Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Last Post

Not quite the last post but it is the final one for this year, the 95th in fact. That’s an awful lot of birding, ringing and photography in five months with the equivalent amount of nonsense bashed out on a PC a couple of times a week to get to this, the end result. I can promise that this year’s blog will not finish in a big firework display of red hot bird news and superb photos; more like the usual run of the mill report of this morning’s birding of Over Wyre places with a few average pictures of common birds thrown in. Rarities always were and often are yesterday’s news. So here goes for today 31st December 2009.

The initial route - Burned House Lane, Lambs Lane, Wheel Lane, Fluke Hall Lane, and then Backsands Lane, names that tell stories of ancient farms, flounders and the flat sands of Morecambe Bay. As I drove along six overhead Whooper Swan called in unison as if to emphasise that over here in rural Fylde there are still pockets of the wild and wonderful.

Whooper Swan

In the last few days the alien frozen fields have gradually given way to the more familiar damp, soggy Pilling landscape of old so that where the frost relented, the waders returned to probe through or pick over the soil. Between Fluke and Lane Ends I totted up 210 Lapwing, 80 Golden Plover, 18 Curlew and 90 Redshank with just the occasional Oystercatcher turning carrot bill to brown stick. So if yesterday was a duck day, today so soon was turning out to be a wader day.




Even more Lapwing, Redshank but especially Golden Plover at Braides Farm where I estimated 300 Tewits, 1100 Goldies and 90 Rowdyshanks. Most of them congregated a few fields back near the sea wall, from where the inevitable Little Egret appeared via the ditch and flew out to the marsh.

I wasn’t out to break any records this morning, no hurtling around to count everything at each point I reached, just a gentle stroll or drive, then stopping, staring and searching. And how eerily quiet it was for a Thursday morning, hardly any folk or cars around. Having a lie in no doubt on another cold, wind chilled morning with nothing to do until the shops open again or the telly resumes its repeated dross.

I anticipated a frozen Conder Green but because I hadn’t been for several days I still relished the thought of that initial peek over the fence, the unexpected sighting, the flurry of avian activity when I showed near the screen hide. I must take a picture of the “hide” for all to see; it was obviously the visionary design of someone who spends too much time in an office overflowing with paper. Nevertheless on here and in the creek I counted 4 Wigeon, 16 Shelduck, 75 Teal, 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Snipe, 24 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Curlew and 8 Redshank before the tide rolled gently in to cover the creek bottom.



From the lay by I looked across to the cycle bridge where beyond and above the incoming water a Merlin dived from on high to play havoc with the Bar-tailed Godwit, Knot and even more Lapwing.

A quick tour of Jeremy Lane found the 120 or so Mute Swan spread across two large fields then 2 ground feeding Fieldfare, a pitiful pair looking so out of place for such a gregarious species.

At Glasson Dock I thought that the numbers of Tufted Duck had reduced to 18, didn’t see any Pochard at all, but did pick up on the male Goosander and a Little Grebe. A Kingfisher flew across my view towards the lock gates then soon back again before I could locate its exact whereabouts.


I don’t mind Bank End, not everyone’s cup of tea but somehow I always see a few bits ‘n pieces by sitting and watching or walking a while along the shore. Not a lot today except that a Greenshank and a single Meadow Pipit gave small picture opportunities, but as ever without any helpful sun. Oh, and 2 Little Egrets, probably my bird of the year if frequency of sightings was the criteria.


Meadow Pipit

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for looking into my blog in 2009; I hope I entertained you with my views, observations, photographs and recounting of my birding activities. Thanks also for all your comments which has not only encouraged me to continue with the blog but also to try and improve and enhance it for the coming year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Duck Days

I really didn’t think I would get out today what with the grey dawn that precludes much camera work, the cold easterlies, a lack of general enthusiasm and a promise to look after Little Paul that would take up our afternoon.

After I missed the Ring-necked Duck yesterday I must admit I wasn’t in a great hurry to get out to Fleetwood to catch up but when a phone call told me the said bird had relocated to this side of the river within a mile from home at Preesall Flashes, I motored down Back Lane. In fact I am ashamed to say it was almost a trip down Memory Lane as I visit the flashes very infrequently nowadays, and whilst I found the car park, the other paths were less familiar.

The duck was there of course, in the deep unfrozen waters of the long expired salt pits amongst a flotilla of other related but less exotic athyas, 4 Tufted Duck and a dozen or so Pochard, but so easy to pick out it is such a striking drake.

Ring-necked Duck

Tuftede Duck


I guess that the open water has also increased the Coot count lately. Therefore a count of 200+ was good to see even if they all kept their distance, unlike the normal suburban park example.


Likewise the several hundred Mallard, with an enormous concentration on the whole flashes, but most of them are of the “released for sport” variety. Exotica appeared again in the form of 2 drakes and 1 female Mandarin, origin unknown but I must check with my pal Graham who has/had a couple in a plastic pool at his back door a few weeks ago.



More legitimate was the sight of two Great-crested Grebe, several Teal and a couple of female Goldeneye, all long standing visitors to the flashes.

Great-crested Grebe



Back at home I still have a dozen Chaffinch and a dozen Blackbirds in the semi frozen garden. And today a male Sparrowhawk that put in a brief but noticeable appearance that scattered all and sundry.

A trip around some of my more usual haunts tomorrow I think.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Learning Curve

There must have been some burning ears in the BBC weather centre as Will and I speculated why the predicted overnight “freezing fog” had simply never even looked like forming. No matter, we didn’t believe it anyway, having learnt to treat their predictions with some scepticism, so we headed off anyway for a ringing session on a cold but clear frosty morning but definitely no fog. Will had diligently fed Lee Farm for weeks, but only now was the weather good enough to give it a try as a couple of singing Robins watched us put the nets up.

Trusty Toyota


A three hour stint gave us 38 new birds with 2 retrapped from previous occasions. The recaptures were low because we hadn’t worked the site since last winter.

Birds caught:

Blackbird 9
Tree Sparrow 3
Blue Tit 2
Chaffinch 15
Robin 4
Song Thrush 1
Dunnock 6

We caught a couple of heavyweight male Blackbirds with visible fat, one of 126 grams, another of 127 grams. A nice adult male below.


And always good to catch a Song Thrush, now few and far between.

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

The farm is a good site for Chaffinch due to the amount of suitable hedgerow and woodland habitat close by. Out of our fifteen caught, twelve were males.



There seems to be no shortage of Dunnocks at the farm as we caught 8 but ringed only 6 of them. We left two unringed when we saw they had signs of “Bumblefoot”.


And here’s a fact with the loosest of connections to the above.

Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal (Ronald Jay Blumental) is an American guitarist, songwriter and producer best known for being one of two lead guitarists in the hard rock band Guns N' Roses. He got the name "Bumblefoot" from the bacterial infection, which he learned about while helping his wife review for her veterinary exams.

So there are things to learn by logging into Another Bird Blog! Probably more than by logging into the BBC weather forecasts.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ice Drive

The idea was to put out some bird food at Rawcliffe Moss and then have a wander round birding. The drive down to the track was both interesting and educational as I negotiated the narrow sheet of ice at about 10mph, luckily without meeting any vehicles coming in the opposite direction. I don’t think I will be taking up Scandinavian ice driving though.

After a week of snow and ice the Tree Sparrows are still around, if in much reduced numbers, and I counted 110 this morning with the usual 12-15 Chaffinch, 2 Dunnock, 9 Starling, 3 Yellowhammer, but only 3 Blackbirds, a couple of Jackdaws and several Wood Pigeon. I dumped another bucket of seed. That should keep them going for a few days but not if more snow covers it.


Looking west I could see six Roe Deer in the stubble of the next farm over but they quickly disappeared over the brow and out of sight before I could raise the camera. I decided that not only was I visible against the expanse of snow and ice behind me, I was also making a lot of noise by crunching over the packed icy roadside in an effort to avoid the slippery vehicle tracks. I persevered a bit longer by where possible sticking to the virgin snow enough to disturb 6 Grey Partridge from under a hedgerow and a mixed party of Chaffinch with several Blue Tit and Great Tit, but it was noisy, slow progress from me.

I walked through the wood where at least I wouldn’t be as visible or clatter over the ice, just the winter brash of fallen branches. In there more than 30 Woodpigeon exploded from the tree tops with a few extra Blackbirds and a single Song Thrush rummaging through the litter.

Rather than spend more time trudging through the deep and crisp and even to no avail, I decided to return the bucket to the barn and maybe use a little time with camera at the ready to see what turned up. Up there the Dunnocks and Robins quarrelled amongst themselves over possession of the best bits of the farm bric-a-brac, the jumbled mess of old discarded machinery, the rattling plastic and muddy chaos of daily ins and outs, whilst a couple of tail in the air Wrens rattled around the nooks and crannies of discarded timber.



It was the alarm calls that alerted me that a Stoat Mustela erminea was also mooching through the long left bits and pieces, but the birds were watching it and so was I.



Apparently Stoats mate once a year and the female is pregnant for 11 months, which is a long time for such a small mammal, and while they have several youngsters which are called kits, the males do not help in raising them.

I hadn’t seen a Grey Wagtail for a week or two but without warning one reappeared in the usual spot.

Grey Wagtail

Grey Wagtail

And another late lunch.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow Birds

Another 4 inches of overnight snow on top of previous ice is most unusual for the Fylde and not a good recipe for birding. So, do some pre-Xmas jobs and gain the corresponding Brownie points, then practice some photography in the snow and grey light seemed the best option. No point in my trying to bulk out the pictures with superfluous words about common garden birds. Just enjoy.

Mistle Thrush

Mistle Thrush



Blue Tit

Collared Dove

Collared Dove




Please look in again after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Four And Twenty Blackbirds

Impossible for me to get out birding today because of the snow and ice, not to mention baby sitting; but then we are also rapidly running out of time as the big day with the compulsory non-birding time impinges. On the positive front, today December 22nd is the first of the longer days. Hooray!

Not quite 24 Blackbirds but as happens every year at the first sign of snow or frost, our garden fills up with thrushes, mostly Blackbirds, the occasional Fieldfare and Song Thrush, or on two previous consecutive and cold Christmas Days, a warbler in the shape of Blackcap.

Anyway I did count 17 Blackbirds in the garden today fighting with the Starlings over apple possession in which the Blackbirds almost always give way to the Starling’s insistence. One or two Blackbirds hopped straight out of a Lars Jonsonn book to be in the garden but a Mistle Thrush wouldn’t come closer than the back fence.




Mistle Thrush

Unexpectedly the snow and frost cut down the number of visiting Goldfinch to one or two at a time in contrast to ten or twelve last week, so I will have to see if this is temporary or if they moved on. It’s less surprising that several Chaffinch stayed around and that the resident Robin became less shy.






A striking looking albino Blackbird paid a quick visit but hid partly out of view preventing me from taking a full picture.


I had to put out extra peanuts to make a Jay hang around for more than a few seconds.


Down the lane towards the River Wyre it is still icy but the sun is making headway; and I saw the albino Blackbird. So that's where it came from!

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