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.


Wally Jones said...

Hopefully, signs of Spring will become ever more apparent!

What a good day you had it seems. Great photos. That Reed Bunting is spectacular! And you got to ring an adult pigeon.

We shall not mention the "decoy" incident. Suffice it to say, you are not the first to be thus surprised........

That's an incredible number of geese! Looking forward to your observations as you are able to approach more closely.

Phil, sorry to be sparse with the comments, lately. Been a bit busy on this end. Life intrudes, etc. Happy you were able to get away to the land of the sun for a bit!

Take care!

TexWisGirl said...

the reed bunting is so pretty! and i don't think there's many birds cuter than the long-tailed tit - except for maybe the fairy wrens in australia. :)

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Hi Phil...got my reading list back after 2 long days. Your shares today are really wonderful and I am feeling not as frustrated this morning~

Gunilla Bäck said...

The steely grey colour of the dove is very pretty.

Kay L. Davies said...

The long-tailed tit is such a cutie. I'm amazed it can manage to survive on insects when it has such a teeny-tiny beak.
The dove is lovely, and the whole idea of pink-footed geese makes me smile, used as I am to the ubiquitous Canada Goose here in (obviously) Canada.
Still haven't managed to pin my husband down to a trip to Britain. We're going to Iceland for his birthday next month. He says when I'm 70 I can pick the destination, but I am not going to wait that long to get to Britain.
Maybe next year. Right now we're in the planning stages of a trip to Arizona and New Mexico with our dog. She's pretty much blind, but she still loves to be in the car.

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Phil Love the shot of the Long tailed Tit and pigeon.

HansHB said...

Lovely photos!

David Gascoigne said...

It's a great account of a ramble and it's certainly good that you were able to release the partridges. I am sure that the adult Stock Dove presenting itself for banding was a very agreeable bonus.

Carole M. said...

have been keeping a close eye on U.K. extreme wet; hard times for so many people. I like the Reed Bunting shot; he looks quite perky and charismatic somehow; I like his character.

eileeninmd said...

Phil, I love your pretty Reed Bunting. And wow, look at all those Pink -footed Geese. I just tried to find two that have been sighted here and missed them. Great shot and post, happy birding!

Stuart Price said...

Lancashire always seems to escape the nastiest weather.......

Wow that is an obscure book title!

Russell Jenkins said...

Some handsome portraits of the tit and reed bunting. Thank goodness you saved the partridge and pigeon. I often forget what century we're in. Hope the weather becomes milder for all in the UK soon.

Karen said...

That reed bunting is so sweet! The pretty pastels of the stock dove look like early spring flower colours. Lovely photos!

Kay L. Davies said...

Maybe, just maybe, you might have to uncancel that reservation at Kay's Chips. My husband is now talking about a cruise out of Southampton in August, with a week or so to visit around England beforehand. Nothing decided yet, but just when I give up, things start to happen!

Adam Jones said...

Great to see Pink feet in flight. Cracking Stock Dove too.

Terri @ Backward B Ranch said...

What lovely shots- especially the Reed Bunting- just gorgeous!~

sandyland said...

I live near lots of birds and cannot wait to see yours weekly

carol l mckenna said...

Beautiful avian photos ~ love the dove ~ and New England is still wintry ~ more snow due to arrive ~ glad you are experiencing some signs of Spring ~ thanks ~

artmusedog and carol

Powell River Books said...

You have some very distinctive birds in your area. - Margy

Stewart M said...

Great set of pictures.

I still have some close family in Somerset - but luckily for them they live in or close to the Mendips, so no floods, but still lost of rain.

Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

Huldra said...

What a flock! Beautiful pictures :)

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