Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bits N Bobs

If Saturday was a day for Goldfinches then today wasn’t. Read on, but first news of a Barn Owl, the victim of a passing vehicle, the bird found dead by the roadside at Hambleton on 30th March as reported  HERE.

Barn Owl

A notification from the BTO tells me that GC29414 was first ringed 2 miles from Hambleton as a nestling on 26 July 2006, 2442 days or almost seven years before it died.The average lifespan for a Barn Owl is about 4 years, the oldest one known from bird ringing being 15 years of age. So despite GC29419 being a very experienced adult, it still fell victim to a vehicle. 

As the BTO remind us - “Each year over 900,000 birds are ringed in Britain and Ireland, by over 2,500 highly trained bird ringers, most of whom are volunteers. Ringing began over 100 years ago to study the movements of birds. While it continues to generate information about movements, it also allows study of how many young birds leave the nest and survive to breed as adults, as well as how many adults live from year to year and how many birds disperse to different breeding sites. Collection of this information helps understand why populations increase or decline - vital information for bird conservation. After over a hundred years of bird ringing in Britain and Ireland there is still much more to learn!” 

With more northerly wind this morning but after Saturday’s success I decided to try my luck again at the feeding station. When I arrived a Barn Owl was hunting the fields, even flying about my ringing station where soon I would find out there weren’t any new migrants and even the Goldfinches mostly absent.

Barn Owl

Just three Goldfinches this morning, and as if to reinforce the previous point about “still much to learn”, one of the Goldfinch bore a ring D130275 from elsewhere. I suspect it may be from across the other side of Morecambe Bay as a recent Goldfinch control here, D137544 had been ringed last autumn at Heysham some 20kms away.

 Goldfinch D137544 - Heysham 22nd Oct 2012 to Out Rawcliffe 28th Feb 2013


The 7 birds caught today, 3 Goldfinch, 2 Dunnock, 1 Willow Warbler and surprise, surprise, a recapture of the Little Bunting first ringed here on 13th March. Upon examination I aged it once again as a second calendar year female. The bird now has more colouration in the face with the whitish eye ring more conspicuous. I reckon by now the poor creature is well and truly lost and therefore highly unlikely to find a route to north-east Europe or northern Asia where it should be now. Even less likely is that it will find a mate here in the wilds of the Lancahire mosses.

Little Bunting

Little Bunting

Not much doing on the migration front with a single Lesser Whitethroat singing nearby, one Lesser Redpoll over and several Swallows heading north. The 18/20 Whimbrel in the next fields have been there some days now and if only I could get as close to a Whimbrel here in Lancashire as the one I photographed in January's Fuerteventura holiday.


Otherwise stuff - 4 Yellowhammer in song, 7+ Whitethroat, 6+ Willow Warbler, 15 Tree Sparrow, 8 Corn Bunting, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Buzzard, 2 Wheatear and 2 Kestrel. 


It has been cold for weeks now but I know for sure things will warm up soon on Another Bird Blog, so log in later to see why.

Meanwhile take a look at Stewart's gallery down in Australia where it just has to be warmer than here -  http://paying-ready-attention-gallery.blogspot.com.au/

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Goldfinches Rule

Following last night’s iffy forecast of more cold, northerly winds Saturday was destined to be one of those days for an early and rapid decision about which might be the most rewarding option, birding or ringing. 

There was a slight frost on the car windscreen, the sky clear and bright with no discernible breeze so I decided to head towards Rawcliffe. Maybe I'd manage a spot of ringing if the wind held off long enough. Before I reached the moss the usual pattern ensued, a Barn Owl hunting close to the A585 at Hambleton followed by a pair of Little Owls in their customary spot not far away. 

There was quite a frost on the open aspects of the moss, so much so that I donned hat, gloves and scarf before setting nets then afterwards sought the sanctuary of the still warm car and a cup of hot coffee. 

Willow Warblers and Whitethroats were in song soon enough, with a good number of Goldfinches coming and going about the niger feeders. There were so many Goldfinches around that it soon became apparent the species would dominate the catch. The wind picked up about 1015 forcing me to pack in with a total of 29 birds - 20 Goldfinch, 4 Whitethroat, 3 Chaffinch, 1 Reed Bunting and 1 Robin. Goldfinches have been noticeably scarce during the continuing cold weather but it looks like many are now finally on the move, the twenty caught made up of 10 new and 10 recaptures from previous occasions here, one from 2010 another from 2011. In all I estimated 70+ Goldfinches either using or passing through the area during my shortened morning. 


Of the four Whitethroats, 3 were new birds, one a recapture from 2011 but not caught in 2012, perhaps due to the poor summer and reduced ringing opportunities. How wonderful to see Whitethroats return from their winter in Africa. 



At this time of year adult male Chaffinches look extremely bright, spick-and-span and truly immaculate.


After catching more than 60 Reed Buntings here during the winter, the single bird caught today was not one of those but a newcomer to the site. 

Reed Bunting

In the cold conditions birding was very quiet, limited to a handful of Whimbrel on nearby fields, 6 Corn Bunting, 6 Yellowhammer and 1 Kestrel. Several Swallows were seen, most of those back on territory around nearby horse stabling facilities with just 2 birds heading north early doors. 

This post is linking up with Anni who would rather-b-birdin, and also Madge who hosts a Weekly Top Shot.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Fare

What a weary old week of weather! It made birding difficult and ringing impossible until Friday morning promised something better so I set off for Pilling, but hatted and gloved again in the still cold north-westerly. 

Fluke Hall held a number of migrants, mostly in the sheltered sunny spots where I found 3 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap. Back of the car park in the hedgerow were 2 Whitethroats, exactly where they appear every year, plus a number of vocal and flighty Linnets, the latter only just beginning to appear as spring migrants after being noticeably absent through the winter months. Below and along the sea wall were 3 Wheatears, a single Pied Wagtail and a number of Swallows heading out north and into the teeth of the wind. 


There was a Golden Pheasant in the wood; surprised I could see it amongst all the bright yellow daffodils, and I don’t think it will take the local foxes long to find the creature. Feeding quietly on a grassy field in with 15/20 similarly grey but larger Woodpigeon was a pair of Stock Doves. 

Golden Pheasant


Stock Dove

Being a glutton for punishment I braved the wind again for the Lane Ends to Pilling Water stretch of sea wall. More Swallows and even House Martins along here, some feeding over the sheltered pool, others over the marsh. On the pool also, 3 Little Egret and the resident pair of Little Grebe. In the plantation were 3 Willow Warbler,1 Chiffchaff and a singing Reed Bunting. Here is becoming marginal habitat for a Reed Bunting as the place turns more to woodland each year. 

Up at Pilling Water 10 Wheatears, bright “Greenland” types were scattered across the marsh all the time heading east so too mobile to have a crack at catching one or two. Waders here - 2 Whimbrel, 1 Common Sandpiper, 22 Redshank, 30+ Lapwing, 14 Oystercatcher. And still 400+ Pink-footed Goose, 48 Shelduck. 

I scanned the large fields beyond Pilling Water and back towards Fluke, where Oystercatchers and Lapwings are now on eggs, bodies pressed low to the ground, heads poking up, partners and lookouts close by. The Lapwings don’t miss much, a passing Kestrel and the persistent crows receiving a good telling off, but the sight of a Buzzard spurs the Lapwing into greater things. I watched as both Lapwings and Carrion Crows dive bombed the Buzzard, more than once the wader making contact with the big raptor as it made its way back towards Fluke Hall. 

I doubt the Buzzard is a threat to the Lapwing’s eggs, but it will take Lapwings chicks, as will Kestrels and Carrion Crows. 

Lapwing and Buzzard


More news and views soon on Another Bird Blog.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Circuit

The start was just as predicted, bright, cool bordering on cold, but also breezy - OK for birding, but no good for ringing so a trip to Pilling became the order of the day. 

I know blog readers like owls because they mostly tell me so, especially when there are pictures of Little Owls. It wasn’t a Little Owl which kicked the morning off but a Barn Owl once again. Distant as usual I managed a few pictures of the owl before it went on its ghostly way across the fields and searching for a breakfast of fresh meat. 

Barn Owl

There was a Brown Hare alongside the same track, far too big an item for a Barn Owl to tackle, but small leverets and baby rabbits are prey items along with the more commonly eaten rats, voles, shrews and mice. 

Brown Hare

At Fluke Hall a Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler sang from the roadside trees while 3 Siskins fed in the topmost branches. Away from the shelter of the trees the cool and increasing wind speed made for hard work and small numbers - 2 White Wagtail, 3 Linnet, 2 Wheatear, 6 Goldfinch, 2 Meadow Pipit. On the marsh below the sea wall a single Little Egret fed and a Grey Heron flew off towards the tide - Will was telling me yesterday how the Claughton heronry near the A6 has just two pairs of Grey Heron in residence this year compared to over 100 pairs at its peak several years ago. No wonder then that Little Egret is now more common locally than Grey Heron. 

Grey Heron

Little Egret

Lane Ends and Pilling Water proved more productive than Fluke. The plantation held 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Bunting, 2 Chiffchaff and a single Lesser Redpoll. The pools and marsh had 2 Little Grebe, 4 Little Egret and 2 Whimbrel with a couple of Swallows and House Martins feeding over the sheltered water. 

The walk to Pilling Water and beyond turned up a Common Sandpiper, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Linnet, 6 Skylark, 6 Wheatear, 200+ Pink-footed Geese, 2 Alba wagtails and several more Meadow Pipits.

 Pink-footed Goose

The year is now turning into a dry one whereby the wader fields beyond Pilling Water are dry and dusty, not good when soggy patches and puddles with emerging vegetation are required to hide and feed newly born wader chicks. At the moment there’s not much growth to hide any adults sitting on eggs either, fields only recently rolled and seeded where Lapwings, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlews stand out like colourful blots on the pale brown landscape. 


Nearly lunch time, the showers arrived on cue and I headed home to blog. Maybe the rain and a touch of warm air will make the grass grow, the trees blossom and the warblers sing? 

Please log in soon to Another Bird Blog and find out. In the meantime you can log onto Stewart's Gallery for more birds from around the world.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Missing On The Moss

Autumn and winter time make for many productive birding and ringing days at inland Rawcliffe Moss, whereas March, April and May can be very hit or miss because spring migrants tend to arrive at more coastal locations. 

Today must have been one of those latter type days when after a clear, quite frosty and very early start of 0530, Will and I could muster only 6 birds in a good three hours. Birds caught 3 Goldfinch, Willow Warbler, Dunnock and Wren. 

After blank days waiting for Lesser Redpolls there were finally some on the move this morning but none of the 8/10 birds seen or heard found our nets. We did open the Willow Warbler account with a single male caught and at least two others seen/heard but otherwise we saw no other warbler species. 

Willow Warbler


With clear and sunny skies it was a quiet morning of birding too, the migration highlights being 2 Whimbrel, 4+ Siskin over, 2 Alba wagtail, 2 Meadow Pipit, 1 Golden Plover and 6/8 Swallows over. A number of flighty Woodpigeons, 100+, are still in the area, probably part of the winter contingent and yet to depart as opposed to residents birds waiting to pair up. 


Local residents accounted for the other species as 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel, 2 Buzzard, 1 Little Owl, 1 Corn Bunting in jangling song and 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker beating out a wooden tune. 

On the way home I snapped a common/European Starling in song on a hedgerow top. Apart from the fact the bird was singing, it’s a male due the blue base to the yellow bill, whereas and perhaps appropriately enough, females have a pink base. I use the word “song” advisedly as everyone knows a Starling’s refrain contains a wide range of chuckles, whistles, knocking and grating sounds along with good imitations of the songs of other birds. A Starling is a member of the oriole family of birds, many of which are fabulous songsters. 

European/Common Starling

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, European Starlings were quite rare. After that they underwent an increase in numbers leading to it becoming one of Britain's most widespread and common birds. Recently the Starling has suffered a dramatic reversal of fortune; since the 1980s their abundance has decreased severely, giving great cause for conservation concern. The greatest declines of a shocking 92% have occurred in woodland, but this may represent sub-optimal habitat for the European starling. On farmland declines of 66% have occurred. Starlings can be considered a pest species because of the mess they make at roosts, but they are a visually attractive species and one we might miss were they to be no longer around.

European/Common Starling

Sunday’s forecast is for sun with a breezy southerly. Looks like a spot of birding for Another Bird Blog, so log in soon to find out what you missed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

As Promised - Owls

Wind a raging westerly wind making it difficult to bird, there's not much doing on the news front today. A quick look at Pilling revealed 6 Wheaters, 4 White Wagtail, 2 Whimbrel and a good number of Swallows on the move finally.

So here’s set of pictures of a Little Owl taken during the cold, frosty spell of early April. There were two birds, one of the pair keeping out of sight all the time I was taking pictures of its mate. 

Although Little Owls are partly diurnal a spell of hard weather can make it seem that they become more approachable. The real reason they are more noticeable is that cold weather makes their prey hard to find meaning that the owls have to spend more time out in the open looking for food. 

Little Owls take a wide variety of prey with small mammals such as mice, voles and shrews forming the significant proportion. Even small rabbits are not immune from attack. Small birds are frequently taken during the breeding season, as well as chicks of larger species. Earthworms, snails and slugs and even small fish are all taken, but insects are perhaps the dominant element. 

Like all birds, a Little Owl can insulate itself against cold air by puffing up its feathers and trapping layers of warm air.  They can also change their colour - depending upon how they are processed in Photoshop.

"Click the pics" for a slide show of the Little Owl.

Little Owl

 Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl

Little Owl

The owl was quite happy moving its viewing spot as I took pictures. The owl is not only looking for prey whilst keeping an eye on me, it is also on the lookout for other dangers to each side and above.  
Little Owl

 Little Owl

 Little Owl

"Look out! There's a jogger coming along the lane. If I'm quick she won't see me."

Little Owl

Little Owl

I'm linking this post to Stewart's Gallery in Australia   , Madge's Weekly Top Shot  or  Anni's Blog . I'll bet there's an owl or two there somewhere.

Come back to Another Bird Blog soon.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Where Did The Birds Go?

All the birds from Friday must have kept going overnight because this morning was noticeable for the absence of  Wheatears after probably hundreds of them made landfall in the North West yesterday. I couldn’t find any Wheatears at Lane Ends or Fluke Hall this morning, and no sign of yesterday’s Ring Ouzel either. 

There was a chilly old start, a Great-spotted Woodpecker greeting the dawn with a series of drumrolls just as the sun peeped through the mist and cloud. 

Morning Mist - Pilling

The highlight of this morning was the mass of Meadow Pipits on the move - again. Even though they are late this year the numbers of Meadow Pipits coming thorough has been phenomenal. A guess is that the cold weather through the early part of the year cleared almost every single one out of the UK and places further north, ensuring that they all have to come back again. Looking in the usual place for Wheatears I found just Meadow Pipits instead, and any pipits on the deck weren’t for staying off passage long before they joined in the stream of birding heading east and inland towards the hills. I counted 4/500 Meadow Pipits on the move in about three hours along various part of Pilling shore. 

Meadow Pipit

Pied Wagtails everywhere were the other main feature, with some at Fluke, others at Lane Ends and also Pilling Water, in all 45+. 

Pied Wagtail

At Fluke Hall I watched the Kestrels in their post-dawn pair bonding, all noise and action - mating within sight of their nest box home too. Good thing the kids aren’t at home just yet. 

It was this about time last year when the Jays appeared at Lane Ends. I’m not sure where they are based and I can’t decide if the villains are looking to nest or looking for nests, but there they were this morning searching silently through the trees again. Two Chiffchaffs were fly-catching from the willows which overhang the pool, a sheltered part of the site which can often be much warmer than the nearby shore just yards away. Two Redwing suddenly dropped into the trees and then further up and from the gate I noticed a number of Blackbirds and a Song Thrush had left the cover of the wood to feed out on the open grass. Like the Meadow Pipits, there has been a noticeable arrival of thrushes this Spring. 

Not much doing at Pilling Water, a couple of Skylark, 300 Pink-footed Geese, 4 Linnet, plenty of Meadow Pipits and the first Whimbrel of the year whistling across the marsh.

Another pipit shot, it wasn't a great morning for photo opportunities - same bird different pose.

Meadow Pipit

On the pools a Snipe, 10 Shoveler and 8 Teal, the other wildfowl and waders of recent days departed too. Those Shoveler duck are handsome creatures aren’t they? 

Northern Shoveler

Apologies for a quiet day on Another Bird Blog. There will be owls soon - promise. With this post I'm linking to The Weekly Top Shots .

Friday, April 12, 2013

Heading For The Hills

No not me, the birds I saw during an excellent morning’s birding - Ring Ouzel, Meadow Pipits, Golden Plovers and lots of Wheatears, all of them bound for the Pennine Hills not far away. 

Everything started fairly subdued out on the moss where I hoped for a few migrating Lesser Redpoll following a number of sightings along the coast. I have been topping up the niger feeders hoping they will attract a few redpoll in as they did last Spring, but none yet this year. The recently bereaved Barn Owl was around early but apart from that plus the sounds of Buzzards waking up and ‘peckers  pecking, the air was quiet. After catching just three birds, new Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Goldfinch, I decided to head for the coast. Hopefully there would be newly arrived Wheatears and other things after the hold-up of the last week or two. 


There was another Chiffchaff singing at Lane Ends, a single Goldcrest moving through the trees, a Reed Bunting in song and one pair of Little Grebe on the pools. Meadow Pipits were passing overhead as I walked west towards Pilling Water. A number of Wheatears were moving pretty rapidly east along the shore, a loose party of 8/10 feeding as they went which is generally the way they behave along there. I managed to catch two, the others carrying on their merry way east, and when I released the two birds together minutes later they too headed east.




I waited for a while to see if more Wheatears arrived from the west, birding while I watched plus listening to Meadow Pipits heading north. Greenshank and Spotted Redshank on the pool with a single Snipe today. A flock of about 150 Golden Plover flew around intermittently after tractors disturbed them, the Lapwings not so flighty now for fear of losing their territory on the newly ploughed field. At the moment there looks to be 10 or 12 likely pairs of Lapwing plus 3 or 4 pairs of both Redshank and Oystercatcher. There are still 3 or more Little Egrets on the marsh and in the ditches, Shelduck paired up and 300+ Pink-footed Geese in no apparent hurry to set off for Iceland. 

With no more Wheatears about I thought to look at Fluke Hall where I found another 8 or 10 of them along the rocky shore, different birds these but again very mobile. I caught another male before being distracted by a Ring Ouzel nearby so I abandoned the ringing and went off to investigate the ouzel instead. They are pretty scarce at any time of the year, a passage migrant only and usually coastal. 


It’s a long distance shot of the Ring Ouzel for fear of losing the bird, particularly as it was feeding very close to a Blackbird cousin, both species flighty at the best of times. 

Ring Ouzel

In the absence of a proper photograph I rather like this stylised image from c1905 from The Natural History of the Birds of Central Europe by Johann Friedrich Naumann. 

Ring Ouzel - Johann Friedrich Neumann 

After yesterday's post on Another Bird Blog concerning endangered birds here is some information about the Ring Ouzel courtesy of the Ring Ouzel Study Group - http://www.ringouzel.info/ 

"Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) is a summer migrant to Europe and Fennoscandia, where it is characteristically associated with upland areas. The British population has declined steadily since early in the 20th century, and the species' range contracted by 27% between 1970 and 1990. A national survey in 1999 suggested that this decline was continuing and estimated that fewer than 7,600 pairs remained. As a result, the species is now of high conservation concern in Britain. British and continental ouzels winter in similar areas of Spain and north-west Africa, and whereas the species has declined in Britain, its numbers are thought to be relatively stable on the continent. Therefore, it is thought the decline in British breeding ouzels is due to factors in Britain, rather than elsewhere". 

Weekend tomorrow. That’s good - I should get some birding in for a change.

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