Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Pile Of Old Stuff

Still no birding for me as I try to acclimatise to zero temperatures whilst clearing 10 days of ice off the car, catching up with children and grandchildren, not to mention 80 e-mails or attacking the mountain of post behind the front door, 50% of which I immediately junked; this despite being on a mailing preference list. Oh well, I suppose it keeps the postman in a job plus the paper recyclers, the leaflet writers, designers, printers and packagers, envelope manufacturers and the local authority waste collection crews.

So as Sue gets on with 2 weeks’ worth of washing I’ll be just as productive and post a few pictures and tales from Cyprus until I hit the local patch tomorrow.

Almost everyone who visits Cyprus tours the glorious Roman remains situated on the Pafos headland. It’s a must. The preserved mosaics alone are stunning, but if piles of old stones don’t turn you on, the birding is pretty interesting even in November but out of the busy migration of spring and autumn. The ruins provide lots of perches for birds, with nooks and crannies where insects abound and where between the sloppy Roman pointing and the fallen stonework, plants take root and sparse vegetation flourishes in the dry climate.

The predominant species here were larks, finches, White Wagtails, Stonechats, equal numbers of Black Redstarts and House Sparrows, plus Hooded Crows with smaller numbers of Sardinian Warblers, Blackcaps and Collared Doves; and of course Blue Rock Thrushes, a species designed just for here.

Blue Rock Thrush

Black Redstart

A Pile Of Old Stones

Collared Dove


House Sparrow


I sat at the top of the amphitheatre ruin and wondered whether Birdius Caesar was familiar with the birds I now watched? Bored with watching lions kill Christians every weekend, sick of the running gladiator battles and the endless chariot races, did he slink out of the back row then set off over the headland to watch the Crested Larks and Skylarks or seek out the Blue Rock Thrushes? And did he secretly admire the kites, Kestrels and Hooded Crows that mopped up after the carnage in the arena; and homesick for Italy, did he yearn for the spring migration that would bring Swallows, Hoopoes and even more raptors heading for Europe?

Crested Lark


Hooded Crow


Lizards were all around, and I’ll wait for DM to point me in the right direction with names, but they are certainly hard to photograph, scuttling off back into the dark shadows at the hint of a toga, a sandaled foot or a waiting Kestrel.

"I'm Just Hanging Out"

Hey Good Lookin’

After a hard morning’s slog over the red hot tourist trail there’s nothing better than a cold beer, but as every good birder knows, you don’t go anywhere without bins and camera. And taking a few pictures while propped up in the sun isn’t too taxing especially when a Black Red stops by to share your sunbed.

Black Redstart

Pafos, Cyprus

I hope to get out tomorrow but the overnight forecast is snow falling on top of already treacherous ungritted roads so I think I should play that one by ear.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Back To Normal?

Regular readers of Another Bird Blog will have noticed the lack of new posts recently. That’s because Sue and I have been on holiday, in sunny Cyprus; so sunny in fact that for two weeks we didn’t see a single cloud, the daytime temperature climbed to a steady 27 C and I wore a T-shirt and shorts for 14 days – not the same ones every day I hasten to add. Whilst it wasn’t a birding holiday there are bird pictures to post in the next few days and weeks until I get back to normal with local birding and adjusting to the zero or below temperatures we returned to.

In Cyprus we stayed at the XX Hotel as recommended by good friends Alan and Jane, who appreciate a fine hotel when they find one. Knowing of a special hotel is a bit like finding a scarce bird - you don’t mind sharing the details with a few like-minded friends but don’t necessarily wish to post information on the World Wide Web and have every Tom, Dick and Harry come along and spoil it. But for those who really want to know, send me an email and I'll think about it.

So until tomorrow and the next time here are a few pictures to be going on with - birds, blue sky and lizards. And apologies to my blogging friends, I will catch up with you all soon.

Pafos, Cyprus

Crested Lark


White Wagtail

Agama Lizard

Black Redstart

Just When You Thought It Safe To Go In The Water

See You Soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Made It

Two days of rain and gales aren't the best motivation for birding, photography or ringing, so the bins haven’t had an outing for 2 days. I couldn’t even have a swim yesterday when the pool was closed because a risk assessment said the glass roof over the water was a hazard in the gales that battered the promenade building. So I crossed the road to Roger's for a haircut, and for anyone that's been there and done that, they will know it's infinitely more dangerous than a bit of flying glass.

Sat at home without blog material I waited until today when the wind lessened and I decided to go out birding with the camera for a few hours.

Knott End is something of a joke to folk around the Fylde, a bit of a one horse village where time stands still, a place where old codgers retire to their semi-detached bungalows and wait for the Grim Reaper to call by. But here’s where you can still buy nails by weight, bread from a baker, meat from a butcher, or if you like, just sit on a bench and watch the world go by. And as I’ve said before, KE can cut the mustard for a bit of leisurely, undemanding birding. It wasn’t the brightest of mornings as I watched the Oystercatchers walking the beach and a couple of Little Egrets feeding in the shallows amongst the Redshanks and Black-headed Gulls. Strangely I could find only a single Twite today, one that sported both metal and coloured rings, and now I understand why photographers aren’t fans of birds wearing rings.


Little Egret



Wheel Lane beckoned where I negotiated the flooded road, parked up in the gateway and looked across the flooded stubble. There was a terrific selection of somewhat distant but also numerous birds this morning: 220 Golden Plover, 520 Lapwing, 80 Redshank, 30 Dunlin,6 Snipe, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Curlew, a single Ruff and 15 Skylark. Most of the Whooper Swans were out on the marsh with a small gang of 33 on the stubble as yet others flew over heading inland.

Black-tailed Godwit

Whooper Swan, Golden Plover, Lapwing

There were waders on the wet fields at Damside too, more Lapwing, Golden Plover and Redshank, but because they were just the other side of Broadfleet where I had just counted, I didn’t add more to the totals. Chaffinch and Blackbird alarm calls from the nearby trees alerted me to the presence of a Kestrel at the top of a telegraph pole, but as the Kestrel flew off the alarms continued. Almost out of my view a Little Owl sat motionless on a branch and rather than disturb it, I let it be and drove off towards Lane Ends as the Chaffinch continued to scold the owl.

Lane Ends produced a few bits and pieces, 18 to 20 Chaffinch attracted in by the abundance of seed left by local animal lovers, 1 Treecreeper, 2 Goldcrest, 6 Blackbird and at least 10 Long-tailed Tits.

Long-tailed Tit

Not much on the pools either, 1 Cormorant on the big pool and 1 Goldeneye on the hidden pool, with 3 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron out on the marsh.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Small Is Beautiful

Will and I had a good morning’s ringing, and after four hours of what is essentially work, we longed for a sit down, a wash and brush up, and some grub,but not necessarily in that order. But as we drove off the farm I couldn’t resist another ten minutes action when a Little Owl posed in a roadside tree and almost asked me to take a few photographs.

Little Owl

Little Owl

We’d grabbed a window of weather again, with a cold, frosty, but clear morning start and enjoyed a very successful session after a somewhat slow start. We bagged 44 new birds again, with one recapture, a Goldfinch from a week ago but small finches in general dominating our catch: 16 Goldfinch, 10 Chaffinch, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Siskin, 1 Blue Tit, 2 Great Tit, 1 Song Thrush, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Fieldfare and 2 Redwing.


As normal we arrived early in order to catch thrushes, with nets up in the dark for overnight travellers or local roosting birds, but numbers of thrushes were fairly low this morning with approximately 60 Redwing and 180 Fieldfare seen in the course of the whole morning. This was a low number compared to recent efforts for thrushes, however we weren’t too bothered when as compensation we caught several Lesser Redpoll and Siskin plus good numbers of Goldfinch. There is something quite special about handling the Carduelis group of small, handsome and delicate finches.



Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll


Like thrushes, Reed Buntings were down in comparison with recent days and weeks, and our catch of two birds was the smallest since the spring months, with a maximum of 25 birds about this morning. Reed Buntings can be notoriously difficult to age and sex, especially using ageing criteria of tail wear, because as a bird that feeds on the ground or in low cover, all or part of the tail feathers can wear or be lost quickly. However today we caught an adult female with a rare, text book tail, rounded almost to the point of being squared off.

Reed Bunting – Adult female

Reed Bunting – Adult tail

Although we caught 10 Chaffinch, their numbers moving through were also down to about 60 in total.

Other happenings this morning: 3 Roe Deer, 2 Sparrowhawks (male and female) hunting the plantation, 32 Snipe, 85 Skylark on the stubble field, 1 Kestrel.

Monday, November 8, 2010

In At The Deep End

It wasn’t exactly twitching because Monday is collecting Olivia from school, so a detour to Fleetwood Marine Lake to look for the Great Northern Diver of yesterday wasn’t out of the way. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The driving rain of the morning continued as I made my way down to the western end of the lake. The water was choppy and the bird wary of powered boats that kept shooting across to the island and back from the Nautical College headquarters. The light and the rain were so bad I switched to ISO 1600 and got a few bad shots.

Great Northern Diver

Great Northern Diver

The photograph below, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service, shows what a Great Northern Diver look like in the summer in North America where the bird is known as Common Loon.

Common Loon

Also on the lake were 11 Red-breasted Merganser, 3 Goldeneye and 2 Cormorant, with 40 Redshank and 70 Turnstone around the area of the model boat pools. I had left my car at the car park where Turnstones hang out for food that locals throw to the Mute Swans and gulls, and as the rain poured down I took a few shots from the car.






The weather forecast for this week is absolutely awful, rain and wind, then more wind and rain, with just a slim chance of a birding window on Wednesday – here’s hoping.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Balaclava Days

Another starry, starry, Van Gogh sky last night and a morning frost meant donning my old woolly balaclava this morning for the 0630 start at Rawcliffe Moss. It was pitch-black when I drove past the open barn as the roosting Barn Owl made a ghostly exit through my headlights then waited on a post for Will to see when he drove past a few minutes later. Alright, the photograph isn’t the actual bird, but is as they say “One I did earlier” and taken in daylight.

Barn Owl

My trusty old Hooligan Hat kept ears and face warm from the chilled air as Will and I put up our usual quota of nets whilst listening to Redwings seeping over. Each time we’ve been to the moss in recent weeks we caught both Redwings and Fieldfares in the dark. This morning we caught 15 thrushes before 8am, 7 Redwings and 8 Fieldfares, a catch that kept us mobile for a while but stopped us grabbing a warming coffee. All the Redwings were juveniles this morning and one only of the Fieldfares an adult. As usual at least four Fieldfares escaped from our nets by virtue of their size and weight by having the knack of almost bouncing out of the pocket, especially where four or five are together in the same run of net.




Redwing - juvenile

After yesterday’s total of 44 birds we caught another 36 new birds today of 7 species; the above 8 Fieldfare and 7 Redwing, plus 9 Reed Bunting, 6 Goldfinch, 4 Chaffinch, 1 Blue Tit and 1 Tree Sparrow. Needless to say, nil recaptures.

Reed Bunting – juvenile male


Tree Sparrow

Unlike yesterday the visible migration was unremarkable with many birds arriving from a southerly direction, travelling into the wind, although most of the early thrushes came from the west or north west. In total we counted circa 235 Fieldfares, 100 Redwing and 10 or more Blackbirds, with one flock of Fieldfares numbering approximately 100 birds. Finch movement was also less noticeable with single figure numbers of Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll, but about 50 Chaffinch and 40 Goldfinch.

Apart from thrushes, the most numerous and obvious migrant was Reed Bunting again, and while we caught another 9 today, we estimated at least 45 birds moving through and over the site, some in small groups of fours and fives, with one party of seven individuals.

“Others” today: 2 Yellowhammer, 4 Tree Sparrow, 1 Sparrowhawk hunting thrushes at dawn, 1 Whooper Swan flying west, 20+ Snipe. 1 Stoat heading into the potato field via the ditch.

My old woolly balaclava is showing signs of ageing, wearing thin in the manner of fault bars on the tail of one of the Fieldfare we ringed, so a new warm woolly hat is on my Christmas wish list. This might just make a marginally better gift for me than the surprise the moss gamekeeper plans to present to his wife for Christmas - a new blade for her chainsaw! We still don’t know if he was joking but just in case I’m not calling by to watch her carve the Xmas turkey.

Wear and Tear - Fieldfare tail

Wear and Tear – Woolly Hat
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