Friday, August 30, 2013

On The Up….

Are the numbers of Spotted Redshanks at Conder Green. There were three this morning, 2 juveniles and 1 still dusky adult bird, all three feeding together in the roadside creeks where 30/40 Common Redshanks also fed. 

The overall Common Redshank numbers are harder to fathom since there’s a constant movement of birds to and from the marsh where distant Redshanks numbered 4/500 when I looked along the river from Glasson. The picture shows part of the flocks along the river where 2000+ Lapwings outnumbered Redshank by a ratio of 5 to 1, and where 5 Curlew and a single Dunlin were clearly outnumbered.


Lapwings and Redshanks

Below is a nicely shot video of a Spotted Redshank by Luuc Punt.

A Spotted Redshank feeds in noticeably deeper water than is the case with the Common Redshank, a difference which shows a distinction in the ecology of these two closely related species. The Spotted Redshank often feeds with the bill at a small angle to the water and the bill swept rapidly from side to side, also feeding by probing with a nearly vertical bill in a similar manner to Redshank. The bill of a Spotted Redshank is noticeably thinner and longer than that of a Common Redshank. While both species have bright red legs, the Spotted Redshank has the longer of the two. 

Similar number of other waders and wildfowl with 2 Common Sandpipers, 3 Greenshank, 10+ Snipe, 10 Teal, 2 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron and 3 Cormorant. No sign of Little Grebes today.

I paid Lane Ends a visit where a slow walk to Pilling Water and back revealed 20+ Goldfinch, 1 Skylark, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank and 10 Little Egrets.

The Sparrowhawk was a young female and taking an unsuccessful pop at one of the recently released white Red-legged Partridge. HiFly have released lots of birds in recent days with hundreds of normal red-legs and dozens of the white variety now swarming through the fields.

Red-legged Partridge

Flying against wintry clouds the white birds may be difficult for shooters to target but for birds of prey like Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and female Sparrowhawks the white blobs in the green and brown landscape must provide a tempting and easy target.

More blog and more birds soon. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog. Linking today to Anni's Blog.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

More Fishy Tales

The fishy bit comes during post-birding grandparent duties, but first the bird news from a couple of hours Wednesday, later than desired due to BT being down on Wednesday afternoon. 

I don’t know why the sign warns of ducks crossing at Conder Green because the road is far too busy for birds to walk across the road. Mostly they fly above the road to and from the creeks, the pool and the more distant Lune marshes. 

Ducks crossing?

There were lots of Lapwings, a combined count of 300 on the creeks and pool but more like a couple of thousand out on the marsh beyond the railway bridge. I was walking the old railway track when it became obvious a Peregrine was about from the mass of Lapwings suddenly in flight, but it’s not always easy to spot a hunting Peregrine which might fly below, above or through the flocks of birds it panics into flight. Eventually I picked it up, the anchor shape cruising down river towards Lancaster and moving steadily away. Oh well, there will be other days with the magical raptor when wintering Peregrines are an almost daily occurrence in these parts. The Lapwings are very wary at the moment but I managed a half decent shot of a juvenile bird at the poolside. 



The railway path was quiet with a single Whitethroat seen, a rather loud and emphatic “hweeting” Chiffchaff from the trees at the car park and a couple of overflying Goldfinch. Near the pool I at last found a decent flock of Goldfinches with 35 or more feeding on the extensive clumps of thistles, the number of plants enough to support a much bigger number of finches if only they were about. There was an addition to the regular waders with the appearance of a Ruff, too distant for a picture and constantly in and out of view as it walked behind a grassy bank. Two Spotted Redshank again plus 3 Greenshank, 10 Snipe and 40+ Common Redshank. 


Spotted Redshank

A Kingfisher put in a brief appearance by flying at head height across the pool from direction of the canal and off towards the road bridge of the A588. Just one Little Grebe and 2 Cormorant, 12 Teal, 2 Tufted Duck and 2 Wigeon. 

Time allowed a quick look at Glasson where Coot numbers are now circa70 and Tufted Duck close on 15. Swallow numbers are down everywhere now that September beckons and I could find less than 10 here and similar numbers at Conder Green. 

There was a Buzzard circling over Thurnham on my journey back south and lunch time. 


Grandparenting duties took us to Knott End with Theo and to Knott End Chippy, a friendly little establishment which also happens to serve probably the best traditional fish and chips in the Fylde. 

The pictures of Knott End are for blogging pal Kay, a lady who enjoys Adventurous Travel yet has never visited the village of Knott End. Shame on you Kay. 
Knott End
 The Esplanade at Knott End
GranPa's Toy Shop

Knott End Chippy

 Haddock, Chips and Mushy Peas

More tales and more birds soon from Another Bird Blog.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fishy Tales

I returned to Conder Green today where I found much the same species but with a little variation to recent counts. 

For a week or more I suspected there might be more than one Spotted Redshank, confirming it today with one in the main channel and a second one in the channel nearest to the Stork. More Snipe today, with a count of 18 a possible underestimate, plus 5 Greenshank when a flight of three arrived from the west calling loudly to join the two already counted. Still 2 Common Sandpiper around plus the regular 50+ Redshank and 300+ Lapwings roosting in the creeks and on the secluded margins and islands of the pool. 

Wildfowl numbers remain similar with 10 Teal, 6 Wigeon and 3 Little Grebe. Three Pied Wagtail around the water margins, a couple of “tacking” Whitethroats, a “ticking” Robin and handfuls of both Goldfinches and Linnets proved to be the only passerines. A single Raven was an early fly over. 

Little Grebe

Pied Wagtail

Recent high tides and the resulting water inflow seem to have increased aquatic life/tiny fish stocks in the pool, as suggested by the appearance of more Cormorants, the grebes hanging around the inflow and the regularity of the Kingfisher. There were two Kingfishers this morning, the birds travelling together across the pool and then back towards the creek and the road bridge, their regular spot. 


This morning I watched as a flight of 9 Cormorants came from the direction of the Lune, twisting and turning, whiffling down to the pool, looking for all the world like a gaggle of geese landing on a winter’s day. They then proceeded to fish the water as a pack, their black bodies disappearing below the surface before one by one they resurfaced briefly before dropping below again. After a while the Cormorants flew back out to the Lune, singly or in twos or threes. 



The Cormorant is another bird which is very good at catching fish but which is not as popular as the Kingfisher or the supreme angler the Osprey. Unfortunately, unlike that of the Kingfisher and Osprey, the fishing prowess of the Cormorant is not universally admired, anglers in particular being jealous of the Cormorant's expertise. 

Most people are familiar with Cormorant fishing, an age-old art practiced in China, Japan, and a few other countries, which today exists largely due to the tourism industry. It is not so generally known that a similar method was once practiced in England. 

The ornithologist Francis Willughby (1635-1672), quoting Faber’s Annotations of Rechuss says ‘It is the custom in England to train Cormorants to catch fish. While conveying the birds to the fishing grounds the fishermen keep the heads and eyes of the birds covered to prevent them from being alarmed. When they have reached the rivers, they take off the hoods and having first tied a leather strap loosely around the lower part of the neck that the bird will be unable to swallow down what fishes they catch, throw them into the water. They immediately set to work and pursue the fish beneath them with marvellous rapidity. When they have caught one they rise to the surface, and having first pinched it with their beaks, swallow it as far as the strap permits, and renew the chase until they have caught from five to six each. On being called to their master’s fist, they obey with alacrity and bring up one by one the fish they have swallowed, injured no farther than that they are slightly crushed. The fishing brought to an end, the birds are removed from the neighbourhood of the water, the strap is untied and a few of the captured fish thrown to them as their share of the booty are dextrously caught before they touch the ground.” 


More unlikely tales soon from Another Bird Blog.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gone Tracking - Book Review

A rainy old morning, so with no bird news today's post concerns a new book which should interest many bird watchers.  

My friends at Princeton University Press sent a book for review on Another Bird Blog - Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe. So while it’s a book that isn’t just about birds it is one that many birders will be interested in hearing of. 

The book’s publication data shows that it was first released in Denmark in 2012 as Dyr & Spor (Animals and Tracks). The author Lars-Henrik Olsen is a zoologist, writer and lecturer who has worked at the Copenhagen Zoological Museum and the World Wildlife Fund, and is the producer of a number of Danish radio and television programmes. The book is available at Princeton University Press for £17.95. 

Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe

As a bird watcher and field worker and on my regular explorations, I often come across little bits of the unknown, whether they be tracks in mud or grass, paths through a field, scats, pellets, skulls or the many signs of feeding by birds or mammals. With the simple things it isn’t too bad whereby I can assign an owl pellet to a species, recognise signs of woodpecker activity, distinguish fox poo from domestic dog dirt and know when a deer has walked a muddy path. More often than not I cannot answer the more difficult conundrums that nature and animals leave in their wake. Any book that can help explain such mysteries is welcome indeed, so I set about this book with a great deal of interest and enthusiasm, hoping to learn a little more about the countryside and the animals in it. 

 Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe

“Tracks and Signs” has an unusual and tiny introduction of less than half a page, sufficient enough since the book’s title, likely contents and probable usage are in themselves self-explanatory. It was actually a welcome change not to read pages and pages of introduction, preface and "how to use this book", but instead to get down to the nitty-gritty as soon as Page 6. 

Roughly the first third of the book is devoted in several pages of each section to describing, illustrating and annotating the clues that birds and animals leave behind. The headings to these sections include for instance, antlers, bird and animal tracks, feeding signs on trees and on crops, pellets, nests & dens, and summaries of bird droppings, the scats of carnivores, small mammals, rodents and small herbivores. I found some really useful snippets of information in these sections e.g. why Brown Hares and Rabbits shear off the branches of trees in contrast to deer which twist branches until they break, and how different the results appear to a trained human eye: or how to tell which bird or animal has been eating the fruit of rose hips. There are lots more secrets of wildlife in these pages, interspersed as they are with the splendid photographs, illustrations and drawings. The publishers don’t quote the number of photographs but at 4 or 5 per double page spread it must reach into many hundreds. 

 Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe

The remaining 170 pages of the book are devoted to the specific mammal species, with information on size, distribution, behaviour and habitat as well as a more detailed summary of tracks and scats. There are many fine photographs in this book, not just of the marks, signs and tracks themselves, but photographs which do not show an animal or bird in simple isolation but which relate in a very informative and useful way to the textual account. For instance, and even as hard as it is to select one or two from so many, the Red Fox leaving tracks in the snow or sand as it listens for mice; the Wolf at a den accompanied by pictures of a Wolf’s hind foot together with a picture of Wolf tracks in the sand; or the Mink clamped on a Mallard complemented by pictures of a Mink scat and typical remains at a Mink’s den.

Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe

If anything Tracks and Signs is rather “light” on birds, focusing mainly on tracks in relation to footprints of larger waders, ducks/geese and game birds, feeding signs on fruit, nuts and cones, pellet ID or the signage that raptors make. Some of the birds shown do not occur in the UK or occur very rarely e.g. Nutcracker, Hawk Owl, Three-toed Woodpecker, species which are much more relevant to the original book written in Danish and targeted at a non-UK audience. 

On the other hand the book is voluminous on mammals, perhaps a welcome change for most bird watchers who like me proably have far too many books which are all about birds to the exclusion of other wildlife. In fact we bird watchers are sometimes so focused on, some might say obsessed by, birds that we miss out or fail to engage with other wildlife, despite the (hopefully) innate curiosity which initially fuelled the interest in wild birds. This book isn’t aimed at simply bird watchers, more at amateur field workers and naturalists of many persuasions and specialised interest who are out to broaden their knowledge and expertise of birds or mammals.

The 175 creatures covered in the 270 pages range in size from the tiny House Mouse up to the rather larger Brown Bear and include along the way rarely seen species such as Pine Marten, Wolverine, Common Dormouse or the Wildcat. 

Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe

When I started to dip into the book I realised what a wealth of animals the rest of Europe has in comparison to the islands of Britain and Ireland, surrounded as we are by a number of seas. There are animals featured in the book which I had not heard of, for instance Raccoon Dog Nyctereutes procynoides, not be confused with the North American Raccoon Procyon lotor which also breeds in Belgium and Denmark but from introduced stock. Then there is the European Souslik Sperophilius citellus, a large rodent found near The Black Sea, a few species of voles found only in Scandinavia, or the Mouflon Ovis orientalis, a large goat from Corisca and Sardinia with a wild population in mainland Europe established by escapees from nature parks and zoos. The point is that the book covers an awful lot of species which a UK reader will never encounter unless they travel extensively in Europe. 

It was while studying some of these detailed pictures in the 6x9 inches of the book, a size clearly intended as a field companion that I thought it would benefit from a larger format. As such it would make a superb coffee table volume and home-based reference where the many photographs and illustrations would display at their very best and allow greater study of their detailed elements. 

That is not to say that anyone in the UK will not enjoy reading, dipping into or actually using this book in the field, albeit it in a somewhat limited way in mammal-deficient Britain. On the contrary; it is a book to enjoy and to savour, one which is packed full of insight to offer the reader a whole new way of thinking about the birds and animals which have left marks for us to fathom. If anyone has a particular interest in learning how to track animals they should buy this book. If on the other hand they are someone who likes to understand the countryside and delve below the surface more than a little, this book will help them to do just that in a handy-sized, non-scientific, and highly readable guide.

Tracks and Signs of the Animals and Birds of Britain and Europe

Now you must excuse me, I'm off to look around the garden. More soon from Another Bird Blog

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Run Around

It was the juvenile Wheatear at Lane Ends that gave me the run around for an hour or more and I’d given up trying to catch it so sat bird watching from the sea wall instead. Even as it ignored the meal worms the Wheatear let me take a few pictures. And then just as I was ready to leave and collect the traps the bird succumbed to the lure of a tasty snack. 


The Wheatear was a clear juvenile, and with of wing length of 96mm a probable male. 

Wheatear - first year 

There wasn’t much doing on the tide, 140 Teal again, 9 Little Egret and 3 Grey Heron, a juvenile Kestrel, and the “pip-pip” call of an overhead Grey Wagtail as a change from the pied variety. Teal are said to fly at 70mph; it seems faster than that when trying to take a photograph of them. 


I’d started off the morning at Conder Pool and Glasson again where there’s usually a decent selection of birds together with the chance of a picture or two. A few more waders this morning with 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Snipe, 2 Common Sandpiper, 1 Little Ringed Plover, 1 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 250+ Lapwing, 3 Curlew and 40+ Redshank. 

Wildfowl and others: 9 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Stock Dove, 3 Pied Wagtail and 1 female Sparrowhawk. 

Pied Wagtail

The usual counts of Wildfowl at Glasson Dock with 45 Coot, 15 Tufted Duck and 1 Goldeneye, the latter apparently now commuting to and from Conder Green, all of 400yards as the duck flies. A flock of of 16 Goldfinch feeding on thistles along the shore is the most Goldfinch I have seen together this autumn.

There seemed to be a good number of Swallows this morning, upwards of 50, with many hanging about the overhead wires, the road bridge and the many boats in the dock. So I contented myself with a few pictures and if all else fails the photogenic Barn Swallow always cooperates with a cameraman. 

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

That’s all for today folks. More soon, plus a new book review for everyone with a curious mind, so be around.

Lonking today to Anni's Blog and Camera Critters .

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday’s Trip

Today there is detail of a Brambling recovery plus a little birding news. 

On March 2nd 2013 at Out Rawcliffe I caught an adult male Brambling bearing a Norwegian ring - Stavanger ED78766. The photograph below is of the actual bird after I managed to locate the pic on my PC. 


The details have just arrived from the BTO via Norwegian ringers who inform us that the Brambling was originally ringed at Randaberg, Rogaland, Norway on 11th October 2011. Randaberg is close to the Norwegian coast and just north of Stavanger, an area where many, many thousands of Bramblings pass through each autumn on their way to winter in Europe. We don’t know where ED 78766 spent the winter of 2011/12 but we do know that 2012/13 was a good winter to find Bramblings in the UK, this being the second such recovery from the ringing at Rawcliffe in 2012/13. 

Brambling - Norway to Out Rawcliffe

This morning I headed to Conder Green for a spot of birding. Just through Cockerham village I noticed many hundreds of Swallows along roadside wires and in the air. Looking right I remembered the large field of maize crop I pass often and from where the Swallows had obviously just woken up after their overnight roost.


Conder was pretty quiet, just as it has been in recent days. The now single Little Ringed Plover was still there, as was the Spotted Redshank, 3 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 60+ Redshanks and 300+ Lapwings. The rest of the birds came in two by twos - 2 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Cormorant and 2 Little Egret. 

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover
Mute Swan and Cormorant

With nothing much happening at sleepy Glasson I decided to try my luck at Pilling and the incoming tide. 

Canal Boats at Glasson

This wasn’t much better, a walk to Fluke and back giving a good show of herons - 5 Little Egret and 4 Grey Heron, but the tide a little too distant for decent wader numbers. There was a Buzzard circling over Lane Ends and when I approached Pilling Water, 2 juvenile Kestrels from the nearby nest box. 


There are released Mallards at the wildfowlers pools and in the ditches, easy to identify as they just stick together in a tight bunch on the water as if still in penned captivity. Teal are beginning to arrive in numbers with 140+ today, some already finding the wheat put out for them about the pools. A Green Sandpiper today but no sign of the usual Greenshank. 

Any day now the 2000+ Red-legged Partridge will be released - that should bring in a few harriers and Buzzards, keep the Peregrine happy and also provide some entertainment for Another Bird Blog. 

Linking today to Stewart's Gallery.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Fancy A Sandwich?

I woke up once or twice on Saturday night with the wind rattling the trees and rain hitting the window. So Sunday morning I headed out to Knott End to watch the tide in and look for overnight strays. The morning was pretty grey as well as blustery, my cameras on a less than ideal ISO800. 

I think the wind had sent the small birds to the shelter of upriver as I could muster only 6 Redshank, 4 Dunlin and 7 Bar-tailed Godwit, although the sturdier Curlews hung around on the beach until the tide eventually forced them upriver too. By high tide just 90 Oystercatcher remaining with another 300+ having left as the Wyre channel filled. 

Terns were the stars of the show, many arriving with the tide, some soon leaving in the direction of Fleetwood, others staying put near the jetty and yet more heading east to the roost along the shore. A number of the terns took the opportunity to carry on feeding in the shallow waters at the edge of the tide. In all I estimated 170 Sandwich Terns and 30+ Common Terns in a couple of hours watch. 

After the Lapwings on Friday it was the terns turn to suffer the “dreads” today. A gang of 60 or 70 rested on the sands until every now and then the whole lot would erupt into the air, fly around for a minute or so and then land back on the beach. Their panic made me look around for a skua or maybe a Peregrine, but there seemed to be nothing to generate such a hubbub. There are three or four Common Terns mixed in with the 60+ Sandwich Terns in the picture below.

"Click the pics" for a full sized Sandwich.

Sandwich Terns and Common Terns

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

Sandwich Tern

 Sandwich Tern and Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull

The Black-headed Gulls aren’t the only ones after a meal at Knott End. Like at most seaside towns the gulls learn that cars = people = hand outs and each large gull defends a feeding territory by employing both noise and threats. 

  Lesser Black-backed Gull

More birdy snacks from Another Bird Blog soon. 

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