Saturday, June 30, 2012

News With Views

Just birding this morning, beginning at Knott End where the time of year begins to dictate a few visits, particularly when early morning rising tides push waders and hopefully terns in from Morecambe Bay. 

No terns this morning although Oystercatcher numbers are building with 220+ today as they leave inland breeding haunts to congregate on the sands and the mussel beds. It was mostly Oystercatchers today, with just a couple of Redshank, 35 Curlew and several Shelduck. From the jetty I counted 9 Eider and then a fly past from a visiting Peregrine again. It’s just a glide across the River Wyre to Fleetwood where the Peregrines have bred again this year, rearing one youngster. Alongside the golf course I could see 3 Pied Wagtails along the first fairway and in the nearby conifers a Whitethroat was busily feeding a fledged youngster. 

Pied Wagtail



I noted a couple of Swift and House Martins then motored on to Pilling. Lane Ends car park was quiet, just the 2 regular Blackcap and a newly singing Chiffchaff but no sounds from the patches of reeds where Reed Warblers have been noisily singing of late. On my travels yesterday I checked two nests, one of Whitethroat the other of Goldfinch and both of them had been washed out, two nests better placed to survive the lashing from wind and rain that a typical Reed Warbler nest must have endured this past week. 

A walk to Pilling Water found 2 Common Sandpiper,105 Curlew, 30 Redshank, 14 Oystercatcher, 15 Goldfinch, 4 Linnet, 5 Greenfinch, 3 Swift, 8 Swallow, 3 Pied Wagtail, 16 Skylark and 4 Corn Bunting. The Corn Buntings are definitely making a breeding attempt here, confirmed as I watched a bird collect nest material from the sea wall and then accompanied by a second bird, drop with the material into the silage. I now think there may be two pairs in this field with others in similar silage fields towards Cockerham. As Corn Buntings are now so scarce in this area of Lancashire it’s good that they may be utilising this habitat, but more than a little risky if their timing coincides with silage cutting.

Corn Bunting

Down at Fluke I chatted with a HiFly guy who’s looking forward to the shooting season in 9 week’s time, if only the maize would grow and the silage become dry enough to cut. Its odd how according to our own particular interests we all take a different view of how things should turn out.! But over the recent controversy about Buzzards we agreed on one thing - Buzzards are too lazy to take game birds, they prefer to sit around and wait for a spot of road-kill or other carrion.

Tune into Another Bird Blog again on Sunday for more news and maybe a few views.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ringing Recoveries Today

Details arrived from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) of a couple of birds handled at our farmland ringing site at Out Rawcliffe - a Chaffinch and a Lesser Redpoll. A third record was of a Reed Bunting handled at a separate farmland site at Myerscough, near Preston. 

During the warm spell of March 2012 there was a very noticeable but also early seasonal movement of Lesser Redpolls heading north to upland areas. From 29 February to 1 April Will and I handled 100 Lesser Redpolls at Out Rawcliffe, the one hundred birds including one bearing ring number L977497, a second calendar year male caught on 25 March 2012. This individual had been ringed during the previous autumn on 6 October 2011 at Cannock Chase, Staffordshire. In October and as a first year juvenile, the bird was almost certainly heading a distance further south than Cannock so as to spend the winter near the south coast of England or possibly France/Spain before heading north again in early 2012 when it was intercepted at Out Rawcliffe. 

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll - Cannock Chase to Out Rawcliffe

Ring number Y279452 a first year female Chaffinch ringed during last autumn’s Chaffinch passage at Out Rawcliffe on 1 October 2011 was found dead at Holme, Cumbria on 3 June 2012. Although this isn’t a large or unexpected movement it ties in with the understanding that many juvenile Chaffinches passing through Lancashire in the autumn are leaving upland areas to disperse south and west. Although there are no further details of how Y279452 died the recovery in the month of June suggests the bird may have returned to its place of origin for the summer. For a more detailed discussion of autumnal Chaffinch movements in this part of Lancashire from the autumns of 2010 and 2011 see here.


Chaffinch - Out Rawcliffe to Holme, Cumbria

The Reed Bunting recovery also involves Cumbria. Ring number V971432 a second winter male was caught at our feeding station at Lee Farm, Myerscough on 3 February 2010. There are no details of its location until 6 March 2012 when as an adult male it was caught by another ringer at Topthorn Barn, Cumbria. This location is 58 kms north of Lee Farm. The recovery accords with previous recoveries of Reed Buntings, a species which seems to make fairly local, almost coastal dispersals with north to south/south to north movements in NW England. 

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting - Myerscough, Preston to Topthorne, Cumbria

I caught more adult Goldfinches in the shelter of the garden today, just males, so hopefully there are females persisting with nest sitting duties close by and juvenile birds appearing soon. 

 Male Goldfinch

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Around Robins

“Scattered showers” meant no proper birding, ringing or photography and soon I may have to change the blog title to “An Ex-Birder Reminisces”. But in between cutting the rampant hedge and the verdant grass and after oiling the oxidized pliers, I opened a garden net.

I have yet to see any young Goldfinches in the garden this year. I’m sure they are about, but just a couple of adults today. To catch two unwary House Sparrows is most unusual, one an adult male, the other a juvenile. Not much else before the wind sprung up again, a Blackbird, a Robin, and juveniles of Coal Tit and Blue Tit.

House Sparrow

Coal Tit



When I post pictures of our UK Robin, properly known as Common Robin or Eurasian Robin, (Latin name Erithacus rubecula) I inevitably receive a few comments from US readers about the fact that it doesn’t look much like the robin they know. So for my friends in the US unfamiliar with the following, here’s a tiny bit of a history and science lesson all in one. I will even throw in a spot of poetry.

When settlers from the UK reached America sometime after the year 1600 and came across the red-breasted bird which bore a similarity to the robin left back home on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean they naturally christened the unfamiliar one “robin”.

The American Robin Turdus migratorius is a migratory songbird of the thrush family which is not closely related to the European Robin, the robin instead belonging to the flycatcher family. The American Robin is more closely related to the Eurasian Blackbird/Common Blackbird Turdus merula, so closely related that both belong to the same genus of Turdus, true thrushes. I guess that after the American and European continents split apart all those millions of ago the thrush families also went their separate ways and after all that evolutionary change there are now some 65 Turdus thrushes in the world. 

 American Robin – Turdus migratorius

Blackbird - Turdus merula 

An old English word for thrush is “throstle”

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings! 
He, too, is no mean preacher: 
Come forth into the light of things, 
Let Nature be your teacher. 

William Wordsworth

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Returning Waders, Returning Rain

Early morning visits are best for Conder Green, a place which gets pretty busy soon after 7am with passing traffic, cyclists, and walkers, even birders on occasions, all of which can make finding birds a bit of a challenge. I hadn’t motored up there for a week or two, and unable to sleep this morning I set off early for the Conder, Cockerham and Pilling circuit. 

The month of June often sees waders returning south, typically Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Green Sandpiper, but also the more common ones such as Curlew and Redshank, whose numbers begin to build. So no surprises in finding two of the less common returnees in Conder Creek this morning, singles of Common Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank. Good numbers of Redshanks too with circa 35 birds which no doubt includes locally bred youngsters. Other waders: 12 Oystercatcher, 6 Lapwing and 2 Curlew. 


Common Sandpiper

Waterbirds were represented by 1 Grey Heron, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 7 Goosander, the latter a party of recently fledged juveniles, no doubt originating from a few miles upstream of the River Lune. 

Great Crested Grebe

Not much doing in the passerines department with just 3 Whitethroat and a singing Blackcap at the car park and 30+ Swift between here and Glasson, plus 15 Swallow and 8 House Martin. I am not seeing many Swallows on my travels: has anyone else noticed a shortage of Swallows this year? Their poor and late arrival in April, the only average spell of May weather followed by the appalling wind and rain of June must have had an impact on the breeding success of Swallows and other insectivorous species. 

Barn Swallow

When at 7am the first jogger rattled over the bridge to scatter the Redshanks, I headed south towards Pilling where just past Braides Farm I noted a roadside Buzzard, a Corn Bunting in song, 90+ Curlews, a post-breeding flock of 100+ Lapwings and a Grey Heron. 

Nearing Lane Ends the previously bright sky turned darker again as rain spattered the windscreen. I didn’t fancy a soaking so restricted myself to the area of the car park, with a few bits and pieces of 2 Jay, 2 Reed Warbler, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Little Grebe and I then watched from the sea wall as 170+ Curlew flew from inland and out to the salt marsh.


The morning ended with four Kestrels, two at Damside and then two more through the village. Sorry about the gloomy Kestrel pictures - by now there was more continuous rain and I headed home for breakfast. 





Its 1630 now, the sun has got its hat on and the weather forecast looks better for mid week. About time too. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Soggy Post And Menorca Returns

Two days of solid rain, no birding and no news for Another Bird Blog readers. Unless of course they are interested in photographs of newly painted garden benches drying off in the garage, a précis of a letter to long-lost aunts in Uxbridge, or a recipe for freshly made tomato soup? I thought not. 

So in place of non-existent news and after tidying up picture files in Photoshop here are a few pictures left over from May in Menorca, with minimal comments from me. 

The Bee Eaters in Menorca are difficult to approach, keeping watchers to what seems a measured distance before they fly off, usually close to the usable limits of a 400mm lens. A 1000mm would be ideal. 

Bee Eater

Here’s a Cattle Egret, a species which still hasn’t managed to colonise the UK to any meaningful extent, despite showing all the signs for a good few years. 

Cattle Egret

The European or Common Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) is fairly common around the rocky Balearic coasts. If anyone wants to learn more about this bird, beware of bizarre outcomes if Googling the word “Shag”. 

European Shag

Garden birds from Menorca - Kestrel, Scops Owl, Hoopoe, Yellow-legged Gull and Audouin’s Gull, the latter a bird ringed as a nestling on Illa de L’Aire, an island off the south coast of Menorca, and a different ringed individual to the one I recorded in 2011. 


Scops Owl

Audouin's Gull

Audouin's Gull

Yellow-legged Gull


For more Hoopoe pictures see Another Bird Blog here. For more birds from Menorca, click on the "Menorca" or "Menorca Birds" tags in the right hand lower column of the blog page.

Perhaps strangely to our jaded British palates, Menorcan cheese doesn’t stick your teeth together and the island’s sausages actually taste of meat. 

Menorcan sausage and cheese

My rough translation of the street sign in Es Migjorn would be “If you clean up after your dog the whole environment benefits” 

Street sign - Es Migjorn, Menorca

Alaior - Menorca

Mahon - Menorca 

Fingers crossed for less rain this weekend, but Wimbledon begins on Monday.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hard Graft?

I bumped into another birder - PH, at Pilling this morning, who asked me how I managed to bird this stretch of coast from Cockerham to Pilling so often as he found it “hard work”. I suppose the answer is that I’ve been bashing it a long time, know the nooks and crannies, the regular spots where regular birds turn up plus the places where something more unusual might just occur in the range of habitats the patch encompasses. It’s also a good stretch for doing a spot of ringing of waders, Wheatears, sometimes larks and pipits, and just once a brood of Yellow Wagtail chicks. 

Over the years the walk has been kind to me with the occasional icing on the cake of commonality, things like Dotterel, Temminck’s Stint, Lapland Buntings, Firecrest, Avocet, Osprey, Hobbys and recently Montagu’s Harrier to add to the many sightings of Marsh Harrier and the occasional Hen Harrier. Today wasn’t one of those scarcity days, just a common or garden morning and a grand one to be out and about working the local patch, armed of course with a pair of bins and a camera. 

I kicked off at Fluke Hall where a Buzzard was out on the marsh again, presumably the male, and roosting on his customary fence post, well away from the trouble and strife plus growing kids. 


The bright sunny morning induced Blackcaps into song, with three in the Fluke woods and another at the junction of Wheel Lane. Along the same stretch were 4 Whitethroat in song plus plenty of “churring” and “tacking” from the depths of other hawthorn bushes. 

The fields around here are indeed “hard to work”, especially since local farmers appear to have given up growing anything but grass to feed to animals. Nowadays it’s hard to find a field with any kind of vegetable, never mind an expanse of spuds for which Pilling is justly famous. When the silage is cut birds will use the fields to some degree but here’s nothing quite like the turned over soil of a recently harvested crop to get birds interested. 

Past Damside the male Kestrel was in his normal spot, with no sign of the female or young just yet at the nearby nest box. Lane Ends gave up a crèche containing 37 Greylag, 3 Tufted Duck, 1 Cormorant,3 Reed Warbler, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Whitethroat. Lane Ends to Pilling Water produced 2 Corn Bunting, 4 Pied Wagtail, 6 Greenfinch, 7 Goldfinch, 4 Linnet and 1 Meadow Pipit. 


18 Swift fed along the sea wall, a good count for recent years, whilst at Pilling Water I watched 6 or 8 House Martins collecting shore mud for their nests some 500 yards away. Now that is hard graft, and birding just a doddle.

House Martin

House Martin

Stay tuned for more birds soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I’d Sooner Be Birding

Almost a week without a post on Another Bird Blog whereby the weather has been unfit for birding, ringing or photography and the month of June heading for records highs of wind and rain. So this Sunday morning I vowed to get out birding and let the weather do its worst. 

It started off the same, heavy threatening cloud and windy, but just good enough for birding. I set off early for Pilling and immediately noticed a Police helicopter circling overhead, then just down the lane I came upon the boys-in-blue examining an abandoned car which blocked the road ahead. Seemingly the joyriders had escaped to vanish somewhere over the horizon, no doubt to then spend the morning playing hide and seek with the cops. Me, I’d sooner be birding. 

I turned the car around and made a detour over Stalmine Moss then across Union Lane towards Pilling, a route which proved fortuitous when alongside Union Lane I saw Kestrel, Buzzard and then a breakfasting Barn Owl. The cold, miserable morning didn’t help any Swallows to find food and I photographed one on a roadside fence where I employed ISO1600. 

 Barn Owl


Eventually I reached Fluke Hall Lane and Lane Ends for my usual circuit just as the clouds began to part, the light improved and I switched to ISO400. Lane Ends to Pilling Water: Blackcap, Reed Warbler, 3 Grey Heron, Reed Bunting, 3 Corn Bunting, 5 Greenfinch, 6 Linnet, 3 Pied Wagtail, 1 Sparrowhawk. 

Whitethroats were out in force with 14 singing males between Lane Ends and Ridge Farm to the south of Fluke Hall. A pair of roadside Lapwings had 2 large chicks, from their size probable flyers. Some of the Lapwings which suddenly appear with young have brought them from fields just inland so as to gradually make their way out to the marsh. 


Lapwing - Juvenile

Along Fluke Hall Lane Tuesday’s Oystercatcher stood sentinel on the same roadside telegraph pole where it but not I had a good view of youngsters in the next field. 


Burned House Lane now, not far from home, where the police, the helicopter, the smashed-up car and the bad boys had long gone but a Lesser Whitethroat in song provided a fitting end to my few hours of birding.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Watching Brief

Here’s a short update from a quiet walk over Pilling way today. It’s brief again because of the season of the year, when nothing much seems to happen on the migration front while birds go about their summer business. 

At Lane Ends there are still 2+ Little Grebe, 2 singing Reed Warbler, one singing Blackcap and a secretive Jay in the plantation, with singing Reed Bunting and Willow Warbler now at Pilling Water, almost certainly not the Lane Ends birds of late. Corn Buntings are now represented by 3+ birds showing all the signs of territorial behaviour which could be a blunder if the farmer cuts his silage any day soon. Other passerines noted, Lane Ends to Fluke via Pilling Water: 18 Skylark including fledged but scattered youngsters being fed by adults, 8 Goldfinch, 3 Pied Wagtail, 5 Meadow Pipit, 4 Whitethroat, 6 Greenfinch. 

Meadow Pipit

I took a stab at counting the post breeding waders, including any obvious and frequently distant youngsters; 18 Oystercatcher, 45 Lapwing, 22 Redshank, 6 Curlew. 

Scientists say we shouldn’t write about birds in an anthropomorphic way, but when in the breeding season I watch the adults of wading birds, Lapwings, but particularly Redshank and Oystercatcher, I am struck by behaviour that we humans recognise as good parenting skills: keeping a permanent watch on their offspring, immediately warning the minors of potential danger, and if necessary intervening on the youngsters behalf if they are in danger. Before “bringing up baby” there are the less obvious things to consider, meeting up with a good partner and then finding a safe place to build a nest and hatch their eggs, so as to be able to raise their young to the point of independence. Of course, most bird species only need look out for their offspring for a week or two, unlike us humans where the timescale is now more like twenty-five or thirty years.

The adult Oystercatcher yelled to the couple of chicks not far away when it saw me peering from the car window. I’ll allow readers to imagine what the Oystercatcher might be shouting. 



The guardian Redshank is less frantic but still watchful, the picture spoiled by the sun directly behind, illuminating right through the bird’s legs. 


Lapwings, which breed a little earlier than Redshanks and Oystercatchers have now mostly given up on parenting and instead joined in with post-breeding groups of birds. There’s just an occasional bird warning now large young to stay hidden, even though the youngsters are well able to fly. 


Stay tuned, more soon on Another Bird Blog.
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