Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rainbow Time

I played at dodging the showers today, even managing a bit of birding during the few brief but welcome sunny spells. 

As usual I started at Conder Green with a momentary spot of sunshine and time to take stock. There were the usual Little Grebes whereby I’d counted 10 or more until a Kingfisher flew through the binoculars to divert my attention towards the creek, the direction it went. I didn’t see the Kingfisher again but found 2 Spotted Redshanks at the junction of the creeks with 10 or so Redshanks. 

Meanwhile on the pool/creek were 95 + Teal, 6 Cormorant, 3 Wigeon, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Egret and a single Pied Wagtail. Two Ravens flew overhead, with their loud and unmistakable calls heading west again. As I stood on the bridge a male Sparrowhawk flew past no more than a split second after alarm calls of Robin and Reed Bunting made me look around. 

 Conder Green


Very little to report from Glasson with the “highlights” being a flight over of 45 Pink-footed Goose, 3 Pied Wagtails and a feeding flock of 35+ Goldfinch. 

I checked the Whooper Swans on the marsh at Fluke Hall and then counted 18 of them plus 8 Mute Swans, 70+ Shelduck and 3 Snipe. I had good reason to thank the shooters when their maize crop on the other side of the sea wall became the only shelter from a particularly heavy downpour. As I stood against the tall, thick stems Whooper Swans were flying from the marsh roost and overhead towards the stubble with my camera set to black & white. Less than a minute later I was on the sea wall to take a snap of the rainbow against the black sky over Lancaster.
Whooper Swans

Pilling Marsh

When the sun appeared there was a procession of Pintail flying in from the outer marsh and dropping onto the wildfowler’s pool. In all there were in excess of 95 Pintail. The Pintail is certainly one of the UK’s most elegant and beautiful ducks. More about ducks in next week’s blog with another look at The Crossley ID Guide: Britain and Ireland and a chance to win a copy- stay tuned. 



There’s a good number of Lapwings starting to use the flooded field now, probably in excess of 300 although they are rather difficult to see amongst the black soil, the stubble itself and having to look through the still quite thick hawthorn hedge. Also on the stubble 30+ Skylarks and one or two more Snipe. 

In the trees at Fluke Hall, 1 Buzzard and at least 3 raucous Jays. 

More soon from Another Bird Blog. Linking today to Anni's Blog and Camera Critters.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Drown Your Sorrows

I hoped the blows and rain of the last couple of days might have left behind a few waifs and strays at Knott End and Pilling, but nothing of the sort. In fact at Knott End the weather was still kicking up a bit of storm making it difficult for birds and birders. With the strong north westerly at my back getting up river was fine, it was the coming back into the teeth of the wind and frequent showers which took the time. 

Not much to show for my efforts on a ‘bins only’ morning when ‘scopes become redundant. Turnstones are back in better numbers now, both here and across the river at Fleetwood, but I couldn’t see any of the leg-flagged ones of recent years in my count of 19. Not many Oystercatchers on the beach, less than 200 and obviously many had gone upriver to escape the windswept beach. Similarly small numbers of Redshank, a count of less than 20 being pretty pathetic, a total surpassed today by a count of 70 Lapwings sheltering in the clumps of marram grass on the beach. On the sea/in the mouth of the estuary were 15 Eider and 2 Red-breasted Merganser. 



Amongst the tide wrack below the promenade I found a Rock Pipit, 8 Twite and a single Pied Wagtail. 
Rock Pipit

Fluke proved equally quiet where half way along the sea wall I didn’t escape a drenching from a heavy shower. Just 14 Whooper Swans today, some definitely new arrivals in the shape of two family parties with brownish young, four of the young so coffee coloured that I expect their departure from Iceland was delayed until the whole family could make the long flight safely. Good numbers of 120+ Shelduck out there on marsh and on the wildfowler’s pool, with 12 Black-tailed Godwits and 4 Little Egret. 

“Small stuff” fighting into the wind - 3 Meadow Pipit, 11 Skylark, 6 Tree Sparrow and 8+ Chaffinch. 

Tree Sparrow

Finally, there’s a very sad news story from Yahoo Finance 28th of October 2013, totally unrelated to birds but almost certainly of interest to one or two birders I know who enjoy a glass of wine after a windswept day in the field. 

“On Monday global drinks giant Treasury Wine Estates faced a class-action lawsuit from Australian shareholders after oversupply issues forced six million bottles of wine to be poured down the drain. Law firm Maurice Blackburn and class action funder IMF Australia said they were preparing a shareholder lawsuit against Treasury, the wine business spun off from Australian beverages giant Foster's in 2011. The glut-hit wine company, which owns major brands including Penfolds, Rosemount Estate and Wolf Blass, shocked the market in July when it unveiled Aus$160 million (£95 million) in write-downs related to oversupply problems in the United States. "The impairment included a Aus$33 million provision to pour six million bottles of out-of-date wine down the drain," IMF said in a joint statement with their lawyers”. 

A Glass of Wine

I shall leave blog readers to contemplate this wretched and depressing story while I go and drown my sorrows, but there’s cheerier news from Another Bird Blog very soon.

Linking today to Stewart's Bird Gallery in Australia. Hey Stewart, try and rescue some of that wine. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Extra Hour

Yahoo 24 October 2013 - A thrifty couple will not be putting their clocks back this weekend - because it saves money on their energy bills. Retired John and Janys Warren, from Somerset live 'in the future' an hour ahead of everybody else and save a third on their gas and electricity bills. The couple stopped putting their clocks back five years ago when they realised the darker and shorter days were triggering John's headaches. Living on British Summer Time all year round meant his headaches eased, they could enjoy an extra hour of daylight and save money. Janys said: "We have lower fuel bills and far more usable daylight hours with evenings not seeming endless. We don't put the heating on until we get up and by then it is warmer anyway. We've saved about one third on our heating and lighting bills.” 

For what it's worth here’s my advice you stingy, sad, and foolish people - get up early and go for a brisk walk outdoors with a warm coat, a hat and scarf and a pair of binoculars. In the evenings J and J, complete your notes from the day’s birding and update your birding blog - simple. Not only will you save money, you will be healthier in mind and body and maybe get a life into the bargain. 

I put my clock back. The extra hour of birding proved warming, time consuming, energising and very enjoyable despite the frequent showers and strong winds. 

My start was early enough to see if the Little Egrets at the Pilling roost had remembered to turn their clocks back last night. The answer was that they got up at first light as normal dispersing in various directions, all 24 of them. 

Red-breasted Mergansers turn up on Fylde coastal waters at this time of year where they can be seen throughout the winter, often drifting in towards the shore with incoming high tides. They also favour a very few coastal and spacious marine lakes, so imagine my surprise to find one in a ditch behind the sea wall. Even better, Red-breasted Merganser is a species which normally keeps a very respectable distance from birders or photographers. 

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

The Latin name of this duck Mergus serrator is highly descriptive, Mergus being the genus of typical mergansers, fish-eating ducks in the seaduck subfamily (Merginae). The “serrator” refers to the long, serrated bills used for catching fish. Their diet of fish such as salmon and trout brings them into conflict with anglers and fish farmers whereby the species is often classified as a pest and may be shot. Those folk with guns, they don’t miss many opportunities to attach a label do they? 

When I got to Conder Green there was a family party of Goosander Mergus merganser in the roadside creek, an adult pair and 2 first winters. The male stayed apart from the others just too far to include in a picture but the female has the darker head, the juveniles noticeably paler. Out of interest, and to limit any possible misunderstanding here, this member of the Mergus family of birds is known as Common Merganser in North America and Goosander on this side of the Atlantic. Like the smaller Red-breasted Merganser, the Goosander is also subject to persecution by anglers and fish farmers. 


A Spotted Redshank was in the creek again perhaps the same bird of late, more likely not and just one the many thousands passing this way in the autumn en route to winter in Central Africa? 

Spotted Redshank - Breeding, Migration and Wintering from

Spotted Redshank

I walked along the railway path and over the bridge and found a Common Sandpiper feeding along the edge of the creek below, so too a Grey Wagtail and a Little Egret. Along the same path was a party of 18+ Long-tailed Tits with a couple Greats and Blues, plus a single Chiffchaff. 

A flight of 3 Pintail heading west was perhaps slightly out of the ordinary just here. On the pool and creeks, 90+ Teal and just 10 Little Grebe, as grey and drab as the winter months decree, and no requirement to display that little white beauty spot until the clocks go forward in March 2014. 

Little Grebe

There’s a sleepover tonight, no not me but our two lively granddaughters Olivia and Isabella.

Wish me luck as I’ll certainly be woken up early on Monday morning and may well lose an hour or two of sleep.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Date With A Needle

For 1300 I had an appointment for a dose of ‘flu vaccine to look forward to, but at last a bright, wind and rain free morning in which to enjoy a few hours birding. 

From Fluke Hall I set out towards the sea wall across the maize and wheat fields where there’s a reasonable path which avoids slushing through the soggy stubble. There are always birds to see about the shooter’s fields, ditches and pools, as long as you take care to miss the actual shoot days when there are no birds about and steel shot will fall on your head. 

Pilling, Fluke Hall fields

On the edge of the wood I could see 4 Jays moving through the trees calling as they went. There were a number of Chaffinches about but too far to count, although I found 5 or 6 Tree Sparrows and a couple of Reed Buntings near the gate again. Skylarks weren’t as obvious today with none passing overhead just 4 or 5 resident ones on the sea wall and stubble, plus another 2 Reed Buntings along the ditch. 

The Red-legged Partridge still number in the hundreds, so I’m thinking there haven’t been too many shoots just yet. From the stile I even managed to get close to one of the white ones which are as wild and wary as the normal brown ones. Close to they are actuallly quite smart looking. Pity they end up in a cooking pot.

Red-legged Partridge

From the fresh 4x4 tracks on the mud I knew the guys who feed the pool had beat me to it, so no Teal or Black-tailed Godwits to enjoy today, just the usual single call and then brief views of the back end of a Kingfisher whizzing along the dyke and over the sea wall. So I thought to check where the blue flash had gone and also count the Whoopers as well - no sign of the majestic fisher from the wall but 74 Whooper Swans, 2 Greylag and 8 Mute Swan to count. So more pictures of Whooper Swan to follow, and a Mute Swan for size comparison. 

Whooper Swan and Mute Swan

Whooper Swan

With not much else doing I realised I’d missed out on Conder Green for a week or two so motored towards there. 

Interestingly a Spotted Redshank is still there in the main creek, as is a Common Sandpiper and it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that both might winter on site, the latter species the favourite to do so. Just 12 common Redshank and a single Curlew in the near creek with circa 60 Teal and a Grey Heron. 

Spotted Redshank

Common Sandpiper

Two Tufted Duck on the pool together with yet more Teal to make a total of more than 80 of the tiny duck. Looking for a fishy meal were a Little Egret, 7 Little Grebe and 2 Cormorant. 

A walk along the railway track produced odds and ends like 5 Long-tailed Tit, 15 Chaffinch, 3 Goldfinch, 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Skylark and 2 Pied Wagtail. 

But I was running out of time and my appointment with a large, unfriendly needle beckoned. Log in soon to see how Another Bird Blog survived the ordeal and whether pain killers were required.

Linking today to Camera Critters and Anni's Birding Blog.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Two Hour Slot

The weekend weather was shocking, meaning two blank days for the blog, so apologies for readers who looked in for recent news - there wasn’t any. More rain throughout this morning but brightening skies after lunch gave me a couple of hours out at Pilling for a brief posting. 

I walked from Fluke in time to see a number of Whooper Swans coming to land on the marsh - yes the sun was out briefly for the 14 Whoopers and 40+ Shelduck on the stubble/marsh. Also 170 Jackdaw, 400+ Starling, 120 Woodpigeon and 3 Stock Dove. Three Reed Buntings and 8 Tree Sparrows at the gate with 10+ Skylarks and 2 Chaffinch on the cut maize. 

Whooper Swan

Something stirred the Starlings, Crows and Jackdaws from the marsh. It was a Peregrine giving as good as it got when a couple of the Carrion Crows dived at it, the Peregrine calling loudly, twisting over and showing the crows sight of its talons before in an effortless split second it cruised away, leaving the crows in the distance. Sorry, it’s the usual view and image of our local Peregrines, a glimpse at the background landscape shows the distances they can cover in almost the blink of an eye. 


I walked up to Pilling Water in time to catch the last of the tide and wildfowl heading back out to the marsh - 400+ Teal, 70+ Pintail, 180+ Wigeon, 4 Cormorant. Eight Little Egrets, 4 Snipe, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Kingfisher at Pilling Water. Just a couple of Goldfinch, 3 Meadow Pipits, 1 Pied Wagtail and another 18/20 Skylarks at the rapidly receding tideline. 

I watched some 40+ Black-tailed Godwits coming and going from the marsh and the wildfowler’s pools. Dark cloud threatned again and I switched to ISO800 and tried for a few pictures. 

Black-tailed Godwits are such distinctive, striking waders that they can’t be mistaken for any other species. I just love watching them coming in to land, their black & white shapes twisting and turning through the sky, whiffling down to the water looking for all the world like oversize Snipe. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Fingers crossed for sunshine, birding and more news very soon on Another Bird Blog.

In the meantime linking to Paying Ready Attention Gallery . Pay a visit for more birds from around the world.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Short Changed Again

I did the usual circuit this morning and it looked like being a repeat of Thursday’s effort, bright early on with the threat of rain for later. It was a rerun - its 2pm and the rain arrived as promised. 

There were a few Chaffinches on the move again at Fluke Hall but my few hours were to be dominated by Skylarks. From Fluke I could hear the Whooper Swans going noisily about their family squabbles. When I looked from the sea wall I could make out 20 beyond the sea wall, this time with 5 Mute Swan and 15 or more Shelduck. Later I was to see 300+ Shelduck on the incoming tide. 

Whooper Swans

After 15 minutes I’d had just two parties of a total of 18 Chaffinches coming from the west, a few Greenfinches, 2 Reed Buntings, 2 Goldfinch, 8 Tree Sparrows and 15 or more Skylarks. I decided to walk to Pilling Water and circuit back via Fluke Hall Lane. 

There was a Grey Wagtail feeding in the ditch behind the sea wall, the autumn something of a “grey wag” one whereby I’ve had almost daily sightings. Skylarks were constant, either rising from the stubble as I passed by or arriving from the North and North West as the tide came in. My notebook totalled 80+ from Skylarks from Fluke Hall to Fluke Hall via the sea wall, Pilling Water and Fluke Hall Lane. There was a flock of 40+ Linnets along the wall too - a good number in respect of recent counts here and elsewhere. 


Eight Little Egrets on the marsh, 400+ Teal, 1200 Lapwing, 2 Snipe, 80 Golden Plover, 800 Knot, 300 Dunlin, 340 Curlew and 40+ Redshank. 

It was too grey for pictures today so here are some new ones I gathered of  Curlew and Redshank on Thursday, a day when the sun shone all too briefly. They may both be common species in this part of the world but they are as wild as hell and oh so difficult to approach for a photograph. 

Don't forget to "click the pics" for a close up view.









Join Another Bird Blog soon for more news, gossip and maybe pictures. Linking today to Camera Critters and id-rather-b-birdin.blogspot..

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Birding On Borrowed Time

A dry morning was all the forecast gave before the rains would arrive at midday. They were right. Here I am at 1pm writing up my few hours of birding. 

I gave Fluke Hall and Ridge Farm a look first. Chaffinches were on the move steadily but not overwhelmingly so, arriving from the west and south west, small parties or up to 25 birds either dropping into the immediate trees or beyond and out of sight. In my notebook I have = 118 in about one hour and fifteen minutes. I am pretty sure the Chaffinches had Bramblings with them as I could hear Brambling calls in the trees when I later walked through the wood. 


Other species on the move from the west: 13 Tree Sparrow, 4 Greenfinch, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Alba Wagtail, 2 Song Thrush, 1 Grey Wagtail and 15+ Skylarks. 

Just 4 Whooper Swans on the wheat and maize stubble fields today, the Pink-footed Geese rather late arriving from the marsh in the roadside field where the constant traffic means they are constantly on alert. I took the picture below as a lady with two dogs walked along the road shouting into her mobile phone; seconds later the geese were gone. 

Pink-footed Geese

I decided to check out Knott End where the tide would be running in. Good numbers of waders here with 1900 Oystercatcher, 350 Knot, 140 Redshank, 1 Grey Plover, 22 Black-tailed Godwit and 12 Turnstone. 



Black-tailed Godwit

A walk along the river gave me 1 Rock Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail, 3 Grey Wagtail, 15 Goldfinch and 1 Wheatear. The Wheatear was in someone’s front garden. Now there’s a good one to have on a garden list. 


Beyond the golf course and to the south I could see the rain clouds building, but made it back to the car before the heavens opened.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hat, Scarf and Gloves

The wind had swung around to a near perfect northerly making for a hat, scarf and gloves start and the thought that after Friday’s thrush rush and Saturday’s blank, Sunday’s grey morning might be hard work. It was - not a single Redwing or Fieldfare but a few bits and pieces to relate. 

I started at Conder Green and the solid, reliable stuff. The Teal never disappoint even if they don’t do a lot other than loaf around the creeks, dibbing and dabbing here and there, 95 of them today with 2 Goosanders trying but failing to blend in unnoticed. The 2 Spotted Redshanks were in the self-same spot below the road along with several Redshanks and a Little Egret. 

The pool was equally quiet with birds but distant - 5 Little Grebes, 4 Wigeon, a lone Tufted Duck, a Pied Wagtail and 2 Meadow Pipits. Just one thing for it then - Lane Ends, Pilling where at least there would be geese and swans. 

The geese weren’t for dropping on their recent field with two people carrying binoculars stood there at the field edge. Wild wild geese don’t like, don’t trust humans, so why would the pinkies land and feed close to them? 

From the sea wall at Fluke I could see the many thousands of geese out on the marsh beyond Lane Ends. They would have to start again, send out a scouting party to find a quiet undisturbed field where they could feed and feel secure. The Whoopers are a little more tolerant than the geese. They let me take a picture through the hedge but kept a close eye with many of their 62 heads raised in suspicion. The first winter/juveniles have the greyish bill.

Whooper Swans

I made it to the wildfowler’s pools in time to see the flash of a Peregrine flying towards Lane Ends, and then a Sparrowhawk harassed by the Jackdaws. A number of Barnacle Geese came over looking for somewhere to feed but continued on their way inland. Poor (terrible) picture at ISO800.

Barnacle Geese

Not a lot else. The reliable Green Sandpiper, 2 Grey Wagtail, 20+ Skylark, 2 Snipe, 160 Teal and 40 or more Shelduck around the pools. 

More birds soon and a better mood I hope.

Linking this time to  Stewart's Gallery A Long Way Off.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Looking Up

When I opened the door to sniff the morning air at 0830 I knew something was afoot. A flock of Redwings were flying fairly low over the house and heading in a north easterly direction. 

In other years the exact same thing has taken place during north-easterly winds after thousands of nocturnally migrating thrushes overshot their intended direction, the birds then spending most of the following morning trying to get back on track. This all appears to be a tremendous waste of their precious energy to head back in the direction from which they came, but it’s almost as if they are pre-programmed to take a particular path even if it means finding the spot where they went wrong and then starting over again. 

I quickly jumped in the car and headed for the Pilling coast, hoping to see even more visible migration taking place. I wasn’t disappointed as during the next three hours many thousands of Redwings and Fieldfares appeared from the west and south west to then head determinedly north east over Fluke Hall before continuing along the sea wall to then eventually disappear out of sight. 

Early on the movement was almost entirely Redwings and then after an hour or more larger number of Fieldfares appeared until most of flocks were of the larger thrush. I didn’t see any of the many thousands of birds stop to feed as they all seemed to be intent on their task, driven by their communal effort. By midday the movement appeared to have stopped with my approximate numbers split at roughly 50/50 of 4000 Fieldfares and 3500 Redwings.

I tried to get some pictures of the droves of birds- not easy with mixed groups, differing flight heights and speed of individuals, but below is the general idea - a fairly inadequate way of documenting such monumental birding experiences. 

Migrating Redwings


 Migrating Fieldfares


Things were looking up in other ways with the arrival of a good number of Whooper Swans fresh from Iceland and finding their usual spot out on the marsh where there was also a small flock of Canada Geese. I counted 90 swans today, although I may have missed some flying inland or continuing south. 

Whooper Swans

 Whooper Swans and Canada Geese

The Pink-footed Geese easily numbered 8000, joined today by small groups of Barnacle Geese numbering 13 that I could see. The geese are of course their usual wary selves and I could not reach the sea wall for fear of disturbing the geese until the Hi-Fly chaps had completely cleared them by driving across to their shooting pools. 

Pink-footed Geese

In the vicinity of the pools were 35 Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Snipe, 20+ Skylark, 2 Reed Bunting and 180+ Teal. There was some evidence of an influx of other species today with Jackdaws increasing to 90, Woodpigeons to 150, and the appearance of 8 Stock Dove.

More from Another Bird Blog on Saturday. Linking up Camera Critters and I'd-Rather-b-birdin.

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