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.


The happy wanderer. said...

Seasons greetings to you too. That's a lovely Goldeneye, by the way.

Carole M. said...

liking your new blog header; Merlin is a new bird for me - very interesting to see and a sweet Goldeneye. Best wishes Phil!

Stuart Price said...

Boder Collie-my fave dog ever since we had family holidays on a hill farm near Ullswater when I was a kid. Plus John Noakes had one.

David Gascoigne said...

As usual a fine job. Merry Christmas to you too and a happy, productive bird-filled New Year.

genie said...

Your shot of the little egret is just beautiful...could be made into a pretty. And the border collie with the sheep is so sweet. We see a number of these dogs on the sheep farms around here. Merry Christmas from Virginia. genie

eileeninmd said...

Phil, a wonderful collection of birds and photos. The Merlin shot is cool, I love the geese in flight and the cute Border Collie!

Merry Christmas to you and your family! I Wish you and yours all the best in 2014!

Christian Perrin said...

Wow, that Merlin is a beautiful bird! I also really liked your frozen mid-air shot of the Geese.

Damn Tesco bags! I bet Sainsbury bags wouldn't scare the poor birds! :)

Enjoy your holiday season Phil!

Gunilla Bäck said...

The Merlin is beautiful! I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

KK said...

Loved the Goldeneye picture.

Also, I would love to know how you count or estimate the number of birds in a group.

Happy Xmas to you.

Paul Foster said...

Great shot of the Merlin Phill,always a pleasure to see when out in the field,keep up the good work.

Carol L McKenna said...

More excellent bird photos and of course love the border collie ~ Merry Xmas to you and yours, carol, xxx

Fun60 said...

Loved that picture of the Merlin. Kes just doesn't seem the right name for a dog. Once a kestrel always a kestrel.

Cynthia said...

I love the oyster catcher photo in your header!
Merry Christmas!

Russell Jenkins said...

I like Kes' smile for the camera. He's a beauty. You also got a merlin too which is a bird I want to see more. Like the egret shot too. Have a nice Christmas, Phil.

Kristi Bowman said...

Beautiful, I love them all!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Hmm, wonder if the farmer who owns good old Kes will happen on to your blog to pay a visit any time soon...what smart dogs they are, and lovely too. Funny about the thought of waiting on that Merlin to often have we sat, stood and waited and then finally moved away, to turn and then it decides to do something speical ;(. The Goldeneye is brilliant! Happy Holidays to you, Sue and family Phil~

Findlay Wilde said...

I think the Merlin is my favourite on this post. I hope you get to see lots more birds over Christmas. From Findlay

mick said...

Really great photo of the Pied Oystercatcher in your heading. For a wet and windy day your totals sound good to me and you captured some nice photos of the birds too. Happy Holidays to you and your family and I look forward to more of you great photos in the new year.

Neil said...

Merry Christmas great series.

Carole M. said...

...back again on Christmas morning; best wishes Phil!

Nora at Island Rambles said...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Love the colors on these photos. Good Birding. cheers.

Wally Jones said...

I second Mick's comment about this seeming to be a good count considering the conditions.

You have my sympathy and empathy concerning Merlins! I finally found one last week as it swooped over my head from behind me and disappeared. Later, just as all the optics were packed in the truck, he flew right in front of me and I'm pretty sure his tongue was sticking out.

Hope your Christmas was full of Merriness!

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