Saturday, June 19, 2021

Martin And More

Information arrived from French ringers of ring number 8998514 we caught at Cockerham on 5 June 2021. 


8998514 - Museum Paris

“Here are the details of a ringed bird you have reported.” 

Species: Sand Martin (Riparia riparia)
Scheme: FRP
Ring no: 8998514 
Ringing details: Age: 3 (juvenile) 
Ringing date: 19 Aug 2020 at 23:30:00 
Site name: Tour aux Moutons, Donges, Loire-Atlantique, France Ringer: Paris, -11 
Finding details Age: 4 (adult) 
Sex: F 
Finding date: 05 Jun 2021 at 08:00:00 
Biometrics: Wing: 102.0 mm. Weight: 11.9 g. 
Time: 08:00:00hrs 
Subsequent Capture: - Duration: 290 days Distance: 740 km Direction: 356deg (N) 

Sand Martin

So not too many surprises there with a first year Sand Martin being caught in France whilst on migration to North Africa. 8998514 may have been born in Lancashire, possibly at Cockerham Quarry to where it returned to breed in 2021 as an adult female. 

Donges, (as named above) is a site of major natural significance on the Loire Estuary where a large part of the 200 hectares site is protected in an “original natural state.” The area contains the single biggest bank of reed beds on the Loire Estuary. 

Since 2003, the Loire Atlantique Association for Ornithological Knowledge and Research (ACROLA) has been carrying out bird ringing operations every summer in the reed beds located to the south of the East Donges facility, to study post-breeding migration of birds which use the zone as a staging area. 

Loire Atlantique, France. 
 
Swallows and Sand Martins use the reed beds as a night time sanctuary during migration time. The reeds also hold large populations of small passerines such as Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and Aquatic Warbler, as residents and migrants. The latter species Acrocephalus paludicola, Aquatic Warbler is a critically endangered species. 

Back at Cockerham today I found again the Great Egret that went missing for a few weeks. Of course this bird could be a different one as its habits are different by spending 90% of each day in secluded trees, out of sight out of mind.  It’s nearest companions were a single Grey Heron and two Little Egrets. 

Great Egret

Near there, a Skylark at last feeding young. And both Oystercatchers and Redshanks with young in tow. 

Back soon with more news and views. Stay Tuned.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Touch Of Summer

Late May/early June can be boom or bust for bird ringers and birders alike. In early 2021 unpredictability became the norm when unseasonal cold air, regular frosts and nagging northerlies played havoc with springtime migration from Africa to Europe. Late arrivals, non-arrivals and delays to the start of breeding put question marks over what we might see in our first ringing session of June at Oakenclough. 

On Tuesday I met Andy at 0630 not knowing what to expect in the way of numbers of birds, let alone the species or their ages. It was a warm sunny morning, time for us and the birds to grab a touch of summer. 

Although as expected we didn’t catch too many birds, just ten, we learned a thing or two from the few we did see.  Perhaps more importantly it was the species we didn’t catch that led to more questions.  For instance, although we saw and heard 8 or 10 Willow Warblers, we caught none, at a time of year when we might expect to catch both adult birds collecting food for nestlings and/or recently fledged juveniles. We were left with the conclusion that late arriving male Willow Warblers continue their territorial songs while their even later mates sit tight on eggs yet to hatch. 

Birds caught - 2 Garden Warbler, 2 Robin, 1 Blackbird, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Coal Tit, ! Treecreeper, 1 Blackcap , 1 Goldcrest. 

We derived satisfaction from our two Garden Warblers, a male and female both caught in the same net and both in prime breeding condition. The female with a whopping brood patch, the male a whopping cloacal protuberance (don’t ask). These were just two of the four or more Garden Warblers on site, three in loud and sustained song. At last, and after a gap of many years, we have proof that Garden Warblers are breeding on site again rather than simply spring and autumn migrants. 

Full marks to site owners United Utilities for showing their commitment to conservation by spending money and revitalising this site in favour of birds. 

The two Robins, the Blackbird, Treecreeper, Coal Tit and Goldcrest were all fresh juveniles that bred on site. The adult male Blackcap was also in breeding condition and almost certainly paired with a female that we did not see or catch. 

Garden Warbler
 
Robin

Treecreeper

Chaffinch

Other than our ringing the morning produced little in the way of birds except for Pied Wagtails carrying food to their stone wall nest, young Mistle Thrushes, many dozens of Greylags and the occasional flyover Siskin. Siskins breed in the nearby conifer belt and rarely stray towards our nets until winter when our Niger seed feeders are on site. 

Local anglers told us of Ospreys on more than one occasion during May, most likely the birds on their way to Scotland rather than taking their chances in the game keeper raptor free zone of nearby Bowland. But we live in hope of both Ospreys and Red Kites taking up residence in nearby hills and dales. 

There's news of a Sand Martin in the next post of Another Bird Blog. 

Linking at weekend to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.

 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Wader Worries

Today I took a drive in the direction of Cockerham where a few wader chicks would be ready for ringing. There might be wader chicks at Conder Pool too, mostly Avocets, but Conder is another ringer’s domain. Ringers operate within geographical areas and specific sites so as not to tread on the toes of others or to complicate the wider ringing scheme. 

I found a brood of 3 Lapwing chicks alongside a ditch where they had become a little wet through feeding in the waterside grass. All three were of a good size, probably too big for avian predators, and therefore they should reach adulthood. 

Lapwing chick
 
Lapwing
 
Meanwhile a pair of Oystercatchers had just one fairly big youngster left from the original hatch with this single survivor also big enough to flourish; how and when the siblings vanished must remain a mystery. 

Oystercatcher
 
Oystercatcher
 
Another pair of Oystercatchers had two youngsters, the whole group so far out in a large field as to make them almost impossible to approach. I made a mental note to leave them for another day when they might be closer. 

There was a single Little Egret today, along with 3 young Grey Herons still sporting their stripy neck and chest markings. Two pair of Tufted Ducks remained wary as hell and undecided if to fly, drift upstream or hang around. They flew. A single Buzzard flushed from the base of a tree, most unusual – probably it had found carrion. 

Grey Heron
 
A Roe Deer stared me out for fifteen seconds, a humanoid head in a car window, but then it figured out the puzzle, leapt the fence and bounded off over the fields. 

Roe Deer
 
At Conder most of the chicks on view were those of Avocets with just one pair of Oystercatchers and two young. I watched the Avocets chase away any waders that got too close to their chicks, Redshanks, Little Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers all had a dose of the Avocets’ aggressive ways. 

Redshank
 
Avocets are the frauds of wader world. They trade on their photogenic looks, the striking black & white, the gentle sweep of that shiny upturned bill and the trendy long grey legs. Fluffy little chicks with a tiny copy-bill. Butter wouldn’t melt in their innocents as they pose for the next photo to a phalanx of birders carrying the latest photo gear. All together now - “aaaah”! 

My friends, be warned. Avocets are the bullies of the bird world, con merchants in the pay of the RSPB so as to flog binoculars and telescopes to unsuspecting punters. Quite soon you will tap your credit card onto the machine at Minsmere or Leighton Moss. 

See what I mean? 

Avocet
 
Avocet
 
Avocet
 
Avocet

Don't say you haven't been warned!

Linking this weekend to  Eileen's Blogspot and Anni in Texas.


 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

A French Bonus

Saturday. The bright, sunny, and wind-free morning was perfect for a return to the Sand Martin colony at Cockerham where a motionless mist net would be hidden in the shade of the quarry face. 

Andy and I had decided to return knowing that unlike the last visit, there would be youngsters this time.  At first we caught no young, just adults coming and going on their early morning forays. 

Very soon along came “MUSEUM PARIS” with number 8998514, an adult female. The French ringed Sand Martin was a bonus, almost certainly ringed at Loire Atlantique where the River Lore meets the Atlantic Ocean, where ringers catch large numbers of migrating Sand Martins  on their journeys to and from Africa. 

Sand Martin

An hour or so later we’d caught 31 Sand Martins - 24 new ones, 6 recaptures, and Paris 8998514. Included in the 24 new Sand Martins were 11 birds of the year (juveniles) the remainder all adults. All are now on the database and with luck we should receive details of the French ringed one from the French ringing scheme soon. 

Sand Martin - juvenile

Sand Martin - juvenile
 
The martins kept us both fairly busy in taking them from our single 60 foot net and then processing each one by age, sex, breeding condition, wing and weight.  

Wing lengths varied with the shortest juvenile wing length of 84mm and then up to 105, the tinier wing lengths an indication of their age. During database input three of the juveniles threw up a DemOn message as potential errors on wing length measurement. The measurements were correct  and provided a clue to the fact that the young martins were very recently fledged and yet to complete their growth to adulthood.       

Meanwhile adult wings ranged from 103 to 111mm. The eleven juveniles weighed consistently heavier than the adults so it looks like the current fine weather is producing plenty of insect food. Juveniles - 12.3gms to 14.6gms adults from 11.8gms to 13.8gms. 

There was little time for birding except to note two pairs of Oystercatcher and a single but vocal Whooper Swan, the latter a left over from winter. By rights the Whooper Swan should now be several hundred miles away in Iceland. 

Whooper Swan

A pair of Little Ringed Plovers flew in briefly but left quickly when the resident pair of Oystercatchers started throwing their weight around. We think the plovers flew off in the direction of Conder Green where at least one has been present since April without any reports of breeding success.  

Little Ringed Plover

Back home in the garden there was a nest full of 5 Greenfinch chicks at an ideal age for ringing. 

It’s good to report that around here at least Greenfinches are doing better than for a number of years. The songs and calls of Greenfinches are back on the soundtrack of garden birds and I do think we have a small colony of the species in local gardens and hedgerows. 

“Trichomonosis is the name given to a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae. It has been recorded in a number of garden bird species and is widely acknowledged to be the causal factor in the rapid decline of the British Greenfinch population first noted in late summer 2006.” 
 
Greenfinch

Let’s hope that Greenfinches are making a real comeback. A cause for celebration.

 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Birdpedia

Princeton Press likes to keep me busy.  Along comes another book for review, one I requested as likely to interest readers of Another Bird Blog. I was right. Read on to discover why, and all about Birdpedia, a bird book poles apart from the best sellers chart, dominated as it is by ID and field guides to here, there and everywhere. 

Birdpedia is a reincarnation of previous works by the North American author Christopher W Leahy, namely the Birdwatchers Companion 1982 (917 pages) and a 2002 Second Edition of 1000 pages. These encyclopaedic handbooks of birds are now encapsulated into the truly pocket sized Birdpedia of just 257 pages. 

Birdpedia - Princeton Press

Birdpedia is unashamedly North American centric, aimed mostly at the US market with this new short edition reengineered to attract a more global readership. Have no fear UK birders, there are more than a few nods to birds and birding in other parts of the world including Europe and Great Britain in this highly readable book. 

For 2021 this latest rebirth isn’t just a cut, copy and paste version because while revisiting and reducing earlier volumes the author has expanded the geographical coverage and also updated the book to reflect themes and memes of 2021. More of the pluses and the minuses later. 

The short Preface/Introduction instructed me how Birdpedia would be somewhat unusual. Quite soon I was onto Page One where the book begins and from where I found it hard to replace the little yellow hardback to my desk. 

I must advise that Birdpedia does not follow the expected and customary arrangement of a book. There is no Introduction, no Contents page and no Chapters or Sections which direct a reader through a path to enlightenment and entertainment. Instead the book is a collection of almost 200 essays on selected bird facts and birding knowledge arranged into alpha order according to each theme. At the end there is not the normal Index but instead a simple two page Acknowledgement that thanks a diverse collection of the material’s originators. 

Cuckoo and Reed Warbler - Abby McBride in Birdpedia

Hence the first section at Pages One to Five is devoted to the letter “A” on Abundance, followed by pieces on Ali (Salim), Altitude, Apocalypse and others. “A” finishes as one might expect for a US author, with Audubon and glides imperceptibly into “B” for Bailey, Florence Merriam (me neither). 

The pages continue through the alphabet to the halfway point and “M”, Mortality, and finally to page 257 with Zugunruhe. For those unfamiliar with Zugunruhe or indeed Ornithichnite, a bird word discovery of my own, perhaps this is the quick reference book to reach into realms that other bird books fail to reach? 

My description of the contents might suggest that this slim pocket-sized book is pedestrian, perhaps a little dry, and contains little new for the well-informed, experienced birder or twitcher? That conclusion would be mightily wrong because Birdpedia is an enlightening, entertaining, often witty compendium of facts and notions that includes art, literature, folklore, religion and others. 

For instance, when I say that the Letter “E” for “Edibility”, of birds, eggs and nests, contains useful advice on how to cook a “coot” (in fact a Scoter sea duck), readers will be intrigued to learn how to do this should they ever be marooned on a desert island. “E” also includes the brief but fascinating history of Eleonora of Arborea, the lady who gave her name to that most magnificent of falcons. There will be few birders who know the story. 

Under “P” a reader will find Politics, the strange tale of Birdie Sanders, and more. Thankfully the Politics is brief and inconsequential, the latter we already knew. Display, Song, Size and Sex are given the treatment they richly deserve while Poop includes the answer to “a question everyone is asking.” Readers may have to spend 9.99 UK Pounds or 17 US Dollars to learn this essential piece of information. 

I worried that in trying to update Birdpedia with modern agendas the author is already behind the curve in the rehash of two pages on the subject of Climate Change, a complex and far from settled debate that continues towards the apposite view. Likewise, most birders whose goal is the colour of the Bird only, not the skin colour of the birder stood alongside, might see the inclusion of Birding while Black as unnecessary.  And every birder I know can Identify a Red Herring from 100 yards away.

Apart from these minor niggles I thoroughly enjoyed reading Birdpedia as an undemanding, entertaining, but essentially informative read. I suspect that in the course of blogging for Another Bird Blog, and in search of answers to birdy questions I will consult Birdpedia to offer a path to solution. 

I must mention the 50 or charming drawings of Abby McBride dotted throughout the pages. She is a sketch biologist and travels globally to write and illustrate stories about ecological research for outlets such as National Geographic. 

Butcherbird - Abby McBride in Birdpedia
 
Birdpedia is a great little read, but don’t take my word for it. Buy this gem of a book for £9.99, less dosh than a birder will pay for a takeaway meal that rarely satisfies, is soon forgotten and may leave a legacy far worse then cooked coot.  

Birdpedia: Hardcover 
Price: $16.95 / £9.99 
ISBN: 9780691209661 
Published: Jul 6, 2021 
Pages: 272 
Size: 4.5 x 6.75 in.  


Back soon folks.  Another Bird Blog - Always ahead of the game.

Linking this weekend to Eileen's Blogspot and Anni's Blog in Texas.
 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Monday Monday

There was a good turnout for the Sand Martins on Monday. Bryan and Alice joined up with Phil and Andy in the hope of a decent catch that might include birds of the year - 3Js as we label them for data input. Where Sand Martins are concerned, four pairs of hands are better than two and infinitely better than one when the catch size is often unpredictable. Four pairs of hands make short work of setting nets too where speed is important so as to minimise disturbance to the colony. 

When we arrived our estimated count of Sand Martins milling around was of 200+. From those we had a decent enough catch of 30 Sand Martins, 25 new ones, 4 from our last visit and one from 2020. We expected a number of newly fledged young so were somewhat surprised when all thirty turned out to be adults. 

On Sunday when I checked the colony I saw twos and threes of young birds at a good number of entrance tunnels, birds that looked ready to go. There’s no doubt that the unusually cold months of April and May slowed down the breeding season to a virtual stop. 

Spot the Sand Martin
 
Sand Martin
 
Spot the Sand Martins

When we met up at 0700 hours a pair of noisy Oystercatchers greeted us and barely shut up all morning; we assumed they had youngsters close by. Not so, as eventually and after periods of watching and waiting we realised they had no young in tow and that their constant protests were designed to make us move from their territory. Oystercatchers can be pretty persistent about chasing off both bird and animal predators from their patch, so why might we be any different? 

As one bird settled down head tucked into its scapulars and the other close by in watching mode, we may have found their proposed egg laying depression in the ground a foot or so from the water’s edge. A consolation prize of a real nest could be in the offing next time we visit. 

Oystercatcher
 
The Sand Martin colony remained active through the morning as birds arrived and left on their searches for food. With about 60/70 active nests we pencilled in a return fairly soon so as to see how the breeding season has progressed. 

Other birds seen on Monday were just Pied Wagtail, Grey Heron and Common Tern. The tern would be a wanderer from the small colony at Conder Green less than a mile away.

Common tern

Back soon folks. There will be yet another bird book review of one that you cannot buy just yet except for placing an order. Another Bird Blog - always ahead of the game.




Friday, May 28, 2021

Diary Dates

How soon spring turns to summer, by the calendar that is, not the actual weather. May 2021 has been both the coldest and wettest on record up here in the Frozen North. Thursday morning was fairly warm by recent standards and I took the opportunity to visit a couple of spots out Pilling way. 

There was an Oystercatcher to check in the field where last week we ringed three Lapwing chicks. There may be more Lapwings to come from distant adults when they bring their young towards the coast via the path. And perhaps young Oystercatchers from the three egg nest located today.  Oystercatcher incubation is around 25 days, therefore, allowing for the uncertain days of laying, the date of egg hatching should be close to 13 June. I marked my diary with “Oyks Pilling”. 

Oystercatcher nest - May 27
 
A pair of Oystercatchers has just one breeding attempt each year. It is said that if at first they don’t succeed they do not try again, but as long lived birds, up to 30 years, they have lots of time to make up for unproductive years. 

Oystercatcher
 
Meanwhile and not too far away a pair of Pied Wagtails was busy feeding young, the nest hidden in a thick tuft of grass alongside a watery ditch. Both birds had hung around the same spot for weeks without giving much away.  The young were pretty big so were quickly ringed and put back in their nest, and then covered with a cloth for a couple of minutes so as to settle them back in their dark hidey hole. 
 
Pied Wagtail

Pied Wagtail

Along the same waterway was the now regular Great Egret, destined perhaps to spend the summer here out of sight and out of mind. Two Grey Heron but no Little Egrets.  Not far away was a single Wheatear, a remnant from recent migration and not likely to breed hereabouts. 

Part of the day's task was to find Skylarks, and plenty there were, upwards of 8 singers in several hundred linear yards so potentially the same number of pairs. Skylark nests are difficult to locate and May has been so cold and wet that the chances of finding active nests was close to zero. However I chanced upon a pair in the early stages of nest building below a fence post and entered another marker in the diary “Skyla East End 15 June.” 

In nearby reedy pools and scrapes were 6 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe and many active Sedge and Reed Warblers zipping around the reeds and in and out of the vegetation. Like other species this year, the “Acros” were late to arrive, late to start but now seem intent on making up for lost time. 
 
Sedge Warbler

Reed Warbler

The Tufted Ducks involved themselves in some sort of group courtship behaviour which consisted of males sailing off over the water, closely followed by a noisily quacking female. That guy looks a little henpecked.  Maybe the picture is worthy of a caption contest - “Don’t be long. And what time will you be back?” 

Tufted Ducks
 
That reminds me. I have a few chores to finish.  Back soon.

Linking at weekend to Eileen's Saturday Blogspot and Anni in Texas.


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