Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday 29th September 2013

Another bright, breezy if not completely sunny start today so once again I set off in a northerly direction. Well there are worse places to bird than Conder Green,  I can assure you. 

The sun wasn’t quite up so I had to use a less than ideal and "noisy" ISO800 to snap the Kingfisher again, either that or hope the bird might reappear in the bright sunshine which threatened.  Often the Kingfisher is hard to find, especially once passing traffic starts and more people appear. The responses from around the globe to my Kingfisher pics invariably relate how members of the kingfisher family are shy the world over. 


When the Kingfisher sped off towards the road bridge it was “search for Little Grebes time” as they are often partially out of sight, tucked into the edges of the islands or at least one or two of them constantly diving for food. Just seven today makes me wonder about the turnover of birds and how many in total have passed through the site in recent weeks. 

Little Grebe

Apart from the grebes the pool was pretty much deserted with Wigeon numbering just four on the pool although another 25 or more could be seen from the railway bridge. A single Cormorant, a lonely Little Egret and a few Teal completed the count on the pool. Luckily the creeks proved more rewarding with 2 Spotted Redshank, 18 Redshank, 3 Snipe, 3 Curlew , 40 Teal, 1 Goldeneye, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Grey Wagtail and the Kingfisher again. 


A Chiffchaff was along the old railway track together with a flock of 30 Goldfinches. Activity above came in the form of a Kestrel, a Sparrowhawk, and as the air warmed, a movement of Swallows numbering some 30+ birds flying determinedly south in loose twos, threes and fours. 

There was another Chiffchaff at Glasson, this one making location easier by singing from the trees opposite the Victoria pub. A quick count of the wildfowl, 25 Tufted Duck, 75 Coot, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Cormorant then it was home time. 

Tufted Duck

No birding on Mondays for Another Bird Blog, but never fear, back soon.

Linking today to Stewart's Photo Gallery.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Saturday Sun

The egrets had already left the Pilling roost this morning. It must have been the bright sunny start which set them on their way. The roost breaks up into small groups which spend a short time on the marsh before heading separate ways - 22 birds this morning. 

Little Egrets - Pilling Marsh

I didn’t wait for the Pink-footed Geese to leave the marsh as I would see plenty in the next three or four hours, in fact a large count of as many as 6,500 in total. The picture below shows just a small fraction of the geese about this morning. 

 Pink-footed Geese - Pilling Marsh

There was a Kestrel along Backsands Lane and a Sparrowhawk heading rapidly south. I’ve seen more Sparrowhawks in the last day or three than almost the whole of the summer and I imagine that the recent ones are migrants. 

Fluke Hall to Pilling Water proved very productive, mainly due to the number of birds about Hi-Fly’s land. I don’t think there’s been a shoot yet judging by the huge numbers of Red-legged Partridge still frequenting the fields and the maize crop. I haven’t seen many large raptors around so maybe the partridge numbers are still circa 2000, the number released for "sport" some weeks ago. I did see singles of both Peregrine and Buzzard at Fluke Hall but apparently showing no interest in the partridges. 

Red-legged Partridge

Red-legged Partridge

There were good numbers of Skylarks on the fields and a steady stream of Meadow Pipits going over, the mipits heading east along the sea wall. My notebook records 24 Skylarks and 160 Meadow Pipits in 3+ hours. The maize crop and ditch held more than 10 Reed Buntings too, as well as 3 Jays paying a flying visit and looking for an easy meal. It was while watching their antics with the Jackdaws that I caught sight of a Kingfisher flying rapidly along the ditch towards Fluke Hall. 

Reed Bunting

Meadow Pipit

Wildfowl numbers on the shooting pools, and without counting the many tame Mallards - 40+ Wigeon, 300+ Teal 300, 1 Cormorant, 1 Black-tailed Godwit and 1 Green Sandpiper. 


Wigeon and Teal

Other ‘bits and bobs’ - 1 Wheatear, 1 Chiffchaff, 15 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Siskin. 

The sun brought out a good few butterflies whereby even I can identify a Speckled Wood, one of several found naturally enough in Fluke Hall Wood. 

Speckled Wood

Another Bird Blog is linking today to Camera Critters  and to Anni's Blog .

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bird News, Book News

If there are marks for trying then I surely deserved 10/10 this morning by hitting the road early for yet another mission to find some autumn migrants during the continuing easterlies. 

I was heading north again so called into Lane Ends for an early perusal. The geese were just leaving the marsh, heading inland in search of food. The many skeins totalled more than 2000 birds before the noise of the Little Egrets’ early morning squabbles distracted me. The egrets too were about to set off for the day’s undertakings so I abandoned my goose counting to watch 26 or more egrets leaving the roost and heading off north, south, east and west. Here’s a project for a determined ringer - to find out how far the egrets travel to this roost, the turnover of birds, age composition etc. 

Three Jays were about the woodland and a Kestrel hovering over the sea wall but otherwise quiet. Maybe I was too early for small birds. 

Little Egret


There were small birds at Conder Green, mainly small yellowy-green things called Chiffchaff, and not the widely anticipated and sought after yellowy-green things named Yellow-browed Warbler. There were at least six Chiffchaffs in the area of the railway car park, most of them feeding hurriedly and silent with just the odd one or two giving out their forceful and tell-tale contact calls. Try as I might, the best I could find with the chiffys were migrant Chaffinches, some of those arriving from the north and dropping into the welcoming trees. As I watched Chaffinches arriving from the direction of the Lune a single Swallow flew over and then disappeared beyond the trees. 


I couldn’t find the large flock of Goldfinches of a couple of days ago, just a small group of about 15 today, but there was a wildfowler stalking the marsh where the finches had fed. The wildfowler swung a trophy Teal below his shotgun so I cursed him before moving on. 

Conder Pool and the nearby creeks held 7 Little Grebe, 40 Teal, 25 Redshank, 4 Snipe, 2 Cormorant, 2 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron and 2 Pied Wagtail. The pool surface looked too rippled to expect the Kingfisher to sit around but it put in an appearance by flying upstream towards the road bridge. 

Fluke Hall seemed a likely spot - an infrequent haunt of less than annual rarities but “a needle in a haystack” job if ever there was one in the lush vegetation. A Peregrine on the sands greeted me, and it then flew around slowly as if to taunt “camera-in-the-car” me. 

Two Sparrowhawks along the road, and at last a gang of small birds to search. Fifteen or more Long-tailed Tits, 2 Chiffchaff and 2 Goldcrests, plus odds and ends of Blue Tit and Great Tit was the sum of my efforts. Better luck tomorrow. 

Long-tailed Tit

Back home the postman had left a parcel. So the new Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland is here on my desk for a pre-publication gander. The official publication date is 6th November but Princeton University Press sent me a copy knowing that regular readers of Another Bird Blog would be more than interested to hear all about this third volume in the ground breaking series, Crossleys’s invasion into the European market. In a week or two, and to coincide with official publication, there will be other UK bird bloggers joining in for a regional blogathon to take a close and detailed look at the book. 


First impressions of Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland just as soon as I’ve taken a sneaky look - stay tuned to Another Bird Blog.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dim And Distant

It was yet another murky, grey and overcast start today, the third such day on the trot, conditions which are far from ideal for studying the autumn’s visible migration, so today's post definitely has something of a a grey theme about it.

In the past few days I’ve noted a trickle of Meadow Pipits, an obvious influx of Chiffchaffs and for me at least a noticeable movement of Skylarks. Today I gave Conder Green some serious stick without turning very much up and then finished off with a look at Lane Ends, Pilling. Through the gloom of Conder Pool I could see that the numbers of Little Grebe had increased to 11 birds; the site has become something of a winter stronghold for the species in recent years. There are six grebes in the photo below, the camera taking the picture at ISO4000 after I set the ISO speed to “auto” to account for the gloom. 

Little Grebe

Also on the pool, 4 Wigeon, 3 Cormorant, 5 Little Egret and 8+ Teal. I waited for the Kingfisher to appear and although it obliged, that picture was also taken at ISO4000 - not good. The second picture was taken in exactly the same spot on a much brighter morning some months ago. The moral is perhaps to forget photography on such dim and gloomy days. 



The roadside creeks held a single Snipe, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Pied Wagtail, 4 Curlew, 1 Lapwing, 18 Redshank, 1 Ruff, and another 25 Teal. “Bush bashing” along the old railway path turned up a single Chiffchaff, several Robins and a couple of calling Chaffinch, not much evidence of new arrivals. It was good to find a large flock of Goldfinch, at least 140 birds along the edge of the marsh but very flighty between there and the tall trees beyond the car park. 

At Glasson I counted the wildfowl on the yacht basin - 80 Coot and 25 Tufted Duck, plus the obligatory Grey Heron. Two Grey Wagtails here were the only signs of new arrivals. 

Grey Heron

Grey Wagtail

I arrived at Lane Ends in time to see many noisy skeins of Pink-footed Geese heading back out to the marsh - no doubt disturbed from a feeding spot inland by farming activities. At least 1400 birds, without counting those distant on the marsh which didn't set off inland at dawn. 

On the east pool, the only open water now visible, 7 Shoveler and a single Little Grebe. Otherwise, 2 Meadow Pipits and a single Grey Wagtail below the sea wall plus a Great-spotted Woodpecker and 2 Jays in the woodland. 


More news and colourful pictures soon from Another Bird Blog. 

Monday, September 23, 2013


For today’s post there are a few pictures of shrikes I saw in Greece recently. 

The shrikes were clearly migrants as I found them using a large area of scrubby ground just yards behind the busy sunbathing beach of Aselinos in the north of Skiathos. On this particular morning there were good numbers of Whinchats and Yellow Wagtails plus 3 Richard’s Pipits and a dozen or more Red-rumped Swallows. 

Not far away in a patch of olive grove I found migrant Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, a (Eastern) Bonelli’s Warbler and a Common Cuckoo. 


Birding was quite difficult in Skiathos, not helped by the dawn to dusk bright sunshine and high temperatures in the mid to high eighties for the whole two weeks there. It meant that small passerines stayed deep in shady cover and hirundines remained high in the sky most of the time. In all I clocked up a lowly 35 species in the quite casual birding undertaken in what remained after all a holiday and a wedding celebration, not a pure birding holiday. Like many other Mediterranean destinations, birds are hard to approach. 

From Wiki - “The Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio is a carnivorous passerine bird and member of the shrike family Laniidae. Like other shrikes it hunts from prominent perches, and impales corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a "larder." This practice has earned it the nickname of "butcher bird." I managed to get pictures of the shrike by using the car as a hide. 

Red-backed Shrike

“This bird breeds in most of Europe and western Asia and winters in tropical Africa. At one time a common migratory visitor to Great Britain, their numbers declined sharply during the 20th century. 

The bird's last UK stronghold was in Breckland but by 1988 just a single pair remained, successfully raising young at Santon Downham. The following year for the first time no nests were recorded in the UK. But since then sporadic breeding has taken place, mostly in Scotland and Wales. In September 2010 the RSPB announced that a pair had raised chicks at a secret location on Dartmoor where the bird last bred in 1970. In 2011, two pairs nested in the same locality, fledging seven young. In 2012 there was another breeding attempt, but no young were fledged this time, probably due to a prolonged spell of wet weather. This return to south western England has been an unexpected development and has raised speculation that a warming climate could assist the bird in re-colonising some of its traditional sites, if only in small numbers.” 

Red-backed Shrike

 Red-backed Shrike
There were at least 2 Woodchat Shrikes in the same area, one using much the same perches as the red-backed, and by using the same car-as-a-hide technique I was able to get some shots of this normally very wary species. 

Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator  breeds in southern Europe, the Middle East and northwest Africa, and winter in tropical Africa. They breeds in open cultivated country, preferably with orchard trees and some bare or sandy ground. Like other shrikes the Woodchat hunts from prominent perches, and impales corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a "larder". This species often overshoots its breeding range on spring migration, and is a rare, but annual visitor to Great Britain. 

I’ll leave blog readers with a few images of non-birding Greece. Don’t forget to ‘click the pics’ to join in the action. 

On The Bus Skiathos

Arriving - Skopelos

 Leaving - Skopelos

 Kebabs - Skiathos

No Name Gyros - Skiathos

More soon from Another Bird Blog UK. Be there or be square.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Back To Basics

Some things never change - as in yet another accident on the A588 at Burned House Lane where Police cars blocked the road, necessitating a detour to get to Pilling. A biker and a Mini Cooper this morning, two or more people who didn’t arrive at work on time. 

After the high temperatures of Skiathos and its Mediterranean birds the sought after hot spots today were local birding haunts to reacquaint myself with mundane but nevertheless good-to-see UK regulars. After almost three weeks of absence a number of things struck me. Not least was the presence of good numbers of recently arrived Pink-footed Geese here for the winter, and the fact that there are still Barn Swallows lingering from the summer. Swallows were immediately obvious, at least a hundred over the wheat fields and on roadside wires at Fluke Hall Lane and then good numbers flying noticeably south and west throughout the morning at Conder Green and later at Lane Ends/Pilling Water. I must have counted several hundred Swallows in total, with just 2 House Martins noted at Pilling Water. 

Barn Swallows

Was there was plenty of rain while I was away? That was clear from flash pools here and there and the water levels at Conder Green where nothing much came my way save for a latish Common Sandpiper, 2 Snipe, 1 Little Egret, 1 Cormorant, 6 Little Grebe and a Kingfisher. A quick look at Glasson gave 2 Grey Heron, 250+ Lapwing and 300 or more Redshank along the river, some wading as waders should, others picking over the muddy shore. 


Lane Ends beckoned. A single Jay and probably more called from the trees as a small group of Goldfinches dropped into the tree tops, but I didn’t linger and instead set off for Pilling Water. Grounded along the tideline were a single Wheatear, 4 Skylark and a small number of Meadow Pipits, all flying off on my approach, with the remainder wildfowl or waders at high tide time. 

What a difference three September weeks make to duck numbers, with today upwards of 400 Wigeon, 1100 Teal, 15 Pintail and 900+ Pink-footed Geese. Wader numbers were equally impressive if imprecise on a less than ideal tide height leaving many roosting on the higher marsh at Fluke Hall: 5 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 6 Snipe, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 400+ Lapwing, 700+ Curlew, 40 Redshank and 4 Ringed Plover. No count of gulls, but a dozen Sandwich Terns were good to see so far into the bay. 


Sandwich Terns

That Greek holiday seems like a distant dream in a far off sunny spot but sometimes isn't it good to get back to basics on a local patch?

Heading Home - Skiathos

Log in soon for more uncomplicated birding from Another Bird Blog.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On The Rocks

What a surpise! It's raining hard again so here's another post about Greece.
In Skiathos we took a ride out one morning over the island peaks, crashing over rough, dusty unmade tracks to distant Cape Kastro, the ancient fortified settlement located on high rocks at the northernmost point of the island. (Kastro is the Greek word for castle). It was here in the mid-14th century that the inhabitants of Skiathos moved to when their previous fortress The Bourtzi proved ineffective in protecting the island from pirates. 

The Bourtzi is now a major element of the Skiathos Town scene, where weddings take place and tourists sit to drink coffee whilst watching the world go by and marvel at planes flying into the airport just half a mile away. 

The Bourtzi, Skiathos, viewed from Skaithos Old Harbour

A day or two earlier there had been brief views of an Eleanora's above an island near to Skiathos Aiprot where Hooded Crows drew attention to the falcon, mobbing it mercilessly until the falcon flew off into the distance. Also briefly we saw one alongside the cliffs on the boat journey to Skopelos. 

Apart from the hairy ride in the battered old Jimny, the attraction once at Kastro was the chance of seeing more than one Eleanora’s Falcon, Falco eleonorae. Eleanora’s Falcon is unique in that it is one of the few species that breeds during early autumn, feeding its chicks with other migratory birds in abundance during that period. It is also one of the few falcon species that creates breeding colonies. 

The species breeds on islands in the Mediterranean particularly off Greece where two-thirds of the world's population breeds, but also in the Canary Islands, Ibiza and off Spain, Italy, Croatia, Morocco and Algeria. With its long pointed wings, long tail and slim body Eleonora's Falcon is an elegant bird of prey similar in shape to a large Eurasian Hobby or a small slender Peregrine Falcon. The call is a typical call of most falcons, a high-pitched kek-kek-kek, calls we would hear continuously when we finally arrived at Kastro after our bone-shaking journey. 

Suzuki Jimny

Looking Back - Skiathos

After trekking up and over the rocks then through the ancient remains we reached the topmost point of Kastro from where we could see and hear the Eleanora’s, still a hundred yards away on their secluded and insurmountable stacks of rock. The birds were extremely active and obviously in the throes of breeding, with as many as eight in the air at once and perhaps 15 or more flying above and about the still mountainous rocks beyond our spot. We watched as at least one bird visited rocky ledges where youngsters were located. 

There was much calling amid spectacular headlong plunges and interaction between individual birds as they dived towards the rocks and the sea before disappearing out of sight or climbing back to eye level to cruise along the cliff face once more.. All the time the birds kept their distance from the well walked paths of the tourists but there was no way to get any closer to these magical falcons. It is impossible to describe how wonderful it was to watch so many Eleanora’s Falcons in action at once, but I found a video on You Tube, a video also shot in Greece.  Unfortunately it dosn't have the sounds of the falcons.

Eleanora's Falcon
Kastro, Skiathos

Eleanora's Falcon

Kastro, Skiathos

Eleanora's Falcon

Fortress - Kastro, Skiathos

Eleanora's Falcon

In such a hostile environment it was not surprising to find few other birds and although Yellow-legged Gulls were abundant, other birds here were limited to Chaffinch, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Common Kestrel and European Shag. 

Sardinian Warbler

European Shag

Common Kestrel

You can’t go far in Skiathos without encountering a taverna, and here seemingly at the end of the earth was a less than trendy one, but welcoming indeed after our tiring thirsty hike through Ancient Greece. 

A taverna - Kastro, Skiathos


More birding adventures soon from Another Bird Blog. Now go back and 'click the pics' to revisit Skiathos. Linking today to Anni's Blog .

Related Posts with Thumbnails