Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Double Day

There wasn’t much time for birding on Monday however I did manage an hour or so at Knott End on either side of the 1 p.m. high tide. 

The highlight was a juvenile Marsh Harrier seen from the promenade about 1230, the harrier quite high above the tideline but heading purposefully west towards Fleetwood. Like many one-off migratory birds here, it probably flew up river towards the extensive marshes either side of the river and where it would avoid the Fleetwood conurbation. Marsh Harriers are very much passage migrants in this part of Lancashire and where they occur in fairly small numbers April/May and then again from July to September/October. 

Marsh Harrier - Photo credit: Ferran Pestaña / Foter / (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A reasonable only count of 110 Oystercatchers, but otherwise just 9 Dunlin, 1 Whimbrel and 1 Redshank completed the waders. Four Sandwich Terns on the beach, with 4 Pied Wagtails at the jetty and 2 Shelduck up river. 

Tuesday dawned bright and clear so I hit the road north to Conder Green and Glasson Dock. 

The numbers of Swallows flitting around the Glasson yachts was down to about 150 today. It could be that the Swallows are actually spending these warm nights roosting amongst the shelter that the boats provide and where the Swallows would be fairly safe.

Glasson Dock

When birds settle down to sleep, it’s called “roosting” and the place they choose to sleep at is called a “roost”. The main things birds are looking for at a roost are safety and warmth but also to minimise the danger from predators. Predators could be ground or avian predators like birds of prey, owls, foxes, mink, stoats, rats, cats, dogs or man. Dense cover, foliage, reeds or even farming crops can serve as a secure roost for small birds. Bigger birds have more options and can sleep on the water, on a branch, or even just right on the ground. 

Birds using communal roosts probably benefit by gaining access to food supplies: an individual that found insufficient food one day might, on the next, accompany others leaving the roost, and so be led to a new food source. So a roost is a sort of information and meeting centre, Facebook for birds. 

At one point a number of Swallows took off noisily to see off a Peregrine they’d spotted, the Peregrine coming in from the estuary and flying strongly in non-hunting mode in the general direction of Cockersands. It’s getting to that time of year when a Peregrine becomes an almost guaranteed sighting for a birding session along local coasts. Getting a decent image of one is another matter altogether. 


At Glasson I parked on the “wrong” side of the dock whereby 70 yards away the tiny Kingfisher was fishing the dock waters again from a huge mooring rope. I was just about to drive the wheeled hide around for a closer look when from under his nose an oblivious early morning dog walker sent the Kingfisher packing. 

One Common Tern was also fishing the dock with 2 Grey Herons waiting their turn. There was a Grey Wagtail on the dockside and then along the towpath 2 Pied Wagtails, a Willow Warbler and a Blackcap. No sign of Saturday’s Tawny Owl. 

Grey Heron

Conder Green was quiet again with little new to report except for consistent counts of 135 Redshank, 9 Common Sandpiper, 1 Dunlin, 1 Snipe, 2 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron. 

 I checked Bank End, Cockerham to see how many wagtails were about after last Thursday gave a count of 130+ feeding on the marsh. Just 58 Pied Wagtails today, a more than reasonable number. There were a few Lapwings on the marsh, 2 Little Egret and a one legged Curlew struggling to make a living. 

Pied Wagtail


The sun hadn’t lasted long. The clouds rolled in, it was backwards to ISO800 and at 10am I headed home, just in time to see a familiar Barn Owl heading for a familiar building near Pilling. 

He’ll be out again soon and so will I.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Owl And The Kingfisher

Saturday morning and I stopped at Gulf Lane to take a photo just as a singing Corn Bunting broke the silence. A touch of mist promised yet another fine day and a great photo opportunity for someone who knows what they’re doing. 


Farmers have taken a cut from the silage fields thereby making the fields more accessible to waders like Lapwings and Curlews which prefer to feed in short grass. I counted over 200 Curlews and 75 Lapwings on a very recently cut field, and then at Crimbles were more Curlews and Lapwings plus a Little Egret on a puddle of tidal water 

Conder Green has gone off the boil of early July. The water level is down, counts are down, species missing, but birders still arrive to check, just as I do and just in case. 

The female Common Tern still sits tight on the nest, the male arriving intermittently to present a freshly caught fish. There was a Cormorant today, it after fish too. Redshank numbers have fluctuated and were down at 35 this morning. Common Sandpipers have passed their early peak and 7 only today, also 3 Snipe, 14 Oystercatcher, 23 Lapwing and 6 Curlew. 3 Little Egret and 4 Grey Heron. 

There’s a Lapwing here named Hopalong which has claimed a stretch of mud along the edge of the pool. It has no foot on the left leg and so hops along the water line where it chases off other Lapwings and defends its feeding territory quite vigorously, making up with aggression what it lacks in the foot department. 


Wildfowl: 2 Wigeon, 2 Teal, 4 Shelduck and 16 Tufted Duck. 

 Tufted Duck

There’s often a Tawny Owl at Glasson. The other birds see it more often than I do but this morning the owl posed for a picture at ISO1600. When I went back with a smaller lens and more light the owl had woken up and flown off but I heard the other birds giving it a good telling off. 

 Tawny Owl

Whilst walking the canal towpath I stopped to chat to a Glasson Dock local who asked me how he might see a Kingfisher, adding - “You probably know what you’re looking for.” The Average Joe may think that Kingfishers are rare, exist only in books, on television programmes, or as figments of a birdwatcher’s imagination. When I explained that I see Kingfishers regularly in his home village, either along the canal, flying across the yacht basin, sat around the dock or along the main road half-a-mile away at Conder Green, he was truly astounded. 

I explained that although a Kingfisher may be brightly coloured, it is also quite tiny, mostly elusive and shy, and that a certain amount of experience and fieldcraft is required to obtain good views. Noting that he carried none, I added that a pair of binoculars would be useful to spot such a small bird from a distance.

I had in mind my own experience some fifteen minutes earlier when I glimpsed a Kingfisher from across the dock before it shot away into the distance. If someone is looking for a Kingfisher on a large expanse of water the picture below shows how small and inconspicuous one can look. It is probably the same Kingfisher from a couple of weeks ago which has already learnt that it is best to avoid the human race. 



There was a good count of approximately 300 Swallows again, the birds feeding across the waters of the dock and the yacht basin for an hour or more. Overhead, 20+ Swifts. 

Very soon the Swallows went their separate ways as I did too.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Golden Morning

The run of early morning starts dictated a lie in on Friday. That’s not to say there isn’t birding to do, just that it started later to take in the 1115 tide at Knott End. So there isn’t a great deal of news in today’s post but there are at last on Another Bird Blog, pictures of the shy Golden Plover. 

By late July there should be signs of returning waders and terns using the beach for feeding and resting, and although there weren’t huge numbers today, the variety is improving. The tide brought in end of summer terns, 20 Sandwich Terns to be exact, the terns all settling on the beach after a couple of noisy fly-arounds. 

Sandwich Terns

After a good number flew up river or towards Pilling it still left 160 Oystercatchers on the beach as the 8.4 metre tide failed to cover the flat sands. I added 3 Redshank, 2 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover and 1 Whimbrel to the list although I could hear both Ringed Plovers and Dunlin in flight somewhere. 

I turned my attention to a juvenile Golden Plover which called as it flew onto the beach from the west. I’ve always found our UK Golden Plovers extremely difficult to approach, partly due to the species innate wariness of man. Amazingly, and to our shame as a civilised nation the very fine-looking Golden Plover is a “quarry” species, i.e. it can be legally shot. 

It really is time that conservation organisations campaigned to have the Golden Plover removed from the list of quarry species when it continues to decline as a breeding species. And whilst they are thinking about the Golden Plover it would be useful to consider other declining species like Snipe and Woodcock. 

I kept still and quiet, clicking away and holding my breath as the plover relaxed and fed before the incoming tide sent it flying off west.  I asked myself what justification there could be for shooting such a beautiful bird?  I have a good idea what Knott End Annie would have thought about it. 

Golden Plover

Golden Plover

Golden Plover

Annie's Log - Knott End 

The River Wyre at Knott End

Up river I found a single Eider, a Grey Heron, a Pied Wagtail and several Linnets and Goldfinches. 

There will be more news and pictures from Another Bird Blog soon but no guarantee of photos of Golden Plover.

Linking today to Eileen's Saturday Blog and Anni's Blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wheatears Are Back, Wagtails Are Wow

Wednesday saw my first Wheatear of late summer near Fluke Hall. The Wheatear christened Hi-Fly’s shiny new gate with a derisory white blob before disappearing into the foot high maize crop. I waited for the chat to reappear as Wheatears mostly do but this one didn’t. I waved “Hi” to one of H-Fly’s gang constructing the pheasant pens for the autumn releases - goodness how the seasons fly by. 


It was a quiet couple of hours walk with little to report except for 10 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron and a couple of single figure flocks of both Goldfinch and Linnet. There appeared to be a small movement of Swallows heading east along the sea wall but no more than 40 or so birds in two hours. 

Thursday’s early start saw a Barn Owl near Pilling village followed by a Corn Bunting in song where Gulf Lane meets Maniac Mile. It’s here on the straight road that bikers hit a ton or more on Sunday mornings when there’s no one but birders around. At either end of the straight there are deceiving bends where on more than one occasion the unwary have come to an unplanned stop on the wrong side of the fence.

Maniac Mile - Pilling to Cockerham

I stopped for a leisurely look at Braides Farm and then Crimbles added 45+ Lapwing, several Curlew and a Black-tailed Godwit before hitting the road to Glasson and elsewhere. Glasson held good numbers of Swallows both feeding around and resting upon moored boats. I counted 250+ Swallows and 2 Sand Martins. Not much doing near the dock except for 1 Grey Heron, 1 Common Tern and 1 Pied Wagtail. The Tufted Duck count was up to 15 here today, perhaps partly as a result of the low water levels at Conder Green, the ducks’ hangout for the last three months. 


Tufted Duck

Walking the canal proved fairly fruitful and into the notebook went 8 Sedge Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 4 Reed Bunting, 2 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap and several each of both Greenfinch and Goldfinch, as well as another 2 Grey Heron. 

Reed Warbler

Sedge Warbler

High tide at Cockersands added more species to the day by way of 350 Oystercatcher, 19 Eider, 65 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, 2 Ringed Plover, 1 Golden Plover, 2 Little Egret and 1 Grey Heron. 


It was 11am, 5 hours from the start and just time for a quickie at Bank End where the tide was well short of its maximum at the foot of the sea wall. 

Bank End, Cockerham

There was the customary Little Egret, Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches and a Willow Warbler in the line of trees and Pied Wagtails on the marsh. The wagtails might hold a yellow one, that scarce beast which turns up intermittently these days, so it was worth scanning the marsh. 

Wow! An amazing count of 130+ Pied Wagtails, and this not an early morning post-roost gathering or an evening pre-roost assembly, it was 11am. 

Pied Wagtails

Pied Wagtail

Less than 10% of the wagtails were adult birds the remainder being birds of the year. 2014 is turning out to be a wonderful summer for birding and it looks like birds are making the most of it too.  

Log into Another Bird Blog soon for the latest news and views.

Linking today to Run A Round Ranch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There’s A Reason

Bird watchers are never entirely happy with their lot. If they don’t see birds there are several likely explanations as to why that should be. It’s mostly weather related, easily defined by constructing a phrase beginning with either “too much” or “not enough” and adding the element which caused the birding disaster - wind, sun, cloud, rain, clear, snow or ice. 

Most readers will recognise the sentiment and have almost certainly used such a saying quite recently. So I’m very philosophical about the less exciting days like today and apologies for the tortuous introduction to nothing much in the way of a post, but I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s birding when I hope to continue the good run of late. 

I made a beeline for Glasson today in the hope of nailing more Swallows. There were lots about and now it’s for certain there’s a roost nearby, perhaps in the reeds and trees which surround the yacht basin. An estimate of this morning’s numbers would be in the order of 300 Swallows and 4 Sand Martins feeding over the water until an hour or more after dawn. At times the Swallows took breaks from their feeding and perched along the handrails and ropes of a number of the many boats moored alongside the jetties. Swallows seem popular with blog readers, so here’s another. 


There is also a House Sparrow roost at Glasson with 70+ birds leaving the bowling green bushes soon after dawn. And there was me thinking that House Sparrows are now so decimated in numbers that it’s hardly worth the effort to meet up and exchange gossip. By all accounts this glorious summer is going to be an outstanding breeding season too, maybe even for the humble Spodger.

House Sparrow

One Grey Wagtail in the area of the lock gates, 2 Pied Wagtail, 5 Tufted Duck on the water and a Common Tern fishing the dock water before flying off with the trophy. 

Common Tern

 There was no variation at Conder Green except for 3 Snipe. Otherwise as you were with 5 Common Sandpiper, 1 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank, 15 Tufted Duck and the other Common Tern. Things were so subdued that I decided to try my luck at Knott End and the incoming tide. 

Best I could do here was 380 Oystercatchers, 1 Ringed Plover and 1 Lapwing on the beach. Up river I found 3 Pied Wagtails and 1 Grey Heron. 


Back home there were a few chores to complete with time to reflect the fact that in the grand scheme of birds and bird watching, the busy days far outnumber the quiet ones. 

Tomorrow will be a good one, I just know it.

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Short Sunday

The weather people promised us torrential rain for most of Saturday but none arrived. Instead there was 100% cloud all day long combined with almost continuous and very irritating light showers. It was enough to ruin birding ambitions and save the job until the next day. 

Sunday at 6am started much the same with the sky failing to brighten until 11 am, a moment in time when Uncle Tom Cobley & All hit the Sunday Streets to signal that a birder’s work is done. 

In the meantime there was a Litle Owl at Crimbles again. And at Glasson I  thought there may be a Swallow roost nearby because upon arrival at the yacht basin and the dock there were more than 80 Swallows feeding around the two areas of water.

An hour or two later the only Swallows left were the local Swallows and a more normal 12/15 of them. I grabbed a few photos in the murky light with ISO800 again, but hope to take better ones when the sun shines next. High ISOs seem to destroy colour rendition from the images. One of the young Swallows below is especially fresh from a nest, its downy feathers and yellow gape all too obvious. 




The Common Tern was feeding at Glasson again. It’s the same male which flies off to Conder Green carrying a fish for a female. It’s the male with one tail streamer. A Kingfisher flew across the dock from a boat and landed on a mooring rope but when I walked around to look for the bird it had gone elsewhere. 

Common Tern

Otherwise things were pretty much normal, with a short walk revealing 5 Tufted Duck, 2 Cormorant, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail and 1 Great Crested Grebe. 

 Pied Wagtail

Black-headed Gull

Waders and herons at Conder Green: 130 Redshank, 26 Lapwing, 12 Oystercatcher, 10 Common Sandpiper, 4 Curlew, 2 Greenshank, 1 Snipe, 6 Little Egret, 3 Grey Heron. A Peregrine showed all too briefly as it flew over the marsh before disappearing behind trees to the east; I’m sure it will be back to finish off the job. 

Wildfowl: 2 Wigeon, 2 Little Grebe, 6 Shelduck. 


Two Pied Wagtails here as well as a Grey Wagtail near the bridge where there’s a good stand of reeds and where I spotted 2 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting and 1 Reed Warbler. There was a Meadow Pipit still in song over the marsh as it has done all week now.

On the way home a Buzzard circled over Head Dyke Lane, and then over a neighbour’s house a gliding Sparrowhawk heading west towards the river.

If the weather people are to be believed there’s sun for birding next week, We’ll see.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Swallows, Knots And Crimbles

The early morning weather was poor, far worse than the forecast, with spells of grey cloud, rain, and worse of all a strong wind. There were however a few interesting sightings and a couple of new photographs to share with blog readers. 

Good numbers of Swallows and Sand Martins were on the move soon after 6am. That may have been induced by overnight storms in other parts of the country, the cool, grey, overcast morning or simply by the normal seasonal urges. Mid-July often signals the beginning of Swallow roosts containing locally bred young together with migrants starting their long southerly journeys. 

After seeing just handfuls of hirundines in the area of Conder Green and Glasson for several weeks, this morning’s increase in numbers was very noticeable. At Conder Green hirundines could be watched arriving from the north-west and flying directly over the pool before continuing south. I skipped the obligatory look on the pool and motored on up to Glasson Dock where Swallows and Sand Martins were feeding over the yacht basin, all the time flying steadily east and south-east towards Conder Green. 


It’s hard to put a guesstimate together but perhaps 150 Swallows and 30 Sand Martin. At Glasson it appeared that the Swallows breeding under the road bridge finally have youngsters to show for their efforts with 4 fresh youngsters waiting to be fed while exercising their wings. Those are spots of rain on the youngster’s back, the photo taken at an un-summery ISO800. 




On the yacht basin a Great Crested Grebe and 5 Tufted Duck, while on the towpath, 3 Pied Wagtail and 2 Grey Wagtail. 

Pied Wagtail

 Grey Wagtail

There are token counts from Conder Green as the strong wind put many waders out of sight in the lee of the island and kept passerines low: 120 Redshank, 26 Lapwing, 6 Curlew, 5 Common Sandpiper, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Little Egret, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Stock Dove. 


A real surprise was finding an adult Knot on the island. The Knot was some 100 yards from the nearest viewing point and hence the poor photo, but good enough to appreciate where the full title of “Red Knot” originates. The Knot is more strictly a winter-grey shore bird found in huge numbers in Morecambe Bay but rarely on a pool such as the one at Conder Green. So unusual is the record that I captured it for posterity. 

 Knot (and Lapwing)

There are still 2 Common Terns, a male and a female. I made some drawings of Common Terns via FotoSketcher by converting the original digital images to sketches. The photos were taken in poor light and not good enough to use as blog photographs but they work quite well in depicting the “jizz”, the aerodynamics and flight postures of a Common Tern. 

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Blog readers from Wednesday will know I set about researching the local place name of Crimbles, part of the Cockerham area. 


It seems the name may be a derivative of very old (1300-1500) North of England words such as “cruma” or “crymel” meaning a small piece, a scrap, a small section of land. Both words also had plural forms. This particular part of land is split north and south by the River Cocker and historically subject to high tide floods from the marshes to the north and west. A description of how the land appeared on a daily basis all those years ago would appear to be the explanation as to how the name of “Crimbles” came about.  

Like I said, Crimbles is nothing to do with Christmas or food, unless of course the word “crumb” comes into play? 

There will be more crumbs of comfort from Another Bird Blog very soon. Book your place now.

Linking today to Anni's Blog and  Eileen's Saturday Blog.

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