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?


Pete Woodruff said...

Another excellent and interesting read Phil. I reckon the Buzzard is the very same one I saw in the afternoon sat on a fence post looking at 10,000 Pink-footed I was too opposite Gulf Lane exit to the A588 at the western end.

As a matter of interest is the Stonechat pic the Cockersands bird?

Phil said...

One and the same Peter.

Pete Marsh said...

Agree completely Phil, but most targeters dont buy bird reports unless it is a site guide and most of that is now on the internet. Most of them dont use the info in the species accounts as a means of locating birds - this info is not specific enough for their short time-span at each site. I tend to try and help e.g. the Purp info on the Heysham site today - these have been really difficult for whistle-stop targeters this year, and hopefully they will change into birders who might stay around a bit longer and start looking for their own birds. Sadly, these people ARE a majority these days, but plenty of time for them to change or move on to caddis fly twitching.

CE Webster said...

Beautiful pictures.

Vickie said...

I assume your Fieldfare must be a common thrush like our American Robins. Bur for one who has never seen one, its a striking bird! Enjoyed your research on the Sea Buckthorn, as well.

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