Friday, November 30, 2012

Soaking It In

I spent time out Cockerham way today, much of it taking in the spectacular sight and sounds of the grey geese and Whooper Swans, with another huge count of swans and this time many thousands of Pink-footed Geese. The count today - 11,000 Pink-footed Goose, 570 Whooper Swans and 15 Greylag Goose. 

They were packed tight today, the large, heavy, quarrelsome and hyperactive Whooper Swans to the fore and the slow, purposeful, marching, feeding grey geese to the rear. The main action centred upon the previously soggy depression in the peaty-black field, the dip in the ground a minor landscape feature which now before our very eyes changes to a sizeable pond, to later bear a passing resemblance to a muddy lagoon. 

Pink-footed Goose and Whooper Swan

Every so often a noisy farm vehicle would pass by, a prompt to quieten the swans, causing a number to stop feeding and check everything was OK, always leaving others to continue feeding; there are always enough lookouts to ensure a quick escape if needs be; a tried and trusted system of some millennia. 

Whooper Swan

If the swans are sensibly wary the geese are impossibly fearful; anxious and permanently on edge, hardly daring to relax and feed, the same transitory farm vehicles sending the birds off in waves of panicky flight to further away. 

Pink-footed Goose

Pink-footed Goose

 Greylag Goose

After such noteworthy spectacles the mundane birds of Cockerham Moss are something of an anti-climax: 30 Chaffinch, 10+ Tree Sparrow, 6 Redwing, 4 Skylark, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Kestrel, 1 Little Egret, 1200 Starlings. 


Plenty of waders on the fields at the Gulf Lane end - 240 Curlew, 330 Lapwing and 40 + Redshank. 


That’s another day done on Another Bird Blog. Log in soon for another day somewhere.

This week Another Bird Blog is linking to I'd Rather Be Birding, Stewart's Photo Gallery, and Weekly Top Shot so take a look there too.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Chilly Ringing

A Jack Frost morning saw me return to Rawcliffe Moss after yesterday spotting a good number of Reed Buntings feeding on wheat spillage near the plantation. Today I counted 30 or so Reed Buntings dodging in and out of the field, so put up a couple of nets close by in the hope of catching a few. At the moment it seems to be mainly Reed Buntings showing an interest in the abandoned crop, with otherwise a small number of Chaffinch. 

After a couple of hours I’d caught 9 Reed Bunting, 3 Chaffinch, 1 Blackbird, 1 Wren and also recaptured a Coal Tit first ringed here 30 September 2010. 

Apart from one, all the Reed Buntings appeared to be first year birds, the tail below still showing fault bars caused by the poor feeding opportunities of the wet and cold summer. 

Reed Bunting

"Fault Bars" - Reed Bunting

Male Reed Buntings show a greyish white neck collar, a feature which females lack. 

Reed Bunting

All three Chaffinch proved to be females. 




Coal Tit 

A number of other birds were seen nearby: 6 Snipe, 4 Skylark, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 8 Goldfinch, 12 Corn Bunting, 40 Tree Sparrow, 60+ Chaffinch, and then 2 Kestrel and a single Buzzard. 

Corn Bunting

On the way home through Town End, Out Rawcliffe I chanced upon a mixed flock of Redwing and Fieldfare, circa 120 and 80 respectively. After seeing mere handfuls of each species of late the sudden appearance of bigger numbers may be the result of the severe frost of Wednesday night. Along the same road, another Kestrel and Buzzard. 

Looks like another woolly hat, warm scarf and thermal gloves day tomorrow for Another Bird Blog, so no early morning heroics, just a trip out someplace. Log in soon to find out just where and when.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No Work On Wednesday?

At last, a touch of sun, a dry morning and chance for a spot of birding, with Rawcliffe Moss the destination where with luck there was an hour or two before the shoot arrived and all hell broke loose. 

Another person asked me the same question earlier in the week. “Why in this modern day and age do we tolerate the shooting of our declining and therefore increasingly precious wildlife, and this coupled with wilful persecution of our raptors?” It’s not as if people rely upon a brace of duck, a couple of partridge or a wader or two to feed hungry mouths is it?” I agreed, long gone too are the days when Hen Harriers or “hawks” really did steal a few hens from our subsistence farmsteads. 

From the British Association for Shooting and Conservation BASC, (now there’s a complete contradiction in terminology), is a list of so called “quarry species” in the UK - “Gadwall, Goldeneye, Mallard, Pintail, Pochard, Scaup, Shoveler, Teal, Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Pink-footed Goose, White-fronted Goose, Snipe, Golden Plover, Jack Snipe, Woodcock, Coot and Moorhen”. In addition “The Woodpigeon is both the UK’s major agricultural bird pest and one of the most popular species providing sporting shooting. It is legal to shoot the bird all the year round under the current general licence arangements (sic). The Woodpigeon makes good eating and provides nourishing cheap food, and appears on the menus of top restaurants.”  

Maybe it’s time all the diverse elements of the UK’s far too many conservation movements joined together and made a concerted effort to put a halt to the killing through politicking, while at the same time exploding the many myths and untruths around the “economic benefits” and “conservation value” of shooting? Moan over for now. 

At the farm were plenty of the aforementioned Woodpigeons turning the tree tops grey with a count/estimate of 4000+ in just a couple of woods. It looks like many of last week’s huge numbers reported on Another Bird Blog may have moved to south west Lancashire, with enormous flocks seen near Martin Mere, Ormskirk. - 20th November “The huge flock of Woodpigeons which has been building up just beyond the edge of the reserve was estimated to contain around 50,000 birds this morning – a remarkable sight!” 

Watching the tree tops made for a sighting of 2 Buzzards flying in from the east, calling as they came and scattering the pigeons in all directions and setting the Jays off screeching. 



Good numbers of passerines today, impossible to get precise counts for all when they scatter along the hedgerows, but 60+ Chaffinch, 50+ Tree Sparrow, 5 Corn Bunting 2 Yellowhammer, 7 Goldfinch and c15 Reed Bunting. 

Tree Sparrow

Thankfully we haven’t suffered the floods of elsewhere in the UK, the fields here are just remarkably wet for now and the foreseeable future, so a good place to find gulls, Lapwings and Snipe, plus the odd Buzzard waiting patiently. There’s a Buzzard on the distant fence, and out of shot 90+ Lapwing, 120 Black-headed Gulls, a couple of Snipe and a passing Kestrel. 



When the gunslingers arrived I made for the car and a drive across the Pilling Moss to Lane Ends. Over the moss road I counted 3 bird watchers lying in wait for assorted owls, 2 Kestrel, 10 Tree Sparrow, 15 Chaffinch, 1 Buzzard, 2 Redwing, 18 Fieldfare and 6 Meadow Pipit. 


When I got to Pilling there was another shoot all along the marsh road - Wednesday again, I forgot. Don’t these people have work to do? 

Thursday should be OK for a spot of birding, photography or just putting the world to rights - log in soon to Another Bird Blog and find out.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Early Bird…..

Didn’t catch the worm, just the 0815 tide and an hour or two at Knott End before the domestic arrangements took over. Waders and wildfowl: 900 Oystercatcher, 80 Redshank, 90 Turnstone, 230 Knot, 18 Sanderling, 6 Curlew, 30 Shelduck, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret and 1 Eider. Where are the Eider ducks this winter? And as a possible answer to the question, we normally experience a wintering Eider overflow from the colony centred across the bay at Walney Island, with maybe a few of our own birds which breed not far away along the River Wyre. So as pure speculation let’s blame the appalling summer again, as even an Eider’s down couldn’t afford much protection to an egg or  duckling from the cold and wet of June, July and August. 

There are often comments from blog readers about the actual numbers of waders in these parts, perhaps incredulous of the hundreds or thousands of a particular species. It is explained by the fact that just here on the Fylde coast and where I am so lucky to live, is the southern expanse of the Internationally Important Morecambe Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). I am afraid that most birders, and probably me included, rather take for granted the truism without necessarily appreciating and enjoying the splendour for themselves.  What's that old saying which starts "familiarity.... "?

Even as the tide runs in Sanderlings and Turnstones continue to feed as long as possible, but while the Oystercatchers are content to sit it out on the sands or a convenient rock, they keep a watchful eye open.




Passerines: 6 Goldfinch, 5 Pied Wagtail, 4 Meadow Pipit and 2 Rock Pipit 

Here in coastal North West England Meadow Pipits are numerous passage migrants in both spring and autumn and also a species which winters in small numbers. Until recent years they bred in good numbers, but more lately the number of breeding pairs is much reduced. In contrast our Rock Pipits are both spring and autumn migrants, but mainly winter visitors in small numbers during the months of November to March. A Rock Pipit differs from the similar and closely related Meadow Pipit in that it has darker legs, rather broad streaks down its breast and overall dark plumage. Just to confuse, both species habitually spend time in both rocks and meadows.

Rock Pipit

Meadow Pipit

Yet again the forecast isn’t too good for birding on Sunday or even Monday, but as ever Another Bird Blog will keep a watchful eye on proceedings and be out there in there thick of it as soon as possible. So log in soon. 

In the meantime Another Bird Blog expands its horizons for the next seven days to Weekly Top Shot, I'd Rather Be Birding and Paying Ready Attention Photo Gallery - give them all a visit for a new experience and lots of photographs.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Yes, That Was The Wet Week That Was, a dismal 5 days of rain which left Another Bird Blog with zero news and even less in the way of photographs. The weather relented a little on Friday morning to allow a trip out. 

Yards from home on Smithy Lane the rowan tree with rapidly depleting berries has looked good for a Waxwing or two. This morning I discovered the culprit to be a Mistle Thrush, too wary to hang around, even as I repositioned the camera from the car window. 

Mistle Thrush

The Common Birds Census Index for Mistle Thrush in the UK shows that this is another species losing out to the demands of the human race, probably by more than 33% over 30 years, with over half of that decline attributed to losses on farmland plots. This decline is certainly true locally where although never as common as the related Blackbird and Song Thrush, Mistle Thrushes are pretty hard to come by. 

Next stop Fluke Hall Lane for 12 Tree Sparrow, 4 Reed Bunting, 1 Kestrel, 6 Skylark, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 12 Blackbirds and a single Redwing. On the wet fields, just a dozen or so Redshanks sharing the flood with 8 Whooper Swans; I was to see all of the Whoopers soon enough. 


The remainder of the Whooper Swans were further north at Cockerham, entrenched on a very wet stubble field, with as I watched, a number of laggards still flying in for a feed up. After a couple of tries I settled on a figure of 470 birds, the highest number I have seen locally. I agree the distant flock doesn’t look like 470 Whoopers, but in places the birds are ten and twenty deep into the field. 

Whooper Swans - Cockerham Moss

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan
Nearby - 40 Chaffinch, 15 Tree Sparrow, 14 Meadow Pipit, 3 Skylark, 1100 Starling, 40 Curlew, 1 Kestrel, 1 Little Owl. 



On the way up to Conder Green I took in a view of Braides with not much doing except for 20 Lapwing and a Buzzard perched lookout on the sea wall. 

Conder Green next where most of the birds were on the pool: 130 Teal, 14 Wigeon, 1 Greenshank, 5 Little Grebe, 1 Snipe. Along the railway path I found singles of Fieldfare and Redwing outnumbered by 6 Blackbird, and then up at Glasson Dock, 2 Grey Heron, 48 Tufted Duck and a Kingfisher. 

Grey Heron 

Wow, that feels much better, a morning’s birding and a post at last. Long may it continue on Another Bird Blog - tune in soon for more news and views. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Day Too Late?

Time just flies for us retired folk. Believe it or not, there just aren’t enough days in the week to do the domestic essentials, fit in a spot of bird watching, bird ringing or photography, never mind to then blog the blog. So that’s the excuse for Sunday’s news appearing today, plus the fact that today is rain and yesterday was fine. Confused? Wait until you’re my age. 

Sunday was a mossy day, Stalmine, Pilling, Winmarleigh and then Rawcliffe mosses where many times the four do meet, especially when multitudes of Woodpigeons blacken the combined skies of all. After a couple of hours surveying the moss roads and taking in the spectacular, roaming flocks I revised Thursday’s count upwards to one of 18,000/20,000 Woodpigeons. I realise that is one hell of a tally so welcome comparison counts from the many bird watchers currently travelling along or standing about the same moss roads. 

At Union/Lancaster Lane junction was a Barn Owl, sitting, watching but also hunting while keeping a distance from prying eyes, as overhead small gangs of Whooper Swans fresh from their night time roost flew back and forth in search of spots to feed. 

Barn Owl

Whooper Swan

Along Lancaster Road were 3 Kestrels, one pair together in a single hawthorn tree, so obviously the closely bonded pair of recent days. Also, 30+ Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 20+ Blackbird, 20 Chaffinch, 2 Yellowhammer, 14 Tree Sparrow, and 185 Lapwing. A Brown Rat crossed the road ahead of the car - maybe there’s a plague of rats, voles and mice this year in the unkempt fields of the wet summer which might explain the number of raptors making late hay out here? 

I spent so much time watching the owl and the hordes of Woodpigeons that it was almost 1030 when I arrived on Rawcliffe Moss. So followed a quick scoot around with 1 Kestrel, 2 Redwing, 1 Tawny Owl, 6 Goldfinch, 1 Siskin, 15 Corn Bunting, 40+ Chaffinch, 4 Reed Bunting and 15 Tree Sparrows, one of the latter rapidly departing a nest box as the car approached. To the east 3 Roe Deer waded shoulder deep through the abandoned wheat crop, the animal's heads just visible. 

Roe Deer

The Corn Buntings were the first seen for a while. It begs the question: where do the Corn Buntings that winter very locally actually originate from, when following the breeding season the few pairs which raise families then disappear into thin air until the winter? No one seems qualified to provide an answer about such a difficult species to monitor through the normal methods of survey or ringing. It’s a gap in knowledge which leaves yet another unsolved mystery about a threatened species. The iconic but shy Corn Bunting may have passed the point of no return, with the result that we are too late to save it from local if not national extinction. Let’s hope not. 

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

P.S. There’s an interesting comment from Chris in Tuscon, Arizona on Saturday's post about  WaxwingsYou are not the only one: They're here as well and I can't seem to find the darn Waxwings. BUT that will all change once our palm trees start producing fruit. Then they get drunk and fly all over the place. It's funny and dangerous at the same time.” To a Waxwing all that fermenting red fruit must combine the taste and effect of a glass or two of red wine. I’ll drink to that. 

More from Another Bird Blog soon. In the meantime keep blogging and birding. This week I'm linking to I'd Rather be Birding and to Paying Ready Attention Gallery

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Waxwings?

Everyone is seeing Waxwings at the moment. All except me that is, even though I’ve been looking and listening most days this week and last. The answer could be to go chasing the ones being seen in regular spots miles away but that rather takes the fun, excitement and skill out of finding birds for oneself doesn’t it? No worries, I’ll see a Waxwing or two before the winter’s out, just like last year when I got a few photos near home. 

Bohemian Waxwing

It’s doubtful any Waxwing will be eating out of my hand like they do on Fair Isle. Nice jumper - just the job for winter birding at Knott End. 

I went looking at for Waxwings at Knott End this morning, a little coastal village with a distinct lack of trees bearing red berries, or fruit of any sort really. So I didn’t find any Waxwings, just the similarly shaped Starlings and un-waxwing like Pied Wagtail, Linnet and Goldfinch. The shore does have lots of grey undistinguished, boring waders though: 950 Oystercatcher, 140 Knot, 125 Redshank, 15 Turnstone and 8 Curlew. 



Couldn’t find any Waxwings out on the moss either, just an early morning movement of 20+ Redwings, 30+ Fieldfares and 4 Lesser Redpoll chattering overhead. Even the nets didn’t turn up a Waxwing, just darned Lottis and Blutis, but a bonus couple of male Reed Buntings. Now there's a real bird in the hand. 

Reed Bunting

Long-tailed Tit

 Another Reed Bunting

There no option really, everyone’s gone Waxwing crazy, so that’s where Another Bird Blog will be on Sunday - looking for Waxwings. Log in later to see more Waxwings or not.

This next week I'm linking to The View From Right Here, and I'd Rather Be Birding so I hope there's some Waxwings.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Woodys All Over

Woodpigeons don’t often steal the show but they did this morning. There’s been an influx in the last week or two, with noticeably large flocks building up on the mosses in particular where the poor summer has left a number of spoilt and unharvested crops for both birds and mammals. 

This morning as I drove across Stalmine Moss and then Pilling Moss towards Out Rawcliffe I noticed there seemed to be even more than the usual hundreds of Woodpigeons about. As I stopped to watch many thousands of them were flying over, pausing to look for food in the hedgerows and fields, all the time their numbers swelling into huge, massed and urgent flocks which continued south and east until many were out of sight. After a while I had estimated several thousand woodys, upwards of 10,000 in all. 

While the Woodpigeon is an essentially sedentary species in the UK, it has a very large range in most of Europe, especially in the north and east where it is largely migratory, responding to both cold weather and food shortages by travelling huge distances. Some individuals reach Spain where they target the woodland acorn crop So it appears that this year, and just like the more exotic and sought after Waxwing or Brambling, the unloved, mostly ignored Woodpigeon is the latest species to become a victim of the poor acorn, berry and beech crop in Europe. 

To put my meagre count into the larger perspective - in Europe, the breeding population of the Woodpigeon is estimated to number 9-17 million breeding pairs, equating to 27-51 million individuals (BirdLife International 2004). Europe forms 75-94% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 30-70 million individuals. 


I stopped on Union Lane where like recent weeks, yet another Kestrel posed up for a portrait. What a shame a stray branch intervened to spoil the shot. It was almost 10am but a Barn Owl was hunting too and unlike the Kestrel, the owl didn’t want to pose up so I made do with a distant record shot. 


Barn Owl

Rawcliffe Moss could have made for a disappointment after such drama; however a few bits and pieces made for an entertaining hour or two. Wandering through the plantation revealed my first Woodcock of the winter as it crashed from a clump of bramble to give the usual few seconds of in-flight views. “Small stuff” count: 2 Fieldfare, 1 Goldcrest, 7 Reed Bunting, 15 Goldfinch, 20+ Chaffinch, 22 Tree Sparrow, 4 Blackbird, 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Skylark, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker. Non-passerines: 1 Kestrel, 3 Jay, 1 Buzzard. 

Reed Bunting

Another unwanted branch spoiled the ‘pecker shot too. 

Great-spotted Woodpecker

Better luck next time on Another Bird Blog.  Log in soon to check. 
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