Saturday, October 19, 2019

Chalk And Cheese

An extract from North Ronaldsay, Orkney Blog - 16th October 2019. 

“A fantastic day with birds everywhere, massive flocks of Thrushes moving across the island throughout the day; the huge rolling flocks of Redwings filling every field, coming in off the sea and dropping vertically out of the sky was something else! No real rarities were unearthed but it didn’t matter one jot with everyone just revelling in the spectacle unfolding in front of them; totals (largely underestimates) comprised 11 Herons, 3 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlin, 3 Jack Snipe, 283 Snipe, 13 Woodcock, 5 Short-eared Owls, 320 Robins, 2 Black Redstarts, 3 Redstarts, a Wheatear, 11 Ring Ouzels, 315 Blackbirds, 257 Fieldfare, 1,197 Song Thrush, 10,977 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrushes. A brilliant day for the ringers with a total of 381 birds processed through the day”. 

Meanwhile on Saturday 19 October it was back to reality at Oakenclough where birding on North Ron’s scale is beyond our wildest dreams and ringing sessions mostly sedate. Chalk and Cheese spring to mind. 

I drove through patches of mist for our 0630 start. When I arrived fog enveloped the ringing station and stayed there for the first hour and more. Through the fog a few Redwings arrived and the first six birds to find the nets were Redwings. 

Slowly the rising sun burnt through the low cloud and by 0900 we were in bright sunshine. Visible migration today was stuttering with a piecemeal arrival of thrushes and finches until we packed in at 1120. 

Approximates - 125 Redwing, 40 Fieldfare, 10 Blackbird, 45 Chaffinch, 35 Goldfinch 20 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Greenfinch, 18 Woodpigeon. 32 Birds caught - 9 Goldfinch, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 6 Redwing 4 Chaffinch, 3 Coal Tit, 1 Blackbird, 1 Great Tit. 

Lesser Redpoll - adult male 

Lesser Redpoll - adult male 

Chaffinch - first year male 



Redwings are smaller than one might imagine, slighter than a Blackbird, slimmer than a Song Thrush and the perfect size to fit in the palm of the hand.  We fit a size "CC" ring on a Redwing and the larger "C" ring on a Blackbird. 

Although Oakenclough is woodland edge habitat we catch very few Blackbirds. The young male today was a first year bird and almost certainly a migrant rather than a local bird. 


We received more information about a ringed Lesser Redpoll, ARC5449 caught here at Oakenclough on 14 October 2019. The latest news told us that it was first caught and ringed at Ramsley Reservoir, Derbyshire, UK on 14 December 2018. The quite late date in December suggests that this particular redpoll, an adult male, might be a fairly sedentary individual able to winter in more sheltered areas of Britain rather than a traveller to more distant shores. A ringing recovery like this often raises more questions than it answers. 

Lesser Redpoll - Ramsley Reservoir, Derbyshire to Oakenclough 

More news and pictures soon from Another Bird Blog.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

More Thrush

The forecast for Tuesday morning was about as good as it gets just lately - a gentle breeze from the north with a fair amount of cloud that would slowly break. That was enough to motivate us to head for Oakenclough again where Andy and I met up at 0645. We were joined by Bryan with Barnaby the Labrador. 

“Slow but steady” was the name of the game, with more Redwings, a few Lesser Redpolls and a couple of “unpredicteds” seen but not caught. Our catch was 26 birds - 8 Redwing, 5 Blue Tit, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Goldcrest, 2 Chaffinch, plus one each of Great Tit, Coal Tit and Robin. 

Redwings came in fits and starts of tiny flocks and a total throughout the morning of 80/100 individuals plus a handful of migrant thrushes - Blackbirds, 3 Mistle Thrush and 2 noisy Fieldfare, the latter our first sightings of this autumn.  The Redwings we see in October and November are pure migrants rather than winter visitors. This week has seen a sputtering start to this annual migration of northern thrushes whereby millions of Redwings and Fieldfares rush through Britain to then spend the winter in Iberia and/or France. 

Once into the New Year, it will be more difficult to see either species here in Lancashire with their journey back north in the spring undertaken rapidly, often under the cover of darkness. Of the eight Redwings, there was one adult, the remainder birds born this year. 



At this time of year most Lesser Redpolls we catch can be safely aged as first years, i.e. born in the current year. One of those caught this morning had almost no hint of colouration in its greyish plumage so must have been born very late in the year - probably a second or even third brood? 

Lesser Redpoll - first year 

Lesser Redpoll - first year

Surprises came first in the shape and sound of an overflying Ring-necked Parakeet. Andy saw one (or the same individual) here about a week ago. The Ring-necked Parakeet is the UK’s only naturalised parrot with a wild population estimated at about 10,000/15,000 pairs. Thankfully the population is centred mainly round the south-east of England. The cold winters of northern Britain may have worked in our favour to stop the further expansion of a species widely considered to be a pest. 

A couple of bright intervals half way through the morning saw a flurry of Swallows heading determinedly south directly overhead. We saw a two, five and then a bigger group of eight. While mid-October is fairly late for migrating Swallows, this is certainly not without precedent, especially during mild and wet autumns. 

During the morning we also noted two large flocks of Pink-footed Geese, 400 + in total, coming off distant Morecambe Bay and then flying south, perhaps towards the goose fields of South Lancashire. 

Otherwise birds - 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Sparrowhawk, 40+ Chaffinch, 8 Goldfinch, 2 Pied Wagtail.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Back Into Action

Saturday 12 0ctober. I gave my ringing pliers a squirt of WD40. What with the trip to Greece and then the bad weather, they’d been deprived of action since 8 September. 

This morning it was back to Oakenclough hoping to see and to catch some autumn migrants. While I was away in Greece Andy had good success here with 126 captures including 55 Meadow Pipits, 31 Goldcrests, 9 Chiffchaffs and a single but late Tree Pipit. 

He caught just three Lesser Redpoll at a time of year when the species should pile through in good numbers. At this time of year it is usual to think about the “good” species but also vital to consider any that are absent,species that appear in lesser numbers than usual, and most certainly, any that are absent.   

We met up at 0645 to zero wind and 50% cloud-cover and hoped for an interesting morning ahead. Given the time of year and following several previous days of poor weather it might be fair to expect a generous helping of birds. It wasn’t to be with a disappointing catch of 13 birds for four hours work – 3 Redwing, 3 Bullfinch, 2 Goldcrest, 2 Blue Tit and one each of Song Thrush, Reed Bunting and Chaffinch. 

We saw our first Redwings of the autumn when small groups arrived soon after dawn and throughout most of the morning – in all about 70/80 individuals. The Song Thrush caught was associated with these arrivals. We catch few Song Thrushes here and the ones that we do are 99% autumn birds. 



Song Thrush

It was good to catch three more Bullfinch, two first year females and a first year male. That’s eight this year to date. Fingers crossed that this species can re-establish itself in the now re-energised plantation. 

Bullfinch - 1st year male  

Bullfinch - 1st year male 

Bullfinch - 1st year female

The Reed Bunting we caught was a first year male. 

Reed Bunting 

At about 1030 a heavy shower with hailstones brought an early end to our session. 

A squally shower 

Other birds seen – Tawny Owl, Sparrowhawk, 2 Pied Wagtail and 2 late Swallows.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Skiathos Blue

If the weather was kind to us in Skiathos, it has been very unfriendly since we arrived home. Going from wall-to-wall sunshine and 30 degrees and then back to the usual British rain, wind and 12 degrees is quite a shock to the system. 

Until I can get out birding or ringing I put together some pictures from 3 weeks in sunny Skiathos. There lots of pictures. “Click the pic” for a close-up. 

Skiathos from The Bourtzi


Old Harbour Skiathos  

Skiathos 1907

Skiathos 2019 

 Skiathos 2019

Skiathos 1907

The Bourtzi - Skiathos 

Birding Skiathos is unremarkable in September when despite the summery weather, many local birds have left for Africa and migrant birds from further north have also flown south. Although Skiathos is just 15 km from the Pelion peninsula of mainland Greece, this tiny island does not appear to attract a huge variety of migrant birds. Perhaps migrant birds from Northern Europe continue on a southerly track through the Peloponnese rather than take an easterly turn across the waters just to visit Skiathos? 


Of course there are always birds to see, albeit of a limited range of species. Our count was an unscientific approximation of around 40 species during our three weeks. As might be expected this included exotica like Scop’s Owl, Bee Eater, Eleonora’s Falcon, Blue Rock Thrush and Red-rumped Swallow, but also common species like Yellow Wagtail, Buzzard, Blackcap, Kingfisher and Raven. 

The most numerous migrant species were Spotted Flycatcher, Whinchat, Willow Warbler/Chiffchaff, Red-backed Shrike, Wheatear and Barn Swallow with a constant almost daily turnover of individuals.

Red-rumped Swallow 

Yellow Wagtail 

Red-backed Shrike 

Spotted Flycatcher 

Blue Rock Thrush 


Yellow-legged Gull 

Eleonora's Falcon


There were thousands of butterflies this year with huge numbers of Swallowtails and Hummingbird Hawk Moths especially noticeable. 


Hummingbird Hawk Moth 

We had a jeep from local firm Mustang for 19 of our 21 days. Driving in Skiathos is a doddle; apart from Brits looking in the wrong direction while crossing the road, crazy quad riders, taxis on airport days, and the myriad of mopeds and motorbikes. Having a vehicle meant we could visit many parts of this beautiful island to enjoy the spectacular weather. 

At Hotel Ostria and also on our daily trips through this cosmopolitan island we met people from many European nations; Britain, Croatia, Romania, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Bulgaria, Germany, mainland Greece - Kalamata, where the world’s best olives are grown. All had come to experience the most picturesque and friendliest island in all of Greece where more than 60 beaches appeal to sun-seekers. 

In the mountains fire trucks are on permanent look out for fires that start in the tinder dry landscape of a Skiathos summer.

Fire Truck near Ligaries 

On the road to Ligaries 


Megali Aselinos Beach 

A cool start at Megali Aselinos

Megali Aselinos 

Megali Aselinos 

Road to Megali Aselinos



Skiathos Town

Coffee Time - The Bourtzi 

The Boatyard Skiathos 

 Koukounaries beach


That's all for now folks. Back soon with more pics and clicks on Another Bird Blog.

Linking this post to

Related Posts with Thumbnails