Monday, August 31, 2009

Caught Out

It was a visit to a smallholding to check and record the nest outcomes. Even though I was pretty sure the Swallows had finished, something made me look in the nest first used in May that’s just a foot from the one used for the second brood in July. Unable to see in the dark ledge, my fingers carefully felt in the cup to fall upon three tiny young. At it again for the third brood!

I checked around all the usual spots again, my pockets bulging with Bonios for the dogs, three Border Terriers, Mollie the Border Collie, Bess the Alsatian cross or my other pals the two Jack Russell. But where there are animals there are Swallows, whether dogs, chickens or horses or the nearby llamas. Animals mean both insects to eat and nest building material, wool, feathers and horse hair, strong and long. And don't let anyone say that photographing animals is easy, especially when they are trying to lick you to death. Think I'll stick to birds.




Each year I leave all the nests for the adults to decide what to do the following year. On balance I think it best not to take down the old nests, we don’t know what part the existence of last year’s nest plays in say encouraging pair bonding, building upon an old nest or starting from scratch with a new construction. Also in some years April or May can be quite dry when the adults may struggle to find the necessary damp building materials that often start a nest. What I do know is that as we might expect, the first spots chosen each spring are the ones in the darkest corners, the most sheltered and the least disturbed from the comings and goings of humans.

In a chicken shed another brood were well fledged but staying indoors this morning waiting for food from parents and maybe waiting for the sun to emerge before they took the plunge.

Back on the computer I filled out a new Nest Record on Integrated Population Monitoring and Recording (IPMR). The amount of information collected by Nest Records is quite phenomenal, including:

  • The habitat to several levels of precision
  • The height, position, direction and location of the nest and its exposure in relation to the habitat
  • Records of each visit
  • The stages of eggs and young
  • Adult activity, male or female, both or unknown
  • Nest outcomes whether success or failure
  • Chick handling e.g. numbers, siblings, development stage

On IPMR the system will even estimate nest statistics as in 1st egg date, 1st pullus date and fledging date. I estimate that the young from today’s nest should fledge round about 13th September and be independent of the adults a week or two later, setting off to Africa just before the end of the month. If the weather is as bad as forecast this week it could delay that schedule more because if we have a prolonged wet and cool spell the young sometimes go into a state of torpor that delays the normal fledging period.

The BTO call the Nest Record Scheme “a vital barometer to help monitor the health of the UK’s breeding birds”. I couldn’t agree more but they should add that it is a very enjoyable, rewarding way to put a little bit of science into one’s birding and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking to study birds in more detail.

Have a look at

Later this afternoon in the conservatory, after an aborted and very wet walk from Knott End to Pilling and a single Little Egret, I watched three Great-spotted Woodpeckers careering around the garden while squabbling over the peanuts on offer in neighbours gardens and vowed to buy some of my own tomorrow.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jay Day

I had a pleasurable couple of hours out this morning not seeing anything extraordinary but the weather was a little better and the light was good although I didn’t catch up with anything to photograph.

I started at Fluke where driving through I noted a Little Egret in the pool in the wood. Of course as soon as I pulled up, the said bird took up and off over the trees and out towards the fields and marsh. The Little Egrets I see lately seem a bit more easily spooked than in past years and this impression gained on me later when two more Little Egrets were spooked from near Pilling Water by a lone walker. In previous years I have been able to get reasonably close to Little Egrets, but not now. Maybe they know I have a new camera but I would be interested to hear others experience.

There was also a Kingfisher at Fluke which flew around the pool a couple of times before going quiet.

Autumn has definitely arrived when Meadow Pipits begin to appear and this morning I heard the familiar calls before finding four together with two Wheatears on the rocks west of Fluke Hall. Along Fluke Hall Lane a lone Jay moved warily through the hawthorns and willows before finding some thicker cover in a garden further along the lane. Another sign of autumn came in the form of a flock of 30ish Tree Sparrows sticking to the hedge along the lane.

More Meadow Pipits at Lane Ends but only three, with no signs of “mipit vis mig” here or at Fluke Hall. In amongst the morass of Mallards on the pool were two Little Grebe and somewhere in the trees a Great-spotted Woodpecker “chicked”. I heard Jay call then sure enough two flew together from the area of the car park into the denser trees.

A chap just beat me along the wall towards Pilling but ahead of him I saw the two Little Egrets come off the pool and disappear into the ditches behind HiFly’s trees. I found a couple more Wheatears on the stony banks together with half a dozen Pied Wagtails.

No fresh pics today so I’ll sign off with a garden photo of a nice common bird Collared Dove and some new photographs in the right hand column.

I’m hoping that Cockersands shot is good enough to make a guest appearance on PW's

Saturday, August 29, 2009

At Last

A couple of enforced days off - MoT, the car. Then a family birthday, still it would be no good going birding everyday would it?

Left or right as I turned from our road? Never one to make hasty decisions I hesitated a minute or two before turning right towards Lancaster.

Prepared as ever I wore my winter plumage on the realisation that spring had imperceptibly turned into winter: bobble hat, gloves, two jumpers and winter trousers.

At first glance the windswept Conder pool didn’t look too promising, the nondescript ducks, distant gulls and waders sheltering from the elements again. “Now concentrate” I urged as the blobs morphed into objects more acceptable, a Greenshank, several Teal, a couple of Snipe and then to the left the male Ruff in the herbage who seemingly had dumped the two bossy females to now survive alone.

The consistent creek held the usual quota of two Grey Herons, twenty or so Redshank, three or four Curlew together with the resident Lapwing crew and a single noisy Greenshank, as below me two Spotted Redshanks hoovered together through the water. It was quiet enough to venture past the Stork to look from the other side where I managed a couple of distant shots of Curlew and Oystercatcher before the first exercisers of the morning clumped and shouted their way across the bridge leaving the waders, now including two Greenshank, to flee noisily.

Back at the platform I glimpsed the Kingfisher over the creek, and heard the call several times from the edge of the water below the road where they seem to spend some time out of sight. So I waited at the screen out of sight but watching the Ruff and Redshanks interacting for a while. Five more Greenshank appeared from behind a far island to fly calling towards Thurnham then circle back to land in the creek. By this time the sun was really trying its best to warm everyone up but I swear the same dark cloud as last week hung around in exactly the same bit of sky to the east to blot out any brightness. Then suddenly the sun came out, giving the scene a quick make over as the Kingfisher landed on the outflow wall. I had time to grab literally one shot before a Fiesta drew up noisily, doors clattered open then shut to unload dog, wife and tripod whilst the Kingfisher departed. One shot only today then but I think it’s not a bad one with a bit of sunlight to make a difference.

A good cue to move on to the next venue, so I splashed through the British Waterways Gravel Pits to leave my car in as dry a spot as possible. All those £1 coins I gave to that old geezer at the hut and he never did tarmac the place, I just knew it was a fiddle.

I had barely left the car when I saw the Lapwings in the air then Mr Peregrine fly overhead and above the bowling green towards the river. By the time I reached the other side of the bowling green the Peregrine had gone, the waders had settled and I counted upwards of 400 Dunlin, c800 Lapwings together with 400 or so Redshank. Another exerciser came jangling along and down towards the steps, time to move on again.

Saturdays aren’t complete without my newspaper so I popped into Glasson Stores for a Telegraph to read later. Well it’s either a glass of Primitivo and the Daily Telegraph or watch “X Factor”. Life is just one hard decision after another. I hadn’t realised that the shop is no longer a Post Office so the chap couldn’t help me in realising some cash back on my £1.60 to grab a bacon butty next door so I went without. What a busy little shop though, piles of newspapers everywhere, but I guess there’s not much to do in Glasson apart from read, watch TV or take up the local sport of Running Your Dog at the Waders.

I’d seen the Great Crested Grebes from the lock so went around for a closer look. Still feeding young, fish bigger than our chippy.

Naturally I called in at Lane Ends where I fought against the wind to reach Pilling Water just in time to see HiFly quad biking around the pool and the two distant white heads become not Little Egrets but mongrel duck. Not all was lost because the sight of 7 Wheatears surprised me somewhat given the overnight weather. I also had a Lane Ends tick in the form of a cracking little “deux chevaux” 2CV, the original farm motor and just had to take a picture.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sarnies 72, Knot 72

Now I know what a caged tiger feels like. There I was pacing about the house waiting for the rain to clear as promised by them that are qualified to tell us. To be fair, they were right and as they often tell us, they only forecast the weather, they don’t produce it do they?

After a few false alarms of a brightening sky I finally got out for an hour or two to watch the tide roll in at Knott End before the rain beat me again. At least the rain and wind kept everyone off the beach allowing a half decent estimate of numbers even if the driving rain still ran down the back of my neck after finding its way through the vandalised windows of the bus shelter. The Oystercatchers have built up a bit recently but today I got a total count of 3150, those nearest the Bourne Arms marching ahead of the incoming tide plus the separate flock still on the beach but towards Pilling.

Birds are a mystery to the layman but I remember an occasion at Knott End quite recently when I overheard a snatch of conversation where a couple discussed the possibility that the pied birds walking ahead of the incoming tide were penguins! Alright they’re not birders, but don’t people read the papers, magazines, books or watch anything remotely educational or informative on TV these days to know one of the commonest British birds? Rant over – for now.

Six Black–tailed Godwits flew in with a single Whimbrel to land amongst the Oystercatchers and Knot where I counted 72 of them along with a dozen or so Redshank.

Apart from half a dozen birds most of the Sandwich Terns stayed close to the tide line and I counted a total of 72 of them as well.

The rain got heavier again so I drove around to the car park to look on the estuary where the usual Eider float along until the tide recedes. Today I only saw three as the visibility was so bad I could barely see beyond the end of the jetty.

For the gull enthusiasts out there I took a few pictures.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I just had an afternoon available today but faced with so many choices what should I do? The tide somewhere, a quiet inland walk, a bit of ringing combined with a bit of birding in between watching nets? The latter seemed the best bet as by lunchtime the wind appeared to be easing so I made off for Rawcliffe Moss to set a few nets and a bit of birding. Almost immediately I noticed that plenty of Swallows and House Martins fed over the moss, some low over the yet to be cut barley and others taking the higher insects. Both a Sparrowhawk and a two separate Kestrels received a bit of attention for intruding into the hirundine’s airspace. As well as the feeding birds there was a definite steady drip of Swallows moving south which suddenly intensified about 3 o’clock when I guess three or four hundred extra Swallows moved quickly through.

The plantation was really quiet, one Whitethroat, and seemingly singles only of Blackcap and Willow Warbler. This is always the time of year when there seems to be a lull in migration and it starts in earnest again later in September and of course October. Anyway that’s my excuse for not catching much apart from said warblers and a few Swallows plus the fact that the wind picked up a little making the nets visible.

When it’s quiet on the moss without traffic noise you realise just how the calls of Buzzard carry a long way as more than once I heard but failed to spot the Buzzard before being distracted by something else. Eventually I found them soaring miles away and jotted down three in my notebook but I suspect there were more. Often I see them sat motionless for ages on fence posts and a favourite of theirs, hay bales where I guess they have a pretty good spot from which to look out for small animals in the cut fields. How the Buzzard population has taken off around here in recent years. It doesn’t seem that long ago when the nearest Buzzards to the Fylde were those we saw north of Levens on the journey to Walney, then one year I watched one fly past Lane Ends in early April which was so unusual it made the yearly bird report! Now they are just everywhere, quite amazing. But I learnt this year how secretive and inconspicuous they are for a large raptor, when I unexpectedly found some 1J’s i.e. just fledged but unable to yet fly fully, moving through a wood I had visited and passed by a number of times. Even after finding those gigantic young I didn’t see the adults carrying food into the wood despite being close enough to notice. Maybe they were midnight snackers?

Three pictures today. The Blackcap, a Lesser Whitethroat from a previous day and the same Pied Wagtail as yesterday, still finding lots of food around the farm buildings.

I’ve just watched the weather forecast for tomorrow. Don’t ask, but don’t set the bedside alarm.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A couple of photos

By now you may have guessed I am a fan of Swallows. No apologies then for another few pics. Also a Pied Wagtail photgraphed this morning at Out Rawcliffe. Monday is mainly devoted to us looking after granddaughter Olivia but I sneaked in a quick visit to a farmer friend near Out Rawcliffe where I also saw a couple Jays, three Buzzards, male Blackcap and at least 4 Willow Warblers. (I don't think I'll bother posting the Willow Warbler shots unless you like looking at leaves).

Better luck and more time tomorrow I hope.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Peckers and Flickers

Paul sent me a few photos of the Green Woodpecker seen at Poulton Le Fylde last week. Nice pics of what is a pretty scarce bird in the Fylde and even Lancashire nowadays.

It set me thinking of where and when I had seen Green Woodpeckers locally. I think I used to see and hear them many years ago near Ellel Grange and along the canal but it seems so long ago I can’t be sure, perhaps some of the Lancaster bods can remind me? I have also glimpsed them in recent years near Barnacre Reservoir but only in ones and twos. I remember a single sighting at Lane Ends, Pilling when ringing there one autumn morning with the bird in question flying off to the tall trees at the old vicarage by Broadfleet Bridge.

When I do see Green Woodpeckers I am reminded of Northern Flicker, that highly migratory North American species. In the nineties I spent some weeks ringing in the spring at Long Point bird Observatory, Ontario and I recall that flickers were a real “vis migger”, noisy, conspicuous and plentiful. Some mornings we would catch dozens, mainly yellow shafted, but see and hear many more launching themselves off the point to head over Lake Erie. Because, just like Green Woopeckers, flickers feed on the ground a lot, not only did they get caught in the bottom panels of mist nets but they also found themselves feeding in the mouths of heligoland traps along with hordes of White- throated Sparrows.

So while I can claim to have ringed many flickers, along with Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Red-headed Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers, I have yet to set my hands on a Green Woodpecker, so scarce are they locally.

You will have to put up with a page from my ancient “Peterson” until I can get my old slides digitised or maybe PW can come up with a few pics from the other side of the Atlantic to remind us how alike are Green Woodpecker and Northern Flicker. Can anyone recommend a good slide copier?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Swallows and Martins

It got pretty warm this afternoon, but a birder’s work is never done. I was picking the damsons that filled a bucket off just one tree when I noticed how the local Swallows and House Martins had gathered on a neighbour’s south facing roof. Didn’t count them but it makes for a different photo?

I didn’t count the damsons either but if you want some there is another tree to do tomorrow

Good weather decision

It was one of those indecisive evenings, birding or ringing, and after watching Look North West, Granada and the national weather forecasts, not to mention trawling all my Internet weather “favourites”, I wasn’t really sure. As first light beckoned I opened the back door to hear the trees rustle, looking up to see bats whizzing around next door’s sycamore. At least it was warm but too windy for ringing.

A slow drive north then in case of Over Wyre Barn Owls on the prowl but saw I none. Turning to Conder Pool I remembered the height of the tides this week in seeing last night’s tidal debris on the road making a mental note not to stay loo long or leave my car at the usual spots for the tide to claim. Drat, the overnight tide had also filled the pool to cover the muddy corner where I hoped to catch up on yesterday’s Wood Sandpiper. A lone Oystercatcher roosted in the shallows with a party of Lapwings on the little island.

The creek held the usual assortment of Redshank and Curlew with a couple of Dunlin, two Spotted Redshank and a single Greenshank after the numbers of a few days ago. I turned my attention back to the pool where two Ruff reappeared silently but the higher water kept them a distance from the screen. The Kingfisher appeared, as it always does, so I spent the next ten minutes trying to get a few shots as I waited in vain for the sun to appear from dark clouds. Eventually it flew along the pool out of sight to allow me to watch the Ruff and a Common Sandpiper again.

A quick look at The Victoria gave me about 275 Dunlin and over a thousand noisy Lapwings before a Peregrine silenced them as they scattered high over the Lune.

Of course I called in at Lane Ends. The “Creatures of the Night” had been and gone, leaving their usual pile of rubbish for other to clear up, left over fire, beer cans, cigarette packets and goodness knows what else they need to make their lives complete.

But what a sorry mess is Lane Ends Amenity Area, the west pool “set aside for nature”, more like abandoned to let nature take over, with the rest of the place devoted to satisfying the usual public demands. There has been no thought to what might be achieved with a little money and expertise, and apart from picking up a little rubbish, Wyre Borough Council and Environment Agency do little to encourage wildlife. Sad to think that not so many years ago this place held half a dozen pairs each of Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler and could do so again with proper management. Instead they have managed to rip out the middle story of vegetation including a developing area where Linnets roosted.

Near Pilling Water I counted 16 alba wagtails out on the marsh but as I also counted my first two Meadow Pipits of the autumn “tseeping” overhead, I am inclined to think the albas may have been White Wagtails. The few Swallows around found a little male Sparrowhawk following the contours of the sea wall before it saw me, to change direction and let me watch it disappear into HiFly’s fields. Not two minutes later a different but bigger Sparrowhawk quartered over the inland fields towards the dyke, for all the world like a tiny harrier until it too disappeared into HiFly territory. The Little Egret was still around, this time with a Grey Heron for not too close company.

Now let me go and watch the cricket and get our hands on some proper ashes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Up the creek

Well you if you are going to Lancaster anyway why not put the bins in the car and call into Conder Green for a quick peek? It will only take a few minutes. How many times have we all said that as a couple of hours later we glance at the wristwatch in amazement?

I hoped it might be a good omen as I passed Braides Farm and a Little Egret flew from the nearest fields on my left and continued over the car.

It was pretty windy this morning but I was not prepared for the strength of the gusts against the Conder Pool viewing screen. No wonder all the birds were sheltering from the vicious blasts under the far bank as I struggled to stand upright and felt the solid wooden structure shake. No matter, the rising tide began to do its magic as the birds moved off the marsh to join the pool as eleven pale Greenshank stood out from the hundred or more Redshank. I set up a scope in the safest spot I could find to watch the activity over the filling creek and the pool. About 80 Swallows and a dozen House Martins took advantage of the insects disturbed from the marsh as six Snipe and a couple of Common Sandpipers took flight. The usual Grey Heron took good advantage of long legs, hanging around as long as possible in the rising water before being forced to higher ground. I watched for a while longer as best I could as the wind whipped through the viewing screen before I thought better of it and took a trip down Jeremy Lane to try out the fields.

Although there were no gulls to check there were two recently cut fields pretty full of at least 1500 Lapwings, where I tried to get a few photographs of them and the half a dozen Golden Plover. It didn’t help that two other birdwatchers stood outside their car preventing the plovers from exploiting the whole field and moving closer to my camera. A pretty poor but recognisable image of a Lapwing resulted. Lapwing flocks can be so flighty, all those eyes watching and ears listening. As if on cue the whole lot panicked at least twice to return to roughly the same spot, all that energy wasted on a false alarm.


Time was running out so I returned to the pool to see what had changed. At least the wind had dropped a little in sympathy with the tide. My Greenshank count was up to fifteen, Redshank over 280 together with a Spotted Redshank a lone Whimbrel and at least six Common Sandpipers. Then joy of joys, three beautiful Ruff, two males and a female who was clearly in charge as she kept the others at the bottom of the feeding hierarchy of the muddy edges. I managed a few pics but by this time the light was into the lens. There’s always tomorrow.

Common Sandpiper


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sitting in the sun

Firstly, fulsome apologies for the punctuation mistakes in my last post. What with “HTML”, “Compose”, “Edit”, “Publish” etc, not to mention the cutting and pasting, it is a miracle there were any words on the page. I am of the generation that learnt by rote the twelve times table and the intricacies of full stops, commas and the wonders of s’, ‘s, and even s’s, therefore there is really no excuse is there? Nowadays many people don’t bother with punctuation, spelling or grammar. I heard it is possible to take a GCSE in mobile ‘phone texting? Or maybe it is one of the Daily Mail’s stories I picked up while scrutinizing the Co-op’s newspaper section as I waited an hour or two for Sue queuing at the their checkout.

Bird wise today was better. I spent a pleasant hour or two watching the tide roll over Preesall sands with the sun and a warm breeze on my back. Swallows were on the move if not in staggering numbers then upwards of a hundred came flying low, feeding over the sands, then headed over the wall, general direction due south.

Today the Oystercatchers headed east towards the Fluke roost and I counted more than 2850 fly that way before I left. Mixed groups of Dunlin and Ringed Plover dashed about, the Dunlin outnumbering the plovers about five to one. So if I counted 250 Dunlin, using simple division and your 5 x table, I’m sure you can work out the rest. A few dozen or so Golden Plover tried to hide amongst the 300 Lapwing, unlike the two score plus Grey Plover that eventually joined some resting Oystercatcher. The rising tide flushed a handful of Snipe and feeding Starling from the green marsh.

The filling tide also brought in about 70 Sandwich Terns from the west and they too mostly went towards the higher marsh at Fluke Hall.

I later joined Chris further along the wall who had relocated his regular Yellow–legged Gull amongst the usual mob of gulls, and just then a small Sparrowhawk came from the Fluke direction flushing gulls, waders and passerines, revealing up to 50 Linnets and a couple of Goldfinch that otherwise fed unobtrusively among the marsh debris.

Later in the day I bumped along the moss lanes to a farm to ring Barn Owls. A bit late in the season I know as by now we all look forward to autumn migration, tending to think of the breeding season as ended, but there they were, two young Barn Owls in the box.

Naturally any Barn Owls I or my colleagues check, ring or photograph are covered by the necessary Schedule 1 permits. In fact, were we to “mess” with Schedule 1 species lacking the correct permissions and paperwork, in contravention of the law and disregarding the bird welfare that the Schedule 1 system offers, we would get a well deserved “rocket” from the BTO and possibly endanger our Ringing Permits as a whole.

It’s very distressing to hear of the bad behaviour of inexperienced, uncaring or those bird watchers who choose to ignore the law designed to protect birds, whether near Manchester or nearer to home in the Fylde. Perhaps if their frenzied obsession was directed initially towards a real interest in and study of birds rather than collecting ticks, listing and twitching we could later expect a better understanding of such real issues? In the meantime perhaps those shown or known to be involved in inappropriate behaviour should be named, shamed and where possible, prosecuted?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Why did I bother?

If there is one word above all that describes birders and ringers my vote would go to “optimistic”. What else can explain why I went out birding this morning in a raging north westerly, rain clouds threatening?

I did one of my usual routes. Fluke, Lane Ends then Broadfleet, aka Pilling Water as the older locals insist on to calling it so as to confuse the grockles and birders they don’t recognise. Over Wyre folk can be very contrary when they want.

Along Fluke Hall Lane redlegs scattered in front of my car just in time to save their skins for the Guns of HiFly in a few weeks time. I can’t imagine how many Red-legged Partridge they released here but my best description of the numbers at one place would be “swarm”. Those chaps spend an awful lot of time and money making sure they have plenty to shoot at but I must say the game cover is so good it makes birding those fields difficult until the crops at least are cut. That is not a complaint, just an observation, because if I go along the sea wall from Lane Ends I no longer turn east to find birds as I sometimes did, but now always west. If you look at the fields heading east up to the River Cocker they are a sheep infested, barren, birdless, wasteland in comparison to the fields under stewardship near Fluke. Unlike many birders who expect their pastime for free, the shooting fraternity invest cash, hard work and lots of time in ensuring they can pursue a hobby, then by default we birders and the birds get the benefit of the habitat they create and maintain.

The fields closest to Fluke Hall were one of the few places I saw young Lapwings this year. I noticed the adult Lapwings took immediately to the newly ploughed fields in May and whilst I didn’t see many young, there were a few, unlike the opposite end of the old reclaimed marsh. I hear that plans are afoot to reintroduce good habitat near the River Cocker. Let’s hope it comes to pass and I can go Lapwing finding again.

West of Fluke a few local hirundines fought against the wind trying not to venture beyond the sea wall to be simply blown in again. I sympathised, sticking to the Ridge Farm track where the usual half a dozen Tree Sparrows hung about expectantly for Bob’s handouts. Not yet lads, be patient. A few Linnets and Goldfinch trying to avoid the worst gusts scuttled over my head before diving into the hedge. I gave up and moved on to Lane Ends.

Lane Ends car park was deserted save for the usual assorted cockerels abandoned there by misguided animal lovers. If ever we needed a friendly fox, the time is now. Not even the Red Indians were around this morning i.e. the chief and his squaw in the painted camper van who have taken to spending the odd night in the car park. I wonder if they know they will need more than bows and arrows to repel some of the cowboys who visit Lane Ends these days. None of the locals will warn them, best to let the campers find out for themselves during the first warm long night.

A lonely Willow Warbler “hoo-eeted” from a sheltered corner near the reedy ditch but otherwise, apart from the resident Woodpigeons and Woolworths Pick n Mix Mallards there was little to watch.

Again, birders are a resilient lot so I battled on to Pilling Water where I just know that one day soon I will find a first for Britain if not Europe, but not today as a brightly clad jogger beat me along the top. The Little Egret huddled in the creek as ever forlornly waiting for better company than the Common Sandpiper flicking over the still water. Where are all the Little Egrets this year? Must be the aftermath of the first cold winter they endured since the population explosion after the millennium, so they are vulnerable to something after all. Ah, a Wheatear also but a pretty poor show this year both spring and autumn. I managed to catch one of the few I saw in spring, but this autumn I left the traps unset at the prospect of the long odds on offer.

The Greylag numbers build up as they seem to like the location and although I didn’t see the 300+ as in recent weeks it all bodes well for creating a bit of fun and confusion come September and “pinkie” time.

At least my friends the House Martins and Swallows were around if only in small numbers but I couldn’t detect any vis mig this morning. No doubt it happened later in the morning after I returned home to a warming coffee.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Last of the year

It was bound to happen, I forgot. No tell the truth, yesterday I overlooked the “Title” and the “Label”. Wish I was a techie whizz kid. Better luck this time.

I dashed out between the morning showers to ring the remaining two broods of Swallows, a three and a four, all nicely sized, feathers still in pin.

What a great species the Swallow is for birders and ringers. Apart from the fact that they are simply fantastic to watch in action, they are pretty easy to study, even on a fairly basic level of contributing to the Nest Record Scheme.

While writing this I had a quick look on the Ringing Group IPMR database to see how many Swallows I have ringed locally over the years – well over 3000 in total, both full grown and nestlings. I must have been pretty busy at times. Oh for more roosts like the old Fleeetwood ones.

It can be quite time consuming following up Swallow nests in order to ring the young. It’s a case of tracking the nest building and initial egg laying to determine both when the young will hatch and when they are an ideal size to ring. When following one or two locations as I do where there may be several Swallow nests you can bet that each nest will be at a slightly different stage entailing a full notebook of jottings describing the exact location and stage of each nest to minimise confusion and age induced forgetfulness.

It does appear that Swallows have had a good year and although us humans moan about changeable weather, it actually suits most birds, especially hirundines. This year I have no losses to report, not like the last two “summers” when cold and rain took a toll, or even the last hot summer (when was that?) when some Swallows baked alive under metal roofs.

When I look at some of the spots they choose to nest I have to have a chuckle, on a door that opens out daily, on a strip light, on top of a telephone, over a pair of voracious Border Terriers, or in sheds or stables that have the tiniest of entrance points, like letter boxes where they eventually post the young out in reverse as it were. Just look at the pics.

Now the emphasis shifts to looking for Swallow roosts. I had a quick look at Pilling last week where we thought there might be a roost in a maize field and whilst I saw more than eighty Swallows in the immediate area, as the light fell I wasn’t convinced they dived into the maize.

Just before that as from the sea wall I watched the Swallows having a last feed over the pastures, a couple flew twittering over me from the marsh closely followed by a Hobby which went in the general direction of Pilling. That made me think that perhaps the Hobby didn’t see the maize as a pot of food from which to pick a meal but keep looking I shall. Apart from my holiday in Menorca in May that is the first Hobby I have seen in the UK this year but I am sure it is not my last with the species apparently spreading rapidly into the North West and the Fylde.

And if you find a Swallow roost in the Fylde, let me know. Ta. iv>

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hi everyone!

Well I did the easy bit. Signed up to The Bird Blog Club, swore my oath of allegiance to Google Inc and wrote down to later lose yet another unmemorable password variation on “wheat3£?22ear99”. Just two geeks who had a bright idea? There’s hope for birders yet. I’m just thankful I have a few quid invested with Google.

A blank screen, but now for the difficult bit, adding the words and pictures, desperately trying not to cock-up completely. Even so my hit counter is at 50 and more before I click the “publish” button. I managed to upload a header photo, even handled the obligatory bird links, slipping in a few extra non birdy ones, hoping it won’t lead to my further relegation to an even lower division. I quite like the header photo taken recently with my old Nikon Coolpix 8700, easily the worst camera I have ever had. If anyone wants to take this pile of poo off my hands before it lands in the big grey bin, or joins the mountain of pre digital camera equipment festering in a cupboard, let me know. But for now, thank goodness for the Footsie bounce, back to the digital age with a vengeance and a brand new Canon. All I need now is for autumn to begin, a few more birds than I have seen in recent weeks and I can snap away 600 times before loading a new film I’m told.

I agonised over the title. Unhelpful and a little puzzling that Sue said “Just call it ‘Victor’s’ Blog”, everyone will understand that”. “But it’s about birds” I insisted grumpily. Women, I don’t believe them.

So it’s just another bird blog with no firm plans, after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day, I’ll just take it as it comes whether I’m birding, ringing or whatever. I know I have to make it interesting for you to visit again; I don’t want this blog to suffer from McDonalds Syndrome - “Tried It Once, Never Again”. Pretty sure what won’t be on here – Weeds, Creepy Crawlies and Seawatching. Now there’s an apt name for a Fylde pastime. Which reminds me that I did have a lady at Knott End phone me this week to say she had a Gannet on her chimney all afternoon, but after being harassed by gulls for a few hours it apparently flew off to no doubt later excite the folks at Starr Gate.

Don’t get me wrong, when I lived on the other side of the River Wyre I used to go to Rossall Point quite a lot, mainly to keep an eye on the breeding Ringed Plover where in the 1980s and 1990s I found many nests, sent in many Nest Record Cards and ringed over 60 pulli. Now no one seems to know how Ringed Plovers do there or whether any still manage to breed after years of torment by the doggy brigade, ably supported by Wyre Borough Council. Also, I love watching Cory’s and yelkouans from “The Malibu” on Menorca, tossing the occasional lump of bocadillo to the lingering Audouin’s or Yellow-legged Gulls, but from the cliffs find it much more interesting to separate the Pallid from the Common or wait for the Alpine or a passing Hobby than stare out to sea.

Anyway, whilst typing away but glancing out of the window cursing yet another weather “forecast” as the sun peeks out, I realised that as its fine I really must get out to ring what will probably turn out to be my last Swallows of the year.

For now I’ll leave you with a few pictures from earlier in the year. Barn Owls near Nateby and Little Owls near Garstang, the latter courtesy of Wayne Sleep’s mum. Wow, this blog must get better and better, maybe I can get some birding celebrities and big listers on here next.

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