Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The morning began as ever, wet and windy. At home I kept one eye on the sky out west until eventually, and just about midday the horizon grew lighter, overhead gave up its dreary hue, the rain petered out and breaks of blue appeared. Hooray! I set off out Rawcliffe way, where fresh air and a spot of birding would be a welcome antidote to the excesses of Christmas and imminent New Year merriment. 

It’s very early season but I’m making both a mental and documented record of birds on territory, starting today with roadside Mistle Thrush and Kestrel at Town End en route to the farm. Both are familiar and regular locations so it’s good to see such timely activity with just a few extra minutes of daylight. At the farm entrance road were finches and buntings in very wet maize stubble. Some flew off, others sitting briefly on overhead wires where I clocked them as an unusual mix of 2 Yellowhammer, 3 Corn Bunting, 2 Linnet and 3 Greenfinch. 



There was a Green Sandpiper on the flood but even as the car slowed it flew off to a larger area of water not far away. Not a good start to see all the birds fly off, but things did improve. 

Down on the farm proper were good numbers of sparrows, finches and buntings - 160+ Tree Sparrows, 7 Yellowhammer, 12 Corn Bunting, 14 Goldfinch, 20+ Chaffinch and 6 Linnet. Feeding in the wet pasture I found 450+ Starlings and 40+ Fieldfare. There are hardly any berries left for Fieldfares so stubble and wet meadowland is now the best option for finding them, very often in the company of Starlings. 


My walk continued alongside woods, plantations and hedgerows where I noted 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 2 Buzzard, 40+ Woodpigeon, 5 Stock Dove, a total of 21 Blackbirds and 4 Roe Deer. 

I motored back via Pilling Moss, stopping along the way to note 2 roadside Kestrels, 75+ Fieldfare, 140+ Starlings and 1 Buzzard. 


Already at 1500 the light was fading and the sun dropping, with a dozen or more Whooper Swans heading west to their roost on Pilling Marsh. 

Time to head home and put the bubbly on ice. 

Bubbly - Cheers, A Happy and Prosperous New Year 

 No worries, Another Bird Blog will be back in 2014.

Black And White

I set off birding on Saturday morning but abandoned the quest quite early on when I found myself marooned by shoots taking place all around me; the Christmas holiday is when local sportsmen with time on their hands turn out in force hoping to bag a free meal courtesy of the local wildlife. 

No such problems today, as unlike birders, shooters don’t do consecutive days so I knew I was in for a birding morning. Some sportsmen don’t seem to do Sundays either - maybe they go to church? 

A quick look on the soggy fields at Lane Ends gave counts of 320 Curlew, 140 Lapwing and 2 Golden Plover. I was hoping geese might drop in for breakfast but none did so I made my way to Fluke Hall Lane. 


The rains of recent days topped up the flooded stubble resulting in good numbers of waders on the Fluke Hall fields. The birds are quite distant and don’t get too near the road with its constant traffic of people and vehicles so it’s mainly a patient scope job in deciding the numbers present. The 100 or so Black-tailed Godwits of November and December are long gone with now just a single bird to be found amongst 160+ Redshank, 235 Lapwing and 2 Snipe. Today’s single Black-tailed Godwit was easier to approach than a whole gang of them ever can be. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

There are 40 or more Linnets and approximately 25 Skylarks feeding in the field, showing themselves only when the waders spook to send most things into the air. A couple of Little Egrets feed here too, sometimes on the flood but mainly in the drainage ditches that cross the fields. Large numbers of Jackdaws and Carrion Crows are still in evidence, c300 and 80 respectively, but only 40 or so Woodpigeon. The wildfowler’s pools held 45+ Shelduck, 2 Pintail, 2 Teal and c250 “Mallards”, the latter the released for sport variety making it impossible to determine any truly wild Mallards. 

A party of 8 Whooper Swan and 6 Mute Swans heading out to the marsh had unexpected company today in the form of a Black Swan. While Black Swans at rest look almost entirely black it is in flight only that their extensive white wing feathers becomes apparent.

Whooper Swans

Mute Swan

Black Swan - Photo credit: Foter.com / CC BY-SA 

Black Swans originate in Australia but over the years a number of them have escaped from private collections in Britain, the escapees now breeding at dozens of sites across the country. Owners should clip their wings to prevent them from flying away, but even if their owners do this the feathers grow back allowing many birds to escape into the wild. 

The number of locations at which Black Swans are found has more than doubled in the past five years, while the number of breeding sites has more than tripled, with well-established populations at a few UK locations. 

The latest figures from the BTO Bird Atlas 2007-11 suggests that Black Swan numbers have increased at such a rate that they may soon be added to the authoritative “British List" of birds found in the UK. Until now, the Black Swan population has not been considered large enough to be “self-sustaining”, the criteria for including the species. 

Because they are more aggressive than other species, there are fears Black Swans may out-compete the native white Mute Swan for food and habitat in many areas. They could also breed with mutes – a hybrid has been created in captivity called a “blute swan”. Should someone play around with both a Whooper and a Black, the resultant offspring would no doubt be christened a “blooper swan”. 

Towards Pilling water I could see a Kestrel perched on the edge of the plantation, just watching and waiting the ground below, and then overhead a Buzzard making steady progress towards Fluke but all the time pursued by 2 gulls. 


I’d left the car at the hall so walked back through the trees to retrieve it. The storm of Thursday night had deposited an old beech tree across the road, the remains now cut into huge chunks and left by the side of the road.

All was now still in the morning sunlight, just the sounds of Jackdaws and Crows above, Tree Sparrows and Blackbirds below. I even saw a Song Thrush. 

Yes, definitely a good morning’s work. 

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Was That a Year?

Now’s the time when many birding bloggers stuffed with turkey, bloated by booze or besieged with once-a -year visitors make excuses as to why there’s a lack of posts on their blog. I’m no exception to the general festive rule so my excuse is the identical to the above. Added to that we are now in the middle of yet more gales with both power cuts and 70 mph winds last night, so no prospect of birding just yet.

In pure self-indulgence I’m posting some personal highlights pictures of 2013 in a month by month sequence. It’s mostly the birds which stirred the senses with odd shots of the places where memories are made. 

January is time to escape from the grey, cold skies of a UK winter and grab some welcome sunshine, if only for a few weeks. We were stunned by the long, wide, sandy expanse of the beaches of Fuerteventura, some several miles long and just begging to be walked. When tired of the walking I sat on some quiet rocks near the shore and took pictures of a Whimbrel, a shy wader species I had longed to photograph. 



February continued where I left off in the early part of the year in ringing birds out on the frozen mossland. Brambling winters don’t happen too often, 2012 and 2013 being the first for several years and a winter when I caught 66 of the striking finches. One bore a Norwegian ring, another one later captured in Norway. 


March, and as the ice lingered on there were still Bramblings to be seen along with a good number of common Reed Buntings. Bird ringing is not about catching rare or scarce birds. Catching and ringing birds is about monitoring the populations of common birds, an important and vital job in these worrying days of wholesale declines. Many a trainee ringer has fallen by the wayside when realising that rare birds appear in mist nets on equally rare days and that the humdrum of catching common birds is mostly unexciting hard graft. Imagine my surprise on 15th March to find a Little Bunting in the net, an agreeable but unimportant addition to the winter catch of 72 Reed Buntings. 

Little Bunting

April is Wheatear Time. The migrant chats appear along the coast on their way to the uplands of the UK or Scandinavia. A few are destined for Iceland or even distant Greenland. The birds are hungry following their journey from further south and can rarely resist a mealworm, so I send them on their way north bearing a ring which tells others that they arrived there via the UK. 


May usually involves Menorca. The island draws us back with its rugged and gentle landscape, quiet roads, friendly locals and spring sunshine. Birds are hard to find but rewarding when you do, unimpeded by crowds of target birders running here, there and everywhere. The Hoopoes use the same nest site and feeding locations every year. Creatures of habit also use the same café for a spot of lunch. 


Menorcan lunch

June and it’s time to find and ring some wader chicks. The task is to find them in the literal sense but also find them before they disappear as a species from our diminishing wetlands and intensified farms. Redshanks aren’t the easiest to come across, in fact they are damned difficult to locate, sprint like Usain Bolt and have protective parents that shame many a human. The first I ringed for a good few years. 

Redshank chick

July is a time when birds and birders go quiet. There nothing much to do except feed the kids and stay around the house, least of all travel very far to discover new things when migration time is far away. Skylarks aren’t the easiest of nests to find but I daren’t go near this one as the size of those grubs says the chicks are big and possibly out of the nest. Skylark chicks often leave the nest long before they can fly, an evolutionary adaptation which increases their chance of survival. 


August often sits on the fence between summer and autumn not knowing which way to jump. The cold, late spring of 2013 made late broods last into August and wader chicks about to fly. My personal favourite picture of 2013 just happens to be my favourite species the Lapwing. With luck the spikiy young Lapwing below will live 15/20 years. Let’s hope there are places for it to live 20 years from now. 


September produced an unexpected holiday in Greece when our daughter Joanne married on the island of Skiathos. Two weeks of unbroken sunshine with a few birds thrown in. A battered old Suzuki Jimny served as a passable hide to photograph the normally unapproachable Woodchat Shrike and a superb vehicle to reach Kastro where we enjoyed numerous Eleanor’s Falcons. So many reasons to return in 2014 to the tranquil haven of Hotel Ostria owned by the delightful Mathinou family.

Skiathos, Greece

Makis and aubergines at Hotel Ostria

Woodchat Shrike

October was quiet with subdued migration on our west facing coast. Red-breasted Mergansers eluded me for years, shy birds unwilling to have a portrait taken until after a couple of days of rough weather I came across a young bird at Pilling. I got my picture on a grey, cloudy day but wonder what happened to the bird and if there will be another chance to photograph a merganser so close. 

Red-breasted Merganser

November turned up a few Snow Buntings, scarce in recent years. So infrequent have they become in recent years that any discovered immediately become target birds for those less inclined to actually find any birds for themselves. I had a Snow Bunting to myself for a while at Pilling and spent time lying spread-eagled on the tideline to take a few portraits as the bird fed unconcerned at my presence. 

Snow Bunting

December 2013 is ending as it began in a raging storm and more to come. In between the birding was hard slog with not much to show for time spent in the field. I searched my archives for December to find the best picture of a month’s efforts, a mediocre shot of an above average bird. Things can only get better in 2014. 


I wish followers, friends and occassional visitors to Another Bird Blog a Happy New Year. May all your birding days be filled with discovery and joy.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog , Camera Critters and Anni's Blog.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Early To Blog

Play was abandoned on Saturday morning after hardly a bird was noted whereby the current spell of daily wind and rain outdoes even an Englishman’s capacity for jesting about this island climate. 

I set off north with good intent. The sky was bright at Pilling where I stopped at Lane Ends car park to survey the marsh. Out on the marsh there’s a remnant of a tree from the recent storms, the bare branches a perfect vantage point for a Merlin, that most patient of watchers. The tree is a good way out maybe 500/700 yards at a guess, and in the bright light even at that distance I could discern the tell-tale jizz of a Merlin. 


I scoped the raptor whereupon it became a female/first winter but other than that it faced me head on and being a Merlin it would give a flying display when it was ready, maybe that very second or at any time within the next hour or two. 

The Merlin did neither so I turned my attention to the geese coming off their overnight roost and the Little Egrets with their heads poking up from the shelter of the tidal ditches where they scratch a winter living. 

Little Egret

The geese were flying directly inland, not parachuting into nearby meadows as they sometimes do. There was no point in counting the skeins, I’d missed the main post dawn thrust of early risers, and these were the stay-in-beds who’d miss the early worm but instead join those already at the breakfast table of the inland fields. 

Pink-footed Geese

There was nothing much doing at windswept Braides Farm where plovers are strangely absent this year, the Lapwings and Golden Plovers seeming in recent months to prefer the nearby Lune Estuary.

From the gate I counted several hundred Starlings on the wet fields and in the distance 2 more Little Egrets flying behind the sea wall. Before driving to Conder Green I paused to chat with the farmer and Kes his Border Collie, the black & white breed the obligatory but highly intelligent working dog of these parts. I made a mental note to clean Kes’ muddy paw prints from the car window and door when out of sight. 

Border Collie

Maybe Kes was an omen for the real Kestrel I spotted alongside the road at Cockerham village, or a Buzzard which circled the trees at Higher Thurnham? The latter is now a regular spot to see our shy local Buzzards. 

At Glasson Dock the relative shelter of The Victoria pub afforded some protection from the rapidly increasing wind where my attempted counts were frustrated by almost constant “dreads” of the waders on offer. Birds are much more easily spooked on windy days; all that extra movement keeps a bird on its toes against potential predators, even a tiny branch from a tree or a Tesco plastic bag blowing across the landscape will send the birds into panic mode.

I eventually arrived at (very) rough counts of 6000+ Lapwing and 2000+ Golden Plover, any wildfowl hard to count in the choppy waters of the tide. 16 Goldeneye on the yacht basin was a pretty good count and 50+ Tufted Duck a middling total. I was to find more Goldeneye and Tufted Duck just along the road at Conder. 


At Conder Green the wind blew directly into the “hide” where my combined counts creek and lake reached 1 Grey Heron, 1 Spotted Redshank, 2 Shelduck, 175 Teal, 32 Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe, 5 Goldenye, 2 Tufted Duck, 22 Redshank and 140 Lapwing. 

Nothing for it but to pack in early and here we are at 1400 hours blogging again.

This may well be my last post before Christmas, so Best Wishes of the Season to all my blogging friends and followers. May all your birding days be productive, instructive and entertaining.

Linking today to Stewart's Gallery.

See you all soon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Unexpected And Predictable

After last night’s rain and hail storm the morning was bright if still cold and windy. I set out for Knott End hoping to see a few storm driven strays, maybe a Little Gull or a sea bird or two. As often happens when birding, it’s the unpredictable which steals the show, if only briefly. 

In the car park I’d hardly stopped the car, warming my gloves on the dash for my impending walk when the gulls near the jetty rose up to see off a raptor. It was a male Hen Harrier arriving from the north and heading directly and quickly up river, leaving me with fleeting views before it disappeared out of sight. There was no point walking up river into the teeth of the gale as there is nowhere for a harrier to stop for a mile or more. Perhaps this was the same male which spent last winter on the mosses of Pilling and Rawcliffe, just a few miles from Knott End, the bird returning to a locality where it managed to survive a brutal winter? Time will tell as no doubt this post will now prompt others to look elsewhere for this or additional Hen Harriers. 

Here's one of the many superb plates from the recent Crossley ID Guide: Britain & Ireland published by Princeton University Press. I have a copy of this book in my car both to show others and to browse through during rainy intervals of birding. A friend who loves his copy to bits tells me that he bought it from Amazon for less than £12 - what a bargain. 

The wind was less forceful along the promenade and near the jetty where I could see a few birds and where walking kept the cold at bay. Not so for the groups of Redshanks whose strategy is to take minimal shelter and tuck their heads in. Redshanks numbered 90+ today, sharing their space on the beach with Black-headed Gulls, 120+ Lapwings and 15 Dunlin. 


On the shore were a phenomenal number of Knot perhaps 7/8000 birds that flew off towards Preesall Sands as the tide came in to leave a small number roosting near the slipway. 


The rapidly rising tide pushed the Oystercatchers off the sand to leave just two or three hundred at the usual spot before they too flew, some up river, the others towards Preesall Sands. Left in the small bay by the jetty were 16 Turnstones, 2 Rock Pipits and 2 Pied Wagtails. 

Rock Pipit - Photo credit: talis qualis / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Pied Wagtail

Another session curtailed by wind and rain; at 1pm the rain is falling steadily and the weather folk warn to expect lots more in the next week. 

Some things never change but be sure that Another Bird Blog will be out birding whenever possible.

Linking today to Saturday Critters with Eileen and Anni's Birding Blog.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bad Year For Barny

2013 has been a bad year for Barn Owls. My own observations in a small part of Lancashire this year point to it. In the early part of the year I found 2 dead Barn Owls, one a roadside casualty, the other unknown, but probably starvation during a particularly icy spell.

In addition it was noticeable how when the entire landscape was frozen solid Barn Owls and other predators like Kestrel, Buzzard, Little Owl, Short-eared Owl and Hen Harrier had to spend disproportionate amounts of time trying to find food. In the summer and the latter part of the year my sightings of Barn Owls are way down, the birds absent from known locations where I would normally expect to see them. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl - road casualty

From The Guardian Saturday 14th December. "The Barn Owl Trust has openly declared that 2013 will be viewed as the worst year ever recorded for one of Britain's favourite farmland birds, and after four successive years of unusual weather, with long winters, cold springs and wet summers, the future is bleak for the British Barn Owl. 

“They fear that there are now fewer than 1,000 breeding pairs of Barn Owls, the population declining by more than three-quarters. In a typical year, conservationists estimate, Britain should be home to as many as 4,000 pairs of the birds. Fears about the decline in the Barn Owl population have been growing for many years. The birds were a common sight on farmland in Britain a century ago, but numbers had declined by 70% by the early 1980s, according to some reports. Over this summer, the trust warned that the owl was facing a "catastrophe" and now, following an end-of-year assessment, the true scale of the birds' plight has been revealed. 

"They have gone from scarce to rare," said David Ramsden, head of conservation at the The Barn Owl Trust "The scale of the decline is not normal." This year, occupancy of nest sites has been between 5% and 15% of previous levels, and for large parts of the country the figure has been even lower. Ramsden said four years of extraordinary weather had been devastating for the owl, whose distinctive white, heart-shaped face has made it an endearing feature of the countryside. 

Hunting Barn Owl

The cold winters of 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 had a devastating effect on the species, and the wet June of 2012 killed many nesting owls. March this year was the second-coldest on record, and led to a high mortality rate in adult Barn Owls. "It's been a catastrophic year," Ramsden added. "Barn Owls now need all the help they can get." 

Voted Britain's favourite farmland bird in 2007, the Barn Owl has occupied a central place in the nation's folklore. In parts of northern England it is good luck to see an owl. However, in other parts it is associated with death. 

Barn Owl

Ramsden said that much now depended on the winter ahead: "It will take at least two years for the Barn Owl population to start to recover – providing that we don't have any more extreme weather events." 

The owl's plight appears not to be confined to Britain. Earlier this year, Dr Akos Klein of the Hungarian Barn Owl Foundation said that his country had seen a similar dramatic decline. "Out of 30 regular nest sites, we found one active nest and one solitary bird," he said. "This is pretty much the case all over Hungary. Our March this year was like January." 

In this country, a third of all Barn Owls young end up dead at the side of roads or on railway lines. There are now also concerns that the proposed high speed train line between London and the Midlands could have a serious impact on the bird population. According to an environmental audit carried out in 2010 for HS2 (High Speed 2 - the plan to build a high speed railway through the heart of England), the company behind the project, the new railway line would "result in the loss of all breeding populations of Barn Owls within 1.5km of the proposed scheme". 

Barn Owl

An even more significant – but so far unquantified – threat is the widespread use of pesticides. The Barn Owl Trust said that the bodies of 91% of the birds that had been found dead had contained rat poison, which has heightened fears that the use of rodenticides is having a serious impact on the birds' mortality rates.” 

I have little more than word of mouth but a friend of mine who knows about vermin control tells me that some farmers routinely use rodenticides in haphazard and improperly controlled ways that present dangers to wildlife other than the intended victims. 

Nothing can change this depressing outlook until the new breeding season of 2014. Let’s hope that surviving Barn Owls have a productive year and produce many, many young, unhindered by our rotten weather and man’s interference.

Please remember that in the UK Barn Owls have Special Protection by the law and no one should go anywhere near them in the breeding season without proper authorisation.
Barn Owls

The weather is pretty bleak too at the moment preventing me from doing any meaningful birding. let’s hope that improves too.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

How Others See Us

My thanks to Mary Howell Cromer over in Kentucky USA, a fellow blogger who brought the article below to my attention. 

From The Washington Post 15th December 2013 - The Washington Post

GREAT YARMOUTH, England — Garry Bagnell is cruising down an English country road when his beeper lights up with a bulletin. A shorelark — a distinctive bird with yellow and black markings — took a wrong turn somewhere over Norway and is getting its bearings on a beach an hour’s drive north. Time to step on the gas. 

Britain’s wild world of competitive bird-watching can be a truly savage domain, a nest of intrigue, fierce rivalries and legal disputes. 

“I need that bird, I need it,” said Bagnell, a 46-year-old accountant and hard-core practitioner of British twitching, or extreme — and extremely competitive — bird-watching. “When a bird you haven’t seen drops, you’ve got to chase it. That’s going to bring me up to 300 [different species] spotted for the year. You don’t understand how competitive this is. For some people, this is life and death.” 

Beyond these shores, the world of bird-watching may be a largely gentle place ruled by calm, binocular-toting souls who patiently wait for their reward. But in Britain, it can be a truly savage domain, a nest of intrigue, fierce rivalries and legal disputes. Fluttering somewhere between sport and passion, it can leave in its path a grim tableau of ruined marriages, traffic chaos and pride, both wounded and stoked. 

This is the wild, wild world of British twitching. 

Britain isn’t the only place that has hatched a culture of fierce bird-watching. In the United States, book-turned-Hollywood-film “The Big Year” chronicled the quest of three men vying in long-held American competitions to spot the most number of species in a single year. Nevertheless, observers say the intensity of the rivalries and the relative size of the twitching community here — which numbers in the thousands — have singled out British birders as some of the most relentless in the world. 

One of the fiercest rivalries, for instance, pits Bagnell’s former mentor and now nemesis, Lee Evans, against 41-year-old grocer Adrian Webb. Evans, 53, dubs himself the “judge, jury and executioner” of British bird-watching and keeps his own twitcher rankings. 

To take on the master, Webb took 12 months off from work in 2000, spending $22,000 and driving 88,000 miles to break Evans’s record of 386 species of birds seen on the British Isles in one year. They trash-talk on the birding circuit like prize fighters. 

 Evans “is a bit of a strange bloke,” said Webb, who is known to drop his grocer’s apron and turn on a dime to chase a rare bird and claims to have broken Evans’s record in 2000. “He doesn’t like people who he thinks are a threat to him. If someone has seen more birds than him, he doesn’t like it. If someone sees a bird that he hasn’t, he doesn’t like that, either.” 

Evans — a figure so polarizing on the birding circuit that his name is routinely smeared on rivals’ blogs and in online forums — does not recognize Webb’s claim to the title. 

Over the years, Evans has wracked up big legal bills defending himself against allegations of slander for allegedly undercounting the tallies of rivals and questioning whether they’ve actually seen all the birds they claim. 

He dismissively calls Webb a “checkbook birder” — one of those who will spend any sum to reach birds spotted even on distant islands miles off the British coast. Evans also insists that he has been the victim of underhanded tricks, citing an incident when he was racing to see a rare bird in Scotland. He had lined up a plane to take him to a sighting on a remote island only to find that a group of rival birders had stuffed the palm of his pilot “with a few extra quid” to take them instead. 

“In America, bird-watching is still mostly a pastime,” said Evans, who is on his fourth marriage and blames his divorces partly on his obsession with twitching. “But in Britain, bird-watching can be bitter. It can be real nasty business.” 

A term coined in the 1960s to describe the jaw-rattling sound of chasing after rare birds on rumbling motorbikes, “twitchers” are narrowly defined as bird-watchers willing to drop everything to chase a sighting. More broadly, it includes those who make their way to see a bird within a few days of an urgent bulletin. 

Such bulletins are typically sent out by services such as the Rare Bird Alert, which obtains its information in real time from a vast network of bird-watchers across Britain. Once notified of a sighting, the service issues urgent messages to its 21,000 subscribers via pay-by-the-month pagers and smartphone apps. 

In one of dozens of similar scenes of “twitcher madness” here, local police were forced to cordon off streets after hundreds of desperate bird-watchers descended on a suburban home in Hampshire last year when a rare Spanish Sparrow fluttered into somebody’s garden. 

For a mostly male sport with an average age over 50, however, twitching can also tempt fate. In October, a top British twitcher, Tim Lawman, had a heart attack while on the trail of a Radde’s warbler in Hampshire. “It was a new bird for him, and in all the excitement of rushing to see it, he just keeled over and died,” Evans said. 

A popular smartphone app to help British birders is being advertised as an essential tool when “there have even been recent cases of violent clashes between bird watchers as people desperately try to get the very best spots.” In 2009, Bagnell said, he and other twitchers were aghast when two elderly rivals on the circuit went for each other’s throats. “One was saying he’d seen a bird, and the other said he didn’t believe him,” Bagnell said. 

Though most twitchers are bird-lovers, the sport is mostly about the chase. Bagnell, for instance, drove 90 minutes and searched the ground for a half-hour before he spotted the coy shorelark in beach scrub. He eyed it for a few moments before tweeting his find, then moved on. “I’ve got another bird to get three hours away,” he said. 

The most unfortunate twitchers race many miles to spot a bird only to find that their flighty subjects have flown off — a bummer known in the twitching world as a “dip.” One of the most infamous dips came as Webb pursued a long-tailed shrike in the Outer Hebrides off mainland Scotland. The boat he and 12 others had hired died in choppy waters, forcing a daring rescue by Her Majesty’s Coastguard. “We were worried for our lives for a bit, but we were more worried about not seeing this bird,” he said. 

Within the world of twitching, there are countless rankings — lifetime lists, annual lists, semiofficial lists, slightly more official lists. Such rankings are partly predicated on evidence. When you saw that velvet scoter wading in Wales, were there witnesses? How about photographs? If not, claims all come down to trust. 

Many see twitching as an outcrop of the British fascination with “spotting” things — most notoriously, trainspotting, a hobby that involves the obsessive pursuit of seeing as many locomotives with your own eyes as humanly possible. But others say it may simply be a case of boys who refuse to grow up. 

“Years ago, British boys used to spend their childhoods collecting birds’ eggs — now you wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing,” said Brian Egan, manager of the Rare Bird Alert. “But what they can do as adults is chase sightings of rare birds. So that’s what they do.” 

If you need a further laugh, log onto the Washington Post page to read some of the follow-up comments. The Washington Post

More bird watching madness from Another Bird Blog soon.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Right Decision

The prediction was for a short morning of decent weather followed by a strengthening wind with rain. The forecasters were spot on allowing me a couple of hours birding out Knott End way. By midday the rain had arrived and by 2pm it was time to blog. Remember to "click the pics" below for a light box view.

Readers to Another Bird Blog often comment on the numbers of Oystercatcher I see locally. The shore from Knott End, Preesall, east to Fluke Hall and further east to Cockerham is a traditional roosting area of many years standing. The roost along this relatively small stretch of the coast can peak in the autumn to 7 to 8,000 Oystercatchers and very occasionally 15,000 when the Oystercatcher population is high and full tides concentrate scattered roosts to make counting easier. My regular count of 2/3000 birds at Knott End is but tiny a fraction of the 40,000+ plus Oystercatchers that may winter in Lancashire and the 350,000 wintering population of Britain and Ireland. The Oystercatcher is a very common bird but their numbers can alter markedly if there are dramatic changes in the availability of their main prey, cockles and mussels. 


The sandbank roost was of very mixed species this morning with once again Oystercatchers to the fore: 2200 Oystercatcher, 600 Knot, 80 Dunlin, 25 Sanderling, 165 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 140 Redshank, 190 Lapwing, 3 Grey Plover and 14 Turnstone. On the incoming tide, just 4 Eider today, a walk along river failing to find anything other than a Pied Wagtail dodging the golfers marching along the fairway. 

Sand bank roost at Knott End


Turnstone and Knot




I thought to try my luck up at Fluke Hall but there was a noisy shoot south of the hall and a recently flailed hedgerow where the waders have been hanging out for many weeks. So nothing to report except 6/8 Skylark, 6 Linnet, 1 Reed Bunting, 2 Meadow Pipit and masses of Red-legged Partridge. 

Better luck next time on Another Bird Blog.

By the way, did you know that this weekend The Prime Minister could cut the life from the English countryside? Join the RSPB campaign  to get David Cameron to make the right decision.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday CrittersStewart's World Bird Wednesday, I'd Rather Be Birding and Camera Critters. Take a look there's lots of birds to see.

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