Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Spanish Stopover

2023 was such a poor year for ringing birds that our site at Pilling yielded just 2 Common Whitethroats, one in July and one in August. Neither were caught after the initial day of ringing. They both moved on elsewhere. 

Imagine our surprise, a notification from the BTO this week told us that ACV6277 a juvenile we ringed on July 9th was caught in Spain later in the year. If only this particular recovery rate of 50% could be replicated with all ringed birds. 

Common Whitethroat ACV6277
ACV6277 was recaptured by Spanish ringers at San Roque-Darbo, Cangas de Morrazo, Pontevedra on September 1st 2023, some 54 days later. 

Whitethroat ACV6277 - Cockerham to Pontevedra

I looked up the place name of Cangas de Morrazo and discovered it to be a small coastal town in Northern Spain close to the city of Vigo and to the border of Portugal/Spain. It looks a great place for a September break, a traditional Spanish fishing village that is close to a nature reserve - Zonas de Especial Protección para las Aves (ZEPA). A pure guess but there is a good chance that ACV6277 was recaptured in this very place and soon afterwards set off to continue its first ever journey to Africa. 

A summer visitor to the UK from Africa, the Common Whitethroat is small, brown warbler that frequents hedgerow and scrubby areas across Britain & Ireland from April to October. Its winter quarters in Africa occupy the dry Sahel just to the south of the Sahara. This area is subject to prolonged periods of drought which affect Whitethroat overwinter survival. Such conditions led to a crash of 90% in UK Whitethroat numbers in the late-1960s, from which this species is still recovering. 



Whitethroats breed throughout the UK and it can be found from Cornwall to northern Scotland, as well as across Ireland. The Whitethroat has suffered a 63% decrease in its population in the years 1967 -2020, hardly surprising given the way that the UK continues its desire to concrete over the entire landscape. 

No One Cares. Money speaks louder than wildlife.

For example.

A holiday village and eco-park with up to 450 lodges, a hotel, market place, virtual reality wildlife experience and craftworkers’ pods is proposed for land south of Lancaster in a planning application.

Land at Home Farm, Ellel Grange, near Galgate, near the M6, is the proposed site for the scheme by applicants TNPG Sandeman Trust and Ellel Holiday Village Ltd.

But the outline application has prompted hundreds of objections along with some letters of support, according to Lancaster City Council planning reports”.

This really does beggar belief but many have seen for years where we as a nation are heading when wildlife and the countryside is to be destroyed and replaced by virtual wildlife and craftworkers' pods.

You really couldn't make this shit up if you tried.

Linking this week to Eileen's Blog.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Salvage Hunters

Was that the phone ringing in the dining room two walls and two closed doors away? Sue and I were in the bedroom watching Salvage Hunters with Drew just about to pay a crazy sum for a piece of old tat. I reached the phone before it cut off but because of the ensuing conversation I never found out how much Drew wasted. 

It was Peter on the line, he of Peter and Dot fame, lovers of the great outdoors, birdwatchers, travellers in the best sense of the word, and residents of Garstang Town. Peter had seen that Another Bird Blog lay dormant, near to death condition, and wondered if “everything was ok?” 

I reassured him of our as-good-as-can-be situation and asked about their own. We shared our thoughts about the last seven months of lashing rain, wind and unprecedented weather via the Atlantic Jet Stream, plus our frustrations in being unable to find birdwatching spots not besieged by microlites, bicycles, dogs and normies out to make birders’ lives a misery. 

A mile or so from Garstang the ringing site of Barnacre has been unworkable, deep in water & slime, now a no-go for weeks if not for smonths ahead. 

On the way back from Garstang and one of our trips to Booth’s for their bargain £10 for two bacon butties and cappuccino (with loyalty card) Sue and I called at our ringing site out Pilling way to drop seed. There are meanies who refer to Booth’s Café as God’s Waiting Room because it’s popular with oldies, more so on pension day.  A rather unfair naming don’t you think? 

God's Waiting Room aka Booth's Café, Garstang

A mile or two away along a farm track I managed to get the car stuck in a nasty, sticky, and uncompromising muddy spot. It was lucky that Sue was able to push the car while I completed the manly manoeuvres of combining clutch & steering wheel to free the car.  Sorry about your trainers Sue. 

In between times, hunting for and grabbing sunny intervals that came along, I managed to salvage a few new pictures. 

Meadow Pipits have these incredibly long hind claws as seen below. When you live in long grass like a Meadow Pipit, you need long hind claws to help you stand tall and keep a watch out for predators. 

Meadow Pipit

Our wintering Whooper Swans have no problem with flooded fields as it makes hunting for goodies a little easier and encourages spring grass to grow tall.  I counted more than 220 Whoopers on one day alone and where another more distant party with Canada Geese remained uncounted. 

Whooper Swans

It’s noticeable how Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Reed Buntings have begun to make their way back north with increased numbers at the feeding station where Blackbirds abound and even a rare Song Thrush put in a brief appearance. 

Song Thrush



I had about 10 seconds to picture a hunting Sparrowhawk, a large female that took a momentary rest on a wire fence. And then it was gone, off to cause bedlam amongst a flock of birds or to pick out a likely looking victim followed by rapid death from those huge talons. 

On Wednesday came a message from The Florida Lovebirds, Wally and Gini, concerned about the lack of activity from Another Bird Blog. They had read about “a bit of extra dampness in far away lands but details were lost in the alarm over melting glaciers – or was it unusually high snow fall amounts – I forget. I just know it was something catastrophic so we’re still hiding under the bed until it passes.”. 

Luckily Wally and Gini “have it on good authority from a little orphan girl that The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.” Thanks folks, I will look forward to that. 

But I think they must mean in Sunny Florida because there's little sign of the yellow orb in our Wild West skies. 

Come back soon everyone. I will try not to leave the blog in sleep mode again. 


Sunday, January 14, 2024

Cold with sunny intervals.

They are trying to frighten us again. 

“Arctic blast incoming! Britain faces a 383-mile blizzard as temperatures to plummet to -10C: Map reveals where 5cm of snow is set to fall with yellow warnings coming into force!” 

Of course using the number 5 makes for more impact than telling us that 5cm is less than 2 inches, not enough snow to wet your toe caps. But never allow truth get in the way of a good click-bait headline. 

It’s no surprise that hardly anyone buys newspapers nowadays, instead preferring to find alternative news and current affairs outlets on the Internet where an enquiring mind can delve into a wide spectrum of views and opinions rather than to read constant lies and propaganda. 

Rant over and excuse the pun but the headline cut no ice with me as I headed out on Sunday morning into the rising sun as a thin layer of ice swished from the windscreen. 

Into the morning sun
A pair of Stonechats greeted me at Gulf Lane where three parked and icy cars told me that wild fowlers had set out very early towards the marsh. The female Stonechat was more accommodating than her pal who maintained a safer camera distance.

I headed down Moss Lane where I hoped there might be a few Fieldfares looking for the last of the now threadbare hawthorns. Yes, and even a few Blackbirds temporarily losing their shyness to grab a few juicy red ones. 



Constant traffic, including sizeable farm vehicles, made the birds flighty and skittish with 30 or forty chuckling Fieldfares flying off and then returning within minutes. The light was poor for pictures so I set off in search of other birds, promising to come back with sunshine. 

Almost at the corner of Jeremy Lane a male Hen Harrier flew across in front of the car and carried on over the fields towards Glasson Dock/River Lune. It could end up almost anywhere, this one of two harriers, a male and a ringtail both seen with regularity and ranging across a large area for three or four weeks now. According to our Government Ministers, Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

“Hen Harriers have enjoyed a better breeding season in 2023 whereby 141 chicks fledged successfully, the seventh successive year of population growth with 54 nests observed across the upland areas of England including County Durham, Cumbria, Lancashire and Northumberland."

Alternatively, a search on the Internet finds “Raptor Persecution” telling us that “2023 has been the worst year for the illegal killing of Hen Harriers on grouse moors since the ludicrous DEFRA / Natural England hen harrier meddling trial was given the green light in 2018”. 

Dear Reader. DYOR - Do Your Own Research and make up your own mind. 

I turned the car around around and tried again but the light was no better for Fieldfares hiding in the Hawthorns. 


Further up the lane I found 40 or more Whooper Swans and several Bewick’s Swans.  At Cockersands, 4 Cattle Egret, several Reed Buntings, 8 Goldfinches, 15 House Sparrows and a Barn Owl. 

Barn Owl

Whooper Swan

Starling male
 And yes, the sun came out again.  Maybe next week too, despite the Arctic Blizzards set to engulf us. 


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Who’s Next? Follow The Money.

A new study has found that humans have wiped out around 1,400 bird species - twice as many as previously thought, with major implications for the ongoing biodiversity crisis. 

Many of the world's islands were previously untouched paradises, but the arrival of people to places like Hawaii, Tonga and the Azores led, over time, to far-reaching impacts including deforestation, overhunting and the introduction of invasive species. Consequently, bird species were wiped out. 

While the demise of many birds since the 1500s has been recorded, our knowledge of the fate of species before this relies on fossils, and these records are limited because birds' lightweight bones disintegrate over time; this conceals the true extent of global extinctions. 

Researchers now believe 1,430 bird species, almost 12 per cent, have died out over modern human history, since the Late Pleistocene around 130,000 years ago, with the vast majority of them becoming extinct directly or indirectly due to human activity. 

The study, led by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and published in Nature Communications, used statistical modelling to estimate the undiscovered bird extinctions. 

Lead author Dr Rob Cooke, an ecological modeller at UKCEH, - "Our study demonstrates there has been a far higher human impact on avian diversity than previously recognised. Humans have rapidly devastated bird populations via habitat loss, overexploitation and the introduction of rats, pigs, cats and dogs that raided nests of birds and competed with them for food. We show that many species became extinct before written records and left no trace, lost from history." 

Dr Søren Faurby of the University of Gothenburg, a co-author of the study, adds: "These historic extinctions have major implications for the current biodiversity crisis. "The world may not only have lost many fascinating birds but also their varied ecological roles, which are likely to have included key functions such as seed dispersal and pollination. This will have had cascading harmful effects on ecosystems so, in addition to bird extinctions, we will have lost a lot of plants and animals that depended on these species for survival." 

Observations and fossils show 640 bird species have been driven extinct since the Late Pleistocene period, 90 per cent of these on islands inhabited by people. These range from the iconic Dodo of Mauritius to the Great Auk of the North Atlantic to the lesser-known Saint Helena Giant Hoopoe. 

Dodo -a painting of the late 1620s by Roelant Savery.  
Great Auk - Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

But the researchers estimated there have been further 790 unknown extinctions, meaning a total of 1,430 lost species. 

The scientists say their study has uncovered the largest human-driven vertebrate extinction event in history, during the 14th century, estimating that 570 bird species were lost after people first arrived in the Eastern Pacific, including Hawaii and the Cook Islands, nearly 100 times the natural extinction rate. 

They believe there was also a major extinction event in the ninth century BC, primarily driven by the arrival of people to the Western Pacific, including Fiji and the Mariana Islands, as well as the Canary Islands, and highlight the ongoing extinction event, which started in the mid-18th century. Since then, in addition to an increase in deforestation and spread of invasive species, birds have faced the additional human-driven threats of intensive agriculture, pollution and leisure activities.  

Previous research by the authors suggests we are at risk of losing up to 700 additional bird species in the next few hundred years, which would be an unprecedented human-driven decimation of species. But Dr Cooke points out: "Whether or not further bird species will go extinct is up to us. Recent conservation has saved some species and we must now increase efforts to protect birds, with habitat restoration led by local communities." 

The study team based their modelled estimates on known extinctions and the extent of relevant research effort in regions compared to New Zealand. The country is the only place in the world where the pre-human bird fauna is believed to be completely known, with well-preserved remains of all birds there. The fewer studies in a region, the more incomplete the fossil record is expected to be, and the greater the number of estimated undiscovered extinctions. 

Journal Reference: Rob Cooke, Ferran Sayol, Tobias Andermann, Tim M. Blackburn, Manuel J. Steinbauer, Alexandre Antonelli, Søren Faurby. Undiscovered bird extinctions obscure the true magnitude of human-driven extinction waves. Nature Communications, 2023.

Saint Helena Giant Hoopoe by Michael Brett-Surman

“The first evidence of the Saint Helena Giant Hoopoe was discovered in 1963 by the British zoologist Philip Ashmole in the Dry Gut sediments east of Saint Helena. Ashmole found a left humerus, but assumed it to be of a Common Hoopoe, due to remarkable similarities to known hoopoe species. However, further research in 1975 by American palaeontologist Storrs L. Olson unearthed more remains, including shoulder parts, skull elements, and the left femur, which prompted a re-examination of the older evidence and the nomination of a new species. The British Museum of Natural History, as of 1977, was in possession of at least one femur from a Saint Helena hoopoe, slightly larger than Olson described in the nominal paper.” 

When current day leaders and politicians are caught out following a crisis, a misdemeanour or a disaster they inevitably repeat the shop-worn phrase “lessons will be learnt”. Sad to say that history teaches us  that lessons are rarely if ever learned and that as a society we just commit the same mistakes over and over again, like lemmings over a cliff.  Given the greed and corruption of modern times it is impossible to see how we can escape further extinctions, including in time, homo sapiens. 

Do enough people care?  No. Follow the money.

Linking at weekend to Eileen's Saturday

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Back In The Old Routine

It’s the routine excuse too; the weather - relentless rain, stormy wind and endless grey days take the rap for my lethargy in neglecting the blog. Three weeks have flown by, twenty one days which included Christmas, New Year and all that entails and where the few remaining days were of the type where even cats and dogs stay by a roaring fire. 

But now in 2024 and following a rare sunny beginning I left Sue with a cup of coffee and her laptop catching up with soaps while I set off for a spot of birding. Maybe I would nab a few pictures during a few hours without wind or rain? 

Things kicked off well near Pilling Village, a roadside Kestrel, one of the pair that live most years at a nearby farm. In some years there will be Barn Owls at the same location and where the two predators exist side by side because their respective lifestyles and feeding requirements do not clash. 

I spent a little time at Conder Pool where the erstwhile “pool” now resembles Lake Coniston following five months of rain and where the expanse of deep water means that birds, mainly wildfowl, can keep their distance from curious camera-carrying birders. At best, 50+ Wigeon, 80+ Teal, 6 Tufted Duck and 8 Little Grebe. A single Little Egret in the creek where the water is more suited to wading than the “pool”. 

I found 15-20 Linnets above Glasson Dock in their yearly haunt alongside the village hall on the edge of the Lune/Glasson marshes. But less than a score of Linnets in now the coldest months of the year is a lowly total for a location that can record 200/400 Linnets. The species seems low in numbers at the moment and perhaps there are many yet to arrive from the colder parts of Scotland if and when the predicted cold snap arrives.

A look towards Cockersands proved the most productive time of the morning with first a Barn Owl exiting a building before taking a quick circuit of the nearby marsh. When I drove around the corner to see where the owl had gone, there it was,  sat along the fence line before it headed off again, this time out of sight. 
Barn Owl

Barn Owl
At my parked gateway spot were both Grey Wagtail and Pied Wagtail, also 15-20 House Sparrows and 70 or so Starlings. The bright sunny morning had sent the Starlings into song and conversations, melodies that included Redshanks, Curlews and others. 
Pied Wagtail

“Starlings are really excellent at mimicking the sounds of other birds and, in fact, any other sounds they hear in their environment. While maybe occasionally the mimicry is spontaneous, mostly it is carefully practised and woven into phrases, which are then arranged into songs"


Along Moss Lane I saw and heard small numbers of Fieldfares alongside the roaming Starling flocks. Because hawthorn bushes are now stripped of berries any remaining Fieldfares now use the Starlings to their advantage and join in searching for earthworms in the still saturated fields. 

Fieldfare and Starlings
In a field at near Moss Lane junction were 4 Cattle Egrets, almost certainly the same four reported in recent days in this area and further afield, sometimes in twos, other times as a foursome. 

Cattle Egret

I made for home and my own hot coffee. Join me again soon for more birds and photos on Another Bird Blog. 

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Bluebirds, Blackbirds, And A Song

All through October and November we looked, listened and waited for Fieldfares to arrive in the west when their size, colour and loud chuckling voices would send our eyes skywards in appreciative glances. 

The Fieldfare is not a species a wide awake birder can miss when the thrushes make it from Norway in their dozens, hundreds, even thousands and drop into glowing-red hawthorn hedgerows to then feast like there’s no tomorrow. 


Maybe the constant wind and rain of autumn here in the west persuaded many to remain in the North East and then travel quickly south towards France and Spain rather than cross the backbone of England to warm wet Lancashire? 

Whatever the reason for the deficiency of recent weeks it was more than good to catch up with a small number of Fieldfares out Cockerham last week when the sun shone bright and Fieldfares looked their best. But for this interlude it might be February, March or April before Fieldfares make another appearance, this time on their way back to Northern Europe. 


In the days of the last century, before even me, the thrush we now call Fieldfare was known as Bluebird to distinguish it from its allies the Mistle Thrush, then named Greybird, and the accurately named Blackbird. 

As I focused on the Fieldfare’s multifaceted colours and clicked the button, I thought that Varied Thrush - The Haunting Voice of Ancient Forests, might be a more suitable name but posting pictures on the Internet of a Varied Thrush at Cockerham might cause a stampede through the narrow lanes.  For sure any such mistake, deliberate or otherwise, would upset local farmers and not help my notoriety among local birders. 

Near the top of the hawthorns up popped the ultimate rarity, a shyster; but no, not a politician, the timid, unsure, and now impossible to find Song Thrush. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw one, let alone a half chance at a picture, a species now hardly ever reported by local birders. 

It’s too late to rescue the British Song Thrush. We rip out hedgerows and blanket the countryside in concrete and white elephant windmills where Song Thrushes can’t live; but no one cares. Follow The Money. 

Song Thrush
The few Blackbirds around proved harder to picture than gregarious Fieldfares. The Fieldfares might sit there motionless for a minute, eyeing up a bunch of berries until they decided to eat while the Blackbirds stole through the black branches nicking a berry or two if they thought no one was looking. 




I drove back through Pilling where roadside Lapwings, Golden Plovers and Curlews provided a background symphony of wild calls to the thrum of traffic going nowhere while seeing nothing. 
Golden Plover




It’s always Lapwing to the fore, Curlews a little further away and Golden Plovers way back, 100 yards or more, out of sight out of mind, except to shooters. Yes in 2023, Golden Plovers are Schedule 2 species, which means that it is legal to shoot them outside the closed season and a feather in a shooter's cap to bag one.  

No one cares. Follow The Money. 

Monday, December 4, 2023

Book Review - Birds of China

Another Bird Blog today features a new release from Princeton Field Guides, Birds of China, published mid-December in the UK and mid-January 2024 in the US. 

There are two authors of Birds of China; Liu Yang, professor of animal ecology and ornithology at Sun Yat-sen University and a leading authority on the birdlife of China; Chen Shuihua is deputy director of the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, home to one of China’s largest collections of bird specimens. 

Birds of China - Princeton
Birds of China is the first complete English language guide to China’s fantastic birdlife and a testament to the massive strides the country has achieved in becoming a birding resource to its own people and a destination increasingly accessible to tourists. 

Birds of China in the year of 2023 is an English version, a translation from the Chinese National Geography (CNG) edition by the same authors first published in 2021. 

In China, birding and what is known as its “bird people” is a growing leisure activity that developed as recently as the 1990s when knowledge and identification was shared mostly by word of mouth.  Around that time J MacKinnon’s Field Guide to the Birds of China was THE guide to China but a book unlikely to be available to the majority of a population of some 1.66 billion people, even if they were able to find a copy in that vast country.  Given the huge advances in recent years about species, distributions and taxonomy the MacKinnon guide is now somewhat out of date and a newer and therefore more modern field guide was both overdue and very welcome. 

Upon opening the book there is a very useful, illuminating and rather charming two-page Forward - Chinese Birders - From Emergence to Citizen Science by SUN Lili, President of Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology. The Forward describes how birding is still very much in its infancy in China, home to 1400 species and 14% of the global total in a country of approximately 3.7 million square miles, a country that contains a huge and diverse variety of habitats.  China has three of the Earth’s nine major migratory flyways and the country is visited by 20-25% of the world’s migratory bird populations!

On scrutiny of the main text the translation from the original Chinese version works well however I will mention one or two potential drawbacks that might deter English speaking buyers. 

The Contents at Pages 11 and 12 list the species firstly in Mandarin Chinese followed by the Latin bird family e.g. Anseriformes, Galliformes, Gaviiformes etc. This means that English names do not appear until the individual species’ accounts and unless a reader is totally comfortable with Latin names they must turn to the Common Name/English Index at Page 651 to find the whereabouts of the family or species they seek. Other than this rather cumbersome process a flick through the pages will usually find the location of the waders, warblers and raptors etc in a familiar systematic order. 

Birds of China - Princeton

Because this single volume must contain information about 1500 species together with 4,000 illustrations & plates, the information is of necessity a little crowded into the 672 pages in order to make a portable book. Birds of China weighs in at a hefty 1.6 kg, making for a large contribution to a backpack of birding and/or travel gear. 

The guide follows a traditional layout of plates opposite the texts and, through annotations, points out salient ID features. The text is in Mandarin, English and scientific nomenclature for each species, making it accessible to a wide range of enthusiasts based in many countries. Here in the species’ accounts and on the illustrations plates I found the print a little small for my liking and also a pale shade of grey against the white pages where a black typeface would improve the reading experience. 

Birds of China - Princeton

Against the grain of recent bird guides based on photographs Birds of China boasts a set of painted plates from about 25 Chinese artists.  Without exception the paintings are very good, some exceptional  and where I was especially struck by the shrikes, herons, owls and raptors. The style of the paintings is very much alike throughout and it is difficult to see where one artist ends and the next begins. 

Birds of China - Princeton

Birds of China - Princeton

Birds of China - Princeton

Birds of China - Princeton

Upon delving further into the core of the book I was reminded of how many species we in the UK and Europe share with China, a point reinforced in recent years by the number of “new for the UK and the Western Palearctic species” which originate in the Far East. Birders travelling to China will encounter many familiar species among the exciting and vibrant birds they will surely see for the very first time. 

Relatively minor quibbles aside, I can thoroughly recommend this new guide, a ‘must-have’ for those with an interest in China’s birds but especially so for long-distance birders who like to explore exciting new places and opportunities. 

At £35 Birds of China is pretty much another bargain we have come to expect from Princeton’s output of birds and wildlife, a book that should find a place on many a bookshelf. 

Birds of China 

Price: $39.95/£35.00 
ISBN: 9780691237527  
Published (US): Jan 16, 2024 
Published (UK): Dec 12, 2023 
Pages: 672 Size: 6.13 x 9.25 in. 
Weight: 1.6 kg 
4,000 colour illustrations 


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