Saturday, February 27, 2010


No ringing for me this morning when no one else seemed available, so last night I looked forward to whatever came along. I didn’t set the alarm clock but let my natural rhythms take account of the increasing light of the spring which woke me before 0630. Not quite the 0330 start that a month or twos time promises but still a shock to the system after the long winter nights. Warm and snug under the duck down duvet did at least inspire me to think about where to go – Knott End to try and get a few pictures of the jetty loving Eider but also the regular flock of Twite. I emptied yet another can of de-icer on the car windscreen and set off.

Of course Twite twittered long before twittering became the latest and most imperative social function; after all, that’s how they came to be called Twite. I saw and heard the flock of 25, take one or two, twittering away from the roof of a block of flats where they go when disturbed by bird watchers, photographers and uncontrolled dogs. They twittered from the ridge tiles, twittered when they flew down, twittered as they fed on the marsh, then twittered all over again when they went for a fly around. And I got a few pictures even though the light was pretty poor, but I need to go back when it’s sunny.



As I hung around the jetty I think the ferry man set off from Fleetwood for my fare but then seemingly then turned around mid stream when I walked in the other direction. Hope I didn’t wreck his early brew, but my mission was more important than his first cup of tea. The tide rolled in slowly to allow my counts of 1200 Oystercatcher, 15 Turnstone, 18 Redshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 55 Knot, 2 Cormorant, 65 Shelduck, 5 Eider, 2 Pied Wagtails and 1 Meadow Pipit. The Eider were not very accommodating, waddling off into the water instead of sitting watching the world go by from the jetty end as they usually do.




Ringed Plover


Pied Wagtail

It’s a shocking forecast for Sunday and whilst it looks like the south of England will bear the brunt of rain, I don’t see us northerners getting out either. Then on Monday I’m off to ditch the old Honda and trade it in for another product from The Land of the Rising Sun which will at least allow me to go Lancaster way incognito for a while until PW susses me out. Tuesday is babysitting so that’s me thwarted for a day or two.

But it’s only two weeks before we see one of these fellas to cheer us up.

Picture courtesy of Bjorn Torrisen at


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wild Goose Chase? No Problem

Egyptian Goose

It looks like an Egyptian Goose will stir a little interest at the weekend for anyone wanting to add a bird to a list. To save a journey to the wilds of Cockerham Moss my post is a picture of an Egyptian Goose and a video of a less than obliging bird so as to make it like a real life twitch.

Egyptian Goose appears under Category C1 of “The British List”, i.e. naturalised introduced species – species that have occurred only as a result of introduction.

The Egyptian Goose breeds widely in Africa except in deserts and dense forests, and is locally abundant. It was introduced into Britain over 300 years ago as an ornamental waterfowl from where it gradually developed a feral population.

It seems the species has bred successfully since the early 2000s in the south of England and East Anglia where they nest in large holes or the ledges of mature trees or simply on the ground using the islands of gravel pits or park lakes. They have been classified as a pest species because they can displace other tree nesting birds like Kestrel, Barn Owl or Tawny Owl.

Their stronghold is Holkham Park, Norfolk where up to 200 birds congregate. Nearer the Fylde there is also a small population in Greater Manchester but overall they are now spreading so successfully from the original feral stock that it is thought there may be more than a few thousand birds in the UK in total. There are also self sustaining populations in Holland and Germany.

Look out Stanley Park!

On a more serious note the planned ringing for this morning was called off at the last minute due to Ringers Public Enemy Number 1, Excessive Wind Speed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Common Sandpiper, Greenshank and Etc.

The two wintering waders were at Conder Green today when I called in for a quick look. I had my better half with me for a joint fresh air mission, so I convinced her that a walk along the cycle track and return along the road via the Stork was the best plan, followed by a coffee in the Café de Lune. As it was the café closes on Wednesday afternoons so we ended up at The Lantern o’er Lune at Glasson Dock where the coffee was excellent. They have a few inventive names for caffs around here but I’m not sure that Conder Green bears a resemblance to anywhere in France.

From the cycle track above the creeks I saw the wintering Common Sandpiper in one of the skinny creeks that it seems to prefer. Then in the main, wider creek under the bridge was a Greenshank, one of the couple of winterers. Sorry I don’t have a picture of a Common Sandpiper, it’s one to work on this year, but the Greenshank photo is today’s. As compensation, below is a picture of the closely related Spotted Sandpiper which although very rare in the UK is always a possibility to turn up in the Autumn or maybe even the Spring. That’s a good enough reason to look at plenty of Common Sandpipers when they start to arrive in April and not wait for one to appear on the pager.

Spotted Sandpiper



In the area of Conder Pool itself were 1 Grey Plover, 8 Redshank, 30 Teal, 2 Grey Heron, 4 Tufted Duck, and a Song Thrush!

A roadside Merlin and a couple of roadside Kestrels on the way back.

I had a message from Will.

“Until this morning I would never have thought it possible that we would be awoken by siskins! The noise outside was unbelievable, the most I could count together was 24 in the silver birch, of course that's not counting all the ones in the alders, scotch pine and both sycamores. The most on the feeders at any one time was 17. Also in the garden were 130+ chaffinch and 2 bramblings”.





Guess where I am going if it’s fit for ringing tomorrow?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Getting A Buzz

I got hold of a three hour pass to use before the babysitting when Olivia arrived. We promised to take her out for lunch for “chips and beans”. Unlike Theo who will eat most things put in front of him, like lots of kids nowadays Olivia has a more limited diet that tantalises her taste buds; so on one day a week it’s difficult to wean her off her favourite junk. I don’t find it hard to believe that many kids these days can’t put a name to common fruit and vegetables. Or, as the mystified young lad working on our Tesco checkout when faced with courgettes to key into his till asked, “What are they?”. Maybe we should be grateful that they at least seem to be getting taught about environmental issues, giving them a chance to understand how previous generations messed the world up for them.

I wanted to check out Braides Farm first so headed there via Fluke Hall Lane, frozen overnight again after the umpteenth frost of this abnormal winter. A group of 25 Lapwing and a couple of Black-headed Gulls huddled in a single whitened but still damp patch, but otherwise my notebook remained empty. Near the seawall at Braides were 170 Lapwing, 65 Golden Plover and 60 Curlew, with less than 10 Skylark. I also counted 7 Little Egrets, less than the 11 last week but they certainly get around this whole area with more always further towards Cockerham Moss, Pilling, Bank End, Thurnham and the Lune.

From the track I could see the Buzzard on the sea wall, as could a patrolling Short-eared Owl that proceeded to dive bomb the larger bird. I got pictures of the Buzzard but the owl was less keen to harass me as a predator than the Buzzard. Otherwise I would have got better pictures of it. The Buzzard lifted off and circled to gain height whilst the owl kept its distance from me.



Short-eared Owl

A quick tally at Conder Green revealed the overnight duck turnover of 25 Wigeon, 33 Tufted Duck, 11 Pochard, 2 Shelduck and 35 Teal with a lone Grey Heron and several Oystercatchers, Curlew and Redshank.



The tide was way out at Cockersands caravan park so counting much was out of the question but I was content to try my luck with the shy Stonechat and the other small birds along the shore, 11 Linnets, 1 Reed Bunting, 4 Chaffinch, 3 Greenfinch and a couple of Blackbirds commuting to and from the caravans.



On the return journey I could see thousands of Pink-footed Geese on the fields opposite Gulf Lane but didn’t have four hours to spend going through them for a “goodie”, especially along Mortuary Mile.

Back at Lane Ends the roadside Fieldfare gradually eating through all the Sea Buckthorn berries has been a great photo opportunity for anyone who likes to take pictures of common birds. A bit “dudy” perhaps for those who only get their camera out for “good” or rare birds with which to fill up all the local bird reports? But I get a buzz out of taking photographs of any birds. I looked at a North West bird report recently and it did not contain a single photo of a common bird, just pictures of the supposed highlights of the birding year. Then everyone complains about the huge turnout at twitches, the Day After Birders, the Weekend target touts, the pagers and mobiles ringing out for fun! Well what do we expect if through local bird reports and pager systems keen beginners are introduced to a diet of rarities and “good” birds, the ”E Numbers” of bird watching, rather than shown the joys of patch watching, survey work, vis migging or taking photographs of common birds? Is it any wonder that so many become hooked on the wrong diet and have no interest in the humble spud?



So what’s the big attraction of Sea Buckthorn to the Fieldfare apart from the fact that other berries are now in short supply?

“Sea Buckthorn berries are a common source of nutrition for a great deal of wildlife, birds in particular, but when they are eaten by humans they tend to be very bitter and quite unpleasant and may need to be used as an additive to other types of food in the diet. The most common form of Sea Buckthorn is Hippophae Rhamnoides and the female of the species produces succulent and juicy orange berries which is becoming a popular and fast selling product. Normally found on coastal areas of many areas in Europe and some parts of Asia, the plant includes berries which are now being cultivated to sell to the general public who have discovered that these berries can be potentially very good for health. The berries contain extremely high levels of vitamin C, though vitamins A and E and amino acids have also been found in many varieties of the plant. Although definite research into their exact health benefits have not been fully carried out and evaluated, it is generally assumed that due to their high content of vitamin C that they must have some benefit to health and can be enjoyed in many products. The anti-oxidant properties may be proved to help eliminate some of the harmful chemicals found in the body that may affect the heart and its function. Sea buckthorn berries have also been found to be beneficial in preventing narrowing of the arteries caused by a build-up of cholesterol. Compounds in the berries are now being derived and used in health supplements specifically for this reason”.

Sea Buckthorn

Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

After The Fog

No early morning heroics for me this morning after the forecast predicted heavy frost with a chance of freezing fog again. Although I was up at 0715 and it was fine and sunny, the fog quickly came in, bringing freezing air to whiten the garden. So I had a walk up to the shop to buy the Telegraph, sat at home with a coffee and waited. By 1230 it was bright enough for me to head out to Rawcliffe for a walk.

Today was obviously a Wood Pigeon shoot as gunfire echoed over the moss from every wood but I am pretty sure most of our Wood Pigeon cleared off during the frost, snow and ice of weeks ago, and the fact that I didn’t see more than 20 was down to that, not the success of the shoot.


On the way down to the feeding station I stopped to look at a flock of 45 Lapwings in the roadside field which they shared with a biggish flock of Starlings. Part of the attraction was that moles had been very busy disturbing the ground, no doubt leaving plenty of items the birds could consume. A field or two away a farmer busied himself doing whatever farmers do in tractors but seemed too engrossed to stop and watch the Roe Deer not far away. Perhaps because shooters were in every wood I saw three groups of Roe Deer, two lots of four and another of three animals, 11 in total.


Roe Deer

From the feeding track I counted 135 Tree Sparrow, 5 Yellowhammer, 5 Reed Bunting, 7 Blackbird, 12 Chaffinch, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker and I disturbed a pair of Grey Partridge from below the hedge. I also found two other pairs of Grey Partridge when I walked up the edge of the big field close to some flooded tractor tracks where 3 Snipe hurried off at my passing.In the top fields and along the edge of the plantation I found 8 Linnet, 4 Goldfinch, 3 Corn Bunting and snatches of song, a fairly distant Buzzard and 2 Kestrels, one of which perched on the outermost branches of the trees.


Reed Bunting

Corn Bunting

There were another 30 Corn Bunting near the farm buildings, along with 2 Reed Buntings, 3 Collared Dove and 22 Chaffinch.

A fairly quiet and unexciting afternoon for birds but it's difficult to follow catching 34 Siskin as we did yesterday. An enjoyable walk nonetheless. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Siskins, Sun and Sarnies

That was the order of appearance this morning when we returned to Will’s for a ringing session.

The roads were a little dicey this morning with poor visibility and freezing fog of -3C. Ian was a minute behind witnessing a tanker crashing through a dry stone wall on the A6 at Catterall. But we all arrived safe and sound at Will’s, if a little cold but to a welcoming cup of coffee.

The Siskins were there in numbers in the tree tops, we could hear them in the half light and mist, twittering away and waiting for a breakfast of energy giving nyger. Our first round of just the two nets caught 21 Siskins and 2 Goldfinch, tremendous!



The sun eventually cleared a path through the mist as the Siskin kept arriving; At times they made a tremendous din moving about the garden or simply calling from the single pine and the several alders.

Sunny Morning

By 1145 we had caught 61 birds:

Siskin 34, which included 2 retraps from previous occasions.
Chaffinch 8
Goldfinch 10
Dunnock 1
Robin 1
Great Tit 3
Coal Tit 1
Blackbird 2

And, wait for it you ringers out there, 1 Blue Tit, a retrap! On a frosty February morning there is a Fairy Godmother after all.

There’s always a question about what percentage of birds present or passing through a locality are actually caught at a ringing session. On this occasion, and after a little discussion, we agreed that to double our actual catch would be a conservative estimate of the Siskin seen and heard, so we assumed that upwards of 70 Siskin must have been around the area of the neighbourhood this morning. A few of the Siskin showed evidence of peanuts around their bills (photograph) but our ones this morning stuck to the nyger feeders throughout. Some of Will’s neighbours do feed peanuts only.

The birds kept us fairly busy but naturally we found time to fit in our own energy giving breakfast of bacon sarnie liberally basted with HP of the brown variety.



Coal Tit

Blue Tit

Other birds we saw this morning; Wood Pigeon 14, Collared Dove 4, Pied Wagtail, Nuthatch 2, Treecreeper 2, Kestrel. Jackdaw 20, House Sparrow 10.

Pied Wagtail

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Short But Sweet?

I did get out for a few hours this afternoon, but apologies for the short summary as I have to go a meeting in the Black Bull later.

Over at Pilling before I turned off Wheel Lane to Fluke, there was Great-spotted Woodpecker activity when one perched in a roadside tree followed a second one that flew across in front me from the direction of Fluke Hall itself. I notice how this species has become extremely noticeable and vocal over the last week or so as they sort themselves out for the breeding season.

Along Fluke Hall Lane there were plenty of Lapwings, as in 235 of them, 15 Golden Plover, 40 Redshank, 2 Dunlin, the single Ruff from the previous week or so, 2 Stock Dove and 10/12 Skylarks.



At the entrance to Lane Ends I saw a single Fieldfare still working the buckthorn berries above the road, then from the top car park I quickly counted 44 Whooper Swan on the distant marsh, 195 Shelduck with 2 Little Egret closer in.


I decided to check out Braides, partly as a preliminary to the wader survey work I have permission to do on there. It was fairly productive with counts of 210 Lapwing, 95 Curlew 12 Golden Plover, 9 Skylark, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Short-eared Owl and a high count of 11 Little Egrets. I will have to do a lot of my work from the gate, because although I have full access, by walking along the very open track I was extremely visible to all the birds, most of which gradually moved elsewhere.

Little Egret

I met a farmer up at Cockerham who gave me a ring GC75867 he found about a month ago on a dead roadside owl which he said was a Tawny Owl. I’ll do the business on the BTO website and see what transpires.

Conder Green was well, Conder Green. Greenshank 1, Spotted Redshank 1, Snipe 2, Teal 40 (are numbers going down a little?), Grey Plover 1, Wigeon 7, Tufted Duck 8, and Grey Heron 1. Just as I was about to leave 6 Black-tailed Godwit flew in calling but landed on the far side of the pool and didn’t approach the road side screen – pity.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ducking Out

Nothing to report today. After cloud, rain and cold most of the day – all at the same time! I ducked out of doing much but I caught up on a lot of paperwork.

Maybe I should take a holiday to South East Asia as it is nice and warm there, where a Coot as a rare vagrant species is causing a stir in Sabah, Borneo.

But to keep the blog going here are a few more recent wildfowl pictures including a common or garden UK Coot.




Female Pintail



Let's hope for birding weather tomorrow.

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