Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Sylvia Day

Wednesday - Not quite the morning hoped for with100% cloud, poor light and a touch of drizzle at times. Oh well, best to make the best of a bad job and set off somewhere. 

As soon as I arrived at Fluke, the Blackbirds were at it, scolding a Tawny Owl again. The Tawny Owls here are very active at the moment. I’m guessing that there are youngsters to feed, necessitating more frequent hunting, this being the third time in a week I’ve seen these normally nocturnal owls. I located the owl which was being chased by a posse of Blackbirds, the owl changing its chosen spot in the trees three times until the rumpus eventually died down and the Blackbirds went back to their business. 

It’s a snatched shot just as the owl was looking for a place to roost, away from so much noise and attention. ISO1600 in the poor light and those damned leaves in the way again. 

Tawny Owl

I knew roughly where the owl had flown to and left it in peace. There’d be no point in setting off more commotion by making the poor thing fly again. 

The wood and hedgerows held reasonable numbers of warblers with no obvious fresh arrivals other than a singing Garden Warbler and a song so close to a Blackcap as to be almost identical. I don’t have my own picture of a skulking Garden Warbler other than in the hand - It’s rather like a plain Blackcap but without the coloured cap. Bird watchers have been known to make unkind “jokes” about the Garden Warbler’s plain appearance and its Latin name Sylvia borin - borin = boring, get it? Very unfair. 

Garden Warbler - Photo credit: themadbirdlady - anne cotton / Foter / (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

There are still at least 2 Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla in the area giving a chance to compare its loud, highly musical song with the more subdued but lengthy song of the Garden Warbler. 


There seemed to be good numbers of the other “Sylvia” this morning, Sylvia communis, the Common Whitethroat, with at least 8 birds seen/heard along Fluke Hall Lane. The Whitethroat is much easier to see than the previous two with Spring the best time to take photographs of the commonest of this family of UK warblers. 

The males arrive during April/early May and quickly set up territories from where they constantly sing their jolting, scratchy song. They use prominent vantage points from which to show off their white throat and pink-washed breast as a way to impress any watching females. 



On the ploughed field: 1 Wheatear, 1 Pied Wagtail and several Linnets. 

There was a Kestrel hunting the freshly turned earth and a Sparrowhawk in high circling flight. Both species are nesting at nearby Fluke Hall but as raptors do not compete for food, having different requirements.  The Kestrel takes small mammals and the Sparrowhawk favours small to medium sized birds. 



Lane Ends to Pilling Water turned up little in the way of migration or new in birds except for a Common Sandpiper. There was a single Little Egret at Pilling Water pool and 2 Wheatear some way out on the marsh. At Lane Ends: 2 Little Grebe, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. 

It wasn’t a bad morning and while some sunshine and better light would have been welcome, the conditions are never, ever perfect for a very demanding birder.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Get The Picture?

There are new photographs today for blog readers, but as is often the frustrating case for budding photographers, “something” intrudes into the scene far too often. So let’s start with a couple of the better ones and then head downhill as trees, branches, twigs, stones and goodness knows what get in the way to spoil the photograph.

A male Chaffinch posed beautifully at Lane Ends. The female is on a nest nearby, the male keeping guard to make sure no harm comes to his partner. 



Two Jays were in the trees again; up to no good I’ll wager. Out on the marsh the highish tide concentrated the Pink-footed Geese and allowed a more accurate count of 340, a rather high number for late April when the geese should be in thawing Iceland. Two Whimbrel flew over, plus a mixed flock of 90+ Dunlin and Ringed Plover, too fast and high flying to count as separate entities. A Lesser Redpoll chattered from the tree tops as a Reed Warbler croaked its unmelodic theme from the small reed bed, the annual spot next to the road and my first Reed Warbler of the year. 

I found 4 “Greenland” Wheatears along the sea wall, each in turn doing its best to avoid a clear portrait or take the meal worm bait. 




At Fluke Hall there was a Tawny Owl again. This one sat in the trees, seemingly unperturbed by my proximity, the two of us separated by a tall hedge and a cluster of leaves swaying in the breeze. Try as I might I could not get a totally unimpeded photo. Hopefully the owl will be there or thereabouts on another day for a new attempt. 

 Tawny Owl

As two Mistle Thrushes collected food for their nearby nest one broke off to give chase to a female Sparrowhawk, the thrush rattling out an alarm call for all to hear as it pursued the hawk though the trees.

The road transect gave a count of 4 Whitethroat, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Chiffchaff and at least 6 Willow Warblers. One of the Willow Warblers atop a clump of bramble appeared quite amenable to a picture, but did not shift its pose until it flew off. Concentrating on the bird's eye, only at home later did I discover the stray pieces of vegetation which ruin the picture. 

Willow Warbler

Maybe it was possible to get the picture at Conder Green? The customary species appeared and the usual counts ensued. Lots of Swallows and a few House Martins headed north, 71 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Spotted Redshank, 15 Redshank, 1 Greenshank,16 Tufted Duck, 2 Wigeon and 12 Oystercatcher. 

The wispy grass cutting across the bright orange bill makes for a far from perfect picture of an Oystercatcher, but it will do for now until a better one comes along. 


Log in to Another Bird Blog very soon for more pictures.

Linking today to Stewart's Photo Gallery where there are lots more bird pictures.

As there are one or two fences in today's post I'm linking to The Run-a-Round Ranch Blog.  I'm sure there will be more birds on Theresa's fences, so go take a look.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Curry Night

There was good birding to be had today, the only problem being that I came back home with 300+ pictures on my camera. This meant more time in the “office” when I should have been making a curry for supper. Looks like a late meal again after the essential blogging. 

The glut of pictures came mostly from a rather smart and obliging Black-tailed Godwit at Conder Green. There were approximately 200 of them again this morning across the far side of the pool, out of camera reach and very flighty as usual. I don’t think experienced adult birds would have been as accommodating as the second year shown here. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Other waders today were 4 Common Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 12 Redshank, 10 Oystercatcher and 3 Lapwing. It was good to see Lapwings back on site and with luck they should breed again. 

Wildfowl; 16 Tufted Duck, 2 drake Wigeon, 1 Canada Goose. If this is the Canada Goose which bred here last year with one of its own kind there might be some weird and wonderful offspring this year as it is now paired up with a white, domestic Greylag; an incongruous pair indeed. 


Canada Goose


For a change of scene I drove to Bank End, Cockerham Marsh which can be ok for birding provided the parachute centre isn’t open for business with the constant road and air traffic it entails. Apart from sheep, I didn’t see a lot of stuff - 2 Wheatear, 1 Little Egret, 3 Whitethroat, 4 Tree Sparrows and several Swallows, but by now I was keen to reach Fluke Hall. 

Bank End - Cockerham marsh

Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

After yesterday’s Willow Warblers today it was the turn of the related Wood Warbler to show. It’s something of a scarce bird around here in in Spring, always late April/early May and agreeable to catch up with on a yearly basis, even if it's usually a single bird. One was in the tree tops and I managed to get a couple of distant shots at the wrong camera setting but the main features are there - striking lemon yellow and white underparts coupled with a noticeably yellow supercilium; altogether a more colourful bird than its cousin the Willow Warbler. 

Wood Warbler

Willow Warbler

There were Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps in song and Lesser Redpolls in the tree tops. A Tree Pipit flew over, but after spending too much time elsewhere my Thursday ticket was almost out of time. In any case after Wednesday's huge fall of Wheatears in parts of the Fylde and Lancaster I was busting a gut to do my own Wheatear walk. 

Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

I found a gang of 12/13 Wheatears along the sea wall, eminently catchable until in their eagerness for a meal worm they set off traps but failed to get caught. Most birds are far cleverer than us humans give them credit for, so the experience of the moving parts of the traps had made them more wary the second time around, even as they returned to the lure of an easy meal. 

After a while I did catch two, both definitely of the “Greenland” type, one a male the other a female. 

Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

Northern Wheatear- Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa

An excellent morning of birding for Another Bird Blog. But now if you’ll excuse me, there's a lamb curry to prepare.

"Click the pics" and come back soon.

Linking this post to Anni's bird Blog.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Barny Start

It’s always good to begin the day with a Barn Owl although the light at dawn or soon after is mostly imperfect for photographs. I tried 400, 800 and then ended up with ISO1600 for a few shots as the owl used a fence post from which to launch itself into the rough grass below. The owl didn’t get much in the way of food and I didn’t get too much in the way of pictures, so we both went our separate ways. 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

I made my way to Fluke Hall where things seemed quiet, so perhaps the overnight clear skies had sent Thursday's birds on their way? Slowly along the road I reached similar counts of the now apparently resident Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps. The Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrushes are still feeding young, and although I’ve narrowed down the possibilities, both nests remain secret. 

Song Thrush

At the car park were 2 Whitethroats in song and in the ploughed field 5+ Wheatears and 8 or more White Wagtails, both species feeding in and out of the deep furrows effectively so as to ruin any chance of accurate counts. A dozen or more Linnets plus a couple of both Meadow Pipits and Skylarks completed the picture. 

White Wagtail

I was ready for leaving when a Grasshopper Warbler began its reeling song from somewhere along the back of the hedgerow. The skulking and secretive Grasshopper Warbler is most infrequent here at Fluke Hall, but is in any case more likely to be glimpsed or heard in brief rather than seen in regular performance of its insect like song. Try as I might I didn’t see the “gropper”, it went silent and I suspect it slipped off unseen to try its luck at a more suitable location. 

Grasshopper Warbler - Photo credit: Sergey Pisarevskiy / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Things were fairly quiet at Conder Green too, to all intents and purposes the wader and wildfowl count identical to Thursday, with c200 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Oystercatcher, 2 Lapwing, 15 Redshank, 2 Spotted Redshank, 3 Common Sandpiper, 20 Tufted Duck, 8 Shelduck and 2 Wigeon. Just like Thursday there was a single black-tail in the creek and another one closer to my usual  viewing spot.

 Tufted Ducks

Black-tailed Godwit

In the “little brown jobs” line I couldn’t do any better than 3 Whitethroat, 3 Sedge Warbler, 4 Reed Bunting, 6 Linnet and 2 Greenfinch. 

I’ve stopped counting Swallows because they now seem to be well and truly “in”, as usual arriving  under birders’ radar but to turn up knocking at most farmers’ barn doors. What a welcome sight after a truly awful winter.

There’s a pair or two already nest building under the lock gates at Glasson Dock, the birds resting up on the rusty old handrails while giving each other advice on how best to get the job done. There's no rush boys and girls, you’ve got all summer. 

Barn Swallow

The weather forecast for the weekend isn’t suggesting much in the way of balmy Summer days. 

Never mind, if it’s at all possible Another Bird Blog will be birding and report here in due course.

Linking this post to Camera Critters and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Little Willy Morning

When I arrived at Fluke Hall this morning it became obvious that some overnight rain had dropped in a few migrants. 

The trees and hedgerows fairly dripped Willow Warblers and there was a Sedge Warbler in loud and steady song from a very un-Sedge Warbler like spot. It is mornings like this when you wonder as much about the birds you are not seeing as the ones you are. 

Willow Warbler

 Willow Warbler

“Bush bashing” revealed at least 12 Willow Warbler, 3 Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 4 Lesser Redpoll, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Sedge Warbler and 15 Linnet. On the nearby ploughed field were 2 Wheatears, and on the local circuit 2 Mistle Thrush, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, and 24 + Blackbird. 



The Willow Warbler theme continued at Conder Green with birds present at the pool hedgerow, the car park and then at Glasson Dock, with total sightings of 8+ more. Also at Glasson Dock, a Wheatear on the towpath plus 2 Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff in song. 

 A Lesser Black-backed Gull was also in good voice with its territorial song of sorts. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull

The stop at Conder Pool gave 200+ Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Spotted Redshank, 1 Greenshank, 1 Common Sandpiper, 18 Tufted Duck and 8 Oystercatcher. Non-waterbirds included 1 Raven, 2 Reed Bunting and 2 Whitethroat. 

Common Sandpiper

I stopped at Cockerham and found 2 Buzzards near the sea wall. The pair of Buzzards were together and fence-hopping, feeding along a path, a rough area of grass and in a midden. (midden - a word used by farmers in Britain to describe the place where farm yard manure from cows or other animals is collected). 

The Buzzards remained unmolested by other birds until one of them decided to fly off, prompting Carrion Crows, Lapwings and six or seven Swallows in turn to give them a good send off. 


Buzzard and Lapwings

Carrion Crow and Buzzard

Although the wind had picked up yet again I thought to give Lane Ends a try for Wheatears. It was no good as although there were 2 Wheatears they weren’t interested in stopping for a meal worm and I quickly gave up. 

Out on the marsh were still 160+ Pink-footed Geese, birds destined for Iceland, as were the 4 newly arrived Whimbrel I saw feeding quietly and not too far out from the sea wall. A cursory glance from a local Pilling person might invite the identification of “Curlew” but birders know that the Whimbrel is a rather special member of the curlew family. 


In the plantation/pools here, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Blackcap 2 Jay, 1 Reed Bunting and 2 Little Grebe. 

Willow Warbler

It was a very enjoyable morning of birding again, and new pictures for blog readers to enjoy. 

Don’t forget to “click the pics” for close up views, and log in to Another Bird Blog soon.

Linking today to The Run "A" Round Ranch's Good Fences.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Plan B

Plan A was to be a coastal walk soon after dawn to seek out more Wheatears and anything else lurking unfound by Spring birders. A bitingly cold north easterly wind soon put paid to that idea whereby I found myself in the car heading north with the heater and heated seat at “max”, but as usual the window turned down. It is somewhat mystifying but occasionally I see people apparently bird watching, sitting in their car with the windows up and the radio booming away; I wonder how they ever locate birds? 

Plan B found me at Conder Green for a look on the pool and the roadside creeks, with hopefully a few Spring migrants. The 2 Spotted Redshanks have wintered here. Now they are in the process of acquiring their summery black plumage it will be interesting to see when exactly they head off to Scandinavia/Asia to breed. 

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank

There was a lot of long range birding today with over 200 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the distant side of the pool for a while before flying off to the estuary. Not long after a similar number came back to the pool only to then do exactly the same by returning to the area of the River Lune. Mostly the godwits were in brick-red plumage with a small number of obvious second year birds and yet other intermediates. One fed in the creek for a while, distant as ever. One Grey Heron in the creeks also, with c15 Redshank and 1 Curlew. 

Black-tailed Godwit

The pool is pretty sparse for birds now, still suffering from excessive water levels caused by the wet, windy and tide-filled winter. As a diving species Tufted Ducks appear to like it, with 26 counted today as opposed to dabbling Wigeon with just a singleton noted. 

Tufted Duck

8 Oystercatchers are in residence seemingly paired up and waiting for good sized stretches of stones, pebbles and suchlike where their eggs can remain undetected. Not much chance of that on a favoured Oystercatcher island which is normally several times bigger than at present and so rather restricts their choice of a nest site. 


A “few” Swallows and Sand Martins headed north with other visible migration restricted to one or two Lesser Redpoll overhead. Singing Reed Bunting and Greenfinch along the hedgerow. 

A pit stop at Braides Farm gave 26 Golden Plover, 8 Linnet and 4 Swallows heading east. 

Finally it was Fluke Hall where the wind had not abated so I concentrated effort on the woodland. The male Kestrel was in the same location as normal and then I found out why. He dropped from the fence post to all of two yards away and then came back up with a good sized mammal. After taking a portion of the food for himself he flew off to the nearby nest box to present the animal to the female, the latter presumably now on eggs. It’s a big prey item for a smallish Kestrel and another long distance picture - 400mm x 1.4 converter. 


The woodland and hedgerow produced 2 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 20+ Blackbirds, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Blackcap, 2 Willow Warbler, 1Chiffchaff, and the arrival of one singing Whitethroat fresh from Africa. 


In the field nearest the sea wall there’s a build-up of spring Linnets and a few Meadow pipits, about 100+ Linnets and 4/5 pipits today, flushed in all directions by a marauding Sparrowhawk. 

So Plan B didn’t turn out too bad after all. Tune in soon to see what’s scheduled next for Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

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