Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pilling And A Pinkie

The morning began bright and breezy with gusts teetering on the edge of being “windy”, a subtle difference that birders will recognise whereby choosing a place to go birding requires a little forethought. Pilling was the decision and where after a three hour slog around the patch the old notebook had a good few entries. 

The flooded maize received a watery top-up last night although the soggy fields didn’t need it by virtue of the regular stuff there: 160 Redshank, 45 Lapwing, 28 Dunlin, 15 Skylark and 2 Little Egret. More than a few of the Lapwings and the Skylarks were in display mode. 

Two Buzzards came from over the Fluke Hall woods, circled around for a while and then headed off in the direction of Pilling village and the mosses beyond. The wood was a bit windswept for birdsong but I did see a pair of Stock Dove in the trees, 25+ Woodpigeon feeding on the ground and a handful of Goldfinch. 



Beyond the wood I checked out the fields to find 18 Pied Wagtail, 6 Oystercatcher, 15 Curlew, 4 Greenfinch, 4 Meadow Pipits, 1 Reed Bunting and a couple of dozen Pink-footed Geese. 

When the Meadow Pipits flew across to the beach I noticed their arrival and calling had pushed other birds into the air, and on checking I found the pipits chasing off 3 Snow Buntings. In the ensuing melee a flock of 40+ Twite lifted off the marsh then circled around to find a new spot on which to feed. The buntings seemed to head west along the sea wall and although I spent some time trying to relocate then I couldn’t, so I imagine they carried on towards Preesall, Knott End or Fleetwood. In the strong breeze blowing along the shore everything seemed very flighty and reluctant to stay in one spot for long. 

 Snow Bunting

Heading east I found more wagtails behind the sea wall, 5 Whooper Swans, 7 Little Egret, 5 Teal, 3 Red-legged Partridge and a couple of hundred scattered Pink-footed Geese. There don’t appear to be many pinkies around at the moment so maybe many have flown north towards Iceland already. 

Whooper Swans

It was last December 2013 near Pilling Water that I spotted a Pink-footed Goose wearing a neck-collar, the collar inscribed with the letters “TAB”. I reported the sighting online and yesterday received back the following information from The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust about when and where the pinkie was ringed and all the subsequent sightings. My own sighting at the bottom of the list is the most recent. 

There’s a clear pattern to the bird’s seasonal movements. After spending the summer months in Iceland the goose migrates south, probably stopping off in Scotland. It then spends part of the early winter in Lancashire or Norfolk, but seems to spends each New Year in Norfolk. By February, March and into April it is back in Scotland feeding up for its Spring flight to Iceland. There are an awful lot of flights to Iceland and back not included in the list below. Aren’t birds amazing? 

20/10/2006 Loch of Lintrathen ANGUS, Scotland - adult female Pink-footed Goose first caught then marked with “TAB”.
15/02/2007 Wester Dalziel, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
01/03/2007 Balnaglack, Dallcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
03/04/2007 Morayhill, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
18/11/2007 Breydon Water area, Great Yarmouth NORFOLK, England 
24/11/2007 Pollard Street, Bacton NORFOLK, England 
01/12/2007 N of Sharrington NORFOLK, England 
19/12/2007 Runham NORFOLK , England 
05/01/2008 Repps Mill NORFOLK, England 
16/01/2008 Repps Mill NORFOLK, England 
23/01/2008 Thrigby NORFOLK, England 
28/02/2008 Gellybanks area, Loch Leven PERTH & KINROSS, Scotland 
09/04/2008 Lower Cullernie, Balloch INVERNESS, Scotland 
02/11/2008 Fluke Hall Lane, Pilling LANCASHIRE, England 
08/11/2008 Bone Hill Fram, Pilling LANCASHIRE, England 
08/01/2009 Preesall Park, Preesall LANCASHIRE, England 
08/01/2009 Cockers Dyke, Pilling LANCASHIRE, England 
03/02/2009 Head Dyke Lane, Pilling LANCASHIRE, England 
02/03/2009 Wester Dalziel, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
07/03/2009 Cullernie INVERNESS, Scotland 
25/03/2009 Easter Dalziel, Dallcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
30/03/2009 Easter Dalziel, Dallcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
03/04/2009 Wester Dalziel, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
19/03/2010 Wester Dalziel, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
01/04/2010 Wester Dalziel, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
05/04/2010 Wester Dalziel, Dalcross INVERNESS, Scotland 
05/11/2010 Hall Farm, Rollesby NORFOLK, England 
01/12/2013 Dam Side, Pilling LANCASHIRE, England 

The bird below isn’t “TAB”, on 1st December 2013 she was far away, the inscription read via a telescope at 200 yards or more.  I’m sure however that the bird below is an equally amazing pinkie. 

Pink-footed Goose

More soon from Another Bird Blog. And remember, you read it here first.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The One That Got Away

Monday was a fine morning with lots of bird activity round about but I was stuck at home waiting for the plumber to arrive, so I decided to do a little garden mist netting. It’s the first suitable day there’s been for many months, either in terms of birds in the vicinity or a wind and rain-free day. 

But this morning there seemed to be lots of bird song, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock and Great Tit. At the big house across the way a pair of Jackdaws busied themselves by inspecting the double chimneys as Collared Doves and Woodpigeons closely watched the action. Maybe the doves were hoping to pick up some of the sticks the Jackdaws let drop to the floor? 

Below is picture of all the only evidence of the first bird I caught, one measly feather, all that was left on the grass below where a bird lay in the net for a few brief seconds. Full marks to anyone who stops to puzzle but then correctly identifies the species from the feather before reading on - go to the top of the class. 

It’s not a species generally associated with gardens but does occur in them more than one might imagine, especially during cold and frosty weather. I was in the house and through the window saw the large brown bird lying in the net but as I sped outside in one short move, the Woodcock lifted itself from the pocket and flew over the fence and far away. The second picture is as they say, “One I did earlier”, a year or two ago, so infrequent are sturdy and strong-flying Woodcocks found in mist nets. 

Woodcock feather


So I had to content myself with Goldfinches on a date which may prove to be the start of the species’ Spring movement north. Another sure sign of Spring was the sight and sound of Siskins in next door’s Sycamore tree, but the few birds there were not visiting my niger feeders today. 


I caught 6 Goldfinch, not many but a better total than of recent inactive months - 5 females and a single male. Below is a female born last year, identified as a female by the grey nasal hairs, red not extending beyond the eye and aged as last season's bird by a combination of the mixed age tail feathers and the brown edging to lesser coverts. 



Another young female below, this one retaining some of its brownish juvenile head feathers. The red on the face reaches the end of the eye but does not extend beyond it. 


Below is a male where for comparison with a female, the red on the face reaches a good way beyond the eye.


There’s more to come later from Another Bird Blog, just as soon as the plumber’s gone and we can return to a normal existence. 

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Unseasonal Sands

It’s been a busy old week of grandparent’s callings, finding time for birding and then in-between updating a tired old kitchen. And if anyone tries to tell you that the British Builder is dead and buried, superseded by its Polish counterpart, don’t believe them; the Union Jack flies high in Knott End and Stalmine. 

So birding and blogging had to take third place for a while but now that weekend’s here I’m up and running with a little news. 

A drive north included a Kestrel at Thurnham, quickly followed by a look over the pools and creeks of Conder Green which gave much the usual stuff: 2 Spotted Redshank, 10 Little Grebe, 150+ Teal, 30 Wigeon, 5 Goldeneye, 15 Lapwing 1 Little Egret, 12 Curlew, 12 Oystercatcher and 1 Common Sandpiper. The wintering sandpiper has eluded me for weeks, hiding away and silent in the tiny creeks rather than the main tidal channel but it finally showed today. 

Common Sandpiper

At Glasson: 15 Goldeneye comprising 13 males and 2 females, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, 40 Tufted Duck and 9 Cormorants. 



Back at Pilling the sun came out and I set off along the usual route to find 8 Little Egrets, the Brent Goose on the marsh and the wintering Green Sandpiper on the shooter’s pools. 

It looks like the Green Sandpiper isn’t the only wintering sandpiper here as amongst the 60+ Lapwings, 125 Redshanks and 15 Curlew was a Curlew Sandpiper. I last saw a Curlew Sandpiper here on 15th November, the lack of visits during the intervening period of wind, rain and weekly shoots accounting for the lack of sightings of the bird since that date. 


Curlew Sandpiper - Photo credit: jvverde / Foter / CC BY-NC

There were small birds around the pools and the maize field with 45+ Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting, 15 Skylark and a sudden arrival of 14+ alba wagtails arriving from the west and landing some distance away. On the pool, now less than a dozen Mallard and 2 Pintail survive the winter shoots, the original 2000+ released Red-legged Partridge now hard to come by after so many days of gunfire.

Near Fluke Hall I watched a Stock Dove in display flight and heard several species in song - Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Coal Tit. 

Stock Dove

Spring must be just around the corner. Hooray for that. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Is It Here Yet?

There are signs the end of the atrocious winter weather may be in sight, and Spring around the corner. It certainly felt like that this morning when the sun shone and the wind dropped to less than 15mph, almost perfect birding conditions. 

I set off for Pilling where a pair of early morning Kestrels greeted me on the roadside at Damside. In some years Little Owls have used the nest box so it looks like the Kestrels have first shout this time. 


I decided to give Fluke Hall a try where I was dismayed to find shooters on the maize fields and so above the high water mark, where as I understand it, the “season” for shooting wildfowl should have ended on 31st January. A small pile of corpses littered the sea wall but I was too far off to make out the species. 

Despite the loud guns there were a number of Lapwings and Redshanks on the flood, some 95 and 8 respectively, also 10/12 Linnet and 15 or so Skylarks. Later, and as I walked the sea wall I saw and heard a good number of Skylarks, some in song, others in obvious territorial disputes, with a morning total of 30+ birds. 

Fluke Hall Lane and the wood itself proved quite productive with 2 singing Song Thrush, a pair of Mistle Thrush, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Treecreeper, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Goldfinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Buzzard, 2 Jays, a minimum of 12 Blackbirds and 3/4 Chaffinches in song. 


By now the shooters had driven discreetly off the track in their mud spattered Land Rovers, Range Rover and Navarra so I walked the now very quiet sea wall to Lane Ends. 

A good selection of birds ensued, circa 850 Pink-footed Goose, 7 Little Egret, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Peregrine, 1 Brent Goose and a good number of the aforementioned Skylarks. The Brent was alone on the salt marsh and not in the company of Pink-footed Geese or Shelduck, species it might be expected to mix with.

Brent Goose

At Lane Ends it was good to hear the trilling of courting Little Grebes, an unmistakeable sound emanating from the pool hidden from view. A couple of Chaffinches in song here too. 

Little Grebe

Maybe Spring is finally on the way? If so Another Bird Blog will be there to record the details, so log in very soon.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Little Post

It’s a bit of a short post today for blog readers; hopefully the weather will improve soon and enable some thorough birding to take place. 

After the overnight 100mph winds I spent a while this morning up at Knott End where I hoped to see a few wind-blown Little Gulls. I wasn’t disappointed, and in the still strong winds managed to connect with at least six Little Gulls flying into the Wyre estuary, all of them continuing to fly upstream until they disappeared out of sight. 

Little Gull

The Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus is a small gull of about 11 inches in length, 24–31 inches wingspan and a weight of approximately 100 grams, gull proportions which could perhaps more accurately describe the species as “tiny”. 

It breeds in Northern Europe and Asia with small colonies in parts of southern Canada. It is migratory, wintering on coasts in Western Europe, the Mediterranean and in small numbers in northeast USA; in recent years non-breeding birds have summered in Western Europe in increasing numbers. As is the case with many gulls, it has traditionally been placed in the genus Larus. It is the only member of the genus Hydrocoloeus, although it has been suggested that Ross's Gull also should be included in this genus. 

Little Gulls are not resident in the UK; neither do they spend the summer or the winter here. However, they do pass through in spring and autumn, usually April. The Little Gulls we see here in the winter are thought to be from the population wintering off the east coast of Ireland, many birds often blown towards the west coast of England, even inland during severe winter storms. 

Little Gulls also occur hereabouts in April en route to their breeding grounds around Sweden, Norway, Finland and the Baltic Sea, an area that many reach by taking a direct route across the Pennines, the North Sea and then into the Baltic. 

Little Gull

For comparison with Little Gull here’s a common Black-headed Gull, 16 inches in length, c40 inches wingspan and a weight approximately 300 grams. 

Black-headed Gull

There wasn’t much else doing, a still rough old morning and not one suitable for searching for passerines. There were 18 Turnstones, 140 Lapwings and 4 Redshanks huddled on the shore, 18 Eider defying the strong swell of the sea and the usual 2 Pied Wagtails along the esplanade. 


More soon from Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Brief Sign Of Spring

At last on Monday a touch of overnight frost followed by a sunny day without wind and rain, and a chance to get out Pilling way for a few hours. Such has been the ferocity of the weather that my notebook told me I last walked Fluke Hall/Pilling Water on January 2nd, with in the meantime lots of sitting around the house, doing chores, blogging, and a brief but welcome respite of two weeks in Lanzarote. 

Here in Lancashire we have escaped the worse of the wet, windy and woeful winte, unlike the good people of Somerset suffering weeks and weeks of floods. And now it’s the turn of the Thames Valley to feel the pain as the UK suffers its officially wettest winter for 250 years. Roll on Spring. 

At Fluke Hall I found singing a Song Thrush, a drumming Great-spotted Woodpecker, a singing Goldfinch and a pair of Long-tailed Tits, stuttering signs of spring which quickly abate when we return to the currnet normality. A couple of Chaffinches were about the roadside trees but I heard no song from them even though the species can be an early singer. 

Long-tailed Tit

Now that the shooting season is finished the lessening traffic and disturbance along the sea wall and across the Fluke Hall maize fields may produce more birds. Today, 220 Lapwing, 8 Golden Plover, 6 Redshank, 52 Woodpigeon, 7 Stock Dove, 20+ Skylark, 4 Mute Swan, 165 Shelduck and 6 Little Egret. 

At Pilling Water I found a pair of Skylarks, the wintering Green Sandpiper again, a couple more Little Egrets, 2 Chaffinch and a single Reed Bunting. Looking into the sun I thought I could see ducks other than the few regular Shelducks and Mallards, but when I strode closer to investigate, the duck’s sluggishness and reluctance to fly was explained by the fact that the wildfowlers had yet to collect several of their floating Gadwall x Wigeon decoys. Doh! 

Reed Bunting

It was as well I trespassed over the shoot because trapped in a pheasant/partridge pen I discovered several Red-legged Partridge and a single Stock Dove. Shooters are supposed to check such contraptions regularly to see that birds are not unduly kept there without food and water, so I suspected that no one had been along for a while, even though luckily there was spilled seed to keep the birds going. I opened the door, sent the partridges packing and rescued the Stock Dove, an adult “ringing tick”. 

Until this specimen I’d only ever ringed Stock Dove nestlings so had to look up the ageing and sexing characteristics in the Ageing and Sexing Non-Passerines guide. I’m pretty sure it was a first winter bird due to lots of light brown edging on the lesser and median coverts. A wing length of 220mm gave nothing away. 

Ageing and Sexing Non-Passerines

Stock Dove

Doing It By The Book

Way out on the marsh and towards Cockerham or Cockersands were “many thousands” of Pink-footed Geese, much too far away to count. A light aeroplane sent them into the sky once or twice before they settled back down on the distant marsh. If pushed I’d estimate their numbers at 10/12,000, the picture below a small chunk of the enormous flocks out there. 

"Pinkfeet" over Pilling and Cockerham marshes

Now the shooting season is over the “pinkies” will gradually become more tolerant of humans, less prone to panic at the sight or sound of them while slowly allow bird watchers to study them more closely. I can’t wait, nor to wait for another sunny day like this one. 

Roll on Spring.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin - A Review

I was thrilled to receive for review by Another Bird Blog a copy of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin, due for publication by Princeton University Press on 26th February 2014. 

“Eager anticipation” barely described my six month or more wait for this book, the most recent and potentially the best in a line of books devoted to the history of ornithological study. I noticed immediately the dust jacket bearing praise and recommendation from the likes of Ian Newton, Walt Koenig, Jeremy Mynott and Frank Gill; so after my marathon wait would the book live up to the expectations of a bog-standard, open minded, always curious, but mostly unscientific bird watcher? 

Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin - Princeton University Press

The Preface quickly sends readers to Appendix 1, a list of approximately 24 “histories of ornithology”, very few of which actually hold information of late twentieth century advances in the study of birds, most of the books dealing with early ornithology up to the mid-twentieth century at best. Through a simple but highly effective line-graph heading inexorably north the authors display how ornithology has exploded since 1960 and continued to advance during the 2000s - “Since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859 we estimate there have been no fewer than 380,000 ornithological publications. In 2011 there were as many papers published on birds as there had been during the entire period between Darwin’s Origin and 1955”.

This sets the scene for the pages which follow, a comprehensive exploration and analysis of ornithology during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, a riveting, entertaining, enlightening and frequently inspirational read. It is the history, science, art, and where necessary the politics of ornithology since Darwin to present day, each themed chapter skilfully leading the reader through the years.

The Preface describes how the authors Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny and Bob Montgomerie set about deciding the book’s scope and approach and whether that should be chronological order, one based upon the “top” ornithologists from Darwin to date, or one written around topics. Wisely they chose the latter approach whereby the 11 topics start at the beginning with Yesterday’s Birds and the first fossil discovery of Archaeopteryx and finish at Page 423 with Tomorrow’s Birds and a graphical timeline for conservation study, a chapter devoted to a future of ornithology which will be heavily focused upon the preservation of birds.

In between those two poles come compelling historical accounts discussing and describing themes such as Origin and Diversification, Birds on the Tree of Life, Ebb and Flow, Adaptations for Breeding, Form and Function, The Study of Instinct, Sexual Selection and Population Studies.

If anything the chapter titles give little away as to their contents and might fool a reader into thinking the text to be the dry and dust that history is reputed to be. Far from it, each and every chapter makes for engaging, exhilarating and often exciting reading encompassing the day-to-day science, the exploration of ideas, the trials and tribulations of a workaday ornithologist and the sanity or otherwise of the early collectors whose egos or lust for fame led them to visit dangerous realms.

I very much liked the topic based approach of the chapters, the main advantage being that each section can be read in isolation without detriment to the overall understanding and enjoyment of the whole book. I don’t recommend trying to read this book from cover to cover in one go, or even in a week or more, it is far too good to rush through, more one to savour slowly, a piece at a time.

Each chapter opens with a superb coloured plate from artists such as Raymond Ching, Robert Bateman, Eric Ennion, Robert Gillmoor or Rodger McPhail to set the scene, and within the first few pages a handy at-a -glance graphical timeline to indicate the contents. I recommend that to fully appreciate where the ensuing pages will take them, a reader study the timeline summary before embarking upon the chapter.

Graphical Timeline from Ebb and Flow from Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin 

As is my particular mind set, I headed to the first chapter “Yesterday’s Birds” to learn more about work on the origins of birds and then made a bee-line for the chapter “Ebb and Flow” to satisfy my interest in migration. As a sampler for blog readers and those already adding the book to their wish-list I have summarised the two chapters below.

Yesterday’s Birds reminds us that right up to the present day the world of birds never lacks controversy or political intrigue, a world where too often the goal of scientific study takes second place to personal aggrandisement. This chapter takes the reader from the first Archaeopteryx fossil discovered in 1855 and then through the “Bone Wars” to the present day where 11 Archaeopteryx specimens exist alongside recent revelations of colouration in fossilised feathers. Along the way the story relates amongst other things how a newly discovered specimen of Archaeopteryx insured for a million pounds found its way into a battered cardboard box, and how claims of Archaeopteryx fakery aimed at ornithologists by respected scientists from unrelated areas of science was played out in the popular press of the “enlightened” 1980s.

Archaeopteryx lithographica in LIFE magazine c 1959 - from Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

The section Ebb and Flow begins with the pioneering work of William Eagle Clarke and Studies in Bird Migration of 1912, finishing with the remarkable and only recent discovery that Bar-tailed Godwits fly from one end of the earth to the other in a single 175 hour non-stop 6500 mile flight. In between there’s the celibate, obstinate, but devoted to bird study Alfred Newton, Christian Mortensen and his early bird ringing, Thomas Alerstam and Bird Migration, Fair Isle, Ian Newton’s Ecology and Bird Migration, Gwinner and Berthold and their studies of Sylvias, and much, much more.

It was in Ebb and Flow that I found an autobiography of the great Peter Berthold and how at the age of ten he was illegally catching Great Tits when he came across one ringed by an accredited scheme, a crucial experience which led to him joining the German Ornithological Society and to finally reach his “true heaven of ornithological research”. The rest, as they say, “Is History”.

Most chapters are dotted with these personal autobiographies, tales which make for entertaining and often amusing vignettes, sprinkled as they are with descriptions of the writer’s ornithological awakening and their later adventures in the search for knowledge.

I’ll quote from a couple here as examples of how wide ranging, stimulating, simply down-to-earth and not without humour this book is, but perhaps only by going out and buying the book will blog readers discover the name of the self-confessed birdy beginnings of the now highly respected ornithologist below.

“I was an amorphously nerdy, science-oriented and myopic kid without any clear direction. Before birds I was passionately engaged in memorising unusual facts from the Guinness Book of World Records … I got my first pair of glasses. Within six months of the world coming into focus I was bird watcher. I never looked back or even considered any other option in my life”

Or Nick Davies from my own part of the world, and an extract which as I read it caused an immediate lump in my throat, “One of my earliest memories is making a hide out of deck chairs and using operas glasses to watch chaffinches. We lived thirteen miles north of Liverpool and were surrounded by wildlife. Pink-footed Geese used to fly low over our house and I have worshipped them ever since”.

As the authors state early in the book, “Although bird watching was a pre-cursor of scientific ornithology and many ornithologists began their careers as bird watchers, this book is not a history of bird watching.” Well hooray for that, and the advice from Richard Feynman US Physicist, Writer and Educator (1918-1988) in the section entitled “Afterword”.

"You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird….. So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing- that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something."

Silver Gulls on a Tasmanian Beach - from Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

There are over 150 mixed illustrations, charts and photographs dotted around the text, many of them black and white pictures of the individuals or groups of ornithologists featuring in the text, pictures so personal that they may well have originated from family albums. Others show ornithologists with their charges the birds, or show them engrossed in experimentation, exploration or simply posing for the historic record.

I could go on to describe and praise this brilliant book, picking out some of the simply wonderful stuff within but I would prefer that blog readers discover it for themselves.

At Myriad Birds or Princeton University Press you can read about the original motivation for the book, the authors, the artists who provided the superb plates, but most of all sample some of the superbly crafted writing.

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan - from Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin

I imagine that Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin is a book which will be bought by every professional or amateur ornithologist the world over. Almost certainly it will be on a wish list of many, many amateur and professional naturalists, whether their speciality is birds, bees, butterflies or other more esoteric disciplines.

It is a book which should be bought and read by every serious bird watcher, but as is today’s focus on instant thrill, it may not be. I sincerely hope that my praise will influence some who may not otherwise have done so to buy this book; better still that a young person may somehow find this book the inspiration they need to follow a career in science and ornithology in particular.

As we have come to expect from Princeton University Press the fit and finish of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin is immaculate, and of simple but understated quality. When I looked at the selling price I was amazed to see that Princeton University Press marks it up at £29.95 or $45, while at the same time allowing Amazon to knock it out for closer to £21 and its dollar equivalent.

Now I know nothing about the economics of the production, publication and sale of books but after studying the contents of Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin, I can only think that Princeton has either done their sums wrong or are adopting a “Pile ‘em high, Sell ’em cheap” strategy.

Whatever, it’s simply the best value for money bird book out there and at those prices there will be a huge demand for this book on 26th February. So my advice to readers of Another Bird Blog is clear. Place an order now, you won’t be disappointed.

I'm linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog where I'm sure lots of readers in North America and elsewhere will want to know about this book.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Colourful Day

For today’s post there are more pictures from our recent holiday to Lanzarote. There lots of them so "click the pics" for a continuous slide show; and I hope everyone likes egrets!

One of the easiest spots to see the endemic Berthelot’s Pipit is strangely enough one that is overrun with tourists, just off the road from Yaiza at the Islote de Hilario visitor centre for camel rides en route to Timanfaya. 

Traditionally, the farmers of Lanzarote used camels to help cultivate the dry, difficult land. They were brought from the nearby African mainland. Today the camels have been replaced in farming, but a tradition of caring for them survives. The remaining camels earn their living by carrying visitors over the rough terrain of the Timanfaya National Park. At the camel station there is a small but very interesting museum, showing how farmers used to work with the camels. Displays of harness and farming equipment, and old photographs of the work, bear witness to the resilience of both man and beast in the harsh landscape. 

I met up with national park worker who takes a break in the car park where he shares his lunch of Lanzarote cheese with a regular group of 10/12 Berthelot’s Pipit’s. Continually active and dashing around constantly the tiny pipits are not easy to photograph, and because of light reflections from the volcanic rock, it’s best to set the camera to underexpose. Wander not too far away and there might be a Cattle Egret or two stalking though the dry landscape. 

Berthelot's Pipit

Berthelot's Pipit
Camels at Islote de Hilario, Lanzarote

Camel rides at Islote de Hilario, Lanzarote

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

On this particular day we stopped off at the old port of Puerto del Carmen hoping to see a few birds in the marina. There were a couple of Little Egrets, several Turnstones, 2 Common Sandpipers and lots of Yellow-legged Gulls hanging around the tied up fishing boats,all hoping to snatch a meal from anything the fishermen had overlooked. It was clear that the birds involved had a regular beat, inspecting each fishing boat in turn, the egrets in particular paying special attention to the boxes and containers that had recently held fish. It's interesting that the local Turnstones have learnt to forsake the rocky shore to turn over instead the bric-a-brac on decks of fishing boats.

The colourful old boats made for some brightly hued backdrops. 

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Little Egret

Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote

Little Egret

Common Sandpiper




Common Sandpiper

 Yellow-legged Gull

Log into Another Bird Blog soon for more news, views and pictures. I'm still working through Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin but a review will appear on here very soon.

Linking today to Anni's Birding BlogEileen's Saturday Critters and Camera Critters .
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