Monday, October 29, 2012

Afternoon Escape

Just too many competing priorities meant no birds this morning. At midday the sun still shone and the wind blew nil. So what is a man supposed to do but escape out onto the moss for a few hours of fresh air and birding before the weather turns again for the rest of the week? So I put up a few nets then sat in the warm sunshine taking in the view across the puddled wheat crop and over to the distant fells. 

 Afternoon On The Moss

11 birds caught at the feeders, 8 Goldfinch, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Great Tit and 1 Chaffinch. So definitely not as productive as the morning might have been, but a pleasant couple of hours and a variety of other birds seen. I can’t resist taking more photographs of Lesser Redpolls, a stunning little bird. Fortunately enough it has in the last eight or ten years become much more locally common and numerous, especially in spring and autumn. 

Lesser Redpoll

Not surprisingly, and after another downpour last night, the wet fields still hold a number of Snipe, impossible to say how many without walking every square inch to see and hear them explode from your feet as they zig-zag away to escape. It was the difficulties involved in hunting Snipe which gave rise to the term "sniper".


Two hunting Kestrels today, and as I watched them came a fly-over of 6 Black-tailed Godwit and a large party of c 150 Lapwings and upwards of 1000 Starlings, all disturbed off a more distant field. During the couple of hours I saw 90/100 Fieldfares, ones and twos going in various directions, and then about 1600 hours a flock of 80 heading to a roost somewhere over towards Pilling. By 4 o’clock finches were heading to roost too, with 30+ Goldfinches flying north and 15/20 Chaffinches contact calling as they headed somewhere north but out of sight. Other birds in the immediate area, 5 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1Yellowhammer, 4 Linnet, 15 Tree Sparrow, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Pied Wagtail, 12 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Buzzard. 

I hadn’t seen a Little Owl here for weeks so as I drove off site about four-thirty I looked in all the trees they use until I found the right one. 

Little Owl

The forecast isn’t good for the rest of the week but let’s not grumble, only count ourselves fortunate in comparison to the good folk of eastern USA who are about to experience a humdinger of a hurricane. Stay safe all you blog followers over there. 

This week Another Bird Blog is linking with Anni who'd also rather be birding anytime, and also with Stewart an ex-pat who lives in Australia - Stewart

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cold Calling

When I opened the back door this morning a Fieldfare greeted me from next door’s garden, chuckling from the top of the highest sycamore before flying off east. When I made it to the shore at Knott End I knew why the thrush chortled - it was bitterly cold from a blast of Arctic air, and in comparison to recent days this morning’s biting, northerly wind brought out the woolly hat and gloves in double quick time. After the excitement of Friday’s thrush-rush it looked like today might be something of an anti-climax. 


Not much doing near the jetty, a couple of Meadow Pipits and a Pied Wagtail the sum of my efforts, with the walk up river yielding little except for about 70 Redshanks 


Cutting my losses I decided to try a few sheltered spots and so ended up at Pilling. At Damside/Backsands Lane the partially wet fields held 180 Lapwing, 65 Golden Plover, 1 Snipe, 15 Curlew, 3 Redshank, 2 Skylark and 15 Meadow Pipit, the pipits swapping between feeding in damp patches and sitting up on the roadside fence, especially when one of the local Kestrel pair appeared. 

Meadow Pipit

At Lane Ends, a number of Fieldfare were on the move, flying over the plantation and heading north east into the wind just as those of yesterday, but just 70 birds today. Not many wildfowl on the pools, 2 Tufted Duck with the Mallards, 9 Little Egret and 2 Grey Heron scattered across the marsh, and 15 Whooper Swans making their way from Cockerham and west to the usual spot off Fluke Hall. 

I spent a while trying to locate a very vocal and active “phyllosc” with a shrill and persistent contact note, a call totally unlike UK chiffs and more like those of eastern races of Chiffchaff. When the bird finally showed for a moment or two it proved to be a quite brown and plain Chiffchaff. I found a call on Xeno Canto which sounds very similar. 


Other birds in the trees here, 4 Robin, 12 Chaffinch, 6 Blackbird, 2 Jay. The forecast doesn’t look too good for Sunday, rain and then more rain so more suitable for a lie-in and a rest after the week’s exertions. But if there’s news be sure to read about it soon on Another Bird Blog.

This week Another Bird Blog is linking with Anni who'd rather be birding and Stewart an ex-pat who lives in Australia -  Stewart.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Thrush Spectacular

Rawcliffe Moss again this morning, nets up in the dark waiting for thrushes. Pre- dawn I caught a few of the target species, then soon after dawn several more, and then a handful of finches. In-between came a hefty Sparrowhawk looking for a thrush breakfast. 

About 10am for an hour or more ringing took second place when I became a spectator only as thousands of Redwings and Fieldfares piled overhead, all flying North West in flocks of several hundred individuals, sometimes mixed but often just Fieldfares, hence the totals below. By 10am the bright sun, the slight breeze which billowed the nets, plus the lack of leaf cover made the nets entirely visible to sharp eyed thrushes, meaning that although several hundred of each paused in the plantation, the whole of my meagre catch occurred before 10am. My final estimated numbers from 0700 to 1100 hours - 3300 Fieldfare and 1500 Redwing, 80% of these birds seen between 10am and 11am. When I left, more Fieldfares were seen arriving from the direction of St Michael’s village, these individuals also heading North West. With this late arrival overhead I guess the many thousands of birds had travelled a fair old distance since dawn. 

Totals caught: 24 birds of 6 species - 10 Redwing, 4 Fieldfare, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Blackbird, 5 Chaffinch, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Sparrowhawk. 



There were more Chaffinch today, and after the normal few from the north at early-doors came a definite arrival with the thrush-rush, and an overall total of 40+ Chaffinch. Otherwise, the passerine passage seemed poor with 2 Lesser Redpoll, 1 Siskin, 1 Brambling and 5 Reed Bunting. 


The female Sparrowhawk was quite a handful, so I wasted no time in releasing her quickly, especially since she clutched an unwary finger and drew blood.  Please, no jokes about the female sex. 


Other birds today: 12 Whooper Swan, 1 Buzzard, 90+ Lapwing, 1 Kestrel, 4 Snipe.

Tune in soon for more gripping news on Another Bird Blog.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out

Here on the west coast of Lancashire we set our sights a little lower than Spurn Point, where fresh in off the North Sea, 21,000 Redwings and 9,500 Fieldfares were logged on Monday, and then another 2,000 or so of each on Tuesday. It’s all relative of course, and my counts of Lesser Redpoll this week together with 27 caught already would appear to surpass figures for the world famous bird observatory! 

I was on Rawcliffe Moss again this morning where I counted 190 Redwings and 45 Fieldfares between 0730 and 1000, when at the ten o’clock point what little passage there had been just petered out. The Redwing count is made up of 5 or 6 groups of birds, the biggest counted being 80 and 50 individuals. Just a couple of Fieldfare gangs appeared soon after dawn to make up their total. Many of the Redwings appeared to come from the east this morning although it is not always easy to say from which direction as they suddenly and almost literally fall from high in the clouds. Maybe they had crossed The Pennines, that immovable object in the centre of the UK which makes over and above travel more problematical for a bird looking for the bright lights of Lancashire?

The finch passage was very slow this morning, and after a zero catch of Chaffinch their inland passage may well be over, particularly so when for weeks now their numbers have been low in comparison to the previous two autumns here. Lesser Redpolls were less conspicuous too with just 8 logged. 

Birds ringed: 10 Redwing, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Blackbird, 1 Great Tit, 1 Tree Sparrow. So apologies, there are more pictures of Lesser Redpoll and Redwing today, plus pictures of those rare catches here, Tree Sparrow and Great Tit. 

Lesser Redpoll - adult female

Great Tit

Tree Sparrow

Most of today’s Redwings were juveniles, birds born this year, aged by the white notch on tertial feathers and their pointed tail feathers. No prizes for spotting a regrowing “adult” type feather in the juvenile tail below. 

Redwing tail - juvenile

Redwing tail - adult

In October it’s exciting to catch a number of Redwings Turdus iliacus, knowing they probably just arrived from Northern Europe, even though the few handled are a tiny, miniscule part of the European breeding population. This population is estimated at 16,000,000 - 21,000,000 breeding pairs, equating to 48,000,000 - 63,000,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2004). Europe forms 50-74% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 65,000,000-130,000,000 individuals. Maybe I should go out tomorrow morning too and see if I can catch up those Spurn numbers? 

Redwing - Turdus iliacus

Other birds today: 3 Tawny Owl, 2 Jay, 2 Raven, 3 Snipe, 1 Kestrel, 8 Blackbird, 3 Siskin, 6 Meadow Pipit, 4 Reed Bunting. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Three In A Row

Although Sunday morning saw my third ringing session in three days out on Rawcliffe Moss, the morning was somewhat spoiled by an early and stubborn mist. The figure three entered the equation again when I caught the third “control” in three days, this time a Chaffinch ringed elsewhere - ring number Y867191. 

I set off from home to starry skies through Hambleton village and then alongside the River Wyre with just a hint of mist, but once out on the moss the dank air made for a more fog like substance, a scenario which limited any early bird arrivals. The at-dawn catch involved one Blackbird only, the few other thrushes in the vicinity of the nets a single Fieldfare, 2 Redwing and a couple more Blackbirds, all of which escaped captivity.

Catching didn’t start really until after 0830 when the mist finally cleared to reveal a bright blue sky as from the north and west finches began to appear and call from high overhead, some of them lingering briefly in the plantation. 22 birds of 7 species caught today: 10 Chaffinch, 6 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Goldcrest, 1 Blackbird, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Robin. 

Reed Bunting- juvenile female

Goldcrest - juvenile male

Lesser Redpoll -juvenile female

Lesser Redpolls were much in evidence again today, with a minimum of 40 birds moving through the site in small groups between 0815 and 1045 when I left. Other high-flyers heading south: 4+ Siskin, 50+ Chaffinch, 10+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail. 

Following a blog comment on Saturday it seems that Lesser Redpoll Y310191 caught here on Friday morning had been ringed in a Worcestershire garden in March this year by “Napper”, Another Bird Blog’s latest follower. In contrast, it could be some weeks for me to hear about yesterday’s Belgian ringed bird or today’s Chaffinch, and while it’s good to see how efficient the Internet is in this instance it isn’t a means of by-passing the proper method. This works by ringers regularly sending their data files into the BTO, who process information about the millions of birds handled through the UK and other ringing schemes in order to match the records of original ringing details to those of recovered and recaptured birds. 

Below is today’s recaptured female Chaffinch Y867191, not a ring used here or on other local sites, so a bird marked elsewhere in the UK. The rounded, broad tail and strongly demarcated tertial feathers show the bird to be an adult, i.e. born before this calendar year. 

 Chaffinch- adult female
Chaffinch - adult female

Other birds today: Barn Owl hunting at dawn, 3 Tawny Owls, 4 Snipe, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Jay.

This week Another Bird Blog is linking with Stewart's Photo Gallery and Anni who’d rather be birding anytime. If you would sooner be birding most of the time, log in here for the latest news and views.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

No Thrush Rush, But A Belgian Treat

Out on Rawcliffe Moss at 0650 I’d set the nets in the dark again, leaving me time to grab a coffee before the hoped for arrival of thrushes. Nothing much happened, just a quiet morning and a smattering of birds at first light followed in the next hour or two by a steady passage of Lesser Redpolls with smaller numbers of Chaffinches. Recompense for the lack of thrushes came about 0830 in the form of a Lesser Redpoll wearing a ring from the Belgium Ringing Scheme. By 1030 the 5mph wind had both changed direction and increased to a strength sufficient to cause an end to the session. 

Birds caught: 6 Chaffinch, 5 Lesser Redpoll, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Song Thrush, 1 Blackbird and 1 Redwing. Both of the Song Thrushes, the single Blackbird and the solitary Redwing were caught at first light. In all, the visible thrush movement consisted of less than 6 each of Blackbird, Redwing and Song Thrush, with a single Mistle Thrush seen overhead and travelling rapidly south. 


Song Thrush

Other visible migration appeared as 5 Reed Bunting, 8 Meadow Pipit and a minimum of 18 Skylarks, the latter in smaller groups but heading south and into the wind.  Lesser Redpolls were very noticeable again today, with small parties overhead and a total of 30+ birds throughout the morning. The Belgian ringed bird proved to be an adult male, the ring number of 12231826 easy to decipher, the Brussels address less so, making one appreciate the quality of our UK rings. 

Brussels Ring

Lesser Redpoll - adult male

There seemed to be lots of Goldfinches on the move today, birds which didn’t make their way to the feeders where local birds hang out, so my count of 60+ almost certainly includes some visible migrants. A recaptured adult was only now in late October completing its full moult in the outermost primary feathers. 



Other birds today: 3 Tawny Owls calling at dawn, and a hunting Barn Owl about the same time. Also, 2 Peregrine, 2 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Jay, 4 Snipe, 2 Pied Wagtail. 

 Pied Wagtail

Sunday’s forecast looks OK, less wind and a bright morning. Maybe those thrushes will arrive in numbers after all? If so read about it tomorrow on Another Bird Blog.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Late Night, Late Start, Useful Gen

Sampling the heady nightlife of Knott End on Thursday evening meant an early start for ringing was unlikely this morning, and in fact I arrived out on Rawcliffe Moss decidedly late at 0930. 

I’d gone to top up the feeders and as there was virtually no wind I put a single net up for a couple of hours and had quite a reasonable catch of 16 new birds: 5 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Coal Tit, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Dunnock. In addition another Lesser Redpoll, a juvenile male bore a British ring from elsewhere in the UK - Y310191. Redpolls were the dominant species this morning, with upwards of 40 birds going over in a couple of hours, with for comparison the Chaffinch passage distinctly poor yet again. 

Lesser Redpoll


The Goldfinch numbers are dropping now with less than a dozen birds around the feeders. 


Reed Buntings have variable plumage at this time of year, and although as a species they don’t seem to travel huge distances, ageing them makes for an interesting few minutes.

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Four Coal Tits caught, with at least another eight or ten about at one stage as the irruption continues.

Coal Tit

Other birds this morning: 8 Meadow Pipit, 5 Pied Wagtail, 1 Jay, 3 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 20 Tree Sparrow, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 1000+ Pink-footed Goose.


I drove home via Stalmine Moss where 16 Whooper Swan were on a still flooded field, so flooded that there’s not much chance of it drying out now that winter is almost here. Back home I put my soggy walking boots outside in the sun, then looked up and west to see 4 Buzzards circling nearby fields - a fine end to a morning of birds. 

Whooper Swan

Regular readers will know that Another Bird Blog is not averse to recommending a noteworthy place to go birding, a useful bird book, or with a glance to the right hand column, an informative blog. Occasionally we even make mention of a place to eat after a hard day’s birding, today’s tip-off being that readers should find time to visit The New Village Steakhouse in Knott End. That’s where Sue and I enjoyed a lovely meal in their newly refurbished and agreeable surroundings, with friendly and impeccable service plus a bottle of Grenache thrown in - and all for less than £40. 

Al last, some useful information from a bird blog. Tune in soon for more.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bird News, Book News

Early rain gave way to a breezy, bright morning, with time to visit the birding patch at Pilling. No sooner had I arrived at Fluke Hall than I saw SP readying himself for a walk along the wooded road. On Sunday afternoon he located a Yellow-browed Warbler here, a species which is now found almost annually in this part of Lancashire, in some years there are three, four or more records, but it’s still a worthy find and one which requires good birding skills.

Stuart moseyed off east to look in the same place the bird was last seen. I wandered off east towards Ridge Farm where the best I could muster in 15 minutes was cracking views of a male Merlin, 20+ Greenfinch, 12+ Skylark, several Linnets and 15+ Meadow Pipits. The phone rang, he’d re-found the warbler, still about the same spot three days later, so I strolled back to the trees to see and hear the bird in the ash and sycamores next to the road. The warbler was very vocal, calling almost constantly as it moved through the trees, the distinctive call somewhere between a Coal Tit and a Pied Wagtail to my ears. Knowing the call is as good if not the best way to locate a yellow-browed.

There’s a very old pre-digital photograph here from Bardsey Island sometime in the dim and distant past.

Yellow-browed Warbler

I decided to head up to Lane Ends for the incoming tide. If anything the tide was too high, with no obvious roosting spots, causing most of the waders to fly constantly around. For what it’s worth a few observations and a couple of counts: 1 Peregrine, 1 Kestrel, 40 Snipe, 420 Dunlin, 180 Redshank, 250+ Lapwing, 8 Little Egret, 12 Whooper Swan, 800 Wigeon, 700 Teal, 110 Pintail, 15 Meadow Pipit, 15 Linnet and 2 Rock Pipit.


Rock Pipit

And now for some interesting book news, more especially for blog followers in the US but also UK birders who travel to North America and/or those who like to twitch the occasional US bird on this side of the Atlantic.

Readers of Another Bird Blog may remember the review here of Richard Crossley’s ID Guide to Eastern Birds (North America), a book acclaimed for its pioneering approach to bird identification. And here’s the good news, Princeton University Press are preparing a new Crossley guide for release in April 2013, The Crossley Guide to Raptors, this latest volume co-authored by Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan.

The Crossley Guide to Raptors

For the new volume I’m quoting from a sneak preview sent to me by Princeton University Press.

“Part of the revolutionary Crossley ID Guide series, this is the first raptor guide with lifelike scenes composed from multiple photographs - scenes that allow you to identify raptors just as the experts do. Experienced birders use the most easily observed and consistent characteristics - size, shape, behaviour, probability, and general colour patterns. The book’s 101 scenes - including thirty-five double-page layouts, provide a complete picture of how these features are all related. Even the effects of lighting and other real-world conditions are illustrated and explained. Detailed and succinct accounts from two of North America’s foremost raptor experts, Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan, stress the key identification features. This complete picture allows everyone from beginner to expert to understand and enjoy what he or she sees in the field. The mystique of bird identification is eliminated, allowing even novice birders to identify raptors quickly and simply. Comprehensive and authoritative, the book covers all thirty-four of North America’s diurnal raptor species (all species except owls). Each species is featured in stunning colour plates that show males and females, in a full spectrum of ages and colour variants, depicted near and far, in flight and at rest, and from multiple angles, all caught in their typical habitats. There are also comparative, multispecies scenes and mystery photographs that allow readers to test their identification skills, along with answers and full explanations in the back of the book. In addition, the book features an introduction, and thirty-four colour maps that accompany the plates. Whether you are a novice or an expert, this one-of-a-kind guide will show you an entirely new way to look at these spectacular birds”. 

I’m told this book will sell for about $30 only, so all I can suggest is that you visit your bookstore and reserve a copy now or keep watching the Princeton University Press Blog for more info and regular previews of plates from the book.

 The Crossley Raptor Guide

Another Bird Blog will review the book as soon as a copy is received; in the meantime stay tuned for more bird news and bird pictures whether home or abroad.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Redwing Time

It was another 6am start out on Rawcliffe Moss with ideal weather for a spot of ringing, no wind and no sign of rain, at least initially. The idea was to catch a few Redwings, maybe Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, overnight migrant thrushes which are often still on the move at dawn or soon after. 

Apart from a sharp shower which caused me to close the nets for thirty minutes, I worked through until 11am with a catch of 30 birds of 8 species. After an initial hit of thrushes the morning followed the theme of recent weeks with Goldfinches and Chaffinches to the fore. Totals: 8 Chaffinch, 7 Goldfinch, 6 Redwing , 3 Coal Tit, 2 Blackbird, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Chiffchaff. 

The Redwings and Blackbirds were indeed caught at first light or soon after with the Redwing arrivals consisting of small parties only, the largest a group of 30+ birds, the smallest and last a party of four at almost 10am making a total of less than 100. The Sparrowhawk was caught at dawn too, the young male targeting arriving Redwings but instead finding itself in a mist net. Luckily for me working alone, a male Sparrowhawk is infinitely easier to contain than the much larger female. 



Sparrowhawk- juvenile male


Three new Coal Tits today, not a large number, but obviously representative of this year’s irruption of the species. Yet more Goldfinches to add to the 120 here this year, many of today’s still in the mainly juvenile plumage of late broods, the one below a juvenile male - black nasal hairs, red extending behind the eye, longish wing. 

Coal Tit



Here on the moss the autumn Chaffinch passage has been markedly thinner than that of the last two years, with the movement quite slow today, as reflected in the catch of eight and the number overhead at less than 40 during the shower interrupted session. This could be the simple explanation that visits have been less during poor weather of September and/or single observer visits when another pair of eyes and hands would be useful.

Other “vis” today 2 Siskin, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 4 Reed Bunting, 5 Pied/White Wagtail, 10+ Meadow Pipit. Other birds: A loose feeding flock of 350+ Woodpigeon, 6,000 Pink-footed Goose feeding in nearby fields, 30+ Snipe, 2 Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 1 Jay, 20+ Tree Sparrow.

Pied Wagtail

Please tune in soon to Another Bird Blog for more birds, bird watching and photography.

This week I'm linking with Anni at and Stewart's Photo gallery
Related Posts with Thumbnails