Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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.


David Gascoigne said...

I remember well seeing feral Black Swans the last time I was in Britain.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

I just read part of your post to Bill and we live in a neighborhood...true it is rural, but no hunting allowed.
He said the past 2 mornings he has heard gun fire and it was close...we have lots of Deer and Turkeys and Squirrels, but still...really?

You sure got some gorgeous bird images, but then, you always get top notch images.

I hope that you have a great week and please, stay far away from those carrying guns...

Dave Lewis said...

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing a Blooper Swan. I wonder what sort of sound it will make?

Margaret Adamson said...

Hi Although I have seen black swans in Australia I would love to see one here in the uk. All great shots as usual.

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful variety of birds. I love the swan shots. I would like to see a Blooper Swan, LOL! Happy Birding.

Wishing you all the best in 2014, Happy New Year to you and your family!

Russell Jenkins said...

Nice wader and swans-in-flight pictures, Phil. I've seen Black Swans in Japan too. At first I thought they were aviary escapees and reported them but found there is a small breeding population. I've seen them the last few days here in oz whilst birding and I am much happier to see them in their native habitat. They didn't fit in between the rice fields.

The happy wanderer. said...

Those are lovely Black-tailed Godwit shots, particularly the first one. They're much less common visitors than Bar-tailed in our summer.

It's strange to think of Black Swans being feral!

Stuart Price said...

I saw a Black Swan at Southport a few years ago. An armchair tick then!

Carole M. said...

well I reckon that was a wise move Phil; making a run for it with the sound of gunfire in the air!! Interesting assertions re the black swans making it in the U.K.

Choy Wai Mun said...

Love the swan images, Phil. Happy New Year!


Bah!!! I'm one of those cranky ol' broads who loathe the hunters. But, guess y'gotta eat, huh? Well, then, take the money you spend on guns/ammunition and BUY a bird already cleaned out and ready to cook. rofl

Phil, you always amaze and dazzle us with your photos and wonderful commentary!!

Happy New Year to you.

Neil said...

Great series. Happy New Year.

Karen said...

I'm with Anni, I dislike hunting, unless you shoot the hunted with a camera. Great captures Phil. Your in-flight shots are always terrific! I just gets blurs! Wishing you all the best in 2014!

Dave said...

I always try to take a pee when walking the moors and come across shooting butts....... anway enough of that.

Happy 2014, look forward to more of your imagery in 2014


HansHB said...

A splendid serie!
Happy New Year to you!

Gunilla Bäck said...

Wonderful birds. I love the swans. Happy birding 2014!

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