Friday, December 31, 2010

The End Is Nigh

Some of my readers in the East will even now be shaking off the effects of over indulgence, reaching for the Alka Seltzer or the hair of the dog as they try to remember 2010 and stagger into 2011. Others across the Atlantic who lag Greenwich Mean Time will just now be donning fancy dress before they head off to Bargain Boozers en route to the evening's celebrations.

And what about me, with a few hours to go on New Year’s Eve? Here I am blogging about birds again. “For goodness sake man, get a life and hit a party or two”.“Later”, he said

You see Will and I had a bit of a party earlier in the day when we went up to our ringing site near Lancaster for the last leisurely session of the year hoping to catch a bird or two, to almost ring in the New Year so to speak, hoping that with luck we might end the old year on a bang. In the end it wasn’t so much an explosion but more of a steady fizz with a few colourful sparklers thrown in. We caught 21 birds of 8 species, 15 new and 6 recaptures. But anything we lacked in quantity we made up for in quality, new birds as follows: 8 Brambling, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Blackbirds and one each of Great Tit and Coal Tit. Recaptures were 2 Dunnock, 1 Robin and 2 Blackbirds. Just as yesterday, one of the Blackbirds fat scored at 40 and weighed in at 121 grams; maybe it’s just not humans that over indulge at this time of year?

Not for the first time this autumn, today’s catch of Bramblings exceeded Chaffinch captures. Today we counted approximately 45 Brambling in the woodland but less than 20 Chaffinch – most unusual.

Other birds seen this morning: 2 Jays, 4 + Bullfinch, 4 Nuthatch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Woodcock, 1 Fieldfare, 10 Redwing and 20+ Blackbirds in addition to the 4 captured.


Apologies then for showing yet more pictures of Bramblings, but enjoy it while we can, it doesn’t happen too often.



Maybe the year should end with a seasonal Robin.


Have a happy, prosperous and bird-filled New Year everyone.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Where Did All The Bramblings Go?

It was the question that Will and I asked each other this morning after a ringing session in Will’s Garstang garden again. It was our first attempt to catch Bramblings there since December 15th when we caught 28 of them and estimated their number as over 200. In between we had two weeks of snow and ice that put paid to our eagerness to have another bash.

Although the ringing proved fairly quiet this morning, finches dominated the catch of 35 birds, 25 new birds and 10 recaptures. New birds: 11 Chaffinch, 4 Greenfinch, 2 Brambling - both females, 2 Blackbird, 3 Coal Tit, 2 Blue Tit and 1 Great Tit. Recaptures were 3 Great Tit, 3 Chaffinch, 3 Coal Tit and 1 Song Thrush.

Brambling 1

Brambling 2


In contrast to our pretty average catch, there were quite a lot of finches around the area of the garden and the adjacent farmland this morning. We think that the mild weather of the last couple of days allowed birds to move out of the garden a little and become less dependent upon Will’s seed hand-outs. Our finch counts came to 25 Brambling, 120 Chaffinch, 15 Greenfinch, 4 Goldfinch and 18 Siskin. I changed the blog header yesterday in anticipation of the “Siskin season”, which runs from about now and into the new year until March, a time when their natural food depletes, birds begin to head back north and during when they rediscover garden nyjer seed. Whilst we didn’t catch any, they were both audible and visible around the trees and on a couple of the seed feeders.


We caught a couple of thrushes today both retaining fat levels found during the cold spell, a Blackbird that weighed 128 grams and a Song Thrush tipping the scale at 100 grams – impressive fat deposition.

With the benefit of hindsight we now realise that the hundreds of Bramblings of two weeks ago were a temporary local phenomenon, just part of the mass movement of Bramblings noticed in many parts of the UK about that time. It’s also obvious that a number of Bramblings are still in the UK and also in our local area, but I hazard a guess that our Brambling catches in 2011 will remain much as today. We’ll see tomorrow when we try another site near Lancaster.

Other birds seen today included 1 Grey Wagtail, several Redwings, 1 Kestrel plus the usual savvy House Sparrows that avoided our nets.

The Bramblings may come and go but there’s one thing that’s a reliable fixture, and that’s the sustenance for hungry ringers provided by Sue.

Another Bacon Butty

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Did You See The Fog?

The forecast of fog and more fog didn’t inspire me last night so it was quite a surprise to get up and see a sort of bright morning, greyish cloud, but definitely no fog. Good old BBC, nothing quite like keeping the licence payers guessing. So I set off for a quick tour of the spots I hadn’t visited for several days, Conder Green, Glasson Dock, Jeremy Lane and Bank End, all well-worn but often fruitful avenues for finding birds and a sure fire way of assessing the effect of the last few weeks.

At the just about thawed Conder Pool the birds had yet to return, with the wildfowl concentrated in the tidal channels: 45 Teal and 220 Wigeon, with 5 Little Grebe that are usually on the pool. There was a substantial movement of Pink-footed Geese going north to south this morning, and I counted over 200 overflying here then several hundred more in the course of the morning heading in the general direction of their favoured feeding areas around Pilling.

At Glasson Dock canal basin many Coot were not only literally skating on very thin ice, they were obviously very hungry, as 70 or 80 birds showed when they rushed towards breadless me as I got out of the car. In all I counted 135 Coot, 120 Tufted Duck and 4 Pochard here with 140+ Goldeneye and 2 Eider on the estuary as seen from the bowling green.


Tufted Duck

After four weeks of snow and ice covered fields any feeding waders this morning were hard to come by anywhere, and whereas a normal mild winter would produce many hundreds of Lapwing, Redshank, Golden Plover and Curlew, today the combined numbers of all four species on my entire circuit barely reached one hundred individuals.


There were plenty of both Redwings and Fieldfares along Jeremy Lane and up to Cockersands, where a couple of shore feeding Redwing flew into the more usual field situation on my approach and 20+ Linnets hung around the set-aside allotment. Along the roadside and even after their near starvation diet of the last few weeks the thrushes were their usual shy selves, fit and alert enough so as not to allow a close approach - unlike the Fieldfare in my garden last week.


Well-fed Fieldfare

Hungry Fieldfare

I saw more thrushes down Bank Lane, perhaps 30 Fieldfares and similar Redwing, some flitting between the hawthorns and the shore with Starlings, Chaffinches and a single Pied Wagtail. I found a handful of Curlew, Lapwing and Redshank down here and most unusually, a Treecreeper moving along the hawthorns. A crappy shot I know, maybe the BBC fog spoiled the picture.


At Lane Ends Whooper Swans were in all directions, out on the distant marsh, overflying and in the near fields of Backsands and Fluke, in all 80+, all in the clear light of a pleasant morning and still no fog.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Its Over…....

No, not the blog but the C word, thank goodness. Three days of immobility, no birding, no swimming with the pool full of seasonal grockles, no decent weather even in which to go for a bracing fresh air walk, plus the added imposition of an oversupply of well-meant but ultimately unhealthy food when doing the compulsory seasonal visits to friends and family.

Sue and I broke the turkey tedium today with a visit in the pouring rain to Pisces at Fleetwood , the best chippy in the world, where the deep fried haddock comes out Dulux brilliant white beneath the coating of crispy, russet batter, the fishy feast complemented by the red hot, light-as-a-feather chips that scald the inside of unprepared cheeks - a £5.99 “special” that includes tea, bread & butter and mushy peas? I’d say that is pretty special in rip-off Britain. So, instead of yet another bird list, why not start a foody list and tick this establishment next time you visit Fleetwood?

The birding hasn’t been quite as special, and whilst we birders live in hope everlasting, a bit of good luck does help. You see on the way back home from Fleetwood at lunchtime, windscreen wipers set on on “fast-as-hell”, I seemingly drove past a tame or intoxicated Waxwing eating berries next to a bus stop whilst it waited for the C2 to Knott End.


Now if I had invested in a pager, switched my mobile on instead of wasting time in the company of my darling wife, been a proper birder or joined in frenzy birding and in the past showed enthusiasm for dropping everything for a year tick, I might just have found out earlier, like Sunday when there were a dozen or more at the same location. But, such is life for a dummie like me, and maybe in the New Year I should get my act together, become a real birder, start a list or two, buy an infernal buzzing machine and stop pratting about with a camera and a pair of ringer’s pliers.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Lost And Found

The temporary thaw may be here but it’s another very unpleasant day, not one for birding, ringing or even going out unless the rain and sleet ease off. It's an opportunity to sort through more pictures where I found previously unpublished ones, lost among the many thousands taken in the last twelve months. Not in any particular order, but here goes.

Below is how the year both began and is destined to end, Pink-footed Geese against the snowy backdrop of the distant Pennines. Next, in the garden is a single Fieldfare on Christmas Day standing guard over a pile of windfall apples that I stored in the freezer from August on the improbability that we might get two hard winters. I say single Fieldfare because two days later this bird still chases off all Redwings, Blackbirds and other Fieldfares, defending its hoard of apples. The only thing it gives way to is a Starling.

Pink-footed Goose


The Corn Bunting is a worrying species, shy, hard to study and more difficult to track down as the population declines, but it is a stunning bird to see at close quarters, in the hand or to photograph, as here at Out Rawcliffe at a favoured farm in the early part of the year. Out Rawcliffe also has a good population of Little Owl and Brown Hare

Corn Bunting

Brown Hare

Little Owl

Another highlight of the year at Out Rawcliffe was when Will and I caught 9 Tree Pipits, one in spring and eight in autumn, and it was only a matter of time before we caught a Sparrowhawk or two, so regular were they in the area of our nets.

Tree Pipit


Other ringing highlights were Kestrels and several Wheatears, the latter captures made more satisfying by being on my local patch at Pilling where unfortunately my first Redshank nest came to nothing when the bird laid eggs just a few yards below a public footpath.



Redshank nest


Here are a couple of pictures from you know where again, Menorca; an Audouin’s Gull showing off its two tone bill, a stunning Hoopoe, Cattle Egret against Mediterranean Blue, and my lottery win dream home.

Audouin’s Gull

Cattle Egret




Finally a couple of bird pictures from 2010 that I just like, for no particular reason. Closely followed by grandchildren Theo and Olivia getting into the festive spirit.


Wood Pigeon

Happy New Year

Friday, December 24, 2010

Look Back Not In Anger

What with the festive season and the impact of ice bound Britain it looks like I may not get out birding for a day or two. So until then and in order to keep Another Bird Blog simmering I have picked some highlights of 2010, dug out pictures old and new, mainly of warmer days and relived a few memorable moments, the odd notable day, with a few personal favourites. I scanned through photographs that I keep in folders in alpha order; Animals, Buntings, Chats, Ducks etc - you get the idea. The problem was I found so many to share that I may have to do this in two or more stages.

The year kicked off with a windy spell and an Eider that got blown onto Knott End foreshore but recovered well enough for a photo shoot on release as it sailed majestically for the safety of the open sea. What a gorgeous duck!


Knott End

2011 had its share of cold weather too, and being into birds isn’t just about our feathered friends but also an appreciation of all animals and the natural environment. Stoats are such magical little wild creatures that when a photographic opportunity presents itself it becomes a privilege to capture their image.


I seemed to spend most of the spring, summer and autumn getting up at silly times to go ringing on Rawcliffe Moss where our ringing efforts contributed to a record finch year for the Ringing Group of Redpolls, Siskins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Greenfinches, then later in the season, Reed Buntings.

Dawn - Out Rawcliffe

Roe Deer at dawn

A Ringer’s Work Is Never Done


Lesser Redpoll



Reed Bunting

A spring break in Menorca was a chance to photograph a few local specialities with a Turtle Dove posing, puffed up on a cool Mediterranean morning, or a Scops Owl surprised by a flasher in the darkness.

Turtle Dove

Scops Owl


Back home it was already the breeding season and time to ring a nestling or two.

Little Owl


Before we knew it a busy autumn arrived, birding bonanza time when waders, warblers, pipits and chats abound and when I enjoyed a few memorable photography sessions in wonderful light with Swallows, Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and others.

Sedge Warbler

Little Egret



Meadow Pipit

That’s all for now and it is a small selection, but if anyone has any favourite species for the next or indeed any time, I am open to requests.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who contributed to the success of my blog this year – critics, supporters, contributors and commentators. I hope that everyone who joined in so gained as much interest and enjoyment as I did from simply keeping the blog alive.

To end here is a sad but true tale - I spoke to a bloke the other week who recently retired from work and is bored, doesn’t know what to do, just follows his wife around like a lost puppy and thinks he might look for a job; I offered to take a couple of days a week off his hands.

PS, I wish everyone a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year, but remember................

Happy New Year
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