Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday on Sunday

Saturday was a little fraught with the domestic complications of Sue’s expired laptop and a deceased TV, leaving no time to update the blog but instead a visit to the shops to replace said items. Now on Sunday the weather is diabolical with more wind and rain, so as I’m stuck indoors here’s an update from Saturday. 

Unlike the visit to Comet, Saturday’s birding didn’t break the bank with the morning providing a little recompense in the shape of another Wheatear caught from a new threesome along the sea wall at Pilling. That’s five trapped in September, fourteen for the year and now almost into October, possibly the last until next spring. This latest one, an adult male, took the mealworm bait in seconds, after which and upon examination the bird appeared very thin and felt lightweight suggesting overnight arrival. It’s doubtful there are any UK adult males around by now and while the wing length of 100mm lies near the top of the range for nominate oenanthe at 95-102mm, it fitted more closely the values for Icelandic leucorhoa at 99-107mm. In addition the whole bird was a brightly coloured specimen. 



The remainder of the few hours resembles jottings of recent days: 1200 Pink-footed Goose, 3 Barnacle Goose, 265+ Shelduck, 700 Teal, 250+ Wigeon, 18+ Pintail, 3 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron. Many of the ducks came off the wildfowler’s pools and headed out to the marsh but both their presence and the numbers in the pools at any one time is unpredictable. The tide was slightly too low to concentrate waders which gave  rather small and less than totally accurate counts of 270+ Lapwing, 90 Golden Plover, 15 Redshank, 300 + Curlew and 4 Snipe with many birds remaining at Preesall Sands. A single juvenile Peregrine appeared again, the bird causing mass panic when it chased low across the marsh and scattered everything in its very fast path. 

The couple of hours gave a steady trickle of Swallows heading west, probably 40+, with other “small stuff” represented by 40 Goldfinch, 10/12 Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail and 18 Skylark, the latter species beginning to appear in larger numbers in recent days, just as as the Swallows leave our shores for the warmth of Africa. 

Barn Swallow


I had a text from Will who is in Scotland - “Siskins by the hundreds if not thousands heading south daily. First Redwings yesterday.” 


Maybe those Siskins will hit the feeders here this week? If they do then be sure to read about it on Another Bird Blog, this week linking up with I'd Rather B Birding and Stewart's Photo Gallery.

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Windy Wheat

It was pretty windy out Pilling Way this morning but something made me head off towards Pilling Water again hoping for a Wheatear or two to relieve the non-ringing days of late. Just a single bird today feeding in the sheltered stones, proving easier to catch than a whole gang of them urging each other on to migrate as per yesterday. Today’s hungry juvenile had a whopping wing length of 112mm, so an obvious Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa , but I had to find a sheltered spot for the portrait. 

Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

 Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

In the conditions there wasn’t much else of note: similar numbers of Pink-footed Goose at c5000 but 8/10 Barnacle Geese mixed with the distant flock, 1 Kestrel, 1 Peregrine, 40+ Goldfinch, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Little Egret. 

After, and in the hope there might be less wind, I thought I’d best go to Rawcliffe Moss to see if the low-lying farm track was negotiable and further up the farm, if my peaty, muddy parking spot was reasonably solid. If the answer to both questions was “yes”, I planned a top up the Niger feeders followed by a wander about. 

A long section of the track proved pretty deep in water, and then the parking location an uninviting pool of squashy black mud, but the GV did the business without trouble and then donning wellies I set off for a gander. 

There’s still a roving flock of Goldfinches about, their numbers gradually falling with c 40 today, at least 8 of them finding their way to the Niger food in the net rides where I topped the almost empty feeders up. It’s been almost impossible to get to the site in the last week with the continual rain and locally flooded roads but on the first half decent day a ringing session will ensue. The time was almost 11am but a few each of Siskin, Chaffinch and Meadow Pipit flew over, obvious remnants of any the morning’s migration but the steady breeze all morning had been too strong for ringing. 


On the floods I found 6 Pied Wagtails and a few more Meadow Pipits, but with the wind picking up the open mossland isn’t the best place to linger. On the way off the farm I clocked a Kestrel, a Buzzard and grabbed a shot of the local Robin which hangs around for seed spills. Clever animals these birds. 


Saturday and Sunday look breezy again, so fingers crossed for better weather and more birds soon on Another Bird Blog. 

Saturday Morning

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not Quite Cyprus?

The weather wasn’t as good as the forecast promised this morning with spits and spots of the dreaded stuff from the off, although it was infinitely better than of late allowing a spot of birding. Knott End was first the port of call for a walk up river and a look at the rising tide due to peak at 10 o’clock. 

There was a good selection of waders with 1900 Oystercatcher and 250+ Knot mixed in the flock, 18 Redshank, 6 Turnstone, c300 more distant Curlew and a single Grey Heron along the tide line. Wildfowl numbers are much lower and yet to build: 90 Shelduck, 3 Red-breasted Merganser and just 3 Eider. 

Red-breasted Merganser

There was very little evidence of any visible migration this morning, the highlight being a Lesser Redpoll which seemed to arrive from the North West before continuing south and up river followed by a few calls of high-up Meadow Pipits. There’s a gang of finches which hangs about near the Bourne Arms and the salt marsh, today numbering c 60 Goldfinch and c15 Linnet. It was a quiet walk up river with no shouts of golfers today, just the silence of the flooded fairway and the noise of Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls, Oystercatchers and a couple of Redshank taking advantage of the new feeding opportunity. 40+ Jackdaws feeding here too. 


Knott End Golf Club

The brightening sky sent me up to Pilling and Lane Ends, avoiding some flooded roads which are passable with care only. A couple of hours of walk and watch produced a lot of very active Pink-footed Goose, coming and going between the marsh and Hi-Fly fields with an estimate of 5500 +. In addition to these there are many birds feeding inland, with the best time to complete a full count either at dawn when the geese fly from their marshland roost in search of food, or in the evening when they fly back out to the marsh to roost for the night. 

It’s never easy to get a photograph of the pinkies: they are so wild and wary that the slightest movement of a lens sends them up and away from the device pointed in their direction, and where the birds pack so tightly that inevitably one or more birds are obscured by others. In the last sentence substitute the word “gun” for “lens” to explain why our pinkies are so wary throughout the winter months. But then we aren't as wicked as the people in some Mediterranean countries - are we?

Pink-footed Goose

 Pink-footed Goose

A few bits and pieces at Pilling Water, namely the now resident Kingfisher, 4 Wheatears moving rapidly west, 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Skylark, 1 Kestrel, 15 Linnet and 2 Red-breasted Merganser. The Peregrine was having fun out on the marsh, constantly harassing the masses of Teal and Wigeon, very distant after the only medium tide dropped, but in excess of 800 Teal and 200 Wigeon. 


Today I noticed a distinct lack of Swallows, my count from Pilling being completed on one hand as October draws near. 

There’s more from Another Bird Blog soon. In the meantime and  to finish on here’s a petition that every birder should sign  End The Slaughter

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sunnier Days

Sorry to disappoint regular readers but following at least 48 hours of solid rain rather than showery migrant bearing showers, birding would be rather pointless and unproductive at the moent, so apologies for the lack of bird news. 

On Monday evening I and many other bird enthusiasts went along to an event entitled “Bird Migration”, an illustrated talk given by Professor Ian Newton and arranged by the Lancaster and District Birdwatching Society. 

Bird Migration by Ian Newton

Professor Newton is one of the world's leading ornithologists, currently chairman of the British Trust for Ornithology and also the author of several essential-reading bird books. These volumes include a couple of my own favourites, “Finches” and “The Sparrowhawk”, the latter a book which many consider to be the most detailed study ever of any population of raptors. 

The evening proved a great success as Professor Ian Newton described to the packed audience some of the mysteries of bird migration, its evolution, and how it is changing under the influence of climate change. His presentation included explanations of some the many challenges that birds face on their immense travels around the globe, together with the remarkable physical adaptations that enable them to take such demanding journeys. For any blog readers who get the chance to go along to one of Professor Newton’s talks I would urge you to do so. In my case it was rainy evening well spent. 

For today I trawled through the PC archives to find a few pictures from sunnier days and sunnier places so as to keep the blog alive and well. 


Cattle Egret

Bee Eater

My recent picture of Pilling at high tide was shown as a background to the BBC North West weather forecast last night. They must have decided to use it as illustrating lots of water rather than a sunny day.

A Sunnier Day

As soon as it stops raining or brightens up I’ll be out birding and then report in to readers of Another Bird Blog, so tune in again soon because it can’t rain forever can it? 

This post is linking with I'd Rather B Birding and Stewart's Photo Gallery.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Where’s Tonto When You Need Him?

Yes, The Lone Ringer would have welcomed an extra set of eyes plus an additional pair of hands to help out on Rawcliffe Moss this morning. Just as the BBC promised, there was a layer of white frost on the ground when I arrived, and when heading off to the net rides I found the resident ropes and mist net poles with an unpleasant coating of ice. 

It was a slow, cold start but the morning soon warmed up, both bird and temperature wise into on an eventful, busy morning for ringing and watching bird migration in action. It’s at times like this when the ringing must take priority, with counts of overhead birds and those obviously passing through becoming approximations or missed entirely when hands and eyes are fully occupied with processing birds. 

More of the “vis” later, but first the ringing which comprised mainly finches - 38 birds of 6 species, 16 Chaffinch, 17 Goldfinch, 2 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Coal Tit and 1 Great Tit. Of the Chaffinches there were just 2 adults today, both of them males, with the remaining 14 juveniles split 11/3 in favour of males today. Of the Goldfinches all 17 birds proved to be first year birds in varying degrees of progression to first winter plumage. 


I hope today was the start of the redpoll passage as they are infinitely more catchable than autumn Siskins. 

Lesser Redpoll
Coal Tit

Even as I arrived at 0630 and in the half-light there were Song Thrushes dodging along the farm track and then within minutes the first sounds of Siskins overhead. Soon after dawn 2 Mistle Thrushes came from the north before they too headed south. Mistle Thrushes have got really scarce in these parts, these two the first I have seen in months. 

Frosty Start

Siskins were to dominate the morning calls, eclipsing even the normal preponderance of Chaffinch here. By 1130 my approximation of both came to 100+ Siskin and 70 Chaffinch, with Lesser Redpoll trailing in third place at 10+. 2012 has certainly been a “Siskin Autumn” so far, a scenario which doesn’t necessarily translate into a Siskin winter if birds continue too far south and out of the UK. The Goldfinches caught today came from a flock of 120+ birds feeding nearby, and as ever on this site at this time of year, it is impossible to separate out any Goldfinches that may be on migration. 

There was a reasonable passage of Meadow Pipits overhead, c90, but they were moving on a broad front with many west of my vantage point when I had a rare quiet moment to look through binoculars. Skylarks were on the move this morning, all seemingly from the east and heading west, 15+ individuals. Other overheads: 2 Grey Wagtail, 2 alba wagtail, 1 Yellowhammer, 2 Reed Bunting, 3 Blackbird. 

Other birds: a singing Chiffchaff which I heard just once before it probably moved on, 2 Jay,1 Kestrel, 140 Pink-footed Goose, 1 Buzzard and 30+ seemingly local Swallows. Halfway through the morning I received a text from Will who was working near Claughton. His message told of a heavy passage of Meadow Pipits underway, together with a “phenomenal” movement of Swallows. Interesting that the Meadow Pipits I had seen and heard just 7 or 8 miles away probably tallied with Will’s observations, but there was no sign of a sizeable movement of Swallows here on the moss. 

On the way home I called to see if my pal the reliable, approachable and easy-going Little Owl was having a sun bathe. He or she was there in the usual spot, just snoozing in the midday sun until the shutter clicked as if to rouse the bird. There and then I decided to christen the owl Tonto even though it could be male or female, and while Tonto won’t be able to help out with my ringing, it’s always around when I need a photo or two. 
Little Owl


Tune in soon for more news, views and photos from Another Bird Blog.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday News

There aren’t many new pictures on offer with this post but there’s a good list of birds following an afternoon out Pilling way. Yes, the wind and rain finally gave way to a half-decent few hours of bright weather for a  circuit of Lane Ends/Pilling Water. 

Less Pink-footed Goose in evidence than of recent days with a count of just over 2100, but the birds were reluctant to fly into the maize and wheat fields due to the steady stream of human activity, me included, along the sea wall. I had a good count of Teal and Pintail today with 750 and 110 respectively, together with just 90 Wigeon, although in most years the Wigeon do tend to appear in higher numbers during the depths of winter. 

Shelduck numbers may be building after a count of 60+ today as birds return from their moult migration. Many UK and Irish Shelduck fly east to the Helgoland Bight in the Waddensea, an intertidal zone in the south eastern part of the North Sea, where they join birds from Scandinavia and the Baltic, and there complete their moult before returning to the UK and form the large winter concentrations we expect. 


Two Peregrines were active today, both out on the marsh and over Hi-Fly fields, one in particular actively hunting any Red-legged Partridge foolish enough to take to the air, and while I didn’t see the raptor catch a partridge, it came very close. Peregrine was the only raptor seen, with seemingly the recent Buzzards and Marsh Harriers having moved elsewhere. An expected count of 7 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron. 


Passerines etc: 120+ Swallow in the area but none specifically engaged in visible migration, although it was afternoon time. Also, 5 Skylark, 8 Meadow Pipit, 15 Goldfinch, 20 Linnet, 1 Pied Wagtail and 2 Wheatear. 


The BBC say the wind is dropping overnight with probably a morning frost after a clear night. So there’s signs of  a ringing session tomorrow if the early morning alarm call does the trick. If so, log in tomorrow for more news and pictures on Another Bird Blog.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No Heroics

With more strong north westerly’s plus heavy showers merging into downpours this morning wasn’t a morning for birding heroics, more like one for sticking close to the car just in case. When I tried a walk I got soaked, but in-between times grabbed a few new photos and gleaned a bit of news for Another Bird Blog regular readers. 

The flood at Braides Farm was first, where although distant the birds they were plentiful enough to scrutinise, the wary duck and waders providing lots of action: 60 Teal, 40 Wigeon, 350 Lapwing, 8 Dunlin, 6 Redshank, 20 Golden Plover, 6 Curlew, 2 Greylag, 60+ Swallow, 6 Meadow Pipit and 2 Pied Wagtail. 

Bank End next, with a single Kestrel,15 Swallow, 10 Goldfinch and 6 Meadow Pipit. The pipits were feeding around a pile of tarmac planings dropped there ready for some DIY road repairs of the surface destroyed by the regular battering of high tides. Meadow Pipits are moving through the region from Iceland and Scandinavia now, on their way to France, Spain and North Africa where they spend the warm winter months until returning back north in March and April. I wish the wind and rain would stop enough to allow catching a few and the thrill of knowing from where they’ve just arrived and imagining where they are headed to when released. The Meadow Pipit is a bird neglected by many bird watchers, just a greeny-brown thing, excessively common and a tad boring perhaps? 

Meadow Pipit

Meadow Pipit
Meadow Pipit

A quick look at Conder Green and Glasson Dock next, all the time hoping the weather might relent enough for a Pilling walk. On the creek and pool: Little Egret, Little Grebe, Spotted Redshank, 5 Redshank, 4 Snipe, 20 Teal and 2 Goosander. 

Little Egret

The car ignored the highly optimistic £1 pay- and- display sign at Glasson Dock, just splashing through the water-filled craters without paying up. Across then to a good duck viewing spot with a count of 30 Tufted Duck, 2 Great Crested Grebe and 18 Coot. Dark ducks, leaden sky, grey water - three cheers for Photoshop. 

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Lane Ends was where I got very wet after chancing a walk towards Fluke where crouching down, a solitary gate post provided the only shelter from a cloudburst. A good count of Pink-footed Goose here with 3000+ when they came off the maize field as a car stopped too near, followed by a count of 4000 when about 30 minutes later they gradually but purposefully left their marsh refuge to return to the unharvested maize. There’s been a continuous influx of pinkies this week with up to 10,000 reported in South-West Lancashire and counts will number many thousands until they return north next Spring. 

Pink-footed Goose

After the deluge and while drying out on the stile I managed to count 3 Wheatear, 40 Goldfinch, 8 Redshank, 5 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron. Maybe it was the flights of noisy geese or the attentions of a patrolling Peregrine, but the Red-legged Partridge were very jumpy today with at least 200 of them swarming over the fields and ditches. On the other hand, maybe they sense another shoot day soon? 

Not the most productive birding day, but something to show after all. More soon on Another Bird Blog.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Nearly Day

I nearly didn’t go out after watching this morning’s weather forecast depicting wind and rain, that and also worrying about getting home on time for a midday appointment. But then the sun was out, the wind seemed no worse than of late, the sky didn’t look too ominous and so off I went. 

After tons of overnight rain a check of a few flooded fields was in order, first Backsands Lane and then Braides Farm. There was absolutely nothing at Pilling where the flood is almost too close to the busy lane, but the distant flood of Braides held a wealth of birds: 60 Teal, 140 Lapwing, 2 Ruff, 18 Dunlin and 30 Curlew, with lots of birds hidden by the far-off uneven ground and ditches. Even though I have permission to walk the area, to do so would only serve to scatter the many birds in all directions; so I stayed put, watching from the car and pondering if there could be a more unapproachable gathering of birds than one which includes watchful and nervous Teal, Redshank, Lapwing and Curlew. There were a good number of Swallows over the fields too, at least 70 feeding low down in the windy conditions, and still a few House Martins. 


At Lane Ends the sun was definitely out with the clouds too far away to do any immediate damage so a walk to Pilling Water beckoned. I almost walked past the Goldcrest in the plantation, but because it was very close to the path I just heard its thin calls above the sway of the trees and then on reaching the gate a Little Egret was heading for the shelter of the trees surrounding the pool. Further along I was to find another 9 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Heron. 

Little Egret

At Pilling Water; more Swallows c40, 100 Goldfinch, 1 Pied Wagtail, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, 2 Linnet, 4 Wheatear and 1 Kingfisher, with the latter two species about to provide the almost, the nearly, the not quite, the frustration that ringers, birders and photographers know only too well. First came the Wheatears, dodging about the meal worm traps, showing all the signs of taking the bait until two people came along intent on walking over my traps and sending the Wheatears along the sea wall to Knott End. Cursing while retrieving the traps I saw one of them had been sprung with no sign of the meal worm in the hair grip. They do that sometimes the Wheatears, take the bait without so much as a thank you. Ten minutes later the strollers were on their same way back as the traps found their way back in the shoulder bag for another, less trying day. 


Hi-Fly man had been and gone with the sacks of wheat, so had all the Teal, with just small groups motoring back from the tideline, diving for the cover of the deep ditches now the coast was clear. The Peregrine, a juvenile today, flew over heading for the pool near Fluke Hall where there might be more Teal for breakfast. But I’d heard a Kingfisher so sat down in the grassy bank. The Kingfisher came near, too close for comfort as I dropped low in the grass with the stems and seed heads obscuring the lens. I clicked once; the Kingfisher saw me and off it sped across the pool and out of sight.


Better luck next time. Hopefully soon an Another Bird Blog.

This week I’m linking with  I'd Rather-B-Birdin and Paying Ready Attention Photo Gallery– take a look see. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Left Or Right?

Don’t worry it’s not politics, just birds, so read on. At the top of Smithy Lane it was difficult to decide which way to turn, left for birding at Pilling or right for ringing on Rawcliffe Moss. Dawn was imminent and I could just make out a little movement in the trees, hopefully less than the BBC’s 10mph forecast, so as the steering wheel turned clockwise towards the moss I hoped the last minute decision was a good one. 

Everything started well with a hunting Barn Owl on the farm track and when I stopped to watch the Barn Owl heading off into the distance, 2 Tawny Owls called from the block of trees nearby.

With just a couple of nets up I caught quite well until 1030 when a strengthening breeze dictated taking the nets down again. 27 new birds of 6 species caught: 20 Chaffinch, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Dunnock, 1 Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat and 1 Goldcrest. Visible migration was fairly light this morning, with c60 Chaffinches and 15/20 Siskins to the fore, followed by a thin passage of approximately 30 Meadow Pipit and ones and twos of wagtails, “albas” and Grey Wagtail. The pipit passage consisted of mainly single birds which hardly warranted an attempt to catch any. 

Including today, an examination of the Chaffinches caught here in September shows 67 new birds, only two of which have been adults (both females) with 65 juveniles. The 65 juvenile birds have been made up of 43 females and 22 males. These ratios correspond with figures from the autumns of 2010 and 2011, although this year the proportion of juveniles so far is significantly higher. 

Chaffinch- juvenile female

Chaffinch - juvenile male

One of today’s Chiffchaffs and almost certainly a female, was barely bigger than the Goldcrest.



At the end of the season it’s always good to mop up any remaining summer visitors. 



Although mostly busy with the ringing, in between times I managed to see more than a few other birds: 24 Snipe, 1 Jay, 50+ Swallow, 1 Raven, 3 Skylark, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 3 Buzzard and 2 Kestrel. Coming from the farm track I disturbed 4 Roe Deer feeding just inside the wood. 

Roe Deer

So, a successful and rewarding morning when turning right turned out right after all. If only it was always that simple. 

And now for readers interested in bird migration and from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, there is a fascinating account of visible migration during the 9/11 Tribute in Light held in New York, but please come back to Another Bird Blog soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pinks And Wheats

There weren’t too many passerines or raptors around at Pilling today with my couple of hours dominated by the sights and sounds of Pink-footed Geese following a very obvious influx from Iceland in the past few days. My count this morning was 3500, give or take 20%, and unless anyone has experienced the sounds of thousands of “pinkies” it’s hard to imagine it. Click on “xeno-canto to hear the geese.  
Pink-footed Goose

Pink-footed Goose

The count from the shooters’ pools was down with 300 Teal and 18 Pintail today and no sign of the recent harrier. Along the sea wall I counted 80 Goldfinch, 35 Linnet, 2 Meadow Pipit, 6 Skylark and a single “alba” wagtail. Hirundines were less obvious on this cool, blowy morning with c40 Swallows and less than 10 House Martins. Likewise the heron count, with 2 Grey Heron and a single Little Egret. 

I found 3 Wheatears in the usual sorts of locations so employed a few of the new stock of meal worms to catch an unsexed juvenile and an adult male. 

Wheatear - juvenile

Wheatear - adult male

Both birds had the wing length of 107mm, a measurement which clearly placed them in the category of being “Greenland” Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they arrived from Greenland, more probably from Iceland where the so called “Greenland” Wheatear breeds in good numbers. 

I found a dead and very wet mole, not in a hole, but on a stone where someone had obviously placed it for inspection. “What big hands you have”. 

Mole - Talpa europea

Tune in soon for more news and views from Another Bird Blog.
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