Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Baby It's Cold Outside (And Inside)

“Minus 4° - potential for ice on roads” read the dashboard. I’d already decided that sunny and dry Wednesday would be a birding day of warm fingers, and hopefully one that might include a few photographs. I set off into the frosty landscape and headed for the A588 towards Lancaster. 

Pink-footed Geese were on the move high, south and east, to escape the inevitable guns, although a couple of hundred had stopped off in a relatively safe field bounded by a sparse hedgerow that gave a semblance of peace & quiet.

Each year becomes more difficult to both to see and to hear our wild geese on the ground as the disturbance to traditional haunts becomes more intense and threatening to feeding geese through "development", traffic - large & small, walkers, shooters, and yes, birdwatchers.

Pink-footed Geese

Approaching Lapwing Lodge and glancing left I couldn’t help but see a large raptor moving very slowly, almost hovering above a reed-fringed ditch that runs north towards the coast. The deep-v profile became more obvious upon closer approach, as did the size. But for the following traffic on the dangerous fast bend, a stop would have confirmed a Marsh Harrier, probably the same bird that has frequented this locality for several weeks now. 

The Marsh Harrier is no longer a spring and autumn migrant bird to our Fylde coast: it is now a year round resident that can be seen during the winter months, albeit in smaller numbers than at the peak the species’ autumn migration August to October. 

A stop at Gulf Lane found seven or eight Snipe hiding in the furrows of a ploughed field that has yet to dry out from the rains of August through to November. At the approaching car a few “snipped” away to hide elsewhere. A number of Lapwings were easier to spot than the crouching and immobile Snipe using their cryptic plumage to best advantage.


More Lapwings graced the field from here all the way to Braides Farm, Cockerham where more distant birds gave approximate counts of 490 Lapwing, 150+ Golden Plover, 80 Curlew and 40 Redshank. A single Pied Wagtail pottered along the pooled track. 

This has been a poor autumn for seeing Fieldfares but I caught up with some today on the road to Cockerham Abbey where they were feasting on the now dwindling hawthorn berries. Also a few Blackbirds and one or two Redwings.




A single Kestrel hunted alongside the road and spent time loitering at lookout spots in the hope of spotting a small mammal meal.  At minus 4 degrees a Kestrel needs to spend more time in search of food. 



Here's that familiar song Baby It's Cold Outside. A new version dedicated to people struggling to pay gas & electric bills and to that eminent scientist recently in the news for expressing very unpleasant views. 

Enjoy the rest of your week good people and then come back soon to Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday.


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


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