Thursday, February 28, 2013

On Target Again

There was a little frost at home in semi-rural Stalmine and with the promise of sunshine there was nothing to deter an early start for a spot of ringing. Out on the wide open and exposed Rawcliffe Moss seven miles inland the frost was more obvious. 

I waited in the car with a cup of coffee and the engine running until the sun came up and the Roe Deer had run in the opposite direction. A rampant Roe Deer can destroy a £100 mist net in the split second it takes the animal to crash straight through it. 


Roe Deer

The rising sun brought warmth and bird movement as they began to arrive for a breakfast of mixed seed - wheat, sunflower, niger, kibbled maize and red dari. Whatever is in the bag certainly works well enough with another 22 birds caught, all of the target species: New birds - 8 Brambling, 4 Goldfinch, 4 Reed Bunting and 3 Chaffinch. Two others were a Brambling recapture from recent weeks and a Chaffinch from 2012. 

Field Sheet

Reed Bunting

The eagle eyed may have noticed on the photograph of the field sheet a Goldfinch “control” - “control” being ringers’ jargon for a bird bearing a ring from elsewhere, in this case D137544, a second calendar year female. I knew it wouldn’t be mine. The ring was on the left leg and I ring on the other. 

Goldfinch D137544 

This is the adult male Brambling which carried a little fat, weighing in at 26.6 grams. 

Brambling - adult male

Brambling - adult male

Most of today’s Bramblings were second calendar year females. 

Brambling - second calendar year female

The morning’s birding was rather subdued with 50/60 Fieldfare and 200 Starlings still in the stubble field, 25 Goldfinch, 18 Reed Bunting, 10+ Brambling, 10 Chaffinch and 2 Yellowhammer. Overhead came 3+ Siskin, 15 Curlew flying west, 1 Buzzard and 2 Kestrel. 

Further down the farm track the Little Owl sat warming up in the bright sunshine but I couldn’t linger. Lunch beckoned. 

Little Owl - Athene noctua

Please put Another Bird Blog on your target list then call by soon and see what’s occurring. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What A Circus

There’s nothing more annoying and frustrating than having to take nets down because of wind or rain very soon after you’ve spent time and effort putting them up. 

That’s what happened this morning after I’d gone to Rawcliffe at 7am on the strength of the BBC’s forecast for an 8-10mph wind all day. By 0855 I was taking the nets down because the wind had suddenly increased to 15-18mph making catching impossible. By then I had caught just 8 birds, 4 Reed Bunting, 3 Chaffinch and a Blackbird. 

Numbers of the target species around my feeding spots were down on recent days, with just 2 Brambling, 15 Chaffinch, 15 Reed Bunting, 20 Goldfinch, 2 Yellowhammer, 20+ Woodpigeon and 55 Fieldfare/180 Starlings in an adjacent field. 

At this time of the year and on an initial glance some male Chaffinches can have the superficial appearance of adults. There’s one below but a closer look at the wing and tail feathers tells a different story - pale and worn tertial feathers and last year’s badly holed and fault lined tail. 

Chaffinch - second calendar year male

Chaffinch - second calendar year male

Chaffinch - second calendar year male

Today’s 4 Reed Buntings takes the February tally here to 16 new ones and something of an early spring movement of the species I think. 

Reed Bunting

Soon after dawn there were the usual unsatisfying views of the male Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus as it arrived from the west, did a fast and distant circuit of the stubble, all the time pursued by a crow, before then hurrying off towards Lancaster Lane again. One of these days….. 

Carrion Crow and Hen Harrier

In such a short visit there’s not much more to relate except for 2 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 14 Corn Bunting and 1 Little Owl. 

Not the most productive or satisfying two hours I have ever spent out on the moss. As Calamity Clegg or Disastrous Dave might say of Eastleigh around midnight of Thursday next - “Things can only get better”. 

Log in soon to see if Another Bird Blog’s next performance is any better.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Totting Up

Domestics kept the birding at bay this morning, so after a quick lunch it was time for a visit to Out Rawcliffe and a check on the finches. 

I found the big flock first, 300+ mixed Chaffinch and Bramblings still feeding in roadside stubble where they have been most of the winter, flying back and forth to tall trees when they get disturbed. It was the farmer himself today, where after a run of dry days he had the tractor out pulling a plough back and forth over the very same field. As the finches flew to the tree tops it gave me chance to weigh up the ratio of over 250 Chaffinch and at least 15/20 Brambling. 

Less than a mile away were my productive Brambling and Chaffinch feeders and the seed drop where I found at least 8 more Bramblings but only similar numbers of Chaffinch - there’s something about that seed mix which brings in the Bramblings. I promised myself another ringing session at the first opportunity, maybe tomorrow or Wednesday as both days should be dry without too much wind to blow the nets. Still 18+ Reed Bunting on site together with 25+ Goldfinch and single Linnet and Yellowhammer today. Captures of the target species just here from November 1st to date read as 66 Chaffinch, 37 Brambling, 36 Reed Bunting and 28 Goldfinch - fascinating days! 



Many low-lying local farms appear to be still saturated from the deluges of last summer, the autumn and early winter, and a walk around the area still requires wellies in places; and there’s still snow on them thar hills. 

Rawcliffe Moss

Over towards the still soggy fields of Pilling Moss I could see the Lapwing flock, more than 200 of them sometimes panicking into wayward flight with their antics lifting the Golden Plover and the Black-tailed Godwits too, 15 and 32 respectively today. 

Woodpigeons numbers have been dropping of late, losing noughts rapidly with 300+ today. Fieldfare numbers down too with less than 20 in the tall trees with the aforementioned large Chaffinch flock. Afternoon is not the best time for a Barn Owl, but I did find evidence of their comings and goings along a favourite fence route, a fairly fresh pellet. 

Barn Owl pellet

Raptors on this grey day, 4 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel and 1 Sparrowhawk. 


Try Another Bird Blog soon and see how the numbers add up after Tuesdays effort - I'm counting on it.

And this post is also linking to Stewart in Australia  for World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

From inside the house the coating on the car looked like frost. Once outside there was a light flurry of snow together with a thin film of the white stuff on the roof and bonnet. Although dawn was half an hour way there were breaks in the cloud above so I set off in an easterly direction hoping for a repeat run of Friday’s catch at my finch feed site on the moss.

At the farm the snow had stopped so I set a couple of nets,and after a couple of hours the field sheet showed a good selection of species and a reasonable total of 18 birds, including a few more of the carrot coloured Fringilla montifringilla: New - 5 Chaffinch, 3 Brambling, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Reed Bunting and 1 Woodpigeon. Recaptures - 3 Chaffinch and 1 Brambling, all from recent days. 

In contrast to Friday the Bramblings were much less obvious this morning with probably less than 10 seen or heard, with Chaffinches equally hard to detect and maybe less than 20 about. Reed Buntings continue to come and go with the three new birds caught but a constant 20 or so utilising the woodland edge of the ringing site.

Goldfinches seemed to return to the niger feeders today so here's hoping their numbers will increase soon when birds head back in a northerly direction from the south of England and the near Continent. With more than 20 around catching three is still an improvement on recent tallies. Below is an adult male Goldfinch caught today displaying a stunning spring plumage and having a wing length of 85mm, the longest I’ve ever encountered on any Goldfinch.


Goldfinch - adult male

I caught a very heavy adult Woodpigeon, looking innocent enough but a species also known hereabouts as the Greater Seed Hoovering Dove. When I released the monster it laboured off, weighted down with best quality bird seed. 


A picture of this morning’s adult male Brambling followed by a portrait of one of the second calendar year females caught today.Why do the males attract lots of attention from birders when the females are equally attractive but in a much less obvious way?

Brambling -  Fringilla montifringilla

Brambling - Fringilla montifringilla

The morning’s birding was pretty quiet too although a female Merlin chasing Skylarks enlivened a few moments before the falcon sped off towards Pilling. It made me look over that way to see other birds scattering too in the wake of or anticipation of the Merlin's arrival - mainly 110 Fieldfare, 200 Starling in the next field, but in the still wet field beyond, 12 Golden Plover, 10 Black-tailed Godwit and 150+ Lapwing. 

Earlier I’d seen the Hen Harrier over that way too, heading north and west towards Skitham Lane and Bradshaw Lane. There was no chance of yet another bad photo by me, especially at that distance, so here’s a sample plate of several Hen Harriers/Northern Harriers from a soon to be released book The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors.  JPEG courtesy of Jessica and Caroline at Princeton University Press.

Northern Harrier/Hen Harrier - The Crossley ID Guide:Raptors

And watch this space in the next few weeks when Another Bird Blog takes a deeper look at The Crossley Guide:Raptors in time for the April launch .

Log into Another Bird Blog soon for more news, views and a fruitful journey.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

More Orange Things

After the BBC weather forecast of an easterly breeze and an unwelcome wind chill factor I was a bit unsure about heading out to the feeding station this morning. In the event and at 7am the conditions for ringing were ideal with pretty much full cloud and even better, a wind speed of nil. And If Thursday was a day of Fieldfares then today was definitely a Brambling day. 

The session kicked off slowly with a couple of Reed Buntings, a Robin and a Chaffinch until the Bramblings arrived for their breakfast of sunflower and nyger seed. The calls of Bramblings dominated the morning with 30+ birds in the area and it’s speculation that there has been an influx of birds moving north and joining in with the number of Bramblings that wintered in this area. Also, as the food in nearby stubble becomes depleted, birds are finding the mixed seed I provide. In contrast to their colourful cousins, Chaffinches were much harder to locate this morning with 20+ the corresponding count. 

By 1030 the breeze had picked up as promised and I had to pack in before totting up the field sheet at 21 new birds - 12 Brambling, 5 Reed Bunting, 3 Chaffinch, and 1 Robin, as not for the first time this winter Bramblings dominated the catch. Two recaptures were a Chaffinch ringed here 16th December 2012 and a Brambling ringed here a week ago.

Of today’s 13 Bramblings there was one adult male and 12 second calendar year birds, 6 males and 6 females. Apologies then - it’s more Brambling pictures. 

The females lack the mostly bright yellow bill of the males. 

Brambling - female

Brambling - male 

The wing of a juvenile/second caledar year male shows marked colour contrast between the inner and outer primary feather coverts. 

Brambling - second calendar year male

It’s a feature that isn’t visible in the closed orange-toned wing of a Brambling, the lemon yellow on the underside of the wing where it joins the body, more noticeable on males.


The rounded, black tail of the adult male Brambling. 

Brambling - adult male

One of the Reed Buntings was an absolute corker of an adult male. 

 Reed Bunting - adult male

The combination of the overcast grey morning and time spent processing the catch rather limited today’s birding tally to just 1 Barn Owl, 3 Kestrel, 19 Skylark, 1 Curlew, 12 Corn Bunting, 140+ Fieldfare and 50+ Tree Sparrow. 

It’s a similar forecast for tomorrow, cold easterlies but maybe a little more sun. Looks like a layering up morning again, four on top, two below, hat, scarf and gloves with fingers crossed around the coffee cup. 

Pop by soon to see what’s happening on Another Bird Blog. In the meantime call in to see Anni  who migh be out birding.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dilemma Time

No route to Pilling this morning on a bright, cold and breezy morning, the A588 closed yet again, this time for resurfacing rather than the almost daily road accidents which blight this rural road. So which way to go? An instant decision ensued as the car turned right towards Hambleton and the inland mosses. 

Just out of Stalmine and beyond 9am a Barn Owl flew high across the road and headed off towards its daytime roost down a nearby lane and to a quiet building I know of. Town End at Out Rawcliffe provided a Mistle Thrush and then a Kestrel, both perched up on telegraph poles but neither wanting to pose for a camera. 

Hoping for a ringing session on Saturday or sooner I’ve been topping the feeders and scattering the seed, feeding mainly Woodpigeons, the odd Brambling or two, a regular if small posse of Chaffinches and a determined bunch of cute Reed Buntings - "cute" as in clever, shrewd, smart and quick-witted, the way they melt into the distance when I appear and then return as soon the car drives off. 

Reed Bunting

Around the feeding area today, 22 Goldfinch, 14 Chaffinch, 8 Reed Bunting, 1 Brambling, 1 Yellowhammer, 30+ Woodpigeon, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Robin, 3 Blackbird. There’d been in an influx of Fieldfares overnight, with 140+ on the surrounding fields where they mixed with 200+ Starlings and a single Redwing. Almost March and both thrushes are on their respective ways north now, the Fieldfares to Fennoscandia and further east, Redwings to similar areas but with a small discrete population heading North West to Iceland. The Fieldfares fed in a stubble field and remained very wary of my some-way-off car, not unsurprising if they have spent in the winter in the southern Mediterranean where thrush pâté sells better than binoculars. 




Further down the farm I counted 200+ distant Lapwings, a wheeling group of 7 Redshanks, 180+ Jackdaws and another 250+ Woodpigeons. The pair of Kestrels patrolled up and down the farm track, and fingers crossed, in between times they hung out again near the nest box erected for a couple of years ago for Stock Doves and since used by Grey Squirrels only. There’s another if somewhat easier dilemma  to solve - which species would I prefer used the box - Kestrels, Stock Doves or Grey Squirrels? 

Just off the main track there’s an elusive flock of Corn Buntings, feeding quietly in the stubble until a sudden dread send them into the tree tops nearby. There can be 10 or 12, but 30+ today. 

Corn Bunting

A Buzzard and yet another Kestrel at Rawcliffe village on the way home and back home in time for lunch. That’s what I call a good morning. 

Log in to Another Bird Blog soon for another problem free but bird-filled day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Down On The Farm

I did get to the farm today but not the usual one, just Old Holly Farm at Cabus for a day out with our two granddaughters Olivia and Isabella. Apart from a few Pied Wagtails and domestic chickens we didn’t see many birds, only pigs, cows, goats, rabbits, horses and newly born lambs. Everyone say Aaah! 

Meanwhile back at the real farm and from last summer there’s a report of a Sedge Warbler recaptured in France. First ringed on 1st August 2010 it was captured by French ringers in Donges, Loire Atlantique on 27 August 2012, an elapsed time of 757 days and a distance of 730 kms, not counting the distance travelled in the intervening year, or the many miles this bird travelled once it reached Africa in both 2010 and 2011. We did not recapture this bird at Out Rawcliffe during the summers of 2011 or 2012 so it is safe to assume it originated further north of Out Rawcliffe.

Sedge Warbler - Out Rawcliffe to Loire Atlantique

Sedge Warbler

I did my top up of the feed yesterday and in the process clocked up much of the customary birds with a few extra goodies like a Short-eared Owl, a Merlin and the Hen Harrier making its way over to Pilling again. The harrier scattered a flock of Wood Pigeons although I don’t think it was actually hunting them, just passing through. It’s another distant shot; this bird does not like us humans, our vehicles or our buildings. 

Hen Harrier and Wood Pigeons

Short-eared Owl

The usual fare consisted of 1 Brambling on a niger feeder, 6 Chaffinch, 22 Goldfinch, 2 Snipe 15 Reed Bunting, 3 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 1 Sparrowhawk, 160 Woodpigeon and 14 Corn Bunting. 

Tomorrow its MOT day - the car not me. So with luck both of us will be out on Thursday. Stay tuned to see if we both get a pass.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lighting Never Strikes Twice

After Friday's success with catching Bramblings and Chaffinches there wasn’t much chance a return visit on Saturday would yield a similar result even allowing for the eternal optimism of a birder. 

Finches can be highly mobile in their choice of feeding locations, usually having a choice of known feeding spots to select from or joining up with other individuals to find new ones. So it turned out with just 6 birds caught, although there was yet another male Brambling in the meagre catch of 3 Reed Bunting, 1 Goldfinch and 1 Chaffinch, plus the aforesaid Fringilla montifringilla. 

The Brambling was the only one I saw or heard all morning, with even Chaffinches thin on the ground during the morning with less than 20 seen. Lots of Chaffinches are now in full song with territories forming as the winter flocks thin out and many individuals begin the journey north. It has however been a fascinating spell here since the beginning of November whereby I have caught 23 Bramblings and 65 Chaffinches. How indicative that is of the true composition of the wintering finch flocks about here is hard to say when the ground-hugging and flighty birds prove so difficult to observe in the large stubble fields they favour. 




More than 20 Reed Buntings continue to use the woodland/stubble field margins with 3 second calendar years finding the net on this occasion. 

Reed Bunting

The birding was very quiet with little on the move except for a couple of post-dawn Siskins seemingly headed south but possibly just exiting a roost. Birds of prey were the usual 3 or 4 pairs of Buzzard, a pair of Kestrel, two pairs of Little Owl, and a lone-hunting but probably resident Sparrowhawk. 

Otherwise - 40 Fieldfare mixed in with feeding Starlings, 3 Redwings at dawn, 40+ Corn Buntings in a nearby stubble, 200 Lapwing overflying from Pilling Moss, and 3 singing Skylark. 


Please stay tuned to Another Bird Blog for more news and views of birds soon. This week I am linking to Anni who would rather be birding and Stewart's gallery.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Payoff Day

My regular feeding at the plantation for the last few weeks paid off today with a good catch of finches and other bits and bobs. 

Just a couple of nets proved enough for a steady catch of 20 birds made up of 8 Brambling, 7 Chaffinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Robin, 1 Song Thrush and 1 Goldfinch. In all I counted 14+ Brambling, 25+ Chaffinch and 20+ Goldfinch about, together with the usual 20 or more Reed Buntings. 

A blog reader with Bramblings close to home asked recently about ageing and sexing Bramblings in the field; I replied by saying while it isn’t easy, it is possible with good and preferably close views. Much easier in the hand of course. 

Today’s 8 Bramblings proved to be a mix of 4 second calendar year females, 3 second calendar year males and one adult male. Below is the adult male, lots of black in the wings and tail, very rounded tail feathers and black across the wing coverts. 

Brambling - adult male

Brambling - adult male

Brambling - adult male

A second calendar year male, less black overall with pointed tail feathers, 

Brambling - second calendar year male

Brambling - second calendar year male

Below shows two second year females. The last year’s tail feathers of the second example are not only pointed but show a juvenile fault bar running across them all. 

Brambling - second calendar year female

Brambling - second calendar year female

It’s now something of A Red Letter Day to catch a Song Thrush, so scarce have they become. 

Song Thrush

There was an improvement today in catching 2 Reed Buntings out of the 20+ forever on site. 

Reed Bunting

All the Robin wanted to do was look at its own reflection in the camera lens. 


The catch kept me fairly busy, but otherwise I noted 400+ Woodpigeon, 2 Jay, 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 4 Buzzard, 2 Kestrel, 2 Treecreeper, 6 Skylark, 18 Tree Sparrow, 1 Yellowhammer, 2 Fieldfare, 8 Redwing. 


A complaining Carrion Crow put me on to a Short-eared Owl flying high in the sky and heading west. As I rapidly changed lenses and the crow persisted, the owl turned and headed back east leaving me with yet another record shot. 

Short-eared Owl

That’s all for now folks. Look in to Another Bird Blog soon for more news and record shots. This post is also linking to Madge's Weekly Top Shot .

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