Saturday, March 31, 2012

Less Lessers

Will and I met up on the moss again today hoping the past week’s abundance of Lesser Redpolls might continue so we could attain the magic 100, but it wasn’t to be. The continuing northerly wind didn’t help our cause with just a small catch of new birds to reward 4+ hours in the field. 

We may have to wait for a change in wind direction before the next wave of redpolls, and at March 31st surely there will be more on the move during April? This morning we managed just 15 birds, 11 new and 4 recaptures. The new birds comprised 8 Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch and a single Lesser Redpoll. Recaptures: 3 recent Goldfinch and 1 Chaffinch from 2010. 

 Lesser Redpoll

If it hadn’t been for the Niger feeders doing their stuff in attracting Goldfinches and ground feeding Chaffinches our catch would have been abysmal, with very little in the way of visible migration. In comparison to earlier in the week redpolls were conspicuous by their absence with less than 10 birds noted. Meadow Pipit movement was similarly negligible with 10+ birds heading north in 4 hours. 

“Otherwise” sightings: 6 Yellowhammer, 5 Linnet, 1 Corn Bunting, 4 Grey Partridge, 1 Fieldfare, 1 Kestrel, 2 Buzzard, 5 Snipe, 65 Golden Plover flying south, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Ring Ouzel briefly. Mammals: 1 Stoat, 20 + Brown Hares. 

 Brown Hare



The BBC promised a change in wind direction overnight together with a less than 5mph wind, so the results tomorrow could be different again. And as we always remind ourselves “You don’t know until you try”. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Lone Ringer And A Kite

No trusty companion for me today when the four letter word beginning “W” reared its ugly head for the other lads. Alone I went to Rawcliffe Moss hoping to find out more about the substantial Lesser Repoll passage which started last week and continues unabated. 

Another successful session saw a catch of 29 birds of just two species, 27 Lesser Redpoll and 2 Goldfinch, with once again nil recaptures. Today’s catch brings the total number of Lesser Redpoll ringed here to 81 individuals since 24th March, a tiny proportion of the several hundred which have passed over or through the site in the morning hours. 

A change today saw the redpolls arriving from a westerly, even north westerly direction, with a number of them leaving the site on the same axis by heading into the very slight south easterly breeze. In all I estimated 100+ redpolls this morning between 0700 and 1030 when I had to leave early for an appointment. Noticeable again today was the lack of males in the catch, just a single adult male from the 27, the remaining 26 either adult female or juvenile. Of these 81 Lesser Redpoll caught in less than a week, only 11 can definitely be allocated as males. 

The above makes me wonder if Lesser Redpolls adopt a similar wintering/migration strategy as other species and some finches in particular, i.e. young birds and especially young females migrate further south than adult males, and we are catching a number of birds leaving the south of England, France or Belgium and heading up to Scotland or Northern Ireland? None of the Lesser Redpoll caught this spring have carried noticeable fat deposits, and as diurnal migrants, even if travelling good distances, they are able to stop off and feed up quickly if required. 

Lesser Redpoll

Processing birds alone kept me pretty busy and so limiting any bird watching, but of note were 6 Yellowhammer, 2 Buzzard, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Grey Partridge, 4 Linnet, 1 Corn Bunting, 2 Reed Bunting.

 I was fairly well occupied with ringing so couldn’t find much time to take photographs today, and in any case they would only be more Lesser Redpolls wouldn’t they? The Roe Deer appeared in the half light of dawn when I switched to ISO3200. 

Roe Deer

Will tells me that after he got back home from ringing yesterday he watched a Red Kite over his house battling with both a Kestrel and a Buzzard. 

Red Kite

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Redpoll, Chiff, And Lotti

More settled weather meant Will and I could try for more migrants on Rawcliffe Moss today. There was no mist this morning, even with the clear skies overnight. The 0630 start gave little sign of overnight migration in the quiet plantation with the only hint of newly arrived birds a single Chiffchaff on the first round of the nets at 0715. Once again most of the action began soon after dawn with birds overhead, the major players being a count of 65 +Lesser Redpoll heading north in four hours. Smaller numbers of Siskin today with, less than 12 and a stifled Meadow Pipit passage of 6 single birds noted.

Our catch today was 19 birds, another 17 Lesser Redpoll to add to the 30 of Sunday and 5 of Saturday. Other new birds today: 1 Chiffchaff and 1 Goldfinch. As we expect, there are no recaptures of Lesser Redpolls with all the birds moving rapidly from the site and continuing their journey north. An interesting aspect this morning was the lack of male birds, with just one definite and the remainder of the 17 redpolls first year birds or adult females. It is not always possible to be 100% certain of the sex of brown first year lessers unless they show the beginnings of red admixed with brown breast or rump feathering. Wing length gives a clue but there is overlap between males and females.

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll


I'm still waiting to see if anyone claims Lesser Redpoll L977497, not one of our birds but one we caught on Sunday.

Birding was subdued again this morning with some familiar counts and observations: 1 Corn Bunting, 4 Yellowhammer, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Hen Harrier, 5 Buzzard, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 60+ Curlew, 1 Pink-footed Goose, 5 Roe Deer. Still a single lingering Fieldfare in the same field as recent days.

When I got back home the Long-tailed Tits were busy lining the nest with feathers in preparation for egg laying. Both of the adults’ tails are beginning to show wear as they spend more time in the confines of the tiny nest.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Redpoll Rush

After yesterday’s trickle of finches Will and I met up on Rawcliffe Moss to see what today might bring. The morning began in similar fashion to Saturday with a cold, misty start which dictated very slow catching while the sun struggled to burn off the grey haze. We started at 0700, and just over two hours later at 0915 had amassed the grand total of three birds, all Lesser Redpolls.

As the mist slowly cleared birds began to move north as if waiting for brighter skies. Between 0930 and 1100 the dribble of redpolls turned into a veritable rush and we ended with 40 new birds, 31 of which were Lesser Redpolls, one of them ringed previously by someeone other than us - a "control"; Lesser Redpoll L977497 anyone?

So the 40 new birds comprised 31 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Goldfinch, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Yellowhammer, 1 Meadow Pipit and 1 Blackbird. The single recapture was a resident Blackbird.

Lesser Redpoll


Meadow Pipit

Catching 31 Lesser Redpolls on a spring morning raises the question of how many individuals passed overhead during our 4 plus hours on site. Given the surge between of birds between 0930 and 1100 and the certainty that our catch was a proportion only of those heard and seen, often high above, we estimated between 100 and 200 individuals. It will be interesting to see today’s results from other observation points along the coast and inland. Overhead Siskins this morning numbered c20 with Meadow Pipits c30, low figures, but both of them high-flying species on a bright sunny morning.

Apart from the good number of Lesser Redpolls on the move our birding was unexceptional with a resident and singing Corn Bunting, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Reed Bunting and 6 Yellowhammer. Two Little Owls this morning, one in each of their territories 400 yards apart.

Little Owl

STOP PRESS: 110+ Lesser Redpoll passed over Hilbre Island, Merseyside this morning, 40+ over Rossall near Fleetwood, with less than 20 over Heysham, North Lancashire.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Finches And Fieldfares

It’s been a slow start to the finch season with even Goldfinches hard to come by lately, but this morning’s ringing on the moss made amends with a sudden increase in the King Harrys and the start of the redpoll passage.

With recent quiet visits and the cold, misty start today I wasn’t too adventurous with the number or positioning of nets but caught fairly well until about 10am. New birds, 12 Goldfinch, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Chaffinch and a single Coal Tit. The two recaptures were a Blackbird and a Goldfinch.

As the sun burned off the mist a few Siskins and more Lesser Redpolls flew north, however there was no sign of either Goldcrests or Chiffchaffs in the plantation, species we might expect by now. Otherwise the birding was subdued with 7 Yellowhammer, 45 Curlew, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 3 Skylark, 1 Corn Bunting, 2 Buzzard and 1 Kestrel.

In the autumn it’s not always possible to sex Lesser Redpolls - no doubt about one of this morning’s males.

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll


Coal Tit

This Goldfinch is a female – the red on the face does not extend beyond the eye and the nasal hairs are greyish.



Fieldfares have used a nearby field for weeks now, all through the wet spell and even now as the soil dries out completely where the bird's brown tones merge in with the dry terrain. I stopped today to take some photographs of birds in a flock of about 130 as they intermittently picked over the earth than flew to the tops of nearby trees when passing vehicles spooked them. Take a good look, it may be November before we see them again. I saw a single distant Redwing amongst the flock but could have missed others.









Thursday, March 22, 2012


There’s a spot of birding to report, a few pictures from the garden, then news of a newly published paperback book.

On my way to Pilling after lunch I saw three pairs of Kestrels, a species very active at the moment and which looks to have survived the mild winter well. An hour at Pilling saw 3 Siskin and 4 Lesser Redpoll heading east into the wind, also a few extra Meadow Pipits, with 15 + at Pilling Water, together with 3 Wheatears. Out on the marsh I could see the 5 Barnacle Geese which spent last week on Hi-Fly’s stubble field. The Greenshank and Green Sandpiper still grace the pools if you know where to look and how to approach the water so as not to scare them both into the inner, hidden pools.


Back home in the garden a pair of Long-tailed Tits are building a nest in a berberis bush, and the Blackbirds are also busy constructing a nest somewhere.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit


Princeton University Press sent me a copy of “Birdscapes- Birds in Our Imagination and Experience”, a book previously published as a hardback and now for the first time published in paperback. Below is the blurb for the book, £13.95 in the UK or $19.95 in the US from Princeton University Press

Birdscapes- Birds in Our Imagination and Experience

“What draws us to the beauty of a peacock, the flight of an eagle, or the song of a nightingale? Why are birds so significant in our lives and our sense of the world? And what do our ways of thinking about and experiencing birds tell us about ourselves? Birdscapes is a unique meditation on the variety of human responses to birds, from antiquity to today, and from casual observers to the globe-trotting "twitchers" who sometimes risk life, limb, and marriages simply to add new species to their "life lists."

Drawing extensively on literature, history, philosophy, and science, Jeremy Mynott puts his own experiences as a birdwatcher in a rich cultural context. His sources range from the familiar--Thoreau, Keats, Darwin, and Audubon--to the unexpected--Benjamin Franklin, Giacomo Puccini, Oscar Wilde, and Monty Python. Just as unusual are the extensive illustrations, which explore our perceptions and representations of birds through images such as national emblems, women's hats, professional sports logos, and a Christmas biscuit tin, as well as classics of bird art. Each chapter takes up a new theme--from rarity, beauty, and sound to conservation, naming, and symbolism--and is set in a new place, as Mynott travels from his "home patch" in Suffolk, England, to his "away patch" in New York City's Central Park, as well as to Russia, Australia, and Greece.”

I studied the contents page, read extracts from reviews on the back cover and then read an early section entitled Witnesses and Prophets which lumps together the reactions to birds from a very diverse bunch of birders - amongst them the likes of Keats, Richard Millington, D.I.M Wallace, Gilbert White and Ernst Mayr - Oh Wow, now there's a mixed bunch to meet in a hide one day!

I missed this book first time around but really must read it soon, so I filed it next to my bed as the next read. At 300 pages of solid reading it will take a week or so but I will let Another Bird Blog readers know all about the rest of the book.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Birding And A Roving Linnet

It was birding only this morning with bright and breezy conditions on Rawcliffe Moss providing good visibility and a healthy selection of birds to keep me occupied for a few hours. I’d gone to fill the feeders and check what might be knocking about with a view to a ringing session tomorrow if the wind drops as promised.

As strange as it may seem scarce Yellowhammers outnumbered common Goldfinch this morning, with 10/12 of the former and just 8 or 10 Goldfinches, the only problem being that the buntings are much harder to observe, and certainly to catch than the Goldfinch. I topped up the Niger feeders and then raided the bottom of the pheasant feeders for a little more wheat for the Yellowhammers whilst wondering where all the Goldfinches have got to.



The plantation proved quiet, a couple of Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush, 1 Jay, 3+ overflying Siskin, several Chaffinch and then 3 Buzzards settling their differences over the tall conifers. The wintering Hen Harrier showed again today as it flew over the plantation and then out towards Pilling Moss, just a brief sighting of a species which should by now be heading for the hills. Let’s hope it can stay safe from persecution up there after surviving the winter here. The fields produced 125 returning-north Curlew and then on a tiny flash of water, 14 Snipe and a single Meadow Pipit.

At the other end of the farm I found 2 Grey Partridge, 30+ Tree Sparrows, 2 more Buzzards, a pair of Kestrel and a singing Pied Wagtail. I made a mental note of a Mistle Thrush inspecting a suitable nest site, one to check in a week or two.


Pied Wagtail

Last week on 14th March I caught a ringed Linnet A376420 which turned out to have been ringed across the Irish Sea at Point of Ayre, Isle of Man on 22 October 2011. The Linnet was one of a wintering flock of 200/400 Linnets and when recaptured here on the moss was also part of a Linnet flock of 100-140 birds. The bird’s origins and its whereabouts after Out Rawcliffe remain something of a mystery, but it could be an upland bird seeking out a wintering maritime climate.

Linnet Y376420 - Isle of Man to Rawcliffe Moss


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bright Spots

Sunday dawned clear and sunny with a light northerly wind, probably less than ideal conditions for realising major migration, either visible movement or fresh-in grounded birds. So it proved, with notebook entries suggesting I’d maybe used carbon paper below Thursday’s and Friday’s pages, the one exception being a line noting my first Wheatear of the year.

The Wheatear was at the expected spot near Pilling Water. I set two tent traps with a meal worm in each and then retreated to a safe distance. The odds are better when there are several Wheatears and also when a warming sun makes the meal worm wriggle to attract sharp eyed chats. No luck today, the Wheatear took a close look but wasn’t tempted by cold, motionless worms and within ten minutes the bird had flown off across the salt marsh and then north towards Heysham.


There wasn’t a lot doing at Pilling Water – 1 Cormorant, 4 Teal, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel and 1 Sparrowhawk, but 450 Pink-footed Geese an improvement on recent counts. There was perhaps a little more at Fluke Hall today with 26 Lapwing, 47 Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 2 Grey Plover, 8 Pied Wagtail, 5 Reed Bunting, 4 Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Buzzard and an additional Kestrel.

Lane Ends fare was fairly predictable with 5 Tufted Duck, 1 Goldeneye, 2 Teal, a singing Reed Bunting, 4 Meadow Pipit, 1 Kestrel and 3 Jay.

At home there were a few chores to complete, with the garden net open because there seemed to be Goldfinches about; I hoped there might be new ones, plus there was a Goldcrest flitting through a neighbouring garden. I caught the Goldcrest and a new Dunnock within minutes but the resident, probably already ringed Goldfinches stayed clear.


It was lovely if uneventful morning to be out, the couple of bright spots the Wheatear and then after, the belated Goldcrest.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Less Goldcrests - More Geese

I checked Fluke Hall again this morning because after Thursday’s influx of Goldcrests I wanted to see how many were left after the clearer skies of last night. Seemingly most of them had moved on, with just a single sighting, the barely audible Goldcrest contact calls of yesterday replaced today by the ringing sounds of at least 3 Siskins high overhead.

It was very quiet otherwise, with a dozen or so Meadow Pipits and a single Pied Wagtail. On the blog yesterday I forgot to mention the 5 wary Barnacle Geese on the Hi-Fly stubble. The Barnacles were still there today, looking equally as wild and suspicious as the few Pink-footed Geese they fed with.

The Barnacle Goose has an interesting myth that dates back to the 12th century. These geese were thought to have hatched from barnacles "organisms that grow on timber exposed to salt water" furthermore creating a barnacle tree in which the geese lived in their shell hanging from the tree. The purpose of this myth was to allow religious folk to eat the meat during Lent under the delusion the tasty flesh of the goose was fish. It wasn't until the 17th century that scientists debunked the myth when they discovered that in the remote Arctic regions Barnacle Geese built nests in trees on high cliffs and when the goslings hatched, they fell into the water. This discovery put an end to the mystical tree growing geese and at the same time provided the species with a name.

No such legend for the White-fronted Goose that simply gets its name from their white patch above the bill. Near Lane Ends I found two in the same field again, one with a gammy leg which may account for them not venturing too far lately.

Barnacle Goose

White-fronted Goose

Nothing much to report from Lane Ends/Pilling Water sea wall stretch except the usual 2 Kestrel, 5 Little Egret, 1 Pied Wagtail, 12 Meadow Pipits, 1 Greenshank and 2 displaying Buzzards today. At the plantation I heard more Siskins overhead, watched a single Redpoll head north east and noted a fresh-in Reed Bunting. On the water - 2 Goldeneye and 2 Little Grebe.

Sea Wall - Pilling

Meadow Pipit

The Kestrel hovered into the wind and the light, and at the wrong angle to my camera.


Back at home 2 more Buzzards sailed over, heading out towards the copses near Staynall and the River Wyre.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crests And A Chiff

I saved my walk until pm today, not that it made the weather any better as here in the bleak North West as we enjoyed our fifth day of 100% cloud cover. The usual Lane Ends to Pilling Water trek came up with 20+ Meadow Pipits, 3 Little Egret, 2 Goldeneye, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Kestrel and 2 Jays. The inevitable green duo Green Sandpiper and Greenshank graced the wildfowler’s pools with a couple of Teal still hanging on in there.

Fluke Hall was a little more rewarding than of late with a gang of 8 Goldcrest moving through the trees and a single Chiffchaff giving snatches of song. When I got home and looked on the Internet there seems to have been a mass fall of Goldcrests in the Fylde and elsewhere this morning, with possibly hundreds if not thousands of birds arriving from somewhere.



I checked the sea wall at all the likely spots but still no sign of Wheatears. More grounded Meadow Pipits at Ridge Farm, circa 18 birds mixing it in the wet field with approximately 25 Linnets and the now resident 4 Reed Buntings.

Reed Bunting
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