Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Familiar Territory

It was another strange sort of day today; cool this morning with the same persistent north easterly wind so I decided to wait until lunch time to go out birding. The sun came out as promised and the temperature climbed to 22⁰ but now with a breeze from the east.

I checked out Lane Ends, Pilling with a sea wall walk to Pilling Water, followed by the Ridge Farm and the Fluke Hall circuit.

Lane Ends started quite well with three singing Willow Warblers, a Reed Bunting, a Reed Warbler in the patch of reeds next to the road and the frantic song of a Garden Warbler below the car park, but I wondered about all of their chances when I spotted one of the two now resident Jays searching about the undergrowth. Make no mistake about it, Jays may be attractive beasts but just like other crows they are fully paid up members of the bad guy’s brigade, and will take eggs, nestlings and even the adults of other bird species. A study in the south of England in 2005-2006 (Bird Study 2008/55, 179–187) found that woodland Jays were major predators of the nests of the red-listed Spotted Flycatcher.

Willow Warbler


I set off to walk to Pilling Water just as 12 Whimbrel flew over, fast and silent without their normal seven whistles but heading north across Morecambe Bay. My walk to Pilling Water produced almost zilch apart from a couple of Linnets, with no Meadow Pipits, no Skylarks, no Wheatears and no Wagtails, all birds that should be around in profusion by late April. The meagre highlight was a procession of Swallows heading across the bay, Heysham bound. As I sat on the stile the silence was remarkable, more like a mid-summer day with just the occasional local Redshank, Oystercatcher or Lapwing announcing their territorial presence from the maize stubble of the wildfowler’s pools, or the resident Shelduck pair taking to the skies. A Greenshank put in a brief appearance, calling and circling before dropping back into the deep dykes; my third siting here this spring but all different birds I think.



The Hi-fly tractor was busy ploughing in the few early Lapwing nests next to Fluke Hall, and added to the lack of rain on the already baked ground, it seems odds-on for zero young Lapwings in Pilling again this year.

On the other hand, I suppose Hi-fly would claim credit for all the Linnets, Tree Sparrows and Whitethroats that inhabit the hundreds of now healthy hawthorns planted along Fluke Hall Lane some years ago. A few days ago I counted 18 Whitethroats between Pilling village and Ridge Farm; today was similar with the difference being there are now females to double the score, with the emphasis less on the male’s incessant song flights but more on the churring calls that accompany nest building. To advertise their presence male Whitethroats often build up to 3 or 4 so called “cock nests” in readiness for the later arriving females, allowing one to choose a nest that suits her. After choosing one she strips it of his unsuitable, mediocre, DIY decorations and finishes the nest herself to a better specification before taking up residence and laying eggs. It all sounds a bit familiar chaps!


Fluke Hall held lots of Blackcaps, several Willow Warblers, Chiffchaff, resident Tree Sparrows and softly calling Sparrowhawks at a nest.

It’s still only April but for most of this week’s unsuitable migration weather it has felt like spring is over, as we desperately await warm southerly winds to bring in the remaining migrants.

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