Friday, August 31, 2012

Cool Stuff

After clear overnight a slight ground frost greeted us at Rawcliffe this morning, and with the air temperature showing just 5 degrees Will and I donned extra clothes as we set to in erecting a few nets. By 11am and with the sun up high we’d shed a few layers after another interesting and fruitful morning of finches and warblers. 

We caught 27 birds of 8 species, 26 new and a single recapture of a recent Chaffinch. New birds: 14 Chaffinch, 4 Whitethroat, 2 Blackbird, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Robin and 1 Goldcrest. 

Because of  the clear blue sky Chaffinches were passing over very high this morning, sometimes unseen but mostly giving themselves away with their constant contact calls. Including today the August Chaffinch total stands at 36 birds, 31 juveniles and 5 adults, a ratio which should remain the same throughout September and October until the inland movement of Chaffinches here dries up. On cold mornings we occasionally get Chaffinches reluctant to leave the warmth of the ringing station, but after a minute or so they fly off. 


We didn’t see any more than the two Willow Warblers caught, both juveniles. 

 Willow Warbler

There’s still a few Whitethroats about and we saw at least seven today, four of which we caught including another adult. And it’s always nice to catch a Garden Warbler. 


Garden Warbler

We found our first Goldcrest of the autumn in a net with a few Chaffinches. 

Goldcrest - The Smallest UK Bird

Other visible migration: 8/10 Siskin over, all heading south, but just a single Lesser Redpoll. Approximately 15/20 high Meadow Pipits appearing from not any particular direction but leaving towards the west. Other “vis” - 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Pied Wagtail and 6 Snipe. 

Raptors today were a Tawny Owl at dawn, our first Merlin of the autumn, 1 Kestrel and a Marsh Harrier which appeared not to see us sat against the background of Will’s motor, allowing me to nail a half decent picture at last. 


Marsh Harrier

From yesterday's post, and for readers who asked, after I spoke to the lady in Pilling, it seems the dead Sparrowhawk was found next to a car parked on the driveway. It had probably chased a small bird but hit the car windows at speed instead. 


Stay tuned, more on Another Bird Blog soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Size Matters

There’ a mixed bag of a report today – a small dead bird, a spot of ringing, a touch of birding and a brace of harriers. 

It all started at Pilling after a phone message from a lady with a dead bird which she didn’t recognise, but she would leave it on the dustbin in case the couple were not at home. Never knowing quite what to expect when Joe Public phones I considered all the possibilities from a Wren to perhaps a Sparrowhawk, the latter always a possibility where gardens are concerned. I was right, a young male from one of this year’s broods lay across the bin lid as promised. A Sparrowhawk is much smaller than people imagine, a male doubly so. 


I was in Pilling anyway so needed no further excuse to hit the sea wall. After more heavy overnight rain a Greenshank had settled happily in a wet spot at Backsands Lane, until a very large bus clanked noisily by my parked car and the Greenshank spluttered off. 


Along the sea wall – 40+ Swallows heading slowly west into the stiff north westerly and 40+ Goldfinch on the thistle heads, and then 2 Ravens flying out to the distant tideline. 

There was a single Wheatear just beyond Lane Ends, quite unusual to see one here nowadays since the new planation developed into a wood, so removing the open spaces beloved of Wheatears. Further towards Pilling Water I found a Common Sandpiper and another 4 Wheatears ducking and diving over the rocks on the shore, so I laid a trap or two into the teeth of the cold northerly, hoping the meal worms could still wriggle. One obviously did, but it took a while today to catch a chunky juvenile bird, wing length 101mm so almost certainly an Icelandic bird, especially since there has been a noticeable influx of Wheatears during this week’s unsettled westerly weather. 


I found a partially sheltered spot to watch the traps and the tideline hoping for something to come along, which is exactly what happened when a Marsh Harrier appeared from the Cockerham direction and flew all along the tideline until it disappeared over the sea wall at Fluke Hall. In between the harrier had to shake off the attentions of two Ravens chasing it along the tide. I can’t recall ever seeing Ravens and Marsh Harriers in close proximity before, and when I looked it up in the books it seems the species have the same wing span. Sorry about the distant, heavily cropped picture, but you get the idea. 

Marsh Harrier and Raven

As the harrier flew across the wildfowlers’ pools it flushed 150+ Teal and a couple of Little Egrets from the water there. 

The other harrier, a “Gold Top” was yesterday when I went to do a little maintenance work on the net rides at Rawcliffe. One of these days maybe a Marsh Harrier will come close enough for a decent picture rather than a record shot?

Marsh Harrier

There’s a better forecast tomorrow with less wind and more sun so hopefully more news on Another Bird Blog.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mainly Swallows

A bright and breezy morning coupled with an incoming tide meant a quick look at Knott End for me. The packed-like sardines Oystercatchers numbered about 1200 today, with a single Sanderling and 12 Knot for company. Just 8 Eider on the sea and several Swallows on the move. 

There was a Darvic ringed Greylag wandering about the jetty, the bird totally ignoring passers-by, and if a long time ago it was ringed as a free-flying wild goose it seems to have taken a shine to Knott End and doesn’t look like going anywhere soon. It had a BTO ring on the right leg, number 515221 if anyone wishes to claim ownership. I took the picture with my tiny Panasonic, that’s how tame the goose was. 


At Fluke Hall lots of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Lapwing were scattered along the shore, too distant to count. Through the woodland drive all I could muster were Kestrel, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Grey Heron. Lane Ends next where a male Sparrowhawk took exception to a Kestrel hovering over the plantation and after battling it out for a minute or two the tiny hawk let the Kestrel have the territory. On the pools, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron.

Sparrowhawk and Kestrel

At Pilling Water I found 80+ Goldfinch, 2 Pied Wagtail, 4 Linnet and 6 Wheatears. After jumping around the shore rockery for ten minutes or so the gang of Wheatears had vanished, heading off in an unknown direction as I took my eyes off them - it’s what’s known as visible migration, or perhaps in this case, invisible migration. The wildfowlers pools were very quiet with just 3 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Cormorant and a wary Greenshank. 
There were a number of Swallows about, hawking insects over Broadfleet then taking it in turns to rest up in their customary sheltered spot on the sluice gates. I spent 30 minutes or so taking photographs of Swallows, so no apologies for featuring a number of new pics here. After all the Swallow (Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica) is a special bird which will soon wing its way back south and we won’t see them for some months, so let’s take a good look now. 










There’s more heavy downpours promised for tomorrow, but with luck there will be no rain so more news and pictures on Another Bird Blog. Today Another Bird Blog is linking up with World Bird Wednesday - see  here.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Chaffinches On The Move

Out on Rawcliffe Moss and after making the effort for a 0600 start the catching was initially slow whereby at 0740 we had caught just 4 birds. Will and I worried the session might end sooner than later, but just as the 100% cloud cover slowly opened out to patches of blue sky, birds appeared both in and over the plantation. The morning proved to be both interesting and fruitful, ending on a high with the sighting of a female Marsh Harrier hunting distant fields over towards St Michael’s. 

32 birds of 12 species caught, 31 new and 1 recapture, with highlights being the mix of warblers which included more Whitethroats and the beginnings of Chaffinch dispersal from further north of Lancashire. New birds: 14 Chaffinch, 5 Whitethroat, 3 Dunnock, plus one each of Tree Pipit, Goldfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Blackcap, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Greenfinch and Blue Tit. After a hint of Chaffinch beginning their autumn dispersal last week, today the movement was more definite with 14 new Chaffinch of which 13 were juveniles, an autumn ratio which does not surprise us. Soon after 0800 Chaffinches began to arrive in singles and small groups from the north, some diving into the plantation, others continuing south. We estimated 80+ by the time we left at 1115. 


The Whitethroat recapture proved to be a male originally ringed here on 30th May 2012, the bird having by now undergone a complete moult and so in immaculate condition, ready to head back to Africa. The juveniles complete the same journey having undergone a partial moult only. Note the differing eye colours of adult and juvenile. 

Whitethroat - adult

Whitethroat - adult

Whitethroat - juvenile
Whitethroat- juvenile

We counted 3+ Tree Pipits over today, one of which we caught. 

 Tree Pipit

Just singles of Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff today with perhaps one or two additional birds not finding the nets. 


Willow Warbler

We caught the Blackcap at first light, the Whitethroats later, all of which had been consuming Blackberries but perhaps not the Reed Warbler. 

Blackberry hands

Reed Warbler

Just like last week, the Lesser Redpoll proved to be a moulting adult, this one a male. 

Lesser Redpoll

We catch very few Greenfinch here but a singleton today plus a Goldfinch in the net next to Niger feeders which remain quite full with so much natural food still about. 


There was a noticeable movement south of hirundines today, unusual in that the majority of the birds were c40+ high flying Sand Martins with lesser numbers of Swallows and House Martins. Other birds: 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Buzzard, 3 Golden Plover over, 2 Raven over, 150+ Teal, the latter possibly disturbed from their wildfowler fed pool by the quartering Marsh Harrier which came in from the west then disappeared from view during heavy rain with car windows up. Sorry, no pictures of the harrier it being too distant in the gloom of yet another downpour.

 All in all a very satisfying and productive day with the continuance of the Chaffinch passage and the prospect of many more Chaffinches to come in the weeks ahead. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Header Required

There have been a few days without new postings on Another Bird Blog because whilst I’ve been out birding there has been little to report. This morning proved a little better when I found a few fresh-in migrants, one of them the bird in the recently changed blog header. 

I kicked off at Damside, Pilling where the puddled field is beginning to hold a few birds to study, providing birders can beat pedestrians and cyclists to the lay-by. No gulls there today, just 80 Lapwings and a Stock Dove. At Lane Ends a check of the pools and surrounding trees saw 2 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Cormorant and 2 Sparrowhawk, with a Lesser Whitethroat giving itself away by its constant warning calls. 

Little Grebe 


The Cormorant is considered a pest by hobby anglers and commercial fisheries. It might be said that fisheries managers are mostly to blame for failing to protect their stock, and that for a Cormorant a well-stocked water is "like putting out nuts for a Blue Tit". My own experience of Cormorants is that they are difficult to photograph and very unapproachable, mainly because of the persecution suffered at the hands of the human race. 

The walk to Pilling Water proved uneventful save a for single Skylark, a landside Wheatear, and a good flock of 90+ Goldfinch and 4 Linnet feeding on this year’s abundant thistles. 

Hi-Fly man arrived to the wildfowlers pools and proceeded to flush from the pools 2 Pintail, 2 Teal and a single Snipe. There have been 150+ Teal in recent days but if disturbed too much they head off to the marsh where they hide in the gulleys. I was watching the hirundines, 30+ Swallow and 4 House Martin, hawking over Broadfleet when I spotted a Spotted Flycatcher moving between the fence of the sluice gate and the sheep pen which by default also holds lots of insects. Now so scarce in the Fylde, this was my first sighting this year of a bird that locally is now just a spring and autumn passage migrant and consequently something of a prize to listers. Sitting to watch the flycatcher feed I made a mental to change the blog header more often, perhaps back to Bee Eater soon? 

Spotted Flycatcher

After Hi-Fly man hastened back to Fluke a couple of raptors appeared from the direction he headed, first a Buzzard and then soon after a very streaky juvenile Peregrine. The Buzzard hung around long enough to get a few distant shots and discover it as a moulting adult. 


Next came a couple more Grey Herons, a single Little Egret and finally the unmistakeable calls of a Northern Raven louding it south.  

Stay tuned, more soon from Another Bird Blog.

Monday, August 20, 2012

For The Record

After yesterday’s exertion of a ringing session out on the moss today’s stroll and undemanding birding along the sea wall at Pilling proved something of a doddle, the biggest challenge being the search for new photographs to keep blog readers satisfied. After a couple of hours I’d seen a handy selection of species and even managed a couple of pictures. 

The last week has seen a tremendous push south of Willow Warblers, both big arrivals, lesser parties and ones and twos dotted all along the Lancashire and Cheshire coastline, so as I set off walking from Lane Ends I wasn’t surprised to add to the tally with 2 in the immediate trees. There was then nothing to see until Pilling Water where a female Sparrowhawk circled briefly over the wildfowler’s pools before heading off in the direction of Lane Ends. I noted a single Wheatear atop a direction sign and then a couple of Linnets along the shore. This Wheatear wasn't interested in a free mealworm in exchange for a shiny new ring.


Sat down I watched as the tide rolled in from the west, pushing waders, wildfowl and miscellaneous ahead of it: 440 Curlew, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Greenshank, 60 Lapwing, 1 Golden Plover, 2 Snipe, 8 Dunlin, 4 Redshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 8 Wigeon, 190 Teal, 44 Shelduck, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 9 Cormorant, 3 Little Egret and 3 Grey Heron. One of the herons obliged with a fly past just within camera range but in the main everything keeps a safe distance from any pedestrians on the wall, most of all the resident Peregrine which stays near the incoming tide where opportunities for lunch constantly arise. 

 Grey Heron

As the tide turned I heard a croaking but distant Raven and turned to see not one, but two of them heading over and west towards Fluke Hall, dwarfing the Carrion Crows as they went. There’d been a number of Swallows hawking over the tide, some moving west, others seemingly still locals, and I jotted 30+ in my notebook, plus a Kestrel now hovering over the full-in tide. 

The tide had pushed hundreds of gulls onto the fields of Backsands Lane and Damside so I promised myself a quick look on the way back through the village. The count was 400 Black-headed Gull, 20+ Common Gull and a single Mediterranean Gull, the birds constantly moving as cyclists and vehicles passed slowly by. The distant Med needed a heavy crop and as they say, it’s “a record shot”.

 Mediterranean Gull

Tune in soon for more news from Another Bird Blog. This week I’m linking with Stewart's World Bird Wednesday - take a look. Stewart is a fellow bird ringer but lives a few miles away in Australia.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Win For Willy

With the disastrous summer we’ve struggled for a decent catch of birds all year but our luck changed this morning with an excellent mixed catch of warblers at Out Rawcliffe. Will and I met at 6am and by 1030 we’d managed a catch of 28 new birds following what appeared to be an overnight arrival of mainly Willow Warblers, possibly birds from Scotland, especially since we were hearing and seeing Tree Pipits too. 

Species and numbers caught: 16 Willow Warbler (3 adult and 13 juvenile), 2 Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Tree Pipit, 2 Chaffinch, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff , 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Reed Bunting. Approximately 35/40 Willow Warblers were about the immediate area this morning, some of them visibly heading south when they left the plantation. 

Willow Warbler

With just a single Chiffchaff the morning clearly belonged to the Willys. 


We counted 6+ Tree Pipits over this morning, a figure which includes the two juveniles caught. 

Tree Pipit

Tree Pipit

The two Lesser Whitethroats were immaculate juveniles, the Common Whitethroat a juvenile in moult. 

Lesser Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat

It’s always instructive to catch a Reed Warbler in the trees, so reminding ourselves that birds don’t necessarily do what it says on the label. 

Reed Warbler

As the species isn’t proven to breed too locally and also scarce in the summertime we normally catch Lesser Redpolls in just spring or fairly late autumn and so do not see their moult patterns. This year I suspect a pair or two have bred very locally indeed, therefore catching a female in heavy moult reinforced the notion. 

 Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll

A juvenile Reed Bunting in post-juvenile moult. 

Reed Bunting

Other birds this morning: Evidence of migration with 24 Snipe and 14 Golden Plover, otherwise less than five each of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Chaffinch over, so no great finch movements as yet. Small number of Swallows in the area c40, but very little noticeable movement south. No raptors or owls this morning - most unusual, but then we were busy counting or watching Willys. 
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