Monday, May 26, 2014

Tawny Times, Lapwing Woes

The Fluke Hall thrushes had found the Tawny Owl again. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes joined in to noisily mob their enemy and led me directly to the spot where the owl sat motionless against the trunk. Fortunately, I have the landowner's permission to cross a private piece of land.

It squinted at me through half open eyes as I moved around trying to get a clear view for a filled frame picture. The owl's dark eyes opened a little more to stare me out; luckily I hadn’t frightened the roosting bird away so I rattled off half a dozen frames and then retreated. 

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

The Tawny was the highlight of not much doing here. The Mistle Thrush family fed together in the recently sown field, 2 adults and 3 youngsters bounding across the field when they saw me in the gateway. In song were 6 or more Whitethroat, 1 Blackcap, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Song Thrush, plus Tree Sparrow activity and noise around the nest boxes. 

I’ve been looking in vain for proof of Lapwing success this year. Between Pilling and the River Cocker, a distance of 2 or 3 miles I found less than 10 Lapwings in total, none of them showing any sign of nesting or parental behaviour. This count included a scan of the “environmental stewardships” at Fluke Hall Lane and the one of Braides Farm, the latter having some success in 2013 but which this year appears to lack ideal Lapwing habitat, the grass, too lush, tall and dense for nesting Lapwings. 

It’s not too many years ago when this stretch of coastline would hold 40/50 pairs of Lapwings, any high counts nowadays reserved for animals, the several hundred sheep and dozens of cattle crammed into already over-grazed fields. 


I hoped to complete the owl double with the regular Barn Owl of Conder Green but no luck on a rather cool and windy morning that Barn Owls also dislike. 

On the pool, in the creeks, reeds and surrounding hedgerows: 19 Black-tailed Godwit, 14 Redshank, 8 Oystercatcher, 15 Shelduck, 3 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 10 Tufted Duck, 3 Grey Heron, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting, 6 Whitethroat, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Pied Wagtail. 

Pied Wagtail

Tufted Duck

Grey Heron

I took a quick tour towards Cockersands totted up 18 Stock Dove, 5 Whitethroat, 5 Sedge Warbler, 3 Grey Heron, 1 Blackcap, 1 Willow Warbler and 15+ Lapwings scattered across a number of fields, but none appearing to be in the throes of breeding. 

Once again the situation looks pretty bleak for Lapwings in this part of Lancashire, a former major stronghold of the species. I’m left wondering if I will see any young Lapwings this year to restock the ever dwindling population of this iconic bird. 

Juvenile Lapwing

The fields held more Brown Hares than they did Lapwings, with in particular a gang of eight or more hares hurtling through a single field. More hares hid in the lush grass of Cockerham Marsh until a wave of chasing began here too as the animals ran far and wide and then melted into the landscape.

 Brown Hare

Brown Hare

There will be more birds soon from Another Bird Blog, hopefully this might include a few Lapwings, but don’t bank on it. 

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


eileeninmd said...

Phil, what a great outing. The owl sighting is cool. It is nice that the mob led you to the owl spotting.. I just love the Lapwings, it would be sad if they are in decline? All your birds photos are wonderful and the Brown Hare is cute. Happy Birding.

eileeninmd said...

Phil, what a great outing. The owl sighting is cool. It is nice that the mob led you to the owl spotting.. I just love the Lapwings, it would be sad if they are in decline? All your birds photos are wonderful and the Brown Hare is cute. Happy Birding.

David Gascoigne said...

Hi Phil: Any owl any time is a great sighting. The last Tawny Owl I saw was in Britain about twenty years ago. Very much in the fashion of you locating this Tawny Owl I was alerted to its presence by a screeching mob of agitated songbirds. Just as I neared the tree where it was perched it flew off and I am never quite sure whether I inadvertently flushed it or whether the little passerines finally succeeded in seeing it off.

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

Similarly, I have found owls and. Other raptors by simply following the mobbing songbirds. The snapping bill of a Great Horned Owl hidden in the foliage gave one away, as did the persistent stares of crows as they mobbed a Bald Eagle. Their bills pointed directly towards the immobile eagle.

carol l mckenna said...

Great array of unique birds and love the rabbits or hares ~ Great shots ~ xoxo

artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)


That owl...oh that owl!! Grand set of photos of the stunner!

Margaret Adamson said...

HI Phil Marvelous shots of the Owl. Pity that you have not found any Lapwing that have nested but if the habitat is wrong, that probably is the reason. Love all the other bird shots as well as the Hare.

Karen said...

Another great series of shots! So much lovely detail when the pics are enlarged. The owl is so handsome. I love the lapwings. How unfortunate that their numbers are dwindling. Cute "rabbits"!

TexWisGirl said...

beautiful photos throughout. :)

Mary Cromer said...

Brown Hares, Tufted Ducks and Tawny Owls are all my favorites in this post, yet the Lapwings, always a thrill to view and I hope they will return and flourish if things are in proper order for them to do so, maybe another season, if not now...such marvelous birds they are~

Millie said...

Wonderful collection of photos. I absolutely love the owl shots!

Mine is here.

Gunilla Bäck said...

The owl is magnificent!

Russell Jenkins said...

Spectacular owl pictures, Phil. Beautifully framed in a nice touch of green. I wish you we'll with the lapwings. They seem a worry.

Gary Phillips said...

Love the hare!! Boom, Bobbi and Gary.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I could look at that owl all day! And rabbits are my personal favorite. And the lapwing always makes me smile, it is so improbable looking! I kind of liked this post ;)))! A lot.

Janice Adcock said...

Thanks so for sharing your great shots!

Chris Rohrer said...

Is it me or does that Brown Hare look angry?:) Interesting observations of the Lapwing. I really wonder what's going on with this birds. Too many animals or critters stealing eggs, stomping around their nesting sites....etc etc. Is anyone trying to protect this species? This looks like another case of extirpation of yet another bird species in a few years. In a more positive light, congrats on the Tawny Owl. Hoo doesn't love owls?:)

Susan said...

Hi Phil, boy those shots of the Tawny Owl are priceless. Love the second one, eyes barely open and giving you the stare. Well done.
Your other shots and commentary are so interesting too :D)

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