species usually greatly outnumbered in birding and ringing references and reports by its more abundant cousin the Blue Tit. But up here at Oakenclough the Blue Tit doesn’t have it all to itself. Since 2014 we have 365 captures of Coal Tit compared to 489 captures of Blue Tit, a ratio that many ringers would prefer. 
Coal Tit

The Treecreeper capture was rather unusual. As we checked birds at the feeder of the nearby house we noticed a Treecreeper sat immobile on a window sill. Because it wasn’t moving we wondered if it had stunned itself against the window glass, a not unknown phenomenon for all sorts of birds. Andy went to investigate and the bird allowed itself to be picked up. We put the Treecreeper in a bird bag and hung the bag in a warm car for twenty minutes or so before taking a look inside. The bird was full of beans, seemingly none the worse for its attempt to fly through glass so we ringed and processed it as normal and then watched it fly off to the top of the nearest tree. 


While we caught one Tree Pipit, at least 5 others escaped our attempts to catch them. The one caught was a juvenile/first summer. 

Tree Pipit

Five more Willow Warblers gave us 70 captures of this species here from April to date. 

Willow Warbler

Other birds seen - 15 Chaffinch, 8 Swallow, 5 Grey Wagtail, 2 Greenfinch, 4 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Kestrel. 

We received news of a Lesser Redpoll ringed here on 28 October 2019, an adult male ring number AKE3853. This same bird was recaptured by other ringers at the RSPB Reserve Geltsdale, Cumbria on 3 August 2020. 

This was possibly a Lakeland bird that by October was on its way south, only to return to Cumbria in 2020. 

Lesser Redpoll - Oakenclough and Geltsdale, Cumbria 

Back soon. Don’t go away. 

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


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Changing Places

I missed out on Monday’s ringing when Andy caught another 32 birds up at Oakenclough - 9 more Willow Warblers, more Blackcaps, yet another Garden Warbler and one each of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. 

We decided on a change of venue today when a post-breeding flock of mainly Linnets looked too good to miss. For a week and more the Linnets had fed a quarter of a mile away from our Project Linnet site of Gulf Lane. The birds were using a further plot of set-aside adjacent to a recently collected field of barley,  now planted for a crop of rape seed and turnip. 

The car splashed along the track where recent rains had left very large puddles. There has been an awful lot of rain lately but thankfully this morning was dry and the grey sky soon perked up.  

Down The Track

Seed Plot

We set a couple of single panel nets through the seed plot and a single net in the nearby copse.

We were quite pleased with the catch of 17 birds containing as it did the target bird of Linnet plus a couple of surprises - 9 Linnet, 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Warbler, 2 Wren, 1 Pied Wagtail and 1 Lesser Whitethroat.

Lesser Whitethroat 

One of the Reed Warblers was a female in breeding condition. The second one sported the most magnificent fault bars through the tail. This obviously came about during one of the rain and windy spells of July when food would have been difficult to find for adults feeding young. 

Reed Warbler with tail fault bar 

Sedge Warbler - juvenile/first summer

Pied Wagtail - juvenile/first summer

Other birds observed today. 40 Linnet, 8 Pied Wagtail, 2 Corn Bunting, 20+ Swallow, Willow Warbler, 8 Curlew, 2 Cormorant. 

We pencilled in Friday for another trip to Oakenclough.  Log in tomorrow evening to see how we did. 

Friday, July 31, 2020

A Swallow Morning

Andy’s shiny new battle wagon didn’t bring much luck today.  Just a week ago we had the best catch of the autumn so far with 43 birds,  

Ringing Station

This morning we set up the ringing station in the hatchback expecting a good catch on such a fine and warm morning.  If anything, the south-easterly breeze was a little too blowy with the glaring sun on mist nets providing an unwanted addition.   

There seemed to be few birds around and we struggled to even reach double figures with 4 Willow Warbler, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Wren, 1 Robin and 1 Chiffchaff.

Willow Warbler

All Chiffchaffs look unkempt at this time of year. Both adults and juveniles undergo their respective moults. The one below is in post-juvenile moult.



Luckily and despite today’s poor numbers the month of July here at Oakenclough has been quite productive with 175 captures. Top spot was taken by Willow Warbler on 47, well clear of Blackcap and Chaffinch on 15 captures each followed by 9 Chiffchaff and 5 Garden Warbler.  Bonus birds came in unexpected singles of Sedge Warbler and Pied Flycatcher plus a couple each of Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.       

In contrast to our poor catch the morning provided a good show of visible migration by Swallows. The four hours with not much to do allowed time and opportunity to watch and count groups of Swallows. In the clear skies they arrived from the north in small gangs of 5-15 individuals that fed on the wing around the buildings and woodland edge before each one of them headed south.  We counted 150 + in four hours of observation. July 31st may seem early for Swallows to begin their long migration but that is exactly what they must do to reach South Africa for their second summer.    


Swallow Migration - BTO

I see Google has "improved" Blogger. Alright, it may take time to adjust to the changes but this has taken an hour instead of the normal 15 minutes.

Am I alone?

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wood You Believe It?

Wednesday morning was too windy for ringing so I grabbed the camera bag and set off birding. 

Conder Green provided a good selection of species and some very good counts, much better than my last visits. I guess the “star” bird of the morning was a single Wood Sandpiper, a species best described as “uncommon” in these parts. In most years I would see them in their teens on the annual visit to Menorca in May, but not this, 2020 The Year of the Virus. 

The Wood Sandpiper breeds in subarctic wetlands from the Scottish Highlands across Europe and then east across the Palearctic. They mostly nest on the ground but also use an abandoned old tree nest of another bird, such as the Fieldfare. The one this morning didn’t come terribly close as can be gleaned from the record shot below. 

On a couple of occasions it fed with both Redshank and Common Sandpiper when the comparative sizes of each became more marked. In fact, the common Redshank (Tringa totanus) is the closest relative of the Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola). 

Wood Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper 

Common Sandpiper 

Other waders this morning - 21 Redshank, 7 Dunlin, 6 Greenshank, 5 Common Sandpiper, 3 Curlew and 4 Avocet – two adults and two half- grown chicks. Not to mention the 200+ Lapwings roosting when I arrived on site but which dispersed out to the estuary in bundles of tens and twenties. 



Many birds were drawn into the early morning’s hatch of flying insects, such a swarm of both insects and birds that it proved hard to estimate numbers. Let’s try 65 Pied Wagtail, 60+ Swallows, 40 Sand Martin, 8 House Martin and 10 Swift. The wagtails brought along a single Meadow Pipit that joined in a feeding frenzy that had all but subsided just an hour later. 

What’s that about the early bird? The Robin joined in too.


For students of moult, here’s a picture of a Starling from which to sort out the new feathers from the old ones. 


Wildfowl and Odds & Sods – 4 Common Tern, 2 Little Egret,4 Little Grebe, 6 Tufted Duck, 2 Stock Dove. 

I just looked at the forecast for tomorrow morning’s pencilled in ringing. Would you believe it? Yes, more rain is likely between 0700 and 1000.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Business As Usual

Three mornings in the same week must be some sort of record for Oakenclough. The forecast of zero wind and a dry morning dictated a start at 0600 for Andy, Bryan and yours truly. Off we go again – Three Go Ringing 

Moody Morning 

Although the clouds looked threatening, showers stayed away, the sun shone briefly and we caught migrants in the way of more Willow Warblers, Blackcaps, and yet another Garden Warbler. Towards the end we had our first Tree Pipit of the autumn. 

We packed in soon after 1100 with 43 birds of 13 species as follows :- 7 Willow Warbler, 6 Chaffinch, 6 Coal Tit, 6 Blue Tit, 4 Blackcap, 4 Goldcrest, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Treecreeper, 2 Great Tit and one each of Dunnock, Robin, Garden Warbler and Tree Pipit. 

The titmice numbers were unusually high because the normally well-stocked feeders at the house just thirty yards away were empty this morning. Earlier in the week we noted how local Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits enjoyed fulsome meals as the container levels dropped. Only today at the sight of empty feeders did those birds stray into mist nets 50 yards away from their regular snacks. 

Although it is very difficult to see in the picture, the Tree Pipit had already started its post juvenile moult in the crown feathers. 

Tree Pipit 

Treecreepers often travel with tits in search of food. We seldom catch one, never mind two in a morning or three in a week as we have this time. The one below is a juvenile. 


A juvenile Blackcap shows how post-juvenile moult makes the sex easy to determine as the summer progresses. 


juvenile Robin  

A wing length of 81mm and the sheer bulk of this Goldfinchs’ bill strongly suggest a male even though it does not look like one just yet. 


Today’s seven Willow Warblers brought our total to 39 "WILWA" captures for the month of July. 

Willow Warbler 

Looks like we are back to normal tomorrow and over the weekend with yet more rain. Fortunately we made hay while the sun shone with 156 birds caught here in the month of July.  

Back soon with Another Bird Blog. Stay as normal as possible my friends. 

But don't go shopping to The High Street, it ain't there. Boris just killed it.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Branching Out?

Wednesday proved somewhat disappointing when a visit to the 180 strong Sand Martin colony resulted in a catch of just one juvenile. Our previous visit of 24 June saw a reasonable catch of twenty-three -24 June, but visits here are very unpredictable. 

The difficulty is in tempting the martins into a less than ideally placed net just too far away from the quarry face in both the vertical and horizontal planes. This will now be the final visit of 2020 but with luck the martins may choose a different part of the cliff face in 2021, one that makes the monitoring of them easier. 

Sand Martin - juvenile 

However, all was not lost. The hour and more we spent waiting for the martins to cooperate led to a few other sightings - Hobby, Kestrel, Common Tern, 2 Buzzard, 4 Oystercatcher, 2 Grey Herons, 2 Swallow, 12 Linnet, 2 Pied Wagtail, and over 120 Curlews flying to nearby pasture.  

We caught the first Linnet of the autumn period prior to restarting Project Linnet for 2020/2021.

Linnet - juvenile/first year male

Upon going to a nearby copse to investigate cries of “feed me, feed me”, flapping at the foot of a tree stood a young Buzzard of suitable age for a “G” ring. It may have been a Buzzard “branchie”, a young bird still fed by parents but one which leaves the nest, climbs onto outer branches of the tree, only to be then blown or fall to the floor before it is able to actually fly. 



The word “branchie” is an old name applied to other species, very often young Rooks who quickly explore the surroundings of their treetop nests where they nest in large colonies. The term is the probable origin of the ancient verse, “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie”. Young Rook meat is said to be very savoury with a similar taste to Wood Pigeon meat. 

In Olde Englande a visit to a large Rook colony after a spell of strong winds might easily yield a catch of two dozen black birds for a tasty pie.  

Rookery - by John Petrov 

If the forecast is correct Friday morning will see us in the near Pennines at Oakenclough again. Not so much the hills alive to The Sound of Music as the sight and sounds of birds we hope.

Linking this post to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Anni in Texas.

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